Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Going to the (adoration) chapel

Once again (I'm such a creature of habit) Jenn at Conversion Diary has inspired me. She wrote a piece about Eucharistic adoration I began to write a brief comment. When I hit my fourth paragraph, I decided that it was turning into a blog post instead. Thank you, Jenn. You never fail me.

My parish has a little chapel behind the sacristy where the Eucharist is perpetually exposed. A dedicated and worthy woman makes sure that two people are signed up to be in attendance around the clock, 24/7.  I've always been happy (and perhaps a bit sinfully proud) that our parish is able to support 24-hour adoration, but my original feelings toward the devotion were ambivalent. At first the idea of adoration didn't seem particularly attractive to me. I was afraid I'd be bored if I had to stay a whole hour, and I felt a bit awkward around the outward expressions of -- well -- adoration that I saw around me. People seemed lost in reflection, walked up to slip (I'm sure) self-revealing notes in the bowl beneath the relic of the True Cross, or might prostrate themselves before the monstrance.

Gradually, however, adoration began to mean more and more to me. I decided to sign up for a weekly slot and began to go regularly. At first I wondered what to do. I brought some spiritual reading, I'd say a rosary (that can take up a nice 20 minutes), and worked hard at avoiding distractions. Over time, however, it's become much more organic and natural. I've grown so appreciative that I subsequently signed up for a second slot during the week as well.

But more important than my increased appreciation for it, I've been grateful for its fruit. I've developed a deeper capacity for prayer -- I don't know how to explain it, really. The focus has moved from taking strategic and proactive steps to advance my prayer life, to letting God initiate and lead. Instead of trying to figure out what will work, I simply ask God to draw me into his presence. If I'm distracted or in a funk, I mention it to him and ask for help. I listen for inclinations; if it seems to me that God might be hinting that it would be good to read Scripture (or if my well seems to be running dry) I will shift to reading or other devotions, but always with an awareness that I'm in conversation with the Father.

What I wish I had named this post

I really wanted to call this "How Eucharistic Adoration is like the Wall Street Journal", but I couldn't find a way to write it to fit the title. But that's how I explain the "what's in it for me" of going to Adoration regularly.

When I was in business school, I got in the habit of reading the Wall Street Journal every day. No single issue hit me like a ton of bricks, but over time I realized that I was becoming very well informed about business strategy, marketing, the economy, world events, etc. In the same way, I may never become weak-kneed with piety after any given hour in the chapel. But over time, God and I are stitching together a closer relationship than I'd had with him before. I wouldn't trade it.

How does God want us to ask?

Jennifer at Conversion Diary wrote recently about petitionary prayers - specifically, how particular or targeted we are when we ask for things. She makes a great point: sometimes pointed requests are expressions of faith, but sometimes they are artifacts of our wanting to  be in control ourselves and dictate to the Almighty One the results we want and how we think he should do his job. As she eloquently puts it,  "I notice that, as I move from more-specific to less-specific prayers, I feel within me a change from wanting to be God, to simply wanting God."

Sometimes, though, the opposite happens to me. I examine myself praying as if from the outside, trying to tweak my approach to be the most pleasing, the most holy, the most charitable, the most self-forgetful. (Hah! Self-forgetfulness is exactly what is not happening at that time.) When I catch myself at it, I need to be reminded that my relationship to God is that of his child rather than his choreographer. I can just tell him humbly what I want flat out without embarrassment or pretense. In this spirit, it's not presumption but sweet trust.

An early and memorable example of this was back in 1975. I was a relatively new Christian and newly baptized in the Holy Spirit.  There was to be an International Conference on the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Rome over Pentecost. Many of my friends were going, but I had procrastinated making the arrangements. When I inquired, I found that the charter flight was fully booked.

I was heartsick. I very much wanted to go, and go on the same plane as my friends. I was in my office after closing time and started to pray. I thought about whether it would advance the kingdom in some way for me to go and whether I deserved to go. It had been my fault, after all, that I was shut out. So I scrambled to find some rational leverage with the Lord.

But by God's grace I finally saw the folly of that. I finally fell on my knees and told God that I really, really wanted to go, and I would really appreciate it if he would work it out. The next morning, of course, I got a call. The 10 or so people on the waiting list ahead of me had backed out, and there was a seat for me if I wanted.

Well, it turns out the kingdom of God was indeed advanced, because this has stayed in my mind as a testimony of God's gratuitous care for me without my deserving or even needing it. But mainly, it reminds me that God is our Father, and he just wants us to talk to him intimately and let him know what's going on with us. He created us for companionship - it must be true that the companionship we're capable of offering him is something he really enjoys.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Worth repeating

"All I can say is thank God for Pope Benedict. Not only is he fending off wolves in sheep's clothing, but he's facing down werewolves dressed as shepherds."

An unnamed blogger on Catholic Light.

Friday, September 24, 2010

I peek around the curtain once again

I won't apologize for my long absence (that would be arrogant and pretentious), nor will I resolve to begin again posting regularly (because my capability of breaking resolutions is well-documented), but I am breaking the ice, dipping my toe in the water, and performing other relevant idioms as I once again apply keyboard to blank screen at Exultet.

I've run across lots of wonderful and memorable things in past months, but for right now I will just start by revisiting some things I've said here before that might be worth reminding myself of.

N.B. The trouble with being an extrovert, you see, is that we develop our thoughts as we are expressing them, and when we're done, we can't completely remember what we said. So, to me, these thoughts are fresh as the morning dew. Pathetic, huh? I hope you enjoy them

Are you caught up in the "oughts"? What like you've got is a feast of blessing that will never grow dry or stale and from which you can help yourself any time you want. You're rich, woman! So, yes. You can read and study, or be still before God's face, or see God in the face of your neighbor, or have long phone calls full of holy hilarity, or whatever.

See, you've hit on one of the things I can get staunch about (until God tells me not to). His job is to steer. Our job is to follow. The choreography of our spiritual development is not our responsibility, but we listen and respond as He trains us how to listen and respond.

Am I lazy or trusting? Who knows? But I trust that God's fully able to change my focus if He wants me to do something else.
A comment on a post by fellow blogger Therese in 2004
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Time magazine's recent (excellent) piece on Mother Teresa's dryness and "dark night" experiences during most of her spiritual walk has made quite a stir. And I have indeed been stirred by the realization that her faithfulness, love and service stemmed completely from grace, not even assisted by those moments of joy and spiritual consolation that most of us think we need in order to keep our spiritual lives on track.

The uber-predictable Christopher Hitchens, who has made a lucrative profession as an Atheist, has a slightly different perspective.
So, which is the more striking: that the faithful should bravely confront the fact that one of their heroines all but lost her own faith, or that the Church should have gone on deploying, as an icon of favorable publicity, a confused old lady who it knew had for all practical purposes ceased to believe?
Well, when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Mr. Hitchens seems to believe that everyone is on the lookout for the Main Chance and is ready to leverage all for personal advantage. Ergo, I believe, his rather energetic and hysterical responses over the years to Mother Teresa as the epitome of all things Christian. More fool, he.
From a post entitled "What is Teresa teaching us?" in 2007
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Thursday morning, Henry and I were at the closing for our new house. Our realtor stepped out to take a cell call and returned to tell us that an offer would be coming over that day on my house [that I had long been trying to sell]. We reviewed it and accepted it that afternoon. So, amazingly enough, in all the 2,912 two-hour periods since I listed the house, God chose that one to bring me an acceptable offer to purchase my own. I love it when God reminds me that he's in charge.
From 2006. I had completely forgotten that "coincidence".
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I tried and failed to excerpt this simply because I'm madly in love with the whole post. Here's "what to look for in a husband."
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And finally, some assorted quotations I've pulled in over the years:

"In point of fact, God is less concerned to make us perfect than to attach us firmly to him."
Jacques Philippe

"Once we accept him, we find we were truly deceived. It was only the skin of the heavenly fruit that seemed bitter. The meat ravishes the soul."
Bishop Sheen

"The act of defending any of the cardinal virtues has today all the exhilaration of a vice."
G.K. Chesterton

[Regarding 9/11] "We all became more considerate, more respectful, more mature, almost instantly. Drivers drove their cars correctly. People held doors for one another. There was the tacit understanding that we were all "in this together." We put ourselves aside. We were as one. We could have moved a mountain. You could see it. You could feel it. It was real.

It only lasted two weeks. After that, we reverted. But to have seen it at all, even once in a lifetime, is a memory worth keeping."
Ed Gurney, on Facebook
It's nice to see you again.


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