“Contemplation is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No 2715).
Contemplation is the prayer of the heart and not of the mind. Contemplative prayer may focus on a word or a saying or one may simply be in the presence of God. It is the prayer of the listening heart. The goal of contemplative prayer is to enter into the presence of God where there are no words, concepts or images. It is the prayer of being in love.
HOW: Before the Blessed Sacrament – sit or kneel. Gaze into the Tabernacle or look into the Monstrance. Be still. Focus on your breathing. Ask Mary to help you to pray. Pray to the Holy Spirit. Then peacefully repeat a word or a phrase: ‘Jesus; Jesus I love you; Jesus I trust in you; Father; Father, into your hands I commend my spirit’, etc. Don’t continue to repeat the word or the words over and over again. Only use the word or the phrase when your mind begins to wander. Focus your gaze on the Eucharist. Be open to whatever Jesus is asking of you.
At home – sit or kneel. Close your eyes. Again, be still and focus on your breathing. Ask Mary to help you to pray. Pray to the Holy Spirit. As before, repeat a word or a phrase, rooted in the scripture, the creed, a prayer or an aspect of our Christian faith. Do not repeat the word or words over and over again. Remember to use the word only when your mind begins to wander. Focus your gaze on the loving presence of God within you. If you begin to feel embraced by God, be still and be silent. Just allow the Holy Spirit to pray within you.
Jesuit Father William Johnston who has written much about contemplative prayer said: “Properly understood, contemplation shakes the universe, topples the powers of evil, builds a great society and opens the doors that lead to eternal life”.
What are the practical steps that we can take in order to incorporate into our busy lives daily contemplative prayer?
- First of all, we need balance in our lives. When was the last time that we enjoyed dinner with family and friends, or turned off our cell phone and refrained from checking our email at every moment? Excessive work and travel, excessive involvement in sports and entertainment are tearing us apart.
- Secondly, contemplation requires the capacity to be alone. It is difficult to be alone in our contemporary society. Even when we are alone, the noise of our own worries and fears drown out the silence of God’s voice. Many people are incapable of being alone and they immediately feel an obsession to talk with someone on a cell phone or check their email.
- We all need moments of solitude. Spending a quiet time before the Eucharist, reading the Scriptures during a peaceful moment at home, taking tranquil walks through the woods or along the beach all are necessary for our soul. In order to be with God, we must develop the ability to be alone with ourselves.
Excerpt from Fr James Farfaglia’s Homily on Contemplative Prayer
“The only trouble is that in the spiritual life there are no tricks and no shortcuts. Those who imagine that they can discover spiritual gimmicks and put them to work for themselves usually ignore God’s will and his grace.”
“We do not want to be beginners. But let us be convinced of the fact that we will never be anything else but beginners, all our life!”
“Hence monastic prayer, especially meditation and contemplative prayer, is not so much a way to find God as a way of resting in Him whom we have found, who loves us, who is near to us, who comes to us to draw us to Himself.”
― Thomas Merton, Contemplative Prayer