Getting to know the stranger within ourselves


By Barb Arland-Fye

Aviatrix Beryl Markham made history in 1936 as the first person to fly solo over the Atlantic Ocean heading from East to West (England to Canada) and wrote about that experience in her book, “West with the Night.” During that 20-hour flight, she discovered the experience “as startling as the first awareness of a stranger walking by your side at night. You are the stranger” (

How many of us are strangers to ourselves? If all of us knew ourselves, would our families, communities, country and world become more compassionate, merciful and committed to working for the common good? How do we get to know ourselves? Perhaps it begins with taking time to examine the hopes, joys, fears and suffering that drive our interactions with others and our response to the events of the era in which we live. Perhaps, getting to know the stranger within ourselves begins with prayer.

Pope Francis has designated 2024 as the Year of Prayer in preparation for the 2025 Jubilee, the theme of which is Pilgrims of Hope. The Holy Father dedicated this year to “rediscovering the great value and absolute need for prayer, prayer in personal life, in the life of the Church, prayer in the world” (Vatican News, 1-23-24). Prayer fosters our relationship with the Lord and “becomes nourishment for the Christian life of faith, hope, and charity,” the Holy Father said.


The Vatican’s Dicastery for Evangelization released a “Teach Us to Pray” guidebook on prayer ( to prepare us for Jubilee 2025. Its intention is to offer “reflections, directions, and advice for living more fully in dialogue with the Lord, in relationship with others” (Vatican News, 2-21-24). This guide offers a way to transform the stranger within ourselves into a Christ-centered person radiating God’s love toward all of humankind. 

“Teach Us to Pray” references Pope Francis’ teachings on prayer as “the way to get in touch with our deepest truth, where God’s own light is present, as St. Augustine taught.” The pope “encourages people to persevere in prayer, emphasizing how constant prayer transforms not only the person, but also the wider community, even where evil seems to have the upper hand. Thus, for every Christian, the light that illumines the path …”

In our dialogue with God, we also learn to listen to God, the Holy Father says. He “encourages us to find moments of prayer in all the circumstances we are called to face, whether in the joys or challenges of life.” We discover how much God loves us, which gives us hope and the courage to live each day. We discover God’s mercy and compassion, gifts that we, in turn, should reciprocate toward all of God’s people (pgs. 11, 12).

“Through prayer, the Word of God comes to abide in us and we abide in it. The Word inspires good intentions and sustains action; it gives us strength and serenity, and even when it challenges us, it gives us peace” (p. 14). The guidebook identifies forms of prayer: adoration, praise and thanksgiving, intercessory, and supplication. Its description of praise and thanksgiving warrants special attention in today’s world: “This form of prayer helps us cultivate an attitude of gratefulness, capable of shaping our outlook toward our brothers and sisters as a sign and witness of the charity with which God loves us.” The description of intercessory prayer underscores that point: “It is good to emphasize the importance of this form of prayer as an act of Christian love and solidarity, which unites us with others and makes us sharers in their sufferings and in their hopes” (p. 19).

 “Teach Us to Pray” offers a framework on which to build our prayer life, our relationship with God and with each other and with all of God’s creation. Please read and embrace its message ( so that the stranger within ourselves becomes the person God asks us to be.

Barb Arland-Fye, Editor

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