This summer I had the amazing experience of visiting my friend, Katie Smith, who is a supervisor with the National Evangelization Team (NET) in St. Paul, MN. In case you have not heard of NET, here’s a quick background: NET is devoted to challenging “young Catholics to love Christ and embrace the life of the Church.” According to their website, “every August, 150 young Catholics aged 18-28 leave behind their jobs, school, family, and friends to devote nine months to serving with the National Evangelization Teams (NET). Divided into 14 teams, they travel across the U.S. for nine months to share the Gospel with young people and their families. Since 1981, NET teams have led over 29,000 retreats and ministered to more than 1.7 million young Catholics.” (More about NET from their website)
As a supervisor, Katie works with a team of about 20 other young men and women (missionary staff) who are directly responsible for overseeing the men and women on their assigned teams. In the time I spent with Katie, she and her fellow mission staffers provided me with amazing hospitality, graciously taking me around the St. Paul area, and even having a little party on my first night with them so that I could get to know everyone. It was a great experience all around. But the most striking feature of the men and women that I got to know over that short time was their devotion to prayer, to worshiping our Lord Jesus Christ, and growing closer to Him. This was exemplified by their willingness, no rather their enthusiasm for coming together to pray at a moment’s notice. During the time of the aforementioned party, there was some kind of statue of Satan unveiled in the city of Detroit, MI in conjunction with a black Mass. When one of the missionary staffers heard about this through social media, he immediately suggested to the group, which numbered about 25 people that we ought to pray in reparation, and petition for these abominable and satanic activities that were occurring while we spoke. In a matter of minutes, we were all in the living room, and two guitars had been tuned in anticipation of the praise and worship we were going to offer to the Lord. We faced the Crucifix which was placed on the mantle, at the center of the home, and we began to pray with song.
As a former youth group junkie, and former youth minister, I have become quite accustomed to praise and worship as a style of prayer and I think that it has its rightful place alongside other styles of music in the Church. It can genuinely draw people to Christ. I think that it can even have a place in the Liturgy, if it is done correctly and beautifully, and with reverence for the purpose of the Liturgy. Unfortunately, when it is not done well, it can easily devolve into something much less prayerful and become an activity which has its focus not on praising Christ, but on any number of other idols. When not done well it can be cheesy, trite, and banal. The NETter’s praise and worship was none of these things, but rather authentic prayer.
In my experience – perhaps, because for nearly all of the times I have participated in praise and worship in recent years I was the leader of a group of youth – it often takes the group of people a while to enter into the spirit of prayer. For example, it was not uncommon when I was a youth minister that I had to separate youth from one another because they were talking and becoming a distraction to others prayer. These type of situations are to be expected when working with children and teenagers because they are learning how to pray. What struck me most about the prayer of the NETers that night was how quickly and easily the group fell into prayer. They were able to pray immediately and spontaneously from their hearts, in the middle of a party. These were True Catholic Christians who knew who their Father was, knew that Jesus Christ was their friend, and that the Holy Spirit was their guide in prayer. There was no appearance of worry as to what other people thought of them as they prayed, they just prayed from their hearts to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. As I prayed with them, I felt at home, unified with them by our common baptism as children of the one Father of us all. The sight of authentic prayer is often hidden because of the humility of the one praying, and this is not a bad thing, but, it is a grace when we are able to recognize authentic prayer. That night I was able to see and hear authentic personal prayer and it was a beautiful sight to see.
As I reflected upon the experience, I realized that such a falling into prayer, does not come from ourselves but is a grace. A grace for which, we prepare ourselves by habitually choosing to become more and more a disciple of Jesus and by habitually choosing to pray regularly, even when it is hard to do so. It is a fruit of the Spirit to pray well, a fruit given to the disciples of the Lamb. I saw the fruit of that kind of discipleship in the NETers in the prayer of that night, as it shone brightly as a light for all to see.
 Others may justifiably disagree, with me on this issue of “Praise and Worship style” music in Mass but it’s not something that we should have a schism over. How we pray the Mass is important, vitally important, but it is not my particular concern whether Praise and Worship should be allowed in Mass or not in this short article.
 The rule was “try and pray and participate, but if you don’t, don’t distract others from praying”