“It is easy, nonetheless, to run for the shade.”

I thought I might entice you by a quote or two from Contemplative Provocations by Fr. Donald Haggerty.  (I’d really like to quote the whole book!)

Contemplative prayer is initiated undramatically–one might say in a concealed, subtle, confusing manner.  One symptom is a dry discomfort in prayer like the bodily ache of a fever that does not subside.  The aridity contrast with the prior experience of prayer, when a consoling sense of God’s presence was enjoyed.  Now there is little felt contact with God, nothing savored in emotion.  God seems to disappear more and more into hiding.  Other symptoms as well seem incongruous as signs of growth in prayer.  A focused attention on Our Lord becomes difficult. Noisy distractions disturb prayer.  Petty concerns interfere with prayer and replace quiet reflections about God.  The gospel pages no long offer vivid attraction.  Anxious thoughts and unwelcome memories intrude, and the mind is unable to settle down.  The struggle for an attentive silence and some serenity can burden an entire period of prayer.  The sense of being alone, somehow separated from God, unable to prayer, does not let up.

The return each day to silent prayer in this condition means to face the discomfort of silence.  There can be a strong temptation to give up prayer or to find some activity in silent prayer to counter frustration.  A more superficial prayer can be adopted which discards the effort of listening in silence to God.  One might opt, for instance, to spend time in prayer simply reading.  In that case the dryness and distraction may lift to a degree because they are less noticed.  This may seem to restore relations with God.  It would be a poor exchange, however, a step backward.  The soul would forfeit a grace it was beginning to taste of a deeper thirst for God.  The thirst of the soul for God is stronger in the desert.  It is easy, nonetheless, to run for the shade.

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