The first of these thoughts are on prayer. Prayer as a personal experience.
The great theologian of the 20st century Karl Rahner, said at the end of his life that the church of the future would have to be mystic or it wouldn’t exist at all. And he was saying that the spirituality that filled the church would have to something personal and something very deep.
In the seminary years ago, they gave us a book called the SOUL OF THE APOSTOLATE by Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard, O.C.S.O. - the very heart of working as a priest. And the author made the thought that the primary call of each one of us is to be a friend of God, a child of God. The primary call of each of us a call to intimacy with God. He said to be a priest is a secondary call. And we all have callings in life. My calling is to be a priest, many of yours is to be a father and a mother or a husband and a wife or as a single life to live in communion with God.
But he is saying that the primary call for each of us is to enter into a relationship with God that is very intimate and very deep. And this really calls all of us to get into prayer of quiet with God. We need to make our time of prayer rich and very deep.
About thirty years ago, I felt a yearning to get into a deeper relationship with God, a relationship that would be based on just quiet reflection upon God. It would not be based on saying prayers or asking for things. It would be the just the kind of prayer that would put me in communion with God Himself. That would lead me into contemplative prayer which is just the prayer of quiet, just what I was looking for. Where we just contemplate God and are just happy in His presence.
I began my journey into this contemplative prayer, the prayer of quiet. And it is a very simple way to prayer. That does not mean it is easy. In contemplative prayer, we just sit down and put ourselves in the presence of God. I sit down in my living room and just image that God is sitting across the room looking at me and being with me. And I try to be with Him. Within sixty seconds, thoughts about what I am going to do today overwhelm me. And then I have to just stop and go back to my intention sitting down and of wanting to be with God. I don’t want to solve problems or have pious thoughts. I don’t want to pray for anybody else. I just want to be with God on a deeper and deeper level. I think this is what Jesus meant when He said when you pray go into your room and be alone. And be with God. This contemplative prayer eventually leads us into a different way of thinking and a different way of connecting with the world around us.
Personally, all my life I have had an anger problem. I was angry about everything and it seems like I was always angry. Some of my best friends noticed that and called my attention to it. Then what happens with contemplative prayer is that you withdraw and be with God for a while. And I did that for two or three years every day. Then I began to notice that I wasn’t angry any more. I began to look at the world differently. I began to look at the people who made me angry differently. For example: an old man came into see me. When I was in Kalamazoo before he had was always haranguing me on all of his craziness, spiritual craziness and when I saw him sitting there I just dreaded it. But I sat down and started to talk to him. Then I started to kid him about some of his peculiarities. But before we were done the two of us were simply laughing together. I think that he forgot what he had come to get me into. We simply enjoyed each other’s company and when he walked out, I simply had to say where did that come from? That guy use to drive me crazy and now I’m looking forward to his next visit. This is the fruit of Contemplative Prayer it puts you at peace and gives you the ability to see the world around you in a different way.
God’s call to us is very personal. We are not simply called to obey his laws or called to answer into a relationship. We need to realize what we have to give to God. What do we have inside us to give to God that no one else can give. We need to be able to answer the question: Who is this God? We need to listen to Jesus’ answer. He is not just the creator of the world - this God. He is not just the judge. He is more than just a father. And he loves each individual to the point of being insane. Jesus pointed this out in the fifteenth chapter of St Luke. The father of the prodigal son couldn’t just stop loving him, even when it was crazy to go on loving him, he did anyway. He loved his older son and nothing could ever change that. And that is the God of Jesus Christ. And that is the God that we are called to - to draw close to and to be intimate with. This is not a duty, it is an invitation. It can become a pleasure and a joy. We need to become contemplative. To pursue this God.