I went to Holy Cross to find God again. I went seeking an encounter with the Holy One. I wanted to feel God in a tangible way and to fall in love with God again.
The mountains provided my initial introduction to God's majesty and power. I could not help but to recite the words of the Psalmist over and over again, "I lift up my eyes to the hills." The glorious sunsets made me want to linger outside each evening as the heavens told the glory of the Lord. I could see God in this place, away from the hustle, bustle, traffic and crowded streets of Washington. Still, I knew that I needed to work harder to take part of it back with me. I knew that I wanted more spiritual depth - a depth that would continue to find a lot of time for God upon my return. It is for this reason that I placed my name on the appointment schedule for time with one of the brothers.
My appointment was scheduled for 11:00 on Thursday morning. I went to the place where I was to meet the brother. The door was still closed. I paced back and forth for a little while. I went back to my room. I picked up a book. I went back to the library. It was now 11:10, and the door was still shut. "Why is he keeping me waiting?" I asked myself. I then got up from my chair, walked over to the bulletin board and crossed my name off the schedule. My return to the room did not last long, however, as I found myself going back down the hall to the room where I was to meet the brother. Finally, the door opened at 11:15, and I went in.
"My name is M - A - R - K," the brother told me. "Now what can I do for you?" he asked. We set down, and I asked, "Will you please tell me about your call to this place?" I thought that if he told me about his call, I would hear about how his heart longeth after God - about how God is so alive in his life, and that I would then be able to capture some of this passion.
Brother Mark looked at me with a perplexed look on his face. "What are you, a reporter?" he asked. "No," I responded. "I am simply an exhausted pastor who is having a hard time making space for God in my everyday life. I desperately need to be refocused," I said.
"Oh," he said. "Now I understand what you are looking for." With these words, Brother Mark took a pad of paper from the bookshelf next to him and started to write four letters. He then handed it back to me. I glanced at the paper which read:
Brother Mark then said, "Now, start taking notes." With that, Brother Mark started to tell me how I could find more of God.
"P is for prayer. There are several different kinds of prayer," he said. He then said, "Please draw 5 lines. The first kind of prayer is thanksgiving. This one is rather easy, especially here. I see a glorious sunset, and I say thanks. I see the mountains, and I say thanks. I also say thanks when I see the ocean from time to time.
The next line is for reparation. This is a reactive kind of prayer. One of our brothers goes through the newspaper each day, looking for people to pray for. He seeks to make reparations for these people through our prayers.
The next line is for adoration. This one is rather simple.
The next one is for petition. We pray for people and situations here all of the time. We petition God on their behalf.
The final line is for meditation. I encourage you to set in your room for 20 minutes each morning and 20 minutes each night. I want you to sit on the floor and cross your legs. Close your eyes and say over and over again, 'I love you, Lord or 'Jesus I love you.'" Brother Mark then continued to tell me how his former Abbot, Thomas Keating, taught him this method. "You have to make room for God - to adore God. And, don't always expect God to show up, just keep praying," Brother Mark said. "You must spend 20 minutes doing this twice a day."
"All of these principles are like plowing the field. You never know when something might be successful - when something might sprout, but we keep plowing," brother Mark told me.
I have yet to set aside 20 minutes, two times a day for mediation. I can imagine such a life, of course. For now, I am trying hard to offer my thanks over and over again, to make reparations for myself and the world, to adore God, and to pray for others.
I can't wait to tell you what else Brother Mark taught me.