“True contemplatives, then, are not the ones who withdrew from the world to save their own soul, but the ones who enter into the center of the world and pray to God from there.”
“How to come to this simplicity, this inner sense of self, this conviction of self-worth? ‘Meditate,’ John Eudes said, ‘and explore the small daily events in which you can see your insecurity at work. By meditation you can create distance, and what you can keep at a distance, you can shake off.'”
Re the problem of constantly comparing ourselves to others:
“John Eudes [Father John Eudes Bamberger; abbot emeritus of Abbey of the Genesee] talked about that moment, that point, that spot that lies before the comparison, before the beginning of the vicious circle or the self-fulfilling prophecy. That is the moment, point, or place where mediation can enter in. It is the moment to stop reading, speaking, socializing, and to “waste” your time in meditation. When you find your mind competing again, you might plan an “empty time” of meditation, in this way interrupting the vicious circle of our ruminations and entering into the depth of your own soul. There you can be with him who was before you came, who loved you before you could love, and who has given you your own self before any comparison was possible. In meditation we can come to the affirmation that we are not created by other people but by God, that we are not judged by how we compare with others but how we fulfill the will of God.
This is the time [when you start to feel at home] in which meditation becomes very important; this is an invitation to enter deeper into prayer. Otherwise, you will start complaining within a few weeks that the monastery is not severe enough, not poor enough, not strict enough, and you, as many others before, will leave and start a life which, in fact, is much less poor and less severe.”
Speaking about prayer, I asked John Eudes a question that seemed very basic and a little naïve: ‘When I pray, to whom do I pray? When I say ‘Lord,’ what do I mean?’ ”
“John Eudes responded very differently than I expected. He said, ‘This is the real question, this is the most important question you can raise; at least this is the question that you can make your most important question.’ He stressed with great and convincing emphasis that if I really wanted to take that question seriously, I should realize that there would be little room left for other things.
‘Except,’ he said smiling, ‘when the question exhausts you so much that you need to read Newsweek for a little relaxation’ ‘It is far from easy,’ John Eudes said, ‘to make that question the center of your meditation. You will discover that it involves every part of yourself because the question, Who is the Lord to whom I pray? leads directly to the question, Who am I who wants to pray to the Lord? And then you will soon wonder, Why is the Lord of justice also the Lord of love; the God of fear also the God of gentle compassion? This leads you to the center of meditation. Is there an answer? Yes and no. You will find out in your meditation. You might some day have a flash of understanding even while the question still remains and pulls you closer to God. But it is not a question that can be simply one of your questions. In a way, it needs to be your only question around which all that you do finds its place. It requires a certain decision to make that question the center of your meditation. If you do so, you will realize that you embarking on a long road, a very long road.’ ”
–Henri Nouwen, all from The Genesee Diary: Report from a Trappist Monastery