A request has recently come to the Mission of Saint Thorlak for a prayer suitable for children. What a beautiful thought, and yes, certainly, something that is much needed.
We are very pleased to introduce A Child’s Prayer to Saint Thorlak, which is written in simple verse and evocative of the special relationship we Catholics feel with the holy departed. Despite the title of the prayer, Catholics do not pray TO the saints in the sense that we hold them up as idols or lowercase-gods. We do not believe saints have any more power than we do because the saints are people, just like we are. Nobody goes to the Father except through Jesus (John 14:6). However, as we ask our tangible friends to pray for us, we too ask the departed souls – whom we believe live on intangibly after bodily death – to pray for us. Saints are those whom the Church has carefully scrutinized and determined to be examples of virtue worth looking up to, and whom we believe to be in the company of God in eternity.
“A Child’s Prayer to Saint Thorlak” reads like a conversation with an invisible friend, and how very appropriate for those of us on the autism spectrum. Many autistic children enjoy friendships in their imaginations to much great benefit. An imaginary friendship is non-threatening and proceeds at the pace of the child’s comfort. It can be just as helpful in developing social skills as tangible friendships, so long as the child eventually seeks to apply these skills toward actual connections. And, to be perfectly frank, it’s not only children who imagine friendships. Autistic teens and adults do this too, though likely in secret because of the fear of the shaming we would receive if anyone found out we still do this at our age. In its purest form, this sort of fancy is little different than the “imagery” used by athletes to help improve performance between games, or the “envisioning exercises” cultivated by entrepreneurs to hone their business models long before seeing them through to reality. “Imagination” has been reduced in American English to meaning “make-believe,” but in its essence, this word is much more.
Contrast “Imagination” –
What a pity, that we can have imagination powering great ideas, but reduce it in an instant with a twist of grammar to something that is not true, and will never exist beyond “fancy.” Yet, how powerfully we know those people we hold in our minds and hearts – in other words, in our imaginations!
Linguistic nuances aside, let us look at the Catholic saints again. These are the saga-heroes of the Christian faith, great women and men and children who lived ordinary lives with extraordinary virtue. Catholics profess at every Mass that we believe in “things visible and invisible,” and “life everlasting.” The saints are more than just static characters from the past; they are alive, invisible, and interceding for us before God.
Perhaps that is a better term than “imaginary.” Yes. Invisible. Just out of sight.
Like so many of us: known better by minds and hearts than by eyes.
Just as real, just as needy, just as valuable. Just as hungry to be known for who we are.
Just out of sight.
Pray: Heavenly, Invisible Father: May I remember that You are there, as I am here, in mind and heart. Help me to know those I do not see… and those who do not see me.
Contemplate: “Imaginary friends,” by linguistic definition, cannot be real. “Invisible friends” can be. Who are our own invisible friends? Are we, perhaps, an invisible friend to anyone else?
Relate: How do we keep our “invisible” friends from becoming “imaginary”? How do we keep ourselves from becoming invisible?
May the power of Divine Love shine in and through my weakness, so that He might be glorified in and through me, and that in my weakness, His power may reach perfection. Through Christ Our Lord, AMEN.
Fr. Mark P. Nolette - Spiritual Director for the Mission of Saint Thorlak