A Heart to Hear God's Voice

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In the 1927 biography of "Holy Ann" Preston of Thornhill, a poor Irish Methodist known for her intimacy with God the Father, I found this bit:


Communion is the highest form of intercourse; it implies that not only do we talk to God, but that He also speaks to us. When the Lord would destroy the cities of the plain, as described in Genesis 18: 17-33, He said, 'Shall I hide from Abraham that which I do?' Then there begins a conversation between the Lord and Abraham, and after earnest pleading on the part of Abraham that the city should be spared, if if only ten righteous men were found in it, the Lord replied, 'I will not destroy it for the ten's sake.' Then follows the significant statement, 'And the Lord went His way as soon as He had left communing with Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.' Communion consisted this in the Lord talking to Abraham and Abraham talking to God. Our beloved sister Ann knew what it was thus to hold converse. Is not that what is meant when the Lord Jesus says, 'My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow Me'? Ours is the privilege to speak to the Master and to have the Master speaks to us. Solomon prayed for a hearing heart, a heart to hear God's voice.

Holy Ann Preston reminds me of what Our Lord said to my old friend, Soeur Marie de la Trinité, the Poor Clare of Jerusalem:

I speak to each soul. I attract all souls to Myself. I invite them . . . . Many do not hear; many do not listen. . . . Make all souls know that I am in them, so close, speaking to them. I, the friend, the consoler, the guide, the source, the God of their destiny. . . . It is sufficient for them to be very silent to discover the voice of Jesus.

The desire to hear the Word of God and adhere to it is the fundamental attitude of the interior life, the life of intimacy with God. "If any man shall hear my voice, and open to me the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me" (Apoc 3:20).


Father, I enjoy reading your insights, this post (and the link) about Holy Ann intrigues me - as it seems to show that God was pleased with her as a Methodist, she had no need of his Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament - would I be wrong in thinking that?

Dear Elizabeth, God sanctifies us according to our free response to the means He has instituted. There is no one who does not have need of the Sacrament of Our Lord's Body and Blood, but when one is deprived of the sacraments, the merciful grace of God supplies in other ways, provided that one has good will, and truly seeks to live in conformity with His designs. You might say that Holy Ann received the "Eucharist of desire," that is, what we would call "spiritual communion." I would be fairly certain that Holy Ann experienced the fruits of "spiritual communion," considering the content of some of the Wesleyan Eucharistic hymns so dear to Methodists. For example:

1 JESU, at whose supreme command
We now approach to God,
Before us in thy vesture stand,
Thy vesture dipped in blood!
Obedient to thy gracious word,
We break the hallowed bread,
Commemorate thee, our dying Lord,
And trust on thee to feed.

2 Now, Saviour, now thyself reveal,
And make thy nature known;
Apply thy blessed Spirit's seal,
And stamp us for thine own:
The tokens of thy dying love
O let us all receive;
And feel the quickening Spirit move
And sensibly believe!

3 The cup of blessing, blessed by thee,
Let it thy blood impart;
The bread thy mystic body be,
And cheer each languid heart.
The grace which sure salvation brings
Let us herewith receive;
Satiate the hungry with good things,
The hidden manna give.

4 The living bread, sent down from heaven,
In us vouchsafe to be:
Thy flesh for all the world is given,
And all may live by thee.
Now, Lord, on us thy flesh bestow,
And let us drink thy blood,
Till all our souls are filled below
With all the life of God.

I understand now.

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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