“I’ll Pray for You”: What I Really Mean

Bonjour mes amis! It’s been a while.

Two years ago, before I left for World Youth Day in Poland, I got the idea to start a list of prayer requests in my journal to carry with me throughout the pilgrimage. I posted about it on Facebook and Instagram and carried my journal with me everywhere over the month before I left so people could add their requests themselves. Collecting these intentions was such a moving experience. People from all areas of my life, people of all faiths and no faith, responded to ask me to pray for them or their loved ones. It was such a success that I decided to do it again last summer when I went to Fatima, Portugal. My goal of 50 intentions, one for each bead of a rosary, turned into 150 intentions, enough for THREE rosaries, which I prayed over the course of my three days at Fatima.

This Friday, I will be leaving for Lourdes, France, one of the most popular and holy pilgrimage sites for Catholics. However, when I thought about making my annual social media post asking for prayer requests, I paused.

It’s no secret that the past few years, and especially the first half of 2018, have felt like something out of a dystopian novel. After last week’s horrific mass shooting in the office of the Capital Gazette, many people and politicians across social media posted “thoughts and prayers” to the victims and their families. There was a time in American history when most people, even if they were not religious, would consider this phrase as a considerate gesture, with the expectation that the people of faith with legislative power would do all they can to stop such violence from ever happening again. News flash: mass shootings continue to happen regularly in the United States, and the people of faith in power have NOT held up their end of the bargain.

I am a person of faith who believes in the power of prayer. But I am also a Roman Catholic Christian who takes to heart the words of Pope Francis: “Prayer and action must always be profoundly united.” It is no longer enough to just go to your inner room and pray to your Father in secret about the state of the world and shut our eyes and ears to the suffering of others. We as people of faith must take the second step: go out into the world and speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.

In light of the state of the union and the world, I have felt uneasy when I’ve thought about making my annual cheery Facebook post asking for prayer requests for my expensive pilgrimage to Europe. I acknowledge that I have been given an opportunity that many people of faith throughout the world never will have: to travel to one of the most renowned and holy pilgrimage sites for Catholics, a place known for its many miraculous healings. So this year, when I ask you to let me pray for you, here’s what I’m asking of you:

1. To allow me to think of your name and your face at a place where the Blessed Virgin Mary said to Saint Bernadette, “Pray for sinners.” (I’m included in that category. We’ve all made mistakes.)

2. To allow me to say one Hail Mary, one of the most powerful prayers in all of Catholicism because it evokes a mortal woman who gave birth to God incarnate, thinking of your name and your face and your struggles and your deepest desires.

3. To allow me to ask God, the Creator of the Universe, Master of time and space, who created you, loves you and wants the best for you, to pour out His blessings upon you.

4. To allow me to ask Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who died on the Cross for YOU (not just the squeaky-clean ones who wear cardigans and read their Bibles all the time and somehow think God can be defined by one man-made political party), to comfort you and heal you in your times of suffering and pain.

5. To allow me to follow up with you after my pilgrimage, not to pat myself on the back because my prayers worked, but just to ask how you’re doing. (I am terrible at keeping in touch, so please be patient with me.)

6. To allow me to ask the 40 other people who will be traveling with me to pray for you, because 40 prayers are more powerful than one prayer.

7. To allow me to make a difference and help you in the best way I know how. There may be other ways I can help (just ask!), but many of you reading this are carrying heavy burdens (e.g. death of a loved one, mental or physical illness, trauma, family divides, breakups, past rejection or abuse from people who claim to be religious, worrying about what evil act our government leaders will do next). I can’t fix all the problems of the world or in your life. I just can’t. But I can ask someone who will help you better than I ever could.

OK, now the practical stuff: I will have my prayer journal with me all this week and am available any time via social media or through the contact page on this blog. I will be infrequently checking my phone and social media feeds while in France, so please keep these prayer requests coming. Feel free to share this post with your family and friends. All prayer requests will be confidential. And in the spirit of Pope Francis, please pray for me and all the other pilgrims traveling with me to Lourdes.

In conclusion, to restate what I’ve said for the past two years: I don’t care if you’re not Catholic. I don’t care if you’re not Christian. I don’t care if you haven’t prayed since your First Communion. I don’t care if you don’t believe in any sort of higher power and are reading this thinking, “Wow, that’s disappointing. I thought Vicky was normal.” I want to pray for you. Will you let me?

À bientôt !

– Vicky

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