A Spiritual Syllogism:
If: God wants to talk to us, and hear from us … Then: He will give us "lines of communication" called prayer and meditation … Therefore: We should pray and meditate frequently!
Are you praying and meditating? Do you need help?
How to Meditate: "Come away by yourselves, to a quiet place, and rest a while." +Mk 6:31…
I. There are THREE TYPES OF PRAYER-(from: Catechism of the Catholic Church): Paragraphs 2701-2713…
- ORATIO/Vocal Prayer: "Jesus teaches a vocal prayer, the Our Father. He not only prayed aloud the liturgical prayers of the synagogue but, as the Gospels show, He raised His voice to express personal prayer…"
- MEDITATIO: "We must pass from thoughts to reality…we discover within meditation the movements that stir the heart and we are able to discern them…Christians owe it to themselves to develop the desire to meditate regularly…Meditation
involves thought, imagination, emotion and desire. This mobilization of the faculties is necessary in order to deepen our convictions of faith, prompt conversion of heart and strengthen our will to follow Christ."
- CONTEMPLATIO: " 'Contemplative prayer is in my opinion nothing other than a close sharing between friends' (St Teresa of Avila)…In this inner prayer…our attention is fixed on the Lord Himself…Contemplative prayer is a communion in which
the Holy Trinity conforms man, the image of God, 'to His likeness.'…It is a gift, a grace."
What is meditation? It is a DAILY DISCIPLINE OF DESIRE DELVING INTO /DIVINE TRUTHS
- DAILY: our prayer and practice is not sporadic, but consistent and continued renewed every day…
- DISCIPLINE: love has a form, which takes preparation, self-mastery, exercising, training, regulation, orderliness-it is a consistency of communion with God…
- DESIRE: mobilizing and directing love (a faculty or power of the will) described by words like: spiritual inclination, holy attraction, Christ-centered fervor, loving emotions- all, which link to an ultimate goal-God Himself.
- DELVING:the mind and intellect: thinking, chewing, investigating, searching an object…
- DIVINITY/DIVINE TRUTHS:based upon/within Christian topics or truths-which are, formally, the object or subject of meditation.
The BODY of the Meditation
Remember the letters--"PTA". This is the most important part of meditation--
- PREPARE/PRESENT: prepare beforehand, before arriving in meditation time, the object of meditation-chose a holy text, thought, which you want to pray over…What are the sensual aspects of the object of meditation: the sights, sounds,
smells, emotional qualities that your "mind's eye" will think about.
- THINKING (Considerations):Personally and spiritually think over the object of meditation. Some ways of imaging this inner process:
- Spade image=the mind/intellect is turning over the object of meditation, as sifting thru a rich soil which previously hid sacred contents-the more sifting you do the more is revealed to you;
- The "mind chews" (meditare= "to chew") upon a spiritual food, secreting the holy flavors within, which are pleasing and nourishing; the mind and will relish in the spiritual delight; unless there is a spiritual "chewing" there is no
- FLASHLIGHT= as the mind thinks it en-lightens (lights up) the object of meditation in new ways, as a light flashes within a dark cave, revealing hidden objects
- ASPIRE: to lift up holy thoughts, esp. of thankfulness, adoration, --acts of the will--to form affections of heartfelt love to and for God and what He has revealed to you in meditation. This is the "spiritual cord" interlocking you and
God that is felt, formed and perpetuated (otherwise meditation and faith is only a surface/"head-only" exercise. Aspiring means linking to God… Remember: Keep meditation regimented but not rigid.
+St Ignatius emphasizes the senses; understanding in meditation… +St Sulpice emphasizes union w/Incarnate Word-Jesus Christ within…Use both to your help and God's glory!
OBSTACLES to Prayer and Meditation:
- DRYNESS: as a desert is parched of water, so the soul can be purified of excessive emotionality and consolations, surface affections that previously preoccupied, excited or fulfilled the soul, and which now, removed, create a "withdrawal
syndrome" within. The soul must aspire to a more spiritual and purified relationship with God, Whom is reached more by Faith than by emotions (these can help but not exhaust our prayer relationship). Make conscious and loving acts of will and faith, and
trustfully waiting upon God to polish the maturing soul…the needed virtue is fortitude/perseverance
- DISTRACTIONS: Two responses may be taken-1) Direct confrontation= immediately and repeatedly closing the door to the distraction and opening the door to God, or a holy word or thought. 2) Sublimation= within reason, if mature enough,
utilizing the distraction and offering to God, and His assistance to take over and deal with
SUBJECTS FOR MEDITATION: may include:
- Bible-esp. of Our Lord and Our Lady/ The Eucharist;
- Mysteries of the Faith and Creed (on the Trinity, the Divine Persons, Heaven, the virtues);
- The Rosary Mysteries;
- Saint's lives;
- Solid spiritual books;
- The Crucifix.
CONCLUSION: "Never forget your mental prayer, meditation time." +St Teresa of Avila… Take ten minutes each day, increasing in a month to a half-hour, to meditate. Persevere!
Suggested Spiritual Readings:
+Soul of the Apostolate, Chautard…………+The Ways of Mental Prayer, Lehodey…+The Spiritual Life: A.Tanquerrey…+St. Teresa of Avila: The Interior Castle…+St John of the Cross: The Ascent of Mt. Carmel.
II. Spiritual Travels
This past week I went to visit my French-American-Catholic cousin at Christendom College, in Front Royal, Virginia. Some observations: +She is doing well there and likes it in this tres Catholique couture (very Catholic culture-I'm learning
French!). The students seem bright, friendly and spiritual…
+I was talking to the Dean of Students and he related some challenges and cheers. The challenges were the usual struggles of students and the needed remedies from a spiritually compassionate, yet clearly commanding faculty. Then the dean
said this: "Ninety-nine percent of the students are good kids. Rarely do you get a person who won't work with you…and when a student does something bad, then they are likely to go to confession. No one, to my knowledge, is consciously living in sin, they take
advantage of the sacraments."
That was striking: living in sin. We (can) do that when we consciously and consistently know the truth and fail to live within it. Whether it is drinking or doing drugs, lying, cheating or stealing, embracing a materialistic or problematic
sexual lifestyle, when we chose to perpetuate these actions while knowing the truth, we are in deep trouble. God knows we can change when: 1) We know (or learn) the truth from the Commandments and moral principles of our Church and Bible; 2) we make a confession
and receive graces from it; 3) make an amendment of life; 4) keep trying…Changing bad habits and sinful situations is hard, no question-- but God's compassion, grace and gritty loyalty to us sinners is far greater-so let's always embrace His way!
I also learned more when I attended a class on Plato (this is what priests do on their off days-exiting, eh?!). The professor stated that Plato (this is five hundred years before Christ) said that there is, in the forms of things, (such as
people's and animals bodies) certain laws and causal designs which can direct us, once we learn from them, to moral principles and conclusions.
Plato thought humans are not merely upon the earth making up behavioral dictates out of pure imagination or even social convention. Rather, imprinted within physical structures of life and the natural world are detectable and orchestrated
inner-workings that can "teach" us about the bigger world, our relationship with each other and the society. For instance, within a miniscule atom is a holistic pattern of order of various parts, which do not simply "happen" by random chance, but are ordered that
way and form a unitary whole. Within the oak tree is a "plan" for shad and housing for other creatures; within a pride of lions is the preservation and promotion of their communal life. All these "forms" of natural life indicate to us principles like design,
order, common good and hierarchy. We humans can see these exist within the various forms of our life, and even further observe there are deeper, higher impressions and standards of life in us like compassion, love and respect. We may call this the "hard wiring" or
"natural law" of humanity.
Plato opposed the early Greek materialists and foreshadowed Christian moralists. Many people today, though, disagree with this teaching: "spiritualists," post- modernists, agnostics and atheists, some eastern religions and new-ageists teach
that, basically, there is no objective truth within the world, within matter or "forms; " there is no natural law (ethical "hard wiring"), and that since we cannot know objective truth or morality, we should not "impose it" on others. Basically, this view is
challenging Christians and Catholics-and winning converts.
Somewhat like Plato, Pope John Paul teaches there is, for instance, within the "form" of man's and woman's bodies in sexual intimacy, a synthesis that naturally go together, and, thus, a God-given and designed "language that they speak."
And, because this intimacy so deep, intense and personal-it is appropriate only in marriage because, only in this covenant, can the unique intensity be protected and promoted. Every other form of supposed sexual intimacy--pre-marital sexuality, fornication,
adultery, self-abuse, homosexual actions---is not a proper, spiritual and natural language which God intended, and thus these form a "counterfeit language" which can alter what God has designed.
Another example: materialistic lifestyles. Jesus uses physical examples, in Matthew, 6: 26ff, to warns us of excessive possessions and anxieties: "Consider the birds of the air-they do not store up in barns…Consider the lilies of the
field-they do not work or spin …Will not your heavenly Father take care of you?"…Jesus, having designed human nature, teaches us what will be impediments to a loving relationship with Him-fore mostly excessive possessions and worries: these are not part of, and
actually block, His plan. Through the physical forms of birds and lilies (!) Christ instructs us that when we rely on God for peace and security, He will unfailingly and providentially care for us. Less possessions means more freedom ("Having nothing we possess
all things"= II Cor. 6:10).
Sometimes Catholics may be tempted to think (esp. in today's relativistic climate) that some moral laws (i.e., the Sabbath rest-another physical principle-God Himself even rested! --+Gn 2:3), spiritual principles (fasting) or Church
practices (liturgical rituals) are trivially made up and subject to alteration. I re-learned from my Plato class and Christendom-visit that our doctrines are based in reality (pre-Christian Plato himself knew some of them), they are discernable from God's plan
(thru the Bible) and governed by tradition-centered-principles (by the Church magisterium, the teaching office guided by the Holy Spirit-see +Jn. 14:26), and that these teachings are reasonable for us to learn from and teach others with. Catholic-Christian
morality is, in fact, natural and supernatural-based in Godly-designed reality and leading to Heaven! If a Christian lifestyle seems hard and challenging, remember: the saints learned, embraced and then mastered the spiritual life-they kept trying--and, as my
cousin, Laurence said, "There's nothing else".
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "Forget my body but never
forget to pray form my soul. Perhaps we do not mortify ourselves sufficiently. Let us try to do more. I will always do what costs me most. Great sickness is always a special privilege from your Divine Spouse. God requires victims. +St.
Our Lady of Lourdes, Saints Bernadette and Elizabeth Ann Seton: Pray for us!
Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi