My dear friends,
One of the vogue words of the present day is “attentiveness”. It is being applied across the board to many situations, such as personal counselling or building rapport in business situations, and its meaning is relatively simple. It means at heart concentrating fully on one thing at a time. I have heard it suggested that even while doing such mundane and everyday things as brushing one’s teeth or setting the table it would be of great use to our minds if we did not go into “automode” during such simple activities, using the time (as we all do) thinking about other things.
There is nothing particularly religious about the idea, but I believe that we can relate attentiveness to our spirituality as a whole (and not simply to our prayers), with the approaching season of Lent giving us the opportunity to begin the discipline of attentiveness, for this is what it is. A writer on the subject points out that we all have a constant monologue going on inside our heads, even when we are supposedly engaged in other things. It would make us more focused people, and hence better people, if we muted the monologue while we are - to give an obvious example - talking to other people, and certainly while we are listening to other people. We can easily give half-attention - half-attentiveness - to others, while in reality we are listening to an animated monologue going on inside our heads which is moving us on to the next thing we have to do, or to something we forgot to do and must give our attention to as soon as this conversation is over, lest we forget it again! As I reminded you in my talk on the Lord’s Prayer during the Roadshows in November, it is very easy for our internal monologue on other matters to disconnect us from our prayers. He suggested that we simply and gently put this internal interruption to one side and get back to our prayers. And so it should be in every aspect of our lives. Our prayers need our full attentiveness. And other people need our full attentiveness. Half-listening is very little better than not listening.
Lent may be a good time to work on this discipline in every part of our lives. Set the multi-tasking aside, and in particular set the multi-attentiveness aside. Everything we do should be given our fullest attention. Our prayers should receive our complete attention, and all other people, whom God created and whom he loves to the utmost, also deserve an absolute attentiveness from us.