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Catechism – Contemplative Prayer – 2709

April 5, 2012 by  
Filed under Catechism, Contemplation, Dan Burke, Prayer, Prayer

Contemplative Prayer — Catechism Paragraph 2709

TeresaofAvilaMirror for post on contemplative prayer catechism paragraph 2709What is contemplative prayer? St. Teresa answers: “Contemplative prayer [oración mental] in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us.” Contemplative prayer seeks him “whom my soul loves.” It is Jesus, and in him, the Father. We seek him, because to desire him is always the beginning of love, and we seek him in that pure faith which causes us to be born of him and to live in him. In this inner prayer we can still meditate, but our attention is fixed on the Lord himself.


This quote is from St. Teresa of Jesus, The Book of Her Life, 8, 5, in The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, tr. K. Kavanaugh, OCD, and O. Rodriguez, OCD (Washington DC: Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1976, Volume I, 67.


Art for this post on contemplative prayer found in Catechism paragraph 2709 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: Mirror of Teresa of Avila, Peter Paul Rubens, 1615, PD-US copyright expired, Wikimedia Commons.

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio - Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep, Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux, and his newest book The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • jdobbinsPHD

    If contemplative prayer is seeking Him whom my soul loves, what does one do to learn how to love God? I see this as a huge gap in the development of Catholic life and Catholic spirituality among the laity. We teach people how to worship, how to pray, what is right and wrong, but we never teach people – young or old – how to love the God we cannot see and touch and hold, and what that love is like compared to loving our mother or friend or spouse or child. Isn’t contemplative prayer empty until we can get to that point?

    • Dear Friend: This is a great question and worthy of a longer answer. A good book on this subject is entitled, “On Loving God” by St. Bernard of Clairvaux. Another key point is that “contemplative prayer” is not a prayer that we can create or enter into as an act of our will alone. Contemplation is infused by God with His love and presence – therefore it is never empty (though it is sometimes imperceptible). If you email me your question at I will put it in the queue. Blessed Easter to you and yours.

      • Reginacarmelitas

        How does one experience contemplative prayer? How does one prepare to receive this grace? What are the steps involved in this process?
        Thank you and I look forward to your reply.

        • Dear Friend – these three very good questions have required thousands of pages to answer. The beginning point is very different for each person. You should begin with “Prayer Primer” by Fr. Thomas Dubay… and then look at our recommended resources page for more resources.

    • Sojrnr


      Frank Seed, in his book Theology and Sanity, tells us that if we would love God and enjoy intimacy with Him we must seek to know Him more and more. Sheed’s book addresses both natural and revealed theology and is an amazing guide to deeper knowledge of God. Sheed points out that the essence of love is in the constant desire and striving to know the beloved more and more. God ineffable, He is infinite and it will take all of eternity (plus) to know Him. Sheed advises that we get started in this life.

      Sheed suggests reading and prayer should be a union–scripture, theology, philosophy, poetry and science all provide a treasury of thought, ideas, etc.
      I highly recommend the book. Its worth reading if for no other reason because of Sheed’s explanation of the Trinity.

    • Kpurpera

      To know God is to love God. Begin by knowing Him. Read and meditate on the gospels. Call upon the Holy Spirit to enlighten you to God’s great love. It will stir within the soul a desire to return His love with love……

    • Verdina

      There are some great suggestions here; but, for me, I first felt that love from God during a Christ Renews His Parish retreat. After that, I knew I had been given a most wonderful gift and looked for ways to share it. Cursillo strengthened my love for God and helped me find ways to love Him back through those I meet every day.

    • Miss Kitty

      You hit the nail on the head. That is an absolutly on point comment and question. However, as an Episcopalian, I can tell you that other denominations don’t teach us how to love God either. They simply command us to do so.

    • Reginacarmelitas

      Excellent point! Indeed, how can we honestly say we love God whom we cannot see if we do not love our neighbor who we can see. The point is we ought to pray, we ought to be active contemplatives. But unless we have a personal relationship with Jesus which is reflected in how we treat others then we really are missing the point of contemplative prayer. To love God is to love our neighbor also. We have to seek the face of Christ in everyone — this does not men that we should seek His perfection in other people. What this means is that we should avoid being judgmental and critical of others, remembering what Jesus said that whatever we have done o the least of our brethren we have done to Him also. And when people are unkind to us or just plain mean, we recall the words of Jesus: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.”

  • jcdean1010

    This question, what does one do to learn how to love God, might be arising from our human view of “love” as a warm fuzzy feeling.  Jesus taught us that if we love Him, we keep His commandments.  So that would be how we both show and grow our love for God, perhaps.  It can be compared to loving my husband when I do what he asks even when I’d rather not, or taking care of a sick child when I’m exhausted myself.  It doesn’t feel very fuzzy but it’s definitely loving that person.  And by doing these things, I do experience, over time, a growth of love toward that person.  I also understand that God sometimes grants us a grace of warm feelings toward Him or His Truth, or His Beauty, or His Goodness, but these warm feelings are not the sign of how much we love Him, and are often withheld from those to whom God has moved especially close, so that they may love Him for Himself, as far as we can in this mortal state.  I think that loving God is not easy, but actions speak louder than words.  Besides, it’s really a major thing to come to the realization that not only does He want our love, He actually loves US immeasurably!  That’s really a challenge to absorb.  God bless!

  • Gigi Tavanlar

    On the question of how to love God you have to know, and experience  
    His great love for you and having these you will desire to please Him, to love Him in return and to obey His will.

  • Marian Gomboc

    Just to spend time with Thee my Jesus, to whisper thy most Holy Name, to breathe in deeply of your Holy Spirit, to know your presence deep within my soul, myself revealed and once again Thy Mercy felt,
    Awake my soul and sing, you are my everything, you are so beautiful to me.

  • Ramaniew

    Contemplative prayer is wonderful specially in front of the Blessed Sarcrament. Specially the hour of Adoration. You feel the peace and love of our Saviour

  • Ttdavidjohn

    It is love beyond what we know. His love is all.

  • Christine Chateh

    And this is all He asks of us. On that Thursday night He told His disciple Simon in Mark 14:37 “Could you not keep watch for one hour?”

  • $1650412

    I understand why Jdobbins asks about loving God- and my first instinctive response is to recount what Jesus said, “If you love me you will obey my commands.” So, I think for me, this is a loaded question and first and foremost we have to take it in hand not to judge others as we evaluate the meaning for ourselves. (I have to make that a mental priority for myself.) Then I can honestly tell you very simply that I find re-reading Fr. Lovasik’s children’s book on The Ten Commandments is a really great refresher and conscience examen for any who think, like the rich young ruler, they are actually hitting the target center on keeping Christ’s commands. 
    Beyond that there is the path of invitation to a more intimate relationship with Jesus, and that includes becoming united to Him sometimes heroically through some unique means that only the one invited one can fulfill. I can think of a few ways this might manifest- adopting a child, having one more baby, entering a religious order, training for the diaconate, going to the mission field, or on a different scale offering one’s suffering for the salvation of souls, and asking for an increase in those opportunities; changing careers to serve the Church, etc. 
    There are a zillion ways this might work itself out from the really big things listed here, to the smile at the grocery check-out, or slowing down to let someone merge without stress on the highway- alot of this has to do with rectitude of intent. It is like a two-sided coin, we need to obey the law of God, to know God’s will and do it, and then to be aware of how we can show Him love in small and great acts as we are ‘obeying the law’ in loving our neighbor as ourselves.  It can be very personal and very objective at the same time-Of course living this out in Jesus only becomes authentic if and when it does spring from a committed and engaged relationship with Him fostered by the discipline and spontaneous longing of the soul in prayer. And again, mostly I reiterate this for myself- it is imperative that we are patient with the work of God in the lives and loves of others…making every attempt to commend them to Him and to be a gentle influence for good.
    If you are wondering how that is working our for me, I can only say, “Thank you Jesus for the sacrament of Reconciliation!”

  • My simple way of knowing I am connected with God is to pray to Him every morning to grant me the Grace to discern His Will and the strength to “walk that path”. My most peaceful time is when I sit in Jesus’ presence during the 3.00 O’Clock, The Hour of Great Mercy and let my mind focus on His Presence as I prepare for the evening Holy Mass and Holy Communion…..Contemplation????? as I said elsewhere, sitting at my Laptop during the day, talking to Him through the Divine Mercy Image on my Desk makes me know I am not alone and I am not talking to myself!!!!!!! He is listening….and at times, He responds by sending me Inspirations……it is great being old…..God is always at your side.

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