Grade 6: Prayer of the Quiet

As we are ascending higher and higher, or exploring deeper and deeper, into the ever unutterable mystical grades of prayer, it is only wise to let Prof. Jordan Aumann, O.P., describe them more and more for us.

Accordingly, "The prayer of quiet is a type of mystical prayer in which the intimate awareness of God's presence captivates the will and fills the soul and body with ineffable sweetness and delight. The fundamental difference between the prayer of quiet and that of infused recollection, apart from the greater intensity of contemplative light and more intense consolations, is that the prayer of quiet gives the soul an actual possession and joyful fruition of the sovereign Good." (Spiritual Theology, p.337)

"Infused contemplation principally affects the intellect, which is withdrawn from the other faculties, but the prayer of quiet especially affects the will. Although the intellect and the memory are now tranquil, they still remain free to realize what is occurring, but the will is completely captivated and absorbed in God. For that reason, the prayer of quiet, as its names indicates, tends to contemplative silence and repose. Since the other faculties remain free, however, they can be occupied with the work of the active life, and they may do so with great intensity. The will does not lose its sweet quietude, but the activities of Martha and Mary begin to merge in a beautiful manner, as St. Teresa points out. Yet the perfect blending of the active and contemplative life will not be achieved until the soul has reached the state of union with God." (Ibid., pp.337-338)

"St. Teresa describes the prayer of quiet in the following way: 'From this recollection there sometimes proceeds an interior quiet and peace that are full of happiness because the soul is in such a state that it does not seem to lack anything, and even speaking [e.g., vocal prayer and meditation] wearies it; it wishes to do nothing but love. This state may last for some time and even for long periods of time.' The sanctifying effects produced in the soul by the prayer of quiet are enumerated by St. Teresa in the Fourth Mansions of her Interior Castle: (1) great liberty of spirit; (2) filial fear of God and great care not to offend him; (3) profound confidence of God; (4) love of mortification and suffering; (5) deep humility; (6) disdain for worldly pleasures; and (7) growth in all the virtues." (Ibid., p.338)

The above description may portray our experience frequently encountered during a truly Spirit-led and Spirit-filled retreat, renewal conference, prayer meeting, or prayer hour, etc. Oftentimes it tends to spill over and integrate with our daily life. Nothing matters anymore now as the soul is profusely permeated with the divine grace, energy, humility, confidence, love and presence of God. Is it not exactly what we need, especially when our soul is disquieted, disordered, distracted, disturbed and downtrodden by many things?

If we cannot pray at this time on our own, do our soul a favour. Seek God and live a life filled with His love and grace (cf. Amos 5:4). Put aside everything then for half a day or so, go to Confession, attend a Mass or two in a row, receive the Holy Communion twice (if possible), and spend a few hours before the Blessed Sacrament practicing unconditional love of God, of others and of ourselves. If we struggle through (remember, it is a real struggle) the first two hours or so with the first few grades, the intensity of Divine Energy absorbed from the Eucharistic radiation would begin to set our soul on fire. As we are increasingly infused and overwhelmed with God's presence, we might want to remain forever before the Tabernacle. This is a glimpse of what St. Teresa called divine inebriation or inebration of love. This is also something which we Catholics should experience once in a while.

Besides, we may find a truly Spirit-led and Spirit-filled retreat or prayer meeting quite helpful. God is always willing to lead us to this grade of prayer and fill us with His ineffable presence in whatever possible way we allow Him. What is required of us is to give the Good Shepherd in our cooperation a great deal of time, space and trust. Indeed, Fr. Aumann adds the following norms of conduct for us (Ibid., p.339):

"The general rule of conduct for the soul in any of the states of contemplative prayer is to cooperate with the working of grace and cultivate an increasingly profound humility. For the prayer of quiet in particular, the following rules should be carefully followed:

1. Never attempt to force oneself into this grade of prayer.

2. Cooperate with the divine movement as soon as it is experienced.

3. Do not disturb the quiet of the will by attending to the activities of the lower faculties. (The memory and the imagination, since they are still free for their operations, could easily become a distraction in the prayer of quiet. St. Teresa advises the soul not to pay any attention to these operations, but to ignore them until such time as God will bind them and captivate them.)

4. Scrupulously avoid any occasion of offending God.

5. Never abandon the practice of prayer in spite of any difficulty or obstacle."

Moreover, the experience does not last for a long time, although the soul may return to this experience. Above all, we should not take this phenomenon as a sign that we are far advanced in the spiritual life, but should humble ourselves before God and never seek to practice prayer purely for obtaining consolations from God. (Cf. Ibid., p.340)

The kingdom of God is within us (cf. Lk 17:21). In our interior journey of supernatural faith, hope and love, this prayer of the quiet generally reflects our profound experience of Psalm 23.

For a slow meditation and re-experience of the Shepherd's Way, click here.