Thursday, July 13, 2006

I have a confession to make

For a long time after my reversion to Catholicism, I was deeply skeptical of the whole "pray and God will show you His will and guide you" line, which, of course, crosses the lips of just about every devout Christian at least a few times over the course of a lifetime.

Since I very rarely heard of anyone actually literally hearing the voice of Christ whispering an answer into a supplicant's ear, I considered the "discernment" pursued in this manner to be quite possibly nothing more than a concentrated effort at morphing one's own preferences into the "will" of God, which could then be used as backup to defend one's decision.

For instance: "I really want to go to Ohio State University instead of Michigan State University, but it is an important matter, so I will take it to prayer." ::: Time passes ::: "Oh, how conveniently, I have decided that God wants me to go to OSU! Hurray!" This attitude I carried around says a lot about how I myself approached such "discernment" prayer, doesn't it. Blush.

It couldn't be farther from the truth, of course. If one asks the Holy Spirit humbly and truly openly, He will not fail to point out the right path. One musn't expect great signs like lightening bolts, angels carrying swords of flame and hails of locusts. And they really aren't necessary, if one is truly ready to accept whatever the Holy Spirit suggests. The locusts descended on Egypt only because the pharaoh was putting up some pretty stiff resistance to God's will.

These thoughts occurred to me due to something that happened to me tonight. There is Eucharistic Adoration at St. Mary's on Thursday nights for an hour, from seven to eight at night, and all this summer I have not been able to get over there for it, due to other issues. I have always loved Adoration - I go just about every week when I am in Athens - but today, when I was actually free to go, I seemed to be having some kind of block. I had, in fact, really planned on going tonight. I looked in the Sunday bulletin to check the time and place; it was definitely on my schedule.

But as the afternoon went on, I seemed to be developing, as I said, a block. I have had similar attacks of laziness with regard to my prayer life, especially the Rosary, but never with Mass, thank God. My mind wandered about trying to invent excuses for why I could not go to Adoration: It was too hot. I was too tired. I had too much to do. (What? Nap?) I spent the afternoon watching pointless but amusing early 90s syndicated television, and completely forgot about Adoration. Then, around 5 o'clock, it suddenly popped back into my head.

"Urgh," I thought to myself. "Too hot."

I wandered up to my room in a fog, put on a CD mix and lay down on my bed. The third song was Mother Angelica's nuns (of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery) singing their greatly treasured motto, "Adoremus in aeternum sanctissimum Sacramentum" - "Let us adore forever the most holy Sacrament." The nuns sing so beautifully that I put the song on repeat. As I lay there listening to the pretty music, it did not occur to me that possibly the Lord was banging me on the head with the song to suggest that I try to make it to Adoration. Nooo, His foolish little child is very thick about such things. Luckily He knows this and is very indulgent and patient with her.

I started to worry my old bone: My vocation. Where and how does He want me? Why am I so sure of His will one day and hesitant the next? Wringing of hands, wringing of hands. My mind drifted back to our parish's Monday night book club, when our associate pastor, Fr. Damian, mentioned that he had found his vocation while praying before the Blessed Sacrament. That brought to my mind all those countless people who have been converted to Catholicism simply by seeing or passing by the little white Host, so fragile and beautiful, held aloft in a monstrance or in the hands of a priest. I thought to myself, How wonderful the Real Presence is. I wish I could spend all my time with Him. And I felt my heart warm with that wonderful consolation of love.

Then, I remembered, all in a flash: Adoration! Tonight! It was 6:45. At this point my excuse would probably have been, "I'll be late." I sprang out of bed, threw on some nice clothes, and bolted out the door; I was actually just in time. And it was hot. And I was tired. And there are no kneelers in the chapel so we had to kneel on the floor for the better part of an hour. And it was absolutely wonderful.

And I have to say that I am both awed and amused by the lengths the Lord will go to in order to persuade me to do His will. I am not very far on the spiritual path and so it takes me a long time to catch on; He doesn't seem to mind repeating Himself over and over for my benefit, however. He is like a persistent suitor, who never forces Himself on His loved one but Who never stops wooing. I hope that as the years pass I will be able to respond with my "Yes" more and more readily and without the need for such a display of persistence on His part.

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