I have been contacted in the last few days by several people who want me and the loyal readers of this blog to pray for them. I don't even have to tell you the stories, because you already know them—lost jobs, mortgages due, babies on the way, etc. Now, the odd thing about asking me for prayer is that I am not a great prayer. Like a lot of people who fondly imagine themselves to be “intellectual”—usually on very little evidence—I tend to take prayer at entirely the wrong level. (By the way,“intellectual,” in my case at least, is a Latin term meaning, “doesn't like physical labor.”) But I suspect that there are really great prayers among our readers. After all, reading this blog is an act of faith in itself. And it is on these “great prayers” that we call.
The job of a distributist is to build up community, and nothing builds community like shared prayer. Community is always an act of faith in each other and in God, and does not exist without both. And aside from charity, prayer is the ultimate act of faith. The Jews have the concept of the minyan, a quorum necessary for public prayer. It was for this reason that the Eucharistic prayer summons a minyan of saints:
In union with the whole Church we honor Mary, the ever-virgin mother of Jesus Christ our Lord and God. We honor Joseph, her husband, the apostles and martyrs Peter and Paul, Andrew, James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon and Jude; we honor Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian and all the saints. May their merits and prayers grant us your constant help and protection.
Thus, the required minyan was extended from the saints of the Church Militant to those of the Church Triumphant, the ultimate community. Now, we always get the question, “what practical things can I do to build up a distributist community” and the most practical thing, the thing on which everything else depends, is prayer. And especially prayer offered in communion with others. The “others” need not be physically present to us, just like the saints in the Eucharistic prayer. But the cloud of witnesses is always present when we pray with them.
No doubt there are many who will consider this to be too mystical. We are (according to the reigning public orthodoxy) all individuals and responsible for our own destinies. We live in an age of “consumer sovereignty” where the customer is king, and everything depends on our private choices. This view, I suggest, is the real mysticism, because it directly conflicts with everything we see. Far from being self-reliant individuals, we find ourselves at the mercy of forces we do not understand and events in places remote from our daily experience. Profligacy in Greece threatens the economy in America. Choices in China affects the jobs we will have, or will not have. Actions of banks require us to support their losses. Everywhere this “sovereign individual” is crushed by forces beyond his control, forces he didn't even know existed. Forces we cannot see, things we cannot touch, touch us with pitiless might and power. To maintain the myth of individualism in the face of such unseen forces is the ultimate mysticism.
Very well then, but we have a few unseen forces at our own command. Of course, they are not really at our individual command; prayer is not magic. But because we are joined with each other and the saints, the community claims the right to call upon these forces. We do not know how they work, but then, we really don't know how the banking system works either, a statement which is true even, or especially, for the bankers. We do not deny the important task of building up the individual, but the individual is created in community, and grows only in that rich soil.
The real point of this essay, if it has a real point, is to throw off my own duty of the prayers that were requested of me onto the readers, to summon a distributist minyan to aid our members in need, and to commit that ultimate act of community, ora pro nobis.