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Friday, 15 February 2013

Answer to another query today on "mental prayer"

There seems to be a confusion as to the meaning of "mental prayer", about which I have been writing for a year in the perfection series.

A young man who writes to me reveals the confusion. I hope this post helps.

Firstly, mental prayer is not vocal prayer. Ergo, when we pray out loud, as in the Liturgy or if we say the Divine Office with a group or our husband or wife, that is not mental prayer. If we say the Mercy Chaplet with others, this is also vocal prayer.

Mental prayer is divided into the two types of prayer about which I have been writing since last January.

Mental prayer is either meditation or contemplation. I have defined these in the long perfection series, but let me delineate the distinctions again.

Meditation in the Catholic Church involves the use of Scripture, as in the daily Lectio Divina of the monasteries, wherein an hour is set aside for reading and meditating on the Scriptures. Many saints have taught us how to do meditation and all of them start with Scripture. I know many lay people who do their daily hour of Scripture. I tend to use the readings of the day from Mass for mine, unless the Holy Spirit nudges me to look elsewhere.

When I have insights from personal meditation on a passage, I sometimes share them with you all, such as the insights on Martha and Mary the other day. Have other people written about the same thing? Of course, but when God shows one something in prayer, it is, as it were, written on your heart and "personalized".

If one has ever been on a retreat with the Jesuits, as I did for years in my youth, one learn Ignatian meditation, which involves both the active and passive imagination. I was fortunate to have great teachers in my early twenties.

Note, that meditation begins with a passage of Scriptures. The active imagination involves putting one's self in the "picture" of an event in the life of Christ, such as the Wedding Feast at Cana, or the Meeting of the Woman at the Well. One meditates on the event, on Christ, on the persons involved in the pericope.

One should NOT do meditation without a spiritual director and without Catholic grounding-such meditating as yoga etc. is not good and you may read all about this in the Vatican document,

One can also do private and quiet meditation on the rosary, thinking of the Mysteries while praying.

Meditation occurs in the Purgative and earliest Illuminative Stages, until God moves one into contemplation.

Contemplation is the second type of mental prayer. I do not use the phrase "mental prayer" in my perfection series, as it is misleading.

Contemplation is the gift which occurs in the Illuminative State, when the person is absorbed in contemplating the attributes of God Himself, either as Father, Son, or Holy Spirit, or as the Trinity as a whole.

This level of mental prayer takes time and the basis of the stages of reflection which I have been outlining in the perfection and doctors of the Church series.

The highest forms of contemplation become moments of unity with God, in the Unitive State, to which we are all called. We see this state described with clarity in most of the saints I have highlighted in the perfection series.

Again, to obtain the graces for such prayer, one must be living in the sacramental life of the Church, usually.

Do some people experience higher forms of prayer outside the Church? Yes, of course, but this is a special grace from God and not common. In my experience, such people usually convert to Catholicism, if they are experiencing such prayer, as God shows them Himself, the Way, the Truth and the Life.

By the way, I found an old version of The Spiritual Exercises by St. Ignatius of Loyola on line. The old translations are much better.  Here is the link, but do not do these without a spiritual director who knows what he is doing.

You might be able to find or buy this book somewhere.
Feast of St. Ignatius, 1909.