Day 2, reflections
Awake at 4:15 this morning (still on Eastern Time). No going back to sleep, and with my choir already starting Matins, I got up for my rule of prayer.
Attended Mass with the other retreatants. The Catholic Mass can be beautiful, even when done with spare simplicity, as it is here. (I can’t abide, however, some Catholic casualness, like sitting through parts of the Anaphora, and I had to stand up.) There was one interesting departure from standard Catholic practice: after the Scripture reading, we were invited to turn to our neighbor and say, briefly, what had struck us most from the readings. They had read from Acts, 11.19-26, about the founding of the church in Antioch (“where the disciples were first called Christians”), and I was struck by the disciples who went to Antioch and dared to preach to the Gentiles, thus violating the the early Church’s expectations and practice of preaching only to the Jews. I noted how God blessed their efforts, even though they disregarded the boundaries, went outside the “safe zone” and preached to people who “aren’t like us.” Perhaps this was a word for the man sitting next to me. He was struck by the description of Barnabas being “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.” Perhaps this was a word for me? The recollection of it certainly stayed with me all day.
Arranged to see Fr F. Kelley Nemeck after lunch for spiritual direction. He suggested that, for my time here, I pick one book out of the Scriptures, whichever appeals to me, for spiritual reading. Read it whenever it strikes me to read it, and for however long, then put it down again. But read it without purpose or agenda, not looking to find something in particular in the text, but to read it simply, as Eli told Samuel to respond, “Speak, Lord, your listening servant.” Leave God free to speak through His Word, or not.
He also suggested I pray three times a day, for an hour at a time, simply listening to God. The Jesus Prayer is okay for this. (As Fr Zachariah says, simply to “present myself before the Lord.”) But don’t read Scripture during prayer time.
I had asked him about hearing Confessions, or listening to people who come to me for counsel. He says it isn’t always necessary to answer. If God doesn’t give us a word, that’s okay (note that Fr Kelley implies that it is God who answers, not us). Listening, and listening well, is very important. It’s also important not to fill all the time with talk: let the silence be. (We shouldn’t be too quick to speak because we can’t stand the silence ourselves; this may take some work on our part.) The silence is important because it leave the other person free (by not imposing our words, or worse, our preferences, opinions or agenda) on him/her, and it also leaves God free to speak, both to the other and to me, if He chooses.
In all that Fr Kelley said, the common theme was not to impose my own agenda or assert my will when I go to encounter God or my neighbor, but rather to leave both God and neighbor free when we meet.