Wednesday, 28 May 2014
Necessity Of Prayer For All Adults In Order to Attain Eternal Life, pt. 8.(On Mental Prayer Section II) By The Very Rev. John Baptist Pagani.
Method of mental prayer useful for the purification of the soul and the advancement in perfection.
The method of meditation which is generally recommended by the masters of the spiritual life, as being most useful for the purification of the soul and the advancement in perfection, comprehends three parts—the preparation, the body of the meditation, and the conclusion.
If the soul go on regularly in her meditation, and does not soon wander and fall into aridity, let her follow the sweet attraction of grace without thinking of method; but if in her meditation she encounter difficulties, and gets confused, let her subject herself rigorously to the method we are laying down, which will be useful for all to learn, that it may be practised when required.
On the preparation for meditation.
It is most important to prepare our souls for prayer,
If we wish to draw from it those blessed fruits of justice and sanctification which it is calculated to produce. "Before prayer," says the Holy Ghost, "prepare thy soul, and be not like a man that tempteth God." Certainly the reflection, that in prayer we are speaking to the God of infinite majesty and glory—to the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth—ought to inspire us with great reverence, and to induce us to prepare ourselves for that holy exercise with great diligence and care. The object of prayer is, to obtain from God the inestimable blessing of sharing in His sanctity. Now this requires that God should be willing, on His part, to bestow upon us this sublime gift, and that we should co-operate on ours towards obtaining it; but when we enter upon prayer without any preparation, we leave every thing to God, without doing what lies in our own power in order to second the movement of His grace, and thus we are said to tempt Him.
St. Bernard insists, in an especial manner, upon the importance of a suitable preparation for prayer, if we desire to reap fruit from it, and says, that such as our preparation is, such will be the benefit which we shall derive from it. This is in accordance with our Saviour's doctrine, who says, "He that hath, to him shall be given; but from him that hath not, that also which he seemeth to have shall be taken away." To him that cometh to prayer well prepared, great blessings shall be given, and he shall abound; but to him that comes unprepared, nothing shall be granted, and that also which he fancies he possesses shall be taken away.
The preparation for meditation is twofold, remote and proximate.
Remote preparation consists, 1st, in reading over with care the subject of meditation the evening before, and fixing upon the points; 2ndly, in turning the mind to the matter of our meditation when lying down to rest, and recalling the points, and also fixing upon some short aspiration which refers to our meditation, and contains, as it were, the substance of it, which we may repeat when we awake in the night; 3rdly, in directing our thoughts to the subject of our meditation as soon as we awake in the morning.
The proximate meditation contains the preparatory prayer and the preludes.
The preparatory prayer comprises four acts: 1st. An act of faith in the presence of God. 2nd. An act of contrition for our sins, and especially for such as are more calculated to obstruct the fruit of the meditation. 3rd. A resolution to avoid all faults, and particularly those which might hinder the good success of the meditation. 4th. An act of abandonment into the hands of God, ready to suffer aridities and desolation, or to enjoy sweetness and onsolation, according to His good pleasure and most adorable will.
The preludes are generally three. The first consists in recalling to mind the preceding meditation, if there be any connexion between them, otherwise this prelude is omitted. The second consists in constructing to ourselves the place or scene of the meditation. For instance, if the subject of meditation is apt to affect the senses, such as death, the passion of Christ, &c, to imagine ourselves lying on the death-bed, about to expire,—to be on Calvary at the foot of the cross, seeing all that passes there. If the subject of meditation be some truth which does not admit of any sensible demonstration, such as the goodness of God, &c. we may imagine ourselves living in this world as in a place of exile, amongst the brute creation, at a distance from our true country. If, however, a person cannot form to himself the scene of his meditation without using great violence to his mind through defect of imagination, or for some other cause, it will be better to omit it. The third is a petition in which we beg of God to grant us that particular fruit which we intend to draw from our meditation.
On the body of the meditation.
The body of the meditation comprises three parts, namely, the acts of the memory, of the understanding, and of the will.
The act of the memory consists in recalling to mind the substance of the meditation; and if the points have in any way escaped the memory, it will be well to recall them by reading again the matter of our meditation. This exercise of the memory requires but a very short time, and is intended merely to prepare for the act of the understanding.
The act of the understanding consists,
1st. In considering what are the truths contained in the subject of the meditation.
2ndly. In weighing the importance of these truths, reflecting on the necessity,the utility, the equity, the dignity, the sweetness, and facility of putting in practice the instructions which are contained in them, and the spiritual loss we shall suffer by neglecting them. Here we must guard ourselves against several faults, which would greatly impede the fruit of our meditations. In the first place, we must be careful to avoid useless and abstract reflections, which are foreign to our purpose, and not calculated to bring any spiritual profit to our souls. Secondly, we must beware of entering upon the consideration of many truths at one and the same time, but we must proceed with order. And lastly, we must endeavour to advance with peace and calmness, and without being uneasy, if we find too little or too much matter of reflection.
3rdly. In applying the truths which we have been considering to our own conduct, comparing our own actions with them, discovering the various faults which we may have committed against them, searching diligently for this purpose into the most hidden recesses of our hearts.
4thly. In finding out the causes of our faults,—the hidden roots of our sins.
5thly. In reflecting upon the best means for eradicating them from our hearts, and for avoiding them for the future, by the aid of Divine grace. We shall be greatly assisted to find out these means if we reflect, 1st, upon what would be our own advice to a beloved friend were he placed in the like situation; 2dly, what would be our sentiments, our own desires, if we were standing before the judgment^seat of Christ; 3dly, upon the love and gratitude which God deserves from us for the many favours and blessings which He has so graciously bestowed upon us.
The act of the will consists in making the resolutions, and confirming them by pious affections. It comprehends,
1st. An act of profound humility at the sight of the many faults and sins of which we discover that we have been guilty before God.
2ndly. An act of contrition and detestation of our sins.
3rdly. A resolution to avoid them for the future, and to adopt the proper means to effect this. With respect to this act of resolution, we must, in the first place, be careful not to make it in general terms, but descend to particulars, directing it against some particular faults. In the second place, we must direct this, our resolution, against those faults which are really sinful, and defile our soul in the sight of God, in preference to those faults which are only external. In the third place, the resolution must be directed to the performance of the duties of our state, and of those things which are of obligation, before those which are only of supererogation. To animate us to make our resolution with fervour and devotion, we may imagine that we see the throne of God described by St. John surrounded with great majesty; that we behold the angels standing as witnesses, who will denounce us in the day of judgment if we do not keep our promises.
4thly. An act of diffidence in our own strength on account of our extreme weakness, and of the corruption of our nature by sin.
5thly. An act of confidence in God; for although we have every reason to fear when we reflect on our own weakness, yet when we turn our eyes to God, and call to mind His infinite goodness and mercy, and the powerful assistance of His holy grace, we ought to feel animated with the greatest confidence that we shall be able to keep our promises faithfully, through the help of Him who strengthens us.
6thly. The acts of petition to God, begging for grace and strength to keep our resolutions faithfully until death. These petitions may be made either to God the Father, through His beloved Son, or to God the Son through the merits of His bitter passion and death, or to the Holy Ghost through that ardent love He has ever shewn to men. We may also beg of God to grant our request through the intercession of the blessed Virgin Mary and our patron Saints, and particularly through the merits of the Saints whose festival the Church celebrates on that day. To perform with fervour this act of petition, we may imagine that we are standing before God as a sick person before his physician, or as a famishing beggar before some rich and merciful lord.
7thly. An act of love, which consists, 1st, in preferring the possession of God to all created objects, to all the riches, honours, and pleasures of this world; 2ndly, in rejoicing in the infinite glory and eternal beatitude of God, and eagerly desiring to see Him still more glorified by every creature; 3rdly, in regretting that we have by our sins in some manner lessened His intrinsic glory.
On the conclusion of meditation.
The third part of meditation consists in the conclusion, or the examination of meditation, which should last but a few minutes. In order to perform it well, examine,1st, whether you have made your meditation with fervour, as far as human infirmity would permit; 2ndly, whether you have faithfully spent the whole time allotted for your meditation; 3rdly, whether you have attended to the method of meditation with care; or if not, whether this has been occasioned by your following the sweet impulses of the Holy Spirit, or rather by your indulging your own sloth or fancy.
Taken from - The Way to Heaven. A Manual of Devotion. By The Very Rev. John Baptist Pagani.