Praying Daily

The Redemptorist Father Ferreol Girardey addresses the question of when one ought to pray. There is daily prayer, prayer on particular occasions, morning and night prayer, and constant prayer. In this post, we shall review his thoughts on daily prayer.

He writes: “We should pray to God every day, for we stand every day in need of God’s assistance, of God’s benefits both spiritual and corporal, otherwise our divine Saviour would not have taught it to us in His admirable prayer, the Our Father, in which He enjoins us to ask our Heavenly Father: ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ . . . For our daily prayer there is no special time prescribed, so that he who prays to God at any time during the day, would thereby satisfy his obligation towards God; this is the general rule.”

“Prayer is as necessary for our spiritual life, for the life of our soul, as breath and food are necessary for our body, as water is necessary for a fish. It is especially necessary when the life of our soul is in danger. As long as we are on earth we cannot escape temptation, and temptation is always more or less dangerous to the spiritual life of our soul. People are lost, not because they wish to be lost, nor because they lack the resolution to avoid sin, but because they neglect to pray when they are assailed by temptation. We are never more weak or more helpless, or more in need of God’s help, than when temptation to sin assails us. God will then surely help us, if we pray to Him for help; but if we do not pray then, we shall be left to our own weakness and easily yield to the temptation and fall into sin. However strong and persistent the temptation, we can surely overcome it, if we at once pray to God to help us, and persist in prayer until we have got rid of it, for prayer will obtain for us God’s grace, which will enable us to overcome temptation, as God Himself declared to St. Paul: ‘My grace is sufficient for thee’ (2 Cor 12:9).”

Quotations from Ferreol Girardey, Prayer: Its Necessity, Its Power, Its Conditions (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1916).

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The Necessity of Kind Listening

Father Faber observes: “Many persons whose manners will stand the test of speaking, break down under the trial of listening. But all these things ought to be brought under the sweet influences of religion. Kind listening is often an act of the most delicate interior mortification, and is a great assistance towards kind speaking.” Moreover, “those who govern others must take care to be kind listeners, or else they will soon offend God and fall into secret sins.”

“Weak and full of wants as we are ourselves, we must make up our minds, or rather take heart, to do some little good to this poor world while we are in it. Kind words are our chief implements for this work. A kind-worded man is a genial man; and geniality is power. Nothing sets wrong right so soon as geniality. There are a thousand things to be reformed, and no reform succeeds unless it be genial. No one was ever corrected by a sarcasm, crushed, perhaps, if the sarcasm was clever enough, but drawn nearer to God, never.”

“Men want to advocate changes, it may be in politics, or in science, or in philosophy, or in literature, or perhaps in the working of the Church. They give lectures, they write books, they start reviews, they found schools to propagate their views, they coalesce in associations, they collect money, they move reforms in public meetings, and all to further their peculiar ideas. They are unsuccessful. From being unsuccessful themselves, they become unsympathetic with others. From this comes narrowness of mind; their very talents are deteriorated. The next step is to be snappish, then bitter, then eccentric, then rude, after that they abuse people for not taking their advice; and, last of all, their impotence, like that of all angry prophets, ends in the shrillness of a scream. . . . Without geniality no solid reform was ever made yet. . . . Nothing can be done for God without geniality. More plans fail for want of that than for the want of anything else. A genial man is both an apostle and an evangelist—an apostle because he brings men to Christ; an evangelist because he portrays Christ to men.”

Quotations from Frederick William Faber, Kindness (London: R. & T. Washbourne, 1901).

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The Difficulties of Kind Listening

Father Faber speaks of the grace of kind listening: “Some men listen with an abstracted air, which shows that their thoughts are elsewhere. Or they seem to listen, but by wide answers and irrelevant questions show that they have been occupied with their own thoughts, as being more interesting, at least in their own estimation, than what you were saying. Some listen with a kind of importunate ferocity, which makes you feel that you have been put on your trial, and that your auditor expects beforehand that you are going to tell him a lie, or to be inaccurate, or to say something which he will disapprove, and that you must mind your expressions. Some interrupt, and will not hear you to the end. Some hear you to the end, and then forthwith begin to speak to you of a similar experience which has befallen themselves, making your case only an illustration of their own. Some, meaning to be kind, listen with such a determined, lively, violent attention that you are at once made uncomfortable, and the charm of conversation is at an end.”

Father Faber illustrates how the patience and resolve of the kind listener is tested. He observes: “Each man meets with peculiar characters who have a speciality, often quite inexplicable, of irritating him. They always come at the wrong time, say the most inopportune things, and make the most unfortunate choice of topics of conversation.” Consider these examples: “A man comes to us with an imaginary sorrow when we are bowed to the earth with a real one. Or he speaks to us with the loud voice and metallic laugh of robust health, when our nerves are all shrinking up with pain, and our whole being quivering, like a mimosa, with excruciating sensitiveness. Or he comes to pour out the exuberance of his happiness into our hearts which are full of gloom, and his brightness is a reproach, sometimes almost a menace, to our happiness. . . . Here is a grand material for sanctification. Nevertheless, such materials are hard to work up in practice. It is weary work cleaning old bricks to build a new house with. These are difficulties, but we have got to reach heaven, and must push on.”

“The more humble we are, the more kindly we shall talk; the more kindly we talk, the more humble we shall grow. An air of superiority is foreign to the genius of kindness. The look of kindness is that of one receiving a favour rather than conferring it. Indeed, it is the case with all the virtues, that kindness is a road to them. Kind words will help us to them.”

Quotations from Frederick William Faber, Kindness (London: R. & T. Washbourne, 1901).

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How Kind Words Are Rewarding to Oneself

Kind words benefit not only the receiver but also the giver, as Father Faber explains: “Kind words make us happy in ourselves. They soothe our own irritation, they charm our cares away, they draw us nearer to God, they raise the temperature of our love. They produce in us a sense of quiet restfulness like that which accompanies the consciousness of forgiven sin. They shed abroad the peace of God within our hearts. . . . We become kinder by saying kind words. . . . They help us also to attain the grace of purity. . . . They win us many other graces from God; but one especially: they appear to have a peculiar congeniality with the grace of contrition, which is softheartedness towards God. Everything which makes us gentle has at the same time a tendency to make us contrite. A natural melting of the heart has often been the beginning of an acceptable repentance. Hence it is that seasons of sorrow are apt to be seasons of grace.” Kind words make us truthful because “kindness is God’s view, and His view is already the true view.” We yearn to be truthful, for “it is our insincerity, our manifold inseparable falseness, which is the load under which we groan.”

Father Faber observes: “In some respects a clever man is more likely to be kind than a man who is not clever, because his mind is wider, and takes in a broader range, and is more capable of looking at things from different points of view. But there are other respects in which it is harder for a clever man to be kind, especially in his words. He has a temptation, and it is one of those temptations which appear sometimes to border on the irresistible, to say clever things; and, somehow, clever things are hardly ever kind things. There is a drop either of acid or of bitter in them. . . . If we were to make an honest resolution never to say a clever thing, we should advance much more rapidly on the road to heaven. Our Lord’s words in the Gospels should be our models. . . . It is remarkable how little of epigram or sharpness there is in them.”

“There are some men who make it a kind of social profession to be amusing talkers. . . . A man who lays himself out to amuse is never a safe man to have for a friend, or even for an acquaintance. He is not a man whom anyone really loves or respects. He is never innocent. He is forever jostling charity by the pungency of his criticisms, and wounding justice by the revelation of secrets.”

Quotations from Frederick William Faber, Kindness (London: R. & T. Washbourne, 1901).

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How Kind Words Are Rewarding to Others

Father Faber states: “Unkindness is very much a mental habit, almost as much mental as moral; observation has confirmed me in this idea, because I have met so many men with unkind heads, and have been fortunate enough never to my knowledge to have come across an unkind heart.”

“Self-interest makes it comparatively easy for us to do that which we are well paid for doing. The great price which everyone puts on a little kind word makes the practice of saying them still easier.” Moreover, uttering kind words “become more easy, the more on the one hand that we know ourselves, and on the other that we are united to God. . . . Kindness to be perfect, to be lasting, must be a conscious imitation of God.” In this way, sharpness, bitterness, sarcasm, acute observation, and divination of motives disappear.

“Not only is kindness due to everyone, but a special kindness is due to everyone. Kindness is not kindness unless it be special; it is in its fitness, seasonableness, and individual application, that its charm consists.”

“It is natural to pass from the facility of kind words to its reward. I find myself always talking about happiness when I am treating of kindness. The fact is the two things go together; the double reward of kind words is in the happiness they cause in others and the happiness they cause in ourselves. The very process of uttering them is a happiness in itself. Even the imagining of them fills our minds with sweetness, and makes our hearts glow pleasurably. Is there any happiness in the world like the happiness of a disposition made happy by the happiness of others? There is no joy to be compared with it. The luxuries which wealth can buy, the rewards which ambition can attain, the pleasures of art and scenery, the abounding sense of health, and the exquisite enjoyment of mental creations, are nothing to this pure and heavenly happiness, where self is drowned in the blessedness of others. Yet this happiness follows close upon kind words, and is their legitimate result.”

Quotations from Frederick William Faber, Kindness (London: R. & T. Washbourne, 1901).

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How Kind Words Are Productive

Father Faber explains: “Kind words produce happiness. How often have we ourselves been made happy by kind words, in a manner and to an extent which we are quite unable to explain?” Furthermore, “Happiness is a great power of holiness. Thus, kind words, by their power of producing happiness, have also a power of producing holiness.”

“Words have a power of their own, both for good and evil, which I believe to be more influential and energetic over our fellow-men than even actions. . . . Hence it is that an angry word rankles longer in the heart than an angry gesture.”

The effects of kind words are often like “instantaneous revelations from heaven, not only unravelling complicated misunderstandings, and softening the hardened conviction of years, but giving a divine vocation to the soul. . . . It gives life a peculiar character that it should be gifted with a power so great.”

Saying kind words “involves very little self-sacrifice, and for the most part none at all. It can be exercised generally without much effort, with no more effort than the water makes in flowing from the spring. Moreover, the occasions for it do not lie scattered over life at great distances from each other. They occur continually; they come daily; they are frequent in the day.”

“Kind words cost us nothing, yet how often do we grudge them? On the few occasions when they do imply some degree of self-sacrifice, they almost instantly repay us a hundred-fold. The opportunities are frequent, but we show no eagerness either in looking out for them, or in embracing them. What inference are we to draw from all this? Surely this: That it is next to impossible to be habitually kind, except by the help of Divine grace and upon supernatural motives. Take life all through, its adversity as well as its prosperity, its sickness as well as its health, its loss of its rights as well as its enjoyment of them, and we shall find that no natural sweetness of temper, much less any acquired philosophical equanimity, is equal to the support of a uniform habit of kindness. . . . With the help of grace, the habit of saying kind words is very quickly formed, and when once formed, it is not speedily lost.”

Quotations from Frederick William Faber, Kindness (London: R. & T. Washbourne, 1901).

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How Kind Words Are Remedial

Father Faber demonstrates the power of kind words. First, he shows how they are remedial, then, how they are productive.

“Kind words are the music of the world. They have a power which seems to be beyond natural causes. . . . It seems as if they could almost do what in reality God alone can do—namely, soften the hard and angry hearts of men. Many a friendship, long, loyal and self-sacrificing, rested at first on no thicker a foundation than a kind word. The two men were not likely to be friends. Perhaps each of them regarded the other’s antecedents with somewhat of distrust. They had possibly been set against each other by the circulation of gossip. Or they had been looked upon as rivals, and the success of one was regarded as incompatible with the success of the other. But a kind word, perhaps a mere report of a kind word, has been enough to set all things straight, and to be the commencement of an enduring friendship.”

“The power of kind words is shown also in the destruction of prejudices, however inveterate they may have been. Surely we must all of us have experienced this ourselves. For a long time we have had prejudices against a person. They seem to be extremely well founded. . . . But kind words pass, and the prejudices thaw away. Right or wrong, there was some reason or show of reason for forming them, while there is neither reason nor show of reason for their departure. There is no logic in the matter, but a power which is above logic, the simple, unassisted power of a few kind words.”

“What has been said of prejudices applies equally to quarrels. Kind words will set right things which have got most intricately wrong. . . . Most men get tired of the justest quarrels. Even those quarrels where the quarrel has all been on one side, and which are always the hardest to set right, give way in time to kind words. . . . All quarrels probably rest on misunderstanding, and only live by silence, which, as it were, stereotypes the misunderstanding. A misunderstanding which is more than a month old may generally be regarded as incapable of explanation. Renewed explanations become renewed misunderstandings. Kind words patiently uttered for long together, and without visible fruit, are our only hope. They will succeed; they will not explain what has been misunderstood, but they will do what is much better—make explanation unnecessary, and so avoid the risk which always accompanies explanations of reopening old sores.”

Quotations from Frederick William Faber, Kindness (London: R. & T. Washbourne, 1901).

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