Saturday, August 14, 2010

"Make a little birdhouse in your soul,"

or at least a chapel in your heart, as Brother Lawrence, whose spirituality is the basis for The Practice of the Presence of God, urges us to do. God is always present, "nearer to us than you think," Brother Lawrence, speaking from his experience, tells us. So, it is a matter of living in the awareness of the Presence who is always with us. This requires practice, which, in turn, necessitates a method that is nothing other than a way to cultivate this awareness.

Brother Lawrence, in the sane, practical, and serene manner in which those who are close to the Lord speak, instructs us: "You don't have to be in church all the time in order to be with God. We can make a chapel in our heart where we can withdraw from time to time and converse with him in meekness, humility, and love. Everyone has the capacity for such intimate conversation with God, some more, some less. He knows what we can do. Get started. Maybe he is just waiting for one strong resolution on your part. Have courage." The exhortation to "[h]ave courage" is nothing other than saying "Trust Him." The trouble with thoughts like the one from Bro. Lawrence is that we tend sentimentalize them as nice little thoughts by a nice little monk, thinking, "Ah, isn't that a lovely thought, a nice idea." We think this without giving any consideration to the fact that this is a huge thought by a person speaking very seriously, who is challenging us to verify what he says through our own experience. So, it is truly a question of courage; the question being Do you trust Him enough to try?"

I follow this with something from one of my favorite contemporary spiritual theologians, Eugene Peterson, who puts the same challenge to us, but in a more provocative way: "We all suppose we could pray, or pray better, if we were in the right place. We put off praying until we are where we think we should be, or want to be. We let our fantasies or our circumstances distract us from attending to the word of God that is aimed right where we are, and invites our answers from that spot."

Jesus was a carpenter and you are the temple of His Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19). Given these two facts, is it really so impossible to build a chapel in your heart? Have courage- Jesu confido tibi. Coming full circle, if, indeed, the Holy Spirit descends in the form of dove, maybe, as They Might Be Giants sing, you need to "make a little birdhouse in your soul" after all.


  1. Beautiful - truly. Very thought provoking as well, of course.

    Just last night I was listening to a favorite song of mine as I took a walk... Birdhouse in Your Soul. I was a big TMBG fan back in the day, when they still held day jobs. One of them actually worked for a friend of mine, although I did not learn that until much later. I would go to see them at dark, smoky and somewhat unsavory little clubs in lower Manhattan.

    I bring this up because that is part of the history of how God invited me back to the fold.

  2. Yes, God uses EVERYTHING to draw us to Him, absolutely everything. When we see this it is so humbling that we all we can do is express our gratitude. My favorite TMBG songs are Particle Man and their version Istanbul. I especially love the Looney Tunes videos of these songs!

  3. Amen my brother! God uses everything, which is always a reminder to see those connections and roads to transformation through a more compassionate eye. Yes, I am speaking to myself here.

    Particle Man! Istanbul! Ah, we have many connections between us as well, all ways in which the Body is gathered together and reunited, made whole. Thanks be to God!

  4. The Ironic CatholicAugust 16, 2010 at 8:41 PM

    I love Br. Lawrence. Nice reflection--thank you.


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