You go to pray; to become a bonfire, a living flame, giving light and heat.
St. Josemaria Escriva
Recently, I traveled to a nearby monastery. I accompanied some friends who were curious about life there. It was in the middle of nowhere of course but that is part of the beauty. There was time for lunch, prayer and personal time speaking to one of the monks. Sometimes I look at this life in the monastery with some idealism, but it is not – it is hard work. They make bread, jams, and many other products but that is part of the daily life there. The real work is prayer. In a personal conversation with one of the monks, whom I had never met before, I was astounded at his insight. It was incredible how he could see right through me. How could this be? I only through his attachment to Christ would he have that ability. am always fascinated by the beauty of the great saints in the Church, but I am also in awe of the people I meet in the Church who have so much to offer.
Living in the world
“Make your heart a monastery. There sound the semantron, there call your vigil and cense and whisper ceaseless prayers. God is next to you.” St Luke the Surgeon. How can I do this in my own life which is full of distractions at every turn? Recently I finished a novena for an intention that is quite dear to my heart. Oddly, a strange answer came quickly but in the opposite direction of which I was asking. How could this be? I asked God for real help during this novena, but events were going in the opposite direction. “If men knew the peace good Religious enjoy. The whole world would become a monastery.” St. Scholastica. Would we make our heart a monastery? I fill up my time with distractions and hope to fit Christ into my day as I move forward. It is important for me to be more silent and to listen. “What dear brothers, is more delightful than the voice of the Lord calling to us?” St. Benedict and he said again, “Listen with the ear of your heart.” Interesting, that is exactly what the monk told me during my visit. I was still reeling from the odd answer during my novena, but I was not listening with my heart – just my head. Of course, I was doing things incorrectly because I was thinking with my own measure. I think I know what God should doing for me; but, after that visit, I was reminded that God really is in charge.
Forgetful How easy it is to forget that. St Padre Pio told us, “Prayer is the best weapon we possess. It is the key that opens the heart of God.” We need to continue to pray. I need to be reminded that God does answer prayer just not within our guidelines and expectations – but His! I took some time away from work to work on my spiritual life. It is very important that we take time for ourselves. I cannot believe how often I forget this in my own life. I enjoy doling out advice to people and reminding them of the Lord’s omnipotence. However, when things are different and I need some help, I feel like a hypocrite. I was recently asked to be the lector at my parish because I speak both English and Italian and we have Italians in my parish. It is different when words are read aloud. These words resonate with me all the time from the annunciation. “Nothing is impossible with God.” I made another trek to the oratory in Montreal. How the simple Brother Andre built such a magnificent structure is bewildering. Yet his faith abounded. Walking through this place of beauty was thought provoking to say the least. But it is important remember that many great cathedrals and shrines were built much later than the designer or architect intended. Many did not see the fruit of their work. But God sees.
I was a bit saddened when some friends returned to their home country, but I was also surprised when I was invited to visit. My first response was an objection which was I did not want to interrupt their lives. The answer to me was that love has no boundaries. The more we love the more our hearts expand. I need to remember that sentence. The monks I visited, the shrines I visit and the friends that accompany me on the journey are not here simply by accident. God puts them on my path for reasons I might not know now or ever. I want to be reminded of this the next time I pray my novena with my shopping list for God. Maybe I might stop asking him for what I want but more to increase my faith. I might see more clearly.