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King David Playing the Harp, Gerard van Honthorst, 1622

Sometimes when one is practicing meditation, or mental prayer, it is so frustratingly easy to get distracted! There you are, you’ve placed yourself in the presence of God and you’re trying to stay focused on Him. But then, your mind drifts to some far off place that may seem totally disassociated with anything else, and before you know it you’ve spent who knows how long down that path. When you eventually do realize how far you’ve strayed, you pull yourself back to the present moment and try to refocus on the Lord.

This happened to me yesterday. I was kneeling before the tabernacle in our Adoration chapel at church, giving thanks for His love and mercy, and just generally soaking up the grace of being in His presence. Then I got distracted. When I finally came back to the present moment I realized that I had just been replaying in my mind scenes from a favorite movie, Remember the Titans, a 2000 production based on a true story. A movie I haven’t watched in many years.

In the movie, Denzel Washington plays the role of Herman Boone, an African-American football head coach at a newly racially integrated high school in Alexandria, Virginia. Coach Boone is charged with integrating black and white students into a functioning and winning football team amidst a culture that not only has been segregated for generations, but one that lives for it’s high school football. The task seems insurmountable as it requires every ounce of his courage, leadership, and diplomacy.

After viewing Boone’s challenges of building a united team at summer football camp; attempting to build respect and cohesion with his white assistant coaches; and the ever present friction (including threats to his family) from the predominantly white community, we are taken to a scene at the football field the night before the first game of the season. Coach Boone walks out into the bleachers and, looking out over the lighted field, utters, “Yeah, this is my sanctuary right here!” The football field was where he could put the world, and all the problems in it, out of his mind. It was his safe harbor, his refuge. It was where he had some control.

It was after this “scene” that I realized I was daydreaming instead of praying. My first reactions were to apologize, thinking, “I’m sorry, Lord, I can’t even give you ten minutes without wandering off!”, and then to wonder, “Where in the world did that memory come from?”!

As I tried to get back into the moment, Coach Boone’s utterance, “Yeah, this is my sanctuary right here!” popped back into my mind. Then I realized what I was saying. I was in my sanctuary, my place of refuge, right there in front of Jesus in the tabernacle. The only difference was that, unlike it being Coach Boone’s place where he felt in control, it was my place of solitude where I could relinquish control and place all my trust in the goodness and mercy of God. It’s where I could forget the physical, economic and political messiness of the current world pandemic and simply bask in God’s love.

I recalled verses from Psalm 31 (vv. 2-6):

In you, Lord, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame.
In your righteousness deliver me; incline your ear to me; make haste to rescue me!
Be my rock of refuge, a stronghold to save me.
For you are my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake lead me and guide me.
Free me from the net that has been set for me, for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commend my spirit; you will redeem me, Lord, God of truth.

And, I thought, “Wherever I am, Lord, especially in the Adoration chapel, you are there, also. Yeah, this is my sanctuary, right here!”

“Lord Jesus, You are my rock and my refuge, my sanctuary. Thank You for Your generosity. And, thank You for the grace to realize that sometimes distractions aren’t that at all, but actually loving inspirations sent from You through Your Holy Spirit. Amen.”

(My Sanctuary, My Refuge was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

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