The Gentle Pace of Prayer
Published on January 28-29, 2012 in the Parish Bulletin of Saint Andrew Catholic Church, Harrodsburg KY
Four hours into my retreat I was ready to call it quits and head back home.
It was not because staying in the monastery was uncomfortable; the monks there at Saint Meinrad were more than accommodating when I arrived. It was not because I suddenly realized that this was a waste of my time; I knew deep down that I needed a break from the pandemonium of the parish and that I needed to spend that break letting myself be inspired by the Holy Spirit. I was ready to call it quits because the prospect of spending a whole week of prayer scared me.
It is quite embarrassing for a professional ‘pray-er’ like me to admit that I was scared by a week of prayer. After all, most of the prayers that I was going to do I already do every day: daily Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours. But, while they interrupted my often hurried life in the parish, these invocations were going to set the pace for my week at the archabbey. That was what had scared me. It was not because I had no time to pray; it was because all I had to do was pray!
I realized then how addicted to adrenalin I have become, how much of my life has turned into this series of activities and appointments. I was offered the opportunity to contemplate the Divine; instead, I yearned for my daily distractions. I had this chance to devote a week with God, the ‘ultimate Thou;’ instead, I kept remembering that I had left remnants of my ‘I’ life behind: my iPod, my iPad, my iPhone. I finally got to step on the brakes of my rushed existence; yet, I found myself counting down the minutes before I got moving again.
I suppose that this is the curse of our postmodern civilization. There is so much out there that makes life so easy and convenient that I would shudder at the faintest possibility of hardship and hassle. There is so much noise to fill in the pauses that I would find the sudden silence deafening. There is so much fuel available to pick up the pace that I would fear anything that was going to slow me down.
That was why four hours into my retreat I was ready to call it quits and head back home. But, I resisted that temptation and I stayed, because I knew that I needed that withdrawal from the world to get me through my withdrawal from its worries. I knew that adrenalin could only get me so far, but the Spirit could take me all the way. I knew that I owed it to God to not only make time for prayer but to make every time a time for prayer.
It was not easy those first four hours, but eventually I got into the gentle pace of prayer. I guess that the slowed stride was God’s way of calming me down, reassuring me that His decisions are neither hasty nor hurried, that my destiny has been set by Him with a sure and steady hand. Unfortunately, I was never ready to hear such assurances when I was rushing towards all directions. It was only when I retreated to be with Him in prayer that I was able to receive His consolations loud and clear.