When the spiritual person cannot meditate, let him learn to be still in God, fixing loving attention on God in the calm of his understanding, although he may think himself to be doing nothing. Little by little, divine calm and peace will be infused into his soul.
~ St. John of the Cross
Oh boy. In the entertaining angels department, I just had a delightful little exchange with an elderly blind woman sitting quietly waiting on…I dunno. I don’t know where she came from or who she’s with…she’s just sitting outside my door. Waiting.
I went to pitch a few things into the shredder so I greeted her as I passed. I admit, the greeting was not very enthusiastic or even personal…just something that I tossed out from habit rather than conviction.
Shame on me.
So out the greeting goes, “How are you.” Not a question, just a statement released into the air.
It jolted me, as I was already 5 steps away from her when I heard it, and 10 when I processed it.
I turned around and went back to the woman, and I spoke again. She put out her hand to hold mine as we spoke, and I apologized for not hearing her. She told me that she hadn’t spoken.
I told her that I was sure she had spoken to me, and she asked what she said, to which I replied, “I’m blessed.”
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is when it got interesting. She nodded, as if agreeing with the statement, and then shook her head no, “It must have been the Holy Spirit.” Satisfied with herself, she waved me away, saying, “Continue praying.”
Dude. I don’t even know.
It’s been a theater-of-the-absurd kind of day. That’s pretty SOP for the end of the quarter in my line of work … and then some. Things have a way of developing gravitas suddenly and inexplicably, sending an already high strung group of people on both sides of the desk into convulsions.
Lucky for me to have a daily smile texted at dawn. What’s not to love about a toothless grin from a lovable baby?
Perspective, as they say, is everything.
And if it isn’t, it certainly ought to be.
Sometimes the only way to get through some things in life is through prayer. That precious baby picture is part of a larger support group of people who pray for me. Now, I know people have been praying for me for a while. For a number of reasons. As a parent who frequently (I was gonna say religiously…too much? teehee) prays for her children, I know I can count on my own parents’ prayers. People I don’t even know have been praying for my family since my husband’s ALS diagnosis a few years ago. And social media, especially through Twitter and Facebook, has elevated intercessory prayer to an epic level by expanding the reach exponentially.
In the kind of Christian community in which I live and worship, work and play, it’s not unusual to tell someone, “I’ll pray for you,” and then really do it. In fact, I’d venture to say you’ve never really been prayed over until you’ve had a good ole Southern-style laying on of hands, but that’s a post for another day.
Prayer, then, takes many forms — from that spontaneous, extemporaneous artform of our evangelical brothers and sisters to the formal prayer of the Mass and all the beautiful prayers in between, from the sweet appeal to our Guardian Angel to the miraculous power of the Rosary.
I can do that. Mostly. I can follow along in a book or stumble through a poorly memorized and rusty prayer. I can get the job done, so to speak.
The challenge for me is not the deer-in-the-headlights call to lead a prayer for someone else — it’s the humbling appeal to a friend for a special, perhaps desperate, prayer.
There was a time when I wouldn’t have done it.
To acknowledge that kind of neediness is…well…needy. It’s weak. It’s shameful.
It’s ridiculous not to.
It took me a while to get to that realization. And then it became truly humbling, not in the common understanding of humbling to be lowly, but in the truly liberating humility that submits to God. This humility brings me closer to God’s light, an image that draws me more than any other. It is in that light that I bask in God’s love.
To ask my friends for prayer, then, is to let them love me. To give them the opportunity to express to me a love I willingly share with them. It is the grace to be loved.
When I made that adjustment, I realized how often my prayers are answered. Not with a yes or a no, a solution, or a miraculous change in the way things are going, but in the manner in which I receive God’s will. Because with it comes the peace and security of being truly loved.
Another presidential campaign cycle is winding down. Today, on the eve of elections, many people are thinking about and going over the issues one last time before commiting to a candidate tomorrow. Some, like me, have exercised the opportunity to vote early. Regardless of when we get around to casting that vote, the nation, it seems, is hanging in the balance until one of those candidates is proclaimed the victor.
It appears that this election will be closely monitored, from within our borders because of so much partisanship, but also from without, as I can never recall an election that commanded so much interest from abroad.
It is the almost rabid partisanship that has me concerned. While I fervently want my candidate to win, I don’t think the country will collapse overnight if he loses. The odds are generally in my favor that one of them is going to be elected [smile].
I also think that the threats from both sides to move to another country is neither practical, nor good for America. This is a great country. It will still be a great country on Wednesday morning. As her citizens, we have to remember that once the election is over, we need to put away the blue flags and the red flags and go back to the business of waving the one flag that unites us, you know, that pretty banner with the red, white, and blue.
Most of the time when I get a new book I read it immediately. I sit down and zoom through it with great passion and zeal, and then just as suddenly it’s over, and I’m left yearning for the next literary fix.
That crash and burn technique serves me well; I am in the business of reading and writing. There’s always a deadline, always a new book that I must read. Of course, getting to review books for The Catholic Company is a bonus for me!
Last month when my review copy of Mother Teresa’s Secret Fire: The Encounter that Changed Her Life, and How it Can Transform Your Own by Joseph Langford arrived, I was going to treat it like any other book — something that was going to give me some fleeting pleasure. Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t have a cavalier attitude about books. I love books. My ravenous consumption of books is probably rooted in my fundamental desire to read everything, or at least, everything that I can get my hands on.
When I sat down to read Mother Teresa’s Secret Fire something unexpectedly different happened to me. I slowed down.I savored the book. I turned to it, not in a frenzy to see what Langford says next, but to absorb and understand the message.
Joseph Langford examines Mother Teresa’s encounter with Christ through prayer, and it vicariously becomes ours. The lessons are profoundly deep and yet so simple that they can be distilled from the advice she so freely gives:
If you want to pray better, you need to pray more.
That simple command to pray more encouraged me to seek a new level of understanding within my own prayer life. The book captivated me with its life-transforming messages thanks largely to Langford’s expert handling of so esoteric a subject as prayer. After all, those of us who see prayer as a mysterious activity for the super holy have failed miserably to understand its nature. I attribute my own past failure to a fundamental inability to lay bare my soul in a vulnerable position.
Can you imagine anyone more vulnerable than Mother Teresa? And yet, she dedicated herself to seeking and helping those who were indeed more vulnerable. Her secret is exposed here for our benefit, so that we, too, can be transformed, and be transformational for others.
Langford deftly breaks down the essential attributes of prayer as expressed by Mother Teresa — to “pray from the heart” and to hold “inner silence.” That last one, especially, competes with every distraction continuously pulling at us. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
This beautiful labor of love, not just Mother Teresa’s magnificent legacy but also Joseph Langford’s insight into her secret fire, is a must-read for all of us at any stage of our faith journey.
[Her] message is something infinitely rich, yet infinitely simple. She has shown us that, as the burning desert yearns for water, God yearns for us. And the God who thirsts for us is not hard to find, since he dwells in our soul as his temple, and comes in the palpable disguise of our suffering neighbor, making it easy for us to find the unsearchable God, and to come face-to-face with Christ.
Get it. Read it. Embrace the transformational power of her secret fire.
It seems like I’ve been in a bit of a prayer rut lately. Maybe it’s the changing season; maybe it’s that I am undergoing some kind of change myself. I dunno. But I do know that I have felt an absence of something, or perhaps not so much an absence of something as a deep-seated yearning for something more.
Enter the social utilities where I play a bit throughout the day. Many of you come to the forums here at Rosary Army. Others participate in any number of opportunities to twitter, plurk, pownce, rejaw and otherwise microblog your activities throughout the day. These utilities are wonderful ways for us to connect to a community of faithful Catholics that share our lives in all the mundane and dramatic turns that make us human.
One of my plurky friends, Edgar the Mexican, announces the Angelus daily. Okay, it’s not a ringing bell, but it is a call to prayer nonetheless. Do churches outside of Rome even ring the bells anymore?