Tuesday, December 2, 2014

they flutter like the butterfly's eyelashes

the place where faith would give the clay of flesh its flight, 
a semblance whose stones would tug the heart towards prayer, 
build in it the desiring of heaven.  
--Chartres, Glenn Shea

How sad for anyone who prayers only with the end of the lips.
--Christian Meditations, "Fifth Sunday After Easter", Blessed Basil Moreau
Inside a little prayer book I find a thousand million words, all arranged in forms that I wish I had the power to create, but usually fail to bring into existence. Instead, I find that in the words of the Suscipe, the Anima Christi, and the Prayer of St. Bonaventure, I have given form to thoughts already in my heart. And, by praying these words over and over, I find that they teach my heart how to desire, and on what to focus them.

The words that we ingest form our minds, these words provide the code with which our incredible apparatus of thought functions. Words are the amino acids to the proteins of our brain; they are the building blocks that construct our thoughts, which are what shape our words, which are what inform our actions, which define who we become. The words that we ingest influence our entire self, they influence how our thoughts are shaped, they create new thoughts in our brains, they have a sway on our very actions.

The words that I ingest each day, in small little blue book, embossed with gold that holds the spidery black print on the feather-light paper page, are the food I feed my heart. They teach my heart what to say, by showing her how to say it. Basil Moreau says that "Prayer consists less of words than of desires and aspirations of the heart that need no long formulas nor abundance of word. Prayer is a fervent and continuous desire." If inchoate desire is the raw material of prayer, then these find black letters are the gentle chisel that molds it into something fine and beautiful. These words teach the desire what it truly is; for the desire, on its own, cannot know anything but itself. It burns continually on its own self-perpetuating fuel, a yearning stronger than death that can be so easily quenched. If not tended to, the fire of desire will weaken, turn to a desolate smoldering. It will be reduced to quickened heartbeats and sweaty palms. The desire that could have seared transcendence into my soul will be relegated to the dusty confines of animal earth, vegetating on its own impotence.

So these words, by daily reminding that little flame of desire inside my breast what it longs for, kindles the flame when it has burned down to only glowing embers. These words are the bellows that fan the flames, when it is as strong and deep as a smithy's fire. These words are what instructs the fire how to burn, that teach the flame to dance aright. These words are not the prayer; but without them, I would find myself hard-pressed to learn to pray. Like a child learning to walk, these are the low coffee tables, the soft piano cushions, the edges of sofas that provide me with a firm grip as I learn to move my feet. They whisper even as they aid: One day you will be grown and will have no need of us. Not because we are rendered obsolete, but because the muscles in your legs will be carved with memories in the shape of us. As perfect teachers open all their wisdom to their students, the lessons that we taught you will become incarnate in the first free footfall of your child feet.

Let us ask, crying out until we are answered. It is neither lukewarm prayers that touch the heart of God nor weak sighs that accomplish the work of our conversion. It is not the idle chatter of our lips or the actual cry from the mouth that we have to have heard. Rather it is the cry of the heart.
--Christian Meditations, "Third Sunday After Epiphany", Blessed Basil Moreau


  1. I've been enjoying your blog for a while now, but this is my first time commenting. What are some of your favorite prayer books or ones that you would recommend? (also sorry if I submitted this twice! I tried earlier on my phone and was struggling hard)

    1. Dana, one of my favorites (because it's slender, and can fit into almost any purse or coat pocket) is the Congregation of the Holy Cross' Directory of Devotional Prayer (https://www.avemariapress.com/product/1-59471-300-6/Directory-of-Devotional-Prayer
      Also: the Liturgy of the Hours and the Book of Common Prayer are always good choices (not as easily fit into coat pockets. But still).
      And last but not least, Doubleday published a wonderful novena of Mother Teresa's sayings, which are beautiful words to meditate with each day. It's called: "Jesus is My All in All: Praying with "The Saint of Calcutta" Mother Teresa." I highly recommend it.


  2. Awesome! Thanks for the suggestions :)