The Beatles, Surrender, and Cantio Divina

by | Sep 4, 2020 | Bold in Faith

Full disclosure: the first time I went to Adoration, I was a mess: excited, anxious, and not fully sure I believed in how transformative it was supposed to be. I spent the entire afternoon researching what exactly I was supposed to do when I got there–I mean, do you just sit there and stare at Jesus? I had some rules for Ignatian Contemplation and I came armed with my Bible, journal, and rosary. I knelt and tried to pray, tried to focus.

I didn’t hear God’s voice.

The way everyone talks about it, you’d think God is constantly whispering in people’s ears for the whole hour. As my holy hour neared its end, I felt accomplished for having made it this far, but the needle hadn’t really moved on the whole “spiritual fulfillment” thing. Was I a bad Catholic? All these thoughts raced through my head and so I finally just asked God to say something, anything, so I would know if I was doing Adoration “wrong.” Barely before I had finished my thought, one word immediately came to mind: comfort. Peace washed over me, and I was hooked. That was one word for an hour of effort, but it was powerful. 

 

Months after my first holy hour, I’m still usually trying to fill the time–and usually that means trying to ignore old church hymns that pop into my head. Sometimes I’ve devolved into just writing down the lyrics but now I feel like I’ve stumbled upon something: maybe God wants to talk to me through song. Maybe this is something akin to what St. Joan of Arc experienced, when she was asked if what she thought was God speaking to her was just her imagination and she responded,

“How else would God speak to me, if not through imagination?”

 

You’ve likely heard of lectio divina, or spiritual reading, where you read a passage from the Bible or other spiritual book a few times and meditate on what jumps out to you. There’s also been some discussion about visio divina, or contemplating religious art. 

 

Well what about cantio divina

 

Now as a disclaimer, as far as I can tell, this is not a recognized form of prayer by the Catholic Church and I do not mean to elevate it as such. The purpose of this article is only to pass along a practice that has helped me and may do the same for you. 

 

So last weekend, I felt a pull towards Adoration. I was watching a movie but hadn’t done my weekly holy hour yet, and to be frank I was avoiding it. I didn’t know what to say. I had everything I’ve been wanting for a while now: a loving husband, fulfilling job, safety from the coronavirus…I almost didn’t know what to talk to God about with my job search over. Moreover, I felt guilty because I had so much to be thankful for and yet I was overwhelmed. With a new job that kept me much busier than usual, finding time for schoolwork, cooking dinner, getting exercise (never)…I felt way over my head. I pulled up live Adoration on YouTube and promptly broke down. And then, per usual, a song popped into my head. This time I decided not to swat it away. And this time, it wasn’t a hymn. 

 

When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me

Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me 

Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

 

Yup. Turns out the Beatles are pretty great for your prayer life. 

 

And I got the message loud and clear: surrender. As an admitted type-A control freak, letting things be is pretty hard for me. Especially with social media, many of the Catholic accounts I follow tout surrender all the time, practically so often that I feel like we might as well just sum up modern Catholic women’s faith as #fiat. 

 

But fiat got me thinking about the Mother Mary from “Let it be.” It’s probably obvious to some, but I’ve never thought too deeply about the words of the song. “Let it be” isn’t just some nice lyric asking us to let our troubles go and calm down. It’s a reference to Mary’s words at the Annunciation: “Let it be done to me according to your word.” 

 

And when the brokenhearted people living in the world agree

There will be an answer, let it be

For though they may be parted, there is still a chance that they will see

There will be an answer, let it be

 

And then it clicked: sometimes, surrender can be a little bit selfish, and that’s okay, because it means you’re increasing your faith in God. Surrender is less about “letting go and letting God,” because frankly, I don’t know how to do that. Surrender is about letting the weight of your troubles off your shoulders because you trust God to solve it with you in His own sweet time. It’s basically giving yourself permission to let it be because you know “there will be an answer.” Surrender isn’t absolving you of the ability or responsibility to solve your issues on your own or just handing it off to God. It’s clearing the way for a partnership with God and especially in my case, a lesson in patience. 

 

So the next time a song comes knocking during your prayer time, before you get frustrated for it messing with your divine silence, consider the possibly divine inspiration of those lyrics. You might be surprised by what God’s trying to tell you. 

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Gabriela R. A. Doyle is a speechwriter and communications specialist from northern Virginia. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in National Security Studies from Georgetown University and is an Elon University alumna. Gabriela is a ballerina who believes in happily ever afters and trusts that a little hygge and St. Joseph can fix just about any problem there is.

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