Posted by: Thomas Richard | January 1, 2010

In the Waiting Room

2010. A new year has begun, on the world’s calendar. In the Church, our new year began with Advent of 2009. “Advent,” for many Catholics these days, needs explanation. Indeed, “waiting in expectation” needs explanation! Swept up in a 24-7 culture of fast foods, credit-card lifestyles and instant gratification, “waiting” for anything at all is a bizarre concept.

But “waiting” is exactly what we all are doing, in this brief and transient life on this earth. The big question is, and it is a defining question for each man and woman, “What are you doing while you wait?” We were asked for no input about our birth – we were born, and now we are – we have life – we were given life. We have been and will be asked nothing about the fact of our death: we will die, each of us, without question. This time in the “waiting” room, however long it is to be, is pure gift. How are we using the gift? How will we use the minutes, hours, days or months remaining to us here? Are we preparing for the Christ who is to come? Are we living in Advent? Are we living in the Christ who is here?

Yesterday evening, as we waited in church for the Vigil Mass to begin (The Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God), as I often do I was reading and prayerfully pondering Scripture. And also, as often (or usually) happens, I was fighting inside myself to concentrate on the Word against the constant and loud words of worldly conversations going on around me. One would think that a church would be safe! One would think that a church would be quiet, in prayer, focused on God and not on what Alice said to Alfred yesterday or how Melissa feels about that. One would think that “How’s it going?” might be information that could wait for more appropriate times or places. Maybe all these apparently urgent topics could be entrusted to the Lord in prayer while in church, since there He is in the Tabernacle – Body, Blood Soul and Divinity – listening and waiting for our notice and attention.

We need to discover that we are in the presence of the Holy in every moment! We walk on holy ground, we are surrounded by witnesses, and we are entrusted with a mission! There is a purpose that deserves to permeate our lives in this time of waiting.

Another way of saying this is, we need to grow in the life of prayer. We need to develop and mature in that love-relationship, that holy communion with God, that is our life of prayer. Yesterday I put in the mail the manuscript of the revised edition of my book, The Interior Liturgy of the Our Father. Alba House, the publishing division of the Society of St. Paul, published my first book The Ordinary Path to Holiness, and my hope is they will publish this second one also. Please pray with me that God will use my humble offerings, that they might be seeds planted with the water of His grace.

Both of these books are devoted to growing in the life of prayer; I believe the need among Catholics for help in this is crucial, foundational, essential – and urgent. The world needs the witness of life in Christ!

This is the vocation of the Church: to be His sacrament in the world, to be Christ among men! A great darkness is growing, a true and spiritual famine among us, an impoverishment within us, a horror of solitude, a running from silence, a desolation in the soul – and so many are rushing to tranquilize this growing disquiet with noise, and more busyness, the 24-7 culture of fast foods, credit-card lifestyles and instant gratification. And even with nervous and pointless chatter while in the Holy Presence of God. They are hungry! The world is hungry; the Church is entrusted. Let us, this new year, live the life He has given us.



  1. Dear Thomas,

    Thank you for opening the door to 2010 with thoughts of what we, as Church, are called to be.

    It is significant that we celebrate at the beginning of the secular year, the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. Mary is an Icon of the Church, for in her and through her we can see the perfection of charity which her Son Jesus invites us to live.

    Mary’s human existence on this earth was a very simple and humble one. Yet, she faced, as we must, all the trials of living in a world wounded by sin. Though sinless herself, she offered her heart to be pierced with Her Son. She was the the first human person to be living in Him, and she continues to show us His Face.

    Thomas, your words, “This is the vocation of the Church: to be His Sacrament in the world, to be Christ among men” can be seen in Mary and she intercedes today for us that we may fulfill our call to holiness. As she interceded for the wedding couple at Cana so she reminds us, with you, that “The world is hungry!” The world is hungry for the bread of Life even more than for material bread. May we go to Jesus, as Mary did. May we live in Him as she did. May we hear her words, “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5).

    Mary was the first to live “Advent”. She waited with growing faith, hope, and above all, charity. Joseph, too, waited with her for the first coming of Christ. “Waiting rooms” so often are places of anticipated birth, and death. As Church, we know that death is swallowed up in victory for a Son has been born for us!

    O Jesus, living in Mary, come and live in your servants!

  2. I long for days past when Catholics would enter the Church in silence, pray silently until Mass began, and hold their conversation until they were out of the Church building when Mass was over. I, too, find it very difficult to concentrate on prayer; not just before Mass, but anytime I stop to pray. Satan does not want us to have silent time with our Lord, so he throws so many distractions at us; loud people, crying babies, or just a wondering mind. This morning at Mass, there was a crying baby. The mother waited much too long before taking the child to the Cry Room. Consequently, many parishioners were robbed of the words of the Homily.

    Thomas, as you said, we do not make the decision to be born; nor do we make the decision to die. But, we do make the decision of how we spend the time between our birth and death. In order to live a life that is pleasing to God, we must be conscious at all times of our actions and must have the sincere desire to please God at all times. I don’t think that those persons who hold conversations before Mass begins are bad people. In fact, they are probably good people. They just are not giving a thought to the fact that their actions are not pleasing to God. So many people who fill the pews on Sunday morning are not there to worship our Almighty God. They are there because they feel the obligation to be there. They go through the motions, never giving a thought to what is going on on the Altar. Surely, I lived my life like that for many years, so I can relate.

    As disciples of Christ, we must reach out to our brothers and sisters. We must pray for them and ourselves. Yes, we need to grow in the life of prayer.

    Thank you, Thomas, for giving us food for thought to start a new year.

  3. Thank you, Thomas, for your wonderful perspective and for all your efforts to “do what He tells you,” as Deborah mentions.

    The world is too much with us. The longer we live on earth, the more sophisticated our society becomes, the farther away we turn from Him. It’s all upside down. So much time and effort misdirected.

    We are mired in the superficial and irrelevant. We have chosen the world and let go of God. So much rhetoric about how we’ve treated the planet. What about Him? Spiritual authors say Jesus looked forward to coming to be one of us and to live on earth among us. Surely He is wounded beyond comprehension by His human family, us.

    Once again, it is she, Mary His Mother who did not and does not disappoint. She was there for Him. Joseph was there. They made Him happy. Surely it was (as He had longed for) a happy time with His human family. But how we must have sickened His Heart!

    Let us go to Mary and Joseph for imitation. May we come back to Him with greater fervor, greater purpose of amendment, greater love for the greatest Lover of all.

    Let us cultivate virtue in ourselves and others by example. He’ll see how we love Him back. We’ll welcome him into our families – the whole human race. We can make Him happy!

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