"We become what we think upon"

Author: Rev. John I. Jenkins, CSC, ’76, ’78M.A.

We can, however, teach only what we know well ourselves, and our living example must be ever the outward expression of our inner life. In a very real sense, we become what we think upon, and so it is particularly necessary that we learn how to meditate well.
— Blessed Basil Moreau

We have more information at our fingertips and are more frequently the target of communication than any humans in history. Television and radio, smartphones and tablets, e-mail and the Internet, Facebook and Twitter, Instagram and Yik Yak (and many others) continually update, entertain, stimulate, persuade, cajole, pressure and scold us.

We imagine ourselves to be in control of the information we take in. “I am the one who listens, evaluates and decides,” we tell ourselves. But those skilled in marketing know they can, if they get our attention often enough, shape what we will want, buy, think and do. They have grasped the power of Blessed Moreau’s insight: “We become what we think upon.”

It is all the more critical in our age that we find time to listen to the Lord who invites us, his disciples, to come with him by ourselves to a quiet place (see Mark 6:31 ). The Lord needs silence and needs our attention so that we can hear his Word and contemplate his image so that his Word and image can shape us. He will not call our phone or send an e-mail blast. He waits in silence for us to come to him in silence.

In a demanding and busy administrative job, I struggle to find time and silence to meditate on the Lord and what he is trying to tell me. I often do not do as well as I should. Yet I know that unless I find time with the Lord, I am being shaped every hour by other messages and other demands, and I will end up teaching what I do not know and trying to give what I do not have.

It is a matter of spiritual life and death that from time to time we turn off the noise, come away with the Lord in silence and meditate on his Word.

Father Jenkins is the president of Notre Dame. This reflection will appear in the revised edition of The Cross, Our Only Hope: Daily Reflections in the Holy Cross Tradition, edited by Fathers Andrew Gawrych, CSC, ’02, ’07M.Div. and Kevin Grove, CSC, ’09M.Div., available next month from Ave Maria Press. We reprint it here with permission.