Standing in the middle of the hallway of Franciscan University’s academic building, Egan Hall, I found myself with eyes closed, hands folded, and praying with a complete stranger. Two of my household sisters were next to me, but I still couldn’t get past the fact that it was normal to pray in public with someone I didn’t know.
I would not have been in that situation if not for my household, Daughters of Zion (DOZ). I joined my freshman year, and excited and eager to become all things DOZ, I entered formation, a time where we’d be introduced to our community spiritual life. I was ready to encounter and master each of our pillars—Trust, Abandon, Open, Praise, and Heal—with all the enthusiasm with which I made my intent shirt. But I was not ready for empowered prayer night.
Each Monday, DOZ prays the Divine Mercy Chapel as one of our commitments. Most of the time, it’s held in the common room, but twice a month it’s held in Christ the King Chapel. I thought this was empowered prayer night, thinking the name change was due to a change in location (as if a chapel somehow magnified the prayers—don’t ask me what I was thinking), but in actuality it was something much different. I found this out shortly after I officially joined.
“Let’s go to late night!” I said as we left the chapel. (Late night is a wonderful time when Franciscan’s cafeteria, Antonian Hall, is open from 7:30 to 11:00 p.m.)
“But we still have empowered prayer night,” someone said.
“But I thought…”
I don’t know how I had missed it. I must have rushed off every other time, not waiting around for the actual commitment to start. So that night I was introduced to empowered prayer.
The gist of it was we would break up into groups, three or four people each, and then each group would go to a different dorm or academic building where they would find people to pray with. That’s right. We were supposed to go up to strangers and ask to pray with them.
I was almost in shock. Being the self-conscious introvert that I was, I could barely talk to people I knew, much less a stranger. Plus, I was supposed to pray with them? Interrupt whatever they were doing for a two-minute prayer?
To a certain extent, people expect that kind of stuff at Franciscan—but that doesn’t mean I had ever done that before. It definitely was not something that I was comfortable with.
Still I went, shuffling along behind my fearless group leader as she cornered people and asked them for intentions. I’m sure there were people who probably thought we were crazy, and people who were uncomfortable to be put on the spot, but there were more who were grateful for the opportunity. And more importantly, by the time we were done, I was thinking, “That wasn’t that bad. I could do that again.”
And I have. It’s still something that pushes me out of my comfort zone, but it’s worth it. Most people are actually very grateful when we ask to pray for them. They’re usually worried about school, a sick family member, or an important decision they have to make. The peace they experience after a short prayer and a Hail Mary is worth any discomfort I go through.
Gruß Gott! My name is Marianna Schmiesing, and I am a junior English major at Franciscan. I was born and raised in Steubenville, Ohio, just a few blocks from the University, and it has always felt like home to me. This semester, I am living, working, eating, sleeping, praying, studying, and traveling all across Europe, making base camp in Gaming, Austria, at the Kartause Maria Thronus Iesu, the center of Franciscan’s study abroad program.
In addition to reading and writing, I am a member of Daughters of Zion household and love playing ultimate frisbee. After graduation, I plan to continue writing creatively, hopefully finishing a book or two (or ten), and winning the Pulitzer Prize.