Rossini: God calls each of us to contemplation
May 15, 2019
In the past two columns, we have looked at the universal call to holiness and its implications for us. We have seen that God calls each of us to be a saint. We have also seen that the grace necessary for holiness is granted to us through prayer.
Yet when we think about deep prayer, we still tend to ask, “Can that really be for me?” Now we’ll look at some objections to the idea that God calls us all to contemplation.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “The living and true God tirelessly calls each person to that mysterious encounter known as prayer” (no. 2567). The Catechism also cites several objections to living a life of prayer, such as not having the time, relying too much on what we can analyze or scientifically investigate, seeing prayer as useless or unproductive, and the charge that prayer is escapist (no. 2727). We have looked at some of these objections in the past and will focus on others in future columns. I’d like to look first at three other objections, which are especially prevalent.
The first objection arises from false humility. As many saints have said, humility is truth. When we are humble, we acknowledge our littleness before God, our need for grace and salvation. False humility, on the other hand, sometimes rejects the grace of God on the basis of our unworthiness. But this unworthiness is the whole point! Since we are unworthy and stand in need of grace, God makes us worthy through the grace itself.
As for the grace of deep prayer, it is faithfulness to the basic, sometimes mundane practice of daily prayer that gains us the grace for ever-deeper prayer. If we think God could not possibly call us to contemplation, can we at least agree that he calls us to daily prayer? Can we be open to that prayer slowly deepening as we grow in love for God and neighbor?
Another objection arises from a misunderstanding of what contemplation is. We might think that contemplation has to do with visions, locutions and miracles. We think that these phenomena are for a special few. We are right to see these graces as outside the norm, but mistaken to think that contemplation consists in such things. Contemplation is completely within the normal growth of intimacy with God. It is an intimate union with God, which he initiates when we have done all we can to come close to him. Scripture promises that God will respond when we give our all. “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you” (Jas 4:8).
Finally, sin and attachments might keep us from seeking greater intimacy with God in prayer. We might be reluctant to give up venial or even mortal sins to be truly converted. We might fear that God will ask us to sacrifice things we enjoy.
Prayer does require continual conversion. At each step of growth, however, God gives us the grace we need at that time to change. The more committed we are to prayer, the easier these changes become, and the more eager we are to make them out of love for God.
God calls each of us to holiness. He sanctifies us through the sacraments and daily prayer. The deeper our prayer, the greater our conversion, and vice versa. No matter how unworthy we are, no matter how sinful, God can and will draw us to himself if we put in the work of drawing near to him through prayer.
Connie Rossini is a member of St. Peter Parish in Omaha. She is co-author of “The Contemplative Rosary” released by EWTN Publishing and author of four other books on Catholic spirituality.