Sunday, February 8, 2015

Lent and Prayer

I'm in the mist of reading this interesting book I found at the library.  It's called A Year of Biblical Womanhood.  It's written by an evangelical (but not a fundamentalist) as she takes Biblical passages related to women and tries to be literal about them.  In it she also looks at how Jewish women, Catholics, polygamists, Amish, and so forth also look at them.  At many points she totally misunderstands Catholic stuff, that I end up rolling my eyes.  The big one is contemplative prayer.

Citing St. Teresa of Avila she completely misunderstands contemplative prayer, confusing it with meditation or centering prayer.  Contemplative prayer and centering prayer are both mental prayer, but one is active (centering) and the other passive (contemplative). Basically in the book she chooses a sacred word or phrase adds a little breathing and tries to focus on that.  That's not contemplative prayer as she calls it.  You can use centering prayer or Lectio Divina (which she also mentions) as a way to settle into contemplation, but they aren't necessary. Although modern lexicon equates the contemplative prayer with meditation (or centering prayer) as being the same, they are not.  Even the Catechism separates them as being two methods of prayer.

Contemplative prayer is simply being with Christ.  You don't try to focus on anything.  To get into that mind-set I put myself (at least give myself a visual) in a room with Christ.  You don't focus on words or phrases or Biblical scenes.  That's all centering prayer, which is a great method of prayer. Contemplative prayer is you shutting off your mind and attempting not to "speak" and waiting for Christ to talk to you.  And believe me He does.  Sometimes when I don't expect it and am not trying to practice contemplation.  A lot of people (rather than doing it from their home on their couch like me) find it's easier to practice contemplative prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament because they are then literally looking at Christ.  And as I mentioned some use centering prayer and Lectio Divina as a prelude to contemplative prayer.  However, in the most easiest sense you are not thinking or talking, it's God speaking to you.

While I appreciate Rachel Held Evan's efforts at praying like Catholics or the Orthodox, she's got her terms a bit mixed up.  What does this have to do with Lent? (Heck of a segue there)

Last year I focused on the penitential portion of Lent.  I only read domestic stuff (like cook books), children's books, and religious material.  We only watched religious materials.  I gave up the internet on Wednesdays, with the built in exception of a family emergency.  My grandfather-in-law died so I ended up taking that because of his funeral.  But I digress.  Needless to say I'm good at penance. 

This year I want the focus to be on prayer.  I haven't been doing much contemplation much less centering prayer (which would be things like the Rosary).  A lot of it has been vocal prayer.  This isn't a bad thing.  I don't plan on dropping it.  It just seems like I'm so caught up in "me" that Lent would be the perfect time to start thinking more about God's will.  I haven't exactly formulated a "schedule" yet, but I suppose it would be something in the morning and evening.  I would love to throw in some contemplation, but that might be asking for too much given my noisy family.  It helps that this year I've decided that my penance is cutting down my internet usage to an hour a day (barring emergencies again).  I guess I'll need to print out some prayers like the Divine Mercy Chaplet because I haven't memorized it.  Also I assume on Friday evening my parish will once again offer the Stations so I hope to drag HB along with me. 

I didn't intend to make it a tradition to focus on one aspect of Lent, but that's how it turned out.  Perhaps next year I'll focus on alms.  Not just monetary wise but also voluntary wise (time, talent, treasure).  We'll see what God has in mind then.  For now, prayer it is!

1 comment:

  1. I loved reading the explanations you gave between the differences in contemplative and centering prayer. I'd heard the term centering prayer thrown around, often with warnings (I think in a new age context), but I didn't know what it actually was. And I really, really like the idea of time for contemplative prayer as part of Lent. Adding it to my list of things to ponder as we move towards Lent this next few days.


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