As a child I was a terrible artist. I mean I was B.A.D. and it was obvious to everybody else, but me.
Even so, I loved art. I used to spend hours painting and sketching, making characters and painting scenes from stories I had dreamt up simply because I loved doing it. It wasn’t until my teenage years that my mother confessed to me she never thought I was very gifted at it, but that she never had the heart to tell me. To her credit she did also say I had come a long way and that eventually I had turned my passion into a skill. But this did not change the fact that I was not particularly brilliant at something I enjoyed.
I was demoralized!
Art was my passion. How could I be bad at something I loved so much? I realized, however, that though it did not come naturally to me I still had a desire to grow as an artist. It pushed me onward to improve whatever was lacking in my skills. I had a vision for myself; a desire to become great. Because of this I made time for sketching and I practiced as often as I could until I improved the areas I needed to grow in, always building upon my skills…in many ways prayer can be this way.
Cultivating a rich prayer life is like gaining a skill that doesn’t always come naturally.
There are times when prayer, like art, feels almost impossible to squeeze out. The ability to pray is a skill that must also be grown, developed, encouraged, and most of all practiced. We may become discouraged by a lack of ability to pray or a general dryness in prayer. But this discovery should not depress us. Instead we should take those moments as opportunities to prove our worth. To develop our life of prayer in a more fervent and purposeful way. To practice the art of being holy, we must remind ourselves of the vision we once had in the beginning, to share in the mystery of God.
“Prayer is both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part. It always presupposes effort.” (CCC, 2725)
It can be easy to set prayer aside as something we do only when we have the time. But prayer is a grace that is imparted to us, and without proper effort on our part, it will never become the beautiful life changing art-form it was meant to be. We must develop the gift handed on to us by our Father in heaven in order to grow in holiness. In spite of adversity and distractions we must be driven forward by the passion for greatness in our spiritual lives. A painting never starts out as beautiful as it ends up. It begins with a vision, which becomes a rough sketch, then slowly with much patience and deliberation color is added, with details and shading, until a picture emerges from what was once only open potential.
Our profound potential is found in the moments we take to spend in conversation with our Lord.
If we exercise the life of prayer that God imparted to us we use the gift and allow it to grow into something intense and beautiful. So practice the art of holiness. Dare to become all that you can be!
Dare to be a saint!