Summary: There is a link between mediation and attentional functions and cognitive flexibility instead of giving an automatic response. Often we best represent the presence of Christ not just in moments of scheduled ministry.
In the Catholic Church, an officiating priest or deacon says, "The Lord be with you" and the congregation responds by saying, "And with thy spirit." However, an older, recently outdated, response from the congregation used to be, “And also with you".
So there was a Catholic priest who always started each Mass with “The Lord be with you.” The people would respond with the customary, “And also with you.” But, one Sunday the PA system wasn’t working, so the first thing the Priest said was, “There’s something wrong with this microphone.”
“The People responded with, “And also with you.”
Christian tradition speaks of recollection, unscatteredness. Our Gospel today says that “the apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.’”
The catechism says that contemplative prayer is silence, but not speechless (because you are meditating on the Psalms or other parts of the Bible, etc.) Silence is the indispensable doorway to the divine, writes Cardinal Robert Sarah.
Silence is good even on the natural level.
E.g, The Central Catholic High School girls basketball program produces championship teams. En route to each away game this season, not one word was uttered by a single Central Catholic girls basketball player on the bus ride - a rule imposed years ago and never questioned by each new batch of players. "It's weird, we know," said point guard Gabie Polce. "I don't think I've ever heard a team actually having a rule that there's no talking allowed on the bus. We have silent bus rides as a rule to get us focused on the game.
Ideally, for us, when it comes to quiet meditation, its great to be able to contemplate and pray without some background noise. However, once you do it for while, its possible with some background noise. E.g.
Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta did not want to separate the sister’s houses from the noise of the street. She wanted the sisters to learn to be immersed in contemplative prayer even in the hubbub of a major city. Similarly, Cardindal Schoborn said that his spiritual director used to tell him, “You must pray interiorly even at the train station or on the subway.”
2). After the prayer and contemplation in silence comes the work. Our Gospel says that people found where Jesus and the apostles were resting and all these people went there on foot from all the towns in the area.
In the APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION GAUDETE ET EXSULTATE (ON THE CALL TO HOLINESS IN TODAY’S WORLD) OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS, no. 26. “It is not healthy to love silence while fleeing interaction with others, to want peace and quiet while avoiding activity, to seek prayer while disdaining service. Everything can be accepted and integrated into our life in this world, and become a part of our path to holiness. We are called to be contemplatives even in the midst of action, and to grow in holiness by responsibly and generously carrying out our proper mission.”
A deacon told me a story of when he was running a retreat house. He was visited one morning by Fr. Gerry Gordan, T.O.R., who was the superior at the local Franciscan House of Prayer. Father seemed agitated during his visit because of all the pressing things that he had to do. Father went on to say that he and his fellow monks were up at 4 AM for meditation, followed by some private prayer time. Then, came morning prayer, Mass and breakfast. Then they only had a couple hours for their work before mid-morning prayer, with Noon day prayers coming afterwards. There was seemingly not enough time during the day to get the work done.
The deacon responded, “[Fr.] Gerry, you don’t know how strange what you just said seems to me.”
He responded, “probably so, but keep in mind that our job is to pray and do some work. Your job is to work and do some prayers.” The deacon said that he never forgot that.
The faithful life is an interrupted life. There is a link between mediation and attentional functions and cognitive flexibility instead of giving an automatic response. Often we best represent the presence of Christ not just in moments of scheduled ministry but in the interrupted moments of our lives when we stop to care for one in need.
Here are some recent findings on the benefits of meditation. The practice of meditation leads to improved sustained attention and to attentional stability (Lutz e al, 2009; MacLean et al, 2010).
Even among non-experts, meditation can decrease heart rate, lower blood pressure, alter brain activity, and improve immune function and self-regulation (Davidson et al., 2003). Studies in 2004 were done on the application of meditation on things like help for sleep disturbances, cancers, depression, eating disorders, and child birth.