“Six P’s of prayer ... plus one.”
And 5 x 4 = 20.
“Remember that when you go home and tell your parents what you learned today at school!” Bishop W. Shawn McKnight of the Diocese of Jefferson City told the students of St. George School in Hermann Oct. 5.
He was referring to the homily given at Mass that day by Bishop Anthony B. Taylor of Little Rock, Arkansas.
Four Catholic bishops were present for Mass in St. George Church, including an eparch of an Eastern Rite Catholic Church.
They are members of the U.S. Conference of Catholics Bishops’ Subcommittee on the Home Missions (usccb.org/committees/catholic-home-missions).
Bishop McKnight is the subcommittee’s chairman.
They had gathered for meetings the previous day in the Alphonse J. Schwartze Memorial Catholic Center in Jefferson City and were making field visits to various locations in Central Missouri.
Joining Bishop McKnight at the altar were Bishop Taylor, whose diocese includes the entire state of Arkansas, Bishop Michael W. Warfel of the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings, which takes in about half of Montana; and Bishop Bohdan J. Danylo, whose Ukrainian Greek Catholic Eparchy of Saint Josaphat, headquartered in Parma, Ohio, covers all or part of seven states.
Father Philip Niekamp, pastor of St. George Parish and of Church of the Risen Savior Parish in Rhineland, also concelebrated.
Six plus one
Bishop Taylor preached a homily on the reading in the Gospel According to Luke (11:1-4), in which Jesus’s Apostles ask Him to teach them how to pray.
Jesus’s response is commonly referred to as “The Lord’s Prayer” or the “Our Father.”
“I’d like you to notice that Jesus is not so much telling us what to pray, as He is telling us how to pray,” said Bishop Taylor.
He summed it up with six P’s.
“We start out by praying, ‘Our Father.’ We’re putting ourself in God’s presence,” Bishop Taylor stated.
“And then we say, ‘Hallowed be Thy name,’ which means, ‘PRAISED be Your name,’” he said. “So we’re praising God. We remember that He’s our Master, we’re His servants, we depend on Him, and He’s so good to us.”
The next “P” is purpose.
“We say, ‘Thy kingdom come’ — not ‘my kingdom come,’ and ‘Thy will be done’ — not ‘my will be done,’” Bishop Taylor noted. “So we make His purposes our own.”
The next is petition.
“We turn to God with our needs: ‘Give us this day our daily bread,’ meaning, ‘everything we need,’” he said.
He pointed out that Jesus didn’t say, “Give us this day our cake and ice cream.”
“It’s not everything we might want, but it’s everything we need,” said Bishop Taylor.
Then comes a request for pardon — forgiveness — and a renewed resolve to extend pardon to other people.
Finally, a request for protection: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
“So, that’s how we pray,” said Bishop Taylor. “We put ourselves in God’s presence, we praise God, we make His purposes our own, we petition Him for our needs, we seek pardon and extend pardon, and then we put our confidence in God’s protection.”
“So the next time you pray the Lord’s Prayer, make sure that you’re not just saying a bunch of words, but rather that you consciously put yourself in God’s presence, praise Him, make His purposes your own, petition your needs, pardon others and ask for pardon, with confidence in God’s protection,” he stated.
He noted that in the next verses of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells a parable that encourages persistence in prayer.
“And so the seventh ‘P’ of prayer is to pray persistently!” said Bishop Taylor
Five times four
It was the first time in recent memory — if ever — that four bishops were present at the same time in St. George Church.
The preschoolers through eighth-graders filled the 1915-vintage gothic revival edifice with their singing and responses to the prayers.
The choir sang Schubert’s “Ave Maria” in Latin after Holy Communion.
Special decorations for the Mass included pictures of the heraldry symbols and official mottos of each of the bishops on the U.S. Bishops’ Home Missions subcommittee.
Bishop McKnight thanked Fr. Niekamp, St. George School Principal Amy Schebaum and everyone else who helped prepare for the Mass.
“It’s good to be with you this morning, and thank you for your hospitality,” the bishop stated.
He asked the children and their teachers to pray for the committee and for the Church in Home Mission dioceses throughout the country.
“And we pray for you and encourage you as children of our Church and at this Catholic school, and emphasize the importance of Catholic education as part of our mission as a parish and indeed our mission as a whole Church,” he said.
In honor of the visiting dignitaries, Fr. Niekamp asked Bishop McKnight if he should offer the students five extra minutes of recess for each bishop who was present.
“Go for it!” said Bishop McKnight. “I’m always happy to be a good excuse for extra recess.”
“Hail Mary” times 50
Earlier in the day, Bishop McKnight and his guests toured the Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows and the historical St. Martin Museum in Starkenburg and prayed the Rosary in the stone chapel.
They heard the story of the founding of the former St. Martin Parish; the foundation of the community’s devotion to Jesus’s Mother under her title, Our Lady of Sorrows; stories of favors granted by God through that devotion; and the origin of the annual pilgrimages to the shrine and the tradition of carrying in procession an image of the Blessed Mother that had been inexplicably undamaged in a fire.
They also visited St. Peter School and America’s National Churchill Museum, both in Fulton, and the headquarters for Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri in Jefferson City.