Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Recollection

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Recollection, as understood in respect to the spiritual life, means attention to the presence of God in the soul. It includes the withdrawal of the mind from external and earthly affairs in order to attend to God and Divine things. It is the same as interior solitude in which the soul is alone with God.

This recollection is twofold:


  • Active recollection may be acquired by our own efforts aided by the ordinary grace of God. Thus any devout soul can acquire the habit of thinking of God's presence and of fixing attention upon Him and his Divine perfections.
  • Passive recollection does not depend upon our own efforts, but is an extraordinary grace infused by God, by which He summons together the faculties of the soul and manifests His presence and His perfections; this kind of recollection is classed by mystical writiers as the first degree of infused contemplation.

The first kind of recollection belongs to ascetical devotion and practice. It is necessary for all who wish to attain Christian perfection. Without it, it is most difficult to make progress in virtue. Therefore, it is necessary to observe the means by which it may be acquired. These are:


  • silence and solitude, according to our state of life, keeping in mind, at the same time, that one may be recollected amidst the duties of an active life;
  • the avoidance of distracting and dissipating occupations not dictated by reason or required by necessity. Multiplicity of occupations is an obstacle to recollection. Father Faber says that the man who undertakes too much is a foolish man, if not a guilty one.
  • The frequent exercise of the presence of God. As recollection is itself an application of the mind to the Divine presence within us, it is evident that the shortest way to its acquisition is frequently to call to mind that our souls are the temples of God.

BELLECIUS, Solid Virtue (Dublin 1879); BLOSIUS, A Book of Spiritual Instruction, tr. WILBERFORCE (London, 1900); POULAIN, The Graces of Interior Prayer (London, 1910).

Arthur Devine.