[Editor’s Note: This post is in response to “Vinyl Prayers,” John Modern’s portal into Reverberations’ unfolding compendium of resources related to the study of prayer.]

Herman Melville | via Wikimedia Commons“For the rest, blame not Stubb too hardly. The thing is common in that fishery; and in the sequel of the narrative, it will then be seen what like abandonment befell myself.”

—Herman Melville, Moby Dick

I come, I suppose, from praying people, even if that prayerfulness, by the time it came to me, had assumed a form more sanitized, more tidied up by middle-class propriety, than fizzy with Old World mysticism. We revered no blood-weeping statuary; we buried no rosary-wrapped crucifixes upside down in the garden, at least as far as I know. Still, I confess that when I was young I found it discomfiting, the way my aunts were forever telling me they’d pray for me, my work, my friends, my losses, my loves. It was as if their prayers were the mark of some dimly shameful Catholic atavism, tenacious and unoutgrown, surviving in the family line like a strand of misfiring DNA, and threatening my louche assimilation perhaps a little too intimately.