Month: November 2018

MEDITATING ON THE OUR FATHER PRAYER

“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:

https://catholicstrength.com/2016/06/27/how-to-meditate-and-draw-closer-to-god/

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THE GREAT REWARDS OF ETERNAL LIFE

“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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