My issue with Roman Catholicism



But, to do nothing in prayer all the time without the experience of infused contemplation is an unchristian form of passivism or even buddhism. In infused contemplation, God himself produces prayer in us and himself engages various of our faculties very gently such as our will and intellect but without particular thoughts although he may cause us to dwell on some mystery of the faith. St John calls it a general loving knowledge. Accordingly, if various saints, fathers or desert fathers of the Church advised that beginners in the spiritual life should go to prayer by emptying all their faculties of all content or free them from all particular thoughts or images in the imagination, I don’t think this is good or even common sensible. I say ‘if’ because we may need to place what they actually said in some context. Prayer should make us better christians but if we don’t think about anything in prayer, what good is that doing for us especially for beginners?

What is going on here I believe is that if any of these various saints, fathers or desert fathers of the Church counselled freeing the faculties of all or most content in prayer without reference to contemplation or souls being led by contemplation than they mistakenly and probably unconsciously took what is experienced in contemplation by God’s own doing and work and extrapolated that onto what should be done without the experience of contemplation in prayer in which case the soul is virtually doing nothing but simply ‘waiting’ possibly their whole life long for a ‘drink’ of contemplative prayer in order to get something for virtually doing nothing which is not a very good sign of humility. I should mention that there is a kind of acquired simplified prayer or prayer of simple regard that souls practiced in prayer can develop with the help of God’s ordinary grace. So, it is possible that some of the sayings of the Desert Fathers, for instance, may relate to this. The important thing is not to advance ahead of grace but to cooperate with grace and to be amenable to the promptings of the Spirit. Every soul is different.


Whoa! :thinking:

What Richca just said…! This is a great response. I would be deeply interested in the context of the desert church fathers.


Come back home to the Roman Catholic Church! :pray::pray::pray:


You have an interesting point. To me, this issue re: the imagination is an important one because in the Latin West the imagination is used in the Spiritual Exercises whilst in the East the use of the imagination is strongly condemned by all the Fathers from the Egyptian desert to the present day; so, a contradiction exists. Only one can be right.

But this touches on another important difference between Catholicism and Orthodoxy; Rome is willing to tolerate contradictions in order to have unity, which is why Byzantine Catholics can deny the filioque and the use of imagination in prayer, whereas the Orthodox value theological purity and correctness over unity (hence the term, “Orthodox”, i guess).

But for me, the fact that i can worship as an Eastern Christian in Communion with Rome does not answer the question of who is right.

Re: who is closest to the Desert Fathers, that is a simple question. One must study the Fathers and acquire a patristic mindset. ALL Orthodoxy, whether Eastern or Oriental, are in keeping with the traditions of the Fathers of the Early Church.

Fr Seraphim Rose was instructive to me on this point. He would never venture his own opinion on anything. To any question regarding the Church he would simply read the Church Fathers and see what they had to say, and acquire their mindset, their spirit. THIS is what it means to be truly Orthodox. This is why the Orthodox East does not need nor want Scholasticism, Renaissance Humanism, Counter Reformations or any Doctrinal Developments, for they “stand fast and hold to the traditions which ye have been taught” 2 Thess. 2:15

So, if the Fathers teach to empty the mind of imaginations and thoughts so as not to fall in to delusion, then that’s what the Orthodox Church teaches, for who are we to say we know better?


“Accordingly, if various saints, fathers or desert fathers of the Church advised that beginners in the spiritual life should go to prayer by emptying all their faculties of all content or free them from all particular thoughts or images in the imagination, this is not good or even common sensible. I say ‘if’ because we may need to place what they actually say in some context. Prayer should make us better christians but if we don’t think about anything in prayer, what good is that doing for us especially for beginners?”

Thank you for your considered reply and sorry it’s taken me a while to respond - life get’s busy.

I found this paragraph quoted in particular disturbing, and to me confirms in my own mind what happens when Roman Catholicism is cut off from the Eastern Church.

How can you honestly sit here in 2019 and suggest that you know more about prayer and the Soul than the Church Fathers? What you said here is tantamount to heresy in the Orthodox Church and you would probably get dragged in front of the Bishop.

I would suggest as a starter reading the spiritual texts of the Eastern Church before dismissing it any further… Perhaps you could even read the Way of a Pilgrim and the Philokalia. If your concern “If we can’t use our imagination, then what will we do during prayer?” then you really need to do this, asap.


I’m just reading up on prayer and found some very good thoughts on this subject. The book I’m reading is “The book of Psalms Volume 3, by James Montgomery Boice”

Psalm 119

I rise before dawn and cry for help;
I have put my hope in your word.
My eyes stay open through the watches of the night,
That I may meditate on your promises (vv. 147-48)

One very word that we have not yet adequately considered is “meditate”. It occurs in verse 148 as an explanation for why the writer remained awake during the watches of the night. It was to meditate on God’s promises. Christians today need to learn about and develop the habit of biblical meditation.

Biblical meditation is more than merely reading the Bible and praying afterwards. It is more even than memorizing certain portions of it. It is internalizing the Bible’s teaching to such an extent that the truths discovered in the Bible become part of how we think, so that we think differently and then also function differently as a result…

When you sow a thought, you reap an action. When you sow that action, you reap a habit. When you sow that habit, you reap a character. When you sow that character, you reap a destiny!"


You would have to get to that level of prayer and it doesn’t come easy. There are some distractions that will take place (at first) during prayer times but continually developing the mind toward prayer is on going. It is the building of a relationship with time and once you start building that time with God then it no longer becomes a habit.


Do you pray the Agbeya?


It doesn’t matter what you believe. God knows what is in your heart.


The Orthodox Church also does not accept the Coptic Church view of miaphytisim and this is a theological matter not a matter of praying.
Anyway, I asked an Orthodox priest about whether this method of praying is a theological dispute between OC or ROC or just a difference in practice. If the thread is active I will post the answer after I receive one.


10+ years ago, I had to attend a wedding. The wedding took place in a Roman Catholic church. If you hadn’t seen the Stations of the Cross on the walls you’d think it was Protestant. The next day I and a few others attended Divine Liturgy at a nearby Ukrainian Catholic Church. What a difference! Eight (8!) altar boys, 2 ushers, magnificent choir and the priest was a good confessor too. (I saved the bulletin from there too - it’s in English & Ukrainian. :wink:)




Icons are Scripture and Tradition in color. My cousin is a Russian Orthodox iconographer.


In my opinion, you should not take the article by Fr. Sveshnikov so seriously. It is one depiction of prayer, and not entirely accurate. For instance, the “Patristic prayer” he describes is heavily influenced by Hesychasm. That is what one would expect from an Eastern Orthodox priest, but you should recognize that bias. Patristic prayer may not be so closely aligned with hesychasm as he claims.

Many of the quotes against “imagination” are not really addressing the meditation used by St Ignatius. The cautions against wanting a vision or ecstacy as are strong aamong Catholics as among the Orthodox. Most visionaries are children, in part because most adults know how awful Church bureaucracy can be for those who claim to have one. Who wants to become another St Joan of Arc, a woman who was killed because she had visions? Mental hospitals are a more likely result now. Even the Spiritual Exercises could be a way to direct people away from visions, by giving them a way to asses whether they come from God. It uses imagination to confront and suppress a vision based faith.

You should also consider what can happen without imagination. Garrison Keillor used to say Roman Catholics have the Sistine Chapel, Bernini, Renaissance art in general, while Lutherans have “The Praying Hands,” an american folk art image found in many homes. Lutherans did produce Beethoven, Bach, etc while Catholics were producing their greatest artists. And Islamic calligraphy flourished where they banned imagery. As did Sufi dancing, another way to express an ecstatic vision.

Expel one demon, and seven more come to fill the vacancy. Rid yourself of imagination, and other techniques will replace it. Which may be the point ultimately. Not ecstay, standing outside of yourself, but to stand with Christ with whatever your particular talents are.



They do not reflect what we believe, but they are what we believe, and our reaching to God.

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