True Contemplative Prayer

valley of death

I have gone from valuing Connie Rossini’s marvelous little website, “Contemplative Homeschool,” highly to considering it indispensable. She writes with simplicity and clarity. Her content is always well balanced and carefully considered. Because of the elegance of its simplicity, one could miss the profound depth of it – but it is profound.

I have long been deeply disturbed by some prayer groups which go through long lists of things we “renounce” as works of satan. One I went to last year had three single-spaced pages. Insane. One I saw actually denounced the Power Rangers (kids cartoon characters) as works of satan. I am waiting for someone to denounce Flintstone vitamins.

We are Christians. This is the religion that swept the world. We are not a faith that cowers in the bushes fearing two demons behind every rock and every tree. Once we hold fast to Christ with fortitude, satan has no power over us whatsoever – except the power to try to persuade us to let go. Some who have a little learning criticize many of our practices and traditions – particularly at Christmas and Easter – as having been derived from pagan practices. They are right – just don’t have enough learning to know that that was the point. The plan of Christian evangelization from the beginning is to banish what is contrary to faith; keep those customs that are comforting to a culture and are not contrary to faith; then ‘baptize’ them with Christ and incorporate them into our own practice. It is why we have ever been enriched while never departing from the fundamentals of the faith. But that was not accomplished by people who fearfully looked for demons everywhere. It was accomplished by people who knew with certain confidence that once they grabbed on to Christ, the powers of hell were impotent. In fact, long lists of things to renounce can be a subtle danger – for it gently persuades us that it is our renouncing that holds satan at bay rather than Christ’s power – and can fill us with fear that if we neglect to renounce something, satan can pounce. Poppycock! I had pagans in three states once holding rituals on a single night to curse me. I laughed at them when I was told and told them to curse on: my Master was stronger than their master.

That said, there are certain practices that are, indeed, designed to seduce Christians away from the faith while soothing them that it is okay. Today, Rossini begins a series on just that subject here. I marvel at how solid it is, denuncing that which needs to genuinely be renounced, not getting caught up in an enthusiasm about renouncing everything in sight, and doing it without instilling any sense of fear or dread – just confidence in Christ. If you do not read Rossini regularly, you should.

About charliej373

Charlie Johnston is a former newspaper editor, radio talk show host and political consultant. From Feb. 11, 2011 to Aug. 21, 2012, he walked 3,200 miles across the country, sleeping in the woods, meeting people and praying as he went. He has received prophetic visitation all his life, which he has vetted through a trio of priests over the last 20 years, and now speaks publicly about on this site. Yet he emphasizes that we find God most surely through the ordinary, doing the little things we should with faith and fidelity. Hence the name, The Next Right Step. The visitations inform his work, but are not the focus of it. He lives in the Archdiocese of Denver in the United States.
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24 Responses to True Contemplative Prayer

  1. Anne Archer says:

    This is a very re-affirming message for me. Like you, I have been in situations where the demons were cast out, etc. however it seemed to me that much too much time and attention was being focused on the devil. Being intimidated by the devil and his demons indicates a lack of belief, and also faith, in Christ’s total accomplishment of the devil’s defeat. I don’t mean to imply that we should not take seriously his continual attempts to tempt us but he does not have the power to “make” us do anything. We need to have our antenna up for God’s promptings and His grace to overcome the temptations. As the Scripture says – “greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world” – never do well with chapter and verse. When I fail, which is often, it is always my lack of turning to Christ and availing myself of the grace needed to overcome – the devil can only “suggest”
    but I always have the choice of taking the suggestion or not.


  2. David says:

    Dear Charlie,
    I recently found your website and your writings give me a sense of peace. Please pray that God may give me help against a sin I have struggled against for over 40 years. Sincerely, David


    • charliej373 says:

      I certainly will, David. In fact, let me direct you to The Prayer of Miraculous Trust. Maybe turning it over to God and not thinking about it – nor worrying much when you fail occasionally – may help drown it in a sea of love. A very wise priest taught me that, often, if we fight a sin directly, it gets an even deeper hold…so to instead ignore it and focus on something else to fill the void.


    • vicardwm says:

      David, please check out the site. I have heard of a lot of people getting help from long-standing patterns of sin through this ministry. It is not a cure-all, but sometimes sins can be rooted in a generational problem, especially when you are doing all the right things – praying, going to Mass as much as possible, Confession, etc. and still getting no improvement after a long period of time. Best of all, this can help others in your family tree as well, if there is indeed a generational problem. Finally, I will pray for you as well! Don’t give up!


  3. Nora says:

    Interesting post. Some time ago a couple in our parish wanted to have rosary devotions. They
    were hoping to draw many in and I too began to go. I thought I could devote 20 minutes, 5 nights
    a week to this worthy cause ,however I became very frustrated when prayer after prayer was added
    after the Hail holy Queen.There were prayers for the Holy Father , the dead , to St .Michael ,
    the butcher ,the baker and the candle stick maker…and only the leaders knew these extras.
    Needless to say I quit going . I couldn’t spare 45 minutes as my children were very young at the time. The leaders were not pleased and eventually the whole thing fizzled out in less than six months. I wondered if it was wrong to leave but I felt sort of roped into someone else’s idea
    of a super duper rosary devotion. Less is more ,I think.


    • charliej373 says:

      Nora, I am completely with you. I always get irritated when people insist on gilding the lily. Often, it is just an effort to seem ‘more pious than thou.’ I very much want to respect people’s time and the reality that they have many things to do. More than that is a kind of bait and switch, I think. I once went to daily Mass at a shrine that had several priests. One, in particular, always went at least 15 minutes long and sometimes over a half hour long. I stopped him one morning and told him I had to work – and that his extended Masses did not lead me to more piety, but to knowing that I must probably turn and walk out if he were saying Mass, for I could not afford to be late so often. A little to my surprise, he took note and made sure to keep his weekday Masses to the time allotted – so as not to drive away people who had to work.

      But yes, I think constantly lumping add-ons to a public service that is advertised as one thing is a form of spiritual bait-and-switch. It annoys me to no end…and sometimes provokes a burst of outright anger.


      • Barbara Dore says:

        No one complained about Padre Pio’s long masses?


        • charliej373 says:

          I don’t know whether they did or not, Barbara, but that is not the point here. You knew what to expect when you went to see St. Padre Pio. I have been at services that lasted anywhere from three to six hours – and gotten much out of many of them. But if you are going to have a Daily Mass that regularly goes well beyond a half hour or a Sunday Mass that goes beyond an hour and you don’t let people know, you have almost certainly layed a burden on some in the congregation. I like a nice Benediction after Mass – which adds about 20 minutes. At one Parish I go to, they have this after every Daily Mass – and those who choose to can come in while no one looks askance at those who must begin their day. If you say what you are going to do then do it, you sow joy and confidence among those who attend. If you say what you are going to do and then routinely add a half an hour, an hour, two hours, you have tacitly “tricked” those who want to come and should not be surprised that soon you have few coming.


        • June1 says:

          Actually, Barbara, if I remember correctly (from a movie about his life), his fellow priests and those above him in rank (bishops, etc.) were annoyed at his 3-hour masses and tried to get him to stop.


  4. Connie says:

    Nora, your reply about the rosary that went on and on with no one but the rosary leaders knowing the prayers reminds me of a prayer group that my husband and I began. We started out nicely but one member began to lead several others to insert a prayer that belonged to a cenacle for praying for priests and as ours was a Divine Mercy prayer group, we felt, like you, that firstly no one else knew this prayer and secondly our prayer group was centered on Divine Mercy, not praying for priests. We suggested that we could include praying for priests during our intercessory prayers but that was not acceptable to certain others, then when we tried to assert authority by reminding them that we had begun the prayer group, my husband was ridiculed because he was a “baby” in the faith compared to them and that “when they had a prayer group in the past” this was how it was done according to their prayer insertions. Other abuses occurred, such as staying over for hours at someone’s home ( we rotated homes) and refreshments we initially served as hosts became smorgasbords so that many people began coming and then taking plates home leaving right after the rosary. So it became really a burden what was once a joyful and uplifting gathering. We tried to explain that this was not our intention, that all these things take the focus off of raising our eyes and hearts to heaven, we were attacked and division took place. It saddens me to say that this caused our once joyful, holy spirit filled group to disperse. But my husband and I learned some very important lessons from that. I really miss being a part of a spirit filled prayer group and I pray that we may find another again or start another one again( we live way out in the country now in protestant territory). I would not hesitate to even be part of a protestant prayer group if theological differences were respected and common beliefs were celebrated.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Charlie – I am working my way through your blog from the beginning, slowly but surely. Fascinating stuff, to be sure. I have a lot of potential questions for you, but would prefer to fully read through everything first. But this post made me smile. I have always lamented those who seem to find nearly everything in the world insidious, as if a devout Christian could crumble and fall at the mere glimpse of some little plaything that has secret and nefarious ties to some Egyptian cultural representation of the moon god of 3000 BC.

    As a Catholic Rock musician, I’ve had to endure the claims from some that my music has demonic origins because I dare use a snare drum and an electric guitar on a CD. I once read a wonderful article by Mark Shea who pointed out that prior to Christ’s time on Earth, so much emphasis was put on how outside things defiled the devout, but he pointed out that Christ turned all that upside-down. Christ touched the lepers to heal them – to cleanse them. Before that, leprosy had the power. But now, Christ had the power.

    Our Church has a long history of taking the cultural items and symbols around them and Christifying them. We need not fear everything under the sun is here to destroy our soul.

    We have enough spiritual battles we need to wage without weighing our armor down with more weight.

    Anyway, thanks for your blog and all your insights. I look forward to continuing through in the days ahead.


    • charliej373 says:

      Ha, Diatribe, back when I was writing for secular journals, I got a bunch of Wiccans and Pagans in a lather when I wrote that Nazi Germany was the only modern functional Pagan State (an item utterly uncontroversial among professional historians). Several called to tell me they had chosen a night when they all had ceremonies in three different states (Illinois, Iowa and Missouri) to curse me. I laughed and told them to curse away – my Boss was stronger than theirs….but to take care lest the curses redound against them for, again, my Boss is stronger than theirs. God bless you and hope you enjoy what has become a rather weighty tome.


    • Joj says:

      While God made everything good, we often pervert the good He made because of our disordered passions. Music is such that it directly moves the soul to a particular mood. The music itself does not cause sin, but it can dispose one either to sin or virtuous acts, just by the kind of mood it sets. Think of how Gregorian chant feels vs. Heavy metal. Music is good in so far as it draws us up and bad if does the opposite. How many sins have been set to the tune of heavy-metal music?
      Personally, I once listened to rock but after I gave it up to raise my children, I came to realize that I could never listen to it again without a disturbing effect. I knew it was tugging my heart away from a spiritual focus – even though set with holy words. The words just didn’t match the music. My children who had never been exposed to it at home would comment in the stores, “That’s yucky music.” From the mouths of babes…

      Liked by 2 people

      • YongDuk says:

        Donald Calloway might agree with you…

        …but, I assure you, Joj, I have had the Lord speak to me in ordinary ways through …I admit not “evil” music… but music that you might here condemn…

        God uses the good in ordinary things. Be kind and prudent in how you judge. You might just find mind me at every corner leaning on my staff with eyes eyes flashing and at once downcast in sadness. Be gentle. God uses good things to bring people to Him, ordinary things, just like the basilicas of Rome were transformed into Basilicas!

        You, however, are quite right about emotions being moved by music and I would add television / TV shows (both entertainment and commercials) work exactly on emotions.

        Put God in your heart and in front of your lips and ears and everything can be elevated!


        P.S. You have not answered my question about unbroken tradition from a few pages ago–or perhaps a recantation/retraction.

        The song below, all the more the original… is about God to me, despite the Lyrics. And another song on this album was a confirmation of a great healing after an Exorcism… See the World in Gentleness and through the Refulgence of the Holy Spirit and be transformed and freed in your advancing age…

        Liked by 3 people

        • Joj says:

          Thank you, so much, your Grace YD, for your taking time to respond and for sharing this song. Everything you say is so true. I will continue to try not to judge other’s hearts and to be gentle. One caveat: I would not accept, for example, if someone claimed they could elevate porn, by referring it to God, or because bodies are beautiful. Porn is abusing another person for wickedness, period. So saying “everything can be elevated” does require clarification.

          I do hold that there is music which disposes one to sin and music which disposes to virtue. Do you disagree, or only with my example of heavy metal?
          PS Would you kindly direct me to the article you are referring to? I must have neglected to put a watch on the comments.


          • YongDuk says:

            One could easily say that which is sinful becomes a means to glorification in the struggle against son or the love that ensues from penance as in the case of the Magdalene.

            So if one wants to not pick with words, one can. . .

            Everything is grace – St. Therese

            My comment regarded your comment about the FSSPs and your use of unbroken tradition or something like that. My ordination can be traced all the way back to Christ, so is that not unbroken?

            Liked by 1 person

          • Joj says:

            Yes, that’s lovely. God’s providence makes all things work unto good for those that love Him! I also like St. Augustine’s saying, Love God and do what you will. The point being that if we love God we will choose to do everything to please Him. And that is why Mr. Charlie posts such articles about Centering Prayer and other misleading practices. So we can make right choices in things that are not so obvious.

            I scoured the recent articles for that comment and could not find it. I apologize for not responding. But what I would have meant is simply that the FSSP still maintains the Traditional practices like using the baldachin, so someone wanting to bring more of this beauty into their processions would find a good ally in them. Of course all Catholic priests have the Apostolic Tradition through their ordination. May I have your blessing?


          • YongDuk says:

            sorry for the typos… typing on a phone outside in the bright light…


          • YongDuk says:

            I am not the Pope; thus, my blessing only has an immediate range.


          • Joj says:

            No way! Really?! Well I’m glad lay folks don’t have that problem. LOL God bless you, YD!


      • Joj, I appreciate your comment and would never ask anyone to embrace something outside their preference. Neither would I suggest engaging in anything that, for whatever reason, you felt drew you to some area of spiritual weakness.

        My issue comes from dogmatism over things that aren’t dogma. It is one thing to say the secular world has perverted music, and it is quite fair to say certain musical styles have been drawn to different perversions (this is hardly limited to rock music). But it is overly dogmatic to suggest a thing is inherently evil because the thing has been used in a certain way. This thinking limits the perception of Christ’s power. Is He not able to overcome evil and use the thing for good?

        By your reasoning, the Church could not have adopted certain items or practices of pagan culture because they were forever tainted by the evil uses of the time. But that is not how God seems to work. Instead, the Church took these things and purified them through Christ.

        The Mark Shea article I referenced noted that in the time of Jesus, He turned things upside down with the lepers. Prior to Jesus, the physical evil of leprosy was thought to have the power. You didn’t touch someone that had it, lest you succumb to it. But Jesus showed that He had power over it.

        Contemporary Christian music has met many in the secular culture where they are. I have seen its impact. Why so many lament this as somehow a bad thing because everyone should be listening to Gregorian Chant is a mystery to me. And as an aside, I do appreciate good Gregorian chant. I’ve also heard chant sung at Masses that make me pray that this is not what I will be listening to in heaven.

        Just this weekend I have been working on my contribution to the year of mercy – my version of the Divine Mercy. It will not be everyone’s cup of tea. But I feel close to God as I work on it, and even if nobody else likes it, it will serve a prayerful purpose for me.

        Liked by 4 people

        • charliej373 says:

          Excellent diatribe, Guy. Deeply insightful.

          Liked by 1 person

        • joj says:

          He is Risen!! Alleluia!
          Diatribe, I agree that it is not the “use” of music that makes it inherently good our bad. Emotions are not just good or bad because of their “use” but rather because of their very order. Unjust anger, for example, is bad though not necessarily sinful, since we may choose to fight that emotion. Pleasure at another’s misfortune is also bad, but sinful only if we give into that wrong feeling.

          Mr. Charlie said that we are all infected by our cultural degeneracy in some way. Some say it is in the very air we breathe. That makes it really hard to see the good and the bad for what it truly is. And when our feelings are involved, that’s even harder.

          It is a large part of the moral struggle to deal with emotions in the right way. To make ourselves feel the right emotions in the first place makes the battle all the easier. That is why music is so important, and for that matter, anything that deeply affects our emotions. Good music keeps are emotions ordered rightly, so that we are more likely to see the good for what it truly is, and then behave the right way!

          I don’t say that everyone should be listening to Gregorian chant all the time. There is a time and a place for everything. There are plenty of other edifying styles of music for our leisure listening. But Gregorian Chant has been lifted up as The super-eminent model of Sacred Music by at least 3 Popes, because it epitomizes recollection and prayer. So all other Church music is to “approach” this standard given by the Church. It is up to us church musicians to consider how our music measures up. We are not at a party, or even a prayer group. We are at Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary!

          And I’m totally with you that music in Church should always be as well-performed as we can muster. True Love settles for no less!

          Specifically, rock music is defined by the strong off-beat. Drums seem to be essential here, though if used on the on-beat, it would not be “rock.” I discovered in my college music class, which taught about the mathematical principles of music, that the On-beat appeals to the rational part of us, while the Off-beat appeals to the irrational part. My experience confirms this to be true. Perhaps not everyone is affected strongly either way by music, but it is there. What is your opinion about the Off-beat, Diatribe? Does your experience confirm this principle?

          I am edified by your fervor, Diatribe, and I am sure it must be pleasing to the good Lord! Keep your eyes fixed on Him and all else will fall into place. May God grant you inspiration in your Divine Mercy piece! Keep in mind that our Lord asks for sacrifices from us. I was only a teenager when He called me to walk away from the music that was dear to me, toward something more pleasing to Him. It was one of the hardest things I ever did.

          Liked by 1 person

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