Let me begin by sharing part of a story I shared in my column in April of 2014.
“During retreat one year, the Holy Spirit asked me to ask Him for a sign of His love for me. That doesn’t mean I was hearing voices or anything. It’s kind of the same thing when the phone rings and you know who it is on the other end before you answer it. You just know. I answered the Holy Spirit by saying to Him, in prayer, ‘I want to see a Baltimore oriole.’ This is a yellow and black bird that is not very common in the place in which I was on retreat. They are present, but not very common. Shortly thereafter, I went out for a walk on the grounds of the retreat center. During the course of my walk, a car passed me and I indicated to the driver that I was on retreat by lowering my eyes. As I looked at my feet as the car passed, to my surprise at the tips of my toes laid a yellow feather! I was then reminded of the sign I asked to receive. Even so, I didn’t need to see the bird; I had its feather! Because of this, feathers have become a reminder of God’s love.”
I shared this story with a sixth-grade class many years ago when a member of that class shared the following with me: “Sister, you tell us that God ‘speaks’ to our hearts. I have never heard Him!” I responded, “Really? What about during your First Communion?” “Nope! Not even then!” she retorted. Seeking the response of her classmates sitting around her, she said, “Am I right? Does anyone agree with me?” I was shocked because every one of the students raised their hand! These 12 year olds NEVER heard the gentle whispers of God in their life. I told them the story above. Taking the yellow feather from my pocket, I taped it to an extra desk. I explained, “We are going to pray, every day, as a class for God to speak to you. When He does, I want you to bring something to remind you of that conversation and then share it with your classmates.”
As the students brought items into the class and shared their stories, the pile of stuff quickly grew from the top of the desk to the floor around it, to the window sill and overtook the book case in the back of the room. By the end of the year, it was evident God had truly touched the minds and the hearts of my students!
I am reminded of this story as I continue my series on prayer. Let’s focus on the fourth key as described by Eamon Tobin in 13 Powerful Ways to Pray: Listening to God in Prayer. The ways (in bold) are presented by Father Tobin, but the explanations are mine.
Through sacred writings – The words of Sacred Scripture are words given to us through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. They are words coming from the heart of God! As I listen to the words of Sacred Scripture proclaimed at the Liturgy, I am often in awe over the simple reason that we can hear the words of Christ. Our God became flesh and walked among us and taught us what being human should look like. Our God had a mother, a foster father, lived in a family and in a community. His words came out of His experience of being human. His words always point to God the Father and the reality that all of us are made for heaven. Through these written words, we can hear the tiny whispers of God’s voice present to us today.
Through God’s creation – Many years ago, I had the privilege of taking a pottery class. As we were learning how to “throw” clay onto a wheel, my instructor posed a question: “After a piece is completed, what is the proof that the piece belongs to an individual potter?” Our conversation was the following: “The mark on the bottom of the piece?” “Nope.” After several minutes, the instructor said, “The potter’s fingerprints!”
What was true of the potter is true of the Creator. He has made everything that we find in nature and “it is very good!” (Genesis)
Through the lives of other people – In my religious congregation, we have a saying: “I stand on the shoulders of giants!” I am often humbled when I read about the lives of the Sisters that went before me. How true it is for the saints of the church, as well as those saints that are not known by the global Church. I think of a woman who buried seven of her eight children and her husband because of a fire that was accidently set by the surviving child. I think of a woman who battled cancer for 10 years and found glory in being sick because she discovered what total reliance on God was all about. I think of a young woman who, after five miscarriages, finally gave birth to a little boy. Before his second birthday, he was diagnosed with a neurological illness called Angelman’s Syndrome. He will never be able to talk, walk or have cognitive skills higher than that of a two year old. His mother says he has become the joy of the family and sees it as a blessing.
We will never truly understand what crosses other people carry. But those who carry those crosses with joy and trust truly are prophets and the giants of the spiritual life.
Through the events of daily life – God is truly part of our lives! Scripture reminds us that He counts the number of hairs on our heads. He is always teaching us until we learn the lesson. Some lessons are easily learned, others take a very long time.
God is constantly speaking to us. It’s the same lesson I taught my students so many years ago!
By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, Special to The Witness