For today's Lenten prayer, I have scanned a yellowed and dog-eared card found in my dad's old Catholic missal (the prayer book with the Latin and English words of the Mass). I love the "Our Father," but this one is the "My Father." As in, my father lived this prayer. He also embodied its earnest, fervent midcentury style, being a Catholic convert from the era of Fulton J. Sheen's Life is Worth Living broadcasts. The prayer is called "Learning Christ":
My dad's life was indeed "strong in its purpose of sanctity." He lived his faith in every encounter, as a father, neighbor, insurance salesman, passing motorist...but perhaps most of all as husband. The man who saved this prayer card was married (after a 15-year courtship) to a beautiful but troubled woman who lived her life in the grip of fear, insecurity, anger and cynicism. I believe I am the offspring of the world's greatest optimist and its darkest pessimist. And in all the years of their marriage, my father never gave up his patient campaign to ease my mother's embattled heart. Turn the card over, and his inscription (Q for Quentin, M for Mathilde) reveals that he gave it to her four years before they finally married, while he was still a military policeman guarding FDR during World War II.
"Learning Christ" might sound a bit sanctimonious or impossibly pious to our post-modern ears. After all, therapy and self-fulfillment are our touchstones now, not "putting ourselves aside." But you will have to take my word for it that the man who lived this prayer was the happiest man I've ever known, and the freest. He lived each day in joy and died at peace, beloved by all who knew him. Through him, I "learned Christ" a little more every day. Corny as it sounds, I am quite convinced he is a saint. If you're in the market for an intercessor, Richard Quentin Becker would, I'm sure, be happy to hear from you.