Lesson #2 – Meditation – How & Why

Philosophy Notes

Mary’s School of Sanctity

As Catholics we know that we need to pray.  Our Lord tells us to “pray always.” Perhaps we take it for granted that we know how to pray. Yet, unfortunately, especially in these times of apostasy (since Vatican II), Catholics have not been taught how to pray.  In particular we need to learn how to pray using mental prayer.

Some time ago the Catholic Candle ran an article about how to say the Rosary.   This article explained about prayer and how to meditate.  Let’s review the information given there.

Prayer is the lifting of the heart and mind to God.  Meditation involves bringing some truth to mind and thinking about this truth, or one could call it pondering a truth.  One considers the truth and draws what could be called some “profit, insight, or further conclusion” from “the considering” that one is presently doing. This process of considering might be called the preparation for mental prayer.  The actual mental prayer is simply this, that one says something to God.   This saying something to God is referred to as “an affection” or an “act of the will.”  The consideration can be compared to the tilling of the soil, and the act of the will is like the harvest or fruit of the consideration.  The goal of the consideration is the acts of the will.  If one does not make acts of the will, then one is not lifting both the heart and the mind to God, and thus, one is not praying.  When one is doing a good job making considerations, then the heart seems to overflow with things to say.  This pouring out of the heart is what is also called the colloquy.  These acts are typically of four kinds, namely, thanksgiving, contrition, petition, or adoration, which are the four types of prayer.

In meditation one considers some truth.  One can think and consider about some topic, for example, the fall of the Angels.  Then someone would ponder as many aspects of this topic as he wished, and this would produce many things to say to God, for instance, “Thank-you, Dear Lord, for revealing this truth to mankind”; or “Thank-You, Dear Lord, for saving me from falling into hell”; or “Thank-You for Your mercy to me, etc.”

One can also meditate on a standard Catholic prayer and think about the words of the prayer itself.  This kind of meditation would involve thinking about the meaning of the words (singly, or perhaps, a couple at a time) and dwelling on them in order to appreciate them, and these thoughts would inspire acts of the will.  This might go something like this, maybe taking the Hail Mary

·         One would say Hail (thinking inside himself – this is a greeting to Mary)

·         Then, Mary (this name means “seas”)

·         Then, Full of grace (this means that Mary is completely holy)

These are examples of the considerations one would make, and the following are possible “acts of the will” which the considerations might inspire:

·         Thou are so fair, O sweet Mother, and so pure.

·         I love you, Dear Mary, or, thy sweet name consoles me.

·         Help me, Fair Lady of grace.

Now, in our daily Rosary we practice meditation as we consider the points of the mysteries and make acts of the will, namely, say something to Our Lord, Our Lady, or the saints.  Yet, a separate daily meditation on a particular subject is very efficacious for our salvation and sanctification.  Setting aside 25 minutes or a half hour per day for a meditation time is a way to make sure we actually do a meditation.  It is very important to pick a time in which one will be able to actually get away for this precious quiet time with God. 

But how does one do a meditation?  First, select a topic or a book to read to get some food for thought.  When beginning, we should imagine that we are in the Presence of God.  We could think about how God will judge us when we die, and acknowledge how very sinful we are.  We can make a preparatory prayer offering to God all our actions for His Glory and asking Him to help make our actions for His glory.

After our preparatory prayer, we should set forth our intentions for the meditation we are about to do.  We should ask for what we need, most importantly, our spiritual needs.

When making the considerations described above, we use our intellect.  We can use our imagination to make a mental picture, based on our topic, to construct a sort of backdrop to help us reflect.  At this point, we can read a bit from a spiritual book to get ‘food’ for thought.  We should read slowly and ponder the meaning of the words we are reading.  We should ask ourselves often, “What is the good Lord teaching me in this passage?  How does this apply to my soul?”

When we are struck by something in what we are reading, we should pause and let the Holy Ghost teach us what He wills.  It is often at this point in the considerations that we get many insights.  The insights we get usually inspire us to say something to God, the angels, Our Lady, or perhaps our patron saint.  We should go ahead and say what we are inspired to say.  When we are talking to God, even just inside our head, we are making affections or acts of our will.  This is the praying part of the meditation and is also called the fruit of the meditation.  Even if we use the rest of the time we have set aside for our meditation to continue saying acts of our will, we should not fret because God is allowing us to pray in a manner that pleases Him.

If the “juices” of our acts of the will “dry up”, then we should go back to where we left off in the book and/or topic we were using, continue to ponder and make considerations until we are inclined to say more to God.

When the time slot we have allotted is just about used up, we can wind down this precious time by saying a set prayer, e.g., The Anima Christi, Hail Mary, or a favorite Litany, etc., and close up our Meditation with a prayer of thanksgiving to Our Lord and Our Lady.

After the meditation, preferably directly after, we should take some notes on the insights we received.  This is a good way to help us keep in mind the pearls we have received.   Also, it is a good idea to examine how well we focused during our mental prayer.

Having a meditation schedule is very helpful.  This means we have a plan of what we will meditate on for each day of the whole week.  The plan might go something like this:

Mondays—I will meditate on my particular judgment. (Using such and such a book)

Tuesdays— I will meditate on the writings of my favorite Saint.

Wednesdays – I will meditate on some part of the Gospels.

Thursdays – I will meditate on one of the Psalms.

Fridays – I will meditate on Our Lord’s Passion.

Saturdays – I will meditate on Mary’s Sorrows.

Sundays – I will meditate on the Propers for the Mass of that Sunday.

Having such a plan keeps us looking forward to the topic of the day and keeps us focused on the material we are using for our meditation.  Designing one’s own plan is very fruitful. It is a way to find the time to get in some spiritual reading—which is sometimes difficult to do in our busy lives.

Now that we have learned how to meditate, let us consider why we should do a daily meditation.   The most important reason is because it gives God His just due.  We owe it to Him to do a meditation.  Also, it pleases God and it is the means that God wants us to take to progress to a higher state of perfection.

In the Objective Truth Series we discussed the importance of being objective and trying to learn to acquire more and more objectivity in order to make proper decisions, and to acquire humility, maintain humility, and increase in humility.   A strong prayer life and depending on God are absolutely necessary to keep the proper perspective and for peace of soul.  This is an important reason why a daily meditation is so helpful.  It forces us to step back, reflect more, and seek the help of God.  We need to feel our need for God, and daily meditation makes this really hit home.  Thus, daily meditation helps foster the needed objectivity to acquire humility. “Unless you become humble like a little child, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” 

God is our heavenly Father and wants us to feel like the adopted children that we truly are.  Daily meditation helps us recalibrate our soul and keep in touch with the eternal reality that we must save our souls, namely, be good clay that the Divine Sculptor can mold into the saints He desires us to be. 

Daily meditation helps us take time out of our crazy-busy life for God.  It is, as it were, putting ourselves on the operating table and “holding still” so the Divine Physician can take His Knife and work on our souls.  Likewise, daily meditation is our medicine, our food, our lifeline, and our security which keeps us clear-headed and refreshes our poor, tired souls.  Our daily meditation becomes our daily strengthening, which has a “healing” and “soothing” effect on our souls.  Again, however, most importantly, we owe it to God to pray to Him in daily meditation.

God knows we need these things and Our Lord tells us to “pray always”.  He also taught us the Our Father to help us understand our dependence on Him.  Furthermore, we are called to the life of contemplation and mysticism.  Daily meditation prepares us for this divine friendship.  Daily meditation is the school of sanctity which we must and should desire to attend.  Thus, we really become drawn to our daily meditation and find that we cannot get along without it.

The great medieval commentator, Fr. Cornelius de Lapide, in explaining Our Lord’s words to Mary Magdalene’s sister Martha, that Mary has chosen the better part, says the following things about meditation:

Figuratively, this “one thing” is to be acquired by meditation and prayer, for thus men are brought into communion with God.  Hence, he who would lead a religious life should seek this one thing only, so as to be thereby drawn into union with the Almighty.[1]

St. Alphonsus de Liguori, Doctor of the Church, also emphasizes how crucial a daily meditation is to spiritual advancement.  Here are his words:

But you will ask what are you to do, that you too may be inflamed with the love of Jesus Christ. Imitate David: "In my meditation a fire shall flame out” (Ps. xxxviii).  Meditation is the blessed furnace in which the holy fire of divine love is kindled.  Make mental prayer every day, meditate on the passion of Jesus Christ, and doubt not but you too shall burn with this blessed flame.[2]

In these words, Cornelius de Lapide and St. Alphonsus de Liguori are telling us how crucial it is to do meditations, showing us that meditation is how we keep our friendship with Christ going and our love of Christ growing.  In fact, meditation is the foundation for the higher life of contemplation which we will study in our next class.

We bring Mary our gratitude poem now, thanking her for allowing us to learn about mental prayer and how it pleases her Son and brings our hearts closer to Him.

Mary, Our Meditation Teacher

 

O Mary, Mother of our school,

May we make it our daily rule,

To meditate a span of time,

In learning truths, which are sublime.

 

Mary, may this be our delight,

To draw closer to, Thy Son’s Light,

To please Him with our mental prayer,

And learning things which are so fair!

 

We thank thee, Mary for these gems,

From which our meditation stems,

Insights given, to help us through,

In trials of life, they are our dew.

 

Mental prayer is the foundation,

To prepare for contemplation,

Wonderful Mother, she invites,

To start the path up to the heights.

 

She wants to unite us this way,

With visits to her Son each day,

Thus, blessed union with her Son,

With meditation we’ve begun!

 



[1]           Fr. Cornelius de Lapide’s commentary on St. Luke’s Gospel, 10:42.

[2]           St. Alphonsus de Liguori, Sermons for All Sundays of the Year, Sermon 4, for the Fourth Sunday of Advent.

Lesson #1 Introduction to our teacher– the Blessed Virgin Mary

X Mary’s School of Sanctity X

Catholic Candle note:  This is the beginning of a reflections series which will be placed in the setting of a school where we, along side of our readers, study what Mary Our Mother would like us to learn—namely how to sanctify our souls.

This little schoolhouse, so to speak, will have for the staff of teachers Our Lady herself, St. Joseph, and Our Lord Himself. How can this be done? By following what the Church and saints have written about the topics covered, all of which are geared to instruct us in the sanctification of our souls.

Thus this series is intended to enrich our understanding of many subjects relevant to our spiritual lives, some examples of which are: meditation, the temperaments, and the Spiritual Exercises that Our Lady gave to St. Ignatius of Loyola. 

There are so many topics that Catholics have always needed to study for perfection.  In these times of Apostasy in which we live, we especially need the means that the Catholic Church has taught throughout the centuries, in order to defeat the evil one. Since the best teachers are Our Lord Himself, Our Lady, and good St. Joseph and we learn about them through the writings of the saints of Holy Mother Church, we delight to study and ponder these works along with our readers.

 

Lesson #1 Introduction to our teacher– the Blessed Virgin Mary

Let us enroll in Mary’s School by taking a look at our Mother Mary, after whom this School in named, for she is God’s special gift to us to be our model in sanctity.  Our Lord gave us Mary while He hung on the cross. She is precious to Him but He wanted to give her to us because He knew we need her to gain our salvation.

Mary is a treasure for us. God has blessed Mary with many prerogatives. They are so numerous that we cannot address them all in one article.  Indeed, many books have been written about her prerogatives.  However, in order to appreciate Mary more and more we will look at a few of her prerogatives below:

·         Mary is Immaculate.

·         Mary is the Mediatrix of all graces.

·         Mary IS LOVED BY God more than all the angels and other saints put together.

·         Mary LOVES God more than all the angels and other saints put together.

·         Mary is omnipotent by grace.


Mary is Immaculate.

Mary is God’s masterpiece whom He wants us to follow.  He created her Immaculate. Mary’s Immaculate Conception was solemnly defined in 1854. Because He intended for her to be the Mother of the Incarnate Word, she was conceived immaculately in the womb of St. Anne.  This means that she never had original sin.  She not only was conceived immaculate, she was also preserved from ever committing any actual sin, mortal or venial.  It was fitting that she be always pure.


Mary is the Mediatrix of All Graces.

Mary is not only immaculate; she is also the Mediatrix of All Graces. St. Alphonsus de Liguori, in his book, The Glories of Mary, explains this Catholic dogma by citing several authorities.  He relates what St. Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem says, “Truly was she full; for grace is given to other saints partially, but the whole plenitude of grace poured itself into Mary.”

St. Alphonsus cites St. Basil of Seleucia, saying, “Hail full of grace, mediatress between God and men, by whom heaven and earth are brought together and united.”

St. Alphonsus further cites St. Laurence Justinian, saying, “Otherwise, had not the Blessed Virgin been full of divine grace, how could she have become the ladder to heaven, the advocate of the world, and the most true mediatress between men and God.”

As Mediatrix, Mary is so precious in God’s sight.  St. Alphonsus beautifully explains the connection between God’s plan that Mary was to be the Mother of Our Lord and the Mediatrix for the spiritual children given to her.

If Mary, as the already destined Mother of our common Redeemer, received from the very beginning the office of mediatress of all men, and consequently even of the saints, it was also requisite from the very beginning  [that] she should have a grace exceeding that of all the saints for whom she was to intercede. I will explain myself more clearly. If, by the means of Mary, all men were to render themselves dear to God, necessarily Mary was more holy and more dear to Him than all men together.  Otherwise, how could she have interceded for all others?   That an intercessor may obtain the favor of a prince for all his vassals, it is absolutely necessary that he should be more dear to his prince than all the other vassals.  And therefore St. Anselm concludes that Mary deserved to be made the worthy repairer of the lost world, because she was the most pure of all creatures. ‘The pure sanctity of her heart, surpassing the purity and sanctity of all other creatures, merited for her that she should be made the repairer of the lost world.’[1]

St. Thomas Aquinas says in his commentary on the Angelic Salutation:

So full of grace was the Blessed Virgin, that it overflows onto all mankind.  It is, indeed, a great thing that any one saint has so much grace that it is conducive to the salvation of many; but it is most wondrous to have so much grace as to suffice for the salvation of all mankind. Thus, it is in Christ and in the Blessed Virgin.[2]

Hence, we can see plainly that Mary is necessary for our salvation.


Mary IS LOVED BY God more than all the angels and other saints put together.

In addition St. Alphonsus in the above quote hints at the next prerogative that we want to look at, namely, that God loves Mary more than all the angels and saints put together. In fact, St. Alphonsus states:

Let us conclude that our heavenly child [Mary], because she was appointed mediatress of the world, as also because she was destined to be the Mother of the Redeemer, received, at the very beginning of her existence, grace exceeding in greatness that of all the saints together.  Hence, how delightful a sight must the beautiful soul of this happy child have been to heaven and earth, although still enclosed in her mother’s womb!  She was the most amiable creature in the eyes of God, because she was already loaded with grace and merit. …  And she was at the same time the creature above all others that had ever appeared in the world up to that moment, who loved God the most; so much so, that had Mary been born immediately after her most pure conception, she would have come into the world richer in merits, and more holy, than all the saints united.[3]

Also, St. Alphonsus cites St. Vincent Ferrer, saying, “that the Blessed Virgin was sanctified, in her mother’s womb above all saints and angels.”  Thus, God loves her the most.

St. Thomas Aquinas says in his commentary on the Angelic Salutation:

She is, therefore, full of grace, surpassing the angels in that plenitude.  For this reason she is rightly called Mary, which signifies that in herself she is enlightened and that she enlightens others throughout the world.  Thus, she is compared to the sun and to the moon.


Mary LOVES God more than all the angels and saints put together.

As St. Alphonsus stated just above, “… And she was at the same time the creature above all others that had ever appeared in the world up to that moment, who loved God the most;[4]

Likewise, St. Alphonsus quotes Richard of St. Victor, saying, “Ah! Well might even the Seraphim have descended from heaven to learn, in the heart of Mary, how to love God.”[5]

St. Bernard, commenting on St. John’s Apocalypse, referring to a woman clothed with the sun, says that this woman must be Mary because, “She was so closely united to God by love, and penetrated so deeply the abyss of divine wisdom, that, without a personal union with God, it would seem impossible for a creature to have a closer union with Him.”[6]

Mary certainly gave herself entirely to God and did all that He wanted her to do in her life.  She never denied anything He asked of her.  Just as she said, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord.  Be it done to me according Thy Word,” so was her whole life was one loving “Fiat.”  St. Bernardine explains this when he says, “The mind of the Blessed Virgin was always wrapped in the ardor of love,” and “That she never did anything that the divine Wisdom did not show her to be pleasing to Him; and that she loved God as much as she thought He was to be loved by her.”[7]


Mary is omnipotent by grace.

St. Alphonsus explains about this in his The Glories of Mary:

As the mother, then, must have the same power as the Son, justly was Mary made omnipotent by Jesus, who is omnipotent; it being, however, always true, that whereas the Son is omnipotent by nature, the mother is so by grace.

He quotes St. Bonaventure, who says, “Mary has this great privilege that with her Son she above all the saints is most powerful to obtain whatever she wills.”

Further, St. Alphonsus cites St. Peter Damian addressing Mary as follows, “All power is given to thee in heaven and on earth, and nothing is impossible to thee who canst raise those who are in despair to the hope of salvation.” And then adding that, “When the Mother goes to seek a favor for us from Jesus Christ, her Son esteems her prayers so greatly, and is so desirous to satisfy her, that when she prays its seems as if she rather commanded than prayed, and was rather a queen than a handmaid.”

St. Alphonsus gives additional quotes to prove this wonderful truth about Mary.  He tells how St. Germanus addresses Our Lady, “Thou art the Mother of God, and all-powerful to save sinners, and with God thou needest no other recommendation; for thou art the Mother of true life.”

“At the command of Mary, all obey, even God,” says St. Bernardine, as St. Alphonsus also records in The Glories of Mary.  As if these quotes weren’t enough, he supplies these also:

St. Anselm addresses Our Lady: “Our Lord, O most holy Virgin, has exalted thee to such a degree that by His favor all things that are possible to Him should be possible to thee.” And further, “Whatever thou, O Virgin, willest can never be otherwise than accomplished.”

St. Antoninus proclaims, “And thus, God has placed the whole Church, not only under the patronage, but even under the dominion of Mary.”

St. Alphonsus reports that St. Bridget heard Our Lord talking with Mary and telling her, “Ask of Me what thou wilt, for no petition of thine can be void.” And the reason Our Lord gave for this statement was, “Because thou never didst deny Me anything on earth, I will deny thee nothing in heaven.”

St. Alphonsus explains then, “Mary then, is called omnipotent in the sense in which it can be understood of a creature who is incapable of a divine attribute.  She is omnipotent, because by her prayer she obtains whatever she wills.”[8]

These quotes about Mary being omnipotent in grace are very impressive.  Yet, it should not surprise us that the Lord, being so loving as to give us Mary while He was hanging on the cross, would make her such a powerful advocate and intercessor for us while we are exiles in this vale of tears.


Conclusion:

Because Mary is our precious Mother in Heaven and God’s masterpiece whom He gave to us on the Cross, she is the perfect teacher of sanctity.  We delight in studying in her school of sanctity and cover the many topics she has to teach us through the great teachers of the Church.  As a little gift of our appreciation for Mary our teacher, Mediatrix of all graces, let us give Mary a mystical apple— a little poem of gratitude.

Mary, Our Mediatrix

Mary, what thanks do we not owe?

To Our Lord Who hath loved us so,

To give us such a dear sweet Queen,

Whose watch over us is e’er keen.

 

A mother so sweet and so pure,

Helping her children to endure,

  All God’s graces come through her hands,

‘Tis how God obeys her commands.

 

God has bestowed on her great things,

Far beyond one’s imaginings,

 Her love of God is better than,

All the angels and all of man.

 

God loves her most of creatures made,

  We can always count on her aid.

In her power we can e’er trust,

She conquers evil with one thrust.

 

 Thank you, Mary, our teacher dear,

You show us how to truly fear,

To displease God in any way,

Bring us closer to Him each day.

 

To thy school of holiness we,

Gladly come to learn from thee,

Many topics, without an end,

Mary, you are our tender friend.

 

 

 



[1]           The Glories of Mary —discourse #2 the birth of Mary

 

[2]               Of course, St. Thomas is not saying here that all men actually receive grace but he is only expressing Christ’s and Mary’s plenitude of grace.

 

[3]           The Glories of Mary — discourse #2 the birth of Mary (emphasis added).

 

[4]           Quoted from St. Alphonsus’s The Glories of Mary discourse #2, The Birth of Mary.

[5]           Quoted from St. Alphonsus’s The Glories of Mary, part IV, The Virtues of Mary, section 2, The Charity of Mary towards God.

[6]           Quoted from St. Alphonsus’s The Glories of Mary, part IV, The Virtues of Mary, section 2, The Charity of Mary towards God.

[7]           Quoted from St. Alphonsus’s The Glories of Mary, part IV, The Virtues of Mary, section 2, The Charity of Mary towards God.

[8]           All of the quotes regarding Mary’s omnipotence in grace are from St. Alphonsus’s The Glories of Mary, chapter 6, section about Mary our Advocate.