The Forgotten Art of Listening

My Sisters and Brothers,

Dom Helder Camara was a little Brazilian priest who is probably most famous for his statement: “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.”

But to those who knew him, he was a man who lived entirely for God, and for others.

In the book A Thousand Reasons for Living (a collection of his nightly vigil meditations), the following was written in the introduction:

“The way Dom Helder spends his days is no mystery. They are completely available to others, to all and sundry, great and small, by appointment or unannounced. He listens, he advises. He listens, he gives a decision. He listens, he helps. Unfailingly present, available, attentive.”

I like that – he listens… he listens… he listens!

This reminds me of something I read about Pope John Paul II. It was written by a former member of the Swiss Guard in a book called The Pope and the CEO:

“Whenever I encountered the pope, it unfailingly felt as if I was the reason he got up in the morning. He was always fully present, keenly aware of what was going on in the heart and mind of the person to whom he spoke and far more interested in what you had to say to him than what he had to say to you. No matter what other pressing concerns awaited him at the end of your conversation, those concerns were seemingly absent from his mind while he was with you.

How different are these attitudes of listening to what most of us are used to? I think of myself – how I’m always talking. And even when I’m listening, I often catch myself thinking of what my reply will be.

But if we are to really connect with people, and be there for them, we need to learn to listen! We need to relearn this ancient lost art of TRULY LISTENING! With every part of ourselves.

I think about Jesus. The Gospels are a record of many things that Jesus said. But I also think He was a listener. When people came to Him, He listened deeply to what they had to say… so deep that He would often hear what their hearts were saying, even if their mouths couldn’t say it!

And that’s how we need to be!

I spoke about most of this in yesterday’s post. But I think it is worth repeating. If we want to be followers of Christ, we have to learn to listen as He listened. We need to devote ourselves entirely to listening deeply to what others are speaking to us – both verbally and non-verbally. Giving ourselves to them, wholly and completely, even for a few seconds, and let them know that they are worthy to be listened to! That as children of God, their presence means something!

May the Lord Jesus Christ fill you with His Mercy, and Love, and Compassion! And may He give us the grace to be true listeners, as He was, is, and always will be! Amen.