Slow Down
Off The Wall, January 14, 2011

Years ago, when I was able to attend retreats at the St. Paul of the Cross Retreat Center in Pittsburgh, one of the themes of a weekend was to slow down. Now, I really never gave it much thought when I was working then, and still don’t, until just the other day.

Now, what I feel I am led to tell is just that – slow down.

Recently, I attended a men’s Bible study at Holy Family Church. One of the decisions concluded was that unanimously they decided that we are living in a time period that includes too much rushing, and not enough time to lay back and smell the roses, so to speak. And that is true. No one knows that better than yours truly.

I don’t have to tell you, but I dislike the chills of winter. The cold forces me to stay in where its warmer and I can’t meander along the Loyalhanna Creek doodling or fishing, as the case may be.

With that said, I certainly don’t feel so stressed in the winter as I do in the summer. When it’s warmer, I try to fit too many eggs into one basket. Only one thing can happen. When push comes to shove, shells are going to break, and the yolks are going to spill and the whites with them. I find, in addition to trying to do too much, I have a mess to clean up on top of that. No fun. No fun at all – that is unless you like to clean up messes.

So, here I sit, writing stories, such as this one. It is quiet throughout the house. I can hear the wind blowing outside, and know from previous readings that the wind chill factor is below freezing. That delights me to no end! A little sarcasm I may add. Thank God I have a roof over my head and heat!

But in addition to my stories, one activity keeps gnawing away inside my noodle. This would be a perfect time to practice the prayers that require a bit more polishing. Now, I agree that should be high on my list, but something else hit me that coincides with recitation – the speed at which I vocalize each.

Point in hand. Case in point – whatever the saying is. I was sitting in church one day and five of us were reciting- the Holy Rosary prayer. The first three people used a medium speed, however, the fourth person said it so fast, that the only thing that went through my mind was “Slow down. This old man can’t keep up.”

Just because one knows something well doesn’t mean he has to fly through it without so much as giving thought to what is being spoken.

Let’s take a prayer both Catholics and Protestants know well – the Lord’s Prayer. It can either be sung, or said together in unison. The only time I’ve ever heard the words recited slowly is when it’s sung. Is the cadence the only reason the song is sung slowly? It is my opinion, that’s the case. Wouldn’t it be nice if the prayer was said slowly, so that those taking part could meditate on each phrase said?

How about the Creed? Wow, do we fly through that! Whoa there doggie, slow down…” I would prefer to hear it said in half the speed with more meaning behind it.

It’s all right for musicians to pick up the tempo on songs. But for recitations, especially prayers, I’d like to see the faithful slowly take aim, squeeze the trigger and then sense the outcome, rather than shooting off their six-gun and blowing smoke from the barrel upon completion of what was said.

I am reminded of an Elvis Presley classic, “I believe.” As a song, it has to be sung slowly. But take away the tune, and the words may run together if said like the Rosary or the Creed – “I believe for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows. I believe somewhere in the darkest night, a candle glows. I believe for everyone who goes astray, someone will come to show you the way.” Memorize those few words and then get together with others and repeat them. I bet your bottom dollar, they will lose meaning, especially if there is one person amongst you that feels he wants to dominate and say the phrases just a little bit faster to prove he knows them better than anybody else.

Are you starting to get the hang of what I’m trying to convey?

Here’s what I suggest. First, whatever prayer you are reciting, slow down. No one says you have to do it in a speedy fashion. Second, don’t rush through it, and third, state what you believe with authority. Cherish the moment.

- Paul J. Volkmann
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