Holy voices best heard amidst the silence

Lasha Morningstar

WE ARE ONE

January 26, 2015

Listen. I find it hard to do. Every time I kneel to pray, sit to pray, lie in bed to pray, adore to pray – even walk the dog and pray – I almost always, at some point during the prayer, whisper to God or the Holy Mother, "I don't think I am listening right."

If no one is around, I even say out loud "Are you there God?"

To tell you the truth, if I heard a booming voice reply "I certainly am," I'd probably run lickety-split to the doctor's office and say "I think I've got a problem."

No, I think my problem, the reason I cannot know if God, the Holy Mother or whomever I am praying to is there, hearing my entreaties, my heartfelt gratitude, is that usually I do not know how to listen.

How do I stop the chattering world that blocks the holy voices?

I have the privilege – no make that a glorious gift – of being allowed to go to adoration once a week at the pastoral centre. Last week, I presented my problem – I had just said out loud "Are you there God?" and the words came to me "Have you made a place in your mind, your heart to hear me?"

In other words, have I shut up? Shut down my worries. Shut down the noise of the world. Opened the door of my heart and mind to the holy guidance being offered?

ANGELIC GUIDANCE

Gulp. So I turned to one of my guides, Trappist monk and Catholic mystic, Thomas Merton. As usual, given angelic guidance, the right words are easily found in his writings.

"As soon as I am alone and silent again I sink into deep peace, recollection, and happiness. . . . The silence of God should teach us when to speak and when not to speak."

There is that precious word – silence.

So I took my anguish about the slaughter in France and another personal worry, and presented them to the heavens. But I did it in the discipline of total silence. It was like taking a broom of forest twigs, sweeping my scrambled mind and leaving a space as clean as I can feel or remember.

Then the knowing came both in words and images. I was being given other points of view, moments of truth that uncovered lies (that in truth I did not want to know), finally ending up with the admonition to pray more often. The direction was given without blame. Now it is up to me to follow it.

It is my choice. But it is also a precious gift, and if I turn away from the wisdom that has been given then I am a fool.

I always try to be alert when the same message comes from different sources.

A beloved sister and I were sharing dinner recently and she told me of her struggle during her first years of study to become a religious. As with any group – be it an office, school room, religious group, whatever – it is inevitable that a bit of sandpapering happens among people.

VERBAL MINEFIELDS

She decided her strategy to handle this was "Tell nothing to nobody." This does not mean to be rude or dismissive. I think it just means not to walk into verbal minefields. And sometimes people repeat what you thought was said in confidence.

Remember Merton's admonition: "The silence of God should teach us when to speak and when not to speak."

I think too he is telling us to learn the art of listening – to be totally present when someone is speaking to you, be it at lecture, in a classroom, physician's orders, boss's office.

Anyone who has poured their heart out to someone who is totally present knows what a healing balm that can be. That sister has given me her gift of presence many times. So has my confessor. I am blessed.

(Lasha Morningstar lasha@wcr.ab.ca)