By Dom Hubert Van Zeller

Springfield, Illinois

Nihil Obstat: Georgivs Smith, S.T.D., PH.D.
Imprimatur: E. Morragh Bernard
Westmonaterii: Die XVII Movembris MCML

First Published 1951

Monday, March 14, 2011

Roughly The Two Methods

You can either pray your way into your working day, or you can work our way into your prayer.  By the first I mean saying a prayer before each duty, and so directing it towards God without further attention to its directly spiritual possiblities.  By the second I mean making a spiritual thing out of the work itself.

The one says:  'This next hour or two is going to be perfectly vile.  I pray, Lord, that I may keep my head, and that You may be praised by what I do.  I shall not be able to think of You, but You won't mind that.' 
The other says:  'If this morning is going to be of any use to God, it must be spent in a way which shows that I accept every moment of it as coming from His hand.  It is not so much that I must sanctify it as that I must let it sanctify me.  It may or may not mean that I shall be able to keep up the presence of God -- probably not -- but it should mean that I spend the time more for Him than for myself or for anyone else.'

Of the two, the second seems to be the more satisfactory.  But more satisfactory still is to practise both.  You can ask God to keep your head for you, and you can have the intention of looking at Him during the actual process of work.  Instead of, on the one hand, launching the work and then not bothering, or, on the other, trusting too much to your power of keeping the arrow fixed in the right direction during it al -- surely the best thing is to pray before-hand and at intervals while it is going on.

But perhaps the question as to whether you should follow one of the two alternatives or deliberately to set about practising both is academic.  What probably happens in most people's experience is that they begin by making their 'morning offering'  (and its equivalents as the various duties come up during the day), and end by so repeating and extending this dedication as virtually to practise a continual recollection.

Certainly the saints referred to God each duty as it came along, and certainly also they performed each duty in a state of more or less sustained reference.  'Yes,' you will say, 'but they were saints, and I'm not a saint.' 
The saints did not start off with the gift of recollection; they practised dedicating their works to God until it became a habit to dedicate their minues to Him.  It is not that they were saints and so could pray like this; it is more that they trained themselves to pray like this and so became saints.

'The fact remains,' you will object, 'that the idea of my dedicating the hundred and one domestic chores to God as they turn up is wildly unpractical.  Even if I could remember to do it with the ones which occur regularly each day -- like correspondence (*ed.note: modern day e-mail and FB!) and cooking and washing up -- I am never going to get into the habit of turning to God and offering to Him the interruptions and surprises and accidents which seem to happen far more often, and which, because of their variety, make any sort of calculated approach impossible.  There's simply no time to think of God when the baby has fallen off a chair and is screaming its head off.  Besides, if I tried dedicating my minutes to God, I would go mad.  It's as much a I can do to dedicate the day to Him.'

The answer to this one will need a separate section -- if not several.

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