Who did God create when God created you?
Summer days are filled with preparing for fall classes like Befriending the Mystics and A Transformed Life. I am also reading Laudato Si, the latest encyclical by Pope Francis. My thoughts are becoming very random trying to absorb information on mystics, listening to Sr. Maria Tasto share her deep and powerful wisdom and trying to wrap my mind around the vastness of our call to global responsibility. Increasingly my prayer has become quiet, not trying to understand it all but rather to just be with God.
As I quietly sit, a word comes to me that makes no sense at first, “Integrity”. Like an echo resonating deep in my being. “Integrity.” Finally, I looked the word up. It means to be honest, whole, undiminished. Okay Lord, I’m listening.
There are so many terrible things happening in the world. I thought I’d mention a few but I don’t have to. Anyone reading this could make their own list. It’s to the point where even the most faithful among us are beginning to ask if a life of prayer makes any difference.
My revelation is this, the mystics, Sr. Maria and Pope Francis (also mystics in my book.) are all saying the same thing, “listen prayerfully and then do”. Fr. Thomas Merton wrote that upon his first visit to his monastery in Gethsemane, Kentucky, he believes that the prayer of the monastery is what holds the world in balance. (Keep in mind that Fr. Merton was writing at the beginning of World War II.)
Prayer and contemplation have their place. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines prayer as “lifting our minds and hearts to God”. It is in prayer and contemplation that we gain perspective. Taking the time to stop and lift our mind and heart to God helps to clear a space for God’s truth. It is in the stilling of our wordiness and of our “doing” that we learn who we are at the level of our being, who God created us to be. Often times, I am trying so hard to be worthy, be good and be holy that I am anything but these things. Integrity comes when I am willing to be honest with myself and before God. Being truly honest with ourselves before God makes us vulnerable. What if I find I am really not who I want to be? When I am honest long enough, I realize I am not what I think about myself. I am wholly what God created. Even if my body or memory are lacking, my being is God’s alone. In knowing my wholeness in honesty before God, then I have nothing to defend, nothing can diminish my being. Even if I should die, God offers life. This could be the end of my blog, but it isn’t because integrity goes one step further. If I have nothing to defend because my being is God’s alone and cannot be diminished, how can I not recognize this same gift of being in others, in all of creation?
In this way, the prayer of the monastery does hold the world in balance. Prayer opens a space…for God…for the other. It is in this space that we can begin to do. In prayer is silence, honesty before God, knowing we are whole beings, undiminished, undiminishable. Then, as we grow in integrity, we can no longer remain silent. The life of a praying community proclaims “Yes, there is an alternative way to live.” May we all begin to know the meaning of integrity.
Ana Cloughly, OSB