These days my prayer is FULL of distractions. I remember two things to help me. One is advice from St. Francis de Sales. He says that when we encounter distractions, the best thing to do is to gently bring our minds back to the Lord. I think often our temptation when we find ourselves thinking of anything but the Lord, is to start yelling at ourselves and getting upset. St. Francis, who always seemed to understand human nature so well, seems to consider being distracted a normal part of prayer. Hence, his wise advice: gently bring your thoughts back to the Lord and keep praying.
The other thing that comes to mind is a little piece by St. Thérèse. (Some of you may not find it helpful–if so, just skip it. ;-) Her lack of concern and attitude of confidence encourage me. She compares herself to a little bird who has not strayed far from God, but does get distracted:
“[But You know] that very often the imperfect little creature, while remaining in its place (that is, under the Sun’s rays), allows itself to be somewhat distracted from its sole occupation. It picks up a piece of grain on the right or on the left; it chases after a little worm; then coming upon a little pool of water, it wets its feathers still hardly formed. It sees an attractive flower and its little mind is occupied with this flower. In a word, being unable to soar like the eagles, the poor little bird is taken up with the trifles of earth.”
Ah, yes, the trifles of earth. We all know what they are.
But for me the even more beautiful and encouraging part of this piece by St. Thérèse is what follows. Her description of her confidence in the good Lord’s love encouraged me to have greater expectation:
“And yet after all of these misdeeds, instead of going and hiding away in a corner, to weep over its misery and to die of sorrow, the little bird turns toward its beloved Sun, presenting its wet wings to its beneficent rays. It cries like a swallow and in its sweet song it recounts in detail all its infidelities, thinking in the boldness of its full trust that it will acquire in even greater fullness the love of Him who came to call not the just but sinners.”
What a beautiful thought: to expect even greater love from the Lord because of our weaknesses. We, too, can in confidence recount in detail all of our infidelities and expect the same: to “acquire in even greater fullness the love of Him who came to call not the just but sinners.”