Greatest Barriers to Contemplation?


For those of you who experience contemplation (not talking about Centering Prayer here - i.e. breathing, repeating a word etc. but the more traditional views of contemplation), what were the greatest barriers or struggles that you faced in your prayer life? Did they change after your experience? Have you changed?


I’m slowly trying to become a contemplative. Have you read the works of St Josemaria Escriva? It’s very focused on becoming a contemplative in the middle of the world. see


Not sure if you would say I have ever “contemplated,” per se…but the greatest barrier to focussed prayer was finding time to be alone with no other pressing responsibilities! I have adjusted my focus now, praying/reflecting as I nurse a baby to sleep, rejoicing in the ability to bring my children to Benediction with me so they too can be in the Presence of the Lord in a special way and more greatly appreciate the Eucharist…


All notions of “self.”


I also wouldn’t dare to call myself a true ‘contemplative’, although I’m trying to deepen my prayer life.

My greatest barrier is my easy distractability (I’m ADD) combined with a multitude of potential distractions in my environment - work, study, internet, tv and so on.

I find it best and easiest to pray when I make the effort to spend time with the Blessed Sacrament, which I will try to do more often from now on.


I am a horriable contemplater!
I cannot concentrate for long on one thing! I get so distracted! But I am on my way.


trying to force oneself into this mode of prayer is the hugest barrier to true contemplation, which probably comes from misunderstanding the nature of infused contemplation, and mental prayer in general.


Very well said. My question is, however, there is a degree of requirement on us - being there - being prepared through all we can do in ascetic and meditative practices. etc… So, said another way, “Trying to be a Contemplative” or “Practicing Contemplation” is not a proper way of understanding. However, “working to submit yourself to God in prayer” or “I am learning how to quiet my mind in meditation” are almost necessary preconditions although the end desire, “contemplation” is 100% a work of God. Not to go round and round here but to cap it off - it is 100% the work of God but we, if we desire Him in the fullest, must pursue the ascetic dimension of our spiritual lives to the fullest.


For myself, the greatest barrier to contemplation, is attachments to things that are not conducive to living a life of humility.

St John of the Cross stresses detachment from things not of God, which is done in the Dark Night of Sense.

I know there are things in my life, that I should detach myself from, but I haven’t had the fortitude to do it, yet.



I have had a mystic experience before. :slight_smile: :stuck_out_tongue: :slight_smile:

I strongly suspect that these are the greatest barriers to contemplation.

** Lack of humility. **

Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you. Do not speak evil of one another, brothers. Whoever speaks evil of a brother or judges his brother speaks evil of the law and judges the law. If you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save or to destroy. Who then are you to judge your neighbor? James 4:10-12

**Lack of a slave’s heart **

Jesus said in reply, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?” They said to him, “We can.” He replied, “My cup you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left (,this) is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” When the ten heard this, they became indignant at the two brothers.

But Jesus summoned them and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."Matthew 20: 22-28

The Zeitun, Egypt apparitions of Mary (isn’t it interesting that she chose to appear at the site where once the Jews were enslaved) repeat this servant, slave, realization that the Kingdom of Heaven is open to everyone message.

Lack of genuine love

If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing. For we know partially and we prophesy partially,
but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.
At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.

So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:1-13



Lack of heart of service

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne,
and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.'
Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?
And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'
Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.'
Then they will answer and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?'
He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.'
And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.Matthew 25:31-46

Lack of love

#1768 My daughter, in this meditation, consider the love of neighbor. Is your love for your neighbor guided by My love? Do you pray for your enemies? Do you wish well to those who have, in one way or another, caused you sorrow or offended you? Know that whatever good you do to any soul, I accept it as if you had done it to Me.

#1770 Now you shall consider My love in the Blessed Sacrament. Here, I am entirely yours, soul, body and divnity, as your Bridegroom. You know what love demands: one thing only, reciprocity…

#1779 Thank you, Eternal Love, for Your inconceivable kindness to me, that You would occupy Yourself directly with my sanctification. - My daugher, let three virtues adorn you in a particular way: humility, purity of intention and love. Do nothing beyond what I demand of you, and accept everything that My hand gives you. Strive for a life of recollection so that you can hear My voice, which is so soft that only recollected souls can hear it…

140 Pure love… knows that only one thing is needed to please God: to do even the smallest things out of great love - love, and always love.

Lack of Obedience

1790 I have come to know that, in order for God to act in a soul, it must give up acting on its own; otherwise, God will not carry out His will in it.

** Lack of Humility**
To understand humility read this
Litany of Humility

These quotes are from the Diary of St. Maria Faustina Divine Mercy in My Soul


Hi Lifeisawesome -

I think you asked and answered the question in the same post. :slight_smile: We are always best to place the emphasis on asceticism . . . the mystical aspect is His doing. Failure to do the “work of the work” (asceticism) is what I mean by “self” being the great barrier or obstacle to hearing His gentle call to contemplation . . . which is open to all.

We can think of the transformation that occurs through authentic contemplation in the words of the Baptist: “He must increase; I must decrease.”

So what holds us back is our reliance on my thoughts, my opinions, my ideas, my preferences, my expectations, my feelings and so on. While we don’t necessarily reject these per se through spiritual asceticism, the degree to which we “cling” to them is the actual resistence we place in His way of freeing us from their burden. And, as St. John of the Cross says so often, all it takes is one disordered attachment to anything (natural or supernatural) to begin closing the door to contemplation and union with Him.

We don’t hear Him . . . because we never learn to listen. We’re too busy marching to the beat of our own drum.

Just my :twocents:

Dave :slight_smile:


When I read St. Maria Faustina’s Diary, I was struck by the fact that she said that God held his hand back from punishing the world because of her prayer. I was also struck by the fact that she mentioned that one city would receive wrath of God for punishment of its sins, like the punishment of Sodom and Gomorrah. In the footnotes, it was suggested that this city was one of the cities bombed during the Holocaust. She died at age of 33 - just like Christ - on October 5, 1938. In March of 1938, Hitler invaded his first country in WWII. On January 1939, Hitler announced in a public speech, “If international-finance Jewry inside and outside Europe should succeed once more in plunging the nations into yet another world war, the consequences will not be the Bolshevization of the earth and thereby the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe.” “Justice is mine,” says the Lord, I will repay."

39 +One day Jesus told me that He would cause a chastisement to fall upon the most beautiful city in our country [probably Warsaw]. This chastisement would be that with which God had punished Sodom and Gomorrah. I saw the great wrath of God and a shudder pierced my heart. I prayed in silence. After a moment, Jesus said to me, My child, unite yourself closely to Me during the Sacrifice and offer My Blood and My Wounds to My Father in expiation for the sins of that city. Repeat this without interruption throughout the entire Holy Mass. Do this for seven days. On the seventh day I saw Jesus in a bright cloud and began to beg Him to look upon the city and upon our whole country. Jesus looked [down] graciously. When I saw the kindness of Jesus, I began to beg His blessing. Immediately Jesus said, For your sake I bless the entire country. And He made a big sign of the cross over our country. Seeing the goodness of God, a great joy filled my soul.

If we receive nuclear war on our country, it will be because of the 45 million people killed as a result of Roe v. Wade. As Mother Teresa said, :eek: "The fruit of abortion is nuclear war. :eak:

We must pray without ceasing.


*“When we know that the way of love - this exodus, this going out of oneself - is the true way by which man becomes human, then we also understand that suffering is the process through which we mature. Anyone who has inwardly accepted suffering becomes more mature and more understanding of others, becomes more human. Anyone who has consistently avoided suffering does not understand other people, he becomes hard and selfish. Love itself is a passion, something we endure. In love I experience first a happiness, a general feeling of happiness. Yet, on the other hand, I am taken out of my comfortable tranquility and have to let myself be reshaped. If we say that suffering is the inner side of love, we then also understand why it is so important to learn how to suffer – and why, conversely, the avoidance of suffering renders someone unfit to cope with life.” * Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger who later became Pope Benedict XVI

The opposite of love is not hate but using someone


One word: sin. Without living a life of asceticism, it’s just impossible to approach the Lord. And I don’t mean merely not sinning mortally, but any sin, even venial.

One event that remains in my mind is that, of the three shepherds in Fatima, Bl. Francisco could not see the Bl. Virgin because he had committed many sins and needed to pray in reparation for them. After he started praying the Rosary fervently, per her advice, he eventually got to see her too.

Of course, seeing the Bl. Virgin is not the same as contemplation, but I think that the same parallel applies.



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