The spiritual tradition of the “practice of the presence of God” was an important element of Eugene’s lived relationship with God. He referred to it in this retreat of 1817 that we are examining and would do so regularly in the future. Five years before he had written a text on this that showed the importance of the practice for him.
But however holy, however excellent this prayer may be, it is not sufficient to fulfil the Saviour’s precept which calls for our prayer to be continual, the need to pray always and not to lose heart. [Luke 18:1].
Anyone would therefore be deluding himself if he thought he had wholly satisfied his obligations by saying his breviary reasonably well, even if he had celebrated the divine Mysteries as well: the need to pray always and not to lose heart. This continual prayer is not at all impossible as some might think, it would even be impious to say so since Our Lord who laid it down could not command something that was impractical.
A simple and easy way of fulfilling this precept is the practice of the presence of God and ejaculatory prayers, adding to that the important, vital meditation which is like the arsenal that supplies the provisions for the day, while I meditated a fire came alight [Ps. 39:3]. By means of this holy practice, the faithful soul is ceaselessly in the company of his beloved, and if for a few moments it is obliged to be absent, it finds a way to show him, even from afar, that its greatest good would be never to leave him, it makes use for this purpose of ejaculatory prayers which are like so many arrows of love which one lets fly towards God to draw his grace into our hearts.
And so during the day whether I am studying or eating or walking or alone or in the company of other persons, I will take great pains to keep myself in the presence of God, watching over myself so as never to do a thing that might sadden my good Father, and to bear witness to my love for him, I will turn often towards him by means of short but lively aspirations, secret yearnings, loving glances towards the images which trace for us what he has done for us, his all-too-ungrateful creatures.
Rule drawn up on my retreat in Aix, December 1812, O.W. XV n. 109
In this same spiritual tradition, Francis of Assisi insists: “The result of prayer is life. Prayer irrigates the earth and heart.”