Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Week of St John of the Cross

For the coming Feast of St John let me present his thoughts about distractions in prayer. It is the most common problem and reading the Saint explanations and advice may help us to overcome difficulties and become more focused in prayer (St John's text in italics).

Distractions and dryness in prayer can come from several causes; we must carefully seek them that we may be able to apply a remedy, especially if they are culpable. These causes may be reduced to seven:
Distractions that come from faults and tepidity.Those caused by the mobile nature of the imagination, and unstability of mind.
Temporal cares and solicitude arising from our state of life.
Corporal indispositions.
The aridity which happens by the will of God, to try us, or to draw us on to a higher state of prayer.
Distractions which come from several of these causes united.

Tepidity and Faults.
These are the ordinary causes of the distractions of persons who, before beginning mental prayer, through the duty of their state, neglect to employ the means for acquitting themselves well in it and deriving from it great fruit. Such are also the distractions of those who are accustomed to neglect preparation for prayer, and do not take pains to keep habitually recollected and in the presence of God during their ordinary actions.
Those who do not restrain the liberty of the eyes or the tongue, who give themselves too much freedom in their looks and conversations, fall necessarily and by their own fault, into dissipation and a multitude of distractions during prayer. Those who seek
after or joyfully permit themselves luxuries, who satisfy their greed, plunge their mind into torpor and make themselves incapable of desiring or relishing spiritual things.
For distractions of this kind, the remedy is easy to find: these faults must be repented and corrected.