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Should we pray for Christopher Hitchens?

posted by jmcgee

Of course. What part of “love your enemies, pray for your persecutors” isn’t clear?

But now that the legendary atheist and Catholic-basher has been stricken with cancer, some are saying we shouldn’t bother.

Then there’s this, from London Telegraph:

I don’t share Hitchens’s worldview, whose central tenet is captured in the subtitle of his 2007 best-seller, God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. While condemning the intolerance of religious organisations, he shows zero tolerance for believers: a person of faith must be a fanatic, or a fraud. (Mother Teresa, according to his book The Missionary Position, was both.) He refuses to consider the evidence of religious do-gooding, found in the Catholic Church’s AIDS clinics in Africa, Anglican schools in Asia, and Jewish charities around the globe. He is determined to persecute Pope Benedict XVI, and would like to see him arrested on his forthcoming visit to Britain.

Johann Hari has said that we shouldn’t pray for Hitchens. I find myself in a quandary: upon hearing that an acquaintance has throat cancer, of course I instantly want to pray for them. Hitchens is not only an acquaintance, but a life-enhancer. Even when he’s in vicious mode, his prose fizzes and dazzles: “Shepherds”, he informed Canadians during a lecture tour, “don’t look after sheep because they love them — although I do think some shepherds like their sheep too much. They look after their sheep so they can, first, fleece them and second, turn them into meat. That’s much more like the priesthood as I know it.”

I won’t say “Amen” to that, but I would like to get on my knees and say the “Our Father” for someone for whom I have a sneaking admiration. But is it right to pray for someone who claims to find prayer hateful?

Sure. Just because Hitchens thinks that way doesn’t make it so. And prayer isn’t a chore, or a favor we do to bail out someone. It is an act of faith. And it is a gift.  It engages the one who prays in a divine conversation that may do as much for the pray-er as it does for the pray-ee. The entire world is uplifted just a bit if even just one person takes a moment to whisper an “Our Father” with an intention of love and joyful hope.

So, pray for Christopher Hitchens. Whether he knows it or not, he needs it. We all do.



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PatrickKelley

posted July 1, 2010 at 11:22 am


The Hitch wouldn’t appreciate your prayers, I can tell you that right now. Sure, pray for his healing, but do it in a way that would disarm him and satisfy his sense of snark.
Maybe if you pray for Mother Theresa to give him a wedgie?



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Ryan

posted July 1, 2010 at 11:59 am


I applaud Kandras’ stance, it is very Christ like as opposed to Christian.
Having been raised Catholic, I would have to be blind to not see the abuse, hypocrisy, greed, lack of accountability, and lack or pragmatic intelligence and reason present in the Church. I see most of Hitchens’ points. Catholics should applaud him and listen to real and intelligent criticism to see through the words and actions of man, the abuses, and critically think about now what is just in a man written bible, but for what we know of Christ and his teachings, what would Jesus do.
He would pray for the sick and I am sure he would never sanction what the church has done historically and recently, as well as what it has become. But actions to feed, clothe, and treat the sick are very Christian.



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Klaire

posted July 1, 2010 at 12:34 pm


Ryan I think you are being more than unfair by your quote:
“Having been raised Catholic, I would have to be blind to not see the abuse, hypocrisy, greed, lack of accountability, and lack or pragmatic intelligence and reason present in the Church”
You are confusing the sins of humanity with the always and only holiness of Christ and his teachings. The Catholic Church is the Bride of Christ, consequently, it will always remain holy despite the sins of any or all of its members. Even the men who walked with Jesus betrayed Jesus, so why is it such a suprise that we too would fail him in our time?
Having “Been raised Catholic”, do know that YOU are as much of the church as the rest of us, consequently, also “accountable.”
Indeed we should pray for Hitchens, especially for the grace for repentance, consequently, the openess to the truth of Christ.
Something in me long believed that Hitchens isn’t as “far removed” as he likes us to think. Could you image the “witness” when and if Hitchens converts, subsequently pens the “God IS Great” sequel? That alone should have every person of faith praying for him.
He also won’t be the first “celeb athiest” to convert.



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Ryan

posted July 1, 2010 at 2:24 pm


Klaire – I respect your opinion however I do disagree. I don’t know if Hitchens is an atheist as much as he may just proclaim like someone such as Maher to “not know.” I believe the “not know” stance isn’t sinful and is rather quite humble to proclaim that you don’t have the capacity or understanding to know and understand something so large, when the teachings and tellings of what is “truth” is coming from less than trust worthy individuals. There is logic in that kind of reasoning. Mortality to your point does pull peoples thoughts and beliefs into question.
I was raised in the church as a child and when I hit about 16 I refused to attend. I disagreed with the churches stances on divorce and its handling as well as on birth control, particularly in Brazil and Africa, where the Pope rather than saying nothing, opposed the spreading and use of birth control that could prevent the deadly spread of AIDS. Add in the clerical cover-ups for pedophiles hiding within the church and its the human corruption and cover-ups. I as a believer in Christs teachings, feel I should oppose and no longer support the Church itself as it doesn’t seem in step with the readings from Christ.
To the church being the bride of Christ – I don’t know if you have been to the Vatican City but I don’t believe that was what Christ would have seen the Church becoming. Money that could be used to feed those less fortunate is now being spent on upkeep and construction of what really is a palace. An organization is only as holy as those who uphold its traditions and compose its membership, the infrastructure was not built by Christ, the rules in place today and observances such as dates of Christmas, rules surrounding Marriage for Priests, etc, are never explicitly stated in text. These were made at their times as responses to economic and social pressures. Many stances of the Church, such as anti-Gay stance from the Church, are not ever explicitly stated by Christ, however are so steeped in the current fabric. The old testament is very different in tone and teaching to the new, and many things between them are not in step.
When my parents divorced, my father when remarrying, was asked to pay for an annulment from my mother, to say that he was never truly married, basically disavowing in statement, their relationship and myself along with my brother – how does this make sense? To pay a tithing to do so is exactly what Christ rebelled against with the Jewish high priests. This is and has been common practice within the Church.
The Church itself from the Crusades, to the Inquisition, to Galileo, to the teachings on evolution, science, etc, it is consistently on the wrong side of right in history and it is doing nothing to turn that tide currently. It remains steeped in man-created traditions that it can’t see through and to root causes of its’ problems. I believe in Christs teachings of how to treat my fellow beings, but the rest of the catholic church it seems, outside of its charity, (the poor box which I will always contribute to if at a wedding or event) is now so focused on money and power rather than doing the will of Christ.
I believe the Church itself is truly in a stage where its leadership is lost.



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Deacon Norb

posted July 1, 2010 at 3:09 pm


This thread is REALLY interesting to me but for a very different reason.
I teach “Introduction to Ethics” at our local public-community college and Christopher Hitchens’ book God is Not Great is a topic of conversation for about one hour of that course. The one question I do ask my students is whether Hitchens is really a committed and mouthy “atheist” along the line of Madeline Murray-O’Hare or is he more of the “agnostic” — one who pleads “not-to-know” whether God exists or not.
A sub-topic in that book is whether American society would be better served if a president were elected who was a committed “atheist.” None of my students were convinced that would ever happen. They see it far more likely that a Mormon (Mitt Romney) or a Jew (Joseph Lieberman) or even a Buddhist (Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana) would be elected first.
I am, however, going to add Christopher to our local on-line prayer chain.



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Ryan

posted July 1, 2010 at 3:28 pm


To Deacon Norb – I am under the impression we have already had an atheist serve as president although not necessarily open in modern times and certainly not in our new 24/7 media news cycle.
Many say Eisenhower was an atheist/agnostic – and given what he saw with his military back-ground, at some point that becomes understandable when seeing the horrors of war.
Jefferson and Adams in particular had very interesting quotes on religion and its merit, they were opposed to organized religion and its incorporation in government, and they were very against its’ roll in the founding and involvement of the United States government. We tend to like to believe in Conservative America, that our founders were fighting for independence for reasons, among them, religion however that really isn’t the case, certainly not Catholicism. The fight was more so representation and economics. Jefferson went so far as to modify the King James bible and re-write it to remove what he believed to be stories and ‘magic.’
We as a nation are more religious and a larger percentage of people attend church today as opposed to the 18th century.
Where do most students stand in terms of would our nation be better served with an atheist president – as opposed to its’ probability? It is an interesting discussion.



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Deacon Norb

posted July 1, 2010 at 3:56 pm


Ryan:
My information seems to be different than yours.
I had listed Eisenhower as a baptized Episcopalian but someone corrected me and insisted that he joined a Presbyterian Church in Washington DC before he became President.
I have always believed that Jefferson and Adams were Deists as were most of the signers of the Declaration of Independence — much to the surprise of many Evangelicals I know who insist that all who signed our two famous documents were “Christian.” A Deist is certainly not Christian but he certainly is NOT an atheist either.
We know one Catholic — Charles Carroll of Carrollton (a delegate from Maryland)– signed the Declaration of Independence and I think — but cannot yet prove — that there were a few Quakers who signed it as well. A Quaker is not a Christian but is hardly an Atheist.



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Conservative

posted July 1, 2010 at 4:00 pm


Ryan wrote: When my parents divorced, my father when remarrying, was asked to pay for an annulment from my mother, to say that he was never truly married, basically disavowing in statement, their relationship and myself along with my brother – how does this make sense?
Perhaps you could read up on exactly what an annulment is and what it isn’t. It isn’t saying that a couple was not married nor does it render the children illegitimate. It is saying a SACRAMENTAL marriage bond was not created becuase something was lacking.
The misinformation that is spread about annulments is appalling. Jesus by the way did condemn divorce. The church allows it for civil effects (alimony, child support) but does not condone a remarriage.



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Ryan

posted July 1, 2010 at 4:26 pm


To Deacon:
Yes there were plenty of Christians that were among our founders and signers and many who were Christians/Quakers, who are believers in God and founded Pennsylvania where the declaration was signed. So I agree there. I don’t necessarily believe that men like Jefferson were atheists , more so agnostics. I do not believe they were Christian or religious based on their statements regarding the institutions. The men who were truly driving the documents though, were Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, and select others who consequently became many of our first national leaders. Not all weren’t believers, but some were not and should not be painted with the same brush.
As for Eisenhower, I can’t confirm nor deny, but baptism and attending church don’t necessarily equate to beliefs later in life, attending church in politics is often done for political appearance. It is merely speculation I have read on Eisenhower, while studying at the war college in terms of leaders perceptions and correspondence from Eisenhower, things that would lead me to question his beliefs however there are no concrete statements.
Conservative:
If this is the definition of annulment, that something as you phrase it was lacking, ‘a sacramental marriage bond.’ What exactly constitutes that bond. At one point is was that the marriage was consummated. What is that definition now in modern times. They were married 20 years so I question what bond wasn’t present. This seems like rhetoric, what is the difference than between a divorce and an annulment? It seems as if a couple commits to the vows, not under duress, and live and have children together, they went through pre-cana, they were deemed as fit by the church and then were married. So if that is the case then what is the actual difference? In terms of getting remarried, he was granted an annulment and was again, remarried in a catholic church, he did pay a fee to the church for this to be performed in both the annulment and the ceremony as one would expect. So then I am not illegitimate but I was conceived through a non-sacramental union? I find that to be a legitimate question regarding the dogma?
You can call it what you will but the difference is only rhetorical. The ceremony occurs in the church and again in the eyes of the law these things are closed out in court regarding custodial and monetary issues, and are indeed very different, yet to marry in the church I still need to present government issued paperwork. Seems somewhat hypocritical and counter-intuitive but you and others may have a better understanding of current interpretation. Although again current interpretation versus former interpretation for something that is supposed to be an absolution is again, worrisome if this is an immovable truth and faith. If the faith and truth is a moving target, then it would indeed be fallible.



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Ryan

posted July 1, 2010 at 4:37 pm


To Deacon Norb as well
Jindal is a Catholic – his parents are Indian Hindu Immigrants, Jindal has converted to catholicism.



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Conservative

posted July 1, 2010 at 5:32 pm


As far as I know there is no difference in the interpretation of annulments now and in former days. There is a difference between a civil marriage and a sacramental marriage. Perhaps some confusion exists in the US since the priest or deacon serves as witness for both the church and the state.
For any sacrament to be valid, certain conditions called form and matter must be present. For instance, if you were baptized with milk instead of water, it would be invalid. If the Eucharist to be consecrated were not unleavened bread and grape wine, it would be invalid.
An annulment is not saying a couple went into a marriage with bad intentions although that can certainly happen. Since the priest can’t read minds, he proceeds with what appears to be valid. If something is lacking, the sacrament is not conferred while a legal marriage is. A divorce dissolves a legal marriage, it has no religious effects. That is why a divorced Catholic cannot validly remarry in the Church as the first marriage is presumed valid until declared null. An annulment says that a sacramental marriage bond did not take place. If a marriage involved force or fear, if either parties conceals something that would have prevented the marriage from taking place, if one party was lacking the maturity or an understanding of the indissoluble nature of sacramental marriage then the marriage would be invalid. These are just examples of some of the reasons, not all.
It is not saying the couple entered the marriage with any ill will, but simply that upon investigation something was found to be missing in the consent or even that one party was incapable of making a permanent commitment. Since a legal marriage took place, any children are legitimate.



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Deacon Norb

posted July 1, 2010 at 6:04 pm


Ryan
I stand corrected about Bobby Jindal! I did not know that!



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Ryan

posted July 1, 2010 at 6:07 pm


Conservative:
Then how is an annulment different than an amicable divorce.
Both parties went in with good intentions, had children, I agree something is lacking resulting in the divorce/annulment. So then in reality -what is the difference. The court calls it one thing and the church calls it another – but in practicality, the church sanctions both under circumstances and the financial benefit it sees fit, then deems it acceptable. This is only now rhetoric.
What constitutes a marriage of sacrament? And after the fact when does it become a sacred union? Who deems this? Is it only sacred when death does part?
This was the one issue that personally bothered me and caused me to question the faith I was being taught-because it was saying one thing was acceptable until my father was willing to pay for it and asked to say that his first marriage wasn’t sacred and wasn’t real. Either way you dice it, legitimacy here is wavering in the religious sense of the word. I am being asked to believe what is in practice, a wavering absolution.
The actions of the clergy – how can we say that doesn’t have a direct impact? Priests aren’t allowed to marry, this attracts those who may be oriented to being Gay or would pray on children. We all see this yet can’t address it? Priests who convert are allowed to marry> The prevention of marrying hasn’t always been the case and was more-over done as a convenience to prevent further land loss of the church.
Grievances are too numerous to mention and are done in the name of God by a body to represent God. None of those who wrote the Bible however, knew Christ, it was written decades after his life, so much has been lost in translation from languages we know longer speak. The church clings to actual text that could be incorrect as opposed to seeing this error and looking at the bigger message. One of peace, love, and tolerance. We are listening to men speak from the pulpit and reading text written by man, some texts that were selected and others that were omitted based on decisions of man.
The other sins committed by and in regard to the church though historically, are perpetrated by man – men that I am to entrust my faith to – to build my children’s’ faith – I understand the Pope is not infallible, only when speaking as the voice of God, which has only been done a select few times. But the church has consistently been incorrect and the text of the bible proven incorrect, or its interpretation at least. It is convenient to change interpretation but evolution for instance, the church has admitted to it. Yet it executed or threatened to execute those it deems as heretics who were correct scientifically. I would think a truth we hold from 2000 years ago should be as relevant now as it was then, however that isn’t the case. We change and modify these truths as we learn more and our world changes. These become ideas rather than proven truths.
Killing in the name of Christ? Done regularly historically – these are deemed mistakes then but now? Are we to trust in these same kind of men that now run the church, none of us witnessed these miracles, we must take it on faith -however why is it that whenever God has something to say, he selects one individual to be that person and to spread his message through the world to all who will hear and listen. He chooses to not speak to everyone. This is a great power to entrust into a man, we know man is unclean and corrupt. How am I supposed to trust in man, that has proven to be corrupt, when do I trust and when do I question? It isn’t an intelligent assertion to give up free thought and believe blindly with no proof, we wouldn’t do it in our regular lives so why do it in our ‘Faith’?
It is much a tangent from praying for this man – but he asks questions, I as someone who does Christian works, tries to live by those teachings as best I can, volunteers and sees underprivileged nations, get free and inexpensive drugs for a living, I ask myself these questions – I can question his attitude and the way those questions are asked but I cannot tell myself they are not without merit.



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Conservative

posted July 1, 2010 at 6:24 pm


“Then how is an annulment different than an amicable divorce.”
First an annulment has no legal effects and a divorce has no sacramental effects. Many people go into marriage, find they are not compatible and amicably divorce. They may have gone into the marriage with the understanding that they could get out of it. Catholics can’t–they have to say under oath that they understand marriage is permanent and dissolved only by death before they contract marriage. An annulment says something was lacking from the beginning. Some divorces occur because something develops long after the marriage takes place.
“What constitutes a marriage of sacrament? And after the fact when does it become a sacred union? Who deems this? Is it only sacred when death does part?”
A marriage is a sacrament when nothing is lacking in the man or woman’s consent and the marriage is entered into freely, without reservations and the vows are pronounced before a priest/deacon and 2 witnesses. It is a sacred union from then on and remains so until death.
As for the other issues you bring up it would take a book to respond. Pray for Hitchens!



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Deacon John M. Bresnahan

posted July 1, 2010 at 6:38 pm


A really great topic. Frankly, I think a Hitchens is the type person Christ MOST wants us to pray for.
Sadly, some commenters got off the track and used the comments to vent. Even sadder are the lies and misinformation so many people have been brainwashed to believe about the Church and Church history.
One simple, obvious example: Too many unthinking Americans are quick to say that all the Catholic buildings and Catholic artwork in Rome, or even Italy should be sold to raise money for the poor.
But these buildings and artwork are ALSO Italy’s national heritage. The artists were virtually all Italian. The architects were virtually all Italian. What does anyone think will be Italian reaction to the raping of their culture by selfish, greedy Americans who won’t DONATE to the poor without an art bribe.
So let all the generous, open-handed snarky Americans demand that the Lincoln Memorial be put out for bid. The artwork in the Smithsonian up for sale. Thus all of it can wind up in billionaire’s vaults or foreign museums that most Americans will never be able to get to.
Wouldn’t the Minuteman statue look great at the entrance to Beijing’s Forbidden City??



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Klaire

posted July 1, 2010 at 7:45 pm


Dcn. Norb et al: Regarding Adams, Father John Corapi just sent this out today in his 4th of July Newsletter (fathercorapi.com):
Begin Quote_______
Of note is the letter John Adams, one of only two Founding Fathers who went on to become president, wrote to his wife Abigail:
…This day ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward forever more. (Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society)
End Quote__________
Ryan, I respectfully disagree with you on just about everything but Jindal, who is, not only a catholic (and true scholar), but a very DEVOUT Catholic (he has also written many very interesting Catholic articles easily found in a google search).
If I had the time Ryan, I would go through each one of your points and make you aware that you are ignorant of both chruch history and chruch teaching. You seem to fit what Fulton Sheen used to say (paraphrase): “Less than 1% of anti-catholics actually hate the Catholic faith, only what they THINK is the Catholic Faith.
I would even argue that you do more or as much harm, especially as an unlearned Catholic, in your “false teachings” than the people you feel have deemed the CC unholy.
I think you might be shocked to actually sit down and learn what (and why), the chruch actually teaches, as well as the docuemnted decrease in HIV as a RESULT of the CC.
Peace!



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Klaire

posted July 2, 2010 at 7:49 am


Just wanted to add one more thing regarding the “Vatican Treaasures.” Ryan are you aware that the CC couldn’t sell the art even if they wanted to? Like the faith of Jesus Christ, they are the “keepers” of it, and unlike what most realize, they actually LOSE money in the costly maintainence of it all.
Furthermore, art is beauty, beauty “transcends”, and is another way to “see” God. I actually have a friend who was “converted” by “Vatican Art.” He truly was so moved by his Vatican Experience, he “rethought” God and became a Christian.



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Nancy

posted July 5, 2010 at 12:12 pm


Please don’t pretend that praying for this man could be anything other than a passive aggressive attempt to gloat at his lack of belief. While he’s down, why don’t you just slap him in the face for good measure?



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Alice

posted July 9, 2010 at 12:47 pm


I think praying for Hitchens is an act of charity. I have not felt the need to read his books, but am reminded of an interview of his I saw when he mentioned that his children were baptized. His comment was that they would make their own choice when they were older, but in the meantime, he loved his children and acknowledged that he could be wrong. That was a gracious statement I think.
On the other hand, none of us can deny that religion has been a cause for war in the past, a history that reaches into the present. Look at the hatefulness with which some “believers” aim at anyone not in agreement with them. I am reminded of Falwell’s (?)comment that Haiti was justly punished by the dreadful earthquake because they were “in a compact with the devil”.



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Caroline

posted July 12, 2010 at 3:22 pm


I am reminded of the Mother Tereasa quote when responding to the question
” what do you see when you look at someone who hates you”
“I see a child of God ”
Mr Hitchens said all he could to destroy Mother Tereasa, like a petulant teenager hurling abuse at an adult. But we must see beyond that.
Maybe, in his time of need, he will realise that he is absolutely forgiven for his comments and like the Prodigal Son he can be welcomed by God at any time.
For myself, I will pray a decade of the Rosary for Mr Hitchens tonight.



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Purushadasa

posted July 15, 2010 at 11:06 am


Bad news: atheist Hitchens is dying.
You all know the low survival statistics, but the good news is that September 20, 2010, is officially designated as “Everybody Pray for Hitchens Day.”
Mark your calendars, tell your friends, and please pray that Hitchens sees the light and turns his life around soon — before it’s too late!
Watch the “Everybody Pray for Hitchens Day” video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGckRdtYdmc
“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;”
– Matthew 5:44



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christopher hitchens prayer page

posted July 16, 2010 at 7:06 am


new site :
http://www.PrayforChristopherHitchens.com
Please take a look and if you feel it is worthy of spreading this link to your contact and social networking friends, that would be great.



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Shaun

posted July 17, 2010 at 2:43 am


Whenever a Christian who knows I am not a believer says they are praying for me, I view it as an act of condescension.
I don’t care if people pray, but how can it possibly help to inform the intended recipient?
Think about it this way: imagine I was a believer in the Greek gods, and I told you I was going to pray to Akeso (the Greek goddess of healing) when you were sick. Would you find that endearing? Probably not, unless you were convinced I was being disingenous.
Finally, think about Matthew 6:5. I also think it is possible people have the urge to inform others about their prayers because they secretly know the placebo effect is far stronger than any intercession by God.



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Nena

posted July 26, 2010 at 12:02 am


I have been praying for Mr. Hitchens for several years now and have to admit, a tinge of excitement ran through me when I learned of his illness. Not for vengens, but for hope in his conversion. I have always had a special place in my Catholic heart for him. He is honest, I think, in what he knows to be true. How can you despise someone like that? An so, my rosary has always included him.



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