Gifts of the Magi

Gifts of the Magi

A meditation for the Feast of Epiphany

With Saint Thomas Aquinas

“Opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (Matth. II, 11.)

Ever since the birth of Christ, and perhaps before the Saviour’s birth, gold was considered precious and as something greatly to be prized.  St. Matthew (II, 11) tells us of the wise men who offered the Saviour gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  “Entering into the house, they found the Child with Mary, His Mother, and falling down they adored Him.  Opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh.”

In a spiritual sense gold means heavenly wisdom.  The wise men were called wise because they followed the star, found the Saviour, gave Him their gold (in place of hoarding if), for they recognized Jesus as the Giver of all good gifts and realized that whatever good things they had were from God.  To recognize that important fact and to appreciate it is the highest wisdom and more precious to us than gold and silver.

— The Magi also brought frankincense to the Crib of Bethlehem and offered it to the world’s Redeemer.  Frankincense is a fragrant inflammable resin, burnt as incense, producing a sweet smelling odor.  In the spiritual order it signifies a devout prayer.  Hence King David, the royal Psalmist says, “O Lord, hear my voice, and let my prayer be directed as incense in Thy sight.” (Ps. CXL, 2.)  To have our prayers thus directed to God, they must be fervent and inflamed with the fire of charity.

— Myrrh is the aromatic gummy resin of Balsamodendron.    Myrrh that grows in Arabia and Abyssinia and is of an agreeable or spicy nature.  By Myrrh, in the spiritual sense, is understood the mortification of the flesh (so much needed in this age of luxury, ease and up-to-date comfort).  Wherefore, we read in Canticles (V, 5) “I arose up to open to My Beloved.  My hands dropped with myrrh and my fingers were full of the choicest myrrh.”  In these words the Church mystically describes Christ to those who know Him not, that is, to infidels; in order to convert them to the true faith.

By the visible things namely, gold, frankincense and myrrh when considered in a spiritual manner, we rise to a knowledge of the invisible things of God; and only then do we realize how much we need heavenly wisdom, devout prayer and mortification of the flesh. These three are the spiritual gold of the human soul.

(The Humanity of Christ.)

(From: Saint Thomas Meditations for every day, by Fr E.C. McEnery O.P., Columbus [Ohio], Long’s College book company, 1951)



with Saint Thomas Aquinas

The Circumstances of Christ’s Birth

1. Christ willed to be born at Bethlehem because of two reasons:

First, because “ He was made … of the seed of David according to the flesh, to whom also a special promise was made concerning Christ. ”  (Rom. I, 3.)  Hence, He willed to be born at Bethlehem, where David was born, in order that by the very birthplace, the promise made to David might be fulfilled.  The Evangelist points this out by saying, “ Because He was of the house and of the family of David. ”

Secondly, because as Gregory says, “ Bethlehem is interpreted ‘the house of bread’.”  It is Christ Himself, Who said, “ I am the living Bread which came down from heaven ” (Jn 41, 51).

As David was born in Bethlehem, so also did He select Jerusalem to set up His throne and to build there the Temple of God, so that, Jerusalem was at the time a royal and priestly city.  Now, Christ’s priesthood and kingdom were consummated principally in His Passion.  Therefore, it was becoming, that He should choose Bethlehem for His birthplace and Jerusalem for the scene of His Passion.

Likewise, also, He silenced the vain boasting of men who take pride in being born in great cities, where also they desire especially to receive honor.  Christ, on the contrary, willed to be born in a mean city, and to suffer reproach in a great city.

2. Christ was born at a suitable time.

— “When the fullness of time was come, God sent His Son, made of a woman, made under the law.” (Gal. IV, 4.)  There is this difference between Christ and other men; that, whereas they are born subject to the restrictions of time, Christ as Lord and Maker of all time, chose a time in which to be born, just as He chose a mother and a birthplace.  And hence, since “What is of God is well ordered,” and becomingly arranged, it follows that Christ was born at a most fitting time.

— Christ came to bring us back from a state of bondage to a state of liberty, and therefore, as He took our mortal nature in order to restore us life, so as Bede says, “He deigned to take flesh at such a time that, shortly after His birth, He would be enrolled in Caesar’s census and thus submit Himself to bondage for the sake of our liberty.”

— Moreover, at that time, when the whole word lived under one ruler, peace abounded on the earth.  Therefore, it was a fitting time for the birth of Christ, for “He is our peace, Who hath made both one,” as it is written. (Eph. II, 14.)

Again it was fitting that Christ should be born while the world was governed by one ruler, because “He came to gather His own, Children of God, together into one” (John XI, 52), so “that there might be one fold and one Shepherd.” (John X, 16.)

Christ wished to be born during the reign of a foreigner, that the prophecy of Jacob might be fulfilled (Gen. XLIX, 10), “This sceptre shall not be taken away from Juda, not a ruler from his thigh, till He come that is to be sent.”  Because as Chrysostom says, “as long as the Jewish people were governed by Jewish kings, however wicked, prophets were sent for their healing.  But now, that the Law of God is under the power of a wicked king, Christ is born; because a grave and hopeless disease demanded a more skillful physician.”

Christ wished to be born when the light of day begins to increase in length, so as to show that He came in order that man might come nearer to the Divine Light, according to Luke I, 79: “To enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.”

— In like manner, He chose to be born in the rough winter season, that He might begin from then to suffer in body for us. (3 a. q. 35 a. V and VIII.)

(From: Saint Thomas Meditations for every day, by Fr E.C. McEnery O.P., Columbus [Ohio], Long’s College book company, 1951)

Charity for the poor souls

Charity for the poor souls

by Fr Garrigou-Lagrange O.P.



1. What is the foundation of the charity for the souls who are in Purgatory?

Saint Thomas Aquinas gives us the principle :

All the faithful in the state of grace are united with another by charity.  They are all members of one sole body, that is, of the Church.  Now in an organism each member is aided by all others.  Thus every Christian is aided by the merits of all Christians. 1.

[…] Charity loves God, loves all who are now children of God, and all who are called to be His children.  But the suffering souls are children of God and will be His children forever.  The Blessed Trinity dwells in them, Jesus lives in them intimately.  And whereas we love them all, we have special duties to the souls of our dead relatives.

The poor souls can do nothing for themselves.  They can no longer merit or give satisfaction or receive the sacraments or gain indulgences.  They can only accept and offer their own suffering.  Hence they have a special right to be aided by others.

The foundress of the Helpers of the Poor Souls2, while still a child, said to her friends :

If one of us were in a fiery prison and we could deliver him by a word, would we not say that word quickly?  The poor souls are in fiery prison, and our good God, to open that prison, asks only a prayer from us.  Can we refuse this prayer?

[…] Father Faber remarks that work for the suffering souls is sure of success.  As they cannot be lost, our work for them must bear fruit.  To obtain for these souls the greatest of all gifts, God seen face to face, will, at the same time, increase the accidental joy of Our Lord, of His blessed Mother, and of the saints.

2. How shall we exercise this charity?

We exercise this charity by praying for the dead, that is, by offering our merits, our prayers, our satisfactions, our deeds of almsgiving, by gaining indulgences, and above all by offering Holy Mass for their repose.

The Church Herself gives us the example.  During each Mass she prays for them in the Memento of the Dead.  Further, she opens her treasures, the merits of Christ and of the saints, in the form of indulgences applicable to the poor souls.

Indulgences, says saint Thomas, offer chief value to him who accomplishes the good work.  But they have a secondary value, for those for whom this work is done.  Nothing hinders the Church from applying indulgences to the souls in Purgatory. […]

Perseverance, too, is necessary.  Many believe too easily in the prompt deliverance of their dear ones, and after a period, say of a month, no longer pray for them.

3. Fruits of this charity

Masses, prayers, etc. offered for these souls in Purgatory increase our own store of merits : God is pleased to reward our least service.

And these souls, too, will not fail to aid us by their own gratitude in Heaven.  Even before their deliverance, they pray for their benefactors.  They have charity, which indeed excludes no one, but which imposes on them a special duty toward those friends.  Their prayers are efficacious even if they do not know in detail our condition, just as our prayers for them are efficacious though we do not know their condition.

May we also pray to the poor souls?  The liturgy does not pray to them [but only prays FOR them].  But we are not forbidden to pray to them, though we must give preference to prayer for them.  Here is a sentence from saint Thomas Aquinas :

The souls in Purgatory are not in the state of praying, but in the state of being prayed for.” […]

The parable of the Good Samaritan may serve as summary.  He is moved by the misery of his neighbor, and reacts in the most efficacious manner.  Hence he, too, merits the mercy of God :  « Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy » (Mt 5, 7).

(From the book of Fr Garrigou-Lagrange O.P., Life everlasting, Saint-Louis [Missouri], Herder Book, 1952).

The Rosary – a School of Contemplation

The Rosary

a School of Contemplation

by Fr Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange O.P.


After Holy Mass, the Rosary is one of the most beautiful and efficacious forms of prayer, on condition of understanding it and living it.



It sometimes happens that its recitation becomes a matter of routine. The mind, not being really gripped by the things of God, finds itself a prey to distractions. Sometimes the prayer is said hurriedly and soullessly. Sometimes it is said for the purpose of obtaining temporal favours [which is not in itself bad, but] desired out of all relation to spiritual gain. […]

It is sure that to pray well, it is sufficient to think in a general way of God and of the graces for which one asks. But to make the most out of our five mysteries, we should remember that they constitute but a third of the whole Rosary, and that they should be accompanied by meditation – which can be very simple – on the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries, which recall the whole life of Jesus and Mary, and their glory in heaven.

The Rosary is a true school of contemplation

The fifteen Mysteries of the Rosary thus divided into three groups are but different aspects of the three great Mysteries of our salvation : the Incarnation, the Redemption, Eternal Life. […]

Thus, the Rosary is a Credo : not an abstract one, but one concretised in the life of Jesus who came down to us from the Father, and who ascended to bring us back with Himself to the Father.  It is the whole of Christian dogma in all its splendour and elevation, brought to us that we may fill our minds with it, that we may relish it and nourish our souls with it.

This makes the Rosary a true school of contemplation. […] The Rosary well understood 1  is, therefore, a very elevated form of prayer which makes the whole of dogma accessible to all 2.

The Rosary is also a very practical form of prayer

The Rosary is also a very practical form of prayer: for it recalls all Christian morality and spirituality, by presenting them from the sublime point of view of their realisation in Jesus and Mary.

The Mysteries of the Rosary should be reproduced in our lives. Each of them is a lesson of virtue – particularly in the virtues of humility, trust, patience and charity.

* There are three stages in our progress towards God:

1. The first stage is to have knowledge of the final end, whence comes the desire of salvation and the joy to which that desire gives rise.  This stage is symbolised in the joyful Mysteries, which contain the good news of the Incarnation of the Son of God who opens to us the way of salvation.

2. The next stage is to adopt the means – often painful to nature – to be delivered from sin and to merit Heaven.  This is the stage of the sorrowful Mysteries.

3. The final stage is that of rest in the possession of eternal life.  It is the stage of Heaven, of which the glorious Mysteries allow us to some anticipated glimpse.

* The Rosary is therefore most practical:

1. It takes us from the midst of our too human interests and joys, and makes us think of those which centre on the coming of the Saviour.

2. It takes us from our meaningless fears, from the sufferings we bear so badly, and reminds us of how much Jesus has suffered for love of us, and teaches us to follow Him by bearing the cross which divine Providence has sent us to purify us.

3. It takes us finally from our earthly hopes and ambitions, and makes us think of the true object of Christian hope: eternal life and the graces necessary to arrive there. […]

Try to recite the Rosary the eyes of faith fixed on the living Jesus who is always making intercession for us, and who is acting upon us in accordance with the Mysteries of His childhood, or His Passion, or His glory.  He comes to us to make us like Himself. Let us fix our gaze on Jesus who is looking at us.  His look is more than kind and understanding: it is the look of God, a look which purifies, which sanctifies, which gives peace.  It is the look of our Judge, and still more the look of our Saviour, our Friend, the Spouse of our souls.   A Rosary said in this way, in solitude and silence, is a most fruitful intercourse with Jesus.  It is a conversation with Mary too, which leads to intimacy with her Son.

* But the Rosary is more than a prayer of petition :

— it is a prayer of adoration inspired by the thought of the Incarnate God (Joyful Mysteries) ;

— it is a prayer of reparation in memory of the Passion of Our Lord (Sorrowful Mysteries) ;

— it is a prayer of thanksgiving that the Glorious Mysteries continue to reproduce themselves in the uninterrupted entry of the elect into glory.

Objections and Answers

1. It has sometimes been objected that one cannot reflect on the words and the Mysteries at the same time.

The answer is that it is not necessary to reflect on the words if one is meditating on, or looking spiritually at one of the Mysteries.

The words are a kind of melody which soothes the ear and isolates us from the noise of the world around us, the fingers being occupied meanwhile in allowing one bead after another to slip through. Thus the imagination is kept tranquil and the mind and the will are set free to be united to God.

2. It has also been objected that the monotony of the many repetitions in the Rosary leads necessarily to routine.

This objection is valid only if the Rosary is said badly.  If well said, it familiarises us with the different Mysteries of salvation, and recalls what these Mysteries should produce in our joys, our sorrows, our hopes.

ANY PRAYER CAN BECOME A MATTER OF ROUTINE!  – even the Ordinary of the Mass.   The reason is not that the prayer is imperfect, but that we do not say them as we should – with faith, confidence and love!

(From the book of Fr Garrigou-Lagrange O.P., The Mother of the Saviour and our interior life, Saint-Louis (Missouri), Herder Book Company, 1948, Part II, Chapter VI, Article II.)

Saint Dominic, Knight of the Truth

Saint Dominic



Knight of the Truth

Liturgical Feast : August 4

Saint Dominic’s chief glory among men lies in the broad and free spirit bequeathed to the threefold religious family of friars, nuns and tertiaries which perpetuates in our times the apostolate of spreading of the Truth and of fight against the errors and against those who spread them, inaugurated by him in the thirteenth century.

What, then, was this spirit which he gave to his followers and which is the special mark of his genius ?

Briefly, we may say the essence of this spirit is embodied in his intellectual ideal, which distinguished Saint Dominic among the great leaders who, by several fashions of religious life, have founded in the Church institutes to lead souls Godward.

By no mere accident the motto of his religious family is « Truth », for this word touches the magic appeal of saint Dominic’s heart. Were we to choose a text to express the peculiar mold of his genius, we could find none better than the Saviour’s words : « The Truth shall make you free » (Jn 8, 32). He aimed at truth and attained freedom of soul. Consequently, he zealously fought against the errors which destroyed truth in the souls : a good pastor doesn’t only gives pasture to his flock. He also protects it against the wolves. If not, he cannot be called a good pastor. He is a mercenary !

The long student life of Saint Dominic at Palencia (Spanish famous University of this time), his years of contemplation as canon of the cathedral of Osma (Spain), his apostolic preaching in Languedoc (south of France) against the Cathars, his dispersion of the brethren (August 15, 1217) to the University centers just after the foundation of the Order (December 22, 1216), and finally the astounding influence which his friars straightway exercised at these power-houses of learning – all these facts bring out strikingly clear the intellectual mission of Saint Dominic and of the Order he founded.

And moreover, was it not this mark of his genius that, in the thirteenth century, charmed the most virile intellect of Europe, Saint Thomas Aquinas ?

The secret of Saint Dominic’s holiness, then, was his fast-knit friendship with Christ, who is the Truth, the model of perfect spiritual freedom, the freedom of the children of God.

(From the book Dominican saints, by Dominican novices, Washington D.C., The Rosary Press, Dominican Publications, 1921.  Slightly revised by the Dominican Fathers of Avrillé.)

Liturgical prayers to our blessed father, Saint Dominic

O Lumen Ecclésiae,

Doctor veritátis,

Rosa patiéntiæ,

Ebur castitátis,

Aquam sapiéntiae

Propinásti gratis;

Prædicátor grátiæ,

Nos junge beátis.

Light of the Church,

Teacher of truth,

Rose of patience,

Ivory of chastity:

Thou didst freely pour forth

the waters of wisdom;

Preacher of grace,

unite us to the blessed !

O SPEM MIRAM, quam dedísti mortis hora te fléntibus, dum post mortem promisísti te profutúrum frátribus ! Imple, Pater, quod dixísti, nos tuis juvans précibus.

V. Qui tot signis claruísti in ægrórum corpóribus, nobis opem ferens Christi, ægris medére móribus. Imple, Pater, quod dixísti, nos tuis juvans précibus.

R. Glória Patri et Fílio et Spirítui Sancto. Imple, Pater, quod dixísti, nos tuis juvans précibus.

SWEET THE HOPE thy fainting breath

Gave to those who wept thy death,

Promising, though life were flown,

Thou wouldst still protect Thine own,

Father, keep that gracious word

Pleading for us with our Lord.

V. Who so oft was wont to shine

Midst the sick with powers divine,

To our languid souls apply

Christ’s restoring remedy.

Father, keep that gracious word,

Pleading for us with Our Lord.

R. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son,

and to the Holy Ghost

Father, keep that gracious word,

Pleading for us with Our Lord.

An Easy Method of Mental Prayer

An Easy Method of Mental Prayer

By Father Bertrand Wilberforce, O.P.

I. What Mental Prayer is

Prayer is, says St. Gregory Nazianzen. a conference or conversation with God , St. John Chrysostom calls it a discoursing with the Divine Majesty ; according to St. Augustine it is the raising up of the soul to God. St. Francis of Sales describes it as a conversation of the soul with God, by which we speak to God and He to us, by which we aspire to Him, and breathe in Him, and He in return inspires us and breathes on us.

All prayer then is the speaking of the soul to God. This may be done in three ways ; for the prayer may be either in thought only, unexpressed in any external way, or on the other hand the secret thoughts and feelings of the soul may be clothed in words ; and these words again may either be confined to a set form, or they may be words of our own, unfettered by any form and expressing the emotions of our soul at the moment. In the first case our prayer will be purely mental ; in the second, in which we employ a set form of words, it will be vocal prayer ; in the third case. where the prayer is chiefly in thought, but these thoughts are allowed to break forth into words in any way that at the moment seem best to express the feelings of the soul, it is a mixture of mental and vocal prayer ; but as the words are spontaneous and not in any prescribed form, it may justly be considered as mental prayer.

In an audience with the Pope, we might read a written address to His Holiness, or we might trust to the words that might occur at the moment to express what we desired to convey to his mind. But if God were to enable the Pope to read the thoughts of our mind, we might then simply stand silent in his presence, and he would see all that we wanted to express. The formal address would be vocal prayer, the silent standing before his throne would be purely mental prayer, the conversation with unprepared words would be a mixture of the two, and might be called mental prayer in a more general and extended sense. God knows our secret thoughts more clearly than we can express them, more certainly than we ourselves can know them ; and words therefore are not necessary in our intercourse with Him, though often a considerable help to us.

A set form of words spoken or read cannot be called prayer at all unless the mind intends it as prayer and gives some kind spiritual attention, either to the actual sense of the words themselves or to God Himself while they are uttered. Shakespeare spoke as a theologian when, in Hamlet, he put into the mouth of the King, who asked for pardon without repentance:

My words go up, my thoughts remain below; Words without thoughts never to heaven go.

God condemned the merely material homage of the Jews by declaring, ” This people honoureth Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.” All prayer, therefore, of whatever kind. must be ” in spirit and in truth “ [St. John iv, 23]; but vocal prayer is confined to a prescribed form of words, whereas mental prayer is the spontaneous utterance of the soul either with or without words. When St. Francis of Assisi said an Our Father, or recited his office, he used vocal prayer ; when he knelt before God without a word, his prayer was purely mental ; when he spent the whole night in saying ” My God and my all”, his mental prayer was mingled with words which expressed the burning love of his seraphic soul.

II. The Importance and Necessity of Mental Prayer

Prayer of one kind or another is absolutely and indispensably necessary for salvation – in other words, no one who has come to the use of reason, so as to be capable of prayer, can, according to God’s ordinary providence, be saved without it. This necessity is proved in the first place from the distinct, emphatic and constantly repeated command to pray, and to pray continually. For instance . “He spoke a parable to them (to show) that we ought always to pray, and not to faint” [St Luke xviii, 1] ; ” Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation ” [St Matt. xxvi, 41] : “Ask, and it shall be given you ” [St. Matt. vii , 7] : ” Be instant (that is earnest) in prayer ” [Coloss. iv, 2], and ” Pray without ceasing ” [I Thess. v, 17].

Besides these positive commands it is evidently necessary ; because though God really wills the salvation of all, [1 Tim. li. 4|, He will not save us without our own co-operation. He will save no one by force : for heaven is not the land of slaves. into which men are driven by compulsion ; it is the home of the free children of God, of those who love God, of those who are free with the freedom with which Christ hath made us free. Therefore God gives to all the grace to pray ; and if they use this grace and continue to pray aright, He will continue to bestow on them a chain of graces that will end in salvation. But to those who will not pray, He has promised nothing : ” The Lord is nigh unto all that call upon Him ; to all that call upon Him in truth ” [Ps. cxliv, 18]. ” Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you” [St. James iv, 8].

From this absolute and indispensable necessity of prayer in general, we can easily infer the importance and the moral necessity of the best and highest kind of prayer – namely mental prayer. If not absolutely it is certainly morally necessary in some form or another even for salvation; and there can be no manner of doubt that it is strictly necessary for any real advance of the soul in virtue and divine love. St. Alphonsus says : ” He who neglects meditation (a part of mental prayer), and is distracted by the affairs of the world, will not know his spiritual wants, the dangers to which his salvation is exposed, the means he ought to take to conquer temptations ; and will forget the necessity of the prayer of petition for all men: thus he will not ask for what is necessary, and by not asking God’s grace, he will certainly lose his soul.”

In the same way St. Teresa asks : ” How can charity last, unless God gives perseverance ? How will l the Lord give us perseverance if we neglect to ask Him for it? And how shall we ask it without mental prayer ? Without mental prayer there is not the communication with God which is necessary for the preservation of virtue.” The holy Doctors agree that those who persevere in mental prayer will live in God’s grace. The following words are the deliberate sentence of the holy Doctor St. Alphonsus, the conclusion gathered from his vast learning and experience : ” Many say the Rosary, the Office of Our Lady, and other acts of devotion, but they still continue in sin. But it is impossible for him who perseveres in mental prayer to continue in sin : he will either give up mental prayer or renounce sin. Mental prayer and sin cannot exist together. And this we see by experience ; they who make mental prayer rarely fall into mortal sin ; and should they have the misery of falling into sin, by persevering in mental prayer they see their misery and return to God. Let a soul, says St. Teresa, be ever so negligent ; if she persevere in mental prayer the Lord will bring her back to the haven of salvation.”

If this were merely the opinion of St. Alphonsus himself, it would be of immense weight, considering his resplendent sanctity, his vast spiritual learning, and the varied experience of his long and active life ; but besides this the holy Doctor is here only summing up in one sentence the teaching and experience of all the doctors, saints, writers, preachers, and confessors of the whole Church since the beginning. What stronger argument could be used to prove the importance and necessity of mental prayer ?

III. Is Mental Prayer Easy?

Anyone who has a real desire to be saved, and who believes that the opinion of St. Alphonsus and all other spiritual teachers – that mortal sin and mental prayer cannot live together, but are mutually destructive – is really true, but must feel a desire to adopt so certain a means of salvation. But many are fainthearted, and dread the little difficulty they feel in beginning a new exercise ; and many more lack the courage and self-denial necessary to continue in it after the novelty has worn away, and the yoke of perseverance begins to gall. Blessed are they who courageously persevere, for their salvation is secure!

Those who find it difficult to begin, or are tempted to abandon this powerful means of salvation, must pluck up heart, and encourage themselves by remembering that mental prayer requires no learning, no special power of mind. no extraordinary grace, but only a resolute will and a desire to please God. In fact, the hard matter is to convince people how easy and simple a matter mental prayer really is, and that the difficulty is far more imaginary than real. This difficulty often rises from not having grasped the true idea of what is meant by mental prayer ; and the false idea of the exercise, once formed, is often never corrected, the consequence being that the practice is either abandoned in disgust, or persevered in with extreme repugnance and little fruit.

One common cause of misunderstanding, perhaps the most common of all, is the custom of calling the whole exercise by the name of one subordinate and not the most important part -that is meditation. From this the idea arises that it is a prolonged spiritual study, drawn out at length with many divisions and much complicated process ; and this notion frightens many good souls, and makes them fall back on vocal prayer alone. They imagine that the soul must preach a discourse to itself. and they feel no talent for preaching. Many, if they spoke their minds clearly, would say : “I cannot meditate. but if I might be allowed to pray during that time instead. I could do very well.” This is no imaginary case. as anyone who has had any experience will testify: and this miserable misunderstanding, that so often holds souls back for years. is partly brought about by defective teaching, but partly also by the name meditation being used instead of the more comprehensive one of mental prayer.

Mental prayer, properly understood, will be found to be easy and within the power of all who desire salvation. Of course there are many degrees of prayer, and to pray perfectly is no doubt a matter of great difficulty ; but to pray well, and in a way very pleasing to God and very profitable to the soul, is an easy and simple manner. If we remember how many thousands have excelled in mental prayer, though not even able to read, we shall see that this holy exercise cannot require any special power of mind or any degree of culture. St. Isidore, a farm labourer, is an example of a man utterly devoid of human learning, but rising, by God’s grace, to the sublimest prayer.

The following method of making mental prayer is drawn from the works of St. Alphonsus who may justly be called the Doctor of Prayer ; and it is so simple that no one who studies it with any attention can fail to understand it, and all who reduce it to practice will find that in great measure it takes away the difficulty they may feel in the exercise. Many who have found ” making a meditation ” to be a wearisome penance, have experienced that with this method the time is all too short: and that conversation with God is indeed the greatest joy of life ; ” Taste and see how sweet the Lord is.”

IV. Method of Mental Prayer

All methods of mental prayer are essentially the same. They are different ways of reaching the same end, the object of all being to teach the soul how she can converse lovingly with God. In the method recommended by St. Alphonsus, the whole exercise is divided into three parts – the Preparation, the Body of the Prayer, and the Conclusion.

i. Preparation

The real preparation for prayer is a good life, a spirit of recollection enabling a man to live in God’s presence, and the invaluable habit of regular spiritual reading. But this is not the place to enter into these matters, and so we must proceed to the immediate preparation, when the time of prayer has come. ” Before prayer prepare thy soul, and be not as a man that tempteth God ” [Eccles. xviii, 23]. From this admonition of the Holy Ghost, it is evident that we must not presume to throw ourselves down before God unprepared, our minds full of idle, distracting thoughts, and imagine that we can thus pray in a way pleasing to Him. How careful should we be to prepare both body and mind if admitted to a papal or a royal audience! At least then make in preparation for your conference with God, three short though fervent acts :

1. An act of faith in God’s presence, and of adoration, profound and humble, of His majesty.

2. An act of contrition for sin, sin forming the cloud thick and dark over our heads that hides the brightness of God’s face. ” Your sins have hid his face from you ” [Isaiah lix, 2].

3. A fervent petition for light to see God’s holy will , especially in some one matter either pressing upon us then or suggested by the subject we are going to consider, and for grace to do God’s will when we do see it.

Examples of these acts may help beginners, but it must be clearly understood that they are only examples and that they may be made in any form.

1. Adoration of God present in your soul:

My God, I believe that Thou art present with me and within me, and I adore Thee with all the affection of any soul,”

Be watchful,” says St. Alphonsus, ” to make this act with a lively faith, for the remembrance of the presence of God is a great help to keep away distractions. Cardinal Carracciolo, Bishop of Aversa, used to say that distractions are a sign that the soul has not made a lively act of faith.”

2. Sorrow for sin, our sins preventing union with God in prayer:

0 Lord by my sins I deserve now to be in hell; I repent, 0 infinite Goodness, with my whole heart of having offended Thee. I am sorry for sin from the bottom of my heart; have mercy on me.

3. Ask for light:

0 Eternal Father, for the love of Jesus and Mary, give me light in this prayer, that I may profit by it.

Then add a Hail Mary, an ejaculation to St. Joseph, your Guardian Angel, and your holy patrons.

These acts should be short. In a mental prayer of half-an-hour, not more than three minutes should be devoted to them. But at the same time they should be fervent and earnest, the whole attention being given to them ; for upon the manner in which they are made will, in great measure, depend the fervour of the whole prayer.

ii. Body of the Prayer

In order to pray with fruit and without distraction, it is very useful, and in most cases necessary, to spend some time meditation or pious thought, on some definite subject ; and from this fact, as before stated, the whole exercise is often called meditation. Instead of mental prayer. This often misleads people into imagining that meditation , that is, the use of the intellect in thinking on a holy subject, the main end to be aimed at, whereas in fact it is prayer, or conversation with God. Meditation furnishes us with the matter for conversation, but it is not itself prayer at all. When thinking and reflecting, the soul speaks to itself, reasons with itself; in prayer it speaks to God.

Meditation, in its wide sense, is any kind of attentive and repeated thought upon any subject and with any intention ; but in the more restricted sense in which it is understood as a part of mental prayer, it is, as St. Francis of Sales puts it, ” an attentive thought, voluntarily repeated or entertained in the mind, to excite the will to holy and salutary reflections and resolutions“. It differs in its object from mere study : we study to improve our minds and to store up information ; we meditate to move the will to pray and to embrace good. We study that we may know, we meditate that we may pray.

We must then use the mind in thus thinking of or pondering on a sacred subject for a few minutes; and in order to help the mind in this exercise, we must have some definite subject of thought, upon which it is well to read either a text of Holy Scripture, or a few lines out of some other holy book. St. Teresa tells us that she thus helped herself with a book for seventeen years. By this short reading, the mind is rendered attentive and is set on a train of thought. Further to help the mind, you can ask yourself some such questions as the following : What does this mean ? What lesson does it teach me? What have I done about this in the past ? What shall I now do, and how ?

Two remarks are here most important.

The first is, that care must be taken not to read too much. but to stop when any thought strikes the mind. If the reading is prolonged , if for example, in a short prayer of half-an-hour you were to read for ten minutes, the exercise would be changed into spiritual reading.

The second remark is, that you must not be distressed if you find the mind torpid, and if only one or two very simple thoughts present themselves. It is by no means necessary to have many thoughts, nor to indulge in deep and well arranged reflections. The object of mental prayer is not to preach a well-prepared and eloquent sermon to yourself, the object is to pray. If one simple thought makes you pray, why distress yourself because you have not other and more elaborate thoughts ? If you wanted to reach the top of a roof, you would not trouble yourself because your ladder was a short one, provided it was long enough to land you safely on the roof. The end is gained. If one simple reflection enables you to pray, you would, in reality, be merely distracting yourself from prayer, in order to occupy yourself with your own thoughts, if you were to go on developing a lengthy train of thought. This would be to mistake the means for the end, and it is a very common mistake, and the cause of great discouragement. This mistake will be evident if you remember that while you are following out a line of thought, for instance, when you are answering the questions suggested above you are conversing with yourself.

It is plain therefore that as your object is to converse with God, you should not remain too long in talking to yourself, and that therefore, if you feel a difficulty in doing this, you need not be distressed. ” The progress of a soul,” says the enlightened St. Teresa, ” does not consist in thinking much of God, but in loving Him ardently ; and this love is gained by resolving to do a great deal for Him.”

I have said that misunderstanding this point is the most fruitful source of discouragement and one of the commonest reasons for abandoning mental prayer in disgust ; and the reason is, because very few people are accustomed to prolonged or deep thought on any subject few indeed are capable of it. If therefore they imagine that prolonged if not deep thought, is necessary for mental prayer, they are in constant trouble and discouragement, which ends in their abandoning the whole exercise in despair. ” If I might only be allowed to pray,” they will sigh to themselves,” how much easier it would be ! ”

Let such persons then clearly understand that many thoughts are not necessary, that their reflections need not be deep and ought not, especially in a prayer of half-an-hour. to be long, lest prayer should be neglected and the exercise be changed into a study. “Meditation,” says St. Alphonsus. ” is the needle which only passes through so that it may draw after it the golden thread, which is composed of affections, petitions and resolutions.” The needle is only used in order to draw the thread after it. If then you were to meditate for an hour and think out a subject in all its details, but without constant acts and petitions, you would be working hard with an unthreaded needle.

Men’s minds differ as much as their features, and some men, especially those employed in very distracting duties, need more thought than others before they can pray ; but many, especially women, will find that the effort, after prolonged reflections, will generally defeat itself, and end in distraction.

As soon, therefore, as you feel an impulse to pray, give way to it at once in the best way you can by acts and petitions, in other words. begin your conversation with God on the subject about which you have been thinking. Do not imagine, moreover, that it is necessary to wait for a great fire to burn up in your soul, but cherish the little spark that you have got. Above all, never give way to the mistaken notion that you must restrain yourself from prayer in order to go through all the thoughts suggested by your book, or because your prayer does not appear to have a close connection with the subject of your meditation. This would simply be to run from God to your own thoughts, or to those of some other man.

One useful suggestion may here be introduced. Those who are accustomed to make regular spiritual reading will often meet some idea, or passage of their author, which strikes their mind forcibly, or seems especially suited for their own practice. When this is the case, they could not do better than to take that idea, or that passage, as the subject of their next mental prayer. As they have read about it and thought about it in the time of spiritual reading, a very slight reflection will be enough to enable them to pray upon that subject with solid fruit, and to make practical resolutions concerning it.

We have spoken thus far of the needle : now we must proceed to consider the golden thread which is the matter of principal importance. and should occupy the chief part of the time devoted to prayer. The golden thread is composed of a) acts or affectins of the will, b) petitions and c) resolutions: a triple cord of beauty and strength, which, when the soul uses earnestly, she can be said to have ” girded her loins with strength, and strengthened her arm.” [Prov. xxxi, 17].

a) acts or affections of the will

Acts, or affections of the will, are the movements of the soul towards God. The affections are called the feet of the soul, because by them she approaches to or recedes from God. To ” draw nigh to God ” does not mean any bodily motion, but the spiritual progression of love. When therefore in meditating on a subject you feel some holy sentiment arising in your heart, begin to make simple acts, with or without words, to God. Acts of this nature are very various, such as faith, hope, confidence, humility, thanksgiving, contrition, love. They should be simple, short, and often repeated. Think of our Lord’s prayer in the Garden, which is intended as a model to us. He prayed for three hours, and His whole prayer consisted in the constant repetition of one single act of resignation and petition. The word “ACTS ” will suggest the chief aspirations, that it is well constantly to repeat : A stands for Adoration ; C for Contrition ; T for Thanksgiving, to which is joined love ; and S for Supplication, the prayer of petition.

These acts should be spontaneous, springing up from your own soul, but some examples may help beginners. If then you were to take as the subject of your prayer the death of our Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross, you would, after the preparatory acts, begin to think of the mystery. ” Who is that hanging on the Cross ? “- you would say to yourself – “What is He suffering – in body, in soul ? Why does He suffer ? ”

Not many minutes’ thought would be necessary before you would feel moved to acts of Faith : ” O my Lord, hanging on the Cross, I believe in Thee. Thou art the Eternal God, made man for me. Thou art my Redeemer ; for my sins Thou art thus bleeding and dying on the Cross,” etc.

Humility : ” O my Jesus, I am not worthy to live. I have slain Thee, the Son of God. Who am I, dear Lord, that Thou, the everlasting God, hast thus suffered and died for me ! I am Thy creature, made by Thy Hands. I am Thy rebellious child. I deserve hell for my sins, I deserve to have been abandoned by Thee, and yet Thou hast thought of me and hast offered Thyself as a victim for me. How good Thou art, dear Lord, to be nailed to the Cross for so miserable and ungrateful a sinner ! I will not sin again,” etc.

Confidence : ” If I look at myself, dear Lord, l am filled with fear. I have sinned, O Lord, against Thee, my sins are more in number than the hairs of my head. How shall I dare ever to hope for pardon, after having so often and so basely offended Thee ! But Thy death is my hope. Thou hast made me, I am Thine, and Thou hast suffered for me, and died for me. I hope in Thee, in Thee do I put my trust, and I shall not be confounded for ever. Thou canst not reject me now that I repent, when Thou hast shed Thy Blood for me,” etc.

Thanksgiving :” l thank Thee. 0 Lord, with all my heart for Thy great goodness in dying for me and shedding all Thy Blood for me. Blessed be Thy holy Name ! I thank Thee for not abandoning me when 1 committed that sin, for loving me in spite of all my many sins against Thee. Blessed be Jesus, who shed His precious Blood for me ! Most holy Mary, help me to thank thy Son for all He has done for me,” etc.

Contrition : ” I am heartily sorry for all my sins. I detest them all, and especially because they have displeased Thee, because they have nailed Thee to the Cross. Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner ! Father, forgive me, for I knew not what I did,” etc.

Love : ” I love Thee. my Jesus. I love Thee. but I do not love Thee as I ought ; make me love Thee more and more. I love Thee with my whole heart. I desire to see Thee loved by all. I will only what Thou willest. Thou hast died for love of me. I desire to die for love of Thee : I rejoice that Thou art eternally happy. Do with me and all that is mine according to Thy will “. “This last act of love and oblation of self,” says St. Alphonsus, “is especially pleasing to God. and St. Teresa used thus to offer herself to God at least fifty times in the day.”

Acts of love should be frequent whatever the subject of meditation may have been.

” The act of love”, continues the same Saint,” as also the act of contrition (which is sorrow founded on love) is the golden chain which binds the soul to God.” An act of perfect charity is sufficient for the remission of all our sins : “Charity covereth a multitude of sins ” [I Pet. iv, 8]

The Ven. Sister Mary of the Crucified once saw, in a vision, a globe of fire, in the flames of which straws were instantly burnt up. She was thus made to understand that when the soul makes acts of love to God, all her sins are consumed in the flames of charity and are forgiven. Besides, the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas, teaches that by every act of love, we gain a fresh degree of glory. ” Every act of charity merits eternal life.” How many we can make in the course of the day, if we have some little fervour, especially during the time of mental prayer !

St. Francis of Sales has the following consoling and most instructive words concerning acts of sorrow founded on love, or, as he styles them, acts of loving repentance. ” Because this loving repentance is ordinarily practised by elevations and raisings of the heart to God, like to those of the ancient penitents :

I am Thine, save me ! Have mercy on me, 0 God, have mercy on me , for my soul trusteth in Thee .’ Save me, 0 God ; for the waters are come in even unto my soul .’ Make me as one of Thy hired servants .’ 0 God be merciful lo me a sinner .

It is not without reason that some have said, that prayer justifies ; for the repentant prayer or the suppliant repentance raising up the soul to God and reuniting it to His goodness, without doubt obtains pardon, in virtue of the holy love which gives it the sacred movement. And therefore we ought all to have very many such ejaculatory prayers, made in the sense of a loving repentance and of sighs which seek our reconciliation with God ; so that by these laying our tribulation before our Saviour, we may pour out our souls before and within His pitiful heart, which will receive them to mercy” (Treatise on the Love of God Book i i , chap. XX).

As already stated, these acts or affections should spring from the heart; we must not look for fine words nor make up grand sentences ; the mere movement of the will towards God, with love, gratitude, hope, sorrow for sin, etc, is sufficient even without words. Therefore does our Lord say : ” Do not speak much when you pray “- a simple movement of the heart is better than many words proceeding merely from the lips. Nor should we hurry from one affection to another. If you feel yourself moved to make acts of love, keep on making acts of love ; if you are excited to sorrow, repeat acts of sorrow for a while, till the affections grow cold ; then pass on to another. Moreover, these affections should be made slowly, allowing the soul to dwell upon each act. It is well to make slight pauses between. God often speaks to us during these pauses, and when He does, when we perceive some good thought in our mind giving us some new light, a clearer insight into ourselves or a better knowledge of God, or showing us our duty or God’s will for us, then we should listen humbly while God speaks, prepared to obey His commands.

b) petitions

Besides the acts and affections of the soul, all of which are truly prayer, since the soul, in making them, converses with God, it is extremely useful to occupy ourselves during mental prayers in making many fervent petitions to God for His spiritual graces and favour.

This prayer of petition is a matter that St. Alphonsus, in all his ascetical works, is continually urging upon every soul in language the most emphatic. Indeed, our Lord Himself has given us the first lesson as to the necessity of constant petition, not only by His command, “Ask and it shall be given unto you,” but by the fact that the Our Father, the model of all prayers, consists half of affections and half of petitions for what we need. In English, we have not any one word that expresses this kind of prayer, and we are obliged to call it prayer of petition. The French word la prière expresses it, while oraison means mental prayer with its acts, affections, and resolutions. This distinction explains many passages in the works of St. Alphonsus – for instance, where he says, ” Without prayer (that is, petitions for graces) all the meditations we make, all our resolutions. all our promises will be useless. If we do not pray (that is, if we do not make petitions for graces) we shall always be unfaithful to the inspirations of God, and to the promises we make Him. Because in order actually to do good, to conquer temptations, to practise virtues, and to observe God’s law, it is not enough to receive light from God, and to meditate and to make resolutions. but we require moreover the actual assistance of God, and He does not give this assistance except to those who pray, and pray with perseverance” (Treatise on Prayer Part I).

Here is the distinction between meditation with resolutions, or mental prayer in general, and prayer of petition, or between 1’oraison and la prière.

Without this distinction. which is not at first apparent in English translations, much that is said of prayer is confusing and unintelligible. For instance. in the above extract the Saint appears to say that mental prayer without prayer is of no avail. Again in his ” Rule of Life for a Christian” in that most valuable volume called ” The Christian Virtues”, the second rule is about mental prayer while the sixth is concerning prayer. When we understand that prayer means prayer of petition, the difficulty vanishes. In his constant exhortations to the practice of prayer of petition, the holy Doctor is fond of quoting the experience of that learned and enlightened writer Fr Paul Segneri. S.J., who thus speaks of himself: ” When I began and before I had studied theology, I used to employ my time of mental prayer in reflections and affections ; but God opened my eyes afterwards. and from that time I endeavoured to occupy myself in petitions, and if there is any good in me I consider it to be due to this habit of recommending myself to God.”

Petitions, therefore, for all you need, are a very important part of mental prayer, and are most useful to the soul. But a caution is necessary here to prevent misunderstanding. The petitions in the time of mental prayer should be spiritual petitions – that is, for spiritual objects, such as forgiveness of sin, love of God, light to see, and grace to do God’s will.

For if the petitions were for temporal favours, such as health of body for yourself or others, success in business, rain or fine weather and the like, two inconveniences would follow:

— In the first place it is always doubtful whether such things are according to the will of God or not, and they must be asked for only if they should be the Divine Will, and the whole spiritual value of the petition will then be in that act of resignation.

— Secondly, the mind be much distracted from God in order to think of the matters upon which to form petitions, and especially if the subject of the petition should be some person in whose temporal welfare you are much interested, or some worldly business that gives you anxiety, to pray for these things would probably result in distraction. The mind would begin to reflect upon the things themselves and forget God.

By this, it is not meant that these temporal matters must never be made the subject of prayer, but only that it is not generally advisable to occupy the mind with them during mental prayer, for the reasons given. The truth is that all these things are suggestions from experience ; for in the matter of mental prayer, in which ” the Spirit bloweth where He listeth,” there are very few “musts,” few things of which you can say this must be done.

With this understanding as to the subject matter of petitions, the soul cannot be better occupied during mental prayer than in making frequent and earnest petitions, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, for all the graces she feels to need. Ask, then, for help in the time of temptation, beg grace always to persevere in prayer when tempted, but particularly remember always to pray for the three following graces, which, if you obtain, will render your salvation secure. These three all-important graces are:

* (a) The perfect forgiveness of past sin ;

* (b) The perfect love of God ;

* (c) The grace of a holy death.

Christ our Lord, Truth itself, has promised distinctly and emphatically, “Ask, and it shall be given you ; seek, and you shall find ; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” [St. Matt. v i i , 7]. ” All things whatsoever you shall ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive.” [St. Matt. xxi, 22]. Ask then for these three graces, which, by their very nature, must be according to God’s will that you shall have ; ask for them with humility, confidence and perseverance, and they must be given to you. God’s promise cannot fail. Ask for the perfect forgiveness of all your sins, and, however many and grievous they may have been, forgiveness will be yours. Seek for the love of God by many earnest petitions, and you shall find it. Knock at Heaven’s gate by constant petition for a holy death, and the golden gate of that city o f love and peace will be opened to you, as your eyes close in death, and your soul departs into eternity. ” Pray,” exclaims St. Alphonsus,” pray, and never give up praying. If you pray, you will certainly be saved ; if you do not pray, you will certainly be lost.” We have so many spiritual wants, that half-an-hour’s prayer will be all too short to make our earnest petitions before the throne of mercy.

c) resolutions

In order to make mental prayer truly fruitful, you should be careful to make some definite and precise resolution, either to avoid some fault or to practise some virtue. Mere thought, it is evident, cannot make us holy. Acts and affections by themselves will not make us practise virtue. Even petitions by themselves are not enough. They obtain for us, it is true, the strength to conquer sin. and to do what is good ; but the most difficult matter remains – that is, to use this grace. and actually to do what we recognize to be God’s will.

We must, then, make a resolution to carry in practice what we see to be good. How frequently, from want of this steadfast resolution, men pray for a grace, but in their actions deny and contradict their prayers ! The resolution should be often repeated, day after day, until we can easily keep faithful to it. Moreover, it should be definite, that is, not too general and vague. A determination for instance, to be better than we have hitherto been, to be humble, to love God, is of no practical advantage whatever. It means nothing, it will begin and end itself, and produce no effect on our daily life; we must therefore resolve to avoid some particular fault into which we are likely to fall that day, or to practise some one act of virtue that very day.

The resolution moreover must be of a practical nature, that is, it must be something that we can do if we please ; and above all. it must be sincere, by which is meant that we must truly intend in our hearts to carry it into practice when the opportunity occurs. It may be perfectly sincere at the time, even if we are weak enough afterwards to fail in its practice, but there is no excuse if we are insincere at the time of making it. That would surely be insulting to God, who sees the heart. We must never forget ‘he words of St. Teresa, already quoted ” The progress of a soul does not consist in thinking much of God, but in loving Him ardentty, and this love is gained by resolving to do a great deal for him.” Make then one practical definite resolution that you can keep and mean to keep that very day.

iii. Conclusion of the prayer

Before rising from your knees, three short but fervent acts should be made, as the finishing stroke of your mental prayer.

1. An act of thanksgiving for the lights and graces that God has given you during your prayer. for instance: “I thank Thee, 0 my God, in the name of Jesus Christ, for all the help Thou hast given mc Blessed be Thy holy name. Glory be to the Father,” etc.

2. Renew earnestly the good resolution you have already made.

3. Ask for grace to keep it.

You can address this petition either to the Eternal Father, begging Him through the merits of Jesus and the intercession of Mary, to grant you this favour ; or, you can address our Lord Himself, or you can beg the prayers of our Lady or your patrons.

Lastly, make an ejaculation for the conversion of sinners, and for the souls in purgatory.

V. Concluding Remarks

A few concluding remarks may be useful, in order to remove difficulties that often arise and discourage the souls who feel drawn to give themselves to the holy and delightful exercise of prayer.

1. “Is not mental prayer a very complicated manner ? There seems so much to remember, so many things to do ! “

When the method of prayer is drawn out step by step on paper this is quite true. It does look a complicated affair, and so would everything else if it were thus minutely described. Try to set down on paper all that we must remember in order to eat and drink in a polite manner, and see how formal and complicated it all seems ; but do it, and it at once appears easy and natural. It is the same with mental prayer. Practise it for a short time, and all its difficulty will vanish.

2. “Are all these things to be done in the exact order prescribed ? “

The preparation will always come first, with the three short fervent acts, and the conclusion will always naturally be at the end ; but in the body of the prayer no formal order is to be observed. That part should indeed always begin by a short meditation, some simple earnest thoughts, but the acts and petitions should come forth from the heart in any way that they arise. In describing them we must adopt some order that the matter may be intelligible ; but in practice they can be all intermingled in any way in which they spring from the soul. Remember the end and object of the whole exercise is to converse with God ; if you are doing this therefore you are doing well. I have said that there should always be some short meditation, because I am speaking to beginners of whom this is true ; but for those more advanced this become less necessary, and after a time might be only a distraction.

If the mind is all day long full of worldly and distracting thoughts and imaginations suggested by business, amusements, conversations, study, light reading, etc, it is evidently necessary to think of some holy subject in order to be able to pray with any fervour or recollection.

When, on the other hand, a person leads a quiet, secluded life, with few distractions, regular spiritual readings and frequent reflections on spiritual subjects, the soul is very easily moved to pray, and less meditation is necessary. After a time, with holy and contemplative souls, any train of thought would become a distraction ; they are at once, and without effort, absorbed in God. We may liken them to gunpowder ; the slightest thought of God acts like a spark and sets them at once in a blaze, whereas distracted souls are like damp wood that requires much artificial help to kindle it into a flame.

3. “How long ought mental prayer to last ? “

No general rule can be laid down. The real answer is that if we only consider the matter in itself, the longer mental prayer can last the better for the soul ; but taking into account the weakness of most souls, and the many occupations that cannot be neglected, half-an-hour in the day is a reasonable average time. If however half-an-hour appears too long, begin with fifteen minutes. One little quarter of an hour in each day is surely not too long to devote to the grandest of all occupations – conversation with God Himself. People who are less constantly occupied and more devout could easily spend two half hours: one in the morning, one in the evening, in this holy exercise. The appetite for this spiritual manna will increase by satisfying it. The more you allow yourself, the more you will want. This may be said in conclusion; that the longer time you spend in fervent and humble mental prayer the more rapid will be your progress in the way of virtue.

4. “When is the best time for mental prayer? “

Most certainly early in the morning. If it be faithfully performed in the early morning, this spiritual banquet is secured, but when once the duties of the day have begun, it is far more difficult to find time. Moreover, the early morning is the quietest time, and is far less liable to interruption. The brain, being then refreshed with sleep, is more able to attend to prayer. Besides all this. God seems more inclined to give His graces to those who mortify their sloth and arise early in order to praise Him ; and all those who practice mental prayer will agree that the early morning is the best time to converse with God. This seems to be the lesson conveyed by the act of the manna being rained down in the desert early in the morning and melting with the first rays of the sun, ” that it might be known to all, that we ought to prevent the sun to bless Thee, and to adore Thee, at the dawning of the light.” [Wisdom xvi, 28]

5. ” I have no time for mental prayer. “

It is difficult to answer this common objection with a grave face. What it means is, ” I do not want to take the trouble to make mental prayer.” To say that would be at least honest. But to plead the want of time to spend 15 minutes out of the 24 hours in conversation with God is childish. What would the same persons say if they saw a way of gaining £5 or even 5 dollars employing one quarter of an hour in a particular pursuit well within their power ? How quickly would time be found ! Who is there that does not spend a quarter of an hour daily in useless conversation or idle reading or in doing nothing ? I should reply, make time by arising a quarter of an hour earlier. All that is required is a little more earnestness in the one all-important business of salvation.

6. ” Where should mental prayer be made ? “

God is everywhere, and there is no place in which we cannot find Him, but in order to speak to Him reverently and without distraction, a private place should be sought. ” Thou when thou shalt pray, enter into thy chamber, and having shut the door, pray to thy Father in secret. “St. Matt. vi. 6. Our Lord prescribed this secrecy to avoid ostentation and vain-glory, but another motive would be to shun distraction. But for those who have no suitable place at home, the church is always ready.

7. “What book shall I use ?”

For those who are able to think a little for themselves, a text of Holy Scripture is the best food for meditation, or a sentence from the Following of Christ1But many need their thinking to be done for them by another, and this very thing often causes a difficulty. They come across a book which furnishes them with the thoughts and reflections of a man who probably was in a completely different state, both mental and spiritual, from their own. His thoughts most excellent and fruitful for himself, are not suited to them, to their difficulties, their temptations, their duties. The consequence is that they find these thoughts ” dry ” – that is, they do not come home to those using the book with any force or light, although so good in themselves. As a general rule the simpler a book is, the better for practical use, and each one should try to find an author, or to select some parts out of a book, suited to the needs of his own soul. If you come across one thought that strikes the mind, immediately delay upon it, as a bee on a honey flower, and strive to draw from that one thought your acts, petitions and resolutions. If the thought suggested by the book enables you thus to pray and to resolve, it has done its office ; and you need by no means distress yourself even if the acts elicited and the resolution formed do not seem to have any evident and immediate connection with the previous thought.

There is one snare, as has been said above, most carefully to be avoided – that is, to stop praying in order to refer to the book for more points of reflection ; for this would be to give up intercourse with God in order to entertain new thoughts. On the other hand it is well to have some other thought in store, in case you can pray no longer, and need some fresh light from the understanding to give impetus to the will. If you persist in using some book that does not suit your needs and fall in with your spiritual state, you will run the risk of suffering from a kind of mental indigestion, from trying to assimilate thoughts of another mind not fitted to be the food of your soul. The result will very probably be that you will abandon mental prayer in disgust, saying, ” It’s no use, I cannot meditate ! ” This would be as unreasonable as to give up eating because one particular kind of food disagreed with you and you could not digest it. Find the food that will.

Simple thoughts on the four great truths of religion. on the Passion of Our Lord, or the mystery of the Blessed Sacrament, will suit the greater number of souls ; and half the difficulty vanishes when it is clearly understood that one simple thought is amply sufficient as long as it helps you to pray, which is the real object of the exercise. Nor is it by any means necessary always to vary the thought, for often the same reflection repeated morning after morning, will suffice to help you to pray, and if so why change it ! We eat bread day after day, and if one thought nourishes the soul morning after morning why change it for another ? If it begins to pall and to produce distraction, then seek for another. One holy soul found matter for prayer and union with God for months together from the two simple words ” Our Father.” If they were sufficient to form matter for prayer for years together, why change ? Yet some people would have been inclined to pull St. Francis by the habit and to say – ” You have been saying “My God and my all” for an hour now : had not you better go to the second point ? ”

8. ” I am distracted.”

Examine the causes of these distractions. If they arise from too great dissipation of mind during daily life, try to live more in God’s presence. If from not having prepared any definite thought to dwell upon, the remedy is to have one always prepared. If from mere weakness of mind, do not be disturbed, use no violent effort but quietly turn the mind back to God. One thing at least to utterly avoid is to abandon mental prayer because you are distracted. By this you will please no one except the devil. He does all he can to make you give up mental prayer, because he knows full well that if you persevere in it you will be saved. If by causing you troublesome distractions he can make you abandon mental prayer, he has succeeded in his object. St. Francis of Sales tells us that if in mental prayer we are able to do nothing but continually banish distractions and temptations, we shall derive great profit from the exercise and please God. What more could be desired ?

Lastly, to encourage souls to persevere in the sanctifying habit of mental prayer, it is well to remember that Benedict XIV granted an indulgence of seven years to those who make half-an-hour’s mental prayer during the day, and a plenary indulgence if it is made once a month, on the condition of confession and communion, with prayers for the Pope’s intention. Those who are members of the Holy Rosary Confraternity can also gain a hundred days’ indulgence every time they make a quarter of an hour’s mental prayer, and seven years with seven quarantines for every half-hour devoted to this holy exercise.

How much can we trust Private Revelations?

How much can we trust Private Revelations ?

Extract from a letter of Fr. JANDEL, General Superior of the Order of Preachers in the reign of Pope Pius IX

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« It is to my sorrow that I see you overly preoccupied with extraordinary visions. The Holy Father does not put his trust in the imaginations of women; do likewise. Have confidence in God and live the Faith without becoming passionately fond of revelations. What is more worthy than all the prophecies is the certitude that the Faith gives us, that we are in the hands of God, and that not one hair will fall from our head without His permission. Bearing this always in mind, we remain in peace in the midst of all worldly tribulations.

Do not be overly preoccupied with N… This leads you to exaggeration. This unfortunate girl is neither a lunatic nor a monster; she is easily deceived, and there is nothing supernatural about her. I see no reason in breaking off all relations with her just because we do not believe that she is inspired or that she is blessed with revelations; this does not mean that we should shun her or excommunicate her. Nor have I ever intended to prevent her from receiving visitors; this would be excessively severe. I have limited myself to forbidding her to communicate her revelations to people other than her confessor. Be at peace with regards to her and do not dwell on the revelations.

While I do not trust [private] prophecies, I believe even less that the end of the world is at hand; this idea seems to be irreconcilable with what is written in the Holy Scriptures. Of the coming of the Antichrist, I know nothing; it is possible. But after the Antichrist must come the huge triumph of the Church and the reign of God on earth by the return of the Jewish people, by the conversion of the Gentiles, and by the return of the Faithful into one single fold under one single Shepherd. »

The Ascension

The Ascension

A meditation with Saint Thomas Aquinas O.P.

Christ’s Ascension is the cause of our salvation

”It is expedient to you that I go; for if I do not go, the Paraclete will not come unto you.

But if I go, I will send Him unto you” (John 16, 7).

Christ’s Ascension is the cause of our salvation in two ways. First of all, on our part ; secondly, on His.

1. On our part, in so far as by the Ascension our souls are uplifted to Him ;

for His Ascension fosters, first, faith ; secondly, hope ; thirdly, charity.  Fourthly, our reverence for Him is thereby increased, since we no longer consider Him an earthly man, but the God of Heaven.

Thus the Apostle says : «  If we have known the Christ according to the flesh », that is a mortal, whereby we reputed Him as a mere man, « but now we know Him so no longer » (2 Co 5, 16).

2. On His part, in regard to those things which, in ascending He did for our salvation:

— First, He prepared the way for our ascent into Heaven, according to His own words : « I go to prepare a place for you » (John 14, 2), and the words of Micheas the prophet (2, 13) : « He shall go up that shall open the way before them ».

For since He is our Head, the members must follow whithersoever the Head has gone. Hence, He said : « That where I am, you also may be » (Jn 14, 13). In sign thereof, He took to Heaven the souls of the saints delivered from limbo, according to Psalm 67, 19 and Eph 4, 8 : « Ascending on high, He led captivity, captive », because He took with Him to Heaven, those who had been held captive by the devil, to Heaven, a place foreign to human nature ; captives indeed of a happy taking, since they were won by His victory.

— Secondly, because as the high-priest under the Old Testament entered the holy place to stand before God for the people, so also Christ entered Heaven « to make intercession for us », as is said in Hebr 7, 25. Because the very appearance of Himself in the human nature which He took with Him to Heaven is a pleading for us ; so that for the very reason that God so exalted human nature in Christ, He may take pity on them for whom the Son of God took human nature.

— Thirdly, that being established in His heavenly throne as God and Lord, He might send down gifts upon men, according to Eph 4, 10 : « He ascended above all the heavens, that he might fill all things », that is, fill all things with His gifts.

* Christ’s Passion is the cause of our ascending to Heaven, properly speaking, by removing the hindrance which is sin, and also by way of merit ;

* whereas Christ’s Ascension is the direct cause of our ascension, as by beginning it in Him Who is our Head, with Whom the members must be united.

Christ by once ascending into Heaven acquired for Himself and for us in perpetuity the right and worthiness of a heavenly home ; which worthiness suffers in no wise, if, from special dispensation, He sometimes come down in body to earth ; either in order to show Himself to the whole world, as at the judgment ; or else, to show Himself particularly to some individual ; for example in saint Paul’s case, as we read in the Acts, chapter 9.

And lest any man may think that Christ was not bodily present when this occurred, the contrary is proven from what the Apostle says in 1 Cor 15, 8 to confirm faith in the Resurrection : « Last of all He was seen by me, as by one born out of due time », which vision would not confirm the truth of the Resurrection except he had beheld Christ’s very body.

[From the book of Fr E. C. McENIRY O.P., Saint Thomas Aquinas Meditations for every day,  Columbus (Ohio), Long’s College Book Company, 1951, p. 255-256.]

A Treatise on Prayer

A treatise on prayer

by Fr. Wilberforce O.P.

– I –

Prayer in general

The whole spiritual life consists essentially in two grand duties, both of which, but especially the first, must be constant and unintermitting: prayer and mortification. These are the two wings by which we are to fly to Heaven, and without both, progress is IMPOSSIBLE.

Of these two, the first is now to be treated of and examined.

Prayer is the most noble and divine instrument of perfection or union with God, and by prayer alone we can attain to the end of our Creation and Redemption : union of spirit with God, our Creator and Redeemer.

The prayer chiefly to be discussed at present is that known as affective prayer, by which our souls offer and give and consecrate themselves and all they have and all they owe to God, giving him all love, obedience, submission, thanksgiving, etc.

What is prayer ?

Prayer is defined to be « an elevation of the mind to God ». By lifting or elevating the mind we mean making acts by which the soul moves and expresses, or at least implies :

1. An entire dependance on God as the Author and Fountain of all good.

2. A will and readiness to give Him His due, viz all love, obedience, adoration, glory and worship, by humbling an annihilating herself and all created things in His Presence.

3. A desire and intention to aspire to union of spirit with Him.

These things are included in all real prayer.

Prayer, then, is the most perfect and divine action of which man is capable. It is the only principal action the soul was created to accomplish, because the soul was created for union with God, and prayer is the only means to that union. Without prayer, no other means is effective. Therefore, of all other duties and good works that can be done, prayer is above all indispensably necessary.

The necessity of prayer

The following considerations, five in number, suffice to prove the necessity of prayer:

1. By prayer only, through which charity is aroused, strengthened and increased, can we be united to God. In this all good consists. Separated from God, we have only ourselves, viz, corruption, nothingness, misery.

2. By prayer only, all grace – our only good – is a) obtained, b) preserved, c) recovered if unhappily lost. The reason is: to obtain grace, we must have recourse to the Fountain of grace and good. God is that fountain. But recourse can only be had to Him by prayer.

3. By prayer alone can we make external things holy so as to render them means of uniting us to God. Works of zeal, charity, ordinary actions of daily life can only be made [supernaturally] good and acceptable to God so far as they are vivified by internal prayer. Because a good action is only meritorious inasmuch as it is raised and directed to God by an interior motion of the soul, and this interior motion is prayer. To be drawn interiorly to offer up an action to God by charity is therefore an act of prayer.

4. True prayer is incompatible with [mortal] sin in a way nothing else is or can be. A soul remaining with the will attached to sin may perform all other actions, e. g. fasting, almsgiving, joining in choral offices, keeping silence, visiting the sick, obeying superiors, hearing or saying Mass etc., but true prayer of the spirit and an affection to sin are absolutely incompatible and mutually destructive. The reason of this is that :

— internal prayer is the converting and uniting of the will to God;

— sin is averting and separating the will from God.

The two, therefore, being contradictory, cannot dwell together, but one must destroy the other.

5. Prayer is the one sovereign remedy and comfort in all kinds of miseries:

— wether of soul, as afflictions, guilt, remorse, fear, etc.,

— or of body, as pain, poverty, death, etc.

Because the only remedy and comfort for these ills is to rise above them, but this can only be done by union of spirit with God, a union brought by pure prayer.


Three consequences follow from these truths:

1. Regarding God; 2. regarding the devil; 3. Regarding ourselves.

1. God gives us special commands about prayer in a way He does about no other duty except charity, which is the object of prayer. We are commanded always to pray as the one necessary thing. « We ought always to pray and not to faint » (Luke 18, 1).

2. The devil desiring our destruction directs all his efforts to make us undervalue prayer ; to disgust us with it ; to persuade us it is useless, too difficult, impossible, unnecessary – for if he can induce us to neglect and abandon internal prayer, by so much he does actually separate us from God.

3. We ourselves must see that prayer is the one thing that at all times and under all circumstances we must always cultivate, energetically pursue, determinately persevere in, because all our hope, all our good is found in prayer alone. We ought to have one aim and business in life, viz: to exercize and increase charity by internal prayer; or in other words to increase within ourselves the quiet but firm determination to please God by constantly an with ever increasing earnestness, raising our spirits to Him; will to will, mind to mind, heart to heart.

Prayer has been described by Father Baker as « an affectuous actuation of an intellective soul to God ».

From this two consequences follow :

1. Prayer of words only is not prayer. Prayer requires an inward attention and affection of soul, though by no means necessarily to the sense of the words uttered. In other words: vocal prayer that is not also mental is no prayer!

2. This most important consequence follows, that thinking, exercising the mind, reasoning, discoursing to oneself about a sacred truth, or meditation on a subject is not itself prayer but only a preparation for prayer, an incitement to pray: for prayer is only immediately exercised by the will, or affections adhering to, and being united to God.

There is, then, no such thing as merely vocal prayer, so that no one must be misled into this error by the division of prayer into vocal and mental. Merely vocal prayer is that pretence of prayer of which God says: « This people honoureth Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. In vain do they honour Me » (Mt 15, 8).

But the distinction has a right meaning, for though all prayer must be mental to be prayer at all, some prayer is vocal also, some merely mental without any form of word, and, further than this, prayer may be made with blind elevation of the will to God without any express internal words or definite thoughts.

– 2 –

Vocal prayer

Sometimes vocal prayer can be an instrument conducting a soul to contemplation.

In ancient times many arrived at contemplation by means of vocal prayer, joining to it: 1) extreme abstraction and solitude, 2) rigorous abstinence, 3) immense diligence in prayer.

But we, not having these conditions, must supply them by daily set exercices of mental recollection, to bring about habitual recollectedness.

If God calls a soul to contemplation through vocal prayer, she must:

1. Practise still greater abstraction and mortification than is necessary by the road of mental prayer. Because vocal prayer is not so profound and inward, and does not give such light for regulating the affections.

2. Spend more time in it, for its efficacy is less.

3. If God draws her to internal prayer of aspirations, be ready to follow at once.

If a soul should be drawn (it is most uncommon) by the way of vocal prayer only, it is a secure way, less open to illusions, and less likely to hurt the head, etc.

But as this is a way nowadays almost unknown, mental prayer is necessary. Souls, therefore, must not be tempted to abandon mental prayer for vocal prayer, even if vocal prayers were « clear and undistracted », and the mentel recollections « painful and disturbed ». Persevere, and this will change. Little less than a miracle will make the vocal prayer of imperfect souls to become contemplation. Sudden apparent contemplation, then, must be vehemently suspected.

In the beginning of a spiritual course, vocal prayer is good :

1. For those who cannot manage discursive prayer.

2. For others, if it raise and better their attention to God, provided it yield to internal prayer when they are disposed for it.

3. Vocal prayer of obligation, public or private, must always be attended to.

Three kinds of attention in vocal prayer

Some kind of attention is necessary for all prayer :

1. Attention of mind to the sense of the words uttered, varying with each verse, etc. This is the lowest kind ; and the more imperfect the soul is, the easier it is.

2. To come to vocal prayer – viz, the Divine Office – with some efficacious affection of soul to God, or letting the vocal prayer raise the heart, and remaining in it as deep recollection as possible, without reference to the changing sense. This is far more perfect, being attention to God and union of affection with Him, which is the object of all prayer. No one should quit this for the first attention.

3. Certain souls in close union with God are able to be profoundly recollected and united to God, and yet to follow the sense without injuring, nay, increasing and simplifying their internal union. This is not before the soul has arrived at contemplation and habitual close union. This is by far the most perfect and uncommon.

– 3 –

Internal affective prayer

Mental or internal prayer is either :

1. Imperfect and acquired ; or

2. Perfect and infused.

The perfect and infused prayer is contemplation ; the imperfect, acquired and active is the preparation for contemplation, which is the end and object of all spiritual exercises.

Necessity of internal and affective prayer

Internal and affective prayer is the only efficacious instrument of perfect union of spirit with God, i.e. of contemplation.

Cardinal Bellarmine says: « This, I believe, I may most truly and confidently affirm, that without a diligent pursuit of internal prayer, none will ever become truly spiritual, nor attain to any degree of perfection. Many go often to the sacraments, and yet remain as imperfect as before. Nay, many religious and priests read Scripture, receive and celebrate often, perhaps daily, and yet are devoid of devotion and the Spirit of God, cold in love, earnest in love of vanities, full of impatience, envy and inordinate desires. Why ? Because they never seriously enter into their own hearts by exercises of introversion and true internal prayer. »

The same must be said of some religious who ought to be more contemplative, who, by profession, ought to aspire to contemplation, but who mistake the way. For they imagine, or act as if they imagined, that they can reach union by exact performance of outward observances, solemn offices, etc. joined to internal discursive prayer. These things are good as inferior and imperfect preparations to true prayer. But if religious rest in them, in external observance and meditation, or discursive prayer, little interior reformation or simplification of soul will result. For these active exercises shortly lose all power, if the soul does not go on from them to truly enlightening exercises of internal affective prayer. This prayer is a prayer of the heart and will, quietly and calmly produced, but by good affections, not by the understanding.

Internal affective prayer excels vocal and discursively mental prayer in many ways

1. Because by it alone, is our union in spirit with God perfectly obtained ; because by it, the will, with all the powers and affections of the soul, is fixed on God.

2. Because by it, the soul enters far more deeply into God, and is far more enlightened by Him, the Fountain of Light. She thus detects her imperfections, impurities of intention, and inordinate affections.

3. Because grace and strength to practice all we see to be God’s Will is obtained by this kind of prayer:

* by way of impetration, according to God’s promises;

* by the direct efficacy of this prayer itself. For, rightly understood, this prayer includes the habits of all virtues. Why ? Because first the virtue and merit of all external things comes from the interior soul exercising herself in charity and purity of intention, and this is done by internal affective prayer : further all internal exercise of virtue is, and become direct prayer of the spirit, e.g., internal humility is the soul seeing its nothingness, and adhering to God, its only good. Thus, as habits are formed by repeated acts, so constant internal affection will form the habits of all virtues.

4. To persevere in this prayer is universal mortification of a profound and perfect kind. Fot the will forces nature and the iferior powers to leave whatever pleases them, and give the affections to God, whatever disgust they may feel in this exercise. Saint John Chrysostom says: « It is impossible that whoever with due care and diligence prays can ever sin. »

5. Because this internal affective prayer is the only exercise that cannot lack purity of intention. Fasting, obediences, choir, etc., may come from impulse of nature. In fact, then, all virtue comes from internal affective prayer, that is, the will being fixed on God by charity. Now if any oblique or selfish intention should intrude itself into prayer of the will, it woud be observed, and unless expelled, no progress could be made in that prayer.

6. Because internal affective prayer is what makes all other things to be prayer at all. For without it, vocal prayer is mere sound, and meditation a mere intellectual exercise. God desires our wills, affections, hearts, and without them neither our tongues or our brains are of any value in His sight: « Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, etc. »; « Son, give me thy heart »; « This people honoureth Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. » The only profitable attention to prayer is that of the heart, taking the heart as the seat of love. The attention of the mind only is nothing, otherwise study of holy things would be prayer.

Attention cannot be wanting to internal affective prayer, for the attention itself is the very prayer. As soon as the mind wanders, prayer ceases.

Considering these six excellences of internal affective prayer, two things follow :

1. A right minded soul of good will must see that no exertion should be spared to acquire so invaluable treasure.

2. Religious superiors must acknowledge that nothing can more essentially belong to their office than to see that their subjects are thoroughly well instructed in it, and habituated to its use.

Saint Bernard says: « Let beginners be taught to pray spiritually, and to withdraw as far as may be from all bodies and bodily images when they think of God. »

— So also Abbot Nilus, a disciple of saint John Chrysostom, says: « Happy is the soul who, when she prays, empties herself entirely of all images and forms; happy is the soul that prays fervently and without distractions; such a soul increases daily in the love and desire of God ; happy is the soul who, when praying, altogether quits the use and exercise of her senses, and loses interest in all things but God. »

But much struggle and long endeavour is necessary to attain this purity of prayer, to overcome the obstacles from the world, self, and the devil of whom Abbot Nilus says: « The whole war between us and the demons is about nothing else than prayer. »

Fruits of affective prayer

Many and various are the effects of affective prayer in the soul :

1. Great love of God, showing itself in many acts of love of preference, complacence and benevolence

— The love of preference is that by which we prefer God above all things. « What have I in heaven? and besides Thee what do I desire upon earth? … Thou art the God of my heart, and the God who is my portion for ever » (Psalm 72, 25-26).

— The love of complacence, by which we rejoice that God is what He is.

— The love of benevolence ; wishing all good to God. And as God is wanting in nothing, we can make acts of the love of benevolence :

* by desiring Him to be loved by all,

* by desiring all good in an infinite degree for Him, even if He had not it already.

But desires must be completed by deed; love must be effective as well as affective:

— Love of preference. If I would prefer God to all, I must not offend Him to please a friend, I must not despise His Will to do my own.

— If I possess the love of complacency, I shall devote myself to Him.

— If I desire good to Him, and rejoice by the love of benevolence that He is so great, I shall work for Him and try to promote His glory.

2. A true desire to do the will of God in all things

« But yet not my will, but Thine be done » (Luke 22, 42).

This makes us consult, not our own lights and inclinations, but God’s Will; act from a motive of pleasing God, not self.

But how are we to know God’s will?

It is expressed by the law of God, by the Church, of the Order, or of Superiors. In matters neither commanded nor forbidden, we must consider what is best in itself for us. If we doubt, then, in matters of importance, seek light; in matters of small importance, avoid two extremes : one extreme is to take no pains to think which would please God more, the other to be too long doubting. Enter into yourself and consult God, and then decide at once. We do not weigh the lesser coins, neither should we waste time in weighing small actions that present themselves to be done. We should not serve a master well if we took as much pains and time in considering what we were to do, as in doing what was necessary.

3. Burning zeal for God’s glory. This desire must show itself in acts as Saint Dominic, Saint Vincent Ferrer, Saint Teresa, who vowed always to do the better or more perfect thing.

4. Great desire of Holy Communion. Saint Catherine of Siena burned with this desire, and Blessed Imelda also.

5. Great desire to bear in body and soul the mortification of Jesus-Christ. Directors have to keep souls in prayer of affection back rather than urge them forward. Exterior and interior advantage. Mortification of life and not mere external religion.

6. A true and practical desire to be united with God for His sake and because He wills it. This desire, in order to be true, and not an illusion, must be practical, by taking the means of union, dying to self in order to live to God.

« As the hart panteth after the fountains of water, so my soul panteth after Thee, O God. When shall I come and appear before the Face of God? » (Psalm 41, 1-2)

But the hart runs actually towards the water.

A Meditation on Easter

A Meditation for Easter

with Saint Thomas Aquinas

Fra Angelico’s “Resurrection of Christ and Women at the Tomb”

The advantages of Our Lord’s Resurrection

From the mystery of Our Lord’s Resurrection, we can learn four things :

1.  First of all, we learn that we should strive to rise spiritually from the death of the soul which we have caused by sin, and rise to a life of justice [holiness] which is acquired through penance.

« Rise thou that sleepest and arise from the dead, and Christ shall enlighten thee » (Eph 5 14). « Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection [the one of the soul]. In these, the second death [eternal death in Hell] has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him » (Apoc 20, 16).

2. Secondly, [from Our Lord’s Resurrection we should learn] not to defer rising spiritually until death is upon us, but rise NOW AND PROMPTLY ; for Christ rose for our example on the third day.

« Delay not to be converted to the Lord, and defer it not from day to day » (Eccl 5, 8), because :

— you will not be able even to think of those things pertaining to your salvation, when serious illness comes upon you ;

— and also because by delaying your conversion, you lose part of all the good things which the Church accomplishes ;

— and, what is worse, you incur many evils because of your perseverance in sin.

Likewise, inasmuch as the devil possesses you for a longer time, so much the more difficult it  be for you to rid yourself of Satan.

3. Thirdly, we should learn to rise to an incorruptible life, so that we may not die again ; that is : having firmly resolved to do penance, we may not sin again.

« Christ rising from the dead, dieth now no more, death shall no more have dominion over Him »  (Rom 6, 9). « So you also reckon that you are dead to sin but alive to God in Jesus-Christ, Our Lord. Let not sin, therefore, reign in your mortal body, so as to obey the lusts of flesh. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of iniquity unto sin, but present yourselves to God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of justice [sanctification] unto God » (Rom 6, 11).

4.  Fourthly, [from Our Lord’s Resurrection we should learn] to rise a new and glorious life, so that we may avoid everything which was before the occasion and cause of our spiritual death and of sin.

« That as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life » (Rom 6, 4). And this new life is a life of justice [holiness], which renews our souls and leads us unto a life of everlasting glory.