India, My Friend, and Toilet Paper

This is part four of a series on prayer. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

“He passed away.” One of the Missionaries of Charity said this to me when we returned from lunch break. I was on a five-week mission trip to Kolkata, India in the summer of 2008. The Missionaries of Charity chose me to serve in the Home for the Dying.

Before we flew to Kolkata, seven fellow college students, four FOCUS missionaries, and I had a retreat in Newark, New Jersey. I had just come back into the Catholic Church several months before and hadn’t yet figured our this whole “grace” thing. “I WAS STRONG. I COULD DO THIS MISSION TRIP BY MYSELF,” I thought to myself during the retreat. This obviously wasn’t the right outlook, especially considering-this may be a FOCUS legend-that the FOCUS missions team ranked the difficulty of each trip with toilet paper rolls…the more toilet paper rolls, the harder the trip. Kolkata was one of the trips that had the most toilet paper rolls!

During the retreat, our trip director mentioned that Kolkata is not a place where you seek the aid of a Missionary of Charity for every issue you see. “See the need, meet the need,” she said. I saw a need the first day I walked into the Home for the Dying: love.

There was an Indian man lying on a cot. He was skinny, a little bit older than me at the time, the whites of eyes were yellow, and he was sweating. He didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak his language. So, I pulled up a small stool and rubbed his head gently for an hour before he fell asleep. My group and I left for lunch. He passed away during our lunch break.

This was the first of many experiences that helped me realize, “I AM WEAK. I CAN’T DO THIS MISSION TRIP BY MYSELF.” Still, I didn’t quite know what to do. I knew I needed Jesus, but how? When?  Where? Why? Prayer.

You see, the four FOCUS missionaries on the trip experienced just as much suffering, joy, heartache, happiness, etc. on the trip as I did. But, every time I looked at them, they seemed at peace, especially during our holy hour each day. They had a Friend who would help them through not only Kolkata, but life.

10 years ago today, I was on that trip. Fast forward to this morning, May 23rd, 2018. In several minutes, I will go to the chapel and pray. I will pray for 30 minutes and will do the following:

  • Vocal prayer (Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, followed by a prayer of thanksgiving)
  • Examen (Where have I responded to God’s grace, where have I not, and pray an Act of Contrition)
  • Lectio Divina (Read a Scripture passage, Reflect on the Scripture passage, Request a specific grace gained from reflecting on the Scripture passage)
  • Mental prayer (a dialogue with God about anything and perhaps even some journaling)
  • Rest (receive the love of God, give that love in return, and just be with my Friend)

Two things to wrap up, “…Apart from me you can do nothing,”* and “I have called you friends…”** Two passages from John 15. In other words, apart from my Friend, Jesus, I can do nothing. Prayer is simply spending time with Jesus so that I can receive His love and, again, give that love effectively in return.

What does your prayer routine look like when you go to the chapel, your room, etc.? Please respond in the comments section below.

*John 15:5

**John 15: 15





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