Repentance – Part 2

Just before the first Christians followed the advice of St Peter and were baptised to receive the same Holy Spirit that he and the other apostles had received, St Peter told them to do something else. He told them to repent. The Aramaic word for repentance is Shub, and it means to turn back to God. However, in Aramaic there is no such word for someone who has repented, but only for an individual or a group who are in the process of repenting. In other words, repentance is not just something that precedes baptism, with that phase of conversion said and done. As a new-born Christian, repentance must continue for the rest of our lives. Baptism does not mean that we never fail or fall again, it means that when we do, the Holy Spirit will always be there to help us start again, no matter how many times we fall. Remember the words of the Hermit, Peter Calvay,  “When you stop falling you are in heaven, but when you stop getting up you are in Hell”.

The School of Divine Love

However, if we are going to be ever open to receive the Holy Spirit to enable us to keep getting up, keep beginning again, keep turning back to God through the rest of our lives , then we must learn how to repent and repent continually. In the Catholic tradition from the very beginning, the place where the repentance is learnt that keeps us ever open to the Holy Spirit, is called prayer. That is why the great mystic and Mother, St Angelo of Foligno said that prayer is, “The School of Divine Love”.  For no matter whatever form of prayer we choose to use and at whatever step in the spiritual journey we are ascending, we will always have distractions. So in order to raise our hearts and minds to God we have to keep turning away from these distractions in order to open our minds and hearts to God. In short, we have to keep repenting.

No prayer without distraction

St Teresa of Avila said that we cannot really pray without distractions because that is how we keep saying no to self and yes, to God. In short, that is how we practise the selfless loving that can generate within us the selfless sacrificial loving that keeps us open to receive God’s loving both inside and outside of prayer. But prayer comes first because without it selfless loving can never be learnt, at least not as quickly as the saints learnt it.

It is a good idea to begin daily prayer by trying to visualise our Risen Lord, as he is now, in the act of loving, in the act of sending out the inner mystical loving that revolves endlessly between the Father and the Son. A painting of the transfigured Christ or an Icon of Christ in glory might help, or  a picture of the Sacred Heart, but there are other similar images that can do the same.

Now let me use each letter of the OUR FATHER as a reminder of the nine indispensable ingredients of prayer that should feature in our daily prayer.

  1. The Morning Offering

The letter ‘O’ can remind us to make our Morning Offering. This is so important because it reminds us of how, like every moment of Christ’s life, every moment of our lives can be made into an act of selfless sacrificial loving.  Just as this enabled him to be at all times open to receive God’s love, in return it can do exactly the same for us. Gradually as we persevere, we become more and more like Christ, as doing what he did and receiving what he received gradually makes us one with him in all we say and do. In this way our whole life can become a prayer.

 Wisdom from Pope Benedict XVI 

When Pope Benedict XVI was approached by a young couple who had five children and an extremely busy schedule every day to feed clothe and educate them, they asked him a question. It was a question they had been asking themselves, but to which they could find no answer.  “How can we possibly find time for prayer?” they said. “Our days are so full.” They never forgot the Holy Father’s, answer. “By beginning each day with the Morning Offering,” he said, “so that your whole life can become a prayer, just as the whole life of Jesus was a prayer, because he offered up everything he said and did to his Father in heaven.

Wisdom from my Plumber

Many years ago I ran a retreat and conference centre in London. As I had to run the place on a shoe string, I tried to do as many of the odd jobs myself to save money. But I always had to call in a plumber when the drains were blocked. One day when the plumber was having his lunch I went to look inside his tool box to see if I could find the tool he used to save calling him again. It was then that I saw these words written in Latin inside the lid – Ad maiorem Dei gloriam, “To the greater glory of God”. This was the inner mystical meaning of all that he said and did each day, as it has been for all sincerely practising Christians from the very beginning, as it was for Jesus himself. St Paul simply put it this way, “Whatever you eat, whatever you drink, whatever you do at all, do it for the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10:31).

 Wisdom from My Mother

It was my mother who taught me to make my Morning Offering every day even before I dressed. She told me that by offering all I said and did to God in the day ahead of me, I could become, as she put it, a little priest turning ordinary commonplace things into something precious, as Rumpelstiltskin turned straw into gold. When our family went to Mass each Sunday, they saw their mother totally absorbed in what they took all too easily for granted. Their selfishness meant they had too little to offer, while she was offering a thousand and one acts of self-sacrifice made for them during the previous week. Each day she reminded herself of this, her sacred calling, by making her Morning Offering, as her Recusant ancestors did for hundreds of years before her. If ever I forgot to say mine she used to remind me that St Jean-Baptiste Vianney,  the Curé d’Ars would say, “All that we do without offering it to God, is wasted,” and he was right.

In order to develop the prayer that can continually help us to raise our hearts and minds to God as we practise the asceticism of the heart please follow the Podcast on prayer on this web-site entitled The Hermit – Wisdom from the Western Isles


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