Any scrap of wood
Why you don’t need to find a good time to pray. Luigi Gioia shares a story from his youth
I am 17, my faith has just come alive, I have discovered the Psalms and fallen in love with them, and have just read a wonderful book on prayer. So I try to enter into the habit of praying daily, or having my daily ‘quiet time’ as some people nicely call it. And, well, it works! The five minutes a day I had decided to devote to prayer soon seem too short. They become 15, 20, 25 minutes. I add five more minutes every day and I am not bored, I love it – it gives me so much peace, so much joy.
Those first lucky days, for a reason I do not remember, I had my home all to myself, so I could enjoy all the silence and the peace I wanted. But this blessed time was not going to last… I have three siblings, younger than me. The little one was two or three at the time. Love them to pieces, but they could be so annoying, bless them.
So imagine the scene: I shut myself in my room, I sit on a chair, I read a psalm, re-read it, a sentence strikes me, I close my eyes and try to repeat it gently with my heart. My siblings are playing hide and seek, one of them is unhappy about something, they start arguing. The little one starts crying and comes hanging at my door: so frustrating. I still try to keep focused, but am increasingly angry, exasperation mounts and at one point I end up shouting at my siblings to shut up, not once but several times, until, discouraged and ridden with guilt for losing my temper, I give up!
This scene occurs two or three times until, at the end of that week, I talk about the experience with a Benedictine monk. In the course of that conversation I receive an unforgettable lesson about prayer…
Luigi Gioia is Professor of Systematic Theology at the Pontifical University of Sant’Anselmo in Rome. This article is an edited extract from Say it to God: In search of prayer (Bloomsbury, 2017, £9.99)
This is an extract from an article that was published in the February 2018 edition of Reform