When I was in the eye of depression’s storm, I couldn’t pray. I would go into my bedroom closet, shut the door, and light a candle in the dark. I stared into its flame, wanting so badly to feel at peace.
But I didn’t. Instead, I trembled with anxiety, barely able to hold my rosary made of rose petals. I pleaded with God to send me a minute of consolation, to show me that He was there. I got nada.
”Be persistent,” a Buddhist friend told me. ”Meditation takes patience and discipline. When the distracting thoughts come, acknowledge them and then let them go. If you do this over and over again, you will begin to transcend.”
But it never happened. So on top of my depression and anxiety, I felt like a prayer loser.
Maybe I was relying too heavily on my patron saint as a spiritual guide, because St. Therese of Lisieux used to fall asleep during prayer, and she grew distracted from her prayers all the time. She rarely received consolation. ”Saying the rosary takes it out of me more than any hair-shirt would,” she wrote. ”I do say it so badly! Try as I will to put force on myself, I can’t meditate on the mysteries of the rosary; I just can’t fix my mind on them.”
The only way I have been able to pray for longer than 45 seconds is to converse with God as I run my five-mile route around the Naval Academy.
I first pray a novena to St. Therese: ”St. Therese, the Little Flower, please pick me a rose from the heavenly garden and send it to me with a message of love. Ask God to grant me the favor I thee implore (my intention is to find peace), and tell Him I will love Him more and more.” I follow that prayer with five Our Fathers, five Hail Marys, and five Glory Be’s. Then I say the prayer of St. Francis: ”Lord, make me an instrument of your peace….” And if I haven’t run out of oxygen yet, I’ll finish my aerobic/spiritual workout with a favorite prayer from Thomas Merton and the Memorare, an intercessory prayer to Mary.
By the time my sweaty body makes it back home, my soul has worked out too, so I only need to go into my closet for a pair of jeans.