|“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12 Pádraig Ó Tuama is a poet, theologian, and conflict mediator. He is the inaugural poet laureate of The On Being Project and hosts the Poetry Unbound podcast. He was the former leader of Corrymeela, Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation organization. His books include two volumes of poetry, a daily prayer book, and a memoir, In the Shelter: Finding a Home in the World. I’d encourage you to listen to more from Ó Tuama here: https://onbeing.org/author/padraig-o-tuama/.
From 2014 to 2019, Irish poet, Pádraig Ó Tuama, led the Corrymeela Community, Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation organization. Drawing on the spiritual practices of the community, in 2017 he published Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community. Below are some excerpts on prayer from the book, and a liturgy of the night I found especially meaningful during this pandemic time.
Prayer is … Prayer is a small fire lit to keep cold hands warm. Prayer is a practice that flourishes both with faith and doubt. Prayer is asking, and prayer is sitting. Prayer is the breath. Prayer is not an answer, always, because not all questions can be answered. No prayer is perfect. There is no system of prayer that is the best. … Henri Nouwen said that the only way to pray is to pray; the only way to try is to try. So the only way to pray well is to pray regularly enough that it becomes a practice of encounter. We turn to prayer in days of joy, and days where our world shows – again – that it is wrapped in the circle of conflict. We turn to form, we turn to old words because sometimes it is old words that hold the deepest comfort and the deepest challenge. … in a time of trauma, God is given a name by the traumatized. In a time of joy, God is named by the joy of our hearts. In a time of confession, God is named as light. In a time of rest, God is the soft dark that enfolds us. Prayer, like poetry – like breath, like our own names – has a fundamental rhythm in our bodies. It changes, it adapts, … it sings, it swears, it is syncopated by the rhythm under the rhythm, the love underneath the love, the rhyme underneath the rhyme, the name underneath the name, the welcome underneath the welcome, the prayer beneath the prayer. The world is big, and wide, and wild and wonderful and wicked, and our lives are murky, magnificent, malleable and full of meaning. Oremus.
*(Oremus is Latin for ‘Let us pray’)
A liturgy of the night (found on pages 67-68) On the first night God said: ‘Let there be darkness.’ And God separated light from dark; and in the dark, the land rested, the people slept, and the plants breathed, the world retreated. The first night. And God said that it was Good. On the second night God said, ‘There will be conversations that happen in the dark that can’t happen in the day.’ The second night. And God said that it was Good. And on the third night, God said: ‘Let there be things that can only be seen by night.’ And God created stars and insects and luminescence. The third night. And God said that it was Good. And on the fourth night, God said, ‘Some things that happen in the harsh light of day will be troubled. Let there be a time of rest to escape from the raw light.’ The fourth night. And God said that it was Good. And on the fifth night, God said: ‘There will be people who will work by night, whose light will be silver, whose sleep will be by day and whose labour will be late.’ And God put softness at the heart of the darkness. The fifth night. And God said that it was Good. And on the sixth night, God listened. And there were people working, and people crying, and people seeking shadow, and people telling secrets and people aching for company. There were people aching for space and people aching for solace. And God hoped that they’d survive. And God made twilight, and shafts of green to hang from the dark skies, small comforts to accompany the lonely, the joyous, the needy and the needed. The sixth night. And God said that it was Good. And on the last night, God rested. And the rest was good. The rest was very good. And God said that it was very Good. Amen.