If you are looking for my blog titled, The Contemplative Catholic Convert, you are at the right spot.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Cell Phones and God

This appears in my second book, Lessons Along the Journey.

The choice of the time and duration of the prayer arises from a determined will . . . One does not undertake contemplative prayer only when one has the time: one makes time for the Lord. – Catechism of the Catholic Church (2710)

            I thought my wife was joking when she suggested I leave the cell phone in the car. Why would I want to leave my lifeline behind for two hours? What if someone wants to get hold of me?

            But I could tell by her look she wasn't kidding. So, I sighed and slid the phone into its car cradle. I didn't know it then, but God had been trying to get hold of me for quite some time, and all He'd been getting was a busy signal.

            The St. Edmund's Sunset Cruise and Evening of Reflection along the shores of Mystic, Connecticut, was not like any dinner cruise we’d experienced in the past. For example, when Nancy and I lived in San Diego, we took periodic tours around the harbor while we savored sumptuous three-course meals, listened to soft dinner music, and enjoyed colorful city lights along the shore. In contrast, the St. Edmund's Cruise provided a choice of ham, turkey or tuna sandwiches, a bag of chips and chocolate brownie. Acappella hymns replaced smooth-jazz dinner music. An orange-red sun melting behind clouds on the horizon took the place of city lights around the San Diego harbor.

            Thirty minutes into our cruise, the captain cut the engines and hoisted the sails. That's when Father Tom Hoar, Director of St Edmund's Retreat, stood at the bow of the schooner, read Scripture, and reminded us of our part in God's Creation. “Just as we can see God's beauty in nature before us,” he said, “we need to learn to see God's image and beauty in each other.”

            As he continued his instruction, I was glad I'd left the phone in the car. It's hard to hear from God when I'm waiting to hear from someone else.

            I met Father Tom a few days later over coffee. He said to me, "People sometimes arrive onboard with broken spirits. The cruise offers a time to discover, or to rediscover, the mercy and power of God in their lives.” The Evening of Reflection Cruise “offers people an opportunity to quiet down for a few hours. And besides," he added, "it's just a pleasant and emotionally aesthetic experience. So, if you can bring prayer into that, then you hope people will find other ordinary ways to bring God into their lives."

            He sipped his decaf and added, "You see all this stuff on TV, or go to bookstores and you see all this pop spirituality, and a lot of it is self-help claptrap. And really, the message is very simple: God created us. God loves us. He loves us so much that He gave Christ to redeem us. And God is available to each of us."

            I mused over that thought for a while: God loves us, and He is available to each of us. And while musing, I yearned for a quiet place of my own, a place where I could reflect on God’s goodness and meditate on His love.

            I found that place at home a little later. It was by the window in a small corner of our guest room. I converted the space into a type of prayer closet, sectioned off from the rest of the area with a screen. I hung a crucifix on the wall opposite my rocker to remind my of my Savior’s sacrifice. It is there that I quiet myself with my Lord an hour earlier than I would otherwise awaken. It’s where I meet Him again in the evening before I go to sleep.

            I’m glad I listened to Nancy and left the cell phone in the car that summer evening. Doing so taught me the value of leaving distractions behind so I might enter quietly, meditatively, into God’s presence.

            It is only there, in His presence, can anyone find rest.

God cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence.  – Mother Teresa

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