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Reflection on the Mission of Ringwood’s House of Prayer

The friars gather for prayer in the chapel of Holy Name Friary. (Photo courtesy of Bill Herbst)

RINGWOOD, N.J. — It is now well over a year since Holy Name Friary was declared a Provincial House of Prayer. Many, both here and elsewhere, have wondered how a skilled nursing facility could also be a House of Prayer. The schedule, the complicated relationship with the state, and related problems seem too many to make the combination possible. I submit, however, that there is more than one kind of House of Prayer. The fact that here at Holy Name Friary we have television, social programs and other “distractions” would seem to make a House of Prayer impossible, but the true reality of such a place is the spirit that governs those living here.

We must remember that we friars, by virtue of our profession and – for some of us – ordination, are healers, so that we are of service spiritually to the staff in a parallel way that they are of service to us physically. This consciousness of our identity together with our understanding of our particular condition necessitates our calling upon the Lord to show us, as fully as possible, who we are. This particular consciousness of our dependence on the Lord cries out for the only explanation which can emerge only from a life of prayer.

We are here at Holy Name Friary in a way that cannot be duplicated and, because of this, it makes no sense without a deep consciousness of our being in the presence of God. Whatever we do makes sense – has meaning – only if we are deeply involved in the life of prayer. Otherwise, a place like this becomes merely a parking space or, as many in the Province refer to it, a launching pad.

This place, however, is a place of mission. We are assigned here, not committed. We have a reason for being here that is more than our physical or mental inability to be somewhere else. This is as vibrantly a part of the Province as any other house.

Therefore, we are here to live a full life that is quantitatively different but capable of a level of quality equal to any kind of life. This is possible because we are a House of Prayer, and we are animated by an awareness of the presence of God which we can make grow day by day through the quality of our prayers. The “Jesus Prayer” teaches us to breathe in “Lord Jesus Christ” and breathe out “have mercy on us.” As we realize the meaning of this prayer, we see that our very breathing, which is a sign of life, becomes also a sign of prayer and we may here apply the mantra often attributed to St. Francis, “pray always and occasionally use words.”

In this place, we draw nakedly close to God, putting away each day more and more of the covering which declares us to be of earth, and we stand more and more in the presence of God in the appearance of the heavenly world.

Yes, Holy Name Friary is not what it appears to be. It is, in every way, a House of Prayer.

— Fr. Philip is a resident of Holy Name Friary in Ringwood, N.J. He has written five reflections about life at the skilled nursing home since moving in two years ago. The most recent is titled “Easter Perspective from Ringwood.”

 

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