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Friday, June 05, 2009

Distractions in Prayer

Fr. Charles has a great post this morning on distractions in prayer, which I find to be quite timely. (I only regret that I didn't see this BEFORE I left for Mass this morning!)

It's not always so bad. Many times I can go to Mass and remain more or less focused on what's going on. But this morning? Nope! One moment I'm listening to the reading of Tobit, the next moment I'm musing about the reader who apparently thought this was supposed to be a very dramatic reading, complete with big smiles akin to those you might find at a speech competition. (Having been in that venue, I recognize the signs. Distracting!) Next I was chastizing myself for snarky thoughts and thinking about the Confession I'd be making after Mass. Then back to the reading. Then the Psalm, mind wandered there, too. Then off to the races just before the Eucharistic prayers, thinking about everything I have to do in the next two weeks at work, and who I need to call this afternoon when I get to the office.

I kept trying to redirect myself, but was immediately sucked into contemplation of things that had NOTHING to do with the Mass!

Perhaps, had I read the wise advice from Fr. Charles, I would have been better able to focus and remain in the present. Here is an excerpt from his post:

First of all, if we are distracted at the time of prayer, it may be because we are distracted in our life in general. Mindfulness is critical in the spiritual life. Age quod agis, as the saying goes: "Do what you are doing," and not something else.

There can be no hope for prayer if we spend the rest of our day in a state of distraction, with the attention of heart and mind thrown about by every little thing that presents itself to them. A life of prayer demands that we begin to practice "watchfulness of thoughts" and "guard of the heart." We must work with our thoughts, inclinations, and affections throughout the day, practicing the letting go and breathing out of those that are useless, vain, or sinful. If we do not at least begin to discipline our interior attention and affect throughout our whole day, we cannot hope to just turn off the chaos during the time we have set apart for prayer.

It just gets better from there. Go read the entire post!

And, if you're NOT already following Fr. Charles...why not?


Brother Charles said...

Thanks for the encouragement! Let us pray for one another in our mutual ministry of sanctifying the web. Ut melius catholice observemus!

Maggie said...

This is a great post- and thanks for pointing me toward Fr. Charles! I'm always on the lookout for great new blogs to read.

I'm generally bette at prayer focusing in the morning, when nothing has happend yet that day to distract me. Night is more difficult, since I'm either tired or already running through the list of things to do the next day.

Adoro said...

Father ~ You got it!

Maggie ~ I think I'm better in the morning, too. But then again, it varies and often evenings end up being better. Part of my problem...constant distraction and no excuse for it!

Karinann said...

I struggle with this a lot! Thanks for the link to Fr. Charles ~ I just added myself to his follower list.
I liked his point about distraction in life...distraction in prayer; very true.
Thanks again and God Bless!

Adrienne said...

I find it almost impossible to focus at a NO Mass so I don't even fight it too much - that just seems to make it worse.

I've taken to reading a meditation book on the Mass sometimes or just let my mind drift to other holy things (except during the consecration)

Adoro said...

Adrienne ~ I understand the problem because, outside of Daily Mass at my parish, the Sunday Mass is veyr distracting. But, if you're purposefully focusing on other things, it means you're not actively participating in the Mass. I mean that in the PROPER sense of "active participation", NOT the common misunderstanding of it!

So, you might want to take that issue to a spiritual director. We HAVE to pay attention to the entire Mass, to the degree possible, or the reality is that we're not engage and maybe shouldn't be receiving Holy Communion. It would be the same as getting there and deliberately falling asleep, only to wake up for the part of the Mass we deem to be satisfactory for our attention.

I don't mean to bust your chops..I feel your pain! Our music is HORRIBLE (and I carry earplugs with me now, although haven't used them at Mass yet...but might.)

Julia said...

My mind wanders in prayer, too. I've noticed it's worse if I've had coffee shortly beforehand, but then again it's also worse if I'm tired. In those cases it can take up to a few minutes for me to realize that my mind is on a completely random topic!

My mind doesn't wander much during Mass. I've found that if I keep my eyes closed during most of Mass, it's much easier for me to focus and be prayerful.

Thanks for the link to Fr. Charles' blog. It looks great!

Adrienne said...

Maybe I should have made myself more clear. I have a very, very old missal with an Ignatian way of following at Mass. It has meditation prayers that follow all the parts of the Mass. I follow that, except for the readings and the homily. It is perfectly acceptable.

My particular form of ADD makes auditory stuff sometimes sound like gibberish and if you add on horrible music, et al - it a complete disaster.

The NO Mass we now attend has no choir (a blessing) and a dear 80 year old priest who does a wonderful job. About once per month we go to the FSSP chapel.

Adoro said...

Adrienne ~ Well, that makes a LOT more sense! I was a bit shocked by your previous comment, knowing you!