(Please note: This post is not about women's ordination per se, and nor do I wish to host a discussion of it.)
Finding myself free of any obligation for Sunday Mass today, I decided to celebrate the appearance of Universae Ecclesiae by going to the EF Mass at the cathedral. Unfortunately, I wasn't there in time to assist from choir or sing in the schola, so I went to church as a morally absent priest. Oh well; if only such a thing were one of my more serious sins.
On the way into the cathedral on a Sunday, one usually encounters the sexual abuse protesters. I always try to greet them warmly. Today was different. Outside the cathedral this morning there was something else: a women's ordination protest. Smiling young men were passing out literature. I politely declined to take it. In the middle of the protest was an older woman displaying a large sign that read, "Will You Pray For My Vocation?" She made my nun-dar tingle, I have to say, but I didn't look close enough to see if she had the 'pin.'
Stopping by the Blessed Sacrament chapel to make my preparation for Mass, I started to think about the woman's request. Should I pray for her vocation, as she asked? If one accepts what the Church teaches, it can be said with confidence that this woman does not have a vocation to be a priest. So if I were to pray for her vocation, I thought, I would be praying for something quite apart from the intention she seemed to be asking, or imagined she was asking.
But then I thought, isn't that the nature of all real prayer? In our distraction, false loves, and inordinate attachments, many times we don't have a clear picture of the graces we really need. What graces we pray for and what graces God delights to give us can be different things, though we can be sure we aren't too far off the mark if we strive to place our thoughts and imagination in clear, apostolic teaching.
This is why real prayer always has the nature of surrender. It is the opening of the intention and affection to a Love and a Will that we can know, but which we cannot comprehend. To sit or kneel down to pray is to find the willingness to take a step on a path that is trusted, but unknown. And often God only shows us the very next step we are to take. Believe me, this is a manifestation of his Mercy.
This is why prayer is a school of humility and an expression of evangelical poverty. Prayer is the perfect victory of our humanity displayed by Jesus himself, undoing the disobedience of our first parents in the garden: not my will, but yours be done.
To ask someone else to pray for us is an even deeper surrender, an even greater degree of humility. In the intimacy of our own prayer, we can always shy away. We want to avoid the interior vertigo of letting go of ourselves and our own will, and because we don't trust in God, we can avoid prayer. Even worse, we can twist our pieties into a defense from God. In all of this, we have control. But if we ask someone else to pray for us, we have lost control. The grace God means for us is sought, whether it is the grace we think we wanted or even if we are trying to sneak away from God altogether in some way or other.
So, having been led into this reflection, I decided to respond positively to the woman's request, and pray for her vocation. That she didn't, perhaps, know what she was asking, and now receives my little intercession perhaps against her aims doesn't matter. All prayer is like that anyway, to one degree or another.