I recently listened to a very simple and yet profound book on my car ride to the Maronite Monks. The book was called Practicing the Presence of God: The Best Rule of a Holy Life and was written by a simple Carmelite brother named Br. Lawrence. I was traveling north for retreat, and this book proved a great source of inspiration.
The message was simple. The brother had progressed in the spiritual life by always trying to keep God present to his thoughts. The brother had attained what St. John of the Cross would call a habitual remembrance of God. This may seem simple enough, and the brother seems to make it sound quite easy, but the reality is that this habitual recollection is a great spiritual gift. That being said, I agree with the brother that it is attainable through grace and perseverance.
In applying this brother’s idea, I developed a simple method that could help foster this practice. First, we must recognize that all of this presupposes a life rooted in the sacraments. This practice must be built on regular confession and frequent reception of Holy Communion (received in a state of grace, of course). With that in mind, I propose the following practice.
First, I suggest that people set aside one minute of every hour, or at least one to two minutes on a frequent basis. Perhaps one could begin by setting an alarm on one’s phone, or by other little reminders. Then I propose that in that minute, one should turn to the Lord wherever they may find themselves and make simple acts of faith, hope, and love. I recommend these acts be personal and private, and that they involve a simple turning of one’s attention towards God. For example, one could turn to God in the heart and say to him, “Jesus, I believe in you. I trust in you. I hope in you and in heaven. I love you and desire only you.” The idea is that these should be personal statements of faith, hope, and love directed at God in a personal way.
One could also use that minute to make a quick petition. For example, “Lord I am tired, grant me strength.” Also, one could use icons and religious art in order to help draw our attention towards God. We can also do the same thing with the saints and angels who are likewise present. The idea is to develop the habit of turning to the Lord in the heart. I know that this practice is not as simple as it might sound. I am also trying to build this awareness along with you. However, I think the key is patient discipline and perseverance. It may take months, perhaps years, but we must be convinced that each one of us is called to this kind of intimacy with God.
This post has very good practical advice for a spiritual life. My problem is the hypocrisy a sinner like myself feels after years of neglect of God and the continuing habits these years of selfishness have ingrained in my thoughts and behaviors. I find “the key is patient discipline and perseverance.” I must ask for Jesus to forgive my sins (i.e. rosary) and, often, I must forgive myself and extend patience to myself for my grievous failings while always trying and trying to reach the goal of a more God filled and sinless life. This quest takes continuing effort and, many times I feel like Prometheus trying to roll the rock up the hill. But in the end I have no choice but to stay the course.
Excellent idea. I used to keep a small clock by my computer which chimed each hour for the exact purpose you propose. Then the battery went dead and I never fixed it. Now I have a watch with a chime, I will learn to set it before the day is over. Thanks for the reminder.
Thanks for your comments. The key to growth is the sacraments (Confession and the Eucharist) and perseverance.