Lent in Practice: Converse with God

Some people are good talkers; others are good listeners; some are both, and others are neither. To speak enough and not to monopolize conversation; to listen attentively, not apparently; these are the arts that make a wise and a full man. The man who monopolizes conversation is full only of himself, and he learns nothing from others. The man who listens inattentively may be more unselfish, more polite, but he is scarcely more wise. Conversation implies a give and take: it means to speak with a person, not merely to him.

Many people make their prayer a constant murmur of petition: they talk to God, they do not converse with Him. They are so full of their own concerns that they have no time to listen, they must pour it all out, and then rush back to be again "troubled with many things." They have faith that God will hear them but they have no faith that they can hear Him. This is why prayer is not more effective; why so many souls never grow to the "full measure of Christ."

God can and does speak to the soul in many ways. He speaks in the voice of conscience that urges to do or warns us not to do this or that; He speaks in inspirations that come to the soul at Mass, after Holy Communion, in silent prayer when we cease our babble and stop to listen; He speaks in incentive to "approve the better things," to raise our standard, to deny self something, to have time for something better. As truly as Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, is present in the Blessed Sacraipent to be our spiritual food, so truly is the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, in every soul that is in a state of grace: "the kingdom of God is within you." Nor is He inactive. God is Life and life is activity. We may not see Him, we may not hear Him, but He is there, the Living, All-powerful God Who "breatheth where He will," there to make us holy - if we will but let Him, for He is the Sanctifier.

Whatever aspiration we have toward God; whatever we accomplish in His service are evidences of the abiding presence and the fruitful processes of the Holy Spirit. Under this same Spirit of Divine Love, the Son of God humbled Himself and became man: and through that same Spirit was His human life fulfilled and His human mission accomplished. Only through Jesus Christ can we know and possess the Holy Spirit Who is God but through Him we have received the Spirit of God. Every sacrament He has given us either bestows, restores or increases the life of the Holy Spirit within us; and we may know and realize Him there more and more, if we will. Here again is matter in abundance for the practice of Lent.

For if we would learn to hearken and understand the Voice that speaks truly, yet not in words, we must cultivate the more unselfish prayer of thanksgiving and adoration; we must read and ponder what we read; we must meditate the life of our Lord, especially His Passion and Death; we must, if God so leads us "lift up bur hearts" to the heavens where dwells the Triune God in glorious harmony and incomparable beauty; we must catch in every created beauty suggestion of the Beauty increate; we must find His Voice in the pages bf Holy Writ, in the Church's liturgy, in obedience to authority we must seek Him in the silence of the soul, content to be with Him, even though He speak not nor make His Presence felt; we must be true to the suggestions and inspirations that come at such times, humbly obedient to them; we must not lose faith if they do not come, but work confidently by what light we have, begging His blessing and guidance. For the Holy Spirit will guide us, even in little things, if we trust Him more than we do ourselves: if we do our best and leave all in His Hands.

These things are of the very stuff of penance. To do them we must stand ready to deny self and to take up the cross. Charity will glow within us and spread like a flame to all about us. In the cross that God's Hand makes over us we learn to find His blessing.

- text from Lent in Practice: The Spirit of Penance, by Father John J Burke, C.S.P.; printed by "The Missionary Society of Saint Paul the Apostle in the State of New York"