Where Can We Pray?

It’s entertaining to see how the secular Right morphs a story to suit its political aims. This piece was headlined, “Atheist group bullies high school into banning mom from praying for kids’ safety.”

Actually, the atheist group leaned on school administration to prevent concerned mother Lizarda Urena from praying on the school’s front steps. Perhaps her adolescent children breathed a sigh of relief. But nobody was banned from praying. Nobody. It was all about two things: how, and especially where.

I can understand Mrs Urena’s concern about the discovery of gun ammo in a school toilet two years ago. However, the power of Christian prayer is not dependent on proximity. Catholics are especially good on this one. We believe that saints can facilitate miracles from beyond the grave. What’s that–another universe? We light candles in our churches, pray rosaries with intentions, and offer Masses for the living and the dead. We don’t care. The good ones among us will pray for anyone, anywhere. And it will work, especially if you get my wife on the case.

No group can prevent anyone from praying in a home, a place of worship, or anywhere in the privacy of one’s own mind. The problem for a school is when an adult prays publicly in the presence of other students. And we Christians are very, very aware that quite often our silent witness for the Gospel is enough. Words are not always necessary to preach–that’s basic Saint Francis there.

My problem with allowing a Christian to pray on school steps for what is, admittedly, a very good reason, is that it opens up the steps to all sorts of prayers, like maybe this one. And the reaction it got. Some Christians are great when lobbying for their own brand of activity. And occasionally rather pouty when a sense of fairness lets other people put up nativity scenes, or have equal microphone time.

For school administrators, it’s a matter of prudence. Otherwise, what are they going to do to make it fair and balanced? Offer a sign-up list for parents to rotate as designated pray-er? Tolerate non-Christian and even atheist well-wishes for the safety of teenagers? I have to ask my conservative friends: are you really prepared to make the front steps of your kid’s school the next battleground in the culturewar? Do you really want to go there?

I’ll confide: I have a good kid, but I pray for her every chance I get. I know adolescents need prayers. Let’s commit to doing it together, me for your kids and you for mine. But let’s all admit it doesn’t matter where we do it, if the effectiveness of prayer is really what we’re after.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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1 Response to Where Can We Pray?

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    God bless.

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