When the student is ready...

Last night I took a book off one of my shelves at home and
began to take it in. Apparently it has been sitting there for almost six years. But, as the old saying goes, "When the student is ready, the Buddha will appear." And apparently it took about six years for this student to now become ready for Robert Wicks' small volume entitled Prayerfulness: Awakening to the Fullness of Life. There are a few reasons this strikes me as valuable to mention.

First, I have been yearning to take another step closer to the Lord in prayer. As so often happens to me, as time passes I am so easily distracted. I get into a mediation groove and then find other things that grab my attention until my simple rituals of quiet prayer, solitude and spiritual reading fall into disrepute. Small wonder that Wicks restates the obvious: a satisfying commitment to prayer and meditation is built on practices that bring clarity and kindness. "This balance must be just right: too much clarity and you will hurt yourself (what  psycho-dynamic  psychologists call 'narcissistic injury.') On the other hand, too much kindness and there will be little or no growth; instead we will miss, gloss over or too quickly excuse our behavior."
Since the summer I know I have been running on empty in some ways. Over and again, Di tells me: are you taking time for prayer and quiet retreat? And I always have some excuse - good things to do - until I find myself beat and weary and fretting. So, since the start of Advent, I've been sneaking up on reclaiming my time-tested rituals - and this book by Wicks' is part of my Epiphany renewal.

Second, as we make arrangements to head back to Tucson to visit with our dear friend Roger one last time, I've been struck by how "foolish" this trip is on some levels. We don't have the money. We barely have the time. And there is so much going on at church. I was working myself into a fretting frenzy last night over these things - actually waking myself up from sleep at 1:20 am all worried and agitated - when I read these words in Prayerfulness:

The underlying attitude that will allow us to enhance our inner soil is offered to us in the words of Jesus: be like little children ... Children have a simplicity, hopefulness and recognition of the importance of compassion that, at its core, is a central aspect of both caring for others and taking the next step in our spiritual life. One child's reaction to a difficult situation reminds me of this. She was late coming home from school, and her mother was worried. When she finally stepped through the door, her mother yelled at her for being late, then caught herself and asked, "Why were you late anyway?" To which the little girl responded: "I was helping a friend in trouble." And, asked her mother,"what did you do to help your friend?" To which the child replied quite simply, "I sat down next to her and helped her cry..." A faith-filled person must never turn her back on others, but instead offer them a space to share their burdens.

"That is why we're going to Tucson, numbskull" I said to myself. It isn't about what we can afford or being there at the right time or doing any church work. It is just being real with those we love and helping one another to cry. And as I put the book back on my night stand, I took a quick look at the back fly leaf only to see an endorsement by Bishop Gerald Kincanas who, as you might guess, is the Roman Catholic bishop of Tucson.

Wicks quotes Henri Nouwen from the Genesee Diary about the centrality of making solitude and quiet prayer a part of our daily rituals: "Is there a quiet stream underneath the fluctuating affirmations and rejections of my little world? Is there a still point where my life is anchored and from which I can reach out to others with hope and courage and confidence?" He continues: "simple rituals of prayerfulness balance the secular obsessions with success, fame, power, physical attractiveness, money or simply getting our way. They help prevent such normal human desires from becoming idols."

For some reason, only then was I able to go to sleep. Today at church, after worship was over, a young couple told me they sensed something deep was taking place among us. Another young woman told me that she feels called to become a member of our community. "Last week, I don't know what hit me, but I found myself weeping all throughout the liturgy. I kept looking at that big Celtic cross... my grandmother gave me one just like it... and then today when you talked about turning points and knocked, it just hit me... and I feel like I need to be part of this." Me, too... and I know it is time to go deeper.

St. Charles Borromeo said: "Be sure that you first preach by the way you live. If you do not, people will notice that you say one thing but live otherwise." The time has come to take the preaching of my life deeper.


Phil Ewing said…
Inspiring. Blessings.
RJ said…
Thanks, Phil, and blessings to you.

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