Prayer Before Play

One seminal moment can so focus the mind that the thing that should be central slides to the periphery.

Mr. L surprised me with “Let’s say a prayer.”

Instantly, I remembered the routine practiced by every Catholic sports team, speech club, and theatre cast and crew before any important event: hands lain upon hand, bodies pressed against bodies, some stretching to reach, others bowing to accommodate. All together for one moment, humbly before God and man, asking for His blessing on what we are about to do.

Sixpence, none the richer.

The musical group, so sadly, now, disbanded, took it’s name from a C. S. Lewis theme. Lewis said that human beings, whom God created, doing things to please Him is like a child who borrows sixpence from his mother with which to buy her a birthday present: sixpence, none the richer. It’s simply impossible to give to God something more than He already has, because we have nothing that isn’t His already.

Still, we try. Still, we must.

It’s been 20 years since I prayed before a play. Even at Fontbonne, a Catholic college, prayer before play would be inappropriate in today’s–or 1985’s–America, where the mere mention of His name is proscribed within hearing range of even a mildly compliant atheist. Thus, my surprise.

JGL: Hail Mary! ALL: Full of grace . . .

But, oh, dear God, how wonderful it felt, like slipping into one’s favorite jeans against the first good chill of fall. I felt awkward moving toward Leibrecht: unsure of my steps, uncertain what to do. Then my fellows gathered all around and seemed to vindicate my instincts to move toward the edge of the stage. I know not whose hand lay beneath mine, nor whose mine supported. The anonymity among familiars made it all the more meaningful to our masked and cloaked world of the stage, where the “real” us disguises itself for others' pleasures. And all this within the play in which we all wear costumes and portray characters so convincingly, often, that we fool ourselves and all who know us all our lives long. All but Him, who knows us through the paints He gives us.

“Saint Genesius, pray for us. Bust your buns, people.”

Leibrecht’s finals words came too quickly. I wasn’t prepared, so the tears came before I could steel myself against them. I walked toward the bridge seeing my new and old friends through the kaleidoscope of weeping eyes, breathing halting breaths, and trying not to let it show. Ah, the masks we wear!


For me, the prayer worked. The tears carried off so many fears but left the strength to step onto the stage and say my lines. I don’t know if I said them well. I hope I did. I’m sure God appreciated our poor efforts to give some joy to His people with the talent and courage He gave to us in more abundance that the characters we call ourselves allow to shine through.

“And it’s seven-thirty . . .”

I have so many, many things deserving my gratitude. My debt to Him grows each day. Today, as you passed me in the dark behind the flats that hide the cyclorama, I hid my tears behind hands that folded together in prayer many times during our performance, not to plead, but to thank God for the wonderful for talents, skills, friends, love, and life He’s so graciously granted a creature as underserving as myself.