Spiritual Recollection

October 11, 2021 • 5 min

From Introduction to the Devout Life, page 63

CHAPTER XII.

Spiritual Recollection.

It is to this article, Philothea, that I wish to draw your particular attention, since on it depends one of the most assured means of your spiritual advancement.

Recollect as often as you can, in the course of the day, by any of the four ways I have marked out for you, that you should stand in the presence of God; observe what He does, and what you are doing, and you shall find his eyes perpetually fixed upon you by an incomparable love.

Then say, O my God! why do I not turn my eyes towards Thee, as Thou always lookest on me? Why dost Thou think incessantly of me, O Lord! and why do I so seldom think of Thee? Where are we, O my soul? Our true place of rest is in God, and where do we find ourselves?

As the birds have their nests, to which they retire to rest, and the deer bushes and thickets, wherein they keep themselves under covert and enjoy the cool shade in the heat of summer, even so should we, Philothea, choose some place every day, either on Mount Calvary, or in the wounds of our Lord, or in some other place near Him, as retreats to which we may occasionally retire to refresh and recreate ourselves amidst our worldly occupations, and there, as in a stronghold, defend ourselves against temptations. Blessed is he who can say with truth to our Lord: “Thou art my place of strength and my refuge, my defence from storms, and my shade from the heat” (Ps. lxx. 3; Isai., xxv. 4).

Remember, then, Philothea, to make occasional retreats into the solitude of your heart, whilst outwardly engaged in business or conversation. This mental solitude cannot be prevented by the presence of those about you; for, as they are not about your heart, but your body, your heart may remain alone, in the presence of God.

This was the exercise of King David amidst his various occupations, as he testifies in the following, as well as in several other passages of his Psalms: “O Lord, as for me, I am always with thee. I behold the Lord always before me. I have lifted up my eyes to Thee, O my God, who dwellest in heaven. My eyes are always towards God,” &c.

And, indeed, our occupations are seldom so serious but that we may, from time to time, withdraw our hearts from them, in order to retire into this divine solitude.

When the father or mother of St. Catherine of Siena had deprived her of a place and leisure to pray and meditate, our Lord inspired her to make a little oratory within her soul, into which, retiring mentally, she might, amidst her everyday affairs, attend to this holy mental solitude; and when the world afterwards assaulted her, she received no inconvenience from it, because, as she said, she had shut herself up in her interior closet, where she comforted herself with her heavenly Spouse. From her own experience of this exercise, she afterwards counselled her spiritual children to make a room within their hearts, and to abide therein.

Withdraw yourself, therefore, from time to time, into your heart, where, separated from all men, you may familiarly treat on the affairs of your soul and of your salvation with God. Say with David (Ps. ci.): “I watched and am become like a pelican in the wilderness, like the night raven within the house. I have watched and am become as a sparrow all alone on the house-top.”

Which words, besides their literal meaning, namely, that this great king spent some solitary hours in the contemplation of spiritual things, also point out, in a mystical sense, three excellent retreats or hermitages, wherein we may imitate the solitude of our Saviour, who on Mount Calvary was likened to the pelican of the wilderness, which nourishes and gives life to her young ones with her own blood; in his Nativity, in a desolate state, to the night raven in a ruinous building, mourning and weeping over our offences and sins; and at his Ascension, to the sparrow flying up to heaven, which is, as it were, the house-top of the world. In these three solitudes we may make our spiritual retreats, even amidst the turmoils of our worldly employments.

Blessed Elzear, Count of Arian in Provence, having been long absent from his devout and chaste Delphina, she sent a courier to him to inform herself of his health, by whom he sent back this answer: “I am very well, my dear wife, but if you desire to see me, seek me in the wound of the side of our sweet Saviour; for, as it is there only that I dwell, it is there you shall find me; if you seek for me elsewhere, you will search in vain.” This was a Christian gentleman indeed.

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