Saint Meinrad Seminary & School of Theology

Formation and Education for the Life of the Church

Breastpiece of Decision

by Ann Cavera


I am certain I must have read the words regarding Aaron's "Breastpiece of Decision" in the 28th chapter of Exodus before, but I'd never taken much notice until this morning. Today, it was as though I read them for the first time.

They struck a chord because I had just finished praying the Liturgy of the Hours. To this I always add a list of names of people close to my heart. I plead for God's grace to come into the lives in many ways. These are precious children, grandchildren and friends for whom I storm heaven on a daily basis. Some of them have been on my list for many years.

This morning I felt a touch of despair for some of those names. I found myself wondering, in an offhand way, if all my prayers for these precious souls amount to much more than a hill of beans! What good does it do to keep begging for the Light of Christ to shine in the lives of people who might think they are "fine, thank you" just the way they are?

Here in Exodus, Aaron receives instruction for the breastpiece of decision the priest is to wear whenever he enters the sanctuary. Four rows of precious stones are to be mounted in gold filigree, three to a row for a total of 12 stones. Each stone is to be engraved with the name of one of the 12 tribes. Aaron bears the names of the 12 tribes over his heart whenever he comes into the Lord's presence.

In the same way, in prayer, we bear others with us into the Lord's presence. In the years we have prayed together, we have seen some wonderful answers to serious problems. In those same years, we also continue to bear some problems that seem to have no solutions.

Part of the grace we have been given is to be poured out for the sake of others. Mary continues to intercede for all of us. I wonder if she ever feels like throwing up her hands, covering her face and asking if anything will make a difference in some lives!

In prayer, we carry others to the gates of heaven. True, they must choose to follow Christ through those gates on their own, but we can, with prayer, at least get them that far.

Moses raised his hands over the Israelites and, as long as he held his hands over them, they prevailed. When his arms grew too weary to hold up, Aaron and Hur stood on either side and lifted his arms.

Aaron had a responsibility to carry the tribes into God's presence. As people of prayer, we have a responsibility to continue to do the same for those who are not yet able to bring themselves into the presence of God in prayer.

Sometimes it isn't that others are changed by our prayers. Bearing their names in love over a long period of time changes us. We tend to become more loving toward some of the more difficult people we carry in prayer. We see new things about them, get a new perspective on their lives, see them in a more positive light. 

Do you have a reflection on Christian faith or spirituality you would like to share? Click here to learn how to become a contributor to Echoes from the Bell Tower.

Echoes from the Bell Tower is a blog devoted to observations on Christian faith, spirituality and everyday events, by authors with a connection to the Benedictine values found at Saint Meinrad Archabbey and its Seminary and School of Theology. Contributors include students, permanent deacons, Benedictine oblates and Saint Meinrad monks. Their stories, thoughts and ideas highlight the mission and vision that ring out from the bell towers on this Hill in southern Indiana.