Getting Nearer To God

"Being a Modern Man, I like to fancy that my spirituality is evolving; it is showing 'progress.' Whether it is in fact or not, it certainly has gone through stages. My first lessons about what a rosary was came from the hardscrabble ethnic Catholic world, primarily from working-class Irish and Italians. My primary Irish influence was my maternal grandmother, who began life as a peasant girl in Cork. My primary Italian influence was her best friend Lill, who lived in the apartment next door. (My grandmother claimed to have a deep prejudice against Italians, yet all of her closest friends were Italian. Attempting to embrace such contradictions played a big role in my early spiritual development.) . . .

I have a theory (of course). If God is everywhere at all times, then we are not really 'summoning' God when we pray. The thing that actually stands between God and ourselves is….ourselves. We get in our own way, because we can’t easily remove ourselves from our thoughts about ourselves and all the trash that constantly runs through our minds. This may mean that anything that facilitates removing ourselves as a barrier to God is prayer. There seem to be many, many ways to do this. Many roads lead to God. What looked to me (and perhaps would still be for me) like the pious superstitions of my grandmother in her prayer was actually a way that she could focus on her prayer, on praying it carefully and removing herself by concentrating on this. Lill’s practices, which to me now resemble almost a form of voodoo, were a way she could sanctify her entire environment — not to my satisfaction, but to hers. . . .

Years ago I spent a night in a Japanese Zen monastery on Mount Koya." More

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