Whenever her four young boys would ‘push the envelope’ in mischief, taunting her to ‘go-ahead: do something about it’, my beloved Scots-Irish Mother used to say, with a smile mixed in bitter-sweet irony: “Be careful what you ask for. … You might just get it!”
This year’s prayer for pilgrims is not much different.
It is in that sense a dangerous prayer indeed.
Take the second stanza:
My Lord and my God,
grant me whatever brings me to Thee. [emphasis added – ed.]
Rewind that. Did he (St. Nicholas of Flüe, composer of the prayer) just say “whatever“?
Someone, please: tell me he is really from Brooklyn, and doesn’t mean that word instead in the vernacular of a 15th century saint from Switzerland!
Yes. He said “whatever”.
And he means it. Seriously. Not dismissively.
So should we when we pray the same words, even though it is dangerous to ask God for anything in an unspecified, unconditional sense.
Because God is free to answer the request in the manner he knows is best for the one receiving.
And that takes a lot of nerve, by which I mean a courageous faith.
In this case, that might mean that the “whatever” which brings one to Him is something difficult and personally repugnant. For example, humbly accepting insults for Lent (and after) at work, or in social circles. Or perhaps God will grant one unemployment for a time, in order to remove some occasion of sin or to teach a more valuable lesson, for eternity?
Or could it mean that one has to donate the time to cook some food to feed some hungry person who comes to the door at home or at the parish. (Remember, we do not know, says St. Paul, when angels will visit in disguise.)
Or to visit someone sick, or in prison. Or to interrupt an errand — say, shopping for clothes — when driving along the street and seeing someone possibly homeless and evidently under-clothed.
Or helping one’s wife, without complaining — or a widow with an orphan, to do some repairs around the house.
Or saying an extra prayer for one’s deceased relatives — and maybe even for an old enemy who died before one could forgive or ask for forgiveness. And what about that enemy who is still … alas! … alive.
Of course, it could also be something more pleasant than that, like a good confession, whereby Our Lord Christ graciously and courageously takes away one’s sins.
But could it also mean He is calling me or you to some form of reparation for other sinners, too? Like that pilgrimage that you have always ‘wanted’ to go on, but can’t stand the camping out, the company at too-close-quarters with ‘weird’ people, and other way too ‘pious’ inconveniences?
Find out for yourself. Start praying today, in the way & with the child-like simplicity of St. Nicholas of Flüe.
To show your resolve, first to yourself, why not also PRE-register to make this year’s the pilgrimage with a small army of other pilgrims this September in New York?
The future is only a click away.