By Sister Judith Minear
During my prayer this morning, frequent appearances were made by various items on my “to do” list. Try as I might, I was unsuccessful in holding them at bay, which is unusual for me. This was annoying. The time I set aside for prayer and reflection is precious and restorative. Intrusions are, well…intrusive!
Still, I turned to these thinly veiled impostors with curiosity and compassion.
“Why are you here, now?” I asked them.
I shrugged and turned again toward deep silence. Just as I entered it, I heard, “You’re living on a wing and a prayer.”
The Cambridge English Dictionary defines the phrase this way: “if you do something on a wing and a prayer, you do it hoping that you will succeed, although you are not prepared enough for it.” Hence, the prayer.
I believe that we are seeing the best of us living “on a wing and a prayer” these days. In these troubling times, filled with natural disasters and extraordinary disharmonies and divisions, we have watched thousands of people respond to the needs of others…hoping for success, and trusting that the gifts they bring to their efforts will be enough, with God’s grace.During Hurricane Harvey, many were living on a wing and a prayer, hoping for the strength to help others in need.
- Mack McIngvale of Houston, Texas opened both of his furniture stores to 400 residents and responders during Hurricane Harvey. What will he do with the now-used furniture? Mack says he will slash the prices and sell it once the waters recede. He imagines that folks will appreciate getting a fair deal on good furniture to replace what they have lost.
- DACA recipient Alonso Guillen, 31, drowned when he was on his way as a volunteer to help rescue those trapped in the floodwaters resulting from Harvey. His father had begged him not to go out in the storm, but Alonso insisted on helping. Alonso’s mother was not permitted to come from Mexico to bury her son.
- Rescuers helped more than 14,000 people to safety, but they also plucked a plethora of animals from the floodwaters. Rescues of horses, cows, dogs, cats, pigs, bats and birds can be witnessed on YouTube videos (bring your tissues).
What does this say about us as humans? To me, it says that our default is LOVE. Again and again, in spite of personal, physical, psychological, or emotional danger, most of us will reach out to help another who is in need. This LOVE default is at the core of the teachings of the Sisters of St. Joseph, also known as the Congregation of God’s Great Love. Each and every one of us is created in God’s image, brought to life through God’s breath. How, then, could we NOT reach out to the dear neighbor who is in danger around us, regardless of race, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, or any other characteristic that we too often allow to divide us? And how could any of us refuse a hand outstretched in loving aid, regardless of the image of God it represented?
Our early documents call us sisters, associates and partners of St. Joseph to live on a wing and a prayer, although not in those words. We are called, within the same moment, to contemplation AND action. Action and prayer are not to be separated. It is through my prayer that I hear God’s ‘next step’ for me, and through my actions that I both carry it out and hear the next step I am to take. We are called to live with discerning hearts, so that, unlike the dictionary post, we can be moved to action, trusting that, with God’s help, we are prepared enough for the job at hand.
As I was writing this, I received a text from a friend which included this quote from Cynthia Bourgeault’s the Heart of Centering Prayer. It is a prayer I might whisper before every action I take as one who seeks to be a carrier of God’s unioning Love in the world:
“By the power of the Divine Indwelling active in me, I unconditionally embrace this moment, no matter its physical or psychological content.” Or cost, I might add.
By God’s grace, when we bring our most whole selves to whatever we do, we are prepared and powerful, courageous and heroic, in big and small ways.
A wing and a prayer? They are enough for me!
About the Author
Sister Judith Minear currently serves as part of the 3-member team for CSJ Ministries as Coordinator for Mission Integration, working with our 26 sponsored ministries. In her free time, she loves drawing zentangles, stalking birds and savoring poetry.