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Praying with Deacon Paul

"Good Morning class. My name is Deacon Paul. Ms. Kelly invited me to talk to you about prayer related to first communion. Now, who can tell me why we pray?" asked Deacon Paul.

All the hands shot up as each child was sure he or she knew the answer to this question. Some of the responses Deacon Paul heard were:

"To thank God for our mommy and daddy, and to thank God that daddy has a good job," said Jesusspeakstome.

"To ask God to help me stay out of trouble," quipped Riley.

"To ask God to help my grandpa get well," said Danny.

"We say a prayer to thank God for our food before we have dinner," said Bridget.

"Sometimes we say the rosary in the car so that we will have a safe trip," offered Nadine.

"All very good answers," commented Deacon Paul. "We use prayer to get closer to God and to talk to God, don't we? Often we recite prayers that we have memorized and know that God likes to hear. Some of the favorites are the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Glory Be. Sometimes, however, we just make up our own prayers."

"When we pray we sometimes ask God for things,sometimes we give Him thanks and praise, sometimes we even make promises to God in our prayers. What else do we do in our prayers?" questioned Deacon Paul.

This time there weren't any hands waving, but Deacon Paul could see by the looks on their faces that the children were all thinking very hard.

"Don't we listen to God, too?" he asked the children. The children nodded their heads and a quiet chorus of "yes" could be heard.

"Correct," he assured them. "When we ask God to help us to be good and to help us with a problem, we have to listen for His answer. He answers us through our hearts, our minds, and our consciences. If we open our hearts to God, He will always send us in the right direction. We can always trust God!"

Deacon Paul continued, "We also have to understand that sometimes God doesn't answer our prayers right away, and sometimes He doesn't give us the answer we want to hear. For instance, Danny knows that it seems like God is pretty slow in answering his prayers for his grandpa to get better. He has been sick for a long time, hasn't he Danny? Danny also knows that God just may not make his grandpa well here on earth. God may prefer that his grandpa go to heaven to get better and to be free of his illness. And we have to accept that as 'God's will."

"Who has heard the phrase, 'God's will be done on earth as it is in heaven?"questioned Deacon Paul.

"I think it is part of the Our Father," offered Maria.

"That's right, Maria. Children, do you know that even Jesus prayed to God? One time the Apostles saw Jesus praying, and they asked Him to teach them how to pray, too. That's when Jesus taught the Apostles to pray the Our Father! You'll find the story of this in your Bibles in Mat-thew 6:9-13 and also in Luke 11:2-4.

"Children, please turn to the back of your books, to the section that says PRAYERS I SHOULD KNOW. Let's all read the Our Father together, instructed Deacon Paul. "It is the best prayer we can say."

After they recited the Our Father, they read the other prayers in the back of the book and discussed their meaning.

Deacon Paul gave them an assignment. They were to practice reading out loud and try to memorize the words to the Sign of the Cross, the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Apostles' Creed. He also asked them to review the Commandments. They learned about the Commandments when they studied the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation so this would just be a refresher.

"Can you do that?" he asked. They nodded yes. "Oh, and another assignment. When you go to Mass tomorrow, listen carefully to Father Hugo and see if you hear some familiar prayers said during Mass."

After class was over, Maria and Riley sat on the steps in front of the church. Riley opened his book to the prayers and read the Apostles' Creed out loud to Maria. "Maria! Remember when Father Hugo was looking at the stained glass windows over the altar and he said how Jesus was born, died, and rose from the dead, and that was the Mystery of our Faith. Well, this Apostles' Creed talks about that, too. Do you think it is related to the Mystery of the Eucharist?

"It has to be," said Maria with certainty. "But I just haven't figured it out yet."

As they were sitting in front of the church, Sister Mary Rose, the music minister, was walking by and stopped when she came to where they were.

"My, my. You two look lost in your thoughts. Can I help?" offered Sister Mary Rose.

"Deacon Paul was just helping us with our prayers. I am getting pretty confused now,especially about all the mysteries," admitted Maria.

"Yes, Sister," explained Riley. "Maria and I told Father Hugo we would solve the Mystery of the Eucharist, and I don't think we are getting very far."

"Solving the Mystery of the Eucharist. I'd say that is a pretty big assignment!," said a surprised Sister Mary Rose.

"When I have a problem to solve, I always pray to God for help. Maybe I can help you with a prayer," offered Sister Mary Rose as she sat down beside them. "Let me see if I can make one up."

"Let us pray. 'In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit',"she began, and they all made the Sign of the Cross. "Dear God, please bless all the children in the First Communion class. Send the Holy Spirit to help them to open their hearts and their minds to You so that they will come to understand the Mystery of the Eucharist and the Holy Trinity. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, your Son. Amen."

"Now children, why don't you each say a special prayer to God?" urged Sister.

"Dear God, please make Danny's grandpa better," prayed Riley.

"God, please help us to learn our prayers and to solve the Mystery of the Eucharist," prayed Maria.

"Very nice," commented Sister Mary Rose in her softest voice.

They finished with the Sign of the Cross and then just sat for a while in front of the church. They listened to the sounds of the birds and the wind in the trees, and watched the people going by. Riley and Maria both felt very peaceful sitting there with Sister Mary Rose and thinking about God.

The children practiced their prayers at home with their families, at night before they went to bed, and especially in class with Deacon Paul and Ms. Kelly. They could recite from memory the prayers in the back of the book and were familiar with the prayers said out loud during Mass. When they were together, Riley and Maria always prayed the way that Sister Mary Rose had taught them and always asked God to please help them to solve the Mystery of the Eucharist.