Friday, December 6, 2013

Mother Cabrini: What it Means to Pray Always

Pray, pray always, and ask unceasingly for the spirit of prayer. What is the spirit of prayer? It means praying according to the Spirit of Jesus, in Jesus and with Jesus. The spirit of prayer means praying in accordance with the divine good pleasure, willing only what God wills. It means that we have our minds fixed on prayer at all times, in all places, working, walking, eating, speaking, suffering; habitually and always.” 
                                                                      --  Mother Cabrini

This is why Mother Cabrini is a saint, and I'm not.  She sees through the eyes of Jesus, I see through mine.  

I struggle with my prayer life.  Like many, I make the mistake of fitting it into my day instead of building my day around prayer, around Jesus. I focus on to-do lists, goals, and responsibilities--the end instead of the means. (And not even the true, important end, either.)  I rush through my Examen and promise to give it my full attention tomorrow. I put off my Rosary. Why? 

We live in an attention deficit world, where we've mistaken more for better.  I'm aware of this every time I see a mother walking with her child but ignoring this special time to talk on the phone.  How many times do I fly through a task without focusing on what I'm doing? That would be most of the time.  

In an article about Mother Cabrini, A Missionary for Our Times by David Lynch, I was struck by the this phrase: 

All of Mother’s missionary activity was carried on in an un-hurried manner. In the midst of her whirlwind activities she maintained her recollection in the presence of God.

The contrast of her un-hurried manner and her whirlwind activities is the ultimate paradox. When we are present with God, we get more done. I think it's because he has a lot for us to do, if we'd only listen to him. 

I know I don't listen because I'm  usually focused on me, not Jesus. What's the difference?  When I'm concerned with my will, then I get angry when things don't go right. My activity ceases, or at least slows down while I rant or figure out how to make things work out in the way I want.  When I'm concerned with doing God's will, I don't get angry when situations don't meet my expectations because I understand that this mess, this mistake in my world may be exactly where God wants me to be. And then I can look for the opportunities.  

In fact, Mother took it a step farther. (From the same article.) 

One of the Sisters once asked Mother what to do when her prayers were not answered. “Do?” Mother replied, “Thank God all the more!” At such times she herself would say, “I thank Thee, dear Jesus, that Thy will and not mine has been done.”

I think what Mother Cabrini is referring to is the art of being present. She's not the first to talk about it. Brother Lawrence's letters are compiled into the book Practicing the Presence of God. St. Ignatius of Loyola's retreat leads us into this same state of being. 

My husband and my father are the examples I look to when I want to remember how to be present. When either of them is working on something, that something has their full attention. Their head isn't someplace else thinking about the grocery list or writing thank you notes. 

It's hard. It's really hard. But I think it would be amazing to get to that state of mind. Don't you? 

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