45 – You never know where and how you will find God

It is especially during moments of doubt and affliction, that all Christians know where and how to find God and obtain relief for their souls. Prayer, whether mental or vocal, is where we have the certainty of finding God, as he himself has promised us: ‘where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them’ (Mt 18:17). The Most High is always disposed to hear us and attend to our necessities. At any moment we can put our soul in contact with him, all we have to do is recollect ourselves in the midst of our daily cares, and direct a plea to him, and he speaks to us mysteriously in the depths of our heart and our conscience.

This idea, which sounds so natural to us, seems to clash with the affirmation: ‘You never know where and how you will find God’ since ‘you are not setting the time and place of the encounter with him’. Has God changed his way of reacting to our requests? Is there a new way of encountering God?

We need to clarify concepts.


Quote AQuote BQuote C
We must enter into the adventure of the quest for meeting God; we must let God search and encounter us.
Because God is first; God is always first and makes the first move. God is a bit like the almond flower of your Sicily, Antonio, which always blooms first. We read it in the Prophets. God is encountered walking, along the path. At this juncture, someone might say that this is relativism. Is it relativism? Yes, if it is misunderstood as a kind of indistinct pantheism. It is not relativism if it is understood in the biblical sense, that God is always a surprise, so you never know where and how you will find him. You are not setting the time and place of the encounter with him. You must, therefore, discern the encounter. Discernment is essential. (Interview with Antonio Spadaro, August 19, 2013)
The first attitude is that of regarding every man and woman, even those of different religious traditions, not as rivals, less still enemies, but rather as brothers and sisters. When a person is secure of his or her own beliefs, there is no need to impose or put pressure on others: there is a conviction that truth has its own power of attraction. Deep down, we are all pilgrims on this earth, and on this pilgrim journey, as we yearn for truth and eternity, we do not live autonomous and self-sufficient individual lives; the same applies to religious, cultural and national communities. We need each other, and are entrusted to each other’s care. Each religious tradition, from within, must be able to take account of others. (Meeting with the leaders of other religions and other Christian denominations, September 21, 2014)
[Francis]: That is why the Spirit is the author of unity among Christians. That is why unity comes about on our journey, because unity is a grace that one should ask for, and that is why I also repeat that all proselytism among Christians is sinful. The Church never grows due to proselytism but rather “by attraction”, as Benedict XVI said. Proselytism among Christians, therefore, is in itself a grave sin.
[Avvenire]: Why?
[Francis]: Because it contradicts the very dynamic of how to become and continue being Christian. The Church is not a soccer team looking for fans.(Interview with Avvenire, November 18, 2016English summary)

Teachings of the Magisterium

Enter the various parts of our study


I – God takes the initiative, but he demands our cooperation and help
II – God gave us the means to find Him easily

I – God takes the initiative, but he demands our cooperation and help

Pius XII

An unhealthy quietism: attribute the whole spiritual life to the God’s action, neglecting our due collaboration

No less far from the truth is the dangerous error of those who endeavor to deduce from the mysterious union of us all with Christ a certain unhealthy quietism. They would attribute the whole spiritual life of Christians and their progress in virtue exclusively to the action of the Divine Spirit, setting aside and neglecting the collaboration which is due from us. No one, of course, can deny that the Holy spirit of Jesus Christ is the one source of whatever supernatural powers enters into the Church and its members. For ‘The Lord will give grace and glory’ as the Psalmist says (Ps 83:12). But that men should persevere constantly in their good works, that they should advance eagerly in grace and virtue, that they should strive earnestly to reach the heights of Christian perfection and at the same time to the best of their power should stimulate others to attain the same goal, – all this the heavenly Spirit does not will to effect unless they contribute their daily share of zealous activity. ‘For divine favors are conferred not on those who sleep, but on those who watch,’ as Saint Ambrose says (Expos. Evang. sec. Luc., IV, 49; PL 15, 1626). For if in our mortal body the members are strengthened and grow through continued exercise, much more truly can this be said of the social Body of Jesus Christ in which each individual member retains his own personal freedom, responsibility, and principles of conduct. For that reason he who said: ‘I live, now not I, but Christ liveth in me’ (Gal 2:20) did not at the same time hesitate to assert: ‘His (God’s) grace in me has not been void, but I have labored more abundantly than all they: yet not I, but the grace of God with me’ (1Cor 15:10). (Pius XII. Encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi, no. 87, June 29, 1943)

II – God gave us the means to find Him easily

Sacred Scripture

Jesus himself taught us where and how to find him

Again, (amen) I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Mt 18: 19-20)

Catechism of the Catholic Church

We can be continually in the presence of God

Thus, the life of prayer is the habit of being in the presence of the thrice-holy God and in communion with him. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2565)

Ways of placing ourselves in the presence of God

The Lord leads all persons by paths and in ways pleasing to him, and each believer responds according to his heart’s resolve and the personal expressions of his prayer. However, Christian Tradition has retained three major expressions of prayer: vocal, meditative, and contemplative. They have one basic trait in common: composure of heart. This vigilance in keeping the Word and dwelling in the presence of God makes these three expressions intense times in the life of prayer. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2699)

Vatican Council II (Ecumenical XXI)

The Liturgy, a way to encounter God

To accomplish so great a work, Christ is always present in His Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations. He is present in the sacrifice of the Mass, not only in the person of His minister, ‘the same now offering, through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered himself on the cross’ ( Council of Trent, Session XXII, Doctrine on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, c. 2), but especially under the Eucharistic species. By His power He is present in the sacraments, so that when a man baptizes it is really Christ Himself who baptizes (cf. Saint Augustine, Tractatus in Ioannem, 6, n. 7). He is present in His word, since it is He Himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the Church. He is present, lastly, when the Church prays and sings, for He promised: ‘Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them’ (Mt 18:20). Christ indeed always associates the Church with Himself in this great work wherein God is perfectly glorified and men are sanctified. The Church is His beloved Bride who calls to her Lord, and through Him offers worship to the Eternal Father. (Vatican Council II, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum concilium, No. 7, December 4, 1963)

Pius XII

God sets the time and place to meet with us

But it is His will, besides, that the worship He instituted and practiced during His life on earth shall continue ever afterwards without intermission. For he has not left mankind an orphan. He still offers us the support of His powerful, unfailing intercession, acting as our ‘advocate with the Father’ (cf. 1 Jn 2:1). He aids us likewise through His Church, where He is present indefectibly as the ages run their course: through the Church which He constituted ‘the pillar of truth’ (cf. 1Tim 3:15) and dispenser of grace, and which by His sacrifice on the cross, He founded, consecrated and confirmed forever (cf. Boniface IX, Ab origine mundi; Callistus III, Summus Pontifex; Pius II, Triumphans Pastor; Innocent XI, Triumphans Pastor). (Pius XII. Encyclical Mediator Dei, No. 18, November 20, 1947)

Mutual encounter is good, but to live in Christ is better and more necessary

But the chief element of divine worship must be interior. For we must always live in Christ and give ourselves to Him completely, so that in Him, with Him and through Him the heavenly Father may be duly glorified. (Pius XII. Encyclical Mediator Dei, no. 24, November 20, 1947)

Sacraments possess objective power to make us sharers in the divine life of Jesus Christ

It is an unquestionable fact that the work of our redemption is continued, and that its fruits are imparted to us, during the celebration of the liturgy, notable in the august sacrifice of the altar. Christ acts each day to save us, in the sacraments and in His holy sacrifice. By means of them He is constantly atoning for the sins of mankind, constantly consecrating it to God. Sacraments and sacrifice do, then, possess that ‘objective’ power to make us really and personally sharers in the divine life of Jesus Christ. Not from any ability of our own, but by the power of God, are they endowed with the capacity to unite the piety of members with that of the head, and to make this, in a sense, the action of the whole community. (Pius XII. Encyclical Mediator Dei, No. 29, November 20, 1947)

At Holy Mass, God will undoubtedly be present

The unbloody immolation at the words of consecration, when Christ is made present upon the altar in the state of a victim, is performed by the priest and by him alone, as the representative of Christ and not as the representative of the faithful. (Pius XII. Encyclical Mediator Dei, No. 92, November 20, 1947)

Through prayer we can encounter the Blessed Trinity

To this lofty dignity of the Church’s prayer, there should correspond earnest devotion in our souls. For when in prayer the voice repeats those hymns written under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost and extols God’s infinite perfections, it is necessary that the interior sentiment of our souls should accompany the voice so as to make those sentiments our own in which we are elevated to heaven, adoring and giving due praise and thanks to the Blessed Trinity; ‘so let us chant in choir that mind and voice may accord together’ (Saint Benedict, Regula Monachorum, c. 19). It is not merely a question of recitation or of singing which, however perfect according to norms of music and the sacred rites, only reaches the ear, but it is especially a question of the ascent of the mind and heart to God so that, united with Christ, we may completely dedicate ourselves and all our actions to Him. (Pius XII. Encyclical Mediator Dei, No. 145, November 20, 1947)

Saint Irenaeus of Lyon

Our place of encounter: where the Church is, there God is; and vice versa

‘For in the Church,’ it is said, ‘God hath set apostles, prophets, teachers’(1Cor 12:28), and all the other means through which the Spirit works; of which all those are not partakers who do not join themselves to the Church, but defraud themselves of life through their perverse opinions and infamous behavior. For where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church, and every kind of grace; but the Spirit is truth. (Saint Irenaeus of Lyons. Against Heresies, Book III, Ch. 24)

John Paul II

Ever since the olden times God could been encountered in his temple

The Psalmist reminds us that God was in constant touch with his people through Moses and Aaron, his mediators, and through Samuel, his prophet. He spoke and was heard, he punished offenses but also forgave. The sign of his presence among his people was ‘his footstool’, namely, the throne of the Ark of the Temple of Zion (cf. vv. 5-8). (John Paul II. General audience, November 27, 2002)

Saint Augustine of Hippo

If the soul does not elevate itself, it does not know where or how to find God

‘I thought on these things, and poured out my soul above myself’ (Psalm 41:4). When would my soul attain to that object of its search, which is ‘above my soul’, if my soul were not to ‘pour itself out above itself’? For were it to rest in itself, it would not see anything else beyond itself; and in seeing itself, would not, for all that, see God. (Saint Augustine of Hippo. Exposition on Psalm 42, no.7)

Where to find God?

For when I was ‘pouring out my soul above myself,’ in order to reach my God, why did I do so? ‘For I will go into the place of Your Tabernacle’. For I should be in error were I to seek for my God without ‘the place of His tabernacle’. ‘For I will go into the place of Your wonderful tabernacle, even unto the house of God’. (Saint Augustine of Hippo. Exposition on Psalm 42, no.8)

God is also found in the souls of his faithful

For there are already many things that I admire in ‘the tabernacle’. See how great wonders I admire in the tabernacle! For God’s tabernacle on earth is the faithful; I admire in them the obedience of even their bodily members: that in them ‘Sin does not reign so that they should obey its lusts; neither do they yield their members instruments of unrighteousness unto sin; but unto the living God in good works’ (Rom 6:12-13). (Saint Augustine of Hippo. Exposition on Psalm 42, no.8)

Pius X

Necessity of constant prayer for spiritual progress

It is the priest, more than any other, who is bound to obey scrupulously the command of Christ: We ought always pray (Lk 18:1). […] How numerous are the opportunities of turning to God in prayer which present themselves daily to the soul which is eager for its own sanctification and the salvation of others! Anguish of soul, the persistent onslaught of temptation, our lack of virtue, slackness and failure in our works, our many offenses and negligences, fear of the divine judgment, all these should move us to approach the Lord with tears, in order to obtain help from him and also to increase without difficulty the treasure of our merit in his eyes. (Pius X. Apostolic Exhortation Haerent animo, August 4, 1908)

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