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A New Beginning to Pray

January 4, 2016 by  
Filed under Anthony Lilles, Christmas, Prayer, Spiritual Direction

A New Beginning to Pray

Beginning to pray is the project of a lifetime.   The entry of the Word of the Father into human history makes this project possible.  This entry is not convenient or easy for God or man.   Love never is.  It demands taking up our freedom in the most difficult and most worthwhile of all human endeavors – the effort to attend to and respond to love.

Beginning to pray is learning to respond with love to the Living God who has called out for our love as if helpless and completely vulnerable.  The Creator of the whole Cosmos speaks to us in supreme humility allowing His almighty voice to be contained in the hopeful cries of a hungry infant.

Adoration of the Shepherds by Charles Lebrun, 1689One does not always hear at first how His invincible will reverberates. For those who persevere in listening for this voice, they hear its harmony resound in the gentle way the the Word made flesh allowed Himself to be encompassed by the frailty of human freedom: conceived and born of the “fiat” of a lowly handmaid, bound by her in swaddling clothes, placed by her in a manger in the cave in Bethlehem. This is what we must attend to in our hearts and respond to with our lives — God’s still small voice is echoed in the plight of those entrusted to us, the poor, the vulnerable and the most needy in our midsts.

In this still darkness, “the Visible Image of the Invisible God” speaks into our reality, historical and personal, impatiently awaiting our response.  He believes in our liberty so much that He freely chose to enter into it and submit Himself to it. He kisses human freedom with divine freedom – over two thousand years ago in history; today right now in mystery.   This kiss cost Him dearly and those who attempt to respond to Him also must renounce themselves, pick up their cross, and follow Him.  Yet those who pray pay this price gladly because human liberty raised by grace is capable of love — and one free thought filled with love of Him is worth more to Him than all the universe combined.


For more of Anthony’s insights on prayer, don’t miss his book, Hidden Mountain Secret Garden, an experience like no other. Anthony has an unusually profound understanding of mystical theology and lives a life of deep prayer. Among his many accomplishments and responsibilities, Dr. Lilles now teaches theology for the Avila Institute.

Art: Detail of The Adoration of the Shepherds, Charles Le Brun, 1689, PD-US author’s term of life plus 100 years of less, Wikimedia Commons.

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About Anthony Lilles

Anthony Lilles, a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, completed his graduate and post-graduate studies in Rome at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas. He and his lovely wife, Agnes, are blessed with three children and live in California, where he is the Academic Dean, and Associate Professor of Theology, St. John's Seminary, Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and Academic Advisor at Juan Diego House, House of Formation for Seminarians. For over twenty years, Dr. Lilles worked for the Denver Archdiocese directing parish religious education, R.C.I.A. and youth ministry, as well as serving as Director of the Office of Liturgy for the Archdiocese and as Coordinator of Spiritual Formation for the permanent diaconate. In 1999, he became a founding faculty member of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary where he was Academic Dean for nine years and Associate Professor of Theology. He is a Board Member for the Society of Catholic Liturgy. Dr. Lilles has provided graduate level courses on a variety of topics including the Eucharist, the Sacraments of Healing, Church History, Spiritual Theology, Spiritual Direction and on various classics of Catholic Spirituality. His expertise is in the spiritual doctrine of Blessed Elisabeth of the Trinity and the Carmelite Doctors of the Church: St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross and St. Thérèse of Lisieux. In 2012, Discerning Hearts published his book "Hidden Mountain, Secret Garden: A Theological Contemplation on Prayer," a compilation of discussions with seminarians, students, and contemplatives about the spiritual life. He collaborated with Dan Burke on the books "30 Days with Teresa of Avila" and "Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux". And, his book "Fire from Above" was published in 2016. Among his many accomplishments and responsibilities, Dr. Lilles now teaches theology for the Avila Institute. He blogs at

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  • Heidi Cole

    Dear Dr. Lillies:

    How beautifully said. How beautifully written. I am moved by your sentiment and how incredibly insightful this piece is. Thank you and God Bless.

  • Patricia

    “Oh, Come all he faithful……come ye to Bethelem.”

    “God gave me a heart which is so faithful that once it has loved purely, it loves always.” -St. Therese of Lisieux

    And one free thought filled with love of Him is worth more to Him than all the universe combined.” – from today’s post by Dr. Lilles.

    No wonder St. Therese has been called ” the greatest Saint of modern times! (Pius X)

    A spiritual child of Saint John of the Cross, Saint Therese lived his motto that “love is repaid by love alone.”

    His love enables us to love.

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