(Press release used for “Speaker: Prayer the ‘building blocks’ for loving God and neighbor” by Nicholas Wolfram Smith, Catholic San Francisco, August 6, 2019)
Christian Clifford, author of books about California mission history, spoke on August 3, 2019, to delegates of the Bukas Loob Sa Diyos (BLD) Singles Ministry at their Singles Inter-district Conference (SIC) at St. Dunstan Parish Center in Millbrae, California. About 150 were in attendance. Delegates came from Newark, NJ, the San Francisco bay area, Phoenix, AZ, Los Angeles, CA, Seattle, WA, Reno, NV, and Vancouver and Toronto, Canada.
According to the BLD website, “We are the Bukas Loob sa Diyos (BLD) Covenant Community. Founded in June 1985, BLD is a pioneering lay organization in the Philippine renewal movement.”
The history of Catholic charismatics, according to the website of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal National Service Committee, “The Catholic Charismatic Renewal as it exists today is the outgrowth from a retreat held in February 1967 of several faculty members and students from Duquesne University. Many of the students – though not all – experienced a movement of God’s Spirit called being ‘baptized in the Holy Spirit’ . . . . the Catholic Charismatic Renewal exists in over 238 countries in the world, having touched over 100 million Catholics in its nearly 40-year existence.”
The premise of Clifford’s presentation on prayer was how it helps one to not feel alone and despondent. He shared “. . . as an adopted son of God, I know that I walk through life with Christ and this gives me great consolation amid the great noise and confusion in the world. It is a joy that destroys the ‘watchful dragons’, to borrow a phrase from C.S. Lewis.” He continued, “I can spend lots of time talking about the formula of prayer and types of meditation. I will only briefly, however, because our Church for 2,000 years has collected so many powerful and faithful prayers in Her treasury. In short, they exist, we just need to discover them. For example, do a google search of the term CATHOLIC PRAYERS and you will get about 219,000,000 results.” At the heart of the talk was how he came to write his first book, Saint Junipero Serra: Making Sense of the History and Legacy, and how the journey since has only deepened his relationship with St. Junipero Serra. He challenged attendees to go beyond one’s comfort zone and that there God’s grace abounds. He incorporated inspirational writings from the 18th-century Franciscan priest who brought Catholicism to California two-hundred-fifty years ago and stressed the importance of praying with the saints. Some others he highlighted were young, holy people: Saint Kateri Tekakwitha; Saint Pedro Calungsod; Saint Charles Lwanga; Saint Maria Teresa Goretti; Saint José Luis Sánchez del Río; and Blessed Chiara Badano.
Clifford highlighted his pilgrimage of the 800-mile California Missions Trail during his second talk on action. He spoke about how it is imperative to get off the proverbial bench to see God at work in the world. To date, he has walked 479 miles of the CMT over 29 days. He shared the challenges and joys he has encountered so far, analogous to what one experiences when they have the courage to build the kingdom of God. He gave some practical ideas of how to put prayer into action, such as going to a senior center, helping at a shelter, peacefully having one’s voice heard by attending a protest, emailing a legislator; attend a retreat; going to World Youth Day; having a mini-pilgrimage in one’s city or town.
In his concluding remarks, he said, “. . . choose to live a life in Christ and you will never go wrong. There are many forms of prayer–find one that helps you talk to God. I highly recommend walking with the saints. They have been through what you and I encounter or what may be on the horizon. Make a promise to yourself to be more of an apostle–one who is sent. . . . You already have a strong foundation. If you didn’t, you would not be here today. No matter what you do, the act of prayer will help one build on the foundation–they will be like building blocks that will help one better love God and serve your neighbor. Jesus said it best, “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock” (Mt 7:24-25).