Book Talk Tuesday, Introduction to the Devout Life, Part 2, Chapter 8

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CHAPTER VIII. Some Useful Hints as to Meditation.

ABOVE all things, my daughter, strive when your meditation is ended to
retain the thoughts and resolutions you have made as your earnest
practice throughout the day. This is the real fruit of meditation,
without which it is apt to be unprofitable, if not actually
harmful–inasmuch as to dwell upon virtues without practising them
lends to puff us up with unrealities, until we begin to fancy ourselves
all that we have meditated upon and resolved to be; which is all very
well if our resolutions are earnest and substantial, but on the
contrary hollow and dangerous if they are not put in practice. You must
then diligently endeavour to carry out your resolutions, and seek for
all opportunities, great or small. For instance, if your resolution was
to win over those who oppose you by gentleness, seek through the day
any occasion of meeting such persons kindly, and if none offers, strive
to speak well of them, and pray for them.

When you leave off this interior prayer, you must be careful to keep
your heart in an even balance, lest the balm it has received in
meditation be scattered. I mean, try to maintain silence for some brief
space, and let your thoughts be transferred gradually from devotion to
business, keeping alive the feelings and affections aroused in
meditation as long as possible. Supposing some one to have received a
precious porcelain vessel, filled with a most costly liquid, which he
is going to carry home; how carefully he would go, not looking about,
but watching stedfastly lest he trip or stumble, or lest he spill any
of the contents of his vessel. Just so, after meditation, do not allow
yourself forthwith to be distracted, but look straight before you. Of
course, if you meet any one to whom you are bound to attend, you must
act according to the circumstances in which you find yourself, but even
thus give heed to your heart, so as to lose as little as possible of
the precious fruits of your meditation. You should strive, too, to
accustom yourself to go easily from prayer to all such occupations as
your calling or position lawfully require of you, even although such
occupations may seem uncongenial to the affections and thoughts just
before forming part of your prayer. Thus the lawyer should be able to
go from meditation to his pleading, the tradesman to his business, the
mistress of a family to the cares of her household and her wifely
duties, so calmly and gently as not to be in any way disturbed by so
doing. In both you are fulfilling God’s Will, and you should be able to
turn from one to the other in a devout and humble spirit.

It may be that sometimes, immediately after your preparation, your
affections will be wholly drawn to God, and then, my child, you must
let go the reins, and not attempt to follow any given method; since,
although as a general rule your considerations should precede your
affections and resolutions, when the Holy Spirit gives you those
affections at once, it is unnecessary to use the machinery which was
intended to bring about the same result. In short, whenever such
affections are kindled in your heart, accept them, and give them place
in preference to all other considerations. The only object in placing
the affections after the points of consideration in meditation, is to
make the different parts of meditation clearer, for it is a general
rule that when affections arise they are never to be checked, but
always encouraged to flow freely. And this applies also to the acts of
thanksgiving, of oblation and petition, which must not be restrained
either, although it is well to repeat or renew them at the close of
your meditation. But your resolutions must be made after the
affections, and quite at the end of your meditation, and that all the
more because in these you must enter upon ordinary familiar subjects
and things which would be liable to cause distractions if they were
intruded among your spiritual affections.

Amid your affections and resolutions it is well occasionally to make
use of colloquies, and to speak sometimes to your Lord, sometimes to
your guardian Angel, or to those persons who are concerned in the
mystery you are meditating, to the Saints, to yourself, your own heart,
to sinners, and even to the inanimate creation around, as David so
often does in the Psalms, as well as other Saints in their meditations
and prayers.
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