On Prayer: John of the Cross

Made for Mission by Tim Glemkowski

I started reading this book earlier this year and have been underlining so much I think I’m going to run out of ink! So I’m going to share things as I go along that I think you’ll appreciate over the first quarter of the year. I’ll post a full review at the end so you can determine if it’s a book for your parish to read (hint: it is!).

To compliment my post from two weeks ago about prayer, I found this quote from St. John of the Cross to support my suggestion (I love when the saints are on board with my ideas!):

Let those then who are singularly active, who think they can win the world with their preaching and exterior works, observe here that they would profit the Church and please God much more … were they to spend at least half of this time with God in prayer. … They would then certainly accomplish more, and with less labor, by one work than they otherwise would by a thousand. … Without prayer they would do a great deal of hammering but accomplish little, and sometimes nothing, and even at times cause harm. … However much they may appear to achieve externally, they will in substance be accomplishing nothing [without a deep life of prayer].

Made for Mission, pg 29 (original source: Saint John of the Cross, quoted in John of the Cross:Selected Writings, ed. Kieran Kavanaugh and Ernest E. Larkin (Mahway, NJ: Paulist Press, 1988), 270.

When I started in youth ministry over a decade ago*, I attended a Life Teen Conference. I woke up for the early morning for a Bible Study with Mark Hart because I was a big fan from my time as a youth in my Life Teen program. He told us that as ministers we should be a daily Mass every day. He asked, “how do you expect to share the Lord if you don’t know the Lord?”

I hear it every day (and give the caveat in every keynote I deliver, “I know, you’re so busy … you wear a lot of hats.” Those are two true statements … however, I also know that we make time for the things that are a priority for us. We do this in our personal lives as well as our work lives. If your car broke down or a spouse or child was sick and had to be admitted to the hospital this week, you’d have time to get to the mechanic and the hospital. And everything else that needed to be done would get done.

Lauren Vanderkam speaks about this eloquently in her TED Talk (which has been viewed over 9 million times). The story at 2:30 is something that I think of more than once a week. I’ve embedded below so you can watch it right now.

I know you’re rolling your eyes now and have probably clicked off to the next article (or even unsubscribed) because “this girl just doesn’t get me or my ministry.”

I get that life is busy. I get that there’s a lot to do. I get that there are only 24 hours in the day and you want to spend some of them sleeping and eating and spending time with your family not at work. I want to challenge you to look at all of the things your parish does, every activity that requires your time and determine if it’s the right priority. That’s the point that St. John of the Cross is making (and Tim in his book I referenced earlier). Are we prioritizing the right things? The things that will get us closer to our goal?

What’s our goal? Assisting our Lord in the salvation of souls.

If what we’re doing doesn’t help us achieve that goal, we need to really ask ourselves, “Is this a priority I should give my time to?”


*I never thought I’d be able to say that I’ve been in ministry over a decade, this feels like a moment y’all!


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