Wednesday, October 14, 2009



The following is my translation of a page from a book on prayer by Cardinal C. M. Martini.

Let our dialogue with God be without presumption, free of everything we think we know very well. We have to enter into prayer as poor people, not as millionaires. Each time we put ourselves in God’s presence let us do so as poor people. Otherwise our prayer suffers, it becomes heavier, and we are beset by distractions. Yes, to put ourselves in God’s presence requires a state of true poverty, of dispossession, of absence of pretension: “Lord, I am not able to pray, but if you just allow me to stand before you in aridity, that’s fine with me. I will bless that waiting, because you are too great for me to comprehend. You are the Immense, the Infinite, the Eternal; how could I ever address myself to you?” Such is the climate of the psalms, models of true prayer, which we must then interiorize. (C. M. Martini’s Je te cherche dès l’aube, p. 12)


My problem isn’t that I don’t know how to pray (though I don’t!) but rather that I don’t know how to be needy, ignorant, weak, finite, totally dependent and empty. I don’t want to be any of those things. I want to show up at prayer the way I show up for most other encounters in life, with my intellectual power, my force of personality, and so on. I want to show up for prayer on my terms.

The unfortunate truth, though, is that it is precisely at those times I’m not in control of a situation, when my own powers are not enough, when I'm most vulnerable and weak, that the Spirit has most clearly come into my life as a life-giving presence.


During Lauds this morning as my back pain forced me to sit down while my brothers stood to sing the Benedictus I was aware once again of the presence of my fellow-sufferers, all the members of the “Benedictus Club” (blog Sept. 26, 2009), both those I know and those whom I’ll never meet. And I had to admit that this suffering is certainly hollowing me out a little, and making it easier to show up for prayer a little less full of myself, a little bit more empty-handed.

So what if I wince now and then while I'm singing the Benedictus!

.....................................Cloister, Saint Trophime, Arles

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