Updated: Nov 13, 2018
By: Fr. Michael Baggot, LC
After my annual retreat in the Alps under the guidance of our retreat director Fr. Arturo Díaz. Fr. Díaz enriched our meditations with his five years of experience working in the Holy Land and with the insights gained from his current role as chaplain of St. Teresa's monastery of the Incarnation in Avila. The retreat reminded me again of the primacy of prayer - intimate conversation with our Creator and Redeemer - in the Christian life. A few months after my entry into the Catholic Church, a close friend shared with me Ven. Bishop Fulton Sheen's classic autobiography Treasure in Clay. The prodigious media personality explains that his stubborn commitment to a daily Holy Hour was foundational to his singular fruitfulness. Inspired by his example, I first implemented a Holy Half-Hour into my schedule, before finally imitating the holy Bishop in dedicating a full hour to my Eucharistic King each day. Given my INTJ personality, I rarely feel strong emotions whether inside or outside the chapel. In my habitual spiritual dryness, the Lord constantly reminds me to seek Him rather than the sensible delights He sometimes deigns to grant His followers. In the many moments when my failings reveal how frail I am as an earthen vessel, I take solace in knowing that I have received in daily prayer a treasure to bring to those I meet during the day (II Corinthians 4:7).
A retreat temporary deprives us of the great good of conversation with friends and family to remind us of the one thing necessary, namely, the loving gaze and communion of contemplation (Luke 10:38-42). Our Lord did not criticize Martha for the many good acts of service she performed. Martha is a saint of the Church. Moreover, Our Lord Himself spent His public ministry in a hectic schedule of healings, preaching, exorcisms that hardly left Him and His disciples with barely enough time to eat. Jesus was not exhorting Martha, nor us to set aside the hundred and one tasks of service that form the day. Rather, He insists that that our loving gestures will lose their motive and power if detached from specific moments of prayer concentrated upon the Lord who is the Source of all Goodness. Even with the best of intentions to love and serve God, we often fail to fix time with Him as a priority in our schedules. As in all good habits, Christ modeled the way in the spirit of prayer by slipping away to a deserted place amid His incomparably busy and important ministry (Mk 1:32-35). Prayer was not a mere duty Jesus fulfilled out of guilt or servile fear. Instead, the Son actively sought and protected His dialogue with the Father as a privileged period of joy and strength. Prayer, Jesus teaches us, is neither self-referential nor selfish. Rather, such moments of contemplation open us to the transforming power of God’s grace of which we and the world are in such need. Forming a habit of daily personal prayer is not only one of the best steps you can take for personal self-improvement, it is also one of the best acts of charity you can perform for your friends, family, and all of those with whom you come in contact. Consistent quality time with God will transform you and enable you to bring the light and strength of the Lord to your daily interactions. As a channel of God’s grace, you will enrich those in your path and help them discover the one thing necessary in their own lives.