When I was a child, I loved to walk through the woods around my parents’ home, worshiping the Creator of the heavens and the earth. These “woods” were actually the surrounding acreage of a borough reservoir that was considered public land. I had close to 200 acres of forest to traverse! Back then, I felt totally safe walking alone in these woods.
Once, when I was in eighth grade, I was being adventurous and decided to explore a path that I had never explored. I took a mental note of where the sun was, in case I got lost, and where the path veered off from the familiar one that I often traversed. These woods were filled with fir, pine and maple trees. As I journeyed down the path, I came across a clearing. In the middle of the clearing was an old grown birch tree. The diameter of this tree was close to a yard wide. A few of the tree’s branches had actually grown so long that they touched the ground and began growing off of the ground! This tree truly had a “personality” all of its own.
There was something that called me to sit under this magnificent tree. As I did so, I experienced a connection with God as well as His creation that even after these so many years has left an impression on me.
I tell you this story as I continue my series on prayer from Father Eamon Tobin’s book, “13 Powerful Ways to Pray.” We turn now to the Prayer of Contemplation. Rather than focusing on what Father Tobin says about contemplation, I have decided to visit the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
So, what is contemplative prayer? It “is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who loves us.” (2709) It “is the prayer of the child of God, of the forgiven sinner who agrees to welcome the love by which he is loved and who wants to respond to it by loving even more.” (2712) It “is the simplest expression of the mystery of prayer.” (2713) It “is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus.” (2715) It “is hearing the word of God.… It participates in the ‘Yes’ of the Son become servant and the Fiat of God’s lowly handmaid.” (2716) It “is silence, the ‘symbol of the world to come’ or ‘silent love.’” (2717)
For me, contemplative prayer is a level of prayer in which active silence reigns. It is the ability to “snuggle” with Jesus as a best friend. In that silent “snuggle,” He speaks to your heart. It is a prayer of lovers.
Pope Francis puts it this way: “The Lord tells us: ‘the first task in life is this: prayer.’ But not the prayer of words, like a parrot; but the prayer, the heart: gazing on the Lord, hearing the Lord, asking the Lord.”1
We have a God that is madly in love with us. Contemplative prayer, prayer of the heart, is what we are called to by our baptism and our involvement in the sacred liturgy.
Pretty cool, right?
1Harris, Elise. “Pope Francis: Prayer Is Not Simply Saying Words ‘like a Parrot’.” Catholic News Agency, Catholic News Agency, 22 Nov. 2021, https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/28202/pope-francis-prayer-is-not-simply-saying-words-like-a-parrot.
By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, The Catholic Witness