Joe De Matteo

Writings and thoughts (with many digressions)

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The making of a prayer…

            …is a beautiful thing.  Sometimes it is just in the moment.  You write a prayer, or maybe, if you’re not a writer, you compose a prayer and jot it down, and it is moving.  It expresses your feelings completely; in a few well put together words it speaks your inner most needs to the One in whom you place Hope; the saying of it puts a chill down your spine and in offering up this plea or praise you feel that God has received it – and more importantly, accepts it.

            A year later you come across a scrap of paper in a draw.  You decide to read it before throwing it in the garbage.  As your mind takes in the first few words you remember that this is that wonderful prayer, it is that petition you sent to the Lord that He answered – how could you have even thought to throw it away - so you eagerly read on.

            Something is wrong.

            This is not the masterful work you produced that the Almighty accepted with such immediacy.  This must have been a first draft, or, more likely, something preceding a first attempt because his collection of words is pathetic; it is utterly meaningless dribble.

            But, no. 

You are holding the prayer which God Graced you for its offering.            A primordial scream, scribbled and incomprehensible is all that is left of the solemn supplication which the Most High received and responded to instantly.  What language were you really speaking when you prayed this prayer?  A language that translated into English not at all, obviously.

            There is a language between God and man that transcends man’s concept of language, one must conclude.  A language that is not uttered nor heard with tongue or ear, nor is it articulated in our minds; it defied human senses, therefore it transcends the flesh and must be something of the spirit.  For it was with the Spirit that God answered it with His Grace.

            This may be what we should expect when we pray for guidance, when we seek the presence of God.  We pray so hard for answers or guidance and then lay in the darkness of our rooms, reclined with ears alert for and utterance from God.  We kneel before the Eucharist screaming out with our heart for Him to tell us…something; our brain whirring: “Did I hear something, a footfall, a sigh; did I feel a breeze, do I feel a presence?”  All the while, it may be, that what we are waiting for with our humanity, should be expected through our spirit.  Isn’t our spirit our imaging of the Creator?


            Then there is the prayer that is written in human language and understood in a manner so conventional to us that it goes without saying.

            Certainly, when a brilliant thought is composed and inscribed with talent – human or God inspire – it can be re-read many times, and not only keep its elegance over multiple readings, but open new doorways of understanding with each new reading. 

            Such a prayer can, like the Gospel itself, give new understanding or enlightenment with each subsequent reading; it can talk to the reader’s present condition or situation with insight that was not seen there before. 

            The Magnificat Meditation of the Day for January 4, 2008 entitled Beholding the Lamb of God, which was written by Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, is a case in point.  Each time I read it I realize that I am fervently praying it, and I want God to know that it is me praying, not just reading the writing of St. Elizabeth.  “Yes, Lord,” my heart calls out, “these are her words, but it is my prayer to you.”

So perfectly does she look at moments of His Crucifixion, so beautifully does she turn them into high prayer.  She states firstly Christ’s renunciation of his own life to The Father’s will.  Then, acknowledges his sacrifice for each of us individually, saying it thus, Lord Jesus, who was born for us in a stable, lived for us a life of pain and sorrow and died for us upon a cross… 

Here, she takes familiar quotes of Jesus on the Cross and brilliantly turns them into beautiful petitions, she prays: [Lord Jesus] say for us in the hour of death, “Father, forgive,” and to your Mother, “Behold your child.” Say to us, “This day you shall be with me in paradise.

If I have a moment before my death, what few words could be more powerful, more relevant to pray?  Implicitly they affirm belief and faith, and openly acknowledge my need for forgiveness.  These are Hope-filled words.

In closing, Saint Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton petitions our Savior, then makes a poignant observation and speaks beautifully about a reality, our days pass quickly along, soon all will be consummated for us.  Yes, Mother Seton, at that moment of my death all will be consummated for me.  Knowing that, I ask myself, what will I do in the very next moments to affect my eternity? 

Finally, she paraphrases Jesus’ own final words with, to your hands we commend our spirits.

Below is this beautiful prayer without my comments. 


Beholding the Lamb of God

O Father, the first rule of our dear Savior’s life was to do your will.  Let his will of the present moment b e the first rule of our daily life and work, with no other desire but do is most full and complete accomplishment.  Help us to follow it faithfully, so that doing what you wish we will be pleasing to you.

Lord Jesus, who was born for us in a stable, lived for us a life of pain and sorrow and died for us upon a cross; say for us in the hour of death, “Father, forgive, “ and to your Mother, “Behold your child.”  Say to us, This day you shall be with me in paradise.”  Dear Savior, leave us not, forsake us not.  We thirst for you, Fountain of Living Water.  Our days pass quickly along, soon all will be consummated for us.  To your hands we commend our spirits, now and forever.  Amen.

Saint Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton

Joseph De Matteo

Joseph De Matteo


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