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Contemplative Prayer and the Purification of Anger

By Fr. James Farfaglia
January 31st, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

If corrupt institutions do not change, the power of prayer will raise up new ones that will better serve the Gospel.The experience of God's love through contemplative prayer removes anger from the soul and it launches the human person, by the power of the Spirit, into appropriate action that seeks change.

CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - The last century was a very bloody one, perhaps the bloodiest in all of recorded history.  For the Catholic Church, the last century produced the most martyrs since the beginning of the Church at Pentecost.  There was hope that this new century would be different, but despite all of the work that has been done for the promotion of peace and justice, on-going wars, conflicts and injustices continue around the globe. 

It is and has been a natural temptation to respond to man's cruelty to man through acts of anger.  However, anger can never be the response of a disciple of Jesus Christ.

People who undertake great tasks for God and for humanity usually undergo moments of profound discouragement and frustration.  Contemplative prayer will free us from these things and it will liberate us from the overpowering anger that leads to violence. 

Contemplative prayer will provide peace within the storm and it will also unleash enormous personal energy that enables individuals the ability to provide effective solutions to the problems of our times. 

We can stand at an abortion clinic, not with anger, but with love.  We can promote peaceful solutions to the conflicts of the world.  We can fight against the long list of injustices that we experience, not with anger, but with lasting measures that provide for conversion and reform.

If corrupt institutions do not change, the power of prayer will rise up new ones that will better serve the Gospel. 

I can recall the scene of a young nun from the Philippines, dressed in a beautiful white habit, kneeling before a tank during the 1986 popular revolt against the excesses of a corrupt government.  As she knelt before the tank in downtown Manilla, she did not respond with violence.  Instead, she knelt before the tank in prayer and in silent protest. 

Sometimes, the only possible response to injustice, corruption and the abuse of institutional power is silence. 

Jesus' dialog with Pontius Pilot was brief and discreet.  His silence before Herod was majestic. 

Contemplative prayer is man's greatest response to God's unconditional love.  It is through this existential experience of God's love that we can love our enemy, forgive our enemy and pray for our enemy. 

Olivier Clement writes, "Only so can crucified love, secretly victorious, triumph over the depth of hatred in us that we need to recognize, fight against, reduce and transform by grace" (The Roots of Christian Mysticism, p. 276).

The experience of God's love through contemplative prayer removes anger from the soul and it launches the human person, by the power of the Spirit, into appropriate action that seeks change. 

Models of action rooted in love and non-violence are many.  We can call to mind the example of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his non-violent approach to the struggle for civil rights.  We can look at Dorothy Day and her dedication to the poor.  We can also look to Archbishop Oscar Romero and how he fought for social justice within the circumstances of a very challenging political situation. 

Again, from Olivier Clement, "'Agapeic' love is not a sentimental whim or a physical attraction, both of which are doomed to fade away quickly, and anyway do not come at will.  No.  It is the awareness of God's love for another person.  Only God can enable us to understand our neighbor according to the 'feeling,' the intuition of the 'Spirit.'  Then we perceive in him an irreducible personal existence beyond limitations and errors, beyond even the disappointment we may have felt for a moment.  The other is in the image of God, not us" (The Roots of Christian Mysticism, pp. 278-279).

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Father James Farfaglia is a contributing writer for Catholic Online.  You can visit him on the web at www.fatherjames.org

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