Today is a great example of why silent prayer is critical for me.
I go to Morning Prayer and Mass. In between someone gives me another farewell card. Inside is a note addressed to God, not to me. "Please bring him back to us." What feelings that brings up! But I can't be distracted by any of that. I have to get myself recollected for Mass. I'm a sinner with no right to approach the Lord's altar as a communicant, and still less as a priest. What goodness and kindness I have been able to facilitate here I refer to God; all that pertains to me are my faults and sins.
After Mass I go back to my room, where I am greeted by phone messages that detail the various technological problems people are going through. There's some kind of encryption problem with one of the wireless signals. The office network connection still seems to be locked out of all Google products and services. Someone's voicemail is locked up and needs to be reset. Temptations to vainglory give way to the temptation to self-pity. Why is it my responsibility to deal with every technological problem anyone might have? (I know why; it's because I'm the youngest.) Can't I just get started on the reading and writing I wanted to do this morning without running around putting out fires? This isn't why I joined the Order! This last thought is the most dangerous. I joined the Order because I became confident that I could find the will of God for me in obedience to the brothers. That is where I am to find my consecration each day; not in my idea of being a friar. How wise St. Bonaventure was when he said that the hardest poverty was for a brother to let go of the "money bag of his own opinions."
This is why I have to pray. It's practice in letting go of thoughts and feelings in favor of the intention of loving God alone. The alternative is to go through the day thrown this way and that by every inclination of my selfish heart. By spending what time I can in quiet prayer each morning, with my intention of turning heart and will to God alone, I practice this skill for when it really counts during the day. It's the beginning of my freedom from the tyranny of self, from the tedium of living with my own shallow heart and mind, the taste of the final surrender of heaven.