The Journal of Applied Impossibility
The Fatima Prayer is something over which I have begun to feel a kind of spiritual chastening. The issue arises from the following fragment:
...lead all souls to heaven, especially those who have most need of thy mercy.
When I say this, do I mean it?
When I rebelled against the church, it began because I could not bring myself to sing songs, and then eventually I could not bring myself to say prayers or creeds, that I did not believe. It is not without awareness of this irony that I now recognize that I do not mean these words that I have said, and yet am saying.
All souls? Especially those?
Surely, not the ones who...? But what about...?
The souls I want to pray for -- the souls I especially want God to lead to heaven are the souls that I'm most fond of myself. I want that especially for those people. I regard most of my dear friends as my spiritual superiors, or at least my seniors. But I also have friends who need more of that leading, and I want to say (I truly already feel) especially for them.
The stranger on the train, though? He may be a saint for all I know -- and I am the one most in need of his prayers. But if he were among the most in need of God's mercy, am I praying especially for him? In truth, I hadn't given him two thoughts.
When I realize that I haven't meant that part of the prayer, part of this realization is that I don't especially mean strangers. I'm ok at loving my friends almost as much as I love myself. Of course, if this were the second greatest commandment, Thrasymachus would be on his way to heaven.
In addition to those toward whom my response is ignorance or apathy, there are those to whom I find myself experiencing active antipathy. Nevermind the great villains, I'm referring to that incredibly rude woman at the post office. I've never met Putin or Bin Laden, or [Name of famous person we're all supposed to hate]. It's easy to imagine that I could mean to pray for them -- precisely because I do not know them. I recognize that they are enemies or wicked or what have you in the same way I recognize a coral snake, which is to say, through no personal experience whatever.
But that rude woman: Do I want to spend eternity in heaven with her?
The world is filled with people I don't know, won't know, can't know, don't want to know, wish I didn't know. Among them -- because coextensive with all of them, are people in need of God's mercy. Does the thought of their salvation cause my heart to leap for joy?
Knowing my heart's answer to this question, I ask: What am I that I would will anything but God's supreme mercy upon anyone? The woman at the post office was rude. Really -- she was the worst. But me? I am a monster.
So I will say this prayer until my heart is changed -- by the mercy of God.
I write about all sorts of things. This is one of the places where I do it.