“A simple sigh can be prayer”


Every Thursday evening, the young people who journey to Taizé are invited to stay after prayers and talk with Brother Alois, who succeeded Brother Roger as the person in charge of the community. This is part of what he said on July 27th, and is a very helpful reminder to those of us (all of us?) who find prayer difficult:

Yesterday, with one of the brothers, I went away for the day to the mountains, near Chambéry. We were not trying to get away from the heat. We were visiting a man who has helped us brothers very much, following the death of our Brother Roger.

He helped us by writing some words I want to read to you: “The dramatic circumstances of Brother Roger’s death are merely an exterior covering that shows up even more in broad daylight the vulnerability that he cultivated as a door through which God chooses to come in close to us.”

I wanted to see this man before the 16 of August, the anniversary of the death of Brother Roger. I had to go to him, because he will never come here. With thirty monks, he is living a life of extreme solitude in the monastery of the Grande Chartreuse, which they never leave. He is called Brother Marcellin and he is the prior of this monastery that was founded in the 11th century. So, not far from us, there are men who have decided to live for God in the greatest silence and solitude.

This man understood Brother Roger without ever meeting him. For living entirely turned towards God is no hindrance to being wide awake to the world and to what is going on. Perhaps a certain distance from the flow of news in fact helps these men to sympathise with different situations.

When I said to him that he and his brothers are a sign of the absolute, he replied, “Our life is very simple, sometimes even banal.” Then he added, “It is true, we are aiming for an absolute, but we have to learn above all to live with our humanity, and to believe, even if we can see nothing, that God is doing something in our life.”

There is a thirst for the absolute in all of us. And we all have to learn to live with our humanity and believe that God is acting in and through our life, even if we do not see very much. This faith, this trusting, gives our life a dynamism that lead us to overcome many things in un-hoped for ways.

Even in prayer we have to accept our humanity, accept that we are poor. We cannot see the entire reality. We turn towards God as we are, with what is good, but also with our darkness, and even with our faults. Sometimes we express some words, sometimes we are there with our bodies, in silence. Brother Roger said, “A simple sigh can be prayer.”

Let us accept that we do not see all that is happening in our prayer! A bit like these monks who never leave the deep valley where they live. They never see the other side of the mountains that surround them. The Apostle Paul says this clearly, “We do not know how to pray”, and he continues, “But the Spirit of God prays within us.”

Let us dare to offer to God our poverty. It is not easy, because we have to accept that we cannot see all the sides of life. This presupposes a decision to follow one single road and to persevere in it, going from one beginning to another.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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