Church Fathers, Day Forty-Seven: St. Augustine tells us to watch for distractions

Church Fathers, Day Forty-Seven: St. Augustine tells us to watch for distractions September 6, 2014

st_augustine_1Watch for distractions when you pray

It’s far too easy to get distracted when we’re trying to pray. St. Augustine was a great observer of nature, and one of the foremost scientists of his day—but he warns us not to let curiosity distract us from more important things.

Our curiosity is tempted every day in the most minute and contempt­ible things. And who can count how many times we succumb? How often, when people are telling idle tales, do we begin by tolerating them (we don’t want to of­fend the weak), and gradually end up listening willingly?

These days I don’t go to the races to see a dog chasing a hare. But if I hap­pen to pass such a pursuit in the fields, it may possibly distract me from serious thought. I don’t turn my horse aside to watch it, but I do turn my mind toward it. And unless you, God, show me my weakness and quickly warn me, either to rise to you from some reflection on the sight itself, or just to despise it completely and pass it by, I—fool that I am—am absorbed by it.

When I’m sitting at home, why am I often distracted by a lizard catching flies, or a spider trapping them in her web? When our hearts are made a vessel for such things, and hold crowds of these abundant distractions, then our prayers are often interrupted and disturbed by them. While we turn our voices to your ears in your presence, such an important matter is broken off by who knows what idle thoughts.

St. Augustine, Confessions, 10.35


Do I let the distractions of everyday life keep me from concentrating on my prayers?

How could I find even just a few minutes every day to give my whole mind over to God?


Lord, grant that I may stand before you in prayer to implore your forgiveness for all my sins.


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