The other night driving home from work after midnight an impressionable incident occurred. A police officer in an unmarked car, distinct as a law enforcement vehicle yet nondescript at a quick glance, pulled out of a parking lot right behind me, stealthily while observing. I was speeding in a twenty-five mile per hour zone so I slowed down. The police officer stayed behind. I approached a major intersection hosting the grocery store Whole Foods. Coasting through a series of green lights, I started to pass through the intersection when I turned my attention to my left. Instantly, a racing vehicle careening through a red light snapped into my vision. My brake reaction time was immediate and I brought my vehicle to a halting emergency stop. I was stunned how close the vehicle passed before me. I checked myself, observing the traffic light. It was green. I looked to my rear and saw the police officer react, pulling forward to allow him to pursue. My racing heart and clear mind turned to God, thoughts reflecting upon a guardian angel protecting. It was a near miss that rattled me while producing gratefulness. I pulled around the shopping plaza in order to see if the officer apprehended the offender. I was amazed that by the time I circled around there were three police vehicles with red and blue lights blaring. The moment left an imprint regarding the urgency of moments, and a sense of protection and authority.
ode to the feast day of St John of the Cross passed
Oh, living flame of love
That tenderly woundest my soul in its deepest centre,
Since thou art no longer oppressive, perfect me now if it be thy will,
Break the web of this sweet encounter.
Oh, sweet burn! Oh, delectable wound!
Oh, soft hand! Oh, delicate touch
That savours of eternal life and pays every debt!
In slaying, thou hast changed death into life.
Oh, lamps of fire,
In whose splendours the deep caverns of sense
Which were dark and blind with strange brightness
Give heat and light together to their Beloved!
How gently and lovingly thou awakenest in my bosom,
Where thou dwellest secretly and alone!
And in thy sweet breathing, full of blessing and glory,
How delicately thou inspirest my love!
St John of the Cross. Euclid, Ohio.
People say: ‘O Lord, I wish that I stood as well with God and that I had as much devotion and peace with God as other people, and that I could be like them or could be as poor as they are.’ Or they say: ‘It never works for me unless I am in this or that particular place and do this or that particular thing. I must go to somewhere remote or live in a hermitage or a monastery.’
Truly, it is you who are the cause of this yourself, and nothing else. It is your own self-will, even if you don’t know it or this doesn’t seem to you to be the case. The lack of peace that you feel can only come from your own self-will, whether you are aware of this or not. Whatever we think — that we should avoid certain things and seek out others, whether these be places or people, particular forms of devotion, this group of people or this kind of activity — these are not to blame for the fact that you are held back by devotional practices and by things; rather it is you as you exist in these things who hold yourself back, for you do not stand in the proper relation to them.
Start with yourself therefore and take leave of yourself. Truly, if you do not depart from yourself, then wherever you take refuge, you will find obstacles and unrest, wherever it may be. Those who seek peace in external things, whether in places or devotional practices, people or works, in withdrawal from the world or poverty or self-abasement: however great these things may be or whatever their character, they are still nothing at all and cannot be the source of peace. Those who seek in this way, seek wrongly, and the farther they range, the less they find what they are looking for. They proceed like someone who has lost their way: the farther they go, the more lost they become. But what then should they do? First of all, they should renounce themselves, and then they will have renounced all things. Truly, if someone were to renounce a kingdom or the whole world while still holding on to themselves, then they would have renounced nothing at all. And indeed, if someone renounces themselves, then whatever they might keep, whether it be a kingdom or honor or whatever it may be, they will still have renounced all things.
Unknown author supplied by a man from the Sacred Heart men’s group.
…spend time in the presence of the One. We simply allow ourselves to fill with the presence of God. In this process where our thoughts, actions, and beliefs vis-à-vis the world are our text, we do the same: Having offered up our awareness, and having listened in contemplative prayer for guidance and for gentle invitation, we can simply rest in a place of gratitude for the presence of the Divine in our lives and in the world. Emerging from this contemplation, compassion can fill our being as we become one with the broken world. In his works on lectio divina, the late Trappist monk and priest M. Basil Pennington notes, “In this encounter with God our whole being is opened up to experience the brokenness of all creation. We find ourselves united not only with God but with all who live”. This inner work (breathing in) is necessary and important preparation for the next phase of operatio, the external work of breathing out and moving into the world.
Operatio: Acting on God’s Word
This is the stage where we take our inner work into the world. “It is the moment…when we end our prayer and return to daily life”….this return to the world and to daily life is not so much ending our prayer as it is moving to a different form of prayer. It is, to continue the analogy of the breath, the completion of the breath cycle. As we move off cushion, what is Spirit inviting us to do or to be differently in response to the lectio process?…It is the time for prayer action. As a spiritual director, I cannot tell my directees what standing differently in the world might involve for them. I cannot tell them what they should do or be. I can only invite them into a process that opens them to Spirit to illumine the path…my work is simply to facilitate my spiritual directees’ openness to the invitation of Spirit to engage in the external world however the Divine invites, as part of their contemplative practice.
Words from a mother,
Singing a song,
Guiding to shelter,
To her Son,
Repeating,Iron and Wine
For all the love you left behind,
You can have Mine.
Teach me, my Lord,
To be sweet and gentle in all events of life,
In disappointments, in the thoughtlessness of those I trusted,
In the unfaithfulness in those whom I relied.
Let me put myself aside, to think of the happiness of others,
To hide my little pains and heartaches,
So that I may be the only one to suffer from them.
Teach me to profit by the suffering that comes across my path.
Let me so use it that it may mellow me,
Not harden, nor embitter me;
That it may make me patient, not irritable.
That it may make me broad in my forgiveness,
Not narrow, haughty, and overbearing.
May no one be less good for having come within my influence.
No one less pure, less true, less kind,
Less noble for having been a fellow-traveler
In our journey Toward Eternal Life.
As I go my rounds from one distraction to another,
Let me whisper from time to time, a word of love to Thee.
May my life be lived in the supernatural, full of power for good,
And strong in its purpose for sanctity.