On this weekend just before All Saint’s Day and All Hallow’s Eve, I’m caught up in thoughts of becoming a prayerful, holy saint. Consider this intriguing situation that took place over fifty years ago:
On November 22, 1963, the famous author Aldous Huxley died at 5:20 p.m., London time. Most famous for his novel Brave New World, Huxley was an intellectual of his day. A self-described humanist and atheist, he spent time exploring Hindu mysticism and parapsychology. He is on record saying very frankly that he did not WANT to believe in God: “For myself, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political.” He did not practice Christian prayer as we would know it.
About ten minutes after Huxley’s death, CS Lewis, the brilliant Oxford scholar and author of the Narnia series, died. Lewis has impacted millions with his classic book Mere Christianity. His belief was the opposite of Huxley’s: “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” Lewis is said to have had a rich prayer life.
Barely an hour after Lewis drew his final breath, across the ocean (you may have recognized the date), President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. Catholic author Daniel Burke has written, “Kennedy was Mr. Saturday Night but also Mr. Sunday Morning, rarely missing a Mass. He was famously unfaithful to his wife but fiercely loyal to his church.” Kennedy has been puzzling to his biographers and the Church; on one hand, talking and acting in agreement with CS Lewis’s “orthodox Christianity”, while with the other, shaking hands with Aldous Huxley’s hedonism. There is little record of his personal prayer life.
Professor Peter Kreeft wrote a novel about these three men having a discussion in Purgatory called Between Heaven and Hell. My point in bringing up this interesting illustration is not to judge their eternal destination… but to ponder the way of the Saints. It has been said, “If you are not praying, you don’t need the devil to lead you into hell!”
I wonder what prayer was like for CS Lewis or JFK? Did Huxley ever pray to a higher Being? Did these men share time with God? Lord willing, maybe someday we can ask them!
Prayer is the prime ingredient, the foundation, the footing we need for a life with God in heaven. Because what is prayer? Simply conversation, dialogue, talking with God. St. Thérèse of Lisieux wrote, “Prayer is… a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” And St. Teresa of Avila said, “Prayer in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us.” Scripture and Tradition are clear that we must know God… and we know Him by spending time with Him.
If you do not have a daily prayer time, I highly encourage you to begin. Find the time when you can sit every day for a brief period and talk with God. Rote prayers, Rosaries, Chaplets, devotions, Scripture reflection, singing, adoring… all are wonderful, all are part of our prayer experience. Prayer does not have to be a formula, a technique, or a plan. Prayer is your time with God. Pray in the way that works best for you, in the time that works best. You want to build a discipline that grows; not all or nothing, but an everyday something.
Whatever you do, include an opportunity of quiet time to simply listen. My Spiritual Director often says “Just let Him love you. You don’t have to DO anything.” In the Adoration Chapel at St. Joseph or in the Church, can you just be silent together with Jesus? In the Eucharist He is stripped of all his power and glory, beauty and humanity… He comes to us in total humility so we can just be with Him. Matthew Kelly calls it “the classroom of silence” where Jesus teaches us the most.
Almost 20 years ago I heard on Christian radio “I’d rather be sleep deprived than God deprived.” It was the motivation I needed to set my alarm an hour earlier and begin a lifelong habit of daily prayer. It changed my life. In my time working with teens and adults, I have been privileged to walk alongside people who have had their lives transformed through the practice of daily prayer. As we are working with small group training and “discipleship
coaching” with some parish members now, we are seeing prayer change many lives. There is much more to come!
Some of the best beginning resources on prayer: St. Francis deSales Introduction to a Devout Life; Fr. Thomas Dubay’s Prayer Primer, and any book by Peter Kreeft or Fr. Jacques Philippe. Start small. Start simply. But start. Sainthood awaits!