The Practice of Recollection

This isn’t an oblique reference to Back to the Future but a brief thought about something most of us need more than we realise: the habit of taking a few moments throughout the day to pause our activity, go into ourselves, as it were, and emerge with a more thoughtful, more purposeful grasp of what we are about.

The Latin word from which we get ‘recollection’, recolligere, means ‘to gather back’; and I think most of us understand how easily we become dispersed or unfocused in the course of the day. For monks and nuns it is easier, of course. We have the structure of the Divine Office to remind us, at regular times, of God and the things of God. But in a busy life, where the majority of the people we meet probably have little religious understanding, we’d be thought odd, if not actually mad, were we to make any kind of physical withdrawal in order to pray. Unlike our Jewish and Muslim friends, we Christians have largely abandoned the ancient practice of formal prayer at set times throughout the day. That doesn’t mean, however, that we have to give up the idea of turning to God in the course of our everyday life. We can practise recollection anywhere and at any time.

There are many opportunities for finding a moment or two to recollect ourselves. Walking from one floor to another (you do take the stairs, not the lift, don’t you?), before switching on the car, while waiting for the kettle to boil, we can turn to God interiorly and simply lay before him all that we are and do. Grace works to a timetable of its own. All we have to do is open ourselves to it; and that doesn’t take very long or require ‘optimum conditions’. How about making ‘Give grace a chance’ our slogan for today?


5 thoughts on “The Practice of Recollection”

  1. I find bus journeys an ideal time for ‘going within’. It’s a betwixt and between time when I have left one place/activity but have not yet arrived at the next.

  2. The time for reflection or recollection is precious and we waste it quite a lot. I do try to stop and reflect and at least have the excuse that retirement means that I’m only busy on domestic chores or when I’m researching for essays (bane of my life) or for sermons (a privilege afforded to me in the past year or so that I truly value).

    I have taken up table tennis in recent months, and it’s having a good affect on my health, mobility and weight, but also on recollection – watching more skilled players, playing shots and working out how I can do that – it takes discipline patience, but eventually we get there.

    This is a transferable skill to recollection. Watching to see where God might be working in ourselves or in others and thanking him for the Gift of Grace, which permits us to serve in quite unexpected ways, others, the Church.

    It’s great for instance to be learning so late in life, that it’s not us who are in control, but God and allowing him to take the lead. It takes us to unexpected places, encounters and enlightens somehow of God’s action which is such a powerful instrument, working among us, that we often don’t see it, until its results become obvious.

    That is where recollection comes in and is so useful to take the time and stop and to reflect upon it.

  3. Finding/making/spending time whatever I call it – is very hard to do when it comes to reflection/recollection. I have found it useful to mark out routine times in my day as suggested. I walk to work and pass two churches. I make an effort to spend the moments as I see the buildings, time for reflection. I have had problems (even when with people who have been brought up as Christians like me) if I try to reflect before a meal then say grace. Any hint of this seems to make people feel very awkward.
    It is thus easier to do at times when there is nobody else around but these are fewer and fewer these days…

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