Airplanes & Prayer

18k1aj46yuv9ijpgPrayer.  Mysterious, with unknown answers, obligatory answers, fluid impressions that pass for answers, mostly sincere.

If you thought prayer was mysterious – could you ever imagine in your wildest dreams that, no matter your political stripes, Donald Trump would be what he is today?  No wonder the hot is unseemly outside.

But this is about “prayer,” our daily, weekly, situational, or once-in-a-lifetime pious offering to God for something or someone but mostly always about ourselves.  Prayers for family and friends and even prayers for those who’ve died have as though our continuing prayers continues or changes their lives.
You gotta love it.  “Prayer.”  Prayer is like airline announcements from pilots and flight attendants (formerly “stewardesses”) that all together baffle, surprise and even amuse us.  Just like God seems to do for us through our prayers.  How about this: A flight attendant’s comment on a less than perfect landing: “We ask you to please remain
seated as Captain Kangaroo bounces us to the terminal.”

The first officer wishing passengers well as they left the plane after a bad landing said he had a hard time looking the passengers in the eye.  Finally everyone had gotten off except for a little old lady walking with a cane.  She said, “Sonny, mind if I ask you a question?”  “Why no Ma’am,” said the pilot. “What is it?”  The little old lady said, “Did we land or were we shot down?”

After a real crusher of a landing in Phoenix, the flight attendant came on with, “Ladies and gentlemen, please remain in your seats until Capt. Crash and the Crew have brought the aircraft to a screeching halt against the gate.  And, once the tire smoke has cleared and the warning bells are silenced, we’ll open the door and you can pick your way through the wreckage to the terminal.”

Prayer.  Should you repeat again and again church verses as though we are magically one with the Divine?  Should we knee when we pray to offer God not only during our words but our seemingly sincere posture, and how about lighting a candle at $1.50 a piece to enlighten a God, whom we think needs enlightenment?  And, at a 50% markup for the parish, by the way.

The mystery of air flight:
Flight attendant: ”We’d like to thank you folks for flying with us today.  And, the next time you get the insane urge to go blasting through the skies in a pressurized metal tube, we hope you’ll think of us.”
On a Continental flight with a very “senior” flight attendant crew, the pilot said, “Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve reached cruising altitude and will be turning down the cabin lights.  This is for your comfort and to enhance the appearance of your flight attendants.”
On landing the stewardess said, “Please be sure to take all your belongings. If you’re going to leave anything, please make sure it’s something we’d like to have.”
Another flight attendant says on a different flight, ”There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only 4 ways out of this airplane.”

The mystery of prayer is that often the unexpected happens.  Is prayer answered by our mysterious God or is our prayer unfolded by the life before us?  Or is it both?  I truly don’t know.

The mystery of air flight:
“Thank you for flying Delta Business Express.  We hope you enjoyed giving us the business as much as we enjoyed taking you for a ride.”
After a particularly rough landing during thunderstorms in Memphis, a flight attendant on Northwest announced, “Please take care when opening the overhead compartments because after a landing like that, sure as hell everything has shifted.”

“Sure as hell, everything has shifted.”  You want a definition of prayer?  The flight attendant gave it to us.  Things have shifted.  What we thought was so secure and  truly unbending has been sometimes bent, torn or shattered.
Children don’t behave according to our daily, offered prayers.  One family hears more about their daughter through Facebook from her than in person.  Have their prayers been answered or slightly modified?  Is that God’s answering their prayers or is it life unfolding with a Creator’s wink?

The airline mystery continues:
From a Southwest employee: “Welcome aboard Southwest.  To operate your seat belt, insert the metal tab into the buckle and pull tight.  It works just like every other seat belt and if you don’t know how to operate one, you probably shouldn’t be out in public unsupervised.”
Another flight attendant, different flight, says, ”In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, masks will descend from the ceiling.  Stop screaming, grab the mask, and pull it over your face.  If you have a small child traveling with you, secure your mask before assisting with the small child’s. If you are traveling with more than one small child…pick your favorite.”

Then there’s personal prayer.  A prayer to the Almighty to grant this or that to you.  The Catholic Church still has plenary indulgences to erase 30 minutes of your purgatory time against your life’s misdeed of 10 minutes.  There is also 60 minutes off purgatory if you light that $1.50 candle, slightly marked up.  Our Sunday special is two candles for $2.00 if if you light them before Noon before the church doors are locked and God no longer is available.

The airline mystery continues:
“Weather at our destination is 50 degrees with some broken clouds, but we’ll try to have them fixed before we arrive.  Thank you, and remember, nobody loves you, or your money, more than Southwest Airlines.”
“Your seat cushions can be used for flotation; and, in the event of an emergency water landing, please paddle to shore and take them along with you with our compliments.”
“Should the cabin lose pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead area.  Please place the bag over your own mouth and nose before assisting children… or other adults acting like children.”

Sorry folks, you chose the wrong Mass today.  I have no idea of the power of prayer but I still pray.  I do know of some gimmicks and dismiss them but that’s up to you.  If you believe that nine days of saying something again and again gains something more from eternal life, then perhaps you’re more ahead of this prayer game than I am.
Had you chosen a different Mass you may have heard a priest speak eloquently about the beauty of prayer and even suggest prayers for your eternal salvation.  Short of a PowerPoint presentation because of lighting limitations, he would have laid out for you all the answers you need to have prayers not only heard but answered by God.  But like you, I just don’t know but I’ll keep trying.  I want God to follow my life and help by brother help his daughter and my niece even if it’s only through Facebook.  I’m with you.  I don’t know much about prayer.
But I’ve always known that my prayers have been answered completely.  Just keep knocking, keep knocking and who knows who’ll answer the door to your prayers.

But please don’t forget about our Sunday candle special on two candles for the price of one. Good until Noon and cannot be combine with any other offer or coupon.  It’s only
good in the United States and only if you are a registered citizen, in good standing and preferably white.

Couple more airline mysteries:
“As you exit the plane, make sure to gather all of your belongings. Anything left behind will be distributed evenly among the flight attendants. Please do not leave children or spouses.”
And from the pilot during his welcome message:  “Delta Airlines is pleased to have some of the best flight attendants in the industry.  Unfortunately, none of them are on this flight!”
Heard on Southwest Airlines just after a very hard landing in Salt Lake City, ”That was quite a bump, and I know what y’all are thinking.  I’m here to tell you it wasn’t the airline’s fault, it wasn’t the pilot’s fault, it wasn’t the flight attendant’s fault…it was the asphalt!”
After an extremely hard landing in Texas, the flight attendant said, “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Amarillo.  Please remain in your seats with your seat belts fastened while the captain taxis to the gate what’s left of our airplane.”

So, fasten your religious seat belts, find the exit doors, don’t forget to take a large vitamin C pill before boarding and prayerfully savor your unique journey through life.  Yes, there will be bumps along the way but clear skies also lay before you.  It’s rare these days to find a non-stop flight … but ours truly is.

About Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

A Roman Catholic priest since 1980 and a member of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians). Six books on the Catholic church and U.S. culture are available on
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1 Response to Airplanes & Prayer

  1. John says:

    Just “wow”.


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