(image via Pixabay)
When I was very little, before I lived on the Planet Charismatic, when we were just generic scrupulous Catholics, I went to a small Catholic kindergarten run by a group of religious sisters from Germany. My mother said that they came as refugees from the Nazis, and stayed as refugees from communism. In the Old Country, they had run orphanages. In this country, they ran a kindergarten and a daycare.
By the time I got to Kindergarten there were only three sisters left in the convent. All wore habits and frumpy nun shoes; each of them had masculine names feminized. Two of them were terrifying, ancient German women with strong accents, and the third was a slightly less ancient American woman. Her name was Sister Mary Thomasina.
Sister Mary Thomasina was peculiar. She never used an eraser, but wiped the blackboard clean with the side of her hand. She referred to Saint Anthony as “Tony;” she would snap her fingers when she lost an item on her desk and say “Come on, Tony.” It worked every time. Once, she stopped in the middle of a lesson on the letter L to tell us what leprosy was, and about the ten lepers who were cleansed when only one remembered to say “Thank you.”
Sister Mary Thomasina taught us to pray. “Fold your hands. What do we do when our hands are like this? Do we play when our hands are like this? Do we cook dinner when our hands are like this? Do we wash the clothes when our hands are like this? What do we do? We pray.” We prayed at the start of every day, after we tidied up the toys. We prayed for our families and loved ones, and for the soldiers who were fighting in the first Gulf War– Sister Mary Thomasina called them “boys” and not men, and made us do so as well. We stopped what we were doing to pray a Hail Mary every time we heard an emergency siren. I still do to this day.
Sister Mary Thomasina told me that it was a sin to pray for someone to be hurt. You should pray for everything but that. Bring everything to God, say anything you want to Him, except that. When you are angry, it’s a sin to pray against the person you’re angry with; it’s a sin to pray for bad things to happen to them.
I took this to heart, as little children do. I still believe it. As I’ve grown older, I’ve been hurt many times and been angrier than I could have imagined possible. I’ve come to the conclusion that God understands trauma, and isn’t too terribly offended when a wounded person sobs that evil people be wounded in turn; best to bring everything in your own heart to His, and to let Him guide you to letting anger go. Still, I believe it’s a sin if you truly, with premeditation and a calm mind, pray for your neighbor to suffer misfortune and mean it.
I don’t even think it should be called prayer.