Praying well

Fra Angelico, Saint Dominic adoring the Crucifixion. Convento di San Marco, Florence

Before I was Catholic I always wondered how to really pray well. I’d see the spiritual seem to enter into the presence of God and I’d wish I could get that close. I’d close my eyes and raise my hands in a praise song and try to lift my heart up to God. Perhaps I did to an extent. I will mention, also, that I found praying the Scriptures to be the best way back then. It was hard to go wrong with that. It still is! But there was a place deep inside that still thirsted. For me, it was very hard to be still with God. Errant thoughts would come and I thought I’d messed up in some obscure fashion. I had some good models but no saints beyond the first century to follow. Perseverance didn’t come easily when the object of my prayer was not definite.

Then I found Catholicism, and I was returned to sanctifying grace. Initially a highly intellectual journey, my heart gradually found anchors, and one night – all night, really – I found myself in front of the exposed Host in a golden sunburst monstrance, looking at the Sun to Whom my life belonged.

I couldn’t stop looking. “My Lord and my God!” ran through my mind repeatedly. At other points I meditated on all my life until now leading to this moment, or on mysteries of the Rosary. However, what gave me great peace was that I didn’t have to specifically think thoughts so much as fix my eyes on Jesus. I’d found the secret, to me at least, of praying well. I forced my eyes to stay open as the night wore on, because I could not possibly be doing anything better with my life right then than to adore, adore, adore. And thanks be to God, it was far simpler than I had ever feared.

As I continue down the pilgrimage of Catholic life, I’ve come to understand a little bit more about other kinds of prayer. But for me, what I love best is that simple gazing with Christ Himself as the object. And I know that Christ Himself is gazing back.

The Beatific Vision consists of beholding the Face of God unveiled. Adoration is a foretaste. With St. Ambrose, I pray and give thanks:

Face to face,
Thou hast made thyself known to me, O Christ;
I have found thee in thy mysteries.

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