By Brian J. Lowney
Catholic News Service
SMITHFIELD, R.I. (CNS) — Providence Bishop Thomas J. Tobin addressed an interfaith audience at a recent prayer breakfast on the theme “prayer begets faith, faith begets love, and love begets service to the poor.”
“It all begins with prayer. Prayer is a lifting up of our hearts and minds to God,” he said.
“We are taught that there are different kinds of prayer, public prayer and personal prayer,” the bishop added, as well as formal prayer with memorized words and informal prayer to express one’s deepest aspirations to the Lord.
“Prayer unites our spirit to the spirit of God,” Bishop Tobin told participants at the 11th Annual Interfaith Prayer Breakfast at Bryant University in Smithfield.
He attributed the theme of his talk to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, whom the bishop noted spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast in 1994.
The Smithfield event, held Feb. 23, drew local religious leaders and members of their congregations, civic leaders, university staff and students. It is modeled after the national breakfast, held every year in Washington during February.
As radio listeners often have to fine-tune their sets to make a far-off station sound become clearer, prayer makes us more attuned to God’s voice in our lives, said Bishop Tobin.
The bishop said that oftentimes, people treat God like a fire extinguisher, placing the Lord back in the corner when they no longer need his intercession.
Bishop Tobin cited the examples of Sept. 11, 2001, when people immediately flocked to churches in the aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Center and other related events, and the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, when people sought absolution in fear they would die if the Russians attacked the United States with missiles placed in Cuba.
“God is not a fire extinguisher,” Bishop Tobin said, adding that faith must be constant and that God cannot just be called upon in times of need. “If faith is authentic, faith begets love,” the bishop emphasized.
“Love moves us to solidarity with others,” Bishop Tobin said. “Love begets service to the poor.”
In closing, the bishop said that while many people throughout the world suffer from material poverty, others experience spiritual poverty in their lives.
Bishop Tobin urged the audience to continue to pray for these people and to take the action necessary to improve their brothers’ and sisters’ lives and to bring them closer to God.