To Pray Continually

At Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon, Portugal

Today, in the first reading at Mass in the Latin Rite, Saint Paul urges us,

Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. (Eph 6:18)

This is similar to the exhortation in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to “pray without ceasing”. How is this possible? How can we pray at all times? Does this simply mean, as I’ve heard it sometimes said and used to sometimes say myself, that all of our actions must be compatible with prayer? Or does it mean something deeper or more? I’d bet on it meaning something deeper or more than simply having actions that are compatible with prayer.

According to Saint Catherine of Siena,

The soul keeps vigil, I say, not only with the eye of the body, but with the eye of the soul; that is, the eye of the intellect never sees itself closed, but remains opened upon its Object and ineffable Love, Christ crucified… Then the soul uplifts itself with deepest devotion, to love what God loves and to hate what He hates. And it directs all its works in God, and does everything to the glory and praise of His Name. This is the continual prayer of which Paul says, “Pray without ceasing.”

In a simple, contemplative gaze of Christ crucified, our God and our brother, which can be continual when particular acts of prayer are not continual, we find the answer. That is how to pray continually. It doesn’t simply mean that activity must be compatible with prayer. It means that the deeper part of all our action is prayer, the ability which allows us to “direct all our works in God”.

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