Christmas is here, in 2-3 days. Advent is almost over and an upwelling of quiet, understated joy is felt within. What's within? That's where we meet Jesus every day, every minute for some, and we refer to that as our Prayer Life or Inner Life. A spiritual friend of mine told me what she was doing just before starting an e-mail to me, she was praying to herself while her husband was reading and her doggie was cuddled with her. When I read that, the image she described awoke in me the intimacy of a wonderful relationship with Jesus.
Prayer can be mere words, but most of all, prayer is a relationship! Specifically, an inner relationship with God. It goes like this ... you pick out a peaceful place to be with him. For his earliest followers it was perhaps the road to Emmaus, or Capharnaum, where Jesus forgave the sins of the Man who was sick with the Palsy (Mk 1:21). A lot of good things happened on the road to somewhere or somewhere else, with Jesus and the crowds who followed him. And so it is with us, wherever we go, we have this ongoing relationship or dialogue, or even fleeting thoughts, with Jesus in our innermost soul, and then we listen for a bit, sometimes just a split second to hear His answer, the give and take of normal conversation with Him.
It is understandible that not everyone is into this or even believes it is happening. But it is happening all the time and all around us. Not to the extent that it takes away our concentration from the road if we are driving, but its all intervowen. Most people will not tell you, nor anyone else what is going on in the soul. That is very personal and very rich. In the same way, no one knows what goes on in the heart of anyone else. As we recently have seen, it can be detrimental when we cannot pick up warning signs if an individual has tendencies to be a danger to others. So to that extent we must be vigilant but our inner conversations with Jesus, Mary or the Saints - those are special to each one who practices this form of prayer.
About a dozen years ago I was living in a monastery, where my relationship with Jesus really blossomed. In the quiet of the monastic environment, our contact with Jesus, feeling his Presence is very often constant, but then there are periods when we go "dry" as this is called, and we miss Jesus immensely even to the point of getting sick (as with some Saints). Now that I no longer live in a monastery, there is still sufficient quiet-time in my life that my interior prayer life is maybe not constant but certainly active. And if the day simply does not come to that, a visit to the Blessed Sacrament (perhaps Adoration, if available) will get the conversation going again.
Christmas a time with Liturgy I usually sing with our choir, is a special time which enriches my inner conversation with Jesus. Just as when we sit quietly in Church before the Blessed Sacrament, simply gazing in His direction, we can pray simply and quietly as a family unit, or even alone, if need be. But with Jesus within, we are never alone! I seldom feel alone even though I live alone. Franciscans aren't meant to be alone, because they were (by St. Francis) sent out "two by two" into the world to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ, and we are still doing this in a quiet and understated way. We get ourselves involved quietly, or sometimes noisely, but we try to make a difference in this crazy world of ours. If we did not have an ongoing prayerful conversation within, we would be utterly lost. So this Christmas, keep the fires burning, the fire of love which is unquenchable, and live in His Presence making that love known to those we meet, talk to, and share with. And when people hurt, please console them as Jesus did on the road to Jerusalem and wherever He walked and still does.
In this bizarre world, it may seem that there is no love, but as long as your pilot light stays lit, God will be there too, and then there is great love!
Have a blessed a safe Christmas, especially if you are traveling. Have a Happy and heathy New Year!!!
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
December 22, 2012