A Book of Simple Wisdom and Prayer
Calm the Soul: A Book of Simple Wisdom and Prayer is a beautiful book of practical advice in preparing for prayer, by an enclosed order of nuns based in Galway, Ireland. This book by the Poor Clares draws on the fruits on their monastic lives, and suggests simple practices to help nourish the soul, and find a sense of calm in today’s stressful world.
St Clare of Assisi was an Italian friend and devotee of St Francis of Assisi, the beloved patron saint of animal welfare, but also of ecology and simple living (he was a real party boy, before he became a saint!) These nuns are an interesting bunch, with between them former lives of being accountants and university activists. Today they live a simple life of praise, prayer and work, centred on God alone.
Learn ways to slowly build up the amount of time spent in prayer and meditation daily, to achieve peace and well-being. This is not about gazing at your naval, more about reflection on common prayers in the Catholic faith such as the Our Father and Hail Mary. Includes meditations on Scripture, and prayers for specific needs such as sickness and depression.
What Can We Learn from the Poor Clares?
Poor Clare orders live mostly in silence, and this is a great starting point. Our life is now so noisy. Just turning off and not speaking (or listening to anyone speak unless of importance) for a few hours is good. A lot of modern stress is caused by saying the wrong thing, listening to others saying things to upset you (including in the media) or having opinions about things that others are saying. If people just shut up, none of these problems would exist!
But it is not just silence, it is silence in prayer. Prayer is not ‘asking for what you want’, rather ‘listening to God’. Even when people pray novenas (9 day prayers to ask God for help), the idea is not to say ‘you didn’t give me what I wanted!’, if the novena ‘doesn’t work out’. It’s all at God’s Will. The whole purpose of a novena is to bring one closer to God, so that sometimes what is asked for is not given, other times it is not given for the wrong reasons (selfishness). And other times we are asked to wait.
The Poor Clares of Galway writes that ‘like music, we need both notes and rests – sound and the silence unite to produce a harmonious blend’. So don’t just churn out a list of wants. Remember that before Jesus raised Lazarus, he turned to the Lord first in thanksgiving.