Moments of Love with Mary
– The Spiritual Letter Box –
Distractions in Prayer
You have already spoken of prayer and of spiritual dryness or aridity in your November 1971 issue.
I must confess that I was against the Army of Mary without even knowing anything about it. Then a lady friend gave me this November issue which I read and reread. I was won over. The Spiritual Letter Box is marvelous… we keep going back to it. It has done me so much good.
Dryness in prayer is not my problem. My problem is distractions to the point where I sometimes wonder if there is any use continuing to pray. The harder I try to concentrate, the less I succeed. If you have a remedy against distractions, I’d appreciate having it.
Mrs. Antonin S., Montreal
If you do not mind, we shall start by establishing the necessary distinction between fervor of soul and distractions of the mind, for if we have a soul that aspires to a more profound interior life, it is also true that we live in a body which is subject to all the demands of daily life, which are reflected in the mind.
So, in the morning your thoughts mount towards God. Already your soul is in a state of prayer even as you go about your daily tasks. If you begin your day with Mass and Communion you will have had substantial food which will strengthen your soul in spite of the wide range of distractions which may beset it. If during the day you send up towards the Eternal those little arrows of love which are ejaculations, your soul will remain in a constant state of prayer. And if in the evening you say the rosary, or if just before going to sleep you reach out to God with a thought, your soul will remain in close union with God even while you are asleep.
The life of the soul is something marvelous and God well understands that we have to face all sorts of demands each day, and that our mind is continually preoccupied with them. What counts is the good intention.
To reassure you on this matter of involuntary distractions, I am going to tell you a little story about a mother who had the habit of going to Mass each day and was beginning to have doubts about the efficaciousness of her Mass because of the many distractions which ran about in her head. “Of what value are these Masses when the best efforts at recollection are useless? Is it worth the trouble to go to Mass each day when the physical presence is not paralleled by a loving contemplation which would result in an effective participation in this divine encounter?” Such thoughts weighed heavily on her each day, for each day the situation worsened.
It happened that one day this mother, still seeking a solution to her problem, took advantage of a beautiful summer sun to sit outside. All her children had gone to the playground except one who said to his mother, “I will stay with you. You are all alone.” He sat down on the lawn at her feet and said, “I love you so much, mama.” They were having a little chat when the child’s attention was attracted to a fly which was teasing him. The child turned his attention from his mother; he was distracted… He tried to follow this annoying fly – if at least it had been a butterfly – with his finger as it flew around him. The mother watched him with an attentive joy, for no matter what was attracting him, he was there with her. He loved her and she loved him. Moreover, through him, she loved her other children who were over at the playground. The child continued to run around and around after the fly, further and further from his mother.
Suddenly it flashed into her mind that this distracted child was herself and her distractions at Mass, and she understood the Father’s joy when He saw someone arrive in the church, at His house; a soul that loved Him enough to put itself out to go and see Him and even to receive Him in Holy Communion. The Father loves that soul even though it is beset by distractions during Mass or in prayer. And through this soul that has drawn close to Him, He loves all His other children occupied elsewhere with other activities.
The Father understands so well His child who loves Him and who comes to Him with all his problems, his desires, his joys, his hidden deceptions, and who so often, also amuses himself with the “flies” (distractions).
The child’s attitude taught this mother one thing: that love for the Father should be set above any impression or weaknesses. What is important is that there should be a very definite and firm orientation of the soul towards God, with the knowledge that the suffering caused the heart by a feeling of helplessness also serves in the ascent of the soul.
So do not allow these distractions to discourage or stop you. The time will come when your prayer will be more centered on God.
Go forward with the same desires, the same love, for your soul seeking God is infinitely pleasing to the Father who bends down to you and loves you.
(Review, “The Army of Mary”, volume I, no. 9)