05 November 2010


It is our opinion that the imagination should be used only when it is strictly necessary; for it is a purely human function and its use is not therefore substantially prayer. This alone is one reason why it should be kept within bounds.

Any purely human faculty, under the influence of grace, can be raised and used for a supernatural end; but the fact remains that the imagination, like all sense activity, is quickly exhausted and soon tires of its object. To form and keep before one’s mind imaginary pictures is very fatiguing, and it is impossible to keep it up for long. We must, therefore, avoid allowing it to play an important or essential part in our prayer. If we are to obey the Gospel command, our prayer must be simple and continuous.

Nor for that matter can the imagination touch supernatural truths, which can only be apprehended by pure faith. All it can do is to play with the shadows of these realities, which are invisible and can only be the object of the theological virtues. Does that mean that we must banish all images from our prayer? That is not possible. But we do suggest that they should be resorted to only when necessary and not otherwise.

If we are thinking of meditating on the Passion of Our Lord, it is as present in our souls that we must first think of Him. Then, with the help of a Crucifix for example, we may, by using our imagination, dwell on all He suffered for us upon the Cross. But all the time we must never lose sight of the fact that Jesus is in our heart. This will not in any way affect the ardour or strength of our feelings of compassion for Our Lord. On the contrary, it is pure faith which gives these feelings their reality and depth; which assures us that just as our sins really made Our Lord suffer in His Passion, so our acts of love have really consoled Him. What an encouragement for a fervent soul to know that it can now, by its love, console Jesus alone in His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. And this is not just imagination: it is the sublime reality of faith.

~ Dom Jean-Baptiste Porion ~