A Year with the Saints – 13 September


There is another thing which greatly afflicts those who give themselves to prayer. It is the distractions which often come and carry their thoughts, and their hearts too, hither and thither. They come at times from the immortification of the senses; at times with the soul being distracted in itself, and often because the Lord wills it, to try His servants. Now in such cases we must recall our thoughts from time to time, by reviving our faith in the presence of God, and by remaining before Him with reverence and respect. If we do not succeed in fixing them on the prescribed point, we must bear those annoyances and vexations with humility and patience. It will not be lost time, as at first sight it may appear, but such a prayer will sometimes be more fruitful than many others made with recollection and pleasure. For all the actions performed to banish or to endure these distractions, as they are done in order not to displease God, and to become better qualified for His service, are so many acts of the love of God. Saint Teresa of Avila

Saint Jane Frances de Chantal gave this advice to her daughters, which she surely also practiced herself. “When one is disturbed by distractions in the time of prayer, it is well to make the prayer of patience, and to say, if possible, humbly and lovingly: ‘O Lord, Thou art the sole support of my soul, and all my consolation!'”

Saint John Chrysostom advised one who was easily carried away by distractions to arouse himself by this comparison: “What! I stand talking with a friend about news, trifles, reports, and I am all attention; now that I am conversing with God about the pardon of my sins, and the way for me to be saved, I am all torpor! Though my knees are bent, my mind goes wandering through the house and through the streets! Where is my faith? where, my reason?”

Saint Aloysius Gonzaga possessed a gift of prayer that was no less worthy of wonder than of envy. We read of him that he reached such a point that he scarcely ever suffered from distractions. Once when he was giving an account of his interior, the spiritual Father asked him whether he suffered many distractions in prayer. He paused to think a moment, then answered that if he should put together all he had had for six months, he did not believe they would occupy as much time as one Ave Maria. A great gift, in truth! But the efforts he made to induce the Lord to grant it were not slight. By practicing continual mortification of all his senses; by never occupying his mind with any thoughts but such as might perfect him in piety and learning; by throwing himself at the time for prayer, wholly, with all his fervor, into it – thus he had so closed the way to distractions that they did not dare, so to speak, to approach him.

MLA Citation