I now have a couple of months under my belt, and yet I am convinced that a majority of Catholics struggle to understand that prayer is much greater than what we do or say. Time and time again, I meet many good people who view prayer as a series of pious words and reflections which are often divorced from other aspects of their interiority. Of course, everyone recognizes that we must pray for others and for those things we need, but many fail to penetrate deeper than intercessory and vocal prayer.
I am convinced that to unlock the graces of Baptism, Catholics need to learn more about contemplative prayer and other ways of relating to the Lord which are more informal and spontaneous. Such deeper forms of prayer allow us to penetrate deeper in the mystery of God’s love. This journey into a more profound communion is at the very heart of the Christian message because it involves the full flourishing of our relationship with Jesus Christ.
In this way, the contemplative vocation is the highest calling not because monks and nuns have more time to say formal prayers or the time to have longer lists of intentions. Rather, there is a mysterious opening that takes place when we sink into God’s love with complete surrender. In a mysterious way, our healing and transformation in Christ opens up avenues of grace, not only in our lives but in the whole Body of Christ.
That is why I think more people need to dedicate serious amounts of energy to what I called “unscripted time.” Most especially, I think our retired brothers and sisters need to dedicate themselves to daily Mass and regular adoration. I believe that as such people give themselves over to the work of prayer, their transformation will be the hidden impetus for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. I hope to see the adoration times at my Church and in other Churches overflow with people dedicated to seeking that resting in the Lord which the tradition calls contemplation.
As counter-intuitive as it may seem, I believe that as more of us learn to rest in the Lord, our evangelization efforts will take on a new vitality and enthusiasm. The height of prayer is not doing, but receiving. The highest form of receiving is a pure gift of the Holy Spirit, and to receive this gift we must give the Holy Spirit the opportunity to work.
Today, I encourage everyone to dedicate themselves to spending weekly or daily time in unscripted meditation before the Blessed Sacrament. If it is not possible to spend such time before the Blessed Sacrament, then perhaps an icon or other forms of religious art. I am convinced that if more Catholics do this, the Lord will bring about the renewal for which we all long.
The ‘highest’ vocation is the one to which each of us is called with all due respect to each vocation – and, lived contemplatively/receptively.
Thanks for the comment. In a certain sense I agree and in a certain sense I disagree. If you mean that highest means that one kind of vocation is “better” than another, then you are absolutely correct. What determines our growth in the eyes of God is the extent to which we respond to his unconditional love. We do not earn his love, and in this sense all vocations are equally important.
However, the meaning of highest that I would take, and I would argue the Catholic Church takes, is slightly different. I need to think how to formulate this a little bit, and I will get back to you.
Don’t tell the Benedictines. Their motto is “work is prayer.”
I had not heard that motto as being an aspect of Benedictine Spirituality. I have heard the phrase “ora et labor” which means work and prayer. I have also drawn a lot of insight from their great meditation tradition around lectio divina. I will have to keep my eye out for what you mentioned in the future.
Thanks for sharing.
The Lord spoke for all eternity..
..in an eternal silence…
Sj of the cross maxim