Thursday, March 17, 2011

Distractions in Prayer

The Koreans have a great respect for ritual and rites, partly because of the Confucianism that has influenced the culture. As a result, our Catholics find it easy to adapt quickly to the liturgies and rites of the Mass, which are performed with a great deal of devotion and attention, also evident when performing other spiritual exercises. 

In a recent article in the Catholic Times, the columnist refers to some questions he has received on what to do before the Blessed Sacrament when in prayer. How long should one spend in meditation? Should we use the Scriptures? What should we do with our hands? What is the best posture?

Although they have tried, when before the Blessed Sacrament, to leave the body by closing their eyes, the mind goes from one thought to another in an endless stream; trying to keep the mind centered is difficult. As the Koreans say, 50,000 thoughts come to us in a day, and during our prayers is the time most of them seem to appear.

"Today is not my day to meditate!" may be the distracting thought that may come during our time before the Blessed Sacrament. The word for distractions in Korean is a 'mind that is divided'. Whether we want them or not, distracting thoughts are always with us. To be completely free from them would mean not to be among the living, and, the columnist laments, some do in fact  rid themselves of distractions by taking their own life.
When it comes to how much time should be devoted to meditation, he recommends doing away with the idea of obligation by making every moment a sacred moment, like our breathing. The less attention we give the distractions, the better; without our attention keeping them in mind, they will come briefly to life and just as quickly exhaust themselves.

Today, the first Sunday of Lent we meditated on temptations. The distractions we often experience when praying are like little temptations. The meditation for today, in the Magnificat Magazine--from Fr. Walter Hilton, who died in 1396 -may be helpful in dealing  with distractions: "... temptations no more defile the soul than the barking of a dog or the bite of a flea. They torment the soul but they do it no harm if they are despised and set at naught. It is not wise to fight directly against them and to seek to be rid of them by force, for the more one fights against such thoughts, the more they return."

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