Friday, April 28, 2006

1st Week after Easter. "Meditative reading" fragments from "Divine Intimacy" by Fr Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene OCD

PRESENCE OF GOD - O Lord, teach me to seek You, even when my heart is dry and my mind distracted.
1.The simplest way of conversing with God is certainly vocal prayer, properly made; but as the soul progress in the spiritual life, it is natural for it to feel the need of a more interior prayer, of one more intimate; and so it spontaneously turns toward mental prayer. If the divine attraction takes hold of the soul by giving it some sensible devotion, no difficulty is experienced in becoming recollected in God; on the contrary, this exercise becomes extremely easy and pleasant. But it is quite different when the soul is left to itself, especially if an excessive activity of the imagination makes thoughts on a definite subject almost impossible....Those who are in this condition are easily tempted to give up mental prayer, which has become so painful that they find it almost impossible. The Saint has an entirely different opinion, and insist that even these can apply themselves to mental prayer with profit, although they ought to do it in a somewhat special way. This way consists in helping themselves by reading a book, which, she says, "will be a great help to recollection, and is practically indispensable; let the read, therefore, even if only a little, but let them read" (Life, 4).
.....we should use some devout book in which we can find, from time to time, a good thought which serves to recollect us in God, to put us in contact with Him. St. Therese of Child Jesus, who suffered habitually from aridity, often used this method. "In my helplessness", she said, "the Holy Scriptures and the Imitation are of the greatest is the Gospels, however, that I derive most help in the time of prayer; I find in their pages all that my poor soul needs, and I am always discovering there new lights and hidden, mysterious meanings" ( St, 8).

2. St. Teresa of Jesus, who before she was raised to the highest state of contemplation had long known aridity and the torment of importunate thoughts during prayer, confesses: "I passed more than fourteen years unable to meditate, except with the help of the book....With this help, I was able to collect my wandering thoughts, and the book acted like a bait to my soul. Often, I only needed to open the book; sometimes I read a little, at other times much, according to the fevour which the Lord showed me" (Way 17 - Life, 4).
It is important to chose a book which will arouse devotion, such as, in general, the writings of the saints. It will be usually preferable to take a book we have already read and one which we know will be helpful. Wee can even have marked some passages in it which have made an impression on us, whereas with the new book we would somewhat lost and perhaps exposed to the temptation of reading out of curiosity. We must avoid selecting authors who are too speculative, and choose instead those who are more practical and affective, since we are not interested in studying or learning but in praying, which consists much more in the exercise of love than in the work of the mind.
Hence we should, from time to time, only what is necessary to put the soul in a proper mood of conversing with God. As soon as we have read enough - and it may be only a sentence - to arouse in us good thoughts and holy affections which will occupy our mind devoutly, we must stop reading and turn our attention directly to God: meditating in His presence on the thoughts we have read, or savouring in silence the devotion they have awakened in our heart, or even speaking to Him the loving words inspired by the reading.....

......Grant me, O Lord, this grace, without which no reading, however sublime, can inspire me with devotion; no reasoning, however lofty, can move my heart to love You and my will to accomplish good.