On Christian meditation
An interview with Columban Father Tommy Murphy
(Published on Sunday Examiner, Hong Kong on 9th August, 2020)
1. Having been the Spiritual Advisor of WCCM(HK), can you briefly describe this journey of inner peace with them?
It has been a marvelous journey of peace and discovery working with the Christian meditators in Hong Kong for the last ten years. Seeing their commitment and discipline in saying the Maranatha (Come, O Lord) has challenged me to be more devoted to my own practice of meditation. Accompanying them for over ten years reminds me that I too can have the same peace and freedom from anxiety that God offers us if I commit myself to the daily practise of meditation. It has been a privilege to have been part of the Hong Kong Christian meditation community throughout this journey and I am very grateful to God for this opportunity.
2. Prayer groups using this means of saying the Mantra Maranatha are growing in Hong Kong and Christian Meditation groups seem to be flourishing. Do you recommend more Catholic parishes to participate? Would you agree with what Fr John Main saying about “Meditation creates community”?
Yes, I do believe this is true because when some people meditate together even though they may not have previously known each other, suddenly they are able to have a new type of friendship not based on a blood relationship or neighborhood but on the fact that they share silence while repeating the mantra together, There is a depth to this relationship that enhances family relationships, or other social connections including Church membership. In this sense, John Main’s belief that” Meditation creates community” is true. I believe that Catholic parishes can benefit from having Christian Meditation Groups in their community.
3. Christian meditators use the prayer word Maranatha which is a simple but very ancient practise. Can you comment?
The repetition of the word Maranatha is a practice we have inherited from the early Church. Maranatha is in Aramaic word, which is the language that Jesus himself spoke and it means, `Lord, Come’. The antiquity of this tradition keeps us in touch with the hundreds of years of meditation practice in our rich Christian contemplative tradition and it also gives us the courage that we need to face the challenges of modern life. By repeating the mantra, Maranatha, we are also in touch with the very ancient language that Jesus himself spoke. This rich tradition of the practice of meditation throughout all these centuries can be a source of encouragement for us in today’s world.
4. What advice do you have for current meditators?
Hong Kong is in a very special and difficult situation, and there are many conflicting opinions and suggestions about the best way forward. Although we cannot predict nor control the future, we can try to remain calm and recollected while becoming aware of God’s guiding presence with us. Certainly, the practice of meditation will help us become recollected which can help us glimpse something of what God’s plan for Hong Kong might be. Meditation helps us become more able to listen to others and discern what God is asking of Hong Kong people right now. Above all, it helps us to realise that this is God’s world and that God is in control, and that our task is to listen to God and follow God’s Word for us.
5. What is the best way to deal with distractions?
First of all, it’s important not to be disappointed when you have distractions. This is normal and it does not mean you are a bad meditator. Our great saints tell us much about distractions in their prayer lives, which is an encouragement to us all. We do not reject distractions but rather recognise them and then let them go. It is important not to engage with distractions, nor to argue with the distractions. When you notice distractions just acknowledge them and let them go, and then gently return to slowly repeating the mantra.
6. What would be the main benefits of praying Maranatha?
The main benefit of saying the mantra is that we learn to let go, we learn to leave aside the `ego self’, with its worries, anxieties and its many plans. Repeating the mantra helps us to calm down and not to focus on our ego; instead it helps us to focus on God who desires us to become more aware of God’s presence within us. Repeating the mantra prepares us to enter our inner heart. It is really a great practice to help us to calm down, to move away from our ego, and to be less self-centred, which then offers us the space and freedom to feel God’s presence within and to hear God’s word in the depths of our true self.
7. You accompany several Maranatha Meditation camps within the Protestant Church. What would you say about such cooperation and the relationships with them?
Would it enhance unity with the Catholic Church promoting ecumenism?
Yes, meditation helps develop relationships and the practice of using the mantra in the various Christian Churches gives us a common understanding of prayer and a common method for realizing the presence of God within and among us. The practise of Christian Meditation together gives us a shared way of stepping back from our ego control and from our selfishness. It is a shared methodology between the Catholic and other Christian Churches. This provides a solid spiritual ground for the promotion of better relations between the various Christian churches here in Hong Kong. I believe it can make a small but significant contribution to the ministry of ecumenism.
Father Tommy Murphy SSC has been the spiritual advisor of the World Community for Christian Meditation (HK) since Maryknoll Father Sean Burke, its first spiritual advisor passed away. He has given many talks and retreats.
The Maranatha series of articles: Spirituality of the Desert Fathers, Spirituality of the Mantra, Integration between “Being” and “Doing”, Leaving Self Behind, Fruits of Meditation Maranatha, Genuine Sharing from the Spiritual Advisor, are in line with the diocese ‘s liturgical theme this year on Maranatha.