From the Seven Sisters Apostolate about distraction during prayer

I have written about the Seven Sisters Apostolate on other occasions.   It is a great pleasure to know that there is a group organized for my poor person.   As a matter of fact, lately I have wondered on a few occasions if something that happened, or didn’t, was due to their prayers.

In my email this morning there was a message from the Seven Sisters Apostolate which had some good advice to the women involved about prayer and prayers enemy: distraction.  It seems good to pass it along.

Some pointers …

Blessed Christmastide into Epiphany to dearest Sisters in Christ. Happy and prosperous New Decade of the Lord 2020. Truly, the best is yet to be! He makes all things new (Rev 21:5).

Our noble and good work as Seven Sisters does not shield us from the shared experience of anyone who prays: distraction. And how utterly distracting to be distracted when we are so earnestly offering that prayer for another’s benefit! While such disturbances can appear as a huge hindrance in our prayer efforts like Hokusai’s looming Great Wave, they can also serve as an opportunity for growth in humility, trust and perseverance.

The Catechism devotes one of its four parts entirely to prayer. It brims with information and inspiration alike, reminding that prayer is both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part … that always presupposes effort (2725). It is a work of heart, and often a battle of heart.

Following is an abridged version of a talk I recently presented in Bismarck, ND, of Seven Strategies for Harnessing Distractions in Prayer. May it serve to deepen and direct our prayers.

#1 & #2. Pray with and from a place – outside and in. Sources of distraction are exterior (dog barking, whirring fan) and interior (to-do list, wandering thoughts, worries). The Catechism encourages the use of a prayer corner or “little oratory” in one’s home. Seven Sisters practice the discipline of going to a public oratory: an Adoration Chapel or to a sanctuary before the Tabernacle. This sacred space lessens, albeit does not eliminate, distractions. An interior preparation fortifies one’s resolve against distraction. St Teresa of Avila, entitled the Doctor of Prayer, taught it essential to call to mind one’s relationship as beloved in Christ whenever initiating a prayer time. She believed this strengthened an interior focus that in turn affected the whole of the prayer time. St Ignatius of Loyola, likewise reminded for similar results, to pause before prayer and remember that God is already waiting for us and beholding us: “Consider how the Lord my God looks upon me.”

#3. Pray with a Pen. Two ways: (a) writing thoughts that are wandering through your mind (to-do lists, competing images/ideas), and (b) intentional journaling of thoughts/prayers. Both can convert the distraction into opportunity. Jotting down drifting thoughts helps curb temptations to linger in them and ‘records them’ so one could return to them later (grocery item, remembering to attend to something at home, etc.). In intentional journaling, the concentration required to write generates a mindset less likely to succumb to distraction. An added benefit is returning to notes, even years later, to gain perspective/insight on how God is working in one’s life.

#4. Pray with Fasting. An empty stomach can remind one to earnestly pray, “Lord, fill my soul!” Fasting sharpens an interior vision and listening. Scripture reminds that some things come about by prayer and fasting only. A fruit of the Apostolate is the initiative of Fasting Brothers where groups of six men have risen up alongside various Seven Sister groups. Each man chooses a day to fast (excepting Sunday, a day of feasting) and offers this alongside a Seven Sister who is offering a Holy Hour that day. Intentionally refraining from social media, radio, conversations or the like, in preparation for a Seven Sister Adoration Hour is another aspect of fasting. Too much information can clutter one’s consciousness and reduce an ability for the disciplines of meditation, reflection and interior quietness. Being scattered and distracted in prayer may find its genesis in being scattered and distracted outside of prayer. A form of fasting may serve as remedy.

#5. Pray with the company of Saints. Gaining wisdom from Saintly examples of resolute prayer practices is invaluable. Soliciting their help (especially in moments of distraction) always meets with reward. Our Lady’s model and active assistance in your Holy Hour is sure.

#6. Pray with Purpose. Let us pray with the heart of Nathaniel, one without duplicity. Distraction flourishes with ambiguity and a divided heart. The primary purpose of praying for the highest good for the priests (sanctity) both fortifies and forms the Holy Hours. Many Seven Sister intercessors share that they are not “fitting this Holy Hour into their day’s schedule”, but rather a distinction of “allotting this time within their life of prayer” for this purpose. One Seven Sister shared that after her first weekly Hour was offered, she was able to claim this as the first Holy Hour she ever finished… “I had a mission, a purpose – and it was accomplished!”

#7. Pray with Confidence. Responding to Our Lord’s call to this type of prayer, assures His help. His grace is sufficient… His strength made perfect in weakness (II Cor 12:9). Reality dictates that some Hours offered may meet distractions the likes of Hokusai’s wave. Even the wave has its course. It dissipates. While another may rise, it too will pass. Scripture firmly reminds, “Do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.” St Teresa of Avila helps us: “Prayer is an act of love… even if sickness distracts from thoughts, all that is needed is the will to love.” Indeed, the strength of His love compels our hearts (II Cor 5:14). With all said, a Seven Sister can offer the suffering of distractions for the benefit of the priest. Only in the marvelous perfection of Divine economy can there be such dividends! St Alphonsus Ligouri offers a word of support, “If you have many distractions at prayer, that prayer of yours may well be upsetting the devil a great deal.” Let us remain of good heart, dear Sisters in Christ, and persist, united, with great confidence, in that to which we are called!

The Seven Sisters Apostolate is terrific and deeply needed right now.  I hope that this good initiative will grow in the coming year.

Perhaps some of you will want to contact them.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Ave Maria says:

    We have this apostolate at my parish!

  2. Fr. Kelly says:

    Heartfelt thanks to my Seven Sisters who are praying daily for me

  3. Ms. M-S says:

    Helpful and valuable reflections. Thanks!

  4. BrerJason says:

    Thank you for sharing! This is beneficial instruction at an opportune time.

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  6. VRGG says:

    We started a Seven Sisters group for our pastor in October 2018. It has been a blessing for him as well as for those of us who pray for him. We are more aware of the challenges and difficulties that priests face. Priests are under attack from the devil, society, even sometimes their bishop and/or parishioners. They need physical, mental, and spiritual strength. Without priests, we cannot have two of the most important sacraments for our own well-being: Penance and Eucharist!
    The quote from the Seven Sisters Apostolate website sums it up.
    “In strengthening the priest
    you strengthen the whole Church…
    Strengthen the priest
    and you strengthen the whole foundation,
    you strengthen everything in the Church.”
    — Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald, S.P

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

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