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Pray Always?

April 14, 2016 by  
Filed under Carmelite Sisters, Easter, Prayer

Pray Always?

“Seriously? Pray always?”

That is not an uncommon reaction to St. Paul’s admonition to pray always without ceasing. Does he know what we’re up against, the demands on our time and energy, the pace of our modern world, not to mention the fragility and inconsistency of our human nature? He can’t possibly mean always, as in, all the time and everywhere. Impossible!

Whenever the word “impossible” creeps into our vocabulary, we want to look again. Remember that line from scripture, “With God, all things are possible?” Very often the precise things we say are impossible are the things God wants to do in our lives by His power alone. And I suspect that if each of us looks closely we will discover this is the case in the task considered here.

PrayerPierreLouisDelavalHommeEnPriere1826For a moment, let’s look at another impossibility, “I am with you always.” Right now, as I type, I am sitting alone in a room in the convent. Just me and the computer and the other miscellaneous, inanimate objects in the room. Nobody else here. No one, that is, that I can see with my eyes or hear with my ears or touch with my hands. Ah, but the eyes of faith tell me something far different. And I can listen with my heart to a voice that speaks in silence. And my soul is being held and sustained by the creative touch of my God. Seriously? You can bet your life on it, because He gave His life for this very reason.

So let’s put these two impossibilities together. These days after Easter are a powerful time for us to rekindle our awareness of the presence of Jesus with us day in and day out. In the readings at Mass we hear about Him walking with His disciples on the road to Emmaus, fixing breakfast for His apostles on the seashore, and stretching out His hand to a follower lost in doubt. So what’s to stop Him from joining us on our commute to work? Or at the kitchen table with our cup of coffee? Or at the end of a day when prayer seems choked by doubt, regret and fear? Just being open to His presence is prayer: watching for signs of His love, listening for His words, and waiting for His healing touch. Because He is with us always, we can indeed pray always. Seriously.


Previous published by the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles.  Used with permission.


Art: Homme en prière (Man praying [Man in Prayer]), Pierre-Louis Delaval, 1826, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons.

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About Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles

PROMOTING A DEEPER SPIRITUAL LIFE THROUGH HEALTHCARE, EDUCATION AND RETREATS. The way of life of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles is rooted in the Gospel, the Church, and the spirituality of Carmel as lived out through the charism of our foundress, Venerable Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament. In His merciful goodness, God has graced our Institute with the Carmelite charism which has its foundation in a long history and living tradition. Our vocation is a grace by which contemplation and action are blended to become an apostolic service of the Church as we promote a deeper spiritual life among God's people through education, healthcare, and spiritual retreats. We are called by God to be a presence inflamed within our world, witnessing to God's love through prayer, joyful witness and loving service. Our mission flows from each sister's profound life of prayer as Mother Luisita, our foundress, wrote, "the soul of each Carmelite raises herself to Christ, Who is her heaven, while her shadow falls in charity upon earth doing good to all people."

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  • tsunami1earthquake

    If one prays, one saves one’s soul; if one does not pray one surely will lose one’s soul. Jesus started with prayer and ended with prayer on the cross.

  • Judy Silhan

    I cannot now remember the name of the Cardinal or Bishop who said this; but when asked how, with his busy schedule, he finds the time for prayer, he responded, with all I have to do, how can I not pray. (A quote I always remember from Dan.) Thank you for this meaningful reflection.

  • Joanne Utke

    When I go about my daily duties I say “Jesus I do this for you” that is an example of one way you can pray always.

    • LizEst

      Exactly! Thank you, Joanne Utke. God bless you!

  • LizEst

    Dear Philip– your post has been edited because we cannot confirm that the Church has approved the “mystic” you have mentioned…and, therefore, we will not publish that information. If and when we find more information that the Church has approved this person, that their cause for sainthood has been started, etc, then we will be happy to include such on this site. Please see question 4.11 of our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) here: Thank you so much…and God bless you.

  • LizEst

    That sounds fine. Because our readers rely on us to be faithful to the magisterium, we just cannot put something on our site which we cannot source properly. And yes, many saints have sought to offer every heartbeat, every breath, every action as prayer. God bless you, Philip George Regan. Happy Lord’s Day!

  • LizEst

    Beautiful! Thank you, Philip George Regan!

  • Carol Goodson

    I am trying to learn to practice continual recollection, as recommended by Francisco de Osuna in The Third Spiritual Alphabet; this book taught St. Teresa of Avila, whom I chose as my patron saint when I was received into the Church.

    • LizEst

      Carol –

      I would be careful with “The Third Spiritual Alphabet”. It did influence St. Teresa of Avila and was known to St. John of the Cross. But, I am looking at the “Index of Forbidden Books”…and it is on there (in fact, another one of his books is on the list as well). Yes, she was influenced by it, but she did not adopt it. Father Jordan Aumann, whose text “Spirituality in the Catholic Tradition” is used in the Avila Institute says this about him, ” Osuna insists that recollection in God can be attained only by detachment from the senses and that the perfection of the prayer of recollection consists in thinking of nothing in particular so that the soul can be completely absorbed in God.”

      Connie Rossini, who has published some excellent posts here, has this to say about such methods, which are similar to non-Christian meditation and which, incidentally, is why the book seems to have had a resurgence of popularity these days: “Eastern (non-Christian) meditation does not meditate “on” anything. Instead of pondering, it seeks radical detachment through an altered state of consciousness. Christian meditation relies on using thoughts and feelings. Eastern meditation rejects them. Thus the same word is used by different religions in a nearly opposite manner.” And, also: “The purpose of Christian meditation–and all Christian prayer–is to lead us to a closer union with God through Christ. The Triune God should be the focus of our prayer. We seek Him alone. In meditation, we seek to understand His character better, to understand what He requires of us. Then we express our desire for union with Him through thoughts, words, feelings, and even groans (see Romans 8:26). And, yes, sometimes with brief moments of silence.”

      Were I you, I would stick to reading what St. Teresa of Avila or St. John of the Cross wrote. They are Doctors of the Church. Francisco de Osuna is neither a Doctor of the Church, nor a saint, nor even a blessed or a venerable. If you don’t have a spiritual director, I recommend that you also find one that is faithful to the magisterium.

      God bless you, Carol, as you grow closer to the Lord and His Church!

      • Carol Goodson

        If you consider the historical context, it is not surprising that it would be on the Index. I am sure it would not be placed on there today (if the Index were still in effect).

        • LizEst

          It’s very commendable that you seek to pray always. And, by the way, of our recent popes indicated the index still holds force i.e. it has not been abrogated. In any case, the fact that Osuna directed that one focus on nothing in particular, is a great big warning sign. This is very much in line with non-Christian meditation.

          • Carol Goodson

            I guess we will have to agree to disagree 🙂 St. Teresa said this in The Book of Her Life: “When I was on the way, that uncle of mine I mentioned who lived along the road gave me a book. It is called The Third Spiritual Alphabet and endeavors to teach the prayer of recollection. And although during this first year I read good books (for I no longer desired to make use of the others, because I understood the harm they did me), I did not know how to proceed in prayer or how to be recollected. And so I was very happy with this book and resolved to follow that path with all my strength. Since the Lord had already given me the gift of tears and I enjoyed reading, I began to take time out for solitude, to confess frequently, and to follow that path, taking the book for my master.” I consider St. Teresa of Avila to be a very reliable guide.

          • LizEst

            Yes, Teresa is a very reliable guide…but, as Dan has said, many things and/or people can lead us to God. When we are led to the truth of what the Catholic Church believes and teaches, then we should discard the lesser means and use the fullness of Church teaching. May I recommend, if you have not already listened to it, listen to our radio show from last week here: — and, if you have listened to it, perhaps a refresher might serve well!

          • Carol Goodson

            I think it’s safe to assume that if the book helped St. Teresa of Avila that much, it will probably help me. Plus, whenever I begin any spiritual reading, I pray first, to ask God to help me understand it, and get whatever out of it He wants me to get, that will help me draw closer to Him. So, the Holy Spirit is protecting me and I am not worried 🙂

          • LizEst

            Please read Dan’s comment above, Carol. Also, did you submit this book to your spiritual director for his/her approval?

      • Dan Burke

        Completely agree with you here Liz. Why go outside of those who have been completely vetted and elevated by the Holy Spirit to the status of Saint and Doctor?! On a related note – if you want to really dig into the writings of someone who she relied heavily upon, St. Peter of Alcantara is a better source. We published and updated version of his work entitled “Finding God Through Meditation.” Osuna no doubt had a positive influence on her but St. Peter’s approach to prayer is in complete alignment with St. Teresa’s emphasis on filling our minds and hearts with God. As well, as Liz indicates, St. Peter has a much more solid acceptance in the Church as his canonization indicates.

        • LizEst

          Thanks, Dan. Well said!

      • marybernadette

        It’s so important to make Catholics aware, I’m sure we have all had experiences in our Faith journey, were we thought certain teachings
        were okay, discernment is the ‘key.’ Thanks Liz. Also, as you know,
        in Spiritual Growth, there is the ‘drying up’ of the senses but only
        to have them purified.

  • LizEst

    Did you read Dan’s comment above? …and did you submit this book to your spiritual director for his/her approval before beginning to read it?

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