As I was trying vainly to describe contemplation to prisoners at the Wakulla Correctional Institution (Annex) near Tallahassee, Florida, I happened to use the words “profound listening.” I reflected on these words in light of the admonition of St. Benedict to his monks in the Prologue to the Rule to listen “with the ear of the heart.” I have noted a few observations and some recommendations about how to listen profoundly.

PROFOUND LISTENING IS NOT THE SAME AS THE WORLD DESCRIBES. I use this phrase as one of the ways that we communicate with God with Faith alone and He responds to us with grace and enlightenment. Profound listening is not the same as listening to the Nightly News or Fox News. In the stillness of silence and solitude, we sit on a park bench in the dead of winter and listen for the footsteps of Christ approaching. It is this longing for Christ to grace us with his real presence that is a characteristic of listening with the ear of the heart.

LISTENING IN THREE UNIVERSES — Those who know my discombobulated mind know that I think in threes when it comes to all human words. Profound listening exists in three universes, not just two.

Physical Universe— all matter, all energy, time, space, everything on earth that has life, is part of this universe. Humans live on this level. It is the platform on which we realize that we are unlike everything else in the universe. Animals are subject to the Laws of Nature (what happens naturally in the order of things) as are we. What God makes is good, including humans.

Mental Universe– I hold that there is another separate universe called the mental one. Only humans live here, just humans (of course, that may include other sentient life forms on other worlds, if they exist). This is the universe where we use reason to make choices that affect who we are. What is the reason we have reason at all? We are free to make good or bad choices for us. Why? Animals only choose what is good for them according to the Laws of Nature. There are consequences to our human choices. Adam and Eve had the chance to make a choice for good or evil in the archetypal story of Genesis 1-2. God told them not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good or evil or they would die. The snake (Satan) tempted Eve who then tempted Adam to eat of the fruit (sins of vanity and pride and greed). The consequences of sin is death. Romans 6:23[Full Chapter] “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” So what restores us to our heritage?

Spiritual Universe — If the first two universes contain what St. Paul refers to as the World, then this last universe completes the first two and is the fulfillment of reality. This universe can be entered only by an act of free will. Also, it is by Faith alone that we can even make such as choice. Our consequences are we still have the effects of Original Sin (death, pain, injustice, false promises, temptations by Satan), but we are now adopted sons and daughters of the Father. We have the Resurrection of Christ with victory over death. We know how, as you read this, we can love others as Christ loves us.

Contemplative prayer puts us in touch with that whole universe that we cannot see, touch, hear, feel, or taste with the World but actually makes sense with the Spiritual Universe. The Christ Code, if you will, is to follow how he acted so that we can walk in his footsteps and avoid the minefield of sin and unbelief. All of this points to the whole spiritual universe being the opposite of what the world thinks is necessary for fulfillment. Christ points out that we must die to self to live life in the Spirit. Some call this the sign of contradiction or a polar reversal of the spiritual world. Contemplation is, using humility and silence with solitude, listening to what God is saying. This is profound listening, hearing what cannot be heard and seeing what cannot be seen. Remember! Without the Resurrection, the ultimate sign of contradiction foretold in the Old Testament, none of this makes any sense whatsoever.


Let’s use the words “profound listening” as seen in three universes.

  • Physical universe: This is the foundation where we live. Hearing is one of our five senses where we can react to our environment and hear language. Animals have their own language. This is good.
  • Mental universe: Listening is taking in signs and symbols (language, science, poetry) to discover meaning, how something is, why something is, and how it is constructed. This is good. On this level, humans alone exist and have the ability to choose what is good for them and choose what may be bad for them.
  • Spiritual universe: Free choice is needed to choose this universe. It is invisible and therefore folly to the Gentiles and a stumbling block to the Jews. Profound listening is translating this contraction so that it makes sense. Profound listening picks up the language of God. And what is that? It is loving God with your whole heart and your whole mind, and your whole strength plus loving our neighbor as yourself. (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:35ff) Contemplative prayer places you in the presence of the source of the way, the truth, and the life, and bids you to wait.

We have been profoundly blessed with the love of Christ.


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