Like you, I have sometimes wondered, ìIs this all there is to life? [My years as a priest and bishop] have been marked by a search for the Lord, by a sincere concern to live life in accordance with his gospel.
One day I realized I was constantly exhorting others to pray—frequently, daily. But I was not investing adequate time for prayer in my own life!
[With the advice of some priest friends,] I resolved to devote an hour each day to prayer—the first hour each morning before the pressures of my ministry could get at me. Besides reciting the rosary and praying the Liturgy of the Hours, I have recourse to Scripture as a point of departure for meditative prayer.
During the early days of this new habit of prayer, I began to realize how often I had looked elsewhere for God rather than right in the midst of each day’s journey! I became aware that often I sought escape from the difficulties and the suffering that I encountered daily in my ministry. I tended to think that my ministry was mine alone, rather than the Lord’s.
In short, I came to realize that I do not walk alone! God is with me. Through his word he helps to keep me on the right path. Through the breaking of bread each day, the risen Lord feeds the deepest hungers of my heart and spirit. And the Holy Spirit gives me what I need to carry out my pastoral ministry effectively.
Daily prayer has sustained me through two very different experiences.
The first was an accusation that, several years earlier, I had sexually abused a college seminarian by the name of Steven Cook. While I knew the accusation was false, within hours it became a cause celebre in the U.S. and around the world. Despite my innocence, I was totally humiliated and embarrassed. More important, the false accusation put my ministry in jeopardy, at least until the allegation was dropped. Before he died, Steven and I experienced a powerful, prayerful reconciliation.
The second event occurred when I learned that I had a malignant pancreatic tumor, which meant that I had to face directly the prospect of an early death.
As I faced these traumas, I literally felt God’s presence. It was as if God was saying to me: “I will not abandon you. I will walk with you and help you through all of this.” This has made an enormous difference in my life.
Excerpt from How Can I Find God? The Famous and the Not-So-Famous Consider the Quintessential Question. Edited by James Martin, SJ
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