Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

Mental, or Go Mental

In my spiritual reading, prayer, and in homilies lately, the importance of solid time spent in mental prayer has been reinforced to me.

Life is crazy. Our interior resources - mental and emotional - get tapped and drained easily. More easily than we suspect. How much more we could do if plugged into the source of all life. The sacraments are the seeds of the Life of Jesus Christ in us. These seeds need nurturance. Prayer nurtures them. This Life brings, among other things, peace, joy, and charity. Well worth twenty or thirty minutes in prayer a day. If we think to ourselves that we cannot possibly find time for twenty or thirty minutes of prayer each day, but we watch even ONE sitcom, we are kidding ourselves about what we really think is important. Let's check our priorities.

While the great spiritual masters have all taught about prayer, they have used different terminology. Historically, the Church has taught that there are three types of prayer:

(1) Verbal prayer: communication with God constructed primarily out of words, esp. pre-formulated words, like the Our Father or the words of the Liturgy;

(2) Mental prayer: communication with God that develops organically, and more spontaneously, and often using verbal prayer of one sort or another as its starting point; often called contemplative prayer by various spiritual traditions; it might start with quiet reflection on the words of the Scriptures, or upon the mysteries of the Rosary, etc; mental prayer is only possible to the extent that we are willing to change, as any authentic interpersonal interaction requires a willingness to be changed by the other; if we insist on sinning, that is, on avoiding God's will, we can expect that He will not reveal it to us; this sort of prayer is kinda like killing time chatting with Jesus;

(3) (Infused) Contemplative prayer: communication with God that whole transcends words, in which our hearts and minds are more perfectly united with His, and which we cannot attain for ourselves, but for which we can only cultivate a readiness, especially by dedicated and habitual mental (uninfused contemplative, in some traditions) prayer.

We shouldn't pooh-pooh verbal prayer because it is the prayer of children, and the prayer that Jesus taught us (the Our Father) is a verbal prayer. We are supposed to be spiritual children, and this starting point is the one He has given us.

We shouldn't strive for contemplative prayer because we cannot grasp or work for it. We must simply pray for the grace to hear and respond to God, and to build up gradually a life of mental prayer. If and when He chooses, He will infuse into us His heart and mind. But well before that, we can almost certainly expect that we shall be given glimpses of Him, and we shall be changed.

Enough of the prayer primer. I need to get work done, so I can get out of the office on time and make sure I get to chapel this evening and spend some time with Jesus. I think I'll need recharging.

No comments: