Before I even got to Lourdes the word got out that I enjoyed cooking. In fact, some of the parishioners put together a welcome gift of a stainless steel pot, a bunch of vegetables, kitchen towels and pot holders, and an apron. I last used that pot to make some chili. When I cook chili, I only simmer it for 30-45 minutes, just long enough to get everything cooked, because I like to taste all of the different ingredients, the beef and the celery and the bell pepper and the roasted tomatoes. However, when I cook a pot of stew or red beans, they need to be cooked low and slow. This lets all of the ingredients meld together to you taste the same thing with every bite. That type of cooking takes patience while you wait for things to come together over time.
Most of the time the spiritual life is like that. We sit in prayer, often in silence, trying to stay focused on God, but it’s hard because it often doesn’t seem like anything’s happening. That’s because what’s happening is invisible. It’s happening in the soul, and we often don’t even realize that anything is happening at all, when all the while God is working in our soul to heal what’s broken, to shore up what’s weak, and to reinforce what’s already strong.
To use another analogy, St. Teresa of Avila compares prayer to watering a garden. It can seem to be slow and boring, and on the surface nothing appears to be happening, but it’s necessary for the life of the soul, just like water is necessary for a garden. The water is only one thing, the same Holy Spirit, but it produces many types of flower and fruit, which are the different virtues and graces.
We keep busy with so many things that we don’t give God a chance to do His own work in us. We need those times of quiet prayer to let God do His invisible work within us, so that God can bring out the best that we have to offer. You may not feel like your accomplishing anything just sitting in quiet prayer, reading the Bible, or meditating on the life of Christ, but by ourselves we can only do so much. God has given each of us the potential to become something amazing, but we need to give Him a little time for the fire of the Holy Spirit to do His work.
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.