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Catechism – Contemplative Prayer – 2717

May 31, 2012 by  
Filed under Catechism, Contemplation, Dan Burke, Mental Prayer, Prayer, Prayer

Contemplative prayer is silence, the “symbol of the world to come” or “silent love.” Words in this kind of prayer are not speeches; they are like kindling that feeds the fire of love. In this silence, unbearable to the “outer” man, the Father speaks to us his incarnate Word, who suffered, died, and rose; in this silence the Spirit of adoption enables us to share in the prayer of Jesus.

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the founder of Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction and author of the award winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God. Beyond his “contagious” love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN’s National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN’s Journey Home program and numerous radio programs. If you have an interest in having Dan come speak at your parish or Catholic event or group, contact us at rcspiritualdirection@gmail.com or call 818-646-7729.

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  • LizEst

    …and, “the Spirit intercedes with inexpressible groanings.” Romans 8:26

  • judeen

    yoaning.. shakes (trembling) , wind, .. , peace,  this is all scripture… then there are times 1 can hardly speak….hot- feeling hot

    • LizEst

       judeen–are you OK?

      • judeen

        ok? why? i wonder if I am talking to much.. saying way to much… praying for the insane.. last week.. it always brings me to the bottom.. depression , horrible lonelyness.. then marraigages.. well so too I receive hard ships… but I know why now.. too tears from the HOly spirit.. during mass… dont know why…. ok? dont know yet…. haha.. went to colorado.. lots to pray for…

        • LizEst

          So good to hear you again!  Your wording in this last post had me a little concerned.  Remember, you always have spiritual friends here and, of course, God is with you even through the depths of difficulties.

          • judeen

            i was commenting on some of the different kinds of ways the HOly Spirit encounters 1 could have ,, there are many more.. share them , reconize them test them – God would be pleased …

          • LizEst

             Thanks for your explanation.

  • Sandy

    A beautiful description of contemplative prayer!

  • Snerticus

    I don’t know if this is contemplative prayer or not – I believe it is a type of it:  I have at times in the past communicated via no words or thoughts.  Yet I felt like I had just had an entire conversation with God. And I had not thought or spoken silently with any words.  It was as if I was infused with the conversation without it ever having taken place.

    Is there a word for that type of prayer? 

    • JoFlemings

      I am interested in what you typed here Snerticus. I don’t think I have experienced contemplative prayer either, but I have had those ‘conversations’ where a host of impressions were moved in my mind/heart/soul or exchanged between me and Him and l gained understanding or closeness to Jesus or a deeper experience of Him in some way- hard to explain- usually I understand something better about my life, myself, life in general or Him. It is not like a conversation which goes one response at a time, but more like a whole picture infused into my understanding but on a more profound level than just getting a mental grip- a sort of whole soul experience- I wonder if that is something like what you man here too?

      • Snerticus

        It sounds like it is because what I’ve experienced is very hard to describe with words.  A priest once told me it was “unitive prayer” I think.  But I’m pretty sure I was not that advanced in my spiritual life.  I haven’t had that type of prayer in years, but then again I have been busier due to moving across the country and basically starting another life since then.  I have been struggling to be as spiritual as I was back then but have thus far been unsuccessful.  Starting over and trying not to get sucked into the secular world has been very hard for me.

        • LizEst

          Yes, it sounds like unitive prayer.  One can have these experiences and not be that advanced in one’s spiritual life.  Sometimes, God also gives these moments as previews of more to come (as per St. Teresa de Avila, if memory serves) or to give you an anchor for your spiritual life.  It certainly would be a preview to the heavenly life with God.  It is a gift and a consolation.  Rejoice!  One never forgets a true unitive prayer because it is an encounter with the living God, who is from everlasting to everlasting.

          Hoping your move across the country and your new life are successful.

        • judeen

          its easy to let go.. get sucked in…talk your self out of prayer , to do what others do.. but I am pretty sure you thought of God while you moved. even when busy…

    • Becky313

      Let me add my two cents here.  There are many definitions for various types of prayer and it is not uncommon to see them used synonymously.  It can be confusing.  From what you describe, it sounds like ideas or concepts may have simply ‘appeared’ in your mind.  Is this correct?  If so, my understanding is that these gifts are defined as illuminations or impressions …..something you just suddenly ‘know’ without knowing how.

      Here’s a link to a good description of the Prayer of Union:
      http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/dictionary/index.cfm?id=35706

      Try not to get too caught up in the correct definition….it can become a stumbling block that takes your focus off the Giver.

      Blessings…….

      • Snert

        Well, I certainly had the feeling of ‘knowing’ afterwards, but it was the feeling that all is and will be as it should.  And the feeling was of great satisfaction that He is taking care of everything – not simply of my life but of the whole world.  However, nothing ‘appeared’ in my mind.  I had no thoughts until afterward – trying to understand what just happened, and it all happened in maybe a minute or two. It felt like it should have taken much longer afterwards, like maybe half an hour to an hour, but it was very breif.  Like I said, it’s very difficult to describe what happened in words.  They simply do not do the experience justice.

        I’m not focused on the correct definition, however.  At the time and for very long afterwards I had no idea there was a word for it.  I was (and am) just awed by the whole thing.

        • judeen

          the feeling of “aw” is scripture.. when expereincing God sometimes that is all one can say for a long time . AW

      • LizEst

        Good definition Becky.  Thank you.

        God can touch even the most hardened sinner, even in the deepest of ways.  It’s not usual.  But, it does happen.

        • judeen

          Yes  even when they are just getting to know who Jesus is…. God can touch and heal them… leaving a mark of love on their soul

      • judeen

        no, they are not illusions. when they go with scripture of the day.. and even with events… or scripture readings you get and they all talk about the same subject. no one can do that.  or even the prayers of the mass that the preist says and no one else gets… the smells of incecese or crisiom or lights around people are not from peoples head either. or seeing of angles. it is all real… and there is usually comformation with it…. test all things

    • judeen

      your souls were talking to God… and you will find out when it is time to use what He told you…all of a sudden you will know… or do it…  1 wishes that one could hear, but we are not ready for it.. it might scare us.. our emotions not yet pure , I do not know… but it is a conversation between you and God

    • Becky313

      Another thought…. http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/dictionary/index.cfm?id=35701

      Have you read anything by St. Teresa of Avila or St. John of the Cross? 

  • City Kitty

    Ah, the problem for us in this society at this time is SILENCE.  You say, but we isolate ourselves from each other with computers in our laps, ear buds in our ears and eyeballs glued to screens.  Yes, we are silent to EACH OTHER, but do we shut out GOD in the process?  Do those ear buds also keep us from hearing the Voice that will lead us to peace and growth?  Or are we so afraid of the Voice that we use these electronic gadgets to isolate ourselves from Him?  Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen wrote about that at lenght in the 1950s.  Sadly, it’s more true today.

    • Becky313

      “I will fill the universe with noise!”

      Satan in “The Screwtape Letters” – C.S. Lewis

      • LizEst

         Excellent quote.  Thank you Becky313.

    • JRKH

       Great stuff and so very true.  Yet – Not all noise is necessarily disruptive.  I have actually had some very good contemplative periods while on my riding lawn mower.  The noise simply became “white noise” and did not interfere at all.  In fact, one day I received a very clear and distinct “answer/message” in answer to something that I had been praying and pondering over.
      I guess what I am suggesting is that while, yes “noise” is a problem in today’s world, it is noise that we “invite in” so to speak.  Noise that we allow and even desire.  If we endeavor to reject the noise, it may become like the sound of that lawn-mower…Just background “hubbub” with no effect on our inner peace. 
      Of course – easier said than done..;-)

      • JoFlemings

        Oh! On the riding lawnmower! This is really funny and so beautiful at the same time! I think the exterior noise and distractions that contribute to interior noise  are the problem, like you said here about background hubub. 
        But I wonder how much we also might need even more actual silence. I once was in the desert in Saudia Arabia- and there it truly is totally quiet- amazing. I wonder if it is almost impossible to not hear God there….

        • JRKH

           Jo,
          I think we can agree that we need both.  True deep silence will likely be the most beneficial, but it does not prepare us for those times when “noise” is unavoidable.  The ability to remain calm and at peace amid the hub-bub is, I think, nearly as important – perhaps even more so as people are more likely to see the deep strength of faith at these times. 
          But in any event – the mower story certainly illustrates that “background noise” is no barrier to God’s talking to us. 

          • LizEst

             God can break through any barrier.

        • judeen

           i live beside a train track.. where you can not hear the person next to you when out side… it doesnt matter… how quiet it is,,, God shuts out everything…  in conteplation.. in church 1 has to be tapped on the shoulder , so you know to move over… you dont know if any is by you or not… I sing the our father as sweet as I can while on my computer playing cards..(spiritual  roses, perfumns.come ) ..while loud  trains going by… and I am singing out loud , tv in the next room loud… it is what is in your heart… your love… if your really mean it…

      • LizEst

        The out-of-doors is a great place to hear God.  I also had a very deep experience mowing one day.  God makes use of many and different things to move us.  Yet, JoFlemings is right.  Total silence is even better.  We have so little of that these days.

        You should here me quoting scripture while pulling up weeds, “Tend this vine” (Ps 80:15c) meaning, at one and the same time, the weedy vine I am pulling out and, also, the vine (the Church) he has planted.  I imagine that the Lord, perhaps, might smile…if he doesn’t, I haven’t heard!  Ha!

        • judeen

          many saints had a garden , as they pulled weeds they offered it up to God as a offering for souls… ect… He hears every little prayer and sees all actions…  keep on weeding

          • LizEst

             Great job security there…pulling weeds!  Ha!

          • judeen

            mother cabrini, had a flower garden in honor of the sacred heart.. and others , powerful saints…. and this is what they did…

          • abandon56

            I am missing my gardening (weeding) due to elbow tendonitis.  I’ll have to google Mother Cabrini to read of her garden dedicated to Jesus’ Sacred Heart. Lovely.

      • Becky313

        I totally understand!  These happen to me too……part of my ADD…motion and noise keep parts of my brain engaged so God can speak to my heart.  In my mind and heart I think of these as being aspects of “the sanctity of the present moment” that Jean Pierre de Caussade speaks of so well in “Abandonment to Divine Providence”.  I have them while I’m folding laundry, doing dishes, cooking, driving, etc…..  They are God’s way of showing us that the hum-drum activities of our vocation are holy.

        I wonder though if you hadn’t established a relationship with God through periods of silence before you had experiences of this nature?  I had to learn to hear God through silence and solitude before I began to “see”what was happening ……. I have an intuition that I actually had similar experiences at prior times in my life but passed them off as day-dreaming or something like that.

        God is good!

  • Philipnussbaumer

    Good stuff.  The essence of real life, real surrender & real abundance of life a sacrifice & a crucufixion known fully to only the Master

  • Rowenalitorja

    Contemplative prayer seeks God by prayer and mortification. A loving conversation to God’s call and listening to God.
    It require us to keep our eyes fixed to the Lord, and awareness that we are in the presence of God, an intimate friendship with “Him” by whom we know we are loved.

  • Jennifer

    The contemplative prayer groups at different Catholic churches are too short for me.  Sister Briege McKenna talks about how she sits in front of the Blessed Sacrament for 3 hours.  I make an effort to imitate her.  However, I enjoy the group ‘silence’ period..  so I end up going to either Buddhist group or Self Realisation Fellowship meditation from time to time.  St. Victors in Hollywood is wonderful because it offers Adoration 4 times a week.  It’s THE ONLY CHURCH OPEN ON SATURDAY EVENINGS.  I wish Saint Monica would have something like this.  It would be so much closer to me.

  • SKEEZIX118

    BUT DOES HE SPEAK TO THE SINNER?

    • JoFlemings

      I think He does speak to the sinner- (here I mean by ‘sinner’ the one who is presently rejecting Him), but not in what is described in this passage as contemplative prayer. God is always beckoning the soul- but  there are those who work hard to shut out His voice by giving themselves over to evil. Even then He still calls, woos, and reaches for poor sinners. God does not hold Himself at arm’s length from us because we’re those icky sinner people- we shove Him away from us with all our might, kick Him to the curb, when we prefer the smallness of our wretched, selfward-involution- or sin, to the perfection and expansion into the men and women He created us to be by submission to His love. But that is my opinion- I am not sure it is dogmatically correct.

      • LizEst

         JoFlemings–

        The Spirit blows where He wills.  So, yes, the Spirit can speak as in this passage through contemplative prayer.  But, it’s not usual nor is it usually going to be a constant thing and it does not mean the Spirit will again speak in that way to that person.  Sometimes, God uses this way of reaching into the heart of one who distances himself from God.  St. Teresa de Avila (if memory serves, but it could have been another saint) addressed this in one of her writings because this was a point of debate at that time. 

        For example, the Spirit might touch one who is contemplating nature as nature, or one who is doing yoga, etc, in a way so deep that their life is changed thereafter…following which comes the immediate and continual work of conversion.  Some people have had these “St Paul” experiences, these sudden AND complete conversions.  One way to know if the experience is genuine is if the sinner’s life is FOREVER changed in favor of God. 

        • judeen

          you can pick up bad spirits from yoga… this was explained to me from a exersist… (catholic)

          • LizEst

            My understanding is that your comment on yoga is true.  But, many do not wish to hear it because it is so widespread and so promoted.  Best policy is to stay away from any of that stuff.  Why dabble in such things when the Jesus has the words of everlasting life?

            Here’s a excellent Vatican document on such things:
            http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/interelg/documents/rc_pc_interelg_doc_20030203_new-age_en.html

            May the peace of the Lord be with you.

          • judeen

            people dabble in yoga it is the in thing.. not knowing they are picking up things… it is part of a eastern religon.. too many things we do in everyday life affect us.. and we do not know it… our kids are into too many things that can hurt them we need to get a handle on things

        • judeen

          your right, the Holy Spirit blows where He wills.. nothing that is from God can be controled….we prepare our souls for His presence…. and we believe… ( Jesus talks about miricals being done in our beleif… several places… in the bible) nothing can make Him come to us. bring perfumns.. so on.. it is Gods doing.. we humbly give our selves to Him and love one another respectfully. and yes it is different all the time…and yes we are all touched in different ways… they are gifts.. comunication with God  is important… in some way…. yet in the desert we keep on going and beleiving

    • JRKH

       Most certainly – for God’s Holy Spirit fills the world and “speaks” to us all.  The question is – how many actually listen?
      Think of it like this – you have a classroom full of students.  The teacher at the front speaks to them all, earnestly trying to impart to them that which they need to know.  The students however are going to be a “mixed bag”.  Some sitting near the front, intent and focused on every word of the teacher.  Others, having no interest at all, are seated as far back as possible where they can stare out the window, doodle and do other things to simply pass the time for they have no interest in what the teacher says. 
      So – the teacher speaks – but does the student hear….

      • LizEst

         Great analogy.  Thanks.

      • SKEEZIX118

        THANK YOU FOR YOUR ANSWER.  THE BIGGEST DIFFICULTY IS CONFESSION. I AM SO ASHAMED OF MY SINS. I HAVE NOT BEEN TO CONFESSION IN YEARS.  WHEN I HAVE GONE TO CONFESSION, I COME OUT FEELING JUST AS GUILTY AS WHEN I WENT IN. I WANT SO BAD TO GET BACK ON TRACK. I KNOW HE IS CALLING ME, BUT I AM HAVING A VERY HARD TIME MAKING THAT MOVE. THE OTHER THING THAT PLAGUES ME IS DID I TELL EVERYTHING, DID I LEAVE SOMETHING OUT.  I IMAGINE THAT IS THE WORK OF THE DEVIL. I WANT TO ALSO THANK JO FLEMING FOR HER INPUT.  GOD BLESS YOU ALL.

        • LizEst

           SKEEZIX118–

          Confession:  To make it easier on you to confess, find a priest that you don’t know.  Celebrate the sacrament of confession with him.  The anonymity will help you feel less guilty.  Remember that the priest stands in for Christ.  And, not only has the priest probably “heard it all before” but most priests will think that you are courageous to confess your sins if they are particularly grave.  Who knows, the priest may even become a spiritual director to you!

          Also, once you have recited your sins, always end your confession with “For these sins and all the sins of my past life, I am truly sorry.”  This covers you for anything you may have left out accidentally. 

          So, this is what happens: you bring everything you can think of to confession.  The next time the devil tempts you that you may have left something out, say or think to yourself, “I always say, ‘For these sins and all the sins of my past life, I am truly sorry.’  So, it’s covered!”  And, you do not have to go back and confess something that you discover later you didn’t confess.  With the best of intentions, you confessed all your sins at the time with no intention of omitting or covering up any sin.

          On the other hand, if you PURPOSELY hide a sin in confession, you must go back and confess it AND confess that you hid it.

          Hope that helps.

          • Ramaniew

            Thank you. This is very encouraging

        • JRKH

           New Name has given wonderful advice. 
          I would like to address a couple of things. 
          You are actually quite blessed in recognizing that you are just as guilty when you come out as when you went in.  WE ALL ARE. 
          However – What is added is forgiveness.  It seems this is that you are having trouble accepting – God’s forgiveness.  Such blockage is indeed something that the devil will seize upon and try to drag you down to despair.  So this is the issue that needs addressed and the best way to do that is to defy these feelings and the devil who is encouraging them. 
          Go to confession – not only confess your sins, but also mention to your confessor that you are having this trouble.  He has most likely heard this before and can help you with advice. 
          Hope this helps a bit. 

          • LizEst

            I heartily agree with your advice to mention to your confessor that you are having trouble with the devil tempting you in this way.

          • judeen

            Yes I agree, it could be alot of things… praying for someone.. going to help in this feild.. a curse, a generational curse.. so on ,, the preist will help you. seek the root of it…

          • judeen

            or also masions or witch craft is near.. and seeking a sin… a demon seeking a home…

        • Mary@42

          SKEEZIX118 : Listen to these words spoken by Jesus Christ Himself to Saint Faustina:  ”When you go to Confessionm to this Fountain of Mercy, the Blood and Water which came forth from My Heart always flows down upon your soul…..I Myself act in your soul  ….In the Tribunal of Mercy (the Sacrament of Reconciliation) the greatest miracles take place and are incessantly repeated…..Here the misery of the soul meets the God of Mercy (Diary No.1602) .Come with faith to the feet of My representative……Were a soul like a decaying corpse, so that from a human standpoint, there is no hope of restoration and everything would be already lost, it is not so with God. The miracle of Divine Mercy restores that soul in full.  Oh, how miserable are those who do not take advantage of the miracle of God’s Mercy!(No.1448)…Make your confession before Me.  The person of the Priest is, for me, only a screen.  Never analyse what sort of a Priest it is that I am making use of;  open your soul in confession as you wold to Me, and I will fill it with My light (Diary No.1725)…..

          There you have it, SKEEZIX118: Fom the Mouth of Jesus Christ Himself.  He is waiting for you to heal your soul and restore you to the Glory for which He created You and died for you.

        • Becky313

          You gotta see this!
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZYCp0lc108

          Our Savior’s love for us is tender, endless and always amazing!  He weeps for the pain and suffering our sins bring us….and He longs to take them away.

          Trust in this!  Trust in Him!

          Sending a hug…….and prayers for peace.

          • LizEst

             Great little video (short too)!

            Thank you Becky.

          • judeen

            praise be to God.. preists also have said in the confessional.. I dont know why I am saying this but…. and told me exactaly what I needed to hear… our priest need to be Gods instruments… and follow God

        • judeen

          go behind the screen , your confessing to Jesus.. the preist heard it all before.. a trick the devil uses is guilt.. once forgiven your forgiven… and not remembered. unless you dont try to change.. the devil wants you to not trust God. or feel rotten.. it is a temptation.. talk to the preist about this.. also sit infront of the tabernacle. for a while… close.  if you feel oppressed or sick talk to the preist… explain how you feel.. he will help you ….

      • Becky313

        Great example!

  • Roniopb

    You didn’t post my comment…

    • http://www.rcspiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

      Check the FAQ on our policies.

  • Anna

     we always contemplate what the suffering of JESUS to save our sins and live in these wonderful and challenging world.. 

  • Mary@42

    OK, Dan…here is it again - 
    Contemplative prayer…….how do I experience it?…how can I make my thoughts stop racing every which way except the Centre??? especially when I am before Him in the Blessed Sacrament???? Alright, I have prayed my Intercessory Divine Mercy Chaplets during the 3.00 O’Clock Holy Hour for the various Intentions as an Eucharistic Apostle of the Divine Mercy….now I have this One and a Half Hour before the Holy Mass to listen to Him….. remember who or what Intention I forgot to include in my Holy Hour Prayers, and, oh, pray the Holy Rosary……I then just sit there before Him try as much as I can to empty my head of riotous thoughts and concentrate on just looking at Him……I know, without my being aware whatsoever, that He is now talking to my Heart and Soul……at times I surprisingly succeed in getting a blank mind!!!!!…..all is quiet in the Adoration Chapel……by the time I come to, I have 10 minutes flat to prepare for the Holy Mass

    Did I enter into Contemplative Prayer??? I honestly have no idea……all I know is that I have spent, yet another  wonderful afternoon with Him….and every day, every encounter, is unique, special and quite different from  previous ones…..I know it will be different tomorrow and I await for it with eager anticipation…. now I invite  My Holy Mother to be with me as I assist in the Holy Mass and She will escort me to receive Her Son……then I ask her to intercede for me to Him now that we all together and when He talks to Her, She  passes His sms Messages – and Blessings – into my mind!!!!!! 

    Dan, it is truly a blessing to be old and to know that God accepts this unusual Pattern of Prayer…..otherwise, why does He continue to add days into my life????? He surely loves seeing this old gal still around and striving to keep close to Him……but He has a hard job of lifting me up so often because I keep on falling flat on my – yet unwrinkled face – though I am a few months shy to 74!!!!!!! 

    My beloved on this Blessings-filled Website, believe me,we have a terrific God. And He is determined not to lose any of us.  So hold hands, guys and gals….let us walk together into the Western Horizon into Eternity where He is leading us.