Space for God – bandwidth, if you will. How much bandwidth do we give Uur Lord? Is it a mighty highway? A spotty unreliable connection at best? or no connection at all? Religious or lay, we all need a port of entry, a landing place for God’s spirit to rest upon us and within us. This you know so well for yourself in your own apostolic work and in your work with busy moms or harried fathers. (Even the bush relies on bandwidth, whether in or Nigeria.)
Often our minds and hearts are cluttered with 1000 things, some legitimate concerns and others worthless impressions, the TV running endlessly, chatter for chatter’s sake… How much of what we take in is meaningless filler when we’re anxious, nervous, or unable to come to peace.
In his pedagogical Workshop of 1950, Fr. Kentenich says a number of extraordinarily powerful things that knock me over every time I read them. I must confess that the first time I read this chapter, I thoroughly disliked it. Perhaps it rang too old fashioned or simplistic at the time, little aware that I was the one who lacked depth and experience in prayer. What Fr. Kentenich says in the first few sentences are crucial to all else that follows, but perhaps not so easy for our modern souls to hear. So it is with prophets: they have a tendency to say things we’d rather not hear or admit.
So what are these “controversial” and powerful things that Fr. Kentenich says? His first talk is entitled, “
Union with God as educational power ”. Interesting concept – educational power. He says prayer is the greatest educational power in heaven and on earth. (Hmmm, try telling that one to the faculty of the nearest inner city high school or the most elite prep school in town.) Even for those of us who may be well acquainted with prayer, often, somewhere deep down, we still believe action is the real thing. Fr. Kentenich’s statement is revolutionary.
And what if we were to take him seriously? What could he possibly mean “Prayer is the greatest educational power….” He gives two explanations.
1) Only in prayer are we capable of inwardly grasping, understanding another person – the one to be educated – correctly.
2) Only through prayer, through the cultivation of the inner life do we come into a healing, sheer almighty union with the living God.
I find myself meditating on these simple and mighty truths time and again. What would we feel were we to know that one of our teachers had wrapped us in this kind of prayer, that they themselves were steeped in Christ, in his Mother and in love for the saints, the Church, the sacraments. What kind of impact would it make on us? What kind of atmosphere does such a person emanate who lives this way? I find myself asking the question, “And I?” “What do I do in prayer?”
All through the day we take in impressions. The impressions in turn shape us and determine our inner atmosphere. So, what are the impressions we are taking in? And what do we do with all those impressions? Churn on them? Revolve & revolve on them …build them up, fantasize, stuff the unpleasant ones and then in an unaware moment blurt out something we hadn’t intended to say or fly off the handle.,. or our blood rises and pounds suddenly in our heads & hearts. This, too, is atmosphere.
By contrast, what is the atmosphere of a person of prayer like? Recently letters of Mother Teresa to her spiritual director and others appeared in a new publication. Commentary sprang up all over the world. One statement that struck me was from a non-Christian, I believe. She said that Mother’s aura was so large, that something much larger than herself entered the room when she came in. It’s an interesting commentary; maybe we’ve experienced something similar, someone who had such a presence about them, something bigger than themselves. And what kind of impact did she have on the world? On changing lives? This little woman certainly didn’t have the influence of wealth of Bill Gates, nor celebrity, nor office – yet her educational power was indeed mighty.
Dear Fr. Pedro, certainly you have your own experience in the “cultivation of the inner life”. You, too, have undoubtedly experienced the “atmosphere” that different people give off: those in whose presence we become calm, joyful, with whom we are relaxed; while others rub us the wrong way, make us keyed up. Might it have also something to do with where they are their relationship with God? And themselves, for that matter?
Maybe it is easiest to take a look at ourselves. What is the difference in the “vibes” I exude when I am at peace, when I am humble, when I accept the other person before me simply where he is – with mercy & gentleness, when I am grounded in God? And when I’m agitated or hurt and unforgiving?
Needless to say Fr. Kentenich addresses all these issues. He asks what is the reason for the “dreadful chaos” we see in the world today, and in the realm of education and educators? His answer: when the harmony between work and prayer is disturbed, the result is disaster – in the world and in education.
So, dear Fr. Pedro, though I would like to give you all of Fr. Kentenich’s wisdom at once, I must resist the temptation. Instead I will go exercise my great educational power and pray that we all develop more and more bandwidth for God and the Blessed Mother, a mighty highway for our Lord.
Questions for Meditation:
When was the last time that I listened, really listened to what our Lord or his Mother were trying to say to me? What was it like? How did it happen?
Where do I pray best? When do I pray best?
When I pray, do I meet God? Or do I most frequently toss prayers his way, but not really come into contact with him? What about Holy Mass, the Offertory, Consecration, Communion? How do I meet the Savior in flesh, coming into me, body & soul?
When was the last time – or a time – that my prayer was a dialogue? How did that come about? What were the conditions? Is it possible for me to create the conditions so that it can happen more frequently?
When was the last time that I deeply felt God’s presence? Have I ever been able to enter prayer so profoundly that I felt the Blessed Mother was really there looking at me, talking to me? Is this type of prayer normal for me? Would I like it to be? How do I create the conditions for this kind of intimate dialogue?
The practical application for this virtual workshop is suggested as a way to grow in depth. Hence, we need to practice many things over & over in order to become masterful. Take time in your place of prayer to meet God & the Blessed Mother. Bring to them what you observe about yourself and others. Often it is difficult for us to simply observe something, whether it be in ourselves or others without judging. In order to take a look at something, it is often valuable to simply let it be first without judging it, trying to control it, get rid of it (for example, we notice a bad habit within ourselves, let us say of criticizing others. When we notice it, we feel bad. Sometimes, we begin a conversation with ourselves, defending ourselves to ourselves or berating ourselves. The questions are not intended as an examination of conscience in a negative sense, but an invitation to observe.
It goes much the same with comparing. We find it difficult to simply compare on a factual basis without judging or controlling or valuing. These steps are more helpful if we first simply look at the phenomena in our lives, the concrete facts without immediately suppressing or valuing. This takes a certain amount of peace within. Bringing what weighs or worries us, our loved ones into God’s gentle, loving and merciful presence gives clarity, peace, and presence.
Resources for further reading/research where interested:
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (The section on prayer, among others, is highly readable and something for mind and heart.)
A. Nailis, Everyday Sanctity
Fr. Joseph Kentenich, Education and the Challenge of our Times