Debra Black considers how best she can pray for her family of choice: her friends.
As a young adult, I would hear people talk about the family of choice — our friends. The notion is that we get to choose our friends and they become our family. The implication is that we don’t get to choose our real families and so we are "stuck" with them. An assumption is that we can cease being part of the birth family when we replace it with enough friends.
No family is perfect, and it seems today few are even functional. Too many homes are places of extreme pain. Yet we were born into this family for a reason; it is our family of gift. Additionally, we are called not only to desire our own salvation but also that of those around us; to "sanctify" the unbelievers through our prayers (1 Corinthians 7:14). To desire that our whole family be in Heaven together, regardless of how we’ve been treated in this life.
Some time ago, I came to realize that a huge deficit existed on my prayer account, and it was owed to certain members of my family of gift. They certainly had preoccupied my thoughts many times over the years. But those were thoughts spent in anger or pain, not prayer. What might have been the outcome had I instead prayed without judgment for them? I cannot change the past nor can I change them. But I can change me today, asking God that I may truly desire that they (and I) bask in His glory in Heaven.
This extends to our worldwide "family" too. So many people are suffering violence and injustice. What if our anger or fear were instead turned to prayer for their salvation, that of the victims as well as their persecutors? If we shared this perspective with others around us, more people might begin to pray that hate turn to love.
God permits these hardships not only for us to see and stop our sin but, more importantly, for a conversion of heart. Our conversion affects others. We know by faith that our personal holiness brings Jesus actively in the world. Being His hands and feet is not a metaphor. It is an actuality as He uses us more fully as His instrument.
The place to start is by improving our relationship with our Holy Family: the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. Embrace the truth that the Trinity is your true family. The universal call to holiness for which we were each created came to us through our Baptism. The path to spiritual growth is given to us by Jesus and taught by our saints. Jesus demonstrated it by spending regular silent prayer alone with the Father in "the lonely places." For us, honest mental prayer builds that relationship and the daily examen unveils how to live in it.
We then extend this to our family of gift. Mother Mary and St. Joseph teach us how to love others through prayer, even if keeping a physical distance from them is necessary for our safety. Ask for the desire to love them, and then for the love to give to them, followed with a true and fervent desire for their salvation. This simple 3-part daily prayer can be surprisingly life changing.
Our mystical family in Christ needs our holiness too. In our Confirmation, Jesus personally commissioned us to a Divine office of intercessory prayer. It is a solemn obligation that comes with special graces specific to this office. We need to be cognizant of this throughout our day and ask God for these graces to be active in the moment.
Faith is the gate through which grace enters. It unleashes the power of our sacraments. Christ’s exercising of His omnipotence on earth is conditioned by our faith. Elisha, inheriting Elijah’s cloak, received double the power due to his faith. Faith is not just belief; Satanists believe in God. To be faith, that belief must be born from a desire and love of God. As snags and stumbles present themselves during the day, simply and steadfastly choose to be a grace magnet instead of a grace blocker. Grace will reign upon our entire Catholic family and, through us, the world.
Prayer for Peace
O God, Creator of the universe, who extends your paternal concern over every creature and guides the events of history to the goal of salvation,
we acknowledge your fatherly love when you break the resistance of mankind and, in a world torn by strife and discord, you make us ready for reconciliation.
Renew for us the wonders of your mercy; send forth your Spirit that he may work in the intimacy of hearts, that enemies may begin to dialogue, that adversaries may shake hands and peoples may encounter one another in harmony.
May all commit themselves to the sincere search for true peace which will extinguish all arguments, for charity which overcomes hatred, for pardon which disarms revenge. (St. John Paul II)
About the Author
Debra Black is a spiritual director, perpetual member of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, international educator, and businesswoman. Her public service roles have spanned city commissioner, pregnancy clinic board of directors, youth and college ministry, public citizen activism, and homeless street ministry. Her writings can be found at TheFaceOfGraceProject.com, including her latest books, The Life Confession: A Discovery of God’s Mercy and Love and Kick Butt: The Quick Guide to Spiritual Warfare.