My first conscious knowledge of the work of Diana Macalintal was a few years ago. Fr. Austin Fleming posted a prayer to his blog that Diana had written regarding a tragedy at that time. Earthquake? Hurricane? I don’t recall. I do recall loving the prayer, and wanting to share it widely. After that, I started to “see” Diana online in various places, and eventually came to know her on Facebook.
Diana is the Director of Worship for the Diocese of San Jose – and so much more. (See that link for details.) She is one of the most engaging and enthusiastic Roman Catholics, a person full of joy for the work of all of our hands as the people of God.
Her most recent book is, The Work of Your Hands, Prayers for Ordinary and Extraordinary Moments of Grace, from Liturgical Press. Today I present a review of the book, along with offering the first part of an interview with the author. (Part two of that interview will be posted tomorrow.)
Every now and then a book comes along that you know will become a dog-eared and well-worn companion. Although my copy is brand new, still redolent with “new book smell” I can see it becoming beat up due to frequent use.
Many of us who work in any form of ministry often need to have a prayer or blessing at hand. If you are someone in this situation, I am guessing that you may use various resources, beyond the internet, such as a the Book of Blessings, or Prayers for the Domestic Church.
Whether or not you use these resources, please add this resource to your list – The Work of Your Hands is a slim volume that overflows with prayers for all kinds of situations. Some of you may recall that I recently posted Diana’s Valentine Prayer When Your Heart Is Broken.
There are many other unique and heartfelt offerings. One of my favorites is the Prayer for Procrastinators on the Feast of Saint Expeditus. There are prayers for all kinds of things, from when our animal companions are dying, to blessing for brains, and for when the experience of being at mass and feeling empty.
Even for those who are not ministers, this book is full of comforting, wise, and useful words, that will console and enliven you, and to help you do the same for others. As Christians, we are called to be Christ, and this book will be a wonderful companion along the way.
Small enough to fit in your pocket or purse, this book is diminutive in size, but large sized in blessings and grace. It has a great price point, of $7.95, or $5.99 for the ebook. You can also take advantage of the bundle to get both editions for only $9.49. That is a great deal! You can also get this book, as long as the offer lasts, when you subscribe to Give Us This Day.
If I have one complaint about this book it is this… Make it longer please! I want more prayers and blessings. Perhaps there will be a second volume?
And to find out if there will be more prayers – plus a lot more, let us turn to our interview. Here is part one, with part two posted on Tuesday.
Q. Diana, how did you end up as a liturgist and liturgical minister?
You can see a bit on how I got started in liturgical ministry here. This was an intro video that the Midatlantic Congress had asked me, as a keynote speaker, to prepare for last year’s conference. So that’s how I began in ministry.
But all through my childhood and high school days, I thought I wanted to be a rock star, and I participated in music ministry because it was a way to play music and sing in front of people. But when I got to college and participated in the Newman Center liturgies at UCLA with the Paulist Fathers, I discovered how liturgy, well-prepared, changed people and changed their lives. It gave them hope and courage and a bigger sense of mission in the world. That’s when I began to be interested in knowing how to be more than just a musician; I wanted to know how the liturgy worked and how to get people participating more in it. Because the more they felt engaged in the liturgy, the more they would engage in doing the work of Christ in the world. My boss at that time, Fr. Tom Jones, CSP, told me that if I wanted to know anything about the liturgy—and even more so, if I wanted to do any serious work in the church around the liturgy and have the respect of those I work with—I had to read and know the liturgical documents of the church. He gave me my first copy of the Vatican II documents, and he sent me to local liturgy workshops and national conferences and institutes to make sure I got the training I needed. Once I left the Newman Center seven years later, I knew being a liturgist was absolutely what I wanted to be.
Q. You have packed a remarkable breadth and depth of prayers and blessings into 72 pages, was this difficult to do?
Actually, it was easy for me because I had been writing those prayers over the span of several years. For many years, I was a freelance writer for a magazine called “Today’s Parish.” Originally, I wrote short articles on liturgy. But after a while, the editor asked me if I could write prayers that didn’t exist in any official ritual book but were needed in today’s world. So I began writing at least two original prayers for each issue. So when Liturgical Press asked if I would consider putting a collection of prayers together, I already had almost 100 prayers to share. I think the editors at LitPress had the harder task of deciding which prayers to include and which to leave out.
Q. Some of your prayers and blessings concern unique, yet widely lived circumstances, such as Prayer for When Mass Feels Empty, or the Prayer for Procrastinators on the Feast of St. Expeditus, or the Blessing of Brains; what drew you to create these and other unusual prayers and blessings?
When the editor of “Today’s Parish” asked me to write original prayers for the magazine, he asked me to write prayers that didn’t already exist. At first, I thought of basic church events, like First Communion preparation. (I think my first original published prayer was a blessing of First Communion candidates.) So even though I was given a pretty broad mandate, I still stuck close to the usual themes for prayers. But after a while, it started getting harder to come up with ideas…until I started looking at my own life and the concerns I had from day to day and those of my friends. What needs did they (and I) have when it came to prayer? Once I made it more personal, I found so many ordinary, daily life things that called for prayer.
For example, I love collecting interesting images, icons, and retablos of saints. At the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress one year, I found a retablo of Saint Expeditus, the patron of procrastinators. I did a web search on him and actually found a novena in his honor! But I am such an excellent procrastinator, and the words of the novena didn’t quite speak to me. I knew my procrastination was a troublesome habit, but I also knew that it didn’t make me a “bad” person. I just worked differently than others, but there are certainly parts of my work style that could use a lot of improvement too. Yet, I trusted that God uses all of us, our strengths and weaknesses to accomplish his work on earth. So I thought of some of the stories in the Bible. Who were the great procrastinators there? I thought immediately of Jonah who did everything to put off doing the thing he didn’t want to, and the workers who arrived late in the day but got paid the same as the early comers. So that “Prayer for Procrastinators” is really a prayer I wrote for myself.
So my own experience gave me lots of themes to play with. So did the liturgical year. “Prayer with the Woman at the Well” is one such prayer that came out of my Lenten reflection one year and the question of what would have happened if Jesus hadn’t stopped to talk to that woman.
But most of all, I got my ideas from paying attention to what was happening in the news or in my friends’ lives. I had and still have friends dealing with cancer. What prayer could be theirs in that struggle? I know people who feel inadequate to be a godparent, but said yes anyway. What words could encourage them? Thankfully, I’ve never had to do it, but many of my friends have lost beloved pets. I saw how devastating it was for them, and thought surely the church has a prayer for that. But all I could find was a blessing of animals, and even that blessing didn’t capture the unique and intimate relationship humans can have with their pets. So I wrote a prayer to try to help soothe my friends’ heartache in that moment of saying goodbye to their animal companion. I still get notes and emails from complete strangers who tell me they prayed that prayer the same morning they put their pet to sleep and how it brought their family such comfort in a difficult time.
I think if we just look around us and pay close attention to what people really need in their lives to have hope and trust that God indeed cares for them, we can find many things for which to pray and lift up in prayer.
To be continued tomorrow…