Our Lord, our God, other Lords besides you have ruled over us, but we acknowledge your name alone (Isaiah 26:13).

"In 'Nighthawks,' the great Hopper canvas, there is a lonely man with a cup of coffee, all by himself, though sitting in a public space. The canvas is narrowly but brilliantly staged, emptied of trivial details and subtly distorted for dramatic impact. Just the human being, just sitting at the diner's counter. There are a lot of other things in the picture but we don't see them. The light focuses us.

"If we want to be focused, we can use the artist's example. We can learn to see what we need to see. We can paint our lives with the light. We can be alone, in public, at night. We can hawk the night.

"Focus often comes in the solitude of a cup of coffee, in times apart, in times with self and with God. Focus comes when we look at only God and God alone, as Isaiah recommends in the Scripture passage above. We can screen out the other data."

"A parish 'street sweep' on the steps of the Great Sacred Heart cathedral does just this. Every morning he sweeps up the broken wine bottles and empty potato chip bags off the steps. All day long the faithful go in and out of the cathedral. At night he revelers arrive. They leave a mess. I saw that street sweeper one morning when I went there at dawn. At one point, between steps, he leaned on his haggy broom and closed his eyes. He prayed. He acknowledged only God. The rubble disappeared for a few comforting minutes.

"What does solitude give us? It gives us time for God. It sweeps the rubble out of the picture. It keeps the picture focused and it keeps our spiritual life focused.

"My Prayer . . .
O God, unclutter my life, please. Let me see only you. Let me use the light to find out what is important. Let me see all the way to you and learn your way for me. Amen."