IF THERE’S ONE ISSUE that keeps coming to the attention of a parish priest, whether on a global or a personal scale, it is that people need to be heard, to be listened to deeply. Hearts, souls, minds and bodies drowning in a perpetual cacophany of competing voices yearn to be heard, to be recognised. There’s probably not a profession under the sun, nor a relationship anywhere on earth that wouldn’t benefit from some training about the importance of listening deeply. Fortunately the necessary training need not be anything very formal nor need it cost very much save the setting aside of time and real attention. We’re already well on the way to changing the world when we realise that the greatest gift we can give someone is an attentive listening.

When Someone Deeply Listens To You

When someone deeply listens to you
it is like holding out a dented cup
you’ve had since childhood
and watching it fill up with
cold, fresh water.
When it balances on top of the brim,
you are understood.
When it overflows and touches your skin,
you are loved.

When someone deeply listens to you
the room where you stay
starts a new life
and the place where you wrote your first poem
begins to glow in your mind’s eye.

It is as if gold has been discovered!
When someone deeply listens to you
your bare feet are on the earth
and a beloved land that seemed distant
is now at home within you.

John Fox

Prayer is about this kind of listening. God listens deeply all the time. But we human beings are tactile souls. We learn that God speaks and listens through human contact that speaks and listens. The little boy who was frightened of the dark remonstrated with his mother, who’d said “Don’t be frightened, God is with you, even in the dark”. And she never forgot the little chap’s answer: “Yes, but I need God with skin on!” May we who would pray learn how to listen – to God, of course, and to God in one another, so that “a beloved land that seemed distant is now at home within you”.

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