All human beings are alone. No other person will completely feel like we do, think like we do, act like we do. Each of us is unique, and our aloneness is the other side of our uniqueness. The question is whether we let our aloneness become loneliness or whether we allow it to lead us into solitude. Loneliness is painful; solitude is peaceful. Loneliness makes us cling to others in desperation; solitude allows us to respect others in their uniqueness and create community.
Letting our aloneness grow into solitude and not into loneliness is a lifelong struggle. It requires conscious choices about whom to be with, what to study, how to pray, and when to ask for counsel. But wise choices will help us to find the solitude where our hearts can grow in love.
-Henri J.M. Nouwen, Bread for the Journey-
Praying without ceasing means: never losing contact with God, letting ourselves be constantly touched by him in the depths of our hearts and, in this way, being penetrated by his light. Only someone who actually knows God can lead others to God. Only someone who leads people to God leads them along the path of life.
The restless heart of which we spoke earlier, echoing Saint Augustine, is the heart that is ultimately satisfied with nothing less than God, and in this way becomes a loving heart. Our heart is restless for God and remains so, even if every effort is made today, by means of most effective anaesthetizing methods, to deliver people from this unrest. But not only are we restless for God: God’s heart is restless for us. God is waiting for us. He is looking for us. He knows no rest either, until he finds us. God’s heart is restless, and that is why he set out on the path towards us – to Bethlehem, to Calvary, from Jerusalem to Galilee and on to the very ends of the earth. God is restless for us, he looks out for people willing to “catch” his unrest, his passion for us, people who carry within them the searching of their own hearts and at the same time open themselves to be touched by God’s search for us. Dear friends, this was the task of the Apostles: to receive God’s unrest for man and then to bring God himself to man.
The wise men followed the star. Through the language of creation, they discovered the God of history. To be sure – the language of creation alone is not enough. Only God’s word, which we encounter in sacred Scripture, was able to mark out their path definitively. Creation and Scripture, reason and faith, must come together, so as to lead us forward to the living God. There has been much discussion over what kind of star it was that the wise men were following. Some suggest a planetary constellation, or a supernova, that is to say one of those stars that is initially quite weak, in which an inner explosion releases a brilliant light for a certain time, or a comet, etc. This debate we may leave to the experts. The great star, the true supernova that leads us on, is Christ himself. He is as it were the explosion of God’s love, which causes the great white light of his heart to shine upon the world. And we may add: the wise men from the East, who feature in today’s Gospel, like all the saints, have themselves gradually become constellations of God that mark out the path. In all these people, being touched by God’s word has, as it were, released an explosion of light, through which God’s radiance shines upon our world and shows us the path. The saints are stars of God, by whom we let ourselves be led to him for whom our whole being longs.
Benedict XVI, Homily, Epiphany 2012.
Thanks to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee for this video of what discipleship can look like in our lives…
O Mother, how pure you are, you are untouched by sin; yours was the privilege to carry God within you.
Antiphon from Morning Prayer, December 8
How do we wait for God? We wait with patience. But patience does not mean passivity. Waiting patiently is not like waiting for the bus to come, the rain to stop, or the sun to rise. It is an active waiting in which we live the present moment to the full in order to find there the signs of the One we are waiting for.
The word patience comes from the Latin verb patior which means “to suffer.” Waiting patiently is suffering through the present moment, tasting it to the full, and letting the seeds that are sown in the ground on which we stand grow into strong plants. Waiting patiently always means paying attention to what is happening right before our eyes and seeing there the first rays of God’s glorious coming.
Bread for the Journey
A few years ago I was on holiday in Scotland and saw an amazing sight: thousands of wild salmon in a river, swimming upstream, racing ahead, jumping in the air to get past rocks and over the boulders. Salmon, I am told, lay their eggs upstream, and once hatched, the new salmon swim down to the sea on a huge journey to the feeding grounds off Greenland. They then have two months to get back to the river they were born in, to lay their own eggs and after to die. How on earth they know where their home-river is a mystery, but that’s why you see the amazing sight of fish swimming upstream, jumping in the air, and racing against the current.
It made me think of two things: That we are a bit like salmon. Deep down in every human heart is a spiritual homing-device. We are made for God and made for heaven. Our home is with him, and our hearts are restless until we find him. But secondly, to find Him, to find Him in our busy, affluent, secular culture, we must swim upstream against the current. To find God, to develop friendship with him, to live the life of Christ, to reach heaven our home, we have to be countercultural, to be different, to create space and time, to make the effort, even to suffer.
-Bishop Philip Egan-
Bishop of Portsmouth, UK
From The Sower Review, July-Sept 2013
The Divine Image
by William Blake (1757-1827)To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and LoveAll pray in their distress;And to these virtues of delightReturn their thankfulness.
For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and LoveIs God, our father dear,And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and LoveIs Man, his child and care.
For Mercy has a human heart,Pity a human face,And Love, the human form divine,And Peace, the human dress.
Then every man, of every clime,That prays in his distress,Prays to the human form divine,Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.
And all must love the human form,In heathen, Turk, or Jew;Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwellThere God is dwelling too.
by Mary Coleridge
There, in that other world, what waits for me?
What shall I find after that other birth?
No stormy, tossing, foaming, smiling sea,
But a new earth.
No sun to mark the changing of the days,
No slow, soft falling of the alternate night,
No moon, no star, no light upon my ways,
Only the Light.
No gray cathedral, wide and wondrous fair,
That I may tread where all my fathers trod,
Nay, nay, my soul, no house of God is there,
But only God.
“The Church is apostolic because she is founded on the preaching and prayer of the apostles, on the authority that was entrusted to them by Christ himself. St Paul writes to the Christians at Ephesus: “You are no longer strangers or sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus being the cornerstone” (Eph 2: 19-20); that is, he compares Christians to living stones that form an edifice that is the Church, and this edifice is founded on the apostles, who are like columns, and the cornerstone that carries it all is Jesus himself. Without Jesus the Church cannot exist! Jesus is the foundation of the Church — the foundation! The apostles lived with Jesus, they listened to his words, they shared his life; above all they were witnesses of his death and resurrection. Our faith, the Church that Christ willed, is not based on an idea; it is not based on a philosophy. It is based on Christ himself.”
General Audience, October 16, 2013.
“[P]rayer is in many ways the criterion of Christian life. Prayer requires that we stand in God’s presence… proclaiming to ourselves and to others that without God we can do nothing. This is difficult in a climate where the predominate counsel is “Do your best and God will do the rest.” When life is divided into “our best” and “God’s rest,” we have turned to prayer as a last resort to be used only when all our own resources are depleted. Then even the Lord has become the victim of our impatience. Discipleship does not mean to use God when we no longer function ourselves. On the contrary, it means to recognize that we can do nothing at all, but that God can do everything through us. As disciples, we find not some but all of our strength, hope, courage, and confidence in God. Therefore, prayer must be our first concern.”
Seeds of Hope