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Above all, trust in the slow work of God.

By Sister Marcella Clancy

Father Ron Rolheiser describes a man who thought he lost his faith. He went to an old  Jesuit known for his wisdom. The priest said, “All I can offer is this: “Place yourself in God’s presence for an hour every day. Stay, even if God does not show up.”

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The man left disappointed, but desperate, he did what the Jesuit advised. After a month his problem completely disappeared. He could not identify the moment or hour, the day a shift had happened but it had. He had no visions, no special insights and no revelations but something had changed in him. This story highlights aspects of an indispensable prayer.

  1. Prayer is not efficient. I am not talking about a specific form of prayer that many of us learned in religious education: the prayer of praise or adoration, thanksgiving, petition, or sorrow for sin. I am talking about the prayer when I simply make myself available for God, grant God an expanse of time to inundate to me. The purpose of this prayer is to stretch myself out in front of God and wait. I can’t even specifically tell you what I am waiting for or if I know when my waiting has been answered. Yet, there is a difference in my life when I am faithful to this practice and when I am not.

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  1. Prayer is not productive or measurable. So many questions arise: Is it “working”? Am I fooling myself? Is anything is “happening”? And, of course the there is no answer except to believe God is faithful. The breaking-in of God is not earned or deserved. It is always, always a gratuitous gift. I have talked enough to others to know that there is always the temptation when I feel “prayer is good”, I did something right and when “prayer is empty”, I did something wrong. Which is a subversive way of claiming credit rather than recognizing all depends on God’s enormous goodness.

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  1. Prayer is inclusive by its nature. Prayer is not disembodied, private or individualistic. Prayer isn’t selfish. In the very act of being available to God we create a breach for God to flow into all the wounded, broken spaces in our world, into all the dark spaces where violence and hatred breed. In pondering about this blog, I was keenly aware of all the strife, anger, divisiveness, and civil unrest present in our country. Should I explore how I, as a Sister of St. Joseph, am complicit in this troubling time? For it is incompatible with the Gospel to be silent regarding injustice. Yet unless those words are bathed by prayer they may only add to the anger and violence. I cannot “see” the difference my prayer makes in my world, no more than I can “measure” the difference it makes in me. To open to God’s consuming love is to open the world to that same transforming fire.

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  1. Prayer is transformative. Prayer changes us, not all at once but gradually, quietly. In prayer God works undetected, secretly, under the cover of silence and in our depths. Prayer is not always peaceful and lovely. Prayer is an essential part of the process of being made whole and oftentimes our personal demons and resistances arise. They come to God within, like beggars, wanting to be healed. Our responsibility is to welcome them to the table of our heart.

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We pray to praise and thank God, to ask God for what we and the world needs, to seek forgiveness and healing. Yet one of the primary purposes of prayer, not mentioned in our religious education classes, is to marinade and bask in God. Prayer gradually changes our face into the face of God, our presence into the presence of God’s love. To pray is a courageous act of trust. Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin urges us, “Above all trust in the slow work of God… Give Our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.”

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About the Author

Marcella Clancy.LoResSister Marcella Clancy, CSJ, has degrees in nursing and theology. In the past she ministered in hospitals, taught nursing and theology at the college level and served in parishes in the Archdiocese of Detroit. Currently, Sister Marcella ministers as a spiritual director, facilitates retreats and offers presentations through Transformation Spirituality Center at our Nazareth Center in Kalamazoo.

30 thoughts on “Above all, trust in the slow work of God.

  1. Catherine Ludwick says:

    Thank you! Much needed reflection this morning. God be with you and all of us as we “marinade” in His Love.

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  2. Mary Pung says:

    Beautiful Marcella. I think you did an excellent job of encouraging me in my prayer.To never give up is the key. To persevere no matter what else is going on in life.

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  3. Kathy Jeffers says:

    As I sit on my porch, hearing the birdbath gurgle and the wind chimes tinkle and the birds churping, I read this gift you’ve written and my space brings Presence and the wonder of it all. Thank you

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  4. Maggie Morrissey says:

    Sr. Marcella,

    Thank you so much for the encouragement and push that I needed to sit quietly with God. Also, I was really struck by your statement, “For it is incompatible with the Gospel to be silent regarding injustice.” So true.

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  5. You’ve done it again…..right on target….I am currently watching monarch caterpillars (courtesy of a young family in the Parish)….this is my second watch…
    I’ve watched two butterflies emerge……and watched the chrysalis as it transformed…the slow and marvelous work of God….all the butterfly has to do is consent to God’s action (I borrowed that from Keating)…..thanks again….Bernie

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  6. Marie Benzing says:

    Dear Marcella,
    Once again you go right to my heart and touch into the need and vulnerability there! Thank you.
    Marie

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  7. Brigetta Jane Slinger says:

    Thanks, Marcella, Your beautiful reflection of trusting and being with our loving God and waiting is so inspiring…….

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  8. claparks says:

    I’m a bit belated in reading and responding to this Marcella–so just wanted to know how it touched my heart and acted a bit like a “booster-shot” for my day! Thanks much…

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