Sunday, July 28, 2013



There is a popular series of commercials for a phone company in which the theme is "It's not complicated."  As Secular Carmelites, we can keep this phrase in mind when discussing the spiritual life and the progress of the soul in prayer.  Although there are volumes upon volumes of books written about this very subject of prayer, (even our Carmelite Doctors of the Church have given us lengthy writings), it is the simple description of prayer from St. Therese of Lisieux, the "Little Flower," and our Holy Mother, St. Teresa of Jesus (Avila), that I would like to share:

Catechism of the Catholic Church (2558):
For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.                        St. Therese of the Child Jesus

The life of St. Therese was not complicated. She lived a simple life in the monastery. She remained faithful to the daily schedule that included simple household tasks of washing, cleaning, cooking, praying, and sleeping. The same things we as Christians do each day.  St. Therese is considered one of the "Greatest Saints of Modern Times" because she cooperated with God's grace to turn these ordinary tasks into extraordinary acts of love for God and neighbor.

St. Teresa of Jesus (Avila) has given us a very simple description of prayer. In fact, this is the description of mystical prayer, or contemplation:

Prayer is a conversation with the One whom we know loves us.                                             St. Teresa of Jesus

In the writings of St. Teresa, especially in the Interior Castle, she describes the soul that progresses to union with God in the Seventh Mansion: the Spiritual Marriage.  She tells us that in these higher mansions, our prayer becomes more simple. If one has previously experienced visions, locutions, raptures, etc. these mystical favors usually cease.  The soul has reached that lofty stage of simple prayer, where one enjoys the peace and abiding presence of God dwelling in his soul.  

Beginners on the road of prayer like to make things complicated for themselves.  They like to write in journals, find numerous spiritual directors, and not pleased or satisfied with one, they roam around looking for another.  They analyze every spiritual movement and experience and dwell on it.  This type of behavior is a far-cry from the humble soul who is sincerely discerning God's action in their soul.  The truly humble soul seeks a wise spiritual director and remains faithful to his direction, even if they receive instruction which is not pleasing to them.  These souls abandon themselves to God in a trustful and childlike manner: a simple soul.

If our prayer is not becoming more simple, there is a problem.  If we are too attached to our novenas and our favorite prayer book, we may experience anxiety when the Lord begins to lead us  from meditation to contemplation.  These things are not needed when the Lord desires our full attention in the gift of contemplation.  In fact, one sign that the Lord is leading the soul from meditation to contemplation is a distaste for using a prayer book, even Lectio Divina may become painful. The soul finds it difficult to use the intellect and the imagination and no longer finds satisfaction in the way it prayed before.

Let us pray that the Holy Spirit make us humble and simple before him.  It's not complicated. All it takes is a simple act of the will to abandon ourselves to his merciful love.

"...For St.Therese there are no barriers before God. At whatever stage of the spiritual life the soul may be, whether still struggling against sin or advancing in the practice of virtue, there is but one thing to do: "to surrender oneself more and more like a child to God's affectionate embrace" by repentance, confidence and love. To love without any thought for self, such is the wonderful simplicity of St. Therese. The soul which treads her "little way" has no other task than to seek that most precious simplicity of a little child, who has no other understanding than to love his Heavenly Father. "
St. Therese Doctor of the Little Way ( Waite Park, MN:Park Press,1997), 9

Peace be with you!
Rosemarie, ocds

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