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The Silence of Detachment (Part III of III)

August 31, 2015 by  
Filed under Connie Rossini, Prayer, Silence

The Silence of Detachment
Part III of III

This post is the third in a series on whether we should sit quietly during prayer. Part 1 was about the false silence of Centering Prayer and yoga. Part 2 discussed Teresa of Avila’s teaching on prayer and silence. Today, I’d like to talk briefly about the silence of detachment.

If we want God to enter our lives in a significant way, we must make room for Him. He never forces Himself on anyone. Counterfeit spiritual silence can exist alongside mortal sin. But sin is incompatible with union with God. The writer to the Hebrews urges us:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:1-2)

MirrorOfAntonEbertMutterMitKindAmFensterNotice, we have two types of burdens to get rid of, sin and “every weight.”  To grow closer to God, we must first work to avoid mortal sin and its near occasion. Then we tackle venial sin and its occasion. But even when we are doing our best to avoid venial sin, we still have “stuff” in between us and God.

Think of your heart as an attic. If you invite God to dine with you there, how much stuff do you have to remove first? You must make room for a table and chairs, and make a path to walk in. And then, you’ll want to get rid of all the junk that might embarrass you before your Divine Guest. My kids often complain when we have to clean the house to prepare for guests. I tell them that having a clean house is a sign that we honor our guests. The same is true with God.

Now, of course, there are some “messes” that are so bad only God Himself can remove them, some stains He must scrub out. But if we want His help, we must do our part.

Saint Teresa of Avila writes:

“The whole point is that we should give ourselves to Him with complete determination, and we should empty the soul in such a way that He can restore things there or take them away as though it were His own property… He doesn’t give Himself completely until we give ourselves completely.” (Way of Perfection, Ch. 28, 12)

HaroldCoppingJesusAtTheHomeOfMarthaAndMary400The key, then, to the silence that is necessary for union with God is not a lack of thoughts, but a lack of attachment to anything other than God.

Who can argue that it is usually easier to pray when we are not preoccupied with our worries, duties, and possessions? When I am continually distracted by the same thing in prayer, I ask myself whether I have surrendered it to God. If He is truly in charge of it, then I need not worry about it. Sometimes I imagine myself laying certain cares at our Lord’s feet as I begin to pray. Then I can (theoretically) focus on Him.

The silence of detachment takes hard work–usually years of it. But if we “look to Jesus,” we will know that the goal is worth the effort.

Art: Mirror of Mutter mit Kind am Fenster (Mother with Child at the Window), Anton Ebert, by 1896; Jesus at the house of Mary and Martha, Harold Copping, 1927; both PD-US copyright expired, Wikimedia Commons.

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About Connie Rossini

Connie Rossini gives whole families practical help to grow in holiness. She is the author of several books, including "Trusting God with St. Thérèse". Besides her blog Contemplative Homeschool, she has started a new site discussing errors concerning prayer, named after her book Is Centering Prayer Catholic? She has written a spirituality column for the diocesan press for nearly ten years.

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  • RobinJeanne

    I know deep in my heart, if I clear the physical clutter in my house, my interior room will be more peaceful, a more suitable place for the Lord work and He and I can clear the clutter from my heart together with Him leading the way.
    Thank you for this article.

    • Linda

      Hahaha, Robin! I’m so glad you wrote that about the physical clutter in your house! You probably know that St. Teresa herself said, “Show me your house and I’ll show you your soul”! Ouch!

      One of my main struggles is with cleaning my house–and it sure as heck reflects my soul, even though it pains me to admit it. Thanks for reminding me! God bless!

      • RobinJeanne

        Ouch is right….. we are not alone.

  • Lynn Loring

    One way I combat distractions is to pray for that person or situation even if my own concern. I literally put a smile on my inner face knowing that all my mind or the thoughts from the evil one are increasing prayer rather than decreasing. They usually stop haha

    • LizEst

      So true. The devil hates for someone to mock him. And, he is mocked when you turn his distractions and temptations into prayer for the good of a person or situation. Excellent strategy! God bless you, Lynn.

  • Mary P

    Thank you, Connie, for showing us again ( and we can never hear it enough, I myself included) the “basic” teachings on prayer from St. Teresa, especially sin and the lack of attachment to anything other than God Sometimes I forget that it also means worry and anxiety. I have been tripped up with that in prayer for too long. I love the picture you posted, of the gospel message of Jesus about Martha and Mary; who was choosing “…..the better part.” I wonder if Martha had a hard time praying before Jesus’ visit, worrying about what to make and serve. What the home looked like. I think I will use it as a desktop for awhile as a reminder to myself. I have been letting a very hard decision take up to much of my heart and it is crowding Jesus out. I thank God for your article today!

    • Connie Rossini

      Liz Est chose the photos to illustrate the post. They show a nice contrast, I think. We have the interior mess that is keeping us from God, versus the worry over exterior work that has to be done. We should not be anxious about serving our Lord, whether in interior things or exterior things. We peacefully get rid of whatever mess is at hand. And even if we haven’t completely cleared out our hearts yet, we can still sit at His feet as Mary did. Glory be to God for letting the article and the pictures help you.

      • LizEst

        Thank you for your kind words, Connie. God bless you!

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