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In face of temptation - battle with evil - we must cling to God and prayer is the method of clinging


by Deacon Mark Plaiss


      I have found a coffee I love: White Christmas. I buy it at “Between the Lynes,” a bookstore/coffee shop on the square in downtown Woodstock, IL. The coffee very well may be available closer at hand, but I have not yet made the effort to find such places. I’m willing to bet, too, that I can purchase the coffee online somewhere, but I, being an old fart, I prefer older means. So later on today, once the sun is up as well as people, I shall drive out to Woodstock and purchase the coffee.

      Tools. Every profession or craft has them. On my desk are my tools: bible, breviary, psalter, Rule of St.Benedict, weekday missal, rosary beads, Webster’s Dictionary and this computer. I find that the best time for me to use these tools is in the morning before sunrise.

      Such an hour is a product of old age. Young people cannot fathom, much less maintain, such hours. I surely did not when I was a young man. I’m fascinated by the fact that I now rise from sleep at an hour I once fell to sleep.

      But now I’m at my sharpest, I’m strongest, at my peak, in the wee hours of the morning. Does God have a sense of humor or what? I suspect the Almighty delights in the way his image and likeness transforms over time. Youth is cocksure strength, but lacks wisdom. Age is frailty, but has wisdom of heart. The frustration of the aged is the ability to finally see, but the inability to reach for what you see.

      I find myself reading the Book of Ecclesiastes much these days. Great wisdom there; also, much humility. Years ago, The Byrds’ Roger McGuinn took an old Pete Seeger song, “Turn, Turn, Turn,” and made Ecclesiastes cool, for a while. And whereas chapter 3:1-8 comprised the lyrics of the song, far greater riches abound in the book. Such as: “What has been, that will be; what has been done, that will be done. Nothing is new under the sun.” (Eccl 1:9)

       It would be interesting to know if the youth of the 1960s, who believed with all their hearts they were ushering in something new, have learned that they actually had not. Bottom line: Nothing lasts or has meaning except God. It takes a lifetime to accept, digest and live that. If God has a sense of humor, he also has great patience.

      Which brings me back to coffee and tools. 

      The tools on my desk are the means by which I practice the craft of prayer. Coffee is the nectar which fuels and smooths the practice. Those tools revolve around an activity: reading. On a wall in my classroom at school I have plastered a poster bearing these words: “The start of learning lies in reading, but its consummation lies in meditation.” That was written back in the early 12th century by Hugh of St. Victor. I’m convinced it still holds up today; hence, the words on the wall of my classroom.

      Reading and meditation, then, are the prayer. And for me the depths of reading and meditation are now in the dead of night when all is still and quiet and I am alone in a room with just the spotlight of a desk lamp spitting enough light to read the words and an oil lamp purchased years ago at the Abbey of Gethsemani at my side to remind me who is truly the light of the world.

      And there and then does the battle rage. It’s an ancient battle, fought by legions. The antagonists align with weapons of choice, I with my tools and Old Scratch with his tried and true weapons of distraction and deception. The stakes? Life.

      The battle takes a lifetime. If you think you have won, you haven’t. A truce is all you’ve accomplished. Old Scratch knows when to thrust and when to parry. Doubt that? Consider this: “When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time. (Luke 4:13) The key words, there, being “for a time.” The devil knows what he is doing.

      But so do we. And what we must do is cling to God. Prayer is the method of clinging. So, how, when and where you pray, continue. Tomorrow morning, with tools and coffee in hand, I shall do likewise. We’re all in this together, folks, old and young.

      Dawn. Think I’ll take a walk.    


      Deacon Mark Plaiss teaches in the Department of Religious Studies at Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein, Ill. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .         

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