Saints of the 3rd Millennium
Be Contemplative: Love Prayer
There has never been a saint who did not pray!
Prayer is about growing close to God, listening to God's Word, pondering on it, reflecting, responding. Prayer is raising mind and heart to God, or at least trying to.
Let me tell you three things about prayer.
a) There are many different ways of praying. You should pray in the way that suits you best. That's the first rule.
Prayer can be 'talking to God'. We tell God all our troubles and joys. Jesus is our best companion and He hears everything we say as we pour out our hearts. That's a good way to pray.
We can also pray with our imagination. We can imagine ourselves to be part of any Gospel scene: imagining what it would feel like; how the apostles were reacting; what they would say to us if we spoke with them. In our hearts and imaginations we can live the Gospel stories: the birth of Jesus, the wedding at Cana, Peter walking on water, Jesus dying on the Cross. This prayer is meditation.
Or we can pray by being present to Our Lord in silence; just looking; eye to eye; heart to heart; quietly; in stillness. That prayer is contemplation.
But the only important thing to remember is to pray as you can!
b) The second rule is this: have your own place and time for prayer. It doesn't matter where or when. But it must be circumstances, a 'space' that is your own. It is good to have something visual on which to focus: a crucifix, or a candle, or an icon. But you must settle on a time, and a place, which is yours.
c) And the third thing is this: be faithful to your practice of prayer. Don't give up. Come back to your way of prayer, your time and your place every day. Even if it seems like a waste of time, keep trying. At least you are giving the time to God, and that in itself is an important prayer.
So prayer is an essential part of our life, and of your discipleship. It is our One-to-One. And it is something very personal. No one else can ever really understand or appreciate this One-to-One. And the Lord is there, wanting each one of us to know Him more, to love Him more.
Saints come in all shapes and sizes. St. Thomas Aquinas was very fat. St. Francis of Assisi was very thin. But there has never been a saint who did not pray.
Now the second aspect of holiness is different. It is this: Be generous in serving others. Every saint has this characteristic, too. So let's think about this.
Be generous in serving others
All of us know we want the world to be a better place: more just, more humane, more sensitive to the poor, the homeless, the environment. We dream of a better world. And I I'm sure many of you try to play a part in making a better world.
One way of doing this is to join in a protest movement for a campaign: for peace, for world debt relief, against racism, for better trade. It is right to protest and to strive for changes in the great systems of our world.
But we also live in our own small world: our family circle, our college, our place of work. Here too things could be better. Here too we can do much to make a difference: more understanding, patience, acceptance, attentiveness to the needs of those around us. Personally, I think it is more difficult to make a real difference to our own immediate world than it is to join a protest movement. Both are about seeking to change habitual ways of doing things. But our own habits are among the hardest to change.
And then there is a third tier, a third level at which we live and in which we can be generous in service. How many of you, I ask, want to be politicians when you grow us - political leade5rs who will word, skilfully, for a better world. Do you know who it is that governs your town, what parties and interest groups are there? Can you be part of your local politics and serve the well-being of your local community in that way?
Be generous in service. This is an essential part in being holy, in growing in holiness. But may I add one more important point.
Sometimes, we are moved to act in support of our brothers and sisters out a feeling of anger that what is taking place is wrong, unjust. That anger is understandable and sometimes quite right. But it's not the best or deepest motive. Rather, we are moved to serve others, generously, because we have learned that God loves and serves us. So we are willing to stand alongside others, even in their weakness and vulnerability, out of a sense of compassion. Compassion means 'suffering with. God, in Jesus, suffers with us. So we are ready to do the same with others. This is most important.
So, in the Church, when we listen to the Word of God and attend to the teaching of the Church, then we are drawn closer to a true understanding of ourselves, of how to live, of the truth of life, of the truth of God. The Church is the guardian of Truth: it is a task given to the Church by God. But don't misunderstand. Nobody, not you, not me, not the Pope, possesses the truth. No, we try to serve the truth: we try to be possessed by the truth. And the truth is Jesus Christ. When we give ourselves to the Church it is He who calls us and meets us.
And there is one more thing we are given in the Church: the sacraments. In the sacraments we meet God. God comes to us, and acts in our lives in a way that does not depend on what we feel or whether we experience strong emotions. God comes to us in the sacraments, silently and strongly, from 'without', coming into the depth of our being. In the forgiveness we receive in Reconciliation; in the presence of Christ in the Blessed sacrament; in the deepening and transforming of live in marriage: God is at work in the sacraments of the Church with certainty and sureness. And that is a great gift.
Do not misunderstand me. I am not saying the Church is perfect. You know all the things that are wrong, or could be better, in your parishes. We are a Church of sinners. But we try, we keep trying, we keep each other trying.
These three things: Be prayerful; Be generous; Be part of the Church, are the pathways to holiness. Follow it!
Archbishop Vincent Nichols
World Youth Day 2000