Listening is a skill that takes practice.

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by Chris Morgan, Colorado Vincentian Volunteers

[Chris is a Denver native, studying Theology with the Benedictines in the wilds of central Minnesota. While in CVV he worked with Slow Food Denver & Cooking Matters.]

As a young boy, I rarely tired of asking any question that came to mind. My parents love to tell the story that I used to go through all the drawers in the kitchen, pull out each item, and ask, “What does this do?” Of course, I always timed this activity to coincide with my step-mom preparing dinner. I never lost that inquisitiveness, and at the same time, I spent a lot of time talking throughout my later years in middle school and high school. By the time I arrived at Saint John’s University in Collegeville, MN, I was pretty tired of talking just to hear my own voice, and it made for good timing that I met so many people pointing to the importance of listening.

As I grew, I noticed myself less attached to the words I wanted to say. Instead, I became more attached to listening and asking questions. My interest in listening began with a growing sense of dissatisfying conversations in my own life. At some point early on, someone showed me how a lot of people feel satisfied when someone comfortably asks them to talk. I wanted to talk less anyway, so I found peace again in asking people questions. Maybe interject something from Fr. Tom? What did community teach you about this? What about the folks you encountered at Cooking matters/slow foods?

I kept hearing various people talking about listening and the Prologue to the Rule of Benedict, so I explored that. The first line says, “Listen, my son, to your master’s precepts, and incline the ear of your heart.” I realized that I could tell how deeply the Benedictine tradition has influenced individuals in my community here. I noticed how everyone practices it in their own way, and I started to hold onto the ways that rang true in my reflection. I encountered skilled counselors, wise directors, and humble peers. I shared time with hospitable monks, honorable professors, and inspiring friends. What I hold onto is their peace without speaking, their genuine interest in my story, and their humility in response to it.

My personality, my spirituality have a lot more to do with listening now. During a stressful time almost two years after graduation, I had a breakthrough in understanding about empathy. What brought me through that trial was truly listening to others in their situation and staying with their feelings and needs in our conversations. Now, I am asking more questions in prayer and trying to listen with the ear of my heart. It brought me this far, and listening is my daily practice.

Article adapted from an article in Abbey Banner, photo from St. John’s School of Theology & Seminary’s publication: Conversatio for Winter 2015.

Source: CVV Alumni Blog


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