I am breaking a promise to a friend that I would be adding another post re. the malleability of Church teaching next... I will do that soon. I just wanted to write something about Lent here.
The other day my six-year-old asked me: What are you giving up for Lent?
I said I am doing extra prayer. (I am on a diet anyway, so giving stuff up wouldn't really be too Lenty anyway for me right now).
He said that that was not giving something up. I replied I am giving up some free time, some of the time I have to do what I want. I don't know if he was impressed, but I will explain here why you should be impressed.
Yes, I pray. By some measures, I pray a lot. But for someone who has been Catholic for more than 20 years, I do not, objectively speaking, pray enough - not nearly enough. I do holy hours regularly, we pray the rosary as a family most nights, I read holy books almost constantly...
And yet, I have long realized that there is something missing. I am missing listening.
For some people, to listen and not speak is really hard. For me, to listen and not read is really hard. It's a struggle sometimes to put my book or laptop down and listen to Anne-Marie or the kids. It's sometimes positively painful to stop what I am doing and listen to my six-year-old do his nightly assigned reading. It's important to listen to others - especially our loved ones.
A fortiori, it is important to make time to listen to God. And so that is why I am trying to devote a simple 15 minutes a day to listening. Not speaking, not reading, not beseeching, not imploring, not interceding. Listening.
Worldliness is the opposite of prayerfulness. You know and I know when we fall from the latter into the former. When you pray and really listen to God you suddenly receive a new mindset, the realization that all the world is passing away and that only one thing will remain: God. ISIS, homosexualists, the plague of bad bishops and cardinals, all begin to seem less important, less oppressive.
But even more importantly, you get closer to your Father.
Do we pray for ourselves or for God? People thing they are clever by saying that it is for us. I say, no. It is for God. We pray that God may be loved. The final death is the death to my own fate. If God wishes me damned - I love to quote from St. Francis de Sales - then may His holy will be done!
Listening is something totally different. Do you ever do nothing. I don't. I do most of my somethings sitting down in an easy-chair on my laptop. That's not nothing, even though it is not the something my wife would like me to be doing.
Listening to God is finally doing nothing for Him. It is the doing of nothing. It is setting aside everything: grocery lists, the construction of tomorrow's to-do list, remembering where you put the keys, remembering if you locked the doors or paid the phone bill, it is not even interceding for your friends and loved ones before God. It is waiting for Him, waiting on Him, to tell you about Himself. In other words, your doing nothing is mostly trying to stop thinking about other things, pushing things out so that God can make his way into the room of your heart and mind.
It may take 14 minutes to free up space, but that one last minute is more valuable than all the gold in the world.
You may need something to help you concentrate: a holy picture, candle or sacred word might help. You might need to think about a virtue of God, a mystery of Christ. You may not need any of this. But if you are anything like me, you need a braking device, something that is going to slow your mind down from highway speed to idle.
I am doing some work, ministry, I'd like to say, with and for the elderly right now. How important it is to listen!