Writings » Autobiography of Elizabeth Wang, Appendix on Prayer

This text forms part of Elizabeth Wang's Falling in Love: A Spiritual Autobiography (1999). It tells the story of her life and of her spiritual journey as she came to know Christ and His Church.

You can find the other sections here on the main WRITINGS page.

Please note that much of the text formatting has not transferred from the printed copy to this website.














“But still we have a wisdom to offer those who have reached maturity: not a philosophy of our age, it is true, still less of the masters of our age, which are coming to their end.  The hidden wisdom of God which we teach in our mysteries is the wisdom that God predestined to be for our glory before the ages began.  It is a wisdom that none of the masters of this age have ever known, or they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory;  We teach what scripture calls the things that no eye has seen and no ear has heard, things beyond the mind of man, all that God has prepared for those who love him.

                        These are the very things that God has revealed to us through the Spirit.” (1 Co 2:6-10)



Section                                                                                                                        Page




........... (Christ’s invitation. The importance of prayer)...................................................


  1. a) The purpose of the Appendix........................................................................
  2. b) How to pray...................................................................................................
  3. c) A few ‘hard sayings’ ....................................................................................
  4. d) The Appendix: several sections.....................................................................



........... (The journey of faith)..........................................................................................


  1. a) The good beginning ......................................................................................
  2. b) The first ‘night’ of the soul............................................................................
  3. c) The second ‘night’ of the soul.......................................................................
  4. d) True love for God..........................................................................................
  5. e) The soul’s ‘Betrothal’....................................................................................
  6. f) Desolation......................................................................................................
  7. g) The Spiritual Marriage..................................................................................
  8. h) True Union, in prayer and daily life..............................................................
  9. i) Perpetual joy..................................................................................................



........... (Prayer-in-Union.  The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass)...........................................


  1. a) Prayerful efforts.............................................................................................
  2. b) Love for our neighbour..................................................................................
  3. c) The Holy Eucharist........................................................................................
  4. d) How to ‘pray the Mass’.................................................................................



........... (Extraordinary prayer: reflections.).....................................................................


  1. a) Introductory note ..........................................................................................
  2. b) Living in Union ............................................................................................
  3. c) The stages and degrees: an explanation........................................................
  4. d) A note on apparitions.....................................................................................
  5. e) Definitions.....................................................................................................
  6. f) Symbols.........................................................................................................
  7. g) A warning .....................................................................................................



            (Categories of extraordinary prayer:

            from the lowest (15) to the highest (1).)..............................................................


            Category 15. A ‘sense’ of God............................................................................


            Category 14. Memory only.................................................................................


            Category 13. The soul’s experience.

  1. E) Desolation..........................................................................................
  2. D) The soul stripped, interiorly..............................................................
  3. C) The soul, burned or wounded............................................................
  4. B) Prayer with words, stirred..................................................................
  5. A) Vows and resolutions........................................................................


            Category 12. Knowledge and words

  1. D) Words to the soul...............................................................................
  2. C) Words through Holy Scripture..........................................................
  3. B) Spiritual words of conversation.........................................................
  4. A) Knowledge accompanied by words...................................................


            Category 11. Discernment...................................................................................


            Category 10.  Union with God in Recollection-pierced-with-understanding.

  1. B) ‘Light’ through Holy Scripture or another spiritual book.................
  2. A) The gift of spiritual light ...................................................................


            Category 9. Prayer of Union, with an image.

  1. B) With a journey-image in awareness..................................................
  2. A) With a living-image in awareness.....................................................


            Category 8. Teaching in prayer: with an associated image ................................

  1. D) by Knowledge with one’s own image...............................................
  2. C) by Knowledge with a given-Image....................................................
  3. B) by Knowledge with a given-Image (again).......................................

....................... A)  by Knowledge with translation...................................................


            Category 7. Reality: seen with the eyes of the soul.............................................


            Category 6.  Prayer of Felt Union

  1. C) Absorption.........................................................................................
  2. B) Flight..................................................................................................
  3. A) Jubilation...........................................................................................


            Category 5. Prayer of union-of-persons: an intellectual vision...........................


            Category 4. Prayer of union-of-wills...................................................................


            Category 3. Prayer in union, with a living-image, in Rapture ............................


            Category 2. Prayer of union-pierced-by-Knowledge..........................................


            Category 1. Prayer of Union

  1. C) Union in Unknowing.........................................................................
  2. B) Prayer of soundless dialogue with the Father....................................
  3. A) True Union in prayer and in daily life...............................................



            (Trust in Christ.  Subject matter).........................................................................














The ‘pattern’ of  prayer.


Now that I’ve written at some length, in the narrative, on the way in which someone can ‘discover’ the Catholic Church, the Catholic Faith and prayer, and have also mentioned some of the trials and torments of the early spiritual life, I’m required to recall, list and describe the many blessings and the many degrees of intimacy and union which are conferred upon the soul by God in what is called ‘advanced’ prayer.  It’s only because of His invitation that I attempt this.


I’ve had to describe these things from my own experience, since I’m not learned, and haven’t studied in any depth the experiences of others.  However, to judge from what I’ve read here and there, the stages which I describe both in the Narrative and in this Appendix follow the commonly-accepted ‘pattern’ of mystical prayer - even though the names which I’ve given to the categories of prayer might be different, simply because of my separation in time from other such writers, or because of ignorance on my part.


It seems to me that what I’m writing sounds very formal, or stilted.  This is perhaps inevitable since, first, I’ve little experience in writing of these things, and no advice on the writing itself, but only an assurance that the ‘teachings’ which I receive in prayer are a true gift from God.  Secondly, it seems extremely important to me that these matters are described accurately and calmly; so there’s no place here, I feel, for the colloquialisms or the flourishes I  might have used in a letter to a friend.


As with so many other things, I must do the best I can and leave the results in God’s hands.  Nothing could have made me even dream of attempting  to write about such things - things which are so sacred, and which I’m not fit to describe - if it hadn’t been made plain to me that it was the Will of God that I first write this piece about prayer, and then use it at the conclusion of a volume of spiritual autobiography.


An enormous volume.


The first draft of a long piece about prayer and its categories, now revised, and placed in


Sections three, four, five and six of this Appendix, was written at intervals as I pressed on with my usual domestic work and worship and outings, in the early 1990’s. Gradually, I came to see how much of what I’d written in the past few years was to be gathered in one work, which if I’d been asked to undertake it, all at once, in the beginning, would have tempted me to run away in despair. 


As Our Lord led me so gently to do first one section of the work, and then another, He was patient with my  puzzlement.  He knew that I’d learn to have greater trust in Him.  I found that an enormous body of work was steadily being prepared for the future: for a time known only by Christ Who had been guiding me through the various stages of the spiritual life as well as through the stages of writing.


Now I’ve been shown by Christ, in 1998, that the whole written work is to consist of this spiritual autobiography with its Appendix on Prayer, and also of several volumes of “Teachings-in-prayer: Instructions from Christ” - now written in the first person in accordance with His wishes; and I’m content to do what He asks of me next, even though I’m not sure exactly what use will be made of it.  I trust in the Providence of God, Who guides everything wisely, and guides in the best possible way everyone who sincerely asks His help.



Beginning with ‘the basics’.


Throughout much of this Appendix, you’ll see references to the sorts of devotions which are commonplace but valuable in Catholic life, and which I’ve practised throughout the past thirty years.  I’ve omitted the practice of some of these devotions, temporarily, in times of illness or crisis, but, thanks to God, have never omitted the ‘basics’, by which I mean daily praise and thanksgiving to God, in whatever ‘shape’ it has been offered.


As I shall tell, I haven’t included these details in order to persuade anyone to pray as I’ve prayed, but - in obedience to Christ’s invitation - only to show that the true prayer-in-union which many of us have hoped to achieve needs a firm foundation. 


Although it’s true that we can only pray because God in His kindness has first prompted us to do so, and then has enabled us to pray to Him by the power of His Spirit, and in the Name of Jesus, it’s also true that without our free decision to co-operate with what is usually an interior, spiritual prompting, prayer doesn’t ‘begin’.  It’s our responsibility to find a time and a place where we can express our utter dependence on God, and our longing to know Him, to serve Him, to praise Him, and to share His Life.


It’s usually only when we begin to make ‘space’ for God in our lives and begin to want to love Him that we start opening the door of our hearts from the inside - so to speak - and so allow God to shine His Light within our souls and our lives; and until the ‘door’ has been opened by a willing soul, the adventure which is mystical union with God can’t usually begin: so great is God’s respect for our free-will.  He forces no-one to love Him, but gives the gentlest invitation and ‘awaits’ a free response.





Private prayer: an introduction.


It’s because so much of this Appendix necessarily describes things to do with long-practiced devotions, and also ‘extraordinary’ prayer, that I’m offering a few pages here, in this introduction, about how to begin to pray: for some of you who perhaps have never prayed, and don’t know how to start.


What I intend to say is: here’s a way of praying which is fairly straightforward and which will bring someone close to God, if he chooses to practice it.  But I’m not saying that it’s the best or the only way.


If I met someone who asked me to teach her how to swim, I’d probably teach her ‘the side-stroke’; but another person might teach her how to do ‘the crawl’; but in either case, she’d learn how to move in such a way that she stayed afloat in the water and - at the same time -  also moved swiftly to the other side of the pool.


So each of us must pray in the way which God has brought  to our attention through books, perhaps, or through prayerful friends - as long as that prayer involves belief in God, with reverent and trusting attention to Him as we approach Him in the Name of Christ.  I’ll explain more about Christ in a moment; but every reliable Christian teacher wants to help people to raise their hearts and minds to God; and so all methods and recommendations can be judged - if this is necessary - by whether or not they do indeed encourage people to move towards God in praise, thanksgiving, contrition and trust.




  1. b) HOW TO PRAY.


What to do first.


This is what I’ve suggested to people who’ve asked me about prayer, though, as I’ve said, there are numerous valid and worthwhile ‘approaches’; and of course we can pray absolutely anywhere, at any time; but my aim has always been to encourage people to develop the habit of prayer; hence the details below.  I usually say something along these lines:-


“Go to your room and lock the door; or, if you don’t have a room of your own, go to a quiet place such as a Catholic church or the corner of a park.


If you’re outdoors, you can stand, sit or kneel; but if you’re indoors, kneel if you can.  Kneel by a cupboard or by your bed if you need something to lean on.  You can lie flat on your front on the floor, or sit on the bed, if you prefer - but it’s good to kneel before God if we’re healthy. It helps to remind us of Who He is and how powerful and marvellous He is, besides loving and fatherly.  We mustn’t worry about Him; but although we shall learn to trust Him, to believe in His love for us and to chat freely about our most secret and perhaps shameful worries, we should know that God is nevertheless more glorious and worthy of respect than anyone we have ever met or imagined.


First: do one minute’s plain thinking ... of something on these lines: God is certainly mysterious; He might seem to be far away.  But the Church which was founded when God (as Jesus) came to earth and lived amongst us now continues to teach us what God is really like.  It teaches us that God is almost mad with love for us.  He thinks we’re marvellous - and wants us to be happy!  He wants us to turn to Him in all our troubles and to put our trust in Him, which is why we kneel besides our beds - or elsewhere, really believing that God is pleased and delighted that we have turned to Him for a few moments, uninterrupted by distractions, so far as is possible at present.


So: honesty is all!  You have Someone listening Who is ‘thrilled’ by all your good points, and Who longs for you to be happy despite all your fears and phobias and failings, or, rather, even now: with your private phobias and failings, which don’t stop Him loving you.  Quite the contrary: He has tremendous pity and compassion for you in your difficulties. He cannot resist hearts which admit their weaknesses frankly and humbly.


So: make the Sign of the Cross.  By that act of faith (for such it is) you place yourself surely within God’s life, ‘in’ Christ.


Then try shutting your eyes, and turning your inmost heart and thoughts and longings and towards the God-in-darkness when you can’t see or imagine but Whom you believe is with you.  You don’t have to see: only to believe and to pray sincerely.  Just push aside, gently, the Father-Christmas-type images which float into view.  But don’t worry if you’re not successful.  We are all helped, early on, by different images.


But, if you can, peer into that interior darkness, steadily, and say to the God who made you and Who loves you more than you know, whatever is most truly the thought or desire at the ‘centre’ of your heart, at present, perhaps:

- “Here I am”, or

- “I feel silly, but I’m trying to pray,” or

- “Show me Who You are”, or

- “I’m lonely; are You really there?” or perhaps

- “This is what I’m terrified of, and this and this; I’ll wait here while you give me some of Your peace, because I believe You can.”


Then, believe that God will give you some help and enlightenment and peace, even if your mind is going in six directions at once, and you don’t seem to feel peaceful.  You will be calmer and wiser when you leave prayer than you were before it, and also wiser in the judgements and activities which you take part in afterwards.


Whatever good might seem to have come from your prayer-time might not seem to ‘last’ for long; I mean - we so quickly fall back into old patterns of thinking; so don’t keep looking for changes within yourself.  Practice improves everything; and that’s one reason why we so desperately need to pray regularly, though in a way which suits us.  I mean that some people enjoy meeting God in silence, whilst other people feel lost if there’s nothing ‘going on,’ and need words as a framework for prayer; and it’s for those who want something to cling to, or who want a sort of ladder which will lead them to a point at which they can launch out into wordless prayer, later on, that I make these simple suggestions for a daily routine:-


Put yourself before God.


Tell Him honestly what is filling your inmost heart and mind.

Tell Him all the other fears and miseries.


Thank Him for the good things!


Say sorry for any way in which you’ve been thoughtless towards other people or have neglected the things you know God wants you to do: things which trouble your conscience.


Trustingly, ask God’s help for all the persons closest to you, or whom you worry most about.


Ask God, confidently, for the grace to go through the day calmly, working hard at what needs doing, but not worrying about little failures.


You might turn your inmost heart, too - and practice and grace will make this easier - towards Our blessed Lady, who is there in Heaven longing to help us.  Ask her to pray for you.  In fact - be bold: ask all the Angels and Saints to pray for you - they will!


Stay there silently, at peace for a few moments, if you’re able, simply to honour God by your silent attention to Him in naked faith.  But be happy to get up or stay still.  He’s delighted with every sincere prayer - long or short.


If you want to pray for a bit longer, but aren’t happy with silent attention to God, read a prayer from a prayerbook, and offer those thoughts to God, if you can make them your own.


Then, if you can, prepare your mind to go out into ‘normal’ life again, saying “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” whilst making a careful sign of the Cross. This is not like adjusting your spectacles or putting away a prayer book. It’s a very prayerful and powerful help and protection, and puts us ever more firmly within God’s grace and protection.  That’s why early Christians - and most Christians through the centuries, and many today - make the Sign before and after each prayer-time, before setting out on a journey, or beginning a new project, for example: whether a meal or a letter to a friend, or a new shift at work.



Progress in prayer.


All prayer is good, but better prayer means more help, not because God won’t help us unless we pray ‘well’, but because of His respect for us.  He so respects our freedom and our privacy that He doesn’t trample all over our souls - so to speak - without permission.  But if we regularly invite Him to help us, He works quiet wonders in our lives.


So if you - or anyone - can pray to God in the name of Jesus (more about that in a second) every morning and evening, though without thinking “He’ll be put off” you if you’re too tired or busy to pray now and then, you will progress rapidly in quite a short while, provided that you turn to Him in utter sincerity.  You can tell Him anything and everything and He will help you to sort out your life to your best advantage, teaching you to see things as He sees them, and teaching you to trust in Him in every difficulty.


But: remember: God is Truth as well as love; so we grow closer to Him the more we dare to speak only perfect truth to him: I mean, the real truths which are in our hearts as we pray, even if the truth is that we’re worried about spots, people, stomach-aches or exams.  Tell Him!  You can pray for your friends, too, and for the poor and the starving: but you won’t pray for them well or sincerely until you’ve told God the truth about your real fears and desires.


By the way: do read a little bit from a good book in your prayer-time, if it helps you to gather your thoughts together at the beginning, or if a few phrases of someone else’s prayer or reflection can help to ‘launch’ you more swiftly toward God than your own vague thoughts and yearnings.  There aren’t any rules, as such, in private prayer, which is meant  to be a sincere and trusting opening-of-our-heart to God, so that He can draw us closer to Himself, teach us about Himself, lead us to see more clearly our own selves and the needs of other people, and so purify and change us and make us Christ-like and loving and joyful.  Whatever assists us in this process, therefore, is worthwhile, provided that its ‘seasoned’ with common-sense and prudence.



The reason for our trust.


It seems important, now, that I attempt to solve two small worries before I finish.  At least - these points worry most people, though not all.  But I’ll jot them down here, while they’re on my mind.


What makes Christianity unique is that Christians pray to God as children to their Heavenly Father.  When we pray to God “in the name of Jesus” we mean that since God Almighty took flesh from Mary, became man, died, rose again and returned to Heaven, where He waits - as it were - for us to join Him, we can be sure that since we now believe in Him, and have been baptised into His Life, or hope to be baptised, and follow His example (guided by His Holy Spirit) we are allowed to address Almighty God not only as “God” or “Your Majesty” (on our knees) but as “Father” or “Abba”: which means “Daddy”.


It’s solely because - through baptism or through our desire for baptism - we now belong to Jesus, that we have the right to stand before God and ask for and expect His help.  We don’t have to grovel, through ignorance, as though before a ruthless tyrant, though we must bear in mind what a privilege and marvel it is that, through Jesus’ suffering and death, the sins we have committed against our holy, compassionate and Infinitely-good Creator can be forgiven.


We can pray to God with absolute confidence that we’re like children whose every whisper is heard by an adoring Mother.  God is no longer far away from us.  God the Holy Trinity - Infinite God - even dwells within our souls.


But we mustn’t tie ourselves in knots trying to understand the Holy Trinity.  In our simple, honest prayers, you or I might instinctively say ‘O God’ or ‘Jesus’ or ‘Heavenly Father’. (I prayed: “Oh You!” ... for years, very reverently.)  Do what comes naturally - but don’t try to ‘imagine’ God.


Various images of “Christ as Man” might come and go in our minds.  They can be useful; but what matters is that we believe in Him.  One day, we hope, He will lead us to the Father, even though He has said: “TO HAVE SEEN ME IS TO HAVE SEEN THE FATHER” (Jn 14:9).


Lastly, don’t forget that this amazing Jesus to Whom we pray, and Who is so keen to help us, is Really Present in every place where the Blessed Sacrament is found.


We who believe this sincerely - and it’s the Church’s true and accurate and important teaching which Saints have died to defend - will be enormously comforted not only by each prayer made on a bus or bench, or in a café or disco, but also by the Real Presence of Christ Who is really there with us in every chapel of the Blessed Sacrament: just as near and dear as He was to His Apostles in Galilee - only in a different way: a sacramental way.


So we can speak to Christ there, pouring out our problems, or pleading for others, or just saying ‘Thank You very much’ for good things.  He’s always waiting to listen to us, but loves to give us His interior gifts too; so it’s silly not to take advantage of His marvellous Presence.



Offering up our sufferings.


In between your prayer-times, and throughout the whole day, “offer up” your sufferings, united in prayer with Christ.  This will make you one with Him in helping and consoling suffering people.  I’m not suggesting that we can’t take steps to avoid suffering, to relieve pain, or to correct injustice, if we can do so charitably, in accordance with our circumstances and our duties and God’s plan for us.  There are many sufferings in this life, however, which we can’t avoid, and which must be borne with patience if we want to imitate Christ our Saviour and model; and it’s through such patient endurance that we can actively unite ourselves to Christ, and so help other people to bear their burdens and to be rescued from sin.


As soon as you meet unavoidable suffering  - large or small - whether pain, disappointment, humiliation, grief, neglect, dismissal or toothache, turn to Christ.  Tell Him that you accept this suffering and willingly unite it to what He bore in His Passion.  Tell Him that you’re doing this out of love for Him, in reparation for your own sins and for the sins of other people.  This is a powerful and loving prayer which is very Christ-centred and effective.


Offer your sufferings in this way, regularly, for a special intention, if you wish to do so: perhaps for someone’s conversion, or for a successful outcome to some good work, or for the Holy Father, or for a departed soul - or as a powerful prayer for more vocations or for people in special need.


Offer up your sufferings throughout each day, in union with Christ, in order to do what Saint Paul did, who said: I am suffering “... IN MY OWN BODY TO DO WHAT i CAN TO MAKE UP ALL THAT HAS STILL TO BE UNDERGONE BY CHRIST” (Col 1:24).  It was Christ Who saved us by His Passion and Death; but we are privileged to be able to join in His redeeming work: to help to bring other people towards Him, through our patience in suffering and our union with Him.


Notice how everything that you used to find difficult can be ‘converted’ into a prayer, if you do as I’ve described.  You can ‘offer up’ even encounters with people who despise you or with angry motorists.  You can offer up each tedious delay in a hospital waiting room or each disappointment at work, or each painful step with a sore foot - or some perpetual, hidden heartache.  Every single trouble can be faced, shown to Christ, accepted - by His grace - and offered as a powerful prayer to the Father; and the reason why the Father is so deeply touched by such prayers is that as we make them, we resemble Christ more closely than at almost any other time, since we’re imitating Him in His submission, obedience, patience, forgiveness, and love for others.





Be Christ-like.  If you receive insults for your Faith, accept them silently, as a penance.  In the same way, accept disappointment, waiting, frustration or betrayal.  Silently, turn to Christ in your soul, saying: “I accept this, for love of You.  I unite my suffering to Yours, out of sorrow for my failings, and making reparation for the sins of others!”  Bear the pain of it!  Be resolved to share your Faith when circumstances permit.



Points to remember.


Put your trust in God, but don’t keep worrying about seeing ‘results’.  It’s true that prayer can work wonders, where there’s a ‘mustard-seed’ of faith, and perseverance; but prayer doesn’t instantly clear up every fear or phobia we have.  It is, supremely, not a therapy, but a way of being in touch and staying in touch, very closely, with God Himself, Who gives us Divine Life, in Christ, and Who is more powerful than any number of healers or counsellors, though of course we ought to accept help from doctors and other experts when appropriate.  But the important thing to remember is that God is a true Father to all who have put their trust in Him.  He is constantly loving us: you and me; and He can lead us through our daily jobs and joys and miseries, giving more patience and calmness and real joy than we might have dreamed was possible.


It’s true that our joy and peace does tend to get swamped, at each crisis.  But if we pray regularly and well - although every prayer is a good prayer, in one sense - we shall find it easier to keep our balance in the difficult times, and we’ll be less pessimistic generally, since we’ll be starting to trust in God, at last.


Here’s another quick word about honesty in prayer; an old motto is: “Do what you can and not what you can’t”.  In other words - it’s no good pretending to be devoted contemplatives if all we can honestly manage at this moment of our life is a sincere but gritted-teeth “Hello” to God when we fall out of bed each morning.  So, too, it’s no good pretending that we’re  not wounded, frightened persons if we are.  Our loving God isn’t like an employer who only wants to talk to us when we’ve cleaned ourselves up, and have put on our smartest clothes.  He’s infinitely holy and majestic in Himself, which is why we approach Him with honour and reverence; yet He is infinitely tender as well as holy; and so He is like a mother in His ‘attitude’ towards us: full of delight at our smallest efforts to respond to His invitations, ever-ready to listen to our sincere thoughts and confidences, and utterly joyful at seeing our little attempts to live as children of God should live, as we try to show towards others the love and forgiveness which we know God shows perpetually towards ourselves.


Even as we fail in so many of our efforts, we are immensely loved by God, Who delights in our efforts to begin again, and Who give us strength and peace whenever we open our hearts to Him in sincere contrition and trust.  It’s worth remembering, however, that there’s one sure way of stopping progress in prayer: and that’s deliberately to refuse to make efforts to conform our behaviour with what we know, in our hearts, to be right.  To be deliberately and determinedly selfish, whether disobedient to God or malicious towards our neighbour, is to make oneself a hypocrite in prayer and so to turn ourselves away from God.  But remember: He’s never turning away from us: and so we can turn back to Him, to start again, a hundred thousand times; and, each time, He’ll welcome us to His heart, whether or not we ‘feel’ it. That’s the other thing to remember: that we live by faith, and don’t rely on a diet of wonderful experiences to be kept going - though it’s true that God gives gifts just when they’re most needed, because He loves us.”







Drawing closer to God.


Now that I’ve said such a lot about learning how to pray, I feel duty-bound to offer a few ‘hard sayings’ about how to draw even closer to God, day by day and year by year - when our ‘honeymoon’ of faith has almost ended and our difficulties seem to multiply at each renewed attempt to be fervent and faithful.


If we genuinely want to draw closer to God, we should first remember that we are already extremely close to Him in this sense: He made us from nothing, and He supports us in existence at every moment of our life.  But, in the spiritual life, to grow closer to God is to become a truer friend of God - though astounded that we’re invited  to be so intimate with God Himself, Who is so beautiful, powerful, wise and glorious.


Through God’s kindness, shown in the teachings and life and death and resurrection of Christ, each one of us can hope to become an intimate friend of God.  Yet we have to do two things to bring about this intimacy or, rather, to say ‘Yes’ to the intimate friendship which, throughout our life, is held out to us.


First, we have to want to be close to God.  Many people don’t want this, because they know it will mean change and purification; and their fear and short-sightedness deter them even from hoping for such close union.  They’re willing to pray every day, but don’t really want to become too ‘involved’ with God.


Secondly, we have to begin acting as if we are true friends of God, which means: expressing our attitude of friendship by trying to see and do God’s Will, at this very moment, instead of putting Him on trial, so to speak, by demanding results and solutions before we’ll consent to love and serve Him.


This is the point I want to stress above all, because there seems to be so much confusion about it nowadays.  We don’t grow closer to God by enjoying certain books, or by being stirred by certain pieces of music, or by relishing elevated thoughts about God, although all of these things can prompt us to begin praying or doing kind things, for God’s sake.


It’s only in trying to love and serve God right now, here, in my own peculiar circumstances, that I can hope to open up the ‘channel’ which unites His heart with mine and through which He wishes to give me countless gifts: joy, peace, patience, wisdom, courage, humility, and many others.


If I’m not loving God’s obvious Will for me at this very moment, I am quite obviously not loving God as I ought, since - faith tells us - God’s infinitely wise Providence is drawing me through every single event and circumstance of life in a way which will bring me extraordinary growth and enormous graces: if I will consent to follow His path and not to pursue my selfish ambitions.



Finding ‘true North’.


More than anyone, God knows in what way I can be encouraged in what my life should be ‘about’: which is the imitation of Christ’s love and Christ’s virtues, in my own era and my own circumstances; and God alone knows the special way in which I can most fruitfully love and serve the ‘neighbours’ with whom I hope to live for ever in Heaven, one day.


No sensible Christian can deny that following God’s Will is sometimes painful or lonely; this is the ‘Cross’ which Our Lord spoke about.  But no sensible Christian, I believe, can deny that at each moment that we’re determinedly choosing to obey and serve God, we are thereby proving our love for Him, and at each moment that we’re saying to Him: ‘No, I won’t do Your Will at the moment,’ we’re deliberately (thereby) putting a halt to any growth in intimacy that might have been underway: not because His Will and His Laws ‘count’ for more than anything, in a legalistic way, but because we, in such a stance, are freely choosing to turn away from Him.


So I’m not even talking, here, about serious sin.  I’m saying that to turn away from God’s Will in the slightest degree is to turn away from God, (as when a compass needle veers away from ‘true North’).  It is we, by our turning, who can ‘cut off’ the graces and helps which God wishes to pour upon us at the present moment.  And if we are tempted to think that God is ‘intolerant’, we should reflect on the marvel of our relationship with Him.  Here is God our Father, we can say, willing to live ‘face to face’ - as it were - with weak, pitiful human beings: and this privilege is ours because we have come to Him through Christ and Christ’s Sacrifice; and, yet how tragic it is that instead of being thrilled by ‘face-to-face,’ moment-to-moment prayers and honest confessions and increasing friendship with God, we sometimes become fed up with God’s Will and with feeling humiliated at how badly we serve Him.  We lose our fervour or look ‘sideways’ at easier ways of life; or we kid ourselves that God doesn’t care what we do; and even then, we’re so anxious to claim that we still have a great friendship with God that we search for experiences which will give us warm ‘religious’ feelings and which will thus persuade us that we’re as close to God as ever we were, despite our immoral behaviour or dereliction of duty.  But it’s important not to become confused about these things.  We mustn’t imagine that rectitude is what counts.  If that were true, Christ would have given us a list of 894 good things to do, with ‘points’ to cross off for bad behaviour.



Good and evil.


As Holy Scripture says: it is ‘a contrite heart’ which pleases God; and it’s when our heart is turned to God, contrite, in the present moment, longing to love and serve Him, that we can be sure that God’s graces are pouring lavishly upon us, to help us, even if unseen or unfelt; and those graces will make our poor, struggling, pitiful lives, glorious and fruitful!


That’s why I urge people to struggle for holiness, yet why I urge them, also, to be on their guard, and to think about temptation: but not just about the temptations we usually hear about: to lust, anger or disobedience.  It’s worth thinking about what must be the attitude of the evil one - so named by Christ Himself - towards one of Christ’s own friends who is trying to love and serve God as well as possible to definite circumstances, in the present moment?  It’s worth recalling the old phrase: ‘Know your enemy.’


Obviously, temptations will be hurtled at such a person, to draw him or her away from ‘the present moment’ in which a really amazing and fruitful contact is made with God.  The temptations will be aimed at both past and future; that person will be tempted to regret past choices, linger in memory on past injustices, or bewail an imagined lack of friends, opportunities or gifts.  Then ‘the future’ will leap up within the imagination, pictured so colourfully as to make ‘the present’ seem dreary; even better, from the point of view of the evil one, the bright future - pictured so vividly - will be seen as impossible to embrace, because of certain attitudes or plans of a person’s relatives or friends; thus, the evil one succeeds not only in making someone feel frustrated, but in poisoning certain relationships, and thus killing charity, which is his enemy.


There ought to be whole chapters written about temptation for the education of school-children who either have not heard the word in religious instruction lessons, or who have only heard the word in connection with jokes about early-nineteenth-century ‘prudery’ or “outmoded Victorian attitudes.”  But then, it would be hard to convince anyone of the dangers of temptation, if they don’t believe in the tempter; and it’s less and less common today, I’ve found, to hear people talk about good and evil, about Heaven and Hell, or about kindness and rebellion - as though in the world and the universe there exist only degrees of goodness, and no real danger: and therefore no need of talk about sin or the Cross or Salvation.




Greater strength from God.


Since we’re all in such need of every scrap of help we can find, I can’t finish this section without mentioning the effects of the sacrament of Confirmation in our lives.  I’ve no wish to rush people one iota along their spiritual journey, but I want to show that fear and weakness of any kind aren’t conquered fully or permanently by will-power alone.  Common-sense and intelligence can lessen our very real fears and anxieties: indeed, God himself gave us our brains and common-sense and wants to use them; but His greatest gifts come through the sacraments; and we cannot do anything good without His grace.


We know that through conception, we’re given life, and that through birth we’re given the opportunity to use some of our natural gifts and aptitudes during our time on earth; but it’s through Baptism that we are given the supernatural gifts - of faith and hope and love - and are given “Life in Christ,” which includes the ability to pray as God’s child, in the sure hope of being heard.  It includes the right to call out confidently to God with Christ, and with our brothers and sisters, as Christians gather with Christ and with each other in the supreme act of prayer and praise and sacrifice which is the Holy Mass, and from which prayer all our private prayers draw their ‘value’.


When, however, we are confirmed, we receive further gifts from Christ’s Holy Spirit, Whom we received in baptism to guide us.  His graces are poured out in our souls much more strongly; and the gifts which we are given at this time include Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude - which is courage of a special order - Knowledge, Piety, and the fear of the Lord: which means true awe and reverence.  That’s why I’d urge every Catholic who practises his or her Faith but who hasn’t yet been confirmed to discuss the possibility with a priest.


God has so many ways of helping us; and it’s plain sad if we don’t hold out our hands, so to speak, for His free gifts.



Finding out more about God.


I’m sure that everyone who prays will pray even more fruitfully, the more each person finds out about God, Who is so loving and loveable, and about the Faith by which He wants us to live.


The better we know and understand our earthly friends, the more at ease we can be in our intimate conversations, and the more confidently we can set out to plan a particular treat, or to help them in some way.  So it is with God: the more we know about Him, the better we shall pray to Him, love Him, know how to please Him, and confidently do what we know is His Will; and that’s why all ‘spiritual writers’ recommend spiritual reading.


Try to set aside a few minutes, daily, to read even a paragraph of one of the following, to keep you more in touch with and fed by spiritual reality: a biography of a Saint or a few verses from the Gospels or other parts of Holy Scripture, a religious poem or pamphlet, a prayer book or a catechism - or a book of short reflections or meditations.


There are so many instructive and encouraging books available; but don’t read anything.  Look carefully.   Make sure it is ‘sound’.  Unless your faith is mature and tested, stick to orthodox works.  These will teach you much about God, and will also give you ‘material’ for informal meditations and for prayer.


So: do your thinking and praying and studying as and when you choose.  But there are marvellous gifts for you to use when you feel able to call on them or when you fully believe.


Out of all of this, take what you can use, and ignore the rest.  It’s my little effort to help in the only way possible to me at the moment: through encouragement and advice; but only you can decide, in your heart of hearts, that if God created you so that you can love and serve Him now, and live with Him in bliss when this earthly life is over, it’s worth making efforts to be ‘in contact,’ and to become one of God’s good friends, through prayer and through a life of love and forgiveness.


That friendship is held out to us, now; and it’s by deciding to pray, and by doing so - no matter  how briefly - that we reach out to seize the friendship, and say ‘Yes’ to the hope of an intimate union which, in the end, will fulfil every dream and yearning.”







Several stages of prayer.


There follows, in Section one, a plain outline of the spiritual life, which I call ‘DETERMINATION’, or “The Journey of Faith”. It seems appropriate that I summarise the soul’s progress from birth to Union, and so remind the reader of the long and terrible journey which is contemplated when a sinful soul is willing to be purified, and so to be made fit for true union with God in Christ.  The devout soul wants this, not because he wants suffering, but because he wants to love and serve God; and any encounter with holiness, when we are so imperfect, will inevitably involve suffering.  Nevertheless, the willing soul can hope to live in a true Communion with Christ, even in this life, united with the Father in and through Christ, within the life and love of the Most Holy Trinity - though all of this is by faith, and not yet by clear sight: and yet that mystical communion gives incomparable bliss, even amidst earthly sufferings.


In Section two, I write about the preparations which are necessary for anyone who hopes to live in an intimate union of love with God during earthly life.


Section three is about various things to do with extraordinary prayer - sometimes called mystical prayer or true contemplative union.


Section four consists of a lengthly explanation of each stage of extraordinary prayer.


Section five provides an illustrated list of numerous stages in the mystical way towards union.  It is illustrated by small line drawings only because the symbols shown are what I’ve devised as useful for my water-colour sketches of ‘prayer-images’.  This is explained more fully in the text.


Section six consists of a few water-colour illustrations of the different types of prayer-images mentioned in parts six and seven.


Section seven is my conclusion, with a list of the types of subject matter which are explained in Christ’s ‘teachings’.



Visions and locutions.


If anyone who reads about the numerous categories of prayer which I’m to describe (in Appendix 4 and 5, in particular) thinks it strange that an Appendix with such detailed information should have been placed here, or unnecessary, he can be assured that I, too, think it strange - but not unnecessary, and for this reason: that Our Lord has invited me to produce this work with its two unequal halves; and so I’ve done so, even though I don’t understand every facet of His plans, and even though I’m more keen to dissuade people from taking notice of their visions or supposed visions than to make it easier for them to think about such things.


It seems to me, however, that the two parts of this book support one another.  I mean that someone who reads the Narrative, yet who has doubts about the descriptions of prayer-experiences, can turn to the Appendix to find a systematic description of prayer-states: a description only achieved, I know - though I’m aware of its deficiencies - by someone who has in fact been taught by Christ and has been led by Him, in prayer, from one state or stage to another, to her amazement, but in accordance with His extraordinary plan.  Then I mean, also, that someone who turns, first, to the Appendix and who has doubts about the truth of it - about whether God really induces such apparently-complicated states in the soul of someone who prays in the Name of Christ - can turn to the Narrative to find some enlightenment. 


I believe that it’s plain, in the Narrative, that the whole process of communion between God and the soul, with co-operation and commitment, is a lengthy and gentle process, initiated and guided by God.   It will be plain, also, that the apparently ‘complicated’ prayer-experiences were only introduced by God a little at a time after a lengthy preparation; and I hope it will be plain that there was a wise purpose behind the gift of those experiences and ‘teachings’: and that purpose was not only wise but loving.  It will be seen that as God led me through each new stage of prayer, He was drawing me into a closer friendship, helping me to mature in the spiritual life whilst also helping me to grow more child-like in my attitude towards Him; and He was - is - providing teachings which would help other souls besides myself, and which would make me so grateful and awe-struck that I became determined  to put Him first in everything, no matter what it cost me.


Needless to say, I don’t manage  to do so, all the time, but He delights in our efforts to love Him; but that’s a digression.  I’m trying to say that it will be plain, perhaps, in the Narrative, that even the apparently-complicated prayer-experiences which I’ve described have the appearance of an ordered sequence which progressively enlightens my soul and also leads me on towards a greater and more wonderful knowledge of what-God-is-‘like’.



Divine-human friendship: a parallel.


It might quieten one or two doubts that people have, as they read about ‘complicated’ sorts of prayer, if I explain that surely the friendship between God and a human being has a parallel in a relationship between earthly friends.


The love between two persons who are attracted to one another and who remain friends eventually becomes something simpler and clearer, whilst the interests which those friends can discuss and share perhaps grow broader - more complex - as each person grows in knowledge of the other; and so it is in our friendship with God.  I mean that when someone develops an intimate friendship with God through prayer, the love between God and the soul might seem to grow simpler and purer; the expression of that love will become simpler, swifter, purer and more joyful; and yet the depths and breadths of ‘knowledge,’ experience and glory now found in that friendship in its fullness parallel the wider ‘interests’ of the earthly friends; and that’s why my descriptions of the various categories of what I call ‘extraordinary prayer’ seem so complicated when they’re captured in print: categorised, illustrated and labelled, although what is experienced in such states is wholly spiritual, light and gentle, illuminating and sanctifying and simple.


It’s impossible to describe such things; but it’s not impossible to attempt to do so in order to obey Our Lord’s request; and so what I present is only an attempt; but I know that in His sight, it’s sufficiently-accurate to achieve His purpose; and since His plans - He has told me - far surpass anything I might ever have dreamed would be possible, I’m content to finish this work and to leave it all in His hands.














Several stages of the spiritual life.


Before I begin to describe things to do with extraordinary prayer, I must try to give a brief word-picture of the spiritual journey in its entirety.


I can see clearly now, as if they were drawn on a map, the several stages of the spiritual life through which God can draw us, through  our life in Christ; but I don’t intend to reveal every detail of all those stages, since other writers have described much of the journey, and there’s no need for me to duplicate their work.  I mean that, at the beginning, all journeys are the same, even though our personal characteristics are different and our backgrounds and attitudes seem to be very unalike.  The similarity lies in the effects produced in each individual soul when each person freely chooses to respond to the grace of God and therefore attempts to please God by doing good and by refraining from evil; and of course it’s because of our Baptism that we can know that God’s grace is ours, and is powerful; and it’s also because of our Baptism that we can pray in Christ to our Father in Heaven.


We can never praise God enough for our life - for the life of body and soul - and for our birth;  yet it’s the second ‘birth’ - our Baptism - which should draw from us even greater expressions of gratitude and wonder.


This sacrament is so marvellous, both in what it signifies and in what it achieves, that we should never let a day pass without thanking God for having brought us into His own Life in this way, whether it was in infancy or in adult life.  We should thank Him too, for all his gifts, in particular for our Confirmation in the Life of Christ, in the strength of His Holy Spirit, and for the Holy Eucharist, and for all the holy sacraments given to His Church.  But I mustn’t write any more on those subjects since my main task is to identify the stages of the spiritual life, with its peculiar joys and problems.



Mixed fervour and blindness.


Many ‘beginners’ are fervent.  They pray a great deal; and since every attempt to love God


more fervently draws upon the soul more grace and strength, no-one can fail to progress in the knowledge and love of God if, with all his heart and will he clings to God amidst all difficulties, trusting in God’s goodness and relying on the benefits He pours out through His Holy Catholic Church.


It’s true that, at the beginning of the journey to Union, few souls are aware of the extent of their own weaknesses.  Nevertheless, when someone is faithful to prayer, is firm in resisting temptations, and remains resolute in his main ambition, which is to love God and his neighbour with his whole heart, then his progress will be rapid.


For the first few weeks - or years - someone might attempt to please God and to please his neighbour, when his aim should be to love God and his neighbour.  Such a soul hasn’t yet grasped that he can’t please everyone, no matter how hard he tries.  He works and prays with great generosity, but is secretly convinced that he can please God, on this earth, and at the same time can make others happy, too, without opposition or difficulty, as if Christ had never said that He came to set “A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER” and to warn us that “A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THOSE OF HIS OWN HOUSEHOLD” (Mt 10:35-36).



Little trust in God.


A fervent person might have much genuine goodwill, at this stage; but he usually has great faith in his own powers, and little real trust in God.  He frequently interferes in things which aren’t his business, proudly imagining that he can solve what others have failed to solve, even though he’s quite blind to many of his own faults and makes excuses for his own backslidings.


During this time, the prayerful soul is full of contradictions, though he thinks himself sure-sighted and brave.  By grace and by self-examination he begins to suspect his own lack of generosity, but he is still intolerant of others’ faults.  Even as he throws himself wholeheartedly into the loving service of others, prepared to exhaust himself for God’s sake, he wonders why other people aren’t more loving and generous.  He thinks he is humble, because he is awe-struck when thinking of God and His Creation, but it is secretly proud of what he himself achieves; and although he has truly made great sacrifices for God, he is still fearful of the opinions of others - in ways which he doesn’t yet see - and so trims the practice of his faith, unknowingly, less concerned with truth than with current fashions.  I’m not speaking here of efforts to be tactful or thoughtful, but of the adoption of small but dangerous ways in which a compromise is made with the spirit of the world, in order to avoid suffering.


Despite immaturity, however, a good-hearted person deliberately attempts to practise the virtues, and begs God for the grace to eradicate apparently incurable faults.  He genuinely wishes to grow in the knowledge and love of God, because this is what God wishes;  however, he isn’t yet willing to sacrifice all that is unworthy of the life of someone who wants to live in perfect union with God.  He’s not so foolish as to cultivate the perfection of his own soul in a narcissistic manner since he truly feels very humbled by the thought of God’s perfection; yet he tends to forget that God alone has made possible his present exertions and triumphs. He becomes overwhelmed with work, since other people find him so willing and kind; but he hasn’t yet found the courage to refuse things that he needn’t do, nor has he opened his heart sufficiently to receive from God those powers of discernment which would enable him to see what is essential and what is not.

At this stage, such a soul rarely thinks about ‘stages’.  He’s almost too busy to think, having to carve out, as it were, some time for prayer and spiritual reading, which he knows to be essential, as is attendance at Holy Mass and at the Sacrament of Reconciliation:  I mean essential for the soul’s health, even when someone might be excused attendance at Mass on account, perhaps, of ill health, or might know that “Confession” isn’t obligatory for those who believe themselves to be free from grave sin.


That someone’s love of God and of his neighbour is real can be shown by his longing to serve God perfectly - even though he’s unaware of his own blindness about many things; and it’s also shown by his struggles to serve and to cherish his family and friends, and not only them, but everyone he meets in the course of the day, especially those who are in trouble.  It’s shown, too, by his longing to know more about God, and about the Revelation once made in Christ and handed on in His Church.  Since he is wise and good-hearted he tries to study the Faith, in a manner appropriate to his way of life.


Furthermore, he will be brave in resisting temptations, even though he might not be able to explain to other people everything he’s doing.  He develops a longing to do good and to avoid evil, guided by the Holy Spirit; and so he listens to those who guide Christ’s Church on earth.  He perseveres in regular prayer, however difficult.  Vocal prayer will give way, at times, to affective prayer: that is, to words from the heart, which will be further nourished by regular spiritual reading.



Boredom or impatience.


At this time, such difficulties as there are in prayer stem mainly from tiredness, or from boredom or impatience.  The tiredness is to be expected, but can be made worse by an eager person’s senseless over-exertion, whether in works of charity which have been undertaken through pride, or in over-long prayer-times which someone who doesn’t yet trust in the goodness of God dare not curb.  The boredom is to be expected at times, since a soul at this stage is so unspiritual.  He cannot yet claim that his ‘dryness’ and boredom are a special trial permitted by God.  Impatience in prayer-time is not unusual in those who have more faith in the power of their own words and physical activities than in the prayers offered secretly, in obedience, by which God works many marvels on this earth, in every age.


At this stage, the fervent soul is frequently amazed at others’ apparent faults, and can’t understand why others don’t do much for God.  Worse than that, he thinks that his pity for others’ lack of virtue is a sign of fervour and of love for God, whereas he is still very proud.  He isn’t aware that the time spent in judging other souls - and judging inaccurately, since he cannot see ‘inside’ them - would be better spent in looking at his own faults, with a truer repentance, or better still, in learning about God.  Alas, at this stage, too, someone only begins to see himself more clearly if aided by light from God, and, here, the soul is usually too busy and troubled to allow God to shine that light within him in prayer - or else God permits this soul to continue in this partial blindness for a lengthier time, in order to bring about his conversion in ways unknown by us.


When someone at this stage truly regrets his own sins and failings - that’s to say, the ones of which he’s aware - he doesn’t realise that his sorrow is caused as much by disappointment at failing in his own spiritual ambitions, albeit ambitions for God’s sake, as by sorrow at betraying, even in small ways, his Lord and Saviour.


As time passes, the willing soul grows in faith, in hope and in love - though not in equal measure, since much depends upon his natural outlook and upon his temperament.  I mean that someone who finds it easy to be pessimistic will need to grow in Hope more than will the person who has a ‘sunny’ disposition.  Yet someone who continues on this path, faithfully, will make great strides, if he remains alert to the Will of God.  God sends him all the help he needs - by books, persons and inspirations - and increases his earnest longings to please Him, causing the soul to resolve to be even more charitable and truthful.  Nevertheless, the danger is more tremendous, the higher the soul is drawn by the grace of God; and that’s why the fervent soul eventually finds himself in difficulties.






Purification and strengthening.


Just when the fervent soul is secretly hoping to be rewarded for all his courageous acts so far, he is astonished to find himself undergoing not just earthly troubles and opposition, but many distressing experiences, all of which have been permitted by God for the soul’s sake, since no good person will persevere in faith during his life on earth unless his feeble faith is purified and strengthened in ways unforeseen by the ‘beginner’.  So he is soon drawn into the first spiritual ‘night’.


One of the most distressing things for the soul at this time of change is the sudden ‘dryness’ or boredom found in prayer.  Since prayer has been, so far, a pleasurable activity, the extent, now, of each soul’s distress is an indication of his dependence on good experiences rather than on faith in God.


The spiritual darkness which the soul has entered can be called a ‘night’ of the soul. Now, this is a very mundane sort of ‘night’.  No-one need practice heroism to endure it.  A generous soul kneels and prays as before, dryness or boredom notwithstanding.  Faith tells each good soul that his worship of God and his acts of love for his neighbour are supremely important, whether his emotions seem fervent or tepid.  Faith counts, not moods.  Love is proved by deeds.  At the same time, probably, those acts of love for neighbour are done with true goodwill, and also for the love of God, but with less joy than formerly.  Everything seems to conspire to make the soul more irritable and doubtful.  Here, provocations and ill-health, temptations and extraordinary demands from others can cause someone to question not only his way of life, but aspects of faith which haven’t so far been understood.  He might quake at the thought of the demands which could be made upon him, and hope that he won’t be asked to undergo anything painful or humiliating in the years ahead.



A moment of crisis.


One day, probably after many years of hard work and struggle, a good person will see that pain and humiliation in the service of God are inevitable; and it will be at that point that he will be brought to choose, once again, whether or not to serve God despite the great cost.  But until that moment of crisis, he might live for weeks or years half-way through the foothills, as it were - working for God, praying with a devoted heart, experiencing occasional peace and sweetness in prayer, and usually but not always resisting gross temptations, yet all the while aware that he hasn’t yet handed over his whole life to God, in complete trust.  He fears illness, misunderstanding or pain.  He fears death.  He sacrifices, unnecessarily, things which God is willing for the soul to use or enjoy, whilst refusing to give to God what, above all, God Wills he should give, by which I mean his own self-will and independence.


Alas, even with a considerable amount of self-knowledge a fervent soul can deceive himself in serious ways.  For example he might begin to look back over the ‘journey’ with nostalgia and some degree of satisfaction.  He can grow proud at the sight of all that he has willingly sacrificed for the love of God.  He secretly congratulates himself on having endured all sorts of minor trials and persecutions, and begins, perhaps, to forget his former weakness.


He forgets how firmly he was once “bogged down” in a pit of bad habits before the grace of God enabled him to stumble onto the bank.  He even forgets that it was by God’s grace that his more recent charitable and brave acts have been accomplished, and he congratulates himself on his virtues.  He might even despise souls who appear less virtuous or less disciplined.  He truly loves God and wants to serve Him, but the love is so firmly mixed with vanity and conceit that only by  the ‘scouring’ which occurs when terrible troubles and upheavals are bravely accepted can such a soul be brought to see clearly where his real ambitions lie.  As he begins to understand himself at last, and to become aware of the obstacles which keep him from growing towards true union with God, he quakes at the prospect of change.



The prospect of change.


It is here that the soul attempts to bargain with God about certain things.  Here, someone might live in constant anxiety because he can’t let himself say ‘yes’ to God; yet he can’t turn away from Him; or the soul averts his eyes, so to speak, from the area where he isn’t utterly faithful, or utterly pure, and so continues to compromise with the world’s ways.  He resigns himself to spiritual mediocrity, not realising that he’s endangering himself, since no-one remains stationary, so to speak, in the spiritual life.


The saddest and most terrible state-of-soul possible at this time is the state in which someone who is unable to consent to serve God as He should be served not only persuades himself that God asks too much of him - forgetting Christ’s bitter Passion - but then makes matters even worse.  He convinces himself that what the Church teaches and always recommends is not what Christ would teach us, today.  Worst of all, he debates these things with many others in order to salve his own conscience and to lessen his loneliness; and so he disturbs the faith of other people.  Such a soul will be held responsible not only for his own faults or cowardice, but for his influence in having drawn others away from God.


It’s quite possible that someone who genuinely longs to serve God - even though sadly aware of his own weakness and lack of courage - might continue for a long time in the genuine loving service of God and of his neighbour, even ‘peeling away’ further layers of selfishness by his good works and acts of penance, as he lives in true humility.  But until he’s prepared to open his deepest heart to what he knows God wants - and God wants the soul’s complete and everlasting happiness - he won’t be pierced and transformed by God’s own sanctity.  He will do good works, but he won’t bear marvellous fruit: one hundred or one thousand-fold.


Someone who, by the grace of God, does continue to offer himself to God, in heart, soul, body and mind, to be used how God Wills, for His Glory and for the salvation of souls, and despite some felt reluctance and fear as he makes this true and loving sacrifice, is drawn on by God towards a deeper and more thorough purification that he has ever dreamed might be possible.



Towards greater humility.


Such a soul as this has already undergone a certain amount of true purification.  He has been purified in one sense, even by his falls: or rather, by the results of sin acknowledged and repented of, since these falls can propel the good soul towards a far greater humility than he possessed before.


However, many of the methods and details of the purification undergone so far have been self- chosen, and thus have been flawed; and since there’s no greater perfection in anything than to do God’s Will rather than our own, and since this is true of penance, too, the purifications just described have therefore been inadequate.


As I said, a soul might ‘hover’ in this place for a short while, or for a long time; but God in His goodness will permit the soul to be brought, not once but many times, we hope, to the point where the difficult but essential choice must be made: will the soul die to selfishness in order to love God and to do His Will to the utmost?


One day, more solemnly and sincerely than ever before, the willing soul decides, again, to love God, whatever the cost.  He sees nothing ahead but blackness and danger and loneliness, but he voluntarily sets out to serve God more perfectly, relying on His grace alone, despite his own terror.






The fires of humiliation.


At this point, a fervent person now enters the state known as the second ‘night’ of the soul.  Up to this point, the fervent soul has been active in his own self-purification.  At the prompting of God, he has cut and pruned his life-style and has given up bad habits.  He has curbed his extravagances and dubious pleasures.  But now, suddenly, he finds that he is quite without satisfaction as he considers his way of life, and his efforts to be virtuous.  Rather, he burns with humiliation at seeing his own faults.  He feels utterly ‘passive’ beneath a purification which comes from God - except that it doesn’t feel as though it’s from God.  Every sin is remorselessly revealed to that person’s spiritual sight, and he recoils from what he now sees.


How few souls have enough faith to be able to cling to God and to profess to love Him, now.  They find that even the outward circumstances of their lives are turned upside down.  Good things seem terribly fragile, ill-health is common, and temptations, if recognised, become ever more subtle.  God, Who is good, doesn’t send temptations; but it’s by His Providence that the person He wants to purify - for that soul’s joy and for His own Glory - is led to see that by nothing except faith can he cling to God, in the hope of loving God and neighbour; yet such a soul feels that he no longer knows the meaning of “faith”.  On the contrary, he feels quite deserted by God, and, at the same time, is plagued by further scruples and by doubts about any number of things.


In this torment, interior and exterior, such a soul is convinced that he doesn’t love God, even while he endures dreadful sufferings rather than offend Him.  The soul blindly trusts in God in the depths of his misery; and even though he seems to be seeing and understanding nothing, he begins at last to live by pure faith, selflessly, though he doesn’t know it.  He sees only his own sins; and this is what God allows to happen, for the soul’s purification.  The clear view of  sinfulness which is often experienced at this stage hasn’t been brought about by a person’s own reflections.


When someone has decided, firmly, to keep on trying to love God and neighbour, whatever the cost, he half-hopes for some reward, and yet - there is none.  God is teaching him the meaning of true love; there’s no other way by which anyone can learn this essential lesson.  So here, there’s no illumination for the soul who still perseveres; nor does he receive any assurance of a right choice.  He has to be content with the dark, naked assurance which he receives by faith, as he examines his conscience and yet remains at peace because he knows that with every atom of strength, he clings fervently to God and avoids deliberate sin.






Blind trust.


This is the point at which many souls demand security of one sort or another; however, the greatest love for God is displayed by those who are willing to serve Him in this state, according to His Will, in blind trust, day after day and even year after year.


Of the few who have walked this far, and who have said “Yes” to God, even fewer have had the courage to rely on His help as they not only follow the difficult path which lies ahead, as they see nothing but blackness and danger, but continue on it for many years even when it seems to grow still blacker and still more dangerous, and when God seems to have deserted them entirely.


So it can happen that, for many years, someone in this state might even think that he’ll probably be damned.  There is not only no joy in prayer, but emptiness instead, and horror.  By naked faith alone, at this stage, does someone survive for one minute at a time, believing in God’s love but no longer knowing what that means.  Such a soul is aware only of his own feebleness beside the holiness of God Who is Unseen but Who is somehow Known; but as he clings to God and to the Will of God in faithfulness through exterior trials and interior torments, while convinced that nothing that he himself is doing can be considered of much value, he achieves more for himself and for other souls by one minute of his patient endurance than other souls would achieve by ten years of self-chosen, vainglorious Christian works; but of course he doesn’t know this.



Strong, pure love.


In this state, the willing person simply shoulders his cross again and again, and continues to call out to God for help as he does his work cheerfully from moment to moment with a strength that he knows, obscurely, can only be from God, for he has no strength, it seems, of his own.  Perhaps many years pass by in this way.  There seems to be no cause for optimism, and the soul’s pain at the sight of his own wickedness is almost unbearable.  God, who sees everything, sees that this soul is pure and strong; yet no-one in such a state imagines himself to be virtuous.


Thus it is that, for love of the soul, God has brought that soul to love and serve Him in an entirely self-forgetful and divine manner - for that’s the way to the soul’s eventual perfect and everlasting bliss.  But God doesn’t yet ‘step in’ to lighten all the soul’s burdens; on the contrary, He eventually gives him an opportunity to imitate his Master in Gethesemane.



Willing to choose death.


At some point, through a peculiar problem, or a strange set of circumstances, the soul is required to choose, once again, whether or not he’ll put God ‘first’ in his life; and here, the faithful soul chooses death, in order to love God as well as he can.  Only by grace is he able to do this; but at last he is willing to be annihilated out of love for God; and, then, God knows, or rather sees, that Jesus Christ His Son has a true child on earth.  I said “death” - whether it be a death of martyrdom by blood, or a death of human hope or ambition, or the death of pride or of something else which has brought this person to the ‘precipice’, where, if he would prove his love, he must jump into the arms of the invisible God in total darkness.


This might be done with feelings of only horror and fear; yet it’s in the doing - in this “leaping-in-faith”, from a true, pure love of God - that someone faithful proves his love and, unbeknown to himself, thus merits union.


In this deep night, in a daily agony of soul, there’s no glimmer of light in any direction.  Yet it will be here, in this darkest night, that the true Light will soon be given in prayer.  This will be the beginning of this person’s spiritual resurrection, or - I mean - the beginning of fruition in his life of union with God on earth.


Many persons weaken, and give up the struggle, here, for such is the torment of this path that very few are courageous enough to go on in such difficulties.  Few are willing to bear the sight and knowledge of their own wickedness, a knowledge given by God with such clarity, and for such a long time.  But someone who now perseveres, expecting no help or refreshment, and content to serve God - even though feeling that he serves Him badly, if at all - is one day astonished to be shown how much he is loved by God; and here, in some measure, God lifts the soul towards Himself, in a manner which is clear and unmistakable; and thus in one blissful moment God lightens every burden and overwhelms the soul with joy.




Radiance and joy.


Such a soul suddenly finds himself raised from his sufferings, brought into a relationship of such wonderful, blissful intimacy that he couldn’t have borne such joy - such is God’s power and purity - if he hadn’t been prepared by the passive purifications which have scoured and burnished him for so long.  At about this time he is given, too, a glimpse of the ‘road’ upon ‘which he has been travelling.


This is the soul’s ‘betrothal’.  Someone who has reached this stage is so joyful that he looks at all his past agonies as nothing, compared with his present bliss, even if the radiance of the betrothal lasts only a short while.  He marvels that God has drawn him so close to Him; also, he looks at his neighbour, now, with an entirely new insight and compassion.  He is driven more by love than by duty, at last.


There’s still so much impurity in the loving soul, however - even in the few who have reached this small summit - that, for his own good, and for the good of all the others who will benefit from his sanctity, the soul is led by God through darkness once again, in a continuous night.


Such a soul grows stronger and less fearful.  But he experiences true ‘night,’ still, as he is almost overcome, again, by the awareness of his own sinfulness, and is horror-struck at his past offences against God’s holiness; for now no offence seems small or unimportant.  Yet God strengthens and purifies him; and if this soul is faithful he grows in true humility, which brings peace.


Here, the faithful soul learns to turn away from the sight of his own feebleness, and learns to rest his eyes, so to speak, on God’s goodness, and on the needs of his neighbour.  He learns to forget self, at last.  He doesn’t forget his own obligations and duties, but his own desires; and he calmly accepts the continual aching pain of his true self-knowledge and his insight into a number of his unworthy hopes and motives.


So it is from this time, usually, that God Who cannot fail to “fill” and to adorn the soul with graces, the more the soul empties himself to make “room” for God, occasionally adorns the soul with His Wisdom and Knowledge and Understanding; and such a soul begins to resemble God in extraordinary ways, even though this soul doesn’t see the resemblance, and doesn’t yet know what’s happening in his own interior darkness.



Towards complete desolation.


This state might last for several years; but whatever has been experienced, this stage of the journey ends not in delight, but in utter desolation.  God cannot permit anyone to progress to the marvel of true, known, continuous union with Him, until that soul has been thoroughly purified.  The final purification of this stage of the spiritual life will be unexpected and crucifying; moreover, it will occur just as earthly trials seem to grow more cruel and relentless. The faithful soul - who is already tempted to despair by his inner sufferings - experiences some or all of the following sufferings: misunderstandings, violence, and loneliness, and, worst of all, malicious attempts by the evil one to drive him to despair, or to paralyse him with fear.

Throughout every new trial, however - and only by the grace of God - the devoted soul freely and gladly says: “Yes” to God once again, and “Yes” to love of God and neighbour for God’s sake, whatever the cost.  Such a soul expects nothing but more darkness and pain, and isn’t thinking of reward beyond a quiet conscience and a dark but true hope of Heaven: although he hopes to gain these through the goodness of God, only, and through the merits of Christ’s Passion, convinced of his own utter unworthiness.


It is here that God, Who loves His creatures beyond anything we can imagine, brings that soul into true union with Himself, even on this earth; and the astonishing bliss of that union cannot be imagined or described.



The bliss of Union.


The journey to a perfect and everlasting union with God in Heaven isn’t yet complete.  But nevertheless, the soul, though living in faith, is now truly united to God; I mean that such a person now does all his work - as it were - hand in hand with God, and his heart is God’s entirely.  What God Wills, that soul wills, and, marvellously, what the soul wills, God Wills.  Through his union with Christ, Who is the Door, the Gate, the Way, and the Image of the Father, the soul is suffused with joy, and is ‘one’ with God, the Beloved, though not yet utterly purified.


There are trials, still.  There’s no end to trials in this life; but now each difficulty serves only to strengthen the faithful soul, or to make him more aware of his own weakness and thus to enable him to turn again to God in trust.  At each new trial, this person makes a further act of trust and of self-denial - for the Glory of God and for the good of others and for the expiation of sin.  But the soul unites all his sufferings to those of Christ’s Sacrifice and regards them as not worth thinking about when compared with Christ’s pains, which were endured for the soul’s sake.


The faithful soul now lives in joy and contentment amidst all difficulties.  He enjoys a true union with Christ; but the purifications aren’t yet over.  All the nooks and crannies of heart and memory are like so many attics and cellars, as it were, of the soul; and, if this person consents, these will be purified, painfully, by God’s pure light and grace.  Yet, by now, the soul has learned not to flee this pain, but to accept it as a sign that, truly, God is at work in the soul; and the soul learns that the pain diminishes as pride and obstinacy disappear.  This person is as happy in spiritual darkness as in God’s clear light.



The danger of pride.


Human weaknesses remain.  God permits this in order to keep the faithful soul in humility, since the danger of pride is the more terrible, the ‘higher’ each person soars in his flight towards God.  I mean that for as long as there remains life in us, we can be tempted to vanity or pride: such is our pitiful weakness.  Without grace we would be lost.  Humility keeps us attached, so to speak, to Truth, which is God.


When someone has proved his love for God through many terrible trials and sufferings, and is utterly determined to love God and his neighbour without ceasing, until death, and also looks to Christ in every need, joyfully, he is now guided and accompanied by Christ, step by step towards the mountain-top.  Earthly agonies remain agonies, but he doesn’t weaken. He is prepared for any pain or humiliation, so long as he doesn’t turn away from Christ and His Way.  He lives to please Christ and to do His Will, and to make Him known and loved.  He lives more and more in a clear spiritual Light, although this isn’t yet constant.


This person is guided ever more surely, now, through Christ’s Church and Christ’s pastors, and through the Holy Scriptures, and also through the special graces which are given to the soul in prayer, although no-one should accept any unusual experience in prayer without speaking to someone responsible who can give him wise spiritual advice.  He should try to reject all images and peculiar occurrences, as he has already rejected all images for many years, since he knows that whatever can be seen or felt, heard or touched in prayer, is not God; but I’ll write more about that - later.


Such a soul still lives by faith, no matter what comes to him in the way of visions or experiences.  The only sure sign for him that he’s firmly on the road to God is that he wants only what God wants, and makes every effort to shun extraordinary experiences and to do God’s Will, moment by moment, for God’s Glory alone, obedient to His Church.






One last, terrible trial.


So far as I know, there remains for the faithful soul, although he is probably unaware of this, one further, terrible trial which must be undergone before he is sufficiently purified to be united with God on this earth, through Christ, not only in joy and peacefulness but in Light - although still by faith, when the darkness experienced so far will soon be banished.


First, though, the person who has grown used to the sweet company of Christ and used to a certain ease in all that he does for Christ - although he knows that it’s all due to Christ’s grace and goodness - is led by God through a terrible and incomparable spiritual desert.  He is led to the heart of a desolation so awful that the grace of God alone keeps him from despair at the sight of his own weakness and powerlessness, and at the sight - that is, at the dark knowledge - of the infinite Holiness of God.



Into a spiritual void.


There comes a time when the faithful soul suddenly finds himself, without warning, pitched into a spiritual void which he could never have imagined, and which - such is the soul’s humility - he even thinks he deserves to be in, as he wonders what’s happening, and wonders how he can ever know peace again, or can ever see God.


He suffers unbelievable pangs as he goes about his daily work.  He half-wonders if he’s going mad, since no-one else seems to be overcome by God’s holiness or by his own sinfulness; then he repents of these thoughts, convinced that he misjudges other people, and knowing that no-one is as wicked as himself.

A clear sight of the Abyss.


This ‘desert’ is a place of testing.  This person’s faith is tested as he makes acts of faith in the love of God for a fearful and sinful creature like himself and begs God’s help to remain firm in the hope of Salvation, even as he is torn with terror at the sight of the Abyss from which he is saved only by the mercy of God. 


He feels that he loves nothing and never will, even as he continues as usual, without pausing, in the service of others, by prayer and by acts, and would sooner die on the spot than commit the least deliberate offence against the pure Majesty of God.


In this state, the faithful soul is chained, as it were, for as long as God permits; yet, all the while, though the soul would scarcely believe it, God looks on in great tenderness, knowing that only by this dreadful testing can the soul, which is still so easily tempted to pride and foolishness, be purified further and clothed in true humility.  Soon, this spiritual union will be fruitful.  True dawn lights up the faithful soul, eventually, and clothes him in grace.






Drawn out of the desert.


Clothed in that garment of grace, at last, the faithful soul is drawn by God out of the desert, and is brought into a  new intimacy with Him.  Such a soul is at peace as never before, and from now on is able to do God’s work surely and quietly, without troubling about his own appearance or effect on others.  He has almost forgotten himself, in order to please God, and therefore God’s Glory may now pour through this soul without such a great danger, as formerly, that he’ll be led into pride at the sight of all that he now achieves, or at the spiritual sight of his own astonishing intimacy with the most Holy Trinity.  But also, such a soul is full of gratitude at seeing how much he is loved.


There remain, still, several stages of true union through which Almighty God might choose to draw such a soul, if he will consent. 


I shan’t describe them all here; but they involve the nurturing and growth of this person’s soul - even in this true union - so that he more and more resembles Jesus Christ his friend and Master, not only outwardly in his acts of love for God and for his neighbour, but interiorly, in his heart: crucified by the wounds of love and by interior suffering.  If he consents, this soul is led by love and by obedience to a true interior resemblance to Christ, Whom he now serves with utter joy and gladness.


Such a soul no longer even yearns to die in the hope of being united with Christ, but is more content to will whatever Christ Wills.  He longs neither to die nor to remain on earth - only to do whatever will bring the most Glory to God and good to souls - all through the merits of Christ’s Holy Passion.  He longs to be “HUMBLER YET, EVEN TO ACCEPTING DEATH” (Ph 2:8). He lives here on earth within the Life of the Most Holy Trinity, Whose Divine Life makes him not only active but fruitful.


An extraordinary dialogue.


One of the wonderful stages of true union which it seems appropriate to describe here is the one in which the faithful soul is able to converse in a sublime way with his Heavenly Father; and by ‘converse’, I mean that he is able to speak and question, and also to receive very tender and detailed answers, in what is an extraordinary and wholly-spiritual dialogue.


What I’m referring to is the state in which the soul converses with God the Father, at God’s direct invitation, in a manner of prayer which is deliberate, conscious and willed, and which can be continued or interrupted - and which can be clearly recalled when the soul has ‘left’ that state.


Someone who prays in this way - at God’s invitation - is now able to ‘step’ from prayer to daily life and back again, or from one state of prayer to another, as Willed by God, with the greatest ease and delight, so close is his union with God and so thoroughly and peacefully ‘entwined’ are all of his spiritual, mental and bodily faculties, and so well do they ‘work’ together.



At the ‘door’ to Heaven.


These conversations with the Father take place with such ease and delight - through the merits of Christ, as I said, and by the Spirit’s power - precisely because a soul such as this which is called so frequently by the Father to converse with Him in this manner is already, and always, and wholly, attentive both to His presence and to His Will; and so when God Wills that such a conversation take place, this person has no need to ‘compose’ himself, or to become recollected or to prepare for such a marvellous union.  He is already prepared and able to converse because he is already alert, or ‘waiting’, we can say, as if at the soul’s door to Heaven, which, at this stage - as God has revealed to him in prayer - is continually open.


It is in this marvellous state - this conversation with the Father - that the faithful soul can understand God’s wishes in a spiritual way, by which I mean usually without words and by a Spirit-to-spirit communication which, although silent, is as true, or truer than verbal speech.


It is in this marvellous state that the faithful soul - like a simple and trusting child - can put questions to his Father and so receive answers which by their tenderness, simplicity and wisdom bring him unsurpassable delight and reassurance.


It is in this marvellous state that the soul understands to the fullest possible degree the meaning of ‘adoption’, of ‘child of God’, of God’s ‘Fatherhood’, and of ‘spiritual union’ and of ‘Heaven’.


It is in this marvellous state, furthermore, that the soul which has become accustomed to this way of life and love can ‘lift’ more powerfully than ever, into the Father’s heart, all of the persons, problems and places which occupy the heart and mind, in the knowledge that this is a sure and wonderful and conscious way of receiving help which is plainly worthwhile and very effective.





A fruitful relationship.


There comes a time when the soul which is wholly ‘enamoured’ of God and has been wholly drawn by Him into a close and fruitful relationship is shown, in prayer, many details about that friendship, about the extent of it and the results of it, and about the inner life of God, and about Heaven: and all of these things are shown in a way which, by its purity, transcends all other ways of knowing.


The soul is so ‘at one’ with God that the soul sees what God sees - to a limited degree - and sees it as He sees it; and therefore the soul observes, knows, understands, weighs and judges just as God does.  This is what was meant by the Apostle who said “WE ARE THOSE WHO HAVE THE MIND OF CHRIST” (1 Co 2:16). Someone who has reached this state sees clearly, therefore, the truth about his vocational duties, and about his duty to his neighbours, and see the truth about his other relationships.  He also sees the truth about God’s plans for what remains of his life - since God now shares with such a soul, to an astonishing degree, the knowledge of His own plans for that soul and for the Church.


When someone ‘sees’ such things because he has been drawn by God into His Divine Life, and so has entered the Life, Love and Work of the Godhead, he knows something of the Life within the great movement of Divine Love at the heart of the Holy Trinity.  The soul has entered that Life as a swimmer might enter the powerful currents of a fast-flowing river (T:2244B) and therefore has truly become one with God in love, and one in fruitful work, also.


Someone who lives in such a state, as if in the ‘heights’ of the spiritual life, lives in constant peace, joy and fulfilment, even amidst suffering, since what greater joy can there be, before Heaven, than to enjoy something of what is experienced to a marvellous extent in Heaven: by which I mean the friendship of God, and also the special gifts which God cannot refrain from lavishing upon His friends - with the friendship of all other creatures who love God, such as the Saints and Angels of Heaven, as well as the devoted friends of Christ amongst whom this soul now works, prays and suffers for God’s Glory.



The spiritual glory of another soul.


These special friends of Christ are recognised and treasured by each faithful soul who has reached the heights of the “HOLY MOUNTAIN” (Ps 48:1).  They all encourage one another in holiness; and the wonderful things which are experienced by these souls are foretastes of the joys which consume the Saints of Heaven.  Even here on earth these true friends of God enjoy in their true Communion with one another ‘in Christ’ a burning and blissful love for God, with life ‘in’ Him, and with a certain likeness to one another, without uniformity.  They delight in one another’s virtues.  They live and work in a state of near-perfect harmony with one another and of blissful closeness both to Christ and to His holy Mother; and in their prayer, whether they could describe these things or not, they enjoy the blissful contemplation of the perfections of God the Most Holy Trinity.


It might be expected that each true friend of God is given admirable and useful powers of discernment: admirable in that all of God’s gifts are admirable, but especially His spiritual gifts - and useful because wonderfully effective for whatever special work occupies each fervent soul; but the marvels enjoyed at this stage of the spiritual life are more marvellous than anyone could imagine.  This is all because the union between God and the soul is so close that one good thing follows from another - from God, to that soul, and onward to other souls - as surely as water must pour out from a tilted jug onto whatever lies below.  But when I say that ‘more marvellous’ gifts than discernment are given, I’m not thinking about what the faithful soul learns, by spiritual ‘knowing’, about other souls; I’m thinking about the particular spiritual ‘sight’ which is God’s gift to this soul, by which he can see and relish another soul’s state of spiritual glory.


The true friend of God who is fervent in thanks to God for the lives and virtues of the Saints of Heaven is frequently honoured by the spiritual ‘sight’ of a friend of Heaven, with a spiritual glimpse of the glory in which that Saint now dwells, and also by the spiritual knowledge of the degree of glory which God has bestowed upon that Saint - when compared with the glory given to other Saints.  God makes it plain to such a soul, for example, that one particular Saint is vastly more holy than others, although all are holy and much-loved; and God also makes it plain that another Saint has been gifted in a particularly marvellous way for the sake of the Church but nevertheless, is not the most glorious in Heaven.  In Heaven, it seems that Christ delights in giving the most glory to those who have excelled in the virtue of charity - especially those whose great love for Christ caused them to pity Him and  to console Him in His Passion.  But the reason I’ve mentioned all this is because the true friend of God is shown not only the glory of the Saints in Heaven but also the glory of God’s saintly friends on earth.


The ‘way of seeing’ differs, according to whether the glory seen is of a Heavenly friend or of an earthly person; but the knowledge given is the same.  Whenever Heaven’s Saints are seen, with their glory, it is through glimpses given to the ‘eyes of the soul’, or through the visions which are ‘normal’ in certain types of prayer, or as spiritual ‘treat’ on a special occasion; but if I write about those whom God has already crowned with His glory in this life, even though it can’t generally be seen, I must explain that their spiritual glory is not ‘seen’ by the soul’s sight , but is ‘experienced’ by the soul’s spiritual heart, and is then relished, so to speak, through the intellect, according to God’s Will, for His own good purposes and for the soul’s delight.



Spiritual glory.


Such is the great degree of spiritual union between God’s true friends in what is accurately described as the “Communion” of Saints that they can delight in special gifts which are unknown not just to people outside the Church but also to people within it who have never made a serious effort to aim for sanctity.


When God’s true friend has at last grown used to the Glory of God which he sees within his own soul, in prayer, at every moment, and has almost become used to the sight of the Glory of Heaven whenever he turns to Heaven to ask for the help of Christ or His Saints, he becomes aware that God is revealing to him in day-to-day life the state of glory of one earthly friend after another: this means, of other friends of God who have also been purified and who live very close to Christ’s heart.


God’s friend experiences the glory of those other souls.  The glory is experienced whenever a similar soul is in the vicinity, even where bodily sight is not used; and that glory is experienced in a two-fold spiritual sensation which consists of a burning weight upon the forehead with a suddenly-arriving suffusion of sweetness through the soul.


The  person of whom I write - who through his friendship with God experiences the glory of the Saints of Heaven and also of earthly persons - already feels a burning on the forehead, during prayer, with some sweetness of soul; but that burning and that sweetness are made more intense, by God’s Will, by the proximity to that person of any other of God’s true friends, whether they be very young children, or middle-aged persons, or the elderly.  The burning and the sweetness are felt for as long as another true friend of God is in the vicinity.  The burning and the sweetness are experienced more intensely, the greater is the degree of holiness of the person who is nearby; indeed, this is one of the ways by which God reveals to His friend the degree of holiness which another person has achieved; and of course the degree of glory which is ascertained through this burning and sweetness has nothing to do with the age, intelligence or learning of each individual whose soul is clearly revealed in this way but is solely a question of what degree of Divine Charity burns within a soul who is either very innocent or who has finished his purifications.


As might be expected, since the degree of glory mentioned has to do with Charity and true spiritual purity, greater degrees of glory are revealed amongst those who - it is confirmed later on - are both self-critical and self-forgetful.  The most holy are those who are ‘ordinary’ in being obedient to God, simple, willing to admit their faults and to start again, kind and gentle, shy of rushing in to judge or to organise other people or to satisfy curiosity.


Holiness and glory are wholly pure, free gifts from God given in the end to those who have been willing to be of service and to accept purification.


It is by God’s Will and God’s grace that His true friends can ‘see’ in an entirely spiritual way the spiritual beauty of one anothers’ souls, and can also see and experience the delight which other loving souls experience on meeting them.  This is how they are helped to achieve what Christ spoke about in His last discourse, when He said: “AS THE FATHER HAS LOVED ME, SO I HAVE LOVED YOU.  REMAIN IN MY LOVE” (Jn 15:9).  These friends of Christ, whose whole desire is to keep His Commandments and to please Him at every moment, cannot escape His love, as it were, since they now enjoy a tender, pure and reverent friendship with every other true lover of Christ the Saviour, and they are suffused with Christ’s gifts of peace and joy at every moment of prayer. 



The ‘heights’ of Union.


Someone who has reached the heights of union praises and thanks God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - at every opportunity, whether turning to thank Christ for special joys, approaching the Father in a trusting plea for help, or asking the Holy Spirit for light and guidance; and each prayer is answered not just with unseen, powerful help, but with a palpable suffusion-of-soul with sweetness and joy, and with a crowning-of-the-brow with glory.


This is the summit of the spiritual life: to know and to experience - by presence and sweetness and glory-of-soul - the Most Holy Trinity: Three Divine Persons, and to be able to do so continuously, with every thought and event of one’s life woven into a perpetual and loving conversation with God, or into a wordless, perpetual exchange of loving ‘glances’.


All persons, encounters, situations, tragedies and apparent problems are brought willingly into that perpetual prayer, where Divine Love, wisdom and understanding are brought to work upon them.  Nothing of the life of him who prays in this way is left ‘outside’ God’s presence and loving influence; yet when the time for petition and intercession is over, that soul, in union with Christ, and with a joyful and grateful heart, praises the Father in the Spirit’s power, and offers Glory, in praise of the Father’s Glory; and so that person is doing the work of Heaven in his own house, street or church - even before reaching the Home for which he is yearning.


All of Christ’s faithful friends - as I mentioned earlier - live and work in a state of near-perfect harmony with one another and of blissful closeness both to Christ and to His holy Mother; and in their prayer, whether they could describe these things or not, they enjoy the blissful contemplation of the perfections of God the Most Holy Trinity.



Showing out virtue.


These friends of Christ bring joy to all who love Christ - and bring joy to all who admire goodness.  Each of these friends of God shows out - more clearly than anyone else - a particular virtue or combination of virtues, so that other people will be inspired and so that God will be praised by all who delight in what is virtuous; and yet those who possess and show out virtue are usually aware of others’ virtues and not of their own.


Christ is glorified differently, in different friends.  One person shows out humility to an extraordinary degree; another person seems like justice ‘embodied’.  Another person seems to shine with truth: to be a ‘bright sword’ which can cut swathes through falsehoods and disguises; another person acts with perfect purity of intention in everything.  Someone else is all compassion for the suffering and the poor, while another seems to be on fire with pure charity: above all, with love for Christ - and especially for Christ in His Passion.  All such friends of Christ are holy with His holiness; and yet someone whose soul is on fire with Christ’s fiery charity possesses the purest holiness.






Each of Christ’s friends who lives, transformed, in His friendship, is led by Him to the Father, to enjoy a union so close and trusting that it’s as if God and the soul whisper as intimate friends or lovers do, yet without sound or murmur.


Someone who lives in a Heavenly communion with God in perpetual intimacy is so privileged and blessed even during this earthly life that he has only to ‘enter’ prayer by an act of the will to be brought ‘palpably’, it seems, into God’s presence; and he knows that his prayer is immensely fruitful and worthwhile, as well as fulfilling - and even though there is no evidence of this, except in faith.  It is God Who reveals to such a soul that by such a pure, piercing prayer as this, as with every God-given moment of other sorts of contemplative prayer, it is as though the clouds which ‘hide’ the Godhead from mankind are parted.  It is as though, through that prayer, the clouds are held back, as God pours down His graces upon mankind, to a greater-than-usual degree: such is the goodness of God, the power of true prayer, and the fruitfulness of the countless loving sacrifices which a prayerful soul has made in order to be ready for this state of contemplation.



The spiritual senses.


There are further marvels, in the spiritual life.  Someone who enjoys God’s friendship to this degree and who has come to trust in Him entirely - though remaining always aware of his own imperfection - has by now, and by the Will of God,  been brought to God’s ‘heart’ in prayer.


Each time this person ‘enters’ prayer, he finds that his soul is suffused with Glory and that God has lifted him ‘high’ once more, and awaits him, at His ‘heart’, so to speak; and whoever converses with God in this state finds that he can ‘taste’ - as it were - God’s love, reassurance, wisdom and consolation.  It’s as though the soul ‘tastes’ these gifts merely by turning his heart towards his Heavenly Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier; and thus he comes to know the marvel of the use of yet another of the spiritual senses - all of which, at last, have been satisfied.


Someone who has been invited by God to share in God’s knowledge of Himself and of Heavenly realities has, by this stage, seen many of God’s marvels; he has seen Heaven’s companions with the eyes of his soul. Furthermore, he has heard the voice of his beloved Christ, and has listened to the singing of the Angels.  He has smelt the bitter perfumes which were Christ’s astonishing and consoling gifts to him when he was first struggling to believe that Christ was illuminating his heart and soul in prayer, after many years of spiritual darkness.  Furthermore, he has felt the touch of God on his brow, whenever the Father has clothed and crowned him anew as a ‘prophet, priest and king’ so that he can step out to do God’s work with greater simplicity and confidence.


Now, by a spiritual sense, this person learns “ HOW GOOD YAHWEH IS - ONLY TASTE AND SEE” (Ps 34:8); and as he experiences God’s goodness through a pure communion with God he rests in such contentment in prayer that he’s like a child on his mother’s lap; or it’s as if he is leaning against Heaven’s door, as he waits in patience for an invitation to step up and enter.  His soul is now suffused with joy.


By this stage, the soul’s spiritual sight and hearing, with his spiritual senses of smell, touch and taste, have all been ‘awakened’ and used, at God’s prompting, so that more and more, the whole person, in every bodily and spiritual faculty, has been ‘gathered’ in prayer and has been wholly irradiated by grace.  It’s as if he is inebriated and warmed by the gifts which he has received from the Living God Whose unchanging plan, from the beginning, has been to make this soul one with Himself in perpetual joy.



The life of grace.


These notes on the life of grace are so inadequate, and omit such a vast amount of information that I must mention my purpose, which is to write at length on the many types of prayer into which God in His kindness draws the soul.  So I’ll leave for another place, or another writer, further warnings against the dangers of the spiritual journey, and advice about method and discipline in family life and prayer.  That’s why I omit, too, all that I long to write about Our Blessed Lord and His Passion, and about Christ’s Holy Mother Mary, who not only bore Him, but who leads us to Him now.


All that the soul has undergone on the long and terrible journey described here couldn’t have been borne without the grace and mercy of God, the merits of Christ’s Passion, and the prayers and example of Christ’s Holy Mother, the help of Angels and Saints, and the benefits and blessings received through Christ’s Holy Church on earth, especially through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and through the Sacraments.


God’s so good, and lavishes such blessings upon us!  May He grant us perseverance until death, and enable us to give Glory to the Most Holy Trinity; and may Christ our Lord, and Our Lady and Saint Joseph be better known and loved.













Faithful prayer and penance.


Now that I’ve written such a lot about the soul’s progress towards complete union with God, it seems important that I stress, again, our need to be faithful to those quiet, traditional and daily prayers and devotions which the Church has recommended to its members through the centuries, and which can act as the “RICH SOIL” (Mt 13:8) from which contemplation can spring, well-nourished; or, to use a different image, I can say that it’s by responding with a contrite and a loving heart to God’s invitation to “REPENT … AND BE BAPTISED” (Ac 2:38) that the soul finds the door ajar, so to speak, to eventual Eternal bliss and security.  It’s by faithfully talking to God and listening for God in daily honest, trusting and reverent conversations with Him that each person can prepare himself for possible prayer-in-union.  I mean that although a devout person ought to be content to serve God in whatever simple way He permits, rather than to yearn for extraordinary tasks and special spiritual experiences, he will be possessed with a genuine longing to grow closer to God. 


No-one can be brought into a constant and intimate union with God if he scorns - whether from laziness or lack of love - regular and loving contact with God, in prayer.


A true and loving union with God is firmly established not by much speaking about our love for God and neighbour, but by the willing opening of our hearts to God in daily prayer and by our efforts to make amends for sin by acts of penance.  Also, every prayerfully and carefully-chosen small mortification will discipline and strengthen the soul as exercises strengthen the body; furthermore, each one of us discovers, through such acts, how weak we truly are.  We discover our reluctance to make even small sacrifices for spiritual reasons, even though we would make enormous sacrifices, for example, to win a prize, or to see a long-lost friend.  But the best reason for practising mortifications, of course, is to unite oneself with Christ in His Agony.


No-one ‘progresses’ in the spiritual life except through the grace of God, by the Merits of Christ’s death and Resurrection; yet God’s graces won’t be any use to us, unless we give our consent to His promptings.  I mean that it’s important that we turn to God with a free heart and mind, saying ‘yes’ to His Will, even if at the beginning we lack joy or graciousness in giving our consent to His plans for us.


Numerous devotions.


Regular prayer is so important that I’m going to mention a few devotions. Daily acts of faith and hope and love are enormously valuable, as are traditional morning and evening prayer-times, which can be spent - with words or without - in fervent adoration, thanksgiving, penitence, petition and intercession.  It’s extremely worthwhile to ‘lavish’ time upon God by sitting or kneeling in silence, in His presence, and so ‘allowing’ Him to teach, guide or hold us according to His Will, in a communion which is beyond words - even if it seems as though nothing is ‘happening’. Yet Christians have been helped, over many centuries, in all sorts of ways: by dwelling  on the words of Holy Scripture, by meditating on the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by devoutly making the Sign of the Cross.  We rely on the help of the Holy Mother of God, as we learn to pray in some of the old, recommended ways - whether by reciting the Rosary, following the Stations of the Cross, praying the ‘Jesus prayer’, saying the ‘Angelus’ or the ‘Divine Praises’, or by reading the  lives of the Saints.  We ought to thank God for His gifts before and after meals, and indeed, before all good activities.  We rely, too, on the marvellous help - sought in prayer - of our Guardian Angels and Patron Saints: indeed, of all the Angels and the Saints.  Short prayers and brief requests are enough, whenever we speak in this way, with the confidence which comes from faith,  to these Heavenly friends who love us so deeply.


Every Catholic ought to value - even if he or she doesn’t use it - the Breviary or ‘Office’, recited by clergy and religious, and also by many lay-persons, for the benefit of the whole Church.  Daily ‘spiritual reading’ of Holy Scripture, or of works about the spiritual life, will strengthen our souls and help us to persevere.  Without such spiritual nourishment, we are ill-prepared for our journey through an uncomprehending and sometimes hostile world, where the enemies of Christ mock the truths of the Faith.  Some truths are scorned in one century, some in the next - even though Christ’s enemies sometimes admire the external forms in which the Faith is clothed, or praise the acts of charity which are done for Christ’s sake and which astound them.  It’s because of the many ways in which we find ourselves under attack that we must keep turning to God for help; and it’s a good idea to seek even greater help from God, by arranging to have an occasional ‘day of recollection’.



Faithfulness to the sacraments.


It hardly needs saying that no-one can hope to advance in prayer if he refuses the honour due to the holy sacraments which Christ instituted for our joy and benefit: for example, the sacrament of Reconciliation, and the Sacrament of Christ’s Holy Body and Precious Blood.


Above all, the prayerful soul will yearn to participate fully and frequently in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which, the Church teaches us, is the “Source and Summit” of all that we hope for: the source of all the graces which come to us only through Christ, and the summit of all our desires, since it is though the Holy Mass, and through our Holy Communion, that we offer worthy praise to God, and then have a foretaste of Heaven in our Communion with Christ and so with all other members of His Mystical Body.


Even invalids, of course - those confined to their homes or also to their beds - are able to participate spiritually in the Holy Sacrifice, and to offer their sufferings with Christ in His One Offering to the Father; also, they are wedded to the celebration as they receive the Blessed Sacrament at the hands of someone who has been present at the Mass.  There’s much more that could be written about suffering and reparation and co-redemptive prayer, but I’ll content myself with what I’ve written in different places throughout this book.



Different methods of prayer.


None of my statements about prayer - particularly about the devotions mentioned earlier -should be taken to mean that we must all follow the same method in prayer, or should be attracted to the same devotional practices.  Although no Catholic could neglect attention to the Passion of Christ, or to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, without endangering his spiritual health, we all ought to follow our own reasonable attractions in the matter of daily, private prayer.  Everyone who sincerely clings to God in regular prayer and in love of his neighbour, guided by the Church, cannot fail, as I said earlier, to progress in the spiritual life.


Amongst those who obey Christ’s advice about “WHEN YOU PRAY, GO TO YOUR PRIVATE ROOM” (Mt 6:6) - even if their only private sanctuary is in their own heart - some people find more nourishment in formal prayers and psalms and litanies than in informal, lively, unstructured conversation with God.  Others are led by God into silence and apparent insecurity - in a prayer of ‘Unknowing’.  Many find that they are quite satisfied and well-nourished, spiritually, by the repetition of simple prayers, year after year.  They genuinely advance wonderfully in the spiritual life by the use of devotions which others would find tedious.  All of this shows, as ever, that God leads souls to Himself through Christ, but does so along different paths in prayer.  Zacchaeus’ manner of approaching our Blessed Lord (Lk 19:1-10) was different from Mary Magdalene’s, (Jn 20:11-18) which was quite unlike Nicodemus’ approach (Jn 3:1-21).


The Most Holy Spirit can be trusted to guide the soul along an appropriate path, with the usual provisos and warnings.  But no fervent, reasonable person who hopes to grow closer to God will leave out daily expressions of love for God, gratitude towards Him, sorrow for failings, and hope for gifts: gifts for himself and for other people.






Sincere love for God and neighbour.


Since ‘structured’ prayer-time occupies a comparatively small part of the normal active day of many Christians, I must mention, here, something of supreme importance, even though this section is primarily about contemplation.  I must stress that there’s no love for God without love for our neighbour.


I mean that the whole point of turning to God so frequently in prayer and meditation, as described above, is to give Him Glory and to grow in union with Him; and He is Love; and therefore love for our neighbour is inseparable from Union with God.  If we believe that “GOD IS LOVE” (1 Jn 4:8) and know that He wants us to love our neighbour, as we’re told in the second Great Commandment (Mt 22:39), and if we don’t make many efforts in this direction, then our declarations of love for God are evidently insincere.  It seems to me that as much effort and discipline and sincerity should be put into the deliberate ambition of proving our love for our neighbour, ‘outside’ prayer-time - although in true, quiet, self-less service, not in showy expressions of devotion - as into our deliberate and devoted attention to God within our prayers.


In a circular movement, someone who loves God and who attempts to pray, increases in his belief that he must cherish and help everyone whom God has created and now holds in existence; and he does so according to his circumstances and by exercising true love hand-in-hand with prudence and wise judgement. Furthermore, the soul begins to see the real worth and potential of every single person on earth, each of whom was of such importance to Christ that Christ sacrificed His life for each one.


The more that a generous person overcomes his own selfish instincts to preserve his free time, his trivial opinions, his security and his own customs and habits - and I’m not speaking here of matters of principle - then the more truly does he permit God to pour even more light and grace into his heart. Thus,  in the ‘circle’ which I’ve mentioned, a true friend of Christ is prompted by grace to see more and more clearly that no true service is possible without reverence towards others, and without repentance for his own prejudice and self-righteousness.  He sees, too, the supreme importance of forgiveness, that is, of loving and forgiving others, utterly, always, no matter what the provocation nor how deep the wounds received.  He sees that this is Christ’s plain teaching.  He knows this, as we all do, since we have Christ’s example.


Therefore, whoever loves God ought to want to love his neighbour.  But we’re so weak and blind that this is frequently extremely difficult - in fact, it would be impossible to achieve to the degree that’s asked of us - unless we’re perpetually prompted and aided by grace.  We’re invited to love as Christ loved: limitlessly.


Our circumstances can discourage us for many reasons.  I mention, above, provocation and wounds.  On the other hand, I think that life in a loving community helps a truly devout person to see some of his own weaknesses clearly, amidst others’ virtues.  Reflection on these matters can lead to a deeper humility and gratitude, and will compensate for the soul’s rash judgements about others’ apparent faults, intentions, moods and attitudes.



Evident need of help.


With regard to love-in-practice, it seems to me that no true friend of Christ can fail to see the real though varied needs of those with whom he shares the same home or the same street.  There’s no end to the pains and wounds and turmoil which we observe in others: both exterior and interior sufferings, whether freely displayed or half-concealed.  Here, the devout person can prove his love for God by kind acts, both physical and spiritual, even when he seems to have to goad himself into action, regretting his hard heart, and ashamed of his usual impatience and cowardice.  Despite even frequent failures, this person knows by faith that he must simply start again after each little fall, trusting that God will see his longing to serve Him, and asking Him to bring good out of evil - or out of foolishness.


By his co-operation with God, perhaps a blind but nevertheless fervent co-operation, the faithful soul is eventually transformed by Him.  By that I mean that one day the hard-heartedness is melted.  This person is aghast that he should ever have found others irritating or difficult - since he now sees his own faults so clearly.  Also, God has so enlightened his heart that he is full of the love and compassion of Christ Himself, and has begun to love others at last with a true, pure, Christ-like love which is full of tenderness and sweetness and compassion.  He is less inclined to make rash judgements of others.  He seeks only to encourage and console, in accordance with truth and prudence.


When someone persists in quiet loving service in this way, acting for the love of God even if he feels no great emotions of love in his heart, he isn’t likely to go astray, provided that he remains faithful to prayer and clings to Christ in the Sacraments.  Thus, he will be guided more plainly to see where his true duty lies, since, while he knows he ought to love everyone, he sees clearly that his first duty is towards those who are bound to him by particular ties, and those near to him in other ways. 


He doesn’t despair that he can’t palpably reach out with help to many more persons, since faith tells him that they can all be helped, through the Merits of Christ’s Sacrifice, by a loving soul’s prayers and sacrifices.  This person knows, too, that the value of acts of kindness isn’t measured by the noise they make before the world, or by the visible joy they bring.


One could write volumes about love of our neighbour; but it’s enough, now, to conclude by saying that we ought to imitate Christ’s love.  That’s enough inspiration for a life-time.  So I shall press on with my task - which is to give a reminder about the marvellous way of life into which God draws a faithful person who has never ceased to trust in Him, who is repentant of every wrong, and who has received His gift of prayer-in-union.



Wholly at one with God.


As I mentioned earlier, in ‘The journey of faith’, there comes a time when someone who is wholly ‘enamoured’ of God and is wholly drawn by Him into a close and fruitful relationship is shown, in prayer, many details about that friendship: about the extent of it and the results of it, and about the inner life of God, and about Heaven; and yet all of these things are shown in a way which, by its purity, transcends all other ways of knowing.


Such a fortunate soul has been given true, Heavenly joy and peace after the trials and struggles of earlier years.  Such a person loves and understands God’s Will.  Past, present and future are now seen by the soul in God’s Light.  The very ‘attics and cellars’ of the soul’s inmost dwelling have been scoured and purified.  This person now sees that he possesses nothing at all that hasn’t been given to him by God.  He knows, now, in a way impossible before, that to take pride in himself is more than foolishness; it’s a lie - a theft from the Source of all good.  But now that this soul has learned to trust in God’s grace alone God now rewards him with unbelievable joy and tenderness.


Whoever has reached this stage is brought to the border of a new land, where he learns to walk in true humility and simplicity.  He learns, even, to rejoice in his own weakness, trusting only in the Merits and graces of Christ his Lord; and he begins to live like a true child of God in gratitude and faith.



A Heavenly way of life.


The soul is so ‘at one’ with God that the soul sees - to a limited degree, as I said earlier - what God sees, and sees as He sees it; and therefore the soul observes, knows, understands, weighs and judges just as God does.  In this marvellous state of friendship, moreover - though in a slightly different state of prayer - the soul is able to converse with God in a union so close and trusting that it’s as if they whisper as intimate friends or lovers do, yet without sound or whisper.


Someone who lives in a Heavenly communion with God in perpetual intimacy is so privileged and blessed even during this earthly life - as I said earlier - that he has only to ‘enter’ prayer by an act of the will to be brought ‘palpably’, it seems, into God’s presence; and he knows that his prayer is immensely fruitful and worthwhile, as well as fulfilling - even though there is no evidence of this, except in faith.  It is God Who reveals to such a soul that by each pure, piercing prayer such as this, as with every God-given moment of other sorts of contemplative prayer, it is as though the clouds which ‘hide’ the Godhead from mankind are parted.  It is as though, through that prayer, the clouds are held back, as God pours down His graces upon mankind, to a greater-than-usual degree: such is the goodness of God, the power of true prayer, and the fruitfulness of the countless loving sacrifices which a prayerful soul has made in order to be ready for this state of contemplation.


That’s one of the reasons why I hope and pray that everyone who reads this book will persevere in prayer.  It’s vitally important for our Eternal happiness that we respond to the love which God lavishes upon us; yet so many of us, at one time or another, have shut our eyes to God, and to His Love.  I long for everyone to believe that the wonderful things I’ve described are possible - by God’s grace - and that even people like ourselves can come to share God’s joy and even His holiness.







Participation in the Holy Eucharist.


It’s quite impossible for me to write about prayer, without writing about the Holy Mass: also known as the Eucharist.  It’s only because of the astonishing Sacrifice of Christ, once offered on Calvary, and now re-presented before us in the Mass, that we’ve been given the opportunity to become children of God who can pray with confidence to our Heavenly Father; and so I feel duty-bound to say a little about the Mass, in an effort to help any Catholic who - through ignorance or lapsation - needs some background material.


There’s no better way of ‘praying the Mass’ than by doing what the Church recommends: which is to aim for full and active participation; but the fullest participation takes place not when someone makes a lot of noise or moves about a great deal, but when his heart and soul are as ‘fully’ involved in the Mass, in  prayer, as his body is ‘involved’ in sitting, standing or processing as appropriate, in accordance with the rubrics.


At its heart, every Mass is simple, whether it’s celebrated with vigour and with joyful music, or with hushed reverence and silence pauses.  In offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, today, Christ’s present-day disciples are obeying the command which Christ gave at the Last Supper, almost two thousand years ago. 


On the night before he was put to death because of our sins, Christ changed bread and wine into His Body and His Blood, and - anticipating His self-offering on the Cross on Calvary, on the following day - He said: “THIS IS MY BODY WHICH WILL BE GIVEN FOR YOU; DO THIS AS A MEMORIAL OF ME” (Lk 22:19).  It seems to be true, however, that very many people today don’t realise what a staggering privilege it is to be able to be present at the very Sacrifice by which God and mankind have been re-united: nor are they awe-struck that Jesus Christ our Lord is Present amongst them in an astonishing, sacramental way.  Consequently, many people complain about having to attend Mass, or about the Mass itself.



Bored or discontented in church.


It seems to me that people are unhappy at Mass for one of three reasons - and often through no fault of their own; and people who come into these categories won’t benefit much from the suggestions I’ll make about praying the Mass, unless they have a change of heart - or unless, in learning something about Christ or the Mass that they didn’t know before, they become interested enough to listen and then to pray.


First, I must mention the reluctant attenders, many of whom are young.  I can’t deny that parents have a duty to encourage their children to go to Mass; but when people have been bullied into attending, their hearts and minds perhaps become bitter and resentful; and of course, no-one in that state prays very well, by which I mean prays with much hope or trust, and so rarely finds prayer joyful or fulfilling.


The second group consists of people who go to Mass - for whatever reason - but who don’t really believe in the spiritual realities which are indicated by words, symbols and gestures, and which are invisible.  Faith - a scrap of faith - is necessary for someone who wants to take a true part in the Holy Mysteries.


It seems to me that a third group consists of those Catholics who do believe in Christ and in prayer, who go bodily to church, and who enter the building, but who don’t pray.  Although they mouth the words of the Gloria or the Creed, their hearts and minds aren’t actively engaged; God’s Love cannot pour into their hearts, as it would if they’d opened them to His influence; and so when they eventually leave, they complain that they were bored; or they complain about the heating, the lighting or the homily or whatever else has annoyed them, although their inner discontent stems from their spiritual separation from God and from those who have prayed and taken part.  Such unhappy souls are like people who stand outside a house and gaze at the lighted windows as a glorious gathering takes place - and yet who aren’t willing to enter into the spirit of the celebration, and cannot be made joyful by the marvellous Host and His Heavenly Company.


Only God knows why these people can’t pray from the heart: whether it’s through tiredness, sin or cynicism, or distractions - or depths of grief, or depression.  It’s not for us to judge one another. But surely it’s a good idea for those who treasure Christ and the Mass to say a brief prayer for all the reluctant or incomprehending worshippers who are present at the same Celebration.


Now I must go into more detail about the Mass itself - which is marvellously described in the ‘Catechism of the Catholic Church’ - and then about our part in it.



The Holy Eucharist: Sacrament and Sacrifice.


There must be a dozen reasons why it’s worth rushing to Mass, such as to be obedient to God and so to please Him, or to offer the best possible prayer in praise of God - or to pray in the best possible way for someone who has died - or to be spiritually and visibly one with fellow-members of Christ’s Body.  But rather than make a list of reasons, I’ll try to say what it is about the Mass - the Holy Eucharist - that is so stupendous that people who know about it, and understand a little, can hardly bear to stay away; and so I must get to the heart of this great mystery of our Faith: the Eucharist, to say not only what It is but to say why It is, and how It is.


You might say: “We already know that Christ died for us.  We know that we’re supposed to repent of our sins, and be baptised.  We know that we can be made children of God, members of the Church, and heirs to the Kingdom of Heaven.  We know that Christ explained that we can lead a new, prayerful life, and can hope for Heaven.  But where does the Eucharist come into this?  Why do we have this extraordinary gift, this Eucharist: both sacrament and Sacrifice?”


Before I say anymore, I’d better define “Eucharist”.  The Church teaches us that it is the Sacred Body and Blood of Christ - made present on the altar, and also to be found in the tabernacle; and since we’re taught that the Eucharist is a sacrament we Catholics speak about the sacramental Presence of Christ. And by ‘Eucharist’ or ‘Holy Eucharist’ we also mean the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, of which I’ll say much more on the next page.  First, we need to explore the reasons why we have received such astonishing gifts from God.



The Holy Eucharist: why it is.


Everything good is a gift of love from God; and His love isn’t something wishy-washy.  It’s something which is fiery and tender, all at the same time: and it’s something active; and this One, Holy God Who loves us has gone to enormous trouble, so to speak, to work out a plan by which we could be saved from our sins, and saved from despair at the miseries of this life; and He’s also worked out an extraordinary plan, out of love, by which to give His Church a gift which would remain at its heart and give it great joy for century after century.


Let’s go back to the beginning, in order to understand this.  But in saying the ‘beginning’, I’m speaking about our Salvation history.


We Christians believe that Creation was achieved by God out of love.  His Love and generosity are so great that they spilled out in a great Act of Creation: of the Universe, and of the people in it.  But we also believe that at some stage, at the beginning of human history, the first man and woman rebelled against God.  They had free will; and they chose to do their own will rather than God’s - and that’s what we mean by sin.  So we say that they sinned; and our Faith teaches us that we’ve all been tainted to some degree, ever since then, by this germ of rebellion within ourselves, by which we find it easier to do wrong than to do good.  We call this original sin; and it’s ‘wiped out’ by Baptism, though some disharmony remains in our lives.


It was part of God’s loving plan, however, that He would rescue mankind from sin: that He’d offer us the possibility of finding real joy upon earth - even amidst life’s terrible difficulties - and also of finding Bliss with Him, forever, in Heaven;  and it was God Himself - the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord - Who came down to earth to fulfil this plan of Salvation.  


For century after century, God had chosen and prepared the ‘Chosen People’, from whom Christ would eventually be born.  God had taught them about Himself, encouraged and tested them, guided them by Patriarchs, Kings and Prophets, and had led them to expect a Saviour - a ‘Messiah’ - to arise from amongst them, as indeed He did.  It was Christ the Son of God Who, at the appointed time, ‘leapt down to Earth’ in the sense that, by the Spirit’s power, He took flesh from Mary - from a woman of the Chosen People.  This happened just over two thousand years ago; and it’s what we celebrate each Christmas.


Christ lived amongst us and showed us how to live.  He was perfectly sinless and yet He accepted the consequences of sin: accepted the realities of life in a sinful world - even as evil people wanted to shut Him up when He did good and always spoke the truth.  He died on the Cross for us - although this is such a huge subject that I shan’t try to explain it here.  But we believe that through that sacrifice of Himself on the Cross - which He had foretold, and which He underwent freely - He poured out His life-blood for the forgiveness of sins.  He reconciled mankind to the Father and repaired the terrible breach which had occurred at the time of our first parents.


Christ was perfectly loving and obedient in every way;  and  He is God’s only Son; and so it’s as though God the Father couldn’t possibly have left Him dead, but raised Him up to a new life which was vibrant and glorious, and which culminated in His Ascension into Heaven: an event witnessed by the faithful Apostles who were transformed by Christ.  And the wonderful thing about this is that we too can hope to have that sort of wonderful life if we believe in Christ, and become united to Him, and remain faithful, accepting His gifts, and doing His Will.  We who believe in Christ believe that He has made it possible for us to “ENTER THE SANCTUARY” (Heb 10:19) of Heaven, just as He did at His Ascension, a few weeks after His death and Resurrection.


This is where we must consider what gifts we need to accept from Christ, and what connection the Eucharist has with doing Christ’s Will.



Reasons for joy and gratitude.


I spoke of God’s Love, earlier.  Followers of Christ have always known that Jesus, the Son of God, gave His Apostles something extra special to do.  It was at the Last Supper that Christ commanded them to “DO THIS” (Lk 22:19) - in memory of Him.  He was asking them to meet as one Body, on future occasions, to listen to the Word of God and to reproduce His words and gestures with the intention of changing bread and wine into the Blood and Blood of Christ, in memory of Him, in a ‘conversion’ which we now call transubstantiation; and the reason for all this was that Christ our God is so mad with love for us that when He knew that He was about to die and leave us - although He also knew that He’d be going to Heaven - He couldn’t bear to leave us without leaving behind what we now call a living memorial of His love: of the Love shown out in His self-offering on Calvary.


On the night before Christ died, it was through a two-fold consecration that Christ made present first, His Body, and secondly, His Blood; and thus He showed out by symbols the separation or outpouring of His Blood from His Body: a separation which would take place on the Cross, on the following day, as He gave up His life and died for us in order to save us from our sins.


So let’s examine some aspects of this astonishing means, instituted by Christ, by which He would do extraordinary things for us; and the four especially-marvellous things which I list below are surely reasons for unending joy and gratitude on our part, since they spring from Christ’s Infinite Love and generosity.


First, we in Christ’s Church can always have re-presented before us, through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the whole ‘Paschal Mystery’: the wonderful way in which Christ has saved us from sin and death. 


Secondly, by the Will of God, we have a way of thanking and praising God forever: a way given by God Himself by which we can offer the most perfect praise that it’s possible for us to offer to Him from upon this earth: and I’m speaking of the offering to God, in each age, of the very sacrifice that Christ once offered from on Earth, when He died to save us (CCC:1366). 


Thirdly - through this Holy Sacrifice of the Mass - Christ also gave His Apostles some spiritual food: the sort which He’d promised them when He’d been speaking to them in Galilee, a little earlier (Jn 6:32); and we who are His present-day disciples can now receive this same spiritual food for our souls, when we receive Christ in Holy Communion.


Fourthly, Christ guaranteed His own Presence amongst them always, though in an extraordinary manner: through His sacramental Presence.  We know from Holy Scripture that this was His promise, before His Ascension into Heaven, when He said: “KNOW THAT I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS; YES, TO THE END OF TIME” (Mt 28:20); and Christ’s sacramental Presence amongst us is one of the ways in which He has fulfilled that promise, and the greatest.


I want to tell you how this came about.



The Holy Eucharist: how it is.


Let’s look back again to the night before Christ died: to the night when He was about to be betrayed by one of His disciples.  He knew, with His Divine fore-knowledge, everything that He would suffer on the following day.  But He made special arrangements for that night before He died, so that He could be with His Apostles in the upper room and could eat the Passover meal with them (Ex: Ch 12 and 13).  This is the sacred meal which the Jews celebrated - and many celebrate today - annually, in thanksgiving to God for the rescue of their ancestors from Egypt and from danger: for the ‘passing-over-them’ of the Angel of death, and for their own pass-over from slavery to freedom.


But Christ took that Passover meal and gave it a new twist, in order to celebrate, in advance, the Passover which He would begin on the next day: the passing-over from death to life which He would achieve through His death and through His Resurrection from the dead.  And it was through His Passover that He was to make possible our own pass-over from the slavery of sin, through “A NEW WAY” (Heb 10:20), to the freedom and joy which are experienced by those who live as children of God.




What happened at that last supper with His Apostles was that Christ took bread and gave thanks and shared it with those present; but as He did so, He broke the bread; and in this breaking was symbolised the way in which He Himself would be ‘broken’ by death, so to speak, on the following day.  By His Divine power, Christ changed the bread and the wine into the sacred Body and Blood which He was going to offer up in sacrifice on the following day, as He died upon the Cross on Calvary.


This is why we call the Eucharist a sacrifice as well as a sacrament. A sacrifice is the highest form of adoration of God, in which a pure victim is offered in sacrifice as an offering to God by a particular community through its designated priest, in an act of worship which is a sign of their recognition of God’s dominion over them.  This sounds rather complicated, perhaps; but if you can hold onto the idea that the Eucharist is both a sacrifice - an offering to God - and also a sacrament - a source of holiness - things might become clearer by the end of this section.



A holy and living Sacrifice.


Christ’s generosity was so great that He wanted to give us a living representation of the greatest proof of His Love for us, by which I mean, Calvary’s offering; and that’s why the Eucharist is called the ‘sacrament of our Salvation’.


The Church teaches us that when Christ said to His Apostles: “DO THIS ...” (Lk 20:19) He was giving the Church the power to achieve this extraordinary thing - and thus was making it possible for  the same power to be given to our priests, through the centuries, in order to give those same benefits to Christ’s People in future eras.


So it is our belief that, in every generation, when the Church celebrates the Eucharist, and the priest at the altar does what I’ve described - does those same actions and says those same words over the bread and wine - the Sacrifice of Calvary is re-presented before us, though in a different manner.  It is through the words of Christ and by His Spirit’s power that Christ’s Body and Blood are made present on the altar and are symbolically separated through the two-fold Consecration.  And it’s by the offering of this “holy and living sacrifice” - as we read in the third Eucharistic prayer - that we offer to God the Father from our own time and our own lives, through Christ and Christ’s Sacrifice, the most pure and perfect worship and supplication that has ever been offered from earth or can be offered (CCC:1359-1362): something so marvellous that the Church joyfully proclaims that the Mass is the heart and summit of the Church’s life, and brings blessings upon the living and the dead.


I’ve also mentioned spiritual food.  I said that Christ had promised in Galilee, soon after His miracle of the loaves and fishes  (Jn 6:1-15), that He’d give Himself as our spiritual food.  We know that He said: “IF YOU DO NOT EAT THE FLESH OF THE SON OF MAN, AND DRINK HIS BLOOD, YOU WILL NOT HAVE LIFE IN YOU” (Jn 6:53).


Christ also said: “HE WHO EATS MY FLESH AND DRINKS MY BLOOD LIVES IN ME AND I LIVE IN HIM. AS I, WHO AM SENT BY THE LIVING FATHER, MYSELF DRAW LIFE FROM THE FATHER, SO WHOEVER EATS ME WILL DRAW LIFE FROM ME.  THIS IS THE BREAD COME DOWN FROM HEAVEN ... ANYONE WHO EATS THIS BREAD WILL LIVE FOREVER” (Jn 6:56-58); and these words shocked people; but Christ didn’t try to hold back the people who then walked away.  He’d given a promise.  They didn’t understand it and left; yet the Apostles, even though not understanding it, believed in His wisdom and goodness; and so they were with Him at the Last Supper, as He made it possible for them to receive His Body and Blood as spiritual food and as a true Communion with Him; and we too can enjoy this astonishing privilege - when we receive Holy Communion.


A sacrament is a visible and touchable sign which has been instituted by Jesus Christ and given to the Church, as His means or method of giving to us His own power and grace and holiness.  We have seven sacraments, and the Eucharist - the Sacrament of the Lord’s Body and Blood - is the greatest of them all, since it gives us not just Christ’s graces but Christ Himself, Really Present; and as we receive His Body and Blood under the appearance of bread and wine we receive food for our souls, and innumerable graces.



Christ: wholly and entirely Present.


It’s important that we all realise that we receive Christ and Christ’s graces whether we receive the Sacred Host in Holy Communion - the “BREAD FROM HEAVEN” (Jn 6:32) - or whether we drink from the chalice to receive His Precious Blood.


As I said above, we believe that Christ Himself is Present with us, because of what He taught the Apostles at the Last Supper, and because of what our priests do today, in obedience to Him.  Christ said, just before His Ascension: I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS; YES, TO THE END OF TIME” (Mt 28:20).  It’s true that we have, made Present here, His Body and Blood, under the appearance of bread and wine; yet He said: “I AM THE LIVING BREAD” (Jn 6:51).  Christ is a living, joyful, Divine Person.  He is the God-man Who can never die again and Who cannot be split up into bits; and so we know that wherever Christ’s Body and Blood are Present, He Himself is Present: the whole Person Who even now is risen from the dead and lives in Glory in Heaven.  He is really with us - His Body, Blood, soul and Divinity (CCC:1374) - though under the appearance of bread and wine.  He is present whole and entire in each of the species.


Of course, it’s faith that counts in our lives, not the ability to repeat complicated explanations; but for those who want to know, I’d add, of the Consecration, that when the bread is changed into Christ’s Body, there is present also - under the appearance of bread - His blood, soul and Divinity; and when the wine is changed into Christ’s Blood - under the continuing appearance of wine - there is also His Body and soul and Divinity: and this ‘being-together’ is called, by the Church, concomitance; so we believe that the whole living Christ is Present under each species; and the change itself is called, by the Church, transubstantiation.



The wonder of Holy Communion.


So where Christ is made Present before us we have the thrill of knowing that Christ our Lord and God, to Whom we look throughout our lives for hope and strength as we try to do His Will, is really here amongst us: not very far away at all; and we also have Him as our spiritual food, as I said.  The culmination of our participation in the Sacrifice of the Mass is Holy Communion; and when we receive the Body and Blood of Christ we receive Christ whole and entire: a loving and Divine Person Who delights in being with His friends, and Whose friendship brings incomparable blessings.


Whenever we receive Christ our Lord we are united with Him in an extraordinary and intimate manner which cannot be surpassed, and which He has especially planned, so that He can do wonderful things for us.  Through His Real and extraordinary Presence, Christ not only gives us peace and comfort but begins to change us and to make us ready for Heaven.  And there’s something else.  Through this intimate Communion with Christ, we are bound very closely to everyone else who receives Him: to everyone else who is fully “in Communion” with Him and so is spiritually in Communion with us too: with the whole Church  (1 Co 10:16-17).



At the heart of our Faith.


When Christ lived on earth, He told a lot of stories; and one of them was about “A MERCHANT LOOKING FOR FINE PEARLS” (Mt 13:45-46); and one day that merchant saw a pearl of such magnificence that he longed to have it.  So he sold everything he had in order to buy it.


The reason I’m telling you this is that the Eucharist seems so staggering and glorious and beautiful to those of us who know about it and love it that we’ve found it’s well worth making sacrifices for it.  Some people in past ages have even sacrificed their lives in order to attend  the Holy Eucharist - the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass - or to protect priests, and so to ensure the continuation of the Church’s Eucharistic life.  We haven’t all been called to shed our blood for the Faith.  But this must give you some idea of the centrality of the Eucharist in the Catholic Faith.


It seems such a strange thing: to say that the Body and Blood of Christ are at the heart of our Faith as Catholics; and yet this Sacrament is a treasure handed on since the time of Christ; and when I say that it’s very precious, I wonder if you’ve ever known anyone to whom the Mass has been very precious: someone always keen to go to Mass and to Holy Communion?  Have you ever been puzzled by their devotion - perhaps wondering why they continue to go if there are very few people there, or if the church is dreary, or if there’s a nervous young priest, or an inaudible old priest - or if they’ve lost friends and relatives and perhaps God doesn’t seem to be very near?


Why is it that some people keep the Mass at the heart of their lives even when other people take a brief interest and decide that, outwardly, it’s not very gripping?  I suppose there are several reasons, but I’ll emphasise just one.



Christ’s Real and sacramental Presence.


Those of us who believe that Jesus Christ our Lord and God is there in the church, during the Mass, in the Eucharist, and who love Him, find the thought of His Presence so mind-boggling that we can hardly bear to stay away, whereas people who don’t believe in His Presence are only aware, perhaps, of a shabby building or a sparse congregation.


Imagine what would happen, if it was announced on the local radio that Jesus Christ was descending from Heaven  to land on Harpenden Common in an hour’s time, and that hundreds of people had gathered to greet Him.  Can’t you just imagine that many more people - Catholics amongst them - might dash to be there, partly out of curiosity, yet partly out of a longing to be near Him.  And yet Christ comes to be amongst us at every single Mass in a way which is every bit as real as in that imagined episode, though in a manner which is different; and He is Really Present, all the time, in the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle.


How many of Christ’s friends today bother to come and greet Him and thank Him?  So many people only half-believe.   Yet if they prayed a little more, and asked for more faith - and plucked up courage to change - their  lives would be transformed.



The Holy Mysteries.


I’ve said so much about the Eucharist, and I’ve used words which might be new to some of you; though it’s true that we expect to learn new words whenever we examine a new subject, whether in science, art, cookery or religion; but it seems important that I say once more that at every Mass, you see enacted what Christ Himself did at the Last Supper; and you see offered from the altar, at the hands of the priest, though in a different manner, the very Sacrifice which was offered once on Calvary, for our sins.  That’s why it’s so important for us to know a few useful things about how we can approach this marvellous event which is, all-at-once, a memorial, a Sacrifice, a Thanksgiving and a Celebration. 


Perhaps you can see why we’re not meant to be silent bystanders as the Holy Mysteries are celebrated.   We who are privileged to be Catholics can prepare for the Mass, take an active part in it, and leave in order to give the blessings of the Mass to other people: to the people we meet; so it’s surely plain by now that it’s important that we try to take part worthily in this extraordinary Celebration.


Let’s encourage one another to attend Mass, and to treasure it - and also to remember that the Mass is holy, no matter how poor the attendance, nor how feeble the singing, nor how weak the homily.  It is holy because it’s the worship being offered by Christ’s Mystical Body on earth.  It is holy because Christ our God is Present with us, at the heart of this Celebration: this living memorial of His Passion.


Whose mind can remain distracted, critical or self-pitying for long, if he really believes that Christ is made Present at the Consecration?  What can any sincere believer do, at that moment, except greet Christ with mixed gratitude, love and awe?






This is where I must say something about ‘praying the Mass’.   I’m aware that if what I write helps some people, it won’t suit others; nevertheless, these are the things I’ve always said to those who ask about prayer, and the Mass: things which Our Lord has either recommended or praised.


“Make up your mind  to please Christ by being obedient to His Church.  Abandon everything you know to be sinful; and if you can’t bring yourself to do so, go faithfully to Mass, and - each time - ask fervently for the grace to see things as Christ sees them and for the grace to be willing to change.


Decide to attend Mass without fail, every Sunday and holy day, in order to praise Christ in the way He’s decreed is best, and in order  to meet Christ - Who offers that perfect praise for us - and to receive Christ and His gifts.


Go to Confession, if you’re aware of having grievously sinned.  No-one can make you go.  Even if you don’t do this, it’s still a wonderful thing in God’s sight that you go to Mass.  But you can’t benefit from the Mass as you might, or go to Communion and so receive the rewards for a peaceful conscience, until you’ve put things right with God - Who is always longing for us to turn back to Him; and He is thrilled by our acts of humility, as we speak to a priest in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, when we are contrite, and are also determined  to make a new start.”



An immediate preparation.


Remember to fast for an hour, if you intend to go to Holy Communion.  Set out for church in good time, so that you’ll arrive a few minutes early. 


Use the holy water in the porch to make the sign of the Cross as you go into the church.


Find somewhere to kneel - but first, ‘find’ Christ Who is sacramentally, Really Present in the tabernacle.  Silently greet Him, and also the Angels; then genuflect - bow the knee - in His honour, and kneel in your place.


You’ve spoken  to Christ.  If you now ask the Holy Spirit to help you to pray well, and then ‘turn’ your heart to your Heavenly Father, you’ve spoken to the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity, even before the Mass has begun!


Say something like this to God the Father, as you wait in your place: and try to mean it: “Father: I unite myself with the whole Church today, as we offer You Christ’s Holy Sacrifice from our altar: offering It for Your Glory, in thanksgiving for all Your blessings, in reparation for sins, and in a confident plea that You’ll grant the prayers of the Church, and also the prayers of my own heart for myself and for all who are dear to me.”



United in prayer.


When the priest and the servers enter, and you begin to pray every prayer of the Mass with your whole heart, you can be sure that you are taking a worthy part in the most sublime act of worship possible on Earth.  It’s the worship of the whole Church: and the Church, remember, includes all the Saints of Heaven, with whom you are praying, at Mass, and also the Holy Souls who have gone before us, who are also intimately involved in our Celebration.


Remember: you are taking part in the worship and homage which Christ Himself offers to the Father, in a holy Celebration which has been enacted and offered, with only minor changes, throughout the past two thousand years; and that’s why, when we pray during the Mass, we pray best as we unite ourselves to Christ’s sacred Offering, having in our hearts the very same intentions as Christ.



Some special parts of the Mass.


Make a reverent and dignified response whenever the priest addresses the congregation.


‘Mean’ every word of every prayer that we all pray together.


‘Unite’ your heart and mind, interiorly, with every word of prayer which the priest speaks to God on our behalf.


Listen carefully to every reading from Holy Scripture.


Give generously to the collection, if you can, since you’re giving a gift to God.


Remind yourself - before the most solemn part of the Mass: before the Consecration - that Jesus Christ our Lord will soon be Present, ‘hidden’ in sacramental form, but really here amongst us, just as He has come amongst our spiritual ancestors at every Mass.


Welcome Christ at the Consecration, as the priest holds up the Sacred Host.


Perhaps you can thank Jesus for having died for you, as the Chalice of His Precious Blood is held up to view after the second Consecration.


Remind yourself that to be present at the Offering of the Holy Sacrifice is  to be present to the very offering which Christ offered on Calvary; it’s as though we’re at the foot of the Cross; and we can be sure that Jesus is Really Present, praying to the Father on our behalf, asking for forgiveness and Salvation.


‘Open’ your heart and soul very fervently to God the Father, as you unite yourself, interiorly, with Christ, as the priest holds up the paten and chalice which contain Christ’s Body and Blood, and says to the Father, of Christ: “Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honour is yours,  almighty Father, for ever and ever.”


Add a fervent ‘Amen’ - by which you confirm that you yourself offer that glory and honour to the Father, through Christ, in the Eucharist.



Going to Holy Communion.


Pray the ‘Our Father’, in unison; and mean every word of it, especially about wanting God’s Will to be done, and about forgiving those who hurt you.


When the time arrives for Holy Communion, but you know you can’t receive, stay quietly praying where you are, and make a ‘spiritual Communion’ - by brief expressions of contrition and love to Christ, with a fervent request that He come to your heart to help and console you.  He will do this, because He is good.  Then you can make an act of faith in His love for you; you can thank Him, and speak with Him, and allow Him to change you.


If you’re going to Holy Communion, approach the sanctuary with reverent longing.


Remember Whom you’re going to receive: Jesus Christ Himself: your best and closest friend, Who is also your Creator and Redeemer, Who comes from the glory of Heaven to our altar, and to your soul.


Go back quietly to your place, and kneel, if you can; and then speak to Our Lord in the silence of your heart in whatever way is most sincere, as well as reverent and grateful.  Don’t be afraid to confide in Him - about your worst fears and failings, or your hope or joys; or just sit in silence and enjoy the gifts which He can give you if you have a quiet conscience and are happy in His Presence.


When you leave the church, after the blessing and the dismissal - or when you’ve spent a further few minutes in thanksgiving - go out determined to be a good child of God, and to be as kind and forgiving towards the people you meet as Christ is towards you.


Smile or greet someone, if you can, on your way outside.  Even if you’re shy, or if you don’t think people seem very friendly, try to be pleasant - and try to grow familiar with the faces and names of those who make up the Body of Christ: your spiritual brothers and sisters in this wonderful family.



‘Other Christs’ amongst us.


We should be respectful and helpful to everyone, of course; but perhaps it’s worth saying, too, that Our Lord is thrilled when we’re supportive towards the Clergy.  He doesn’t want to hear anyone moaning about His  priests.  If we have a genuine complaint we should speak to a priest in private, and respectfully.  But Christ has placed them as ‘other Christs’ amongst us, and wants to see us loving and reverent towards them, whatever their apparent failings.















Special gifts in prayer.


This is the point at which I must once again refer directly to my own experiences in prayer. I must begin to write about the ways in which Christ, for His own purpose, has taught me about ‘Life-in-grace,’ and has brought me to pray His Prayer, as I shall explain, in a way impossible to an unaided human being.  There may be some repetition, since I’ve written about prayer elsewhere; but what I’m about to describe isn’t something to be sought for its own sake.  It’s a free gift of God to those on whom He chooses to bestow it.  We can refuse His gifts, but we shouldn’t - dare not - demand them; in fact, we couldn’t bear them without His purification and His strength, although everything we might suffer in this way seems insignificant, when compared with the joy which is given by God to a purified soul.


By ‘purified’ I don’t mean perfect, as I explained earlier when mentioning our remaining weaknesses and imperfections: the sight of which helps to keep us in humility.


I couldn’t begin to speak of Christ or of union with Him, without knowing myself to be, not worthy or fit, but ‘in Communion’ with and of one heart and mind with His Holy Church; so, it’s only after seeking advice which the Church freely offers to all Christ’s brothers and sisters that I feel free to accept His gifts and to press on with the task which He has entrusted to me.  I can’t describe the joy which He gives me now, even amidst all sorts of difficulties: more difficulties than ever; but I’m determined to do His Will from moment to moment, by His grace, neither peering sadly back to the past, nor straining anxiously to see ahead.


St. Paul says that God chooses “THOSE WHO ARE NOTHING AT ALL” [1 Co 1:28] to show and prove His goodness and His power, for the sake of many others who don’t yet know about His Love, and who haven’t yet been brought to faith in Him.


He has certainly chosen someone insignificant in this case, as I once said: but since He is true to His promises, and since I gave Him my whole life - every aspect of it and every dream - He has given me His.  As I freely consented  to His Will being worked in me, He now guides my will, my memory and my understanding too.  His wish is to make them entirely His, and so He


continues to purify them in the fire of His love, in the ordinary circumstances of daily life, for His use and service until, I hope, my life’s end.






Ordinary prayer: a ‘launch pad’.


Since a December day in 1985 - of which, also, I have written elsewhere - when I once again freely,   though in utter darkness, consent to give  my  life  to  God,  all  prayer became further simplified.


I continued as before, still praying every word of the Mass each time I attended, and still using words whenever I knelt in prayer every day at home, at regular intervals, or whilst going about my work.  It didn’t occur to me to look for or hope for any further special prayers or experiences, as I made acts of adoration, thanks, petition and sorrow - just as I’d done for over twenty years.  I continued to pray as usual, and to name every precious soul whom I lifted up to God in intercessory prayer.  Nevertheless, words became a brief launch-pad from which Christ led me  to silence and to peace.


Christ had led me to pray without words, many years previously, but this “Unknowing” wordlessness and peace was not only more profound, but of a different order.  At the same time, at every moment of every day, by promptings and Providential events and by trials, He continued to train me in His Way of love and service and humility, and helped me to begin again after every fall.


Despite, or, rather, amidst both interior and exterior sufferings, I found that I was at last working and praying with a tremendous inner peace and contentment.  I knew that Christ was truly my whole life and my whole desire even as I struggled with recurring fears and failings.


In Christ, I found all that I had ever hoped for or needed.  He led me peacefully to see His Will for me, day by day, and even began, astoundingly, to teach me more about Himself, in prayer. His ‘teachings’ had begun several years earlier, but I’d done my best to ignore them: as encouraged by trustworthy spiritual writers.


I had no idea how or why such ‘teachings’ should be occurring; but, when the time seemed ripe, I asked for expert advice and was reassured.  So, Christ led me on - usually in darkness, although a safe darkness now - as He guided me through prayer, and through the Scriptures, and through His own words and instructions in Holy Communion, and through the circumstances and events of daily life.


For as long as I worked and prayed solely for love of Him, putting myself entirely into His hands from moment to moment, fed and guided through His Holy Church, He led me onwards and upwards in His Peace.  More than ever, I saw that there’s no other good road, except the road on which we cling to Christ and rely on His grace to do good and to avoid sin: all the while trusting in the constant teaching of His Church.  This is so simple a Way that a child can see it, yet so difficult a path to follow that we can’t hope to persevere without God’s grace.  Many scorn it.

The need for greater care and effort.


It became clear, however, that any slackening of effort on my part would leave me, in one sense, ‘further away’ from Christ, not on account of any lack of love on His part, for this is impossible, but by reason of the spiritual law.  I mean that, just as someone who deliberately persists in gross sins, and who mocks God’s love and mocks those who love Him, cannot, except by an exceptional grace  or opportunity, be brought closer to God - for by such a stance a rebellious person is not permitting God to pour His love upon him - by the same laws, souls don’t usually grow in intimacy with God, if by the smallest act of selfishness or pride they deliberately say ‘no’ to His Will and His Love.


It is God’s Love which is the sole reason for the existence of or, rather, the functioning of these laws; meanwhile, I discovered through experience that the least unfaithfulness on my part left me in darkness.  I’m not thinking of the faults and failings into which we fall, despite our best efforts, for God sees our hearts, and completely overlooks the little failures and irritations of souls who are utterly determined never to offend Him, and who would sooner die than deliberately go against His teaching.  But the smallest movement of pride in my heart for His gifts to me, or the merest flicker of hope that He would give me further extraordinary gifts, or would show me something more in prayer, and He would leave me in darkness.  In this way He was purifying my desires and was training me to work and pray for His Glory, alone.


I knew that it was for my own good, too, and for the good of my neighbour, somehow.  It seemed that God is like a mother who takes no notice of the many clumsy mistakes made by a small child who is learning to walk, when she wants the child to feel confident and secure in its struggles.  But the same loving mother would be more severe, if one can use that word, towards an older child who was clumsy and careless through laziness or from lack of love, and who knocked aside others’ precious things.  So God appears more severe towards those on whom He has lavished His gifts for many years and whom He wants to see even braver and more loving; yet such severity is for their own good and for their ultimate happiness.


The truly mature and loving soul no longer becomes scrupulous and anxious, but sees that, whereas a small deceit or unkindness between mere acquaintances is a sad thing, between lovers it is a more dreadful thing: a worse betrayal of love.


So, for our happiness as well as for His Glory, God spares no effort, so to speak, to lead us and to train us to reach perfection.  Although He overlooks all the poor silly mistakes I make despite my good intentions, He doesn’t fail to correct me in one way or another for every small conceit or lack of charity.


In this way, He has been teaching me to hope for nothing but the grace to seek and to do His Will in everything, in darkness or in Light, day by day, for Love alone.  It is such a privilege to do anything at all for Our Lord that it’s a cause for wonder that He not only offers us the hope of Heaven, but pours upon us so many gifts and graces which are utterly undeserved.



Vanity or curiosity.


From the time I mentioned earlier, when I explained how the ‘teachings’ began, I found that Christ’s words, His visits, His teachings and His gifts now came always unexpectedly, unasked, quite sudden, and usually delightful, as He encouraged me to be like Him: to be “COMPASSIONATE, DO NOT JUDGE - THE AMOUNT YOU MEASURE OUT IS THE AMOUNT YOU WILL BE GIVEN BACK”.  Despite all my failures, I was determined to follow Christ’s Way towards Heaven.


Now that I had resolved to love without limits, even ‘TO CRUCIFIXION’, and was attempting to live for love alone, in complete obedience to God’s Holy Will, and despite my failings, I found that, over and over again , suddenly, in prayer, Christ was teaching me even more about His life or His Church; but if I ever began to speculate on His gifts or on their effect on me  then He was silent until I apologised for my vanity or curiosity.  This is still the case , now, although only very rarely.


In describing the earlier stages of ‘extraordinary’ prayer, I’m duty-bound to include many details which will confuse some readers and alarm others; but I shall move away from such apparently complicated sorts of ‘knowledge’, eventually, in order to explain the most pure and sublime of God’s gifts to the soul, and to write the about most simple and pure sort of spiritual ‘knowledge’ in prayer.


I know that if, in His Wisdom, God chooses to teach me in this way or chooses to lift me into His Light in the prayer of Unknowing, I must never fail to remind myself that everything He gives me today could be withdrawn - for my good - tomorrow.  It’s foolishness to take these gifts for granted, and I ask only for love and for perseverance.


There’s nothing on earth now, I dare to say, which I prefer to Christ’s presence or to His Will.  By that I mean that such leisure-time pursuits as television, novels, or even music are simply distractions from Christ, even though it remains true that they can be enjoyable.  All good pleasures and legitimate joys, can be enjoyed, I know, with others or alone, in gratitude to God.  Yet, they distract me from Christ’s presence, His Holy Company, His own Self in the sanctuary of the soul.  There’s no music, sound, sight or touch more sweet and beautiful than the silent, invisible and true presence of Our Lord.  This seems, to me especially, to be a real marvel, and I thank God for His gifts of faith and joy.







God’s holiness: sublime and unimaginable.


It seems to me that - admitting the superiority or purity of the un-sensed, Un-knowing, pure prayer of Union which I’ve mentioned above, and of which I shall write again, the occurrences or ‘touches’ which I’ve noticed in prayer are of a certain order of purity and grace.  I must mention here that I’ve sought advice, and have been reassured that I may accept the occurrences, indeed - must thank God for them.  Also, it’s in obedience to God that I now dare to write on such matters at great length, speaking so boldly, though I still have to pluck up courage to put pen to paper; so I leave my efforts, as I said, in God’s hands.


I intend to describe the different types of prayer-in-union, beginning with the more ‘impure’, in the sense of their containing not just Love, unseen and unperceived, but images or sound - indeed, anything which can be understood by the senses, although I mean the spiritual senses.  Needless to say, anything even slightly ‘impure’, in the normal sense, if occurring to the soul in prayer or to the soul’s eyes, is not of God and, like all distractions, but particularly evil ones,  must be utterly rejected.  But then I shall describe, in ascending order, the ‘purer’ types of prayer.


As I think I said earlier, God’s holiness is so sublime and unimaginable and pure that none of us can see Him in this life.  We mustn’t imagine that we have ‘grasped’ God, if, for His own purposes, He permits us to feel, see or sense some gift from Him in prayer.  Our spiritual guides will help us to discern what comes from God and what doesn’t; meanwhile, the safest way of proceeding is to ignore everything extraordinary in prayer, if this is possible.


Since these descriptions begin with the ‘lower’ types of prayer, various gifts and phenomena must be mentioned.  But when I go on describe the higher stages it will be more clearly seen, I hope, in what ways the stages differ, as I speak of pure Knowledge, which is ‘simple’, unlike the ‘lower’ types of Knowledge - which are ‘complicated’, so to speak.  I shall explain about the most pure and sublime of God’s gifts to the soul - which will surely cause any sincere enquirer to be amazed at God’s Goodness. 



An inability to recognise ‘stages’.


By the way, anyone who has persevered in prayer for many years will know that one usually recognises the place to which God has brought one only afterwards, perhaps on reflection.  Even then, the stages might be unrecognisable for a while, or they might overlap, or be repeated.  They might, occasionally, occur in a different order.  They might not have been experienced in a traditional manner.  For example, a generous person who doesn’t count the cost of his service to God, in the early stages, but who whole-heartedly throws himself into all the tasks which God seems to demand of him will probably not even know that he has entered the “first night” of the soul, if, indeed, he has ever heard of it, since he expected hardship and pain in the service of Christ, and so has never dreamed of leading an easier life than his Master.


Nevertheless, although in the next section I’ll be describing only the later stages, the usual path to God in prayer follows this course:


The Grace of God brings repentance

            and so leads to effort by the fervent soul

                        who is therefore brought

                                    to accept ‘passive’ purification;

                                                and his sufferings are effective:

                                                            they lead to a ‘stripping’ of imperfections, so

                                                                        preparing the soul for transformation

                                                                                    and for increased union                      

                                                                                                with God.


All that I’ll now describe concerns “what God does”, that is, the extraordinary ways by which God can teach the soul about Himself, as He draws the soul, with his consent, into a true union, which is a union not only of love and of wills, but also of Knowledge.  This is the marvel about which I must write, not to persuade anyone that he ought to be disturbed in his work and prayer by a longing for extraordinary experiences, but simply because the ways of Knowledge-in-prayer can be a stage of the soul’s journey towards the true union of Heaven; and this is the part about which I must now write if I’m to be obedient to God’s Will: whether or not I think it will be immediately useful - though, doing his Will is always profitable.



Love alone ‘counts’, in God’s service.


I can’t stress too strongly that, apart from what St. Paul calls ‘THE HIGHER GIFTS’, extraordinary experiences are never to be sought, nor even hoped for.  The soul must hope only to love God and his neighbour perfectly, by God’s grace, attempting this until death, even forgotten and utterly rejected, whilst hoping fervently to be united to God forever.  Even when a faithful soul’s legitimate guide eventually confirms that certain special experiences have been given by God, such things mustn’t be sought or lingered over, since love alone counts, in God’s service, not raptures or visions.


It will seem, in the next section on Extraordinary Prayer, that some types of experience are counted as being more valuable, and purer, than others.  This, as I think I can explain, is because of the absence, in the purer types of prayer, of things recognisable by, or palpable by the senses - even by the spiritual senses, that is: spiritual seeing and hearing and so on, which is not bodily, but which is seen or felt by the soul’s interior spiritual faculties.


Yet if anyone should disagree with the order in which I’ve gathered the different types of prayer, and should insist that one category or another is wrongly placed, I might agree.  This is, first, because I would welcome guidance from someone else on this subject, and secondly, because I was uncertain about one or two of the categories.  I can see that certain experiences might be counted as ‘purer’ because of one aspect and yet could be regarded as less pure because of another aspect.


Now, despite my saying that one type of prayer is ‘purer’ or more sublime than another, we know that all prayer is a gift of God, given from Love for our good and the good of others, in some obscure way, and for God’s Glory.  So - His gifts are not to be bargained over, nor should we hope for one type of prayer rather than another; and I say this because someone who is discontented with the prayer given to him by God is evidently not steeped in gratitude and trust, and obviously doesn’t yet yearn, above all, to love and to accept God’s Holy Will; and it’s only by trying  to love and to do God’s Will in everything, amidst all difficulties in both prayer and in daily life, that the soul prepares itself to be intimately united to God, when He Wills, in a true union which eventually brings unimaginable fulfilment and peace.  I say ‘eventually’, because union with Infinite Wisdom and Purity Itself brings some measure of torment to the soul which isn’t yet repentant of all pride and sinfulness, and isn’t yet utterly devoted and docile to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.






Before I start explaining what the soul ‘knows’ or ‘sees’ in prayer, using a terminology appropriate to prayer - for example, when speaking of visions seen with “the eyes of the soul” - I must make plain that I have never seen anything at all before me, in front of my bodily eyes, except what anyone else would see there before me in the same place.  Therefore I can’t speak of such things, or describe them; and I’ve limited myself to describing what I’ve seen Our Blessed Lord do to the soul in prayer - though I’ve seen these things not by physical sight, but by the marvellous workings of His grace, and the simultaneous workings of the soul’s spiritual senses, as prompted by Him, for His own purpose.






It seems sensible for me to explain, below, some of the words I frequently use in my writings about prayer.  Other people use them differently, sometimes, and I shall be happy to be corrected if I’m wrong.  But these are my own meanings:-


            THE SOUL.


            When I write that “the soul” does one thing or says another, or looks at God, I mean that the person looks towards God, interiorly.


            THE CENTRE.


            Yet, frequently I write about the ‘centre’ of the soul - or the height or depth; and, in this way, I explain what is happening, in the secret interior of one’s own person, which is the “place”, so to speak, where one meets God.  It is because that ‘centre of the soul’ is so difficult to find that I speak of it so often.  We are in the habit of looking away from our soul’s centre, because our conscience pains us greatly when we look within ourselves, or else we are full of visual or verbal mental distractions which draw our attention away from the soul’s centre.


            But, usually, those who are beginning the way of prayer are quite unable to find the soul’s centre.  It’s ‘doorway’, so to speak, is utterly hidden beneath a mountain of memories, bad habits, obstinate thoughts, resentments and wrong beliefs.  However, God Himself can clear all these away, in a moment, when He Wills, if we will consent; and our consent is necessary because the removal is extremely disturbing.


            THE SPIRIT.


            Less frequently, I speak of a person’s ‘spirit’, for example, when I explain how one’s spirit can soar to God in Unknowing union whilst the soul rests below in silence.  By ‘spirit’, I mean one’s whole willing self, that is, the aspect of the soul which yearns towards God.  So: the soul is one’s own person, but the spirit is the person’s most true and central will, which can grow stronger, according to the strength of its desire for God, and the purity of its determination to cooperate with the grace of God.  I write about ‘the spirit’ sometimes being feeble, due to neglect or laziness or sin.




            THE HEART.


            This “most true and central will”  of each person - by which I mean someone’s spirit -is called by me, at times, the ‘heart’, since it not only yearns, but loves, and makes loving resolutions, and offers itself for annihilation, solely out of love for God.


            So, the words ‘spirit’ and ‘heart’ in these writings are almost interchangeable, I suppose; and here, I’m not speaking of the Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity, whom we ought to address with reverence as the Holy Spirit.


            THE IMAGINATION.


            By the ‘imagination’ I mean a person’s capacity for deliberately holding an image within the mind, whenever that person has recalled one or more images from his visual memory, in one of the many methods of thinking or assessing, whether at work or at leisure.  In some types of prayer-meditation, such as the Rosary, one can ‘call-up’ remembered gospel illustrations, or can combine, in the imagination, several memories from different times and places.


            By ‘imagination’ I don’t mean a capacity for invention which some persons claim to possess.




            Most of us mean the same thing when we use the word ‘memory’.  It refers, as far as I can see , to anything which we recall, by the mind, of the past; so our recollections might be clothed in remembered images, or not - and might prove to be a great source of distractions in prayer.  That’s why it seems easier to pray if one has been recollected and calm in the hours before one’s prayer-time.


            I can’t speak here about conscious and unconscious memory; it’s too vast a subject.  But although we believe, rightly, that many half-hidden, unspoken, dark areas of memory and experience can affect our attitudes to prayer and to sacrifice, we must always remember that God’s grace cannot be stopped. He is so merciful, kind and powerful that, whenever He chooses, He can overcome, purify, or keep at bay or render harmless our most deep and terrible memories which, by ourselves, we might find impossible to control.  Of course, when He so Wills, God also blots from our minds all power of recalling certain consolations and joys; but He does this only because of His love of us, as He works in this way at particular times to help us to grow stronger and braver.




  1. f) SYMBOLS.


I must add a few lines here about the symbols I’ve devised to accompany the explanations about prayer.


The task before me has been enormous.  I make no complaint;  I mean that I’ve had to devise a system by which I could sort various written experiences of prayer into different categories, without becoming completely muddled - because of my difficulties in remembering numbers; I mean that I had to categorise all of my writings and drawings which explain or illustrate over two thousand “teachings-in-prayer”.


The symbols to be found (in Part six) which follow are simply visual ‘tags’ by which I can easily identify the many writings and drawings before me.  Someone else might have used a system which involves numbers, as I suggested, or coloured inks; but the simple shapes which I’ve composed, and which are reproduced below, have made my task easier.


There’s another reason why I’ve devised this means of identification, and why I’ve ‘framed’ each  drawing - that is, each picture in my set of drawings of images which have been given to me in prayer - with a particular symbol.  I’ve come to accept - on sound advice - that what I receive in prayer is valuable, and that the ‘teachings’ are a gift from God.  Also, I believe that it’s the Will of God that I should put aside my fears, and should share the teachings by means of both writing and drawing.  It’s on this point that the importance of the symbols will become plain.  I mean that I can’t permit anyone who is sincerely using these pictures to learn about prayer to hold that any one picture is as “important” as the next.  In other words, without the help of symbols, someone who sees a painting of a dazzling image given to me during an extraordinary vision (8a) might judge it to be of the same significance as a fleeting “own-image-prompted-by- God” (8d).  Where an observer takes note of which symbols frame the different pictures, however, his eye is led, quickly, to notice a sequence of ‘teaching’ pictures, for example, or to note the infrequency of another type of image.  In this way, I hope, the relative importance of the different categories of prayer becomes plainer.




  1. g) A WARNING.


Before I describe in detail (in Appendix 6) the various categories of extraordinary prayer, and before I reproduce the picture symbols, (in Appendix 7) I feel I should give a warning about the different ways in which, in my experience, God’s gifts are imparted to the soul in prayer.  No yearning, nor any amount of ‘straining’ of the will, will bring about contemplative union or any special state or gift.  Each is God’s free gift.


Those with lively imaginations might think that their tender feelings towards God announce the beginnings of the prayer of union; however, His gifts, though silent and invisible, can be more alarming than pleasant, at certain stages; and besides, they’re rarely given to souls who haven’t utterly destroyed in themselves, by God’s grace, all longings for anything except those things which they need for their attempts to love God and their neighbour.  Those who sincerely hope to advance prayer must be utterly determined to do God’s Will no matter what the cost to themselves - and all because of their love for Him.













  1. A ‘SENSE’ OF GOD.


It seems to me that the ‘lowest’ experience of God which it’s appropriate for me to include in this list - the lowest sort of extraordinary prayer, although every sort of genuine prayer is a reason for giving thanks to God - is the true but uncomprehending ‘sense of God’ which is given at certain times, and often given when a soul is full of wonder and gratitude at seeing the beauties of nature.  No image is given.  This real ‘sense of God’ is different, however, from an unspiritual and wholly emotional response  to beauty: a response which might have ‘mixed in’ with it the beginnings of awe or the start of a question but which is not in itself a gift from God: not a prayer arising within the soul.






As I recorded Christ’s ‘Teachings-in-prayer’, and whenever I have recalled the particular circumstances in which a great grace was received, I have painted a picture of these circumstances. I have numbered each of these pictures (14) and have written (M) for Memory, as I’ve tried  to show a glimpse of everyday life at that time.








The faithful soul who is determined to love and to cling to God whatever the cost might one day be prepared for a true, though still earth-bound, union with this Lord by an experience of desolation so profound that he learns perhaps, at last, to trust entirely in God and not in his own powers: powers which in fact he can no longer see.


God sees, first, that a certain soul trusts in Him sincerely and is ready for union, but isn’t yet utterly purified.  If that person consents - by his attention to God and by his clinging to God’s


Will from minute to minute - God draws him into a spiritual darkness so profound that that person is left with nothing except the awful memory of his sins and the consciousness of his own helplessness and weakness.


To his utter horror, that person sees himself clinging by faith alone to a thin thread of Hope, suspended over a great Abyss.  He knows, still, the power and unseen Majesty of his Creator, but is amazed, almost, that he hasn’t died of despair at the knowledge of the holiness of the God Whom he has dared to offend and disobey at times.  Such a soul has utterly forgotten all past gifts and consolations.  He isn’t aware that God, for love of that soul, has Himself blotted out those things from the soul’s memory, since God wants that soul to discover the true meaning of faith and trust; and only in this way is the soul brought to recognise his utter dependence on God, and also to realise that he can choose, anew, either to put all his trust in God or else to cast himself away in hopelessness and despair.


The willing soul continues to cling to God by pure faith.  He continues to try to do God’s Will because of the pure hope which remains in his heart even in the face of the apparent danger of Eternal loss; meanwhile, nothing gives the soul which is in this state any shred of joy or peace.  Someone who suffers in this way has never known such utter loneliness and desolation.  He can’t do a single thing which would bring him comfort or relief.  He fulfils his plain duties; he moves and works and attempts to pray; but the enormity of his own sinfulness seems to hold him on the verge of paralysis.  He calls out to God for mercy, and makes acts of faith and hope and love, whilst feeling no shred of comfort in his heart.  He plucks up all his courage in order to communicate with his Creator, even as he feels that he might be damned for daring to approach Someone so Holy.


Truly OUR GOD IS A CONSUMING FIRE (Heb 12:29); yet He knows what we can bear, for the ultimate good and joy of our own souls and for the sake of those who will be helped by our sanctification - since every advance in holiness, as every move towards sin, affects other people.


The faithful soul learns to say: “Fiat” to God’s Will, which means: ‘Let it be done.’ He continues to trust in the Lord’s goodness even in the midst of this terrible trial.  He simply waits for deliverance, in indescribable fear of loss, and in utter ignorance of his own state or destination.


After days or weeks, God gives peace to the soul.  Past, present and future are now seen by the soul in God’s Light.  The very ‘attics and cellars’ of the soul’s inmost dwelling have been scoured and purified.  This person now sees that he possesses nothing at all that hasn’t been given to him by God.  He knows now, in a way impossible before, that to take pride in himself is more than foolishness; it is a lie - a theft from the Source of all good.  But now that this soul has learned to trust in God’s grace alone God now rewards him with unbelievable joy and tenderness.


So the fortunate person who has reached this stage is brought to the border of a new land, where he learns to walk in true humility and simplicity.  He learns, even, to rejoice in his own weakness, trusting only in the Merits and graces of Christ his Lord; and he begins to live like a true child of God in gratitude and faith.







There is an extraordinary way in which God tears someone - in that person’s own spiritual self and at exactly the ‘right’ time - from all that fastens him, in his thoughts and desires, to the things of this world.  The one who follows the path of obedience, and who reveals his soul to his superiors in order to receive the advice that God wishes him to receive through His human agents in the Catholic Church, is wonderfully rewarded by God, though such a soul knows nothing about reward or joy at the time.  God rewards the soul, later, by Himself completing  the task which the faithful soul furthered by his own obedient and courageous act.  Indeed, God cannot fail to reward, lavishly, someone who is willing to risk sacrificing his own reputation and his own instinct for privacy in order  to seek advice, thinking this to be the Will of God.  Meanwhile, it happens that the soul’s interior is burned and stripped in an entirely new way, as God strips away the ‘old self’ with the soul’s pride.  The courageous soul, if he chooses, accepts this ‘stripping’ for as long as God Wills.  It consists of more than the humiliation of having exposed one’s soul to another person.  But the faithful soul quietly continues with his usual work, whilst offering the pain as a penance in union with the sufferings of Christ; and then he is rewarded by God, much later on, when he is shown the spiritual fruit which has sprung from this act of obedience and humility.  Even as this person was suffering entirely alone, praying “All for Jesus”, and uncomprehending, his sufferings were proving fruitful.  Grace was being poured upon others through his sacrifice.








Sometimes, the soul is burned or wounded by the touch of the Most Holy Spirit when He scours the soul with His Light.  This can happen in prayer-time or outside.  Such a soul isn’t necessarily thinking about God; but one touch causes him to do so, and he becomes more aware of God’s holiness and of his own wickedness.  This causes him almost unbearable pain, until the time comes when he is given great peace, and doesn’t so much weep over his past sins as praise God for His Mercy in having sent such a wonderful Saviour to help us; and yet he still weeps; but the piercing pain is experienced less frequently, for God, by numerous ways, has brought this soul to live in some degree of humility.  God permits this burning, nevertheless, to keep the soul from pride.


This gift is usually given to those whom God sees will be willing to die to themselves, as Christ taught; and God alone can uphold someone who permits God to reveal every facet of the soul’s interior to its own gaze, naked in God’s pure Light.  The torment is indescribable, and the soul might groan out loud for the pain; but it’s a tremendous grace, even if it’s unrecognised as such when it’s first experienced.


In this action, the God of Love appears merciless as He burns away impurities in order to pour His own Purity into the soul, so that all past and present actions are seen as never before in His dreadful Light.  The faithful soul thinks he might die from shame; but if he continues, no matter what he feels, to empty himself of all desire except the desire to do God’s Will, then he receives from God from some faint indication of His Presence.  God strengthens the faithful soul to a degree which that soul wouldn’t have thought possible; and that soul is astonished to see that he endures and undertakes things from which he would have run away in earlier times, when his faith was weak and his trust very feeble.


The soul’s worst torment, in this agony - which God has allowed, in the early stages of the spiritual life - is that he thinks that God cannot love him and doesn’t love him, even while the soul continues, in blind faith, to do good things for the love of God alone, with, to his own mind, no natural hope or optimism at all.  Also, he thinks - since God has blinded him, so to speak - that he doesn’t love God at all, and that some secret sin or subtle evil within himself will perhaps keep him from God forever.  He thinks this, with secret horror, even though he continues to prove his love - although he doesn’t know it - as God leads him onwards and, when the time is ripe, brings him into His presence, in prayer.


This is the soul’s Gethsemane.  Many souls stop here and turn away, unaware of how far they have already come on the journey to union, but not possessing enough of the virtues to continue blindly from pure love alone.  There’s a great danger that a soul in this state will grow bitter.  Such a soul has made tremendous sacrifices for God, but seems to have been ill-rewarded; for of course, this person has suffered many of the pains of preparation for union, but has so far experienced few of the almost unbelievable joys of true union; yet he is on ‘the brink’ of receiving them soon, if only he’ll continue.








Sometimes the soul is led to pray with words which are stirred from its own depths by the action of the Holy Spirit - Who prays in the docile soul, in a way unknown to someone else who always praises God with his own feeble words and his own cautious thoughts, saying “if” and “but” and “provided that” to God, in prayer, not daring to give to God all his heart and free will, or indeed, his very life, which is the greatest ‘praise’ of all, in union with Christ’s Sacrifice.








Someone who lives habitually united to God in thoughts, words, deeds, hopes and constant prayers, is led by the Holy Spirit from moment to moment in daily life, towards one task and then towards another, without great agitation or worry or indecision.  In prayer-time, the same Holy Spirit guides that faithful soul, and prompts him to renew his self-offering and to repent of all wrongs; and such a soul never hopes to be led in extraordinary ways.


But sometimes, the faithful soul is prompted to make vows or resolutions which he couldn’t have ‘thought up’ by himself.  He had no intention of making vows, yet he finds, in prayer, that he’s inspired to undertake greater responsibility; and so he commits himself to God with new fervour.  However, this soul ought not to regard himself as bound by any of these vows without consulting the proper authority, who can help him in many ways.






Whenever God truly speaks to the soul in one of the types of extraordinary prayer which I’m listing here God gives to the soul what I call Knowledge-in-prayer-by-means-of-words, or accompanied by words; and this occurs in a wholly spiritual way.  The words aren’t heard by the bodily ears; nor are they heard “out loud”.


There’s a distinction between “Knowledge-accompanied-by words”, and “spiritual-words-in-a-spiritual-conversation” which can arrive within the soul during prayer or recollection.  I’ll try to explain this in the following few paragraphs.




It can happen that God guides the soul by means of spiritual words heard within the soul quite unexpectedly when someone is at prayer, or working, or meditating on his life or upon God.  However, when words are received in this way, quite outside a state of evident union with God, and unaccompanied by Knowledge of any significance or by joy, the soul ought to beware, and to be even more determined than usual to take advice, and to follow nothing but the plain and sure path of Christ, with guidance from the Church.  There’s no need to explain further, as the soul will, I hope, take no notice of this sort of thing.  It’s true that God sometimes speaks to the soul in this way, but the soul can easily be deceived.








There is a way in which the faithful soul is guided by words which are addressed to his own heart, and which pierce him deeply, as Holy Mass.  I’m not speaking, here, about when an agitated person twists the meaning of certain Scripture phrases to suit himself.  I’m not even referring to the special gift of Understanding of Scripture sometimes given, as described in 10B, below.  I’m referring to the extraordinarily clear words of Holy Scripture, impressed upon a soul as he listens to the reading at Holy Mass, words used by God the Father or by Christ Himself to teach the soul something about himself, or to instruct, command, rebuke or encourage him - all of this with great impact and immediacy.  This is quite unlike hearing other parts of Scripture read aloud.  These words are directed to the soul in great clarity and power, as are the words given in a spiritual conversation (12B) below; and the soul understands far more than it would have expected to learn from such simple phrases; and these things are understood not by thought or by imagination, but by grace.


This can happen when someone is not in a state of true prayer, although he’s generally recollected, and is rarely without some thought of the God Whom he lives to serve, even if he thinks he serves Him badly.


The soul can also be instructed in this way by God, with extraordinary clarity, by means of a few words of the homily at Holy Mass: whether the priest (or deacon or Bishop) who is preaching is eloquent in introducing the Gospel, or pedestrian in his explanation.








‘Spiritual words’ given in a spiritual conversation arise as follows and are not usually about the chief truths of the Faith, but about the individual soul or the spiritual life.  Sometimes, in prayer, when the soul is ‘saturated’ or ‘absorbed’ in Christ entirely - I mean, absorbed by His grace, as described in 6C - Christ speaks to the soul.  He speaks within the soul; others cannot hear.  But He uses true words heard as words by the soul’s spiritual faculties.  These words haven’t been “conjured up” in the imagination.  That’s indeed possible; but if it happens the words are very different: over-loud perhaps, or hesitant.  There’s no grace about them.


Christ’s own words to the soul are heard quite unexpectedly and quite suddenly, deep within the soul.  They are heard with great clarity, and are usually brief and easily-understood.  They always bring great calm to the soul, although it feels some surprise and puzzlement, as usual, since it’s so aware of its own weakness and of Christ’s holiness; and they also seem to tell the soul much more than their brevity could contain.  As I said earlier, hearing such words is like receiving pure Knowledge, too.  The faithful soul absorbs the truth conveyed in this way, and finds that he can write about it even years later on.  He learns about the spiritual  life, but is usually instructed or encouraged about his own interior life and progress.


There’s little question here of anyone deceiving himself, if he is generally faithful and obedient and takes advice about extraordinary states.  He learns that Christ’s words never leave the soul agitated, or confused.  Christ’s words enlarge and purify the soul, and never draw the soul away - by enticement - from God, or from his duty to his neighbour, or from the Catholic Church.  Christ cannot contradict Himself, and His Spirit of truth is One Spirit, undivided.






  1. A) Knowledge-accompanied-by-words


Sometimes Knowledge is given to the soul in prayer by God the Father, or by Christ our Lord, through perhaps a dozen clearly-heard words of great simplicity; yet the words bear within them a tremendous truth or truths about some extremely important aspect of the Christian faith, such as the true meaning of Love or of the Atonement, or of the Incarnation of Our Lord.  When I say ‘true meaning’ I speak about a mere glimpse of meaning given by God, since no soul dare claim to understand fully what are holy and sacred Mysteries.  When this happens in prayer, the soul is stunned by the enormity of the Love which is revealed in this way, and is amazed that God should communicate in this way with a mere creature.

The faithful soul can’t fail to be humbled and helped by spiritual words of such import: spiritual as described above; yet he ought to ask for guidance as usual, for fear of being deceived.


No-one does wrong in wanting to accept such words, since the experience resembles the prayer-of-union-of-persons or intellectual vision which I’ll explain later on, in 5, which the soul seems to be unable to ignore except by ignoring or leaving prayer itself.


It seems to me that the words and the Knowledge which are given in this way have a special purity in that they’re implanted in the depths of the soul, by God, it seems, so suddenly and swiftly that this experience resembles, too, the piercing-by-Knowledge which I’ll describe later, in 2, an experience which I’m sure nothing evil could imitate, for reasons I needn’t state here.  The subject-matter, as well as the manner of ‘implanting’, is sublime.  These words are usually about Christ our Lord, or about God the Father, or about Christ’s Passion or His Sanctity, whereas the ‘words of conversation’ I’ve mentioned are more personal and usually endearing.


I can’t be certain of this since I haven’t spoken with others on this subject; but I don’t believe that words of immense importance are given solely to benefit a solitary soul.  I feel sure that they’re given primarily so that the privileged recipient might share with others a marvellous reminder about faith, in the course of whatever sort of teaching or writing is, by now, this person’s most important task.






I’ll write a few words, here, about a truly extraordinary gift, which, it seems to me, is given to certain persons so that they can help others in an immediate and direct manner, in a way impossible without true spiritual discernment.


It’s true that the more God’s grace is ‘permitted’ - by the soul’s goodwill and repentance - to flood the soul with Light, then the more marvellously is the soul able to look at this earth and the people on it - indeed, everything on it, in some measure - through the eyes of Christ.  I mean that a faithful person  no longer thinks about the Earth without at least indirectly thinking of God our Creator and of His Son Jesus Christ.  Nor does he look at his fellow-humans any more in a worldly manner, that is, judging by exterior signs, or considering any other person as ‘less’ than someone beloved by God.


God enables the faithful soul, more and more clearly, to see others as He sees them, and never as mere faces which disguise a reality within, nor as mere parts of a crowd or a group. Each soul that is seen in this way retains - in one sense - his privacy; yet God can enable someone, through the gift of His Knowledge of hearts, to discern the state of another’s heart.  I mean that the one thus gifted can ‘see’, by Knowledge, where each person’s true will lies. He ‘sees’ that person’s inclination of heart and soul, whether towards good or evil, or pre-occupied with things of this world, or perhaps almost dead in spirit, from lack of charity or faith or hope.


Many thank they have this gift, but don’t have it.  Also, it’s so dangerous a gift, and can be so seriously misused, that anyone who is gifted thus must walk carefully, in true union with God, running with horror from the least shred of pride, and begging for true purity of heart.








There are very many ways in which God communicates His Will to us, and His Knowledge and His Love; but I’ll mention, here, two states of recollection in which God teaches the soul.  The truths are as true, of course, as truths communicated in formal prayer.  But the description of these states will emphasise different modes of understanding.


God can teach the soul, and sometimes speaks to it, giving understanding through the words of Holy Scripture as these are spoken aloud in the Liturgy, yet as they are understood with more clarity than is normally given.  This frequently occurs when the soul has prayed to God for guidance on some topic.  God never fails to help the soul who asks for help and this is one of the many ways which He might choose.  He speaks by His Word, yet since so few treasure His Word, fewer persons are guided thus than are enlightened in the way described below (in 10A.)  Occasionally, someone is guided by God in the same fashion, through a book written by a holy author.  However, this happens quite suddenly and unexpectedly, as and when God Wills.  No-one ought to expect amazing enlightenment to leap routinely from the pages during spiritual reading but should use books for normal intelligent reading, as God Wills.


In daily life, a holy understanding of the Sacred Scriptures is a gift from God to be received with thanks.  The soul ought to remain alert, however, to the possibility of understanding things differently at a later reading.  God’s truth is not tied to the personal interpretation of a day, and truth has many facets.  All of these, nevertheless, as perceived by the soul which is truly united to God in prayer and recollection, will conform to the only true way of understanding Holy Scripture, which is with the mind of the Church, guided by the most Holy Spirit.








The type of Understanding I want to explain here, if possible, is a gift from God.  All truth is from Him, but, in this case, the soul finds that, amidst its daily activities, it is suddenly pierced by Understanding in a sudden and profound enlightenment of the soul.  The soul hasn’t a mere insight into a subject, such as those which can arise after thought or meditation; it has received an extraordinary gift, though quietly and gently.  The gift of Understanding is similar to Knowledge, though not as extraordinary in its intensity or purity.  It is usually given to someone who is already recollected, but who isn’t necessarily praying.  Understanding is more like a swift sun-rise within the soul, with regard to the subject-matter - usually the spiritual life - rather than like the narrow, blinding, piercing beam of pure Knowledge which is received by the soul in Unknowing prayer (2).


I believe that this experience is not uncommon amongst those who pray, but it is most definitely a special gift.  It’s quite different from the experience of “light dawning” in one’s intellect, in thought.  The faithful soul is recollected but alert, though he might be at work, perhaps, or engaged in vocal prayer or reading.  He finds that he’s free to dwell on what he has just understood.  If he does this he benefits enormously.  He doesn’t do wrong if his subsequent sense of gratitude and wonder, or his calm reflections on what has been understood in this way, cause him to thank God and praise Him for His Goodness, since that sincere prayer of praise - which stems from the Gift of understanding - is a greater prayer than the vocal prayer which it might replace.  Nevertheless, this person is free to return to his vocal prayer later on, if that will stop him being anxious.  But God cannot be ‘displeased’ when someone neglects one type of prayer because God Himself has said to the soul, as it were, “Come up higher”.


To sum up: after such an ‘Understanding’, the soul’s reflections ought to lead it to act upon the Understanding given, whether it acts through prayer or thought or movement or neighbourly service or whatever.  I ought to mention, here, that such Understanding is not, in my experience, given with an image.  It is utterly pure and simple.  As it pierces the soul and the intellect it “carries” nothing and disturbs nothing, although Wisdom is contained within it.  What I’m trying to say is that someone might find that, afterwards, he has added an image from his own memory to that experience.  He ought not to feel guilty about possessing such a visual ‘aid-memoire’.  This is quite acceptable to Our Lord if it isn’t misused, or changed or idolised.






The ‘visions’ or states of prayer which I’m now going to describe are not as visually gross or disturbing as others might be led to believe when the states are described by words such as ‘dazzling’ or ‘moving image’ seen by ‘the soul’s eyes’.  Everything I shall describe is utterly light, pure, gentle and delicate in a way quite beyond the understanding of anyone who deals mainly with what is large, loud, vigorous, brash or self-centred either in prayer or in dealings with others.  These things will be more readily understood not by timid or cowardly souls but  by those with much love, faith, courage and simplicity.




There’s a type of prayer in which one sees a moving image not with the bodily eyes, as I said, but with the eyes of the soul.  It is God Who has drawn the soul into union with Him in prayer in this peculiar way.  This happens infrequently, but it seems to be a special means by which He instructs the soul about various stages of the spiritual life.


In this strange prayer, the faithful soul has no choice but to go where Christ invisibly leads him, or to give up prayer completely.  So, if this person consents, Christ guides him on a spiritual journey which is seen clearly with the soul’s eyes.  The person who prays remains conscious of the place and attitude of prayer.


No images have been sought by the soul; but, on these occasions, a single image is communicated, and a single ‘teaching’ is given, wordlessly, as the soul is led by Christ to a new height.  Then, within a few minutes, the soul sees that he kneels and prays as usual, wondering just how and why Our Lord leads him in such strange ways, for they seem strange, always, since the person who prays has never met anyone who has spoken of such a thing.








There is a type of prayer-with-living-images which is experienced, by those whom God draws along this path, much more frequently than the one I shall describe later in 3.  The state of which I now speak is also a state of union-with-Knowledge and a living-image yet it is less glorious and less prolonged; also, it frequently occurs whilst the soul is alert, rather than enraptured, although the peaceful joy of this state might draw the soul into an absorption similar to rapture though not as intense.


The living images seen here with the eyes of the soul are not as over-powering as those I shall mention below (3) nor as clearly seen.  Yet Christ frequently chooses to appear to the soul’s eyes in this majestic way after Holy Communion, giving His Knowledge and encouragement to the faithful soul, and instructing him in whatever subjects He has decided will benefit that soul.


Sometimes - I hardly dare to write this, but it is true - the thoughts of Christ and of the soul move to one another in an exchange of pure love and truth.  The person who prays is uplifted but, as I said, is usually still conscious of his surroundings.  He is free to turn away, distracted, or free to turn away to fulfil some duty, as Christ looks on in love.  In the same way, the soul might greet the Saints or Angels in prayer outside the time of Mass: usually at home, but occasionally elsewhere.


The faithful soul is ‘absorbed’, throughout, though not usually totally ‘enfolded’.  He is free to turn his attention away.  I have found that if from amazement or curiosity one turns away from prayer in order to think about the appearance of the Heavenly person or persons seen, then this state of prayer ceases.  But if one turns away in order to praise God in the Mass, or to do something kind for a neighbour, then Christ, or whichever holy person is present, remains ‘in’ the soul in this way, waiting for one’s return.  Words might be spoken, too - but more on that, later.


On these occasions, Christ is seen more frequently with His Holy Mother than without her, and is usually attended by Angels, and sometimes by Saints too: all of whom appear in so much glory that the soul’s eyes are dazzled.  It’s in this state of prayer, or in others very similar, that I’ve been gently urged to ask questions, and to share my concern about people I love.  I’ve been led to hold up each person to Christ or to His Holy Mother, and have been answered with pure Knowledge, Spirit to spirit, and with gentle gestures.  None of this stems from the imagination, which would be quite incapable to producing anything which has the delicacy, spontaneity and grace of what is experienced here.  With the usual warnings in mind, one can be fairly certain that such good gifts come from the One Who is Good; but we’d be foolish not to seek advice on such matters at some stage of the spiritual life.


I repeat, interminably, I know, that one can be deceived whenever one sees images in prayer.  However, in this type of prayer, as in others, one can only leave behind or repudiate the images by leaving prayer itself - and, in my opinion, that’s a good sign.  I haven’t spoken of this to others in detail, but, from experience, this type of prayer usually leads to a renewed determination to serve God and one’s neighbour lovingly, and to take up one’s cross without complaint - by God’s grace.  If it’s the prayer which has brought about that increase of genuine fervour, then some aspect of that prayer, or perhaps all of it, was good.






I intend to describe, now, four ways in which God - in His great love for the soul, and for those whom that soul will eventually help - teaches him in a wholly spiritual manner about many aspects of life in Christ: about the soul’s union with Christ; and yet a simple image is associated with each occasion on which such a ‘teaching’ is received.


In my experience, God doesn’t generally teach, in this way, things which we ought already to have learned in the normal way, from ‘faith teachers’ such as parents, school-teachers or catechists and priests.  For example, I think that no-one would be taught the Commandments in this way, though he or she might be taught the difference between true sin and mere weakness, and might be shown the effects which these have on the soul.


The four ways which I’m about to describe are placed here, “before” the prayer of union of Persons (5), and of Wills (4) from which the reader might deduce that they are less ‘pure’. That is true in the sense that the soul, in the four types of prayer below, sees an image, and is therefore in some danger of being deceived - at least before that person is experienced enough  to discern the difference between different images in prayer, and before he has sought advice in this matter.  As I said earlier, he ought to try to ignore, whilst in prayer, images of any type, however “holy”, secure in the knowledge that he can recall ‘good’ images afterwards.  He mustn’t seek for experiences, nor must he allow any image to interrupt his true gaze towards God-in-darkness during any period of worship, whether private or liturgical.


The origin of the images which I’ve described is God, acting in the soul; and these images are a brief accompaniment to the true and valuable prayer-of-Union-with-knowledge, which I shall soon describe (2) and which is easily recognised in its purity, since the soul isn’t disturbed by movements or warm feelings.


So, the types of prayer which I shall describe in the next few paragraphs are very valuable for the soul who keeps God first in everything, despite the presence of images.  Meanwhile, the wise soul will always remember that how weak he is and that he’s never beyond making mistakes, for as long as he still lives on earth.







The type of ‘Knowledge-with-image’ which I must describe is just as described soon in (8C), and (8D), except that the image is one’s own.  I mean that one might receive Knowledge in prayer, without any ‘Translation’ into an image, yet sometimes one’s mind immediately provides an image.  The soul is aware that the image comes from the imagination.  It tries to ignore every image, as usual, since worship is so important.  However the soul knows, with some experience, that God has prompted the imagination, so to speak, to clothe His Knowledge-in-prayer; and that’s why the soul permits himself to recall such an image later on.  The Knowledge, and the God-prompted image, together, are a precious gift, though of a lower degree of purity than the “Translations” described below, in 8A, in which the soul is absorbed and utterly lifted up ‘into’ God for a moment, and is as if helpless as an image is given at the same time as Divine wisdom.








Sometimes, when the faithful soul is peacefully at prayer, his heart yearning towards God yet already resting in Him, he suddenly sees an image of great importance, yet he sees it in a manner different from that by which he sees pictures in the imagination or memory, in everyday life.  He ‘sees’ with the eyes of the soul.  This ‘seeing’ cannot be described adequately to someone who hasn’t experienced it; yet the soul who ‘sees’ thus in prayer knows that it is a gift, and this is why he knows this: it’s because such an image isn’t a ‘thing’ which can be moved about at will, as when, for example, we select and alter visual memories in our normal thought-processes or meditations.


This “given-image” is seen within the soul, and not within the imagination.  It is unchosen, suddenly-appearing and still.  It lasts for a longer time than the images of the “Knowledge-Translation”, and Knowledge accompanies it.  The experienced soul is sure that it is a gift which can be contemplated later or communicated to others, if God Wills, for their encouragement in faith.  But since  the person who receives it knows that his first duty is to look towards God in prayer, especially at Holy Mass, and since God is not an image, the soul won’t permit himself to be distracted by any image, however holy or interesting, and so tries to turn away from it if he can, in order to continue his prayer.  By experience, he becomes less anxious and less impatient, since he learns that he can ‘pull’ the image from his memory after his prayer-time, if God permits, even many years later on.


These ‘given-images’ seem to be given to the soul for one of two reasons.  By what I describe here God shows the soul what is happening within itself.  This is a precious personal gift by which God explains with marvellous tenderness the stages of the spiritual journey; or He shows the soul, clearly, in which good state He has placed him at present, and how (8B)  He has done so.


In a moment, I’ll try to sum up the purpose of the ‘given-images’ although, as I said, the soul should peacefully turn away from the images, confident that Knowledge given at the same time will remain imprinted in the heart and memory.


I believe that it’s unlikely that any soul will be instructed in this secret and holy manner, who hasn’t given up all that doesn’t lead to God - and that not from any motive except pure love and a longing to be united with Him for ever.  God Who is Love can’t refrain from giving extraordinary help to all who love Him more than anything or anyone, and who sacrifice everything, by their consent, if not in fact , for love of Him and of His Will.


This type of teaching-in-prayer is exactly the same as in 8B which I describe next, that is: “Knowledge with a given-image”; but the subject matter is different.  I suppose the difference exists only in my mind, and in my method of classification, and in my use of symbols, since the state of prayer is the same in each; however, it does seem to me that each soul which is privileged to be instructed by God in this way learns about the spiritual life and the state of its very own soul.  Such a person receives very precise and accurate information about the manner in which God works within the soul, or about the soul’s precise role in intercessory prayer.  Many other things of great practical usefulness can be taught, thus.  Everything I’ve described here in 8C about the state of the soul is true, also, of 8B.








Someone who experiences the state just described in 8C might receive Knowledge which is not specifically about his own soul but which is about the spiritual life of everyone who is united with Christ.  Such teachings illustrate general principles of the spiritual life, rather than personal states or achievements; and yet these teachings are received in exactly the same manner as in 8C: by Knowledge combined with a ‘given-image’; and whoever receives such  gifts finds that he is able to remember such images for ever.  He is awed by God’s wisdom, and is humbled to realise how privileged he is to receive such gifts.  The more he grows in appreciation of such gifts, the greater is his yearning to share his conviction of God’s goodness with other people.









Sometimes, when the soul is at prayer, and is pierced by Knowledge from God  - by a wordless Knowledge which is pure, sudden and brief - God permits that, at almost the same time, in the same state of prayer, such Knowledge is “translated” into an image, within the soul!  The image is not ‘conjured up’ by the soul or by the imagination; in fact, the faithful soul can do nothing but receive; he doesn’t know what he is doing.  He receives a pure gift from God, given in Love, for the soul’s benefit, and in some way for the good of others.  The soul doesn’t know what has happened until the experience is over.


Sometimes, this gift of Knowledge-with-Translation is of greater length, or is interspersed with other types of union or soul’s sight, yet all so gently, however that the soul is drawn by God from one type of prayer to another without any perceptible change of ‘status’.  ‘Knowledge and Translation’ might last for a few minutes.  It is so pure that although someone might have tried initially to reject it, he cannot do so.  There is little danger, therefore, of this person being deceived.


The soul might experience this, also, whilst not totally enfolded by God.  The faithful soul can remain conscious of his body although his heart leans towards God, drawn by Him: and the soul can rest with God in this prolonged prayer, wordlessly accepting what is being given silently by God.


I would add a warning here.  If, in the prolonged state, someone is prompted by curiosity or vanity to start thinking about whatever is being revealed in this marvellous way, instead of remaining faithful to his duty by continuing to pray as usual, he will probably find himself ‘outside’ prayer, so to speak, having to decide what to do and whether to turn his heart towards God again, in penitence.






Now that I’ve described, in section 8, the various ways in which God unites the soul to Himself in prayer, whilst simultaneously providing the soul with one sort of image or another which will benefit that soul’s own spiritual life or another’s, I must explain that the soul can be enlightened by God in a different state which combines knowledge and image, which I call “Reality, seen with the eyes of the soul”.  The soul  is enlightened thus even when not entirely ‘lost’ or absorbed in prayer; and I write ‘reality’, because these images are not provided as illustrations for parables or analogies; they represent spiritual realities, in a mysterious way.


On these occasions, God teaches or enlightens the soul in a way which is inferior to a pure intellectual vision, as in 5, but which is more truly pure and brief than the ways which I’ve already listed (even though, in all ways I describe here in 8 and 7, the soul sees some sort of image).


I’ve found that the soul who is attentive to God and to the things of God, and who is at the same time living in true charity with Him and his neighbour, and who is also advanced in prayer, sometimes sees, in the very midst of the activities and experiences of every-day life, things which can only be perceived by those to whom God Wills to reveal them; and these are spiritual realities which are now seen only by ‘the eyes of the soul’.


This sounds mysterious, but I’m aiming not at mystery, but at clarity; and that’s why this writing is sometimes so long-winded.  What I mean is that our Holy and Merciful God sometimes permits the soul, quite unexpectedly, to see, by its soul’s sight, what spiritual thing is really happening before it.  It’s as simple, and as marvellous, as that.  The soul might ‘see’ many Angels present in the church, for example, or might ‘see’ an aspect of the Sacrifice of Christ at which we’re present at Holy Mass;  or he might glimpse, in the same spiritual way, other holy Mysteries; and such pure spiritual ‘sights’ are gifts from God, and do not arise from an over-excited imagination.


Yet, in my experience, this never happens unless the soul is totally recollected and at peace with God, even if occupied with daily outside-prayer activities.  The more the prayerful person strives to live in loving obedience towards God the Father, through Christ, the more he is likely to see the deep reality of things in this way - spiritual sights unsought and quickly forgotten, but nevertheless God-given, for His own purposes.






Sometimes, Christ’s felt presence within the soul, usually after Holy Communion, combined with His action and grace, brings the soul to an extraordinary state of prayer which is less ‘pure’ than those I shall describe below, but which is nonetheless God-given and marvellous. I call this “felt-union”.




The ‘lowest’ of the three states of ‘felt-union’ which I’m about to describe occurs most frequently after Holy Communion, although it can happen too, in prayer at home or elsewhere, and whether someone prays alone or in a group.  The soul is drawn into a wonderful prayer of ‘felt-union’; and yet whoever experiences this state doesn’t merely become engrossed in Christ, so to speak, by thoughts or by emotions, or by desires or expressions of gratitude.  I mean that Christ suddenly overwhelms and sweetens this person’s whole soul, and detaches him gently, by degrees or wholly, from what his body usually experiences when he is kneeling at prayer.  This is a true union of Love, felt as a blessed absorption which is a pure gift, and which is not and cannot be invented, though an immature soul might momentarily mistake its warm emotions for the pure joy of this type of God-given union.


In His Goodness, Christ allows such a soul to rest in His felt Presence for a long time, sometimes holding the soul in silent repose, or sometimes teaching the soul by Knowledge or by words-without-sound.  Sometimes, He might lead the soul, ‘unsighted’, upwards to the Father, in the Light of His own Praise; and here, the soul follows Christ’s Will and guidance; and the soul’s usual thanksgiving after Communion is rarely as pure as this - except in pure Unknowing prayer, for example - since, here, this person offers Christ’s own prayer and thanksgiving to the Father.


Sometimes, in this state, the faithful soul is so absorbed - even though not now in rapture - that he hears nothing of what goes on around him, even if others are present in the room.  There is not, in my experience, any fainting or loss of consciousness in the usual sense.  There is no collapse.  Yet, here, the prayerful person notices nothing but Christ’s own action within himself.  At other times, he is half-absorbed in Christ, not by inattention, but by Christ’s Will only half-absorbing him.  By God’s Will, this person still hears and notices whatever is going on around himself.  This is doubtless due to Christ’s longing for the soul to live in charity, since, in this ‘half-absorbed’ state, the soul can respond correctly during the prayers of the Mass, and can turn to his neighbour if there is a need to be met or a kindness to be done - there in church.  The soul’s own greatest personal praise of God is to do His Will; and God Wills that we love our neighbours all the time, even when this means ‘leaving’ our prayer in order to help someone.


In the state I’ve described above, someone might find that he has received ‘knowledge with a Translation’ as I’ve already described (in 7).  I mean that God raises and lowers our souls, when He wishes to do so, between one type of union and another.  But I’ve noticed that it’s most frequently after Holy Communion that the soul is enlightened on one of many subjects in the way I’ve described in 8.  This is for this person’s own benefit and, also perhaps, for the eventual benefit of others; and I write ‘eventual’, although others truly benefit immediately, even if they don’t know it, simply through the obedience and charity of a soul who goes to prayer thinking only of giving Glory to God.  All souls benefit from the good done by each sister or brother in Christ, visions or no visions.


I must say, here, that whenever I speak of ‘movements’ from one type of prayer to another, or of ‘visions’, or of God ‘raising’ or ‘lowering’ the soul in prayer, I describe movements and perceptions which are so amazingly pure and gentle and delicate, that if we compare them with physical movements they are as gossamer compared with hessian, or, better still, I think, as silk threads compared with a fence woven of barbed wire.


So, in the absorption described above, the faithful soul doesn’t seek anything extraordinary in his prayer but is drawn into true joy through the presence and kindness of Christ.  The soul feels saturated with peace and joy in this prayer, no matter how much he might have been troubled earlier with pain or tiredness or cold; and he can hardly bear to leave this prayer, but does so willingly whenever his attention is needed elsewhere.  He knows, by now, that Christ will give him peace and refreshment whenever He sees the soul’s true need; but the soul isn’t agitated, thinking about the future.  Such a person trusts in God entirely and is happy in any state which God permits.






  1. B) ‘FLIGHT’.


The second of these prayers of ‘felt union’ - in ascending order - is the prayer of ‘flight’.  No other word is appropriate, since, in this state, the soul is as though taken away by God. Whoever experiences this knows that he is being led ‘upwards’ at a tremendous speed.  Unswervingly, but dimly, he is conveyed through vast spiritual regions where he wouldn’t dare go by himself, if such a thing were possible; and all of these places are in God, Who is unseen.  It’s impossible to describe what God is doing for this person, or why; but though this happens comparatively rarely this person knows that he has no choice but to go where he is so swiftly taken; indeed, he wouldn’t refuse if he could, since his will has already been given to God, Who is therefore utterly trusted and obeyed throughout.


The faithful soul can recall that he has been taken in spirit to somewhere unknown: and since the ‘journey’ was lengthy, this prayer is not as ‘pure’ as the prayer described (in 1) of complete, sudden Unknowing; but someone who has experienced this ‘flight’ can’t recall what passed between himself and God in the ‘heights’ to which his soul was taken.  He is content to trust in God during prayer, and to live by faith and not by sight, on earth.  The devout soul should  leave  this  prayer  as  he  leaves  any  other:   unconcerned  about  such an experience, provided that the soul’s continuous yearning is towards God alone and towards the faithful fulfilment of His Will in everything.











  1. a) JUBILATION’.


The highest of these three states of ‘felt’ union, in my view, is that most appropriately called ‘Jubilation’.  I know I’ve read that title elsewhere; but there could hardly be a better word by which to convey the imageless, wordless and yet - to the spirit - palpably blissful state of celebration into which the soul is brought by Christ, when He chooses.   This state is very different from other ecstasies, which can be called ‘blind bliss’.  ‘Jubilation’ is the utterly pure and spiritual and God-given equivalent of feasting and joyous shouts and pealings of bells and music; but nothing is heard.  These things are simply known, in a manner permitted by God, who has chosen to give the soul this special sort of joy.


Over many years I have experienced this union-in-jubilation only a handful of times whilst other gifts have been given to me dozens of times; yet of course every sort of Heavenly joy is given from love, as God chooses - for His own purposes and for our delight.  I know that one can recall the fact that one was taken into this state; but the soul can’t recall anything afterwards, since there was no-thing on which to fasten himself :- that is, neither sight nor sound. But God’s goodness was conveyed secretly to the soul by His pure knowledge, in this extraordinary manner; and such obscure knowledge about love and joy remains in the soul afterwards.






There is a marvellous way in which God sometimes teaches the soul not about doctrine, but about holy persons.   A prayerful person can experience an extraordinary union of himself, spiritually, with a person or persons, through God’s power and grace, and when and where God Wills - I mean, a union different from that described further on (in 3.).


To explain this prayer of ‘Union-of-persons’, I can explain that sometimes, when I’ve been praying or working or reading, I have suddenly become aware of the presence of the enfolding Love of the Most Holy Trinity, or have been aware of Our Blessed Lord’s presence by me; or sometimes, in the same imageless way, I have met a holy person from Heaven.  This might happen anywhere God chooses - at home or even when I’m travelling - but, strange as it might seem, I’ve experienced what are called intellectual visions such as these more frequently at home or out of doors than in Church.  Perhaps that’s because God communicates His Knowledge and His Love, in church, principally through the Sacraments and through the Holy Scriptures.  Also, since He Wills that we pay attention to the altar and to the Holy Sacrifice, He doesn’t usually contradict His own instructions by drawing our attention away from Christ’s Own Offering towards some lesser person or activity.


The aspects of Knowledge which I’m trying to describe, as I mention different places, aren’t the same as one another.  I mean that, although this isn’t an invariable rule, it’s usually during Holy Mass that God teaches the soul, for example, about His attributes, or about the Holy Sacrifice of Christ on Calvary.  But what I describe here enriches the soul not with a knowledge of a ‘fact’ or an event or an abstract truth, but with a growth in knowledge of a person or persons; and this is achieved through the ‘presence’ of that person.


In this image-less and silent “prayer-of-union-of-persons”, the soul seems to be pierced with “knowledge of presence” in a similar way to that in which it receives imageless knowledge-of- God’s-Attributes, as I shall  shortly describe (in 2).  But in this case (5), the soul isn’t usually caught into rapture; and the experience is usually much longer-lasting, I mean, for many minutes rather than for a fraction of a second: perhaps even for days or longer.  Nothing is seen, though the soul knows who is present.  The soul is not enraptured but alert, although this soul might find himself swiftly led from this type of image-free ‘vision’ to a prayer of union with living-image (8) and back again, as God Wills.


However, because of that fact - that the soul isn’t enraptured during this state - he finds that, once responsive to that presence, that is, courteously and gratefully turning immediately to Christ or to another Heavenly friend in welcome, he is free, even in this state of true prayer-in-union, to worship, to speak, to ask questions, and to listen.  In other words, he can do whatever seems appropriate in the presence of his Saviour or of a Saint or Angel.  He is guided throughout his its own good instincts, by the promptings of the Most Holy Spirit, and by the gracious, albeit sometimes wordless conversation of whoever the soul has been brought to meet in this marvellous way.


Now: since I have so frequently suggested that the soul should turn away from all images or experiences in prayer, if possible, for fear of mistaking evil for good and of being led astray, I must point out, here, that we cannot fail to benefit if we do so and ignore every ‘vision’ if possible, or if we seek advice from someone in authority, by which I mean a confessor or someone suitable: not any randomly-chosen confidant.


It’s true that in the state which I’ve just described, when the soul has suddenly been spiritually ‘confronted’, so to speak, with a gentle presence, it sometimes seems to be unable to turn away from that presence without turning away utterly from prayer.  Anyone who has experienced this will know what I mean.  Others may ignore it.  In that case, the soul should stay “in” prayer, its heart ‘leaning’ towards God, if possible, without anxiety.  But if this person becomes anxious, he ought to be very sensible and “show” God every worry, and then get up and do something else, with a clear conscience, until he can go to prayer peacefully again.



Commonsense and caution.


If God wishes to speak plainly to us in prayer, directly or through a holy person, then He will do it at some stage, however many times, out of common sense or obedience, we walk away.  It’s better to risk missing something than to seize on experiences which are false; then there will be less likelihood of us being trapped by a longing for sensational prayer experiences or for wonderful feelings.


Those who are very advanced in prayer won’t need all this advice.  Intellectual visions are, I think, frequently experienced by those who have crucified their ambitions, as Saint Paul said, and who live only to make Jesus Christ known and loved. Such persons don’t usually talk about them, however, unless a trustworthy person has advised them to do so, or unless it’s God’s wish that they do so, for a good purpose.  In the same way, we don’t usually divulge what has been said to us and by us in intimate conversations with earthly friends, except - perhaps - in special circumstances, such as in order to save a life.



Loving concern for us.


It seems best to explain here, between descriptions of intellectual visions and other visions, that the Saints and Angels accompany us in one way or another during our journeys on earth: by their holy yearnings and prayers, I mean, even if there’s nothing palpable for us to grasp, as consolation; and it’s usually by means of such visions as I’ve tried to describe - whether wordless and imageless, or visible to the soul’s eyes - that God sometimes permits us to be aware of their love and concern, even though, by faith, we already know of their love.


We know that every one of us has a Guardian Angel close by. Someone might occasionally be aware that his Angel walks nearby, guarding him. This person might not see his angel with his bodily eyes, but sometimes glimpses ‘him’ with the soul’s eyes, or is aware of ‘his’ presence, in a forceful way.  Sometimes, the soul is made aware, by God, through an intellectual vision, of the Angel’s response to the soul’s prayers or actions.  The soul might even witness the Angel’s gestures of reverence or celebration.  Sometimes, the soul ‘sees’ many Angels at Holy Mass.


Before I finish this section on a state of prayer in which, by a spiritual gift from God, someone knows that Christ, or a Saint of Heaven, or an Angel, is present beside him, I must point out how utterly pure and spiritual is this “knowledge-of-presence”.  It is not the same as a “feeling of the presence” of someone, which I describe in sections 6a, 6b and 6c.  In those, (particularly in 6c) the “felt-presence” of Christ, in Holy Communion, for example, is to normal ‘feeling’ what things seen by the eyes of the soul are to normal seeing.  That way of ‘feeling’ and ‘seeing’ is spiritual, God-given and pure, but nevertheless, it doesn’t have the same degree of purity as what I’m now trying to describe.  This holy “knowledge-of-presence” is given to the soul unasked, immediate, piercing and pure, and carries with it no palpable feeling or seeing (unless another gift is added - that is, unless this type of experience is altered as God substitutes one state for another, as and when He Wills).






We now ‘ascend’, as it were, to the prayer of ‘union-of-wills’: to a more sublime state of prayer, which is a true prayer of union but not yet the most sublime.  In this marvellous state, the soul is united in heart and will and intention with his Lord, even in darkness, leaning in spirit towards Him in love and longing, as described above.  In this state he is sometimes pierced by pure knowledge from God, but without being lifted secretly into ecstasy.  That’s the first point in which this prayer differs from the next (3); also, the knowledge which the soul receives here is not so much about God Himself, but, more usually, about God’s action on the soul, and many other things - all imageless and pure, but things about which this person can ‘legitimately’ concoct an image later on, in order to explain the subject, if he wishes to do so.


Once again, someone who has received knowledge in this way ought not to dwell on it whilst still kneeling in prayer.  But it may be recalled and pondered later on, since such knowledge is wisdom from God Himself.  Someone who is without guidance, and who has a vain longing for experiences, could, alas, easily deceive himself on this matter by admiring his own thoughts and ‘elevating’ them in his own misguided judgement to special gifts from God.  The faithful soul who regularly experiences such teachings on this, however, is only rarely mistaken since God’s gift of knowledge is so much more pure and piercing than any thought of the human mind.






It seems appropriate, here, to speak about the ‘prayer-of-union with a living image’, which in my experience is much more rarely experienced than even the supreme states to be described above.  Despite its comparative rarity, and despite the astounding beauty and attraction of this state, which I’m about to describe, I list it here as being less pure than the type described below (in 2).  I say “less pure” only because there is more danger of being deceived in a state such as this.  St. Paul has warned us about receiving an impostor who has disguised himself as an “Angel of Light”; and, here, there is much light and glory.


In this state - when it is a true gift from God - the faithful soul is drawn by God into either a brief or a lengthy period of true union, but then suddenly finds himself receiving not only knowledge, but receiving, too, as he finds himself present with a glorious person, a living image of a person, present in light and glory.  He knows that the living image is truly that person, in some way, or so he believes when he is urged towards love and unselfishness.  He doesn’t see the images with his bodily eyes, but with the “eyes of the soul” - though he can’t reflect on this at the time, since he is completely enraptured, at least, at first.  He cannot think at all while he is “suspended” during the vision, but only afterwards.  Nevertheless he is astonished that his usual darkness has been so dramatically, though quietly, replaced by this Light.  He is astounded to see, within that Heavenly Light, Christ or the Blessed Virgin Mary, perhaps with the Saints.


Such a soul finds himself enclosed within that Light for as long as the vision lasts.  He doesn’t seem to be outside the light, peering in from darkness.  Rather, he knows himself to be wrapped within that Light, and is truly ‘rapt’ or enraptured, at least for part of the time, whilst he looks ahead with the eyes of the soul, and speaks and worships with great naturalness and simplicity, but with instinctive reverence and respect, also.  Our Lord Jesus Christ, when seen in this way, is so dazzling in His Glory that the soul’s eyes cannot look steadily, unless strengthened by grace.


In my experience, this type of ‘prayer-with-a-living-image’ might last for several minutes, or even half an hour, since a genuine though spiritual conversation or personal instruction takes place within it.  This occupies real time, unlike the ‘knowledge’ described below, (in 20, which is implanted, so to speak, in one swift movement.



Ready to ask advice.


Such a soul is, afterwards, full of wonder at the memory of what he has just been seen and heard. But he is ready to ask advice about his experiences.  He even tries to forget them, in order to press on with his usual intercessions, or his other works and duties.  But he is amazed at the Goodness of God.  His heart is full of gratitude.


This type of prayer seems to the soul to be one of the most sacred and precious, yet this isn’t really so.  All that comes from God is precious; however, there’s a smaller chance of being led astray in a prayer without words or images than in any prayer with even “living images” - however glorious.  There’s a further danger: that having once experienced such visions as those just described, the soul might become discontented with dark prayer, and with the quiet practice of virtue and the performance of secret penance.


All that is good in these visions may be recalled later on, to stimulate the faithful soul towards increased attempts to prove his love for God, and to encourage him in his resolutions to work and pray for God’s Glory alone.  But he ought never to hope for a further, similar experience.  He should learn to accept and love whatever type or degree of prayer is permitted and given by God on each successive day.


It seems appropriate to explain, here, that I’ve judged this experience (3) to be superior to those I’ve already described, despite the things “seen” with the soul’s eyes, as described above; and this is because such experiences as these of Christ or of His Holy Mother, in (3), are combined with the prayer of “Union-pierced-by-knowledge”, and thus are superior to an intellectual vision alone. That’s my opinion; but I feel bound to give a reminder, meanwhile, that I’m not discussing “apparitions” which consist of persons seen with one’s bodily eyes.  As I said, I’ve never seen such things, so I can’t speak accurately about them.






Before describing in a few paragraphs, and very inadequately, the marvellous state of prayer-of-union-in-Unknowing(1) of which nothing can be remembered, I must write of the prayer-of-pure-union-pierced-by-brief-knowledge.’


This prayer resembles the prayer of “Unknowing” which I shall shortly describe in that the soul is lifted into ecstasy or rapture, and is lifted suddenly and quite unexpectedly.  Here, however, the faithful soul is afterwards astonished to realise that, while he was praying, he was pierced and enlightened by a pure, sudden, instantaneous, wordless and imageless ‘knowledge’ of God or of His Attributes.


This state of  prayer is usually brief.  Since the person who experiences this state has been utterly enraptured, he has no way of knowing, from his own senses, how much time has passed.  But since I’ve found, from my own experience of this state, that Holy Mass has proceeded only by a little, just as during one’s ‘Unknowing’ prayer, I’ve concluded that this extraordinary ‘knowledge' has been given in a prayer which lasted for a mere second, or for a few minutes, only.


I’ve found that, whenever God Wills, He unites the soul with Himself in this prayer of utter union-in-unknowing, usually after Holy Communion, though sometimes at or after the Consecration. However, this state differs from the prayer of total Unknowing (1), for this reason: something from this prayer (2) can be recalled. I mean that I discover, afterwards, that my soul has been utterly enfolded, and that I’ve been given, during that time, God’s pure gift of knowledge, as I shall describe more fully below.  This happens even while there has been no consciousness on my part of thoughts or memory or will or imagination.  Then I am released back, I find, into ordinary prayer, as suddenly as I was taken from it; but I’m aware of what I’ve just learned in this extraordinary way, and am once again awed and astounded.  It was so sudden and unexpected, and it seems so marvellous, that the soul almost trembles at the thought of what it has received.


However, from the first time that I myself experienced this type of prayer, I tried not to think about it, but to treat such knowledge as a distraction.  It seems to me that such knowledge can be gladly recalled at the appropriate time; but it mustn’t be pondered during our usual prayer-time, when God deserves our heart’s devotion rather than our speculation about Him and His gifts.


So, in this way, when enraptured, I’ve learned about many things, through God’s Goodness.  He has taught me, with neither words nor images, about His Glory, about the most Holy Trinity, the Love of Christ, The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and the Incarnation of the Word through the Blessed Virgin Mary - and much more.  Such images as I’ve drawn on these subjects have arisen from other experiences in prayer: from the types I’ve described in earlier sections.



A gradual ‘strengthening’ of the soul.


At my present time of life, now that God has been teaching me in this way for several years, I find that I’m sometimes taught in this way even though I’m not in ecstasy, but am simply recollected in prayer or in thoughts about God.  I believe that this is due  to the soul’s gradual strengthening if someone lives more peacefully in God’s presence, with fewer crises and less frequent - because less necessary - deep purifications.  Of course, all of this is due to God’s mercy and patience, and the soul daren’t congratulate itself on its apparent advance.  We’re so weak, and fall so easily.  God alone holds us up in charity and helps us to persevere.


As I’ve said elsewhere, I was for several years so puzzled at receiving such sublime ‘teachings’ in prayer, and so awe-struck that God should have remained patient and loving towards someone as sinful as myself - since my faith was weaker then: I was more sure of God’s Majesty than of His Mercy - that I wrote nothing and said nothing about what I’d learned in this way, except indirectly.  I mean that I spoke of things to do with our Faith with a new assurance, but I scarcely paused to connect that certainty with the teachings-in-prayer.  I wasn’t sure, until after I’d sought advice, that I should take any notice at all, although my eventual instinct was to thank God for His gifts, and so I did so.  Then I continued as before - ignoring the gifts - until the time came when Christ Himself asked me to record His teachings and to submit them for assessment.


Even as I speak of ‘taking notice’ of His gifts in prayer, there was no choice in the matter; or, rather, by choosing to try to love God, I had made my choice, and I had thereby - in advance - accepted His Will and so had accepted all that He might send to me, whether in prayer or in daily life.  So His sudden, unsought teachings were entirely His choice for me, as was - later - the writing of them all, by me, in response to His command.



Loving attention to God.


These simple ‘occurrences’ in prayer came at different times of the day, or in different places, although more frequently in church; but they always came - indeed, come now - at the point where my heart is totally devoted to reaching towards God in darkness, in worship and in faith and in penitence, through Christ.  So, it can be seen that God prompts me to pray; with all my will I respond to that prompting and ‘lean’ towards God in an act of loving attention; then - when He Wills - He grants His gifts or withholds them.


My experience has been that, over and over again, in that darkness, and in that loving attention which, by the grace of God, is quite devoid of thoughts of self, the ‘knowledge’ has suddenly, unavoidably, swiftly and secretly pierced my soul and has left its mark.  I mean that, in a “split second” I have been taught more about God and about our holy doctrines than I could have learned by reading or thinking for many years.  The occurrence is over before I can even react to it, or think of anything.  But the ‘knowledge’ remains.


This way of receiving ‘knowledge’ is so astonishing that it was a relief to be told, at last, by my former parish priest, that it’s a true gift from God, and then to discover that others have written accounts of what they too have learned in this way.  I’ve found that I can write at length on any of the ‘subjects’ taught in this way. Of course, nothing that is taught in this way contradicts in the least the true and sure teachings of the Church.  If such knowledge did contradict the Church’s teaching, it would be evident that the recipient was certainly not receiving teachings from God, Who cannot contradict Himself.  Christ our Lord Who founded One Holy Church on earth, and Who also guides it now through His Holy Spirit, can neither deceive nor mislead His sincere followers.


How and why God was teaching me in this way was a mystery to me at first; but then eventually I was shown the reason, or reasons.  God the Father explained to me that everyone who attains a very high degree of union with Him in prayer - through God’s invitation and the soul’s consent and co-operation - inevitably is ‘taught’, since love and knowledge ‘go’ together.  Where love increases, knowledge cannot fail to ‘increase’; and so God doesn’t withhold that gift of knowledge.  But He also explained that I’ve been taught more lavishly than is usual, for the sake of the work He’s called me to do, of offering “Instructions from Christ” to the whole Church, as a reminder of the important truths of the Faith.





Spiritual knowledge: its purity.


It seems important, now, that I explain the three points I’ve noticed on which the knowledge acquired in this particular way differs from worldly knowledge by its breadth and purity.


First, it’s true that I’ve read much in books; but I couldn’t possibly remember it all, or see so clearly the connections between one ‘thing’ and another; nor, indeed, have I ever understood even a fraction of the idea of the Glory and grandeur of God’s Majesty and dignity from anything I’ve read, compared with what I’ve understood through prayer.


Secondly, it’s only by God’s grace that I can explain with certainty and fluency - without much pondering or hesitation - what I’ve truly learned in this way.


The third point is that the ‘Knowledge’ is utterly pure, in a special sense of being ‘uncontained’.  I mean that, unlike the knowledge gained from books or speech or sight, this ‘knowledge’ - whether about God Himself or about the soul in grace - is wordless and immediate. There’s no visible or auditory ‘vehicle’ bringing it to me.  It is secretly and suddenly “implanted”; and I know that this is true because it has no ‘style’ except its own marvellous fullness and purity.  I haven’t recalled it from an historic source.


My certainty about this unique way of learning is based upon both the manner of the apparent “implanting” and my observations about our usual methods of learning and understanding.


I’ve already mentioned this, in the autobiographical narrative, but I’d better say again that, in daily life, I can usually recall where I’ve read a certain piece of information; and I remember the size and colour of the book in which I read it; or if it was something I studied hurriedly long ago, I might recall perhaps only the shape of the paragraph, that is, the shape of the print on the paper - or, if recalling a conversation, the place where I was standing or sitting at the time.


So, to give an example, I might recall a paragraph written about Purgatory by C.S. Lewis. But  I would know that the words had been chosen by him, and by no one else.  Even as I recalled the concept which he had explained I would recall it ‘clothed’, as it were, in his own distinctive style.  It’s the same with other writers’ wonderful phrases, about Christ and the Church. A phrase or two might be ‘made my own’ in the sense that we all enlarge our vocabularies by a conscious or unconscious borrowing from others through our reading and conversation; but the knowledge given to me in prayer is so extraordinarily broad and full, and inexpressibly pure, that I know it’s not the result of memory, nudged into action, although God does work upon our minds in that way, too.  What I’m describing, as I write about ‘prayer-knowledge’ is God’s free gift, quite unsought and totally unexpected; and it’s not a procession of facts, but a Unity.  In some measure, it is Truth itself, rather than ideas or sentences about Truth.


For six or seven years, I wrote nothing down.  But when the time was ripe, and in obedience to God, I was able to recall and describe dozens of ‘teachings’ which had been given to me in the previous six or seven years.  I’ve listed them all in versions Two and Three of Christ’s ‘Teachings-in-prayer.’  Version Two isn’t yet in print; but Version Three - which is written in the first person - is available as Volumes One to Four of “Teachings-in-prayer: Instructions from Christ.”  I hope that all the painted images which should accompany the teachings can be made available later on.








I must write next about the pure prayer of “Unknowing”, since this is almost the most pure and holy prayer of all, freely given and utterly undeserved.  We can prepare ourselves for it by the love we display towards God and neighbour - in good deeds, not in fine feelings; and it’s legitimate to hope that we will be united to God - both on earth and in Heaven; but what we must avoid is any hope of experiencing marvels or wonders.  We’re easily seduced by good feelings and emotions in prayer, yet these are not prayer; in fact, they lead us away from true prayer, which consist of pure, loving and selfless attention to God, for His Glory.


There is neither self-seeking nor pleasure-seeking in true contemplation, although this mustn’t be taken to mean that I’m criticising the prayer of petition.  It was Our Lord Himself who told the story about a woman who pestered someone for assistance, until, through that man’s weariness, she was granted her request.  Also, even though I say that we oughtn’t to look for consolations  in prayer, I must proclaim that the joy which God gives to the soul, when He chooses, is so great that anyone who loves Him would wait ten years in utter darkness, so to speak, for another second of the bliss of being drawn, ‘palpably’ close to Him in that way.


Still, many of God’s dealings with the soul are so secret and marvellous as to be far above any perceived experience or remembered touch.  I mean that God Himself can work within our souls, secretly, a prayer of which we see or understand little or nothing.  We might sometimes be drawn - through our union with Christ, in the power of the most Holy Spirit - into a secret, silent prayer of “union-in-unknowing”.  In that prayer, even though we don’t see, feel, hear or know anything, Christ - Who is within the soul - praises God with His Own Infinite Praise.


During that prayer, the faithful soul doesn’t know what is happening.  But, whether he remains aware of his surroundings or is drawn into utter Unknowing - according to the Will of God Who gives this prayer - he doesn’t know what is ‘happening’; and yet even though he feels and sees nothing, he knows that this is true contemplation.


This ‘nothing’ which I mention is not the same as an absence of prayer in a person who - for example - is kneeling silently in an attitude of prayer, but who fails to turn his or her heart towards God because of ill-will, boredom, distraction or distress.  The ‘nothing’ of which I speak, whilst utterly remote, impalpable and ‘empty’, is nevertheless a clean, pure, void-like ‘nothing’ which, even in its Arctic, sense-less infinity, is different from any human ‘nothing’ in prayer.  But the soul learns that this ‘nothing’ is either given or not-given.  No soul can seize it.  It is a state or a gift for which the ardent soul yearns in a blind, instinctive reaching-out of the heart; and yet the ‘nothing’ is not palpably an attractive state or gift.  The soul doesn’t know what he’s seeking, but knows only that he must seek.  Meanwhile, that which is sought is neither ‘there’ nor ‘here’.  The soul, in prayer, touches - without touching - the edge of the ‘nothing’; and someone who wishes to serve God and know Him will remain attentive and alert, reaching out in soul and spirit towards God: even in apparent nothingness, if that should be His gift.

The soul which has experienced this ‘nothing’ in prayer is at first frightened by it.  But I’ve described much about that aspect in Chapter 6 of the autobiography.  When someone is first confronted by God’s silent, wordless invitation to ‘step into’ His true depths in prayer, he is usually terrified.  Spiritually, he is being asked to launch himself into a void, and, at the same time, to trust in God - Whom he now feels he doesn’t know.  Many souls refuse this invitation, or approach their prayer-time cautiously, hoping that the invitation will never disturb them.  Yet someone who, by grace and courage, accepts God’s invitation, will perhaps be brought to the stage which I now describe, where the ‘void’ and the ‘nothingness’, though still empty and unknowable, are not now so utterly strange and repulsive.  I use the word ‘repulsive’, only because our human nature is weak, and it shrinks from what it doesn’t know or can’t see, since it senses - rightly - that it will lose much of what it holds dear, if it draws closer to God.  We don’t usually believe, in the early ‘stages’, that God is more true and beautiful and blissful and rewarding - to use a few inadequate words - than the good things and persons that He has made, and some of which a devout soul must surrender in order to progress in prayer.



First, purification, then union.


So, someone who has overcome his fears so far, and who has been led by God to persevere in sincere prayer year after year, might be brought one day to the prayer of Unknowing; and this secret, silent prayer of love takes place only in the soul of someone who has been called and purified by God.  God alone chooses when and where to unite a soul with Himself in this marvellous way.  It is a true work on our part, that is, a true act of pure charity, since it’s only by charity and self-sacrifice that we have, whether implicitly or explicitly, have permitted God to purify the soul in preparation for such an intimate union of praise.  Also, a faithful person will have prepared himself by frequently kneeling in the presence of God in reverence, penitence and praise, waiting for God to work His Will in every aspect of life.  This faithful soul hasn’t neglected his duty, that is, his obligation to praise and thank God with words.  This person doesn’t despise vocal prayer, even if his prayers might now be simplified.  He speaks frankly to God of his failings and hopes, and asks like a little child for help for himself and for others.


This prayer of Unknowing is so pure and secret, as I said, that when we have been drawn into it we cannot sense, see, hear, taste or touch anything.  We don’t know what is happening within the soul.  God praises God in the soul - I can hardly bring myself to write these words, but they are true - whilst the mind, the imagination and the memory circle, as it were, below.  The will strains, or, rather, leans towards God with all its might, but peacefully; and God Who is unseen and unknown gives His gift of ‘Prayer-in-Union’, in Unknowing, as and when He Wills, sometimes for a moment, or sometimes for a lengthly period: perhaps for twenty or thirty minutes.


Someone whom God draws to Himself in this sublime prayer of Union, is at first so overwhelmed, spiritually, by such an intimate meeting with God - because unused to it - that he is usually completely withdrawn from things of the senses, and is enraptured and held for a few moments in true Unknowing.  Then God releases him, so to speak; and this soul ‘finds’ himself kneeling in prayer, his heart fixed on God but his thoughts active again; and he is quite unable to describe anything about his prayer, since the prayer was silent and imageless and utterly pure.


The use of the word ‘pure’ in this sense, means only that God can’t be seen, touched or felt. We can say that anything which can be ‘felt’ in prayer makes that prayer less “pure”.  Such “touches” may be true gifts from God, but nevertheless they are not God Himself; and so the faithful soul should, as usual, strive to ignore all that he thinks he sees, hears or touches in prayer, unless by good direction and under special circumstances it is made plain that certain gifts are from God. Even then, he should be extremely vigilant lest pride and curiosity lead him to hope for “experiences” or to turn his attention away from God towards the workings of his own self, in self-admiration.



True freedom in prayer.


When someone finds that he is frequently ‘enraptured’ in this way, but is no longer frightened or puzzled - though extremely grateful for God’s love and graciousness, now that advice has been sought - he finds that he isn’t necessarily utterly withdrawn from this world at each occurrence.  He has learned to kneel in prayer as usual, proceeding in his normal manner, busy when necessary with his acts and petitions, or silently resting in praise; however, he has also learned to let his spirit soar to God whenever God beckons him, so to speak, or, rather, whenever he senses - by his spiritual senses - that God is lifting him upwards to enter into God’s own Life.


If such a soul perseveres in a life of true love and service, obedience and humility, and if God calls him frequently to Himself in the prayer of Unknowing, he learns, gradually to allow his spirit to remain peacefully and silently with God, whilst something happens which sounds strange but which is true: the soul remains earth-bound, but contented, knowing nothing, it seems, although knowing that God is invisibly at work.


God can work this prayer in the soul whenever He chooses, but usually does so only through the soul’s earlier and freely-given consent, in a spirit of faith; but that soul learns, with tremendous gratitude, that this sort of prayer is immensely fruitful and worthwhile, as well as fulfilling - and even though there is no evidence of this, except in faith.  It is God who reveals to such a soul that by such a pure, piercing prayer at this, as with every God-given moment of other sorts of contemplative prayer, it is as though the clouds which ‘hide’ the Godhead from mankind are parted (T:       ).  It is as though, through that prayer, the clouds are held back, as God pours down His graces upon mankind, to a greater-than-usual degree.  Such is the goodness of God, the power of true prayer, and the fruitfulness of the countless loving sacrifices which a prayerful soul has made in order to be brought to this state of contemplation.








So far as I am aware, the most astonishing state of union with God the Father - as I mentioned earlier in this Appendix, in ‘The journey of faith’ - is that in which someone is able to converse in a sublime way with his Heavenly Father; and by ‘converse’, I mean that such a person is able to ask questions of God with a child-like confidence and also to receive very tender and detailed answers.



At God’s direct invitation.


What I’m referring to is the state in which the soul converses with God the Father, at His direct invitation, in a manner of prayer which is deliberate, conscious and willed, and which can be continued or interrupted - and which can be clearly recalled when the soul has ‘left’ that state in order to give some rest to the soul’s faculties.  By mentioning this need of rest, I don’t mean that this prayer isn’t wholly delightful, but that it is very demanding.  This is because the soul’s intellect, will and attention are at full ‘stretch’, so to speak, as this wonderful communion with the Father is commenced, expanded, explored, enjoyed, pondered and continued, so that the soul finds itself, afterwards, more drained, for example - although at the same time exceptionally joyful - than after the prayer of simple unknowing.


Although I’ve already suggested that those states of prayer in which something can be seen, heard or ‘felt’ by the soul’s faculties are less ‘pure’ - in spiritual terms - than those states in which God is secretly at work in the soul and is unfelt, I believe that this stage of ‘conversing with the Father’ is the exception to this rule, and for the following reasons:


First: this experience is wholly spiritual.  Although God and the soul converse, there is nothing seen, felt, heard or touched in this marvellous and spiritually-pure state.  It’s true that very occasionally, the Father gives a gift, even here, of some real but soundless words - as if to leave the soul with a souvenir of that extraordinary occasion, or for a special purpose such as to link His teaching with some of His own wisdom as it is found in Holy Scripture, for example.


Secondly, there can be no more sublime prayer than that in which the soul is able to converse with his Maker, when he has been lifted to Him by the Holy Spirit’s power, after that person has put all his trust, day by day and minute by minute, in the Person, the power, the Love and the Merits of Jesus Christ his Saviour and Mediator Who has made possible such a relationship with God the Father, ‘in’ the Holy Spirit.


Thirdly, it is Christ Who has led such a soul to His Father; and it is only now, at the ‘heights’ of friendship with Christ that such a soul finds himself lifted up not just to the spiritual cloud which separates Mankind from the Godhead; he finds himself lifted above it, to the ‘Door’ of Heaven: or to the Father’s Heart, we can say, as the soul begins a new stage of prayer at the heart of the Holy Trinity, in a joyful and conscious union with all Three Persons of the Holy Trinity.


Fourthly, I know from experience - by my observations and by what the Father has told me - that whenever a soul is ‘called’ by the Father from a now-constant state of prayerful and joyful recollection into a wholly spiritual but real conversation, he is being invited to take a conscious and free part in something which is one of the supreme privileges of the spiritual life.



Spiritually-strong and peaceful.


The reason why such a soul, at such a stage, is not lifted into rapture, is that he is now so spiritually-strong, and is so familiar with God’s ways, God’s communications, and God’s goodness - though more reverent and loving towards Him than ever before - that he is no longer as if swept away at God’s evident ‘approach’, but is able to pause in whatever he is doing in order to give God his wholehearted attention; and the marvels of this way of life and of prayer cause the soul to live in a state of perpetual wonder and gratitude.


Such a soul is now able to ‘step’ from prayer to daily life and back again - or from one state of prayer to another, as Willed by God - with the greatest ease and delight, so close is his union with God and so thoroughly and peacefully ‘entwined’ are all of this person’s spiritual, mental and bodily faculties, and so well do they ‘work’ together.



At the ‘door’ to Heaven.


These conversations with the Father take place with such ease and delight - through the merits of Christ, as I said, and by the Holy Spirit’s power - precisely because a soul such as this which is called so frequently by the Father to converse with Him in this manner is already, and always, and wholly, attentive both to His presence and to His Will; and so when the faithful soul finds God is inviting him once again to converse in this manner, he has no need  to ‘compose’ himself, or to become recollected or to prepare for such a marvellous union.  He is already prepared and able to converse because he is already alert, or ‘waiting’, we can say, as if at the soul’s door to Heaven, which, at this stage - as God has revealed in prayer - is now continually open.


It is in this marvellous state - this conversation with the Father - that the soul can understand God’s wishes in a spiritual way, by which I mean usually without words and by a Spirit-to-spirit communication which, although silent, is as true, or truer than verbal speech.


It is in this marvellous state that the faithful soul - like a simple and trusting child - can put questions to God the Father and so can receive answers which, by their tenderness, simplicity and wisdom, bring him unsurpassable delight and reassurance.


It is in this marvellous state that the soul understands to the fullest possible degree the meaning of ‘adoption’, and of ‘child of God’, and of God’s ‘Fatherhood’, and of ‘spiritual union’ and of ‘Heaven’.


It is in this marvellous state, furthermore, that someone who has become accustomed to this way of life and love can lift as if into the Father’s ‘heart’ all of the persons, problems and places which occupy his heart and mind, in the knowledge that this is a sure and wonderful and conscious way of finding the Divine help which he knows to be worthwhile and very effective.








As I mentioned earlier, in ‘The journey of faith’, there comes a time when someone who is wholly ‘enamoured’ of God and is wholly drawn by Him into a close and fruitful relationship is shown, in prayer, many details about that friendship: about the extent of it and the results of it, and about the inner life of God, and about Heaven; and yet all of these things are shown in a way which, by its purity, transcends all other ways of knowing.


The soul is so ‘at one’ with God that the soul sees - to a limited degree - what God sees, and sees it as He sees it; and therefore the soul observes, knows, understands, weighs and judges just as God does.  This is what was meant by the Apostle who said “WE HAVE THE MIND OF CHRIST” [1 Co 2:16].  Such a person sees clearly, therefore, the truth about his vocation and duties, his neighbours and his other relationships, and also the truth about God’s plans for what remains of his life - since God now shares with such a soul, to an astonishing degree, the knowledge of His own plans for that soul and for the Church.


The soul ‘sees’ such things  because he has been drawn by God into His  Divine  Life,  and has

therefore entered the Life, Love and Work of the Godhead, within Its great movement of Divine Love at the heart of the Holy Trinity.  The soul has entered that Life as a swimmer might enter the powerful currents of a fast-flowing river, and has therefore truly become one with God in love, and one in fruitful work, also.


In this marvellous state of friendship, moreover - though in a slightly different state of prayer -the soul is able to converse with God in a union so close and trusting that it’s as if they whisper as intimate friends or lovers do, yet without sound or whisper.


Someone who lives in a Heavenly communion with God in perpetual intimacy is so privileged and blessed even during this earthly life that he has only to ‘enter’ prayer by an act of the will to be brought ‘palpably’, it seems, into God’s presence; and he knows that his prayer is immensely fruitful and worthwhile, as well as fulfilling - and even though there is no evidence of this, except in faith.  It is God Who reveals to such a soul that by such a pure, piercing prayer as this, as with every God-given moment of other sorts of contemplative prayer, it is as though the clouds which ‘hide’ the Godhead from mankind are parted.  It is as though, through that prayer, the clouds are held back, as God pours down His graces upon mankind, to a greater-than-usual degree: such is the goodness of God, the power of true prayer, and the fruitfulness of the countless loving sacrifices which a prayerful soul has made in order to be ready for this state of contemplation.


Each time this person ‘enters’ prayer, he finds that his soul is suffused with Glory and that God has lifted him ‘high’ once more, and awaits him, at His ‘heart’, so to speak; and whoever converses with God in this state finds that he can ‘taste’ - as it were - God’s love, reassurance, wisdom and consolation.  It’s as though the soul ‘tastes’ these gifts merely by turning his heart towards his Heavenly Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier; and thus he comes to know the marvel of the use of yet another of the spiritual senses - all of which, at last, have been satisfied.



A heavenly way of life.


Someone who lives in such a state lives in constant peace, joy and fulfilment, even amidst earthly sufferings, since what greater joy can there be, before Heaven, than to enjoy something of what is experienced to a marvellous extent in Heaven: by which I mean the friendship of God, with the special gifts which He cannot refrain from lavishing upon His friends - and with the friendship of all other creatures who love God, such as the Saints and Angels of Heaven, as well as the devoted friends of Christ amongst whom this soul, on earth, now works, prays and suffers for God’s Glory.



A spiritual glory of another soul.


Those special friends of Christ are recognised and treasured by every faithful soul who has reached the heights of “THE HOLY MOUNTAIN [Zc 8:3]. They encourage one another in holiness and the wonderful things which are experienced by these souls are foretastes of the joys which consume the Saints of Heaven.  Even here on earth these true friends of God enjoy in their true Communion with one another ‘in Christ’ a burning and blissful love for God, with life ‘in’ Him and with a certain likeness to one another, without uniformity.  They relish a blissful communion with one another, in spirit, with a joyful delight in one another’s virtues.



It might be expected that such a soul is given admirable and useful powers of discernment: admirable in that all of God’s gifts are admirable, but especially His spiritual gifts - and useful because wonderfully effective for whatever special work occupies this fervent soul; but the marvels enjoyed at this stage of the spiritual life are more marvellous than anyone could imagine.  This is all because the union between God and the soul is so close that one good thing follows from another - from God, to that soul, and onward to other souls - water must pour out from a tilted jug onto whatever lies below; but when I say ‘more marvellous’ gifts than discernment are given, I’m not thinking about what the faithful soul knows of other souls; I’m thinking about the spiritual ‘sight’ which is God’s gift to this soul, by which he can see and relish the state of spiritual glory of another soul.


The true friend of God who is fervent in thanks to God for the lives and virtues of the Saints of Heaven is frequently honoured by the spiritual ‘sight’ of a friend of Heaven, with a spiritual glimpse of the glory in which that Saint now dwells, and also by the spiritual knowledge of the degree of Glory which God has bestowed upon that Saint - when compared with the glory given to other Saints.  God makes it plain to such a soul, for example, that one particular Saint is vastly more holy than others, although all are holy and much-loved; and God also makes it plain that another Saint has been gifted in a particularly marvellous way for the sake of the Church but nevertheless is not the most glorious in Heaven.


In Heaven, it seems that Christ delights in giving the most glory to those whom excel in the virtue of charity - especially those whose great love for Christ caused them to pity Him and to console Him in His Passion.  But the reason I’ve mentioned this is because the true friend of God is shown  not only the glory of the Saints of Heaven but the glory of God’s Saintly friends on earth.


The ‘way of seeing’ differs, according to whether the glory seen is a Heavenly friend or of an earthly person, but the knowledge given is the same.  Heaven’s Saints are seen, with their glory, through glimpses given to the ‘eyes of the soul’, or through the visions which are ‘normal’ in certain types of prayer, or as a spiritual ‘treat’ on a special occasion; but if I write about those whom God has already crowned with His glory in this life, even though it can’t generally be seen, I must explain that their spiritual glory is not ‘seen’ by the soul’s sight, but is ‘experienced’ by the soul’s spiritual heart and intelligence, according to God’s Will, for His own good purposes and for the soul’s delight.



The “Communion of Saints”.


Such is the great degree of spiritual union between God’s true friends in what is accurately described as the “Communion” of Saints that they delight in special gifts which are unknown not just to people outside the Church but also to people within it who have never made a serious effort to aim for sanctity.


When God’s true friend has grown used to the Glory which he sees within his own soul, in prayer, at last, at every moment, and has almost become used to the sight of the Glory of Heaven whenever he turns to Heaven to ask for the help of Christ or His Saints, he becomes aware that God is revealing to him, the state of glory of one earthly friend after another: this means, of other friends of God who have also been purified and who live very close to Christ’s heart.


God’s friend experiences the glory of those other souls.  The glory is experienced whenever a similar soul is in the vicinity, even whose bodily sight is not used; and that glory is experienced in a two-fold spiritual sensation which consists of a burning weight upon the forehead with a suddenly-arriving suffusion of sweetness through the soul.


The person of whom I write - one who experiences the glory of the Saints of Heaven and also of earthly persons - already feels a burning on the forehead, during prayer, with some sweetness of soul; but that burning and that sweetness are made more intense, by God’s Will, by the  proximity to that person of any other of God’s true friends, whether they be very young children, or middle-aged persons, or elderly.  The burning and the sweetness are felt for as long as another true friend of God is in the vicinity.  The burning and the sweetness are experienced more intensely, the greater is the degree of holiness of the person who is nearby; indeed, this is one of the ways by which God reveals to His friend the degree of holiness which others have achieved; and of course the degree of glory which is ascertained through this burning and sweetness has nothing to do with anyone’s age, intelligence or learning, but is solely a question of what degree of Divine Charity burns within a soul who either is very innocent or who has finished his purifications.


As might be expected, when it is known that the degree of glory mentioned has to do with Charity and true spiritual purity, greater degrees of glory are seen amongst those who - it is confirmed later on - are both self-critical and self-forgetful.  The most holy are those who are ‘ordinary’ in being obedient to God, simple, willing to admit their faults and to start again, kind and gentle, shy of rushing in to judge or to organise or to satisfy curiosity.


Holiness and glory are wholly pure, free gifts from God given in the end to those who have believed in Him and who have turned to Him in willingness to be of service and to accept purification.


All that is experienced by these souls, as I have described it, is a foretaste of the joy which consumes the Saint of Heaven.  Even here on earth these true friends of God enjoy in their true Communion with one another ‘in Christ’ - a burning and blissful love for God, with life ‘in’ Him, with a certain likeness to one another without uniformity.  They relish a blissful communion with one another, in spirit, with a joyful delight in one another’s virtue.


They live and work in a state of near-perfect harmony with one another and of blissful closeness both to Christ and to His holy Mother; and in their prayer, whether they could describe these things or not, they enjoy the blissful contemplation of the perfections of God the Most Holy Trinity.



The spiritual senses.


There are further marvels - someone who enjoys God’s friendship to this degree and who has come to trust in Him entirely - though remaining always aware of his own imperfection - has by now, and by the Will of God, seen many of God’s marvels; he has seen Heaven’s companions with the eyes of his soul. Furthermore, he has heard the voice of his beloved Christ, and has listened to the singing of the Angels.  He has smelt the bitter perfumes which were Christ’s astonishing and consoling gifts to him when he was first struggling to believe that Christ was illuminating his heart and soul through numerous teachings-in-prayer.  Furthermore, he has felt the touch of God on his brow, whenever the Father has clothed and crowned him anew as a ‘prophet, priest and king’ so that he can step out once again to do God’s work; and now, by a spiritual sense, he can ‘TASTE AND SEE THAT THE LORD IS GOOD’; and as he does so through a pure communion with God he rests in such contentment in prayer that he is like a child on his mother’s lap, it’s as if he is leaning against Heaven’s door, as he waits in patience for an invitation to step up and enter.  His soul is now suffused with joy.


By this stage, the soul’s spiritual sight and hearing, with his spiritual senses of smell, touch and taste, have all been ‘awakened’ and used, at God’s prompting, so that more and more, the whole person, in every bodily and spiritual faculty, has been ‘gathered’ in prayer and has been wholly irradiated by grace.  It’s as if he is inebriated and warmed by the gifts which he has received from the Living God Whose unchanging plan, from the beginning, has been to make this soul one with Himself in perpetual joy.













What I’ve just written - as can be seen - is clumsy in parts, and inadequate.  So much had to be left out, and so much compressed, because I felt - as I feel with what follows - that the ‘bare bones’ had to be recorded now.  I’ve tried to be entirely accurate and truthful, but I’m aware of my deficiencies both in style and in fluency.


There’s so much more that could be written about the spiritual life and about contemplation. But I must finish here, and let the “teachings” speak for themselves.  I can’t finish, though, without stressing once again that everyone who wants to grow close to God ought to remain faithful to his ordinary prayers and activities, year by year.  We do need, occasionally, to substitute a ‘new’ devotion for a minor outworn practice, since our spiritual tastes change as we grow more proficient in prayer.  But the usual, important, daily devotions ought not to be carelessly dropped or postponed. 


On the other hand, we shouldn’t hope for extraordinary experiences for their own sake.  Loving union with God, in accordance with His Will, is what ‘counts’, in whatever way that union is achieved.  There are so many dangers lying in wait for those who want to serve and follow Christ faithfully until death that it seems like madness for anyone to think - proudly, or in ignorance - that he can ‘cope’ with the dangers of a spiritual pathway which he need not have followed. 


If we follow the path revealed to us bit by bit in prayer, and remain united to Christ within His Church, we can be certain that He will give us the graces we need to follow His Light safely.  But people who long for visions or other unusual experiences are fool-hardy.  They will learn that they can easily be deceived.  They will risk terrible dangers, or they will find that they’re unable to bear the torment of being brought forcibly - as it were - so close to God.  Only those whom He has mercifully and slowly purified can rest peacefully in His Presence, in the prayer of union, and so enjoy the extraordinary joys with which God, from all Eternity, has planned to reward, console and delight them.


I conclude this explanation about the ways in which God might choose to instruct the soul in prayer by listing the subjects on which He has chosen to instruct me during the past forty years, though most lavishly during the past fifteen years; or, rather, I’ve listed those subject headings under which I would like to see gathered, one day, the teachings which are at present listed chronologically in the several volumes of “Instructions from Christ”.


 Perhaps this is a task I’ll have to leave for someone else to do, in another century.  But these are my suggested headings, though someone else can surely improve on my list.


By the way: some of the teachings are so plainly about two subjects that whoever compiles the books ought, I believe, to put such teachings under both headings - even if the books seem to be  enlarged in this way to a worrying degree.  But the main headings could be as follows:-


The Angels of God.

The Blessed Sacrament.

The Christian Way.

   Christ’s Life.

   Christ’s Love for us.

   Christ’s Passion and Death.

The Church: Christ’s Body.

The Church: the House of God.

The Church: Leadership. (Includes Popes and Bishops)


   Disability or ill-health.


The Faithful Departed.


   God the Most Holy Trinity.

   Heaven, our home.

   Holiness: Christ-in-us.

   Holy Communion.

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.


The Journey to union.




The Mother of God: Mary, the Blessed Virgin.

A Neighbour to love.

   Penance and Reparation.

   Personal matters.



The Prayer of intercession.

The Saints, and Heaven.

   Sin and forgiveness.

   Sin, unrepented.

   Suffering and sacrifice.

   Teachings-in-prayer: explanations.


   Virtues: our need.


The Will of God.