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Preparation for Successful Meditation

THE BEST OVER-ALL preparation for successful meditation is a personal conviction of its importance and a staunch determination to persevere in its practice. If one has acquired this attitude of mind, he has made a splendid preparation for his meditation. St. Teresa gives us this important admonition: It is essential, I maintain, to begin the practice of prayer with a firm resolution to persevere in it.

If one be not convinced of the necessity of meditation in his own life, nor resolved never to omit its daily exercise, he will soon give it up on one pretext or another. Therefore, one should not adopt the practice of meditation with the intention of “giving it a try”; but rather, one must undertake the exercise with a firm belief that it is of the utmost importance that he begin and persevere in it. Our mental attitude towards any enterprise will determine, to a large extent, our success in it; meditation is no exception.

Meditation, furthermore, is not an isolated experience in one’s spiritual life. For, as St. Augustine maintains, the science of prayer is the science of life. To engage in a satisfactory conversation with Christ during a given fifteen-minute period, it is necessary to employ other spiritual aids throughout the entire day. Chief among these are: recollection, spiritual reading, mortification, and the cultivation of a humble heart.

It is, understandably, much easier to unite ourselves with Christ during a meditation period if we have remained in contact with Him throughout the day in the midst of our duties and occupations. This happy state can be effected by an exercise known in spiritual terminology as “the presence of God.” It consists basically in evoking aspirations and short prayers to Our Lord at various intervals during the day. The employment of such an exercise is of incalculable help in one’s prayer life. Daily spiritual reading will furnish thoughts, ideas, and background for our conversation with Christ. The more we know about Our Lord, the more we will appreciate Him and be able to speak intelligently to Him. Then, too, a generous program of mortification aids greatly in perfecting one’s meditation. Mortification serves a twofold purpose: it detaches one from loves and attachments which hinder the soul’s affection for Christ; and it gives one the self-mastery and discipline so necessary during meditation. Finally, the cultivation of a humble heart assures us of avoiding an excessive preoccupation with ourselves during the period of meditation. We will find our sufficiency in Christ and tend to depend on Him rather than upon ourselves

All of these measures will make for better meditation. Above all, though, one’s attitude to the practice is of primary importance. If a proper attitude be lacking, then one’s hope of success is almost nil. To insure perseverance in meditation, therefore, one should determine the precise time at which he will meditate each day. And only on rare occasions and for most pressing reasons should he ever omit his meditation at that time. If one has not selected a definite hour for his prayer, he will discover more often than not he will omit it.

This article is taken from a chapter in Conversation with Christ by Fr. Peter Thomas Rohrbach, which is available from TAN Books.

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