The method of prayer that succeed so well with St. Teresa is the Prayer of Recollection, and beyond a doubt, it is the method that she wants her disciples to adopt.
The activities of the powers of the soul, detaching themselves from exterior things in order to turn towards God in the center, is the first phase of the prayer of recollection. The faculties withdraw to the center of the soul only because God is there in a very special way. The soul is the temple of the Holy Ghost.
Recollection has no other end than to lead the soul into the most deeply intimate part of the temple of God. One must have real contact with God and be lovingly attentive to Him.
St Teresa states that we must recollect our outward senses, take charge of them ourselves and give them something which will occupy them. She warns of a laziness that the natural passivity of some souls runs which is the danger of confusing the sweetness of repose with the peace that comes from the action of God, and hence of giving themselves up to a lazy inactivity and enjoying a tranquility that has nothing divine in it. We must actively seek God and His presence with each act of recollection. As the Word, Jesus is present in the soul with the Father and the Holy Ghost, as the Word Incarnate, He is the only mediator; He is the Word of God that we must hear in the silence.
We must retire within ourselves even during our ordinary occupations. If I can recall the companionship which I have within my soul for as much as a moment, that is of great utility. To the presence of God, abiding and always acting in us, there must correspond a striving for intimacy as constant as possible. The Prayer of Recollection must overflow progressively into all of our life. He manifests Himself to those who seek Him. “If anyone love Me, We will come to him, and will make our abode with him.” (John 14:23).
Recollection aims at constant union with God.
In the Interior Castle, she tells us that “the soul will certainly suffer great trials at this time.” Violent attempts made on our own for progress, however, are also dangerous; for Recollection “cannot be begun by making strenuous efforts, but must come gently.” What she is saying is that we do not have to make strenuous efforts on our own – but to seek the very Master Who taught us to pray. The best method of Recollection is to fix one’s thought on God Who is present. In her Autobiography, St. Teresa says that we must not always tire ourselves by going in search of such ideas, we must sometimes remain by His side with our minds hushed in silence. She suggests a few helpful little practices to keep this presence of God when this becomes difficult.
First is vocal prayer and also meditated reading which we will get into a little more in the next chapter. These two means are used to win the attention of our faculties and assist us in coming closer to Jesus. The Prayer of Recollection, as stated above, must extend over the entire day and penetrate the whole of life. Little vocal prayers, sent as acts of love, throughout the day are helpful when we are not sitting in silence with a book at hand.
The divine Presence will be sought under the different veils that both hide it and reveal it; in the tabernacle, in the soul and in the people we meet. By practicing these acts of the presence of God through prayer, this form of Recollection will become familiar to us.
The Prayer of Recollection makes us seek God in the center of our soul. Heaven is in my soul (as long as we are in the state of God’s grace). By keeping the soul in the company of the Holy Trinity that inhabits it, the Prayer of Recollection is more than a preparation for eternal life; it is a real beginning of it under the veil of faith.
In this Holy Trinity, whose three Persons act in us by a single operation, St. Teresa asks us to go to the Incarnate Word. It is Jesus, the Incarnate Word, who came to us here on earth, saved us, purified and adopted us.
By attaching us to Christ, the Prayer of Recollection brings us to our proper place, makes us discover our riches, centers us in Him who is all, and gives us everything in the supernatural order.
I will add here that this is what St. Louis deMontfort stresses in True Devotion to Mary. He stresses a true study and a true understanding (as best as we can) to the Incarnation. To understand the humility of God becoming Man helps us to come to Him more intimately.
The habit of fixing our gaze on our Lord produces such effects that the soul returns to it constantly: “If you become accustomed to having Him at your side, and if He sees that you love Him to be there and are always trying to please Him, you will never be able, as we put it, to send Him away.” Way of Perfection Ch. 26
St. Teresa states: “Souls who do so are more secure from many occasions of sin, and the fire of Divine Love is the more readily enkindled in them; for they are so near that fire that, however little the blaze has been fanned with the understanding, any small spark that flies out at them will cause them to burst into flame. When no hindrance comes to it from outside, the soul remains alone with its God and is thoroughly prepared to become enkindled.” Way of Perfection Ch. 29
The above quote should inspire anyone to take time out in their day for deep intimate prayer with the one who loves us – JESUS!
She adds to this the assurance that the soul that practices the Prayer of Recollection such as she teaches it, will certainly arrive at the Prayer of Quiet which is the next stage of prayer where God sees the faithfulness of the soul in prayer and gives that soul a deeper sense of His Presence.
Fr. Marie Eugene ends with reminding us that the Prayer of Recollection attains to a living contact with God; it is a sure way to deep and delightful intimacies and bears within itself the pledge of them. No promise could be more consoling for the beginner, no encouragement more precious! The fact that Jesus wants this more than we do is so true – we were created for this!
I must always add that we must turn to Our Lady for help in this Prayer of Recollection. She is our Mother and our perfect model! She wants to guide us to Jesus and if this Prayer of Recollection is a means to Jesus – She most definitely will show us the way. Let us make a resolution to never go to prayer even for a moment without asking Her for guidance or for offering our little prayers to Her to give to Her Son. We will most assuredly receive the most profound graces and also receive a quick portal to the Heart of Jesus.
Thank You, Eternal Father for such a Mother and for Your Son Jesus Christ!
Thank You, Jesus for giving us Yourself!
Come Holy Ghost by the power of the Immaculate Heart of Mary – Your well Beloved Spouse!
Blessed be the Most Holy Trinity which dwells in our souls thanks to the prayers and intercession of our good Queen and Mother!
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel-pray for us!!
Blessed Fr. Marie-Eugene