Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category

On Meeting Mary & Learning to Pray… (Part IX)

1 Bealtaine, 2008
Author: Padraig Caughey
Issue: 25 – May 2008

On Meeting Mary & Learning to Pray… (Part IX)
Dark Night

Id like to talk next about how I got sentenced in court and a bit about happened when I was released and more about prayer at this time.

Saint John of the Cross not only puts forward the idea of the Night of the Soul, but a kind of a night within a Night, or a prison within a prison, a kind of spiritual rock bottom as it were. I think Jesus touches upon this when He tells the parable of the house built on sand. When the great storms came the house on sand collapsed. The house built on stone however, stood. So with Job, these black winds that blow are purifying and intense and we have to ask ourselves questions about the very nature of our faith.

After leaving the monastery I continued to pray constantly and to go to mass every day. But it was a bit like someone who walked through very dark deep waters. However our love for God, our prayers, dont depend on our emotions. As I suppose anyone who has ever been married will say, love is about a whole lot more than hugs and kisses.

A year or two later my twenty-six year-old brother Colm died of Hepatitis, caught during a heart operation. Colm was always the complete atheist and laughed at even the mention of the word God or an afterlife. I know I tried to argue with him about it a few times, to his amusement.

However the morning after he died he came to me in a park were I was walking, smiled and said, You were right and I was wrong He paused and laughed, But dont get too proud about it, I know a lot more than you do about these things now! He laughed and faded into the sky.

I was foolish enough to tell folks about what I had seen and had to put up with a great deal of scorn and mocking about attention seeking. This upset me, a lot more than it would now, and I went down to see my Spiritual Director, Father Bernard, who assured me that seeing the souls of the departed, especially the recently departed, was really quite common. However, unlike me most people have the good sense to keep their mouths shut about it. Im glad to say that I had the last laugh, When my mother died a couple of years ago several people told me they had seen her. One of them being among those who had mocked me earlier. Times have changed I suppose and people nowadays are more open to these things.

A couple of years after this my other brother Cormac, again 26, his wife Teresa and their two year old daughter Shona were all killed in a car accident and I had to go to the mortuary to identify them. When they pulled back the rubber sheets it was like the De Profoundis sounding in my heart. Saint Teresa of Avila had a vision one time of Our Lady holding Our Lords body after it had been taken down from the Cross. She said Our Lady didnt cry, that she was frozen like a statue with grief. I can sympathise with this as I was frozen too and said the De Profundis;

Psalm 130
130:1 Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O LORD. 130:2 Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. 130:3 If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? 130:4 But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. 130:5 I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. 130:6 My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning. 130:7 Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. 130:8 And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

After this my brother- in-law Brian died aged 32 leaving my sister, Eithne, with four small children to care for. Sometimes I think prayer pilgrims are like camels and we store up the graces of prayer for the bad times ahead. Thus people who pray indeed build their houses on foundations of stone.

However I dont believe that our greatest trials in prayer really come through the great trials that life leaves at our doors. The greatest trial lies in the ordinary things that each day brings us; loosing our car keys, forgetting the groceries, an intemperate boss and a nosey neighbour. In a way life is like some great whirling sandstone wheel fashioning in beauty the soft wood of our hearts. But only if we accept truly and deeply that for those who love God all things work together unto the good. The person who does not love God, who does not pray is perpetually neurotic and at war with the lived reality in which he finds himself. The prayer pilgrim, on the other hand goes with the grain of lifes wood, knowing in prayer that all has reason and purpose and wonderful end.

One of the things that hurt me most in those dark days was that although I very much still felt called to be a priest, I was constantly rejected by Bishops and Cardinals. They all said I had a vocation but each passed me on to someone else, each thinking, I suspect, that I being an ex-prisoner would be better planted in someone elses diocesan garden. Eventually I went to Our Lady and left matters in Her hands. If She wanted me in the priesthood She could arrange it herself, I felt I tried often enough and had endured enough disappointments.

The greatest trial of my faith came after four years just before the end of the Dark Night. The Loyalists had already tried to kill me while I was driving the taxi….

To be continued…


On Meeting Mary & Learning to Pray… (Part VIII)

1 Aibreán, 2008
Author: Padraig Caughey
Issue: 24 – April 2008

On Meeting Mary & Learning to Pray… (Part VIII)
Contemplative Prayer

If there�s anyone out there reading any of this then please feel free to say so. If even one person has been following my tale then it�s worthwhile.

Prayer, like life itself, does not, nor should not sit still but like a river turns and grows as it pulls us to the source and sea of love and life, the Eternal God. In the Western Church we talk of stages of prayer, in the East they look at thinks more holistically. Here I�ll talk of stages, but I emphasise that I do not mean an immediate change from one prayer form to another, rather like moving from a bedroom to a bathroom. The change is usually gradual and we wouldn�t normally notice it in our day-to-day life as it happens. Also, though I speak of such stages in a particular sequence it doesn�t have to necessarily happen that way. Nothing quite sets my teeth on edge as writers on mysticism and mystical prayer being definite and positive about things that are fluid and full of mystery. A pseudo-scientific approach to such things can, it seems to me, be rather like trying to catch the wind in a test tube. Not that it�s not good to classify in order to understand, but to recognise that a Reductionist, Scientific approach to such things has its limits. Saint Thomas Aquinas is, some claim, the greatest of Catholic Theologians. Yet before he died he had a mystical vision that caused him to describe all his brilliant theology as just so much hay.

If there�s one thing I would recommend to any Catholic or Westerner interested in mysticism or prayer it would be to read the spiritual teachers of the East. Similarly those of the East could do nothing better than to read from the West. It�s a bit like having two lungs, or legs or eyes; East and West need each other in a similar way in order to give balance and insight.

Another thing about writers on this subject is that often they are writing about prayer forms they have never experienced themselves. I do not say this is wrong, I�m just saying its limited. Saint Teresa of Avila one time commented that she would rather have a learned Spiritual Director than a holy one. But given a choice the best thing of all would be a learned, wise and holy one, if providence can bless you with such a thing; bearing in mind that wise and learned are not always the same thing.

I�d like to talk about the start of Contemplative Prayer. Earlier we talked of us going to collect water of the Spirit to water the garden of our soul. This we do in conceptual prayer when we imagine scenes from Our Lord and Our Lady�s lives. But now the prayer, the water begins to well up a little of its own accord. How do we know this is happening to us? Well there is a much greater attraction to prayer; we more and more look forward to our times of prayer, as a real oasis in our busy lives. There is a deepening joy and peace in the presence of the Lord. Perhaps a greater quietness, a tendency not to feel the need to talk so much but to listen more.

Compare our prayer at the start to a radio transmitter; at first the messages we are receiving are garbled and full of static, but later they come through much clearer. Like a couple who have been married a while we no longer feel the hectic need for constant talk and exchange of ideas but are content for silence to break out. Not the silence of non-communication but silence of intense non-verbal communication.

This essentially is contemplative prayer in its beginnings. If we were to listen to two vast super computers talking to each other we might hear nothing but the sound of silence. For they might be exchanging information so quickly and at such a pitch we simply couldn�t comprehend it. So with contemplative prayer. It is the Holy Spirit taking over the controls if you like and flying the aircraft of your soul Himself. Let Him do so, trust Him, let go the controls.
A changing prayer like this can be challenging, even threatening, to the person experiencing it. Sometimes older folks can go to the priest and complain that they�re not able to pray anymore. When the priest asks them what they mean they explain that when they try to say the Rosary they can�t get beyond the first couple of words before their minds fly away. What has of course happened is that after having spent good and holy Christian lives raising their families they now find themselves, in their Autumn years, moving into the rich, fruitful harvest time of prayer. Contemplation itself.

To be continued…