Spending time in prayer talking with Jesus is an end to itself, but it is also necessary if we are going to perform works of mercy. Cardinal Angelo Comastri tells a remarkable story about meeting Mother Theresa that illustrates the intimate connection between a rich prayer life and a fruitful active life.
As a young priest, Father Comastri went to the Missionaries of Charity to see Mother Theresa, but was told that Mother was busy and couldn’t see anyone. Anxious to meet the great saint, Father Comatrsi persisted in asking for her, until at last Mother Theresa came. He asked for her prayers, and she said she would pray for him; then she asked him how often he prayed. He explained that he offered holy mass and prayed the Breviary and the Rosary each day. Mother told him that was not enough, because “love demands the maximum.”
Father Comastri was surprised, and said he would have guessed the Mother would have asked him what acts of charity he did. Mother Theresa said to him, “Do you think that I could practice charity if I did not ask Jesus every day to fill my heart with love? Do you think that I could go through the streets looking for the poor if Jesus did not communicate the fire of His charity to my heart?” (1)
To hear Jesus, for our prayer to be a dialogue, we have to still our hearts and listen attentively for His voice. Jesus told Saint Faustina, “Strive for a life of recollection so that you can hear My voice, because My voice is so soft that only recollected souls can hear it.” (Diary, 1779).
What is a life of recollection? Saint Teresa of Avila described recollection as “an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us. Speak with Him as a father, or a brother, or a lord, or as with a spouse… This prayer is called ‘recollection,’ because the soul collects its faculties together and enters within itself to be with its God. And its divine Master comes more quickly to teach it and give it the prayer of quiet than He would through any other method He might use.” (3)
It is helpful to adopt the appropriate reverence when speaking to our Creator, but what’s so amazing is that in talking to Jesus, we are also speaking to a man like us. John writes that Jesus “did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He Himself understood it well.” (John 2:25) Later in John’s gospel Jesus tells his disciples, “You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from My Father.” (John 15:14-15)
Remembering that Jesus shares in our humanity and invites us to be His friend can have a transformative effect on our prayer. Saint Teresa writes, “The soul can place itself in the presence of Christ and grow accustomed to being inflamed with love for His sacred humanity. It can keep Him ever present and speak with Him, asking for its needs and complaining of its labors, being glad with Him in its enjoyments and not forgetting Him because of them, trying to speak to Him not through written prayers but with words that conform to its desires and needs. This is an excellent way of making progress, and in a very short time.” (3)
(1) This story is recounted in Robert Cardinal Sarah’s compelling reflections on The Power of Silence, page 47.
(2) Ralph Martin, The Fulfillment of All Desire: A Guidebook for the Journey to God based on the Wisdom of the Saints. Stubenville, OH: Emmaus Road Publishing (2006). p. 128.
(3) Ralph Martin, p. 129.
Image: Teresa of Avila (downloaded from Wikipedia Commons).