Virtue Guide No. 15 ~ The Necessity of Prayer

Virtue-Guide

St. Francis de Sales, in this reflection (2.1) found in his Introduction to the Devout Life, speaks to us about the importance of prayer. Use his guidance to assist in purging yourself of all unnecessary attachments.

The Necessity of Prayer.

Prayer opens the understanding to the brightness of Divine Light, and the will to the warmth of Heavenly Love—nothing can so effectually purify the mind from its many ignorances, or the will from its perverse affections. It is as a healing water which causes the roots of our good desires to send forth fresh shoots, which washes away the soul’s imperfections, and allays the thirst of passion.

But especially I commend earnest mental prayer to you, more particularly such as bears upon the Life and Passion of our Lord. If you contemplate Him frequently in meditation, your whole soul will be filled with Him, you will grow in His Likeness, and your actions will be moulded on His. He is the Light of the world; therefore in Him, by Him, and for Him we shall be enlightened and illuminated; He is the Tree of Life, beneath the shadow of which we must find rest;—He is the Living Fountain of Jacob’s well, wherein we may wash away every stain. Children learn to speak by hearing their mother talk, and stammering forth their childish sounds in imitation; and so if we cleave to the Savior in meditation, listening to His words, watching His actions and intentions, we shall learn in time, through His Grace, to speak, act and will like Himself. Believe me, my daughter, there is no way to God save through this door. Just as the glass of a mirror would give no reflection save for the metal behind it, so neither could we here below contemplate the Godhead, were it not united to the Sacred Humanity of our Saviour, Whose Life and Death are the best, sweetest and most profitable subjects that we can possibly select for meditation. It is not without meaning that the Saviour calls Himself the Bread come down from Heaven;—just as we eat bread with all manner of other food, so we need to meditate and feed upon our Dear Lord in every prayer and action. His Life has been meditated and written about by various authors. I should specially commend to you the writings of S. Bonaventura, Bellintani, Bruno, Capilla, Grenada and Da Ponte.

Give an hour every day to meditation before dinner;—if you can, let it be early in the morning, when your mind will be less cumbered, and fresh after the night’s rest. Do not spend more than an hour thus, unless specially advised to do so by your spiritual father.

If you can make your meditation quietly in church, it will be well, and no one, father or mother, husband or wife, can object to an hour spent there, and very probably you could not secure a time so free from interruption at home.

Begin all prayer, whether mental or vocal, by an act of the Presence of God. If you observe this rule strictly, you will soon see how useful it is.

It may help you to say the Creed, Lord’s Prayer, etc., in Latin, but you should also study them diligently in your own language, so as thoroughly to gather up the meaning of these holy words, which must be used fixing your thoughts steadily on their purport, not striving to say many words so much as seeking to say a few with your whole heart. One Our Father said devoutly is worth more than many prayers hurried over.

The Rosary is a useful devotion when rightly used, and there are various little books to teach this. It is well, too, to say pious Litanies, and the other vocal prayers appointed for the Hours and found in Manuals of devotion,—but if you have a gift for mental prayer, let that always take the chief place, so that if, having made that, you are hindered by business or any other cause from saying your wonted vocal prayers, do not be disturbed, but rest satisfied with saying the Lord’s Prayer, the Angelic Salutation, and the Creed after your meditation.

If, while saying vocal prayers, your heart feels drawn to mental prayer, do not resist it, but calmly let your mind fall into that channel, without troubling because you have not finished your appointed vocal prayers. The mental prayer you have substituted for them is more acceptable to God, and more profitable to your soul. I should make an exception of the Church’s Offices, if you are bound to say those by your vocation—in such a case these are your duty.

If it should happen that your morning goes by without the usual meditation, either owing to a pressure of business, or from any other cause, (which interruptions you should try to prevent as far as possible,) try to repair the loss in the afternoon, but not immediately after a meal, or you will perhaps be drowsy, which is bad both for your meditation and your health. But if you are unable all day to make up for the omission, you must remedy it as far as may be by ejaculatory prayer, and by reading some spiritual book, together with an act of penitence for the neglect, together with a steadfast resolution to do better the next day.

The Practice of Prayer

  1. Begin your time in prayer by praying aloud, “Lord open my lips, and my mouth will proclaim your praise.”
  2. Pray the Our Father in Latin, slowly and carefully. Focus upon the meaning of the words.

    Pater noster, qui es in caelis:

    Father our who art in heaven

    sanctificetur Nomen Tuum;

    hallowed be name Thy

    adveniat Regnum Tuum;

    come kingdom Thy

    fiat voluntas Tua,

    be done will Thy

    sicut in caelo, et in terra.

    Just as in heaven, and on earth

    Panem nostrum cotidianum da nobis hodie;

    Bread our daily give us this day

    et dimitte nobis debita nostra,

    and forgive us sins our

    sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris;

    just as also we forgive those who sin against us

    et ne nos inducas in tentationem;

    and not us lead into temptation

    sed libera nos a Malo.

    But deliver us from evil

  3. Next meditate upon one of the Mysteries of the Rosary from the life of our Lord, using your imagination as you pray. If desired, say a decade of the Rosary aloud while meditating. Remember to picture in your mind that which you are meditating upon.

    Monday: The Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary

    Tuesday: The Nativity of Our Lord

    Wednesday: The Agony of Our Lord in the Garden

    Thursday: The Scourging of Our Lord and Crowning Him with Thorns

    Friday: The Carrying of the Cross and the Crucifixion of Our Lord

    Saturday: The Resurrection of Our Lord

    Sunday: The Ascension of Our Lord

  4. Conclude your time in prayer with the Our Father (in Latin), Hail Mary (in Latin), and the Apostle’s Creed (in English).

    Pater noster, qui es in caelis:

    Father our who art in heaven

    sanctificetur Nomen Tuum;

    hallowed be name Thy

    adveniat Regnum Tuum;

    come kingdom Thy

    fiat voluntas Tua,

    be done will Thy

    sicut in caelo, et in terra.

    Just as in heaven, and on earth

    Panem nostrum cotidianum da nobis hodie;

    Bread our daily give us this day

    et dimitte nobis debita nostra,

    and forgive us sins our

    sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris;

    just as also we forgive those who sin against us

    et ne nos inducas in tentationem;

    and not us lead into temptation

    sed libera nos a Malo.

    But deliver us from evil

     

    Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum.

    Hail Mary grace full of Lord with thee

    Benedicta tu in mulieribus,

    blessed art Thou among women

    et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus.

    and blessed is the fruit of womb of thy, Jesus

    Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus,

    holy Mary Mother of God pray for us sinners

    nunc, et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.

    now and in the hour of death of our Amen

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