One of the people who has had the greatest impact on my life is someone whom, by the world’s standards, was a “burden on society.” He was a man who never earned a living, someone who relied on everyone else for his basic needs all his life, someone who consumed a lot of other people’s time, energy and resources. Some may consider his life worthless, costly and unworthy of an investment of time and resources.
He was however, and continues to be though he died in 1984, a man who helped me find my purpose in life because of his love, prayer, insights and humble witness. That person is my uncle Donnie, whom I was named after.
My uncle Donnie, severely disabled since birth, was classified as having cerebral palsy. As I understand it, something went radically wrong in the birthing process which disabled him from his neck down all his life. His arms and legs where spastic so as little kids, we learned to stay a clear distance away lest we find a leg or arm coming our way. He was never able to walk, feed himself, get out of bed, or even go to the bathroom by himself. Oh how long those 43 years of his life must have been, but he was greatly loved and he loved greatly.
In time I came to realize Donnie’s purpose as a “prayer warrior.” After a liquid breakfast shake, he would say “rosary” and whoever was tending to him would get his plastic beaded rosary and put it around his neck and put on the record player the 15-decade rosary record playing over and over again the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries.
After lunch he would often say “music” which we knew meant it was his time to enjoy country western music. However, if we really needed something we would intently ask Donnie to pray for our intention, whether that be for rain for the crops, for good weather for an upcoming family wedding, or for someone struggling in their life. In those times after lunch, Donnie would often say “rosary” instead of “music.”
He not only prayed in the morning hours after breakfast, but also after lunch, in the mornings before someone got him out of bed, and after he was put in bed based on someone else’s timeline.
What was Donnie’s purpose in life? To be a prayer warrior for the spiritual help others needed, like myself. To this very day when there is something big I need help with, I call upon my uncle Donnie to pray for me.
As a priest I would often sense people with limitations of some sort wonder what their purpose in life was, whether they had become empty nesters, those with disabilities, the sick, the aging, or married and single men and women pondering deeply about what their purpose in life was. I, too, have had these same ponderings on many occasions in life.
What I now realize is that while we all are called to be intercessors or “prayers” for others, some have a very particular vocation, whether from birth, as they age, or at a time God knows best. What the world so desperately needs is prayer warriors for the salvation of souls, whether that be people like my uncle Donnie or the amazing vocation of contemplative sisters, brothers and priests like our dear contemplative Adoration Sisters in Sioux Falls, Carmelite Sisters in Alexandria, other consecrated men and women praying “like heck” so God’s love can be received in each heart of everyone in our diocese.
Prayer warriors change the world by their prayers, offering their sufferings and limitations in life to God. Some of us are called to be prayer warriors in the world, others behind monastery walls, others in the silence of their homes, nursing homes or hospitals like my uncle Donnie who prayed so fervently.
Within the circle of our family and friends Donnie was often called upon to pray intently. Why? Because at least for me, God placed in my heart to ask for what I needed from someone whose purpose it was to be a prayer warrior. I also had a hidden motive because in time I would come to realize not only his purpose in life but the incredible fruitfulness of his life, and that is a large part of who I am today and my purpose in life as a prayer warrior living in the world as your bishop to help all of you get to heaven—our eternal destiny. I can hardly wait to get there to see Donnie again.
Our feature article this month focuses on our diocesan vision of “Lifelong Catholic Missionary Discipleship through God’s love” to help us all understand, regardless of our circumstances of life, we all have a very special purpose in life and that is to be a prayer warrior for others in whatever way God calls us to that. From a recent regional visit I came upon a few examples of those with a very blessed purpose in life based on their circumstances. Enjoy reading and praying about God’s purpose of each of our lives from womb to tomb.