Prayer and Listening II

Listening to God's voice in the butterfly that alights on the flower

From Chris Kraft’s presentation on Oblate Day:

“LISTEN carefully, my child, to my instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. This is advice from one who loves you; welcome it and faithfully put it into practice.” This first line of The Rule of Saint Benedict’s prologue is direct and clear.

The second instruction Benedict gives us in his Prologue is to pray. He says every time you begin a good work, you must pray to him most earnestly to bring it to perfection.

Listening and Prayer are finely woven. Prayer is simply talking to God. He speaks to us; we listen. We speak to Him; He listens. A two-way process. speaking and listening. It’s easy to talk to someone when you know they love you unconditionally. Prayer life is to be lived as a faithful response to the presence of the Holy Spirit.

In the Rule of Benedict we hear that obedience is attentive listening to the movements of the Spirit of God within us. The Benedictine virtues of listening and prayer are inseparable.

The Rule of Benedict, Insights for the Ages, by Joan Chittister says that The Rule of Benedict is a wisdom literature that sounds life’s themes. It deals with answers to the great questions of the human condition; the presence of God, the foundation of relationships, the nature of self-development, the place of purpose. To the wise, it seems, life is not a series of events to be controlled. Life is a way of walking through the universe whole and holy.

Benedict says,” Listen.” Pay attention to the instructions in this rule and attend to the important things in life. Listen with the ear of your heart, a mindful attending. Often times many thoughts and situations seek our attention, Some times the roles we have in our lives make it difficult to listen.

I recall one of my son’s friends struggling with school in so many ways. She was quiet and very sweet and most teachers felt that she was just dull. Then in sixth grade her parents, looking for answers, took her to a doctor to have her checked for attention deficit disorder. (That is a condition that makes paying attention very difficult) The doctor prescribed medicine to help. Very excited one day she told my son that her life had really changed. She said her life had been lived unable to focus; it was like trying to listen to a radio station when the channel wasn’t really tuned in properly. Now with this medication she could listen clearly, it was like her channel became clear.

Indeed that was no small miracle for this girl! Her life changed, as she was now able to listen clearly, Her grades improved and many were very surprised at how bright she really was.

When I was introduced to Benedictine spirituality, I was much like that girl. It was as if my channel had not been tuned in, very clearly. I was allowing the busyness of the demands as a wife, mother and full time teacher to leave me short of time for listening, most of my days were filled with doing.

During my first visit to St. Mary’s Monastery in Nauvoo, God spoke to me loud and clear and in the quiet I was able to hear him. I was so drawn to the silence and to the rhythm of this community’s prayer and listening. I felt like I was home .Yes, life seemed so different there and I longed to learn more.

I left the monastery excited about my spiritual journey. I was anxious to learn more about the Benedictine values that attracted me so. I wanted to Listen, pay attention to the instructions in this rule and attend to the most important goal in my life. –Seeking God so that I could grow to know him better and love him more.

I grew to understand that although I had been praying for the presence of God, ironically, I already was in his presence. Although I was beginning to seek God in a more conscience way, I had already found God to some extent. The rule says, “We are already counted as God’s own. Benedict knows this and clearly wants us to know it as well. Spiritual life does change our appreciation for the presence of God in our lives. I came to realize that I did not find God; I finally gave God my attention.

As a Benedictine Oblate, I have learned that the psalms give me the words I need to communicate with God when I can’t find the words myself. I find comfort, courage, and inspiration to speak to God openly about all my human emotions. Praying the psalms with the Benedictine community and for this community gives great support. Knowing I am not alone on my journey is a great blessing in my life for which I am very grateful.

In Wisdom Distilled From the Daily, Joan Chittister reminds us that Benedictine spirituality is about praying and listening to four realities: the Gospels, the Rule, one another, and the world around us. It is about living a life of prayer, praying always.

The Sisters and Oblates of this Benedictine Community by your words but mostly by your example have taught me what it means to listen and pray the Gospels.
Praying scripture in a manner that leads us to a deeper, richer relationship with God.
I remember, quite a few years ago, in Nauvoo being given the option on retreat to meet early in the morning (before the first session) to learn of Lectio Divina and of centering prayer. Not being much of a morning person, I hesitated but decided to accept the invitation. That session was such a blessing in my life. It was a new beginning for me and opened new doors for me and my relationship with God.
Now it is almost impossible for me to live without frequently praying scriptures through Lectio-reading, Meditatio-reflecting, Oratio-responding to God in pray and Contemplatio-resting in God’s presence. With Benedictine guidance I am learning to pray Lectio not only with scripture but also with the Rule, nature, life, and now after my recent reading of the new Oblate Blog, lectio with art and music.

The rule teaches us to listen and to pray for the circumstances of our own lives. We listen not only to the words, but also to the silent spaces between the words/from, which the words emerge.

Since I retired two years ago, I have been teaching adult immigrants English. My initial motive was to some how to come full circle as my grandfather was an immigrant from Italy and I often think of what he went through and how grateful I am that people took the time to help him with English and adjusting to a new country.
I prayed and continue to pray that this work be God’s work. I have tried to be present to my students, to respect them and to love them. Of course, I’m sure you know who has benefited most from these experiences.

God speaks to me so clearly through the spoken and unspoken words of these folks. He teaches me of courage, of sacrifice, of patience, of loneliness, of faithfulness and of the awesomeness of the power of community. They come from all over the world for various reasons and God uses them to be His instruments to help one another and to teach me of His unconditional Love.

I am sure we are all feeling close to God on these beautiful grounds amidst his breathtaking creation. God invites me to prayer and listening in nature. My special place to pray at my home is in my garden. When I walk in my garden, I feel God’s presence surround me. It is as if God wraps His arms around me and gives me a big hug. I can rest in God’s Presence in the silence of his creation. As I sit and listen in the quiet of nature, God always speaks to me. Sometimes when I watch the hummingbirds I see them fluttering around so fast and looking so frantic I am reminded to reflect on my life and many times called to slow down and to begin each work with prayer.

I am called to Sit and be still as the morning doves.

At times God teaches me about his unconditional love through the unique beauty of each flower. When weather conditions keep me from my garden, I sit by my window and gaze out at the blessing of water, the rain that refreshes and makes all things new. The snow covers my garden like a soft fluffy blanket; God speaks to me of his protection and his mercy. The more I pay attention the more I hear our beloved creator speak and lead me on my path. There is always food for my soul in my garden.

As I reflected for this day, I became so aware of the gratitude in my heart for you and all of this Benedictine community who have become my beloved companions on the journey.
Thank you.

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