WORD Becoming, Spiritual Reflections By Fr Roderick Salazar SVD (Philippines)
Once upon a time, I stopped praying.
And in there, I found God again.
In the end, I started to pray.
These rather startling and curious statements are
from a newspaper column titled IamGenM, in the
editorial page of Philippine Daily Inquirer, written
and hosted by Michael Baylosis sometime ago.
Three sentences. The first and the last, the opening
and the ending statements, and the middle one
somewhere in-between in his column on prayer.
Michael reveals that he studied for decades in
Catholic schools. Yet it just occurred, that suddenly,
the warmth of his faith was gone. He did not stop
believing in God. He just felt like God had taken an
indefinite leave from his life.
He was growing up in a world where surveys and
and studies showed that today’s young are much
less likely to pray, to attend church or to highlight
religion in their lives than previous generations.
And yet, he also noticed that though statistics showed
the prayerful to be on the decline, in the worst of times,
mere mortals are reduced to prayer even if this is
simply expressed in the internet as Pray for this place
or that country. Pray when tragedy after tragedy hit
one city and one country after another.
It was in solidarity with the rest of the grieving world,
Michael says, that a fire blazed over the coldness of his
independence from the divine. Looking at television scenes
of people praying or even just lighting candles or offering
flowers, he felt a warm cloak of faith that was once
stripped off by his own worries.
He found a connection with people in sympathy and concern
for one another. And in there, IN THERE, in those
relationships, Michael says, “I found God again, dwelling
in other people, not in my lone self or in my circumstances.
I found Him in the midst of worldwide turmoil and my personal
disarray… In the end, he concludes, I started to pray.”
PRAY. It is an action that I know most of us do.
And yet it is a verb that we must continue to emphasize.
Most of us still live an active life, although perhaps
limited by age and the restrictions of this pandemic.
In this our life, the same number of twenty-four hours
given to us all, where is our prayer time?
I understand many of us pray the rosary, our novenas,
celebrate the Holy Mass wherever and whenever we can,
actually or just virtually. But when and where is our
QUIET TIME with God – with no rosary or prayer book
in our hands, no missal, just ourselves before God.
How much of our twenty-four hours is given to it?
Regularly praying orally we do and need to do.
Quiet prayer we also need to power our life and activity.
Here is where the term THE INTERIOR LIFE comes in.
“Interior life is a life which seeks God in everything:
a life of prayer and the practice of living in the presence of God.
It connotes intimate, friendly conversation with Him, and a
determined focus on internal prayer versus external actions,
while these latter are transformed into means of prayer.”
It is in the context of the interior life that we consider three
other verbs related to prayer: CONTEMPLATE. ABIDE. INDWELL.
First, CONTEMPLATE. This now English word comes from Latin:
cum which means with, and templum which means a temple,
a holy place, a shrine.
To contemplate is to observe things within a special place
of worship, a templum, to behave in the presence of a deity.
A contemplative is one who sees the world as God’s temple,
Looks at life in the presence of God, with the eyes of God or
Through the eyes of Christ – at any time, not just as special times;
Anywhere, not just in certain places; toward anyone, not just
Poet Kathleen Norris says, “The true mystics of the quotidian
(the ordinary and the commonplace) are not those who contemplate
holiness in isolation, reaching godlike illumination in serene silence,
but those who manage to find God in a world filled with noise,
the demands other people, and making a living.”
When we do what we do everyday from this perspective, we are
contemplatives, we feel at home in the world which is itself God’s
home, where He has chosen to dwell in through Jesus Christ.
The second word is ABIDE. This word is associated with two others: BIDE and ABODE. To bide means to linger, to stay awhile, as when we say,”Bide your time” which means ‘take your time,
do not hurry, do not worry. Where we usually bide our time is our home. Thus, another word for home is ABODE.
In the Last Supper scene as narrated in the Gospel of John, Jesus
tells His disciples – and us – that He is the vine and we are the branches, that we should stay with him – ABIDE.
Otherwise, we do not bear fruit, we wither, we die, are cut off
and are thrown into the fire.
Stay with Him. Abide with Him.
Make our home in Him. Make Him Our Home.
Now as we live here. So we can live with Him hereafter.
The third word is connected to the first two: INDWELL.
It means to live in, to dwell in. It is to occupy a place or
have it occupy you.
In the interior life, it means having God DWELL in us.
And making ourselves DWELL in Him.
And when, even now, as we live in this world,
Jesus and the Holy Spirit and the Father dwell in us,
or inhabit us, then our way of looking at the world,
our way of living, our way of treating one another changes.
When we learn to contemplate,
to see the world as God sees it, and see God in the world
which is His temple, and when we abide in Him and His word,
and we let Him live, dwell in us, then not only do live and
work when we do, but we pray even when we are not in
church or chapel. If the world is God’s temple, where can we go
where He is not, what can we do that cannot be our prayer?
Henri Nouwen once wrote, “to pray unceasingly is not to think about God rather than other things, or to talk to God instead of to other people. Rather it is to think, speak, and live
in the presence of God.
Prayer can only become unceasing prayer when all our thoughts –
beautiful or ugly, proud or shameful, sorrowful or joyful – can be thought and expressed in the presence of God. This requires that we turn all our thoughts into conversation. The main question, therefore, is not so much what we think but to whom we present our thoughts. Prayer is an outward, careful attentiveness to the One who invites us to unceasing conversation.”
When we contemplate, when we abide in Him and He in us, when He dwells in us, then through the ups and downs of our lives, the songs and laughter, shouts of sorrow, suffering and pain, the roses and rainbows, dyings and death, we shall find strength, consolation, and joy.
And if, in our lives, like Michael Baylosis, we stopped praying,
may we, also like him somehow still find God.
In the end, may we again PRAY.
CONTEMPLATE. ABIDE. INDWELL.