When I was a novice, I had the opportunity to take a college biology class. During one field experience, we were told to collect pond water, making sure that we collected some algae. Once back in the classroom, we were to put the algae under the microscope in order to classify it. This was supposed to be a simple biological observation. However, it turned out to be more complicated than our instructor originally thought.
Standing at the side of the pond at our motherhouse, thinking “more would be better,” I plunged my pitcher into the water in order to collect as much pond “gunk” as I possibly could. To my surprise, besides the sought-after algae, I also collected several fresh water critters. The first to be discovered was a snail. I was amused as it slowly explored the new world of the fish tank I gently put it into. Because of the change in temperature from the chilly water of the pond to the warm water of the fish tank, the snail sensed a season change and began to lay eggs! To my delight under a magnifying glass, the other novices and I watched as embryonic snails began to develop and move within their transparent eggs.
My second surprise was an organism that looked like an octopus on a stalk. It would extend its tentacles, grab something that was swimming by and then put it in its mouth. I asked Sister Cletus, our instructor, what kind of animal it was. Smiling, Sister told me to observe it and then gave me biological books to assist me in its identification. This happened in the “pre-Google age” when research was truly a chore!
The tiny critter that was hanging on the algae was a hydra! According to Wikipedia1, hydras are small fresh-water animals that are native to the temperate and tropical regions. They feed on tiny aquatic invertebrates; animals that are smaller than they are. When they feed, they extend their body to maximum length and then slowly extend their tentacles, waiting for their prey to come to them. As I watched this animal sit and wait for its next meal, I recalled the line in the Lord’s Prayer: “give us this day our daily bread.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that when we pray “give us,” we are like trustful children who look to the Father for everything. “Jesus teaches us this petition, because it glorifies our Father by acknowledging how good He is.” (CCC 2828)
In addition, “give us” also expresses an aspect of the covenant God established with mankind at our creation. (CCC 2829) This covenant relationship requires us to give ourselves completely to God. “Covenant relationship is a relationship of sacrifice centered in the love of God and love of our brothers and sisters made in God’s image and likeness. … [It] is not an arrogant self-love of the culture that places the individual at the center of all meaning and existence. …. [It] desires Jesus Christ – the way, and the truth and the life – above all else.”2
Just as this tiny creature reached out into the pond water, expecting to receive sustenance that was so essential to its existence, we too should do the same. Our heavenly Father gives us on a daily basis the “nourishment that life requires – all appropriate goods and blessings, both material and spiritual. … Jesus insists on the filial trust that cooperates with our Father’s providence. He is not inviting us to idleness, but wants to relieve us from nagging worry and preoccupation. Such is the filial surrender of the children of God.” (CCC 2830)
At every Mass, the celebrant extends his arms and invites us as one voice to pray “Our Father … ” Isn’t this the same posture as the tiny creature I found so many years ago in pond water? This creature had no understanding of the awesomeness of his stance. But, we do! At the moment of our baptism, the celebrant claimed us as God’s own son or daughter! It is my prayer that as we recite the Lord’s Prayer, our trust for our awesome God is ever realized and deepened.
2Burke-Sivers, Harold. Behold the Man: A Catholic Vision of Male Spirituality. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius, 2015. Pg. 25.
By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, Special to The Witness