The Art of Prayer

God is probably too busy to answer all the prayers sent his way. Catholics have a work-around for this: the art of prayer.

Even though we have largely moved past the Covid pandemic, our fears have not subsided. It seems that we are coming out of the pandemic with more anxieties than we had before Covid. Maybe it’s because there are more floods, tornadoes, droughts, and wildfires than ever. Not to mention a war in Ukraine, the attack on American democracy and the recent announcement that Trump is again running for president. Sometimes I fear the world is coming to an end.

art of prayer
The art of prayer: Be careful praying to St. Nicholas, he might pull a Will Smith on your ass. Painting of Saint Nicholas slapping Arius at the First Council of Nicaea, a famous incident whose historicity is disputed. Public Domain.

People manage their anxieties in different ways. Some take Prozac while others prefer Jack Daniels. However, many of us, especially we Catholics, turn to prayer. But with so many people praying to our Creator, you might wonder if the Lord, despite being almighty, can possibly answer them all. Catholics have a work-around for this, which you might call the art of prayer. We can pray to a patron saint. Having these heavenly helpers to turn to is a perk of being Roman Catholic. I guess non-Catholics can pray to a saint too, but their pleas probably go on the back burner.

Saints are people who lived a life of exceptional holiness and virtue (which eliminates me from ever achieving sainthood). Also having your head chopped off or being burned at the stake seems to improve your chances of being canonized. These gracious advocates don’t just sit on clouds playing the harp all day. They intercede with God to get your prayers answered. They become the patron saints of areas of life such as occupations, illnesses, places, or things.

Various Popes have assigned them certain patron duties because of a connection, experience, or talent they had during their time on earth. For instance, St. Joan of Arc was French, so she is the patron saint of France (and perhaps of cross-dressers), and St. Lawrence was martyred by being roasted alive on a gridiron, so he is the patron saint of cooks. Don’t ever say Popes don’t have a sense of humor. Come to think of it, cooks might also find success beseeching Joan of Arc.

But there is an art to finding the right glorified soul to advocate on your behalf. You really need to do your homework. Most people just pray to the best- known saints such as St. Anthony or St. Christopher or St. Nicolas. But they are the go-to guys for so many seeking heavenly assistance that your appeal may still not get the attention it deserves.

For instance, St. Nicholas is the patron saint of children, of course, but he also listens to the pleas of sailors, lawyers, virgins, unmarried women, fishermen, pawnbrokers, brewers, prostitutes (I think he has some explaining to do to Mrs. Claus) and probably milk and cookie distributors. So, he must get tons of requests.

There are thousands of saints to choose from and they all have different groups whose petitions they hear. You need to pick a saint with whom you have something in common and who doesn’t already have so many requests on his plate. Your connection could be the country you live in, your occupation or if you both suffer or suffered from the same affliction. And the more specific you are, the better.

For instance, if you are not feeling well you could pray to Our Lady of Lourdes, who handles bodily illnesses. But depending on your ailment, you may want to seek help from a saint who is believed to be particularly efficacious for that particular disorder like St. Lucy, the patron saint of eye diseases or St Bonaventure the patron saint of bowel disorders (Where was he when they were handing out saintly duties?).

But unfortunately, there may not be a saint who is willing to take up your cause. For example, I doubt St. Thomas More, the patron saint of politicians, would want to intercede on behalf of George Santos. Sadly for Mr. Santos there are some major gaps in the holy being line-up. Shockingly there is no patron saint for liars or con men nor is there one for drag queens.

Lastly, you will want to avoid saints who just don’t appear to be effective in getting prayers answered. Here St Andrew Corsini, the patron saint of civil disorders and riots, comes to mind along with St. Martin de Porres who handles race relations and social justice. These two may just be sitting around on a cloud playing the harp all day. They need to get to work.

And just remember if praying doesn’t alleviate your anxieties there is always Prozac and Jack Daniels.

JC Wade
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