Monday, 25 May 2009

The Object of Mental Prayer

In order to practise mental prayer, or meditation, well, and to make it truly profitable to the soul, we must well ascertain the ends for which we attempt it. First, we must meditate in order to unite ourselves more completely to God. It is not so much good thoughts in the intelligence, as good acts of the will, or holy desires, that unite us to God; and such are the acts that we perform in meditation, acts of humility, confidence, self-sacrifice, resignation, and especially of love and of repentance for our sins. Acts of love, says St. Teresa, are those that keep the soul inflamed with holy love.

Secondly, we must meditate in order to obtain from God, by prayer, the graces that are necessary in order to enable us to advance in the way of salvation, to avoid sin, and to take the means that will lead us to perfection. The best fruit, then, that comes from meditation is the exercise of prayer. Almighty God, ordinarily speaking, does not give grace to any but those who pray. St. Gregory writes, “God desires to be entreated, he desires to be constrained, he desires to be, as it were, conquered by importunity.”1 Observe his words, “ to be conquered by importunity.” At times, in order to obtain graces of special value, it is not enough simply to pray; we must pray urgently, and, as it were, compel God, by our prayers, to give them. It is true that at all times the Lord is ready to hear us; but at the time of meditation, when we are most truly in converse with God, he is most bountiful in giving us his aid.

Above all, we must apply to meditation, in order to obtain perseverance and the holy love of God. Final perseverance is not a single grace, but a chain of graces, to which must correspond the chain of our prayers; if we cease to pray, God will cease to give us his help, and we shall perish. He who does not practise meditation will find the greatest difficulty in persevering in grace till death. Palafox, in his notes on St. Teresa s letters, writes thus: “How will the Lord give us perseverance, if we do not ask it? And how shall we ask for it with out meditation? Without meditation there is no communion with God.”

Thus must we be urgent with prayers to obtain from God his holy love. St. Francis de Sales said that all virtues come in union with holy love. All good things came to me together with her.2 Let our prayer for perseverance and love, therefore, be continual; and, in order to pray with greater confidence, let us ever bear in mind the promise made us by Jesus Christ, that whatever we seek from God through the merits of his Son, he will give it us.3 Let us, then, pray; and pray always, if we would that God should make us bound in every blessing. Let us pray for ourselves, and, if we have zeal for the glory of God, let us pray also for others. It is a thing most pleasing to God to be entreated for unbelievers and heretics, and all sinners. Let the people confess to Thee, O God! let all the people confess to Thee.4 Let us say, O Lord! make them know Thee, make them love Thee. We read in the lives of St. Teresa and St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi how God inspired these holy women to pray for sinners. And to prayer for sinners let us also add prayers for the holy souls in purgatory.

Thirdly: we must apply ourselves to meditation, not for the sake of spiritual consolations, but chiefly in order to learn what is the will of God concerning us. Speak, Lord, said Samuel to God, for Thy servant heareth.5 Lord, make me to know what Thou wilt, that I may do it. Some persons continue meditation as long as consolations continue; but when these cease, they leave off meditation. It is true that God is accustomed to comfort his beloved souls at the time of meditation, and to give them some foretaste of the delights he prepares in heaven for those who love him, These are things which the lovers of the world do not comprehend; they who have no taste except for earthly delights despise those that are celestial. Oh, if they were wise, how surely would they leave their pleasures to shut themselves in their closets, to speak alone with God! Meditation is nothing more than a converse between the soul and God; the soul pours forth to him its affections, its desires, its fears, its requests, and God speaks to the heart, causing it to know his goodness, and the love which he bears it, and what it must do to please him. I will lead her into solitude, and speak to her heart.6

But these delights are not constant, and, for the most part, holy souls experience much dryness of spirit in meditation. “With dryness and temptations,” says St. Teresa, “ the Lord makes proof of those who love him.” And she adds, “ Even if this dryness lasts through life, let not the soul leave off meditation; the time will come when all will be well rewarded.” The time of dryness is the time for gaining the greatest rewards; and when we find ourselves apparently without fervour, without good desires, and, as it were, unable to do a good act, let us humble ourselves, and resign ourselves, for this very meditation will be more fruitful than others. It is enough then to say, if we can say nothing more, “O Lord! help me, have mercy on me, abandon me not!” Let us also have recourse to our comforter, the most holy Mary. Happy he who does not leave off meditation in the hour of desolation. God will make him abound in graces; and therefore let him say:

“O my God, how can I expect to be comforted by Thee! I, who, until this hour, have deserved to be in hell, forever separated from Thee, and deprived of the power of loving Thee any more! I do not therefore grieve, O my God! that Thou deprivest me of Thy consolations; I do not deserve them; I do not pretend to them. It is enough for me to know that Thou wilt never repel a soul that loves Thee. Deprive me not of the power of loving Thee, and then do with me what Thou wilt. If thou wilt that I continue thus afflicted and desolate even till death, and through all eternity, I am content; it is enough that I can say with truth, O my God, I love Thee, I love Thee! Mary, Mother of God, have pity on me!”

1Vult Deus rogari, vult cogi, vult quadam importunitate vinci.

2“Venerunt autem mihi omnia bona pariter cum illa.” -- Wis. vii. 11.

3“Amen, amen dico vobis: si quid petieritis Patrem in nomine meo, dabit vobis.” -- John, xvi. 23.

4“Confiteantur tibi populi, Deus, confiteantur tibi populi omnes.” -- Ps. lxvi. 6.

5“Loquere, Domine, quia audit servus tuus.” -- 1 Kings, iii. 9.

6“Ducam eam in solitudinem, et loquar ad cor ejus.” -- Osee, ii. 14.

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