Papakura parish priest Fr Peter Murphy is encouraging priests in Auckland diocese to practise three minutes of silence after Communion.
Fr Murphy, the diocese’s director for contemplative prayer, said a moment of quiet in the frenetic pace of life is a means of healing one’s soul. Fr Murphy is also a member of the New Zealand Community for Christian Meditation.
“The silence, that contemplative silence, when people are in harmony with one another in prayer can be both very beautiful and very profound. It touches people,” he said.
Sometimes, the quiet can be so profound that it moves him to tears.
Fr Murphy said the secular world is now pushing meditation as a form of well-being. Contemplative prayer takes that further, he said.
“The obvious time for quiet is after Communion. And three minutes is a reasonable length of time,” he said.
“It’s just to give them (parishioners) experience of the quiet. If they get at least a taste, it gives them some idea of the experience. It adds another dimension of their experience of God,” he explained.
“I think it’s was (German theologian and mystic) Meister Eckhart who said ‘there is nothing so much like God as silence’.”
Fr Murphy said an aspect of the complaints people have about the new order of Mass is that there’s little room for quiet.
“I know in the parishes I was in before, there was silence while people processed to Communion, but they’d have a hymn afterwards. It should be the reverse. It is very difficult often to break those patterns when they’re entrenched,” he said.
Fr Murphy had been teaching contemplative prayer to children for a number of years. He is also encouraging Catholic schools to do the same.
“It’s important these days, particularly for children, to learn this at a very young age because it would stay with them for life. It’s a gift for life,” he said. “It is something that even if they
move away from the Church, they can always come back to this practice. (They will) always have a centre to come back to, particularly in times of trouble,” he stressed.
Contemplative prayer is a practice that has somehow been lost in the western Church, said Fr Murphy.
“It seems foreign in the west because we developed much more intellectually. That dimension of the heart somehow disappeared or got lost along the way,” he explained.
“Nowadays, it is widely recognised that we need to restore that balance of heart and mind.”
To meditate, Fr Murphy suggested sitting with one back straight, hand on one’s lap or knees, eyes lightly closed.
He recommended saying a prayer word like “Jesus” or “Abba”. “You don’t focus on the meaning. You listen to the sound. You sound the word. The whole purpose of the word, is to lead one into stillness. In the stillness of your heart, you experience the love of God.”
The regular practice is 20 to 30 minutes, twice a day.