Dear Parishioners and Friends,
Look up mindfulness, and you’ll find it paired with self-improvement literature or something new age. The concept has become a popular tool for emotional health, but Catholics have practiced it for centuries.
Mindfulness is simply about focusing on the present moment. It’s about learning to better appreciate what you’re doing now without being distracted by the past or worrying about the future. In his 18th Century devotional classic, Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade highlights the spiritual aspect of mindfulness by calling us to embrace the “sacrament of the present moment.”
It’s in this vein that Dr. Greg Bottaro (a Catholic psychologist) says mindfulness is one of the best ways to address depression and problems related to poor focus. But don’t we all want to learn how to focus better on our prayers and at Mass? The language of our Anglican patrimony helps us to focus on what is being said.
Brother John-Bede Pauley points out that English Catholicism was formed by the centuries-long influence of Benedictine monasticism, the first rule of which is “obsculta … et inclina aurem cordis,” which means “listen, and incline the ears of your heart.” This contributed to an English emphasis on praying the Scriptures by carefully listening to the words. This also fueled an interest in finding God through the poetic. Brother Pauley said that the English have historically loved to listen to their language in well-crafted prayer.
The prayerbook language in our Mass was never the common language of the street. It employs poetic cadence, alliteration, and other devices that focus our attention, lift our hearts, and aid our understanding. So the next time you pray Matins or the Mass, listen more carefully to the words so you can better enter into the moment and become more spiritually refreshed. This emphasis on hearing enables us to be more “mindful” in order to embrace the sacrament of the present.
BLESSED Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.