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To find peace during Lent, be still and listen.

During Lent we yearn to experience once again, those moments when we "touch" God. If we are attentive and recollective we can remember the occasions when God made himself clear to us.

Each Ascension Thursday, I usually remember the time that, as a junior in college attending Mass on Ascension Thursday, I realized I could not think of my life without becoming a priest. Whether one calls it a conversion, a "revelation" or a mystical inspiration, it is undeniable that it was a moment that clarified and inspired in an irreversible way.

Why can't we -- why don't we -- "meet" God more regularly and more dramatically? We know, most of the time, that consciously or otherwise we are running away from God. The hound of heaven pursues us, but he will not compel our attention if we, as we so often do, separate ourselves from God by an addiction to secular information or to trivia.

The Holy Spirit, our teacher and advocate, wants to teach and be our lawyer to plead for our sanctification, but again the spirit will generally act only when there is repose, receptivity and silence (the eighth sacrament).

St. Ignatius, founder of the Jesuits, had a profound sense of the presence of the Holy Trinity. This inner vision came to him during his yearlong "retreat" after his conversion. From every indication, Ignatius had a mystical feeling that the Trinity was present and acting in his soul. He did not, however, have consolation all or even most of the time; his rules for the discernment of spirits make it clear that Ignatius had experienced deep and abiding struggles with the demons of depression.

How can we share more often and more constantly in moments like the transfiguration of the Lord? That is the central question asked by Christians, by doubters, by agnostics and by everyone. The question comes out in a thousand variations, but the essence is always there: How can I find the God of light and peace?

Those who abandon all egocentric ambitions and self- indulgent aspirations will find eventually a new plateau of peace upon which they can rest, at least a substantial part of the time. There may be no visitations, transfigurations or even tangible consolations, but somehow one has the feeling that the awesome and incomprehensible supreme being is near us.

The awfulness of the unsolvable mystery of human existence is made more bearable. But one knows that the temporary and fleeting sense that our existence is meaningful will be replaced, perhaps quickly, by a deeper anxiety as to how my existence as one of 5.2 billion human beings in the world makes sense to God.

There is no peace, we have to conclude, except in confessing that ultimately the retention of any tranquillity in our souls requires that we make an act of faith in the unseen, the unexplained, the unfathomable realities hidden from our eyes. Cardinal Newman said in different ways that, ultimately, he was much more certain of the presence and reality of the unseen world than of anything that can be seen or touched.

We cannot stop ourselves from searching incessantly -- sometimes frantically -- for a feeling of peace we do not have. We grasp at the beauty of the human face, a sunset, a flower or a melody. Sometimes we just close our eyes and beg God, in the words of Gerald Manley Hopkins, to "send roots rain."

Nothing can keep away on a permanent basis those moments of quiet desperation that, without faith and prayer, can dominate our lives. But our quest for mystical moments goes on. There is no guaranteed way to increase the number of such moments.

But our abiding search for them is an affirmation that we believe that our Father created us, his son redeemed us and his Holy Spirit, by dwelling in our souls, wants to talk with us and give us peace. There is only one condition: You must be still and listen.
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Title Annotation:Starting Point
Author:Drinan, Robert F.
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Column
Date:Mar 5, 1993
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