My portable prayer life
It wasn’t automatic, but over time, Sister Graciela Colon, S.C.C. came to find God in the beauty of nature. (Photo: Olesya Grichina, Unsplash)
“My hands at work; my heart with God.” —Blessed Pauline Von Mallinckrodt
WHEN I FIRST ENTERED the convent, I had very narrow views about prayer. As time passed and prayer became an essential part of my daily life, my view on it started to evolve. Prayer is about our relationship with God, and prayer can happen anywhere, at any time, and in any way. The key is to be connected to God and bring God into everything we do. Religious life has brought me to a point where everything I do is imbued with prayer.
As a young woman in formation, I thought that prayer was only when I sat down in chapel to pray, especially with other sisters. Just as a married couple finds their relationship deepening and maturing over the years, so it is with prayer and our relationship with God.
Growing up in New York City, I did not experience much of God’s nature except when I went to Central Park. Then I entered the convent and left the familiarity of the big city for a small town in New Jersey. Nature is all around us at our motherhouse in Mendham, New Jersey. At first, I didn’t appreciate it. I missed the sirens, the concrete, the noisy subways. I disliked sleeping with my window open. The sounds of animals bothered me. Raging fire engines I could sleep with, crickets kept me awake.
Learning to marvel at creation
As the days turned into weeks, months, and years away from an urban area, my views on prayer, city noises, and nature began to change. Every summer, we made a silent retreat. I came to crave the silence of those retreats because, being constantly surrounded by other sisters, it was nice not to have to think of what to say at meals. With each passing year, as I became more accustomed to my surroundings in those long hours of silence, it was impossible not to marvel at God’s creation.
Sometimes the sisters would play classical music at meals during silent retreats. I looked out the window, and as I saw deer leaping through the fields, it seemed like they were dancing. I became aware of my smallness in the vast expanse of God’s creation. All this nature and beauty helped me connect with God in ways I had never experienced before. I could sit on a porch looking out at a vibrant field with animals running and birds flying about, and right there in front of me was an opportunity to just be with God. The way everything just worked together to sustain nature made me realize that God is truly in everything and everywhere. In silence and nature, I found myself constantly in conversation with God. My favorite moments now are when I get to sit in nature, talk to God, and marvel the creator’s handiwork.
God’s face on the street
Today, I am back in New York City, getting accustomed to the sights and sounds of the city once again. I now see God not only in nature—what little there is—but in the many people I encounter each day. Here in the mentally ill, addicted, suffering, and rushing masses, God is present, too. Now faced with so much suffering around me, I find myself constantly praying, constantly aching with God for God’s people. I can look at my fellow suffering human beings and see them as God would see them. As I walk the streets of New York City, I pray for each passing face. In this way, my life is immersed in prayer.
It has all made me see that we don’t need to be in a particular place to pray, to connect with God. God is all around us, in every nook and cranny of our lives. Yes, praying in church, attending Mass, and praying before the Blessed Sacrament are important. After all, Jesus said where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am. But we can take prayer with us. In the difficult moments of life, connection with God in prayer can be that which sustains us, helping us to keep going. For me, as Blessed Pauline Von Mallinckrodt, the foundress of my congregation once said, “What water is to the fish, that prayer is to the religious.”
Related articles: VocationNetwork.org, “A user’s guide on the ways to pray” and “5 ways to better prayer.”
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