Are you paying attention? It’s key to the spiritual life." By Sr. Aletheia Noble at Aletia.org on August 8, 2017. Thank you!
For a long time, I had believed and even took pride in the idea that I was a good listener. Recently, however, I learned that I am not as good of a listener as I had thought. I was sharing something personal with a friend, something I wouldn’t normally share with others, and she abruptly interrupted me to talk to another person. I felt shocked and hurt, but just as soon as I felt anger surging within me, I also realized that I had just seen myself in her distracted face. My friend’s inability to focus on what I was saying helped me to realize that my attention on others is often unfocused, too. This incident helped me to see in a very concrete way the connection between my undisciplined attention and my failure to love others and God.
I recently read an essay by French philosopher and mystic Simone Weil in which she writes, “Prayer consists of attention.” After I read that sentence, I felt a shiver of shock run through me. If prayer is truly connected to our ability to pay attention, the implications are startling and immense, especially in today’s multi-tasking, fast moving, digital culture. Without learning how to pay attention, our lives become more and more fractured and distracted. And lack of focus in our everyday lives can translate to less fruitful prayer time, and ultimately prevent us from living a more contemplative life of union with God.
First in a Series on Reclaiming the Ten Commandments for Our Times
by Fr. Roberty McTeigue, SJ on July 19, 2017 at Aletia.org. Thank you!
There is an altar in the center of the human heart, and we can't bear for it to be empty. How do you know what your priorities are? One answer: Look at what has the first claim on your time, energy and money. How do you know what your priorities should be? That’s a different, harder, and more important question.
I’ve been thinking about priorities since I recently saw a child, no more than 10, stop what she was doing, take out a small kit, and test her blood sugar. She has a robust form of diabetes and has to monitor herself to stay healthy. I was struck that this little girl, very calmly, unselfconsciously and matter-of-factly stopped what she preferred to be doing (playing with other children) to do what she knew she needed to do and must do. She’d been taught well a clear sense of priorities, to the degree that she could understand, and it seemed to me that she was taught in a way that would allow her to understand better when she was older.
What if we taught our children (and ourselves!) about God that way?
Each Lent, we accompany Christ on the way of the cross via prayer, fasting, and almsgiving but still skim the surface. Why not go deep and get real with the Lord? Sometimes, we just don’t know how. So, let’s learn from Jesus crucified how to be vulnerable before the Lord, which gives Him access to our hearts for our transformation and His glory. Neither a Scripture study nor a theological treatise, this simple reflection may facilitate a deeper relationship with the Lord. Since Jesus was like us in all things but sin (Heb. 4:15), He models prayer that is spiritually and psychologically healthy. In His darkest moment, when He is near death on the cross, He cries to His Father, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt. 27:46). Here, Jesus teaches four elements of “honest prayer.”
1. He Articulates. Jesus says what He thinks, which beats dancing around an issue as if the Lord can’t handle our honesty. In fact, Jesus confronted His Father with His perception of reality. Transparency is safe because what happens in our lives really matters to the Lord. The Lord eagerly waits for us to accept and articulate our thoughts, feelings, and circumstances. While it can be difficult to figure out what is going on inside of us, the Lord loves it when we pray the truth of our lives. Facing our sin, fears, pain, and brokenness allows Him to meet us where we are at in order to lift us up. Isn’t this exactly where the enemy would like believers to be – in a shallow, pseudo relationship as if the Lord doesn’t care, listen, or respond? Yes, Jesus bothers His Father with what is on His mind and in His heart, without trying to impress Him.
2. He Feels. Jesus recognizes what He feels and includes this in His prayer.
Parenting is a paradox. While we will need to give an account for what we have been entrusted with, the final product is not fully in our control. We are called to be good stewards, making a return on our children by putting our best foot forward. At the same time, there is freedom in releasing ultimate responsibility for our children into the hands of the Lord, who loves them more than we do. Even in the best of parenting situations, there are some inevitable and humbling gaps that God alone can fill.
The first gap is our own brokenness.
I get frustrated when I see this seemingly endless discussion in certain Catholic circles about how women should dress. How long should the skirt be? Are skinny jeans appropriate? How much cleavage is allowed?
I also remember my sisters describing shopping for wedding dresses and the saleswoman assuming they were Mormons because they didn’t want a strapless gown or too much cleavage. They were really annoyed when only shown dresses with tiny sleeves that looked more like extended shoulder pads because that was the Mormon minimum but looked horrendous on them due to their shoulder shape.
On Twitter I get sent a lot of “ask a priest” questions and about once a week the theme is modesty: is jogging as a date modest? Does listening to this song go against modesty? What about this hand gesture?
Problems with the modesty lineUnfortunately so much of the discussion I hear or the phrasing of the questions I read is based on a misunderstanding of what modesty is. Modesty is not a line...
"As a priest, people often talk to me about their lives and their problems. Inevitably, I ask them how their relationship with God is. I can usually tell from their response if they have a long-distance relationship with the Lord. The language they use reveals that a deep, personal friendship with God is somewhat of a foreign concept. For example, they’ll say, “Well, I say my prayers at night before I go to bed,” or “I go to church,” or, my favorite, “I talk to the Big Guy in the sky; we’re tight.”
Great. Saying prayers at night and going to church is a wonderful way to deepen our relationship with God. But saying prayers at night and going to church does not necessarily mean that we have a deep, personal friendship with the Lord either. And as for “talking to the Big Guy in the sky,” that’s simply not Christian spirituality; it’s deism. In fact, therein lay the problem: too many people think God is “out there somewhere” rather than very close to them.
"The following article is adapted from Discovering God Together: The Catholic Guide to Raising Faithful Kids
Most people think that faith is something you either have or you don’t. But research by Emory University’s Dr. James Fowler revealed that faith evolves in discernible stages throughout our lifespan. At each stage, a person’s faith needs to be nourished in different ways if it is to grow and mature into the next stage. If we don’t receive the right kind of support, faith development can stall or even wither. Because Fowler viewed faith as a natural and essential part of every human person’s search for meaning, significance, and transcendence, Fowler’s Stages of Faith track with other developmental stages you might remember from your Psych 101 class, such as Erik Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development and Lawrence Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development. What Stage of Faith are you at? And what do you need to do to more effectively continue your search for meaning, significance, and transcendence?
STAGE 0: Primal Faith (Infancy)– People might be surprised to realize that babies have faith. It’s true that they don’t have a conscious experience of faith and can’t articulate specific beliefs, but this stage is tremendously important because it sets the stage for baby’s view of God and the world. If parents respond to baby’s needs promptly, generously, and consistently, baby learns the basic, gut-level sense of trust that is necessary to believe that when I call out, God will answer. If parents delay responding to baby’s cries, baby develops gut-level insecurity that anyone will respond when I cry out or that there is anyone to bother crying out to in the first place.
A rule of life is a discerned commitment to the Lord, specifying the “tools” one will use to grow closer to Him. The first rule of life was set forth in the monasteries as groups of men and women joined in community to love and serve the Lord: they knew when they would wake, eat, pray, study, and work throughout the day. Religious congregations (including third order members and lay members of movements) still have specified obligations that orient them to the Lord according to their specific charism and mission. However, all lay people are encouraged to pray about and utilize a rule of life … according to their state in life and personal spirituality. For Catholics, the Church provides a “skeletal” rule of life via its precepts: Sunday Mass, annual confession, reception of Eucharist during the Easter season, days of fast/abstinence, and tithing (Catechism of the Catholic Church # 241-243). Yet, anyone who desires to grow in holiness should do more than the bare minimum, just as a marathon aspirant will need to do more than walk a mile a day.
Growth in holiness occurs with regular correspondence to the Lord’s desire to be with us and for us. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me” (Rev. 3: 20). The rule of life makes the spiritual life fruitful because one is intentional about opening the door to the Lord.
Discernment of Spirits 1
Discernment of Spirits 2
Discernment of Spirits 3
(prayer & stages/advanced)
Fulfillment of All Desire
(prayer & stages/advanced)
Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World
In the School of the Holy Spirit
My Peace I Give You
(victims of sexual abuse)
Practice of the Presence of God
(union / anyone)
Searching for & Maintaining Peace
Thirsting for Prayer
(prayer & stages/anyone)
Theology of the Body
Time for God
(prayer & stages/anyone)
Wild at Heart