It may happen in life that we miss the most obvious! This newly wed couple was escorted to their hotel’s fancy bridal suite in the early hours of the morning. In the suite they saw a sofa, chairs, and table, but there was no bed! Then they discovered the sofa was a hide-a-bed, with a lumpy mattress and sagging springs.
They spent a fitful night and woke up in the morning with sore backs. Obviously, the new husband went to the hotel desk and gave the management a tongue-lashing. “Did you open the door in the room?” the clerk asked softly.
The man went back to the room and opened the door they had thought was a closet. There, complete with fruit baskets and chocolates, was a beautiful bedroom!
This would be a comical story if it were not an epitome of our daily lives. Life is full of problems and anxieties. At home or at work, family or school we seem to be cornered every single day of our lives. We need help. However we discover many times that other people cannot really help us. Not even husband or wife can really understand us. We need another kind of help, another kind of connection. Someone who is powerful, terrific good and willing to help us.
Prayer is this connection. Prayer is the door to a meaningful relationship of Love. The Spanish Saint Teresa of Avila defines prayer as ‘a dialogue of love’; “a conversation face to face with someone whom we know really loves us.” Three centuries later, her daughter in Carmel Saint Therese of Lisieux would echo her. “Prayer is an aspiration of the heart; it is a simple glance directed to heaven, it is a cry of gratitude and love in the midst of trial as well as joy.”
The Cure of Ars used to tell the story of a man who came daily to the church and spent a long time just gazing at the tabernacle. No rosary, no prayer books, no vocal prayers. One day, the priest approached this man and asked him what does he do during that long time. The man exquisitely answered “I look at Him and He looks at me. And… it is beautiful.”
When I joined the Discalced Carmelite Fathers I was a young teenager of sixteen. At the time we used to do the novitiate (a one-year probation period where one is introduced into monastic life) in a very old building, built in 1627! When I entered this venerable monastery, I could not help not noticing the writings painted on the walls or etched in delicate pieces of wood, saying just two words “PRAESENTIA DEI’.
I asked my Master of novices what these words mean. “They are the Latin for ‘Presence of God’,’ he answered gently, “the foundation of any real healthy Christian life.”
He explained this to me one day in a very graphic way. “When you jump into the sea, you suddenly find yourself enveloped by water. Water is all around you, it penetrates your body, it caresses you, and you can feel it all over you.
“God is this ocean. He surrounds us. He envelops us. He is always close to us. Not to judge us or to chastise us. Not to criticize us or to condemn us but simply to encourage us, to help us raise up when we fall, to sustain us in all our needs.
“Learn how to swim in God”, he concluded, “and you will live a happy, healthy life. ”
How can we swim in God? The answer came through the mail just yesterday. “For years, I thought a more spiritual life was something ‘out there’ to be achieved by people with a bent for holiness – not for someone like me, who juggles a zillion daily demands and hasn’t the time for more than church on Sunday and a quick prayer at night,” notes Barbara Bartocci in the Christopher News Notes.
She offers these original suggestions how to pray anywhere and everywhere:
“Alarm Clock Alleluia” – When your clock goes off, instead of griping, pray this verse from psalm 118 “this is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad.” Commit to a day of gratitude.
“Telephone Thanksgiving” – Say a brief prayer of thanks every time you answer the phone today. Keep the connection alive.
“The Gas Pump Minute” – As you pump gas, visualize God’s spirit flowing into you and filling you with holy energy.
“Red Light Contrition” – When you’re stopped at a traffic light, ask yourself if you’ve been rude or otherwise failed to live up to your best. Pray a sincere ‘I’m sorry’.
“Fill-in-The-Empty-Moments’ – Whenever you are idle, doing nothing – you are on hold waiting for the other person to answer the phone, driving a car all alone or just waiting for someone – say a short prayer “Jesus, Mary, Joseph’, “Lord come to my assistance”, “Jesus Son of David, have mercy on me, a sinner”. Make the connection again and again!
All this will help you to relax and enjoy, as my wise Master of novices used to tell me.
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.