It had been a wonderful day. Long, but wonderful. We’d gone from Manhattan to Coney Island by train – it was out of season but that didn’t matter. I just wanted to see the place (and especially the funfair) and to have one of the famous “Nathan’s” hotdogs on the Board Walk. Having done so, I spent ages walking about and taking photographs all over the place – but once I reached the bench you see pictured above, I had to sit down. Even on the very best of days, there comes a point where some ‘down time’ is required.
Those moments of ‘down time’ are our stops along the way of life. We need them. Life can be hectic, even chaotic, yet we are able to continue so long as we have a little down time. They are little moments of respite, in the midst of which we can slow down or stop for a little while, and then begin to recharge our interior batteries.
And whilst this is true in the material world, it is every bit as true in the spiritual world.
For me personally, I need such a moment of respite daily – usually in the mid-evening, at which point I stop whatever else I may be doing, go into the little study upstairs, shut the door and pray the Rosary. This is my stop along the way, my “spiritual bench” of sorts, where I simply sit at peace for a little while. Here, I begin to spiritually recharge. And let me tell you, I hold onto that daily moment tenaciously – it matters to me. It is important. In fact, I would say it is crucial. I really don’t think I could last the day without it. There, I pour the rest of the day – whatever it has been, and no matter what it contains – into those moments of quiet prayer. These moments then begin to calm and quieten all the others, and to start to make some sense of them. Quite often, my view of the whole day changes in these moments of the praying of the Rosary, as though it is casting all of them in a new and more gentle light. It also begins to provide me with what I need for the day yet to come.
To do this, these “stops along the way” of life needs to be very regular – they need to mean something to us, enough that we give them the time they deserve. We will only get out of them what we are prepared to give to them. I think this is a lesson the Saints knew very well indeed – that’s why they all, without exception, prayed relentlessly; they ensured that the busyness of life and of any particular day did not get in the way of prayer; on the contrary, the busiest and hardest days were probably those on which they prayed more and with even greater fervour.
Prayer is a bit like an item of food you may not have tasted before – everyone tells you how wonderful it is, that “you really must try it because you’ll love it!”. But until you do, you don’t appreciate why they have said so. Now, that is not to say that prayer is easy; it is not. And neither is it to say that prayer delivers extraordinary results in quick time. It might, if the Lord grants what they once called “a signal grace” – but more often, in my experience, this is not the case. I can’t help wondering if this may be because the Lord would rather we discovered the joys of prayer for ourselves, and not be drawn in simply by what it can obtain. Prayer is a journey, not a destination.
On all journeys, we need those stops along the way – perhaps you might be encouraged to consider making prayer one of yours.