HEARTS TO HEART TALK

How to Pray with the Heart
column twenty-two

by Father Stephen Valenta, OFM Conv.

INTRODUCTION: "Hearts-to-heart Talk" is a compendium of talks & writings on "How to Pray with the Heart" by the popular Franciscan from upstate New York - Father Stephen Valenta, O.F.M. Conv. and is a regular column each week on Mondays. This quiet, sincere priest, with over 45 years in pastoral care and in the radio/television ministry, will touch your heart as he pinpoints the "how to's" of praying with and from the heart. In his twenty-second column, his fifteenth in the Daily CATHOLIC he begins a series on Listening and how we cannot hear what God wants us to hear if we are not listening with our heart for our ears are too attuned to things of the mind.    Fr. Stephen's column along with columns by Sister Mary Lucy Astuto and Father John H. Hampsch, C.M.F. promise simple, but effective and vital insights into our faith and ways of fulfilling God's Will every day in every way. You can reach Fr. Valenta at Hearts to heart Center at P.O. Box 212, Rensselaer, New York, 12144 or you can reach him at (518) 434-1723.

How to Pray with the Heart

Column Twenty-Two: "They have ears, but do not hear."

     In many households the continuous blaring of the television, stereos, shouting, and God-knows how much other cacaphony have done something to the hearing apparatus of its inhabitants. The technological culture in which we live has done much to bring on a noise pollution such as has not been known in all of human history. Modern contraptions such as automobiles, trucks, tractors, airplanes, lawnmowers, vacuum cleaners, blenders, chain saws, boom boxes and the like have caused significant damage to the ears of millions of people. The new digital sounds in the theaters are deafening to the ear drums. The human ear, with its delicate makeup, was not made to take such buffeting and those who know of such things have told us that hearing loss is at its highest ever!

     It is one thing to be inflicted with almost a global hearing loss, but it is quite another thing to realize that even the listening power is at a very low ebb. To be able to LISTEN demands more of the individual than mere hearing. In listening, one's whole being has to be attuned to and even absorbed by what is being said by another. Body and soul are called upon to cooperate in every act of listening. Much is required both of the body and of the soul. The body needs to stop any major activity in which it is engaged. The head is expected to turn towards the person speaking, with eyes fixed on the speaker. The will of a would-be listener is expected to come up with a WANT to listen. The mind must be cleared of thought and be set into a receptive mode. A true act of listening calls upon the whole being of a person to give his/her full attention to what is being said. It is no easy task in our day for anyone to become a "good listener."

      That listening is put into the category of an "art" is understandable. In any area of a bookstore or library, under the title of "self help," one might come across a title such as, "The Art of Good Listening." Why is it understandable? Because we are a damaged people. This must be the chief reason. Remember, way back in King David's time, people must have had this problem. In Psalm 115: 6 we read, "They have ears, but do not hear." The same problem appeared in Jesus' time. How often we find Him saying in the gospels, "He who has ears, let him hear." This problem gave concern to Jesus as He quotes the prophet in Matthew 13: 15, "Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears and understand with their heart and be converted and I will heal them." It must be that the problem of good listening is a characteristic of fallen man. It is part of our lot in being conceived in Original Sin. In spite of the fact that this Sin has been washed away by Baptism, we still find heavy on our shoulders its effects.

In my next installment I will continue with this as I share my counseling experience about listening and how satan manipulates us to not hear what is truly being said.

To review Father Valenta's previous columns in this series, go to Archives beginning with the August 18, 1997 issue of A CALL TO PEACE: volume 8, no. 16.