Guide for Catholic Meditation

Meditation is a form of contemplative prayer, when you focus your attention on a particular event, virtue, or teaching, and weigh it in your mind and heart, to grow in love and appreciation and therefore draw nearer to oneness with God. The goal is to discover your own position relative to the thing you are meditating on – how close are you to this event, how firmly to you grasp this virtue, how perfectly do you live this teaching, etc. It differs from a self-examination though, because you do this with the goal of inviting grace and draw out of the meditation an improved practice.

"2 But his will is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he shall meditate day and night.  3 And he shall be like a tree which is planted near the running waters, which shall bring  forth its fruit, in due season.  And his leaf shall not fall off: and all whatsoever he shall do shall prosper."  Psalm 1:2-3 

Unlike Buddhist meditation, which seeks emptiness as a means of self-annihilation, the Catholic meditates to prepare your Soul for God to fill it. Your goal in meditation is not the elimination of yourself, but perfection by the destruction of vice, the acquisition of virtue, and a spiritual practice which enhances these things.

“Meditation consists not so much in thinking a great deal, but in loving a great deal”

St. Teresa of Avila.

Necessity of Meditation

The practice of meditation is a great spiritual help, it is necessary in order to advance in your spiritual life. This is the entrance to all higher levels of prayer. St. Alphonsus Ligouri goes even further: he wrote no one becomes a great saint without mastering this form of prayer. 

Why would this Doctor of Prayer say this? Many persons live habitually in sin solely because they never reflect seriously upon the state of their souls: neglectful of their spiritual life, they are absorbed in the world and its attachments, and so cannot receive the grace which would open them to repentance and nearness to God. 

With good reason, therefore, St. Theresa maintains that the practice of mental prayer is connected with love and the growth of virtue. There are many who Commune every day, but whose spiritual life is mediocre and whose faith is lukewarm. This is for no other reason than the lack of mental prayer! Omitting it, they practice all prayer mechanically, devoted more to the routine than to the spirit of the prayers they routinely recite. Without prayer, it is impossible to attain Perfection; for this reason it has been said that if one meditates daily, he will either stop sinning or stop meditating.

Methods of Meditation

If you don’t know how to do it well, there are different meditations and methods. Here we will explain a general outline with practical tips on each section.

In selecting a method of meditation, there are two deep pitfalls that lurk in excessive rigidity, which can make meditation too much the ritual, and inconstancy, which dilutes the practice and deprives it of effect.

A soul “young” in the practice will not know how to proceed in a life of prayer; like a toddler must learn to walk, so too we, when we awake to the reality of our spiritual life, must learn from our elders rather than attempt great acrobatic feats in ignorance. 

Such writers as Louis of Granada, St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Francis de Sales, St. Alphonsus Liguori, St. John Baptist de la Salle, and Cardinal Bérulle has compiled or adopted methods of prayer. These methods prepare us to receive Christ – like St. John the Baptist. As the soul progresses and Christ grows within her, the methods will fade. They must decrease, and He must increase. The method of meditation, therefore, must accompany us in growth; when we outgrow it, we cannot allow it to hinder us.

General Structure

Regardless of the method, there are 3 essential parts of meditation: the consideration of some supernatural truth, application of that truth to one’s life, and the resolution to do something about it. As a whole the prayer has three steps with different importance and duration:

  1. Preparation
  2. The body of Meditation.

            a) Considerations

b) Affections

c) Petitions

d) Resolutions

3. Conclusion 

In short, placing ourselves in the Divine presence, we then reflect upon a pious subject, examine ourselves, form (with the aid of Grace and the Holy Ghost) suitable affections and petitions, make a resolution, and, having given thanks to God, retire. 

1. Preparation

Preparation is essential. This requires a few minutes at most, as the human mind raises itself to God only with difficulty, we are bound to our passions, attachments, and pre-occupations, and must corral these things for our meditation to be efficacious.

23 Before prayer prepare thy soul: and be not as a man that tempteth God. Sirach 18:23

Preparation comprises three conditions:

I. Placing oneself in the presence of God: This is to consider that God is everywhere, in your soul, to consider how our Saviour looks down from heaven upon all the people, especially upon those who are in prayer. Nothing accomplishes this so well as to be in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in adoration.

5 Not that we are sufficient to think anything of ourselves, as of ourselves: but our sufficiency is from God. 2 Corinthians 3:5

II. Confessing interiorly that we are unworthy of being in the presence of God, by repenting sincerely. Recall your misery as a sinner, perhaps say a Confiteor or Act of Contrition, or like David after his sin with Bathsheba:

“O my God, turn me not away from before thy face, and take not thy holy Spirit from me. Let thy face shine upon thine handmaid, and I will meditate on thy wondrous works. Give me understanding, and I will consider your law and keep it in my heart. I am your handmaid; give me the Spirit”.

III Asking for grace, without which we cannot pray well. This can be done in many ways, but a very effective way is to invoke the aid, particularly those saints and holy people who relate to the mystery that is the subject of our meditation. For example, to meditate upon the death of the Lord, invite the grace of God and the aid of the martyrs; reflecting on your own death, invite your Guardian Angel to accompany you. We cannot concentrate our thoughts if God does not direct them, neither raise our hearts to God if he does not attract them, nor love God if He does not inflame us, nor form a good resolution if He does not inspire us. 

 “Come O Divine Spirit, have compassion on my indigence, I abandon myself to Thee, so that, illuminated, moved and guided by Thee, I may make my meditation well; come, enlighten my intelligence, inflame my heart and convert my will, that my prayer may contribute to Thy glory and my spiritual good“

In another previous exercise of piety has gathered and focused your spirit, this alone is sufficient, and one can enter fully into the body of prayer.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Thy faithful and enkindle in them the fire of Thy love.Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created. And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.

Let us pray. O God, Who midst instruct the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant us in the same Spirit to be truly wise, and ever to rejoice in His consolation, through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Other ways of preparation – Composition of the place

Put yourself briefly in the presence of God and ask the grace to pray well. Then make the composition of place, according to the method of St. Ignatius Loyola and St. Francis de Sales. This consists in proposing to the imagination the mystery to meditate upon, as if it were happening in our presence, so that we may concentrate on the mysteries and keep our mind from wandering here and there.

I will meditate on thy commandments and I will consider thy ways. Psalm 118:15 

First, when you begin the habit of meditation, consider concrete – that is, visible and sensible – things, such as Our Lord on the Cross, the Four Last Things, the Mysteries of the Rosary or Sorrows of Our Lady. More transcendant mysteries, like the greatness of God, articles of the Creed, excellence of virtue, all of these invisible or spiritual things can eventually be called to mind, but only by a spirit disciplined and attuned to them. They are too subtle for the inexperienced imaginaton. 

If these representations do not occur to us, and without effort, it is better to recall our subject to mind because the composition of place cannot fatigue the mind.

2. The Body of the Meditation 

The body of prayer is the principal point of this exercise and encompasses almost everything else. It is composed of four acts, these are: considerations, affections, petitions and resolutions.

a) Considerations

Reflect on your subject, turn and insist on it within yourself in every way possible; then you can draw your conclusions and make practical application. By this means, you may attain virtue, fortify your convictions, and excite your affections towards God and divine things, and make productive petition that better unites your will with the Will of God. We then look at ourselves in relation to the matter we are meditating on, in order to see how our conduct accords with it, whether we are lacking and how we might remedy it. 

If the object is sensible, question it directly. For example, of the Passion we ask “Who is?” Christ is! “What is?” the Sacrifice, “Where is?” the places of the Passion, and the unique sufferings accompanying them “By what means?” Everything that leads to and encompasses the Passion. “Why is?” For our reclamation and Salvation. “How is?” By the Death on the Cross. “When is?” At the Pasch. Each question then leads to its own meditation, and as one can see at a glance, the questions often “fold over” on each other, leading us to reflect and meditate on the same question from a different experience, as participant and as spectator alike. 

If the object is not sensible, we consider all its various aspects in order to grasp its whole import; if we are meditating upon some virtue, we consider its nature, properties, beauty, utility, necessity, the means of acquiring it, and the occasions of practising it, and some good example of it. If it is a vice, we should realise to ourselves its malice, its adverse effects, and find out the remedies to cure it, examples of those who won over them.

I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands. Psalm 143:5

Louis of Granada and St. Francis de Sales counsel those who have a difficulty in reasoning to make use of a book, especially in the beginning; to read the first point, and, if no good thought occurs to occupy their mind, to recommence and read over again some lines, and then to apply themselves to reflect a little, to produce affections of gratitude, grief, humility. When they find something which touches them, they should dwell upon it in order to draw from it all the fruit they can.

.you will find practical examples in the meditations that Saint Francis of Sales have proposed (at the end of this guide). If you are considering a scene from Scripture, consider a biblical commentary (like Fr. Haydock’s) or another approved source that considers the various perspectives of the Fathers of the Church. In this work, move slowly and with simplicity, avoiding haste and impatience, and resting on the sources which inspire in you the most engaging reflections.

After having considered the truth, we examine it in ourselves. I have meditated on such a mystery: to what degree am I impressed by it? Upon such a virtue: how do I practice it in my thoughts, words and conduct? Upon such a vice: how do I preserve myself from it?

b) Affections

Some affections flow spontaneously from the reflections, They rise from the will the desire to do the will of God like the love of God and neighbor, desire for paradise and glory, zeal for the salvation of souls, etc… Hell produces repentance and horror of sin; the Passion of the Savior excites love, gratitude, trust, contrition, humility, etc. The consideration of our interior raises regret for the past, confusion for the present, and firm resolutions for the future. 

2 And be not conformed to this world; but be reformed in the newness of your mind, that you may prove what is the good, and the acceptable, and the perfect will of God. Romans 12:2

Affections aren’t emotions, we should strive not for any kinds of consolations, genuine emotions will fall from that, they shouldn’t be the standard of your spiritual life. Those consolations are good but St. John of the Cross makes it clear, they are only useful means; you don’t make them the end for which you are praying, because the end is god, not to get good feelings.

Because demons can manipulate them, they can give you good feelings, those can become dangerous attachments, that’s why you can’t judge how you feel to know where are you at in the spiritual life. God gives us at the begging stages, some sensible consolations like you give a candy for a kid but you will eventually grow up when you advance, those consolations will be stripped out entirely to purge your love for God.

c) Petition

Petition is an important point, and we should dwell upon it for a long time with faith and confidence, humility and perseverance, while urging the reasons likely to move Our Lord, and invoking the aid of the Holy Virgin and the saints. We should first ask those graces which the subject of our prayer suggests, and then it is well to add petitions for divine love, final perseverance, the welfare of the Church, our country, our order, our house, our relations, sinners, souls in purgatory, &c.

Amongst other things we may humbly tell Him : 

  1. That it is His Will. 
  2. That it will be for His glory. 
  3. That He should not allow a person to remain so imperfect a member in His Church, which He loves so much. 
  4. To consider our frequent communions, and that His Son, the beloved object of all His complacency, will be otherwise so little glorified in us, and so imperfectly received into our heart. 
  5. His infinite liberality, the merits of His Son, His promises and pledged word in the Scriptures.

” This desire to belong entirely to God and to advance in His love is a continual prayer,” St. Bernard.

d) Resolutions 

Essentially, it’s one resolution, precise and thoroughly practical, suffices, provided only that it be kept. When we examine ourselves regarding the subject on which we are meditating, see whether it conforms to our conduct, it’s good to make an examination of conscience and compare we can compare on how we’ve lived up to it and make resolutions.

Any meditation should end in a practical and particular resolution for the future. Love cannot be idle; it urges us to action. For example, the “to forgive one’s enemies and to love them”, one must add a special purpose in this way: henceforth I will not be angry at the insulting words that he or she, father or mother, says against me, on the contrary, I will say such-and-such a thing, to win them or soften them, and so of the other affections.

Failure to make efficacious resolutions is the reason many souls who practice daily meditation get little benefit from this exercise of prayer. They pass the time in spiritual reading or speculation, but they do not make acts of love, nor do they make any practical resolutions. You must then endeavour to put them in practice.

3. Conclusion 

The meditation has to end with three things, which have to be done with humility:

  1. Thanksgiving to God, for the affections and resolutions that he has inspired in us, and for his goodness and mercy, which we have discovered in meditation
  2. The act of offering, by which we offer to God his very goodness and mercy, the virtues of his Son, etc.., and our affections and resolutions.
  3. The supplication, by which we ask God to communicate to us the graces and virtues of his Son and to give his blessing on our resolutions so that we put them into practice.

Then we should pray for the Church, for our pastors, relatives, and others, having recourse to the intercession of the Mother of God, the angels, and the saints. For meditation, we should choose one, two, or three points to remember them throughout the day. Ending with Our Father and the Hail Mary.

When you come out of meditation do not get distracted immediately, get used to knowing how to pass from prayer to your duties, even if they seem foreign to the affections that we have conceived in prayer. For example, a married woman to the occupations of the home, for both things are according to the will of God and we must think both in a spirit of humility and devotion.

Tips on Meditation

  • What time of day is best for meditation?. Regularity in prayer is of extreme importance, for it is easy to alter the schedule, then change the time for any pretext whatever, and ultimately abandon the practice of prayer.

Most writers on the spiritual life state that the best times for meditation are early in the morning, the late afternoon before the evening meal, or late at night when one has finished all the duties and occupations of the day. The best norm to follow is to meditate when one’s mind is most alert and one can be recollected.

  • Think the meditation beforehand. It is better to prepare the morning meditation the evening before during the last free time. Let them choose a subject, which they may divide into several points, each containing sufficient doctrine to enable them to elicit affections and to draw practical conclusions; let them foresee in each point the reflections to be made, the affections and resolutions to be drawn from it. Yet the same one resolution may last them for a considerable time. It is good to fall asleep with these thoughts, and to run over them again on awaking. In this way, when the time of prayer comes, the mind will already be full of them and the will on the alert.
  • Spiritual reading. Basically Read the chapter, paragraph, or Psalm containing a verse you would like to reflect on, then re-read the verse alone, the reason spiritual reading is done is in order to provide the person with a certain amount of material upon which they can reflect, this will also help you get away from any distractions once people get that more advanced or they have a lot of theological knowledge it’s unnecessary thing but most people actually need to do the spiritual reading. 
  • The duration of meditation? It should, so far as possible, be adjusted to the needs of each. Although there are various opinions concerning the time to be spent in meditation, if the time spent in meditation is too brief, it uses most of the period in getting ready to pray and not in actual prayer; but if the time is too long, devotion is stifled, and the period assigned for prayer becomes a period of penance.

“prayer should last as long as the soul is in a state of fervor and devotion, and that it should end when it can no longer be prolonged without tedium and continual distractions.” St. Thomas Aquinas.

Whatever we give the time to meditate, its influence should be present throughout the entire day. St. Thomas suggests prayer to be constant. Using fervent ejaculatory prayers will preserve the fire of devotion throughout the day.

Equivalents of Meditation

The equivalents of meditation have all the elements of discursive prayer : considerations, affections, petitions and resolutions.

These equivalents differ from meditation in their way of presenting the considerations, in their freer and less methodical course. They may be of use, and may replace meditation, especially when we cannot make our ordinary mental prayer, and when the soul is in dryness, or has need of variety.

Meditative reading. 

St. Teresa relates that during over fourteen years, she could not pray at all without a book, except after Holy Communion. She used to read more or less according to the grace God gave her. This exercise comprises all the elements of a meditation; it is even mental prayer rather than reading. 

  • You take some spiritual work, and read over a few lines or even more of it, as much as is required to furnish matter for reflections and affections. 
  • You meditate a little upon what you have read, trying to penetrate its sense, to impress it on your mind, and to apply to yourself whatever is practical in it. 
  • You draw from it holy affections, such as of contrition, love, faith, confidence, humility, or of some other virtue; and if you meet with some good counsel which strikes home, you make a good resolution invoking the help of God’s grace. 
  • You continue making these acts of the will, as long as the sentiment which has touched you last; then you pursue your reading until it furnishes matter for new reflections and affections.

“After the example of the bee which does not pass on from one flower to another until it has gathered all the honey it finds on the first. It does not matter in such a case that the time for reading is passing and is nearly at an end; for it has been thus employed in a manner more profitable for our spiritual welfare: the reading of a single line some times does us more good than that of an entire page.” St. Liguori.

At other times, especially in time of dryness, it may limit the work of the mind to reading attentively with a short self-examination; it will then be much more a lecture than a prayer, and the affections will be short, the petitions rapidly made. These, however, will season this exercise with prayer and love, and to enlighten the mind, while inflaming the will.

Contemplation

What St. Ignatius calls contemplation (which is not mystical contemplation); This is almost what we described when speaking of the composition of place and of the manner of considering sensible objects and facts, it is reflected upon by looking at it rather than by reasoning about it; hence the name of contemplation. We may begin as usual. After a rapid glance at the mystery or historic fact, taken as a whole, we consider all the details one after another with more care and attention. We contemplate in each point: 

  1. The persons, visible or invisible, with all they represent in themselves of good or evil; 
  2. The words, interior or exterior; 
  3. The actions, praiseworthy or blamable, ascending to the principles from which they spring. 

From all we see, from all we hear and consider, we strive to draw some spiritual fruit by applying it to our own case. We may also consider the end of the mysteries, their causes, their effects, their date, and any other circumstances which may contribute to make the subject of our contemplation more suggestive and its fruit more abundantly.

Dryness in Meditation

If you find no pleasure, there is nothing wrong if you don’t get any consolations. it’s not a form of God’s approbation, consolations are a sign of you are not as advanced as you should be.

Say to Him these words of Jacob: “No, Lord, I will not leave you, unless you first give me your blessing”; Take a book and read it, until your spirit awakens and comes to itself: stimulate your heart by some attitude or movement of devotion, like embracing the crucifix.

And if, after all this, you still do not feel consoled, do not grieve, but continue in a devout attitude, before God, we must go to prayer to do our duty and bear witness to our fidelity without looking something to gain.

If He does not want to give holy inspirations but wants to leave us there, without saying a word to us, like when Jesus went missing in Jerusalem, we shall be like the holy family who remained there with patience, persistence, with their presence. He is certain to accept our patient waiting and give heed to our assiduity and perseverance.

Examples of Meditation

MEDITATION Of Creation.

Preparation.

  1. PLACE yourself in the Presence of God.
  2. Ask Him to inspire your heart.

Considerations.

1. Consider that but a few years since you were not born into the world, and your soul was as yet non-existent. Where wert thou then, O my soul? the world was already old, and yet of thee, there was no sign.

2. God brought you out of this nothingness, in order to make you what you are, not because He had any need of you, but solely out of His Goodness.

3. Consider the being which God has given you; for it is the foremost being of this visible world, adapted to live eternally, and to be perfectly united to God’s Divine Majesty.

Affections and Resolutions.

1. Humble yourself utterly before God, saying with the Psalmist, O Lord, I am nothing in respect of Thee—what am I, that Thou shouldst remember me? O my soul, thou art yet lost in that abyss of nothingness, if God had not called thee forth, and what of thee in such a case?

2. Give God thanks. O Great and Good Creator, what do I not owe Thee, Who didst take me from out that nothingness, by Thy Mercy to make me what I am? How can I ever do enough worthily to praise Thy Holy Name, and render due thanks to Thy Goodness?

3. Confess your own shame. But alas, O my Creator, so far from uniting myself to Thee by loving service, I have rebelled against Thee through my unruly affections, departing from Thee, and giving myself up to sin, and ignoring Thy Goodness, as though Thou hadst not created me.

4. Prostrate thyself before God. O my soul, know that the Lord He is thy God, it is He that hath made thee, and not thou thyself. O God, I am the work of Thy Hands; henceforth I will not seek to 18 Ps. ciii. 5, Bible version. rest in myself, who am naught. Wherein hast thou to glory, who art but dust and ashes? how canst thou, a very nothing, exalt thyself? In order to my own humiliation, I will do such and such a thing,—I will endure such contempt:—I will alter my ways and henceforth follow my Creator, and realize that I am honored by His calling me to the being He has given; I will employ it solely to obey His Will, by means of the teaching He has given me, of which I will inquire more through my spiritual Father.

Conclusion.

1. Thank God. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and praise His Holy Name with all thy being, because His Goodness called me forth from nothingness, and His Mercy created me.

2. Offer. O my God, I offer Thee with all my heart the being Thou hast given me, I dedicate and consecrate it to Thee.

3. Pray. O God, strengthen me in these affections and resolutions. Dear Lord, I commend me, and all those I love, to Thy never-failing Mercy. OUR FATHER, etc.

At the end of your meditation linger a while, and gather, so to say, a little spiritual bouquet from the thoughts you have dwelt upon, the sweet perfume whereof may refresh you through the day.

MEDITATION Of the End for which we were created.

Preparation.

  1. PLACE yourself before God.
  2. Ask Him to inspire your heart.

Considerations.

1. God did not bring you into the world because He had any need of you, useless as you are; but solely that He might show forth His Goodness in you, giving you His Grace and Glory. And to this end, He gave you understanding that you might know Him, a memory that you might think of Him, a will that you might love Him, imagination that you might realize His mercies, sight that you might behold the marvels of His works, speech that you might praise Him, and so on with all your other faculties.

2. Being created and placed in the world for this intent, all contrary actions should be shunned and rejected, as also you should avoid as idle and superfluous whatever does not promote it.

3. Consider how unhappy they are who do not think of all this,—who live as though they were created only to build and plant, to heap up riches and amuse themselves with trifles.

Affections and Resolutions.

1. Humble yourself in that hitherto you have so little thought upon all this. Alas, my God, of what was I thinking when I did not think of Thee? what did I remember when I forgot Thee? what did I love when I loved Thee not? Alas, when I ought to have been feeding on the truth, I was but filling myself with vanity and serving the world, which was made to serve me.

2. Abhor your past life. I renounce ye, O vain thoughts and useless cogitations, frivolous and hateful memories: I renounce all worthless friendships, all unprofitable efforts, and miserably ungrateful self-indulgence, all pitiful compliances.

3. Turn to God. Thou, my God, and Saviour shalt henceforth be the sole object of my thoughts; no more will I give my mind to ideas which are displeasing to Thee. All the days of my life I will dwell upon the greatness of Thy Goodness, so lovingly poured out upon me. Thou shalt be henceforth the delight of my heart, the resting-place of all my affections. From this time forth I will forsake and abhor the vain pleasures and amusements, the empty pursuits which have absorbed my time;—the unprofitable ties which have bound my heart I will loosen henceforth, and to that end, I will use such and such remedies.

Conclusion.

1. Thank God, Who has made you for so gracious an end. Thou hast made me, O Lord, for Thyself, that I may eternally enjoy the immensity of Thy Glory; when shall I be worthy thereof, when shall I know how to bless Thee as I ought?

2. Offer. O Dearest Lord, I offer Thee all my affections and resolutions, with my whole heart and soul.

3. Pray. I entreat Thee, O God, that Thou wouldest accept my desires and longings, and give Thy Blessing to my soul, to enable me to fulfil them, through the Merits of Thy Dear Son’s Precious Blood shed upon the Cross for me. OUR FATHER, etc. Gather your little spiritual bouquet.

MEDITATION Of the Gifts of God.

Preparation.

  1. PLACE yourself in the Presence of God.
  2. Ask Him to inspire your heart.

Considerations.

1. Consider the material gifts God has given you—your body, and the means for its preservation; your health, and all that maintains it; your friends and many helps. Consider too how many persons more deserving than you are without these gifts; some suffering in health or limb, others exposed to injury, contempt and trouble, or sunk in poverty, while God has willed you to be better off.

2. Consider the mental gifts He has given you. Why are you not stupid, idiotic, insane like many you wot of? Again, God has favored you with a decent and suitable education, while many have grown up in utter ignorance.

3. Further, consider His spiritual gifts. You are a child of His Church, God has taught you to know Himself from your youth. How often has He given you His Sacraments? what inspirations and interior light, what reproofs, He has given to lead you aright; how often He has forgiven you, how often delivered you from occasions of falling; what opportunities He has granted for your soul’s progress! Dwell somewhat on the detail, see how Loving and Gracious God has been to you.

Affections and Resolutions.

1. Marvel at God’s Goodness. How good He has been to me, how abundant in mercy and plenteous in loving-kindness! O my soul, be thou ever telling of the great things the Lord has done for thee!

2. Marvel at your own ingratitude. What am I, Lord, that Thou rememberest me? How unworthy am I! I have trodden Thy Mercies under root, I have abused Thy Grace, turning it against Thy very Self; I have set the depth of my ingratitude against the deep of Thy Grace and Favour.

3. Kindle your gratitude. O my soul, be no more so faithless and disloyal to thy mighty Benefactor! How should not my whole soul serve the Lord, Who has done such great things in me and for me?

4. Go on, my daughter, to refrain from this or that material indulgence; let your body be wholly the servant of God, Who has done so much for it: set your soul to seek Him by this or that devout practice suitable thereto. Make diligent use of the means provided by the Church to help you to love God and save your soul. Resolve to be constant in prayer and seeking the Sacraments, in hearing God’s Word, and in obeying His inspirations and counsels.

Conclusion.

1. Thank God for the clearer knowledge He has given you of His benefits and your own duty.

2. Offer your heart and all its resolutions to Him.

3. Ask Him to strengthen you to fulfil them faithfully by the Merits of the Death of His Son. OUR FATHER, etc. Gather the little spiritual bouquet.

MEDITATION. On Sin.

Preparation.

  1. PLACE yourself in the Presence of God.
  2. Ask Him to inspire your heart.

Considerations.

1. Consider how long it is since you first began to commit sin, and how since that first beginning sin has multiplied in your heart; how every day has added to the number of your sins against God, against yourself and against your neighbour, by deed, word, thought and desire.

2. Consider your evil tendencies, and how far you have followed them. These two points will show you that your sins are more in number than the hairs of your head, or the sand on the seashore.

3. Apart from sin, consider your ingratitude towards God, which is in itself a sin enfolding all the others, and adding to their enormity: consider the gifts which God has given you, and which you have turned against the Giver; especially the inspirations you have neglected, and the promptings to good which you have frustrated. Review the many Sacraments you have received, and see where are their fruits. Where are the precious jewels wherewith your Heavenly Bridegroom decked you? with what preparation have you received them? Reflect upon the ingratitude with which, while God sought to save you, you have fled from Him and rushed upon destruction.

Affections and Resolutions.

1. Humble yourself in your wretchedness. O my God, how dare I come before Thine Eyes? I am but a corrupt being, a very sink of ingratitude and wickedness. Can it be that I have been so disloyal, that not one sense, not one faculty but has been sullied and stained;—not one day has passed but I have sinned before Thee? Was this a fitting return for all my Creator’s gifts, for my Redeemer’s Blood?

2. Ask pardon;—throw yourself at the Lord’s Feet as the prodigal son, as the Magdalene, as the woman convicted of adultery. Have mercy, Lord, on me a sinner! O Living Fountain of Mercy, have pity on me, unworthy as I am.

3. Resolve to do better. Lord, with the help of Thy Grace I will never again give myself up to sin. I have loved it too well;—henceforth I would abhor it and cleave to Thee. Father of Mercy, I would live and die to Thee.

4. In order to put away past sin, accuse yourself bravely of it, let there not be one sinful act which you do not bring to light.

5. Resolve to make every effort to tear up the roots of sin from your heart, especially this and that individual sin which troubles you most.

6. In order to do this, resolve stedfastly to follow the advice given you, and never think that you have done enough to atone for your past sin.

Conclusion.

1. Thank God for having waited till now for you, and for rousing these good intentions in your heart.

2. Offer Him all your heart to carry them to good effect. 3. Pray that He would strengthen you.

MEDITATION Of Death.

Preparation.

  1. PLACE yourself in the Presence of God.
  2. Ask His Grace.
  3. Suppose yourself to be on your deathbed, in the last extremity, without the smallest hope of recovery.

Considerations.

1. Consider the uncertainty as to the day of your death. One day your soul will quit this body—will it be in summer or winter? in town or country? by day or by night? will it be suddenly or with a warning? will it be owing to sickness or an accident? will you have time to make your last confession or not? will your confessor or spiritual father be at hand or will he not? Alas, of all these things we know absolutely nothing: all that we do know is that die we shall, and for the most part sooner than we expect.

2. Consider that then the world is at the end as far as you are concerned, there will be no more of it for you, it will be altogether overthrown for you, since all pleasures, vanities, worldly joys, empty delights will be as a mere fantastic vision to you. Woe is me, for what mere trifles and unrealities I have ventured to offend my God? Then you will see that what we preferred to Him was naught. But, on the other hand, all devotion and good works will then seem so precious and so sweet:—Why did I not tread that pleasant path? Then what you thought to be little sins will look like huge mountains, and your devotion will seem but a very little thing.

3. Consider the universal farewell which your soul will take of this world. It will say farewell to riches, pleasures, and idle companions; to amusements and pastimes, to friends and neighbours, to husband, wife and child, in short to all creation. And lastly it will say farewell to its own body, which it will leave pale and cold, to become repulsive in decay.

4. Consider how the survivors will hasten to put that body away, and hide it beneath the earth—and then the world will scarce give you another thought, or remember you, any more than you have done to those already gone. “God rest his soul!” men will say, and that is all. O death, how pitiless, how hard thou art! 5. Consider that when it quits the body the soul must go at once to the right hand or the left. To which will your soul go? what side will it take? none other, be sure, then that to which it had voluntarily drawn while yet in this world.

Affections and Resolutions.

1. Pray to God, and throw yourself into His Arms. O Lord, be Thou my stay in that day of anguish! May that hour be blessed and favorable to me, if all the rest of my life be full of sadness and trial.

2. Despise the world. Forasmuch as I know not the hour in which I must quit the world, I will not grow fond of it. O dear friends, beloved ones of my heart, be content that I cleave to you only with a holy friendship which may last forever; why should I cling to you with a tie which must need to be broken? I will prepare for the hour of death and take every precaution for its peaceful arrival; I will thoroughly examine into the state of my conscience, and put in order whatever is wanting.

Conclusion.

Thank God for inspiring you with these resolutions: offer them to His Majesty: entreat Him anew to grant you a happy death by the Merits of His Dear Son’s Death. Ask the prayers of the Blessed Virgin and the Saints. OUR FATHER, etc. Gather a bouquet of myrrh.

MEDITATION On Judgment.

Preparation.

  1. PLACE yourself in the Presence of God.
  2. Intreat Him to inspire you.

Considerations.

1. When the time comes which God has appointed for the end of this world, and after many terrible signs and warnings, which will overwhelm men with fear,—the whole earth will be destroyed, and nothing then left.

2. Afterwards, all men, save those already risen, shall rise from the dead, and at the voice of the Archangel appear in the valley of Jehoshaphat. But alas, with what divers aspects! for some will be glorious and shining, others horrible and ghastly.

3. Consider the majesty with which the Sovereign Judge will appear surrounded by all His Saints and Angels; His Cross, the Sign of Grace to the good and of terror to the evil, shining brighter than the sun.

4. This Sovereign Judge will with His awful word, instantly fulfilled, separate the evil and the good, setting the one on His Right Hand, the other on His Left—an eternal separation, for they will never meet again.

5. This separation made, the books of conscience will be opened, and all men will behold the malice of the wicked, and how they have contemned God; as also the penitence of the good, and the results of the grace they received. Nothing will be hidden. O my God, what confusion to the one, what rejoicing to the other! Consider the final sentence of the wicked. “Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” Dwell upon these awful words. “Go,” He says—forever discarding these wretched sinners, banishing them forever from His Presence. He calls them “cursed:” O my soul, what a curse: a curse involving all other maledictions, all possible evil, an irrevocable curse, including all time and eternity; condemning them to everlasting fire. Think what that eternity of suffering implies.

6. Then consider the sentence of the good. “Come,” the Judge says—O blessed loving word with which God draws us to Himself and receives us in His Bosom. “Blessed of My Father”—O blessing above all blessings! “inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world.” Oh my God, and that Kingdom will know no end!

Affections and Resolutions.

1. Tremble, my soul, at the thought. O God, who will be my stay in that hour when the pillars of the earth are shaken?

2. Abhor your sins, which alone can cause you to be lost when that fearful day comes. Surely I will judge myself now, that I will not be judged;—I will examine my conscience, accuse, condemn, punish myself, that the Judge may not condemn me then. I will confess my faults, and follow the counsels given me.

Conclusion.

Thank God for having given you means of safety in that terrible day, and time for repentance. Offer Him your heart, and ask for the grace to use it well. OUR FATHER, etc. Gather your bouquet.

MEDITATION Of Hell.

Preparation.

  1. PLACE yourself in God’s Presence.
  2. Humble yourself, and ask His Aid.
  3. Picture to yourself a dark city, reeking with the flames of sulfur and brimstone, inhabited by citizens who cannot get forth.

Considerations.

1. Even so the lost are plunged in their infernal abyss;—suffering indescribable torture in every sense and every member; and that because having used their members and senses for sin, it is just that through them they should suffer now. Those eyes which delighted in impure vicious sights, now behold devils; the ears which took pleasure in unholy words, now are deafened with yells of despair;—and so on with the other senses.

2. Beyond all these sufferings, there is one greater still, the privation, and pain of the loss of God’s Glory, which is forever denied to their vision. If Absalom cared not to be released from exile if he might not see his father’s face, how much sorer will it be to be deprived forever of the blessed vision of God? 2 Sam. xiv. 32.

3. Consider how insupportable the pains of Hell will be by reason of their eternal duration. If the irritating bite of an insect, or the restlessness of fever, makes an ordinary night seem so long and tedious, how terrible will the endless night of eternity be, where naught will be found save despair, blasphemy and fury!

Affections and Resolutions.

1. Read the Prophet’s descriptions of the terrors of the Lord, and ask your soul whether it can face them—whether you can bear to lose your God forever?

2. Confess that you have repeatedly deserved to do so. Resolve henceforth to act differently, and to rescue yourself from this abyss. Resolve on distinct definite acts by which you may avoid sin, and thereby eternal death. Give thanks, offer yourself, pray.

MEDITATION On Paradise.

Preparation.

  1. PLACE yourself in the Presence of God.
  2. Invoke His Aid.

Considerations.

1. Represent to yourself a lovely calm night, when the heavens are bright with innumerable stars: add to the beauty of such a night the utmost beauty of a glorious summer’s day,—the sun’s brightness not hindering the clear shining of moon or stars, and then be sure that it all falls immeasurably short of the glory of Paradise. O bright and blessed country, O sweet and precious place!

2. Consider the beauty and perfection of the countless inhabitants of that blessed country;—the millions and millions of angels, Cherubim and Seraphim; the glorious company of Apostles, martyrs, confessors, virgins, and saints. O blessed company, any one single member of which surpasses all the glory of this world, what will it be to behold them all, to sing with them the sweet Song of the Lamb? They rejoice with a perpetual joy, they share a bliss unspeakable, and unchangeable delights.

3. Consider how they enjoy the Presence of God, Who fills them with the richness of His Vision, which is a perfect ocean of delight; the joy of being forever united to their Head. They are like happy birds, hovering and singing forever within the atmosphere of divinity, which fills them with inconceivable pleasures. There each one vies without jealousy in singing the praises of the Creator. “Blessed art Thou forever, O Dear and Precious Lord and Redeemer, Who dost so freely give us of Thine Own Glory,” they cry; and He in His turn pours out His ceaseless Blessing on His Saints. “Blessed are ye,—Mine own forever, who have served Me faithfully, and with a good courage.”

Affections and Resolutions.

1. Admire and rejoice in the Heavenly Country; the glorious and blessed New Jerusalem.

2. Reprove the coldness of your own heart for having hitherto so little sought after that glorious abode. Why have I so long lingered indifferent to the eternal happiness set before me? Woe is me 20 Isa. xxxiii. 14. “Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” that, for the sake of poor savourless earthly things, I have so often forgotten those heavenly delights. How could I neglect such real treasures for mere vain and contemptible earthly matters?

3. Aspire earnestly after that blessed abode. Forasmuch, O Dear Lord, as Thou hast been pleased to turn my feet into Thy ways, never will I again look back. Go forth, my soul, towards thy promised rest, journey unweariedly to that hoped-for land; wherefore shouldest thou tarry in Egypt?

4. Resolve to give up such and such things, which hinder you on the way, and to do such others as will help you thither ward. Give thanks, offer, pray.

MEDITATION On the Choice upon to you between Heaven and Hell.

Preparation.

  • PLACE yourself in the Presence of God.
  • Humble yourself before Him, and ask His inspiration.

Considerations.

1. Imagine yourself alone with your good angel in an open plain, as was Tobit on his way to Rages. Suppose the Angel to set before you Paradise, full of delights and joys; and on the other hand Hell, with all its torments. Contemplate both, kneeling in imagination before your guardian Angel. Consider that you are most truly standing between Hell and Paradise, and that both the one and the other are open to receive you, according to your own choice.

2. Consider that the choice you make in this life will last for ever in the next.

3. Consider too, that while both are open to receive you according to your choice, yet God, Who is prepared to give the one by reason of His Justice, the other by reason of His Mercy, all the while desires unspeakably that you should select Paradise; and your good Angel is urging you with all his might to do so, offering you countless graces on God’s part, countless helps to attain to it.

4. Consider that Jesus Christ, enthroned in Heaven, looks down upon you in loving invitation: “O beloved one, come unto Me, and joy forever in the eternal blessedness of My Love!” Behold His mother yearning over you with maternal tenderness—” Courage, my child, do not despise the Goodness of my Son, or my earnest prayers for thy salvation.” Behold the Saints, who have left you their example, the millions of holy souls who long after you, desiring earnestly that you may one day be forever joined to them in their song of praise, urging upon you that the road to Heaven is not so hard to find as the world would have you think. “Press on boldly, dear friend,”—they cry. “Whoso will ponder well the path by which we came hither, will discover that we attained to these present delights by sweeter joys than any this world can give.”

The Choice.

1. O Hell, I abhor thee now and forever; I abhor thy griefs and torments, thine endless misery, the unceasing blasphemies and maledictions which thou pourest out upon my God;—and turning to thee, O blessed Paradise, eternal glory, unfading happiness, I choose thee forever as my abode, thy glorious mansions, thy precious and abiding tabernacles. O my God, I bless Thy Mercy which gives me the power to choose—O Jesus, Saviour, I accept Thine Eternal Love, and praise Thee for the promise Thou hast given me of a place prepared for me in that blessed New Jerusalem, where I shall love and bless Thee forever.

2. Dwell lovingly upon the example set before you by the Blessed Virgin and the Saints, and strive to follow where they point you. Give yourself up to your guardian Angel, that he may be your guide, and gird up your courage anew to make this choice.

MEDITATION on How the Soul chooses the Devout Life.

Preparation.

  1. PLACE yourself in the Presence of God.
  2. Humble yourself before Him, and ask His Aid.

Considerations.

1. Once more imagine yourself in an open plain, alone with your Guardian Angel, and represent to yourself on the left hand the Devil sitting on a high and mighty throne, surrounded by a vast troop of worldly men, who bow bareheaded before him, doing homage to him by the various sins they commit. Study the countenances of the miserable courtiers of that most abominable king:—some raging with fury, envy, and passion, some murderous in their hatred;—others pale and haggard in their craving after wealth, or madly pursuing every vain and profitless pleasure;—others sunk and lost in vile, impure affections. See how all alike are hateful, restless, wild: see how they despise one another, and only pretend to an unreal self-seeking love. Such is the miserable reign of the abhorred Tyrant.

2. On the other hand, behold Jesus Christ Crucified, calling these unhappy wretches to come to Him, and interceding for them with all the Love of His Precious Heart. Behold the company of devout souls and their guardian Angels, contemplate the beauty of this religious Kingdom. What lovelier than the troop of virgin souls, men, and women, pure as lilies:—widows in their holy desolation and humility; husbands and wives living in all tender love and mutual cherishing. See how such pious souls know how to combine their exterior and interior duties;—to love the earthly spouse without diminishing their devotion to the Heavenly Bridegroom. Look around—one and all you will see them with loving, holy, gentle countenances listening to the Voice of their Lord, all seeking to enthrone Him more and more within their hearts.

They rejoice, but it is with a peaceful, loving, sober joy; they love, but their love is altogether holy and pure. Such among these devout ones as have sorrows to bear, are not disheartened thereby, and do not grieve overmuch, for their Saviour’s Eye is upon them to comfort them, and they all seek Him only.

3. Surely you have altogether renounced Satan with his weary miserable troop, by the good resolutions you have made;—but nevertheless, you have not yet wholly attained to the King Jesus, or altogether joined His blessed company of devout ones:—you have hovered betwixt the two.

4. The Blessed Virgin, S. Joseph, S. Louis, S. Monica, and hundreds of thousands more who were once like you, living in the world, call upon you and encourage you.

5. The Crucified King Himself calls you by your own name: “Come, O my beloved, come, and let Me crown thee!”

The Choice

  1. O world, O vile company, never will I enlist beneath thy banner; forever I have forsaken thy flatteries and deceptions. O proud king, monarch of evil, infernal spirit, I renounce thee and all thy hollow pomp; I detest thee and all thy works.
  2. And turning to Thee, O Sweet Jesus, King of blessedness and of eternal glory, I cleave to Thee with all the powers of my soul; I adore Thee with all my heart; I choose Thee now and ever for my King, and with inviolable fidelity, I would offer my irrevocable service and submit myself to Thy holy laws and ordinances.
  3. O Blessed Virgin Mother of God, you shall be my example, I will follow you with all reverence and respect.

O my good Angel, bring me to this heavenly company, leave me not until I have reached them, with whom I will sing forever, in the testimony of my choice, “Glory be to Jesus, my Lord!”

Bibliography and reading list

Summary of p.32 to p.37 of Introduction of devout life Saint Francis of Sales.

Summary of|The ways of mental prayer of Lehodey

Summary of Spiritual Life (part II)- Mental Prayer ~ Fr Ripperger

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