FIETHER you like it or not, you have come to an important crossroads in your spiritual journey. There can be no going back. By this I mean you cannot go back to using the means and methods of prayer that you found helpful before, but you've already discovered this for yourself. The reason for this is because you are now being called to contemplation.
Pere Lallemont, a famous French Jesuit and mystic, used to say that you could do more in a month with contemplation than in a lifetime without it, so it is important that you journey on as soon as possible into what at first seems a strange new world. This means giving exactly the same time to prayer as before, but now a different form of prayer should be employed. Go back to my books The Mystic and Inner Life, where I've detailed the new forms of prayer that will help you now. It will save me repeating myself. Now let me explain why you find yourself drawn to contemplation.
For several years, you've been trying to raise your heart to God by using your mind, your imagination and your memory to meditate on the scriptures. This enabled you to come to know Christ more deeply so prayer became progressively easier. At the same time you found both spiritual and secular poetry moved you deeply, and prayers, hymns and some of the psalms filled you with a spiritual satisfaction that you'd not experienced before. Digesting and assimilating them gradually led you on and into what has been traditionally called "acquired contemplation" when all you wanted to do was to set aside all previous forms of prayer to be still before and simply gaze upon God.
Then after several months of this intoxicating prayer everything suddenly changed overnight, leaving you in a strange and unintelligible world that was not of your choosing, or at least that's how it felt.
However this "strange new world" is actually of your choosing. You see, you have been choosing to raise your heart to God and you've been doing it for long enough for God to take you seriously. All he has done is to accept what you have been offering and drawn your heart, or your will, towards himself as powerfully as you allow him. The result of this is that you feel an everdeepening yearning for God while at the same time feel unable to pray as you did before.
The reason for this is that, in accepting your gift, God has begun drawing your will towards himself in such a way that it can no longer function as it did before. All you experience is a strange and vague sense of longing that pursues you inside and outside of prayer that you cannot explain to yourself, or to anyone else for that matter.
Simultaneously you will find that you have lost control over the inner faculties that helped you to pray so well before. Instead of helping you to pray they now hinder you by generating a thousand and one distractions that pick and paw at your mind from the inside. Added to this, the Mass and all forms of external religious practice that meant so much to you before mean little to you now.
You may run away if you choose, but you cannot return to the prayer that helped you so much before, nor to the fervour that that enabled you to revel in the religious rites and ceremonies that now leave you flat. So it's "make-yourmind-up time", and it's the most important make-yourmind-up time in the whole of your spiritual life. St John of the Cross said that 90 per cent give up prayer at this point because they don't understand what's happening and there doesn't seem to be anyone else who does. What is needed now is a good spiritual director who knows by personal experience how to guide you forward, but it seems that there are precious few of them about. There are many that are able to help beginners, mainly because they are beginners themselves, but most of them have little idea of how to help people who are led by God into the contemplative way.
They assume that their inability to pray as they taught them is due to some sort of spiritual or psychological blockage and make wrong recommendations accordingly, and can do considerable harm to the unwary. Now I have a suggestion to rnake. You may remember that you had to turn down the "Year of Guided Prayer" run by Martyn Webster at the Westminster Spirituality Centre, because it was too far away well, they are going to run one nearer to you at Greenwich. Why not give it a try? I think it sounds a wonderful idea. If you or any of your friends are able to make it please contact Sr. Martha Stigler on 0181 692 7677. However, contact her as soon as possible as it begins on May 22 anct there are only a limited number of places left. As you am computerliterate, do read more about the Year of Guided Prayer on www.westminstercathedral. org.ukkentre.ttm