I read somewhere, that when you talk to the Irish--I mean the real Irish, not people separated by a hundred or more years from their roots--about prayer and ways of meeting God, they start talking about "thin" places: moments and actual places where God seems much closer than normal. For Paul, the Damascus road was a thin place. St. Augustine and St. Ignatius found a thin place in the pages of a book. In the 19th century, a Jewish agnostic named Francis Lieberman had an unexpected encounter with the blessed Virgin Mary in a nondescript Roman Church. That was his thin place. Over the past 10 years, tens of thousands of people have revived the ancient custom of making the Camino to Compostela--a six week walk across Spain to the tomb of St. James the apostle. This Camino thins a person in more ways than one! The Eucharist itself is another thin place: Jesus is always the meeting point with God!
Or is it that the thin place is really in us? God is always communicating with us, always giving himself whole and entire in love to us. The "thin places" may be thin simply because they help put our hearts in a disposition of receptivity, openness and responsiveness. Maybe that's why so many people find God in nature: they're open; they're not "working". God will get through any way he can, through thick and thin.
The thick place, too, then, would not depend on our life circumstances, but on ourselves. Kathleen Norris in her book "The Noonday Demon," says that this thickness of heart is what the ancient hermits considered the sin of sloth: an unwillingness to change, move or grow. And even though we think of sloth as laziness, this noonday devil sometimes hides behind frenetic activity. You know, when you're too busy to think?
That's why the saints and spiritual directors advise us to be faithful to our rhythm of prayer, even when we don't seem to get anything out of it. That's why we go to Mass weekly or daily even when we feel bankrupt inside. The pattern, and even repeated ritual, can help carve out a thin place over time.
What are your thin places? It could be a real geographic place, a time of day, a state of mind. How can you go there more consistently to listen to God and let him truly be your Lord?