“Be still and know that I am God” – Psalm 46
I live in the hope that I am not the only person that does life at 100 miles an hour. With full-time work, marriage, three school-aged children, extracurricular activities for the kids and me – the time to be still is something that does not come naturally to me.
In the past six months, I have become more aware of the need to be still. The biggest catalyst was that I changed jobs, which was a whole change of working culture and how I did things. If life was 100 miles per hour then work was 200!
I love my work, both when I worked in a parish (which I did for 10 years) and now in my work in the Pastoral Planning Office for the Diocese of Parramatta. For me, my work is not a job, but a wonderful way of life – being able to grow and share the awesomeness of our faith with so many other people. However, working at top speed all the time doesn’t allow time for stillness.
I have also engaged in the life-giving experience of professional supervision. Each month, I spend time with my supervisor reflecting on the month that was. So many times, as I raced up the stairs to see her, she has said, “Lisa, slow down!” Even my homework for this month has been to stop and breathe! Take the time to be still.
So how do I be still? For me, it is a very conscious effort. I have to remind myself all the time to stop, and be still.
Every day, I read the Gospel. Each time I sit with it to hear what the Spirit is saying in that moment.
Sometimes nothing is said. Sometimes it makes me frustrated. Sometimes there is joy and excitement. Whatever it is, I sit in the stillness and I experience it. I don’t have a particular place where I do this, but I make sure I do this when the kids are still asleep – so that it is truly uninterrupted time.
I am making a very conscious effort to be present to the moment. My mind is racing so fast sometimes that I forget to appreciate the moment I am experiencing.
My two youngest children are eight and ten and of late, some of the best times have been sitting in the car, not even driving anywhere, and having a conversation with them. When they speak, they are using words that I didn’t even think they knew! And they are using them in the right context! And they are asking awesome questions! It is so, so, so wonderful just to sit with them, in the stillness of this moment and be present to them.
There is God right then and there. If I wasn’t still, I would have missed it.
I am making time to stop, reflect and discern.
As our Church is immersed in Plenary Council 2020, we are being called to listen and discern to what the Spirit is saying.
This model of discernment is not a new thing for our church in this time of Plenary but shaped by Ignatian spirituality. St Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) shaped a way of Catholic discernment which has permeated all areas of our Church.
He called it the “’motions of the soul’. These interior movements consist of thoughts, imaginings, emotions, inclinations, desires, feelings, repulsions, and attractions. Spiritual discernment of spirits involves becoming sensitive to these movements, reflecting on them, and understanding where they come from and where they lead us.”
One cannot discern whilst continuing with the busyness of life. Discernment, even of the little things, involves stillness and being present to God in that moment. It means stopping. Even when we feel we can’t. It is important that we do.
So being still is becoming a discipline for me. Not discipline in a bad way but in a life-changing, “experiencing life to the full” kind of way.
I pray that stillness will become something that I don’t have to force myself to do but will come naturally. And in those times, I hope to know God – in all the glory that God can share with me – in that moment of being still.
The Plenary Council invites people to continue to participate in the journey towards the Council sessions in 2020. There are many opportunities to engage in the “Listening and Discernment” phase by participating in small group sessions within the Diocese. Ask your priests or Deanery Representatives for session dates in parishes and deaneries or contact the Pastoral Planning Office on 8838 3441. You can also visit parracatholic.org/haveyoursay.
For more information on the Plenary Council, visit plenarycouncil.catholic.org.au.
Lisa Bright is a Project Officer in the Pastoral Planning Office, Diocese of Parramatta.