How often the experience of prayer can be
an exercise in frustration! So many distractions
inside and out fragment our focus and pull
us away from the time we try to spend with
God. With so many things on the go, the idea
of silence and peace can seem so foreign
at times; but even in the midst of all this
clamor, peace is possible.
The founder of the Discalced Carmelites,
St. Teresa of Jesus, teaches us a way
prayer which counters the clamor -
of recollection. "It is called
because the soul collects together
faculties and enters within itself
with its Godů It withdraws the senses
all outward things and spurns them
that, without its understanding how,
eyes close and it cannot see them and
soul's spiritual sight becomes clear."
(The Way of Perfection, 28.4-6)
The heart can master its own distractions.
In giving the distractions no importance
whatsoever in this time set aside for
they have less power to be a hindrance
prayer. They are more easily ignored
them fall away rather than by trying
them away. Imagining them falling away
leaves to the ground is one way of
With distractions minimized, silence
a chance to spill into the void left
heart. Silence is not merely the absence
of noise; silence is a full and palpable
tranquil experience of God's presence
the heart from within. Psalm 46 expresses
this well: "Be still, and know
I am God." (Psalm 46.10)
With a persistent effort and self-forgiving
patience, the practice of remaining
becomes more established and enduring.
remaining in silent attentiveness to
presence in the Tabernacle of the heart
in the quiet setting of a chapel is
way to develop this practice.
A Discalced Carmelite brother of centuries
past, Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection,
offers us this advice: "You are
the only one that is troubled with
thoughts. Our mind is extremely roving;
as the will is mistress of all our
she must recall them, and carry them
as their last endů Hold yourself in
before God, like a dumb or paralytic
at a rich man's gate: let it be your
to keep your mind in the presence of
Lordů One way to re-collect the mind
in the time of prayer, and preserve
in tranquillity, is not to let it wander
too far at other times: you should
strictly in the presence of God."
Practice of the Presence of God, Eighth
This poem describes the practice of
silence in the prayer of recollection.
In deep recesses of the soul,
Where vermin and passion roam free,
Instinct exerts primal control,
Beyond frontiers of sanctity.
In prayer that reaches this frontier,
Strong waves of silence are deployed:
Congealing all as they draw near,
To still the churn and fill the void.
Like artifacts in amber set,
The vermin and passions are stilled:
A profound peace counters their threat;
And, with silence, the void is filled.
The five senses remain alert;
Recollected, yet cognizant.
The heart and mind, remain inert,
Knowing the Lord is not distant.
For the Bridegroom, the soul awaits;
In silence, the soul captivates.
Holy Spirit, teach us the way,
To enclose the depths of the soul
In silence and peace as we pray --
Your tranquil presence fills us whole.
St Teresa Of Jesus, The Way of Perfection
Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection,
of the Presence of God
Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph
(c) Paul Buis, 2005