14 October 2009

Be still and know

From time to time, I have been writing here a series on prayer1. I want to consider other sorts of prayers. I begin with a story. I wish this was original but I read it years ago. I think that it was in one of the late (and truly sainted) Fr. Basil Pennington's works2, but it could have been something of Fr. Merton or several others. For the moment, I will credit Fr. Basil. The story:
A young priest was assigned the 6 AM weekday mass at a large parish. Being young and enthusiastic he did all the right stuff. Made sure each liturgy was done precisely, checked ahead for appropriate saints to remember and even wrote small but really quite good homilies for each day.

He received as well he might lots of good feedback and some glowing comments from his rector. And as he felt more and more comfortable he began to interact with the faithful who arose so early to attend (many every day) his service.

He noticed one person who came every day, knelt in the same pew every day, and stared at the heroic over sized crucifix behind the altar. The gentleman never seemed to respond to the liturgy, did not come forward for communion, and stayed after the mass, quietly focused ont the crucifix.

After some weeks, feeling he should reach out pastorally to this man, the young priest approached him after he had slipped out of his vestments. He said, "Excuse me sir, but I have noticed you are here every day and that is wonderful! But as you do not seem to participate, I was wondering if there is anything I can offer you?"

The man looked at the priest for a moment and said, "Thank you, no Father."

The priest asked, "Well that is fine and as I said you are completely welcome. But can you tell me what you are doing?"

The gentleman smiled, and nodding towards the altar said, "I look at Him and He looks at me."

Humbled, the priest thanked the man and quickly left him to his meditations.

I am on a sort of essay journey here. I shall explore where that man was heading, and thereby consider some aspects of prayer that I hope will interest some of my visitors, in future posts.


1 Most recently: what not to pray for, Asking Prayer and Shut up and Know me

2 Pennington OSB, Fr. M. Basil, Centering Prayer: Renewing An Ancient Christian Prayer Form, Doubleday, New York, NY, 1980, ISBN-10: 0385181795

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