Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Little Catechism of Prayer: Chapter 2: The Method of Mental Prayer

1. What is a method of mental prayer?
A method of mental prayer explains how to make prayer with ease.  We shall indicate the various steps to be taken in order to succeed in this holy exercise.

2.  Has the Carmelite Order a method of mental prayer?
Yes, since the beginning of the Teresian Reform, we find a method in use.  It is explained in the two oldest Instruction for Novices, in Spanish (1591) and in Italian (1605).

3. What is the origin of this method?
This method is drawn directly from the works of St. Teresa of Jesus and of St. John of the Cross, but its definitive form is the work of their disciples.  We shall give a general explanation of this method and then take up its different parts.

4.  Into how many parts is this method of mental prayer divided?
Usually we distinguish six or seven parts or steps, namely, preparation, reading, meditation (with a loving colloquy), thanksgiving, oblation, petition.

5.  Are not so many divisions confusing?
This division into parts does not complicate the practice of mental prayer.  In fact, the first two parts do not really constitute prayer, but are, as it were, the introduction to prayer.  The three last steps merely make for greater completeness and are optional; they may be omitted, when we no longer need them.  Prayer in its essentials is thus reduced to meditation accompanied by an intimate conversation with our Lord, that is, a loving colluquy.

6.  What should we keep in mind in order to understand prayer?
In order to understand the Carmelite method of prayer, we must keep in mind the idea of mental prayer expounded by St. Teresa.  In the eyes of this seraphic virgin, prayer is an intimate conversation with our Lord in which we speak to Him especially of love in response to His invitation to love Him.  The different parts of prayer are meant to lead us gently to this loving conversation with Him.

7.  How does the preparation serve this purpose?
The preparation should serve to bring us closer to our Lord.  You cannot speak intimately with a person unless you are near that person.  We should place ourselves in the presence of God  with lively faith  and in the humble attitude  of a soul which know itself to be  a child of God.

8.  What is the purpose of the reading?
Reading furnishes us  with a subject for our loving conversation with our Lord, a conversation sustained by the consideration of the mysteries of faith, and the gifts and graces we have received from God, all of which manifests God's love for us.  But since it is not possible to speak of all these matters at one time, we may choose for our reading the subject with which we wish to be occupied and make our considerations easier by following the explanations and reflections of a book.

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