Saturday, August 18, 2012


More Lessons From Sophomores
It’s funny how these things happen. It began with last week’s blog post in which I noted that my thinking back over my life involved “people, people, people.” Relationships have been God’s chief way of blessing me. Then over the past couple of days I’ve been opening cards and emails wishing me a happy birthday. The ones from relatives and dear friends were sincere expressions of love and affection, and were a real treat, the original “soul food.” 

Finally, yesterday (Friday) I started a unit on “Prayer” with my class on “the Wisdom of St. Benedict.” I divided the kids into five groups of four each and asked them to quickly write a list of things they think PRAYER is. When the five lists went up on the blackboard I was really surprised. One item that appeared on four of the five lists was “relationship,” “a way of relating with God.” 

I have no idea where they picked up that notion, but it was there, and far more often than “talking to God” or “asking God for stuff,” and the other items that you’d expect from high school sophomores and juniors. Could it be that they picked it up from church? Or their grandmothers? Or maybe our school’s daily prayer services? Or from watching and listening to the monks? In any case I was tickled to see “relationship” appear on almost every list describing what prayer is.

"Safe" Prayer?

Then last evening I started making the connection between the personal relationships in my life, many of them very beautiful and rewarding, and the Lord’s constant invitation to me to enter into a relationship with Him. This invitation is scary, of course. Others who love me respect my monastic commitment, my celibate way of life, and the restrictions on my time. So these relationships are safe, they have boundaries. Not so with God.

Last night at recreation Fr. Edwin recalled the time he was chatting with Fr. Mark and saying “I’m not sure what God wants.” Fr. Mark had replied “Last time I looked, it was EVERYTHING.” That’s why my prayer, reflecting my relationship with God, is so dull much of the time: I play things cautiously with God. Real prayer is too darn risky! God knows no boundaries, no limits. Get too close to Jesus and you could lose everything.

I think I’ve said this in another post, that I’m always gratified when I read some spiritual writer who notes that his or her human relationships are more intense and rewarding than the one with God. Phew! Then I’m not the only one!

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