Schedules, Deadlines and Prayer: What Do They Have in Common?
Whether it’s a meeting, task or appointment, schedules are part of our lives. Deadlines? Maybe not so much unless we’re working on a project, one that’s required extensive time and energy like writing a book. I use deadlines all the time simply because they give me the incentive I need to write.
Okay, but prayer? Schedules, deadlines and prayer?
Before I began to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, not infrequently, I’d get to the end of the day and realize I’d been so engrossed in whatever task I was working on that I never prayed. I was too busy.
That’s a problem.
I knew I needed to schedule prayer time. But more than that, I needed a guide. Not a spiritual director, although I’ve asked a number of priests to fullfil that role. Rather a guide to provide order in my day…remind me why I’m here. What I’m preparing for.
Upon becoming a Benedicitne Oblate, both goals were achieved. Because we vow to pray the liturgy of the hours, three times a day: Morning, Evening and Night. And read the Rule of Benedict daily, completing readings of each chapter three times a year.
Composed of the Old and New Testaments, the Office is both guide and direction. Two things my easily distracted brain requires, constantly. Contained in the 150 psalms is every human emotion, along with nuggets of wisdom like this from St. Ambrose:
My father and I will come to him and make our home with him. Open wide your door to the one who comes. Open your soul, throw open the depths of your heart to see the riches of simplicity, the treasures of peace, the sweetness of grace. Open your heart and run to meet the Sun of eternal light that illuminates all men. Indeed that true light shines on all; but if anyone closes his shutters against it then he will defraud himself of the eternal light. To close the doors of your mind is to exclude Christ. Of course he is capable of entering even so, but he does not want to force his way in or seize you against your will…Blessed is he, therefore, at whose door Christ comes knocking. Faith is the door of the soul, and if it is strong then it fortifies the whole house
And the Rule
is invaluable. The simple yet profound wisdom of Benedict’s Rule, like the Gospel, offers a feast to ponder. Like last Thursday’s reading.
On the Spirit of Silence
Let us do what the Prophet says:
“I said, ‘I will guard my ways,
that I may not sin with my tongue.
I have set a guard to my mouth.’
I was mute and was humbled,
and kept silence even from good things” (Ps. 38:2-3).
Here the Prophet shows
that if the spirit of silence ought to lead us at times
to refrain even from good speech,
so much the more ought the punishment for sin
make us avoid evil words.
Therefore, since the spirit of silence is so important,
permission to speak should rarely be granted
even to perfect disciples,
even though it be for good, holy edifying conversation;
for it is written,
“In much speaking you will not escape sin” (Prov. 10:19),
and in another place,
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov. 18:21).
For speaking and teaching belong to the mistress;
the disciple’s part is to be silent and to listen.
And for that reason
if anything has to be asked of the Superior,
it should be asked
with all the humility and submission inspired by reverence.
But as for coarse jests and idle words
or words that move to laughter,
these we condemn everywhere with a perpetual ban,
and for such conversation
we do not permit a disciple to open her mouth.
We’re told to redeem time.
Starting tomorrow, we return to ordinary time. These holiest of liturgical seasons, Christmas, Lent and Easter are over and we return to six months of ordinary time. Six months to practice the new daily habits we’re worked to inhale, make automatic.
Like trying to make good [His Good] use of each day we are given.
And in learning how to “redeem time.”
Curious phrase, isn’t it?
…we all easily and naturally assign to St. Paul’s idiom the sense “don’t waste time…” Kairos, let us say, is time as presenting an opportunity….
“Beware of men who thwart chastity. . . .The whole of time is now a time of deception, hence you should be redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”
Aquinas next explains why redeeming the time is necessary: “At the time Adam sinned, and from then on, snares have always been set to thrust men into sin. It was not that way in the state of innocence when it was unnecessary for a man to abstain from anything which was licit, since there was nothing in his will driving him to sin. But now. . .we must avoid the depravity of the days. . .we must renounce even certain things which are lawful. This is the way in which a person is said to redeem a grievance he caused since he permits something that is rightfully his to be forfeited.” Redeeming the Time the Christian Way
So we must not only refrain from even good speech but make sacrifices of things rightfully ours.
We recall that Our Lord tells us that without Him, we can do nothing.
And so we beg for the Gifts of the Spirit…He tells us as He told the disciples, “I will not leave you orphans, I will ask the Father to send the Paraclete, the Advocate, the Spirit of Truth. And He will teach you all things.” Schedules, Deadlines and Prayer
Today is the Feast of Pentecost
El Greco’s Pentecost
And we bow down in gratitude for the third Person of the Trinity. For His grace, inspiration, direction. It’s the Spirit Who directs us to truth. Consider these words of St. Basil:
….all living things seek him according to their ability.
His breath empowers each to achieve its own natural end.
The Spirit is the source of holiness, a spiritual light, and he
offers his own light to every mind to help it in its search for truth.
By nature the Spirit is beyond the reach of our mind, but we can
know him by his goodness. The power of the Spirit fills the whole
universe, but he gives himself only to those who are worthy, acting
in each according to the measure of his faith.
Simple in himself, the Spirit is manifold in his mighty works.
The whole of his being is present to each individual; the whole of
his being is present everywhere. Though shared in by many, he
remains unchanged; his self giving is no loss to himself. Like the
sunshine, which permeates all the atmosphere, spreading over
land and sea, and yet is enjoyed by each person as though it were
for him alone, so the Spirit pours forth his grace in full measure,
sufficient for all, and yet is present as though exclusively to
everyone who can receive him. To all creatures that share in him
he gives a delight limited only by their own nature, not by his
ability to give.
Perhaps we should think of the upcoming six months, not as ordinary time, but missionary time. Accepting our Baptismal commission to evangelize by reflecting the glory of God in our lives to all whom we come in contact with. Schedules, Deadlines and Prayer: What do they have in common?