The National Catholic Review
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I am in my 81st year of life, my 63rd “in religion.” And like many of you, my readers, I have had long, dry experiences of the God Who Is Silent—all those meditations when I kept looking at the clock: Will this hour never be over? What is it you want of me, God? Speak to me. Give me five minutes of consolation.

Well, no more. This year I have seen the light. Better still, I have heard the voice, God’s voice, and my meditations are completely different. I still look at the clock; that has not changed. But now the questions are: What more do you have to say to me, God? Will you not let up for a minute? Will you give me no rest? Why did you hold up this grace for so long? Is it because I could not have handled it well before now?

It seems that retirement has given me the leisure finally to understand that God never stops speaking to me. Perhaps I could not have borne it while I was in an active ministry. Or perhaps I let what I thought was God’s will for me deafen me to the God who was constantly talking to me. Now the light has dawned and the voice is loud and clear. God speaks to me every moment in multiple ways on every subject under the sun. I no longer need to go aside and rest awhile to hear God’s voice. It is there constantly, biding me to respond.

As a consequence I have never been more fully alive, when one would think I should be counting my last hours. Only a few physical infirmities prevent me from engaging in what younger people would call “a more active life.”

A Breakthrough

My breakthrough is the result of realizing what St. Ignatius Loyola, a master of the spiritual life, meant when he wrote in the first prelude of the contemplation on the Incarnation in his Spiritual Exercises: “to call to mind the history of the matter which I have to contemplate: how the three divine persons were regarding all the surface or circuit of the whole world, full of men; and how, seeing that all were going down into hell, they determined in their eternity, that the second Person should become Man to save the human race; and thus, when the fullness of time had come, they sent the angel Gabriel to our Lady.”

How sterile those words now seem as I type them! They hardly convey to me what the impact of those words has come to mean to me after 63 years of religious life. Yet it is so simple: God is involved in this world. God the transcendent, the immanent, God the person, God the other, beyond my or anyone’s comprehension, is dealing with me, is talking to me, is leading me through this created, fallible, finite (or infinite?) world in which I live and move and have my being.

That is why something I heard many years ago is now so clear: “Read Scripture as if it were the daily newspaper, and read the daily newspaper as if it were Scripture.” What I ingest from the media is God’s holy word to me. Everything speaks to me of how God works in this world for my continual salvation and eventual new creation.

To what can I ascribe this light that struck me? To grace, of course. At some point all those prayers I uttered over the years to the Holy Spirit to teach me how to pray were answered.

Grace Working on Nature

Grace works on nature. I should not forget that. Some physical and psychological adjustments helped to make a difference. In my youth, in my middle age, in all those times when I was engaged in active ministry, I used to do

my “mental” prayer the first thing in the morning. I was taught to get it out of the way or other things would interfere.

In retirement, however, I can adjust my prayer life as I wish. And what I wish to do is to become fully alive and responsive before I began to pray. So I put off reading the Divine Office and spending time in prayer until 10 or 11 a.m., sometimes until 4 p.m. Maybe you cannot do that. But I found that particular change greatly improved my prayer. I still look at the clock, and the meditation still drags at times. But at other times during prayer I have to say, “Hold off, God, I cannot absorb all your messages right now. Give me a break.”

Of course, I have as background all those years of prayer, of spiritual reading, of liturgical celebrations, of interaction with friends who opened up for me vistas of prayer. These vistas are all still with me, a cushion to my prayer. The brunt of my daily meditations, however, comes from the world in which I live each day—from the media, from social interaction, from commitment to a way of life and a particular form of spirituality, the Ignatian way. An annual eight-day retreat is balanced by the daily newspapers. I might even be accused of making the daily New York Times or CNN a fifth Gospel.

For whom am I writing this? For myself, as a way of saying to God: “Thank you” for this belated grace, and for my peers who may want to stop and thank God for similar graces. I would hope these words might also give an impetus to the young, who could learn from my mistakes and move beyond my stumblings.

Whatever your age, may you learn the richness to be found in prayer—a prayer life that will make you creators of a new world and that will reflect the “God who speaks through creation.”

Frank Moan, S.J., resides at the St. Claude La Colombire Jesuit Community in Baltimore, Md.

Comments

CHRYS FISHER | 2/7/2009 - 4:25pm
"Oh Yes, Father, Yes!" - My teenage son thought I was nuts when my eyes filled with tears and I screamed that aloud as I read your essay in the print edition. All of the angels have human faces; the Lord kindly deigns us to observe and to serve His will from time to time. No day goes by that I'm not astounded by the convergence of His providence and willing hearts. Our Christ truly is King. While discipline has its virtues, incorporating one's life into a prayer is discipleship. I'm grateful that you have remembered that for me in this article.
BRUCE SNOWDEN | 2/6/2009 - 6:25pm
Dear Online Editor, Just trying to comply with rule that requires a name with every comment be attached, if the comment is to be considered, as once again my name remained behind on a comment sent a few hours ago. Don't know why ths happens repeatedly. Thank you. Bruce Snowden
BRUCE SNOWDEN | 2/6/2009 - 4:43pm
"Finally,God's Voice" by Frank Moan, S.J., is a consoling and wisdom-filled essay on prayer for everyone, especially for "old timers" like me. Fr. Moan at 81, is about 3 1/2 years my senior and over the years I, too, have wondered respectfully, if God needed an "hearing aid!" Then it would dawn on me usually vaguely, that, it wasn't a matter of God being audibly challenged, but of me not listening attentively to what God was saying, or more accurately not even recogniging the Voice of God coming through in most unexpected ways. Now I'd get it, now I'd not, that God speaks in any way he chooses and one of the "unexpected ways" may be, as Fr. Moan says, through the New York Times, or CNN! To confirm this he recalled advice from many years ago, "Read Scripture as if it were the daily newspaper and read the newspaper as if it were Scripture!" P.S. May I also add,in humor, try Fox News, where everything is "fair and balanced" as the Station likes to say! After all, isn't God "fair and balanced" par excellence? It's interesting to note that, The Secular Franciscan Order too, in its Rule puts it this way, telling members to "Go from the Gospel to Life and from Life to the Gospel" which I've been trying to do for decades, hopefully with some success. Thanks Fr. Moan for adding some light to prayer's spiritual journey, often it seems to me a Faith-based adventure into darkness. Yes, "darkness" as experience teaches. But fortunately, although Faith is a dark light, it is, nonetheless, a Light. You have made that Light a little brighter, a little more accessable! From one "old timer" to another, that's good news!

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