My Mother taught me many prayers when I was young. Often, they were prayers of comfort, in contrast to my father, who usually taught me prayers to meet life’s challenges.
I didn’t always think of my Mother’s prayers as prayers, even though that’s what she called them. Sometimes, I just went through them with her to satisfy her. Nevertheless, because they were based on experience, many of them stuck with me.
This is one of my favorites. I was about six years old at the time. I was sitting outside on a block of concrete, and I was crying. I don’t even know why. I was just crying and crying. My Mother came along and said, “What’s the matter?” I said, “Nothing, leave me alone!” She did - and then I really started crying!
About 15 minutes later she came back and sat beside me. “You know,” she said, “I have to tell you something. There are going to be a lot of times in your life when you are going to cry, and you won’t know why. You won’t understand and neither will anyone else. You can marry the nicest man in the world, but at times like this he won’t know what to do to help you stop crying.”
Then, she said she was going to teach me a prayer for the times when I was crying and didn’t know why. She made me get off the cement block and stand up. She said, “Now, put your arms around yourself. “I did but it wasn’t good enough.
“You’re just folding your arms” she said. “Put them all the way around yourself. Cuddle your body. Hold yourself the way you would hold baby in your arms.
“Now, after you have a real good hold of yourself, close your eyes and begin to rock yourself. Rock yourself real good, the way you would a baby, and just keep doing it. When you grow up, no matter how old you are, and you are crying and you don’t know why, I want you to rock yourself just like this. As you do it, remember that you are God’s little child, and that God understands why you are crying even if no one else does. And, remember, too, that God holds you close just the way you are holding yourself because God loves you very much. Then just keep rocking yourself and be comforted.”
Isn’t that a good prayer? I still say it today when I feel bad. I recommend it for you, too. Just stand wherever you are - in the kitchen, in the shop or in the bathroom - and wrap your arms around yourself, tight as you can and rock yourself.
Before long you’ll be able to feel God holding you in the same way you are holding yourself, and you’ll be comforted the way you were comforted as a child when your mother held you in her arms and rocked you.
God understands why you are crying, even if no one else does.
By Sister Jose Hobday
Sister Jose Hobday, was a member of the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi of Milwaukee. She conducted retreats and workshops on prayer and spirituality, simple living, women in the church, Native American spirituality, storytelling, and peace and justice. She passed away April 5, 2009, at age 80 at the Casa de la Luz Hospice
in Tucson, AZ