I just finished reading an article on listening in a magazine.  Actually, in a spirit of honesty with regards to an article on listening, I’m not sure I really read the article.  Physically I read it but as I was reading it the TV was also on talking about the events this week following the bombing in Boston.  Some people boast of their ability to multi-task.  I’m not one of them.  With the TV on while reading, I’m not sure I was giving proper attention to either.

It would seem so simple to choose one or the other, turn the TV off or put the magazine down.  I didn’t.  Why?  I wish I knew.  I know I feel more at peace when I just do one thing at a time.  I think sometimes our lives are just so busy that we come to expect to do two or more things at once.  We do it at work and at home.

I don’t think it’s good.  Some people can multi-task better than others but I know I do my best when I focus on one thing at a time.

When I am in my office during the week, there are emails arriving all the time, the phone rings, sometimes people just show up at the door, or staff comes to ask a question.  Sometimes, it seems like all of these happen in the same hour.  Sometimes I want to close the door to my office because I know people won’t interrupt them but I never do because I always think maybe someone will come with something that is more important than what I am working on.  Sometimes they do.

We live in a world that expects instant results.  I have literally had people call on my cell phone and be offended when I didn’t answer (For the record, I was in a meeting and attending to what was going on in the meeting) even though what they were calling about wasn’t that urgent.  I have seen others who seem to be in conversation with good friends when their cell phones ring and they answer it knowing (caller ID) it isn’t somebody important to them.  They think when the phone rings you must answer.  WRONG!  Before cell phones and the age of instant communication we managed.

Where am I going with this?  Good question.  I just had to stop and ask myself because I lost my idea.  Ironic because the idea I started to write about is focus.  As I wrote, different ideas came to mind, I lost focus and forgot what I was writing about (By the way, I still haven’t turned the TV off.)

Some might say does it really matter as long as the work gets done?  My first answer to that is yes because I believe we do a better job when we are focused.  Another way to look at it is to put yourself in the place of someone who needs help.  You call me at the office.  I take the call but as you are talking to me on the phone, I am also writing an email, and shuffling papers on my desk.  How would you feel?  Who you believe that I cared about you?  (For the record, I don’t do that.  Actually I can’t do that – remember I am lousy at multi-tasking.)

Now, since I am a priest so I should have a spiritual point in this right?  I’m working on getting to it but I started getting distracted again by the ideas running my head.  How does all this affect us spiritually?

I know for a fact I feel the effect in my prayer life.  When I have so much to think about from building repairs to strategic planning for our school, from a hospital call to paying for those building repairs, from the call from a troubled person to preparing a Sunday homily, I have all kinds of thoughts running through my head.  Many of these are things that I should pray about.  But there lies the struggle.  When I am bombarded about all those thoughts, I don’t pray well.  I might think about them a lot.  I can do that anytime.  In prayer, my goal is to find out what it is that God wants of me.  I want to offer all of it to God and then stop and listen to God.  I want to focus in that moment on just listening to God.  That’s my goal and that’s my struggle.

For me prayer isn’t about telling God what I want.  Prayer isn’t about getting my way.  My goal in prayer is always to find out what God’s Will is because I know His will is better than mine.

Even at work in the office, I find myself more aware of God’s presence in my ministry when I focus on one thing at a time.

So, I ask for the grace I need to listen to God.

How well do you listen to God in prayer and in the events of your day?


Fr. Jeff

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