For some the teaching of the First Level Course will look as if it is focusing exclusively on the practice of Lectio Divina and the Prayer of the Heart (LD and PH). A further cause for concern may be that, initially, many may feel they do not have the time in their daily life to dedicate one hour to one and one hour or more to the other. People, being full of good will, can then become very frustrated and feel that they are failing God, by failing to implement two practices that seemed absolutely sound and stimulating in the course.
In the case of those who cannot initially find time (there might be many), I offer an important piece of advice and a “trick” to solve the problem. First it is important not to worry and not to panic because of the fact that one cannot find the time. Then I suggest that there is a powerful prayer we can say and if it is done with sincerity, an extremely powerful response on the Lord’s part could be released, namely,
“Dear Lord, I see the importance of the daily practice of Lectio Divina
and of the Prayer of the Heart,
but as you know I don’t have time, but please find me the time,
reorganise my life in order to reach this goal.”
In fact it is God’s part to help us at this stage. Our part is to open our eyes to see how he will do it. In the meantime we do what we can, with five, ten or fifteen minutes found here and there.
But let us say that for a while God does not do anything, for the simple reason that our duties cannot change. A mother of young children remains a mother of young children, her situation will not change that much for a few years. She might then feel very frustrated, disappointed, and maybe depressed by the fact that, on one hand she really earnestly wants to take time for Jesus only, and on the other hand she cannot because of her daily duties as a wife and mother. Here I would like to indicate some important ways on how to manage this time of our life, until, some greater windows of time can open up. Ironically what I am about to say will seem opposed to what the teaching in the Course advises.
The element of the “duties of the state” (devoir d’état) is a fundamental element. It is a strong, clear, immovable manifestation of God’s will for us. The duties of the said wife and mother are clear and evident, but Jesus calling her to follow Him at this stage of her life should not overwhelm unnecessarily, for He knows what He is doing perfectly well. Therefore a positive outcome can be entertained, with the possibility of following Him in this context of lack of time for intimate prayer.
It is undeniable that the obstacle of the lack of time during the day looks insurmountable, and this reminds me of what St Therese says about the horse. Celine her sister (Sister Genevieve) tells the story in her book Conseils et Souvenirs:
“All discouraged, and with a heavy heart because of a combat that looked unsurmountable I came to see her saying: This time it is impossible, I can’t rise above it!
– This doesn’t surprise me, she replied. We are too little to put ourselves above the difficulties, we need to cross them from underneath.
She reminded me of something that happened to us in our youth. We were at Alençon at some friend’s place; a horse was just in front of the entrance of the garden’s gate preventing us from entering. while other persons were searching for another access, our little friend [Therese Lehoux, who was seven, the age of Celine] easily found the solution of passing underneath the horse. She went first, extended her hand to me; I followed her taking with me Therese and without bowing too much our small bodies we reached the goal.
She concluded by saying: this is what we gain when we make the effort to be small. There are no obstacles for the small ones, they sneak everywhere. […]” (Conseils et Souvenirs, Sr Genevieve)
What seems an obstacle to us is the duties of our state, the difficulty to find some spare time in order to dedicate it to Jesus (LD and PH). This is the “horse”, standing in our way to Jesus in prayer. The good news is that if we are small, humble, accepting our place in life and our state, we can “sneak through” meaning we can find Jesus through the events of our day. Otherwise, we will not see through them, we will seek alternate means, and we will try to find a way in the midst of them, like the adults in the story, and we will get more and more frustrated, angry, and maybe in the end depressed, feeling that we have failed Jesus and that this is our fault. It can become a constant fight, generate great tension, and put our nerves on edge.
Rather the focus should be on Jesus who entered into the life of this young mother and called her when she was married and with children. So this is the actual frame-work of His Call for her. He knows that and He is capable of renewing her within this framework. In his wisdom He knows what suits her and us best.
In the Spiritual Life we cannot separate “the moments of prayer” from the moments of “daily life”. Why? During the moments of prayer we meet Jesus the individual, in an intimate way. He is the head of an immense body. The first people to pay attention to in this body are one’s husband, and one’s children i.e.: one’s family, one’s daily life. Then of course come neighbours, friends, more distant family… All these make up Jesus’ Body. But Jesus is One, the Head, the one we want to meet in our personal prayer-time while we meet his Body during the rest of the day. Jesus is the one we love, and Jesus cannot be split into two, or simply “beheaded”, with our keeping only the intimate Jesus and casting His Body aside. It is of utmost importance to find and love Jesus’ Body according to the new way of loving He is teaching us, to be led by Him. It is important to attend to the detail of His Presence in His Body… the beauty of meeting Him in His Body… through His Body… of loving Him in His Body.
What did Our Lady do? She too, was a wife, and a mother. She had her house to manage, her family to take care of. Yet – after Jesus – she had the deepest possible spiritual life on earth. Seen from outside, she led a very simple life, similar to millions and millions of other women. But hers was totally, totally different….
The “framework” is the same… but she was able to dedicate time to all her duties as well as find God in all her spare moments and be with Him. Let us invite her into our homes to teach us. Otherwise our spiritual life can be seriously jeopardised.
Jesus is really present throughout the day. Attention and care given to Him during the day in the persons we meet, in the different circumstances of the day, are a fundamental Spiritual Experience. All things considered, maybe this was not mentioned enough in the opening course (Initiation into Spiritual Life). However, in my view I felt this this would unbalance the course, because the said course not only encourages a full new attention to Christ, but it also provides the tools for achieving this. Admittedly I do not take ”exceptions” into consideration…. Maybe one could say that “exceptions” are the norm for many busy persons who come to the course. Maybe so,but still, in my humble view, the contents of the course should first and foremost provide the tools – bearing in mind that the first level course is not everything, it is only the starting point. So the “lesson” of this post is a continuation of the above-mentioned course.
Taking all this into consideration, we can conclude that it is important to remember that if we have a huge desire to find Jesus and follow him, He Himself has a desire that is thousands of times greater to find us and grab hold of us. Let us then, in all simplicity, allow him to find us and to draw us close to him. Let us leave Jesus and not us, to be in control of our spiritual life. Let us trust Jesus, humbly, totally, unconditionally, let us trust the one who called us, the one who knows all the details of our day, and the one who is hidden within each of these details, “playing” hide and seek with us.
“Lord Holy Spirit open my eyes so I can see Jesus within each event of my day,
open my eyes so I can notice the immense richness of each moment of my day,
make me understand that there is no lost time during the day,
important moments and less important moments.
Teach me O Lord how to leave God for God*.
Lord Jesus teaching me how to love at every moment of the day.”
I hope this helps…
* “Leave God for God” is an expression used by St Vincent de Paul, explaining to his daughters that when a poor person knocks at their door while they are praying, they should leave God (in the chapel) for God (who is knocking at the door).