Speak, Lord

This is a guest post by Michelle Francl-Donnay for Week Three of An Ignatian Prayer Adventure.

An Ignatian Prayer AdventureI have a playlist on my computer called “Silence.” It’s not John Cage’s infamous 4’33”— four and half minutes of utter silence—or even white noise, though I admit to having a track of pouring rain tucked away in case I need to drown out the teenaged enthusiasm that on occasion finds its way from the basement into my study under the eaves. Here I keep music to bring me to the brink of the silence, to the edge of the stillness that is God. This is my music not to pray to, but to pray with.

The selections shift with the changing rhythms of my prayer. I usually opt for pieces I don’t know well, so that the music doesn’t become merely a pleasant accompaniment for my meditations or an inadvertent rehearsal for the next time I’m scheduled to cantor. But it invites me to attend closely to text and tune—to listen deeply for the voice of God at work in the music and in me.

This week, a piece by Margaret Rizza helped tune my ear to God’s call. Rizza began composing music for prayer after she made Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises. In “Speak, Lord” she sets poet David Adam’s litany of ways in which we might hear God’s call to music that rings with serene clarity. In the silence of the stars, in the chatter of a child, Adam asks, let me hear you speak, Lord.

Not surprisingly perhaps, “Speak, Lord” brought me to reflect on the places and times I hear God in my everyday life, helping me answer the question, “Where do I experience God calling me in the midst of my daily life?” But in the growing insistence of Rizza’s harmonies I could hear God pushing the question a bit farther.

Am I willing to be open to the voice of God, not just in the calm and serene spots, not just in the voices of those I love, but in any place that I find myself, in anyone I find myself with? Could I see a stranger on the street and pray that the Lord would speak to me through him?

As this retreat moves into Ignatius’ First Week, the line that has been running through my head for the last couple of days has been “in the heaving of the seas, speak, Lord.” In times that feel a bit storm tossed, can I sort out God’s call from the clamoring demands? What is it that keeps me from being able to hear and respond to God’s call more surely in these moments? Speak, Lord.

About Michelle Francl-Donnay 29 Articles
Michelle Francl-Donnay is the mother of two 20-something sons, a professor of chemistry, an adjunct scholar at the Vatican Observatory, and a regular contributor to Philadelphia Archdiocese’s CatholicPhilly.com, where she writes about the joys and struggles of trying to live a contemplative life in the midst of everyday chaos. Michelle blogs at Quantum Theology.

11 Comments on Speak, Lord

  1. Thanks for your beautiful reflection, Michelle, and for bringing to my attention the work of David Adam and Margaret Rizza. Your piece reminds me of Elijah in the cave and hearing the still small voice of the Lord. Except that you want to hear the Lord’s voice also in the storm, the earthquake and the fire! You are ‘trying to live a contemplative life in the midst of everyday chaos’. I have been graced for small moments to do this but generally it’s beyond me or my capacity to surrender to. But reading reflections like yours and David Adam’s beautiful poem inspires me to try to be more open to seeing God in my everyday life. Thank you.

    • Thank you, Paul! Yes, I’m willing (or I least I desire to be willing!) to hear God in the storms as well as in the whispers. I think we all find wedges into the Divine — your small moments of grace — that slowly open us up more and more to what God calls us to become.

      Your comment reminds me of Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner’s line about finding God: “if there is any path at all on which I can approach You, it must lead through the middle of my very ordinary daily life”

  2. Too much noise! Finding a time to enjoy reflective music or just the quiet is some challange these days.

    Sometimes I imagine that God is making a frantic attempt to get my attention, like hailing a cab! Any mode that allows you to hear that quiet call is the one to try.

    I too would love to hear your play list.

    m.

  3. For Marg and Patty – my current playlist (it slowly evolves, Arvo Part will start appearing for Holy Week/Easter…some Moses Hogan for Pentecost):

    Calm Me, Lord (Margaret Rizza, Fire of Love)

    Speak, Lord (Margaret Rizza, The New Dawn)

    Oculi Mei (St. Thomas’ Music Group, Awakening in Love — but another Rizza piece!)

    O Maria, Stella Maris (Trio Mediaeval, Stella Maris)

    Ave Maria (Trio Mediaeval, Soir)

  4. Thank you, Michelle. Your post is where I met God today. I do wonder how many times God speaks to me each day and I fail to hear His call. I look forward to using your playlist. May His blessings, mercy, and graces continue to shower down upon His children.

    Reenie

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