Kataphatic or Apophatic Prayer?

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Did you know that Ignatian prayer is “kataphatic” as opposed to “apophatic?” Neither did I.

Actually, these fancy words point to a useful distinction. “Kataphatic” prayer has content; it uses words, images, symbols, ideas. “Apophatic” prayer has no content. It means emptying the mind of words and ideas and simply resting in the presence of God. Centering prayer is apophatic. Ignatian prayer is mostly kataphatic.

That’s an oversimplification. Here’s an article by Frederick McLeod, SJ, that explains the details.

About Jim Manney 787 Articles
Jim Manney is a popular writer on Ignatian topics (God Finds Us, A Simple, Life-Changing Prayer) as well as the editor of many books on Ignatian spirituality, including What Is Ignatian Spirituality? He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

4 Comments on Kataphatic or Apophatic Prayer?

  1. 3 Years ago when I discovered and began studying the Blessed Angela of Foligno and john Scotus Eriugena, et. al, and the Apophatic path, it was truly a revelation that was deeply resonant with my spiritual aspirations at that time and up to today.

  2. They are of course not mutually exclusive. Recitation of the rosary, for example, can take us naturally from one to the other and back again within the same period of time.

  3. Thanks for posting this Jim.
    The article by Fr. McLeod clearly described both methods. It is great to see both being validated and encouraged for practice.

  4. I rather dislike the term “centering prayer” for more than a single reason. Clearly, a proper relationship with God minimizes the self and magnifies the Lord. Perhaps I misunderstand, but I cannot, for example, envision centering prayer while enjoying the Beatific vision. “Deo centric” – now that is a concept I can grasp, whether in stillness or in active prayer.

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