When I was a novice in the monastery, we were permitted to join the senior professed community to watch the national news before Evening Prayer. (We watched very little television in 1973.) The only news on at that hour in Little Rock was the ABC Evening News, so that is what we watched. Harry Reasoner and Howard K. Smith told us what had happened during the day, and we went upstairs afterward to pray about it.
One newsworthy item I remember from that time was the death of Lyndon Johnson on January 22, 1973. That breaking news happened after most of us had left the television room for the chapel, and old Fr. Evarist was the only one to hear it. During the petitions during Evening Prayer, he prayed for the “repose of the soul of former President Andrew Johnson.” Everyone looked confused. I thought maybe it was the anniversary of Andrew Johnson’s death, but we got it straightened out after prayer was over.
The petitions at Mass and at Evening Prayer could sometimes become a forum for personal agendas. During the trial of Angela Davis, or so I was told, a novice had prayed “For Angela Davis, that she may get a fair and just trial.” One of the conservative Spanish priests shot back with, “For Angela Davis, that she may get what’s coming to her.”
In Washington, DC, one eccentric older woman who prayed loudly for the strangest things was once rebuked when a brother prayed, “For the elderly who are losing their minds, let us pray to the Lord.” She was not losing her mind as is clear from her immediate response: “For those struggling with alcoholism, let us pray to the Lord.” The brother, who had been in recovery for decades, had the good humor to laugh.