Monday, October 18, 2010

2 Years of Prayer

On October 18, 2008 I was in Mankato, MN coaching football for the Minnesota State Mavericks, also working as a hall director and graduate student. We had just beat Moorhead State 52-0 or something close to that. After the game I did something I did almost every Saturday night…went to the bars and like most other Saturday nights I was on a fast track to a black out. At this point I had been in Mankato for just about 3 months. When I arrived there I remember being excited about the opportunity to really start new, I wanted to develop a reputation of someone that was a good Christian man, but more importantly I wanted to be someone that didn’t depend on alcohol for a good time. About a month into my time at Mankato, I gave up and found that I couldn’t get through a weekend without drinking.

I remember being surprised to wake up the next morning the 19th, but I’d done that before. It was almost 8am and I needed to be at the football office by 8:30. I remember feeling especially regretful that day about drinking the night before, which was a bit odd since I’d been there literally hundreds of times before. The reason why I was especially sorry this time was because at this point more than ever before in my life I was striving to live for the glory of God and I knew that drinking excessively was far from what God wanted. During the week I would spend time at the Catholic Newman Center and even helped to lead the Fellowship of Christian Athlete group meetings, but on the weekends I lived an entire different life and living the double life was catching up to me. How could I go on during the week trying to live one way and be someone that students should be looking up to and then go out on the weekend drinking to the point of no memory? Thankfully that night of the 19th something happened that would change the course of my life forever.

But before I tell you what that something was I need to share with you some pretty sweet things that have struck me lately. This last weekend I was in Vermont, there is a FOCUS team at the University of Vermont and all of the FOCUS teams in the East region went there for a “Regional Gathering”. There were missionaries from 9 schools there, so about 40-50 people including husbands, wives, and children. And what a powerful and inspiring weekend it was. First, just being surrounded by that many people striving to be Holy men and women of God is so uplifting. Second, listening to successes and struggles of other missionaries is interesting; there is so much wisdom to gain from others. And third, praying with that many people is so awesome. Try and picture this, pizza restaurant Friday night with all 40-50 of us, after chatting for a good half hour the food was served and we begin to pray. First signing ourselves with the cross and then reciting a traditional before meal prayer to hear a group pray together as one in a public place is so powerful. The other moment of prayer that stood to me was Saturday night when the men and women separated to spend some time alone. Near the end of “men’s night”, all of the men, about 20-25 of us, prayed the Prayer St. Michael together. To me there is just something about the power of prayer when a large group says something together as one, so convicted…. that is so encouraging. These are the men that are in a sense going to battle every day to bring the words of Christ to all on college campuses, I mean wow, talk about goosebumps!

To view Prayer to St. Michael copy and paste this:

What got me thinking about all of this is when I was praying and at mass this Sunday. Right before I prayed I received a text message from my cousin. She said that she was thinking about going on a mission trip and was wondering how to fundraise. I immediately thought that I should tell her to pray. I waited until after mass to respond, so in the mean time I prayed. During the homily at mass Father Stanley Gomes began, “Pray always without becoming weary.” He went on to talk about the miners that were rescued last week in Chile. He talked about how much those miners relied on prayer during their 69 days of being almost a half mile underground and about how the miners designated one corner of their small space as an area of prayer, drawing with their fingers a cross on the wall. One of my favorite stories is how a 19 year old man that was one of the 33 trapped said that there weren’t 33, but 34, saying in a letter that, “God has never left us.” Fr. Gomes went on to say that we need to remind ourselves of the importance of prayer, to pray for each other, and to be united as brothers and sisters of prayer.

After mass and once the church had mostly cleared, I was in tears. I thought about the power of prayer, I thought about this last weekend and those powerful moments of prayer. I thought about what I mentioned earlier, and that something that changed my life on October 19th, 2008 was a prayer. A prayer that kick-started something great in my life (praise the Lord!). Last night in church I dropped to my knees and just thanked God for all the things He has lead me through, good and bad. And so thankful that as I kneel before Him now in 2010 that I have been sober for 2 years. I thought back to how on that night of the 19th as I looked up to my Crucifix, that for the first time I prayed with faith, I prayed like there was Someone listening, and that He could do something, and that with His help I could quit drinking.

I thought about how it was not my prayers alone that so radically changed my life. Others have shared this thought with me and it’s something that I really believe, that when something amazing happens prayer is involved. Think about the miners and how often we have seen clips of their loved ones praying for them the last three months. I think of when I was 9-10 years old spending the night at my grandmas and my brothers, cousins, and I would hear her in a loud whisper talking late at night and we would ask her what she was doing, and she just told us that she was praying.

From now on I’m going to make a great effort to not neglect prayer, because when you think about it we really do. So many great things come from it yet we’re quick to put it off or ignore it completely. Pray for yourself and others and God will get you where He needs you. (Heck it might be New Jersey!)

Remember that text from my cousin? When I left church I responded to her simply with, “Step 1: pray”.


  1. AJ we do know each other, I am a huge fan of yours and I care a lot about you, but I just have to voice a strong difference of opinion.

    As a former religious person who is now a closet Atheist, I find it hard to ignore the fact that those men were rescued by their will to live (which may have indeed been influenced by the power of their beliefs, I won't deny that there must be some power in that) and technical ingenuity of the rescue crews. Science and rationality get no credit, yet they are the only "provable" factors here. As for the case for there being 34 down there instead of 33, you would have to imagine that there are 3 in every room where an innocent child is statutorily molested. We know for a fact that it has happened thousands of times in the Catholic church. The cover-ups and the way in which the current Pope covered those things up are disgusting. I can't imagine he is the closest man to "god" being that he's tainted with that whole mess. Those poor children. Honestly, think of them all. Where was "god"? Was this part of his plan? I'll gladly go to hell if that's my fate because I don't want to have anything to do with such a "divine" plan.

    My real reason for writing this is not to ruin your day, even though I clearly know this will not be enjoyable for you to read, my point is that as a former Catholic you just reach a point where you're able to be stronger than the guilt that has been imposed since childhood. We shouldn't be raised to feel sorry for being imperfect. Of course we're not perfect. My reason for writing this is that you're the second friend of mine who has written something online today, claiming to have felt the need for prayer to counter inadequacy, and AJ, I have to tell you that I really respect you, and think that you're a great man without the imaginary guy in the sky, the guilt, or the blind faith service you surely must have put in during the last two years.

    Again, I'm sure you won't appreciate this, but please know that I'm coming from a genuine place with this. I'm willing to bet you would reach out to me in a similar way, but I'm sorry to say that a girl like me will never be able to come out openly as an Atheist because of the certain shunning I would receive from family and friends for my beliefs. I hope this comment is truly anonymous.

    Best of luck AJ, the world is a beautiful place even without god. If you've never truly approached it that way, I invite you to try. You can still be a great person without "god", and I'd like to think that I'm proof.

    Again, I write this because I care.

  2. AJ,
    I'm proud of you for your commitment to your faith and your sobriety. Yay, for unwavering faith and prayer. After all, thoughts become things. (Your prayers become progress).
    I’m not sure if you’ve had the chance to read/watch “The Secret” or “Conversations with God,” but they’ve really opened my eyes and helped me to better form and understand my own beliefs.

    Talk to you sooner than later,

  3. From one anonymous person to another...

    Just like yourself, I write this out of care, compassion and love, definitely not to start an argument...

    This fall when you saw the rich color of the red, orange and yellow autumn leaves, what was your explanation for how they got that way? Was this simply a fluke of nature? An accidental byproduct of the breakdown of the proteins in the green leaves?

    When a newborn child is born and you look at the intricate nature of her eyes and tiny fingerprints, is that simply the result of human cell division?

    When you’re having a horrible day and the phone rings at just the right instant….and the person who makes you happier than anyone else happens to be on the other line…calling “just because.” Is that a mere coincidence?

    I would argue that all three of these scenarios are the work of God. The amazing part is, He doesn’t need our acknowledgment to continue to love us. God is love, and no matter how much we doubt Him, He’ll still be there doing these incredible things for us everyday. The proof of that is in His very own Son, Jesus Christ, who died for all of us, even when we not only denied Him, but hated Him.

    Does evil happen in this sick world that we live in? Definitely. Do authorities in the Catholic Church make mistakes, because they are mortal human beings? Absolutely. Like you said yourself, no one is perfect. However, this doesn’t change the fact that the Catholic Church is the Church that Jesus Himself established. In addition, the Catholic Church teaches that the suffering that results from the evil that is present in this (passing) world, creates an amazing opportunity to unite our sufferings, tears and heartaches with that of Christ to create good. Evil came into the world because of man’s fall in Eden, because humans used their God-given free will to do things their own way...which is a topic for another day, but I encourage you to look into it---see links below.

    My heart breaks for the children who were molested by men who should have been their guardians, shepherds and teachers. It is inexcusable. However, the existence of this evil does not shatter the existence of God. I also agree with you, technology and brain power were most definitely a vital part of rescuing the Chilean miners. But, despite these wonderful things, the rescue was, I can imagine, still a pretty big puzzle. I know that everything had to fit together just right for those men to see the light of day again, and I know that was a gift that only God could give, and this was nurtured by the prayers of many people from across the world. Again, you are 100% correct, none of us are perfect; God didn’t create us to be perfect. This is precisely why we must rely on Him. Yes, you can still be a good person without God, but to fail to acknowledge Him, would be failing to live up to the fullness of your potential.

    Here are some additional resources:

    And from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

    ...specifically 310-312.