Recollection for Prayer

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

How do I start? Personal recollection seems to reveal only a scant and inconsistent hodgepodge of memories and insights into one’s personal human experience. How does one glean the essence of the lessons and the truths revealed during life? The file cabinets of memories we’ve stored away are usually lacking in cohesiveness and resemble an office in complete disarray: piles of memories out of order, faded by age so that they are indecipherable, uncategorized and completely overwhelming. This reality leaves us with the distinct possibility that it may be completely beyond our ability. It is no wonder then that most never try to recollect them and come to a place of peace. Though we thirst for answers, we seldom come away with a cogent picture of who we truly are and to what purpose or end we were set upon this earth to fulfill. We ask ourselves if it is worth the trouble and usually lock the door so that we need not look at the mess that we have created: for the task is truly more that we alone can accomplish.

My first thought is that I am totally inadequate for the task – I will need an expert at organizing and prioritizing the scraps of memories strewn throughout my life so recklessly. I never knew that the smaller bits of my experiences during this pilgrimage on earth might actually have importance. They may have significance beyond my understanding and therefore more than likely to have been lost to the dust-bin of my unconscious. Retrieving them and making sense of them is certainly a supernatural undertaking.

This then leads me into the realm of the supernatural and the movement of faith in a man’s life. It seems that prayer and reflection hold our only hope if we are to find peace and make restitution for the wrongs we commit now or committed in our past. A true sense of sin and a firm commitment to amend one’s life seems to be the crux of any true recovery from our fallen state. But more importantly divine help must necessarily be sought from the one who has been witness to our every action and capable of retrieving everything lost to our unconscious: bringing them to the forefront of our minds for a thorough examination – and eventually to seek mercy for our wrongs and develop that supernatural hypersensitivity to anything that makes us less than the creation we were meant to be.

But even the above notions have a hidden danger. The danger is explained well in Dietrich von Hildebrand’s classic, Transformation in Christ. It is the danger that we go about our examination of self much like a psychologist; viewing it from afar in a disinterested matter. We have an objective look at ourselves without the true reality of our selves. We are almost watching a movie or a caricature of ourselves.

For real recollection of self to occur, it is necessary to confront yourself with the perfection of Christ and see the infinite chasm between ourselves and our Lord. Our goodness no longer seems good as only God is good. Our sins are against the unfathomable Good and separate us if by an impassible chasm. It is only in our true realization of self that we see the ultimate unbounded Good that made us for Himself.

Should we be lucky enough to glimpse this infinite difference between us, we might begin to feel and recognize the humility (a word that comes from the Latin root for humus or dirt). We are no more than clay pots who humbly pray for God’s grace and Goodness to fill our lowly beings with Himself. It is the only way that our worth might be realized as it really is and to recognize that our gifts and good works are a gift of the spiritual graces that Our Lord has deposited within us. We need not take pride in our successes but always be cognizant of a loving God’s care for those who seek His help and by an act of freewill seek to be transformed by Him to be worthy sons and daughters.

Truly being recollected for prayer is a stripping away of the façade of who we are and replacing it with a true representation of ourselves in the Presence of Perfection Himself.