A type of attention whereby the individual excludes voluntary distractions, internal and external, to concentrate all his powers on introspection. Although there are various types of natural recollection, in the spiritual life recollection signifies a concentration of one's powers on God or something related to God. It may be a transitory concentration or a habitual practice whereby the individual directs his faculties to God in order to live in the presence of God. Recollection refers also to one of the required dispositions for prayer or to certain species of prayer.
As a spiritual practice, to live in the presence of God or recollected in God consists in recalling as often as possible that God is present in all places and especially in souls in the state of grace; the former is a presence of immensity, and the latter is the indwelling of the Trinity. Two principal methods of rising this practice are to visualize God as seeing all things at every moment and of directing all things by His providence (this is greatly aided by the use of visual symbols such as crucifixes and paintings) and, second, to live with an awareness of God's presence in the soul, either by the presence of immensity or the indwelling through sanctifying grace. This recollection turns the soul inward, not to seek self, but to seek the God who dwells in the self. Such habitual recollection is a great aid in the practice of prayer, in motivating all one's actions supernaturally, and in overcoming temptations to sin.
As a required disposition for prayer, whether vocal or mental, recollection refers to the attention given to the words of the prayer, the meaning of the words, or the one to whom prayer is addressed (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae 2a2ae, 83.13). Vocal prayer requires attention to the words spoken; meditation requires attention to the meaning of the words; all prayer requires attention to God, who is the one addressed in prayer. In the higher degrees of prayer there is little attention to words and meanings, but an absorbing recollection in God. Obstacles to recollection in prayer may proceed from a variety of causes: temperament, vivid imagination, weak powers of concentration, uncontrolled passions, sensate nature, physical or mental illness, bad habits, environmental factors, or even diabolical intervention. Moreover, the human mind is not capable of maintaining unwavering concentration over a long period of time.
The prayer of recollection is a special type of prayer classified by St. Teresa of Avila as acquired recollection and called by Bossuet the prayer of simplicity. Other authors refer to it as the prayer of simple gaze, of the presence of God, or the simple vision of faith. It is also called acquired contemplation, to signify that it is the highest degree of ascetical or active prayer and the bridge to mystical or passive prayer. Unlike meditation, which is discursive and intellectual, or affective prayer, which utilizes the will predominantly, acquired recollection is a simple loving gaze upon God or some mystery related to God, and all the powers are recollected in this unified activity.
The prayer of infused recollection, known also as infused contemplation, is the first degree of truly mystical prayer, which operates under the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is a supernatural prayer that cannot be cultivated by one's own efforts, even with the help of ordinary grace, but is due to the intervention of God, who gathers the soul and all its faculties and concentrates them on Himself. It is accompanied by a sense of God's presence, a vivid illumination of the intellect, and a suspension of the lower powers. All the ascending degrees of mystical prayer are characterized by recollection and passivity. The prayer of infused recollection especially affects the intellect; the prayer of quiet engages the will; the prayer of union captivates all the internal faculties. In the prayer of simple union the external senses are still free; in the prayer of ecstatic union the external senses are recollected in God and withdrawn from their natural objects. The awareness of God's presence becomes so intense that the soul is led at last to the prayer of the transforming union or mystical marriage, which is the immediate disposition for the beatific vision.
Bibliography: a. royo, The Theology of Christian Perfection, ed. and tr. j. aumann (Dubuque 1962) 505–570. teresa of Ávila, The Way of Perfection, ch. 28–31; Interior Castle, 4th Mansions, 7th Mansions. j. g. arintero, Stages in Prayer, tr. k. pond (St. Louis 1957). a. f. poulain, The Graces of Interior Prayer, tr. l. l. yorke smith, ed. j. v. bainvel (St. Louis 1950). g. lercaro, Methods of Mental Prayer, tr. t. f. lindsay (Westminster, Md. 1957).
rec·ol·lec·tion / ˌrekəˈlekshən/ • n. the action or faculty of remembering something: to the best of my recollection no one ever had a bad word to say about him. ∎ a thing recollected; a memory: a biography based on his wife's recollections. ∎ Philos. (in Platonic thought) anamnesis.DERIVATIVES: rec·ol·lec·tive / -tiv/ adj.