In his book, Wrestling with God, Ronald Rolheiser says, “God has given us two churches:” Physical holy places/ holy buildings and the holy place within each of us.
The first church consists of actual churches, cathedrals, temples, synagogues, mosques, shrines and such. The second church is where Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well where she could pray: that holy place within her. Many of us worship regularly in an actual church–perhaps our local parish. On occasion we might even go to a shrine or Cathedral. But many of you reading this, also pray in that holy-place-of-who-you-are. You can do this alone at your kitchen table, while strolling in a park, or even when lying alone in a hospital bed.
But I would like to suggest two other “churches”: creation itself and our daily life. I suspect more people pray in the “Cathedral of Creation” than anywhere else. When they stand atop a mountain, gaze at a beautiful lake, or inspect the tiny green shoots coming up through the mud, they spontaneously express their wonder or gratitude to the God-Force-Power-Author responsible for such goodness. That is great prayer.
St. Augustine wrote, “If one has an eye for it, creation is a sacrament.” A sacrament! That means that God’s grace can come pouring into us through a mountain, a daisy, a tree, a bee. Pope Francis would agree. He wrote, “Soil, water, mountains: Everything is a caress from God.” Often the beauty and mystery of creation leads us to connect spontaneously with the Author of All.
Our daily life, to me, is another church in which we can pray. This means we pay attention to what is happening in our lives and we ponder those people, happenings, and situations. These can be major things–like this pandemic we are experiencing right now, a troubled relationship, our personal health issues, a special family celebration, the fidelity of a loved one, worry about the future. Or these things can be smaller everyday things like sipping our morning coffee, folding clean laundry, filling our gas tank, working in the yard, doing a crossword puzzle, talking to a friend, reading a good book, going to bed. As Barbara Brown Taylor says, God speaks to us “in the language of our lives.”
And so, let us pray: Creating God, thank you for all the places you have given us to nourish our prayer. The churches, chapels, and shrines that lift our minds and hearts to you with their vastness or coziness, their ornateness or simplicity, their silence or song. Thank you for that holy-place-of-who-we-are where we meet you dwelling within our very selves. Thank you for your marvelous creation–for its beauty and mystery, its power and fragility, its immensity and teeny-weeniness, its diversity and interconnectedness. And finally, thank you for the gift of daily life, those times of routine and interruptions, ambiguity and clarity, choosings and surrenderings, teachings and learnings, the expected and the surprising. And please, Beloved Author of All, give us the grace to find you present in the whole of our lives. Amen.
Where do you pray?
Have you ever been in a particular building (church, chapel, cathedral, synagogue, mosque, shrine) and the place itself moved you to prayer?
Are there particular aspects of nature that nourish your prayer?
Which of the four “churches” listed here (actual buildings, your inner-being, nature, your daily life) nourishes your prayer the most?
Can you give examples or evidence that Jesus prayed in these four “churches”?
PS: The popular spiritual writer, Sister Macrina Wiederkehr, OSB, passed away last week. Her good friend, Sister Joyce Rupp, was able to be with her during her final days. Macrina’s death is a great loss to all of us who were nourished by her words. Let us pray for her, her family, and her Benedictine community at St. Scholastica Monastery in Fort Smith, Arkansas. (I devoted my Nov. 18, 2019 blog to Macrina’s newest book, The Flowing Grace of Now. If you’d like to read it just go to the search box on the right and type in her name or The Flowing Grace of Now it should come up.)
PPS: On another level, with the help of my good writer-friend, Sister Kathleen Glavich, SND, I have re-published two of my books that were out of print: When the Rain Speaks and Traits of a Healthy Spirituality (my “best-seller”). Both books are now available on Amazon.com. Look for the 2019 and 2020 editions.
During this time of staying at home and social distancing, I offer you two music videos: Matt Maher’s beautiful song “Love Will Hold Us Together” and the orchestra from Rotterdam, Netherlands playing Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”—all the members playing from their homes.
A virtual orchestra playing Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”:
I invite you to respond below to anything in this blog–the words, pictures, or music. We all love hearing from you!