Marianne's faith in prayer

Dear Friend, the months are passing and the Jubilee of 2025, which will officially begin next December with the opening of the Holy Door, is getting closer and closer. The Jubilee will have as its motto, Pilgrims of Hope because, as Pope Francis has written, “We must fan the flame of hope that has been given us and help everyone to gain new strength and certainty by looking to the future with an open spirit, a trusting heart and far-sighted vision.”

In anticipation of this great event, the Pope has decided to dedicate this year of preparation to the “great symphony of prayer.” “Above all else,” he wrote, “to renew our desire to be in the presence of the Lord, to listen to him and to adore him…” but also “to thank God for the many gifts of his love for us and to praise his work in creation, which summons everyone to respect it and to take concrete and responsible steps to protect it… An intense year of prayer in which hearts are opened to receive the outpouring of God’s grace and to make the Our Father, the prayer Jesus taught us, the life program of each of his disciples.”

Reading Pope Francis’ beautiful words I was reminded of a story I heard from an old farmer in Fiera di Primiero, a charming little village in the mountains above Trent, where I occasionally spend a few days of spiritual retreat with one of my Franciscan brothers.

Many years ago, in that part of the world there lived a wise old woman named Marianne. She was known by all for her kindness, wisdom and unwavering faith in the power of prayer. The village was going through a difficult time due to a severe drought that threatened the crops, and thus the livelihood of the inhabitants. Despair hovered in the air as the once fertile fields became parched and barren. Marianne, however, remained firm in her belief that prayer could bring about change.

Every day at sunset, Marianne gathered the farmers and their families in the small village church and, together with the parish priest, encouraged them to pray to the Lord for rain. Some were skeptical, but the others, moved by Marianne’s unwavering faith, joined her in prayer.

One evening, just as the villagers were concluding their prayers, a gentle breeze whispered through the air, bringing with it the long-awaited scent of rain. The next morning the villagers awoke to the sound of raindrops beating on the roofs. The once barren, lifeless fields had turned into a sea of deep green. The entire village rejoiced, attributing the miracle to their fervent prayers.

Marianne, with a spark in her eyes, reminded the villagers that prayer is not only about asking for help, but also about fostering a sense of unity, hope and trust in something bigger than themselves. The importance of prayer, the pastor explained, lies not only in its ability to bring about external change, but also in its capacity to strengthen the human spirit, instill resilience and nurture a sense of solidarity.

In a world far more hectic and chaotic than the one in which Marianne lived, Pope Francis’ idea of dedicating an entire year to prayer also becomes an invitation to slow down, reflect and connect with a deeper dimension of our existence. Prayer, in this perspective, is not only a request for help, but also a moment of inner silence, of listening to oneself and to the Word of God, and of searching for meaning in our daily lives.

I wish with all my heart that 2024 may be a year of deep and meaningful prayer for you so that you may find inner peace, serenity and strength every time you turn to the Lord, experiencing his comforting presence in every aspect of your life.

Updated on March 29 2024