Twelve-inch painted ceramic statues of Jesus and Mary are permanent fixtures on the bedside table of my mother, Caridad Ragasa. The painted-on hair, cheeks, and hands are partially worn off, evidence of my mother’s daily caresses. As a child, I witnessed her kneel before the statues in prayer every morning and evening. I marveled at her persistent daily devotion, which for years I never fully understood.
Finally, as a teen I asked, “Mom, when did your daily devotion to prayer begin, and why is it important to you?”
“I was born and raised in Hawaii and nine years old when Pearl Harbor was attacked,” she explained. “I recall my mother spreading out several large sheets across the floor. She piled food, clothing, and other basic necessities onto the center of each one, tied them into bundles, and stored them near the back door in the event we needed to flee into the mountains, out of view from aerial attack.
“Preparations in place, we prayed the Rosary, pleading with our Blessed Mother—Our Lady of Peace—to intercede for us, to pray for us, protect us, and save us.
“The threat lasted for several years, ending when I was 13 years old. I remember barbed wire along the beaches; black-out curtains; carrying a gas mask to school in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades; and the stress of learning how to enclose my infant brother into a gas mask for babies. Can you imagine living like that when you were that young?
“Daily Mass. Growing vegetables in our victory garden. Air-raid drills. Checking in on our elderly neighbors. Praying. Always praying.”
I asked her, “Were you praying for an end to the war?”
“We hoped for that outcome,” she replied. “But what we prayed for was for the United States, our allies, and even our enemies of war to be open to receive God’s grace. We also prayed for an increase of grace in all Christians, especially our military and political leaders.
“To this day,” she continued, “I try to live my life ‘worthy of the promises of Christ.’ Then, inspired by our Blessed Mother, I pray for the world to be open to receive and increase in God’s grace. Then hold on to our faith in Jesus, knowing that he always gives us what we need.”
In that moment I realized that my mother possessed a theology of prayer that was beyond my comprehension.
To this day, whenever I say, “I’ll pray for you,” I begin with a self-examination: Am I living my life in a way that is “worthy of the promises of Christ”? Am I in need of the Sacrament of Reconciliation? Will my invocation be for an increase in grace and charity? Will my prayer lead to actions in support of the person I promised to pray for, or am I just offering “lip service”?
This is the true nature of prayer, taught to me through the wisdom of my mother. Prayer—to Jesus through Mary. Surely, in the midst of war my mother found peace.
All this week here at Catechist’s Journey, we’ve been sharing stories of wisdom learned from our elders. We’re all inspired by Sharing the Wisdom of Time by Pope Francis and Friends. We hope you are too and want to read your stories of elders who have impacted you in a positive way! Visit www.sharingwisdomoftime.com/sharing to get started.