I’ve had a chance over the last several years to travel to New Mexico to visit the Center of Action and Contemplation, founded by Richard Rohr, OFM.
While there, I have been introduced to their morning practice of prayer to begin each day. Their “contemplative sit” provides quiet time to focus on God and center one’s self in prayer and in emptying and setting aside for 20 minutes of all of the cares, worries, anxieties, resentments, jealousies, and the laundry lists of to-dos many of carry as a permanent attachment to our lives.
For the half a dozen times I have been privileged to participate in this environment of prayer with the minimum of talking and words I have vowed that I would bring this back to my daily life, to experience again, in that quiet, God above me, below me, in back of me, in front of me, to my left, to my right, within me.
Yet, back returning back home each time over the last number of years, I could not, did not, would not commit to that life-enhancing practice of daily prayer and contemplation.
“Well, Mark,” I would tell myself, “you’re too busy in the morning and the evening out taking a run, getting ready for the work day, hitting that computer to answer all of the, at times, mind-numbing e-mails, checking in with my 87-year-old mom, my sons and daughters-in-law, and grandchildren.”
It’s a nice idea to make time for prayer every day, but is it actually realistic, I would ask myself.
Yet, this Advent — actually a day before the first Sunday of Advent — I finally found the determination and commitment to really for once prepare myself for the coming of the newborn Christ child in my midst.
I started and ended the days of Advent (and now continue to do so) with prayer and quiet. That prayer found in the Bible, in a variety of daily meditation books, and even apps on my phone, like Franciscan Media’s “Saint of the Day” and “Minute Meditations,” gave me the raw material I needed.
The other ingredients: an alarm (or rather alarms to prevent me from rolling over and going back to sleep) and a commitment to turn off the TV late at night so I would awake with enough time to pray and still make it to work (or exercise or …).
The results: I feel much more connected into a God-centered world that has already greatly affected how I view and act toward my spouse, my adult children, my other family members, my co-workers, my friends. The emptiness of being prayerless has left, while embracing being able to to take a breath that comes with getting off the treadmill and celebrating how this new framing has allowed me to listen more to God’s Word than my own voice.
There are a number of resources for Lent that Franciscan Media has to offer to help you find a renewed (as in my case) or a deeper prayer life, including: Fast, Pray, Give: Making the Most of Lent, Lenten Reflections From A Father Who Keeps His Promises, Lent with St. Francis: Daily Reflections and Wondrous Encounters.
Peace, deeper connection with God, a greater sense of serenity in life, going through the day with a more positive attitude that can be seen in those you encounter — not bad payoffs for the investment of a little time at the beginning and end of the day.
The only question I’m left to ponder: Why did it take so long for me to get around and make it a priority in my life?
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Photo top: Catholic News Service photo/Nancy Phelan Wiechec.