A Spiritual Itinerary - Contemplation Hidden in the World

A reawakening to the spiritual life happened in my life just over three years ago. This was after a lull of nearly two decades in which I had been busy with my wife and children, and with my career. During the lull, I had maintained what seemed to be an outwardly reasonable religious compromise which included Sunday Mass. Then the call to union and holiness reawakened.

The thought “Where is God?” started to come frequently throughout the days and over months. Then I began an active seeking. This included a phase of imageless-mode meditation, a follow-up in part to some of my readings on Zen as well as a memory of a personal experience of over three decades ago – an experience of a wondrous union with nature. So coming into a fresh experience of spectator-consciousness and being more aware of the ego, both individual and corporate was appreciated.

But I was being called, and also reminded of my conversion experience and baptism in the Spirit in my early twenties. These experiences had initiated about a decade and a half of walking in faith in the context of the Catholic charismatic renewal. That period had also included a three year test try in a seminary, a 15,000 km hitch-hiking faith pilgrimage visiting new Christian communities, and a year of youth evangelism.

So I was drawn to return again to prayer, and to seek union in love with the Blessed Trinity. I asked God to help me make up for lost time. I tried Christian meditation using the mantra “maranatha” for a while, and found I was very good at snoozing during the half-hour sessions. Hunger for the Word brought me to reopen my collection of Bibles and those ever-so-practical pocket New Testaments with Psalms. Soon there was fresh underlining, occasional ‘elans d’amour’, and almost always a New Testament carried in my pocket.

Along with affective prayer and periods of quiet listening-in-poverty, I sought to ‘pray without ceasing’ throughout the day, to walk and talk with the Lord in friendship. Praying in tongues came back, and is now quite effective while walking and driving. (I did try repetition of ‘maranatha’ in the same circumstances, but in comparison it seemed not as strong, and almost too mechanical.) Starting about two years ago, noon Mass nearby to my office began to draw me like a magnet, and I seek the Eucharist even when my work takes me to various cities between the two coasts. 

As union in love is the goal, I try to walk in love more and more. Walking in the Spirit means walking in love. Concretely, in the context of family life, this calls forth humility, and reveals my own poverty and imperfections. At the same time it brings new meaning and quality to all those simple household chores and services rendered in daily family life. It is good to have those words of direction ‘deny yourself, take up your cross, and come follow me’, and “unless a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die...”

About two years ago, I started experiencing periods of infused light and love that would lift up my mind and heart to God. These occur occasionally while praying Scripture, but more usually at almost random times in the day – even once while doing Christmas shopping with my wife (I hate shopping, but do it to be company), or upon waking up. Once, while taking a shower, I asked for a renewal of the graces of Baptism. This soon turned into an onrush of tears and sobbing before the mystery of God’s unconditional love. Several other times there have been ‘visions in the night’. These have been quite vivid in a seemingly half awake state. In one of them, I was in Christ, and He was in me, and with a host of other younger ones, was bringing the good news of the kingdom of God all over.  At the same time we were simply walking in God’s love ‘through, with, in, and for Him”. ‘Pati divina’ is the term that I think best explains for me the infusions of God’s love for others that occur from time to time. This happens sometimes on the bus, at the gym, at meetings, at Church, or walking on the sidewalk. I am simply drawn to pray for certain people and families whom I see through eyes of love. Often I give them to the Blessed Virgin Mary, or consecrate them to God through her immaculate heart. She is like my partner in this. I have prayed for maybe a thousand persons in this way – a hidden ministry.

I remain an anonymous parishioner in our large mission-less parish. Sometimes I join in the suffering of Christ when his flock is fed stones in homilies instead of bread. Many times over the years during such sermons I have experienced on an interior track the Word burning in my heart with wonderful insights.  As for engagement in some active ministry, it seems not yet God’s time.  Although I yearn to be involved in apostolic mission and be fruitful for the Kingdom, there seems to be no clear point of entry available anywhere yet. Better to seek and do the will of God (when and how He desires) than to create your own activist agenda. As time is at a premium in my yet busy life, the present phase is like Nazareth – a hidden growing in contemplation and love.  I have not found a spiritual mentor or director yet, but am not disheartened, as I know whose hand I have clasped in faith. And I have the hope that, as seen in the life of Therese of Lisieux, it is possible to be drawn along by love fairly swiftly through the nights along the way.