Sunday, March 1, 2015

Healing and Meditation


Robert Trabold
In the distance, I hear noise
waves crashing onto the surf
washing over sand.
They are constant - unending
sand is washed - washed.
So white - clean!
I pray!
I want waves to wash over me.
I too need washing – healing
past memories of the hard times in my life
suffering – abandonment – treason.
I sit at shore - let waves
wash over me.
Let them wash away - heal memories
images – faces – voices.
As the water recedes, sand is at peace
I need same peace – rebirth – cleanliness!
Sea is grace of God
divine water will wash me – wipe away
heal biting memories.
Hurt will lessen – peace
will come to me
washed sand is always new
my hope also!

Robert Trabold
            The relationship between meditation and healing ultimately goes back to the New Testament where one aspect of Jesus’ work was to travel through Galilee doing wonders and healing people of their sicknesses. There are numerous stories in the gospels describing Jesus reacting to sick people, such as, healing the lepers, laying his hands on individuals and his touch healing people with all kinds of illnesses, curing the paralytic at the pool who waited many years for a miracle and ultimately also raising people from the dead, such as, the son of the widow of Naim. Jesus was manifesting the mercy of God who lifts us up and heals us of our illnesses. This ministry of Jesus was not particular to Him because we know of the work of numerous wandering preachers in Galilee around this time who had a similar ministry of healing people.
            When we get close to the Lord and experience His presence in contemplative prayer, it is a time for us to ask His help in healing our own infirmities. Since we are in intimate contact with Jesus in meditation, we pray also for other sick people asking Him to extend his mercy and heal them. In this way, we are continuing the ministry of Jesus which expressed itself in the years of his work in Galilee. A startling example of the healing ministry of Jesus is a visit to the large pilgrimage shrines in the world, such as, Lourdes in France, Fatima in Portugal, St. Anne of Beaupré in Québec, Canada, etc. People leave behind visible signs of their healings, such as, crutches and other medical equipment now not needed.  Individuals make a pilgrimage in prayer and ask for such healings and many are answered. Here we note the connection between healing, prayer and meditation expressed in the act of pilgrimage.
            A more direct and particular connection between healing and mediation is manifested in contemplative prayer. As we grow in our contemplative path and enter into the silence and peace of God’s presence, our defense mechanisms go down and feelings and emotions of our past life emerge into our consciousness.  They have been buried possibly many years and now come into our awareness. We are bombarded with these past emotions and find it hard to rest in God’s presence. We must now ask God to heal us of these feelings and help us let go of them so that we can have the peace in our conscious and unconscious self to enter into a union with the divine which is the goal of contemplative prayer. These feelings and emotions can be very old and go back into our childhood and they are the baggage we carry in our unconsciousness due to our being human.
            For example, we may have within our unconsciousness feelings of hurt and anger from the various injustices and hard and difficult things people have done to us in our life. With such pains, we all experience it hard to forgive and we hold grudges. Secondly, we may be haunted with our own mistakes in life, missed opportunities to love, our constant pride and selfishness – all things that we find it hard to face. Thirdly, as humans, we like to dominate and control the things that come into our life. We get angry when things do not go our way; we cannot let go. In face of such emotions and others which are part of our life, we ask Jesus to heal us of these and discard them. He is the one who can cure us of these deep emotions and give us the strength to let them go. We will then have a new freedom to grow in a peace within ourselves so that we can enter the divine union which is the goal of contemplative prayer. This healing can take a long time because these feelings and experiences may be deeply embedded in our unconsciousness. It can also be that we have to consult a counselor who can help us come to grips with these emotions. We may need to talk them out with someone so that eventually we can let go of them and be healed of their disturbing presence. It depends on how serious they are and what damage and upheaval they caused in our past.
            As a result, the healing that takes place in contemplative prayer is a particular one dealing with our emotions and feelings that we carry with us in our unconscious. This is part of the human condition and we can look forward to Jesus to help us unload these and to get rid of this unwanted psychological baggage in our life. In contemplative prayer, we are participating in a very definite divine therapy. Jesus is working to make us free people so that we can have the peace and tranquility to enter into union with Him. It is just another dimension and aspect of His healing ministry that we see in the New Testament.


Monday, February 2, 2015




“just now goldsandaled Dawn”


Has someone called me? I believe so.
My breathing gives me a clue.
I feel at my center, a presence there
silent – dark – unknowable
its mystery touches me.
I am immersed in darkness, light
they mingle, weave the quilt of my life’s journey.

I listen to the mystery, feel that
someone has called my name.
In the many currents, undertows of my life
I was remembered.
I was not forgotten, someone called me
walked with me.

I feel, remember how I stumbled in my years
hard streets with dangerous curves.
I was forced to walk - drive in the night.
But I hear my name, voice calls me
from afar, not from this world
but from my center coming from the mysterious presence
giving my name a deep sound, different
from the ordinary.
It now has an echo of depth
meaning, cutting through all the confusion of life.

Someone calls my name – call of love
special because it is from the Divine, Absolute.
I have a Beloved who is totally different.
When He acts, He breaks all barriers
I enter into a new world.
Darkness, mystery of my life still lay on me
but I know, I have a Beloved who calls - remembers me.



Robert Trabold

            As we end an old year and begin another new one, this can be a time of reflection on our life and that of the world with all its pluses and minuses. On one level, our life in the world is a mired of many cycles and events which swirl around us and keep on changing.  We have our private life of family and friends and our own personal development which can keep on changing with new people and events. Our children grow up and move away, friends and family members that we love die and are no longer in our presence. There is the level of our work in the world where we attempt to live out our vocation and profession in life and to earn our daily bread. The profession that we have been trained in may change and we may lose our position there. How then do we retool ourselves so that we can continue to work and support ourselves? There is the greater world which can be very complicated and bring many injustices and violence. We have a political process in which we participate but which does not always work to our benefit and that of the world.  We are disturbed by the never ending violence and wars which plague our existence. At times, we feel hopeless in trying to stop and change this. Our life on earth is a cauldron of never ending changes in which we try to keep our heads above water. This can be a discouraging process and we have to rely on friends and Jesus to help us on the way.

            There is another level of living in one sense does not change like that of the world but continues on in one direction.  This level is manifest in our daily fidelity to meditate twice for twenty minutes each time. This meditation and prayer time puts us in the path to grow in our relationship with God who becomes the anchor of our existence. Jesus does not come and go as the things in the world. This orientation of our life to the Lord is not an easy task because He is mystery and transcendent and there can be much darkness in this relation. But deep down we feel attracted to the Lord who is present to us at our center and still point. No one is so close to us as He is. In addition, we discover in our prayer and faith life that God loves us and offers to us unconditional love which we cannot find in others on earth. We are born and thrown into the universe and can be lost in this process. In our faithfulness to contemplative prayer, we discover that the Jesus is there for us and loves us and ask us to reciprocate in this friendship.

            So as the world swirls around us with it changes, our prayer life puts us in one straight path which cuts through all the confusion of life. We are no longer torn between different ways of living and wondering where it will all end up. We are walking now in a path of loving God who becomes the center of our life and gives us confidence that it will all turn out for the best in the long run. This does not mean that there will be no more suffering and setbacks in our human living. These things will always be with us as long as we live on earth. But deep down we know that our heavenly Father loves us and this is what matters in life. This is then the basis to our fidelity to the contemplative path and daily meditation because each day it nourishes our attachment to the Divine and the swirls and disappointments of our human life and those of the world cannot really hurt us.

            As we begin the New Year now, let us renew our fidelity to our meditation schedule. This is our anchor and so not to be torn by all the different cycles and swirls of our human life and of the world. These things will be always with us. But our life is on a different straight path that breaks through all these earthly cycles and puts us in a deep relationship with the Lord who ultimately leads us to a new world, eternal life. Someone loves us and will be faithful to us and our good. We put our faith here; this is our anchor during the years.


Friday, January 2, 2015

New Year - Beginning Again



Robert Trabold 

Utter silence – blinding winter sun
gentle breezes – hardly noticeable
surprising warmth for January
silent mystery!
In the distance – pounding sea – waves crashing in – wild
repeating noise – one right after the other.

Are these sounds of my life?  pounding?
 wildness?  no control?
Mystery of pounding of the sea is the mystery of my life.
So many different currents – some dangerous
others easy to swim in.

Utter silence of the day is utter silence of God
the Beloved.
Crashing ocean cannot take away silence of the Divine.
Stillness permeates all – it frames noise - pounding sea
frames currents of my life.
How does it do it?  mystery?
Let me not ask too many questions!
Better – let me feel the Presence in silence
Presence of the Beloved.
Like mysterious pounding of the sea,
my life pounds in mystery
sometimes painful – other times with smiles.
Let mystery be dark - dim
Presence of my Beloved is there.
He will not leave me alone.
God hovers over all!



Robert Trabold

            As we journey on our contemplative path and prayer, we sometimes get the feeling that we are making no head way. Obstacles arise and many of these may come from ourselves discouraging us. We wonder if we have made progress in our contemplative growth during the years. Lest we get discouraged and give up, let us remember that we are humans and although Jesus says that we should be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect, we will not lose our humanity until we are in eternal life.  Also our prayer growth is complicated because it is a struggle to focus on the divine presence at our center each day and God’s graces can also vary. At times we have much consolation and other times our prayer is like the Sahara desert. The important thing for us is to shift our attention from our stumbling and try to focus on Jesus who is our Beloved and he will give us the strength and perseverance to be like our Father in heaven and to grow in contemplative prayer.

            First, in relation to our humanity and how we conduct ourselves in the world with others, the challenge and struggle to overcome our selfishness and pride is a thing that we will always have to face on earth. At times, we feel that we have made much progress in following the example of Jesus and how he related to the people around him. Suddenly something happens in our life and we see that we have not grown in love and compassion for others as we thought we did. Our smallness and missed opportunities to love and help our neighbors stare us in our face. We believed that we have moved beyond them but they are still part of our human baggage. The struggle to overcome these faults and be Christ like will not leave us while we live on earth and it is important for us to always keep our eyes on Christ who will ultimately get us through life and grow in his example. Shifting our attention off of ourselves and putting our hope in Jesus gives us the strength and confidence to begin again and continue on with our journey despite the many curves in the road. Our strength to grow and preserver in our contemplative growth comes from Jesus and not from ourselves. This is not to say that our efforts are of no avail but in the long run, we have to keep our eyes on Jesus who knows our weaknesses and who is good shepherd always leading us on with his encouragement and example. Despite it all, he will make it good for us.

            Second, in our contemplative prayer, the inward journey that the mystics talk about is a complicated one and has us ask questions of where we are going and if we are making progress in the contemplative path? Needed is a discipline to be faithful to our two mediation periods daily and try to use the various techniques such as the mantra to bring ourselves to focus on the divine presence within us.  Despite our good efforts, many times we cannot control our intellect and mind which wander all over the place and inhibit our ability to focus on the divine presence within us. Also, we do not have complete control over our schedule and may have difficulties in being faithful to our two daily meditation periods.   Life brings upheavals and these can preoccupy us and hinder us from focusing on the divine presence in our prayer. The mystics alert us that God’s graces can vary. At times, our meditation can be very warm and it easy to rest in the divine presence; other times, God seems very distant and absent. Here again, in the ups and downs of our contemplative prayer, let us to keep our sights on Jesus who calls us to such an intimacy with Him. If this is true, we cannot give up in face of the difficulties in contemplation’s discipline and rhythm. We begin over realizing our Beloved is calling us and he is wooing us to love him. We may not see where the whole road is going but as John of the Cross mentions, God leaves us in the dark so that we do not believe that our growth in contemplation is due to our efforts. The divine is leading us and our growth in the contemplative path is due to God’s strength and presence within us.

            In summary, beginning over is part of our growth in the contemplative path and prayer and it is no easy road.  It is a constant challenge to look at our weaknesses and to have confidence that Jesus will help us slowly grow in goodness mitigating our pride and selfishness. When we fall, we need to pick ourselves up again. And in our journey in contemplative prayer, it requires effort to be faithful to our discipline of growth in meditation and contemplation.  When things get rough and very dry, let us not forget that our Beloved, Jesus, present at our center, is wooing us to love him and encourages us to preserver in this love relationship. For this reason, the challenge is to keep this relationship fresh and not give up on it.

            When things get rough for me, I always remember the words of Julian of Norwich: “God loves us and delights to be in our presence. He calls us to love him and delight to be in his presence and all is well.”  It is remarkable that Julian said these words in the time of the Black Plague in Europe and she seemed to have suffered from this sickness also. But her deep faith and union with Christ always had her begin over and her words should inspire us to do the same.


Monday, December 1, 2014




Robert Trabold

Quiet day – no people – beach
empty. Full sunshine but stiff
 breeze. Colder air coming tonight.

Seashore – yellow –brown
dunes going to sleep – green
will return in the springtime.

Sky is vast – blue for now
clouds went away. Air clean
can see far to the ocean.

Ocean deep blue – rough
sea waves in the distance
white foam wild.

November – end of the year
like the waves of the sea
time marches on – fast.

Where will it all end?
Big mystery – life can be
hard so many wars – violence.

Like deep blue sea – sky
life are mysterious – many questions
few answers – nothing clear cut.

Vast ocean – blue sky are
beyond me. God – Jesus
vast – mysterious.

I know Jesus loves me
whole world. Will not
forget us in this vast space.

Sea – sky are beautiful
beauty is beyond me.
I cannot reproduce it.

Sign, behind it all
Eternal love – welcoming Father.
He knows our pains – loneliness.


END OF YEAR – 2014

Robert Trabold

            I was fortunate this year to make two long pilgrimages. I made a two week one to Spain and visited Castilla y León where John of the Cross and Theresa of Avila worked, died and are buried. I also made another two week one to Québec, Canada and visited the many shrines in Québec city, Trois Rivières and Montréal. These trips were deep spiritual experiences for me. I visited shrines dedicated to many saints and the Blessed Virgin reminding me how God has worked in history to reveal Himself/Herself through the ages. While at the shrine, I participated in the religious life with the many other pilgrims showing me how the Lord continues today to reveal Himself. To make these pilgrimages, I had to make two long trips. I flew to Madrid from New York City and then by bus travelled to the various shrines. I drove from New York City to Canada and visited the shrines in three cities. Those trips were long and I took time out to travel so that I could spend some time in these holy places. I know that the Lord and the saints appreciated my effort. Taking these long trips to holy spaces reminded me that they are symbolic also of my pilgrimage on earth. My life on earth in one sense is a long trip and I am travelling to my true home which is eternal life. I am a pilgrim during my many years on earth.

            As we end the year 2014, it is good for us to reflect on our pilgrimage on earth and what it should mean for our daily life. This stepping back is important because we can become so involved and busy with our everyday affairs that we forget the ultimate goal of our life and earthly pilgrimage. This forgetfulness is very common because as humans, we are busy in our adult life with work, studies, family, and all the responsibilities we have. They can overwhelm us.  Also the world and its many material things can seduce us.  Our life can be orientated around money, having many nice things, etc. Also we can live with pride and selfishness and forget that we are just human beings who are finite and need the assistance of the Lord to direct our life with maturity and Christian values.

            It is a challenge then to keep in mind the ultimate goal of our life and pilgrimage on earth.  One of the things that can help us focus on the important things is our faithfulness to meditating twice a day in silence, each time for twenty minutes. When we take time out to meditate daily, we step back from our many activities and cares and sit in silence in the presence of the Lord. It is a deep encounter where we feel that God loves us and wants us to reciprocate with the same. If we are faithful during the years to this prayer, our life changes and becomes orientated to the way of God. We are no longer pulled in every direction but focus on Christian living and being a witness to this in the world. This is a challenge because our life in the world has its temptations and it is hard to stay focused on the true path.

            I am grateful that I made these two long pilgrimages to Canada and Spain because they are symbolic of my life on earth. I have to keep focused on the final holy place where I am destined to go. I am also grateful that the Holy Spirit has led me to the contemplative prayers movements that have blossomed in Western Christianity in the last fifty years. Taking time out and being faithful to the two periods of meditation each day keeps me focused on the true meaning of my pilgrimage on earth. In this trip, the Lord is calling me and all humans to a life of love with Him and this should permeate our whole self. This is no easy task and we have to work on it. With the years, we will grow in our awareness of how Jesus loves us and is waiting for our response.  This growth in love on our part will be the basis of our life and will not let us feel lost in our world with its many cares and problems. Things do not go always as we want them but in all things, Jesus loves us and will care for us. This gives us confidence in our pilgrimage on earth. There will always be rocky days but we know that the Lord is with us. As we end the year 2014, it is good for us to reflect on this which will help us orientate our life in 2015 to the holy pilgrimage to which we are called.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Progress in Prayer



Stark  black tombstone
heavy – large
Marie de l’Incarnation

Black sets tone for the room
silence – depth – mystery.
Tombstone – large – heavy
adds to the mystery.

I hear the words of John
of the Cross in his famous poem
“In a Dark Night”
darkness – blackness
mystery – depth.

Poem filled with passion.
Two lovers meet in the dark
filled with life – light.

Marie’s tombstone – black
dark – filled
with  love – life.
Her lover Jesus – she called
Him her bridegroom.

I sit in the presence of such
dark – black passion – love.
I ask Marie to help me
 enter – feel the love
unity between them.

Life is mysterious
So is love. Marie
fell in love with the Divine
despite the night – darkness.

We cannot expect much more on earth.
John’s poem – Marie’s tombstone
tell us this.
I am in a dark night
hope to feel the pulse of this love.




            On occasion, it is worthwhile for us to sit back and reflect on what is happening in our daily practice of contemplative prayer. Each day twice a day for twenty minutes, we sit in silence and repeat our mantra. In this process, it is important to remember that during these periods, the Holy Spirit enters into our lives and this is an act of love on the divine’s part. This is vital because unless we are loved, we really cannot become full human beings. The faithful love of us by the Spirit is a great gift because in human life, we cannot find such unconditional love. In human life and despite the promises of the other, human love can come and go. So the love that the Spirit gives to us is a great gift that should impact our whole life. We do not have to worry about infidelity on the part of the Spirit because He/She is always there. This is a wonderful gift to us because we are humans and our life is subject to the effects of our failings and selfish. We are plagued with these things until our years on earth are over. Despite our many imperfections, the Spirit is present to us and loves us and ultimately transforms us into followers who can love the Lord and our neighbor.

            This gradual transformation of ourselves by the action of the Spirit reminds us of the story in the gospels where the apostles were very confused by the crucifixion and death of Jesus and locked themselves into the upper room afraid to go out. The gospel story tells us that Jesus appeared to them in their midst and breathed on them saying ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ At that point, the disciples became new people, not afraid any more of the police and Roman soldiers but left the room and began to preach the good news that Jesus has risen from the dead and offers us a new life in God.

            Our daily fidelity to prayer over time should give us also this transformation. The presence of the Spirit in our mediation sessions is making us new men and women like what happened to the disciples in the upper room. The same Spirit is present and within us, loving us and inviting us to do the same. This is a great gift.  No longer do we have to wander on earth aimlessly but the Spirit is on our side leading us to greater Christian maturity. There are many ways to live our life, some good, others bad which can be detrimental to us and our world.

            The essence of contemplative prayer then is this action of the Spirit within us during our meditation. This is the important part. It is action directly by God. It also puts into perspective our fidelity to the discipline of meditation. We are called to be faithful to the two twenty minute periods of prayer daily. This is very important because it shows our reciprocity to the Divine action. But we have to remember that our fidelity to meditation is not the primary action but the secondary one.  The primary action is the presence of the Spirit who loves us and breathes new life into us making us new men and women as what happened to the disciples in the upper room. If we grow in the realization of this primary action of the Spirit in our prayer, over the years, we will wonder at this action and be grateful that the Divine has made us the recipients of this love.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Pilgrimage to Canada



Robert Trabold

Majestic basilica
on shores of a majestic river
the St.  Lawrence. Water is
blue like the sky.

Statue of St. Ann
holding her child, Mary. Large statue
red, gold, green
shines in the lights
beaming at it.

St. Ann has a sweet face
looking at her child – Mary.
St. Ann looks at us
pilgrims who come
with our cares – troubles of life.

I rest in this splendor.
St. Ann looks at me
she loves me – all the
pilgrims who travel
from far away to see her.

I listen to words – advice
St. Ann has for me.
She repeats words of the poem
of St. Theresa of Avila.

“Do not let anything disturb you
nothing should upset you.
Whoever has God
nothing will be missing.
Only God matters.”

I feel the weight of
the world
too many wars, violence, death.
St. Ann tells me
world is in God’s hands.
The Lord is my confidence
giving me peace.



Robert Trabold

            I was fortunate to have the opportunity to make a pilgrimage to Montréal, Trois Rivières  and Québec, Canada and visit the many shrines that lie in the Saint Lawrence River valley. It was a contemplative pilgrimage because I went alone for two weeks and had plenty of time for meditation and silence. There are many shrines in this part of Canada which always have had a deep spiritual meaning for me. There is the beautiful one of St. Ann de Beaupré on the outskirts of Québec city. Devotion to St. Ann, the mother of the Virgin Mary, has a long tradition in Western and Eastern Christianity and the French colonists brought this to the New World when they arrived many centuries ago. In the city of Québec, I visited the chapel and tomb of Marie de l’Incarnation who was a great mystic and lived there in colonial times.  She was recently canonized and her writings testify to the depth of her contemplative life.  People call her the St. Theresa of Avila of North American. I had also the privilege to go to the shrine of Our Lady of the Cap in Trois Rivières where there were manifestations of the Virgin Mary at the end of the 19th century. In Montréal, I went to the Oratory of St. Joseph and the tomb and chapel of Saint Bother André. He was a religious brother who lived in the 20th century and had unusual gifts of counselling people and was a healer of physical infirmities. Crowds still come to this shrine to be beneficiaries of his help. In the same city, I also visited the shrines of Padre Pio, the famous stigmatic who lived in the 20th century and that of Mary, the Queen of Heaven.

            In the two weeks of visiting the shrines, I reflected on their role in a pilgrimage. They are usually connected to holy places where religious people take time out to make a trip. They are looking for a renewal of their Christian faith and help in resolving the problems that beset their everyday life. In visiting these shrines, pilgrims refresh themselves in experiencing the many ways that God has been at work during the centuries in the saints to build up the Christian community. In a very existential way, God has taken the initiative to love these holy people and give them life on earth. The Lord has loved them before they loved Him. Pilgrims stand in awe and adoration at this fact. The Divine made a covenant with all people and is always faithful to it. 

            Secondly, shrines remind us that God is still active in our world and community working to bring people to salvation. In the visit, there are various religious activities, liturgical ceremonies and opportunities to meet other Christian people. In these, we feel that God is active now working to make us better people and Christians. It is part of the renewal of the Christian community.

Thirdly, the shrines have us look into the future and give us confidence that someday we will arrive at our heavenly homeland. We are pilgrims on earth and the visit to these gives us signs of hope of where we are going. Like the pilgrims in the Old Testament, they sang and were joyful to be in the presence of God in the holy temple.  In the same way, in this visit, we pilgrims await a conversion and renewal of ourselves and our community. In this change for the better, we have a glimpse of the new heaven and new earth to which we are called. We look into the future and have confidence in our voyage there. This earth is not our true home but we are destined for another place.

In reflecting on my two week pilgrimage of silence and meditation to the various shrines in the province of Québec, Canada, it was a rich experience of the Christian life. Each had its own experience, different saint, beauty of the church building and being situated on the lovely Saint Lawrence River. Two weeks were ample time to immerse myself in this religious experience.  Like all the pilgrims who have made similar trips through the centuries, hopefully this visit will renew my Christian life and allow me to be active to build a better world.


Saturday, August 30, 2014



Robert Trabold

Sounds of waves crashing on shore
fills whole landscape – hear it coming
from distance. Lovely day not too
cool despite sharp off shore breeze.

I sit on a bench – my eyes scan
seashore.  Dark –bright colors
alternate as sun travels through clouds.

Sunshine brightens sand – glimmers
around me – in the distance
bright borders to blue ocean.
Dark sea full of mystery!

I sit on a Jones Beach bench
dedicated to Pasquale Siccurella
passed away 2013. Wonder if he comes
back at times to enjoy ocean view.

Life goes on – one year after another.
Flow like ocean tides – waves.
Some years are calm – others rough.

Happy I came to the sea
grateful dreadful winter finished.
I can come now to the ocean – listen
to waves.

Sounds of waves wash over me swirl
around me. I sit in mystery – leave busy
city behind me – take a day off.

Mystery of life washes over me
noise of city life – endless wars of my country
cries of poor hungry people looking for work.

Jesus walked on the Sea of Galilee
surprised his disciple – awed.
He will come again - walk on
waters of Jones Beach
surprise me – hold me together.
Take me by the hand – give me hope
for a safe landing.



Robert Trabold

            In religious traditions, eternal life and God are spoken about as the goal of our human life, as going home after our pilgrimage on earth. It is a place where we will be unconditionally accepted. Jesus spoke of this when He told his apostles that He is leaving in order to prepare a place for them in his Father’s house. In the eastern religions, this desire to go home is expressed in the three steps of our life’s journey. In the first 25-30 years, we are busy growing up, going to school, learning our work and profession, etc.  After that from 25 - 55, we are occupied in the world working in our profession, getting married and having our family and using our talents to accomplish our responsibilities.  After 55 – 60, the eastern religions describe this time as when the leaves fall off the tree, we are no longer so active in our tasks and obligations. Time opens up for us and opportunities arise to get closer to the transcendent. These years of semi-retirement and retirement can be times of growth in contemplative prayer and God touches people to grow in a deeper relationship with Him/Her. If we look at the contemporary contemplative prayer movements in our country such as the John Main Movement and the Centering Prayer Movement, many of the members have been touched by God to enter this deeper relationship in their later years, in the third stage of their life. In a very real sense, we are preparing ourselves to enter into the house of our Father that Jesus said that He would prepare for us. We are going and coming home.

            This desire to go home is also present within us in our younger years and especially felt in our growth in contemplative prayer. At the heart of contemplative and mystical prayer is the entry into silence, darkness and emptiness where we encounter a presence – the presence of a Beloved one who woos us to love Him/Her. This divine presence at our center is more intimate to ourselves than we are to ourselves, yet it is also transcendent and a mystery to us always slipping through our fingers. As we grow in mystical prayer, this divine presence becomes the rock of and defines our life.  In a very real sense, this desire on our part to go home, to encounter and receive that unconditional love begins on earth. This divine presence at our center is our home because we know that the earth that we live on is not our true one. Our life here is very fragile. Sudden illness can burst in on us and deprive us of many things, earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis threaten us and human relationships come and go, wars, etc. The universe we live in, in its human and material dimension, can be very unfriendly. If we anchor ourselves in contemplative prayer, however, and hear the call of the divine presence at our center, we begin to get a taste of the home to which we are called  - our Father’s house.

            The mystics in their deep relationship with God which they grew into in contemplative prayer have tasted this ‘coming home’ for which we yearn. Their relationship with God was central and defined their life.  Despite the unfriendliness of earthly life which they also experienced, God touched them giving them a calmness of being home. Theresa of Avila had this sense of coming home and being at peace in her Father’s house and expressed it beautifully in her famous poem ‘Only God Matters.’

‘Do not let anything disturb you.
Nothing should bother you.
Everything will pass on.
God does not go away.
With patience
It will all work out.
To those who have God
Nothing will be wanting.
Only God matters.’

            Theresa of Avila’s poem expresses the goal of our contemplative prayer and path. As we get closer to God and feel the divine presence at our center, we will share Theresa’s confidence. We will have that sense of coming home and experiencing that place of unconditional love that we desire despite the ups and downs of our life on earth which will someday end. We will taste that coming home which we will fully possess someday when we reach eternal life.