I was first introduced to Christian meditation and the World Community when I came across the writings of Dom John Main on Christian meditation. He was already dead by then and I had never heard of him though we were both Irish legal academics and had even worked in the same Law School in Trinity College Dublin although a generation apart. I was intrigued enough to read on for it was my then embryonic interest in this form of silent prayer that had introduced me to his name in the first place. That was over thirty years ago and from that chance encounter in a Dublin bookshop meditation became an embedded part of my everyday life. I also became part of a new circle of friends first among them the late Father Tom Fehily through whom I met Fr Laurence and many others in the Christian meditation community.
In those early years the preoccupation of prayer revolved around raising a family in a sectarian conflict zone with its daily diet of wounds inflicted by human beings, Christian neighbour on Christian neighbour as well as the everyday joys and sorrows that tumble onto life’s path. Later I was privileged to serve my country as President for fourteen years, and I set myself the agenda of building bridges across the chasms of estrangement which had persisted over generations in seeding and reseeding sectarian enmity and political dysfunction. Daily meditation became even more essential, even more a source of energy. I kept a close eye on the work of The World Community for Christian Meditation, personally grateful for its supportive prayers and delighted to see how many international borders its work crossed, how many walls between denominations and faiths it had lowered, how gently but effectively was evolving into a global family. Its ecumenical work in bringing contemplation back to the life of all Christians and in more recent years its outreach to the secular world of education, business and medicine, make it a particularly fascinating model of the church of the future. Rooted in the essential teaching of Jesus it is always open as was John Main, to radical change, always impelled by the need to be inclusive of and respectful of, all God’s human family.
It is past time for the World Community to have a permanent home, a centre of deep peace and an invitation to reconciliation in our troubled and troubling age but also our age of educated young problem solvers and consciences formed by equality, democracy, compassion and courage. They can be righteously impatient with denominations and faith systems but I hope not with prayer. Meditation has so much to offer in anchoring their talents and their impatience for progress and for truth in that ancient form of spiritual communication, giving them personal depths and strengths to weather life’s many storms and appreciate its wonders, linking them to a universal community of care through contemplation. I do not yet know Bonnevaux but Laurence has invited me and as soon as it is ready I plan to visit but I am persuaded that it has many attractive qualities, not least the ancient contemplative origins which infuse its natural beauty with a spirituality which I am sure will touch many an anxious heart and clear many a confused mind. It is a venture worth encouraging and supporting, another light in the darkness, another heart that welcomes all, another home for the soul. We cannot have too many of them and we have not yet enough.