One of the great blessings of working in a profession that allows me to meet many women and men of faith is that I often directly benefit from their wisdom and creativity when it comes to nurturing and enriching my spiritual life.
One woman of faith who has become a dear friend and who inspires me every time we chat or correspond is Sr. Bridget Haase, an Ursuline sister living in Boston. Sr. Bridget has taught children in many parts of the world and now serves as coordinator of the spirituality program of The Boston Home, a long-term care facility for people with multiple sclerosis and other degenerative neurological diseases. She co-hosts with her brother, Franciscan priest Albert Haase, a weekly radio program, “Spirit and Life,” on Relevant Radio. She’s written several books, including Enkindled: Holy Spirit, Holy Gifts (with her brother, Albert), Generous Faith: Stories to Inspire Abundant Living and Well Said: Children’s Words of Wisdom.
During a phone call with Sr. Bridget 10 years ago, I mentioned my frustration at not being able to remember all the prayer intentions that popped up in my life and how overwhelmed I felt some days with the number of prayer requests that crossed my path. Daily I was being asked to pray for family members and friends, coworkers and neighbors, professional colleagues, and even strangers. The number of good causes and serious world situations that I thought needed prayers piled up. I told Sr. Bridget that I really wanted to be true to my promise to pray for someone.
Hearing the frustration in my voice, the wise and caring Sr. Bridget told me that she had an easy way to remember to pray for others every day. Her idea was so simple and so appealing that I adopted it immediately.
Use a prayer bowl to remember to pray for people and special intentions.
“Use a prayer bowl,” Sr. Bridget suggested. She explained that she keeps a small bowl in a quiet place in her home, and in this bowl she places the names and prayer intentions of all people who ask her to pray for them and many who have no clue that this spiritual dynamo is storming heaven on their behalf.
I liked the prayer bowl concept immediately, and so soon after talking with Sr. Bridget, I placed a small bowl on my desk at work, right next to my favorite statue of St. Francis of Assisi. I used this bowl for several months, but wanted something “special,” so when I went on a 2-week pilgrimage to Assisi and Rome in 2001, I knew that one item on my souvenir shopping list would be a beautiful wooden bowl.
I found the perfect bowl in a small religious articles shop on a hillside street near the main piazza in Assisi. The lovely bowl, about 1.5-inches high and 4 inches in diameter, is carved from olive trees that abound in Umbria, Italy. The natural grain of the olive wood is so beautiful, and the smoothness of the wood is comforting to my touch. The wood’s many swirls remind me of incense rising to heaven.
Upon return from that pilgrimage, I brought the Assisi bowl to my work office and immediately put it to use. For 10 years now, I have cut small slips of paper on which I write the name of a particular person or cause—the prayer intention—that I want to pray for, such as “Bonnie’s son in Iraq,” “Judy’s breast cancer recovery,” “a peaceful death for Rita,” “children who are abused,” “a new job for nephew Mark,” “the sale of a friend’s home,” “the success of a fundraising effort at St. Boniface Church,” and so on. I date each slip with the current month and year, and then every few months or so, I pull out all the prayer intentions to see which ones I still need and want to pray for and which I can remove from the bowl. I keep blank slips of paper and a pen for this purpose in a drawer close to the prayer bowl.
The bowl is always full. And I now have an easy way to pray for the people and intentions close to my heart.
My prayer each day is simple: “Lord, I offer my life and work today for all those intentions in this prayer bowl. May your will be done.”
What tip do you have for enriching our prayer lives?
Featured photo © ellie