Contemplative Prayer: It's for All of US

St John Of The Cross
July 28, 2020

The Catechism of the Catholic Church's (CCC) very readable discussion of contemplative prayer should remind us that it is not just for certain temperaments (see CCC 2709-2719). If it is as St Teresa of Avila says: 

Contemplative prayer [oración mental] in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us” (CCC 2709)

then we all must be contemplatives, regardless of our personality, temperaments, or state of life.

Of course the contemplative life will be lived out differently for the average lay person than for a religious in a contemplative monastery. But we all need to take the time to make contemplation an integral part of our lives of prayer.  If we find we cannot silence our minds and hearts sufficiently to contemplate, it does not mean that contemplation must not be for us.  Rather, it means that we live in a frenetic and hectic world, that we suffer from concupiscence, and that we have a soul saving task ahead of us.  We must learn to master ourselves if we are to quiet our minds and hearts, in order to enter into a deep prayer of silent communion with Our Lord.  

The average lay person may not be able to spend great amounts of time dedicated to learning to quiet himself during contemplative prayer.  This is especially true say, of a young mother with a household full of young ones who demand her constant attention from rising to bedtime, or a person in business who is expected to be connected to the work phone 24/7.  However, there are things we can do to improve our self-mastery that can make the time we can devote to contemplative prayer, more fruitful.  

We can detach as much as possible from the noisiness of the world.  We can limit our consumption of hyper stimulating media (smart phones, computers, television/streaming, gaming, etc.).  We can practice temperance in food, drink, work, leisure, etc., teaching our emotions/appetites to obey our reason rather than habituating ourselves to always following our emotions/appetites.  We can take time to grow comfortable with silence by turning off the radio and turning off the (hands-free) phone while driving, for example.  We can spend more of our leisure moments in silent activities such as reading, painting, etc.  We can also make a determined effort to be attentive to the Lord as we enter our time of contemplative prayer and ask for His assistance in quieting ourselves and protecting us from distractions and temptations.  

As disciples of Jesus Christ, our vocation is to be transformed into Him.  We cannot become like Christ if we do not know Him intimately.  Contemplative prayer is the pathway to intimately knowing Jesus.  The fruits of a deep life of prayer which includes contemplation are manifold and immediate.  Anthony Lilles provides a helpful, contemporary example illustrating the fruit of contemplative prayer.  




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