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Faith in Prayer and Sacrifice

As Cursillistas, we are called to be Palanca people. On our Weekend, we discovered a faith community who believes in the power of prayer and sacrifice to open others to the Spirit’s empowerment. There are hidden depths in our practice of Palanca. When we discover them, we realize that its practice offers us the opportunity to deepen our faith and spirituality.

Palanca is essentially intercessory prayer. However, when we really pray for another, not just say words that are nice, we take that person to our inner center, where we share that person’s concern with God. We become gift to the other person through the operation of the Spirit. So intercessory prayer benefits us first of all by turning us into gift. When we reveal our prayer to the person for whom we are praying, we are encouraging that person by our support. My revelation stirs the Spirit within that person. Whether or not the Spirit heals that person, or provides the strength to accept his or her problem, something has happened. The Spirit in us has moved the Spirit in another. Our Palanca give us the opportunity to experience this spiritual communion with another.

Father Ronald Rolheiser in his book, The Holy Longing, tells us that our faith in the power of prayer depends on an important piece of theology—Christ’s Incarnation. If we look upon the Incarnation as a 33-year experiment with Christ physically walking the earth and today present just in the Eucharist, leaving us the Holy Spirit, a real but less physical presence of God, we don’t have the whole picture. The Body of Christ also means the community of believers, which is also the real presence. So Christ is Jesus, the Eucharist and the community of faith. Through us, Christ still has physical skin, and can still be physically seen, touched and heard. Not metaphorically, but in a real sense.

Not only is this a dogma to be believed, but it is the core of Christian spirituality—with important consequences for our understanding of the power of prayer. We often wonder: “Why does God not answer our prayers?” Rolheiser says that prayers of petition have power to the extent that they are linked to concrete action within the Christian community: “To pray …demands concrete involvement in trying to bring about what is pleaded for in the prayer.”

Thus, our Palanca is based on solid theology and Christian spirituality. It is not just some nice practice. It is incarnational, meaning that it is physical. We don’t just remember the candidates in our prayers. Palanca is putting flesh behind our petitions. We make sure that they know about our prayers and sacrifices. We are the hands of Christ that write the letters.

Further, our personal Palanca is part of a communal effort to enable Christ’s Spirit to empower the candidates to conversion. Our prayers and sacrifices are added to the concrete efforts of the team and the outside community. In so doing we are living the dogma that Christ is present in the community of believers.

Also, we deeply believe that our Palanca, in the form of sacrifices, put us in touch with Christ’s suffering. Through Christ’s Self-gift, he won for us a great victory of reconciliation, making possible personal integration, union with God and others. Through our self-gift in our Palanca, we fill up what is lacking in Christ’s suffering to secure wholeness and healing for others.

Yes, Palanca is intercessory prayer at its best, but it is so much more than that. Palanca is living the ongoing Incarnation of Christ in his community of believers.

Further, our acts of Palanca are a manifestation of our faith and the opportunity to grow our faith and spirituality.