Archbishop reveals ways to grow in prayer

Nissa LaPoint

The best way for faithful to speak to God is to open their hearts to him, sharing their desires and seeking graces, Archbishop Samuel Aquila said.

“It’s entering into that union and a conversation like we have with one another,” the archbishop said about prayer. “The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that prayer is really the lifting up of our hearts to God. And it’s, in the words of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, a gaze at God or a movement within our hearts to speak heart-to-heart with the Lord.”

Archbishop Aquila spoke about prayer in a series of podcasts released this month shared by a new local ministry called Ask a Bishop. Anand Bheemarasetti and his wife, Lindsey, of St. Catherine of Siena Parish, launched what they describe as a “digital school of life and faith,” designed to share bishops’ answers to faith queries through multimedia.

In one podcast the archbishop said faithful can learn about prayer from the Gospels.

“We are told in the Gospel that Jesus would often go to a quiet place to pray and to truly be in communion with the Father,” the archbishop said in the podcast titled “Should You Pray to Jesus or God the Father?”

He continued that Christ shows that the will of God was his deepest desire in prayer.

“So, too, are we called in prayer to conform our will to the Father,” he said. “And in teaching us to pray, Jesus reminded us to go into the quiet of our rooms and also taught us the great prayer of Our Father. That immediately teaches us that as his disciples, as we pray, our prayer is to be directed to the Father.”

And there’s more than one way to grow in prayer, he said, such as having gratitude for the beauty of creation.

“I remember when I was in college often times I’d be at the top of a mountain and it’d be a crisp clear day and I’d be getting ready to ski down the mountain,” Archbishop Aquila shared. “And I was just captured by the beauty of creation itself, and I would lift up my heart in gratitude to God for the gift of creation. … Beauty often times puts us in touch with the Lord.”

Reading Scripture and prayerfully considering how God is speaking to a person’s life and heart is key to growing in prayer.

“It’s important prior to that time to pray to the Holy Spirit and really ask the Holy Spirit, ‘Open my heart, help me to listen, grant me a heart that is receptive to your word,” the archbishop explained. “And by doing that and then prayerfully reading the Scripture, we’re more receptive and open to really hear the Lord speaking to us.”

Faithful can also learn to pray by reading the dialogue between Christ and characters in the Gospel.

“Often times we can learn to pray by looking at some of the dialogues of Jesus with others in Gospel. For example, with the apostles, with Peter, with the Samaritan woman,” he said. “It’s a very lengthy dialogue and a very beautiful dialogue and one that gradually leads her to faith. And prayer should always be leading us into a deeper faith, trust and confidence in God.”

 

 

Anand Bheemarasetti and his wife, Lindsey, pictured with their children, started the nonprofit Ask a Bishop that features videos, podcasts and social media posts about the faith. Photo provided

 

 

      Ask a Bishop
      Website: www.askabishop.com

 

COMING UP: Navigating major cultural challenges

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We’re navigating through a true rock and a hard place right now: moral relativism and the oversaturation of technology. In fact, they are related. Moral relativism leaves us without a compass to discern the proper use of technology. And technological oversaturation leads to a decreased ability to think clearly about what matters most and how to achieve it.

Fortunately, we have some Odysseus-like heroes to guide our navigation. Edward Sri’s book Who Am I to Judge?: Responding to Relativism with Logic and Love (Augustine Institute, 2017) provides a practical guide for thinking through the moral life and how to communicate to others the truth in love. Christopher Blum and Joshua Hochschild take on the second challenge with their book A Mind at Peace: Reclaiming an Ordered Soul in the Age of Distraction (Sophia, 2017).

Sri’s book describes conversations that have become quite common. When discussing moral issues, we hear too often, “this is true for me,” “I feel this is right,” or “who am I to judge?” We are losing our ability both to think about and discuss moral problems in a coherent fashion. Morality has become an expression of individual and subjective feeling, rather than clear reasoning based on the truth. In fact, many, or even most, young people would say there is no clear truth when it comes to morality—the very definition of relativism.

Beyond this inability to reason clearly, Christians also face pressure to remain silent in the face of immoral action, shamed into a corner with the label of bigotry. In response to our moral crisis, Sri encourages us to learn more about our own great tradition of morality focused on virtue and happiness. He also provides excellent guidance on how to engage others in a loving conversation to help them consider that our actions relate not only to our own fulfillment, but to our relationships with others.

Sri points out that it’s hard to “win” an argument with relativists, because “relativistic tendencies are rooted in various assumptions they have absorbed from the culture an in habits of thinking and living they have formed over a lifetime” (13). Rather than “winning,” Sri advises us to accompany others through moral and spiritual growth with seven keys, described in the second half of the book. These keys help us to see others through the heart of Christ, with mercy, and to reframe discussions about morality, turning more toward love and addressing underlying wounds. Ultimately, he asks us, “will you be Jesus?” to those struggling with relativism. (155).

Blum and Hochschild’s book complements Sri’s by focusing on the virtues we need to address our cultural challenges. They point to another common concern we all face: a “crisis of attention” as our minds wander, preoccupied with social media (2). More positively, they encourage us to “be consoled” as “there are remedies” to help us “regain an ordered and peaceful mind, which thinks more clearly and attends more steadily” (ibid.). The path they point out can be found in a virtuous and ordered life guided by wisdom.

To achieve peace, we need virtues and other good habits, which create order within us. “With order, our attention is focused, directed, clear, trustworthy, and fruitful” (10). The book encourages us to rediscover fundamental realities of life, such as being attune to our senses and to aspire to higher and noble things. The authors, with the help of the saints, provide a guidebook to forming important dispositions to overcome the addiction and distraction that come with the omnipresence of media and technology.

The book’s chapters address topics such as self-awareness, steadfastness, resilience, watchfulness, creativity, purposefulness, and decisiveness.  These dispositions will create order in how we use our tools and within our inner faculties. They will help us to be more intentional in our action so that we do not succumb to passivity and distraction.  Overall, the book leads us to consider how we can rediscover simple and profound realities, such as a good conversation, periods of silence, and a rightly ordered imagination.

Both books help us to navigate our culture, equipping us to respond more intentionally to the interior and exterior challenges we face.