Life After Lent
Bishop Soto Recommends Prayer and Reading
BY Robin Rohr
March 29-April 4, 2009 Issue | Posted 3/20/09 at 12:00 PM
Bishop Jaime Soto was installed as bishop of Sacramento, Calif., on Nov. 30.
He served as coadjutor bishop until Sacramento Bishop William Weigand retired.
Formerly auxiliary bishop of Orange, Calif., Bishop Soto has served as chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Cultural Diversity.
With Lent coming to a close, Register correspondent Robin Rohr asked Bishop Soto about how to continue Lent’s spiritual advances after Easter.
With Lent nearing its end, Catholics will soon enter the Easter season, then Ordinary Time. What devotions help you the most in the “off season”?
I would have to say the Rosary, because it was a very personal devotion for both my mother and father. My father prayed the Rosary and was also very personally devout. When I was growing up, while doing homework assignments at the last minute, I would get up from my desk and I would discover my father, there in the hallway, praying the Rosary before he went to bed in front of the image of the Sacred Heart. It is something that is burned in my memory.
Growing up as a teenager and young adult in the seminary, the Rosary was something I would practice. Even when I would fall out of the habit, I always wound up going back to it. It always seemed very natural and traditional. There was a certain comfort in the rhythm and routine of it.
Many Catholics discover spiritual reading during Lent. What spiritual reading has been important to you?
The one that comes right to mind is Bernard of Clairvaux’s book Treatise on the Love of God — and almost anything that St. Bernard wrote. That book had a significant impact on me. He reflected on the Song of Songs. It is a metaphor for God’s relationship to the Church, and I was captured, enchanted by that metaphor. He was not the only one who has elaborated on that, but this particular book captured my imagination. It stoked my prayer, providing a lot of fuel for prayer.
What saint do you look to, other than St. Bernard?
One to whom I look — he’s not a saint, but his cause has been entered — was the first bishop of Michoacán, Mexico. His name is Don Vasco de Quiroga. He was a layman who was selected by the Spanish government when they needed a bishop, and he was then ordained. He was very influenced by Thomas More and his work Utopia. If you go to Michoacán today, it is still probably one of the most Catholic parts of Mexico, and largely because of this great synthesis of faith and culture inspired and nurtured by Don Vasco de Quiroga.
Quiroga not only established churches; he established hospitals. He also had a keen interest in the economy. He developed industries in every village, so every village had its own specialty. Even today many of those villages have their craft. He had this unique understanding of the importance of bringing the faith into the culture of the land. The fruits of his evangelization, and the Franciscans who were also very active in that area, are still there today. He is someone who is quite an inspiration to me, and I ask for his intercession.
When the impetus of Lent is absent, what can fuel a prayer life?
I would say that prayer does have to be habitual. If it weren’t, I probably wouldn’t pray that often, because I don’t always feel like praying. I’m grateful for my family and seminary formation in that regard. It inculcated the habit.
There are a lot of reasons not to pray. We like to organize our day so that things seem to move smoothly from one to another. The Liturgy of the Hours is supposed to be an interruption, and it should. It breaks into my day and interrupts me — and that’s a good thing. I need to be interrupted. I need to be reminded that no matter how important I think these things on my agenda are, this isn’t all there is; there is something more important — giving praise and thanks to God, keeping that relationship alive, and being alert to God’s grace.
Even though the Liturgy of the Hours distracts me from my work, I find that, oftentimes, much of what I do in work is the real distraction. So, one of the things that I encourage folks to do — and encourage myself to do — is to realize that prayer needs to be habitual. Part of being habitual is that it is also achievable. I don’t want to use the word easy because it is not always easy, but it is doable. The Liturgy of the Hours, for those who try to do that, is a powerful form of prayer. For others, it can be the Rosary, or even gestures like grace before meals. Very simple things.
I remember one time I gave a talk about Catholic piety, habits and customs. I mentioned about grace before meals. There was a woman who came up to me afterwards and said, “Oh, you know, that is a wonderful suggestion. We say grace usually on special occasions, but the idea of doing so at every meal is great.” It’s the simple things.
Robin Rohr writes
from Willits, California.
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