· Vatican City ·


Of prayer listening, and justice

30 September 2023

The Church that I would like interprets the prophecy of the German Jesuit and theologian Karl Rahner’s spiritual testament, “the Christian of the future will either be a mystic or he [they] will not be”, by placing prayer at its centre, aimed at the progressive opening of each believer to the grace of self-revelation that God bestows on his creatures.

The gospels are the main tool for accessing this “relationship prayer”; they are a kind of pentagram on which to co-construct with God the very personal alphabet with which he speaks to us. At first in the secret of our room, then gradually through the people and events we encounter along the way.

The experience of an intimate knowledge of Jesus matured through prayer and confirmed by the continuous confrontation with the praying community stems from the use of tools such as St Ignatius of Loyola’s imaginative contemplation, St Teresa of Ávila’s mental prayer, Lectio Divina or other methods based on Holy Scripture.

The second characteristic of the Church that I would like is the ability to listen that accompanies prayer. A listening filled with wonder and expectation: what if through the person who is speaking to me God wants to reveal something about himself or instruct me on an aspect of my life?

A third characteristic of the Church I would like to see is a keen sense of justice. Our common familiarity with the gospels makes us all, despite our differences, very sensitive to the way Jesus dealt with similar situations. Before an agreed ethical solution can be reached, some cases require a complex process of discernment among specialists in the field.  The majority of cases, on the other hand, are of immediate solution for any ethically mature Christian. Therefore, educating in the spirit of parrhesia, in a spirit that neither yields to the temptation of misguided diplomacy nor hesitates in preferential choice for the poor, is an essential task of the community.

Finally, the Church I would like gains from the possibilities offered by the web to enter into an equal relationship with geographically distant Christians. For example, what convinces a non-Western person to convert to Catholicism? During the five days of small group “appropriation” that concluded the Month of Spiritual Exercises, I remember asking Evelyn, a very young nun from Zimbabwe, “Didn’t it make it difficult for you to enter into a relationship with Jesus, a fair-skinned Jew born on the shores of the Mediterranean?” Without a moment’s hesitation Evelyn smilingly replied, “My Jesus is black!!!”.

By Guia Sambonet
An author; and head of the San Fedele School of Prayer, Milan.