The Prayer of Children
“My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love You! I ask pardon of you for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love You!”
-The prayer of the angel of Fatima
St. Benedict, in chapter 19 of his Rule, teaches his sons to pray the divine office. He tells us that “...we ought to behave ourselves in the presence of God and His angels, and so sing the psalms that mind and voice may be in harmony.” This is very similar to the instructions given to the children of Fatima. It is in the presence of an angel that they were taught to pray: “Do not be afraid! I am the angel of peace! Pray with me!” Excessive fear of events and anxiety of mind are two major obstacles to any prayer life. The angel taught the children not to be afraid of the supernatural world, to desire the peace of good angels and to pray with them. Our own guardian angel could have used the exact same words to invite us to pray.
The past no longer exists and the future does not yet exist; we have no reason to be afraid of the non-existent. Worries and anxiety make us focus our thoughts and efforts on our perception of sometimes-imaginary problems. This lack of peace can only reduce our confidence in God, silence our conversation with Him and even disturb our judgment concerning the ordinary events of daily life. If we refuse to be afraid of the past and future ghosts of our imagination, if we willfully choose “thoughts of peace and not of affliction” and we join our voices with those of our guardian angels, we will quickly learn to pray.
The Ordering of the Petitions
There is a logical ordering of the petitions:
“My God...” The great spiritual masters, (starting with Our Lord praying the Our Father), ask us to place ourselves in the presence of God in order to begin prayer. We have the privilege of being able to speak to God when we so desire. We must remember that we are speaking to a Being that exists and is present, not to an imaginary someone who is absent, but with the Trinity dwelling within us. We often treat God as if He were not present and incapable of responding. This is not prayer, but rather a type of sentimental self-seeking or the conversation with a wall.
“I believe...” faith is the most urgent of all the virtues that unite us to God; without it there can be no spiritual life. The atheistic propaganda of our times strives to destroy the very idea of anything spiritual in our society. In 1917, the world was trying to eliminate God from the thoughts and desires of man. Happiness could only be found in materialism and to obtain it, man was asked to believe in the pleasure, wealth and power that the world offers. Faith in God was replaced by faith in technology; belief in the existence of the human soul was replaced by the pleasures of the flesh. History has shown the resulting catastrophe of this destruction of faith in today’s society.
“I adore...” The first consequence of our faith is to make an act of adoration. We submit our soul to the majesty of God, recognizing the beauty of His divinity and offering Him our humble praise. Today’s materialism empties man of his very soul, turning him away from God towards creatures that pass away. Man prefers to adore himself placing his personal good over all else. He attributes to his own excellence his capacity for high-tech activity, living in the virtual reality of a type of video game. He becomes the creator of his own “world” on the screen of a computer and seeks to adore his accomplishments. Man has learned to move and communicate with great speed, but without a final goal he has nowhere to go and nothing to say. In reality he is fleeing from God and himself...even if very quickly.
“I hope…” Hope is the virtue of desiring a future good that we can obtain. It is the art of waiting for the promises of God to come true. It is a type of consoling presence of God in the midst of terrible trials that gives us great energy to overcome all difficulties. In a world that has excluded God and refuses to adore Him, there is no hope, but only despair. A society without faith has nothing to hope for and is doomed to self-destruction.
“...and I love You!” The love of God is the most noble activity that man can achieve in this world. Man’s greatest happiness is to love and be loved by God and, according to God’s law, to love and be loved by our neighbor. This exchange of love is the image of charity found in the Most Holy Trinity. A disordered love of self destroys this image of God in our souls, excluding the love of God and neighbor. Hatred is the logical consequence, which degenerates into bickering and war. Cruelty and injustice are the companions of hatred. Aborting the unborn and murdering the elderly can only lawfully exist in a society without God. In today’s world, charity has been replaced by the “survival of the fittest.”
The angel taught the children of Fatima to pray for themselves and for their neighbor in the midst of a modern world that rejected God. We have much to learn from this simple prayer and the children that prayed it. “In the presence of God and His angels...” they spent their lives in sacrifice adoring God with great simplicity and confidence putting into practice the prayer learned from the angel.
“Unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”