Month: November 2018


(Saint Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, a strong advocate of Christian meditation)

“Through the study of books one seeks God; by meditation one finds him.” (Saint Padre Pio)

This short note addresses what meditation is for a Catholic, and why spiritual writers maintain its ongoing practice is so important for growth in holiness. It is important to note at the outset that in spiritual theology meditation and contemplation are two very different types of prayer, and the words are not used interchangeably. Very briefly, contemplation is a much higher form of prayer, but ordinarily meditation is the preparation needed to pass on to contemplation.

Mediation is normally referred to as discursive prayer. What this really means is that mediation begins with spiritual reading which elevates itself to acts of prayer. If a college student is reading The Confessions of Saint Augustine he is involved in academic reading. If, however, while reading a point being made by St. Augustine he sees in a deeper way the reality of God, then he has in some way entered into meditation. If this insight about God leads this student to praise God, or to converse with God, then he has entered into prayer which is the ultimate goal of meditation. Thus, we might say that meditation is a deep and penetrating reflection upon written materials that lifts the heart to God and results in acts of prayer and petition. It is thus that spiritual reading is one of the primary foundations for meditation (“We must regard spiritual reading as being to meditation what oil is to the lamp” – F.W. Faber).

Relying on Saint Francis de Sales, Father Garrigou-Lagrange provides this very precise definition of what meditation is: “meditation… is an act of the understanding by which it makes one or more considerations in order to excite our affections for God and divine things. The mind meditates on a subject with the aid of the imagination and of discourse or reasoning. Resolutions must be made after the affections, and the meditation should end with thanksgiving, with an offering of self, and a petition to God to grant us His grace that we may put into practice the resolutions He has inspired in us” (The Three Ages of the Interior Life, Vol. II).

We say that meditation is discursive because the mind – the intellect –  is utilized in an effort to understand more deeply some truth related to our Catholic faith. In other words, we make considerable progress in the spiritual life by a deeper, more penetrating understanding of what we believe. Thus, if you are reading a reflection on the Holy Eucharist, and the author helps you to see more clearly some wonderful truth pertaining to that sacrament, and this deep realization causes your heart to make acts of prayer and praise to God – well, this is the prayer of meditation.

Of course, one can meditate without the use of a book. If a person has sufficient knowledge of theological or biblical truths, he can think directly (interiorly) about them (choosing a subject-matter) and mentally construct his own considerations from these truths, and this is sometimes done by way of a profound or intimate knowledge of a biblical scene where one, in essence, enters into the scene (by way of memory and imagination) and thereafter has a conversation (mental colloquy) with Jesus or Mary or St. Paul about the meaning of the mystery or subject in question and its practical application for the meditator. Still, books are very helpful to one starting the practice of meditation. As the Catechism states: “Meditation is above all a quest. The mind seeks to understand the why and how of the Christian life, in order to adhere and respond to what the Lord is asking. The required attentiveness is difficult to sustain. We are usually helped by books [such as] the Sacred Scriptures, particularly the Gospels, holy icons, liturgical texts of the day or season, writings of the spiritual fathers, works of spirituality, the great book of creation, and that of history the page on which the ‘today’ of God is written” (CCC 2705).

“To meditate on what we read helps us to make it our own by confronting it with ourselves. Here, another book is opened: the book of life. We pass from thoughts to reality. To the extent that we are humble and faithful, we discover in meditation the movements that stir the heart and we are able to discern them. It is a question of acting truthfully in order to come into the light: ‘Lord, what do you want me to do?’ ” (CCC 2706). “Christians owe it to themselves to develop the desire to meditate regularly…. But a method is only a guide; the important thing is to advance, with the Holy Spirit, along the one way of prayer: Christ Jesus” (CCC 2707).

Meditation can help us to overcome a vice and grow in a virtue. If the subject matter of your meditation is the infinite purity of Jesus Christ, or the Immaculate purity of Mary, you may come to discover the power of chastity in a whole new light! As Dr. Susan Muto, an acclaimed spiritual writer, says: “Meditation… is a combined exercise of the imaginative, cognitive, and affective faculties of the mind to seek the meaning of what God may be saying through a particular event or passage in a text…Such a style of reading and reflecting on what we read helps us to assess our failings as well as to affirm our gifts…Uplifted by the wisdom of the masters, meditators can walk the way of the Lord and become an epiphany of his presence in the world” (Catholic Spirituality from A to Z, p. 122).

A great writer on prayer, Father Jean Grou, states: “The sixth means [to attain solid virtue] is spiritual reading. And we must be very careful in the choice of books. As a rule, we should prefer to all others those which touch the heart….Rodriguez is excellent for beginners. For those who are more advanced, The Imitation of Christ, the writings of Father Surin, Saint Francis de Sales, the Psalms and the New Testament, [and] the ‘Lives of the Saints.’ Our spiritual reading should be half prayer; that is to say, that in reading we should listen to the voice of God, and stop to meditate [engage in mental prayer] when we feel ourselves touched by what we read. We ought to read with a view to practice what we read” (as edited, Manual for Interior Souls, p. 16, emphasis added).

Meditation helps us dwell on the deep things of our faith, sparking amazement in our hearts, leading to prayer in the interior of our souls. Meditation is an act of the human understanding – supported by grace – that helps us through faith to see deeper into the basis for our Catholic beliefs. Seeing these things more deeply we lift our hearts to God in affective praise, and rest in His presence in silent prayer. “The whole end of meditation, considered as such, is to increase, deepen and purify our Faith” (Father Edward Leen, Progress Through Mental Prayer, p.150). “When our minds are by constant [spiritual] reading steeped in the thoughts of God and divine things, it will be easy for us to think of Him, and it will come natural and easy for us to speak to Him and to speak of Him out of our full hearts and well-stored minds” (Id at 227).

“In meditation the soul is forced, as it were, to speak directly with Christ; there can be no hiding behind standardized formulae of prayer. And this is the way the truly spiritual man would want it: an opportunity to speak privately with Christ about the many affairs of his daily life. The experience of the saints has demonstrated that an amazing change occurs in one’s daily life when he forms the daily habit of intimate, heart-to-heart conversation with Christ” (Peter Thomas Rohrbach, Conversation With Christ, p.10). This is why the Church “wisely obliges its priests to spend some time each day in meditation” and “the priest as well as the layman experiences that a well made meditation…gives a new impetus to his entire spiritual life” (Id at 10).

Let us remember, as Father Lehodey points out, that at the beginning of meditation we should make a strong act of preparation to place ourselves in the presence of God. This act of interior recollection is, in essence, the beginning of mental prayer, so that when the heart is so moved by the considerations in the written materials the meditator is well-prepared to enter into acts of affective love and interior discourse with God.

The correlation between spiritual reading and meditation is brought home by Father Boylan, who said: “To our mind [spiritual reading] ranks equally with mental prayer and the other exercises of devotion in importance, and, in fact, it is so closely connected with these other exercises, especially the essential one of mental prayer, that without it – unless one finds a substitute,  – there is no possibility of advancing in the spiritual life; even perseverance therein is rendered very doubtful” (This Tremendous Lover, p. 101, as quoted by Peter Thomas Rohrbach). Saint Teresa of Avila adds: “I wish I could obtain leave to declare the many times I failed during this [lukewarm] period in my obligation to God, because I was not supported by the strong pillar of mental prayer” (Conversation With Christ, p.11, quoting her autobiography). “Really interior and personal prayer, at least during considerable periods of a person’s religious development, is impossible without meditation….” (Theological Dictionary, p.283).

“Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion, and desire. This mobilization of faculties is necessary in order to deepen our convictions of faith, prompt the conversion of our heart, and strengthen our will to follow Christ” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2708). “Meditation is a form of mental prayer consisting in the application of the various faculties of the soul, memory, imagination, intellect, and will, to the consideration of some mystery, principle, truth, or fact, with a view to exciting proper spiritual emotions and resolving on some act or course of action regarded as God’s will and as a means of union with Him. In some degree or other it has always been practiced by God-fearing souls” (Catholic Encyclopedia).

Great spiritual writers often categorize our mental faculties in terms of: the understanding (intellect), the will, the memory and the imagination. Ultimately in meditation we are using some or all of these human faculties in the generation of spontaneous, intimate, personal prayer with God. Thus we utilize our intellect to reflect more deeply on some truth of the faith through reasoned considerations pertaining to that truth (these considerations are normally contained in the written materials selected); the mind, impressed by this deeper understanding of some part of the faith, excites the will to draw closer to the ultimate goal of faith: God. The will, desiring God, turns the human subject to God in acts of profound personal prayer. The imagination is sometimes utilized in meditation to place oneself in a Gospel scene with Jesus in order to talk with Jesus about the meaning and relevance of the scripture text, and Saint Ignatius of Loyola even uses this imaginative technique in a profound meditation on hell in his classic work, The Spiritual Exercises (reference for further study “application of place” and “application of the senses”).

If we were to say a quick word here about contemplation it would be merely to say that it is essentially the opposite of meditation, for in contemplation there is a resting and profound simplification of human intellectual activity in order to make way for a “super-discursive” knowledge of God (above human reasoning) which is truly a mystical (supernatural) or infused prayer, should God deem to grant it.

Meditation should always begin with a preparatory prayer asking God’s grace and guidance throughout the reflection, and end with a prayer of thanksgiving for the graces received. Spiritual writers often encourage us to make resolutions after our meditation. Thus, if your meditation was on the Holy Eucharist, you might make a resolution to spend more time in preparing to receive that sacrament, or, if your meditation was on the power of forgiveness, you might make a resolution to truly forgive someone who has hurt or offended you.

A very basic and rudimentary outline of a meditation might consist of the following:

  1. Selection of the written material for spiritual reading.
  2. Preparatory prayer (including a strong act of interior recollection).
  3. A deep, slow reflection on the considerations present in the written material.
  4. Personal (interior) prayer and adoration when so moved by the meditation, including petitions for growth in holiness.
  5. A concluding prayer of thanksgiving including any personal resolutions flowing from the meditation.

CONCLUSION: Meditation is an incredibly important part of the spiritual life. By this close, meditative application of our minds to the great truths of our faith, as expressed especially by great spiritual writers, our hearts are lifted to the love of God, to the desire to do His will, and most importantly to communion with God in personal prayer and petition. As the great Father Faber states: “The most serious business of the interior life is mental prayer…and even saints have sometimes spoken as if meditation were almost necessary to salvation…It is, however, quite certain that…there can be nothing like a spiritual life without it. For mental prayer means the occupation of our mental faculties upon God…stirring the will to conform itself to Him…The length of time to be spent in it will vary with individual cases…but it is most important that he should keep to his method when he has chosen it” (Growth In Holiness, 179).

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

IMAGE ATTRIBUTIONFather Pio de Pietrelcina by Roberto Dughetti, 1966, under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation LicenseThe caption to this Wikipedia image states: “A strong believer in Christian meditation, Saint Pio of Piettrelcina stated: ‘Through the study of books one seeks God; by meditation one finds him.’ ”


1. Conversation with Christ by Thomas Rohrbach
2. Time for God by Jacques Phillippe
3. Progress through Mental Prayer by Edward Leen
4. Difficulties in Mental Prayer by Eugene Boylan

I have also relied heavily on Father Lallemant’s great book, The Spiritual Life. He talks quite often about how the considerations in meditation excite the heart to the love of God. Father Lallemant also speaks of the “close application” of our lives to God.

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(Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem)

The claim is made by some scholars that Jesus was not born in Bethlehem. These scholars put forth the argument that Jesus was actually born in his hometown of Nazareth, and that the Christmas story of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem is more or less a Jewish midrash or theological reflection not strictly rooted in historical facts but in theological story-telling and interpretation. Against this argument I would like to make the following points:

1. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke clearly state that Jesus was born in Bethlehem (see Matthew 2:1; Luke 2: 1-7).

2. None of the remaining 25 books of the New Testament contradict the claim in Matthew and Luke that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

3. There is no historical evidence that places Jesus’ birth in Nazareth. Historian Dr. Paul L. Maier states:

“No source has been discovered to date that disproves Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem” (In the Fullness of Time, p. 32).

4. Dr. Scott Hahn establishes that Matthew’s account of Jesus’ birth is not midrash. Hahn states:

“Unlike midrash, the evangelist’s story of Jesus is not founded on an Old Testament text. Whereas midrash seeks to mine deeper meanings of the Old Testament, Matthew does not seek to interpret the Old Testament for its own sake. More to the point, Matthew is not retelling Old Testament episodes but is telling an entirely new story! It is a story with new characters and events; it is a story that could stand on its own apart from his Old Testament citations. Matthew employs the Old Testament to illuminate the significance of Jesus’ birth, not to determine in advance its plot and outcome” (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, p.10).

5. Pope Benedict XVI adds:

“The infancy narratives [of Matthew and Luke] are not a meditation presented under the guise of stories, but the converse: Matthew is recounting real history, theologically thought through and interpreted, and thus he helps us to understand the mystery of Jesus more deeply. What Matthew and Luke set out to do, each in his own way, was not to tell ‘stories’ but to write history, real history that actually happened, admittedly interpreted and understood in the context of the word of God” (from Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, 119, 17 as quoted in Joy To The World).

6.  Moreover, Luke the historian assures us in his Gospel that he is delivering to his readers “a narrative of things that have been accomplished among us, just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word” and that Luke has “followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account…that you may know the truth concerning” the life of Jesus (Luke 1: 1-4). Luke assures his readers, therefore, that he has made considerable efforts to present a true and accurate history of the life of Jesus.

7. The post New Testament historical evidence clearly establishes that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Historian, Professor Paul L. Maier explains:

“Nothing is more important in establishing the authenticity of an ancient site than antiquity: the place must have been regarded as such from the earliest times. If the Church of the Nativity [in Bethlehem] had been built here in 600 A.D., for example, its claim to mark the authentic site of the birth of Jesus would be almost worthless. But Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor of Rome, erected the original Church of the Nativity at this place in 326 A.D., over the very grotto that had been identified as the true site by the early church father Origen and, before him, Justin Martyr. Writing in 150 A.D. Justin stated that Jesus was born in a cave that was used as a stable – not the typical stone or wooden stable so familiar in Christian art. Earlier still, in the 130s, the Pagan Roman Emperor Hadrian tried to desecrate the Jewish and Christian holy places in Palestine, but ironically, thereby preserved their identity” (In the Fullness of Time, 38-39)!

8. Dr. Scott Hahn elaborates:

“Justin Martyr…was born around AD 100…some forty miles north of Bethlehem. He knew the people and the area quite well, and he knew the site of a ‘certain cave’ that the locals venerated as the place of Jesus’ birth – even at that early date. He simply mentions that local Christians took care to preserve the historical memory of the nativity. In the century after Justin’s account…Origen made his own pilgrimage to Bethlehem and wrote: ‘At Bethlehem the cave is shown where he [Jesus] was born…and this sight is greatly talked about in surrounding places, even among the enemies of the faith. They say that in this cave Jesus was born….” (Joy to the World, p. 17).

9. The great Biblical archaeologist, Father Jerome Murphy-O’Conner, thus concludes that Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem is indisputable.

“If the early Church thought of Jesus in terms of Davidic messianism – and it certainly did – it was not because of anything Jesus said or did but because of who he was and where he came from. And he came from Bethlehem” (“WhereWas Jesus Born?”, Bible Review, Feb. 2000, p. 54 as cited in Joy To The World, p. 106).

10. Based on the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, and confirmed by the post New Testament historical evidence regarding the location of Jesus’ birth, the overwhelming weight of the evidence supports the sound conclusion that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

Image Attribution: This picture of the Church of the Nativity on Wikipedia is by Ian and Wendy Sewell, July 2007, and is used pursuant to the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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“The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”  (Luke 1:35)

From time to time – including the approach of the Christmas season –  a Catholic speaker may make the innocent mistake of referring to Mary as an unwed mother. However, it is abundantly clear that the Virgin Mary was legally married to Joseph at the time she conceived Jesus (when the Annunciation took place). Thus, the Gospel of Matthew refers to Joseph as Mary’s “husband” at 1:19, and additionally the angel sent to Joseph calls Mary Joseph’s “wife” at 1:20 (as Joseph considered whether to divorce Mary). Again, at verse 1:24, Mary is called Joseph’s “wife.”

It is true that Saint Luke refers to Mary’s betrothal to Joseph at Luke 1:26, but as Dr. Scott Hahn points out in The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, Mary’s “betrothal to Joseph was already a legally binding marriage.” This is why Joseph could not simply walk away from Mary without first getting a divorce, and because Joseph and Mary were legally married “such a betrothal could only be terminated by death or divorce [according to] Deut. 24: 1-4” (The Ignatius Catholic Bible Study, The Gospel of Matthew, page 18).

In his Apostolic Exhortation, Guardian of the Redeemer, Pope Saint John Paul II makes clear that at the time of Mary’s Annunciation Joseph and Mary were married. The Pope stated:

“Addressing Joseph through the words of the angel, God speaks to him as the husband of the Virgin of Nazareth. What took place in her through the power of the Holy Spirit also confirmed in a special way the marriage bond which already existed between Joseph and Mary. God’s messenger was clear in what he said to Joseph: “Do not fear to take Mary your wife into your home.” Hence, what had taken place earlier, namely, Joseph’s marriage to Mary, happened in accord with God’s will and was meant to endure. In her divine motherhood Mary had to continue to live as “a virgin, the wife of her husband” (cf. Lk 1:27).” (no. 18)

The Virgin Mary was never an unwed mother. It is entirely incorrect to suggest that God planned it otherwise.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Image:  Madonna and Child 2, by Bartolomeo Montagna.  According to Wikipedia,  “This image (or other media file) is in the Public Domain [U.S.A.] because its copyright has expired. However – you may not use this image for commercial purposes and you may not alter the image or remove the WikiGallery watermark.”

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(The Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor by William Halsall)

“The dangers were great, but not desperate; the difficulties were many, but not invincible… their ends were good and honorable… and therefore they might expect the blessing of God.” (William Bradford)

The Pilgrims had left England in order to freely practice their faith in the Netherlands. But then they decided to make their way to the “New World,” where they felt they would have a better opportunity to preserve their religious identity and customs. From England they left on two ships, the Mayflower and the Speedwell. Approximately three hundred miles out the Speedwell began to leak, so both ships turned back and docked in Plymouth, England! Some of the ships’ passengers, apparently exasperated, decided to call it quits and stayed in England. Everyone else boarded the Mayflower on one of the most historic journeys ever taken, arriving in Cape Cod Bay in 1620! It was these Pilgrims who celebrated the first “Thanksgiving” in November of 1621 with the Wampanoag Indians in gratitude for the harvest.

The Pilgrims’ difficult journey to America teaches us a deep spiritual lesson. We are all travelers here on earth journeying to the eternal shores of Heaven. Whatever obstacles we may encounter, however difficult they may be, we cannot let them prevent us from “advancing towards our destination” – Heaven.  “All the masters of the spiritual life agree in this maxim, that not to advance is to fall back” (Father Lallemant). Thus, we must continue to move forward, like a traveler, not stopping until we have reached the end of our journey and are “safely home” in the Father’s house.

Father Garrigou-Lagrange adds this observation regarding our growth in charity:  “…the Christian on earth is a traveler, viator, who is advancing spiritually toward God. His spiritual advancement is made by more and more perfect acts of love, “steps of love,” as St. Gregory says. We must conclude from this that charity on earth can and should always increase, otherwise the Christian would cease in a sense to be a viator; he would stop before reaching the end of his journey.” “I press on toward the goal to win the prize of God’s heavenly calling in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14).


The Pilgrims journeyed to America yearning for religious freedom. These Pilgrims endured tremendous hardships and significant risks in order to freely practice their faith. They teach us an incredibly important lesson about the importance of religious liberty, and our concurrent obligations to protect such a treasured right.

In 1791, just over a 150 years after the Pilgrims made their journey, and about three years after the ratification of the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights was enshrined in that same Constitution. Of the ten amendments constituting the Bill of Rights, the 1st Amendment guarantees the “free exercise” of religion, and prevents the government from establishing any sort of religion. The right to freely practice one’s religion is therefore a hallmark right of American democracy.

The Pilgrims, who journeyed to America in search of religious freedom, remind us that the right to practice our Catholic faith cannot simply be taken for granted. Many Christians in the United States have experienced an erosion of their religious liberties in recent years, this as emerging secular ideologies gain momentum in the culture and seek to impose their version of rightness on Christians. Many Christians have essentially lost their right – in the public square – to express their faith beliefs on important moral issues for fear of reprisal, ridicule and even losing their jobs. We have seen, as well, various attempts to force Christians to do things that fundamentally violate their religious beliefs. Finally, there is a growing concern about censorship of conservative viewpoints – including Christian ones – on social media.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this year let us say a prayer of gratitude for our religious liberties. Let us learn from the Pilgrims that we may have to face hardships in order to protect our precious Catholic faith and our Constitutional rights. May God give us the courage and perseverance to do so as we advance the Kingdom of God.


Tom Mulcahy, J.D.

References: The historical facts regarding the Pilgrims are from various internet sources.

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“A Christian who says the Our Father day by day with gradually increasing fervor, who says it from the bottom of his heart, for others as well as for himself, undoubtedly cooperates very much in the divine governance” (Father Garrigou-Lagrange)

Here is an easy way to meditate on the Our Father prayer, simply by saying it very slowly, very meditatively. We might say that the Our Father prayer contains an infinite amount of wisdom for leading the spiritual life – seeing that it comes from the very lips of Jesus Christ, the WORD made flesh. As the Catechism says, “The Lord’s Prayer is truly the summary of the whole Gospel” (CCC 2761).

There is no requirement here of having to be a meditation guru! Meditation in the Christian sense is a deeper application of our understanding – with the help of grace –  to the considerations and petitions present in the Our Father prayer. In other words it is a deeper reflection on the profound meaning of the prayer.

The method of meditation recommended here comes from Saint Teresa of Avila who simply urges us to say the Our Father prayer very slowly. As we say the prayer slowly we have time to reflect on its profound meaning and application to our lives. I remember reading about a saint who could never get past the first line of the Our Father: as soon as she said, “Our Father,” she got caught up in the loving realization that God is our Father!

Father Garrigou Lagrange states:

“Let us every day say the Our Father slowly and with great attention; let us meditate upon it, with love accompanying our faith.

This loving meditation will become contemplation, which will ensure for us the hallowing and glorifying of God’s name both in ourselves and in those about us, the coming of His kingdom and the fulfillment of His will here on earth as in heaven. It will obtain for us also the forgiveness of our sins and deliverance from evil, as well as our sanctification and salvation” (Providence, Chapter 18).

Sister Janet Schaeffler, O.P., relates the following:

“St. Ignatius suggested to those who were searching to grow in prayer to pray the Our Father very slowly and silently in harmony with the pattern of deep, relaxed breathing. Pray only one word with each slow breath, letting the mind, heart and
imagination dwell on that single word.

St. Ignatius also suggested a second method: become relaxed and dwell on the first word of the Our Father, for as long as it is meaningful. Then, move on to the second word. (A young novice once asked Teresa of Avila, “Mother, what shall I do to
become a contemplative?’ Without missing a beat, Teresa responded, ‘Say the Our Father – but take an hour to say it.’).”

Saint Therese of Lisieux states: “Sometimes when I am in such a state of spiritual dryness that not a single good thought occurs to me, I say very slowly the ‘Our Father,’ or the ‘Hail Mary,’ and these prayers suffice to take me out of myself, and wonderfully refresh me.”

Conclusion: Saying the Our Father prayer very slowly, very meditatively is bound to do a “good work in your soul.” A good source for further reflection on this important prayer is in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (see CCC 2761-2865). But simply by praying the Our Father very slowly, very reflectively, with love in your heart for God, you will be meditating in a very effective manner!

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

References: The quote from Sister Schaeffler is from her article, “Praying and Living the Our Father,” (available online). See also my post:

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“Your faith will be like gold that has been tested in a fire. And these trials will prove that your faith is worth much more than gold that can be destroyed. They will show that you will be given praise and honor and glory when Jesus Christ returns.” (1 Peter 1:7)

In evaluating our lives, we should not discount the length of eternal life.  What God is offering to us, ETERNAL LIFE, is simply stunning, overwhelming and unfathomable! Certainly a fundamental part of the Ignatian Exercises is simply to do the math: to reflect on the shortness of life and the incredible length of eternity. And then to choose wisely, which is why we pray to the Holy Spirit for the gift of Wisdom. To miss out on Heaven – and all that Heaven is – simply cannot be an option. “Who could endure the loss?”

 As to death, it is a great grace to realize that we are going to die. In essence, our lives are but a preparation for death. God, in His providence, already knows the day and moment of our death, and He has already put in place the graces we will need to be saved. We need to cooperate with those graces, and all will be well.

Unfortunately, so many people live their lives without much thought about their impending death. They realize that other people die but they sort of see themselves as a bystander to the death of other people –  somehow convincing themselves that it won’t happen to them.

And although attending someone’s funeral may make such a person anxious about death, it is also the case that we are quite adept at putting in to place psychological defense mechanisms that quickly assuage such thoughts and turn our attention back to the world.

As I see it, there is a gigantic cultural conspiracy in place to convince us that we are not going to die. The plan is to outlive death by taking the right vitamins, wearing the best make-up, and seeing the best doctors. And yet everyone still dies. We are all on an absolute collision course with death.  Only God knows for sure how much time we have left.  And the clock keeps ticking.

I think it is interesting that in Saint Mother Teresa‘s mystical life the Virgin Mary told her to tell families to say the rosary (reference: Come Be My Light, Doubleday, p.99). This prayer not only helps us to contemplate the life of Christ, including his death and resurrection, but it continually reminds us of the two most important moments in our lives – the present moment and the moment of our death. We ask Mary to “pray for us now and at the hour of our death.”  It is in the “sacrament of the present moment” that we can choose to conform our will to God’s grace, and it is at the moment of death that we need all of Heaven (that great cloud of witnesses, Hebrews 12:1) interceding for us to persevere to the end.  It is important to pray for the grace of final perseverance and for the fortitude to die a good death. It is reassuring to know that we are asking Mary’s help in this regard when we pray the rosary.

 In First Corinthians it says (at 2:9):

“Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love Him.”

Don’t put your trust in the passing things of this world (those idols have no power to save you). Be a little greedy for Heaven, and in the process transform that greed into love and gratitude for a God who, after dying for our sins and humbling himself to be our very eternal life-giving food, has prepared for us such an immense reward that the magnitude of the joy and love we will experience in Heaven is beyond our narrow understanding, lasting for endless ages, in the glory of the “ever-blessed” life of God. In short, to say that Heaven is going to be awesome is an incredible understatement.

“For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Inspiration: The Imitation of ChristThe Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola; and F.W. Faber’s The Creator and the Creature ( I am heavily indebted to him for the tone and content of the note). 

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