Book Talk Tuesday, Introduction to the Devout Life, Part 2, Chapter 1

Book Talk Tuesday, Introduction to the Devout Life, Part 2, Chapter 1



CHAPTER I. The Necessity of Prayer.

1. PRAYER opens the understanding to the brightness of Divine Light,
and the will to the warmth of Heavenly Love–nothing can so effectually
purify the mind from its many ignorances, or the will from its perverse
affections. It is as a healing water which causes the roots of our good
desires to send forth fresh shoots, which washes away the soul’s
imperfections, and allays the thirst of passion.

2. But especially I commend earnest mental prayer to you, more
particularly such as bears upon the Life and Passion of our Lord. If
you contemplate Him frequently in meditation, your whole soul will be
filled with Him, you will grow in His Likeness, and your actions will
be moulded on His. He is the Light of the world; therefore in Him, by
Him, and for Him we shall be enlightened and illuminated; He is the
Tree of Life, beneath the shadow of which we must find rest;–He is the
Living Fountain of Jacob’s well, wherein we may wash away every stain.
Children learn to speak by hearing their mother talk, and stammering
forth their childish sounds in imitation; and so if we cleave to the
Savior in meditation, listening to His words, watching His actions and
intentions, we shall learn in time, through His Grace, to speak, act
and will like Himself. Believe me, my daughter, there is no way to God
save through this door. Just as the glass of a mirror would give no
reflection save for the metal behind it, so neither could we here below
contemplate the Godhead, were it not united to the Sacred Humanity of
our Saviour, Whose Life and Death are the best, sweetest and most
profitable subjects that we can possibly select for meditation. It is
not without meaning that the Saviour calls Himself the Bread come down
from Heaven;–just as we eat bread with all manner of other food, so we
need to meditate and feed upon our Dear Lord in every prayer and
action. His Life has been meditated and written about by various
authors. I should specially commend to you the writings of S.
Bonaventura, Bellintani, Bruno, Capilla, Grenada and Da Ponte. [24]

3. Give an hour every day to meditation before dinner;–if you can, let
it be early in the morning, when your mind will be less cumbered, and
fresh after the night’s rest. Do not spend more than an hour thus,
unless specially advised to do so by your spiritual father.

4. If you can make your meditation quietly in church, it will be well,
and no one, father or mother, husband or wife, can object to an hour
spent there, and very probably you could not secure a time so free from
interruption at home.

5. Begin all prayer, whether mental or vocal, by an act of the Presence
of God. If you observe this rule strictly, you will soon see how useful
it is.

6. It may help you to say the Creed, Lord’s Prayer, etc., in Latin, but
you should also study them diligently in your own language, so as
thoroughly to gather up the meaning of these holy words, which must be
used fixing your thoughts steadily on their purport, not striving to
say many words so much as seeking to say a few with your whole heart.
One Our Father said devoutly is worth more than many prayers hurried

7. The Rosary is a useful devotion when rightly used, and there are
various little books to teach this. It is well, too, to say pious
Litanies, and the other vocal prayers appointed for the Hours and found
in Manuals of devotion,–but if you have a gift for mental prayer, let
that always take the chief place, so that if, having made that, you are
hindered by business or any other cause from saying your wonted vocal
prayers, do not be disturbed, but rest satisfied with saying the Lord’s
Prayer, the Angelic Salutation, and the Creed after your meditation.

8. If, while saying vocal prayers, your heart feels drawn to mental
prayer, do not resist it, but calmly let your mind fall into that
channel, without troubling because you have not finished your appointed
vocal prayers. The mental prayer you have substituted for them is more
acceptable to God, and more profitable to your soul. I should make an
exception of the Church’s Offices, if you are bound to say those by
your vocation–in such a case these are your duty.

9. If it should happen that your morning goes by without the usual
meditation, either owing to a pressure of business, or from any other
cause, (which interruptions you should try to prevent as far as
possible,) try to repair the loss in the afternoon, but not immediately
after a meal, or you will perhaps be drowsy, which is bad both for your
meditation and your health. But if you are unable all day to make up
for the omission, you must remedy it as far as may be by ejaculatory
prayer, and by reading some spiritual book, together with an act of
penitence for the neglect, together with a stedfast resolution to do
better the next day.

[24] S. Bonaventura, Louis of Grenada, and Da Ponte’s works are still
available and are admirable helps to meditation. Among more modern
works might be suggested Isaac Williams on the Passion, Avrillon’s Lent
Guide, &c. &c.