On Sunday, I had a baptism to go to. It followed the 11 o'clock mass, which is the same time my church starts, so I decided to just go to mass at my friend's church.
I arrived, as usual, a bit late, and, though it looked like the only option would be to stand throughout the mass, a kind older man came up and told me that there were seats in the choir area and that he'd show me the way.
Sitting, standing, kneeling. All in my odd little perch near the front of the church but, thankfully, enough removed that I was inconspicuous.
Then came the responsorial prayers--the prayers for community, country, causes both large and small--with our united response of "Lord, hear our prayer."
I recognized the prayers because, even though I'm not Catholic, I've been to mass enough to remember which petitions are usually made.
But, one seemed different. Maybe I'd heard it before, or maybe I hadn't. Maybe I was really hearing it for the first time.
It was a prayer for those who had fallen away from their faith.
Then I felt it. The hot sting of tears and the lump in my throat as I tried to get out the words, "Lord, hear our prayer."
There's something about praying for someone. There's something about being in a position in which you can pray for someone. It's a gift to be able to pray for someone. It's a heavy weight to be the one who needs prayer.
In hearing the prayer for those who had fallen from their faith, I heard the prayers that must have been prayed for me for so very long. I felt humbled--both the shame of my falling but also the immense gratefulness of knowing that, at my worst, people had prayed for me. Those who knew and loved me prayed for me, though it must have felt useless at times. And, somewhere, maybe in the same church I sat in Sunday, people I didn't know prayed for me too.
During that short, simple prayer, I was hit with the understanding of how much I had needed each and every prayer offered on my behalf, though, while those patient petitioners offered up their pleas, I never would have known the depth of my need.
I understand now, and I will always be grateful and overwhelmingly humbled that the Lord hears our prayers.