When I was in college, I would sometimes call my high school religion teacher just to talk. We would cover a multitude of topics—academic pressures, dorm life, family, spiritual stuff, etc.—but it was mostly me just complaining about how hard my life was while he patiently listened and offered spiritual counsel. During the winter break of my senior year, I went to go see him and he gave me a tour of his rectory—he was a priest—which included a visit to his personal chapel next to the bedroom. Right there, next to the prie-dieu kneeler and before the tabernacle, was the telephone. He had been talking to me on the phone, on his knees, before the Blessed Sacrament.
That experience humbled me a lot and unleashed in me a deep desire to be a man of prayer myself. I went back to college that last semester and literally went into my inner room (the bathroom) and closed the door (cf. Matthew 6:6) while my roommate was sleeping. I had no idea what I was doing in there and it was somewhat embarrassing as I asked myself, “What if someone catches me?” Nevertheless, the Spirit kept pushing me to spend time in that sacred (literally “set apart”) place every single night, as the stability of those four walls served as an operating table for the Divine Physician to work on my conversion. The layers of fear, anxiety, worry, and doubt gradually began to be peeled away, which enabled me to feel close to the One whom my heart loves (Song of Songs 3:1), who had been awaiting my return for years.
In an age of mindfulness and self-help programs and various kinds of meditation—all of which are in themselves good—it can be very easy to lose sight of the central role of prayer in our life as Christians. Beneath all of the fancy techniques and trends, we are simply called, by Jesus himself, to go off to a place of solitude (Mark 1:35), to approach our heavenly Father (Matthew 6:1), to kneel down in prayer (Luke 22:41), and to speak with the Lord (Matthew 26:39, 42, 44).
What will it take to unleash this desire in us? How much longer will we be contented to live at the surface? Where else will our searching and restless hearts find true peace? We too shall live into our baptismal priestly identity—like my religion teacher—in imitation of Christ our great High Priest, as we spend our nights offering up intentions and loved ones to the Lord in a sacrifice of praise.
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