Future Priests of the Third Millennium

A little insight into the life of seminarians from various dioceses preparing for ministry as Roman Catholic priests, including daily activities, personal interests, special events, the spiritual life, news from the seminary, and almost whatever comes to our minds!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Resting in the Lord

One of the pitfalls of making the daily Holy Hour early in the morning is that as a man settles himself and enters deeply into prayer, he also increases his chances of drifting into sleep. In and of itself, this isn't a huge problem. God understands that these things happen from time to time, and so long as we aren't going to prayer with the intention of falling asleep, it seems to me that the period of prayer is efficacious. Nevertheless, at least for me, slipping into sleep at prayer comes with certain side effects: I snore.

If I am praying alone, no one is the wiser. If, however, the chapel is half full, as it often is, snoring can be a bit of a problem. Likewise, talking while asleep can be a bit embarrassing if one does so in the midst of twenty of his peers - all of whom are discreetly trying to figure out who is making so much noise. There are, of course, ways to prevent the onset of sleep. This includes kneeling throughout the duration of prayer, or reading, or sometimes even standing. These are also accompanied by the risk (at least for me) of failing to accomplish any prayer or of falling asleep anyway and causing a scene when I drop my book or simply collapse.

Today I did not go to the early Holy Hour here at the seminary, but chose to use a little free time and pray at the Cathedral of St. Paul later in the afternoon. The church was warm, I was comfortable, and before I knew it, I was fast asleep. I must have leaned forward and rested my head on my arm, because when I woke up several minutes later, I could feel a very clear impression of the button of my shirt in my forehead! At least I hadn't been drooling.

While my initial reaction is to be somewhat disappointed in myself when I fall asleep in prayer, I do take a certain solace in the words of one of my formators from minor seminary. He would tell us on occasion, "Jesus works on us while we sleep." I think he was right. It isn't perfect prayer, but it is something. I like to call it "resting in the Lord."


Gregory. said...

Indeed. Actually, St. Thérèse of Lisieux speaks of her difficulties of falling asleep in prayer. If I remember right, she likens it to a father looking in on his daughter while she sleeps. Is she not pleasing to him even then?

Jodi said...

This is a great post for me right now. I have adoration at midnight tonight and I was just thinking about how I am already so tired. I really do try to stay awake, but I am glad to hear that Jesus works through us, even as we sleep.

Jinglebob said...

Lots of nights I go to sleep while praying. I usually wake and realize it later and then have a hard time going back to sleep because I feel lost or guilty. Hmmm, man is such a weird creature!

J. Thorp said...

Some years ago, I followed Jodi's family into the little church in Polo, SD, for her grandfather's funeral. I thought I was being polite by letting them go ahead of me -- but as it turned out, I wound up in the very first pew, but on the aisle, closest to the casket -- front and center as it were.

I DID NOT FALL ASLEEP -- but we were squeezed into those pews, and partway through, as I shifted my weight, my knee slipped off the end of the kneeler, causing me to slump suddenly into the aisle. I should've fallen entirely and pretended to have passed out, because catching myself as I did gave the distinct impression to those behind me that I had dozed off ...

Welcome to the family!

Mary said...

A lost article from the Summa:

Whether naps are necessary for salvation?

Objection 1: It would seem that naps are not necessary for salvation.
Salvation consists in becoming like God. God is most actual.
Hence, we must be actual. Now, naps are opposed to actuality and are hence opposed to salvation.

Objection 2: Besides, the Apostle says, “Be watchful and awake, for your salvation is near at hand.” Naps are opposed to being watchful. Hence, it follows that naps are opposed to salvation.

Objection 3: Furthermore, Aristotle says that virtue consists in activity. Naps are not activity and are therefore not counted as virtuous. Hence, it follows that naps are opposed to salvation.

On the contrary, the Psalmist says, “He pours gifts on his beloved while they slumber.” Now, salvation is a gift, and we must sleep to receive the gifts of God. Hence, naps are necessary for salvation.

I answer that, naps can be spoken of in two ways: naps in a relative sense (secundum quid) and naps simply speaking (simpliciter dicta). Relatively speaking, naps are neutral in that they can be used for a good or a bad purpose. Naps, simply speaking, are those naps which give us the rest that we might wake “refreshed and joyful” to praise God (as the Roman Breviary says). To this end, naps are necessary for salvation, since praising God is necessary for salvation. Furthermore, contemplation is said to be “rest in God.” Now, contemplation flows from charity, and charity is necessary for salvation; it follows that naps, which are also a kind of rest, are necessary for salvation. Likewise, contemplation is said to be a foretaste of heavenly beatitude. Naps are a foretaste of heavenly beatitude. Furthermore, Jesus slept in a boat. Hence, we are to sleep in the Church, for the boat is a type of the Church. Hence we are to sleep during Church, often during homilies. Consequently, it must be said that naps are necessary for salvation.

Reply to objection 1: One cannot mistake immobility for potency. For a man acts even in immobility; for instance, the liturgy compels us to times of silence. Sleep is perfect silence. God is all perfection. Hence, God is most actually napping.

Reply to objection 2: The Apostle spoke figuratively, not literally. For Saint Joseph was watchful in his sleep, that is why God spoke to him in a dream. So also God spoke to many Saints in dreams. Hence, we are to nap watchfully, that God might speak to us.

Reply to objection 3: Aristotle was a pagan and cannot be expected to have understood the deep mysteries of God’s napping. Had he known the revelation, he would have slept much more than he did.

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