A man prays during eucharistic adoration at St. Matthew Church in Dix Hills, N.Y., Dec. 8, 2022. The service was celebrated in observance of the 33rd annual National Night of Prayer for Life, a four-hour vigil that begins at 9 p.m. Dec. 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, and ends Dec. 9, the day in 1531 when Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the unborn, first appeared to St. Juan Diego in Mexico. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)
Can we listen to God in the silence?
BY DEACON JAY W. VANHOOSIER, OFFICE OF FAITH FORMATION
For many Catholics, silent prayer can be rather difficult. Many are so used to reciting from the treasury of wonderful prayers handed down by Sacred Tradition, that it becomes difficult to not rely on them. We become dependent on them and lack ability to speak from the heart.
The great wisdom of Sacred Tradition gives a wonderful tool to help us speak to God in the silence of our hearts – repetition. Since the time of the Church Fathers, it has been known that the quiet repetition of a single word or phrase can help us to descend with the mind into the heart. This was not a new concept – even during the time of the Church Fathers. The practitioners of the great eastern religions have known this for a very long time with their use of mantras. This repetition has nothing to do with magic. It’s not meant to cast a spell on God or to force him into hearing us. Quite the opposite, a word or sentence repeated frequently can help us to concentrate, to focus, to create stillness within ourselves, and thereby listen to the voice of God.
When we simply try to sit silently and wait for God to speak to us, we find ourselves bombarded with endless conflicting thoughts and ideas. But when we use a very simple sentence such as “O God, come to my assistance,” or “Jesus, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner” or “Hail Mary, full of Grace…,” or a simple word such as “Lord” or “Jesus,” it is easier to let the many distractions pass by without being misled by them. Such a simple, easily repeated prayer can slowly empty out our cluttered and crowded inner-self, shut down all of the useless noise, and create the quiet space where we can dwell with God.
Dcn. Jay W. VanHoosier is the Director of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Owensboro. For more information visit owensborodiocese.org/faith-formation, email email@example.com or call (270) 852-8324.
Originally printed in the February 2023 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.