|Il Volto Santo - The Holy Face|
When I did so two weekends ago before my most recent pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Holy Face at Manoppello, the number of responses was a bit overwhelming, 100 in total. I went to "gaze on the loveliness of the LORD and contemplate his temple" and to present these petitions before his Divine Majesty (Psalm 27:4).
What struck me most as I read through the different requests was the great amount and variety of suffering being at least endured or patiently accepted by so many of my friends (all of the requests came from people I know and who are very dear to me, from family, friends, former parishioners, etc.).
My heart ached for so many of them as I recalled the words of Saint Paul: "If [one] part suffers, all the parts suffer with it" (I Corinthians 12:26). At the same time, though, I found my faith was strengthened by the example of so many self-less requests, as if to conclude the Apostle's words: "...if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy" (I Corinthians 12:26).
Most of the requests were not for the ones asking prayers, but for their family and even students. These were mostly requests for health and faith.Other requests were for deceased loved ones, for co-workers, upcoming retreats, employment, vocations, and peace within families and throughout the world.
My favorite requests - if I can have them - came from a husband and wife. The husband first asked prayers for the health of his wife. Several hours later, and without reference to her husband's request (32 requests were posted before her), she requested prayers for her husbands. Whenever I prepare couples for a wedding, I tell say to the grooms, "Your first duty is to ask yourself each day, 'How can I help my wife grow in holiness today?'"; I then say to the brides, "Your first duty is to ask yourself each day, 'How can I help my husband grow in holiness today?'" Their selfless requests - each praying for the other's health and not their own - indicates they're on the path toward holiness.
Saint James admonishes us to "pray for one another" (James 5:16). Certainly we can - and should - pray for one another without particular intentions, but how much more earnestly can we pray with particular intentions?
I intend now to ask for prayer requests more frequently; you might consider doing the same.