O.C.D.S. Conference, March, 16,1993. Fr. William Healy
The reason, again, that we insist on the half-hour of personal prayer, is because you are what you think! As it is said in the Gospel, "As a man thinks, so he is..."
In this personal contact that you have with God, you're going to be open, honest, and sincere. You don't give him pious thoughts. You tell him about yourself-your joys, your sorrows, and the people who are depending upon you for prayers. That's why St. Teresa could honestly say, "It [prayer] is a conversation with God."
[To illustrate] the fact that you are what you think you are...in the little magazine called, Carmel, which the Irish Fathers put out, I have found two examples. The one is from Anthony DeMillo, who said:
A farmer came across the egg of an eagle, and put the egg in a hen's nest-a chicken. The egg hatched, and the bird accustomed itself to all the habits of the chicken- hardly able to fly, taking its steps on the earth. Years passed, and in its old age it looked up and saw a magnificent eagle soaring against the heavens, and asked the hen, "What is that?" The hen answered, "That is the eagle-the biggest of all flying birds. We are birds of the earth; they are the birds of the heavens. That's why they fly as beautifully as they do."
So, St. John of the Cross turns to you...recognize what God has done, what God is doing, and what God wants to do for you.
We always call John, "The Doctor of Mystical Theology," and so he is, but the correct term (and this will frighten you!) is, the Doctor of Love! You'll say, "with all the things, the darkness he asks you to face, with all the emphasis on nothing, how can you say that he is the Doctor of Love?"
The reason is (follow this closely-because, as you read John, it permeates everything he's written), God is Love-personified. In His love, from all eternity, he planned your coming on this earth (even as I must apply this [idea] to myself). God, who is Love, personified, if I may use the expression, looked forward to your coming on this earth. Your parents rejoiced when you were born-you were the incarnation of their mutual love, but their rejoicing was nothing more, and could not even compare with the love God had at the words, "You come forth..." He knew you by name before they did. They brought you forth for time; He brought you forth for eternity. His interest in you has been personified or shown by the fact that your fingerprints differ, one from the other. there are no two fingerprints, people, alike, to show you're unique and you're singular.
The first part of your thinking is to remember that from God you came, and to God you belong-for He's within you at every moment of your life. That's why you're asked to practice the presence of God, and to realize the close relationship you have with Him in joy and sorrow, success or failure, in recreation and tribulation. He's there, but He will not force Himself on you. You must give Him the invitation.
Thirdly, when the pilgrimage of life is over, it is God who will recall every moment you gave Him, or, as I tell Anne, as she takes me to the bus terminal- "I believe you are rewarded for every turn of the four wheels (and I do believe that), because it is an act of charity (I don't know what the rest of you think!), but anyway...to get back to the point, then...
Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote a short story on the Great Stone Face-you must remember this from high school. [It is] the story of a town separated by mountains from the rest of humanity, you might say. On the one part of this mountain there was a great stone which looked like a human face, and the natives believed that, sometime, someone would come who resembled the face, and would be able to enrich, mentally, physically, spiritually, the whole village or town.
There was a young boy who was fascinated by the story, and every evening he would look at this face and study it. Then he would do what he believed that the man whose face resembled the stone-or the stone face-what he believed the individual would do. When he was was well advanced in years,one day all of the villagers came to him and they said, "You are the fulfillment of the prophecy of the Great Stone Face, for what you have done for us cannot be measured in dollars and cents."
In your mental prayer you look upon the face of Jesus Christ, and study that Face-the Face of Love as you were brought into existence; the Face of Providence, as it comes to you in the Host; and the Face of a friend, when you stand in Eternity.
So, John emphasizes these points. [What about] the negative points? As I used the example before, it is like when two people fall in love with each other. No sacrifice is too great. They're trying to prove, over and over again, how much they love one another: the purchasing of the ring, the self-sacrifice of one [for the other]. That's why he's called the Doctor of Love. You, as you fulfill your vocation, and I as I fulfill mine, try to return [Christ's self-sacrifice], little by little, day by day, in love: what we call the mortification, the dryness you might experience in prayer, the misunderstandings, inseparable from human life. To look upon suffering for suffering sake is masochism, and no one condemns it more than John, but through all his poetry; throughout all his writings, its the end and aim for Whom you are doing these thing, and why you are doing these things [that is stressed].
The Little Flower never bothered about, "What degree of prayer am I in,"or "What visions I would have." Her whole attitude was, "Whatever I'm doing, God, I'm doing with you and for you. From the age of three, I have never refused you anything, but I leave the results in your love, and look for no reward, except to praise you."
Again, to learn of St. John's method of going to God...there was a young medical student, his name was Dr. Larson. He decided to become a psychiatrist. So, after three years of medical studies, he found himself in the class that was going to start teaching him psychiatry. As soon as the professor looked at him, he glared. He said, "You're a religious man, aren't you?" He [Larson] said, "Yes, I hope so." He [the professor] said, "Then you have no place in this classroom. Religion and psychiatry do not go together!"
So, I applied, he [Larson] continued, to Dr. William Wilson of Duke University. I told him I was intending on becoming a psychiatrist, and I also quoted what was said, that religion and psychiatry do not go together. The answer he [Larson] received was, "They must go together. So much depends upon the faith of the client, and we have to bring out that union with God in order to have a recovery, because there are so many things we cannot explain or face without the knowledge of the love of the Divinity. So, I became the psychiatrist [Larson continued].
The psychiatrist in approaching the client, and the client [approaching] the psychiatrist you'll find dealt within the letters of St. John of the cross. Look at them closely, and you'll find these degrees: number one-there must be a communication, a real communication, so that the psychiatrist or the teacher and the pupil are absolutely open to one another. Second is that there must be a care, that the one is really concerned and interested in the other, and the third one is-there must be understanding. By that I mean, the one has to go inside the other-to face life as the other person does, and respond to life as the other person does. That's what you are to do in prayer-to be open to God, to be real to God, and to express yourself as only you can do, with your temperament, personality, and character. Not to give Him the thoughts of another, but your thoughts, honestly and directly, and to tell Him that you do care about the relationship between yourself and Him.
The reason, then, that you are to look at the Bible, or study the Great Stone Face of Jesus Christ, is so that you might enter in there and look at life as He does, and at yourself as He does-not to condemn, but to assist you. You don't have to question the [love] of the other part, the Divinity, for God knows you inside and out. He just wants you top reveal yourself to Him, and everything [He does] about you, as far as God is concerned, is motivated by Love.
It isn't a selfish spirituality, but every person you meet was made unto the image and likeness of God. Every person you meet has His presence, His individual interest, whether that interest of God is acknowledged or not [by theperson]. As the little book, The Imitation [of Christ]... puts it, "Man judges by the exterior, but God judges by the interior." As a Carmelite, you look inside, and every person is a real or potential active temple of the Holy Spirit. That's what you are looking for.
Finally (I love to say that-see, there's an end in sight!).. I believe her name is Joanne Ward. She writes this:
When I was in high School, i wanted to be the best. The best of everything,studies, sports, all. It all began in the fifth grade, when I heard that the one with the highest marks in the graduating class would receive a hundred dollars. I was determined to get the hundred dollars, and I did. In high school, I worked and worked, and I was the best. I received a job on station KOOL (not the cigarette-that's the name of the t.v. station) to be the first woman newscaster in Phoenix Arizona. I succeeded, and then I was called to New York by CBS to work on Night Watch. I married. My mornings wee spent giving conferences to newscasters. I had very little time for my husband. He said, " We must go away together for a week, just to be by ourselves."
While we were there, the phone kept ringing from CBS asking me, this, that, and the other question. Finally, my husband said, " I thought we were going to be here by ourselves, and she said-don't you see that my work is the most all important thing, and he said, I thought we were, and it ended in divorce
Little by little, the ratings went down and on one of her walks she entered St Patrick's Cathedral, and asked God to show her where she should go and what she should do. The answer came-go back to Phoenix-which she did. Oh, she got a position there-it wasn't as highly paid as the former one.
One day, however, she took a walk down the mall of Phoenix, and she passed a theater with the placard on scenes from Theresa of Calcutta. She went in to see the play. She admired the peace, the joy, the serenity of Theresa's face, as she said, "This is another Jesus. Jesus is here. How privileged I am to serve Jesus in serving others."
So, I joined the St. Vincent DePaul society. What a joy it was to pass out clothing, and I can still see the facial expression of one man to whom I was able to give a size thirteen pair of shoes so he could work. Finally, I adopted a child from the orphanage of St. Theresa of Calcutta. I have learned from here that every person is in the image of Christ, and what we do for others we do for Him.
Isn't that what your prayer life is all about? Whether you're thinking about the Great Stone Face, or you're thinking about the poor eagle [ or us] who never knew how great it was when the power of God gets sustained from day to day.
I just read somewhere I Ohio there was farmer who had a very dilapidated house- a barn that was ready to fall apart-and he dressed like a beggar. He died. So, the state decided that they were going to build a highway through his property, and in digging and making the highway, they came across milk cans filled with money-a million dollars. We say, "What a pitiful sight," or we might say, "What a foolish man."
Here's where you come in in your prayer life-you have an all-powerful, all- merciful, and loving God in the depths of your own person, and when it seems to you that you're weak, and you have nothing to give Him...give Him your confidence; give Him your care; give Him your understanding...and God gives himself, in time and in Eternity.
This transcript is Copyright, 2001, OCDS Community, Columbus, Ohio.