In a culture that promotes immediate satisfaction, next-day delivery and “your way, right away,” what are you waiting for? The culture would love nothing better than to make us feel a sense of urgency to purchase the item before the sale ends or to commit to low monthly payments before time runs out. What could be holy about waiting?
Holy waiting has a lot to do with trust. We are waiting for him. We are waiting for Kairos, God’s time, rather than chronos, the clock’s time. We are waiting for God to show us the way, give us an inspiration or nudge us in a new direction. More than one of us is waiting for the “divine two-by-four” to hit us across the forehead, a message from God so obvious that even we cannot miss it.
If St. Augustine is right, and the experience of many people has demonstrated the truth of his message, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in God,” then we are waiting as a way of combating the restlessness of our age. An age that wants to know everything about everything, that wants to dissect and pull apart every comment and tweet and facial expression. Restlessness may very well be the defining characteristic of this age. We wait because we have hope. We wait because we have faith. We wait because he loved us first, while we were still his enemies. We wait because we have learned to love — to love our own, to love the least and to love the lost.
We wait in silence for a word from him who speaks in gentle whispers. We come apart as Jesus often invited his apostles, to a quiet place. We go to that quiet place to pray, to talk with God, to reflect on our lives, to reflect on who we want to be, or better yet who he wants us to be. We go to a quiet place to recharge and recenter ourselves in God, to know in the stillness that he is still God, that this is still his universe and we are still living a small, tiny part of His Divine Plan. We learn so much from silent waiting on God. I encourage you to read Robert Cardinal Sarah’s excellent book on the subject, called “The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise.”
There are many ways to engage in Holy Waiting. Perhaps the most simple would be not to jump to conclusions about what God is doing in our lives or the lives of our kids. Perhaps another way is to take time out to pray, pray a rosary as a family or at least one decade to start. Turn off the radio on the drive to work and talk with God, turn off the TV for 30 minutes or an hour. The ultimate would be to wait with him for him. Find a Mass near your house, use the website masstimes.org or find an adoration chapel and go and sit with him. As St. Josemaria Escriva said, “When you approach the tabernacle, remember that he has been waiting for you for 20 centuries.” This is very profitable time you spend with him in Holy Waiting. St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori said, “Withdraw yourself from people and spend at least a quarter of an hour, or a half-hour, in some church in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Taste and see how sweet is the Lord, and you will learn from your own experience how many graces this will bring you.”
Having spoken at length about Holy Waiting, what in the world is Holy Hurry? Holy Hurry happens when God has in fact moved, when he has given the inspiration, when he has given us that nudge or, for some people, the divine two-by-four. This is also a time for trust, a time for boldness and confidence.
How can we know that God has moved so that we can be in a Holy Hurry? Typically, we are not 100 percent sure, but we have a definite inclination in one direction. Certainly we know we are going in the right direction because what we are deciding to do is not morally evil. We also know we are proceeding well because what we want to do is not against the teachings of the Church. From there, we start to look for congruence between what we are planning to do and our vocation; for example, a husband and father of small children might not be called to be a missionary in foreign lands given the pressing responsibilities of his vocation.
This is where the Holy Waiting comes into play. Being in a state of grace, receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation, receiving the Sacrament of the Eucharist and generally living the life of grace, and practicing the virtues are the fruits of Holy Waiting. Nearness to Christ in the sacraments, in Eucharistic adoration, in the practice of the virtues and in silent prayer produce in us a likeness to Christ. We become more and more like him. We start to be attracted to what he is attracted to, we start to love what he loves. You can read more about this in the wonderful book by Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade, “Abandonment to Divine Providence.”
If we have been practicing Holy Waiting, we may very well be in a Holy Hurry. Many of the saints experienced this, a filling up with Christ to then later perform heroic acts of virtue. St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who is well known for tireless acts of service to the poorest of the poor, said it this way, “If you really want to grow in love, come back to the Eucharist, come back to that Adoration. Our hours of adoration will be special hours of reparation for sins, and intercession for the needs of the whole world, exposing the sin-sick and suffering humanity to the healing, sustaining and transforming rays of Jesus, radiating from the Eucharist. Each one of us is a co-worker of Christ — we must labor hard to carry Him to the hearts where He has not yet been known and loved … But, unless we have Jesus, we cannot give him; that is why we need the Eucharist. Spend as much time as possible in front of the Blessed Sacrament and he will fill you with his strength and power.”
When we are filled up with his strength, fruit of our Holy Waiting, we will be in a Holy Hurry, like Jesus during his years of active ministry. Finally, Jesus’ time had come, after 30 years of Holy Waiting, sharing a quiet, modest and holy intimate family life with the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph. He spent three years of exceedingly active ministry, preaching, teaching, healing and calling. Through it all, he was showing us the model we should follow, the way we should reach out to the marginalized, call the humble, work with our hands and work in community. Among all that activity, he never forgot the lessons of the first 30 years of his life, and he invited his disciples and he invites us to imitate him. “Great crowds assembled to listen to him and to be cured of their ailments, but he would withdraw to deserted places to pray.”(Luke 5:15b-16)