The Spiritual Life

Author: Adolphe Tanquerey



by the Very Reverend Adolphe Tanquerey, S.S., D.D.



The Prayer of Beginners1

#643. We have already explained (n. 499-521) the nature and the efficacy of prayer. After beginners have been reminded of these notions, they must: (1) be instructed as to the necessity and the conditions of prayer; (2) they must be gradually introduced to the practice of such spiritual exercises as befit them; (3) they must be taught mental prayer.

Article I. --Prayer in general: Necessity of Prayer, Conditions of Prayer

Article II. --Principal Spiritual Exercises

Article III.--Mental Prayer: General Notions, Advantages and Necessity, The Mental Prayer of Beginners, The Principal Methods

n1. ST. THOM., IIa IIae, q. 83 and his Commentators; SUAREZ, "De Religione," Tr. IV, lib. I, "De Oratione;" ALVAREZ DE PAZ, t. III, lib. I; TH. DE VALLGORNERA, q. II, disp. V; "Summa theol. mysticae," Ia Pars, Tract. I, discursus III; L DEGRANADA, "Traite de l'Oraison et de la Meditation;" ST. ALPHONSUS DE LIGUORI, "Prayer;" P. MONSABRE, "La Priere;" P. RAMIERE, "L'Apostolat de la priere;" ST FRANCIS DE SALES, "Devout Life," Part II; "Spiritual Combat," C. 44-52; RODRIGUEZ, "Christian Perfection" I Treat. 5; GROU, "How to Pray;" MESCHLER, "Three Fundamental Principles of the Spiritual Life," I; HEDLEY, "Retreat," XXI.


1. Necessity of Prayer

#644. What we have said regarding the twofold end of prayer, worship and petition (n. 503-509), shows us clearly its necessity. It is evident that as creatures and as Christians we are bound to glorify God through adoration, thanksgiving and love; that as sinners we must offer Him reparation (n. 506). Here it is question of prayer chiefly as petition and of its absolute necessity as a means of salvation and perfection.

#645. The necessity of prayer is based on the necessity of actual grace. It is a truth of faith that without such grace we are utterly incapable of obtaining salvation and, still more of attaining perfection (n. 126). Of ourselves, no matter how we use our freedom, we can do nothing positive that would prepare us for conversion to God, nor can we persevere for any length of time, much less until death: "Without me you can do nothing... Not that we are sufficient to think anything of ourselves, as of ourselves... For it is God who worketh in you, both to will and to accomplish."1 Now, barring the first grace, which is gratuitously given us since it is itself the principle of prayer, it remains ever true that prayer is the normal, the efficacious and the universal means through which God wills that we obtain all actual graces. This is the reason why Our Lord insists so frequently upon the necessity of prayer: "Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened to you. For every one that asketh, receiveth: and he that seeketh, findeth: and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. "2 Almost all commentators add that it is as if He said: "Unless you ask, you shall not receive, unless you seek, you shall not find." On this necessity of prayer Our Lord constantly insists, especially when it is question of resisting temptation: "Watch ye and pray that you enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak." 3 St. Thomas asserts that confidence not based on prayer is presumption, for God, Who is not in justice bound to grant us His grace, has not pledged Himself to give it except through prayer. God, assuredly does know our spiritual needs without our exposing them to Him, yet He wills that prayer be the spring that sets in motion His loving mercy, so that we may acknowledge Him as the Author of the gifts He bestows on us.4

n1. "John," XV, 5; "II Cor.," III, 5; "Phil.," II 13 n2. "Matth.," VII, 7-8. n3. "Matth.," XXVI, 41. n4. "Sum. theot.," IIa IIae, q. 83, a. I, ad 3.

#646. This is likewise the way in which tradition has understood the teaching of Our Lord. The Council of Trent, making its own the teaching of St. Augustine, tells us that God does not command the impossible, for He commands us to do what we can and to ask His help for what we cannot do, His grace helping us to ask for it.1 This manifestly implies that there are thing which without prayer are impossible. Such is the conclusion the Roman Catechism draws: " Prayer is the indispensable instrument given us by God in order to obtain what we desire: there are things, in fact, impossible to obtain without the aid of prayer.2

n1. Sess. VI, ch. II. n2. "Catech. Trident.," P. VI, c. I, n. 3.

#647. Advice to the spiritual Director. This truth must be emphasized with beginners. Many, unknown to themselves, are saturated with Pelagianism or Semi-pelagianism, and imagine that by sheer strength of will they can accomplish all things. Soon, however, experience brings them to the realization that their best resolves often fall short despite their efforts. The spiritual director should at such times remind them that it is only through grace and through prayer that they can succeed This personal experience will go far to strengthen their convictions on the necessity of prayer.

II. Essential Conditions of Prayer

#648. Having already proved the necessity of actual grace for all the acts bearing on salvation (n. 126), we must infer its necessity for prayer. St. Paul clearly states this necessity: "Likewise, the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity. For, we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit himself asketh for us with unspeakable groanings."1 We may add that this grace is offered to all, even to sinners; hence, all are able to pray.

Although the state of grace is not necessary in order to pray, it increases the value of prayer, since it makes us the friends of God and the living members of Jesus Christ.

We shall now inquire into the requisite conditions of prayer (1) on the part of the object of prayer, and (2) on the part of the one who prays.

n1. "Rom.," VIII, 26.

I. Conditions on the Part of the Object

#649. The most important condition regarding the object of prayer is to ask for those things only which lead unto life everlasting: for supernatural graces in the first place, and then, for temporal goods, in the measure in which they are conducive to salvation. This rule was laid down by Our Lord Himself: "Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God and his justice: and all these things shall be added unto you."1 We have said (n. 307-308), that man's happiness as well as his perfection consists in the possession of God, and as a consequence in the possession of the means necessary to that end. We must, then, ask for nothing that is not in harmony with it.

(1) Temporal goods in themselves are far too inferior, too inadequate to satisfy our heart's aspirations, and bring us true happiness; they cannot, therefore, be the chief object of our prayers. However, since in order to live and to secure our salvation we need some temporal goods, we are allowed to ask for our daily bread, the bread for the body as well as for the soul, subordinating the former to the latter. It happens at times that this or that particular good, wealth for instance--desirable in our estimation--would prove a danger to our salvation. Hence, we may not ask for such, except in subordination to the goods that are eternal.

n1. "Matth.," VI, 33.

#650. (2) Even when it is question of such or such particular grace, we must not ask for it, except in conformity with the will of God. God in His infinite Wisdom knows better than we do what is suitable for each soul in accordance with its condition and degree of perfection. As St. Francis de Sales rightly remarks, we must desire our salvation after God's own way, and hence we must desire such graces as He dispenses to us and cling to them with a firm purpose, for our will must harmonize with His.1 When it is question of particular graces, like one or other form of prayer, such and such consolations or trials, etc... we must not make any unqualified request, but rather refer all to the good pleasure of God.2 God dispenses His graces, giving consolation or aridity, peace or struggle, according to the designs of His Wisdom and the needs of our soul. We have, therefore, but to leave in His Hands the choice of the graces which will prove most beneficial to us. True, we are permitted to express a wish, but in humble submission to the will of Our Heavenly Father. He will always answer our prayer if we ask as we should. If at times He gives us, in place of what we ask, something greater and better, far from complaining we should bless and thank Him.3

n1. "The Love of God," Book VIII, ch. IV. n2. The reason why our petitions are not answered, says BOURDALOUE, is because we make use of prayer "in order to ask for whimsical, needless graces--graces according to our taste and fancy... We pray and ask for the grace of penance, the grace of sanctification--graces for the future, not for the present--graces that would do away with all difficulties, that would leave no room for effort, leave no obstacles to overcome--miraculous graces that would carry us as they did St. Paul, not those that would merely help us to walk.graces which would alter the whole order of Providence, and revolutionize the whole scheme of salvation." Lent. Sermon on prayer for Thursday of the 1st Week. n3. In "Le Saint Abandon," P. III, of DOM V. LEHODEY, most apt details are given on the subject.

II. Conditions on the Part of the Subject

The most essential conditions to ensure the efficacy of our prayers are: humility, confidence and attention, or at least the earnest effort to be attentive.

#651. (1) The need of humility flows from the very nature of prayer. Since grace is a free gift of God to which we have no right whatever, we are as St. Augustine says, but beggars in relation to God, and we must implore of His mercy what we cannot demand as a right. It was thus that Abraham prayed, considering himself but dust and ashes in presence of the Divine Majesty: "I will speak to my Lord, whereas I am dust and ashes."1 Thus did Daniel pray when he asked for the deliverance of the Jewish people, relying not on his merits and virtues, but on God's overflowing mercies: " It is not for our justifications that we present our prayers before thy face, but for the multitude of thy tender mercies."2 Thus prayed the publican, who was also heard: "O God, be merciful to me a sinner," 3 whilst the proud Pharisee saw his prayer rejected. Jesus Himself gives us the reason: "Every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled: and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. "4 His Disciples understood this well. St. James insists that: "God resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble."5 This is mere justice: the proud man attributes to himself the efficacy of his prayer, whilst the humble man attributes it to God. Now, can we expect that God will hear us to the detriment of His own glory, in order to flatter our vain complacency? The humble soul, on the contrary, sincerely acknowledges that all it has is from God, and hence God in hearkening to his prayer procures His own glory as well as the welfare of him who prays.

n1. "Gen.," XVIII, 27. n2. "Dan., IX, 18. n3. "Luke, XVIII, 13. n4. "Luke," XVIII, 14. n5. "James, IV, 6.

#652. (2) Humility in turn begets confidence, a confidence based, not upon our merits but upon the goodness of God and upon the merits of Jesus Christ.

a) Faith teaches us that God is merciful and that because He is merciful, He turns to us with greater love the more we acknowledge our miseries, for misery appeals to mercy. To call upon Him with confidence is in reality to honor Him, to proclaim Him as the source of all gifts, and as desiring nothing so much as to bestow them upon us. In the Scriptures He affirms again and again that He hearkens to those who hope in Him: "Because he hoped in me I will deliver him... He shall cry to me and I will hear him."1 Our Lord invites us to pray with confidence, and in order to inspire us to do so He resorts not only to the most pressing exhortations, but to the most touching parables After having affirmed that he who asks receives, He adds "What man is there among you, of whom if his son shall ask bread, will he reach him a stone?..If you then being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children: how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to them that ask him."2 At the Last Supper He comes back to the same thought: "Amen, amen, I say to you.. whatsoever you shall ask the Father in my name, that will I do: that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you shall ask me anything in my name, that I will do3 ... In that day you shall ask in my name; and I say not to you that I will ask the Father for you. For the Father himself loveth you, because you have loved me."4 To lack a whole-hearted trust in prayer would amount to mistrusting God and His promises, to underrating the merits of Jesus Christ and His all- powerful mediation.

n1. "Ps." XC, 14-15. Those who recite the Divine Office know that the predominant sentiment expressed by the Psalms is that of trust in God. n2. "Matth.," VII, 7-11. n3. "John," XIV, 12, 13, 14. n4. "John," XVI, 26-27.

#653. b) It is true that God at times appears to turn a deaf ear to our prayer. This He does in order that we may more fully fathom the depths of our wretchedness and realize better the value of .grace. But on the other hand, He shows us in His treatment of the Canaanean woman, that even when He seems to repel us, He is well-pleased at the sweet insistence of our repeated requests. Behold, a woman of Canaan comes and asks Jesus to deliver her daughter vexed with a devil. But the Master answers her not a word. She beseeches the Disciples and cries after them, so that they come and ask the Lord to send her away. Christ turns to the woman and answers that He was not sent but to the children of the house of Israel. Undaunted, the poor woman worships Him, saying: " Lord, help me. " Jesus replies, with seeming harshness, that it is not meet to take the children's bread and cast it to the dogs.--"Yea, Lord," she says, "for the whelps also eat of the crumbs that fall from the table of their masters."--Conquered by such a humble, unfaltering trust, Jesus grants her request: " And her daughter was cured from that hour. "1 Could the Lord do more to make us understand that no matter what ill success seems to attend our prayers, we can be sure that they will be answered if we persevere in humble confidence.

n1. "Matth.," XV, 24-28.

#654. (3) To this persevering confidence we must join attention, or at least the serious effort to realize and to mean what we say to God. Involuntary distractions do not constitute an obstacle to prayer as long as we strive to overcome them or reduce their number, for by these very efforts our soul keeps on its course toward God. They constitute indeed a loss though not a sin, but this loss may be made good in a measure by our efforts to pray attentively. On the contrary, voluntary distractions, those we freely and deliberately entertain, or which we but faintly repel, or the causes of which we are unwilling to suppress, are venial sins, since they constitute a lack of due respect towards God. Prayer is an audience which our Creator is kind enough to grant us; a conversation we hold with Our Heavenly Father, wherein we beg Him to vouchsafe to hearken to our words and heed our request: "Give ear, O Lord to my words.... Hearken to the voice of my prayer."1 Through voluntary distractions we do no less than refuse to make a serious effort to understand what we say and to be attentive to the divine voice; and this, at the very moment we ask the Almighty to hear us and to speak to us! Do we not deserve the reproach Our Lord cast upon the Pharisees: "This people honoreth me with their lips: but their heart is far from me?"2 Does this not constitute a glaring inconsistency as well as a lack of religion?

n1. "Ps." V, 2-3. n2. "Matth.," XV, 8.

#655. We must, then, strive seriously to repel promptly and firmly the distractions that present themselves to our mind; we must readily humble ourselves when they occur and unite again our prayer with the perfect prayer of Jesus. We must, likewise, reduce the number of such distractions by a vigorous fight against their causes: habitual dissipation of mind, the habit of day-dreaming, the preoccupations and attachments that absorb the mind and the heart. We must also accustom ourselves little by little to recall frequently to mind God's presence, by offering up to Him our actions, as well as ardent ejaculatory prayers. Once we have taken these means, there is no cause for worry concerning such involuntary distractions as run through our minds or disturb our imagination. These are but trials, not faults, and once we have learned to profit by them, they but increase our merits and the value of our prayers.

656. The attention we can bring to bear upon our prayers may be of a threefold kind. 1) When we apply ourselves to the correct pronunciation of the words we give verbal attention which presupposes an effort to think of what we say. 2) If we try to understand the meaning of the words, our attention is called literal or intellectual. 3)Should the soul, disregarding the literal meaning, rise toward God to worship Him, bless Him, unite itself to Him, or to enter into the spirit of the mystery it considers, attention becomes spiritual or mystical. This last is hardly adapted to beginners, but rather to advanced souls. The first two should be recommended to those who begin to relish prayer.


#657 . Prayer is one of the great means of salvation Hence, the spiritual director should gradually initiate beginners into the practice of such spiritual exercises as form the framework of an earnest Christian life, taking account of their age, their vocation, the duties of their state their character, supernatural attractions, and the progress they have made.

#658. (1) The objective in view is to train souls gradually in the habitual practice of prayer in such a way that their whole life becomes in a measure a life of prayer (n. 522) It is evident that much time and prolonged efforts are required to approach this ideal, which is not within the reach of beginners, but which the spiritual director must know for the better guidance of his penitents.

#659. (2) Besides morning and night prayers, which good Christians do not fail to say, the following are the chief spiritual exercises that render our lives a constant prayer:

A) The morning meditation, of which we shall soon treat, Holy Mass and Communion show us the ideal we are to pursue, and help us realize it (n. 524). There are persons, however, who are prevented by their duties of state from assisting daily at the Holy Sacrifice. They should make up for this by a spiritual communion to be made either at the end of meditation or even whilst engaged in manual labor. At ail events, they must be taught how to profit from attendance at Holy Mass and the reception of Holy Communion. The Director does this by adapting to their capacity what we have said in n. 271-289. They must also be taught to follow intelligently the liturgical services of Sundays and Holy days. The sacred Liturgy well understood is one of the great helps to perfection.

#660. B) Besides the oft-renewed offering of their actions to God, they must be advised to recite during the course of the day some ejaculatory prayers, to do some devout reading suited to their state of soul on such fundamental truths as the end of man, sin, mortification, confession, and the examinations of conscience, adding thereto the lives of Saints who were noted for the practice of the virtue of penance. Such reading will be a light to the mind, a stimulus to the will, and a great help to mental prayer. The recitation of some decades of the beads, with meditation upon the mysteries of the Rosary, will be productive of an increased devotion to the Blessed Virgin and will strengthen the habit of union with Our Lord. A visit to the Blessed Sacrament, varying in duration according to their occupations, will re-animate within them the spirit of piety. For these visits they may use with profit the "Following of Christ," especially the Fourth Book, and "Visits to the Blessed Sacrament" by St. Alphonsus Liguori.

#661. C) In the evening, a serious examination of conscience, followed by the particular examen, will help beginners to note their failings, to foresee the remedies and to muster the strength of will needed to renew their purpose of amendment, thus preventing them from falling into indifference or lukewarmness. Here one must recall what we have said anent the examinations of conscience (460-476), and regarding confession (n. 262- 269), and remember that the examination of beginners must bear chiefly upon deliberate venial sins. Such watchfulness is the best means of avoiding mortal sin and of repairing any grave sin committed in an unguarded moment.

#662. (3) Advice to the spiritual director. A) The director should see to it that his penitents do not burden themselves with too many spiritual exercises that might hinder the fulfillment of their duties of state or be detrimental to true devotion. Less prayers and more attention is preferable. Our Lord Himself gives us this advice: "And when you are praying, speak not much, as the heathens. For they think that in their much speaking they may be heard. Be not you therefore like them: for your Father knoweth what is needful for you, before you ask him."1 After speaking these words He taught His Disciples that short and all-embracing prayer which embodies all our possible requests, the Our Father (n. 515-516), There are beginners who readily imagine that they grow in piety as they multiply their vocal prayers. A great service will be rendered them by recalling this teaching of the Master, and by showing them that a short attentive prayer is of greater worth than one lasting twice as long, and filled with more or less willful distractions. To help them fix their attention, the spiritual director should remind them that a few seconds spent in placing themselves in the presence of God and in uniting themselves with Our Lord will do much to make their prayers truly effective.

n1. "Matth.," VI, 7-a

#663. B) To help them avoid the routine that is liable to creep into the repetition of the same formulas of vocal prayer, it is well to give them a method, at once easy and simple, of holding their attention. For instance, in the recitation of the Rosary they may meditate on the Mysteries with the twofold purpose in view of honoring the Blessed Virgin and of drawing unto themselves the particular virtue corresponding to each Mystery. This practice will be found very profitable; it will make the recitation of the Rosary a short meditation. But in this case it is well to recall that, generally speaking, we cannot at the same time pay attention both to the literal sense of the Hail Mary and to the meaning of the Mystery and that therefore either one suffices.


We shall explain: (1) Some general notions concerning meditation; (2) Its advantages and necessity; (3) The distinguishing characteristics of meditation--the mental prayer of beginners; (4) The chief methods of meditation.

n1. JOAN MAUBURNUS, "Rosetum exercitiorum spiritualium et sacrarum meditationum;" GARCIA DE CISNEROS, "Exercitatorio de la vida espiritual": ST. IGNATIUS "Spiritual Exercises;" and "Commentators;" also la "Bibliotheque des exercices de St. Ignace,", published under the direction of FATHER WATRICANT; RODRIGUEZ "Practice of Christian Perfection," V. Treatise, On Prayer ; L. DE GRANADA, "Traite de l'oraison et de la meditation;" A. MASSOULIE, "Traite' de la veritable oraison;" ST. PETER OF ALCANTARA, "La oracion y meditacion:" ST. FRANCIS DE SALES "Devout Life," Part I, ch. I-IX, BRANCATI DE LAUREA, "De oratione christiana;" CRASSET, "A Key to Meditation" SCARAMELLI, op. cit., I. Treatise, art. 5; COURBON"Familiar Instructions on Mental and Affective Prayer;" V. LIBERMANN, "Ecrits spirit.," p. 82-I47, FABER, "Growth in Holiness," ch. XV, R. DE MAUMIGNY, "Pratique de l'oraison mentale," t. I; DOM LEHODEY, "The Ways of Mental Prayer," P. I and II; LETOURNEAU, "La Methode d oraison mentale de S.-Sulpice;" CLARE, S. J., "Science of the Spiritual Life."

I. General Notions

#664. (1) Definition and Essential Elements of Mental prayer. We have said (n. 510,) that there are two kinds of prayer: vocal prayer, expressed by word or by gesture, and mental prayer which takes place wholly within the soul.

The latter is defined as a silent elevation and application of our mind and heart to God in order to offer Him our homages and to promote His glory by our advancement in virtue.

It comprises five elements:1) The religious duties rendered to God, or to Our Lord Jesus Christ, or to the Saints; 2) considerations bearing upon God and our personal relations with Him, in order to deepen and strengthen our convictions; 3) examination of conscience, in order to determine how we stand in relation to the subject of meditation; 4) prayer of petition by which we ask of God the graces necessary for exercising ourselves more perfectly in this or that particular virtue; 5) resolutions to do better in the future. These various acts need not follow in the order just described, nor must they all, of necessity, have a place in every meditation. Moreover, mental prayer must be prolonged over a notable period of time to deserve the name of meditation and to be distinguished from mere ejaculatory prayers.

As souls advance in perfection and acquire convictions which are easily renewed, they gradually devote less time to considerations and examinations, and give more to affections and petitions. These in turn become more and more simple, and at times mental prayer consists in a simple and loving gaze upon God.--This we shall explain later.

#665. The Origin of Mental Prayer. We must carefully distinguish between mental prayer in itself and methodical mental prayer.

A) Meditation, or mental prayer, has always been practiced in one form or another. The books of the Prophets, the Psalms, the Sapiential Books are all full of meditations to nourish the devotion of the Chosen People. Our Lord, by insisting on the worship of God in spirit and truth, by spending whole nights in prayer, by the long prayer He offered at Gethsemane and upon Calvary, prepared the way for those saintly souls who through all ages to come would withdraw to the inner sanctuary of their hearts, therein to pray in secret to their God. Meditation or mental prayer, even in its highest forms, such as contemplation, is explicitly treated in the writings of Cassian and St. John Climacus, not to speak of the works of the Fathers. It may be said that St. Bernard's treatise "De Consideratione" is in reality a treatise on the necessity of reflection and of meditation. The School of St. Victor lays emphasis on meditation in order to arrive at contemplation,1 and we know how strongly St. Thomas recommended it as a means of growing in the love of God and of giving ourselves to Him.2

n1. Cfr. HUGH OF S. VICTOR, "De modo dicendi et meditandi; De Meditando seu meditandi artificio," P, L. CLXXVI, 877-880, 993-998. n2. "Sum. theol.," IIa IIae, q. 82, a 3.

#666. B) Meditation as a methodical prayer dates from the XV Century. We find it explained in the "Rosetum of John Mauburnus1 and in the Benedictine writers of the same epoch. St. Ignatius in the "Spiritual Exercises" gives several methods of meditating, at once precise and varied. St. Theresa gives by far the best description of the different kinds of mental prayer. Her disciples have sketched the rules of systematic meditation.2 St. Francis de Sales does not fail to trace a method of mental prayer for Philothea, and the French School of the XVII Century soon had its own method, perfected by Father Olier and Father Tronson, called today the method of St. Sulpice.

n1. H. WATRIGANT, "La Meditation methodique, Rev. d'Ascetique et de Myst.," Jan. 1923, p. 13-29. n2. V.P. JEAN DE JESUS MARIE, "Instruction des novices," 3e Partie, chap. II, 2.

#667. Meditation and Mental Prayer. The terms meditation and mental prayer are often interchanged. When differentiated, the former is applied to that form of mental prayer wherein considerations and reasonings predominate and which, owing to this, is called discursive meditation. The latter name is chiefly applied to those forms of mental prayer wherein pious affections or acts of the will are predominant. Discursive meditation itself, however, already contains affections, and affective prayer is ordinarily preceded or accompanied by some considerations, excepting the case when the soul is seized by the light of contemplation.

#668. The kind of prayer generally suited to beginners is discursive meditation. They need it in order to acquire convictions or to strengthen them. There are, however, some souls who from the outset give considerable place to affections. But all must be taught that the best part of-mental prayer lies in the acts of the will.

II. The Advantages and the Necessity of Mental Prayer

1. The Advantages

#669. Meditation, as we have described it, is most helpful for the attainment of salvation and perfection.

(1) It detaches us from sin and its causes.--When we sin, it is through thoughtlessness and lack of will-power. This twofold defect, however, is corrected by meditation.

a) It enlightens us as to the malice of sin and its fearful consequences, by showing it to us in the light of God, of eternity, and of what Jesus Christ did in order to atone for it. " It is meditation, " says Fr. Crasset,1 "that leads us in spirit into the hallowed solitudes wherein we find God alone--in peace, in calm, in silence, in recollection. The same it is that in spirit makes us descend to hell, therein to see our place; that brings us before the grave to see our last abode; that takes us up to Heaven to see our throne of glory; that carries us to the Valley of Josaphat to see Our Judge; to Bethlehem to see Our Savior; to Mount Thabor to see Our Love and to Calvary to see Our Model. "Meditation, likewise, detaches us from the world and its false pleasures. It reminds us of the instability of worldly goods, the anxiety they bring, the void, the ennui in which they plunge the soul. It forearms us against a false and corrupt world and makes us realize that God alone can constitute our bliss. Above all it detaches us from our pride and from our sensuality, by placing us before God Who is the fullness of being, and before our nothingness; by making us understand that sensual pleasure reduces us to the level of the brute, whilst godly joys ennoble us and make us soar unto God.

b) Meditation strengthens our will, not merely by providing us with strong convictions, as we have just said, but also by gradually healing our languor, our cowardice, and our fickleness. God's grace alone, our own efforts helping, can cure such infirmities. Now, meditation makes us ask for this grace all the more insistently, as it brings home to us through reflection our helplessness; whilst the acts of sorrow, of contrition that we perform, the firm purpose of amendment we conceive during meditation, together with the resolutions we take, already constitute an active co- operation with grace.

n1. "Instructions sur l'Oraison Methode d'oraison," ch. I, p. 253-254. Read the whole passage--Engl. transl. A Key to meditation, p. 85-95.

#670. (2) Meditation makes us also practice all the great Christian virtues. I) It enlightens our faith by bringing before our eyes the eternal truths; it sustains our hope by giving us access to God to obtain His help; it enkindles our love by exposing to our view the beauty and the goodness of God. 2) It makes us prudent by supplying us with considerations to be taken into account before we act; it makes us Just by having us conform our will to that of God; it renders us strong by making us share in God's own power; and temperate by cooling the ardor of our passions. There is no Christian virtue which we cannot acquire by daily meditation. Through it we hold fast to the truth, and truth, freeing us from our vices, makes us practice virtue: "You shall know the truth: and the truth shall make you free."1

n1. "John," VIII, 32.

#671. (3) Meditation therefore initiates our union with God, nay more, our transformation into Him. It is, in fact, a conversation with God which from day to day becomes more intimate, more tender, and longer, since it continues the day long, even in the midst of our activities, n. 522. By virtue of daily intercourse with the Author of all perfection, we drink of His fullness, and are permeated by it, like the sponge by the water. We are transformed like the iron in the furnace that kindles, softens, and assumes the properties of living fire.

II. The Necessity of Mental Prayer

#672. (1) For the Laity. A) Systematic meditation is a highly effective means of sanctification; however, it is not necessary for the salvation of most Christians. What is necessary is prayer by which we render homage to God and obtain grace. Evidently, this cannot be done without attention on the part of the mind and desire on the part of the heart. No doubt, to prayer must be joined the consideration of the great Christian truths and of the great Christian duties, together with self-examination. But we accomplish all these without the practice of systematic meditation, by simply listening to the religious instruction given in Church, by pious reading, and by the examination of conscience.

#673. B) Meditation, however, is most useful and most profitable to all for salvation and perfection; to beginners, as well as to more advanced souls. It may be even said that it is the most effective means of assuring one's salvation (n. 669). This is the teaching of St. Alphonsus, who gives the following reason, that whilst habitually practicing the other exercises of piety, like the Rosary, the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin, fasting, etc.... one may, unfortunately, still continue to live in mortal sin, whilst the habitual practice of mental prayer cannot suffer one to remain long in such a state. One either relinquishes mental prayer or relinquishes sin.1 How could we day by day go into the presence of God, the source of all holiness, while conscious of mortal sin, and not determine, with the help of grace, to break with sin and to seek in the Tribunal of Penance that pardon the supreme need of which we recognize? But, if we have no appointed time and no practical method for the consideration of the great religious truths, we allow ourselves to be carried away by dissipation of mind and the example of the world, until we lapse into sin and live in sin.

n1. "Praxis Confessarii," n. 122.

#674. (2) The Moral Necessity Or Mental Prayer for Diocesan Priests. We do not speak here of those Regulars, who in the devout and prolonged recitation of the Divine Office, in their readings and in the prayers they offer may find the equivalent of mental prayer. Nevertheless, we call attention to the fact that even in the Orders where the Office is recited in choir, the rule prescribes at least a half-hour of mental prayer, because meditation is the soul of all vocal prayers and insures their fervent recitation. It should also be said that religious congregations dating from the XVI century insist even more upon mental prayer, and that the New Code directs superiors to see that all religious, unless they have a legitimate excuse, devote a certain amount of time each day to this exercise.1

But speaking of diocesan priests, absorbed in the activities of the ministry, we say that the habitual exercise of mental prayer at an appointed time is morally necessary to their perseverance and to their sanctification. Their duties are many and heavy, and they are at times subjected to serious temptations, even while exercising their ministry. Now, in order to resist these temptations and to fulfill all their duties with fidelity and in a supernatural way, they need deep convictions and choice graces, which as every one must admit are obtained through daily meditation.

n1. Can. 595.

#675. A) Nor let it be urged that the offering of the Holy Sacrifice and the recitation of the Divine Office replace mental prayer. It is true that the Mass and the Breviary, attentively and devoutly said, are effective means of perseverance and progress in the spiritual life; yet, experience shows that priests absorbed in their ministerial work do not, as a matter of fact, acquit themselves well of these important duties, unless they develop in daily meditation the spirit of prayer and of interior recollection. If a priest disregards this holy exercise, how can he, encompassed and pressed by labors, find the time to recollect himself and renew his sense of the supernatural? If he fails in this, distracting thoughts invade his soul, even whilst he is engaged in the holiest occupations; his convictions weaken, his energy dwindles, his negligences and his failings grow, and lukewarmness ensues. Should a serious, persistent, and besetting temptation make its appearance, the strong convictions needed to repel the enemy are no longer clear to his mind, and he runs the risk of falling.1 "If I meditate," says Dom Chautard, "I am as it were clothed in steel armor, and impervious to the shafts of the enemy. Without mental prayer, I shall surely be their target." The devout, learned and prudent Father Desurmont, one of the most experienced retreat-masters for priests, declares that "for the priest in the world, it is either meditation or a very great risk of damnation." Cardinal Lavigerie writes in the same strain: "For an apostolic laborer, there is no alternative between holiness, if not acquired, at least desired and pursued (especially through daily meditation) and progressive perversion."2

n1. Let us ponder the following words of a priest reproduced by DOM CHAUTARD: "It is my over-eagerness that has brought on my fall! My excessive devotion to the active life and my love for the same filled me with great joy at my success, and this together with the deceit of Satan led me to be so absorbed in laboring for others, as to neglect my own spiritual wants, prayer and meditation; and then when temptation came, I yielded in the weakness caused me by my lack of spiritual nourishment." "The True Apostolate," p. 67. All that this excellent writer says about the need of an interior life, applies to mental prayer which is one of the most effective means to foster this life. n2. "L'ame de tout apostolat," p. 179-180. Engl. Transl. "The True Apostolate," p. 143-144.

#676. B) For the priest, it does not suffice to avoid sin. In order to fulfill the duties of glorifying God and saving souls he must be habitually united to Jesus Christ the Great High Priest, through Whom alone he can give glory to God and save men. Yet, how can the priest unite himself to Christ in the midst of the occupations and preoccupations of his ministry, if he does not set apart sufficient time to think leisurely and lovingly on that Divine Model, to draw unto himself through prayer His spirit, His dispositions, and His grace? Through this union the priest's energies are multiplied, his confidence increased, the fruitfulness of his ministry assured, for it is not he who speaks, but Jesus Who speaks through his lips: "God as it were exhorting by us";1 it is not he who acts; he is but an instrument in God's hands. Because he strives to imitate the virtues of our Lord, his example wins souls even more than his words. If he gives up meditation, he loses the spirit of recollection and of prayer and he is but "sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal."2

n1. "II Cor.," V, 20. n2. "I Cor.," XIII, I.

#677. Hence, Pope Pius X, of holy memory, has proclaimed in clear terms the necessity of meditation for the priest: "It is of the first importance that a certain time should be allotted every day for meditation on the things of eternity. No priest can omit this without being guilty of serious negligence, to the detriment of his soul."1 The New Code bids Bishops to see that priests devote each day a certain time to the exercise of mental prayer,2 and that students in seminaries do likewise.3 Are not such prescriptions equivalent to a proclamation of the moral necessity of meditation for ecclesiastics?

To advise priests absorbed in the parochial ministry to omit meditation so as to say their Mass and Office more devoutly is nothing less than a total ignorance of psychology. Experience shows that, when mental prayer is absent, the devout recitation of the Office becomes well-nigh impossible; it is said at odd moments with many attendant interruptions, and with the mind filled with the thoughts of other things. It is, in fact, the morning meditation that guarantees the devout celebration of the Holy Sacrifice and that enables a priest to recollect himself before beginning his Office and to make its recitation a real prayer.

n1. "Exhortation to the Clergy," Aug. 4, 1908. n2. "Can." 125, 2. n3. "Can. 1367, I.

#678. What we say of the priest, can be said also to a certain extent of those devoted men and women who dedicate part of their time to works of zeal. If they want their apostolate to be fruitful, it must be vivified by the spirit of recollection and by prayer. Let it not be urged that the time consecrated to this exercise is taken from works of zeal. It would be to approach closely to the error of Pelagius to imagine that action is more necessary than grace and prayer, whereas in reality works of zeal are all the more fruitful, as they are inspired by a life of greater interior recollection, which is in turn nourished by mental prayer.

III. General Characteristics of the Meditation of Beginners

We have already said that the mental prayer of beginners is chiefly a discursive prayer, wherein, though the affections have their place, reasoning predominates. We now explain: (1) the ordinary subjects of their meditation, and (2) the obstacles they meet.

I. The Subjects upon which Beginners Meditate

#679. They must, in general, meditate upon whatever is calculated to inspire them with a growing horror for sin, upon the causes of their own faults, upon mortification that removes such causes, upon the principal duties of their state, upon fidelity to grace and its abuse, upon Jesus Christ, a model for penitent sinners.

#680. (1) In order to acquire a growing horror for sin, they must meditate: a) on the end of man and of the Christian, and hence upon the creation of man, his elevation to the supernatural state, his fall and his redemption (n. 59-87); upon the rights of God as Creator, Sanctifier, and Redeemer; upon such of the divine attributes as would inspire them with a horror for sin, for instance, God's immensity, whereby He is present to all creatures and especially to the soul in the state of grace, upon His holiness whereby He is bound to hate sin; upon His justice which punishes it; upon His mercy that moves Him to forgive it. All these truths tend to make us flee from sin, the one obstacle to the attainment of our end, the one enemy of God, the destroyer of that supernatural life given to us by God as the great proof of His love for us, and restored to us by the Redeemer at the price of His Blood.

b) Upon sin: its origin, punishment, malice, and frightful consequences, n. 711-735; upon the causes leading to sin: the world, the flesh, and the devil, n. 193-227.

c) Upon the means of expiating and preventing sin: penance, n. 705, and the mortification of our different faculties, of our evil tendencies, and chiefly of the seven capital vices. From our meditations on these points we shall draw the conclusion that there is no safety as long as we have not uprooted or at least controlled all these disordered inclinations.

#681. (2) Beginners must also choose for the subject of meditation all the positive duties of the Christian: 1) General duties of religion toward God, of charity toward the neighbor, of mistrust of self on account of our helplessness and wretchedness. What will impress beginners most will be the external acts of these virtues; but this will be a preparation for the more perfect practice of the same virtues in the illuminative way. -- 2) Particular duties, according to age, condition, sex, state of life. The fulfillment of these duties will prove to be the best kind of penance.

#682. 30 Since grace plays an all-important role in the Christian life, beginners must be gradually instructed in this doctrine. The spiritual director, then, will explain to them in a familiar and easy way the doctrine of the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in our souls, of our incorporation into Christ, of habitual grace, of the virtues and of the seven gifts. At first, no doubt, they will grasp but the mere elements of these great truths, but even the little they will understand will not fail to exert a powerful influence on their spiritual formation and their spiritual progress. It is when we think of what God has done and incessantly does for us, that we are prompted to further generosity in His service. We should not forget that St. Paul and St. John preached these truths to pagan neophytes who were but beginners in the spiritual life.

#683. (4) Then it will be easy and practical to propose Jesus as the model for true penitents: Jesus condemning Himself to a life of poverty, of obedience and of toil that He might be unto us an example; Jesus, doing penance for us in the desert, in the Garden of Gethsemane, in His cruel passion; Jesus dying for us upon the Cross. This series of meditations, presented to us by the Church in the yearly cycle of the liturgy, will have the advantage of making us practice penance in union with Jesus with greater generosity, with a greater love, and hence with greater efficacy.

II. The Obstacles Encountered by Beginners

The special difficulties encountered by beginners in meditation arise from their inexperience, their lack of generosity, and chiefly from the many distractions to which they are subject.

#684. A) On account of their inexperience they are liable to turn their mental prayer into a sort of philosophical or theological thesis, or into a kind of sermon to themselves This is not, indeed, a complete loss of time, since even this kind of meditation makes them give thought to the great truths of religion and strengthens their convictions. They would, however, derive greater profit if they proceeded in a more practical and in a more supernatural way.

This a spiritual director must teach them. He should point out to them: a) that considerations, if they are to bear practical fruit, must be made more personal, be applied to themselves and be followed by an examination in order to see to what extent the truths on which they meditate influence their lives, and what must be done in order to live by these truths during the course of the day; b) that the most important part of meditation is found in the acts of the will: acts of adoration, thanksgiving and love toward God; acts of humility, of sorrow, of firm purpose of amendment; acts of petition to obtain the grace of correcting their faults; and finally, firm and frequently repeated resolutions of doing better throughout the day.

#685. B) Their lack of generosity exposes them to discouragement when they are no longer upheld by the sensible consolations God graciously bestowed on them at the outset in order to draw them unto Himself. Obstacles and the first spells of aridity dishearten them, and thinking themselves abandoned by God, they drift into carelessness. Hence, they must be made to see that what God asks is effort and not success, that perseverance in prayer, despite difficulties, is so much the richer in merit, and that God having proved Himself so generous towards them, to turn back when effort is required, would be an act of cowardice. These directions should be tempered by the mildness with which they are given and by paternal words of comfort.

#686. C) The greatest obstacle, however, comes from distractions. Since in the first stages of the spiritual life, our imagination, our feelings and our attachments are far from being mastered, worldly and oftentimes dangerous fancies, useless thoughts and the divers emotional movements of the heart invade the soul at the very time of meditation. The help of the spiritual director is here of capital importance.

a) He should first of all remind them of the distinction between willful distractions and those that are not, bidding his penitents to concern themselves merely with the former in order to diminish their number. To succeed in this: 1) they must repel such distractions promptly, vigorously and persistently, as soon as they become aware of them. Even if these distractions are many and grievous, they are not culpable unless they are voluntary; the effort made to repel them is a meritorious act. Should they recur a hundred times and be a hundred times repulsed, the meditation will be excellent and worth far more than one made with fewer distractions but with little effort.

#687. 2) They must humbly acknowledge their weakness, explicitly unite themselves to Our Lord, and offer to God His worship and His prayers. If need be, a book may be used, the better to fix the attention.

b) It is not enough to drive off distractions. In order to reduce their number, we must attack their causes. Many of them proceed from a lack of preparation or from an habitual dissipation of mind. 1) Beginners thus troubled with distractions should, therefore, be urged to prepare their meditation more carefully on the night before, not by merely reading the points, but by trying to see how the subject of the meditation is of practical advantage to them personally, and by thinking about it before falling asleep, instead of letting their mind become a prey to useless or unwholesome reveries. 2) Above all, beginners must be taught the means of controlling the imagination and the memory. In proportion as the soul grows in the practice of habitual recollection and detachment, distractions become less numerous.

n1. Distractions are voluntary in themselves when they are deliberately willed, or when, aware that our mind wanders, we do nothing to prevent its vagaries. They are voluntary in their cause, when we foresee that such or such all-absorbing reading or occupation will be a source of distractions, and none the less we indulge in it.

VI. The Principal Methods of Mental Prayer

#688. Since mental prayer is a difficult art, the Saints have ever been eager to offer counsel on the means of succeeding therein. One finds excellent advice in Cassian, St. John Climacus and other spiritual writers. It was not, however, until the XV Century that methods properly so called were elaborated, which have since guided souls in the ways of mental prayer.

Because at first sight these methods appear rather intricate, it is well, before introducing beginners to their use, to prepare them by what may be called meditative reading. They should be told to read some devout works, like the First Book of the "Following of Christ," the "Spiritual Combat" or some work containing brief, solid meditations; and they should be taught to follow up this reading by asking themselves the following questions: (1) Am I thoroughly convinced that what I have just read is useful and necessary to the welfare of my soul? How can I strengthen this conviction? (2) Have I up to the present exercised myself in such an important practice? (3) What must I do today in order to improve? If an earnest prayer is added asking for the grace that one may carry out the resolutions taken, all the essential elements of a real meditation will be contained in such reading.

I. Points Common to all Methods of Mental Prayer

We find in all the various methods certain common traits which are manifestly the most essential; hence, attention must be called to them.

#689. (1) There is always a remote, a proximate, and an immediate preparation.

a) The remote preparation is nothing more than the effort to make our daily life harmonize with prayer. It comprises three things: 1) the mortification of the senses and of the passions; 2) habitual recollection; 3)humility. These are, in fact, excellent dispositions for a good meditation. At the beginning they are imperfect; still, they suffice to enable us to meditate with some profit, and later on they will become more and more perfect in proportion as progress is made in mental prayer.

b) The proximate or, as others call it, the less remote preparation, includes three principal acts: 1) to select the subject of meditation on the preceding evening; 2) to revolve it in our mind in the morning upon awakening, and to excite in our heart corresponding sentiments; 3) to approach meditation with earnestness, confidence, and humility, desiring to give glory to God and to improve our life. In this way the soul is placed in the best dispositions to enter into conversation with God.

c) The immediate preparation, which is in reality the beginning of meditation itself, consists in placing ourselves in the presence of God Who is present everywhere especially within our heart, in acknowledging ourselves unworthy and incapable of meditating, and in imploring the aid of the Holy Ghost that He supply our insufficiency.

#690. (2) Within the body of the meditation, the different methods likewise contain more or less explicitly the same fundamental acts:

a) Acts of worship rendering to the Majesty of God the religious homage due to Him.

b) Considerations, to convince ourselves of the necessity or the great importance of the virtue we want to acquire, so that we may all the more earnestly pray for the grace of practicing it, and firmly determine to make efforts necessary to co-operate with grace.

c) Self-examinations, to see our failings in this regard and survey the progress yet to be made.

d) Prayers or petitions, asking for the grace of growing in the said virtue and of using the means conducive thereto.

e) Resolutions, whereby we determine from that very moment to practice that virtue.

#691. (3) The conclusion, which brings the meditation to a close, includes: 1) an act of thanksgiving for the favors received; 2) a review of the manner in which we have made our meditation with the view to improve thereon the following day; 3) a final prayer asking the blessing of Our Heavenly Father; 4) the selection of some impressive thought or some telling maxim, which will during the day recall to our mind the ruling idea of our meditation.

The different methods are reduced to two principal types called respectively the method of St. Ignatius and the method of St. Sulpice.

II. The Method of St. Ignatius1

#692. In the "Spiritual Exercises" St. Ignatius presents several methods of mental prayer, according to the subjects meditated upon and the results desired. The one best adapted to beginners is the one called the exercise of the three faculties, so named because it consists in the exercise of the memory, the understanding and the will, the three chief faculties of the soul. It is explained in the First Week of the Exercises in connection with the meditation on sin.

n1. "Spiritual Exercises," 1st Week, 1st Exercise; (Translation by Father Rickaby, S. J.); See CLARE, S. J. "The Science of the Spiritual Life;" CRASSET, "A Key to Meditation:" FABER. "Growth in Holiness," C. XV,

#693. (1) The Beginning of the Meditation. It begins by a preparatory prayer in which we beg of God that our intentions and all our actions be solely directed to the service and honor of the Divine Majesty.

Two preludes follow: a) the first, which is the composition of place, has for its purpose to center the imagination and fasten the attention upon the subject of the meditation, the more easily to banish distractions. I) If the object falls under the senses, for instance if it is one of the mysteries of Our Lord, it is presented to the mind as vividly as possible, not like an event having taken place in the distant past, but as if one were actually witnessing the facts and taking part In them. 2) If the object does not fall under the senses, e. g. sin, "the composition of place will consist in picturing and considering my soul imprisoned in this mortal body, and myself, that is, my body and my soul, in this vale of tears, exiled, as it were, midst animals devoid of reason"; in other words, one considers sin in some of its effects in order to conceive a horror for it.

b) The second prelude consists in asking God what we want and desire, for example, shame and confusion at the sight of our sins. As can be seen, the practical purpose of the meditation--the resolution --is clearly pointed out from the very outset: In all things look to the end.

#694. (2) The Body of the Meditation. This consists in the application of the three faculties of the soul, the memory, the understanding, and the will, to each point of the meditation. Each faculty is in turn applied to each point, unless one point furnishes adequate matter for the meditation. It is not necessary in every meditation to make all the acts; it is good to dwell upon the affections and sentiments which the subject suggests.

a) The exercise of the memory is performed by recalling the first point of the meditation, not in detail, but as a whole; thus, says St. Ignatius: "This exercise of the memory as regards the sin of the Angels consists in calling to mind how they were created in a state of innocence; how they refused to employ their freedom in rendering their Creator and Master the homage and obedience due to Him; how pride, taking possession of them, they passed from the state of grace to a state of reprobation, and were cast from Heaven into Hell."

b) The exercise of the understanding consists in reflecting in detail upon the same subject. St. Ignatius proceeds no further, but Father Roothaan supplements his teaching by explaining that the office of the understanding is to make reflections upon the truths the memory has proposed, to make application thereof to the soul and the soul's needs, to draw therefrom practical conclusions, to weigh the motives for resolutions, to consider how we have heretofore conformed our conduct to the truths upon which we meditate, and how we must conduct ourselves with regard to them in the future.

e) The will has two duties to fulfill: to conceive devout affections and to form good resolutions. 1) The affections, indeed, must find a place in all parts of the meditation, at least they must occur very frequently, since it is these that make the meditation a real prayer; but it is chiefly toward the end of the meditation that they are to be multiplied. One must not be concerned about the manner of expressing them; the simpler the manner, the better they are. When some good sentiment spontaneously lays hold of us, it is well to entertain it as long as we can and until our devotion is satisfied. 2) The resolutions should be practical, designed to improve our life, and therefore particular, accommodated to our present condition, and capable of being carried out that very day; they must be based upon solid motives. They must be humble and therefore accompanied by prayers to obtain the grace of carrying them into execution.

#695. (3) The Conclusion. This comprises three things: a summary view of the various resolutions already taken; devout colloquies with God the Father, Our Lord, the Blessed virgin or some Saint; and lastly, the review of the meditation, or the examination upon the way we have made it, in order to note its imperfections and to seek a remedy for them.

To give a clearer understanding of the method, we add the following synoptic table of the preludes, of the body of the prayer, and of the conclusion.

I Preludes:

(1) A rapid recall of the truth to be considered (2) The composition of place through the imagination (3) The petition for a special grace in harmony with the subject

II. Body of the Meditation. Exercise of: (1) The Memory by :

1) A representation of the subject as a whole together with the chief circumstances

(2) The Understanding by asking:

1) What should I consider in this subject? 2) What practical conclusions should I draw from it? 3) What are my motives in drawing these conclusions ? 4) How have I heretofore lived up to this? 5) What must I do in the future the better to conform my life thereto? 6) What obstacles must I remove? 7) What means must I employ?

(3) The Will by:

1) Affections produced during the entire course of the meditation, especially at the end 2) Resolutions taken at the end of each point: practical, personal, sound, humble, full of trust

III. Conclusions

(1) Colloquies: with God, Jesus Christ, the Blessed virgin, the Saints

(2) Review:

1) How have I made this meditation? 2) Wherein and why have I failed, or succeeded? 3) What practical conclusions have I drawn ? What requests have I made? What resolutions have I formed? What lights have I received? 4) Choice of a thought as a reminder of the meditation.

#696. Advantages of this method. As may be readily observed, this method is highly psychological and highly practical. a) It lays hold of all the faculties, the imagination included; applies them one after the other to the subject of meditation, and thus introduces an element of variety that makes it possible to consider a truth under its different aspects, to revolve it in our mind so as to assimilate it, to form convictions, and above all to draw therefrom practical conclusions for the present day.

b) Whilst this method lays emphasis upon the important part played by the will, which acts only after lengthy consideration of the motives, it does not minimize the role of grace, since one begs for it from the very outset, and again in the colloquies at the conclusion.

c) It is most suitable to beginners, for it states precisely, to the minutest details, what must be done from the preparation to the conclusion and thus prevents the faculties from wandering. Besides, it does not presuppose a deep knowledge of dogma, but only the contents of the Catechism, and hence adapts itself easily to the laity.

d) When simplified, this method is just as well suited to the most advanced souls; in fact, if one limits it to the main outline traced by St. Ignatius, it can be easily transformed into an affective prayer, which allows a wide scope to the inspirations of grace. The important thing is to know how to make an intelligent use of it under the wise guidance of an experienced spiritual director.

e) It has at times been criticized on the score that it does not give due prominence to Our Lord Jesus Christ. True, in the exercise of the three faculties Our Lord's place is but incidental; but St. Ignatius has given us other methods, in particular, that of the contemplation of Mysteries and the application of the senses wherein Our Lord becomes the central object of the meditation.1

There is nothing to hinder beginners from employing one or the other. The objection, therefore, has no foundation if the Ignatian methods are thoroughly followed.

n1. We shall explain these methods when we treat of the illuminative way. G. LETOURNEAU, "La methode d'oraison mentale du S. Sulpice," Paris, 1903, especially p. 321-332; FABER, "Growth in Holiness," C. XV,

I I I. The Method of St. Sulpice1

#697. A) Origin. This method, coming after several others, has been influenced by them as to the details; but its underlying idea and broad lines originated with Cardinal de Berulle, Father de Condren, and Father Olier, whilst the supplementary details are the work of Father Tronson.

a) The underlying thought is that of union with the Incarnate Word in order to render through Him the religious homage due to God and to reproduce in ourselves the virtues of Jesus Christ.

b) The three essential acts are: 1) Adoration, wherein we consider one of the attributes or one of the perfections of God, or else some virtue of Our Lord as the model of that virtue we are to practice. Then we offer to God or to Our Lord, or to God through Our Lord, our religious homage in the form of adoration, admiration, praise, thanksgiving, love, joy or compassion. By thus paying our duties to the Author of grace we render Him propitious to our prayers. 2) Communion, whereby through prayer, we draw unto ourselves the perfection or the virtue which we have adored and admired in God or in Jesus Christ. 3) Co-operation, wherein under the influence of grace we determine to practice that virtue by forming at least one resolution which we strive to put into practice that very day.

This is the broad outline found in Cardinal de Berulle, Father de Condren and Father Olier. As found in these writers it is rather a method of affective prayer, cf. n. 994-997.

n1. G. LETOURNEAU, "La Methode d'oraison mentale du Sem. de S. Sulpice," Paris, 1903, especially p. 321-332; FABER, "Growth in Holiness, C. XV.

#698. B) The additions of Father Tronson. It is evident that this meager outline, sufficient to souls already advanced, would prove inadequate for beginners. This was readily perceived at the Seminary of St. Sulpice, and whilst preserving the spirit and the essential elements of the original method, Father Tronson added to the second point, the communion, the considerations and self-examinations so indispensable to those that begin to meditate. Thus, once convinced of the importance or necessity of a virtue and realizing their lack of it, they ask for it with more earnestness, humility and perseverance. In this method, then, prayer is stressed even for beginners as the chief element of meditation. Hence, the name given to the third point-- Co-operation--to remind us that our good purposes are more the effect of grace than of our own volitions, but that on the other hand grace works nothing in us without our co-operation, and that all the day long we are to work with Jesus Christ in striving to reproduce that virtue which has been the subject of our meditation.

#699. C) A Summary Of the Method. The following table will give an adequate idea of the method. We omit the remote preparation which is the same as the one explained in n. 689.

I. Preparation

Proximate or Less Remote

(1) To choose the subject of the meditation the night before and determine what we are to consider in Our Lord; to foresee in particular, the considerations and requests we are to make and the resolutions we are to take.

(2) To remain henceforth in great recollection and keep in our mind the subject of the meditation whilst going to sleep.

(3) Upon rising in the morning, to avail ourselves of the first free time to make our meditation.


(1) To place ourselves in the presence of God, present everywhere and especially in our heart.

(2) To humble ourselves before God at the sight of our sins. Contrition. Recitation of the "Confiteor." Act of union with Our Lord. (3) To acknowledge ourselves incapable of praying as we ought. Invocation of the Holy Ghost: recitation of the "Veni, Sancte Spiritus."

II. Body of the Meditation

1st point, Adoration; Jesus before our Eyes

(1) To consider the subject of our meditations in God, in Our Lord or in one of the Saints: His sentiments, words, actions. (2) To offer our homage: adoration, admiration, praise, thanksgiving, love, joy or compassion.

2nd point, Communion: Jesus in our heart

(1) To convince ourselves of the necessity or importance of the virtue through motives of faith, through reasoning or through a detailed examination. (2) To reflect on our conduct with sorrow for the past, confusion for the present, and desire for the future. (3) To beseech God to grant us the virtue upon which we are meditating. (It is chiefly through this prayer that we participate in the virtues of Our Lord).--To beg also of God whatever else we need, to pray for the needs of the Church, and of all those for whom we are bound to pray.

3rd point, Co-operation: Jesus in our hands

(1) To form a resolution: particular, present, efficacious, humble. (2) To renew the resolution relative to our particular examination.

III Conclusion

(1) To thank God for the many graces He has bestowed upon us during the course of our meditation. (2) To beg His pardon for our faults and negligences during this holy exercise. (3) To beseech Him to bless our resolutions, the present day, our life, our death. (4) To select some striking thought that impressed us during our meditation in order to remember it during the day and thus recall our resolutions. (5) To place ourselves and the fruit of our meditation in the hands of the Blessed virgin.

Sub tuum praesidium

#700. D) Characteristics of this method. a) The method is based upon the doctrine of our incorporation into Christ (n. 142-149), and upon the resultant obligation of reproducing in ourselves His interior dispositions and His virtues. To succeed therein we must, as Father Olier puts it, have Jesus before our eyes, in order to gaze upon Him as our model and offer Him our homage--adoration; we must have Him in our heart, drawing unto us through prayer His sentiments and His virtues--communion, we must have Him in our hands, sharing with Him in the work of reproducing His virtues --co- operation. An intimate union with Jesus, then, is the soul of this method.

b) It places the duty of religion (reverence and love towards God) before that of petition. God comes first! The God it places before us is not an abstract, philosophical concept, but a concrete, personal God, the living God of the Gospels, the Most Blessed Trinity living in us.

c) In asserting the need both of grace and of our cooperation, it lays the emphasis upon grace and hence upon prayer, whilst at the same time it demands the energetic and persevering effort of the will, of specific, pertinent, oft-renewed resolutions on the keeping of which we examine ourselves at the end of the day.

#701. d) It is a method of affective prayer supported by considerations. It begins with religious sentiments in the first point; the considerations in the second are designed to elicit from the heart acts of faith in the supernatural truths on which we meditate, acts of hope in the Divine mercy, acts of love towards God's infinite goodness; the self-examinations are accompanied by sorrow for the past, confusion for the present, and a firm purpose of amendment for the future; the aim of all these acts being to prepare a humble, confident and persevering prayer. In order to prolong this petition, the method furnishes various motives, explained at length, and further suggests a prayer for the whole Church and for certain souls in particular. The resolutions are to be made with distrust of self, absolute confidence in Jesus Christ, and accompanied by a prayer that we may be enabled to put them into effect. Lastly, the conclusion is but a series of acts of gratitude, of humility and further petitions. Thus we avoid giving a too philosophical turn to our reasoning and to our considerations, and prepare the way for affective prayer and for prayer of simplicity; for the method tells us that it is not necessary always to perform all these acts, or in the order prescribed, but that we should rather abandon ourselves to the affections that God excites in us, and repeat frequently those to which we feel particularity attracted by the Holy Ghost. No doubt, beginners as a rule give more time to reasoning than to other acts, yet they are constantly reminded by the method that affections are preferable, and thus they gradually give to them a larger place in their meditation.

e) This method is especially suited to priests and seminarians. It continually reminds them that being other Christs by virtue of their character and their powers, they should be so likewise in their dispositions and virtues, and that all their perfection consists in causing Jesus to live and to grow in their souls.

#702. These two methods, then, have their respective excellence according to the special object they have in view. The same may be said of all the other methods, which more or less approach one of these two types.1 It is well that there are many of them, so that each one may with the advice of his director choose, according to his own supernatural attractions, the method that suits him best.

As Father Poulain2 says, these methods are like the numerous rules of rhetoric and logic; beginners must be taught these, but once they have been so schooled in them that they possess their spirit and their elements, they need but follow the broad lines of the method, and then, without ceasing to be active, they give greater heed to the movements of the Holy Ghost.

n1. We make special mention of the method of St. Francis de Sales, "Devout Life," II Part. ch. II-VII; of that of the Discalced Carmelites, "Instruction des Novices" by V.P. J. de Jesus-Marie, III Part. ch. II; Aurelianus a SS. Sacramento, "Cursus Spirituel" by Dom Lehodey, 1910, sect. V, ch. IV; of that of the Dominicans "Instruction des Novices," by Fr. Cormier. n2. "Etudes," 20 mars 1898, p. 782, note 2.


#703. From what we have just said, we may easily infer how helpful and how necessary mental prayer is for the purification of the soul. a) In the prayer of worship, we offer God the homage due to Him: we admire, praise and bless His infinite perfections--His holiness, His justice, His goodness, His loving mercy. He in turn lovingly stoops down to forgive us, to inspire us with a deep horror of sin which offends Him, and to protect us against fresh faults. b) In meditation, we form, under the influence of divine light and of our own reflections, strong convictions on the malice of sin, on its frightful consequences in this life and in the life to come, on the means of expiating it and avoiding it in the future. Our heart is then filled with sentiments of shame, of humiliation, of love of God, of hatred of sin, together with purpose of amendment, and thus our faults are washed away more and more in penitential tears and in the Blood of Christ. Our will is fortified against the slightest surrenders, and we embrace generously the practice of penance and self-denial. c) In the prayer of petition, supported by the infinite merits of Christ, we are the recipients of abundant graces to practice humility, penance, trust and love; these graces complete the cleansing of our soul, strengthen it against temptation, and ground it in virtue, chiefly in the virtues of penance and mortification, which complete the work of prayer.

704. Advice to spiritual directors. Mental prayer cannot be too strongly urged upon those who want to advance in the way of perfection. Spiritual directors should instruct them in its practice as early as possible. They should, likewise, have their penitents give an account of the difficulties they encounter in this exercise, in order to help them to overcome them, to show them how they can improve their method of meditation, and above all how they may avail themselves of this exercise to correct their faults, practice the contrary virtues, and gradually acquire the spirit of prayer, which, along with penance, will effect the transformation of their souls.