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Catechism – Contemplative Prayer – 2710

April 12, 2012 by  
Filed under Catechism, Contemplation, Dan Burke, Prayer, Prayer

Contemplative Prayer — Catechism Paragraph 2710

John of the Cross 4The choice of the time and duration of the prayer arises from a determined will, revealing the secrets of the heart. One does not undertake contemplative prayer only when one has the time: one makes time for the Lord, with the firm determination not to give up, no matter what trials and dryness one may encounter. One cannot always meditate, but one can always enter into inner prayer, independently of the conditions of health, work, or emotional state. The heart is the place of this quest and encounter, in poverty and in faith.



“A catechism should faithfully and systematically present the teaching of Sacred Scripture, the living Tradition of the Church and the authentic Magisterium, as well as the spiritual heritage of the Fathers and the Church's saints, to allow for a better knowledge of the Christian mystery and for enlivening the faith of the People of God. It should take into account the doctrinal statements which down the centuries the Holy Spirit has intimated to his Church. It should also help illumine with the light of faith the new situations and problems which had not yet emerged in the past…the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the one hand repeats the old, traditional order already followed by the Catechism of St Pius V, arranging the material in four parts: the Creed, the Sacred Liturgy, with pride of place given to the sacraments, the Christian way of life, explained beginning with the Ten Commandments, and finally, Christian prayer. At the same time, however, the contents are often expressed in a new way in order to respond to the questions of our age. ”  (Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum on the Publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church Prepared following the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, 11 October 1992)

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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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  • LizEst


  • H

    Pray always!

  • Dkwilde98

    As a mother of eight this is reassuring to read! Christ is so amazing and meets us where we’re at. When we offer the tiniest acts throughout the day into little prayers at times He knows thats all we are capable of doing. Ephesians 6:18 with all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the spirit”

  • SalvatoreButtaci

    My wife and I pray the rosary daily, right after reading selections from the Bible. It keeps us connected with Christ and his mission. The same God Who inspired the Bible can inspire each of us everyday.

  • judeen

    oh Lord I love you, guide me in this work I do,, be with me as I fumble around in my life… make me firm is what is good.. give me a chance ot touch a heart.. or be kind where there is no kindness, … peace in the bussiness of the day… understanding where anger and hatred are, bringing love and help , to love those who forgot what love is…

  • Judykallmeyer15

    It seems not to be important that one succeed at contemplation, which is, after all, a gift from God, but rather that one be present to God and open to His leadings and promptings. Meditation has been extremely difficult for me lately and I have been avoiding it. I see that I must make myself present even if it means sitting in silence and even emptiness for as long as He wants.

  • Mary Harris

    St. Teresa of Avila calls this acquired contemplation “The Prayer of Recollection” in her Way of Perfection, Chapter 29. She states, “This recollection is not something supernatural, but it is something we can desire and achieve ourselves with the help of God–for without this help we can do nothing, not even have a good thought. This recollection is not a silence of the faculties; it is an enclosure of the faculties within the soul.”

    • Dear Mary – my apologies for being overly technical here – but a great deal of confusion abounds regarding true contemplation. At CSD we attempt to adhere to the Carmelite tradition on these matters because the Church seems to lean that way as well, and I feel it is much more clear on the matter. As such, I am not aware of any passage in St. John of the Cross or St. Teresa of Avila’s writings where contemplation is ever spoken of as “acquired.” I am certain that the phrase “acquired contemplation” does not appear in The Interior Castle, The Ascent of Mount Carmel, or Dark Night of the Soul. For Sts John and Teresa, contemplation is always infused (something we can prepare for, but not achieve without a special work of God). That said, St. Teresa’s description in the portion you quote is rightly spoken of as an acquired recollection. She speaks of prayer that one achieves through self-discipline and practice (with the help of the Holy Spirit of course). In my mind, acquired recollection is not the subject of Catechism #2710. Let me know if you disagree – also, if you find a passage in their writings that seems to disagree with what I have said here, I would be grateful for the correction – we are always learning!

      • Mary Harris

        Dear Dan,
        Thank you for your lengthy and thoughtful response. I agree that “a great deal of confusion abounds regarding true contemplation.” And you are correct in saying that the phrase “acquired contemplation” does not appear in the writings of St. Teresa or St. John of the Cross even though, I believe, they have described this stage of prayer that can  lead up to infused contemplation. I guess I have latched on to this phrase because it clarifies for me what many books on prayer loosely call “contemplation” today. One source that identifies St. Teresa’s “Prayer of Recollection” as acquired contemplation is Fr. Jordan Auman, O.P. in an article entitled “St. Teresa’s Teachings on the Grades of Prayer.” He states: “This acquired recollection will be called by various names: prayer of simplicity, prayer of simple regard, acquired contemplation and loving awareness of God.”

        In regard to Catechism #2710, it seems to me that this paragraph does not refer to a passive, infused prayer but an active, acquired habit of withdrawing from the exterior world and entering the inner sanctuary of one’s own soul–similar to what St. Teresa describes in Chapters 28 and 29 of The Way of Perfection as the “Prayer of [Active] Recollection.” However,in the 4th dwelling of The Interior Castle, the transition dwelling, she describes the “Prayer of [Infused] Recollection”–pure gift from God.  Just my observations!

        May God bless you and all the good work you are doing for the Lord!

        • Excellent response!

          • Mary – would you mind sending me an email to rcspiritualdirection@gmail:disqus .com?

      • Becky Ward

        Also good to note that some translations are not a good reflection of the saint’s meaning. I’m just learning this……..

  • Laurie

    The way I view contemplative prayer is that it is not something distinct and separate from the ordinary activity you are engaged in, whether happy, sad, anxious or tranquil…(unless it is sinful activity, because that naturally disqualifies contemplative prayer). It occurs when your life becomes a prayer, when the heart continually is centered on God… Being naturally tuned-in to the one you love …adoring, loving, petitioning, thanking, praising, and serving. You will recognize contemplative prayer by its fruit…. love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.(Galatians 5:22-23) This does not mean that the circumstances surrounding you are always order and bliss. It also does not mean that one is perfect in each of these fruits all the time. We are fallible human beings. We have recourse to reconciliation.

    In order to pass through the door to contemplative prayer so that one’s life becomes prayer in the interior heart, it is necessary to make time for God, to SEEK him….to pray, to read his word, to receive the Sacraments (all these things that are means of grace).  He is always asking you the same question he asked Peter, “Do you love me?” He thirsts for your love, for your engagement with him. Contemplative prayer requires detachment from the world and all that it offers to the senses as a false means to happiness. It does not mean we are not engaged in the world or do not enjoy many things in life, it simply means we are detached from them because we understand that all is fleeting, temporary and passing away. 

  • Tmvincik

    That was so beautifully said Fr.  We need that time always with Jesus!!  God Bless you,

  • Robertmarkcarlson5599

    Thank you God for being there through the last two years of uncertainty!! You are awesome!!

  • Cynthia

    Dear Dan, This came to me in God’s perfect time! Much needed encouragement. Thanks so much for listening to His prompting…

  • Voyageklg

    How do I inspire my will? My heart says, “Yes” but my will wants to have it his own way. Uhg!

    • Great question! It depends on the phase of your journey… Worthy of a post.

      • The Church recommends meditation on the four last things – death, judgement, heaven, and hell. These can be very motivating!

  • Thank you, Dan for this Post and especially this extract : ”
    One cannot always meditate, but one can always enter into inner prayer, independently of the conditions of health, work, or emotional state. The heart is the place of this quest and encounter, in poverty and in faith.”

    Reading the Responses below, I feel
    too sad I have not read from these Great Doctors and Fathers of the Holy Church and  other learned Theologians except one Book by Teresa of Avila which I read a long, long time ago!!!! But I have found  my simple way of “talking to Jesus about anything and everything” during the day keeps me focused on God. Also, keeping Him company at the 3.00 O’Clock – the  Hour of Great Mercy – in the Blessed Sacrament is very special to me.  After  praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet for various intentions as required of Eucharistic Apostles of the Divine Mercy during the Holy Hour, I just sit quietly before Him for another Hour before the Holy Mass….I do not know whether  this can be called “contemplative prayer.” ……but it is just the simple way which keeps this old lady connected to God.  Despite the fact that she falls and offends Him very often she does not give up but strives each day to discern His Will and pray for His Grace to fulfill  it.

  • Rowenalitorja

    I do agree with this explanation,a determined will is a commitment to our Lord, we belongs to Him and we will go back to Him..


  • Brothfusz

    Never thought of it that way, but now that you mention it, I often do experience contemplation without meditation. Thanks for this revelation.

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