James is aware that time is running out to ask Peter Calvay, the Hermit for practical advice about prayer. Peter too is aware of the limited time left to them so immediately after he and James finished lunch, Peter continued where they left off. There was no more time for small talk. Carrying on with the mnemonic, or memory-jog using the letters of the Our Father in Latin, Peter continued his blueprint, the Pater Noster, using each letter to remind us of a different part of our daily prayer. Remember that the first letter P stands for Presence. A for Adoration, T for Thanksgiving, E for Examination and R for Repentance.
“The next letter we are dealing with today is T which stands for Thanksgiving. Now it is time to thank God for what he has done and is doing for us now; for the Incarnation through which he invades the whole of creation with his Holy Spirit; for the Resurrection of Jesus through whom he extends his own inner life to each one of us.
The very hairs of your head are numbered
“One thing the Gospels continually emphasize is that God did not just create a mass of people called the human race, but a community of individuals, every one of whom matters. Each one of us is a unique unrepeatable creation, as Christ tells us, ‘The very hairs of your head are numbered’. God is not a second-rate workman who fashions a few spiritual aristocrats whom we call saints and makes the rest of us working class. Every one of us is created by a love that makes us all different and yet offers us a destiny of total fulfillment and perfection in God. No other person has ever possessed, nor will ever possess, the exact combination of gifts and opportunities that we have been given. Peter added with a smile that there used to be an old song, ‘There’ll never be another you’. And nor will there be! And there will never be another me either.
“As prayer develops the full awareness of all that God has done grows, so that thanksgiving and praise merge into one, and the whole of the prayer time seems to be taken up just giving God thanks, praise and glory for being God. If we only thank God for what we manage to get out of him or for what he has done for us, then we have hardly begun to thank him as we should. He should be thanked for being God, for being Goodness, Justice, Truth and Beauty, for displaying his inner glory in the beauty of creation that surrounds us. And he should be thanked for the masterpiece of creation, Jesus Christ, in and through whom we are drawn up to share in his own inner life and love.
Thanking God for being God leads to the heights of prayer
“I cannot stress too much that this Blueprint is solely intended to help a person to love, thank and praise God. When I first began to thank God for being God, it was as if I was raised beyond myself and into God’s world, if only for a brief moment where my prayer life reached higher peaks than ever before. If you do not know what I mean, try this little experiment. When you have thanked God for what he has done for you, start thanking him for what he is and what he does for everyone, just by being what he is. Take your favourite prayer or hymn of thanksgiving or praise like the Gloria from the liturgy, for instance. Then, recite it slowly and prayerfully and you will find you are taken out of yourself, out of your world and into God’s world where you praise him, thank him and give him glory with all those who have learned to thank God just for being God. You will find that the further you enter into his world, the more you will forget yourself and the world where you only thanked him for what you received from him. Then you will come alive, more alive than ever before, if only for a time in the world where you want to be for all time.
“Thanking God for being God leads to the heights of prayer where praise, glory and thanksgiving become as one, and we become more at one with the God in whom we live and move and have our being. However, we have still not exhausted what we must do to thank God as we should. You see, the thanks that he wants more than anything else cannot be given in words alone. He wants us to thank him by preparing to receive all the gifts that he wants to give us, and most of all the gift of himself. He wants us to try to strip ourselves of everything that can prevent his Holy Spirit possessing us in such a way that, as he promised at the Last Supper, he can make his home within us so that we can make our home in him.
“God then wants us to do all that is within our power to strip away all and everything in our lives that prevents us from being totally united with him at all times. Only then will he be able to possess us as fully as he has planned. If we do not see the sin and the selfishness that prevents our growth in the spiritual life, it is not because we are sinless, it is simply because we are blind and we need to cry out with Bartimaeus, “Lord, that I may see” (Mark 10:46-52).
Lord, that I may see
“In one of the most memorable retreats I have ever attended, Archbishop Anthony Bloom began by telling the story of a retired headmistress who offered her services to him as a chauffeur. As they were returning home one Monday afternoon she stopped the car in Kensington to pick up her new glasses from the opticians and proceeded to try them out for the remainder of the journey. It was less than a mile, but it turned out to be the most terrifying journey either of them ever made; her driving was atrocious. She climbed out of the car shaking all over, opened her handbag, took out her driving licence and ceremoniously ripped it into little pieces.
“I’ll never drive again,” she said.
“Why ever not?” asked the Archbishop.
“Because,” she replied, “there is just so much traffic on the road.”
“So, if we do not see it is because we are spiritually blind and need to do something about it.
The Examination of Conscience
“This is why the next letter E, is a reminder to Examine our consciences and to ask God to show us everything in our life that prevents him entering into us to make us like himself. The great barrier that blocks God out of our lives is in the final analysis, our selfishness. This must ultimately be rooted out. This is a long process and can never be fully achieved without God’s help, and the acceptance of the suffering that this will mean. But this is a lengthy business that will be commensurate with the whole of our lives. It is a subject that we will, of necessity, have to return to many times over. For the moment, let me just say that unless a person makes a genuine attempt to change their lives outside of prayer, their prayer itself will never develop beyond the most rudimentary stages. Even from a psychological point of view, as you will already have discovered for yourself, if you have behaved like a prize pig all day, then prayer will be quite impossible at the end of that day. In fact, one of the reasons why people run away from prayer is that they know it will mean coming to terms with themselves and doing something about their shoddy lifestyle.”
James couldn’t help smiling at himself. Once again Peter was hitting the nail on the head, at least as far as he was concerned. Peter knew why James was smiling but he made no comment and continued to explain his blueprint.
Making an act of Repentance
“R stands for Repentance, Peter continued. This will help remind us to make an Act of Repentance for how we have failed in the past. A formal act of repentance or contrition could be used, but a sincere expression of personal sorrow, in our own words would be better still. Then we could end by what used to be called a firm purpose of amendment; in other words a genuine decision to try and behave differently in future. Without this, the sincerity of our contrition must be called into question.”
Peter went on to describe an event in his own life
“Some years ago I shared a flat with a man called Caruthers. Now if morals make the man and manners make the gentleman, then Caruthers was the finest gentleman I have ever met, or so I thought for the first few weeks. However, as the weeks went by, I began to see that his manners were no more than a thin coat of veneer that hid the chipboard man within. Casual visitors were as impressed with him as I was to begin with. He was always ‘so terribly sorry’ for everything. He was ‘so terribly sorry’ for beating me to the bathroom, ‘so terribly sorry’ for keeping others waiting for half an hour, ‘so terribly sorry’ for failing to clean the bath. He was ‘so terribly sorry’ too for emptying the fridge when his friend came round, for leaving the washing-up for me the following morning and for leaving my car with an empty tank when he borrowed it without asking.
“The trouble is, he was not sorry at all and he kept on behaving in the same old way, no matter what. It is one thing to say you are sorry; it is quite another to mean it. If you mean it you do something about it. It is exactly the same with us. No act of repentance, however heartfelt it might sound, will do us any good if we do not resolve and seriously endeavour to do better next time round. I could spend the rest of the day talking about this because it is so important. Not even God can do anything for us if we do not see how much we are in need of his help and how weak we are. The act of repentance consists of first realizing this, and then screaming out for help. The cry for help will be as loud and effective as the realization that causes it. Total possession by God will be impossible until we realize fully our own weakness and are thoroughly convinced that without him we can do nothing.”
Peter finished off with a quick look at his watch, “We have already spoken about this when we met before, but now I must be off in my boat to my island, Calvay.