By FATHER JAMES S. BEHRENS, OCSO | Published April 28, 2016
I have traveled many miles these past months and have seen things that will stir my heart for a long time. I have been to cultures where flourished the religions of Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism. All of these cultures had magnificent structures that attested to the love and need for the Divine.
And in every place I visited—be that Sri Lanka, Singapore, Greece, Italy, Vietnam and others—I saw people praying.
I was in the Old City of Jerusalem and walked its narrow streets, many of them lined with shops. I walked the Via Dolorosa—the way that Jesus walked on his way to his crucifixion. I went into the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and was among thousands who reverenced the mysteries that are enshrined there.
And I went to the Wailing Wall, one of the most sacred places in Judaism, where Jews and peoples of all faiths go to the wall and bow their heads and pray. The experience I had there was overwhelming. On a trip like the one that I have been on, you pass through cities and ports so quickly that there is little time to really absorb all that you have seen and experienced.
But during the time I spent at the Wall, it all came together for me, at least for a while. I sensed an unmooring from the particulars of my time and place in life, and as I watched the people leaning their heads against the Wall and praying, I felt a unity with them that went beyond any particulars of time, place and religion.
We all ache for God, and we all have a need to pray to and know God. We all know what it means to offer our heartaches and hopes to God. It may seem more often than not that God is far away and never listens. Yet while I stood there and then approached the Wall, bowed my head and prayed as my head touched the Wall, I knew that I was within easy walking distance of the way Jesus was taken to his death.
Only minutes before I was in the Church where the places of his crucifixion and Resurrection were commemorated. And I thought about how we pray to God to come and hear us, as indeed he did come, and did hear us and cure us and offer us hope. But we failed to understand. And so we continue to pray.
As a Christian I believe that it is Jesus who prays within us. Our prayers, even though we utter them, are not solely our own. It is the Spirit that prays through us.
Something marvelous and beyond words is in our midst. Our hopes have been met. The prayers of all the people I have met these months urge me to take to heart the true blessings and promise of the Gospel. The Savior has come and the prayers of all who raise their hearts and words to heaven are those of a God who came and made his home within us. As varied as our human religious customs may be, we all have in common an ache to find God and, at the same time, to find a way to each other, a way of peace and goodness.
Trappist Father James Stephen Behrens is a monk at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit in Conyers. His books are available at the monastery web store at www.HolySpiritMonasteryGifts.com.