It is necessary to leave our inner turmoil in order to find God. Despite agitation, the busyness, the easy pleasures, God remains silently present. He is in us like a thought, a word, and a presence whose secret sources are buried in God himself, inaccessible to human inspection. We can remain silent in the midst of the biggest messes and most despicable commotion, in the midst of the racket and howling of those infernal machines that draw us into functionalism and activism by snatching us away from any transcendent dimension and from any interior life. All activity must be preceded by an intense life of prayer, contemplation, seeking and listening to God's will.
- Robert Cardinal Sarah
This short passage from Robert Cardinal Sarah is absolutely rich with insights into the spiritual life. Before reading my commentary, I would like to suggest the following exercise:
Pray. Ask for the wisdom to see and understand clearly and for the ability to use this knowledge to grow your in your faith. Here are two prayer suggestions: "Free my mind, O Lord, from all distracting thoughts, and enable me to pray at all times with attention and devotion, so that I may deserve to be heard by Thee. I offer Thee my prayers in union with the divine intention with which Thou Thyself, while on earth, didst render praises to God." and "Grant me grace, O merciful God, to desire ardently all that is pleasing to Thee, to examine it prudently, to acknowledge it truthfully, and to accomplish it perfectly, for the praise and glory of Thy name. Amen."
Reread the passage slowly from beginning to end.
Reread the passage again. This time, read or or two phrases at a time and meditate on each for a few moments. Talk to God throughout reading the text.
Reread the passage slowly from beginning to end.
Write down a few notes if you are so inclined.
Now that you've finished your own brief meditation, I'd like to offer my thoughts on three points raised in this passage.
The Hidden Presence of God
God is both present and hidden within our souls. How can this be? How can He be both at the same time?
God is always present. The very nature of creation is perpetual rather than as an isolated event. God is not so much like a watch maker, who, after the act of creation, sets it down or sends it off into the world. He is not "hands off." God creates the way a musician performs a song (live). All that exists is in the act of creation. Creation is contemporary. You exist, not because God made you but because He is making you. We are all playing a part in the Divine Symphony.
We have been given the immense gift of free will. Through our will, we can decide whether or not to accept our destiny in life to participate in the Divine Symphony. We are on the stage, the music is being performed, the score is before us and the Conductor is leading. We can follow the guidance of the Conductor and make the music beautiful, or we can attempt to play on our own and create discord. To participate in the Beauty, we must first realize that we can add our voice as it was meant to be used. Though there may be discord surrounding us, we can see the score; we know what notes we ought to play. When we look up from the music before us, we can see the Conductor and know that He is still leading the Divine Symphony. We need to play the music that we know is right, though it is difficult with the discordant notes played around us. Sometimes we must focus so intently that it is hard to look up to see the Conductor leading. We know that He is still there and the more we can lift our eyes to His guidance, the stronger our performance will be.
"Despite agitation, the busyness, the easy pleasures, God remains silently present."
God remains hidden in our souls because He wants us to use our free will to turn to Him. How easily we forget God. The necessities and distractions of daily life tend to pull us away. Work, errands, family, bills. We know these must be fit into the day. The key problem for the faithful is treating God in kind. We attempt to schedule time for God as though He were of the same importance as picking up milk from the store. The problem is not that we don't "make time" for God. The problem is that the very idea of "making time" misses the point of God's presence.
The Intense Life of Prayer
"All activity must be preceded by an intense life of prayer, contemplation, seeking and listening to God's will."
If God is always present, our prayer life should encompass all that we do. We need not have formal prayer before every activity (you don't need to say a rosary every time you switch tasks or leave the house). What we ought to focus on is that God is perpetually present in our souls and we are always in the midst of the Divine Symphony. Lift your eyes to Heaven. Ask to be reminded of His presence as you go through your day. Remind yourself that He is with you. This can really be as simple as, "Okay Lord, we're on the way into the store. Thank you for the grace of buying food. May I always remember that You are with me in each step and also that You are present in all of those around me (whether they know or not)." Constantly return your mind to God. "Lord, how amazing is your creation! Even the vivid colors of the cereal aisle call to mind the beauty of what you create. We mirror your act of creation in all that we do, yet how evident it the Fall in ours! May my soul be nourished by your presence in the same manner as these Wheaties nourish my body." These examples are not as trivial as they may seem. If God is always present to us, how can we see this presence in all that we do?
For more important matters and decisions, it is important to set aside time beforehand to dedicate to prayer. Take a moment to offer prayers to God. Thank Him, ask for guidance, seek an openness to His will. Spend time in silence.
These important events in life are also an excellent time to devote yourself to the treasury of prayers and devotions we have in the Catholic Church. Pray a novena. Add another rosary every day for a specific intention. Offer little forms of penance. Find ways you can demonstrate your faith and devotion. Commit to these formal acts that you are offering to God and keep them up even when you don't feel like it; when it gets hard to persevere is when the act has the most merit!
Remaining Silent in the Midst of the Racket
As Cardinal Sarah says:
"We can remain silent in the midst of the biggest messes and most despicable commotion, in the midst of the racket and howling of those infernal machines that draw us into functionalism and activism by snatching us away from any transcendent dimension and from any interior life."
The cacophony of noise that surrounds us is meant to keep us from the presence of God. Social media pulls us from prayer and contemplation. The news robs us of hope or places the impetus of change on a human level; it makes it so that it seems that we must solve the problems of the world. These things draw us away from any "transcendent dimension and from any interior life."
We can maintain the peaceful, Divine silence in our souls even amidst the chaos that surrounds us though. The more we make the meditation of God's presence a continual act through the day, the more we can shift the focus of our lives back to where it ought to be; on the life of the soul. As stated above, this need not be a complex act. Set aside time to devote exclusively to God and then maintain a simple contemplation of God's presence throughout the day.
When you feel lost, distracted or overwhelmed by the distractions, the chaos and the world, take a moment to pause, pray and refocus on God's presence. Then return to life. Don't go back to the distraction. Sometimes we need to find fruitful replacements for distractions. It can be something like, "pray instead of going on Instagram" or "go outside and take a walk" rather than getting stuck on YouTube. Find something that works for you to break the cycle of distraction.
Build the "intense life of prayer, contemplation, seeking and listening to God's will." Don't just make it a part of your day. Make this contemplation of God's presence be your day. God's presence should define your existence. When you do all things with God, you will not fear the ebbs and flows of life; the "despicable commotion" will no longer trouble you.
Know that God is creating you; He has you in His mind. Know that you can find Him in your soul. Build the life of your soul.