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One Word Meditations

This manner of praying, partly vocal, partly mental, is both easy and fruitful. St. Ignatius teaches it in his “Exercises”; St. Teresa extols it, especially in her “Way of Perfection,” and describes in very great detail the means to succeed in it.

It consists in taking any vocal prayer, the Pater, Ave, Salve Regina, a psalm, a litany, etc., and in meditating upon the words of this prayer, quitting the first word to pass on to the second only when the former ceases to afford us any more thoughts or affections. We may profitably make use of some comparisons and similitudes which help to develop the subject. When the meditation of one or more words suffices to occupy the whole time of prayer, we may recite then the rest of the prayer rapidly, and resume the meditation of the following words the day after.

Thus when you have said: Our Father, stop a little time to relish the sweetness of this name so suggestive of love and affection. Make an act of faith that God is your father. Consider by how many titles you are His child, to wit, by creation, preservation, redemption, and justification. Then say to your soul: O my soul, if God is thy father, why is it that thou lovest Him not? Whence comes it that thou dost not obey Him? Why dost thou not ask Him to supply all thy needs? God is thy father and thou fearest to die of hunger! He, a God, has given His only Son’s blood for thee, and thou thinkest He will refuse thee a morsel of bread!

O my God and my father! I hope in thee! O best of all fathers! What a bad child Thou hast! Oh! How afflicted I am for having offended, persecuted, dishonored Thee as I have done since I first came into this world! Oh my father, I have sinned, I am no longer worthy to be called Thy child; but let me be called Thy servant. Oh! Never again shall I offend Thee, but from this time forward I shall love only Thee.

If this simple word gives you enough occupation, you must not pass beyond it. When you have extracted its honey, pass on to the next, who art in heaven; and consider how great and powerful God is who dwells in such a beautiful place; that there above is your true inheritance, and that consequently you ought not to attach yourself to earth. Dig diligently in this evangelical field, and you will find a treasure of grace that will enrich you, and a spring of living water that will quench your thirst…

This mode of mental prayer may bring you far upon your way, and may also serve after communion to arouse your devotion. Amongst so many beautiful characteristics that are given to the Son of God, there must be some one which will touch your heart and suit your present mood. When you find it, fix your mind upon it as a bee alights upon a flower, and do not leave it till you have drawn from it the honey of devotion.

This article is taken from a chapter in The Ways of Mental Prayer by Rt. Rev. Dom Vitalis Lehodey which is available from TAN Books.

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