by Sr. Sheila Campbell   MMM  Ireland   14.06.2022

Sheila small readingThe other day I wanted to read and I wanted to sew at the same time.  Bother!  I needed my eyes for the sewing, so I set myself up with an audio book instead of reading and I sat down for a pleasant few hours.  Now, the book I had chosen was “Emma”, by Jane Austen.  It is an English classic set in the Regency period.  But the reader was American.  It jarred with me initially but I soon became engrossed in the familiar story.

One thing I discovered in listening is that you actually hear more.  I mean, that when I read, I can skip over a few tedious bits, but in listening I am forced to go at the pace of the reader.  It makes me slow down.  I begin to savour the characters just as the author intended.  There was the old man who seemed to enjoy his own poor health and wallowed in self-pity.  A rather fussy spinster kept visitors at her side by not drawing a breath while she rattled on about the details of some incident or other.   I could imagine each one as they had been real people in my own life!#

Another thing I learned was about accents.  I was immediately put off by the accent, but how many people in my life had to listen to me speak Portuguese with a Belfast accent?  God help them, they were so kind and forgiving when I stuttered and stumbled.   I began to think about accents and Jesus.  He was from Galilee and must have had a rather thick, regional accent.  I would say it didn’t help the scribes and Pharisees to hear his message!  How often do I block the message because it comes from a particular source that was unexpected?

Listening is not easy.  First one needs to quiet the mind from its own internal chatter to really hear.  Saint Benedict begins his Rule with the words “Listen, my son, to the precepts of the Master, and incline the ear of your heart”.   I love that bit – the ear of your heart.   I do not know about you, but often I am only half-listening.  My mind is elsewhere when I hear the same old stories told over and over again.  If I listened – with the heart – I would savour the character before me, as I do with my audio book.   So today I pray for this grace.  To listen, to really listen.