Father Richard writes about the transformation that prayer can make in our lives. We begin living from a deeper self, united in God:
When we live from our true self in God, religion is not about requirements; it’s about relationship, the quality and capacity of our relatedness to God and others. The essential self can say prayers, but this true self also is a prayer. Just by being, just by walking from here to there, it is a prayer. That’s why Paul can say something like pray always (1 Thessalonians 5:17). He can’t mean that we should walk around saying “Our Fathers” all day! But we can pray always when we live in conscious union with God. The surprise for most of us is that this place of relationship with God is really not about being perfect. The self in God will still make mistakes, but it lives from a center other than its own. It’s hard to get a feel for this until we’ve met a centered person, someone grounded and in union with God.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say that we have to have met a saint. My definition of Christianity at one time was that a Christian is someone who’s met one, because this whole thing is contagious! When we meet a person of a certain quality of maturity, we too can become more mature. We meet a patient person and we learn how to be patient. We meet a loving person and we learn how to be loving. That’s the way human beings operate. When we meet a really grounded, happy, and free person, we become more like that because we’ll be satisfied with nothing less. This whole thing, our faith, spreads through and by the quality of our relationships.
In prayer, it is possible to experience that quality of relationship with God. In that place, we know we’re not being manipulated, we’re not being used, we’re not being judged, we’re not being evaluated. Who wouldn’t want to go there? It’s the place of ultimate freedom. It’s the state that every one of us wants to live in. That’s why we tell people to go pray for some set time each day, because when we do, we slowly learn to live in this place. We become a reflection of our own experience. We ourselves become our best teacher—yet it is the Spirit (see Romans 8:16). God rubs off on us. It’s almost that simple. I don’t know any other way to say it.
I want to say as strongly as I can that all of the elements and practices of religion—the Bible, sacraments, priesthood, churches, the rosary, contemplative sit, everything—is to help us experience this essential and united self. Pure and simple. That’s all. If our religion doesn’t help us experience this undefended and beloved self, then change it, get rid of it, or do something very different.
Explore Further. . .
- Read Richard, Cynthia Bourgeault, and Thomas Merton on the “True Self.”
- Learn more about this year’s theme Nothing Stands Alone.
- Meet the team behind the Daily Meditations.
Image credit: Barbara Holmes, Untitled 14 & 21 (detail), 2021, photograph, United States, used with permission. Abel Marquez, Lady Praying, 2020 (detail), photograph, free use. Jenna Keiper and Leslye Colvin, 2021, triptych art, United States.
The creative team at CAC sent a single-use camera to core teacher Dr. Barbara Holmes as part of an exploration into contemplative photography. Her photos are featured here together with other images in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story.
Image inspiration: Sometimes we don’t have the energy to climb the stairs or jump off the dock. Wherever we are in this moment: in community, in solitude, in joy, in sorrow, with motivation or with great exhaustion… God meets us here.
Story from Our Community:
I twice experienced the absolute love and presence of God holding me, embracing me, and piercing divine love down to the bone. Soon after I was brought to wordless prayer. Since then prayer has become a quiet, interior sitting in Presence that invites joy. Despite the pain and struggles of life, this aliveness in the Spirit has been like the pool of living water.
Prayer for our community:
God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough, because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.