Friday, October 16, 2009


I am not qualified to write about anything theological. I am neither a theologian nor a religious. Nor am I learned in the ways of God. (I wish!) I am writing only in obedience to a perceived prompting. If I am wrong, then I will be writing nonsense. If I am right, then perhaps I will write something of value to someone.

My knowledge of prayer has grown in the few years since I became a believer and converted to Catholicism. I now understand that most theologians consider that facility in "ordinary" prayer said aloud or silently (repentance, petition, thanksgiving, and praise) precedes the development of meditation which precedes the development of contemplation. In other words, over a long period of time we work toward ever greater intimacy with God in our prayer life. Weird (and perhaps unbelievable) as it may be, my prayer life began with contemplation – two full weeks of nearly nonstop contemplation, actually, thrust upon me. That was all I knew about prayer until I joined the Catholic Church and learned that most other people’s experiences with prayer significantly differed from mine. Well, that’s God for you. He does not necessarily feel bound to follow any particular rules or to interact with two different people in the same way.

Perhaps because I began with contemplation, I am most comfortable with that form of prayer. I have never been able to learn how to meditate, and perhaps that really is not necessary, given that it is considered a step toward contemplation. I have learned the more ordinary forms of prayer, but even now, given the passage of more than three years (yeah, I know, not much in the grander scheme of things), I prefer to “be still” with God and let God direct the communication (that communication is much wiser and more satisfying). When I don’t, when I start chattering away, I sometimes feel a divine finger against my lips, and of course I immediately hush so that a communication of greater value can transpire.

Recently, I joined a contemplative prayer group that meets once a month. It is directed by a priest (yes, another priest in my priest-panoplied life – they each seem to bring something different and important, and I would not give up a relationship with any of them). At one meeting, however, the contemplative prayer priest was not present, but someone quite special was: a homeless-looking lady whom we all initially thought had wandered into our meeting by mistake, who later revealed to me in a paired discussion that she was dying of cancer, took on the features of Christ during our contemplative prayer (I suppose she was simply reflecting that God-seed that is in all of us), and then walked out (whispering to me to pray for her).

As I said in the beginning, I am the last person who should be writing about prayer. I am not wise. I am not a long-time believer. I am not a theologian or otherwise educated in religious matters. I know little more than what I learn through direct experience, reading (e.g., Authenticity by Fr. Dubay, the works of St. Theresa of Avila, and the Book of Privy Counseling), research, interactions with other believers, formation for my upcoming profession in the Secular Franciscan Order, and preparatory study as a catechist teaching questioning teenagers. Taken all together, it is only a minute fraction of what I would like to know, of what I thirst to learn. So, being in such a great state of unknowing, is it any wonder that contemplative prayer would appeal to me more than any other kind of prayer? It is through contemplative prayer that God can teach me the most, through union (even when it is only partial -- whatever God deigns at a given moment to gift me with) that I can develop a more perfect trust, through an accompanying directiveness that I can sense what I am supposed to understand and feel, through a washing in love that I can accept who I am with all my imperfections, through implanted thought that I can learn lessons and receive taskings, and through the Divine Presence wrapped around me that I can release all my stress and worries into Him and gather into myself a reservoir of love that I can splash onto others as needed later. Contemplative prayer starts my day and ends my day. If only I could spend the entire day in it! During the day, I resort to ordinary prayer, and that tides me over until the evening surf throws me on the shore at God’s feet and I can once again rest in His being.

What has been your experience? What is your understanding of such matters? Let's learn from each other.


  1. What a wonderful experience you've had! St. Teresa of Avila experienced Contemplation much like you did, very early on.

    You are correct about meditation as well, as we read in The Cloud of Unknowing, Mediation is to be ignored, put asunder, regardless of the beauty that is shown us.

    Unfortunately, most Moderns view Contemplation as climbing into a Lotus Position and contemplating your navel. This beautiful form of prayer is also being lost in many of our Convents as sisters become more increasingly embroiled in Reiki and the worship of Mother Earth rather than oneness with God.

    I love this site!

    Pax Et Bonum!

  2. Thank you, Fra Giles. Your comments are helpfully elucidative.

    I must have skipped over that comment on meditation on The Cloud of Unknowing. Time to read it again! I have bored through so much so fast that I am sure much deserves to be re-read.

    I love the works of St. Theresa of Avila. She is my favorite saint (even more so than St. Francis even though I have chosen the Franciscan third order, or, as it seems to be, I was thrust into the third order as God seems to do now with much of my life -- because I let Him and I love His attention to me and to others through me). St. Theresa's works were a salvation for my sanity early on when I had no clue what was happening to me. They also gave me the courage to share these with an elderly local Franciscan priest to whom I now take my serious dilemmas and what others might consider "unreal/unbelievable" encounters for a check of authenticity. (I also once wrote to Fr. Thomas Dubay, who writes such wonderful books, including my favorite, "Authenticity," and he wrote back immediately and generally confirming that what was happening was indeed in the realm of possibility.) You see, I don't trust my own sense of things completely. I am not sure that I should. I think God has deliberately put in my path the people who can help me sort out His intentions: experienced priests, devoted sisters of a very traditional bent, the priest, members a traditional parish where confession is considered core to the Catholic life, and an entire town of believers (there are probably some exceptions but I have not met them).

    As for my contemplating my navel, it's pretty boring, and my granddaughter, having been born in pieces and wide open from chest down, does not have one -- so navel-contemplating were to be important, God would have to fix her up with a navel! :) Reiki? I don't know what that is, but I am happy just having God as the center of my life. I don't need anything else. I am sorry to hear that some of God's very own people may be missing out on the very best that God has to offer us: Himself and His presence.

    Welcome to this site -- and thank you again for your comments. I love them!

  3. I think the most incredible and beautiful miracle in the world is the moment a person discovers exactly where God wants them to be... and exactly who God created them to be.

    I've been a mystic my whole life, which was neither fashionable nor acceptable to talk about most of the time. I'm a follower of no particular church... it wasn't God's choice for me, although it took me a long time to understand or accept that!

    Easierst summed up by your own words...

    "Well, that’s God for you. He does not necessarily feel bound to follow any particular rules or to interact with two different people in the same way."

    Exactly! :-)

  4. Thanks, Michele. The things I write about and will write about here, are not particularly accepted by the mainstream. Hence, I originally put up the blog as an invitation-only site, then decided to open it up and let the mystics find it and the others, as they would probably prefer, ignore it. I have left the comments unmoderated since that gives me a better sense of the sentiments out there, but so far few have wandered over here. The blog title is probably enough to dissuade most. Those who come are, to me, special people whose opinions and thoughts I am grateful to have for they understand my experiences, have their own experiences, and can help me and each other sort through the nebulosity of mysticism and what God is saying/meaning to us. Thanks for speaking up!

  5. :-) I have unmoderated comments on my blog for a similar reason.

    There's a blog I read now and then you might find interesting - It's written by a group of Blackfriars. They're posts are always interesting and thought-provoking.

  6. Thanks, Michelle. I will check it out.