Wednesday, September 18, 2013
One Way to Pray?
I came across a question on a forum about whether one could use headphones to listen to chant while in adoration. As you can imagine, a lot of people said no. Their reasons were kind of similar. Silence is the best. Would you have headphones phones in your ears if Jesus was right in front of you in the flesh? You can't hear God unless you are in silence, for His is a still, small voice.
I read reply after reply of this kind of thing and I started to get a bit annoyed. When I pray at home, a lot of the time I will pray while listening to chant. I've never done that in front of the Tabernacle, but I couldn't see why it should be discouraged. I've seen tons of people, priests, bloggers, encourage people to read books in adoration. I've never seen that discouraged. So, why should listening to a sermon or spiritual talk or chant with headphones be discouraged? What's the difference? One person mentioned that it was 'technology' so it shouldn't be used. Huh? Then, I can't use my kindle to read something in adoration? Sometimes I use my smartphone to read the divine office. Is that bad just because I use a phone to read it instead of a book?
My point is not to just gripe about stupid (if well-meaning) replies on a forum. My point is that, sometimes, even well-intentioned advice can be destructive to a person's prayer life. We don't all pray the same. I went for a lot of years feeling very mixed up about how to pray. I thought just sitting silence was the only way to do it. Or just praying on beads. I came from a non-praying background, so I thought there was a 'right' way to do it and I just wasn't getting it.
It reminds me of St. Teresa of Avila. I just finished reading her autobiography. In a lot of her books, she talks about how she always felt bad because she needed a book to be able to meditate. I suppose in her time, people gave stupid advice and said, the best way to pray is to just sit there! Well, she couldn't do it. She needed a book. Some people need books, some people need music and some people need the divine office on their smartphones. Perhaps people back then said that reading a book meant you weren't in 'silence' because you were using your mind to read words instead of to 'pray'. Silence is not only about the exterior. Silence is a condition of your heart. Interior silence is the most important thing. If you get there by reading, or listening to music, or even listening to a sermon on a CD, then that's what you should do.
I'm sure St. Teresa went through a lot of years being embarrassed about having to use a book. I'm sure it set her back. I was set back for so long just because I thought there was a magical formula I had to use to be able to pray. I'm double sure I would probably have given the same stupid advice to a person years ago when I thought that there was only one way to pray. I'm triple sure I probably give stupid advice about a lot of other things right now. Sometimes that can't be helped because we're all imperfect sinners. Of course, 'our' way is the best way. But, as best we can as poor sinners, let's all of us remember that what we say can have a big impact (see the epistle of St. James) and that not everyone is the same. Especially when it comes to the spiritual life. I need to be reminded of this more than anyone.