If you’re like me silence is hard. Most of us today can’t really handle more then five minutes of it, other then the fact that it’s tough to find a moment of quiet. What is also interesting is the resurgence of ‘mindfulness’ and meditative spiritual practices that have made their way to public domain in a way that they weren’t previously. Case-in-point there are hundreds of meditation apps and software available as well as various school programs built to benefit from ‘mindfulness.’
The term ‘mindfulness’ has a certain amount of ambiguity as does it’s origins, as much due to popular culture as well as various moments in Buddhist circles. This isn’t to say that it is evil in-and-of-itself but rather that in our Christian tradition there are even more fruitful practices to re-acquaint ourselves with. Mindfulness in my understanding which is taken from various sources including mindfulness.org and onbeing.org essentially is the practice of simply put an embrace of the quiet which is within while at the same time being fully present. The distinction in our case with practices like Lectio Divina (quiet prayer steeped in Sacred Scripture) or simple contemplative practices is that we use it at the same time as an opportunity for prayer. To Contemplate or to be contemplative is an interior opening of the mind or heart to God without the necessity of constant dialouge. Contemplative prayer is not imaginative or even particularly inspired other then the Holy Spirit working within our very beings. These are only a few words on what is otherwise a very deep and rich practice that takes time to develop and appreciate.
Most Catholics are intimately familiar with vocal prayer which is the short or sometimes even long memorized prayers said vocally. Of course it also is possible to pray inspired prayers vocally as well. A smaller portion of Catholics also practice mental prayer which is talking to Jesus from the heart and in the heart. Those coming from older generations may recall the various memorized “ejaculations” or quick memorized prayers which flow from the heart with ease such as “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” or “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, pray for us” or even my favorite “Adauge Nobis Fidem.”
At any rate, Contemplative prayer is the practice of being open and receptive to God’s presence and God’s whisper like that of the prophet Elijah who didn’t find God in the earthquake but in the still small voice on Mount Horeb. One may find slowed breathing helpful, a comfortable posture or even kneeling helpful. The obvious benefit over mere ‘mindfulness’ is that not only is one assuming a restful and even refocusing activity, but one also is reunited with the creator God. As St. Paul says we are to pray always and taking moments to contemplate or to even live in a contemplative manner throughout the day has not only remedy for the body but also the soul. God is waiting for you in the silence of your heart, how will you answer?
"In the solitude and silence of the wilderness..., for their labor in the contest, God gives his athletes the reward they desire: a peace that the world does not know and joy in the Holy Spirit."
Husband & father of four, graduate from Quincy University and currently a grad student at Franciscan University. Director of Faith Formation & Youth Ministry for All Saints Parish since January 2012.