Don’t just do something, Stand there!

I know, you think I got the title backwards. But I didn’t.

In the very busy and distracted time in which we live we need to hear some old advice from God who said, “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10) or again, Silence, all mankind, in the presence of the LORD! for he stirs forth from his holy dwelling(Zech 2:13). So again I say, “Don’t just do something, stand there!” Or kneel there if you will.

Much is lost to us for our lack of silence, for the fact that we rush through life and never pause. Stop fidgeting and let God get your attention.

Rather than type on, just a few sayings and illustrations and I’m done:

  1. Saying: Artist Paul Gauguin famously said, “I close my eyes in order to see.”
  2. Another old saying, “Don’t think!…..Look!” (In other words, don’t rush to analyze everything, enjoy the actual view and data God has given, analyze later).
  3. Observation: I live in Washington, right near the Capitol and often observe that many tourist never really “see” the Capitol with their own eyes, but only through their camera lens. So obsessed to get the picture they could see in any book, the actual moment of vision is lost or severely diminished.
  4. Another observation: This happens at Church too. So obsessed with getting the picture of a child’s First Communion, or a friend’s wedding, many miss the actual moments and, even worse, forget to pray in these moments (total loss).
  5. Desert Father Story on the poverty of words: Abba Moses lifted his hands in the air and said, “Every word about God is more of a distortion than a description!” Bewildered his students said, “But teacher, when you speak to us of God you use words!” At this Abba Moses lifted his hands again and laughed and said, “When I speak of God, listen less to the words and more to the silence between the words.”
  6. Another Story on the poverty of words. The teacher entered and said to his disciples, “Those who know do not say and those who say, do not know.” The confused disciples inquired as to the meaning of this saying. The teacher said, “How many know the smell of a rose?” All nodded. “Put it into words,” he said. And all remained silent.
  7. Movie clip: There is a scene in the movie The Color Purple where the two main characters, Shug and Celiee are talking. Celiee says, “I’m angry with God.” Shug says, “You’re angry with God?! I think God gets angry with us when we walk through a field and miss the color purple.”

OK, so there it is. In the communication age we often forget that words often accomplish a lot less that actual experience. We forget that much is learned in silence and stillness, in contemplation, adoration and simple appreciation.

As you go through life, don’t miss the color purple. In many parts of the country the Lilacs are still in bloom.

8 Replies to “Don’t just do something, Stand there!”

  1. Father, I find that now we are singing in the choir (we have a little ragtag TLM choir), that it is harder to focus on the prayer … if I don’t know the music well enough, I’m concentrating on getting it right. I know I should practice more, but sometimes even with practice, the need to come in at the right time, etc. can distract from the prayerfulness. Do you have any suggestions?

  2. Lovely article, and so true. I am going to try to see my life through my eyes more, instead of the camera on my iPhone.

    Re number four, how true. Do you really need pictures and video from inside the Church? Pray pray pray for your children, oh how they will need it? And please leave your balloons in the car.

  3. #3 resonates with me. When I was in Rome I participated in the Holy Father’s outdoor Mass for Corpus Christi, held in front of St. John Lateran Basilica. Included was a procession after the Mass from the Lateran to St. Mary Major Basilica with Pope Benedict kneeling before the monstrance on what we might call a parade float. I wanted to get a photo of this as he passed where I was standing. But I struggled within myself thinking, “What do I really want to see and experience?”

  4. Vijaya,
    We choir singers are really praying twice. It is true, when the music is difficult you concentrate harder on it,
    but during the most important parts of the Mass we do not sing. That’s the time you keep your eyes
    on the altar. God really loves us choir members, it is our way of praise to Him.
    If you have a chance listen to some of Bach’s compositions. The music and the words are pure joy.

    1. True! We don’t sing during the most important parts. And there is always some time before and after Mass to pray. And I do so love Bach. It is music from heaven itself.

  5. Msgr, Pope,
    Did you recall that this line – “Don’t just do something; Stand there!” was attributed to a movie director who was shooting a scene with Katherine Hepburn – a lady who was famous for dominating any movie scene in which she was included, with restless activity if no stage direction applied. The director was trying to set a mood, or allow some character development for the role Miss Hepburn was portraying, and her restless activity was messing up his attempt.

  6. Thanks Father.. for this wonderful article.. You have given me hope in what seems to be a “gloomy Friday” again.

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