When looking at the title of this session, I was initially confused by the questions posed this week since they had nothing to do with talking, but everything to do with listening.
If no one is listening to your question, do you still have one?
You see, if you talk all the time, then you never have to figure out what to do with the feelings and thoughts of anyone else. You can shut them out and never feel awkward or at a loss. Right?
If you talk all the time, you never have to listen to your heart.
If you talk all the time, you never have to be alone with your thoughts.
If you talk all the time, you never have to encounter anything bigger than you, like, say, God.
I have written on Silence (here and here). I work with music to promote silence. It is the balance of silence and sound that gives music such power. And that's all fine when I am working with a congregation within the confines of the liturgy.But put me in a room of people and I am a chattering magpie. Why?
I think the answer lies in not knowing what I should say. Or, more precisely, what I should NOT say.
Here's the question set for this week:
Have you ever listened to a “threshold conversation”? What was it like? Can you think back to a time when perhaps you should have listened supportively and asked clarifying questions, and instead you jumped in with catechesis, or apologetics, or giving personal advice?Ha! Like, all the time. I have my Catechism of the Catholic Church on my phone, for heaven's sake. Catechesis saved my faith! But, not everyone is in that same spot. I knew that with my head, but never really accepted it with my heart.
Unlike me, some people have all the catechesis and just can't make all the pieces fall into place. They focus on one little oddity and obsess over it until it drives a wedge between them and God. That's actually the threshold conversation I had most recently with a friend.
We all go through little conversions throughout our lives. In our striving to be ever closer to God, like an onion, we continually peel back our skins and find a new layer that needs to be healed. My friend is having a new conversion moment and is delving into some deeper philosophical ideas.
At first, my husband and I tried to help her with facts and information, but it wasn't helping. She was just getting more mired in the clay of her own thoughts. It wasn't until I stopped and just listened that I was really able to understand that I didn't know what the question was.
You can't answer a question that hasn't been asked. You can't solve a problem that hasn't been defined.
That's why I need to shut up more often.
Last night I was talking with some friends from my old parish. We are preparing to sing a Mass in Irish this weekend. After practice, I invited everyone to come with us to have some pizza. Over the last four weeks, it's become a "thing" we do.
We were talking about what made our old parish such a powerful spot for conversions and growth in vocations. After much discussion, we finally put our finger on it: People weren't putting their faith into a box. It wasn't packaged up in small groups of people with like interests. It wasn't about "the youth group" or "the young adult group" or the "new converts".
The Faith was lived. It was breathed. It was socialized about. It wasn't part of our life. It was our life.
I don't think anyone ever trained us to be disciples. I think we just were following along and watching how the Dominican Fathers did it.
We would sit in 24-hour restaurants after Adoration until the wee hours of the morning talking about the Faith. After RCIA and choir, we sat coffee shops until midnight with our priests. We asked questions and got answers. It was as much a part of our social life as it was about our time at the Church. We got together at each other's houses and talked about the faith. As we grew in our faith, our friends became our family. We shared each others joys and suffering.
The opportunities just presented themselves, or so I thought.
Upon further reflection, I see that's not really so. They were created, but not with a calendar or checklist. The common thread was prayer. Every time. Just like last night.
When the disciples on the road to Emmaus encountered Jesus and recognized Him in the breaking of the bread,, they talked with each other about how their hearts were burning before the set off to share the news with the Apostles.
So, I'm going to go pray. I'm going to invite people to come pray with me. Then, I'm going to invite the people I just prayed with to go have coffee (breakfast, pizza...whatever).
We'll talk about life.
We'll talk about the weather.
We'll talk about recipes.
Heck, we'll talk about politics.
But, we will eventually get to the Faith. I promise.