Reflection 21st July 2019

A Reflection for the Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Lk: 10: 38-42 ( ) 

There comes a time in most people’s lives when discursive prayer or meditation becomes burdensome and is no longer life-giving. This happened to me some thirty years ago and I was wondering what to do or what to turn to then. But like the three men who appeared to Abraham in today’s first reading and who offered him what he had been seeking, God continually finds His own way to nourish us, and I was asked to cover for another Spiritan as chaplain in Ireland’s National Rehabilitation Centre in Dún Laoghaire, Co. Dublin..

Sitting down one evening, I noticed a book on the sitting room table called ‘Centring Prayer’. I picked it up out of curiosity to see what it might be about. As I read it, I became more convinced that the Lord was giving me an answer to my longing for a deeper kind of prayer as the book was all about contemplative prayer and how to begin it.

Centring (or Contemplative) Prayer is a bit like what Mary did in today’s Gospel, sitting at Jesus’ feet and just listening. But it is not easy to just sit and listen as our thoughts are constantly distracting us. We need a methodology to help us concentrate and this is what Centring Prayer enables us to do.

Some people might object to using a methodology in prayer but the Rosary is a methodology for prayer as are – for example – Adoration, Holy Hours and Novenas.  Centring Prayer asks us to sit comfortably with our eyes closed and to use a word that symbolizes our relationship with God.

We say that word internally to keep our focus, not on the word itself but on the Lord. When our thoughts are like the clouds passing over, we use the word to return to our centre where the Lord is. It is a listening technique to allow us to feel the presence of the Lord within us.

When a thought or an idea comes into our head and starts demanding that we follow that train of thought or work out some personal issue in our life or work, we use the word to bring us back to simply BE with the Lord.

Let the Spirit pray within us; we only have to try and maintain a quiet and attentive stance.  I have been using this method of prayer for three decades now; half-an-hour in the morning and half-an-hour in the evening. It is life-giving and transformative.  It certainly doesn’t do away with our everyday challenges but it enables us to know that we are never alone and that, like Mary, we have chosen the better part.

John Skinnader C.S.Sp. – Fr. John was ordained in 1981. Having already ‘prefected’ in Sierra Leone, he was in pastoral ministry in the west African country for most of the 1980s. He also served in Rome, Ireland and Ethiopia before moving to South Sudan in 2012.