The Contemplative Life

Dear Parishioners,

There are some who think there is no place for the contemplative life in Christianity.  Quiet, interior prayer is an aberration.  To be a Christian, they would say, means to serve our brothers and sisters.  Jesus did remark, after all, "whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me" (Matthew 25:31-46).  When we are just praying like monks, we are not serving anyone.  Hence, there is no room for recollected prayer.  That takes us away from the mission of Christ.  Such is the claim.

I brought up this argument in my first talk on prayer a couple weeks ago.  There are many flaws in that argument; many ways to rebut it.  The Transfiguration, which we read about this weekend, is one such way.

Jesus climbs Mount Tabor with his apostles, Peter, James and John (the three whom he will take apart with him in the Garden of Gethsemane). He is elevated and experiences a mystical encounter with Moses and Elijah.

Yes, Moses represents the Law and Elijah represents the Prophets, but they also both represent interior, contemplative prayer.  Moses for 40 days was on Mount Sinai, communing silently with God.  He was immersed in a sort of luminous cloud, which the Hebrews called the shekinah.  When Moses comes down the mountain after 40 days, his countenance is changed.

Elijah for 40 days was on Mount Horeb (notice the 40 day connection to Lent, by the way?).  He was immersed in "sheer silence." He encounters God.

Both Moses and Elijah, from their time in prayer, are able to fulfill their missions.  Moses goes down and gives the 10 commandments; Elijah goes down and anoints a king of Israel as well as his successor, Elisha the prophet.

Jesus fits right in with these prayerful figures.  Prayer is, indeed, a hallmark to the Christian life.  It does not take away from our work in the world, but supports it.  The Transfiguration is proof of this.

A group of parishioners and I will be attending this Monday night a listening session regarding the Church abuse crisis with Cardinal Cupich and Bishop Bartosic.  Thank you to all those who attended our own listening session a few weeks back.

This Tuesday, March 19th at 7pm in the chapel is the third installment of my Prayer Series.  If you missed last week, you can still attend.  We have also posted the talks online.  I went through a brief history of spirituality and covered a few more 'methods of prayer.'

A quick update on the Annual Catholic Appeal: gifts received during the Commitment Weekend, which we did a few weekends ago, have arrived at the Archdiocese Gift Processing Center and will be processed and acknowledged in the next few weeks. We do not yet have a count for the funds raised from our parish.  If you have not yet sent in your pledge for the Catholic Appeal, please consider doing so. There are envelopes in the church.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day! Those who are marching in the Northwest Side Irish Parade, enjoy yourselves!  Also, happy Saint Joseph's Day! (I always feel bad for St. Cyril of Jerusalem, whose feast day is March 18th—wedged in between these two towering saints—so, I guess we'll be inclusive and also say, "Happy Saint Cyril of Jerusalem's Day!") To all you fathers out there and all you holy and just men, pray to Joseph, the foster father of Jesus and your patron saint, that he may continue to bless and guide you.  Our society needs more holy men and fathers now more than ever!  Don't be afraid to pray either.  Remember, Jesus, Moses and Elijah—all strong men—were no stranger to prayer.

And know of my prayers, gratitude, and support for all of you.

Yours in Christ,

Fr. James

back to top