The Flame: November-December 2019
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This is the refrain of the Quaker hymn, attributed to
Robert Lowry, How Can I Keep From Singing:
No storm can shake my inmost calm, while to
that rock I'm clinging
Since Love is Lord of heaven and earth, how can
I keep from singing?
I believe these words contain what it means to have a
contemplative heart. Our world seems to be an
increasingly stormy place. There are a variety of geopolitical
situations on earth that can lead us to be both
fearful and discouraged. The media seems to feed
divisiveness and hate. The Church is still wrestling with
the sexual abuse scandal. Most of us have family
members who have abandoned the faith. And there
are genuine weather systems that devastate parts of
our world. Life on earth can be stormy.
Can we have an inmost calm amid all these tensions in
life? I believe we can. The key is learning to pray.
My spiritual director recently gave me a book by Fr.
Jean Lefrance entitled Give Peace to My Soul
subtitle describes what the book is about: Discover St.
Elizabeth of the Trinity's Secret of Prayer.
At the time
of this writing, I cannot give a full book review.
However, the portion of the book I have read
synthesizes St. Elizabeth of the Trinity's spirituality.
Similar to St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Elizabeth was a
Carmelite nun from France who died in 1906 at the
age of 26. She was beatified by St. John Paul II in 1984
and canonized by Pope Francis in 2016.
The key to St. Elizabeth's teachings about prayer is
found in her name. At the age of 11 she was given a
profound awareness of the Holy Trinity dwelling within
her inmost self. What St. Elizabeth experienced was
simply what Jesus promises:
I will ask the Father and he will give you another
Counselor, to be with you forever, even the Spirit
of Truth…you know him, for he dwells with you,
and will be in you…If a man loves me, he will
keep my word, and my Father will love him, and
we will come to him and make our home with
him. (parts of John 14:16-17, 23 Revised
Each baptized Christian is the home of God-Father, Son
and Holy Spirit. However, so few of us deeply connect
with the Living God abiding in us.
How can we do that? One of the key elements is silence.
Of the many and good ways to pray, being silent before
the Lord is perhaps the hardest to master. Daily I pray
the Liturgy of the Hours (which I am obliged to do
accepting Holy Orders), the Rosary and the Chaplet of
Divine Mercy. I also read Sacred Scripture around 20
minutes a day. By these prayers I praise God, intercede
for the world and feed my soul in many ways. However,
silence connects me to the Father who speaks only one
Word from all eternity, and immerses me in love
between the Father and the Son: the Holy Spirit.
I find it hard to be silent before the Lord. My mind
seems to fill up with the details and loose ends that
make up my life as a pastor. One by one I lay them aside,
sometimes writing them on paper. (Once it's on paper
it stays out of my mind easier.) Then I simply try to be
with the Lord. Amid the cacophony of this world, the
Lord is the Rock I want to cling to. He is, as St. John
reminds us, Love. (I John 4:16)
I have sometimes experienced this God-filled silence
during charismatic prayer times. I have been at prayer
meetings and conferences where loud praise and
singing in tongues suddenly yields to a profound
corporate silence. This silence is sometimes punctuated
by a word of prophecy or revelation. However,
sometimes there is simply a wonderful sense of Godfilled
As we approach the holiday season, let us make time
for silent prayer. Amid the very real stresses of planet
earth and the busyness of our lives, we want to abide
in Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word made Flesh, who
shows us the Father and gives us the Holy Spirit. In this
way, God will be made evident by the growing inmost
calm, also known as peace, we display as we go about
our daily duties.
Fr. Bob Franco
Bishop’s Delegate to Catholic Renewal Ministries