The Pope’s Recent General Audiences and Us

For the last several weeks, Pope Francis has been dedicating his Wednesday General Audience talks to the topic of prayer.

Of keen interest to the parish were his April 28 and May 5 talks, which dealt with meditation and contemplation, respectively.

In his April 28 message, the Pope recognized and affirmed the universal phenomenon of meditation, which people practice either within a religious context or apart. “We all need to meditate, to reflect, to discover ourselves, it is a human dynamic. Especially in the voracious western world, people seek meditation because it represents a barrier raised against the daily stress and emptiness that is rife everywhere,” the Pope said.

What we offer each weeknight evening at 6pm at the parish is the opportunity to grow in meditative practice, with the silent support of others in practice, and to do so in a specifically Christian context.

Many have taken up meditation and/or yoga because they felt the church offered nothing in this area.  No one familiar with St. Joseph Catholic Community can make such a claim.

What the Christian component of meditation offers is “a uniqueness that must not be eradicated,” as the Pope noted.  The uniqueness, in large part, is found in the meditation’s object.  For Christians, it is not the self, it is Christ, God, the “Other.”  Pope Francis: “Meditating means going to the encounter with Jesus, guided by a phrase or a word from Holy Scripture.”

The Pope acknowledges that within Christianity, there are many methods of meditation.  At St. Joseph, while we don’t know every participant’s practice, we do know there is a wide range of methods, from Centering Prayer to Christian Meditation to a meditative and silent praying of the rosary, going on each evening.

The Pope cites a helpful teaching from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:  “Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion and desire. This mobilisation of the faculties is necessary in order to deepen our convictions of faith, prompt the conversion of our heart, and strengthen our will to follow Christ. Christian prayer tries above all to meditate on the mysteries of Christ” (n. 2708).

On May 5, the Pope tackled contemplative prayer.  He began by reminding listeners that our contemplative dimension as humans is not inaccessible or only for a few. In fact, he said, “The contemplative dimension of the human being — which is not yet contemplative prayer — is a bit like the “salt” of life: it gives flavour, it seasons our day.

He reminds listeners that contemplative can begin to be understood as engaging the eyes of the heart: “This is the path of contemplative prayer: I look at him and he looks at me. This act of love in silent dialogue with Jesus does so much good for the Church.”

If you’re interested in developing or starting a contemplative prayer, jump in any evening in the church at 6pm, and look for special presentations and talks on contemplative themes during the year.

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