Thursday, July 05, 2012


It is a gift to be simple...

There is perhaps no more difficult and delicate task for the director than the guidance of Christians called to a life of interior prayer.  This is rendered all the more arduous by the fact that there is so much pious nonsense written, printed, and said, about 'mystics,' 'victim souls' and other such categories...  The whole problem comes from the inordinate reflection upon self that is generated by the consciousness of 'degrees of prayer' and steps on the 'mountain of love.' ... What possible good can be done for a monk by deciding whether or not his contemplation is 'infused'? - Merton, Spiritual Direction and Meditation

Photo: Ken at Hallowed Ground


  1. The tendency to categorize and analyse the various degrees of prayer seems to me to be one of the less happy fruits of the scholastic approach to the interior life which evolved after Trent. Scholasticism just can't resist the temptation to distinguish and analyse and label even the most mysterious and ineffable aspects of the faith. I recently saw a video in which a rather earnest young man visited various Orthodox hermits in Romania asking them "how do I pray the Jesus Prayer?" Their somewhat blunt answer seemed to be: stop theorizing, stop analysing, stop looking for methods, just get on and pray. Merton famously said that St Silouan the Athonite was the most authentic monk of the 20th Century, and Silouan would certainly have endorsed the "less analysing, more praying" approach.

  2. Thanks Mark - I agree of course. I have to find my book on Silouan - I misplaced it. I love Merton's short little works like the book I cite here. When I was younger I was very much caught up in the things Merton speaks about here, and I thought he was too stark too 'modern' to appreciate such piety - although I'd never admit I felt that way. It is a great grace to get older and have everything you thought you had acquired taken away from you.

    Yes, just pray as you can, honestly, realistically, constantly and deeply.

  3. Fr. Richard6:53 AM


    I agree with the basic premise of what you are saying, but it doesn't hurt to have a basic understanding of the roadmap, of the purgative, illuminative and unitive ways of the spirituul life as laid out by great spiritual authors like Fr. Thomas Dubay, Fr. Reginald Garrigou La-Grange, Fr. Benedict Groeschel and the saints, in particular, St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross- because if you don't have a basic understanding of how the God wants to lead us then you are more likely to fall into some common spiritual pitfalls; of course the flip side is if you overthink or overanalyze that objective road map it can lead to spiritual pride or even stuntedness. God bless.

    1. Thanks Father - you are correct of course.


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