In the minds of modern men meditation seems to be almost synonymous with practices found among worshippers of various false religions of the East who, by practicing senseless ruminations coupled with peculiar gymnastics, hope to achieve some sort of relaxation of the body and the mind, detachment from reality, most desirably leading to a state of utter "nothingness."
Sadly, this pagan notion of meditation has so permeated the society that proper Christian meditation tends to be either looked upon with distrust or completely disregarded. Much of this lack of understanding can be traced back to Vatican II and its spirit of false ecumenism, resulting on a practical level in abominable syncretism. Imagine a Benedictine abbey, whose history spans nearly ten centuries, regularly hosting sessions of "Christian" meditation which include controlling one's breath while being positioned on a mat and a pillow, in intervals marked by the sound of a gong, each meditation practice being started and ended by a bow (don't forget to fold your hands on your solar plexus!). It can't get any more Buddhist than that (and any less Catholic).
In this tragic state of affairs wrought by the Novus Ordo religion it is absolutely imperative that we retrieve the proper understanding of Christian meditation and realise just how necessary it really is for Catholics. Meditation cannot be viewed as a practice pertaining to and fit for priests and those in religious orders only. On the contrary, all laymen who are serious about their religion and their own eternal salvation will be eager to take up this kind of spiritual exercise as a sure means for eradicating vice within their souls, growing in virtue, and ultimately bringing us closer to God.
In this episode Fr. Philip Eldracher, pastor of Mary Help of Christians Chapel in Melbourne, Australia, provides you with truly edifying spiritual reading with two chapters taken from the book Conversation with Christ: The Teaching of St. Teresa of Avila About Personal Prayer by Fr. Peter Thomas Rohrbach O.C.D (first published in 1956). In this spiritual guide book to mental prayer, Fr. Rohrbach answers many a question regarding meditation, utilising centuries proven advice of the renowned reformer of the Carmelite order, St. Teresa of Jesus. Fr. Rohrbach thus characterises the great saint:
Despite her reputation as a soaring Spanish mystic, she was an eminently practical person, and that practicality shines through her teachings about prayer: she is an instructor who shows, in step-by-step fashion, how the individual can contact God and then sustain that relationship.
St. Teresa of Avila’s methodology of mental prayer expounded in a delightfully practical manner by Fr. Rohrbach is very straightforward and thus perfectly suited for the needs of Catholics today.
Mental prayer is nothing else than an intimate friendship, a frequent heart-to-heart conversation with Him by Whom we know ourselves to be loved. (…) Let us repeat it again – for it is of extreme importance – meditation, in its final analysis, should be basically a friendly conversation with Christ.
Perhaps you feel somewhat overwhelmed by the concept of meditation, fearing that to meditate is to engage in a complex intellectual task and that only souls greatly advanced in virtue are able to pray mentally and do it well. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Chapter 4 of Conversation with Christ entitled A Simplified Method of Meditation is intended to dispel your doubts. In this chapter Fr. Rohrbach presents an easy and perfectly approachable method of meditation, consisting of five general steps, namely preparation or placing oneself in the presence of Christ, selection of the subject for meditation, consideration or study of the material, actual conversation (the principal part of meditation), and conclusion (optional but highly recommended). Fr. Rohrbach elaborates on each of these, giving practical and user-friendly tips, which can be adapted to suit the needs of individual souls.
We cannot emphasise too strongly the necessity of following some such outline, especially as one first undertakes the practice of meditation. The modern 21st century man is completely unaccustomed to the rarified air of the interior life and will certainly wander and stumble if he does not possess an outline to follow. If one begins prayer with this methodical procedure, he can be sure to make progress.
It goes without saying that any task badly undertaken will not produce the desired outcome. A small mistake made in the beginning will be magnified in the end, as teaches St. Thomas Aquinas. Therefore, the key to fruitful meditation is adequate preparation. Chapter 5 of Conversation with Christ is dedicated entirely to that question of preparing oneself for meditation in a general manner.
The best overall preparation for successful meditation is a personal conviction of its importance and a staunch determination to persevere in its practice. If one has acquired this attitude of mind, he has made a splendid preparation for his meditation.
If one be not convinced of the necessity of meditation in his own life nor resolved never to omit its daily exercise, he will soon give it up on one pretext or another. Therefore, one should not adopt the practice of meditation with the intention of ‘giving it a try’ but rather one must undertake the exercise with a firm belief that it is of the utmost importance that he begin and persevere in it.
Our mental attitude towards any enterprise will determine (to a large extent) our success in it – meditation is no exception.
If you ever shrank from taking up mental prayer, deeming meditation just too difficult for you or found yourself quitting this most salutary practice after a short-lived period of commitment, this installment of Spiritual Reading with Fr. Eldracher is a must.
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