Today I interview Fr. Ryan Mann about Aquinas’ beutiful prayer, The Wise Ordering of One’s Life. Below is the entire transcript of our chat.The entire prayer (if you want to see that first) is at the very end
Matt Fradd: 00:00:00 Welcome to Pints with Aquinas. My name’s Matt Fradd. If you could sit down over a pint of beer with Thomas Aquinas and ask him any one question, what would it be? Today, we’re joined around the bar table by Father Ryan Mann to discuss one of Aquinas’ most beautiful prayers. It’s called Prayer for the Wise Ordering of One’s Life. If you wanted spiritual direction from Thomas Aquinas, meditating upon this prayer would be a cool way to go about it.
Matt Fradd: 00:00:35 ( singing) All right. Good to have you back here at Pints with Aquinas. This is the show where you and I pull up a bar stool next to the angelic doctor, to discuss theology and philosophy. Great to have you with us. Hey. You might not know this, but we have a website. It’s called pintswithaquinas.com. If you go there, it’s a beautiful site, and you’ll see we have a whole “Ask a Thomist” section where you can write in your question and have it answered by a Dominican Priest, or an apologist, someone who is a big fan of Thomas Aquinas, and we have several questions that have been asked there already, stuff like, “Why can’t human reason comprehend God?” And “why do contingent beings need a necessarily being here and now?” And “why can there be only one ultimate reality that is pure being itself?” Many people have written in, and unfortunately we can’t get to everyone’s questions, because so many of you have written, but we do choose the ones that are the most common, you know?
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Matt Fradd: 00:02:39 I love Father Ryan Mann, okay? There, I said it. He is one of the most awesome human beings that I have ever met in my life. You know we’re both the same age, we’re both 35 years old. He’s super … yeah he’s way more holy than I am, he’s super smart, he’s just a humble, good man who loves Jesus Christ, and I always love having him on the show, and today we have him on the show to discuss a very beautiful prayer by Thomas Aquinas. It’s one translated by Paul Murray in his new book “Aquinas at prayer, the Bible, Mysticism and Poetry.” Obviously it’s been translated many times prior to this, but this is a beautiful translation, so we’re gonna go through this prayer, okay? And then at the end of the episode I will read it with some beautiful background music, and you’ll be able to feel really spiritual and stuff. At least that’s the hope. I know my Australian accent might butcher it, but I’ll do my best to read it prayerfully. And that’d be a nice way to conclude the episode, I think. Alright, heres the show, enjoy.
Matt Fradd: 00:03:36 Father Ryan Mann, thanks for joining us on pints with Aquinas.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:03:40 Hey, great to be back, thank you.
Matt Fradd: 00:03:42 You just moved parish. Is this the first parish you’ve ever moved?
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:03:45 That’s correct yes. It’s my first move as a priest. I went from-
Matt Fradd: 00:03:47 Is that a super weird experience?
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:03:49 Well, yes and no. Our diocese here in Cleveland, they took good care of us, but … like even they had a workshop about transitions, and they’d bring a psychologist to just notice what are some pitfalls and then a bishop actually spent the day with us.
Matt Fradd: 00:04:04 This is what happens when you have millennial priests. You need to bring in a psychologist to help them cope with the move up the road.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:04:09 Yeah, no, it’s true, in the beginning-
Matt Fradd: 00:04:10 I’m joking, I’m joking.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:04:11 No, but it’s kinda true. It was weird because the psychologist was really good. A kind guy, very wise. He went on this hour long “things to notice” and when you’re starting to live an intense life and when he was all done, our bishop was like “That was really good.” And then he’s like “Guys I just wanna let you know, you’re not the only ones who move. Late people move all the time ’cause of job transfers.” And he kinda just was like so non-millennial. He’s just like “you’re not that special.”
Matt Fradd: 00:04:37 Right.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:04:38 But you know it-
Matt Fradd: 00:04:38 Was it helpful?
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:04:40 It was super helpful that the bishop set a line.
Matt Fradd: 00:04:42 Well okay, but was there anything that the psychologist said that you were like “wow, I’m glad he said that, ’cause that’s helpful.”
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:04:49 Yeah, he just said notice … he gave me … he kinda took a … let me take that. Like a golf ball and he threw it at a guy in the room. Not hard. The guy caught it really quick, and he said “what made you catch that real quick?” And he’s like “well, I thought something was coming at me.” He goes “right, and you attack that, like your heart rate goes up and all these things.” and he says “if you get tensed, or stressed, or over worked, your body lives in that posture.”
Matt Fradd: 00:05:12 Wow.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:05:13 And he talked about how there’s that posture of tote-hyper alert.
Matt Fradd: 00:05:18 Oh my gosh.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:05:18 ‘Cause you just [inaudible 00:05:19] so tough, and he said when you live in that place, you can’t pray well, you can’t eat well, you can’t work out, you have trouble connecting, and there’s your … you start breaking down. He goes “you just wanna notice everything when you’re going through a transition.” Am I all tensed? Are my shoulders tense, am I on edge? And be very careful that you don’t live there for too long.
Matt Fradd: 00:05:34 I would suspect that there could be an argument that could be made about how the internet is doing that to all of us. We are continually having things binging and buzzing and retweeting and responses to us, all the time. And I wonder if that is in part due to what we hear about being the rise in anxiety in young people especially, right?
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:05:57 That’s a good example, I think that- [crosstalk 00:06:00]
Matt Fradd: 00:05:59 Do you remember when we were young ’cause you and I are the same age. I’m 35, how old are you?
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:06:02 35, yeah.
Matt Fradd: 00:06:03 Do you remember growing up in a … I mean I know everybody’s youth felt a little romantic and beautiful in the sense of the days were longer, and those sorts of things, but I really do think that the reason everything feels so rushed and angry is because of the internet.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:06:19 I’m not great at it but I try for the first hour of my day and the last hour of my day, no technology. I’m not great at it, but I try.
Matt Fradd: 00:06:25 That’s really good. It’s so important. Or else you just play defense, you know.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:06:29 Right, no totally. And it’s … I think as a priest it’s how I try to stay in touch with some sort of inner life, because all those bings and dings and everything, it really drives you outside of yourself. Not in a self-giving way, but a distracted way. And so this way, first hour and last hour of the day I’m able to at least have a sense of self, and what’s going on with me, and where’s my heart at and things like that.
Matt Fradd: 00:06:52 You know, we didn’t plan this, so that really does lead us into the topic that we want to discuss today, and that’s Aquinas’ prayer for the wise ordering of one’s life.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:07:00 Yeah, absolutely.
Matt Fradd: 00:07:01 Yeah, I think the Latin, is it “Concede Mihi”?, I’m not sure, but I’m-
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:07:05 It says [inaudible 00:07:06], no.
Matt Fradd: 00:07:07 Yeah, I don’t know. I probably mispronounced that, but prayer for the wise ordering of one’s life. I just sent you a new translation. This comes from Paul Murray and his new book, Aquinas at prayer, the Bible, Mysticism and Poetry. Father Paul Murray, who’s a Dominican is also a poet, and his translation of this prayer is absolutely beautiful.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:07:24 Yeah, I was re-reading it and it … yeah, much shorter than the other one you sent me.
Matt Fradd: 00:07:27 Right.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:07:28 Yeah, it’s beautiful.
Matt Fradd: 00:07:29 If you read them side-by-side, you can see that they’re the same prayer, but it’s just so much better translated, I think. So, heres what I was thinking, and you tell me if you got a different idea. Maybe we could read through this prayer, chunk by chunk and just discuss what we’re getting out of it, or what struck us, or how we can apply it to our lives.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:07:46 Yeah, I think that’d be good. Chunk by chunk and then at the end pause for a minute, and then maybe invite you listeners, and you and I, Matt, to actually pray it.
Matt Fradd: 00:07:53 Oh, that’s beautiful.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:07:55 So, we’ll do it chunk by chunk and then at the end we’ll pause for a moment and just, if you’re in a coffee shop, or in your car, just pause for a moment, and then we’ll transition to actually praying it.
Matt Fradd: 00:08:02 That’s really beautiful, yeah great idea.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:08:04 You’re welcome.
Matt Fradd: 00:08:07 And then what I’ll do for the listeners, this will be up at the show notes at pintswithaquinas.com. For those of you who wanna print this out, ’cause this would be a beautiful prayer to pray daily.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:08:19 Yeah, it really is. I’ve never heard it before until you sent it, and it’s really … it is nice.
Matt Fradd: 00:08:20 Okay, so let me begin here “Oh merciful God, whatever is pleasing to you, may I ardently desire, wisely pursue, truly recognize, and bring to perfect completion.” Like his texts elsewhere, there is no superfluous word. There’s no wasted word. It’s all condensed, right?
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:08:45 Right, absolutely.
Matt Fradd: 00:08:46 “Whatever is pleasing to you, so whatever that is, I wanna ardently desire, wisely pursue, truly recognize, and bring to perfect completion.”
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:09:00 Heres what stands out for me in this opening line. Is the sense of … that Aquinas, like all the saints, knew that God can transform our desires. So he’s asking God, “Lord would you give me the desire to pursue you, know what that is, and be after it.” He doesn’t think that his own inner life is his responsibility solely, as if like “oh, I don’t actually really wanna please God right now, and so I noticed that my heart wants other things, so I have to fix my own heart.” But rather instead what he does is he turns to God “whatever is pleasing to you, may I ardently desire.” Meaning may you grant me that desire.
Matt Fradd: 00:09:42 Yeah.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:09:42 To want whatever pleases you. And it puts you in the posture of real worship, or real Lordship of God. That God is the one who initiates all the desire, and that’s in it from the scriptures, and St. Paul says that, that it is God who begets in you any desire and achievement. And so, I love that this very first thing is he begins by not just to do whatever is pleasing to you, but asking God what I want, could You help me wan that? Because the truth is we don’t always want that. That’s why we go to confession. The first commandment, “love God above everything.” Well, we don’t always love God above everything. Our life is disordered, and Aquinas here is saying “help me to want you above everything, and then know what that path is.” So wisely pursue it, truly recognize that path-
Matt Fradd: 00:10:27 Yeah.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:10:27 And then lead me to completion. So, like “God you’re gonna do it all. You’re gonna initiate it, sustain it, show me it, and bring it to fruition.” I have a participation in that. I have to say yes, I have to be engaged, but it’s Your graced activity.
Matt Fradd: 00:10:43 This is the bit, for me, I don’t really get this line. So, I get “I wanna ardently desire it, and wisely pursue it.” Okay, so you desire what you should, you pursue what you should. I guess, truly recognize means not to miss it when you found it?
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:10:56 I think yeah, what is it that really does please you? So heres a good example, I had this when I was a parish priest quite a bit. After morning mass, there’s some mean and women who are widows and widowers, and they’re lonely, right? So to see a priest to talk to him, is a wonderful thing.
Matt Fradd: 00:11:15 Oh yeah.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:11:15 And so, to give them time is a great good. It’s a gift I can give them, but at the same time I sometimes have pints with Aquinas to record, or I have some evangelization I’m working on, or other types of ministries that I need to get to. And, so what’s the good, I mean ’cause I can’t really give them my time and attention every day, because then I’d neglect other work, so to truly recognize what’s pleasing to God in this situation? Is it to just tell them “I can’t see you today, I’m so sorry. I can’t talk, I need to go do some work.” Or is it to say “work can wait, I need to honor you.”?
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:11:48 Now we tend to think oh it’s always honor the person, but books have to be written, Podcasts have to be made. Evangelization has to be done. So both of them are works of the Lord. So which one truly pleases God? I don’t have an answer to that in my own life. I don’t think it’s a universal rule. I think it, depending on the day and what’s going on, it can change, but I think to ask Him to truly recognize what is that path that pleases You Lord?
Matt Fradd: 00:12:13 Yeah, that’s great. He says, in the next line, “For the praise and glory of Your name, put order into my life, and grant that I may know what it is You require me to do, and help me to achieve whatever is fitting and necessarily for the good of my soul.”
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:12:36 That is so good.
Matt Fradd: 00:12:38 Yeah, it is really so good. Just that first line. “Put order into my life.” Are you a fan of Michael Hyatt?
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:12:47 I don’t know the name, I’m sorry to say.
Matt Fradd: 00:12:49 Yeah, he … that’s okay, he’s like a business leader, guru kinda guy. He’s at an orthodox deacon. I think he was an evangelical once, or at least he speaks as if he was, but when he evangelicals, his kinda fling to orthodoxy. Do you notice that a bit? That’s a side note, but anyway.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:13:05 I had noticed that though, yeah.
Matt Fradd: 00:13:05 Yeah, me too. Anyway, so he’s got this book, it’s like a journal which I brought. It’s called “The full focus planner.” And it’s really great. It really helps put order into your life. So, you get to write like, what are your morning rituals? What are your evening rituals? His point is you have them anyway, you may as ell use them to optimize your day. And then he has a whole section called “your ideal week.” Where you have Monday through Friday, and then 5:00 AM through to 9:00 PM, and he basically says “okay, suppose you had complete control over your week. What would it look like?” And of course it will never go like that, but the point is, if you don’t plan your day, if you don’t plan your week, then you’re not actually being proactive, you’re just continually being reactive.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:13:51 Oh, yeah.
Matt Fradd: 00:13:51 And sometimes when people talk to me about planning your day and what are the top three things you need to accomplish today, and you need to schedule in rest time. Sometimes that sounds a little mechanical, and I wanna rebel against that, but I really do think that it’s true that if we’re not making time, then all we’re doing is responding to things that happen to us throughout the day. And this is why it’s so important to pray that our Lord puts order into our life, and gives us the desire to order our life. Little things like praying in the morning. If you make a commitment, or if I make a commitment, okay I’m gonna pray in the morning, as soon as I wake up. You know, I’m gonna wake up, say glory to You, Jesus Christ, get out of my bed and start praying.
Matt Fradd: 00:14:32 If I make that commitment, as apposed to doing it when I feel like it, which is something I’ve really been intentional about lately, you start to realize why you shouldn’t go out with a friend late at night during the week days, because you don’t wanna pray in the morning.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:14:48 Right, but you know, you just … I think you have a great example there, that order into my life … yeah, I love that. You know, the fact that we are actually all already living life. Its already happening. If you’re listening to this Podcast, you’re already living a kind of life. It’s already happening to you, your life is already being shaped and formed, and it’s already been going on for a while, and then you’ve been conscious for a while, and now you’re living, so you’re listening to a Podcast at this point, so … and the question is “is it an ordered life?” And who gets to decide?
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:15:22 A lot of the business models, right, they ignore God, not because they’re evil or anything, they’re just … that’s not what they’re thinking of. And so they’re trying to order your life in the most critical, productive and efficient ways, which isn’t bad, it’s helpful. Those aren’t evils, but when we say asking the Lord to order our lives, it can look very strange to some people. And that strangeness is okay, you just, for starters, you just sit alone in silence. Well not totally alone. I’m with the Lord, and I talk with him. “Just every morning.” Well, yes.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:15:57 You know, so that ordering isn’t always a comfortable experience, when he’s ordering our lives ’cause He’s asking us to let go of things that maybe people around us are praising. They like it, but it’s actually not the greatest good. And so the ordering is that what is most amazing and beautiful comes first and gets our best attention. And then God will order us after that. So, yeah like you’re saying. There’s chunks of our day, sometimes they need to be changed. How do I do it? What needs to be there? And it’s also accomplishing the work God is giving us. It’s a beautiful prayer.
Matt Fradd: 00:16:34 Can you remember a time where you tried to be intentional about a good this, like prayer or whatever, but it was interrupted and charity demanded that you kind of do something else instead? Does that make sense?
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:16:51 Yeah, I mean I’ll give you a good example. I wanted to get … I try to be in my bed for seven hours a night. Doesn’t mean I’m gonna be sleeping. I could be reading a book, but try to get … because I know I’m not my best the next day, okay? So last night a girl that’s a friend of mine that I’ve been journeying with, she had a little birthday party, so it’s couple of priests, couple of other married couples were there, we were all there. It was good that we celebrated with her, because she’s a good woman. She’s so generous, she just … and it went later. Way later than I wanted it to, but I knew I didn’t … I knew to leave early I didn’t want that to be a symbol. A sign that I wasn’t having fun.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:17:27 So charity demanded that for celebrating who she is. She’s been so good to me in my life, I wanted to be there for her, and that meant I had to sacrifice some of the discipline of the seven hours in bed last night.
Matt Fradd: 00:17:40 And yet sometimes in order to be successful, and I mean that in the proper sense.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:17:45 Sure.
Matt Fradd: 00:17:45 Not just the “I want more money.” Sense, we have to say no to almost everything, you know what I mean.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:17:52 Yeah, no. This time I had to say no. The night before parishioners of a new parish wanted me to come over, but I knew I needed a quiet night. I knew I needed to do some praying, some reading. I knew I needed to respond to some emails and going over there, meeting new parishioners, it sounded so good and had all those sparkling signs of a priest who gets to know his people.
Matt Fradd: 00:18:12 Yeah.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:18:13 Again, I had to say I’m sorry, tonight I just need to take care of some things, and I sat alone in my office, did some emails, worked in a few things I needed to work on, and got to bed at a decent hour. And the next morning I didn’t regret it at all, but in the moment it was hard.
Matt Fradd: 00:18:28 Yeah I read somewhere, and again this is a business slogan, but it’s something to the effect of “the difference between successful and really successful people, is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” And I’m saying no to a lot of things right now, like speaking engagements, Podcast requests, things like that, because it’s like if I was to say yes to all of these things, I wouldn’t be able to be more successful at this podcast. Or as successful as I wanna be, or plan to be. And sometimes that … you can tell that that frustrates people. I had somebody recently, who I didn’t know, somehow got my number, reached out to me, asked me if I could come and speak at their parish, and I said look, my assistant handles that. She knows my calendar better than I do. Please contact her, because I would hate to chat with this guy and be like “yeah, I guess I could come.” And unbeknownst to me my assistant had already booked something that day, and so I said “yeah, contact her first.” and this person got their nose out [inaudible 00:19:27] a little. Like “Really we can’t just chat as friends?” And I don’t even know this person.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:19:31 Right.
Matt Fradd: 00:19:32 And so it was one of those things where, what? Am I gonna just gonna cave ’cause I wanna be seen as a nice guy now? Do I go “oh no, no it’s cool. Let’s chat.” I was like sorry, contact her. And he contacted her and I wasn’t free that month, this week, but it was one of those things where it’s like, I … it’s like there’s this pride in me that wants to be seen as a nice guy. Whereas I think the right thing to do would be like to have to say no to that phone call, because I have a plan today, and it’s in order. And if I’m just gonna start responding to everyone and everything, it’s gonna quickly be put out of order. I guess my main point there is say … order requires saying no to things that would disrupt that order, and that can be difficult, especially when people don’t like you as much because of it. To put it as starkly as possible.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:20:21 Absolutely. And its important that the ordering of your soul is not primarily or solely your responsibility. That’s why this is a prayer. Sometimes Aquinas is asking God to do this for him. “Lord put order into my life.” I have the image of being on a dentist chair and your mouth is just open, and the dentist does whatever he wants in there, and you’re just like “ugh.” You said yes. You’ve consented to the dentist doing whatever he wants in your teeth and in your mouth. Similarly, when you go to prayer, Lord put order into my life “ugh. Click.” I’m saying yes to You, because You let me. You are all-loving, all-good, and all-wise, so You know, Lord what is best for me. And so it’s important to realize that you’re saying no, is a no with the Lord. That no that would sidetrack us. No, no, I’m saying yes, so my no to this person, is a yes to what the Lord is doing in my life.
Matt Fradd: 00:21:14 That’s right, and trusting Him to do-
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:21:16 And that’s why it is important to have good friends and accountability partners in throughout this, because you wanna keep the mission of your life, the right mission, so you discern out for a while, and find out what is the Lord asking of me, that’s part of this prayer “what do you require me to do.” And then I can … that’s my focus. That’s how I keep my eyes on Jesus so I don’t sink, okay. Keep my eyes on Him and that keeps me going, but it’s his initiative, and sustained by him. Not in spite of us. We are asking for the grace to stay with him so he can continue to affect us.
Matt Fradd: 00:21:44 I remember in prayer, about a year after my marriage, sensing the Lord saying to me as I was beginning this anti-pornography work. “Matt, it would be a better thing for you to love your family well, and lead them to heaven, and for you not to help lead other people out of this sin. As apposed to abandoning your family, and helping everyone else.” Even though … so if you look at those two things side-by-side, everyone else versus my family, there’s a lot more people on the everyone else side, and yet it would’ve been a tragic thing, and it would still be a tragic thing, if I were to neglect by family to try and help other people. And so it’s like getting your priorities in order. Like to have order in your life.
Matt Fradd: 00:22:27 If saying yes to some other thing is gonna disrupt my family life, who is my first and primary vacation, then that would be an evil, but at the same time, as we’ve already pointed out, sometimes charity demands that we actually in a way that we weren’t planning, and that’s why St. Thomas says here “that I may know what it is You require me to do, and help me to achieve whatever is fitting and necessarily for the good of my soul.” Yeah.
Matt Fradd: 00:22:49 Alright, lets move on to this next part here. “May my way, Lord, be Yours entirely, upright and perfect, failing in neither prosperity nor adversity, so that in prosperity I give You thanks and in adversity serve patients, neither exalted in the former nor dejected in the latter.” There’s a lot there.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:23:12 Yeah and your … it actually … can you read the next sentence too?
Matt Fradd: 00:23:16 Sure. “May I not rejoice in anything unless it leads me to You, nor be saddened by anything unless it turns me from You.” You want me to keep going there?
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:23:28 Yeah, just one last sentence “ May I …”
Matt Fradd: 00:23:30 “May I not desire to please or fear to displease anyone but You.”
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:23:36 Beautiful. Now, this is, not to be kinda simplistic, but this is just like a prayer … the quintessential prayer of the Saints, and of the catholic way of the spiritual life. You can call it the agnation in difference, you can call it the [inaudible 00:23:50] like detachment, you can call it Dominican well-ordered soul.
Matt Fradd: 00:23:54 Interesting, yeah.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:23:54 But it’s just … this is just a manifestation of this “ I’m all Yours and You come first. So Lord, if being sick is gonna lead me closer to You, alright, I’ll accept sickness. If being healthy and successful is gonna lead me closer to You, then give me health and success, but all I really want in the end is You. So may my way, Lord, be entirely Yours.” To me it just sounds so beautifully spousal in many ways. Aquinas doesn’t say that right, but like-
Matt Fradd: 00:24:26 What does he mean by “my way”?
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:24:29 I think his thoughts, his choices, his way of living.
Matt Fradd: 00:24:33 Okay.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:24:33 What he does with his time. “May it be exactly what You are doing right now. May my way be entirely Yours.” Your wife has a certain ownership over you. She owns you, in love, but she owns you.
Matt Fradd: 00:24:46 Right, right.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:24:46 So she can make a claim like “I don’t want you doing that podcast this morning, we need to talk.” And you would send me a text like “I need to talk with my wive. We’ll talk later.” Because your ways are hers. What you do with your life comes, in some sense, out of this profound “we.” Jesus says in the priest of prayer, John 17, “everything I have is Yours, Father. And then everything that is Yours is mine.” And that’s kinda the image of total self-giving here, so “may my way, may my life, may my everything be entirely Yours.” And what are you, Lord? Upright, perfect.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:25:25 And then you fail in neither prosperity, nor adversity, and then so, because of that, I want to, in prosperity, give you thanks, and adversity, serve patients, neither exalted in the former, nor dejected in the latter. I wanted to have that state of soul known as tranquility, which isn’t like a margarita on the beach. It’s just like this stable sense of joy and peace and confidence with God. We know it perfectly, right? So if what I’m really seeking is popularity, the first person who criticizes me, or doesn’t like me, I literally crumble. My soul crumbles.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:26:04 Because my God is popularity. So if my God is popularity, I crumble. This doesn’t mean we’re not sad when someone presets us, but it’s not the kind of sad that’s crippling. Man, I wish this person and I could reconcile, or you could see my ways …
Matt Fradd: 00:26:21 That’s a good distinction.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:26:22 But at the same time, I’m not going to hunt him down. He has his choice, and there’s an overall, in my image there’s a river, and it’s peaceful. Underneath it all there’s the blessed reassurance that I’m still with God. I do want to get along with everyone, I think that’s a good desire, but that’s not my greatest good. There are times when I have to be all in for my spouse, God, and the church, and that may mean I’m going to be criticized, or people upset at certain times. But if what I want is people to like me, that’s what I’m really passionate about, that’s my way, that’s my end, well then I’m going to fall apart. It’s not about rejecting being liked, but it’s about putting it in its proper place. That’s that well-ordered soul, that’s that detachment or Ignatian indifference. Whatever deepens my intimacy with the trinity, I give a thumbs-up to. That’s what I want.
Matt Fradd: 00:27:13 So hard to know without spiritual discernment and direction what that means. Because for all I know, I might not be doing the Lord’s will in running this podcast. Maybe, and I pray that I am, I trust that it does, but it may be the Lord’s will that I shut up and just be silent, and not place so much emphasis on teaching, or trying to make a quote-unquote impact. This is why in the scriptures it says that teachers will be judged a great deal more. I guess my point is, what is Your will for me really, and how do I discern that? Do I just discern it when, oh wow, I feel really good doing this podcast? When it’s like, how do I know that the Lord’s not wanting me to stop this entirely? I think that part of that would probably come from the fruit that you see.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:28:08 Sure. I think part of that is your experience too. For example, this is a little tangential, but it’s good. I don’t listen to him much, but someone showed me some videos of that Jordan Peterson, who’s like a big psychologist in Canada, and Robert Baron did a few videos on him, Bishop Barron, and so now he kind of got more attention from the Catholic world. He talked about how finding your true passion is just so cliché and cheesy, and he says that it’s so misleading, but he goes, there’s two things that he said I thought were profound. He says a better question is, just begin to notice that, what are you doing when you feel yourself coming fully alive? When you feel yourself really alive and passionate, all your energy is engaged, and you feel yourself fully involved in something, notice what you’re doing. He says it’s a good sign that there’s something in there that you’re supposed to be doing. Then he added to it, he talked about the Catholic church, he says, but the Catholics have a great sense of original sin, knowing that even that can be misleading.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:29:16 Like you said, it’s a discernment. I use the example of someone who knows red wine. They can drink wine and like, “This has nice legs and a full body, and this and that.” To be honest, I’m like, it’s red, great. I just don’t have the refined palate. They have a discerning palate, and so they know what it is. Similarly, in the spiritual life, I think anyone who’s listened to this would know that Matt Fradd, his podcast is fruitful. The sheer numbers of people who listen to you, and have subscribed to this, the body of Christ is being nourished by this podcast. I know you personally enough to know that this podcast, this kind of podcast, gives you life and energy. What you have are both the subjective, “I’m coming alive when I do this, and I’m passionate about it,” as well as the evidence, or the actual facts that, and this is building up the body of Christ. In there I think you can use both reason and faith to say this is certainly the will of God for me.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:30:20 I think at some point in our lives we have to claim it. We cannot sit and, “I don’t know, could this be …” eventually you have to say, this is it. Until we say that, it’s like flirting. You just are flirting with a bunch of girls at a bar. But until you get down on your knee and say, “Will you be my wife forever,” you never know your path. But once you pick one, you’ve got your path now. Boom, your wife is your path to heaven, and this is part of the work that you are doing with your wife, because she’s praying and you’re engaged with it, along the way. But you eventually have to claim it, and you have to name it, otherwise you just stay indifferent. You’re like, “Well, we’ll just …” that nebulousness is not holy. It’s got to be, this is it.
Matt Fradd: 00:31:04 Going along those lines with the marriage, you’re talking about wives and things like that, and choosing one, I just talked to [inaudible 00:31:13] “May I not rejoice in anything unless it leads me to You, nor be saddened by anything unless it turns me from You.” I just thought here about adultery. Because many people who are unfaithful to their spouse would experience adultery, in a sense, as something to rejoice over. Not when you put it like that, like “adultery,” but like hooking up with someone you work with. It’s a very exciting thing.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:31:38 Tantalizing, yeah.
Matt Fradd: 00:31:39 Tantalizing, titillating thing. Whereas this same person might try to justify this tantalizing thing by saying that he doesn’t feel love for his spouse any more. In that sense he would be saddened by his marriage. Here, that’s just one example, we could use 100, we don’t have to have it have to do with marriage or sex or anything like that, but that was just one example that came to me, and you have here Aquinas, “May I not rejoice in anything unless it leads me to You, nor be saddened by anything unless it turns me from You.” In other words, we ought to be deeply saddened by sin whether or not we find it tantalizing, and we ought to deeply rejoice in those mundane events and relationships in our life when we know that the Lord is calling us to pour ourselves into them and to be faithful to them.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:32:30 Absolutely. What I love about this Matt, which you just highlighted there, was this relational quality to Thomas’ prayer. I think I would’ve presumed, if someone asked me, what do you think St. Thomas would pray there, “May I not rejoice in anything unless it’s a virtu, and may I not be saddened unless it’s a sin or vice.” But that’s into what he writes. Because it’s a prayer, so there’s always the other, the beloved, the one who loves me and knows me. He says, “Lord, I just want to rejoice in things that lead me to you.”
Matt Fradd: 00:33:03 Amen!
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:33:04 “And only be saddened by things that take me from you.” There’s that intrinsic relational quality-
Matt Fradd: 00:33:10 I love it!
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:33:11 Really. And Catholic theology hasn’t really been picked up till the 20th century now with John Paul and Benedict and Francis, but it’s right here in Thomas. He’s like, “Lord, I’m not satisfied except in a communion of love and life, and it’s, with you, infinite love and life. I want to be sad by things that turn me from you, that make me not go deeper into this embrace.” Then the next line, “May I into desire to please or fear, to displease, anyone but You.” Once again, it’s “You.” “And so Lord, when I go to prayer, it’s all about You, and how You’re responding to me, and how You’re desiring to affect me.” It’s like a couple that goes on a date, or it’s like when kids are in bed, you pour yourself a glass of wine and you and your wife sit down and you’re like, “All right, how are things going with us?” That’s the heart of this prayer. There’s an other. There’s a you and a me, and there’s this “we” sense of prayer. It’s this beautiful thing that he talks about here.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:34:08 That’s really what sin is. What is sin? I know we say it’s missing the mark, but ultimately it’s a covenantal relational missing of the mark of, I missed the mark of what You wanted for me, of what would have drawn us into deeper communion. That’s why it’s saddening, and that’s why God hates sin, because it destroys what could’ve been our deepening union.
Matt Fradd: 00:34:33 I love that you’ve brought this up, because it would be easy to look at this prayer as a sort of program of self-improvement, without even considering the other. The point is, you and I haven’t been made for virtu. We’ve been made for the beloved, we’ve been made for Christ.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:34:51 Exactly. And what are the virtues? The virtues are, if you will, the dance moves.
Matt Fradd: 00:34:56 I love it.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:34:56 The goal is to dance with Jesus, but I need to know how to dance. The virtues are the dance moves, so that I don’t keep stepping on His feet. Or maybe even a worse sin would be, I want to dance to a swing song and He wants to do tango, and I keep insisting on the song, and he’s like, “That’s not what I’m doing right now.”
Matt Fradd: 00:35:14 I like that.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:35:15 So there’s intimacy, but we need the powers, the skills, the abilities, the habits, to actually join in this divine dance.
Matt Fradd: 00:35:24 The other thing you brought up, which I really liked, was that when you mention about people who like tasting wine and being able to talk about the different notes, I feel like I have shut myself off, in some sense, from the promptings of the Holy Spirit. This is something the Lord’s kind of bringing back into my life in a beautiful way. I tend to struggle with a sort of cynicism and skepticism about everything, I don’t know if that’s because I’ve been hurt in that area in the past and so I tend to retreat into the head, like I’m a calculator. So God becomes like a complex math problem that can be solved, and debating atheists just means showing them that this plus this equals this, and that’s all my faith is. Whereas I think it was Chesterton who said something to the effect of, let it be, this isn’t his exact words, but less of a syllogism, more of a love affair. Lately I’ve been just asking the Lord to prompt me, and to go where He wants me to go, and to be faithful to those promptings, even if I’m wrong.
Matt Fradd: 00:36:25 Just to give you a little example, I was speaking at a Steubenville conference in Wisconsin recently, and we did this call where, if you had never made a commitment to Christ in your life, the host said, “Stand up right now.” And so they did that, and some people stood up. Then the host was moving on. And I just felt the Holy Spirit say to me, there are people sitting down that want to stand up. And so I actually went up and I interrupted Bob Rice. I came up, I tapped on his shoulder, I said, “There are some people actually here that need to stand up that haven’t stood up.” He said, “Thank you.” He said that, and a few more people stood up. That’s just to kind of give an example, where it’s almost like this other sense within us, where it’s an actual prompting of an actual person, who’s leading us to … Do you know what I’m saying?
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:37:17 I do know what you’re saying. People can, rightfully or wrongfully, have some criticisms of Steubenville and whatever. Nothing’s perfect, no ministry’s ever perfect. However you cannot deny the fruitlessness of those ministries over the last 30 years. And what are they dedicated to? Largely they’re just dedicated to prayer and trying to be obedient to the Holy Spirit.
Matt Fradd: 00:37:39 Adoration every day, holy mass each day.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:37:42 Yeah. There’s the sacraments, and then there’s this obedience to the Holy Spirit. It’s true that, in many ways, Aquinas talks about it in other places, but that’s what it’s all about, is the new law is an interior law of the grace of the Holy Spirit. That’s what the new law is. That’s what’s new about Jesus. The dogmas, the doctrines, the sacraments, they’re essential, they’re non-negotiables, but they have the means of conforming us to sync, if you will, with the Holy Spirit. What’s beautiful about this is, the Holy Spirit’s a person. Which means what’s really happening is, the church, through her teachings and sacraments and examples and all those things, is drawing us into intimacy, that we would become so one that we would join in the activity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as they are trying to save our coworkers, our family members, by using us as instruments of love and truth and kindness and mercy and courage, that we’re actually joining in their task. That’s where real intimacy comes from. I’m participating in God’s activity of saving the world.
Matt Fradd: 00:38:53 Amen.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:38:53 It’s powerful.
Matt Fradd: 00:38:54 Yeah. All right, let me-
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:38:56 Remembering that’s harder. Remembering that’s harder, but it sounds nice now on a podcast.
Matt Fradd: 00:39:00 That’s right, yeah, and that’s why we need the Holy Spirit, because we’re wretched. This is why I love the beatitudes. The very first thing is, blessed are you who are poor in your own estimation, which is essentially what it means. But poor in our own estimation is that very thing that brings on anxiety. That’s the very thing we’re fleeing from. But his whole point is, you have to continually acknowledge that. That thing that you think brings you anxiety and stress is the very gateway to the Christian life. Not just the gateway but the path you must walk. But the difference between one who acknowledges his poverty and suffers from anxiety, and the one who acknowledges his poverty and is made holy, is that there’s an other, there’s a Christ, who bestows upon them grace.
Matt Fradd: 00:39:46 We’d better continue here. I realize we could speak for hours on each of these lines, but let’s continue.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:39:51 Sure.
Matt Fradd: 00:39:52 “May all passing things become worthless to me on Your account, and all things that are Yours be dear to me, and You, God, above all things. May all joy without You leave me tired and weary, and may I not desire anything apart from you. May all work that is done for you delight me, Lord, and all repose not centered on Your presence be wearisome.”
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:40:19 Do one more.
Matt Fradd: 00:40:21 “Let me, my God, direct my heart to You often, and let me grieve over my failure with determination to change.”
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:40:30 Beautiful. This is, in many ways, more examples of this detachment, of this Ignatian indifference type of thing, but I just want to hone in on the one that says, “And let all repose not centered on Your presence be wearisome.” Right there you have the prayer against every modern form of relaxing.
Matt Fradd: 00:40:50 Ooh, powerful!
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:40:51 YouTube videos, Netflix, internet searches, you name it. Random text messages to people because we had five minutes and we were bored and we couldn’t sit still. “And all repose not centered on You become wearisome.” This is the modern dilemma, that when we’re not working we don’t know what to do, because we only know how to do things. The idea of just being, being with the Lord, or the idea of contemplating, or the idea of reflecting and thinking, or entering into good dialogue, those are ways that we center on the Lord. But YouTube, Netflix, all that stuff, is just merely a distraction. No one’s binge-watched Netflix and woke up the next day thinking, “I’m an amazing man or woman.” That never connects. You just kind of take a deep breath and go, “Okay, here’s another day.” This doesn’t mean no TV, it’s not the extremes, but it’s a matter of realizing that, am I conscious of the Lord, or am I at least open to Him, while I’m watching these things?
Matt Fradd: 00:42:03 That’s a good point. Trent Horn said something recently that really struck me: Science cannot answer all of our problems, which is obviously to you and me, but not obvious to everybody. Because that very science which has blessed us with an iMac in front of us, and an iPhone beside us, and a keyboard that’s wirelessly somehow working with that iMac, right, science has given me that, but science cannot ever, in principle, answer the question, how should I live? If I’m sitting here in front of these glowing mirrors, these glowing screens, they just stare back at me, and that doesn’t help me. Just as you say, and so because I don’t know why I am here, I don’t know what or who I am for, I plunge myself headlong into a myriad of distraction to fragment my interior life so that I don’t have to exist with me. If I can shatter my interior life so that all of the parts within me are directed at a dozen different things, pulling like multiple dogs on leashes connected to one hand, then I don’t have to encounter my poverty. That’s how we … Just like we avoid other people by walking away from them, we avoid ourselves by somehow making our inner life just disperse through … I don’t know.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:43:31 Yeah. Simone Veil, she said that the reason people don’t pray is that no one can see the face of God and live. What she means by that is, I can’t really go deep into prayer, really encounter God, and keep my same masks going. I can’t keep my same life that I’ve been living, of distraction and masks and pretending, I can’t keep it going. The reason people actually don’t commit themselves to a deep life of prayer is, they know they’re going to die. That what’s going to die is everything that I’ve come to feel secure, everything that makes me feel-
Matt Fradd: 00:44:05 My ego, yeah.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:44:06 Yeah, everything that makes me feel strong and protected, that’s going to have to die.
Matt Fradd: 00:44:10 Drop it!
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:44:10 And I’m going to have to actually depend on another to protect me and defend me. And of course there’s psychology things, if I had a parent or someone who wasn’t there for me this could be a whole thing, nonetheless I don’t want to belittle that, but that’s the heart of it, is I can’t go into prayer because I’m going to die. What’s actually going to die is not actually me, but what I think is me, the ego, is going to be destroyed, and what will be left is a beloved son and a beloved daughter. [crosstalk 00:44:37]
Matt Fradd: 00:44:37 That reminds me, I heard Scott Hahn once say, “Never forget that the Lord wants you more than He wants to use you.” Sometimes our whole prayer life, and me certainly, I struggle with this, it’s like “Yeah, I’m the Pints With Aquinas guy, right Lord?” It’s like, “Shut up, I don’t even care. Drop it. You’re my son.”
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:44:59 Christopher West said that one time. He goes, “Part of my biggest struggle for my early years in ministry was, I was the theology of the body guy.” He goes, “It took me a long time,” he goes, “My wife helped me,” and he goes, “But I had to learn that that’s not my identity.” He goes, “That’s not who I am. I’m God’s son.” He goes, [crosstalk 00:45:16]
Matt Fradd: 00:45:15 What’s so difficult and pernicious about this stumbling block, or lie, is, I’m sure at no point in Christopher’s earlier career, if you said to him, “Do you consider yourself the theology of the body guy,” he would’ve went, “Absolutely not. No, that’s not my identity. I’m a son of God.” We can know things without knowing things.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:45:34 Exactly. That’s a good point.
Matt Fradd: 00:45:35 We can know them at a very shallow level without it actually sinking deep into our being.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:45:40 That’s scary, yeah.
Matt Fradd: 00:45:42 All right, let me continue here. “Let me, my God, direct my heart to You often, and let me grieve over my failure with determination to change. Make me, my God, humble without pretense, cheerful without frivolity, sad without dejection, mature without heaviness, quick-witted without levity, truthful without duplicity.” Ah, every line there. We could do a podcast on every line.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:46:12 I know, exactly. I just want to pick one, just for the sake of time.
Matt Fradd: 00:46:13 Sure. You pick one, I’ll pick one.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:46:17 All right, I’m going to pick mature without heaviness.
Matt Fradd: 00:46:19 Right!
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:46:20 This is a tough one for me, because as a priest I don’t want to become the middle-aged priest who’s like everyone’s buddy, “Hey, how you doing?” I don’t want to be that guy, but I also don’t want to be this serious guy who walks around who’s like, “None of you are prayerful enough, and I have reached some sort of stage of enlightenment.” I don’t want to be either guy, but I want to be a good father. I want to mature to the point where I really can care about you more than myself. But I don’t want to have heaviness. I want to be light-hearted. I want to be the kind of dad that could get on the floor and play with his kids, and yet then go to the office without any resentment and balance the checkbook. Because that’s part of my responsibility. That mature without heaviness line, it touches me. There’s a sense of, I define success as loving your responsibilities. There’s a sense of, that’s what it means to be mature, is you begin to love your responsibilities. You don’t resent them, you don’t avoid them, you love them, because these are the things you’re responsible for in life.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:47:23 I think part of what brings on that heaviness is that the longer you live, the more days behind you that have been disappointing. It’s like the accumulation of those disappointing moments, relationships, days, adds up to a cynicism that young people don’t have because they haven’t lived long enough. This is why you see children, they can endure such a tremendous amount. I’m sure there’s a lot more besides that, maybe neurological development and everything else, but they are incredibly optimistic. Young people are incredibly optimistic. “We’re going to go change the world!” Then you talk to a 45-year-old, or you talk to someone like Jordan Peterson who’s like, “Shut up, change yourself.” Or, “Make your room, make your bed.” Maybe we need both, I’m not sure, but I think part of my battle with cynicism, and many older people are like this, everything’s going to hell, back in the day … And there’s truth to both of those things. I’m not saying that back in the day it wasn’t better, I suspect it was in many respects, but it’s almost like we need to balance each other out. What do you think?
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:48:32 Yeah, I think that’s true. Christ, when you look at the gospel Jesus isn’t saying, “Unless you become a really responsible adult you cannot enter the kingdom.” That’s not what he says. He says, “Unless you become like a child.” In Jesus, I think Von Balthasar said this, what Jesus sees in children is the disposition that he possesses before the father. When it says unless you become like them, what he’s really saying is, unless you become like Me, which is dependent, trusting, and abandoned to the Father’s love and care, unless you become like this, you can’t enter the kingdom.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:49:09 I was at a friend’s house the other day, and they have five kids, four daughters, one boy, and they’re all so cute, but I love when they’re like, “Hey father, can you get this for me?” Because they’re asking me to reach something on a shelf they can’t reach. They’re not embarrassed that they can’t reach it because they’re not big enough, they just ask.
Matt Fradd: 00:49:22 I love it.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:49:22 “Hey, can you do this?” That disposition of freedom, of trust, that of course you’re going to do stuff for me, you’re my friend, you’re my dad, you’re whatever,” that’s the mature without heaviness. There’s something there, I don’t know.
Matt Fradd: 00:49:36 Again, we could focus on all these lines. Let me just focus on one. Cheerful without frivolity. We read this a lot in the saints, you shouldn’t be frivolous, you shouldn’t laugh too much, those sorts of things. I feel like we don’t understand that, maybe because the pendulum has swung from, back in the 40s, where it’s like to be a Catholic meant to be super serious and super sad about your sin, and you might be going to hell. Now it’s like, “God loves you, you’re His child, joy, joy, joy!” Yeah, cheerfulness, absolutely, but not frivolity, is almost like an irresponsible cheerfulness, and that’s frivolity. It’s almost like unrestrained cheerfulness, if you will, where somebody almost loss their senses in their joyfulness. That wouldn’t properly be called joy, I guess. What do you think about that one?
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:50:30 It’s a strange one for me, that one, because I just love standup comedians, I just love joy so much. Obviously he’s not saying be miserable, he’s saying cheerful.
Matt Fradd: 00:50:43 That’s right.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:50:44 But have you ever met someone who cannot be sad? Like they just refuse to ever be sad or serious?
Matt Fradd: 00:50:53 I think I know what you mean, yeah.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:50:54 I think there’s something there, that frivolity, that sense of, it’s not serious, meaning it’s not real, the laughter, it’s just kind of like, I just want to laugh, just okay distract myself. Or people who laugh simply out of, because someone else told a joke, even though it was a crappy joke, and they laugh anyways. There’s something like, there’s not something real there, there’s not something substantial to actually laugh about. I think there’s something with that.
Matt Fradd: 00:51:24 What I love about this part of his prayer is, you can never accuse him of saying something he isn’t. If you say, “I’m not allowed to be dejected? Why can’t I …” it’s like, no, he just said you can be sad. “Oh, okay. What, I’m not allowed to be frivolous? Are you saying I can’t be joyful?” No, he just said you can be cheerful.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:51:42 Right.
Matt Fradd: 00:51:42 It’s like this beautiful balance that the love of the Lord must give.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:51:46 Yeah, because there’s no way we can do it, there’s no way we can walk that tightrope. Truth without duplicity, quick-witted without levity, mature without heaviness, sad without dejection, cheerful without frivolity, humble without pretense, there’s no way, we cannot do that on our own. We literally will go to one extreme or the other.
Matt Fradd: 00:52:01 Right.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:52:03 We just can’t
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:52:00 Literally will go to one extreme or the other. We just can’t. That tight rope is … Not a tight rope actually. It’s actually a person. It’s the Holy Spirit, and we can only live with Him, with His help, So …
Matt Fradd: 00:52:11 Yeah. All right. We’ve got two sections left, so I’ll read this section here. Let me feed you without despair and hope in you without presumption. Let me correct my neighbor without hypocrisy and without pride, edify him by word and example. Obedient without contradiction. Patient without murmuring. Give me dearest God a vigilant heart which no distracting thought can her away from you. Give me a noble heart which no unworthy desire can ever debase. Give me an unconquered heart, which no tribulation can fatigue. Give me a free heart, which no violent temptation can enslave. Give me an upright heart, which no perverse intention can hold fast.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:53:00 That’s beautiful. I don’t know. I mean I’m just a … I’m a sap for heart language.
Matt Fradd: 00:53:05 Me too.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:53:06 Any time a saying starts talking about a heart, I’m like, “Yeah, whatever that is, that’s got to be right.” But I think this is really a good corrective, like anyone listening to the podcast, they like whenever you hear people be like, “Well, Aquinas doesn’t get the inner life, or he doesn’t really pay to …” You just direct them to this prayer. Like he’s talking about the kind of heart he wants the Lord to grant him. A vigilant heart, a normal heart, an unconquered heart, a free heart, an upright heart. Like, Lord, make the core of my being just totally centered on your greatness, and living with you in all things. The one that I love is when a vigilant heart, which no distracting thought can lure away.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:53:54 I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ll go to pray sometimes and I’m so consoled that the catechism lets me know that distractions and prayer are part of the journey of growth. But it’ll be like, I’ll do a holy hour and like five, six minutes into my … I’ll be praying, and like five minutes I’ll be thinking about like, “Boy, that Burrito was delicious. I’m so glad I chose guacamole because you know, I know it’s $1.80 extra, but my God, it was worth it because that was a …” [inaudible 00:54:18]. And five minutes later, I’m like, “Am I literally thinking about Guacamole for five minutes?”
Matt Fradd: 00:54:24 Totally. This is everyone’s experience. No one’s listening to you right now, and I’ll be like, “What?” I’d never have that problem.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:54:29 Well, thank you for saying that. Yeah. And so like, Lord, I want a vigilant heart with nothing can lure me away from you. And this is how beautiful that would be. A heart that is so focused and so vigilant that thoughts that try to distract us, they would just bounce off of us like a tennis ball. No, I’m not focusing on that. I’m right here with you, Lord. That’s a beautiful prayer.
Matt Fradd: 00:54:51 What do you do when you have those distracting thoughts? One suggestion somebody offered to me is when you find yourself daydreaming, and then you catch yourself to almost pray about that thing. That might be difficult to pray about guacamole, but if I find myself like, I don’t know, praying and then as I’m praying I notice how messy the house is. And that frustrates me and I think, “Why can’t we do a better job at keeping a bloody, you know, make a ordered house or something.” And I catch myself, maybe then I can say, “Lord, I thank you that I’m wretched first of all, and that I need You. I thank you that this experience has reminded me of that. And then also I pray that You would help me put my house in order and when I fail, help me to be patient with it.” Or something like that, it’s so much like not to too violently resist those.
Matt Fradd: 00:55:39 Or if you start daydreaming about your future spouse or what you’re doing next week. It’s like, well I just pray about that. I just thank you for that, and bless this upcoming trip or …
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:55:47 Right. The catechism says that don’t follow distractions. That’s a part of their tactic, is to get you down that [inaudible 00:55:54] hole. However, there was a priest at the Institute for Priestly Formation in Omaha, Nebraska. They form almost every seminary, and it seems like. But I was blessed to go there and there’s a priest whose name was Father Scott Trainer. I think he’s director now at some seminary in Denver, but he said that … He gave me a method that I found to be really a great tool. So the first time a distraction comes up, just gently name it and then come right back to whatever you were praying. So, oh, guacamole. Okay, come right back to … I was reading the scriptures, let’s say. So come right back there.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:56:24 He said the second time that same distraction comes up, now doesn’t have to be like exactly like Guacamole, but maybe it’s lunch again. I remember being out with Matt at lunch [inaudible 00:56:34], I had that burrito, and I start thinking about lunch still again. He says, “Just stop and tell the Lord everything about it.” Lord, I really enjoyed lunch with Matt today. That burrito was delicious. Thank you for taste buds and I think you. And he says, “Now come back to the scriptures.” He said, “If that same kind of distraction comes up a third time, it’s not a distraction. It’s something the Lord wants you to pay attention to.”
Matt Fradd: 00:56:54 I like that. Yeah.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:56:56 And I found that to be true that after that second step, the telling the Lord all about what’s coming up for me and really sharing everything. “Lord, Matt said something, I got ticked at him and I remember kind of feeling that right now,” and boom, and I tell Him everything. If it’s actually a distraction, it goes away after that second point, after sharing everything with Him. If it’s still there, scrap what the little thing I wanted to pray with and the Lord is trying to speak to me. I need to pay attention.
Matt Fradd: 00:57:21 That’s great advice.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:57:23 That works well for me.
Matt Fradd: 00:57:24 Yeah. Let’s conclude the prayer here he says, “Grant me, Lord my God, intelligence in knowing You, diligence and seeking You, wisdom and finding You, conversation pleasing to You. Perseverance in confidently waiting for You, and confidence in finally embracing You. Grant that as penance so I may be afflicted with your hardships as grace make use along the way of your favors as glory delight in your joys in the fatherland. Amen.”
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:57:54 Amen. I love that line, “And confidence in finally embracing you.” For example, I just love all the Yous, right? Once again, what does Aquinas see the intelligence about knowing You. Lord, give me intelligence in knowing You, diligence. Why? So I can live a really good Christian life? No. In seeking You, give me wisdom, Lord, so I can sound really smart on the podcast. No. Give me wisdom in finding You. Aquinas is madly in love with God. He’s just so in love with God, he just wants every gift possible to draw them closer to the one who loves. And then finally embracing Him. The idea of love by its very nature makes you want to become one with your beloved, right?
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:58:41 That’s why young people in many ways find it so hard to remain shakes. That’s why long engagement periods are really, really difficult because they want to be one, they want to give everything. And that’s a beautiful desire. It’s not shameful. And so, [inaudible 00:58:55] purified of course, but at the heart of it is this, I want to embrace you. And so here’s Aquinas totally in love with God. Lord, would you give me confidence in embracing you, that I would really believe in that there will be a moment in my life where I actually get to embrace the infinite one? Would you grant me that grace Lord, to really have confidence that that’s going to be an experience I have one day? It’s a beautiful way of ending your prayer that he reminds us of heaven and then the journey along the way.
Matt Fradd: 00:59:27 Obviously there’s so much that could be said, but how can this … Maybe we’ve already talked about it, but what can we take away from this prayer? There’s so much that said. There’s like we could take a million things away from this prayer. But for those listening who … We’ve said quite a lot, and of course the title being Prayer for the Wise Ordering of One’s Life, and I’ll be putting up the text of this in the show notes so that people can pray with it. Any advice on how to do that?
Fr. Ryan Mann: 00:59:55 Yeah. I would just say there’s two things maybe to take away that I can think of right now is, the first one is that Thomas Aquinas in everything are in love with God. That their prayer, their work, their ministry, their thinking, their relating comes from this, I’m a man and woman in love. When you meet a saint, you’re meeting someone who’s madly in love, and you see that in their prayer. He wants only God, everything from God. Not because God’s the right answer, not because he’s an intellectually interesting thing, but because God is captured and that He’s fixed his whole personality on the infinite good, the infinite beauty. And that one has a name and it’s Father, it’s Jesus, so it’s beautiful. So that’s the first thing, madly in love.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 01:00:40 Second thing is this is, the title The Prayer For a Wise Ordering of One’s Life. We can think of, “Oh cool. I’m going to learn how to order my life.” That’s the temptation with the title, but it’s a prayer for that. So, fundamentally to order life, I need to ask another for help. In this sense, God. And it’s God’s activity in me that I’m asking for and seeking so that He can help me put my life in order. This isn’t something I’m going to do and say, “[Tarrah 01:01:09], God, come look what I did.” But rather it’s thank you Lord. Even the idea to want my soul ordered, even the interest in this, that is your grace at work. So, those will be the two final points.
Matt Fradd: 01:01:22 It just occurred to me that those words of Thomas, I think it was maybe his fellow Fryer, Reginald, who reported this, that he was before the Eucharist and apparently our Lord appeared to Thomas and said, “You’ve written well of me, Thomas. What would you have as your reward?” And there’s that famous line, “Non Nisi Te, Domine.” And it seems like nothing if not you, Lord. And it seems to me that line is really what sums up this prayer, and Aquinas’ life, and what we ought to sum up our life as well. If there’s conversations that are displeasing to You, well then nothing if not you Lord. If there’s entertainment I’m engaged in that you don’t want me to be engaged in, then nothing if not you Lord. If I’m supposed to be sad, if I’m supposed to be happy, then nothing if not you Lord.
Matt Fradd: 01:02:06 That would be a beautiful mantra to pray throughout the day, wouldn’t it? Nothing if not you, Lord. [crosstalk 01:02:11] I liked that interpretation better than, nothing except you Lord. And maybe as we wrap up, you told me that story about the Franciscan and the Carmelite and making their way to God. And do you know what I mean? Do you remember that?
Fr. Ryan Mann: 01:02:25 Oh yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Matt Fradd: 01:02:26 Tell us that story.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 01:02:29 So the story goes as, a Franciscan and common like talking about the spiritual life, and you imagine this beautiful wooded path with flowers, and trees, and little animals, and the end of the path is God. And oftentimes the Carmelite spirituality says, “I’m just going to run to God. I’ll see you there.” And he just runs as fast as he can to God. And it’s beautiful, loves God, just wants to do with God. And he looks back and he sees a Franciscan petting the dogs nose, smelling a flower, stopping and looking up at a tree, going backwards back to pet the dog again, because the dog was so cute. And the Carmelite is like, “Don’t you want to be with God?” He’s like, “Yeah, I’m getting there. I’m just enjoying all of these things along the way.”
Matt Fradd: 01:03:06 Right.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 01:03:07 And see, they’re both ordered, right? It’s just different. I mean, there’s complimentary here. They’re both ordered that they want God. One is enjoying the gifts of God that lead him there, and the other one’s going right to the Giver. Right? And sometimes it’s personalities and temperaments, but they’re both beautiful along the way. Sometimes we need a beer and talk about Aquinas. Sometimes we need coffee and talk about Aquinas. And sometimes you just need God, so …
Matt Fradd: 01:03:32 Yeah. Oh, that’s so great. I really appreciate you coming on today and chatting with us-
Fr. Ryan Mann: 01:03:36 Thanks for having me back. It’s great to be …
Matt Fradd: 01:03:38 Yeah. Thanks so much. All right, God bless. Bye.
Fr. Ryan Mann: 01:03:39 Peace.
Matt Fradd: 01:03:55 Oh merciful God, whatever is pleasing to You, may I ardently desire, wisely pursue, truly recognize, and bring to perfect completion. For the praise and glory of your name put order into my life and grant that I may know what it is You require me to do, and help me to achieve whatever it is fitting and necessary for the good of my soul. May my way Lord be Yours entirely upright and perfect, failing in neither prosperity nor adversity so that in prosperity I give you thanks, and in adversity serve patients. Neither exalted in the former nor dejected in the latter, may I not rejoice in anything unless it leads me to You, nor be saddened by anything unless it turns me from you. May I not desire to please or fear to displease anyone but you. May all passing things become worthless to me on your account, and all things that are yours be dear to me, and you God above all things.
Matt Fradd: 01:05:04 May all joy without You leave me tired and weary, and may I not desire anything apart from you. May all work that is done for you delight me, Lord, and all repose not centered on your presence be wearisome. Let me my God direct my heart You often, and let me grieve over my failure with determination to change. Make me my God humble without pretense, cheerful without frivolity, sad without dejection, mature without heaviness, quick witted without levity, truthful without duplicity. Let me fear You without despair and hope in You without presumption. Let me correct my neighbor without hypocrisy and without pride, edify him by word and example. Obedient without contradiction. Patient without murmuring.
Matt Fradd: 01:05:57 Give me dearest God a vigilant heart which no distracting thought can lure away from you. Give me a noble heart which no unworthy desire can ever debase. Give me an unconquered heart which no tribulation can fatigue. Give me a free heart which no violent temptation can enslave. Give me an upright heart which no perverse intention can hold fast. Grant me Lord my God intelligence in knowing You, diligence in seeking You, wisdom and finding You, conversation pleasing to you. Perseverance in confidently waiting for You, and confidence in finally embracing You. Grant that as penance I may be afflicted with your hardships, as grace make use along the way of your favors as glory delight in your joys in the fatherland. Amen. (singing) (silence)