By Fr. Roy Cimagala
YES, we need to pray without ceasing, as St. Paul told us in his First Letter to the Thessa-lonians. (5,16) To keep our spiritual life alive, to make it survive all trials in life, let alone, to make it work effectively and grow healthily, we need to pray without letup.
What food is to our biological life, prayer is to our spiritual life. Prayer is like the breathing and the very beating of the heart of our life with God and with others. It is the primary and abiding link we have with God and with everybody else. Without it, we would simply isolate ourselves.
In short, we can say that while God is objectively with us, since he is present everywhere, we have to make sure that on our part, we should also be subjectively with him. Precisely, St. Augustine once complained about this problem of God being with us while we are not with him. We need to correspond to this objective reality of our unbreakable and intimate relation with God.
Our need to pray is like our need to breathe. It should be non-stop, since it is indispensable in our union with God our Creator, who keeps us alive and healthy in our spiritual life. Again, let’s bring back a basic truth—without God we are nothing!
The only difference is that breathing is a bodily necessity and is instinctive and automatic until we die, while praying is a spiritual necessity that requires conscious effort and continues even after death, though in a different form.
In fact, praying requires faith, hope and charity which first of all are gifts from God that need to be corresponded to by us with a lot of patience and the dynamic interplay of all the other virtues.
We should not be surprised by this requirement of prayer, much less complain about it, since praying is our most basic way of dealing with God who has given us all and who has the right to expect all for us also, we being his image and likeness.
We are reassured that God always listens to us even if it would seem to us that he does not. Precisely this is the point that is highlighted in the Gospel of St. Luke, chapter 18, verses 1 to 8.
It talked about the parable of the dishonest judge who in the end gave in to the demands of a widow who was persevering in her petitions for her to be given justice.
“While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being,” the judge said, “because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally comes and strikes me.”
From there, Christ concluded: “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says. Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily.”
But the problem, according to Christ, is that people hardly have faith in the power of prayer. It is this deficiency that prevents them from persevering in prayer. But in another gospel, we are reassured that God always gives us what we need.
In another part of the gospel, Christ tells us: “Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you…Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Lk 11,9-13)
Practical training in chastity. This concern should never be taken for granted. This is actually a much bigger concern than what we have in the areas of politics, social life, business or the now in-thing of climate change, ecology and other environmental issues.
And the simple reason is that this concern is fundamental in our life. This virtue figures prominently in our capacity to love on which all the other aspects of our life depend. It is first of all a fruit of real love that comes from God and the seed that gives life to real love also.
If that capacity to love is compromised, either openly or subtly, then we can be brilliant, productive and impressive in the other aspects but we would still miss the point, we would still miss the real goal.
Moreover, we would likely create a bigger mess the more powerful we are in the other aspects that are not driven or inspired by real love. We can enter into the world of illusions, if not delusion, that can be so grave that we may not even realize it. And that’s because if we do not have the real love, we can only have the alternative of self-love which is a sweet poison.
Plainly put, chastity is putting our body and everything in it in the dynamic of true love that has God as the source, the pattern, the energy, and the end. Yes, it involves the proper regulation of our thoughts, desires, emotions and passions, all the way to the level of the hormones.
Sad to say, this virtue is now so ignored, misunderstood and badly lived that some people are actually wondering if it is still possible to live it. Practically all of us have suffered the erratic ways of our flesh. But obviously, chastity is always possible and practicable.
But yes, we cannot deny that it involves a lot of effort and self-discipline. Aside from the spiritual and supernatural means that should always be given priority in our effort to develop this virtue, we have to undertake a rigorous practical training to be chaste.
We should not be naive not to acknowledge that we carry within ourselves our first formidable enemy in this struggle for chastity. It’s our body itself that is ruled by strong biological constituents like hormones, instincts, temperaments, etc. that can go wild if not properly handled.
We need to be keenly aware of them, of how they work, etc., so that we would know how to direct them to the dynamic of real love. The ideal state should be that we have a strong dominion over these biological elements.
Of course, we cannot be in complete control of these things, but at least we are doing something to dominate them. We have to be careful with the food we eat, the things we see and handle that can trigger unchaste reactions, etc. We have to be careful with our thoughts, imagination and memory.
We have to develop a strong, alert and prompt will to resist the erratic and erotic urges of the flesh. These urges can come anytime, but especially in our more vulnerable moments as when we are tired and alone, when going to bed or upon waking up. These are times when the body would simply look for sensual pleasures as its way of having relief and compensation.
It’s in these moments that we have to intensify our prayer, making many acts of faith, hope and charity. Our mind and heart should be filled with good thoughts, desires and images so that our senses, our emotions and feelings would be put at ease and in condition to love, to think of God and of the others, to think of what we can do for them.
And we cannot deny the importance of resorting to some severe corporal mortifications to discipline the body. Sad to say, this practical training in chastity is still unheard of by many these days.