Don't Worry Be Happy

Ukulele Don’t worry be happy!

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The Psalm today speaks of the notion that, “Only in God will my soul be at rest.” The idea is that we are always searching and anxious. It is only in God that we can finally find rest for our souls. We hear that again echoed in The Gospel today. Jesus’ whole notion of “Do not be worried. Do not be worried about any of these things.   Just remain in Me, and you will find peace for yourself.”

We have the Parish Mission tonight after the 5 o’clock Mass, about 6:00-6:15 p.m. Then again on Monday and Tuesday from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. We will have you out of here every night by

8 p.m. If you have not seen this already, how many of you have this book?   If you can, raise your hands. Okay, so hopefully every household has the book. We actually ordered 4,200 copies of these books for all of our households. The goal was to get every single household a book in their hands. Over the first weekend, we just distributed probably around 1,800 books. We still had almost 2,800 books to deliver. Our parishioners have been going to every single house and delivering these books. We still have 60 books left. We can still use your help after Mass today. If each one of you delivers one book, all the books will be delivered. They have been wonderful experiences.   If you do not have a book, it is in the back for you. If you are not a parishioner, we also have books for you in the back as well.

What is this? What is this “Pray 40 Days”? What is this mission all about? A couple of years ago, I was trying to formulate the idea of the book and helping people pray.   I have a couple “apps” that you know about, about how to help people grow in their spiritual life. As a part of that process, I was actually meeting with some marketers to try to package this idea and make it accessible for people. I met with a couple of marketers. I actually met with a group from Disney. I met with a Catholic group out of Atlanta. Then I met with a group of men from the area who are doing it locally. The local group I was meeting with was very insightful. The group consisted of three Catholic gentleman who were probably five or ten years older than me. I was pitching them my ideas and getting their feedback on how to brand it and market the book. As I was doing it, the president finally said to me, “Father, we don’t have any clue what you’re talking about!”   I said, “Really?” And they said, “Yeah, we just don’t get it, Father.” Now I have to say these are three good Catholic men. By that, I mean they go to Mass every Sunday. They pray with their families. They are just good men.

I said, “Well, tell me about your prayer life, the last 24 hours, how have you prayed? I want you to think about this. Think about your prayer life. Just try to think of the last 24 hours from this morning, 24 hours until you woke up yesterday morning, how did you pray? Where did you pray? What was it like? In your head, think about the last 24 hours. What was it like?”

I asked the marketers that question. I asked them to tell me about that, tell me about their last 24 hours, concretely – “Did you pray?” Where did you pray? How did you pray? The first man was honest. He said, “Father, I don’t know that I really pray. I’m just more like grateful. I have a great job. I have a great wife. I have a great family. I make pretty decent money. I’m just grateful! I said, “Well, that’s good because gratitude, actually you know we celebrate Thanksgiving in the Eucharist, gratitude is a wonderful beginning of prayer.” If your prayer begins in gratitude, that is wonderful. I asked would there be any other time that you actually sit and pray during the day? He said, “Well no. That’s kind of what I do.” Then I went to the president, and I said, “Well how about you, how do you pray?” He said, “Father, I pray in the car when I’m driving. That is my prayer time. I turn the radio off. I talk to God and I say, Hey God, I have a really big problem today. I have somebody I need to fire or somebody I need to hire. You know, I have big decisions on my plate. When I pray, I talk to God.” I said that is wonderful. That would be a vocal prayer. It is called petitionary prayer, where you are asking God for help. I asked him if God ever talks back to him? He said no, what do you mean?” I asked if he ever heard God respond back to him? He said no. He said, “I mean when I pray I just tell God what I want. I said okay, would there be any other time that you would pray, and he said no. Then I went to the third man. This man was so sweet and sincere. He said, “Father every night before I go to bed. I never miss it ever since I was a child.   Every night before I go to bed, I kneel down and I say the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Glory Be. Then I go to bed. I never miss a night, every night Father. I looked at him and I said that’s wonderful that you pray every night before you go to bed. I said when did you learn those prayers? The Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Glory Be?   He said second grade. I said, “Have you grown at all since the second grade? He looked at me and laughed. He said, “No I guess I haven’t.” I said to the three of them, “What if I told you that I could show you a way to pray that you would grow in your prayer life tremendously and experience meditative prayer, contemplative prayer, and experience really praying for real. What if I told you I had a way, you know what all three of them said? They looked at me and they go, we’re good.

That’s a Catholic priest pitching to marketers, trying to get their ideas. We are good. Sometimes, I think that is the mentality of most Catholics. “Oh, I don’t want to grow in my prayer life, but the reality is, especially during Lent, we are actually supposed to make three resolutions. Pray. We are supposed to increase our prayer, fast, and give alms. This is the latest trend I hear. A lot of people say, “I am not giving up anything this year. I have done that before. I am going to try and do something good. I say well that’s wonderful but you’re supposed to do all three. Increase your prayer, fast, and give alms. If you did not know that, you have until Wednesday to figure out what you are going to do. But the good news is I have first base covered for you.

While I am with the marketers, I am realizing they do not get it. They do not have a clue. I do not know how else to explain it to them. I tell them, alright guys, close your eyes and if you want to do this you can close your eyes too. I led them through a little guided meditation. I said close your eyes and imagine you are on the Sea of Galilee. You are right there on the shore of the water. I want you to use your imagination to try to actually hear the waves coming in and rolling and crashing and receding.   Try to smell the sea water and then you realize that right before you is a charcoal fire. Just hear the fire crackling and see the embers glowing. Watch as the flames flicker in front of you. Then try to look through the fire. Actually sometimes when we see the fire, the air above it gets kind of distorted from the heat. Through that, you see a face, and you realize that face looking at you is Jesus. I want you to try to picture his face, actually see what He looks like looking at you. His two eyes just looking at you with love. Then all of a sudden Jesus says, “Do you love me?” Then He leaves silence. He waits for you to respond. Then He says again, “Do you love me?” You hear the fire crackling and the waves coming in. Jesus is there. Finally, a third time Jesus looks at you with great love in His eyes, and He asks you one more time, “Do you love me?” Then I let them just sit there in silence for a few moments. When it ended, I invited them to open their eyes. The president of the company had tears coming down his face, and he looked at me and he said, “Father, I have never experienced anything like that before. He said, “I saw Him. I saw Jesus. I heard His voice.”  He said, “I get it. I get what you are trying to do now.”

That was the epiphany for me. That sometimes people just need to have the experience. That is what we’re actually going to be doing these next three days, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.   I am going to introduce you to six different types of meditative and contemplative prayer. The idea is that in our Catholic tradition we have three levels of prayer.   The first prayer is vocal prayer, the second is meditative prayer, and the third is contemplative prayer.   How many of you have ever heard those phrases before, raise your hand. Maybe, maybe not! Okay, the thing is, we are used to vocal prayer, and actually by vocal prayer, I think we are used to saying our prayers. You grow up. You learn to say your prayers, to say the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Act of Contrition. The idea is, we are supposed to go from saying our prayers to actually praying. By praying, I mean encountering God. You will hear God speak to you if you do these exercises. You will see Jesus, you will experience the Heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit. You will go from vocal prayer, to meditative prayer, and ultimately to contemplative prayer. Now contemplative prayer is actually getting to experience heaven on earth.   When I share this with even the grade school children, they say to me, “Father, I felt like I was floating, or Father, I felt like for one moment, I did not have any stress.” This is like a fourth grader, right? I am thinking, “Oh just wait, but that experience of actually being in heaven, what Jesus is saying in the Gospel do not worry. I do not know how else to explain this to you, how much inspiration you are going to receive from this. It is actually going to be a tremendous amount of fun. If you don’t know me yet, I like to entertain. There is going be a lot of fun in these and it’s also going to be just a tremendous time of wonder, joy, and awe for the Parish. I am going to end with a song that I wrote. It is based on a song you know, so feel free to sing along. This is my little commercial to get you to come to the mission.

Don’t Worry Be Happy

Here’s a little song that I wrote
You want to sing it note-for-note
Don’t worry, be happy. (It actually goes with the Gospel)
In every life we all have trouble
But when you worry, you make it double
Don’t worry, be happy.   (I could use a little clapping, would you clap with me?)

Parish mission this Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday
I’m gonna teach you how to pray
Don’t worry, be happy. (Be happy)

I promise you if you Pray40Days
Your spiritual life will be set ablaze
Don’t worry be happy. (Don’t worry)

Every night there will be music there’ll be song
If you come you won’t go wrong
Don’t worry, be happy.
You can use the book or the app
Every night you’re gonna clap

Don’t worry, be happy.
I promise if you come every night
You’ll laugh and cry, your spirit will be light
Don’t worry, Be happy.
The more we pray the more we grow
Even if we have a long, long way to go
Don’t worry, be happy.

Fr. Jeremy will be there too
The choir will be singing right on cue
Don’t worry, be happy.

Fr. Fred, laid up, but he gives his best
He don’t want nobody stressed
Don’t worry, be happy.

We hope to gather the entire parish
For three nights your gonna cherish
Don’t worry, be happy.
Bring your husband, your kids and your wife,
Even if they give you a lot of strife
Don’t worry, be happy.
Cause in the end they’re gonna love it,
And they’ll have you and me to blame,
Don’t worry, be happy,
Don’t worry, be happy and come to the Parish mission.

About the Author Fr. Michael Denk

Fr. Michael was ordained into priesthood in the Diocese of Cleveland on May 12, 2007. He is dedicated to helping others encounter Christ through the celebration of the Eucharist, preaching, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, spiritual direction, and prayer.

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I'm Father Michael J. Denk, a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. I am a contributor of content to The Prodigal Father Productions, Inc., a non-profit corporation functioning in accord with the traditions and the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. The corporation and I are separate, it doesn't speak for me, the parish, or on behalf of the Diocese of Cleveland, and I do not speak for it.