Mental Prayer According to St. Thomas Aquinas (Part 1)

The Flagship Show, ‘Mental Prayer According to Saint Thomas Aquinas (Part I)’ (Season 7, Recording Date: December 9, 2017; Original Air Date: February 15, 2018, ~35mins).

As a friendly reminder, after starting this episode with the Veni, Sancte Spiritus (Come, Holy Ghost) prayer in Latin, listeners are told to have on hand the two-page document made available, to help them with following the conference of Father Despósito. It is in fact, a necessity, as it will help listeners navigate the three Tables expressing the complexities being discussed.

To further emphasise the importance of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the quote by Pope John XXII (who canonised Saint Thomas Aquinas) is of particular relevance, as it provides a good summary of the saint’s doctrine. So, viewers tuning in should expect this conference to be about Saint Thomas’ idea of mental prayer, whilst also relying on the book, Mental Prayer According to the Teaching of Saint Thomas Aquinas, by Rev. Denis Fahey, S.SSp.

Following the chronological order in the supplementary document, Father Despósito first goes through Table #1, which accords with what life is, and from the very most primitive sense of the term, which is ‘sensitive-life’ or ‘sense-life,’ going upwards to God Himself, Who is ‘perfect life.’ Most people will find this section fascinating, in terms of learning about the keys to understanding Saint Thomas Aquinas with the unity in the spiritual life and a unity in the whole Thomistic philosophy.

After clarifying the differences between humans and animals, Father Despósito then goes through and analyses the two main faculties (intellect and the will), as this works with the senses (distinguished as internal and external senses). Though the concepts may seem rather intricate and complex at times, you will appreciate how Father explains the ‘supernatural life’ and how the Blessed Trinity and the Incarnation tie into the Table, particularly in regard to the ‘supernatural order’ (in respect to principles of operation). This entails a discussion about the Hypostatic Order with Our Blessed Lord, with regards to Our Lord having a human nature but also being a Divine Person. But to learn more about which order Our Lady belongs to, you will have to listen to this! And what gives consolation to us mere mortals is that between the natural and supernatural orders there is infinite distance, but it is through God’s mercy that we are able to participate in the supernatural order. Furthermore, to hear how Adam and Even lay in these orders, you will have to tune in to the episode!

In this first part of Father Despósito’s conference, the importance of degrees of prayer that correspond to each of those principles of operation will also be stressed. Especially so, as to how we can make progress in the spiritual life.

Following this, Father Despósito next tackles Table #2, where he works his way from where we are born in the state of sin (‘spiritual death’), given we have inherited Original Sin. Though the concepts may appear a little overwhelming, Father helps interpret the state of ‘spiritual death’ as a state of a soul before Baptism or the state of a soul in mortal sin, but where a real conversion is needed to move one into the ‘Purgative life,’ and onwards. So, there is hope! Father emphasises our attachment to venial sin as being an issue (as usually we won’t go back into mortal sin and ‘spiritual death’), but where with the ‘Purgative state’ it is a matter of conquering those venial sins with mortification, prayer, and other techniques.

Again, to hear more about how one can progress in their spiritual life, one will need to listen to this episode, but as a little preview, the importance of meditation and mental prayer (cf. vocal prayer) will be highlighted. It is insightful to hear why mental prayer is the most important! And to help with this, Father Despósito will go through Table #3 in terms of the four kinds of prayers, including preparation, reading of material, meditation, and resolution, as clarified by Father Fahey. And for those who enjoy hearing more about the saints, quotes by Saint John of the Cross and Saint Francis de Sales will feature in these discussions!

To finish this episode, Father starts working through the ‘Illuminative Life’ phase (which is all done with the grace of God), speaking about passions and how they are indifferent (as they are sensitive reactions when we apprehend something good or evil). You may find it beneficial to learn how the problem with passions lie in those which are not tempered or mortified, as they are a disorder in us (as we have a higher faculty than animals like dogs or cats) so if not disciplined, can become sinful. Thus, directing those passions so that they do not become obstacles in our spiritual lives will be the next focus of what Father speaks about, and then how there is a second conversion which leads us into the ‘Illuminative life,’ which is the beginning of the ‘Mystical Life.’

You will be left on tenterhooks at the end of this episode since the progression between these phases will be addressed in the second part to this conference. However, the knowledge gained in this episode, alone, will be invaluable to setting up listeners to better understanding and appreciating the next episode, so please stay tuned in to hear and learn more!

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TR Staff

True Restoration Staff