Personal Space and Silence
Excessive use of electronics interferes with activities of the mind and heart, and on one’s ability to be alone. Time spent alone is essential because what we say to ourselves is more important than what we say to others. If we are tethered to electronics – and this includes radio and television, how can we listen to the voice deep inside praising, encouraging, or admonishing us? Fear of loneliness, fear of being alone is a neurosis spreading across swaths of age groups. Loneliness is a defeat, solitude, a triumph.
Silence brings its own power. But it can also be resisted. Silence can disturb. For many, it is noise. Whereas noise competes with reflection, silence invites it. Today, external silence seems to be a luxury; noise, the norm. But quiet time is still possible to find if the desire to do so is there. What little external silence exists should not be snuffed out by using mobile devices.
Prayer and the Daily Examen
Addiction to electronics has made inroads into the life of prayer, as the Psalmist intones: “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10).
For the person of faith, lay, religious, or clergy, time spent entirely alone with God is the most important activity of the day. All other activities should either lead up to the time of prayer or flow from it. Prayer is the power of our lives working deep within us, the energy of our activities. Time spent alone with God enables the individual to live in God’s presence during the remainder of the day. Curiously enough, far from taking time away from one’s activities, prayer seems to add time for them.
Prayer affects one’s attitude toward life. The saints grasped this truth, which is why their activities were so effective.
Prayer may not be the first thing one does in the morning, though many still make their morning offering while hurrying to their destinations. What counts is not necessarily the length of one’s prayer but the desire to pray. For mothers and fathers, on the run for the sake of their families, it may be possible to catch only ten or fifteen minutes for prayer, and that time may be in the shower. Some business people find a quiet place in a church at lunch time. Some take a walk and pray; others pray at their desks during their coffee breaks. Consecrated religious typically pray an hour each day, exclusive of attending the Eucharist and praying the Hours. Pope Francis tells us that he prays between 7 and 8 o’clock in the evening.
The best time for solitary prayer is entirely the decision of the individual. We pray as we can, not as we cannot. The particular examen is another type of prayer. In it, one reflects on how the day went. It evaluates whether or not the individual has found God in prayer, in oneself, in others, and in the events of that day.
Perhaps we need more modern versions of Thomas More.