Daily Archives: June 21, 2010

St. Teresa of Avila on “the prayer of quiet”

After many chapters, St. Teresa de Jesus finally begins to describe what she calls the “prayer of quiet”. This is not the same as mental prayer. Mental prayer, as discussed, means actually thinking about God while you pray.

What Teresa calls “the prayer of quiet” is what some would call “consolation,” the experience that God is directly responding to our prayer with a feeling of spiritual rapture. It is a state of prayer that God sends on us. We have to be praying to receive it, but we have no guarantee that it will come in any circumstances. Sometimes, we may get it instantly after some very weak prayers; other times, we may make a retreat worth of prayers and devotions and sacraments and yet not experience “the prayer of quiet.”

This is a supernatural state, and, however hard we try, we cannot reach it for ourselves; for it is a state in which the soul enters into peace, or rather in which the Lord gives it peace through His presence, as He did to that just man Simeon.[107] In this state all the faculties are stilled. The soul, in a way which has nothing to do with the outward senses, realizes that it is now very close to its God, and that, if it were but a little closer, it would become one with Him through union. This is not because it sees Him either with its bodily or with its spiritual eyes. The just man Simeon saw no more than the glorious Infant — a poor little Child, Who, to judge from the swaddling-clothes in which He was wrapped and from the small number of the people whom He had as a retinue to take Him up to the Temple, might well have been the son of these poor people rather than the Son of his Heavenly Father. But the Child Himself revealed to him Who He was. Just so, though less clearly, does the soul know Who He is. It cannot understand how it knows Him, yet it sees that it is in the Kingdom (or at least is near to the King Who will give it the Kingdom), and it feels such reverence that it dares to ask nothing. It is, as it were, in a swoon, both inwardly and outwardly, so that the outward man (let me call it the “body”, and then you will understand me better) does not wish to move, but rests, like one who has almost reached the end of his journey, so that it may the better start again upon its way, with redoubled strength for its task.

The body experiences the greatest delight and the soul is conscious of a deep satisfaction. So glad is it merely to find itself near the fountain that, even before it has begun to drink, it has had its fill. There seems nothing left for it to desire. The faculties are stilled and have no wish to move, for any movement they may make appears to hinder the soul from loving God. They are not completely lost, however, since, two of them being free, they can realize in Whose Presence they are. It is the will that is in captivity now; and, if while in this state it is capable of experiencing any pain, the pain comes when it realizes that it will have to resume its liberty. The mind tries to occupy itself with only one thing, and the memory has no desire to busy itself with more: they both see that this is the one thing needful and that anything else will unsettle them. Persons in this state prefer the body to remain motionless, for otherwise their peace would be destroyed: for this reason they dare not stir. Speaking is a distress to them: they will spend a whole hour on a single repetition of the Paternoster. They are so close to God that they know they can make themselves understood by signs. They are in the palace, near to their King, and they see that He is already beginning to give them His Kingdom on earth. Sometimes tears come to their eyes, but they weep very gently and quite without distress: their whole desire is the hallowing of this name. They seem not to be in the world, and have no wish to see or hear anything but their God; nothing distresses them, nor does it seem that anything can possibly do so. In short, for as long as this state lasts, they are so overwhelmed and absorbed by the joy and delight which they experience that they can think of nothing else to wish for, and will gladly say with Saint Peter: “Lord, let us make here three mansions.”[108]” (Way of Perfection Ch. 31, paras. 2 & 3; emphasis added).

It strikes me that, when I experience the “prayer of quiet,” at first, it is no longer possible to “actively” pray. I may mutter prayers with my mouth or “recite them” in my head, but they can only be truly “rote” prayers. I can’t actively meditate. I can’t think of causes to pray for. I can only repeat little prayers and enjoy basking in God’s embrace.

But, after a short time, it is much *easier* to pray. If, for example, I experience the prayer of quiet after Communion, it can often be almost like an ecstasy, but I know what’s going on around me. I could have been struggling with paying attention all through Mass, and now, suddenly, I’m hit with the prayer of quiet, and prayer becomes extremely easy for me.

While I could easily stay in church for another 15 or 20 minutes praying, I usually have to leave to tend to my family. But, if I have experienced “the prayer of quiet,” I can resume my daily living while continuing in a prayerful state.

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Once again, we’ve commited the worst sin

Trying to go to Mass together as a family.

With my handicapped van again in the shop, I’m not in my wheelchair, so Mass is back to being difficult. We’ve been taking turns the past few weeks.

I sat in the car with Joe and Clara with the air on, listening to prayers and hoping they’d go to sleep. When I thought it was too late to risk missing Communion, I got them out of the car and went in. In fact, the priest was just beginning the Consecration.

We sat down with Mary and the girls. Both Joe and Clara refused to sit in my lap. Clara was OK, but Joe started jabbering. Now, the real problem is, he wasn’t being “bad,” per se, in that he was focusing. He just wanted to know what was going on. He was pointing to all the pictures, and saying, “Oh, Mommy! Jesus is being hurt!” That sort of thing.

Mary kept trying to quiet him down. Some old woman in front of us with her hair dyed maroon turned around and loudly “Shh”‘ed.

After another moment or two, she angrily got up and walked away.

As always, it makes no sense that we are a Church that claims to be pro-life, claims to encourage large families, claims to oppose contraception and abortion, yet does *NOTHING* to help families. Instead, the contraceptors and NFP Nazis alike look down their noses, in spite of everything every papal document says and families and the role of the Church as community.

Meanwhile, tons of heretical protestant communities get lots of members because they have “children’s services” and so forth.

I’m the last one to suggest we change the Mass to be more ‘entertaining’ for kids–indeed, my experience shows that my kids behave better the more traditional the liturgy is (and also that the parishioners are more accepting of kids the more traditional the liturgy is). Yes, some people have kids who are naturally well-disciplined–and among my fellow homeschoolers the same people we envy for their well-behaved kids will say they wish their kids were as outgoing as our kids are. And

Then we came home, and, in honor of Fathers Day and the Month of the Sacred Heart, we said the Byzantine Moleben to Jesus over the dinner table. Clara had to go to her room for being disruptive, but came back and sat quietly when given a second chance. Joe was disruptive. Allie and Gigi prayed the responses and offered their own petitions when it was time.

Then I got out the Fr. Lovasik Best Loved Saints and Gigi, just having finished Kindergarten, read the first page with my help on the big words. Given the fact that she can actually see, she’s reading much better than Allie was at this age.

Allie then read the second page but wasn’t interested in reading given that she and Clara were dancing to the religious music–both classical and contemporary–I had playing.

When Allie and Gigi were little, we took them to Mass. After a while, we broke down and used the cry room, in spite of my resistance to it. There was a time when Allie wouldn’t go to sleep unless she’d at least watched Mass on EWTN, if we hadn’t actually gone. Back then, we said, “to heck with anyone who criticizes us,” because we were doing what Jesus commanded: “Let the little children come to Me.”

Now, we have two girls who are absolutely pious.

It’s gotten harder with Joe and Clara–particularly Joe. Lately, he’s been saying he doesn’t believe in God, and we think it’s because he’s already come to see Mass as something negative.

Keep him out of Mass, and we risk not building that habit, building that love for Mass we’ve developed in his older sisters; try to take him to Mass, and it’s put up with the comments and dirty looks and scrutiny, while still making him think of Mass as something bad because we have to discipline him for just being interested in his own special way.

I mean, if someone exclaims, looking at the Stations of the Cross, “Oh, poor Jesus!” Shouldn’t that be a time to say, “Amen,” not “Shh?”

But it should would be nice if the Catholic Church practiced what it preached.