Back in the last century—in the days before mobile devices and the internet, before texting and webcams—my dorm room housed an instrument called a telephone. To keep long-distance calls as inexpensive as possible, my parents devised a signaling routine. I would call home in Springfield from my dorm room in Evanston, Ill., after 7 pm, let the phone ring twice, and hang up. My parents then would call me back and we’d talk.
My family conversations then, like the arcane signaling routine, felt ritualized. I was distracted by my college life: I wanted to get back to the tasks of ignoring my homework and hanging out with my friends. So I answered questions automatically and automatically asked a few; conversations were rarely very involved or personal. In a moment that still causes me heartache, I once heard my beloved aunt say as she handed the phone to my mom: “He never has anything to say to me.”
Although the ritual was important, it didn’t accomplish full communication. This is a lesson I continue to learn. To my parental delight, my college-aged son is much better at ongoing and substantive communication.The theme of this month’s Liguorian is prayer. Similar to the communication that takes place among us human beings, communication with the Divine occurs at different levels. There’s the ritual—those formal prayers we memorized as children and that still comfort us when we don’t know what else to say. There’s talking to God in our own words and asking for help and guidance. There’s listening—in my experience, the hardest of all. Each level has its place.
In this issue, Fr. Dennis Billy, CSsR, explores those different kinds of prayer, using more precise terms, and explains contemplative prayer. Writer Jerome Kropp covers his top ten excuses for not praying and how to overcome them. Columnist Kathleen Basi describes her prayerful and brief whispers to God, the spiritual equivalent of texting. And there’s more.
I’m interested in having a full conversation with you. What do you like about Liguorian and Liguori Publications? What can we do better? Please feel free to write me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks.—Virgil Tipton