People raising families and trying to grow in holiness might think a sense of emptiness — an escape from the chaos — is attractive. “I could be holy if only I did not have a million items on my to-do list, with more added throughout each day!” As our minds are filled with trivialities, our hearts begin to crave the silence conducive to tasting the richness of God’s love.
In “Reed of God,” Caryll Houselander comments: “Emptiness is a very common complaint in our days, not the purposeful emptiness of the virginal heart and mind but a void, meaningless, unhappy condition. Strangely enough, those who complain the loudest of the emptiness of their lives are usually people whose lives are overcrowded.”
The proper response to the overcrowded life that feels empty is, paradoxically, pursuing greater emptiness. Only the person in a state of spiritual-virginal emptiness has a heart capable of being filled by God, like Mary at the Annunciation. To reclaim the serene emptiness of the heart does not require abandoning duties of family and work, but instead rethinking our habits of rejuvenation. When you have a break, do social media or trivial text strings feed your mind? Do these activities leave you with greater interior peace?
Even the externally busiest person can strive to maintain custody of the heart — safeguarding the place of interior solitude where God resides. God does not demand hours of prayer and penance from one with a full job and family life, but He does ask for your heart. Any good endeavor we can do on our own we can also do with God. It is all about making space in our hearts to hear His voice. This will take some intentional time set aside for prayer each day, but equally important is to purify our lives of worldly noise. Houselander writes, “At the beginning it will be necessary for each individual to discard deliberately all the trifling unnecessary things in his life … and having prayed for courage, to visualize himself without all the extras, escapes and interests other than Love in his life.”
No matter the stuff that comprises our daily experience – sickness, work, children, friends, sports or travel – God desires to enter the stuff of our lives with us. A heart emptied of plans and trivialities reclaims our capacity to whisper to God, amidst a full day, “Be it done to me according to Your word.”
Father Charlie Archer is associate pastor of St. Peter Parish in Kirkwood.