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Reading, Meditation, Prayer, Contemplation

ImageReading is the careful study of the Scriptures, concentrating all of one’s powers on it.Meditation is the busy application of the mind to seek with the help of one’s own reason the knowledge of hidden truth.

Prayer is the heart’s devoted turning to God to push away evil and obtain what is good.

Contemplation is when the mind is in some manner lifted up to God, and held above itself, so that it tastes the joys of everlasting sweetness.

Reading seeks the sweetness of a blessed life, meditation perceives it, prayer asks for it, contemplation tastes it.

Reading as it were puts food whole into the mouth, meditation chews and breaks it up, prayer extracts its flavor, contemplation is the sweetness itself which gladdens and refreshes.

Reading comes first and is, as it were, the foundation. It provides the subject matter to be considered for meditation. Meditation considers more carefully what is to be sought after. Prayer lifts itself up to God with all its strength, and begs for the treasure it longs for, which is contemplation. Contemplation… rewards the labors of the other three; it inebriates the thirsting soul with the dew of heavenly sweetness.

Reading, meditation, prayer and contemplation are linked together, each one working for the other. The first degrees are of little or no use without the last, while the last can never or hardly be won without the first.

What is the use of spending one’s time in continuous reading, unless we extract nourishment from it by chewing and digesting this food in order that its strength can pass into our inmost heart? If meditation is to be fruitful, it must be followed by devoted prayer, and the sweetness of contemplation may be called the efficacy of prayer.

Let all my world be silent in Your presence, Lord, that I may hear what the Lord God may say in my heart. Your words are so softly spoken that no one can hear them except in deep silence. He who sits alone and listens will be raised above himself.

Guigo II, Scala Claustralium

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Posted by on May 29, 2013 in Catholic

 

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Devotion to Our Lady

ImageFrom the reflections of the Carthusian Order:

It was in Rome, towards the end of the eighteenth century, one fine evening in May. A child of the poor had gathered his companions round him, and led them to a statue of Mary, before which a lamp was burning, as is the custom of that holy city. There, these fresh young voices sang the Litany of Our Lady. The next day, the little group, followed by other children, again gathered at the feet of the Mother of God. Next came their mothers, to join the assembly. Soon, other groups were formed, and the devotion rapidly became popular. Holy souls, troubled by the disorderly conduct which always increases and becomes graver at the return of the pleasant spring-time, saw in these growing practices the Hand of God, and they co-operated with the designs of Providence by approving and promoting this new devotion, as a public and solemn act of reparation.

Thus, opening out like a flower of love under the lovely Italian sky and with the approval of the Holy Father, was not slow to make its way into France and to every part of the Catholic world. It was like a tiny grain of mustard-seed, and grew rapidly, multiplying its flowers and its fruits beyond all expectations.

This feast of thirty days in honor of Mary is rich in possibilities for our sanctification. Saint Julien Eymard has written: ‘A devotion lasting a whole month covers its whole object, considers it under every aspect, and gives one a true and serious understanding of it. By meditations renewed day by day and by the unity of acts, virtues and prayers concentrated on the same subject, one eventually acquires a true and solid devotion in respect of any mystery thus honored for the space of a month. Thought thus concentrated becomes strong and satisfying’ (La divine Eucharistie). Is it not precisely this focusing of one’s whole thought upon one object that constitutes to a great extent the power of the Exercises of Saint Ignatius to effect the transformation of the Christian soul? For four weeks, divided according to the subject of meditation rather than to the number of days, the saintly founder of the Society of Jesus make the soul that entrusts itself to his guidance climb speedily up from the dark places of sin to a life of union with God.

By following so prudent and safe a method, we shall endeavor to take by the hand one who is maybe but a novice in the love of Mary, and lead him gradually to the heights of union with her; so that, when the month is over, he can direct his whole life in such a manner as to produce, to the glory of his heavenly Mother, all the fruits that she expects from souls as favoured as those of her children. May she herself show us the path to follow, and by her maternal blessing guide therein our timid and faltering steps.

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2013 in Catholic

 

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Love God Above All

ImagePope Benedict XVI offered some wonderful speeches in Portugal which will hopefully turn the eyes of the Christian world towards heaven. In a world which is growing towards legalized immorality, where the boundaries of serving mammon continue to become larger, we who refuse to cross into those borders must rely on hope, which does not disappoint. Saint Bruno, while he sojourned the earth, also offered some edifying words of encouragement and warning, and now he speaks to us as a citizen of heaven. Here are some of his reflections extracted from his letters. He teaches us the path to follow based on the words of Sacred Scripture.

Remember lovely Rachel. Although she gave Jacob fewer offspring than Leah, he preferred her to the more fruitful one, whose vision was dim. The offspring of contemplation are rarer than the offspring of action; so it was that their father had more affection for Joseph and Benjamin than for their other brothers. Remember that better part, which Mary chose and which would not be taken away from her.

Remember the lovely Sunamitess, that virgin who was the only one in the land of Israel found worthy to attend to David and warm him when he was old. I should like for you, too, to love God above all, so that warmed by His embrace you may be aflame with divine love. May this charity take root in your heart so that the glory of the world, that captivating and deceptive temptation, will soon seem abhorrent to you; that you will reject the riches whose cares are a burden to the soul; and that you will find those pleasures, so harmful to body as well as spirit, distasteful.

You should always be aware of the one who wrote these words: “If anyone loves the world and what is in the world — the concupiscence of the flesh, the covetousness of the eyes and pride — the love of the Father is not in him”; and these, too: “Whoever wishes to be a friend of this world becomes an enemy of God.” Is there any greater sin, any worse folly and downfall of the spirit, anything more hurtful or unfortunate, than to wish to be at war against the One Whose power cannot be resisted and Whose just vengeance cannot be evaded? Are we stronger than He? If, for the moment, His patient goodness moves us to repentance, will He not at last punish the offenses of those who disregard Him? What is more perverse, more contrary to reason, to justice, and to nature itself, than to prefer creature to Creator, to pursue perishable goods instead of eternal ones, those of earth rather than those of heaven?

What do you intend to do? What, if not to believe God’s counsels, to believe Truth Who cannot deceive? This is His counsel to you: “Come to Me, you who are heavily burdened, and I will refresh you.” Isn’t it a burden both unprofitable and unproductive to be tormented by concupiscence, constantly under attack by the cares, anxieties, fears, and sorrows that are the result of those desires? What heavier burden is there than that which makes the soul descend from its sublime dignity down to the underworld, where all holiness is held in contempt? Flee all this agitation and misery. Flee as from a pestilence, those who seek to corrupt you.

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2013 in Catholic

 

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Priests – Special Guardians

ImageIn order that My Body might be given honor and glory, I established the house of the Holy Church, where it was to be kept and preserved, as well as priests to be its special guardians, who in a certain way are above the angels by reason of their ministry. The One Whom angels fear to touch due to a reverent fear, priests handle with their hands and mouth.They should be My standard-bearers and special friends by reason of the purity of their mind and body, for purity is the first position near to God, Whom nothing foul can touch nor adorn. It was not strange that marital relation was permitted to the priests of the law during the time in which they were not offering sacrifice, for they were carrying the shell, not the nut itself. Now, however, with the coming of the Truth and the disappearance of the figure, one must strive all the more fully for purity by as much as the nut is sweeter than the shell.

Clerics are ordained in order that they may become angelic men in all humility, for heaven is attained and the devil’s pride is overcome through humility of mind and body.

Clerics are ordained for the purpose of being disciples of God through the constant reading of Holy Scripture. For this reason, a book is placed in their hands by the bishops, just as a sword is given to a knight, so that they understand what they must do and strive through prayer and meditation to placate God’s anger for the sake of the people of God.

Clerics are ordained as guardians of God’s temple and watchmen of souls. For this reason, the bishops give them keys in order that they may be deeply concerned for the salvation of their brethren and encourage them by word and deed and incite the weak to greater perfection.

They are ordained as stewards and caretakers of the altars and scorners of worldly things in order that they may serve at the altar, live by the altar, and occupy themselves with earthly matters only insofar as befits their position.

They are ordained to be apostolic men who preach the Gospel Truth and make their conduct fit their preaching.

They are ordained to be mediators between God and man through the Sacrifice of My Body.

~Revelations of Saint Birgitta of Sweden~

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2013 in Catholic

 

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Divine Office: Indispensable

ImageAfter the Sacrifice of the altar the Divine Office is one of the most important functions of my ministry. In making me responsible for this office, the Church wishes that several times a day her minister be present before the throne of his God’s mercies to draw down heavenly blessings on her children, and turn away from above their heads the scourges that the multitude of sins committed on earth call out for all too strongly. She wishes that I perform in her name, and in the name of the Christian people, that I take part here below in what employs the blessed spirits in heaven: Divinum Officium, imitatio coelestis concentus (S. Bonav. De Sexalis Seraph. c.8), that I begin during this life that concert of praises that I shall not cease to repeat in the other, if, as I must hope, I have the happiness to get there.So I will direct all my attention to acquit myself worthily of this holy and consoling ministry, both as to the manner and as to the order in which I say it. As to the manner, I will direct all my attention to see that it is not an empty din of muddled words said out of obligation; I know well enough what reproaches the Jews merited for not having acquitted this duty of religion in any other way than this. This people honours me with their lips, says the Lord, and their heart is far from me. How many priests deserve this reproach, and as for myself too, do I not have some improvements to make on this score?

The indispensable conditions required for praying as one ought are found in this preparatory prayer that a laudable custom normally prefixes to the recitation of every part of the Divine Office: Aperi Domine os meum ut digne, attente, ac devote recitare valeam hoc officium, etc., namely, respectfully, attentively, devoutly.

Respectfully i.e., without haste, in a modest posture, in a suitable place.

Attentively for without attention there is no true prayer, prayer being a rational worship. To pray without attention is to act purely mechanically.

Devoutly for prayer is homage of the heart even more than it is of the mind, and the words of Our Lady prove that it is in the heart that lies the merit of prayer.

In the recitation of the Office, therefore, it will be very much to the point, indeed indispensable, always to prepare myself, even if only by fervently raising my heart to God.

I will take pains to repulse every distraction that comes up as soon as I notice it, and to avoid them persisting in spite of myself I will make an imperceptible pause at the end of each psalm while saying Gloria Patri, to renew my intention and refocus my attention if it has wandered for a moment. I will fix my mind to the best of my ability on the meaning of the Psalms that I am saying, in such a way as to follow the Psalmist in the various feelings that move him and that my heart may produce the same effect that animated him when he composed those wonderful canticles, Si orat Psalmus orate. Si gemit gemite,.si gratulatur gaudete, si timet timete (5. Aug. in Ps. 30), but when I do notice some involuntary distraction, I will try to accept not to go over it again as has sometimes happened, being satisfied in that case with humbling myself before the Lord, asking pardon of Him from the bottom of my heart, and starting again then with a new fervour to make reparation for past negligence.

So much for the manner in which I will acquit myself in a holy way of that important and consoling function. I will not add anything else save a desire that I might make this prayer on my knees, with uncovered head, as we read that the Venerable Cardinal Bellarmine and several other holy personages never failed to do.

As to the order, I will enter as much as I can into the spirit of the Church and its ancient practice by dividing up my saying of the office, and reciting it at the different times set out for it; if the Venerable Bellarmine, overburdened as he was with so many responsibilities, managed to conform with this edifying practice, it seems to me it should not be impossible for me, especially as I have always wanted to do it and have even made the attempt without difficulty while I was at the seminary.

~ Saint Eugène de Mazenod ~

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2013 in Catholic

 

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Holy Darkness

Image“If I ever become a Saint – I will surely be one of darkness. I will continually be absent from Heaven – to light the light of those in darkness on earth.” These are the words of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. Since her letters became publicly known, she has been under a microscope, and has received most of her criticism from the secular media.

The very deep, mysterious intensity of Mother Teresa’s spiritual life has been presented in the book, Come Be My Light by Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C. He first met Mother Teresa in 1977 and joined the Missionaries of Charity in 1984. About her letters, the author wrote in his book: “Providentially, Mother Teresa’s spiritual directors preserved some of her correspondence. Thus, when testimonies and documents were gathered during the process of her beatification and canonization, the remarkable story of  her intimate relationship with Jesus, hidden from even her closest collaborators, was discovered. In contrast to her ordinariness, Mother Teresa’s confidences reveal previously unknown depths of holiness and may very well lead her to be ranked among the greatest mystics of the Church’.

The Introduction of the book mentions that for Mother Teresa, “the paradoxical and totally unsuspected cost of her mission was that she herself would live in terrible darkness.”

This darkness is revealed in a letter to one of her spiritual directors as excerpted here: “This terrible sense of loss – this untold darkness – this loneliness, this continual longing for God – which gives me that pain deep down in my heart – Darkness is such that I really do not see – neither with my mind nor with my reason – the place of God in my soul is blank – There is no God in me – when the pain of longing is so great – He does not want me – He is not there – God does not want me.”

It is this type of language and these types of thoughts which led some on a mission to try and discredit the genuine holiness of Mother Teresa. It is nothing more than the devil himself trying to misconstrue what he himself knows is occurring – God’s great purification of His holy one.

This process was explained by Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. He wrote in The Three Ages of Interior Life:

“The reading of the works of Saint John of the Cross leads one to consider the night of the spirit chiefly as a personal passive purification, which prepares the soul for the perfect union with God, called the transforming union. This purification, which in its passive aspect is a mystical state and implies infused contemplation, appears thus as necessary to remove the defects of proficients of whom the author speaks in The Dark Night. The lives of some great servants of God especially dedicated to reparation, to immolation for the salvation of souls or to the apostolate by interior suffering, make one think, however, of a prolongation of the night of the spirit even after their entrance into the transforming union. In such cases, this trial would no longer be chiefly purificatory; it would be above all reparative. The common opinion is that the servants of God are more particularly tried, whether it be that they need a more profound purification, or whether, following the example of Our Lord, they must work by the same means as He used for a great spiritual cause, such as the foundation of a religious order or the salvation of many other souls.”

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2013 in Catholic

 

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The Heart Molded by God

ImageMary is the great mold of God. Through her God fashioned by the Holy Spirit the human nature of Jesus Christ, Who is true God by the hypostatic union. Now, through her He also fashions through grace, men who are images of His Son. No godly feature is missing from this mystical mold. Everyone who casts himself into it and allows himself to be molded will acquire every feature of Jesus Christ with little pain or effort: as befits his weak human condition. He will take on a faithful likeness to Jesus with no possibility of distortion, for the devil has never had, and never will have, any access to Mary, in whom there is not the least stain of sin.

Dear friend, what a difference there is between a soul brought up in the ordinary way to resemble Jesus Christ by people who, like sculptors, rely on their own skill and industry, and a soul thoroughly tractable, entirely detached, most ready to be molded in her by the working of the Holy Spirit. What blemishes and defects, what shadows and distortions, what natural and human imperfections are found in the first soul, and what a faithful and divine likeness to Jesus is found in the second!

~ Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort ~

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2013 in Catholic

 

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