Cardinal Martini on prayer
I have asked myself, "Why not give an open voice to this inner struggle by listening also to people who are in search of meaning? Can't I be helped by them to understand what is happening within me?" In due course, I invited a well-known Marxist philosopher to speak about the implications in his own personal life of not believing in God—and I can tell you, it was a moving experience. Very, very interesting. And after that I invited others—psychiatrists, artists, poets and others—to speak about the searching for a meaning in life, with all the doubts and anxieties that it entails. In inviting these speakers, I was not out to convince anyone of the Christian message, nor to give a sermon or an apologetic exhortation. I simply wanted to provide an environment where each person present could think and reflect on the meaning of his or her life.
My method was simple: We began with moments of silence, some singing and praying of psalms, followed by a reading from the New Testament and a short introduction to personal prayer. And then no music—just long periods of silence. It was amazing. This went on each month for five years. One year we prayed the psalms of repentance, focusing on the phrase from Psalm 51, "Lord have mercy on me." Word of what we were doing spread even to the prisons, and one young man who was incarcerated wrote me that after learning how to pray he wanted nothing to do with his former life of terrorism. When the cathedral proved too small for the thousands who attended, we spread out into many diocesan churches—some 70 in all. Even in the dead of winter, when unheated churches are like refrigerators, everyone sits quietly and prays. All are absorbed by listening to God's words.
Song, silence, praying the psalms, a piece of NT, and then more silence (but embedded in community). What a powerful form of meditation!
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