With the first cry a child makes, he takes his first breath. From that first moment until his last, he breathes. Air enters and sustains his body. Polluted or oxygen-poor air can put his life at risk. But fresh, healthy air brings life for as long as there is life to be had.
We begin our lives dependent on our parents to find us good air to breathe. When we get older, we can choose that air — within the limits of life’s circumstances.
From the beginning of life, we also take in food — initially milk from our mother, and over time from the wide range of choices available to us. Here also we begin dependent on our parents to provide nourishment, and later in life we make our own choices.
In addition to air and food, we take in voices. As Scripture and modern science both testify, even before we are born we hear voices. Careful studies have shown that a newborn infant recognizes the sounds of her mother. The Gospel of Luke records that John the Baptist leapt in his mother’s womb upon hearing the voice of Mary.
Like the air we breathe and the food we consume, the voices we hear have great power to affect our quality of life. Encouragement or discouragement. Truth or falsehood. Compassion or indifference. Peace or anxiety. Gratitude or resentment. The voices we hear communicate the first traces of these things, one way or the other, before we have taken our first breath.
Just as for air and for food, we begin life dependent on the voices of our parents, and as we get older, we can make choices about the voices we hear — and the chorus we add our voice to.
But what voice should we choose?
As Catholic Christians, we have unsurpassed access to the Voice which offers life to whoever listens. Abram heard this Voice call him from his father’s house, change his name to Abraham and promise him many descendants. Moses heard the same Voice more clearly — clearly enough to hear its name and its command to demand freedom for the children of Abraham. Prophets heard the Voice and made it their voice as they tried to call the children of Abraham back to the path of righteousness.
Mary heard the Voice and responded, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” Jesus, who listened to Mary from the womb, grew up to hear the Voice say: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” He taught us to call the author of this Voice “Father.” Saints throughout the ages since have added their voices to the chorus, and all these voices we are privileged to hear.
Just as those who breathe clean air and eat wholesome food will thrive, so will those who manage their listening by focusing on voices that give life. The fullness of Life is within reach of those who manage their listening by focusing on the Voice that said, regarding Jesus, “Listen to him.” The way of managing our listening is called prayer.
I have recently had the privilege of learning and practicing the form of prayer known as the Liturgy of the Hours: Morning Prayer (lauds), Evening Prayer (vespers), Night Prayer (compline) and the Office of Readings. These “hours” can be found in a book called Christian Prayer. Within this book is a chorus of prayer over 3,000 years in the making that includes voices from every age, beginning with Abraham and continuing to the present.
As the invitation was extended to me, I extend it to you. Seek out the chorus of Christian Prayer. It gives Life to those who listen. May it give life to you.
Let your Catholic voice be heard
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