I have a devout friend who is almost a hundred years old. She’s outlived all of her family, including her siblings, her loving husband of seventy years, and her only child. She’s alone, and not too long ago she lost her eyesight.
For the past two years, every Wednesday morning, I’ve brought her Holy Communion and stayed to visit with her. Our conversations are always lively, as she’s intelligent, witty, and good humored. She speaks often and openly about her prayer life and her love of the rosary. Here is a woman who has lost so much, all the people she loves and her ability to see, yet the one thing she has not lost is her faith. She is a continuous example of steadfast joy and faith.
Recently, however, my friend fell and fractured her hip. During our last visit, this one in the hospital, she expressed anxiety over her prayer life. In the past, she’d always been able to pray herself through troubled times and has especially found comfort in reciting the rosary. But due to her age, and the nature of her injury, she was unable to focus long enough to pray even a single Hail Mary.
I offered to pray a decade with her, but as we prayed, she lost her place several times and became agitated. Instead of bringing peace, the recitation of a rosary decade brought her more anxiety. At the time she needed her rosary the most, she was unable to pray it. I’d never seen my friend so upset. As I struggled to console her, I remembered an old Benedictine prayer booklet my aunt used to read that contained a list of short prayers called aspirations.
Aspiration is defined as both the hope of obtaining something and the act of drawing a breath. Aspiration prayer encompasses both these definitions, short sighs offering up hope, praise, and love to God.
St. Frances de Sales spoke on the importance of aspirations in his work titled, Introduction to a Devout Life. “… there are many predetermined forms of aspirational prayers, but it is best to speak to God from your heart. Send up small darts of love to God throughout the day.”
Small darts of love. What a great way to think of prayer. And a perfect way for my friend to find comfort during this difficult time. So I looked up some examples of aspirations and found a few popular ones: My God and my All. Jesus, I trust in you. Blessed be God. Jesus, mercy.
Yet none of these aspirations resonated with my friend, so we talked about what was on her heart, her fears, her anxieties, and her hopes. She confided that, unable to see, she felt unsettled in her new environment and what she wanted most was the comfort she’d always found when praying the rosary. We finally came up with a short prayer that spoke to her heart: Mary, comfort me.
I encouraged her to pray this prayer throughout her day, as often as possible, not only during times of uncertainty, when she felt alone or scared, but also during the ordinary moments of her day. Offering our emotions to God in moments of fear and pain is a way to unite ourselves to Christ’s suffering. But short aspirational prayers are also a way to keep us centered on Christ, even in joyful times. By lifting short, sincere prayers throughout our day, we keep our focus on God and are drawn closer to him. I wanted my friend to feel the comfort of Christ’s closeness both in the good moments, as well as in her moments darkness and uncertainty.
On my next visit, my friend seemed more at peace. I asked her how her prayers were going and her face lit up. She told me that she has been saying her short prayer all the time and as she prays it, she imagines our Blessed Mother sitting with her. She says she can feel Mary’s warmth and love and that it is very comforting.
I believe her, because not only is my friend happier, but she seems to be recovering both mentally and physically. Quite the feat for someone nearing one hundred years old.
The power of prayer.
Mary, comfort me.
Since helping my friend, I’ve become more aware of my own prayer life, incorporating short aspirational payers throughout my day. Whether I’m cooking, doing laundry, shopping for groceries, or watching one of my kids’ sporting events, I can breath out a small prayer and refocus myself and my day on Christ. Thanks to these small darts of love, I’m feeling more happiness and peace in my life.