by PETER GRACE
AUCKLAND — Fr Peter Murphy of St Mary’s Parish, Papakura, may be the Johnny Appleseed of meditation.
It seems that wherever Fr Murphy goes, meditation grows. And some of the best practitioners may be children.
Fr Murphy told NZ Catholic that when he was at the parish of St Paul and St Malachy in Massey, west Auckland, he taught meditation to children as young as 4 years of age.
“It was a bit of a struggle, particularly to get it going,” he said, “because you know what kids are like. . . .
“We just perservered, and now it’s just part of the life of the school.”
Fr Murphy said the director of religious studies (DRS) at St Paul’s School, Pauline Oliver, had commented on how much it had contributed to the life of the school.”
Papakura doesn’t have a pre-school, he said, so the children practising there are aged from 5 to 12. The whole school meditated each Friday. A bell is rung over the intercom, “and the whole school shuts down, and they meditate for five minutes”.
St Mary’s DRS, Patricia Gribble, said the benefits of meditation for the children were apparent. “They actually go into that meditative state,” she said. And those benefits continue. Children pray a lot better, she said, and she thinks it also makes for calmer children.
“If we have a whole school Mass we actually have a reflecting time after Communion, and Father strikes the sounding bowl three times, and the children recognise it as soon as they hear that sound.” They adopt the appropriate posture at once.
Fr Murphy said that before it started in the school, he met the principal and the director of religious studies (DRS) and staff, and then introduced it gradually.
“I would do a class each week.”
An initial worry for the teachers was about how to integrate it with the other prayers taught in the school? “But it really serves as a foundation for prayer, because of the silence. Because if prayer doesn’t come out of the silence, then it’s just chatter,” said Fr Murphy.
Last year when he was overseas on sabbatical for several months, two grandmothers in the parish came in and substituted for him in helping with meditation. And they are still doing it, he said. “They take a class each week, and they just love it.”
Fr Murphy said one little girl was worried about the mantra, “Maranatha”, “and before I could reply, one little girl said, ‘Jesus will help you’. I think that’s what wins teachers over. The enthusiasm of the children wins teachers over.”
Also, the children who teachers think will never be still can surprise them.
“One mother found her 8-year-old in his room and asked him what he was doing, and he said, ‘I am meditating’. And she said, ‘I’ll go down and ask Fr Peter to teach me, and he said, ‘I can teach you, Mum’.”