To Pray Without Ceasing

St. Paul in his First Letter to the Thessalonians (5:17) and elsewhere encourages the faithful to “pray without ceasing.” Padre Quadrupani discusses how it is possible to implement this mandate in daily life:

The ideal: “The constant remembrance of God’s presence is a means of perfection that Almighty God Himself prescribed to the Patriarch Abraham.”

The problem: “But this practice must be followed gently and without effort or disturbance of mind. The God of love and peace wishes that all we do for Him should be done lovingly and peacefully. Only in heaven shall we be able to think actually and uninterruptedly of God. In this world to do so is an impossibility, for we are at every moment distracted by our occupations, our necessities, our imagination. We but exhaust ourselves by futile efforts if we try to lead before the proper time an existence similar to that of the angels and saints.”

The solution: “Frequently the fear comes to you that you have failed to keep yourself in the presence of God, because you have not thought of Him. This is a mistaken idea. You can, without this definite thought, perform all your actions for love of God and in His presence, by virtue of the intention you had in beginning them. Now, to act is better than to think. Though the doctor may not have the invalid in mind while he is preparing the medicine that is to restore him to health, nevertheless it is for him he is working, and he is more useful to his patient in this way than if he contented himself with merely thinking of him. In like manner when you fulfil your domestic or social duties, when you eat or walk, devote yourself to study or to manual labor, though it be without definitely thinking of God, you are acting for Him, and this ought to suffice to set your mind at rest in regard to the merit of your actions. Saint Paul does not say that we must eat, drink and labor with an actual remembrance of God’s presence, but with the habitual intention of glorifying Him and doing His holy will. We fulfil this condition by making an offering each morning to God of all the actions of the day and renewing the act interiorly whenever we can remember to do so.”

What if a considerable space of time elapses without your having thought distinctly of God or raised your heart to Him? The Padre answers: “Do not allow this omission to worry you. The servant has performed his duty and deserves well of his master when he has done his will, even though he may not have been thinking of him the while. Always bear in mind the fact that it is better to work for God than to think of Him. Thought has its highest spiritual value when it results in action: action is meritorious in itself by virtue of the good intention which preceded it.”

Quotations from Carlo Giuseppe Quadrupani, Light and Peace: Instructions for Devout Souls to Dispel Their Doubts and Allay Their Fears (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1898).

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