Newsletter for Sunday 18 July 2021

16 Jul

Conversing with Our Lord

The Apostles having returned from their first solo missionary journey of preaching repentance, casting out demons and anointing and curing the sick now spend some restful time with Our Lord and report on their progress (Mark 6:30-34). The message here is clear. The Apostles had spent considerable energy in preaching and healing the sick and casting out devils, and now they needed to spend some intimate time with Our Lord to recharge their spiritual batteries. And we need to do the same. The Benedictines have as their motto “ora ET labora”; that is “prayer AND work”. It is not either or. So we can spend plenty of time doing things for Christ, but it’s even more important that we spend time in quiet contemplation with Him too. Only spending time with Him can give us the necessary strength, wisdom and energy we need to carry out our spiritual tasks. Venerable Fulton Sheen (1895-1979) understood this well because he would often say, “I pray because I don’t have time.” If we don’t spend time in prayer, we won’t have much to give others.

We all know prayer isn’t easy. The saints knew it was essential but that doesn’t mean they found it easy. St Aloysius Gonzaga (1568-91) when asked by his spiritual director if he suffered from distractions in prayer responded, “If I were to sum up all the distractions I have had during the past six months, there wouldn’t be enough time to fill the saying of a Hail Mary.” Even the great St Teresa of Avila (1515-82) once said of her prayer time, “I was more occupied in wishing my hour of prayer were over and in listening whenever the clock struck than in thinking of things that were good.” So we can all have hope!

However difficult we might find prayer we must never give up trying. When God sees us struggling and striving to speak to Him, however imperfect our efforts, we are being greatly pleasing to Him. We can pray anywhere, but we should always begin by asking God to help us pray well. While it is an excellent thing to pray in church in front of the Blessed Sacrament we can also pray in our room at home or on the bus or when we’re in the car. There is nothing irreverent about doing that. We may well find it hard to sit in meditation for an hour, but we surely wouldn’t find it hard to raise up our heart and mind to God several times a day for a minute or so saying short prayers like, “JESUS I love You.” “God help me to believe in You.” “JESUS, forgive me my sins.” Anyone who perseveres with this type of prayer is well on the way to holiness.

St Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-97) admitted to many distractions in prayer, but as soon as she became aware of them she would pray for the people who were diverting her attention. In this way her distractions became spiritually beneficial. We can easily try and cultivate this habit ourselves. And remember, prayer doesn’t have to be about holy and lofty spiritual matters. We can tell JESUS about anything; our fears, our aspirations, our concerns and our interests. This is how the Apostles would have spoken with Him. Keep it simple and straight forward and you’ll overcome many problems.

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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