Where simplicity is a special emphasis of the Quakers, the Catholic tradition of spirituality speaks more frequently of recollection. (I have white spots on my fingers.) In recollection, we re-collect all of our powers and turn inside, seeking God in silence and stillness, with whole heart and mind and soul and strength. (The pillars need sanding.) We know God not by reason but by love. And then we bring this spirit of recollection, of prayer, of love back with us into the rest of our lives, living a life of silence and self-possession and simplicity and service. (I should take the railing off to paint the stairwell.)

Of course, being recollected in the first place is a struggle that may take years, and maintaining recollection at all times is a battle that may go on for the rest of your life. The world always seems to want to to intrude, to distract, to attach itself to us, to fill our affections to the point that we can’t spend more than a few seconds with God before a thought such as “what color should I paint the back bedroom” intrudes.

We are finishing our basement, and for the last week we’ve been madly painting. Painting is a calm activity, with no one else’s emotions to pull on your own, an activity during which you can pray, an activity you wouldn’t expect to attach to your affections too strongly. But I am thoroughly distracted and unable to pray. What am I doing wrong? How can I maintain recollection?

Maybe I will try to attach recollection to a frequent activity. Every time I dip the brush in the paint bucket I’ll dip my spirit in desire for God. UPDATE: total fail. Life intruded. Try again. Eventually, maybe I’ll be able to pray while painting, to paint while praying, to paint with prayer.

Categories: Meditation

Harry Plantinga

Harry Plantinga is a professor of computer science at Calvin University and the director of ccel.org and hymnary.org.