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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Should You Pray for Someone Who Doesn't Want You To?

Last week Patrick Archbold of the Creative Minority Report was a guest blogger at the Washington Post.  His post concerned the writer Christopher Hitchens who is suffering from terminal cancer.  Mr. Hitchens is an atheist and has asked believers not to pray for him, unless it makes them feel better.  Patrick wonders whether we should be praying for Hitchens or refraining from doing so because of his request not to.  In the end he concludes that it is good to pray for the man as an act of charity and in the hope that Hitchens, himself, will be drawn to pray.  Patrick writes:
I pray that before the end, whenever that may be, that Hitchens' 'irreconcilable doubt' extends not only to God, but also to the path he has chosen. I pray that Mr. Hitchens, out of humility, asks a simple yet sincere question of the God he doubts. "If You are there and I have been wrong, please forgive me."
This issue was presented to me quite a few years ago when someone who had been a friend called from out of state.  She and I were co-workers and quite close when she lived nearby, and had been in frequent contact and visited often after her move.  The day she called we chatted as usual.  Then, out of the blue, she told me that she had recently been pregnant and that she had an abortion.  The conversation escalated from her side when she accused me of not being there for her because she couldn't talk to me since I was opposed to abortion.  She said that if I was truly a friend, I would have driven her to the abortion clinic, but she had to go through it alone (the child's father being out of the picture).  When I tried to say this was a bit unfair since I was always there to talk with her, but that, of course, I could not participate in something that I believed was wrong, she would not be persuaded and ended the conversation by shouting, "And don't pray for me, either!"

Subsequent conversations, unfortunately, did not heal the rupture in our friendship and we have been estranged ever since.  However, I continue to pray for her.  Every so often I wonder if I should be doing so, since it is in direct opposition to her expressed wishes.  But it always comes back to the fact that as a Christian, I cannot do otherwise.  If I failed to pray for someone who is in need, it would be like not helping a person who jumped off a bridge to commit suicide.  It is an act of charity, pure and simple,  and our faith tells us that the person is in need of help.  He or she doesn't have to know about our prayers.  In fact, it may be better to keep quiet.  Paraphrasing what St. Ambrose told St. Monica when she was crying over the faithlessness of her son Augustine, "Speak less to Augustine about God, and more to God about Augustine."

So I choose to pray.  In quiet. For I know that someone prayed for me, and I am eternally grateful.

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Men of The Catholic Jedi Academy are also Men Of Saint Joseph!
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