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How to hold an unyielding, intentional “no” to chaos and frenzy

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Fr. Peter John Cameron, OP - published on 03/26/23

Before a world brimming with the hyperactive, the hectic, the frenetic, we need an intentional stance.

Jesus, aboard a boat on the Sea of Galilee, instructs his disciples, Put out into the deep (Luke 5:4). It symbolizes what we are called to do in prayer — to live recollection. “To pray is to recollect oneself and lose oneself in that infinite abyss of God” (Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa).

Recollection is a state of steady interior stillness flowing from the assurance that we belong to God. Recollection means opting for self-emptying before the mercy of the Father. Recollection is a reverent act of attentive abandonment to the Presence of God, no matter how subtle and wispy it seems. To be recollected is to commit to stay close to the cross of Jesus Christ despite disturbances, distractions, intrusions, chaos, strife. It is to recollect that the Psalmist enjoins us with the beckon, Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 45:11).

Recollection is our intentional stance before a world brimming with the hyperactive, the hectic, the frenetic. It consists in an unyielding “no” to frenzy through a recurring self-gift to divine providence. Faced with the frantic, the manic, the recollected person keeps before them a constant thought of God, surrendering to his grace. To be recollected is to maintain a fundamental option for peace, summoning hope by submitting to an order beyond ourselves in trust and docility. Recollection is the fruit of obedience. Recollection is collusion with authentic happiness. 

Recollection reorders our understanding, emotions, passions, appetites, and will. It enables us to live deeply — not instinctually or superficially. Recollection forms our feelings, calms our fears, and quells concupiscence, endowing us with composure. The recollected live with focus and single-mindedness, blessed with steadfast serenity, spiritual strength, freedom of soul. Recollection is experienced as “dispassion — that peaceful condition of the soul in which the soul is not easily moved to evil” (St. Maximus the Confessor). Recollection keeps us little and helps us love our littleness. Recollection resensitizes us to the tenderness of Jesus’ love, making us tender. Recollection leads us to find ourselves through friendship with the Lord. 

What are the first steps to a life of unceasing recollection? Remaining mindful of our sins and God’s mercy from moment to moment … giving thanks always for every little gift … eliminating distractions so that silence breathes in our life … handing ourselves over to the Lord the second anxieties strike … begging to live in the Truth … doing gratuitous acts of charity for others … saying with faith and love the Holy Name of Jesus, and then saying it again.

Venerable Louis of Granada (+1588) gives us the encouragement we need: 

It is indeed a great thing to be constantly recollected and it is not as difficult as some people imagine. What we mean by constant prayer is to preserve a recollected and vigilant heart, a holy fear and reverence for God, and a continual desire to please God and walk in his presence.


Follow Fr. Cameron’s series on prayer here.

See some of the earlier pieces below:

BibleMental HealthPrayerPrayer Is:Spiritual Life
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