Friday, July 31, 2009

Kataphatic prayer

Artist: Francisco Zurbaran

Our friend, Monk-in-Training, reminded me this morning that today is the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Ignatius, of course, is historically, one of the most well known proponents of kataphatic spirituality - that is, using images in prayer. Here's somethinge brief about that from Inner Compass: An Invitation to Ignatian Spirituality by Margaret Silf:

He began to find himself, in imagination, present in the scenes, conversations, and stories of the Gospels, and he began to participate in the plots of these stories. It was the start, for him, of an adventure into imaginative prayer that was to become a most powerful catalyst for the growth of his personal relationship with God..
Sadly, I've heard some praying people assert that apophatic prayer (without images) is somehow "better" or more authentic than kataphatic prayer. I don't think such an assessment is at all justifiable. The kind of prayer that a person finds accessible is largely a matter of temperament and personality. If our prayer brings us to surrender to God, then it's "good" prayer. If it doesn't, then something needs to be re-examined.


  1. Thank you for this. God often gives me kataphatic prayer, and the tendency of some to rank the types has been difficult for me.

    Plus, I didn't know the term kataphatic before. It helps to have a name for my experiences. And to know that it is part of such a respected tradition is really cool for me.

  2. My spiritual director said "Pray as you can, not as you can't." I believe your point of how we recognize "good prayer" is excellent. We are not all alike and one size does not fit all. God uses an endless variety of ways to reach us. Imagining my way into the Gospels is a non-starter for me but a great help to many others. It seems an unwise form of spiritual pride to rank methods. Blessings on all the Ignatians!


New policy: Anonymous posts must be signed or they will be deleted. Pick a name, any name (it could be Paperclip or Doorknob), but identify yourself in some way. Thank you.