The ability to listen is a pivotal attribute of the human being because it is associated with a willful intent to act on what was heard. Abraham heard the voice of the Lord and in faith was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac. Mary, the Mother of God listened to the voice of the angel Gabriel and responded by saying “yes” to be the Mother of God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church associates the term to listen with obedience which is the act to submit freely to the word that has been heard because its truth is guaranteed by God who is truth itself.
When a person begins a journey to seek the one true God, the initial steps involve the ability to listen and a willingness to follow and investigate what is heard. The understanding here is what is being heard is associated with God our Father in heaven. These pillars of this initial journey of faith are meant to help the person encounter the living God and develop a faith that will not fail.
On the issue of listening Frank Sheed comments:
Indifference lies over all things. . . The Church’s age-old problem is inertia. And at the heart of inertia is the eclipse of Christ. . . People have not denied him, they have simply turned their minds elsewhere. He must be at the heart of all our effort to dispel inertia. Unless we can bring our hearers to a vital awareness of him, closeness to him, desire to know him better, love of him, nothing else we do for them will have much effect. So, we must show them Christ, we must show them his gifts of truth and life, moving from Christ to doctrine, from doctrine to Christ. With a risen Christ-risen for them-inertia cannot live. As things are, inertia rules all.
The stages of accompaniment
The practice of accompanying someone on a path to Christ requires the practice of patience and prudence because it involves the cultivation of a soul, a gradual transformation from a former life to a renewed one. Hence, accompaniment requires the ability to listen and engage the person on a human level that is gradually introduced to the transcendent God through the Son Jesus Christ the Word made flesh. The first letter of St. John provides us with a biblical example of the content of accompaniment where he proclaims the following:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing this that our joy may be complete.
St. John provides a realistic example of the first stage of accompaniment; the need to expose the physical environment (teaching from the body) to the person so he can begin to associate the world around him with Jesus Christ. Thus, the conversational language used during this first stage of accompaniment is critical because the premise is to associate the world with the transcendent God revealed through the Son.
As the progression of the journey begins to hopefully make more sense, the individual will seek further answers to questions and begin to investigate a new world view that now begins to be associate with Jesus as a central figure. The thought that God would send His only son to die for the sins of a supposed ungrateful human race is an event that would cause even the most ardent disbeliever to wonder why. The question may arise: how can love be defined through death?
The second stage of accompaniment is directed toward the heart-this refers to an interior attraction to the truth, beauty, and goodness of Jesus Christ. As the person’s worldview begins to transition to a Christ centered view of the world, the spiritual progress made during the second stage of accompaniment is an initial understanding of who Jesus is and what He accomplished for us on the cross. The doctrinal concept of the Incarnation becomes a steady topic of conversation especially the notion that Jesus is both simultaneously fully human and fully divine. St. Paul provides context for this second stage:
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the chalice, after supper, saying, “This chalice is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the chalice, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
The third stage of accompaniment appeals to the mind-the use of the intellect and will to make a firm and clear profession of faith to the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This stage provides the person in question to openly proclaim his devotion to Christ and seek both physical and spiritual nourishment. He begins to understand that he is a child of God created out of love, he recognizes that sin is a direct denial of God’s love, and that his goal is eternal life. This final stage marks the beginning of self-abandonment to Jesus where the person freely places his trust in Jesus where nothing else satisfies him other than his love for Him. There is no specific time-table for the execution and application of these stages. Hence, it is important that those involved in the person’s journey exercise great patience and prudence because the care of a soul is in your hands.
Father, I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will. Whatever you may do, I thank you: I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures - I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul: I offer it to you with all the love of my heart, for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself, to surrender myself into your hands without reserve, and with boundless confidence, for you are my Father.
Blessed Charles de Foucauld