They punctuate the fields of corn and tobaccoo, those little country churches, enduring reminders that though man might till the earth, God sends the rains and the fruit and harvest. Out near the road, marquees are ever-present and witticisms behind the glass case are quick, little moments of catechesis. Sometimes funny, other times banal, most often forgettable.
"DON'T LIKE UR LIFE? DO A U TURN" (ah, metanoia....gotcha....and what's with the text-speak?)
"FAITH IS THE ROOT, HOPE IS THE FRUIT" (che bella, tutti-frutti)
But once in a while, one manages to penetrate my skeptic's heart. And it burrows away into my consciousness and makes me think.
"PRAY WITH OUT CEASING"
At first, I laughed at the grammatical error and drove past smirking. But all throughout the day, it came back to me....pray...without ceasing. The words stayed on that marquee for a good long time this summer, so I saw the exhortation over and over.
Yes, a small voice inside whispered, "Pray for your friend discerning a vocation." And don't forget the friend's mother who is dying and her daughter in Mosul. Then there is the parishioner who a month ago received his stem cell transplant hoping to arrest the aggressive bone cancer. On and on, the list grew and the necessity of praying without ceasing has become a way of life. On the commutes to work, I drive through the countryside, where I am closer to nature than if I had to drive on superhighways. Several months ago, I'd stopped listening to music on the car stereo. I've come to a greater appreciation for silence in the car and that is where a lot of prayers get raised to heaven. Arrivals at my destinations find me much more at peace and I am able to carry the day's challenges more readily.
Pray without ceasing, I am learning to cost of St. Paul's exhortation to the Thessalonians. It isn't necessarily true that my prayers are powerful or effective. It is a way of holiness, this being in his constant presence through words....faltering at times, half-hearted oftentimes...but always life-changing for me because in the end, it is I who becomes transformed. A greater patience for people? Perhaps. But always a sense of humility to be participating in people's lives through prayer.
Pray without ceasing, pray for the saints, pray with perseverance. In prayer, all things are possible.
Marquee theology sometimes gets it right.