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This is not a book to be read hastily, but rather an aid to action. It was not
undertaken with the idea that the reader skim through it in one reading. Rather, it should
be carried over into life. Sincere readers who wish to practice the art of prayer correctly
should, as the reading progresses, apply it to themselves.
To be acceptable for publication, the book had to be abridged by one-half. It is
full of repetitions and tedious passages. M y plan has been to follow the soul through the
different stages of the life of prayer, and at each stage to furnish it with a maximum of
practicable, basic principles for its spiritual advancement. I have done this even at the
risk of offering an excess of details, which would most assuredly be irksome were the
book intended to be read in one sitting. All of these stages, moreover, resemble one
another in certain aspects. Hence, repetitions were necessary if each reader was to find
not only what applies to his particular case but also the exact way in which it applies.
Each one may then extract what he needs.
This method of procedure, however, could lead some souls into the pitfall of
trying to apply all these suggested practices at once. Were they to do this, they would
become confused and would soon find themselves overburdened. All I have done is to
offer suggestions. If I have presented an abundance of them, my only intention was to
give the reader a choice. It is up to each one to take what is applicable to him and what
he can reasonably shoulder, always leaving himself free to take on more as he progresses.
Prayer is a complex art with many nuances where progress is not only slow but
requires as much prudence as it does diligence.
In the present volume I have limited myself to the ordinary forms of prayer. To
explore the relationship which exists between ordinary prayer and mystical prayer would
have been an interesting study, but the book would have assumed such proportions that it

seemed preferable to defer the study of mystical prayer for a second work which will be
directed to an entirely different class of readers.
I offer this book to the modern public with some apprehension. It is no way
flatters modern tendencies nor does it lay claim to any novelty. By preference, it is based
on the foundations of time-tested traditions. The style is so simple that it can be
understood by the most unlearned, and that at the risk of appearing to be somewhat
Having this sacrificed art for utility, it is my fond prayer that this book will
nonetheless bear much fruit, and that even its very shortcomings will help men of good
will to find God in prayer.
M artial Lekeux O.F.M .

Pope Michael’s Introduction

We have been asked if We plan to summarize this book. The answer is no.
Instead We strongly recommend anyone serious about obtaining heaven or at least
avoiding hell, read the book and study it thoroughly, applying it to your life. This was
published at the beginning of the Apostasy, and until now has obviously not borne fruit.
Possibly a few of its earliest readers followed its advice, died and saved their souls, but
the rest fell into apostasy. This book was possibly a last call from Almighty God before
the Apostasy. However, being written so close to our time, applies quite well to us. So
let it be a beginning in practicing the necessary art of prayer.
In these days, when the Orders of old have been utterly destroyed, we must
become the contemplatives of today, sanctifying our every action for the love of God and
the exaltation of His holy Church in order to bring about the universal conversion the
Fathers of the Church speak of. Learning the Art of Prayer is necessary to salvation!

Pope M ichael

Table of Contents
Part 1: General Considerations
Chapter 1: Underrating Prayer 4
Chapter 2: Why We Do Not Know How to Pray 13
Chapter 3: Preliminaries to Prayer 18
Chapter 4: What is Prayer? 30
Part 2: The Prayer of Conversation
Chapter 5: How We Can Pray Always 39
Chapter 6: A Day Spent With God 47
Chapter 7: A Day Spent With God (continued) 59
Chapter 8: The Prayer of Conversation 70
Part 3: Vocal Prayer
Chapter 9: Private Vocal Prayer 83
Chapter 10: Public Prayer 89
Part 4: The Prayer of Reflection
Chapter 11: Reflection 103
Chapter 12: How to M editate 114
Chapter 13: M oral M ental Prayer 129
Part 5: Affective Prayer
Chapter 14: Introduction to Affective Prayer 138
Chapter 15: The Divine Friend 144
Chapter 16: Affective Prayer 152
Chapter 17: The Prayer or Simplicity 165

Chapter I
Underrating Prayer
pray. Although they are children of God, they spend the best part of their life ignoring
God. At most they give Him an occasional thought now and then or make some selfish
appeal to him. This is one of the most evident proofs of our fallen state.
What are the causes of this lack of prayer? They are numerous — as manifold as
our defects.
We are not addressing ourselves to those immature Chris tians whose sole concern
is limited to "fulfilling their duties" and who say they will be satisfied if they barely
escape the fire of hell. Prayer for them is an onerous burden except when fear of some
unpleasantness reminds them that there is after all a God who could come to their aid.
We likewise disregard those supine souls who lack the courage prayer requires.
There is but one thing to say to this class of people: "For pity's sake bestir yourself. Ask
God to give you the energy you so badly need." This is the first prayer they should say.
Outside of these cases, the source of the evil lies in an erroneous concept of the
nature of the usefulness of prayer. Some souls are strongly attached to external activity
and underestimate the value of contemplative activities; others sincerely long for these
activities but, because they do not understand them well or go about them in the wrong
way, are never successful in achieving them.
This book is written especially for the second group, with the hope that it will
help their good will. But we must first have a word with the others.
The trend today is toward action, struggle, movement, business, efficiency, better
methods of production, and maximum yield. Activism, utilitarianism, and humanism are
the formulas of the day. What people want is the concrete, the tangible, the immediate,
the practical, whatever satisfies and brings out their personality. Even the apostolate has
blithely taken on the tint of the times, and arrays its zealous regiments under the banner
of "action."
No one will contest the value, even the great value, of this. But it seems that there
is too much emphasis on the material element to the detriment of the spiritual, on the
"active" virtues at the expense of prayer. This lack of equilibrium is dangerous both for
Christian activity itself, because it threatens to rob it of its spirit, and for Christians, too,
because little by little it can cause them to deviate from the correct idea of Christianity.
There is an all too noticeable undervaluation of the "interior" virtues, of unselfish
activities, and especially of prayer, among youth. It is a bad sign, for love of prayer is the
barometer of religious vitality.
It is high time to put things back in their proper place.

The truth is that we are made primarily for prayer — provided we give the word
its complete meaning which is one that far surpasses the simple prayer of petition. Prayer
is the raising of the mind to God and the union of the soul with God. Of all our human
actions it is the most important and should take precedence over all others.
Prayer alone gives our entire soul to God, even its innermost recesses. It is its
vital act, the act proper to love in the most profound acceptance of the word. In our other
good works we go to God through some intermediary, whereas in prayer we reach God
directly. "In the active life," St. Bernard says, "we busy ourselves with something other
than God for God; in contemplative life we think of God himself." Now, that is the
noblest, the most glorious, the most useful, and the most properly human occupation.
God created man free and intelligent, as the object of His love. Having loved him
even before creating him, God had no other purpose in creating man than to see him
return to God whence He came so that the highest of unions might be realized: the
spontaneous union of love. And God waits for that return. The soul that returns to God
out of love gratifies God's wishes to the full and brings God's work to fruition. And when
the soul is united to the Love that created it, it accomplishes its destiny; it lives in the
state of perfection. There is nothing beyond that. Everything else, asceticism, good
works, and the apostolate, hark back to prayer and are related to "the best part" (Lk. 10,
42) and the one thing necessary. M agdalene, lost in Christ, can withdraw to a grotto and
Paul into the desert and there pray. Their life is full to overflowing.
God has placed us, it is true, in such a condition that we must also attend to other
work, and it is His will that we perform it faithfully. It would, however, be more correct
to call it a service inspired by love, whereas prayer itself is love and for that reason, more
pleasing to God than all the rest. He loves us. Now, what does love require if not to be
paid in love? Only the gift of our heart can satisfy God. Our work pleases Him only when
it is a proof of this gift. What God wishes above all else from His children is their
affection, and this finds expression primarily in prayer.
Contemplation is the activity essential to God himself. It is the unspeakable
relationship eternally going on between the three divine Persons. Having formed us out of
an outpouring of that love, which is His being, having made us in His own image and
likeness, He wishes us to participate in His sovereign activity. For that reason were we
created. M an, as well as the angels, is above all an adorer, a being constituted for prayer.
The meaning of human life is adoration. Everything else will pass away. That alone will
remain, for it will be our life in an eternity of blessedness. Here below, amidst all our
necessary external work, we must serve the apprenticeship of our heavenly vocation.
Thus holy contemplation rises like a peak above all other virtuous actions. M any
of them are good and pleasing to God. It alone, by its very nature, is necessary. It is the
goal, the term, and the crowning of our entire spiritual life.
Penance, renunciation, all the virtues, are ordered to prayer. They correct the will
and free the heart to this end. "The virtues are related to the contemplative life as
dispositions necessary to that life." (Saint Thomas II-II, Q180, A2)
The result and the very purpose of all asceticism is interior love, the gift of the
heart to God, and union with God beyond all external contingencies.

The fathers and doctors of the Church, basing themselves on the M aster,
unanimously proclaim the primacy of contemplation. The Church approves of orders that
are purely contemplative and gives them first place in her esteem. Contemplative souls
are the spiritual aristocracy of Christianity.
"The Lord," says Cassian, "puts the principal good in divine contemplation. The
other virtues, while good and useful, seem vile by comparison and must take second
place. They are but means to attain it" (First Conference).
"Our whole purpose," He writes on another occasion, "our entire perfection, is to
pray unceasingly. That is the reason which helps us brave labor and seek contrition of
heart.. .. The whole edifice of the virtues has but one purpose, namely, to attain perfection
in prayer. Without this perfection, which unifies all the parts and makes for a solid
ensemble, there will be neither solidity nor durability. This constancy in prayer is neither
acquired nor achieved without virtues, but, on the other hand, without prayer the virtues,
which serve as its foundation, would never attain perfection" (Ninth Conference).
St. Gregory says the same thing: "The merits of the active life are great, but those
of the contemplative are more excellent … The fervor derived from contemplation is a
greater help in observing the rules of the active life" (In Ez.).


We have seen that between the two expressions of love there is an
interdependence and a reciprocal action. If there is no perfect prayer without the virtues,
there are no perfect virtues without the interior life. The contemplative life is necessary
for the perfection of the active life. For that reason St. Augus tine could write: "That man
has learned to live well who has learned to pray well."
At the same time such a man has learned to be an authentic militant, the
apostolate being, as St. Thomas says, but the overflow of contemplation that runs over
into our other duties. Every other conception of Christian zeal is false. "Without
contemplation," affirms Father Lallemant, "we will never make much progress in virtue,
and we will never be able to help others advance" (La Doctrine Spirituelle, VII, Chap. 4,
p. 4)
Godliness is profitable in all respects," says St. Paul (I Tim. 4,8). Prayer — and
again I am not speaking of the prayer of petition only — obtains the graces necessary for
ourselves and for others. It supernaturalizes the apostolate and makes for an abundant
harvest. It brings us to the very source of grace by uniting us to God.
It keeps the supernatural sense alive in us. It heightens our whole life and stirs up
all the virtues, being the immediate act of the queen-virtue, the mother of all the others,
the love of God.
But over and above all these happy effects, it is primarily in itself that prayer is
the most excellent of all things. We should appreciate and practice it in itself and for
itself. There is reason to guard against an idea which is tending to seep into certain
militant groups. Some souls are indeed in favor of exercises of piety, but on condition
that they can see the immediate yield: "Zest for action, a feeling of exaltation,
recollection of fullness," to use the words of a Catholic Action chaplain. Such souls
relegate prayer to the rank of an auxiliary to action or see in it but a way to arouse
emotion and promote self-development. There is a principle that we must hold fast if we

would guard ourselves completely against activism and a warped humanism. It is this:
prayer is not only beneficial for everything, but for itself and independent of every
extrinsic utility, it is the prime activity, the first perfection, and the primary duty of man.
And if a man is truly a Christian, it will be His first need.
Finally, from the fact that prayer is the art most connatural to man, it follows that
it is also the most conducive to happiness.
Every prayer has about it a joy, a comfort, and a soothing effect. It frees man from
earthly hindrances and gives Him access to the serenity of the supernatural world. It gives
Him the consoling consciousness of having a Father and a divine Friend — a thought that
assuages His sorrows and strengthens His confidence. It re-establishes Him in truth,
which is the sister of hope.
How much more true all of this is of contemplation. Contemplation is the perfect
prayer that introduces man into the intimacy of the Lord and transfigures his life. He who
has discovered the high roads of prayer has set himself up in the very center of the
kingdom of God. Wherever he is, he is with God. He finds Him and sees Him in
everything. There is an over-abundance in His heart. He is rich. Having acquired the one
and only good that gratifies the human heart, he is happy. Having fulfilled his purpose, he
lives to the full.
What words can express the happiness of the man who has established his abode
near the all-lovable One? Who can describe his peace, his constantly renewed
cheerfulness, the joy of his awakenings, the sweetness of the presence of God, the
splendors that illumine his soul? He loves and knows that he is loved. He whom he loves
and treasures is supreme Beauty, the final object of every desire. He possesses perfect
love and love is the source of happiness.
His life even here below is in heaven, in a heart-to-heart conversation with the
eternal Beloved. As he treads the earth with royal indifference for its inferior goods, he is
immunized against sadness. Nothing can harm him, for his home is above material things.

Such is the feast which God has prepared for those who are faithful to him, such
the banquet to which He invites them.
And what is man's answer? "I have bought a farm, and I must go out and see it; I
pray thee hold me excused.... I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am on my way to try
them; I pray thee hold me excused.... I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come"
(Lk. 14, 18-20). And so, completely indifferent, He prefers the creature to the Creator. If
angels could be dismayed, the attitude of the invited guests just alluded to would surely
dismay them.
M en "do not have time to pray!" When we stop to think of it, that is a very
disconcerting statement. In view of the fact that time has been given to them for prayer,
for prayer more than all else, they find time for everything except for the one thing that
matters. They settle down in time and act as if eternity were a joke. They manifest a
complete disinterestedness in the beyond that is so certain. Their main concern,
apparently, is to forget God and all thought of the supernatural.
And so eternal things become strange to them. Prayer for them loses its savor
because it has lost its love-value. What ought to be their most spontaneous propensity,

their constant desire, and their great joy in the disappointments of life is but a burden,
wasted time, and a tedious duty which they discharge as hurriedly as the payment of a
tax. (I am speaking of coarse-grained Christians.)
M an's glory is to think. And his highest function is to withdraw himself from the
material world and think about God, to contemplate and adore him. Surprisingly enough,
the most difficult thing to do is to get men to lead an interior life. Speak to them about the
"exterior" virtues, of courage, devotedness, and work, and they will not only understand
you but they will follow you. But suggest that they enter into themselves, that they pray
and meditate, and they are baffled. Their fear of meeting God is as great as their attempt
to avoid a troublesome person. They have nothing interesting to say to Him and expect
that His conversation with them will be equally tedious.
Even for Catholics who are convinced of the necessity of prayer, prayer is often
reduced to the recitation of formulas and to assisting at M ass. There is no soul, no
profound life in their prayers, and consequently they are bored and are content with the
very minimum imposed upon them.
Even religious who are well disposed but absorbed by action trim off as much as
they can from their prayer-exercises and give the time they should spend in prayer to
what seems to them more useful employment. They have so forgotten the spiritual ways
that they have forgotten how to meditate. The two or three half-hours set aside by their
Rule for this exercise are for them the heaviest of burdens. They no longer know how to
spend the time, so they fall back on some reading, provided they do not fall asleep or
think of personal matters. They are much to be pitied. What joy can they find in religious
life, and how can they consecrate their life to a God they no longer know how to speak
to? They no longer live in constant habitual intimacy with Christ. If they did — and that
is what they ought to do — it would indeed be a great treat to talk with him.
There are, alas! priests who practically never meditate. It is soon evident that
"their true home is not in heaven" and they become quite earthly, to the great detriment of
their priestly work. They fail seriously in a duty essential to their vocation, for the priest
is by function one who prays, an intercessor.
The disrepute of prayer is a misfortune and one of the most detrimental
perversions of the spirit. For at the base of this attitude there is an incorrect idea not only
of prayer but even of life. To belittle prayer is to distort the meaning of the human person
and of destiny.
This erroneous attitude toward prayer is one of the capital errors of our times. For
many — and among them are chosen souls — it denatures the notion of the apostolate,
even that of religion, and makes excellent intentions and lofty generosities inoperative.
Other omissions attack the spiritual organism from without; this one affects it at its very
center and undermines it from within. It inverts the spiritual order of values, nibbles away
at the spirit of faith, and opens the way to a sort of semi-naturalism, all the more
dangerous for its not being known.

Those who neglect prayer are well supplied with weak arguments to justify
"It is enough," they say, "to do one's work, for work is prayer."

That is very true, but prayer is also part of our duty, it is even our prime duty. If
we fail to fulfill it, we will discharge our other tasks poorly. Prayer must impregnate all
our activities. It alone safeguards their supernatural value and efficiency by maintaining
the permanency of our pure intention.
"But," they allege, "I form my intention in the morning and offer all my actions of
the day to God. As long as I do not retract it, it remains valid and stamps everything I
Indeed! That would be far too easy. If our good disposition is not frequently
renewed, our morning offering becomes inactive. Nothing evaporates more quickly. You
decided this morning to do everything for God. That is very fine. But when in the course
of the day you let yourself go so far as to act out of purely worldly, egotistical, and even
reprehensible, motives, do you think that your morning intention still influences your
actions to any appreciable degree? True, you have not retracted it formally, but your
conduct has.
Under these conditions, your work is the opposite of a prayer. It alienates you
from God and makes you self-centered. Work is prayer when the work is done under the
eye of God, offered to Him, and done to please Him. And it will be so the more your
attention, your intention, and your offering are more present, more conscious, purer, and
more fervent. Such a sanctification of work is possible only when the interior life has
become a habit. Which means that only contemplatives can make work a constant prayer.
"But," certain ones object further, "there is nothing contemplative about me. I was
made for action. It is my way of serving God. But, meditate, no. I do not feel capable of
it. M oreover, I have tried and have never succeeded."
It is not a question of having succeeded, but of praying our best, for the simple
reason that it is a duty. In this matter success is ours when we do what we can. And then,
was not your attempt a poor one, or an inadequate one? It is easy to say "I can't." Once
you have read this book, you will perhaps understand that after all it is not so very
difficult. It is an established fact that every man can pray in one way or another, because
it is what He was made for. The only difficulty is that you have allowed this field to lie
fallow. You have given yourself over too much to action that pleases you at the expense
of prayer that weighs heavily on your shoulders. It is a form of laziness. You need
reeducating and the teacher is prayer. Practice makes perfect. Give prayer, the interior
life, the time and the effort it requires. In this way you will succeed. Believe me, you will
work the better for it, for you never work better than when you pray.
And that is where the shoe pinches. "I don't have time to pray. I cannot neglect
my work. The duties of one's state in life come before prayer. We must know how to
leave God for God."
Oh, you don't have time to pray? Well, may I say that your life is poorly
organized. You should re-examine it. In every Christian life, in every rightly planned
human life, a place must be found for prayer — and the most important place must be
reserved for it.
Everyone will agree that now and then and in urgent cases we must "leave God
for God," although contemplative souls never really "leave" him, for they carry prayer
into the most absorbing types of work. But to neglect prayer for action habitually,
systematically, even constantly, is utterly wrong. Let us suppose that one day you are
pressed for time or that you are faced with a difficult task, and that you go without food

and sleep. The toll will be negligible. But if you attempt to deprive yourself of food
altogether, you will not last long. The busiest man finds time and takes time to eat. He
knows it is indispensible. If you believed in the necessity of supernatural nourishment,
you would find time to pray. You would "make time," as do all genuine Catholics,
whatever their occupation may be.
It is only too clear that at the basis of all this there is a lack of faith rather than a
lack of time, as well as a naturalistic concept of life. For what does all this pressing work
serve? Earthly ends that are as important as regards your supernatural end as the games
that absorbed your attention when you were seven years old. And you prefer such trifles
to the one thing necessary?
"Excuse me, but I work for the good of souls."
Wonderful. The case is even more serious. You seem to forget that the source of
the apostolate is interior fervor, and that to accomplish good for souls the first condition
is not to forget your own. "To be an effective preacher," says St. Gregory, "we must take
extreme care that through purity of heart we reach contemplation" (In I Reg., II, Chap.v.).
The Superior of an active religious Order asked Pope Pius XII one day: "Your
Holiness, my subjects are men engaged in the active life. What should I recommend to
"The interior life," the Holy Father answered. And He repeated: "The interior life,
a very deep interior life."
That was all He said.
On another occasion, the Holy Father gave this advice to some Catholics: "What
is of prime importance for the action of the priest and the laity is the interior life, the life
of union with God, the life of prayer, the life which St. Paul speaks of when He cries out:
"Your life is hidden with Christ in God" (Col. 3,3).
The periodical, Documentation Catholique, goes on to add that "the Holy Father
repeated the text of St. Paul several times, and later, He strongly insisted on the
uselessness of exterior works when they are not fecundated by union with Christ. Without
divine grace, nothing holds together, nothing counts, nothing has supernatural value.
Without the interior life we fall into the heresy of action" (Documentation Catholique,
December 24, 1944) It is always profitable to reread the following strong words of St.
John of the Cross: "Those who are given to intense activity and imagine that they can
convert the world by their preaching and exterior works would do well to reflect on the
following. They would be much more useful to the Church and more pleasing to God, not
to speak of the good example they would give, if they devoted to prayer but half the time
they spend otherwise. They would accomplish more with one work than they do now
with a thousand, and that with less labor, since their prayer would provide them with
grace and spiritual strength. To act otherwise is to strike the hammer on the anvil, to do a
little more than nothing; at times absolutely nothing, at other times, even do harm.
Superficially, activity gives the impression of producing something, but in reality it will
have no substantial effect, so true is it that nothing good can be accomplished save by the
power of God" (Cantique Spirituel, stanze 28).
That is authentic Christian doctrine. But it is to be feared that besides a real
concern for duty and a laudable zeal, you unconsciously bring to your work a good dose
of personal interest. Self-love easily finds its own satisfaction in external works. There is
a natural satisfaction in using one's own resources. They have a tangible yield and they

bring us the esteem of others. You have grown fond of it, whereas you have come to look
upon prayer, that "life hidden in God," as something useless, as an obstacle to action, as
wasted time.

You have organized your life in this activist sense, stuffing it to the brim with
temporalities and leaving no room for the interior life. It is not surprising that you no
longer find time to pray. You have deliberately robbed from your prayer time for your
other duties. To begin with, then, you must revise your life and, if necessary, strike out of
it all excessive activity in order to reintegrate into your program what you should have
put there in the first place, the work par excellence, the work of God. It is a duty, a vital
For the rest, do not be frightened. You are not being asked the impossible, not
even something very difficult. You are not being asked to drop any of your work, but you
are asked to apply yourself to think of God, to regain contact with Him in the morning, in
the evening, and on certain occasions, to offer Him your work as it presents itself, to take
advantage of those lost moments in your life, to say a short prayer, to substitute some
pious reading for some pleasure. If you accomplish this, you will improve your spiritual
life tremendously. This practice will restore and maintain in you a preoccupation with the
supernatural. Little by little you will develop a taste for it. You will try to do more, and
you will experience the need of finding the time to pray.
In truth, changing the exterior of your life is not the important thing, but rather
supernaturalizing it from within, by interior attention to God. The interior life is a virtue
for men of the world as well as for religious. It would be even truer to say that it is more
so, because it is more indispensable for people in the world than for religious. The more
one is drawn to action, the more necessary it is to protect the flame of prayer in order to
avoid having it blown out by the wind of distractions.
The interior life is possible even in a life brimming with activity. See the great
saints who moved crowds and spent themselves with utter self-abandon in the labors of
the apostolate. As they went about their work, they prayed, for they carried God in their
heart. There was their strength and the secret of their successes. The great apostles were
men of prayer, and prayer is the source of efficiency. It is an interior attitude to be
acquired. No state of life is incompatible with contemplation.
But for it, you need first of all a high regard and a liking for prayer. If you have
lost it, you must begin again with an even greater effort. You need a retreat. Organize one
to your liking. But you must regain contact with your soul and find God there again. If
you were sick, you would not hesitate to put aside your occupation in order to take care
of yourself and, if necessary, you would go to a hospital for an operation. You are
incapacitated until such time as your health is restored. You are sick spiritually. Go to a

"M ary has chosen the best part, and it will not be taken from her" (Lk. lo, 42).
If we had been at Bethany, we would surely have chosen M artha's part. "It is all
well and good to pray," we would have said to the slothful M ary, "but duty comes first."
How much more true, since M artha was performing a pious work. It was thoughtful of
her to practice the virtue of hospitality and to prepare a good dinner for Christ.
Yet, that is not the way the M aster looked at it. "M artha, M artha, thou art anxious
and troubled about many things: and yet only one thing is needful" (Lk. 10, 41-42) and
that is to give Him your mind and heart. Christ has a greater and deeper vision than we.
The entire gospel is ordered to this idea, to this attitude, however paradoxical to
our short-sighted wisdom. The Son of God thought as God, and He came to propose a
divine ideal to us, a transcendent ideal, one that is purely supernatural. And hence the
prodigious reversal of values announced in the Sermon on the M ount. One thing is
important, only one: the Kingdom of God, that kingdom which is within us and which is
the love of our heavenly Father. The rest is surplus. Does not the gospel in so many
words say: hatred for the world is supreme wisdom?
Few understand this language. It requires a deeper insight than we are accustomed
to and an extraordinary interior detachment. Alas! we are but too inclined to murmur with
the still earthly-minded disciples: "To what purpose is this waste?" (M t. 26,8). For that
reason there will always be few contemplatives.
What can we expect? We are near-sighted and constantly tempted to limit reality
to the visible and the immediate. Now, the kingdom of God is invisible, and prayer does
not always have immediate and tangible results. Consequently, contemplatives easily
give the impression of being dreamers, fanatics, and idlers.
Hence the eternal misunderstanding between M artha and M ary. In this conflict
those in the active life will always have the masses with them. They will speak the
language of common sense. They will have their feet on the ground, and they will have
their works to show. The silent contemplatives, who are on the fringe of all endeavors
and with no apparent harvests to their credit, will seem unproductive, as contributing
nothing "practical" to the community. The argument will be advanced: "To what purpose
is this waste for this might have been sold for much and given to the poor?" (Mt. 26,9).
This seems pertinent to narrow-minded men such as we are. At bottom, it is but a
lack of supernatural elevation. As soon as we put ourselves in the order of grace, all of
this crumbles with one blow. In the light of the Gospel, the contemplative life
victoriously reassumes its first place. Thus the M aster solemnly affirmed: it is the best
part, the one thing necessary. Not to admit this is to betray the Gospel and for that matter,
to cease being Christian.
Wisdom suggests that we practice a harmonious and integral religion, a religion
that gives an equitable part to prayer and action. They are not opposed to each other, they
are complementary, and God asks both from us. There must be love in our work as well
as love in our heart. Let everyone see that He guards against His personal deficiencies in
one or the other of these domains in such a way as to go to God with all His soul, to love
Him with all His strength, and to give Him everything. That is the voice of common
sense — supernatural common sense.

Chapter II
Why We Do Not Know How to Pray
pious souls: "I do not know how to pray," or "I can no longer pray. I do not know how to
meditate. I have tried every method, but all in vain. As soon as I begin to pray my mind is
paralyzed, my heart cold, and my will limp. I have tried over and over, but I spend the
time in distractions. My soul recoils from such a sterile exercise. It all seems so artificial.
Finally, to make a long story short, I have been unsuccessful. It seems to me that things
will never improve. And yet, I would like so very much to be able to pray."
And ordinarily the complaint ends with this urgent plea: "Father, teach me a good
method of prayer."
These souls of good will must be helped. Such is the purpose of this book.
O, Holy Ghost, teacher of holy prayer, behold a soul who is looking for you. This
soul is reading these pages for the sole purpose of finding you. Enlighten him; set Him
afire. He stands before you. Teach Him how to knock at your door. Do open it to him.


You claim that you do not know how to pray, and I maintain you do. Our Lord's
injunction that "they must always pray" (Lk. 18,1) was addressed to every son of Adam.
If God, then, obliges man to pray and moreover to pray always, we cannot say that the
obligation is impossible of fulfillment. The argument is incontestable.
Your present inability to pray is, therefore, only accidental. You know how to
walk but there is an obstacle in your path, or it may be that you have an injured foot.
The first thing to do, then, is to recognize the obstacle, to locate the injury. Once
that has been done, it is easy to prescribe a remedy. Let us put our finger on the wound.
Let us irritate the sore spot so that you may be aware of it. I suggest the following
experiment. Before going any farther with the reading of this book, put the book aside,
join your hands, recollect yourself, and forthwith meditate for five minutes on the
goodness of God, on heaven, or on the Passion of our divine Savior.
Please close the book and begin your meditation.
Good! Your meditation is over. What was the train of your thoughts?
You say you were distracted, that you are habitually so. And yet, this time you
were roused to do your best. You devoted greater attention and expended more effort on
this meditation than you ordinarily do. So the first symptom is that there is a certain lack
of energy in your prayer (and perhaps in the whole gamut of your life). There is a lack of
But there are other troublesome elements of a more general and of a more
profound nature. Recall other meditations where, despite praiseworthy efforts,
distractions had the upper hand. We shall try to discover what these elements are.

I fear that the answer will not be very flattering. M ost of the time (I speak to those
souls who "do not know how to pray") after five minutes you found yourself a hundred
miles away from the thought of God's goodness, from heaven, or from Calvary. What
happened? You began well, then your eyes lighted on a newspaper, a picture, or some
object, and through one or the other of these your mind set sail unconsciously on an
ocean of reveries: politics, friends, pleasures, work, and so on. Perhaps at a given
moment you became aware of being distracted and you again fixed your thoughts on your
meditation. You even closed your eyes, only to discover that the enemy was within you.
In thinking of the happiness of heaven, you soon slipped into caressing the joys of this
earth; in contemplating Calvary, you remembered a trip you took to the Holy Land, and
from there your thoughts wandered to the hotel where you stayed, then to a person you
met there, then of the odd feather she wore in her hat, then the fur piece you had intended
to buy, then the household purchases you have to make. And so on and so forth.
You are well aware of this cascading of ideas, of these clashing pictures which
succeed one another without any apparent order and which, once we lose control of our
thoughts, are linked together by the tiniest details. The most insignificant thought is food
for musing. The enemy is waiting at every crossroad. He has millions of thoughts ready
to propose to you, His strategy being to make you deviate from the one thought you set
out to concentrate on. How can you spot so manifold, so subtle, and so elusive an
With a fairly certain degree of probability I could venture a guess as to the leading
thoughts which caused your mind to wander. I can even quite safely tell you the ones
which distract you most frequently, even though I know nothing about your life, your
temperament, your state in life, your worries, your surroundings, or the persons with
whom you come in contact. If you are a business man and some important business
matter engrosses your attention, then your thoughts tend, by preference, in that direction.
If you are a housewife, chances are that your mind is preoccupied with the evening meal
and with some shopping you have to do. If you are preparing some speech, how can you
help thinking about it? If, on the contrary, you are idle, the first object you come upon
will capture your attention, providing, of course, that it has nothing to do with prayer.
And how often your musing flatters your secret propensitites. You have a cold, so your
cold distracts you. You are worried, so your worries distract you. You have good reason
to rejoice, and that attracts your attention. And so on and so forth. You will admit that
these distractions certainly range over a wide field. At first sight they seem to. But
analysis will discover that ninety-nine per cent of them stem from worldly
preoccupations. If it was the thought of the Blessed Sacrament that turned your thoughts
to that of the Passion, I would have no objecion. That could be the hundredth distraction
and would be a good one. In all the other cases the things of the world distract you from
heavenly things. It is our own self that distracts us from God.


Let us continue our analysis. Why do the things of this world distract you from
heavenly things? You will say to me: "Because material objects are easier to see and to

think of than are heavenly things." But that is no answer. The basic question is why do
the things of the world hold more attraction. And, furthermore, your answer is wrong.
The things of the world are easier for you to see, but the opposite is true of the saints.
They must exert an effort to turn their thoughts from God to creatures.
The solution, then, must be sought elsewhere. Try another little experiment and
you will immediately discover the cause.
Supposing I were to ask you to meditate for five minutes on, let us say, the
manufacture of faucets. I wager that you would find this impossible. Why? Because such
a thing does not interest you and you know nothing about their fabrication. Now, suppose
that faucets happen to be your neighbor's line of business and that He was thinking of
taking out a patent for a new model which He is in the process of perfecting. During
M ass his problem distracts him. No matter how hard he tries, the thought persistently
plagues him. He delights in thinking about it. Why? Because, at the moment, it interests
him more than anything else in the world.
Try the opposite experiment. Take up those things which a short while ago were
the very source of your distractions: a particular dinner, a discourse which you are
preparing, the visit that you are to make to your fiancee this evening, a serial story that
you have just read, a new dress that you intend to buy, and begin meditating on them. It is
not difficult to picture you prolonging this exercise for half an hour without becoming
tired or distracted. Why, I ask once again? Because the subject interests you, because it is
the habitual food of your mind, the secret treasure it cherishes, and because where "thy
treasure is, there also will thy heart be" (Mt. 6,21). To be separated from it would be
painful. You are attracted to it and seek every opportunity to return to it, like a dog to His
There, then, is the enemy of your prayer, the one who sows the crab grass in the
garden of your soul and clutters your prayer with knotted distractions. He is in
everything, and hence his deadly power. Or rather, it is you who are in everything and
who instigate the enemy, you who bring him into everything you touch, for he resides in
your heart. Let us immediately call him by his rightful name: attachment to the world.
Yes, your distractions are your present condition; they are the things of this world. They
are all the things that surround you because everything interests you more than God and
because, practically speaking, contrary to the charity which you profess, you love all
things more than God.
"That is not true," you protest. "I love God above all things, and when I make an
act of love I am sincere and have resolved to sacrifice everything rather than offend
I agree with you. I certainly do not think that you are devoid of the virtue of
charity. Love is in your will but it has not yet reached your heart, or at least not very
much. There is not yet that enthusiasm of the heart toward the object of its complacency
of which St. Francis de Sales speaks. Now if the love of will is essential to charity,
affective love is very useful for the perfection of prayer which, according to the same
saint, is precisely the function of affective love. Affective love makes the things of God
interesting and savory. It carries us toward God, as it were, naturally and without effort,
drawing the will which has but to let itself be led by it. Furthermore, by attaching us to
God, it detaches us from everything else, thereby stemming the flood of distractions at
their very source.

Normally, the heart and head work in concert. The heart should cooperate with
the head. Picture a man who has a big dog on a leash. If the animal pulls in the direction
the man is going, all is well. But, if the dog pulls to one side or is attracted by some
object in back of him, the man will have difficulty going forward. If the dog is stronger
than he, the man will strive in vain; the dog will pull him.
What should he do? Train the dog.
Your heart is not trained. There lies the evil, and the sickness is quite serious for
some people, especially women, because in them sentiment is usually stronger than the
will. "Your heart leads your head." There lies the dualism, the internal rending from
which you suffer. In saying that you love all things more than God, I was speaking of
your heart. Your will is good, but your heart is sick. Your will is attached to God, but
your heart clings to creatures. The things of the world tug at your heart. Consequently,
when your mind wants to concentrate on God, your heart drags it despite itself towards
the object of its love.
As long as you fail to restrain your heart, it will be impossible for you to pray.


Let us proceed further and ask ourself what is the cause of this disordered
It is easy to find. We love things according to the way in which we see them, I
mean, according to the amount of good and beauty we discover -in them and,
consequently, according to the value we attach to them. "Our love is proportionate to our
knowledge," says the adage. If, therefore, we are more attracted toward creatures than
toward God, it is because we discover more good in them than we do in Him and
because, practically speaking, we esteem them more highly. The soul falls sick before the
heart does. Lack of faith precedes lack of love.
You object once more: "I believe; I know that God is the absolute good; I love
Him above everything else." Not only do I agree with you wholeheartedly but I again
restate the distinction I laid down regarding love. There are two kinds of faith: one which
directs reason and whereby, aided by divine grace, we resolutely adhere to the truths of
our religion, and the other which has penetrated to the very depths of our soul, where our
ideas are woven into the very fabric of our lives. They are always there and on every
occasion we are conscious of them, without there being any need for reflex thought.
Resolute faith alone is necessary for salvation. But how useful the other is! It is
impossible to be recollected before each action. Now count up the number of non-
reflected actions which fill every one of your days. Count up all these actions which are
no better than their principle, and you will agree that perfection is impossible without that
immanent faith which alone can affect all the acts of your life down to the smallest detail
by reaching to its very depths. If we must love with all our heart, we must also believe
with all our heart. We must reach the point of believing without giving any thought to it,
like the musician whose fingers light on the correct notes without having to look at the
And here again is where the evil lies. You have a speculative faith, a reasonable
faith, but not a vital faith. You believe that God is there, but this belief comes to the fore
only on rare occasions. You ought to think of Him, and yet there are so many other things

to think of. You live for all practical purposes as if God did not exist, as if He were not
there. You spend hours, perhaps entire days, without paying the least attention to Him.
He has become a stranger to you. You say that God infinitely surpasses everything, yet in
reality, although unconsciously, the hundred things you prefer to Him each day are so
many proofs that creatures are better than He, that it is befitting to dedicate more time
and care to the kingdom of the world than to the kingdom of heaven. 1
A reversal of values has taken place, and, since the law of the mind is the mind is
the law of the heart, it has, by that very fact, provoked a reversal of love.


We now come to the final question: whence comes this lack the faith and,
consequently, this disordered attachment?
The answer is: it comes from your life. For, if we live as we think, it is inversely
true and a matter of experience to say that we think as we live.
Look at your past and present life. Since childhood you have been brought up in
this paganism from which you now suffer. You were taught to give God an hour a day
(perhaps) and the remainder of the day to your studies and relaxation — in other words,
to get along without Him. For you, God became some far-off, nebulous being, in some
way unreal, outside of life, whereas visible things took on an ever more intense reality.
Thus, there was implanted in your soul, almost unconsciously, the practical idea that the
earth was much more interesting than heaven. When you consider that you have lived this
way for twenty, forty, sixty years, giving your best thoughts and efforts to your business,
to your projects, to your daily life, forgetting God, limiting your relationships with Him
to a strict minimum; when you remember that repeated acts inevitably produce a more
and more marked attitude of soul, that these pagan days have followed one another
thousands of times and without interruption, you will understand that this mental twist
must have necessarily assumed in you the strength and rigidity of a gnarled old oak tree.
Perhaps there was a replenishment, a well-made retreat, now and then. If you are
a religious, then the novitiate broke the spell for a time. But weariness, habit, and loss of
perspective soon got the better of these weak impulses to lead a deeper spiritual life and,
even in the cloister, the world, concern for things present, and the fascination for trifles
little by little reasserted their rights. You believe one thing and live another. M eanwhile,
you and your faith have been swept along in the current of the passing world.
Imagine what you would be today had you been brought up by a saint! (There was
such a thing, for example, among the fathers of the desert.) He would have accustomed
you from your earliest years to think only of God and to refer all things to Him. He would
have spoken to you of Him a hundred times a day and in reference to everything. He
would have trained you to live in God's presence, to love Him in all things, and to pray to

The same thing is being constantly applied to the domain of morals. Many of our small actions seem to
be peccadillos, because they are not deliberate and because at the moment we perform them we cannot say
that our will is free. And so generally we look upon these actions as imperfections. In reality, they are
logical outcome and sign of a general defecting state of the soul, and it is there in this profound habitual
fault where the culpability must be found. On the contrary, the spontaneous acts of virtue are imputed to
their credit becaus e they proceed from a perfect will which in all things makes them act naturally in the
direction fo good. As we will, so we live. And the will is, first of all, informed by faith.

Him always. Supposing you had lived a life steeped in God all these past years instead of
a miserable, natural existence. M easure the abyss which has been dug between what you
are and what you ought to be, and realize that you must fill it to recapture your ideal. Yes,
see what you have made of your life and how necessary it is to look at it straight in the
That is why you do not know how to pray, why prayer seems artificial to you,
why you are bored with it, and why like a bird in a cage you are always trying to escape
from it.
A man has two houses. One He habitually occupies. He has furnished it to His
liking, and there He lives with His family and His books. He is familiar with every nook
and corner. He dwells in the other but rarely and only for a few days at a time. It is empty
and without charm. The furniture is covered with dust; the rooms smell musty and close.
When He goes there He is ill at ease and lonesome; He does not feel at home. Although
much more beautiful and larger than the first, He cannot become accustomed to it. His
one desire is to return as quickly as possible to His true home.
You have been habitually living in your terrestial house. You have furnished it.
You have filled it with objects that have become necessary to you. You have become
accustomed to it. Your heavenly home you hardly frequent. It is abandoned. When you
go there you find it empty and cold. You quickly become bored and do not feel at ease.
So, what do you do?
What you must do is break up housekeeping once and for all, furnish your
spiritual home, settle down there, and make it definitely your home. Once you do that you
will be indescribably happy.

Chapter III
Preliminaries to Prayer
We have seen that two very closely linked imperfections lie at the root of your
inability to pray: lack of practical faith and an attachment to created things, and that both
are fostered by a worldly life.
This twofold sickness needs medication. You will take care of your mind if you
intensify and strengthen your faith. Your heart will be free if you sever its ties. And
lastly, in order to make this interior reform an actuality, you must change your life.
Logic requires that you begin by strengthening your faith. Your intellect must be
set right before you can correct your will. But in reality, in practical life, that is not the
way things go. We are much more men of action than logical beings. Action, for the
majority of us, is far more natural than thinking. As we have seen, your sickness began
with living. So it would be better to proceed in a practical way by beginning at once with
a definite improvement in your way of living, and in that way reach your heart and mind.

As long as a person lives habitually removed from supernatural things, there is no
such thing as a good method of meditation, any more than cream can be made with sand.
The only method in that case is to re-examine your life, make up your mind once and for
all that a change for the better must be made, and then take the proper steps to carry out
the proposed reform.
Without that, any and all methods will be useless. Even the best thought out ones,
the most learned ones, will yield nothing — or practically nothing. They will be so many
excellent, but free-wheeling, machines. To attempt mental prayer under these conditions
would be equivalent to presenting yourself for an examination without having opened a
book, or the same as opening a business with nothing in the bank and no merchandise on
the shelves.
He who wills the end must will the means, that is, the means adapted to the end.
M achines designed to manufacture nails do not turn out screws. You adjusted your soul
to produce earthly things. It would be useless then to try and make it produce
supernatural articles without having first reset the machine.
How can you suddenly hope to fix your attention on prayer after having spent the
entire day thinking of everything and anything but God? After having associated with so
many people all day and loved everyone and everything except God, do you think that
you can straightway begin to love God to the exclusion of everything else? After having
led a very worldly life, do you think that you can kneel down at the hour of prayer and
suddenly become a heavenly man, capable of taking your place with the choirs of the
angels? It would be as impossible as trying suddenly to reverse the flow of a river.
Would you like to know what prayer is — I mean prayer said on your knees,
when all other activity ceases? During those moments the soul recollects itself in order to
live a more intense life. Please understand, the soul recollects itself. It is your soul that
must be recollected, that is, your soul as it is, with the life it leads, and not a spare soul
that you would like to see rise up and one that is suddenly adorned with all virtue. (That
is precisely why prayer impresses you as something artificial. For you it is.)
As we live, so we pray. Our prayer is our life, condensed into its essential act. If
our life is habitually oriented toward God, our prayer will naturally be coupled with it as
soon as we apply ourself to it. But with you the two are at loggerheads. You continue to
pursue temporal interests without any interruption. The river current makes its bed and,
as it follows the slope, it acquires speed and power. When the time for prayer arrives, it is
useless to put your head in your hands and try to engross yourself in thinking about God.
The movement continues in virtue of the force it has acquired. It is impossible to check it.
The river pursues its course, and your life sweeps away your prayer, like a piece of straw
caught in a torrent.
"Everything we have been thinking of previous to the hour of prayer is fatally
conjured up in our memory during prayer," so Abbe Isaac taught His monks. "What we

would like to be during the time of prayer that we must strive beforehand to be. The
dispositions of our soul during prayer depend on the preceding state of the soul. 2
And the state of the soul before prayer depends on the habitual state of our life.
Everyone is eloquent in His particular field; the astronomer speaks fluently about
astronomy and the business man about accounts. A man never grows tired talking about
what He likes. If the love of God becomes your specialized field, you will be a master at
mental prayer. If it does not, then you will have nothing to say to God and you will find
no supernatural thought. You will meditate on faucets.
Regardless of the method or the book you use, it cannot be otherwise. A book on
some boring subject will not fail to put you to sleep. M ethods of prayer without an
intense life to enliven them resemble that type of composition method still used in certain
schools. It is the expedient used by lazy students. It consists in developing a composition
by using the commonplace questions: who, why, where, how, and when. It is a con-
venient method, so it seems. The student has the impression that the composition is all
but written. If He is intelligent, if He has some ideas, it will help Him to organize them.
But He perhaps might have written a better composition had He not been cramped by
such a formula. The dolt, however, will repeat the questions over and over only to come
up with nothing but inconsequentials.
There was a day when this method was applied to mental prayer. Why not?
"Every plan is good," Napoleon said. "Everything hinges on the way it is executed."
M ethods of prayer are good, too. All of them are. When used intelligently, they are both
useful and beneficial. But they are nothing more than outlines to which each one must
contribute His own part. And that is the important thing: to have something to add to it.


Let us conclude, therefore, by saying that instead of talking about a method of
prayer it would be far better to talk first about the conditions of prayer. For all practical
purposes these conditions can be reduced to one: the subject you choose for prayer must
appeal to you. To pray, you must be interested in the things of God. To pray well, you
must be preoccupied with God. For your prayer to be perfect, you must have a passion for
Interest in things divine proceeds from "devotion" which is the attachment of the
soul to God and the concern to please him. And this in turn is schooled and nourished by
the exercise of detachment, fidelity, and the interior life. Live for God, live with God as
constantly as possible, and you will be able to speak to him.
At some time in your life you have undoubtedly met a man whom you had not
seen in many years and who means nothing to you. Yet you had to be polite and speak to
him. But about what? The conversation revolved around such questions as "How are
you?" "Where are you now living?" "Where do you work?" and dragged on and on.
Between each question there was an uneasy silence during which you deeply regretted
not having taken another train, or strayed into a different street.
The search for subjects of conversation grew even more painful. In the end you
fell back on exchanging views on politics. What a sigh of relief when the bore departed!

Cassian Conference 9

But on the other hand, what a joy to meet a dear, old friend! You always have something
to say to him, even if it is nothing new. The conversation goes on, effortlessly and easily.
It matters not whether the conversation continues or whether you remain silent. You are
happy just to be with him.
Become the close friend of God. Then, prayer will take care of itself. If, however,
His company bores you, if you have to look for subjects of conversation, if you are
anxious for the conversation to come to a halt, it is very possible, although there are
exceptions, that you have been neglecting him.
Break up housekeeping in your old establishment, settle down in the house of
God, and associate with Him frequently. That is the first condition of prayer. Without it,
everything is artificial, sterile, and doomed to failure, as surely as is the desire to speak
Greek before having studied it. And that is what makes those methods of prayer
ineffective. Lack of close friendship with God also accounts for your distaste of and dis-
couragement with prayer. But with it, on the contrary, these technical systems will regain
their usefulness and will give their maximum yield. Often, however, they will be no
longer necessary or, at least, only for a time.

The correct method of mental prayer is then, first of all, a method of life.
The entire program of your Christian life must be reviewed. For the moment,
however, all I wish to do is point out to you in a general way what you can do as a start.
The important thing is to regain your interest in the supernatural, and the practical
way to achieve this is to live it and to live by it. Therefore, the first question is: to what an
extent do you live your faith? An examination of conscience will provide you with the
This is the natural way to proceed. In everything we plan, the first thing is to
know what we want, and the second is to know how far advanced we are.
There is no question of making an extensive examination of conscience in view of
a general confession, but of a short, cursory, and above all, a practical one — a simple
survey of your way of life, but directed towards a precise goal: one that will uncover the
occasions in which you lack a supernatural spirit, the acts you habitually do as a lover of
the world.
You will immediately find an abundance of these points, so many, in fact that,
unless you are already very advanced in the spiritual life, you will find it impossible to
note them all. The self-evident ones will prove the most interesting. Begin with them. It
will be a particular fault into which you fall as it were automatically without ever
thinking of combating it. It may well be your awakening and first thoughts of the day
from which God is regularly absent; or your way of going about your work, that is, with a
completely temporal preoccupation; the too-selfish way in which you treat others; your
concern for comfort or the esteem of others; your reactions when contradicted,
negligence in your exercises of piety, which you skim through hastily or completely omit
either for lack of appeal, or because of discouragement or simply out of indifference; lack
of control over your interior attitudes; a thought which you leave unchecked and never
attempt to win back to God.

You will come to the conclusion that there is much to correct. So, why not put
your hand to the plow at once? Profit by the inquiry you have just made and proceed
without further delay toward an initial attempt at improvement.
Choose one or, at most, two of the points you have observed, and decide on some
remedial measure. However trifling it may seem to be, in reality it will be a great help.
You will have started the mechanism rolling once again. The important thing, if you
would get out of your stagnation, is to do something. It will put tone back into your
spiritual organism and rouse it to action. We might compare it to old notes that have been
filed away and are now taken out of the file because they have now become a current
item, an interesting matter.
An effort of this kind done for God will re-introduce into your soul concern for
God, an effective desire for your sanctification, and an attraction for the supernatural. It
will, moreover, sow in your heart the seeds of contentment which is a source of spiritual
You will also notice that this alone will immediately make your prayer easier and
improve it. The next time you pray it will seem completely natural for you to speak to
God about what you have just done to please him, that with His help you have been
looking for ways to do even better, and that you have been asking Him to assist you. The
subject of prayer will be ready at hand, and it will prove an interesting one because it will
be part of your life. There will be distractions, to be sure. The conversation will still be
meager. To renew relations demands a certain amount of time, but whatever remedial
procedures you adopt will unquestionably be a step in the right direction, an initial
progress. And that is what is important for the moment — the first step.

This will be a beginning, although a humble one. You will soon note that it is not
so easy as you thought, that you are not making progress to your liking, that you forget;
and ... you will be tempted to give up. Be careful! That is the danger spot. It is relatively
easy to begin. The secret is perseverance. You must not only put your shoulder to the
wheel but keep it there. Otherwise your enthusiasm will flag and eventually you will find
yourself once again at a standstill. You perhaps have already had experience with similar
attempts at conversion and have found that each time they misfired.
How can the momentum be sustained? By reflection. Thoughts feed the will. And
this brings us back to what I called the first point in the order of logic: faith, but faith
viewed under its practical aspect, as a component of your daily life, so in need of reform.
Bernard Shaw opened one of His lectures with these words: "You have invited me
to speak to you because you think I am more intelligent than you. Of course, I am not.
The difference between us is that you think on an average of twice a year, whereas I do
some serious thinking at least once a week."
We must admit that the "thinking animal" really does very little serious thinking. I
have in mind thinking that goes beyond the immediate in search of wisdom. "With
desolation is all the land made desolate," says the Holy Ghost, "because there is none that
considers in the heart" (Jer. 12,11). A misfortune, indeed, because we must think to live,
and a man is worth what His thoughts are worth.

Every undertaking requires reflection. Before launching a business, a man gives it
serious thought. And if, in the course of a complex business matter, He runs the risk of
losing sight of basic principles, He is careful to recall them to mind whenever necessary.
The business we are discussing is the most important there is. It is likewise the
most complex, for it involves your life. So, too, is it the most difficult one because
everything tends to distract you from it. In fact, everything turns your attention away
from the basic facts of the problem. What you will have to do is remind yourself of them
so often that, despite everything else, they will be constantly before your mind's eye.
Now, tell me, how many times a day — no, that would be asking too much —
how many times a month do you give serious thought to supernatural things? How many
times do you seriously, intensely, and profoundly reflect on such important thoughts as
the following: "God is here; He is looking at me." "I was created for God, for eternal life.
Heaven is everything; earth, nothing. Creatures are nothing. What will they be and what
will I be in a few years? The sole purpose of my life is to love God and reach heaven.
That is the one thing necessary. God is infinitely good, beautiful, and desirable. He alone
is worthy of my love and of my best efforts."
The important thing is that these thoughts become habitual, and familiar, that you
live them, that they always form the background of your other thoughts and actions, that
they be the driving force stimulating your way of acting. As long as the "one thing
necessary" is not truly and practically the business of your life, the one thing that
preoccupies you, that pursues you from morning until night, you will be unable to live by
faith, practice renunciation, love God, and pray as you should.
A serious and indispensable effort remains to be made in this direction.
Do I hear you say: "You are asking me to meditate, are you not? That is precisely
what I do not know how to do. To pray, well and good; but meditate —!"
Don't panic. If you do not know how to meditate, you can learn. Anyhow,
everyone knows how to meditate. Like everyone else, you have a brain to think about
God and a heart to love him. That is all you need for mental prayer.
Besides, all I am asking you for the present is to make a rudimentary meditation
and one that aims at the most urgent need. Later on, we shall treat of this exercise ex
professo. Now, we are only on the threshold of meditation. Rather than call it meditation,
let us call it reflection: thinking on some spiritual subject in a simple, free, and natural
way, without forcing your mind or tying yourself down to a plan; thinking it over as you
would any other subject. You do that kind of meditating every day regarding temporal
To be specific, this is what I am asking of you: choose some point of faith, which
you think will be of help to you, one of those, for example, I have already suggested.
Select one that fits you, one that strikes you as the most apropos. Recall it to mind when
you say your morning prayers. I presume that you say them. If not, that is the first reform
to undertake. However brief they are, you should begin the day with God, if you do not
want it to be spent far from God. Having chosen your point, reflect on it as best you can,
and not necessarily for a long time. You might even repeat a formula such as the fol-
lowing several times: "I have been given this day to merit heaven." See to it, however,
that you conclude with a practical thought, that you inject into the concrete details of the
day before you. Say to yourself: "In a little while I shall have to do this or that. I shall try
and make this occupation meritorious by thinking of God and by offering it to him. I shall

be tempted to do such and such a thing, but it would be far better not to do it. If I do, I
would be losing merit instead of acquiring it. So, I shall not do it. I shall be careful not to
say anything uncharitable about so and so. Then too, as I pass by the church, I could step
inside a minute. My visit would please God." Two or three points would suffice. You
must not overburden yourself. Your reflection might last two to five minutes. In that way
you would start the day fortified with resolutions deeply impregnated with faith. See to it
that the day is more meritorious than the preceding one. That is what is meant by carrying
your faith over into your life, and thereby sustaining and quickening it.
Come night, recall your thought again, but this time you should examine whether
in the course of the day you have gained or lost merit, whether you have put your good
morning resolutions to work or not. M ake this examination of conscience in a general
way, without looking too searchingly into the corners of your soul. As a conclusion, you
should form some new resolutions. The best ones are based on experience, and especially
those that result from an awareness of your failings. Your prayer will be to ask God to
help you do better.
Between the time of your morning prayers and your evening examination, you
must, as the day progresses, recall your good thought to mind every now and then and
make it stand out from among the mass of temporal things. An especially good time to be
conscious of it would be when you are about to carry out your morning resolution, during
moments of relaxation when you are more at leisure to enter within yourself and finally at
certain turning points of the day — upon beginning a different type of work, or when you
return home.
Try this, and ... shortly you may say: "My efforts have been useless. I forget; I am
distracted. What can you expect? I have my work to do, and there are so many things to
distract one." Since you are not a saint, all you say is no surprise. It is quite natural. So,
here are three ways to help you not to forget.
During your morning reflection give deep and serious thought to those few
occasions when you will have to recall your motivating idea, and make your thinking
very concrete by representing the event to yourself as actually present. When the
occasion does arise, chances are that you will recall your motivating thought.
Then, ask yourself what you do when you are afraid of forgetting something. You
might tie a knot in the corner of your handkerchief. Why not do the same thing for God?
M att Talbot, the longshoreman, crossed two common pins in the form of a cross on His
sleeve as a reminder. Would it be so terribly difficult for you to use some such discreet
sign which would catch your attention at the desired moment, something that would serve
as a warning? Perhaps it would bring you back on the highway of the spiritual life much
more frequently than you had resolved. If you truly wish to find and love God, you will
find the need of using some such small means, and you will set about at once looking, for
Finally, an excellent and practical procedure is to choose a formula or, to use the
modern term, a slogan, which you will regard as a rule of life to be applied as often as
possible to everything that comes your way and to everything you do. You might write it
down in your engagement-book, or some place where your eye will frequently light on it.
As a slogan, you might choose one of the following: "To please God." "Of what value is
this for eternity?" "How can I gain some merit here?" "For you, God; help me" and so
forth. Repeat it frequently, at every given opportunity. There is nothing better to sustain

your ever-wandering attention. And every time you recall your formula to mind you will
be praying. You will be praying without knowing it.

Besides giving yourself over to some serious thinking, you must do some spiritual
reading. Spiritual reading is always necessary. It is particularly indispensable for
beginners, especially if they are lay people. From lack of frequent contact with the
supernatural world, your mind is very poorly furnished with spiritual thoughts. You have
precious few ideas with which to bolster your meditation. Let the ideas of others make up
for your poverty. Reading stimulates the mind, feeds it, gives it new ideas. How often it
happens that one sentence opens up a complete, unexplored field to the mind.
If such reading bores you, that is definite proof of how necessary it is for you.
You have grown too accustomed to reading Readers' Digests, mystery stories, or that
book that everyone is talking about. Your mind has out grown the habit of doing some
serious reading, especially the reading of religious books, the kind that help you to live. If
you prefer, begin by reading the lives of the saints as an easy and alluring way to
introduce yourself to spiritual reading. Eventually you must, however, take up books
which treat expressly of the spiritual life.
If you find that spiritual reading does not take hold of you, that it does not attract
you, that you are aware of no appreciable result, rest assured that that is normal in the
beginning. It is also true that reading does not produce the same effect every day. You
must give it time to take hold of you. So, continue despite your boredom and lack of
success. One day you will be paid for your trouble. Of course, one sure way for spiritual
reading not to become appealing is not to do any.
If you think that you do not have the time, you must make time. You find it for
ever so many less important things. If you are really quite busy, set aside at least five
minutes, but use them for spiritual reading. There is a world of difference between a
daily, spiritual reading of five minutes and no reading at all. This daily contact, however
brief, with the things of God keeps the lamp lit and wards off the attacks of naturalism. A
man can live a long time on insufficient food; but deprive yourself of all food, as I have
said, and you order your own hearse.
You need this spiritual nourishment to improve your cast of mind and thereby
your life. Repeated reading has a surprising hidden action. It is the drop of water which in
the course of time wears away the rock.


In the preceding chapter we said that lack of faith brought about an attachment to
temporal things and an estrangement from God. Here, we are trying to reascend that
slope. Having restored and fortified your faith, you must now make it bear fruit. You
must equate your will with your faith; you must be logical with yourself.
You have now regained contact with the supernatural. The great basic truths
which define the meaning of your life now begin to become somewhat familiar to you, or
at least they occasionally brush across your consciousness: "Heaven is everything." "The

only important thing is to love God." What is the logical conclusion? That the world is
nothing and nothing outside of God deserves your love. Or better still, that the world has
value only in so far as it is a means to heaven; that God must be loved in and through
every creature; that no one or no thing, come what may, must be an obstacle between you
and God. The practical problem to be solved is to detach yourself from the world and
attach yourself to God. These two correlative movements must be imprinted on your life.
That you must detach yourself from the world goes without saying. It is
impossible to take even one step forward as long as you are chained. The bonds must be
broken. You must free your heart after having sobered your mind.
After reflection comes renunciation — and the one by means of the other.
It is equally necessary for prayer. I said that you have charity in your will, but no
love in your heart. Your heart goes out to what attracts it, and everything holds a far
greater attraction for it than God: hence your distractions. They are so many bonds all the
more annoying not only because they hold you back but draw you in the direction
diametrically opposed to all supernatural enthusiasm.
They must be broken. "This is a hard saying" (Jn. 6,62), yet a necessary one.
M ount Tabor is not reached except by climbing. We must "bury ourselves with Christ to
rise with Him to a newness of life." The life of the just man is both a death and a
resurrection; but the death comes first.
You do not want to die? Then, you will not rise. You will still have your sickness,
like the man who refused to undergo a necessary operation. Could it be that you truly
prefer to drag out your empty and ordinary life, to be a slave to everything that happens,
tortured by distractions, lukewarm, unable to find God, your soul, your life?
After all, this medicine, like many another, is bitter; but it is a life-giving tonic.
The death we speak of, rest assured, is only an apparent one. It is the destruction of what
is ugly, vile, and bad in you. It is not a death, but a transformation.
For the rest, there is no question of subjecting you to a sudden and violent death.
The saints did so by renouncing everything in one magnanimous gesture. But heroism is
not within the reach of all, and generally it is better to proceed with moderation. I cannot
but repeat that we are only on the thresh-hold of the spiritual life. What is being asked of
you for the present is really not very difficult. M oreover, you will see that it will give you
It is, first of all, important to distinguish between detachment and renunciation.
Renunciation involves depriving yourself of something, actually rejecting it. In
detachment you still retain it, but you cease to be its slave. Here, we are more concerned
with detachment.
You may find it necessary to renounce certain ways of acting that are sinful or
that are proximate occasions of sin, because voluntary sin is the mortal enemy of mental
prayer. Or it might be certain things from which it is impossible to detach yourself
without actually renouncing them. Such is the case when passion is involved. I once
knew a man who had a passion for stamps, an innocent mania in itself, but it led Him to
neglect the duties of His state of life. The only way He could free himself of it was to sell
His collection.
In many other domains, however, a partial renunciation will suffice. For example,
you may have a passion for sports. In itself there is nothing wrong about sports, but with
you they are a dominating love; they distract you and occupy your thoughts in season and

out of season. You need to discipline this passion, to subject it to a little asceticism in
order to break its hold on you. And to do that you must resolve to sacrifice some of your
sport activities. Only by actions do we improve the mind.
Renunciation is not in itself the objective. It is a means of combatting a disorderly
interior disposition, of loosening the shackles gripping the heart. And you should know
quite well what, for you, proves an obstacle to divine love.
Would you like to put a finger on the wound? Then ask yourself what it is that
hinders you from praying. Analyze your distractions, and try to discover their source.
Before long you might become aware that you are a little too concerned with your
external appearance. Your prayer might turn around such matters as your hair-do, your
suits or some other detail of your appearance. Or the cause of your distractions may well
be curiosity: you are far too interested in political disputes or in the World Series, neither
of which is your direct concern. Or it might quite simply be an itching to know
everything: the news of the day down to the last piece of gossip, what your neighbor is
doing, and what is going on in town. And, one evil leading to another, your wound might
be caused by your passion for gossip; too much time wasted in idle talk, too much
visiting, too many useless social calls, or an over-indulgence in diversions: movies,
novels, excursions, golf, races, parties, or social events.
All of these things gnaw away at your interior life and impede your supernatural
development. The Word cannot take root. Our divine Savior once said that some "seeds
fell by the wayside, and the birds came and ate them up" (Mt. 13,4). The least you must
do is chase the birds away. Sacrifice what ever is necessary in order to make some
recollection possible.
Perhaps you will say: "You have not quite hit the nail on the head. I am a serious
person and I lead a rather austere life, but my work, my business, consume all my time. I
have to earn my livelihood; my family depends on me; and I must meet important social
Very well. There is nothing wrong in that. In fact, it is all very legitimate. But
pause for just a moment and ask yourself whether you are not fostering some exaggerated
ambitions, whether you are not over-preoccupied with personal success and hungry for
esteem, whether your liking for work is not really a passion monopolizing for its own
profit all your interest, your attention, and your efforts to the detriment of your
supernatural life. Such a fondness for work is for many people the essential obstacle to
prayer. Ask yourself likewise if you are not overly concerned about the future, if some
false goal, which modern technology has so profusely created, has not slipped into your
life. False goals generate false anxieties with the result that the seed falls among thorns
where it is choked. Such are the usual motives for work: motives that are very earthly,
motives that dull the supernatural sense in you.
If you make this examination of conscience in a spirit of real faith (and do not
forget your directive formula) , if you truly believe in the primacy of the supernatural, I
wager that you will eventually dispense with some of these "necessary" things. You will
curtail your needs, moderate your fever for work, and make more room for confidence in
divine Providence. You will learn the art of occupying yourself without being
preoccupied, and you will regain freedom of mind and serenity of heart.
As for the rest, you must neutralize the harmful effect of whatever you cannot
reasonably suppress by teaching yourself to consider them in a supernatural light, as

Christian duties, as a service to God and no longer simply as earthly things and egotistical
undertakings. You must look beyond your personal interests and see in them the
accomplishment of the will of God. Introduce God into them by those frequent returns of
which I have already spoken and which purify your work by maintaining a good
intention. Frequently repeat your morning offering and say as often as possible: "For you,
my God." In that way your occupations, however earthly in themselves and however
absorbing, will be supernaturalized, sanctified, and transposed to a divine plane.
Gradually they will lose their tyrannical power and in the end they will turn out to be a
help to you. Work will become prayer.
I should add a few words on penance, since it is a form of renunciation, but for
the present I shall restrict myself to this wise bit of counsel.
To pray well, as well as to think well, requires good health. Sickness
unquestionably has its blessings — and its blessings of prayer, too — but we have no
right to handicap ourselves deliberately and run counter to the order established by God.
The body is the instrument of the soul. We think and love with our mind, and its
condition depends on that of our entire organism. M any difficulties in prayer are nothing
more than questions of health. So do your best to keep physically fit.
Now, the best way to do that is to practice penance. There are exceptions, of
course. I have in mind a reasonable, even a rational, kind of penance, one that is
essentially a discipline. The dinner table, it has been said more than once, kills more men
than fasting does. Every abuse, every lack of control, takes its toll: sensuality, excessive
eating and drinking, late hours, night work, exhausting sports, uncontrolled intellectual
passions, all these result in a deterioration of the body and in turn reflect on your spiritual
Let moderation and discipline be your rule of asceticism. The candidate for a
sports prize does penance for a period of time before the contest begins in order to be in
the best of condition when the time comes. Shall you who are in the run for the spiritual
prize, which St. Paul speaks of, do less?

Detachment consists in dominating things instead of them dominating you.
It likewise includes domination of one's self, for of all things from which we must
detach ourselves comes our own self first. In truth, all other renunciations center around
this one, which alone is essential. Christ said: "Let Him deny himself" (M k. 8,34).
You will not have to search long before being convinced that self-love is the
fundamental obstacle in your attempts at prayer. Over and above the fact that the
tendency to refer everything to yourself generates an attachment for everything else, self-
worship is a source of endless troubles: wounded self-love torments you for days on end,
every contradiction is a black cloud in your ever-changing sky; excessive attention to
your person, your reputation, your interests, your likes, bestirs all other passions: anger,
resentment, ambition, anxiety, sadness, undue tension in your work from which you no
longer know how to detach yourself, and also those disordinate dreams of which you are
the hero and the center. All of this surges back at the time of prayer and floods your

Self-love, then, is the fundamental passion that must, above all, be calmed,
neutralized, and cooled. The combat is far more arduous and complicated than all the
rest, for self-love is deeply rooted in our being. We shall return to this later. For the time
being, besides the preceding practices which all contribute to this victory, I shall ask only
two things of you:
First, try to suppress the external manifestations of self-love: vanity,
susceptibility, egotism, etc. Secondly, when you are thwarted, accept it inwardly and
offer the unpleasantness to God. Recall to mind your directive thought: "What does this
have to do with heaven? Just this, that through it I can gain merit. Therefore, so much the
better." If you feel that the "so much the better" is a little too strong, then at least say:
"Yes, God; your will be done." All I ask you to do is to say it. You need not necessarily
feel it.
If you reach this point, you will have made great strides toward that interior peace
where love of God and prayer flourish.

Attachment to God is the objective of all that has preceded. Christian renunciation
is not something to be sought for itself. It has a definite goal, an eminently constructive
one, namely to unchain love.
We detach ourselves of things only to attach ourselves to God.
Self-renunciation means moving out of the slums into the house of our Father.
This second step is accomplished by prayer, piety, and an intimate life in the
sweet society of the Lord. It will form the subject of the remainder of this book. But, for
the time being, here are three points which you can and must observe: If you have given
up your exercises of piety, the first thing you must do is begin them again. If there has
been an overabundance of them, then cut down on them. If they were insufficient, then
add some: for example holy mass, communion, a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, the
rosary, and some other vocal prayer. But once the program has been fixed, observe it.
Attraction or no, success or no, you must remain faithful to it. Perhaps prayer will be but
an exercise of asceticism. Very well; asceticism is the way to win divine consolations. If,
for want of doing better, these practices reduce themselves to a purely material devotion,
they will assure you of contact with God; they will be proof of your good will, and they
will keep open the door through which divine grace can enter.
Secondly, pray for grace. No one can pray without help from God. What a
consolation to know that we are not alone in the struggle, that there is something better
than our notoriously insufficient resources and that the more we are aware of our
weakness the more we can count on this divine help. But we must ask for it. Frequently
repeat such invocations as the following: "Lord, teach me how to pray. My God, I would
like to pray but I am not making much headway. Help me." Have no fear that some day
your prayer will be heard. For the rest, such a prayer will be the easiest and the most
natural one for you because it will bespeak the real state of your soul and your deep
Lastly, try to live in the presence of God. This will form the subject of a later

The present chapter is already rather long and you may well be saying: "What a
lot of exercises for a beginning — and quite complicated, too."
Actually it is not. I could have said all these things in a very few words. But it
would have remained abstract. At the risk of being verbose, I preferred for your
convenience to follow out the basic principles in the ramifications of your concrete life,
and that is what is complex. What I have proposed to you is in itself quite simple because
it is natural. Any sensible man would do the same thing in any undertaking.
M ay I draw your attention once more to a remark I made in the opening pages of
this book and which you should keep in mind when reading the chapters that follow: All
these practices are no more than suggestions. It is up to you to make a judicious choice. A
store displays articles for all tastes and all needs. Yet each buyer selects what He needs. It
would be unreasonable, not to say impossible, to want to do everything at one time.
Discouragement would soon set in. In the beginning take only a part of the program
suggested, or take only one of the little exercises offered. You must admit that any child
could perform them. And begin wherever you please. In practice, the order has scarcely
any importance because it is all one, and one point naturally leads to another.
The one and only important thing is to do something. "Sufficient for the day is its
own trouble" (M t. 6, 34).

Chapter IV
What Is Prayer?
and reorganize my whole life before I begin to pray? God forbid. So true is this that I
would straightway like to teach you a very simple way to pray and one that is worth
many a mental prayer.
But before coming to that point, a closer examination as to just what mental
prayer is would be profitable. Over and above the difficulties relative to the conditions
for prayer already mentioned, there are others which more deeply concern the very nature
and mechanism of prayer.
There are many false ideas on this subject and many incorrect habits.

Some people — they are the least advanced in the spiritual life — know of no
other form of prayer but the prayer of petition, which in most cases they restrict to
temporal favors. For the rest, they content themselves with vocal prayers and formulas
taken from prayerbooks, or with prayers they have memorized.
Both these forms of prayer are good and commendable. From certain unlettered
souls not much more could be expected and it is better not to disturb them. All things
considered, they are doing very well. But many other souls could do much better.
For if, to speak first of all of the prayer of petition, our heavenly Father loves to
have us beg Him for favors (and the Our Father is definite proof of this) , there are, all the

same, other ways of approaching Him besides dogging Him for temporal favors. With
these we must become acquainted.
There is one sure way of having our prayer heard. If a person habitually ignored
you, except when He wanted a favor of you, you would not be inclined to help Him any
more than is necessary. Unless He is a beggar, you would consider Him extremely
selfish. But for the other person who visits you frequently out of pure friendship, come
the day He has a favor to ask of you, you are only too happy to accomodate him. And if
He should be ever on the alert to please you and be of service to you, you will expend
every effort to fulfill His requests.
And so it is in our relationship with God. Do you want Him to be disposed to hear
your prayers? Then, maintain friendly relations with him; apply yourself to serve Him
and to please him, in such a way that He will consider himself somewhat obligated to
you. The saints obtained all they wanted from him, even miracles, because He received
from them all He desired.
Our prayers are always heard, in the sense that God always answers them by
giving some grace, which will be at least partially measured by our merit. It may not
always be the favor we ask, for our heavenly Father knows better than we what is best for
us. Once we have expressed our needs, leave the decision of what is best for us up to him.
If it seems that He has not heard us, we have no reason to be discouraged because we
know that no prayer is lost. But above all, if we would merit His favor, let us try to make
ourselves pleasing in His eyes.
For the rest, we can ask Him for anything, even temporal favors. There can be no
doubt, however, that our prayer will be that much more beautiful and more in accord with
His wishes if we ask Him for spiritual blessings. Some souls never ask for anything else.
They never ask God for a particular favor, except, of course, for the grace to love Him
better and to surrender themselves like children to His wisdom and love. Such an attitude
is very Christian and proof of great confidence and detachment.
As for prayer formulas, there are some excellent ones. Some, indeed, are
hallowed, such as the Our Father and the liturgical prayers, and they are of priceless help.
But over and above these, our devotion must have something more spontaneous and more
personal about it. The former are meant as a stimulant for the latter. The most beautiful
and holiest of formulas will take on their full value only if the person using them makes
them His own and lives them. God wants to be adored in spirit and in truth. Now, the
thoughts of others ordinarily strike us less forcefully than our own thoughts. Then too,
many prayers books are written in an obsolete style. Add to this that constant repetition
makes these formulas wear thin and eventually become almost meaningless, another
source of distraction. How many prayers are mumbled in this way with the mind a
thousand miles away! The term currently used adequately describes this widespread fault:
these formulas are recited instead of prayed. And finally, many good souls cram their life
with so many devotional practices that these become a burden, a hindrance to
concentration, and to love for prayer. Such souls are the galley slaves of devotion.
Other souls complicate prayer. Someone has taught them a good method; for
example, "Go to the Father through the Son under the influence of the Holy Ghost." In
itself this is a perfectly good formula, but they become its slave and in the end it hampers
their spiritual advancement. They can no longer bid God the time of day without going
through the whole mill. There are others whose method of prayer calls for six or fourteen

points and, under no circumstances, regardless of their current needs, the state of their
soul, or the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, would they ever think of omitting one. If God
appeared to them in person, they would still say: "Excuse me, I still have four points to
go." They confuse the means with the end. They remind me of the man who refused to
get off the train although He had reached His destination. Such people might be dubbed
maniacs of prayer.
Another fault encountered is the abuse of reflection. There are some who spend
the greater part of the time of meditation in analyzing the subject proposed by the
meditation book from various aspects. All they do is turn over ideas. As the end of the
period approaches, they quickly make resolutions and formulate affections because that is
the correct thing to do. As a consequence, these will be reduced to a minimum. Their
affection will be addressed to a far-off, impersonal God. Perhaps they have not even
thought of putting themselves in His presence. They have spent the time in a deep-freeze.
They confuse mental prayer, which is really prayer, with meditation, which is reflection.
So intent are they on the latter that they are coiled up in an egotistical knot. Their exercise
does not tend to unite them with God. Everything was there, except the one thing
necessary: love.
Sometimes the situation is even worse. The time set aside for mental prayer is
spent reading a book explaining some point of Catholic teaching, and that is all. This case
is more serious, for prayer is completely absent. Here the confusion is between mental
prayer and study. Study is necessary, but each thing must be in its proper place.
There are, likewise, some souls who know nothing but sentimentality. Nothing
would please them more than to experience sweet, soul-stirring ,affections. In that case
they more often seek themselves than God. For the rest, they leave their soul fallow and
forget to improve their life. Although this sentimental enjoyment is impossible in times of
aridity, these souls, nevertheless, expend great effort to extract at least a sigh or a tear
from their aridity. They rarely succeed — and less and less as time goes on, because
thoughts must feed sentiment. And so, they grow discouraged and become dis gusted with
Finally, there is a group who make prayer something artificial, something
divorced from life, one of many exercises completely unrelated to their other tasks. Each
day they take the subject assigned in the meditation book, however foreign it may be to
their personal duties and their present spiritual state. They meditate on it, for what it is
worth, point by point. Then, when the time allotted for prayer has elapsed, they no longer
think of it. I once saw a good brother gardener make His meditation of the "Duties of a
Teacher." That is what the book said. And so He conscientiously plunged himself into the
prayer of "quietude," seasoned now and then with snores! Needless to say, such an
exercise, save for the merit of good will, adds up to about zero. It is not, therefore,
surprising that after having subjected oneself in this way to the most disheartening
conditions, people come and say: "I am distracted during prayer; I do not know how to

What, then, is prayer?
It is surely not limited to the prayer of petition, to getting on one's knees and
reciting the rosary or the breviary, to meditating on heaven, hell, the virtues or the
Passion of our Lord. It is all that plus something more. It is something at once more
complex and more simple, something more profound, which soars above these types of
prayer and communicates its essence to them. To pray is to be conscious of being with
God. It is speaking to him, contemplating him, being attentive to His desires. To pray is
to leap out of oneself in order to join God and embrace Him in mind, heart, and will. To
pray is to love. Prayer is the act proper to love.
It might be expressed very concisely in two words by saying that to pray is to
unite oneself with God.3
Please note that I said it is to unite oneself with God, and not to be united with
God. By sanctifying grace we are indwelt by God: it is a state. Whereas on God's part this
union is always active, it is not active on our part during the moments when we are not
thinking of him. We activate it by prayer. God has already stooped down to us, and we
raise ourselves up to Him in a spontaneous thrust. Prayer is an act which can and must be
It is a spiritual act — the movement of the soul toward God. A distinction is made
between vocal prayer and mental prayer. Wise most natural thing is to express our
feelings in words. But this external act takes its entire value from the interior disposition
that prompts it. When we give expression to our inner dispositions through words,
posture or actions, these are but the indication or the underpinnings of that spiritual ac-
tivity which is the essence of prayer. The man who loves God without moving His lips
certainly prays. He who speaks to Him without love or attention adores Him with His
lips, but His heart is far from the Lord. He goes through the gestures of prayer, but He
does not pray, except for the intention that inspired the act.
Prayer is simple, although it assumes many forms. According to the object of
prayer, four kinds of prayer are usually enumerated: adoration, expiation, petition and
thanksgiving. They are the principal ones, but there are many, many more: as many as
there are things we can speak to God about. But underlying all these forms, the
substratum of prayer remains the same. Whether the soul asks God for some grace, or
thanks him, whether it offers Him some act or sacrifice, whether it sings His praises in
church or loses itself in contemplation, being content to adore him, these are but modes
of one and the same act: the soul ascends toward God in order to unite itself with him.
The beloved pays a visit to His divine Friend. The soul in love will have much or
little to say to him. (The more it loves Him the less, it seems, it will have to say to him.)
It will ask Him a favor or will offer Him a present; it will sing in His presence or simply
smile at him. They all take their value from the heart that prompted them. Prayer is that
visit to God.

The classic definition of St. John Damascene is now widely used. "Prayer is the elevation of the mind to
God." The definition is certainly an excellent one provided we understand that the elevation of the mind
terminates in union with God. Union with God gives the elevation meaning and constitutes the essential
element of mental prayer. That is why I preferred the word "union" to that of "elevation, prayer provided
we take the word "union" in a rather broad sense.

Prayer is the easiest thing in the world and our attitude toward it should be a
natural one: a simple conversation with Him who always loves us and listens to us. Two
friends engaged in a conversation do not encumber themselves with formulas. They
follow no preconceived plan — unless one of them, in the course of His reading has
found a passage that better expresses His ideas and sentiments than He could have
worded them. Beyond that, they chat at ease and follow the chain of their ideas.
There is, of course, public prayer. It is a duty to take part in liturgical prayer. Here
we must use the accepted prayers and observe the prescribed rites. This prayer, moreover,
takes on the character of a cult. It is the official and corporate method of approach to a
But God is not only King, He is our Father, and it is His expressed wish that we
call Him our friend. In private prayer, which is what we are concerned with at the
present, we should bear our Savior's invitation in mind and learn to dispense with
protocol without, however, any loss of respect. Private prayer is essentially a personal
affair. Each man goes to God as an individual. It remains for each one, then, to express
His own feelings. Do it in all simplicity.
Frequently, it will not be as easy to speak to God as it is to a human friend. We
are so earthly. When we find we have nothing to say to him, we may then find it useful to
follow a plan or use a book and seek inspiration. We will be trying to spark some thought
or sentiment which for the time being escapes us. But these are simply aids to our
temporary inability. In general and abstracting from public prayer, the most spontaneous
prayer is the best prayer.
Instead of going directly to God, everyone is free to approach Him through the
intermediary of some saint, if by so doing He experiences more devotion or more
confidence. Since the saints are God's friends, their prayer is more powerful than ours,
especially if we choose our Blessed M other as our mediatrix. But the saints will ever
remain intermediaries. All prayer finally ends with God.
Finally, prayer is an act of the soul. To pray is to occupy oneself with God, not
only by using the mind, like the theologian who studies about God and His divine
perfections, but using all our faculties, the mind, the will, and the heart, in wise that a
union of the soul and God be brought about. In the last analysis, that is what prayer is:
union with God. Its principal element lies in the affections, which are a unitive force. But
the affections must be nourished by thought and supported by the action of the will.
A distinction must be made between meditation and mental prayer. The first is a
reflection of the mind. We talk to ourselves, and that in itself is not prayer. The second is
a conversation. The soul goes to God and speaks to him. This is prayer.
Both are necessary, more or less depending on the times and e needs. It will often
be useful to combine both in one and the same exercise. M editation, to be completely
effective, must end in mental prayer or better, be at one and the same time mental prayer:
we must think in God's presence, tell Him our thoughts, and ask Him for light. Only then
can it be said to be a prayer.

Prayer is union with God through love. But what love are we concerned with?
Since in the practical order the will is man's superior faculty, the one held
accountable for the good as well as the bad He does, the will then is the seat of love. And
so, love has been defined as the conformity of our will with the will of God. This
rectitude of the will induces man to do what God wants, and will translate itself into good
works, zeal, and the practice of the virtues. St. Zita, patroness of housemaids, took this
motto as a rule of life: "To do what pleases God."
The first aspect of love is called "effective" love. Today, we would call it the love
of the will. It directs our active life and embraces not only our external activity, but all
our spiritual life, every voluntary effort internal as well as external, done to please God.
Perfection is attained when this dove-tailing of our will with God has become our one
constant concern, when it motivates all our activity: an ideal, it seems, difficult of
But love is still far from satisfied. Contemplating the adorable face of the Lord,
the soul is moved by His beauty and fathomless love and, touched by the deep-rooted
desire to return to God, it cries out: "No longer only your will, my God, but yourself!"
Goaded by this need for God, it will strive to know Him better, to give itself to him, and
to possess him.
That is the second aspect of love: "affective" love, or love of the heart, the seed of
the contemplative life.
Love of the heart is less essential than the love of the will. Love of the will is
sufficient to maintain that charity in us which preserves us in the state of grace: "He who
has my commandments and keeps them, He it is who loves me" (Jn. 14,21). But love of
the heart perfects the love of the will. Whereas effective love is limited to the will,
affective love embraces all our faculties.
When we recollect ourselves and contemplate God, the mind is more profoundly
absorbed than when it is simply concerned with serving Him. All our occupations should
be shot through with the thought of God. It must become a sort of idee fixe (in the good
meaning of the expression) and eventually become a motivating idea.
But we know from our own psychological experience that an idea persists in the
mind only if the heart has been touched. For then, the heart will also be a part and parcel
of affective love, even a principal part of it, as the word indicates. Then love will have its
full meaning: it will correspond to the idea which the word "love" spontaneously evokes
and which is also its present-day meaning, the one St. Francis de Sales chose when He
defined love as "the movement, the outpouring, and the yearning of the heart toward
good, the object of its pleasure."
When this disposition of the heart becomes a passion that invades, urges, and
carries the soul along in a blessed violence, then will our love have been brought to
perfection. Only such passionate love can succeed in filling the void in us. When we have
given everything to God, only then are we truly living.
The importance of this affective element in the spiritual life is immediately
evident. Because it is unstable, at least in the ways by which it makes itself felt and
because these emotional manifestations are not necessary to establish charity in us,

affective love is secondary. But, in general, it will be necessary to strive for the perfection
of love and, especially, to perfection in prayer.
The more this affective love overflows into the will and induces it to do
everything with zeal and courage in order to please God, the more it will be the best
helpmate of effective love. Better still, love of the heart, if genuine, will itself necessarily
be love of the will.
That is what is meant by loving God with our whole soul and all our faculties.
The result is the contemplative life.
Please note in passing, the word "contemplation" may lead to confusion: for,
though the faculties are engaged in it, the heart plays the principal role, and not reflection.
We think of God in order to awaken our love; and the resolutions of the will are the fruit
of this love. St. Bonaventure defined contemplation as "an affection based on
meditation." It is essentially love.
And love need not necessarily be felt. Sentiment, we shall see, is only one facet of
the will. A gain I repeat, the seat of love is the will, and love is the state of a will that has
been conquered.

Prayer is always an act of love of God. Even in the most humble prayer of petition
there is an element of love, for the request gives evidence of great filial confidence in our
heavenly Father and touches His heart. But that is but an inferior degree of love. It can
and must grow constantly if prayer is to be perfect, for our prayer will be proportionate to
our love.
This "ladder of Paradise," as Guigues the Carthusian calls it, has an infinity of
degrees. Between the love of the good woman who recites an Our Father before a statue
of St. Anthony so that He may send her a tenant and the love which St. Francis of Assisi
had while sharing on La Verna the Pas sion of Christ, there is an abyss.
It is readily seen that to climb from one degree to another between these two
extremes, many an effort at purification and interior concentration is necessary. Let us
admit outright that such an ascent exceeds our efforts. But God is there. If He assists a
Christian in the performance of the smallest good work, He most certainly assists in the
work par excellence, the opus dei, the one thing above all others expected of us.
His grace is ever active in us. The gifts of the Holy Ghost are in our soul as soon
as charity reigns there, awaiting but our good will to awaken the divine possibilities in us.
Prayer is an act, but not exclusively ours. It is the action of God as much as, and more so
than, our own. In proportion as the soul gives itself, this divine operation becomes
stronger, more invading. In the end, it dominates the part man plays. The soul becomes
docile under this divine ascendancy — a docility, however, eminently active. And the
spirit of love there kindles a furnace of love, which from then on burns deep within the
soul and devours every other interest.
"I have sought Him whom my heart loves." The man who has fallen in love with
sovereign Beauty goes in search of the Beloved. No matter what He does or what
happens to him, His thoughts, His sighs, and His desires constantly ascend heavenward.
He seeks God, and calls God His good, His hope, His love.

And God answers in His own ineffable way. The soul has soared up toward him,
and He who is love and but waited this gesture stoops to draw the soul to himself, to
embrace it and give it every good. And in this embrace He makes the soul forget the
world, gently detaches it from everything, and captivates it with His love. Then, filled to
overflowing, the soul cries out: "I have found Him whom my heart loves, and I shall
never let Him go."
This elan, this meeting and repose in God, are what make perfect prayer.
The soul has become a contemplative soul. Henceforth, prayer is a habit, a
permanent act, a life.


This is what God in His infinite love expects of us and holds out to us. Behold the
blessed transformation toward which we should strive with all our strength as the goal of
our earthly existence, a state already heavenly, and one which will be prolonged and
reach full bloom in the beatific vision: to reach the point where there are not only prayers
in our life, but where our life becomes a prayer.
The central truth of the doctrine of prayer is that prayer is our life, because to love
is our life, and prayer is the expression of love. We must pray always because we must
love always.
Lovers indeed understand this doctrine very well and ingeniously apply it to their
human love. Ask them what they are thinking of and the answer will be of their love. Ask
them why they do this or that: for their love; why they beautify themselves: again, for
their love. This thought, this passion is the very center of their being; it never leaves
them; it pursues them even in their dreams. Their love is their life.
It should be the same with the love of God. Has he, infinite Beauty, Good, and
Love, less rights than a poor creature to our fervor and the total gift of self? Should He
have less attraction for us than an imperfect creature whose every charm comes from
The truth is that for the man who loves God, all is love and everything becomes a
prayer: His work, His diversions as well as His sorrows are prayers. Whether He talks,
eats, or sleeps, all is quickened by a very real and habitual intention of love and is all
done to please God. All is prayer. His heart is a constantly burning censer scenting every
place He goes with a perfume and transforming it into a sanctuary. And what we in a
more special way call prayer is for Him but a more profound opportunity for recollection,
a long-desired moment when, free of all cares, He withdraws to the center of His love in
order to perfect an indissoluble union.
This seclusion of the soul at certain hours is necessary because of its weakness
and the many causes which constantly loosen the bond. With perfect souls it is a need:
they sigh for the time when, free of their secondary obligations, they can devote
themselves to the essential business to which they are attracted. Since their hearts tend
toward God, they have but to hand the reins to Him in order to live their life fully. With
the imperfect, it is a necessity: the spring has been released and needs rewinding. Their
hearts veer to the earthly. It must be taken in hand, like a spirited horse, by the bit and
bridle, and brought back on the right road.

Two excesses must be avoided. Under the pretext that prayer is a life, some would
minimize the role of the hour set aside for prayer. "If one lives habitually with God," they
say, "the goal has been attained. Why this hour of prayer? To do so is but a temptation to
assign one's prayer to this time and then forget it the remainder of the day, as so
frequently happens." The answer is that it is one thing to be ideal and another to be
practical, that in general we do not reach the state of living habitually with God if we do
not do so in a special way at certain times (if we do not rewind the spring). Secondly, we
must avoid the error of those who put everything in the time of prayer or in certain
formalistic practices. The latter imagine that everything is finished once they have at-
tended mass, recited their office or the rosary and made two half-hours of meditation.
Once that is over, they give no thought to prayer. For them it is one of their many daily
duties severed from their other occupations. They have lost sight of the central truth, the
very meaning of prayer, which is to be a life, and the purpose of the exercises of piety,
which is to impregnate our day with piety. Thus partitioned off, mental prayer is sterile.
This is one of the most habitual causes of failure.
The truth is that a life of prayer and the special exercise of mental prayer are both
necessary and that one must bolster the other. Spiritual exercises are needed to nourish
piety and, if we would persevere, they must be disciplined and assigned fixed times. On
the other hand, they cannot be isolated from life: they must be prepared by the life that
precedes them and be a preparation for the life that follows. We pray well during the time
of mental prayer only if we pray always. We will pray always only if we make our mental
prayer well.
For the rest, understand that to pray is to love, and strive to love God always and
perfectly. Experience will teach you without anyone having to tell you, that both are

Part 2
The Prayer of Conversation
Chapter V
How We Can Pray Always
it is a continuous act. All our efforts must tend toward this continuity of prayer; over and
above the exercises of piety, there is the life of piety; besides prayers, there is prayer, the
life of prayer. Prayer is a vital act: it must take root in life and bear fruit in life. It must be
a life itself.
That explains why, in order to treat of prayer, we have been led — and we shall
be led again — to talk of renunciation, faith, the virtues, good works, of the entire gamut
of the spiritual life. It is all one. Sanctity is perfect union with God. Now, to pray is to be
united with God. Prayer is the soul of all other good works and transforms them into
itself: which shows how the act of prayer is the most necessary act there is, and that it is
constantly necessary. We must always pray, just as we must always breathe.
M any Christians fulfill certain exercises of piety, but forget the life of prayer. Of
the two, the second is the most frequently neglected — sometimes completely ignored.
Yet it is the most deeply important; the life of prayer is the goal of life. The ultimate
purpose of prayers themselves is the life of prayer, the life of love. It alone fulfills the
wish of the M aster: we "must always pray and not lose heart" (Lk. 18, 1) do it three
times? Perhaps, alas, night comes without your having once re-established this
indispensable contact, and you despair. But why, since you want to, since you are trying?
I know what your answer is: "I never think of it; I never happen to think of it. My
work always distracts me, despite my good intentions." Well, since your memory is at
fault, improve your memory. That is what you must work on primarily in order to set this
little exercise in motion. Rectify the attention. That evidently is the first thing to do.
There is one difficuly, however. To think of God, it is necessary to think of
thinking of him, to be careful to pay attention. So we are in a vicious circle. There lies the
faulty mechanism, the answer to why the spring does not catch and why the machine runs
What can be done? Get out of the circle. We can escape from the vicious circle
through an expedient. Since you cannot at once reduce the cause of your distractions
(which is your erring heart), do something about the occasions of the dis tractions.
What are these occasions? What is it that takes your attention away from God? It
is what you see, hear, do, and what happens to you: it is the entire sensible world that
appeals to the natural tendency of your mind to be impressed by the things of earth.

These enemies must be made friends. Induce them to change their language.
M ake them speak of God — since that is their role — instead of talking nonsense.
Here is how you can do it. Fortunately, the circle is not unbroken. There are times
when you are attentive to supernatural things. Right now, for example, while you are
reading this. Take advantage of these wonderful moments in order to foresee the bad
ones. Be prepared for the attack. Think now, for example, what will occasion the first
distraction, and neutralize it in advance.
Suppose that the next thing you do after this reading is eat dinner. The table, the
food, the companionship of your family will be an almost infallible occasion of relapsing
into the natural world: the farewell to prayer. Well, couple a supernatural thought to these
things right now. Say to yourself: "God is there in the dining room (or in the refectory).
As I enter it and see the head of the house or my superior, or perhaps take my own place
at the head of the table, I shall think of the presence of my heavenly Father, and I will
greet Him first as the real M aster of the house." Think about this seriously; live that
moment in spirit; see it in all its detail, and make it very definite. When you cross the
threshold and stand before the table it will all spontaneously come back to you. Why?
What has taken place is what is known in psychology as an association of ideas, or the
association of a picture with an idea. They were so well tied together in the preceding
reflection that when the one presents itself the other immediately and almost infallibly
comes to mind.
What you did was to couple the idea of God in your mind with the sight of a
person (you could just have well taken an object). A solidarity was established between
them. The sight of the person made you think of God.
Some associations are automatic things, for example, objects whose very reason
for existence stimulate piety, such as the crucifix and holy pictures, practices inaugurated
for that very reason, such as prayers said in common, grace before meals, for instance —
provided we do not say them too poorly. Often, however, through repetition or habitual
dissipation, the solder becomes loose. We look at pious pictures; we recite prayers ... and
we pursue the flow of our thoughts. We must re-establish the association between the
words or signs and the idea they are intended to suggest, by saying to ourselves in
advance: "When I shall look at a crucifix, I will greet Christ; when I make the sign of the
cross for grace before or after meals, I will remind myself that I am talking to God." In
other words, we first live in thought what we want to live later on in action.
As a proof of your good will, suppose you do a little rehearsing right now. It will
be all the better. Go and look at a crucifix and say a short prayer. The next time you look
at it, the same prayer will come to your lips. "What a lot of drilling," you may say!
Perhaps, but that is what I call taking life seriously; and it is far more intelligent than
living like a scatter-brain on the fringe of "reality."
Other associations have to be manufactured. And, according to your needs, you
must create as many of them as possible. It is your attention that breaks loose and
wanders. Since you cannot follow such a flighty thing nor keep a sharp eye on it, you
must set some traps for it ahead of time, put some stones in its road for it to stumble over.
I recommended the same procedure as a means of reminding yourself of your
thought of faith. You now see that the two exercises can become one; and it will be an
excellent idea to unite the two. Then, you adopted as your slogan "To please God."
Change such an impersonal formula, and imagine now that God is looking at you. Talk to

Him and not to yourself. "My God, I adore you; I would like to make you happy. To
show you my good will, I will try to do this well. Help me." You immediately realize that
such a small exercise becomes more alive. It takes on the complexion of love and is a
flight towards God, a prayer.
With a little good will you will find a store of these little schemes, beginning,
perhaps, with a knot in your handkerchief, that will enable you to regain contact with
God a hundred times a day; and this contact will rehabilitate you in the life of prayer.
You say that you are habitually distracted in your work. Put a holy picture on your
table or in some conspicuous place and let it serve as a memory-aid, a signal, a notice.
What will happen? At a given moment your eyes will fall on the picture. Since you put it
there to remind you of the presence of God, the idea of that holy Presence will swoop
down upon your mind and you will cry out: "My Lord and my God!" Then, go on with
your work under the eye of God and try to keep yourself in that disposition for as long as
possible without straining your mind or distracting yourself from your work. The thought
may not remain with you very long, but a little later on another glance at the picture and a
new flight will unite you with God.
Everything will go well for two or three days. Then, little by little, you will notice
that you look at the picture and think of everything else under the sun. But do not be
discouraged. That is normal. These means quickly wear out, because they are artificial.
What should you do? Replace the ineffectual sign by another, just as a dull blade is
replaced by a new one. In place of the picture put a piece of paper, a book, any object, no
matter what, as long as it attracts attention. When that has served its purpose, replace it
by something else.
The sign need not necessarily be something pious. It will be adequate if it plays
the pious role of associating itself with God and of reminding you to return to God.
Whether it be a picture, a flower, or a pebble, it will be good provided it fulfills its
function. If, however, you work with others, it is almost always better to limit yourself to
discreet signs, ones that attract only your attention. Such things ought to be personal. If
you work in a factory, for example, you could use a small chalk mark on your machine or
on the ground, or a belt which gives the appearance of being there purely by chance. If
you work in a bank, it might very well be a displaced piece of paper, or your notebook set
in an unusual place, and so on.
In reality, all creation ought to play this role. That is why creatures were made.
All of them have been given us by God and should co-operate in making us praise and
love Him. The saints did just that. St. Francis immortalized this thought in His Canticle of
the Creatures. Although we are not saints, we should try to become saints.
We know that lovers exchange pictures, flowers, and presents.
God acts in the same way with us, because He loves us: He gives us presents. He
has given us not just a few flowers, but all the flowers of creation. He has surrounded us
with almost an infinity of good and beautiful things. Why? To make us think of him, to
think of Him again and again and always.... The beings created by Him are so many signs
which ought to remind us of him. Why cause Him sorrow and inflict injury on Him by
not profiting by them, by turning His gifts against Him and separating ourselves from
Him through the things He has given us? Let us be frank about it and admit our bad
manners. We pocket the gifts and forget to say thanks.

Cease being ungrateful to Him who loves you. Recapture one by one all of these
things He has given you, and may all of them, little by little, regain their reason for
existence which is to make you think of Him always in order that you may love Him
This awareness of the presence of God, this "exercise of the presence of God," to
use a consecrated expression, is most necessary for the life of prayer. It is a prerequisite
for all the others and it naturally stimulates them. Out of sight, out of mind. Remoteness,
silence, distraction, slowly kill love.
This is exactly your history. For want of seeing God, your love for Him grew
cold. Yet, He was not far away. He was always there, but you did not look at him. He was
close to you, in you, and you were unmindful of him. Return to him. He is always waiting
for you. Think of Him and lovingly look at him. This look will re-awaken whatever
dormant love there is in you. Put Him within range of your vision and He will soon be in
your heart.
To walk always in the presence of God would suffice to make us saints, for
everything else, prayer and virtues, will follow. Look at a lover in the presence of His
beloved. He is a different man. Look at the soldier who feels He is being watched by His
commander. The least movement is done to perfection. If the officer goes away, the
tension slackens. We should always be conscious of the eye of God on us in order to act
at all times with perfection. We should always be looking at Him in order to be always
It is the surest remedy for all our weaknesses and all our temptations. The times
when you sinned were the times you forgot God. You were far from him, or, at least,
your closeness to Him had relaxed. For the person united to God in thought and heart, sin
is morally impossible as long as the union lasts. Fire and water never mix. Such a soul is
always ready to receive divine inspirations and to follow them enthusiastically.
St. Benedict added this solemn advice to His rule: "We must above all things
avoid forgetting God."
Do not be surprised if I insist on this point and urge you to use an abundance of
Perhaps you find all this very artificial and a little childish. I agree; but before
God are we not children and students? Remember that to preserve the habitual memory of
God we have temporarily sidetracked the intermediate steps and that our only purpose is
to make the best of whatever ability you may have along these lines. To make up for your
shortcomings you must use artificial means. These means are crutches. The man who
stands on two solid legs has no need of them; but the man who limps is very glad to have
them. With them He can at least walk around after a fashion.
All these precautions, these little inventions and manifold reminders,
mnemonically bring God back into your life. The will is given the opportunity to unite
itself with Him despite the contrary tendencies of the heart. The use of these eye-catchers
gradually corrects the latter. These repeated acts develop a habit, a disposition that helps
the soul to live in the presence of God. The soul grows accustomed to living in its
spiritual home. It removes the old furniture we have spoken of and buys new things. In
the end it will come to feel much more at home than it ever did before. There will be no
thought of returning to its former condition. Thinking of God will have become natural.

The soul will be able to leave the little reminders aside, just as a recovered sick person
does His crutches. But use crutches as long as you need them.

But how can we see God? He is invisible.
The answer is, through faith.
Faith is the eye of the soul. Through it we discern the supernatural world. Perhaps
that does not mean very much to you. We are so clumsy when it comes to handling
spiritual truths! So, let us try to understand this by attempting something easier.
In the charming fairy tale, The Bluebird, Princess Florine adores Prince
Charming. But her stepmother locks her up in the tower and the prince is changed into a
bird. Florine calls to Him from her opened window:
"Bluebird, bluebird, blue as the sky, "Fly to me now, there's nobody by."
And the bluebird comes immediately.
That is how they find one another and converse pleasantly, until the day the
enchantment is broken. The story ends, as we might expect, with their being happily
That is your history. The King of Heaven loves you. Not being able to show
himself directly to you during the time of this exile, He comes to you hidden under the
veil of creatures. As soon as you call him, He is there, quicker than the bluebird, for He
was expecting your call. He is always close to you, and He has resolved not to leave you
until the day when, once the evil spirits have been vanquished, He will lead you into His
palace of glory where He will show himself to you and will espouse you forever.
Is it not wonderful to have such assurance?
Think of the person you love most in the world. Suppose that while He is absent a
magician allows Him to return, to be there, hidden, near you, looking at you, listening to
you and speaking to you. Would that not be a festive occasion, and would it not be
enough to brighten your hours of solitude? Would you find it difficult to be attentive to
His close presence, to see Him constantly through the eyes of your soul, to speak to Him
and love him?
That is the way you should act with God. You do not see him. Your bodily eyes
discern only matter; but you know that He is there, that He is looking at you, listening to
you, helping you, and showering you with love and care. You can talk to him, tell Him of
your love, your good will, your desires, your cares, your difficulties, knowing all the time
that He understands them all and that everything will heal, for He is the all-powerful
King who loves you infinitely. Your eyes do not see His face, your ears do not hear His
voice; but He has touched your soul and has given you the gift of faith. This you know
with certainty. And if you are attentive, you will hear the sweet and mysterious voice of
the Spirit in you talking to your soul, and you will understand what He is saying to you.
To know that God is there, to believe it, truly and intensely, such is the happy
science, the firm and fond faith that makes God present to us.
For presence means not only being close one to another, but to be aware of it and
to be able to converse with each other. Two men asleep in the same room are not present
to each other. They are unaware of each other. But as soon as they awaken, there is
presence. So God is always present. All that is needed to make Him present is for us to

become aware of it, to open the eyes of our soul with the look of faith. That is what we
mean by seeing God spiritually.
By frequent and constant exercises, this look of the soul becomes keener, our faith
becomes stronger. Finally, our certitude approaches evidence. Then, the soul is happy.
Yes, in the beginning it may be difficult, not only because of a lack of
supernatural habits, but also because the imagination is constantly thwarting the spiritual
glances of God. Our imagination is in truth an irritating companion, and all the more
annoying because it does not listen to reason. Well, if you cannot subjugate it, why not
interest it in the undertaking? It, too, was made for God, just as the mind and heart. Let it
do its work, which is to support, instead of oppose, your periodic thinking of God.
If, in the beginning we do not succeed in keeping our eyes fixed on God, it is
often advisable to muster the imagination. Imagine, for example, your heavenly Father as
an august, majestic, and venerable old man, as you have seen Him depicted. Self-
opinionated people will object: "God is not an old man walking around in the clouds."
Let them be. Curiously enough, they poke fun at a pious soul who tries to imagine God as
best it can, yet they are the very ones who go into ecstacies before M ichelangelo's
Creator in the Sistine chapel. See how illogical they are. The truth is that our thoughts are
always tinged by our imagination, even unconsciously. When men pretend to conceive of
God without it, they are the ones who relegate Him to the clouds. They have no reason to
be proud. Every human concept applied to God is necessarily as deficient as is a product
of the imagination. Both are but analogies, ways of coming closer to the Infinite. The
Church is no iconoclast. She loves beautiful representations. If she fills her sanctuaries
with them, she does so to bolster our devotion. The Church knows man.
For the rest, if you fear falling into reality, remember that since the Incarnation
God, in the person of the Word, has a bodily form. He knows our needs; He knows that
we can neither think nor love without the world of sense. So, wishing to make love easy
He became one of us and showed himself under the lovable traits of His humanity.
Hence, if you want to see God easily and love Him ardently, look especially at the Word
become M an, Jesus, our Savior — the meekest, great est, the most beautiful of the
children of men. You know His life, what He did, what He said, what He thought, and the
extent of His love during His earthly sojourn which He undertook to save you, how He
still loves, and how He shows you His heart aglow with love to touch yours. It is easy to
picture Him such as the Gospel depicts him. And that corresponds with a safe reality.
There are some souls who find it easier to speak to the Father, the Holy Ghost, or
to the glorious Trinity. Their look goes directly to the Divinity. Let them follow their
attraction, provided God so seconds it. But ordinarily it is easier to attain to God through
Christ. He is the natural intermediary, being both God and man, both the way and the
goal. He is God within our reach, yet sufficiently accessible as man for us to know and
love Him according to the normal way our faculties act. And so, through Him the
majority of souls easily find the road of prayer.
Represent Jesus as He was, for example, in the crib, a sweet, gracious child
already full of love; or as the good M aster walking along the roads of Galilee teaching
His disciples, preaching to the people, multiplying His miracles; so patient, so
understanding, so wonderfully sympathetic; or contemplate your Savior suffering for you
on the cross, so beautiful in His boundless sorrow and sublime generosity; or see Him
risen from the grave appearing to M agdalene and the amazed apostles. Transport yourself

to the country of Palestine at the time of these happenings, and follow Him with the
disciples and the holy women. It will not be a simple incursion into history, as it would
be for any one else, for even then He knew you and you were present to him.
Or change your perspective and imagine that He is close to you, in your room,
your office, your workshop, wherever you are, that He is following you everywhere,
looking at you, smiling at you, and helping you. You are walking. Imagine that He is
accompanying you, not like a material body, but in a divine way. You are working. See
Him hovering over you and interested in what you are doing. You are at table and He is
next to you. You are in bed and He stays near you, and keeps vigil while you sleep.
There is the danger, of course, that a too prolonged effort will tire the mind and
also that we may want a too exact and detailed picture of His face. It is better to let Him
keep His mystery. If you have no imagination, you can make use of the most beautiful
holy picture you can find.
In the course of time, as your faith sharpens, these traits will become blurred and
give way to a more spiritual form. Then, the role of the imagination will be unnecessary.
It will not be so much a question of seeing God "near you" as of seeing Him "in you,"
"not closer to your body," but closer to your soul, as united to your soul.
But, in the beginning, the first method is ordinarily easier. It is more adapted to
our habitual way of seeing things. The exercise should be restricted to these two points:
seeing God near you through faith, and this is essential; and using your imagination as
long as it is useful, abandoning it as soon as it no longer is. Everyone will know this from

The last thing is: What shall we say to God when we look at Him?
To tie a knot in your handkerchief is easy; and so, too, is it easy to picture our
Lord. But to talk to him! For certain souls this is where the exercise seems to become
Well, it need not. This is the simplest thing of all. I shall prove it to you in one
word. What should you talk to God about? Anything. You see, you need not look far.
I have told you that prayer is an affectionate visit paid to God, and intimate
conversation, a heart-to-heart talk. When you talk with your parents, do you tire yourself
out couching your thoughts in beautiful language? Do you look for an abstract and
profound subject of conversation? Do you prepare a discourse before coming into their
presence? That would be ridiculous. You talk simply of the things that interest you and
them, and, if you feel at ease, you will talk about the first thing that comes to your mind.
Do the same with God. When you pray, speak to Him of what you are interested in at the
moment. He will always be interested in it, since He loves you. Artificiality kills prayer.
Are you working? Then, talk to Jesus about your work. He knows from
experience what it is, having toiled in the workshop of St. Joseph. Furthermore, work is a
virtue and He made it a law. You are doing His work. Offer it to him. It is the correct way
to unite yourself to Him at the moment.
You are eating? That, too, is a good work. Yes, it is. Do it under His glance, with
the intention of serving Him better, and thank Him for His divine Providence.

You are very much concerned about something? You surely have to give it some
thought. So how can you pray at the same time? Think it over with Him and talk to Him
about it.
You may perhaps be asking yourself: how can it be fitting that I engage His
attention with such trivial things, matters that are so removed from the supernatural
world? Is that really praying? And can He be interested in such humdrum things, he, the
Eternal Word? O man of little faith! When will you begin to believe in the love of your
God and that if He says to you: "I love you," He means it, and divinely so. Certainly, He
loves you, and He himself said that He wanted to treat you as a friend. Every intimacy is
allowed you and He delights in it, without derogating in any way from the adoration
which is His due. And that for the very reason of His greatness and sublime perfection.
The mark of true greatness is simplicity. The more intelligent, understanding, and good a
friend is the more He puts you at ease and inspires confidence.
Your Savior is absolute intelligence and love. That is His greatness. You pay
homage to His divinity when you use no roundabout ways with him. With men you have
to watch your words somewhat. They are so easily offended, so slow to understand, so
inclined to rash judgment. But Christ understands everything and excuses everything, as
soon as your heart is sincere, for He understands and loves to perfection. He will never
find you ridiculous and will never interpret your words wrongly. He asks of you but one
thing: don't be a naughty child. He will accept everything, save sin.
You say these things are natural things. No, they are not. As soon as you talk to
Him about them, as soon as you lift them up to him, as soon as you offer them to him,
they are supernatural. "Whether you eat or drink, or do anything else, do all for the glory
of God" (I Cor. to, 31). If we are to do everything for His glory, then we can talk to Him
about anything and everything, and transform it into a prayer.
You have been taught to pray in a style that is foreign to your life, whereas prayer
ought to be your life, ought to be impregnated with all the details of your real existence
and well up constantly from all that constitutes it.
Are you annoyed about something? Tell Him about it. Ask Him to help you bear
it, and offer Him your sorrow. It you are happy, say to him: "Thanks, Jesus." If you have
been distracted, excuse yourself, and under His eye, examine how you can avoid
forgetting Him again. You have committed some fault. Well, offer that to Him also, by
asking His pardon. I mentioned before that He does not accept sin. He does, as soon as
we join repentence to it, for He loves to forgive. Sin and the sorrow with it is one of the
presents we can give him. And who of us does not have an inexhaustible mine of such
Supposing you have just had a good thought. M ull it over with him. It will
germinate better that way. You see a beautiful flower-bed in bloom. Offer it to Him for
His art and power. If you are tempted, call on His help and lean on him, your Protector.
Your struggle against temptation will be just that many subjects of conversation with
him. Do these little exercises of faith and detachment while talking to him. In brief, let
what you say in prayer be an integral part of your life, let it spring from it and penetrate
it. That is the practical way to pray. Your prayer, furthermore, will interest you. And the
simpler it is, the better it will be.
It sometimes happens that your mind is so tired that you can think of nothing to
say. Well, don't say anything. Be satis fied to look at him. But if you cannot do that

without words, if words are necessary to sustain your faith — and such is the case for
many people — then, have some words ready. It matters not what they are as long as they
are practical, that they are related to your life, and repeat them very simply. For example:
"My God, have mercy on me! Lord, help me!" Or: "M y Jesus, I love you; you know very
well that I love you; or: M ary, my Mother, teach me to love your Son." And after that?
After that, begin all over, and say the same invocation as much as you want and can and
each time that you raise your eyes to God. What a wonderful prayer! Love, you know,
dispenses with variants.
Or say some prayer that you know from memory: the Our Father, or the Hail
M ary. Say it slowly with as much attention and affection as possible, without trying to
put anymore into it than that.
If, on the contrary, your mind is quick and fervent, then all is very simple, and I
have nothing for the time being to teach you. Give your heart free rein.

Chapter VI
A Day Spent With God
your spiritual life. If you are intent on transforming your life and on making rapid
progress in the art of prayer, all you need do is apply what I am about to propose.
You will be shown how the matter thus far treated can be applied in a concrete
way to the details of your everyday life. Since this chapter is so basically down to earth,
you should read it in a practical way. As each exercise is suggested, you must try to find a
way to transpose it into your life. There is no longer any question of understanding, but of
Read this intelligently, and apply it with common sense. You will perhaps be
surprised at the great number of recommended practices and, taken together, they will
seem very complicated and difficult to execute. I shall, indeed, enter into a multiplicity of
details; and I shall not hesitate to offer you a great deal of advice and to suggest many
practices, for it is my personal conviction that too much emphasis cannot be placed on
actually achieving a life in union with God. A passing exhortation to walk in the presence
of God is not enough, nor does it suffice to dwell on it theoretically. You have already
been told to walk in His presence a hundred times. Have you practiced it that often?
Experience proves that few persevere very long in the practice of this exercise if they are
not helped in a very concrete and pointed way. Cognizant of our weakness and of the
infinite number of distractions which tend to turn us away from God, it is but right that I
facilitate your task, that I offer it to you all prepared, that I go, if need be into the
minutiae and urge you to recollect yourself with as much insistence as the enemy does to
alienate you from God.
Above all, keep this important advice in mind: of all the points treated, it does not
follow that you must use them all from the very beginning. Such an excess would only

beget discouragement and fickleness. 4 Go about this energetically but progressively. Of
the means I am about to suggest to you, take what you can shoulder without doing harm
to your other duties. Several will undoubtedly suffice for a beginning. In brief, take as
many as possible, but do not take more than you can reasonably practice. Both of these
recommendations are equally important.
And finally, approach this exercise with noble generosity and with a fervent
desire to make progress. Be sold on its importance. You must take this spiritual exercise
quite seriously. Despite the thousand and one little things of which it is comprised, its
consequences for you will be immeasurable. You will rediscover your wasted life; you
will recenter it on Truth, and decide on the strategy that will give you access to the
kingdom of the lovers of God. All great things are made up of countless details. Count
the stones in a cathedral, the brush strokes that went into the adornment of the Sistine
Do not be disheartened over the fact that the method is somewhat artificial and
makes use of material objects, that it is made up of small practices which seem to weigh
it down and "mechanize" devotion. Yes, it is material, complex, and quite artificial, as are
the crutches, the bandages, the wheelchair a sick person uses. As for him, so too for you,
all these aids are necessary. Once you can dispense with all that "physical therapy," so
much the better to be sure; but you must wait for that day to dawn. M eanwhile, use the
methods of a novice. In the beginning you will think that they are complicated and
tedious, but take courage. It will not always be so. Once you have acquired the habit, they
will become easy. 5 Soon, results will make them interesting and you will spontaneously
look for them. Just as a scab falls off a healed wound, so too at the given moment you
will lay these methods aside, and all your patient labor will be rewarded.
Yes, that is the way novices proceed.... Yet, advanced souls could still profitably
take up some of these humble means, especially when they notice that their life of union
with God is beginning to lose its tone or when they become aware that some contingency
habitually severs this union.


You must prepare for the following day the night before. In the evening before
you retire, recollect yourself for a few minutes with the intention of preparing your
strategy for the following day.
Having recalled to mind the presence of God, say to him: "My God, you are here
... I adore you. I thank you for the graces you have given me today. Good Shepherd that

"The method I have chosen makes it imperative that I repeat this admonition at the risk of making it
threadbare. My method of procedure is not the most appealing possible. The dabbler who merely reads
these pages will find them very trying. But those who try to find help from them will not complain about
the great number of practical suggestions I have given. Experience will show them how benefici al this very
multiplicity is. They are the only ones for whom this book is written. A grammar is never an enticing book
to read, but the student who desires to master his mother-tongue will always find that his grammar textbook
is not complete enough.
Proofreaders note. It only takes 21 days to make a new good habit.

You are, You have held out your hand to me. You have brought me closer to You and I
wish to express my gratitude. Tomorrow, I wish to offer You to the best of my ability a
day that will be consecrated to You from morning to night. At this moment, I am going to
see what I can do about not forgetting You tomorrow. Help me, I beg of You."
Then, without losing sight of Him, under his eye and with Him examine how you
will behave tomorrow.
A day, twenty-four hours, is a long time. There is every reason to fear that,
despite your good will, you will not reach the end without having lost the thread. So what
are you going to do about it? Proceed by steps. Arrange relays throughout the course of
the day, moments when you will be at leisure to enter within yourself, to restock yourself
for the next period. From relay to relay you will reach the end of the day without too
many hindrances.
Your first concern tonight will be to decide on the relays, to discover
opportunities for recollection. If you are a religious, the time set aside for meditation is
ideal for this purpose. If you are not, you must find some, and with just a little good will,
you will.
To be specific, your morning prayers, or attendance at holy mass might be your
first relay. Next, pause for a second relay around noontime, either before or after lunch,
and do a little forecasting. Where are you at that time of day? At home? If so, then there
will be no difficulty in isolating yourself and concentrating for two minutes. If you are on
your way home, is there no church close by you might enter for a few minutes? If you
had some weighty problem to solve, you would find some easy way to withdraw yourself
and mull it over. Then, do the same for this matter. A third relay toward the end of the
afternoon would be beneficial, while your night prayer could be the fourth.
Having arranged that part, go on to prepare the next leg of the journey: the period
of time that will elapse until the morning relay.
Do not say: "I have nothing to do during that time; it is night." We must pray
always, even at night. Not that I am asking you to rob some of your sleep and to spend
the night on your knees, as is reported of some of the saints. Sleep well, but sleep in the
presence of God. Pious souls keep themselves so well in the "state of prayer" that on
awakening they spontaneously raise their thoughts to God. This is the state of prayer that
you must try to preserve in yourself.
The first thing to do is to steep yourself deeply in the divine presence. Think
about it intensely. Since this first relay takes place most of the time in your room, you
must once and for all install Our Lord there.
Look at your room, where God is with you, and think of your past: "My God, to
think that you have always been here and I have been so unaware of it! How many times
have I consciously entered this room with you? How many times have I talked to you
here? Alas! I abandoned you at the door and, completely occupied with myself, I spent
hours forgetting about you. Forgive me, Jesus; forgive me. I will no longer inflict this
sorrow on You. Henceforth, my bedroom will be an oratory and the sanctuary of Your
Next, prepare a few helps for the night and the morning: a number of reminders
that will automatically bring your thoughts back to God. Go to the extent of displacing a
few small pieces of furniture. And see to it right now as you begin to take definite steps
to better your spiritual life that you are united to God, that you are imbued with the prayer

you have just said. It is easy now: you are alone; your attention is not divided. The time is
favorable to prayer, to the art of learning to join prayer to humble actions. It is up to you
to find your own reminder-signals. To help you, here are a few suggestions.
If you sometimes awaken during the night, each awakening must be sanctified by
prayer. In order to remember to do this, hang a rosary around your neck, or wind it
around your wrist, and so forth. As reminders for when you get up, use a displaced chair,
an object on the table, a picture on the wall facing your bed, a cross on your alarm clock:
something unusual and very apparent; a sign on the sink: a holy picture on the mirror, or
some other object that will catch your attention as you wash. And then this too: a
reminder on your doorknob, a paper, a handkerchief, anything in order not to forget God
as you are about to leave your room. And do all this smiling at the Lord: He is pleased
with you.
One remark: if you are married, there will surely be reason (unless there is an
agreement between you and your spouse) to reduce these measures and to proceed with
discretion. For the rest, if the number of these frightens you, take only one or two to
begin with, and vary them from one day to the next.
Circumstances so that you may be able to find him there when the time comes.
Say for example: "As I sit down to lunch, I shall renew my faith in the presence of God."
(I presuppose that you say grace before meals.) "When I turn a certain corner where there
is a fruit store, I will greet our Lord and I shall thank him for giving us fruit." Every time
the clock strikes, or every time I look at my wrist watch, I shall repeat my ejaculatory
prayer." Or, according to the nature of your work: "As I enter my office, stop my drill,
turn on my stove, every time I pick up a pencil, open my file, as soon as the train or the
bus starts, I shall say a prayer to God. I shall put myself in his presence and shall try to
remain so."
I am aware that I have drawn up these sundry resolutions very poorly. In trying to
help you remain in the presence of God, I must remind you not forget to do so right now.
All this must be done in union with God — by speaking to Him. Consequently, correct
the preceding formulas. Instead of saying: "I shall renew my faith in the presence of
God... I shall greet our Lord," say rather: "My God, in sitting down to lunch, I shall
renew my faith in your holy presence. Jesus, as I pass that street corner, I shall greet
You," and so forth.
What will happen? During the course of the morning these various associations of
ideas will go to work — at least some of them will. They will either re-establish or
strengthen your contact with God. As you proceed from one guide mark to another, you
will succeed in maintaining yourself in rather good dispositions. Even if the union does
not persist, you will at least have said a certain number of prayers, all of which concurs in
creating a habit.
Furthermore, see if you cannot, between now and noontime, find a few occasions
to recollect yourself for one or two minutes in order to examine the state of affairs and
prepare for the hour about to begin. Such intermediary relays will help you pass over into
the next period in far better condition. Do not forget that this is difficult. You are like a
regimented officer crossing a country surrounded by the enemy. He takes every
precaution, keeps a close eye on the terrain, disposes his guards on his flanks and, at each
crossroad, has the roads reconnoitered before entering them. Distractions are your enemy,

and you know only too well how they infest your life and seek every occasion to filter
into your mind.
Give some thought to the warning signals you intend to use in the various
incidents which will present themselves: a marble in your pocket, a cross on your watch
or lighter, a paper on your table, an object on your counter, a branch tied to your tractor, a
holy picture in front of your stove, a dot of ink on your fingernail or on your glasses ...
Those who find such means ridiculous should and must look for others. Some people use
a small instrument of penance, a cross or bracelet. A hundred such reminders can be
invented. And there must also be some replacements, for, as I have already mentioned, by
force of use they quickly lose their value. When that occurs, they must be replaced by
others. M oreover, it would be better not to adopt too many at one time.
Finally, choose an ejaculatory prayer that will serve as your leitmotif of the day,
and repeat it as often as possible during the course of the day. It should be the breathing
of your soul. If need be, it could take the place of all the other prayers and aspirations
which you would say at each one of your guide marks.
But above all, before you leave the church, steep yourself with the following
thought, for it will be the soul of all these practices: "I have been given this day to love
and serve You, my God. My greatest anxiety must be think of You, to remain united to
You so as to do everything for You. Everything else must be subordinated and concur in
that. Everything I do must become prayer. Over and above all my occupations and
through all of them, to pray to you is my business. It must quicken all the others. Without
it, the others run the risk of being sterile." A pious Franciscan once epitomized this very
pointedly in the following way: "Time spent in not praying is time wasted." 6

Having thus prepared yourself for the morning, you must now see to it that you
reap a rather rich harvest of prayer.
In a short time you will be sitting down to breakfast. Your resolution will come to
mind and will make your breakfast a prayer. If you become aware that you have forgotten
it, you must provide some sign that will remind you of it tomorrow.
I presume that you must travel to get to work. Before you leave home, prepare the
few reminders mentioned before. As you walk down the street on a cold morning, you
put your hands in your pocket and find a marble that you put there to remind you to raise
your thoughts to God. You look at your watch: another lifting up of your mind to God.
Then, there is that black speck on your glasses, the fruit store on the corner. Each
reminder will lead you back to God and will set prayer in motion. With just a little
attention you will make the entire trip united with God. How would you have otherwise
spent the time? You would have looked from right to left and let your thoughts wander
from one trifle to another: time wasted.
Street-prayer can be an excellent prayer, and an easy one. To pray at such times
you need not keep your eyes lowered and run the risk of being hit by an automobile.
Look around freely, but look with Jesus and speak to Him of what strikes you. You see

Blessed Roger of Provence, Meditations.

two friends or newlyweds talking to one another. But talking about what? About anything
and everything that comes to their mind, about themselves or their interests. They stop
before a window display; both admire it, and both discuss the possibility of some
purchase. The whole thing, their unity in details, fosters their affection and brings them
closer together. What a model they are of the kind of prayer you are engaging in at that
very moment! We shall discuss that kind of prayer, which I shall call "the prayer of
conversation," at great length further on.
Our Lord has told you that He wishes to be treated as a friend. He invites you,
therefore, to enjoy a lovable familiarity with Him. How happy you ought to be for this
privilege which the King of Heaven grants to you! Profit by it and, with an ever-
increasing veneration, walk with him in the intimacy he offers you. Talk with Him, just
as newlyweds do to each other. Talk to Him of everything that comes up. With Him
admire that object of art in the window of the antique shop. Is it not a pale reflection of
His sovereign artistry?
Offer Him those orchids in the florist shop. They are not yours. For that matter,
since everything belongs to Him, what can we offer Him except His own gifts? What you
offer Him, of course, is your intention. Bless Him for the clear sky and the spring air He
gives you this morning. Should it be raining, have enough faith to bless Him for that, too.
The rain is a blessing to the farmer and an opportunity for you to do penance. Tell Him
that you trust in His wisdom and that, since He it is who disposes all things, whatever He
sends is always for the best.
Pray to Him for the people you meet: for that poor man or woman who impresses
you as not having had a full meal for months; and if here and there you raise your eyes to
Our Lord, you will be tempted to slip a coin into the hand of that other Christ. Do so if
possible. Then, there is that smug gentleman who does not have the external appearance
of giving very much time or thought to God. He is far more miserable than the poor man.
Give him the alms of your prayer. And so on, for all those whom you meet. Each has his
needs, and God alone knows the dramas, the anguish you rub elbows with every day.
Offer Christ the present, for it is most dear to Him. Offer Him your charity, your
compassion for everyone.
And then, talk to Him about yourself, about your petty concerns: about that
tedious job waiting for you, that difficult, unsolved question, about your cantankerous
boss or foreman. Ask your divine Friend for help and advice. Show Him that you have
enough faith in His love to count on him. And shortly you will face all those difficulties
more courageously and with a deeper sense of the supernatural. Tell Him especially of
your desire to love Him more and of your wish to pray better. That is where you need His
grace, and it is precisely the point on which you must be certain that your prayer will be
heard. No request gives him greater pleasure.
Thus, in regard to everything and nothing, you can tell Him a host of nice things
— and the telling will be full of grace for you. This conversation-prayer, which is so
simple and so easy, has a surprising sweetness about it, and you ought to be convinced
that it is just as pleasing to Our Lord as it is to you.
Act in the same way if you have to travel to work. The train or the bus is one of
the best places to pray. Ordinarily you have nothing to do at that time. In fact, you have
to look for something to do to pass the time. Now, God is there, too. What an honor and
what a joy to be able to make the entire trip in His holy company! Has it never been your

experience to notice how uneasy a certain passenger was, even before the bus started? A
friend comes along and his face lights up. They share the same seat and have a pleasant
trip. What an enjoyable ride you could take with your divine Friend just by looking at the
scenery that unrolls before your eyes and telling him what you are seeing and by talking
to him about yourself and others! And what a useful trip when all this time is spent in
such simple prayer!
If you are going to do your shopping, you should anticipate beforehand some way
of thinking of God at each store you visit. You could, for example, stop for a moment in
front of the store window before entering, not to look at the merchandise — which you
certainly can also do, naturally — but to regain contact again with Our Lord and to ask
him to keep you in his presence. In that way, each store will be a chapel. If you have to
wait for a clerk, gladly accept the opportunity afforded you to pray rather than to become
The opportunity is yours to wonderfully enhance what would otherwise be a
rather dull chore. Whether you buy vegetables, a brush or a new towel — all things which
our Blessed M other had to buy, too — all is sanctified as soon as it is offered to God.
There are no such things as insignificant offerings. God uses, so to speak, as much
wisdom in making a daisy blossom as he does in governing the course of the stars.

Let us now suppose that you are at work. St. Francis of Assisi says: "Those ... to
whom the Lord has given the ability to work shall work faithfully and devotedly in such
wise that avoiding idleness, the enemy of the soul, they do not quench the spirit of holy
prayer and devotion, to which all other temporal activities must be subordinate." How
well he spotted the danger in work! And yet, it is such an indispensable necessity in our
lives. In fact, it seems that work by its very nature is an obstacle to prayer and tends "to
extinguish the spirit of prayer." To begin with, we must concentrate on what we are
doing. How can we think of God and do our work at the same time? Julius Caesar
dictated several letters at the same time, but we are not Julius Caesar.
Yet the truth is that we accomplish that feat with ease in our everyday life. An
example will convince you. A young man named Joseph visits Joan, his fiancée. Since
she has a beautiful voice, he asks her to sing something for him. (Such things still happen
in this age of the radio and television.) So, she sits down at the piano and he gallantly
turns the pages. But notice the young girl. To play and sing simultaneously is a rather
absorbing task. But can you make yourself believe that, absorbing as it is, she forgets the
presence of her fiance? Never on your life, and I even would go so far as to surmise that
that night there is a special tremolo in her voice because of the one listening. Far from
distracting her from her music, Joseph's presence spurs her on to pay closer attention to it
and to avoid striking any wrong note. Why? Because she is playing for him. You see,
doing two things at the same thing is not so difficult after all. The differences between the
two friends and yourself and God is that Joan loves Joseph — whereas your love for God
is not yet ardent enough. Then, too — it must be said and may the good Lord forgive my
way of expressing it — God, as far as we are concerned, has one glaring fault: he is
invisible. The fault, however, is entirely of our own making: we are near-sighted when it
comes to spiritual things. So, your love and faith must be intensified. Love will come in

time with the help of the Holy Ghost. It is your faith, your recalling God to mind, which
you can work on for the present, and that is where your reminders are helpful.
You have returned from your shopping and are now in your kitchen. If you
planned your strategy well, you greeted Our Lord as you entered your home. If you
forgot to, the holy picture you placed near the stove will serve as a reminder. From then
on, the kitchen will be illuminated by his holy presence; you will no longer be alone. You
will find it a great joy to work with him as he looks on. Presently you will start preparing
your vegetables. Offer them to the Lord. Such a simple act will be as acceptable to him as
the sacrifice of Abel. Then, there will be the object which you have chosen, one of your
cooking utensils to which you have given the honor today of being your reminder of God
and which, each time you handle it, will remind you: "God is looking at you. Pray to
And, as you go about preparing dinner why not repeat this little prayer: "For You,
my Jesus.... For You, my Jesus." Then too, you might interrupt yourself once in a while
and say: "Jesus, I do not have time for long prayers. Look at all the work I have to do.
But since it is Your holy will, help me to do the work of M artha with the heart of M ary.
For You, my Jesus.... " In that way, each and every one of your actions will ascend before
his throne like the verse of a psalm.
M any housewives have a charming poem hung on their kitchen wall. It was
composed by Cecily Hallack to console a woman violinist who ruined her fingers during
the war by cooking. We reproduce it here for those who have never read it.


God walks among the pots and pipkins. — St. Teresa.
Lord of the pots and pipkins, since I have no time to be a Saint by doing lovely
things and vigiling with thee,
By watching in the twilight dawn, and storming Heaven's gates, M ake me a saint
by getting meals, and washing up the plates!
Lord of the pots and pipkins, please, I offer Thee for souls, The tiresomeness of
tea leaves, and the sticky porridge bowls! Remind me of the things I need, not to just save
the stairs, But so that I may perfectly lay tables into prayers.
Accept my roughened hands because I made them so for Thee! Pretend my
dishmop is a bow, which, heavenly harmony makes a fiddle frying pan; it is so hard to
And oh, so horrid! Hear, dear Lord, the music that I mean!
Although I must have M artha hands, I have a M ary mind, And when I black the
boots, I try thy sandals, Lord, to find, I think of how they trod our earth, what time I scrub
the floor, Accept this meditation when I haven't time for more!
Vespers and Compline come to pass by washing supper things And, mostly, I am
very tired; and all the heart that sings About the morning's work, is gone, before me, into
bed. Lend me, dear Lord, thy tireless Heart, to work in me instead!
My M atins are said overnight to praise and bless Thy Name Beforehand for
tomorrow's work, which will be just the same; So that it seems I go to bed still in my
working dress, Lord, make thy Cinderella soon a heavenly Princess!

Warm all the kitchen with thy love, and light it with thy peace! Forgive the
worrying, and make the grumbling words to cease, Lord who laid breakfast on the shore,
forgive the world which saith "Can any good thing come to God out of poor Nazareth?"
Nazareth! Yes, turn your thoughts often to that humble kitchen and to our Lady as
she went about doing her chores "faithfully and devotedly" with her Son watching her so
intently. She, too, prepared meals, peeled vegetables, scrubbed, and was busy about many
things; but her work was centered on the look and on the love of her Son and, although
she did not express it in so many words, every one of her actions said: "For You, my
Do you sew? So did our Blessed M other. As she patched clothes, her fingers
wove a garment of love. Each and every stitch was an offering and an adoration, for her
mind never lost contact with her Jesus, for He was near her gathering wood for the fire
she needed for the evening meal.
I imagine, too, that as He worked in the adjoining room, St. Joseph was
sometimes a little envious. And so, he would call the Son of God: "Would you like to
help me saw this plank?" Both would take hold of the rip-saw. Joseph would pull Jesus in
his direction and Jesus would pull Joseph in His. For both of them every tense muscle
was an act of love. In the end, Joseph, overcome by the smile of the gracious apprentice,
would have to stop and wipe away the tear that glistened in his eye.
There you have the perfect work-prayer that you should imitate. To be sure, yours
is not the love of M ary and Joseph, but they can still act as your models. Imitate them to
the best of your ability by using the humble means proposed to you: renewing your
attention, using the signs, and saying ejaculatory prayers to compensate for your lack of
I once lived with a wonderful Flemish brother, a gardener, whom we nicknamed
Fonske. He worked like a horse, as the expression goes, and prayed like an angel. One
day as he was digging a hole, I thought I heard him grumble. I went over to him. "Hail
M ary," he was saying with each spade-full of earth: "Hail, M ary, hail, M ary," from
morning until night. And at each corner of the square he was digging, he made the sign of
the cross before a small cross he had made of two pieces of a branch and had planted in
the ground. Who can compute the harvest he reaped each day!
Then, there was the brother tailor who hummed hymns all day long as he sewed.
He, too, had a whole liturgy of holy pictures and small statues which he alternately
displayed on his workbench, depending on the feast or his devotional taste.
There was another all-around brother handyman who understood St. John of the
Cross. He never spoke unless spoken to, but was always smiling. When he raised his
eyes, you could see the unmistakable light of those whose conversation is in heaven.
How fortunate are they who do manual work! That type of work is less engrossing
than intellectual pursuits and leaves greater freedom of thought, provided care is taken to
control the attention.
First of all, manual laborers have less difficulty dividing their attention between
their work and their prayer, for their mind is not too overtaxed. Furthermore, once they
are quietly seated at their work, they can easily surround themselves with a 'host of signs:
holy pictures, notices, any number of objects within their range of view; and too, they can
interrupt their work to regain contact with God. By the way, why don't you put a book
mark in your book to remind you of God's presence?

Is it such a complicated process to recollect yourself a moment, to pay greater
attention to reality and rectify your intention, to offer God your present occupation, to ask
him for light to solve a difficulty? You call yourself an intellectual, and yet you are not
capable of exerting this minimum of intellectual effort? Come, now. Regardless of
whether you are engaged in accounting, administration work, in a literary, artistic, or
scientific endeavor, such a thing is always possible. It is even extremely easy once you
have good will and take the matter seriously. The first necessary step is to admit the im-
portance, the primacy of the sanctification of work.
Fra Angelico knelt down to paint his M adonnas. His piety inspired his genius. St.
Bonaventure, a man of deep study, wished intellectual work to be an asceticism and a
contemplation. In a life vowed completely to intellectual labor, to teaching, to the
governing of his order, and to the solicitude for the greatest interests of the Church, he
knew how to give prayer its primary place; and this man, so overburdened and active
with work, was an exalted contemplative.
"It is not work as such," Cardinal M ercier said, "that hinders you from praying, it
is the faulty way you go about working."
M any employees are often clustered in one room. Under such conditions,
discretion is called for. As mementoes, a dis placed object will often suffice, a sign on a
piece of paper, a small notice that will have meaning for you alone. Adapt the other
means I have mentioned to your circumstances. The closeness of your colleagues may
demand a little more mental effort on your part, but it will none the less be quite easy to
do. The whole thing is to put yourself in the spirit of Joan at her piano.
Teaching is undoubtedly one career that presents the great est difficulty for the
practice of the presence of God. The teacher's attention must remain constantly fixed,
buried, as it were in the matter being presented and at times riveted on an irrepressible
audience whose attention must be held. Can one really do that and pray too? Why not?
M aggie, the author's sister, found a good solution to this problem. She noticed that when
an inspector came to her class she applied herself more than usual. So, in her own simple
way, she imagined —it was nothing but the simple truth — that Our Lord was always
there, and he was the Inspector. From then on, she taught class in his presence and, to
please him, she put all her zeal and love into it.
Do you spend your day at a ticket window? That, too, is another distracting
occupation. And yet, what is there to prevent you from carrying out your duty in the
presence of God, from having a sign that will remind you of him, from offering him the
boredom of such tedious work, from considering it a service to him — and as a public
service also to whose poor people who are bored to death waiting for their turn. If you
look upon your duty as an exercise of patience and kindness which the meek Savior asks
of you, you will be the most pleasant of employees.
You are a merchant? Act toward your clients in the same spirit. The Lord is in
your store. You can say the "Divine Office of the Store," as well as your wife can say
hers in the kitchen. And with each sale, think of the "treasures in heaven, where neither
rust nor moth consumes, nor thieves break in and steal (M t. 6, 20)" and sprinkle it with a
little prayer, even if it is no more than saying interior thanks to the Lord. You will at the
same time be doing some spiritual banking for your future life. Even business
transactions, those "enterprises of M ammon," which you have to pursue for a livelihood,
can also become a profoundly supernatural work.

You may find all this rather commonplace. But is not your life a great part spent
in doing commonplace things? M ust this portion of your life be refused to God? For
those in love, nothing is commonplace. Love transposes everything into a cult, into
adoration, into prayer. Everything must be offered to the Lord: "Whatever you do," says
the Apostle St. Paul. That is the prayer of life, the prayer of all of one's life. Someone
complained one day to St. Catherine of Siena of being absorbed in temporal occupations.
"You are the one who makes them temporal," she retorted. Everything, then, depends on
our mental attitude. It is up to us to give everything an external value.

The minute inspection we have just made of the morning will dispense us from a
lengthy examination of the remainder of the day. M any circumstances will undoubtedly
re-occur in more or less the same way, and the procedure, under whatever form it takes,
will always be the same. I shall therefore limit myself to a few specific details.
M ake your second examination around noontime the second relay. Since the meal
with its accompanying conversation and the recreation which follow are of their nature
quite distracting, it would in general be better to postpone your examination until after
your repast so as to be in a better frame of mind to resume your work. But because of the
distractions so unavoidably interwoven into that hour of the day, you will have to foresee
and carefully prepare the afternoon in your morning examination, the more so because it
is so far removed. It would furthermore be wise to set aside for yourself a short,
additional, intermediary relay before beginning the afternoon. Enter a church on your
way back to work, or reflect as you walk to work, or if you stay home, withdraw for a
few minutes to your room, to the garden.
If you cannot make your examination after lunch, then it should be made before.
During this short period of recollection, renew the thought of the presence of God, who is
as present to you as he was to his apostles when he partook of their meal. And, under his
divine gaze, prepare for that "exercise of piety" which the meal you are about to eat
should be. Recall to mind what the apostle said: "Whether you eat or drink, or do
anything else, do all for the glory of God" (I Cor. 10, 31). How? By doing it in front of
Him and for Him. M indful, too, of the weakness of your faith and of the countless times
you failed to observe this precept, see that you create some associations of ideas that will
help you, such as I indicated in Chapter III. Choose an object that is to remind you of
God, whether it be the salt shaker, the flowers on the table, a slight mark on the table
cloth, or some detail in the picture on the wall that faces your places at table.
Once you are seated, imagine, as an old Franciscan writer said, 7 "imagine that
you are seated at the poor, humble table of Our Lord, and see Him eating with you out of
the same plate." (He ate in that fashion at Nazareth and it is the way Orientals still eat.)
Or imagine Him as your host, or as you proceed to serve yourself, thank him in a simple
way for the daily bread he gives you.
For the lay person eating alone in a restaurant or elsewhere, as well as for the
religious eating with the community, isolation and spiritual reading will foster this loving

* Rev. Boniface Maes, Theologie Mystique.

tete-a-tete with Our Lord. Even the animal function of eating becomes one of the best
prayers of the day.
If, however, you are dining in society, it will naturally be more difficult to put
these suggestions into practice. To keep the conversation moving, to eat, and maintain
your interior attention on God is a small feat few are capable of; and as for succeeding in
doing it constantly it is scarcely possible without special help from God. Such efforts,
however, are not demanded of you. It will suffice for the present if you do your best.
You might, though, give this some thought. If you were to invite an outstanding
person or a very dear friend to your home today, no conversation would make you forget
his presence. As you talk you would keep him in mind, and even as you talk to the others,
you would have him in mind by doing everything possible to interest him and to please
him. You must conclude that as a rule it should not be so difficult to act in the same way
toward God who is also present. Later, when love will have invaded your soul, your faith
will be so alive that this will be extremely easy for you and to some extent natural.
For the time being, do your best to keep yourself in the presence of God and at the
same time follow the conversation around you freely and relaxed. Renew your faith in the
presence of God each time one of your signs awakens your supernatural attention. Say a
word then to your Lord, or cast an interior glance in his direction. See that what you are
about to say to others is said to please him, and preserve in that disposition as long as
possible. Close your eyes a half-second to regain consciousness of his presence. No one
will be aware of these little maneuvers — and you will be all the more gay and more
pleasant to everyone.
When the time comes for your second relay, you must grapple with a new
exercise, which henceforth becomes part of all your examinations. Analyze the hours that
have just passed in order to improve the ones to follow. See how the morning leaves
much to be desired so as to do better in the afternoon. Try to find the causes, the
difficulties that provoked your distractions, and think up ways to avoid them or overcome
them in the future. Certain circumstances that arose in the morning may very well crop up
again in the afternoon. Your examination must be brought to bear on these repetitious
points. Here especially is where you can be concrete and practical.
The exercise just mentioned is one of the most efficacious there is. One of the
main reasons for our lack of success in our ascetical efforts is that very often we keep
them in the abstract. But here you are working with full reality. It is an art to profit by
one's mistakes. M oreover, take one or at most two points a day. The rest will come in
Having done that, proceed to stake out the afternoon with signs, landmarks,
association of ideas, just as you did for the morning.
At the third relay you will act in the same way. Only here, the retrospective
examination will notably concern itself with the noon hour, for the same occupations
will, most likely, repeat themselves in the evening: association with the family,
conversation, evening meal, and recreation — reading, perhaps, in which case I remind
you again of the book-mark. And your efforts will be directed to doing little better than at
noontime, at least on one or the other point.
The time has now come for the evening relay. We have already spoken about it at
the beginning of the chapter, but it should now include the examination of the past as
well as the future, the one helping you to improve the other. At night go over the entire

day, not by going into the corners and digging out all the lapses you have committed
(even if you attempted such a thing you would not find them all), but by limiting your
scrutiny to the main ones: those which to you are the most regrettable ones, or those
which you think are the easiest to correct. Whichever ones you choose, examine them in
detail, asking yourself why they happened, and resolve that they will not happen
tomorrow. It is far better to treat one lapse in this way than to collect thirty-six faults all
to no avail. An examination of conscience with practical conclusions for the future is like
an act of contrition with a good purpose of amendment.
The results of this evening examination will furnish you with material for the
examinations of the next day. Thanks to them, your day examinations will become more
concrete, closer to reality, because they are based on experience. Day by day you will
succeed in making them more practical and more efficacious.

Chapter VII
A Day Spent With God (continued)
OF THE DAY, HERE ARE A few more suggestions which you might apply at different
In the course of your day's work, you go from one place to another: from one
room to another, down corridors, up and down stairs, and so forth. To circulate in this
way requires no particular effort of attention. You could, however, if you were so
minded, turn these goings and comings into excellent opportunities for prayer. "Time
spent walking up and down stairs," a saintly religious said, and a busy man he was at that,
"is time that belongs to God," because there is nothing to do except think about him. The
attention requisite for prayer is at your disposal. Add up all these goings and comings and
see what a beautiful harvest of prayers could be yours at the end of a day!
But once again, the problem is to think of it. Fortunately, you know the answer. It
may be rather difficult to put reminders in these places (do so, of course, if possible, by
leaving a "forgotten" object at a certain place, an umbrella in a corner, a knick-knack on
the end-table, and so forth). You can, however, always foresee these occasions, live them
in spirit at the time of the preceding relay. Say to yourself during that examination: "Each
time I go by a certain place in my house, reach a certain landing on the stairway — a
certain corner of the cloister — I shall greet Christ who is present there." Repeat it to
yourself two or three times so that the idea will be impressed on your mind and will come
to the forefront of your consciousness at the desired time. Should your memory fail you,
begin over tomorrow and the following days until you succeed. And continue until the
very sight of the place you have selected sets prayer in motion, as it were, automatically.
Prayer and solicitude for prayer will come to be associated with other corners,
other landings. Little by little, your home, your place of work, will people itself with

angels who, everywhere you turn, will remind you that the Lord is there and that you
should adore him.
And doors! What a blessed means of prayer they can be! What do you ordinarily
do on entering a room? You open the door, thinking meanwhile of anything and
everything, and close it behind you and ... you leave the Lord outside. That is not very
nice of you. It is not surprising, then, that if what you do in that room has but a purely
natural value. You entered it alone, whereas you should have done so with God. Why did
you not have the supernatural politeness to bring him in with you or, if you prefer, why
did you not think that he was waiting in the room for you and that you were being
admitted into His home? That is the simple truth, is it not? Is he not in every place you
enter awaiting the homage of your love? If you were imbued with this prime truth, your
very first reaction, wherever you went, would be to fall down on your knees. Do so in
spirit — and sometimes physically when you are alone — for your bodily posture either
bestirs your soul or strengthens it.
In that way, God, as it were, precedes you into your bedroom. Your behavior
there will then be completely changed, for what you are about to do will be done in a
supernatural spirit.
And in more than one place you will be surprised as well as disappointed to note
that it is the first time in your life that you are aware of the divine presence. It will also be
quite humiliating. M ay it help you to understand what arrears you have to make up and
that all the work you are asked to do is far from being useless, but on the contrary is even
indispensable if you wish to lead a truly Christian life.
This is all the more important because going from one place to another is
frequently a transition from one type of work to another, one of those crossroads where it
is so vitally important not to lose contact with God.
Be faithful to the prayer of the doors. After a certain lapse of time you will not be
able to see one without thinking of God. Each one will summon you to prayer as
faithfully as an Angelus bell. And you will bless the genius who invented doors.
Another very beneficial practice is to steal one or two minutes from your work for
a short walk with our Lord in the yard, in the house, in the monastery, to some spot where
you would especially like to recall his presence to mind at some future time. These two
minutes will be exclusively dedicated to Him: the short stroll will be a prayer, an
adoration that will associate you with the angels. Talk to God, meanwhile, not like an
angel, but as a man, simply, about him, about yourself, about the things you see on the
way. Stop a minute, look at the place intently, imbue yourself with the thought that he is
here with you, and notice how everything becomes more beautiful, far more pregnant
with meaning and replete with joy than when you came here alone with your poor earthly
Later on when you come upon this spot, the same inspiring thought will
spontaneously return. In the course of time you can multiply these privileged spots, these
places where you will have re-introduced Christ as the M aster of your heart and of your
life. Your home, too, will be entirely sanctified. In that way Jesus will be enthroned in
your home in a very realistic way. The enthronement of the Sacred Heart in your home is
an indulgenced ceremony of the Church, but the ceremony presupposes that Christ is
enthroned in your heart.

These minutes stolen from your work for God will give our dear Lord immense
pleasure. He is so often conscious of being alone and forgotten even by souls consecrated
to Him. These moments will in a singular way stimulate a liking for prayer and the spirit
of devotion, and after each walk you will return to your work with renewed faith and


God must be reinstated in the same way in the different circumstances which arise
from day to day in your life. Besides your work, on which we have sufficiently
elaborated, how many incidents, great and small, ought to converge toward the same
goal, ought to bring you closer to God. Yet how often these very things estrange you
from him!
For example, you are crossed: some sorrow or failure befalls you. Instead of
becoming gloomy, instead of letting it dishearten you, instead of perhaps even revolting
against it, it would be well to consider the fact that God, your divine Father, had laid this
trial upon you. In His infinite wisdom He has foreseen the good it holds out for you. As a
true son, you ought not only to accept it from His loving hand but bless Him for it and
count on His help. In that way your suffering will be alleviated and will be beneficial to
you. Furthermore, the cross will have attained its providential goal.
When some pleasure, financial gain, success, or good news comes your way, it is
much easier to see the will of God. Yet how many times are you remiss in the simple,
ordinary laws of courtesy toward God and forget to thank Him! On those days your heart
is gladdened; prayer and love of God come easier. So profit by it to stir up the fire of your
Good or evil — that is, what we call good or evil — success or failure, financial
gain or loss, good or bad weather, health or sickness, praise or criticism, compliments or
reprimands, should all have the same value for the true Christian and all should produce
the same effect, for everything is wisely and paternally disposed by God. All is conceived
uniquely for our good. "Everything that happens is adorable" and must resolve itself in
adoration and prayer — the bad things as well as the good ones. A piano has white and
black keys. The musician who restricts himself to the white ones will produce inferior
music. Let us therefore use the entire keyboard of providential circumstances to sing
before God the hymn of adoration that our life should be. Every incident is an attempt on
God's part to assure himself of our love or to prompt it.
There are circumstances which of their very nature lead us to God, such as the
liturgy and exercises of devotion. But we must pray when we pray. This is no truism.
How many times we mumble formulas and our heart is not in them, or at least very little.
There are other circumstances which divert our attention from God, and which as
a matter of fact are called distractions, such as games, dinners, travel. In reality they
should divert our attention from our present preoccupations but not from prayer.
The immediate source of the trouble in both cases lies in the fact that we forget
the presence of God. As soon as we do recall it to mind, our startled soul raises its eyes,
looks up at its Lord and speaks to him. It prays. From a superficial prayer it turns into a
profound prayer, and the "distractions" are but variants of the interior movement that
carry it in the direction of God.

Whether at the stadium, on an excursion, at a concert, at the theater, listening to
the radio, anywhere and everywhere you can and must remain in God's presence. Every
place is sacred. Since the Lord is always there, nothing will excuse you from taking Him
into account. It is your Friend, who is so solicitous for you, who sends you these
relaxations and who invites you to enjoy them. So, you should take your relaxation with
Him. They, as well as novena devotions and sermons, must be graces for you to love Him
better. And in these "frivolities," all licit, how many things would lead you to Him if your
mind were focused on Him! M usic — that wing of the soul — a noble countryside, a
beautiful spectacle, a perfume, a graceful gesture, all are voices whereby God speaks to
you and through which you can make answer to him. The world is made for prayer; it is
an ever-open temple. How wonderful and sanctifying it would be for you if everywhere,
as you wend your way, you knew how to reap those graces which he has sown for you!
When, because of your social status, you find yourself plunged into worldly
things, do not conclude that you are excused from contemplation; do not think that you
are dispensed from it. Despite her duties as mistress of an aristocratic family, Saint
Frances of Rome lived united to God, as did Blessed Anna M aria Taigi, in the midst of
abject poverty and the distractions of a large family. Later in life, as superior of a
convent, Frances divulged her secret to her subjects. "God looks at you," was all she
constantly repeated to them. When the notary Giacomo Benedetti came to bury his wife
— she had been killed during a banquet — he discovered a hair shirt under her brocaded
dress. He had never doubted that his lovable wife was a saint and that when she looked at
the games she was smiling at Christ. Yet the discovery so shocked him that he himself
became Blessed Jacopone da Todi, the inspired poet of divine love. And Saint Elizabeth
of Hungary! How well she knew how to blend an absorbing piety with the love for her
husband and her duties as duchess! Nothing need stand in man's way of loving God;
nothing need stop him from praying to God. The only thing necessary is to recall Him to
mind, to see God in all things. For people in the world, this requires a little more applied
effort than for religious. That is why Jacopone, a man of strong passions, thought it more
prudent to become a Franciscan in order to sanctify himself.
And so, if you are a religious, bless your merciful Savior every day for having
called you to a life where prayer is so easy. In the religious life, prayer and life add up to
one and the same thing. You are a professional man or woman of prayer. Take this
motivating idea: "I live in Christ's house; I am a daily guest in His home." How this very
thought could transfigure everything in you and around you! How you could focus your
attention on him, be solicitous to please him and what abiding joy would fill your heart
and thereby make every effort a light one! Ohl Blessed home illumined by so cherished a
presence! A religious one day said: "The poetry of the cloister, what nonsense!" But
Catherine of Siena's answer to that could have been used: "You are the one who makes it
prosaic." The poetry of the cloister is Jesus with us and encountered and embraced
everywhere. It is the monastery or convent turned into a paradise. Blessed are they who
see it in that light and who live this wonder, for all other poetry when compared to it
becomes insipid.
If you are a priest, may I remind you that by reason of your vocation you, too, are
vowed to prayer, and far more than a religious is; that men look upon you as the
representative of Christ, that your clinging to Christ must be so lasting, profound, and
transforming that they recognize Christ, an alter Christ us, in you, and that through this

fervent union you will find the fountain of graces which they rightfully expect from you.
If you lose contact with God, you cease to be the conductor of grace between God and
man, for there would no longer be any current in the wire and you would be failing in
your mission. A priest must be a contemplative: contemplata aliis tradere.
The same principle holds good for the man of action, the ardent apostle of
Catholic Action. If you wish to be successful, do not forget that God alone gives the
increase. Your first duty is to pray. If God must be interwoven into everything, He must
have a place especially in the apostolate. Believe, then, in the apostolate of prayer, in the
primacy of the supernatural, in the all-powerfulness of a Christ-bearer. Of all the forms of
Catholic Action, prayer is the most important.
That is why I leave the place of honor to those to whom God has forbidden all
other type of action: the unfit, the unwanted, the sick, those who are riveted to their bed
of pain, prisoners, all who cannot move about. If you can be counted among them, be
glad. You are at the outposts of supernatural frays. You are dedicated to the
contemplative life. All obstacles, anxieties, and distractions of the active life are brushed
aside for you. There is but one duty left for you, the only important one: prayer — and
prayer is doubly efficacious if it bears the stamp of the cross. Rather than concentrate on
your pains and petty concerns, profit by this signal grace and turn this precious time to
good account. M ay it be a retreat for you and zenith of the apostolate.

Here are a few general means to make your prayer during the day more
continuous. The lastingness of the union will come about in proportion to your
faithfulness in using them. The first is habitual recollection. Nothing of lasting value can
be accomplished without silence — and particularly that "prayer of life," that state of
prayer which should be the hidden foundation of your soul and should govern all you do.
For that reason all monastic rules enjoin the law of silence. It is the condition and
safeguard of the interior life. The duty of silence — it would be more correct to call it the
right to silence — is the marvel of a religious house, for it is silence organized as a
bulwark of love. What is it but the right to keep silent, to pursue one's thought and one's
conversation with God in security. According to worldly standards it is impolite to talk,
to intrude upon the life of your neighbor, to prevent him from thinking by obliging him to
answer nonsensical ques tions. In religious circles, politeness demands that we be quiet
and respect the silence of others. What an unappreciated blessing! Silence is the feast of
religious. The religious who no longer understands this shows that his soul has become
empty. When a house is left wide-open to all intruders, we may be sure that there is not
very much to guard.
If you are a lay person, you must follow the law of the world. You cannot be
unsociable. Yet, you must shield your hidden treasure against the world. The life of the
world — and your life — has been drawn up with no thought to your treasure. While
observing the proprieties imposed by society, you must create silence, provide moments
of solitude and, despite unavoidable necessary human communication and obligatory
chit-chat, set aside for yourself periods of recollection. The hindrance to a profound life

is talking. You must learn to keep silent. Silence is the domain of God, for then the Spirit
speaks within us.
Lip silence induces the silence of the heart, which is the recollection of the soul
within itself, in that center where the voices of many anxieties have no access. There are
some souls who miss all the divine encounters because they are never home. When God
wishes to visit them, they are out. The saint is the man whose heart is a well-guarded
sanctuary. The Lord, who was waiting for him, always finds him there.
If you wish to lead a life of prayer, you will have to ward off whatever distracts
you. I have said that we can pray in the midst of pleasures and social events. Yes, we can,
but it surely is not the ideal. We must, especially in the beginning, try to reduce our
diversions. The concern of the world is to "distract itself." The pious man strives to flee
from its distractions, for his interior life is too precious.
Take whatever recreation you need, but safeguard God's time. See that you strike
out all excess in your amusements. Having suppressed a particular outing or an evening
at the theater, you will find the leisure to do some spiritual reading or to attend evening

Exercises of piety, visits to the Blessed Sacrament, and attendance at divine
services are the second general means to promote the life of prayer. All these practices
are rich in graces. They preserve and nourish the spirit of devotion. And more than once
you will experience the touch of the Holy Ghost. To neglect them would eventually lead
to spiritual anemia.
Above all, put your confidence in the Blessed Sacrament. With this mystery we
are in the realm of the purely supernatural and divinely transcendent action. Holy M ass
and communion are sources of graces par excellence, and particularly graces of union.
What do you find at the communion rail if not perfect union with Christ, the magnificent
and gratuitous gift which you have been looking for in vain elsewhere? What efforts are
required of you to reach divine union and how slowly it comes! Now, it is accomplished
of itself, fully, by the grace of the sacrament. You gain more in one moment than you
would through a whole day's labor. Be really hungry, then, for this manna which falls
from the wounds of the Savior. Live from the M ass and from Holy Communion; continue
this unspeakable meeting during the entire day; prolong the sacramental union by
Spiritual Communion. If you really cannot attend M ass — and do not be too quick to
excuse yourself — think of it at least, and make a Spiritual Communion. At least do not
start the day oblivious of the sacrifice which is offered for you and of the banquet
prepared for you. This pious thought and its accompanying desire will be some
compensation for the sacrament and will contribute directly to this union.
And then, when you can, go and regain contact with your Savior by visiting him
in the tabernacle. There, in the quiet of a church, you will experience the action of His
divine presence. Our Lord is there, in the tabernacle, really and physically present, not
out of love for the ciborium to be sure, but out of love for us, for each one of us. The
effect of His presence radiates from the host into our hearts: each time a heart comes and
offers itself to His action, it goes away divinely influenced. Go then and place yourself in
this Eucharistic radiance. Each vis it will be a bath of devotion. You will receive graces

there which you will not find elsewhere. Really believe that God's wish to dwell among
us is not a vain one.
Do not forget either the M ediatrix of graces. She is the mother of Jesus and your
mother. Like all mothers, nothing is dearer to her heart than to see her children live on
friendly terms. Her great joy is to see you fervently united to her divine Son. Her one
wish is to interest herself in this with all her maternal love. Go to her then. Pray to her
frequently to this end. Ask her to bring about in you what you are helpless to accomplish.
As the Mystical Rose, she will teach you the ways of prayer. She will lead you to Jesus
and will herself put your hand in his.

I have already spoken of the third means: short prayers, invocations, aspirations,
which are sent up to God as often as possible during the course of the day.
For the fervent man these prayers are as spontaneous as the flame that glows from
a well-started fire; for the lukewarm soul or the beginner, they must be incited like the
spark from the flint that starts the wick burning.
These prayers are of two kinds. There is first the ejaculatory prayer, a brief and
expressive formula which is repeated without variation throughout the day. The important
thing is to choose one that is conformable to your needs. It should express the state of
your soul and the present tone of your relationship to God. If, for instance, a verse of a
psalm strikes you during the recitation of the Divine Office, make it the leitmotif of the
day. If you are in bad humor and must fight impatience, murmur: "Jesus meek and
humble of heart, make my heart like unto thine." If you do not feel like praying, repeat
over and over: "M ary, help me to pray." If your soul is fervent, it will naturally want to
burst forth in the cry: "My God, I love you." When you have received some grace, say
over and over again: "Thank you, my Lord." If you are overburdened with work, sanctify
it by the following offering: "For you, Lord." And so on. Lastly, there is always the
prayer of adoration to God ever-present. "Blessed be God; I adore you," and likewise the
humble prayer of petition which Cas sian had his monks repeat from morning until night:
"Lord, help me. Hasten to support me." Perhaps the best of all these prayers and the one
that has the advantage of briefness is the simple word: "Jesus!" The Holy Name can make
up for all the others, for it is charged with grace.
The second type of elevation is the prayers which we address to God according to
the circumstances which arise. I have already suggested several on awakening, while
dressing, during work, at mealtime, for good and bad weather, and so forth. They must be
sprinkled all over in order to sanctify everything. Formerly, Christians had books
composed of such prayers. They were the daily food of their piety. Here are a few
At dawn: "Rise in me, O Sun of Justice, and light up my soul with your light."
On the way to church: "As the hind longs for the running waters, so my soul longs
for you, O God."
When the clock strikes the hour: "How little I have loved you up to now, my God!
Time flies.... I resolve to begin now. Help me to sanctify this hour."
In affliction: "You suffered for me, my Savior. Take this suffering and unite it to

In joy: "Thank you, my Jesus, for this undeserved joy. Having come from You, it
is doubly precious."
In temptation, look at the crucifix and say: “O my crucified Savior, dare I be so
cruel as to add to Your martyrdom by one more sin? Help me. With You I am stronger
than the devil." After committing a fault: "My God, forgive me. I wish to make reparation
for what I have done by great love.... And I have confidence that You will forgive me."
Before a beautiful scene: “O my God, if your creation is so wonderful, what must
be your Supreme Beauty? I adore You." And so on and on.
Even if these precious anthologies are very scarce on the market, everyone can
easily compile one of his own. Over and above prayers of personal inspiration, there is
much to be gleaned from the psalms and the other prayers of the Church. Having jotted
them down in a notebook, you will be able to find them at the desired time.
The practice of saying aspirations is an extremely useful one. These brief
elevations keep the soul alert to things divine. They arouse or activate devotion; they
provoke grace. Perhaps you will repeat your ejaculatory prayer twenty times and very
mechanically, but the next time its meaning will strike you, and it will be a light to your
soul and a spark to your heart. Besides, its very repetition will in the end permeate you
with its power.
Irrespective of the value these prayers have of themselves, independently of any
other useful effort, they are just that many salutary invocations, so many returns to God
that you would not otherwise have made and for which the good Lord will bless you.
Perseverance in this exercise is, then, important. Nor should you wait to begin it
when you feel like it. No, this spiritual exercise should be part of your spiritual life in
time of fervor and even more so in times of spiritual dryness. You will have the
impression that during such days these prayers are not sincere and have no merit. Let me
remind you that they are sincere as soon as you want to make them such, and that they
are doubly meritorious when said under such difficulty. The apparent lack of piety and
sincerity is normal and derives from the fact that you are in a state of war and of
transformation. The old man in you has not yet been cast out and has not given place to
the new man. We cannot expect the old man to experience the feelings of the new man.
And what is asked of the new man are not feelings but acts, acts of pure will, and
especially repeated acts, renewed so often that they become habits, and prayer becomes
as it were a reflex action.
You are struggling against your past. How many thousands of actions have you
performed up to now without thinking of God! And all these acts, which have been by far
too natural, have by their very repetition made you what you are. Have patience then. The
task now is to perform thousands of actions in the opposite direction, actions that are
permeated with prayer in order to retrieve your normal, supernatural attitude. Go about it
then courageously. The stakes are worth it.
There are some souls who keep track of their daily ejaculatory prayers, and we are
told of some who say an unbelievable number of them. Such a procedure is not to be
counselled to everyone. One's spiritual temperament should be taken into account. For
most people this procedure would be harmful and distractful to prayer instead of a help.
But sometimes it would be good, especially in the beginning of the spiritual life, to make
moderate use of it: on certain days or at certain hours of the day when we are conscious
that our returns to God are truly quite rare. It is better to count our prayers than to forget

to pray. Such bookkeeping will occupy our attention, and will help us measure our
progress and set-backs.

We now come to the fourth and last means: written notes. I am not talking of a
spiritual diary — something that is to be rarely tolerated. Furthermore, the first steps in
the spiritual life furnish scant material for such writings. Yet the novice experiences
certain movements of sensible devotion which he quickly interprets as exalted graces. To
allow him to consign such things to writing would present a special danger.
What can prove useful is to keep a notebook which is a daily and brief record of
your successes and failures, their causes, certain symptomatic facts, some thought which
seemed beneficial; everything, in a word, which will be helpful to remember and which
will be useful to you later on. Its only purpose is to help you to make progress in prayer,
without exposing yourself to vain complacency.
The system you use may be one of many. Everyone will have his own. It may be
simply a few cursory, even schematic, notes. You might choose the form of a chart: a
column for each day and a line for each point. From day to day the good will be marked
with a plus sign; the bad with a minus. With a little imagination you will discover a
method you like.
The important thing is to understand the usefulness of such a procedure. In certain
cases, it can prove to be very beneficial. For systematic notes maintain attention, arouse
interest, and spur one on to spiritual work. Interest is awakened in one's notebook, in
one's chart and thereby indirectly in one's supernatural life. I do not wish to imply that
this means is advisable for everyone, nor in all cases, but it sometimes does accomplish
marvels. A periodic glance at your notebook or chart will produce interesting conclusions
and practical resolutions.
Quite naturally, your notes will be strictly personal. At the very most, you will
show them to your spiritual director for such a procedure can help him become better
acquainted with the state of your soul.


Heavens! you will exclaim. What a number of exercises and how complicated this
all is! Is such strategy really necessary in order to discharge so simple a duty as prayer?
Yes, prayer is simple. It is we who are complicated — and disorganized. We must
never forget original sin. A cyclone swept the world and left the terrain topsy-turvy,
strewn with obstacles, criss-crossed with ravines, so much so that the most difficult road
henceforth is a straight line: the simple road that goes from will to action. All good
Christians would like to sanctify themselves. But between willing and acting there is an
abyss which many never jump. The exercises proposed to you have this that is good
about them: they force you to act. And one act is better than a hundred idle wishes.
The facility to act supernaturally is regained only at the price of a long process of
re-education. Now, so as not to be misunderstood, I again repeat that I am speaking
principally in this first part of the book of well-disposed Christians who have hardly

begun the work of clearing the ground. M y aim is to teach them how to pray as well as
possible in their present state and with great expectations for the future. There is nothing
surprising about the fact that their progress is slow and shielded with a thousand
precautions. But they will make progress if they use these means.
If someone knows a better method of resolving the problem, I would be very
happy to learn of it. In brief, we are concerned with the fundamental exercise of the
presence of God. All authors of the spiritual life stress its importance. But perhaps they
have not insisted on it sufficiently, or not in too practical a way. Yet, this exercise is at
the very basis of prayer; the first condition to speak to someone is to know that he is
Surely, there are other means, but as a matter of fact they, too, consist in
improving one's disposition, in leveling the terrain, and in building roads on it that lead to
God. This will be the purpose of other chapters where we shall delve into thesubject more
deeply. Prayer, then, will take on a completely different aspect. But unless this reform is
inaugurated, the other methods will be useless.


I would again like to repeat what I have said over and over: the point is not to
harness ourselves from the very beginning with all these exercises at one time. That
would spell disaster. He who grasps everything will lose everything. M any act like the
thoughtless runner who starts out at full speed, pants after a quarter of a mile, and gives
up after a third of a mile. If you were to practice a tenth of what I have just suggested, it
would be wonderful. The rest will follow little by little, at least what is applicable to you
To go about this in a practical way, it will be advantageous for you in the
beginning to follow this procedure. Choose one very concrete point and make it your
main point: for example, prayer while walking along the street, or the door prayer,
saluting God in a certain place, or the sanctification not of work, but of a particular detail
of your work, and so forth. And for a certain period of time, focus your attention on this
point. For the rest, be content with a more general and less tense effort, being satisfied
with having, again according to your abilities, two or three small secondary points to
sustain and distribute your interest and efforts over the entire day. For your main point
choose the one that attracts you most or which holds out the promise of easier success,
and continue to work on it until you succeed. It will encourage you.
Then, too, you will notice that success in one point will bring success in other
points, for there is a reciprocal influence between these points. This is easy to understand:
union with God has been reinforced, thinking of God has become for you somewhat
easier and more spontaneous. On that account, it tends to make itself felt a little
everywhere. Once an abscess is drained, our whole body feels better.
After this success, you will take another point. Gradually, step by step, you will
obtain an over-all success.

Here is another procedure you may combine with the preceding one. Without a
special gift of the Holy Ghost it is impossible to keep your mind fixed on God for days on
end. We could not attempt it without injury. But what is possible is to try it for a
relatively short time.
Choose an hour of your day and set it aside for this exercise: God's hour, during
which you will give your all. Choose, to begin with, an hour that will present the least
difficulties. Later, you will choose one which on the contrary will offer the greatest
obstacles. Consider that during that period of time your occupation is to pray, to keep
yourself united to God, the other things you have to do being subordinated to this. Of the
things you have to do, try to make each one a pretext to pray, to convert them all into
prayer, to apply to them as much as possible the different procedures which we have
proposed as the occasion presents itself. This will demand a certain mental tension but to
sustain this effort for a hour will not give you a nervous breakdown. During the rest of
the day you will throttle the motor down.
If a whole hour is too much for you, take only a half hour, a quarter hour, or
rather, instead of a certain long consecutive length of time, take two or three periods of
ten minutes each. If you object that such a thing is impossible, I shall not hesitate to tell
you that your dispositions are defective. You are not giving prayer the importance it
deserves. Furthermore, you will never reach the state of praying well.
If you make a serious attempt at this exercise, you will not be long in obtaining
surprising results. This way of prayer, utilized to its maximum during these short
intervals, will give you an attitude of soul which you would otherwise not have; you will
experience what your life ought to be ideally. You will receive graces which will nourish
your piety for the entire day, even for consecutive days, and sometimes they will be
decisive graces.
It is a practice exercise for the life of union. And here again the effects obtained
will overflow into the other hours of the day: first, in an immediate way, for at the end of
this hour with God, you will find yourself in the state most favorable to continue in the
union for the time that follows: then, in a general way, by the influence it will exert on
your life, as a whole, as was said for the preceding exercise.
When you have reached a satisfactory result for the hour you have chosen, you
will select another in which you will have the occasion to conquer new difficulties. Thus
little by little you will fill your entire day in this way.
By way of a conclusion, after you have acquired a little practice in this exercise, it
would be excellent to dedicate an entire day to it sometime. It would be God's day when,
quite naturally, in a less sustained way, you will try to live under the eye of God with
greater constancy than usual and will strive to do everything better, for his sake. As a
beginning, take a day in which you have less work, a Sunday, for instance; is that not the
meaning of Sunday, "the Lord's Day"? For religious, the monthly recollection is already
set aside for that purpose.
And, finally, try to make a retreat at least once a year. Set aside a few days which
you will spend not only in reflecting, but in practicing continual prayer as intensely as
possible. Everyone needs to provide an opportunity for himself now and then to remake

himself in order to restock himself, "to get back in the groove," and to take up his present
life with renewed spirit and vigor.
Some may find that I am asking a lot. I shall answer by asking the first question in
the catechism: "Why did God make you?" Do you or do you not believe that prayer is
your primary duty and the most important business you have? If such is the case, you
must agree that it is necessary to devote considerable time and effort to it, far more time
and effort than we give to any other enterprise. We must be willing to make the necessary
sacrifices. Nothing is won without sacrifice. Failure in prayer is usually due to a lack of
faith and courage.
Remember this well: the contemplative life is offered to everyone. Only those
who make it the business of their life and who know its worth attain it.

Chapter VIII
The Prayer of Conversation
BEING ABLE TO PRAY, Generally have in mind not the life of prayer (perhaps they
never gave it any serious thought), but that particular exercise more properly called
mental prayer, the hour or half-hour of prayer; or they may be thinking about the various
devotional practices which have been imposed on them or which they have imposed on
themselves. And so, as they have been reading this book, they have been surprised not to
find anything on the subject of mental prayer. In fact, in the two preceding chapters
where I drew up a program for a DAY WITH GOD, I deliberately omitted any mention
of this point which would seem to be the main purpose of this book.
I did so because, in view of its importance, mental prayer deserves special
treatment. Then, too, recall what was said regarding the close interdependence between
life and prayer, the state of prayer and the exercises of prayer. It, therefore, seemed more
practical to begin with the state of prayer, not only because it is easier but because it
makes mental prayer easier. If we acquire some practice in diffused prayer, in this
"prayer of life," which impregnates life, when we are about to begin our mental prayer we
will find ourselves in the best possible frame of mind to succeed.
On the other hand, the systematic exercise of mental prayer, the prayer to which
we dedicate a privileged hour during which all other occupations are at a standstill, is
particularly useful in fostering habitual prayer and even ordinarily indispensable to
maintain ourselves in a rather constant state of fervor. In the course of the day, because of
the many tasks that follow one upon another without respite, it is scarcely possible to
linger for any length of time over some interior impulse. Prayer cannot, therefore,
penetrate the soul deeply and there take deep root. Consequently, it is necessary to stop at
certain times, to break away from the flood of distractions, to moor the boat to the shore,
and in the calm of recollection surrender oneself completely to prayer.
There, in the solitude where the soul finds itself completely alone with God, it can
ponder over holy thoughts and pious sentiments, let them sink in deeply, and be imbued

with its prayer. There, the soul better hears the voice of the Holy Ghost and the voice of
its conscience. It is at leisure to rectify its attention, intention, and affection, and to unite
itself to God as it would always like to be. Such hours are refueling points along the
highway of life where the soul refreshes itself, replenishes its supplies, checks, repairs,
and tunes up the motor for the next lap.
But this is exactly where the difficulty lies. To use signs to remind ourselves of
God, to address a short prayer to him from time to time is not, after all, very difficult; but
to pray with attention for one consecutive half-hour, perhaps seems to you — and your
past experience only convinces you the more — to be an undertaking beyond your
Let us therefore see if there is not a way of solving this difficulty. The word
"impossible" is not Christian. There must be a solution.


First, let us investigate the causes of past failures.
There is no question of going back to the deep-rooted causes which we treated of
in Chapter II: lack of faith, attachment, a dissipated life. Our concern here will be with
the more immediate factors that explain your lack of success.
M ost people do not object to saying short prayers, but the very thought of thirty
minutes of prayer frightens them. Oh, they make it, but they go about it as if they were
performing some great penance, so conscious are they of their inability to succeed, and so
obsessed are they by the memory of boredom which has weighed down upon them so
many times in previous half-hours.
So, the first question to solve is the time element. To begin with, why do you
want to attempt more than you can do? No convalescent is served a lavish meal. He
would suffer from indigestion. In the beginning he is given light food and only little by
little is his stomach reaccustomed to solid foods. I fear that you have suffered from
indigestion — if I may be permitted the expression — in your attempts at mental prayer,
and hence your disgust, boredom, helplessness, and fear to begin again. M y first
prescription is the following wise counsel: reduce your rations.
It is the same as with visiting. When we are with close friends, the meeting lasts
for hours. Everyone enjoys himself. Among strangers it would not go beyond a quarter of
an hour. There are some people who do not know when to leave. After the lapse of a
suitable period of time, when we expect to see them make a move to leave, they persist in
rehashing a thread-worn conversation. They continue to annoy everyone and torture
themselves. M ental prayer is a visit we pay to God. It must not be a penance, except in
special cases, for that is not its purpose.
The thing to do, then, is to apportion the duration of your visit according to your
degree of intimacy with our divine Lord and the fluency of the conversation. In the
beginning, say short prayers, say, for ten minutes or even less, depending on the difficulty
you experience. There is nothing frightening about a few minutes spent in mental prayer.
Except in extreme cases, everyone can control his attention for a few minutes.
The obligatory period of mental prayer in religious communities is ordinarily a
half-hour. In that case, if you are a religious, make your ten minutes of prayer and spend
the remainder of the half-hour in pious reading, in saying other prayers or in some other

pious exercise. If obedience demands otherwise (and such a thing, in principle, would be
regrettable) , then be obedient.
Should you feel well-disposed and are making progress in mental prayer, profit by
it; prolong it beyond the fixed time. Your aim must be to increase the dose gradually until
you complete the half-hour and even more without too much difficulty. St. Peter of
Alcantara demanded a minimum of an hour and a half to two hours for a good mental
prayer. Some saints spent the entire night, but you have not reached that point. It is to be
hoped that you will see the day when you have a yearning to pray, when mental prayer
becomes the sweetest and most cherished of your pursuits. With good will you will
eventually live to see that day. Then, the time allotted to mental prayer will always seem
too short.


Another reason for your lack of success is your choice of subjects for mental
prayer. The market is almost flooded with "meditation books for every day of the year."
Some of them are excellent and have rendered invaluable help to pious souls. But there is
a right way to use them. They are not panaceas. It is fitting that they be used intelligently.
We shall come to the point at once and say that, with exceptions, their use is
scarcely recommendable for the type of mental prayer we have in mind at this stage of
the spiritual life. Some might think just the opposite: "Since you do not know how to
pray, help yourself by using a book. It will make mental prayer easier." It would seem the
natural thing to do. The procedure is not to be condemned in itself, but there are
inconveniences which we must guard against, for it runs the risk of placing mental prayer
outside of life, of making it bookish, and thereby easily inducing boredom. By offering
ready-made meditations, it can encourage the beginner to become lazy and hinder the
initiative, the spontaneity of mental prayer, the very things we are trying to awaken.
Then, too, there is no question of getting you to meditate in your present state, but rather
of encouraging you to converse. We will return to the matter of meditation books in their
proper place. For the present, you may profitably use them as spiritual reading, as primers
rather than as outlines of mental prayer.
The first principle for this "prayer of conversation" is that the subject of
conversation be interesting, as interesting as possible, not in theory, but interesting to
you. It must be simple, practical, personal, something that comes to your mind as it were
naturally. M ental prayer must be an integral part of life; it must turn upon your life, as it
now unfolds; it must revolve around your occupations — what interests you for the
moment. It must be like a conversation with a close friend. It will not, therefore, consist,
as a rule, in one subject of prayer, but in several which follow one another depending on
the interest they hold for you.
The first of such subjects will very often be the habitual state of your relationships
with God, that search for union with him which is your concern during the entire day.
Here you have a subject selected for you. You need not look for it in some book. It is a
meditation point which currently interests you, for it is taken from the book of your life.
Talk to God about it. In that way diffused mental prayer makes the approach to formal
prayer easier. We stay on the same ground. All we do is carry life over into prayer and
keep both on the same level. We but pursue our supernatural life more intensely and

exclusively. And this complies with the real meaning of mental prayer, for it is meant to
be a condensation of life.
Without that subject matter, you may very well find yourself without any
meditation point whatsoever. It adequately fosters your conversation with God. (When
you talk to your friend, you do not have a fixed program. You talk about your everyday
life.) Yet, in order to vary the conversation and sus tain your interest, it will ordinarily be
helpful to have a secondary and occasional subject, because you are not yet that close to
your divine Friend. Try and take Him into your life also by talking over the latest
happenings, the day's events, the personal, external or internal, supernatural or natural
incidents in your life, or the thought uppermost in your mind, your present state, your
present needs, everything that is vital, active, and dynamic in your mind. Graft them all
on to the basic thought, as so many variants of your main concern: union with God, with
a view of relating all of them to that union and of making the two subjects one, which
itself will form one unit with life.
Let us say, for example, that you become aware that you have a tendency to
neglect some drudging duty, that you are over-active, that you have a tendency to
sadness, or that you waste your time. M ake the subject of your prayer: "My God, with
your help I am going to try and remain more united to You today in order to find in that
union the courage to do my work, or to restrict my activity, or to find the grace to sur-
mount my melancholy, or to check my flightiness, particularly at such and such a time."
The great enemy of prayer, what paralyzes and sterilizes it, is isolating it,
divorcing it from life. It then becomes nothing more than an exercise merely juxtaposed
to other activities, there being no connection whatsoever nor reciprocal influence of the
one on the other. M ental prayer thus cut off from life tends to be no more than a
formalistic practice, doomed to remain theoretical and highly superficial. It is a branch
through which the sap no longer flows. No fruit can be forthcoming. It can only wither.
Unity must be maintained in your spiritual activities. Everything must work
together, must be mutually helpful, and concur in the same goal. That is why mental
prayer must be closely and deeply interwoven into our daily life, steeped in it, spring
from it, be of the same substance, be itself a part of life — the best part of our life — and
why life must be prayer.
You now better understand why we insisted first on the life of prayer before
treating of mental prayer. You also see that the form of mental prayer which we here
propose can hardly succeed if it is not incorporated into this habitual prayer, or at least
into a habitual effort toward prayer. The latter should be your constant concern.


It is not only important to inject our life into prayer, but equally important that our
life be shot through with prayer. The fusion is wrought by this twofold interaction.
But all too frequently this is what happens. When the time comes to terminate this
spiritual exercise, we close the book, recite the concluding prayer, and return to our work
with no further thought of what we have just been doing. We leave our mental prayer in
the choir-stall, on the priedieu, or in the church pew until the next mental prayer: like the
employee who puts down his pen when the bell rings, tidies up his desk, and hastens

Under such conditions, the effects of mental prayer are so vague and diluted as to
be indiscernible. It leaves an impression of uselessness. True, we have fulfilled a duty,
but that is all; and our mental prayer ends on that final note.
We should not say, as has sometimes been said, that mental prayer is only a
means to a better life. That would be inadequate. It is more than a means; it is something
excellent in itself. It is a part of life. Still it certainly is a means of better living and must
tend to that effect.
A well-made prayer will always have a beneficial influence on your behavior, but
a good portion of it will be lost if the two are not interwoven. Normally, mental prayer
will incite some practical resolutions, if only to carry over into your activities the good
dispositions it aroused. These dispositions must be transferred from the period of mental
prayer into the hours which follow. But this application must be immediate and without
any break: an interruption of one minute can be enough to cut the mental prayer off from
life and lose the greatest benefit from it.
If a locomotive is warmed up and the engineer pulls the throttle full speed ahead,
and meanwhile the brakeman forgot to couple the first car to the engine, the rest of the
train will stay in the yard. It is extremely important at the conclusion of your mental
prayer to complete the coupling, to supervise with meticulous care the transition from
prayer to action — to continue your mental prayer. It is really not quite true to say that it
is finished for, in one sense, we can say that it begins at that moment. We have been
exerting ourselves to be united with God. The time has now come to live it.
You must return to present-day life with God, united to God as you have just been
during this holy exercise, with the sentiments of recollection, detachment, humility,
kindness, and love which it elicited, to such an extent that everything that you have to do
be imbued with the "spirit of prayer," that everything be done under the influence of
Jesus ever-present.
In that way, mental prayer will have immediate, concrete, and tangible effects on
your conduct. You will feel its wonderful efficacy. You will experience that it is truly
something useful and practical. Furthermore, you will develop a liking for it.
In this way, the co-ordination, the connection, and finally the unity of prayer and
action, the two forms of love, are brought about.

A final and important point is the manner in which you conduct the exercise. The
temptation sometimes is to regiment mental prayer too much, to make it an exercise in
the literal meaning of the word, subjected to rigid and sometimes complicated rules. The
best methods fail if they are not elastic. The most judicious methods of mental prayer
become false and irksome when they lose their suppleness. They are no longer adaptable.
Like a tight jacket, they constrict your movements.
Prayer must not be stilted and, least of all, the one we call the prayer of
conversation. Above all, we should not tie ourselves down too rigidly to a methodical
plan, except along certain broad lines and even then not always nor doggedly. It is far
better if we go about it very simply and freely, with a certain abandonment, patterning it,
as I have said, after a conversation with a close friend. The Cure of Ars said: "A man has

faith when he speaks to God as one does to a man," that is, in a completely natural,
spontaneous, and personal manner, as we do our best friend.
In this type of prayer reasoning is reduced to a minimum. Instead of reflecting,
speak to God Who is present, as you did during the day, only now you can do so at
leisure, with an even freer mind and in a more connected way.


There are a few practical recommendations to suggest before we begin to describe
the procedure to be followed in mental prayer.
How often should you make your mental prayer? A good average, it seems, would
be two or three times a day. The best time generally will be in the morning and in the
evening. It is very desirable to have, in addition, a time for mental prayer around the
middle of the day. For the rest, it is up to each one to find out at what time he is freer and
the amount of time he can devote to it. But once the different times have been chosen, we
must stick to them. Every Christian who truly wishes to sanctify himself must engage in
mental prayer at least once a day. And as for the length of time, if we cannot say any long
prayers, let us at least say some short ones.
The best place will ordinarily be in church, especially at those times when there
are fewer people there. If that is impossible, then we could make it in some secluded spot,
or in any place, even a public one where we would be unnoticed. We can be more solitary
in the anonymity of the street than in an oratory. We must of necessity create solitude for
ourselves. Saint Frances of Rome had a hermitage built for herself at the far end of a
garden. All are not so fortunate, but we can always find some suitable corner, even on a
train or a subway.
The posture to assume is the one which best promotes prayer. It is natural to get
on our knees when speaking to God, but if fatigue hampers your thoughts, sit down. It is
far better to pray sitting down than to be distracted on your knees. It is your soul that
should be on its knees, for that is the real respect God demands of you. But you should
not, under the sheer pretext of praying better, reach the point of humoring your laziness,
for then the result will be just the opposite. The energy of the posture sustains the energy
of the mind. Should you be one of those persons who think while walking, there is no
objection to your making your mental prayer in that fashion; we carry on a conversation
quite well while walking. But you must be on the lookout for the occasions of
distractions. God is everywhere, but the devil is, too.

The first thing to do as you are about to begin your mental prayer is to place
yourself in the presence of God in a clearer and more real way than you were. Do this in
order to be keenly aware that He is looking at you and listening to you and that you have
come to talk to Him. Then, immediately adore Him profoundly. That is the first condition

and the preamble of every conversation: we get in contact with someone and then
exchange greetings.
This first step has a corollary to it. You must withdraw yourself from worldly
concerns, shake off the temporal, and eject from your mind everything that is contrary to
focusing your attention on God alone. You must empty your house, and there create an
atmosphere of solitude in order to enjoy the companionship of the Lord.
We have seen in a general way that the basic obstacle to prayer is attachment to
temporal things. It is particularly during the time set aside for mental prayer that we must
rid ourselves of this attachment. M any a mental prayer fails for lack of having placed
ourselves at the very outset in this state of purity. We begin it in the company of the
enemy who is the provider of all distractions. Once given entry, he is quick to take over
complete command. Freedom of the mind and heart is an essential condition for prayer.
When you were engaged in the "prayer of life," you could not distract yourself
from the business of the moment. The problem then was to inject prayer into your
activity, to unite in so far as possible the thought of God to the attention demanded by the
task you were performing. Here, on the contrary, everything else must disappear to give
free rein to the "one thing necessary." The present duty is to pray. Hence, the superiority
of formal prayer over diffused prayer.
It is equally important to free the mind of every sentiment which could be an
obstacle to interior peace: bitterness, discouragement, the haunting memory of a recent
fault, doubts, conscience troubles. These are so many hindrances to our association with
God. If you are troubled in any of these ways, make a sincere act of contrition followed
by a generous act of confidence, knowing that the Father of the prodigal son has
immediately forgiven and forgotten all, that you are in his good graces, and that He
welcomes with a divine joy the poor child who returns to Him humbly. Your return is
also an attitude of detachment and of healthy self-forgetfulness. Often it is a sinful self-
love that makes us dig up the past at a time when God is saying to us: "Do not think of it
any more, my child." How sad it is to think that self-love holds us back from throwing
ourselves into the arms of God.
The effort to detach ourselves from the world must be made with great faith and
energy. It should be done while talking to God: "Yes, my God, since you are doing me
the honor and the great kindness of inviting me to this conversation, I do not want to
think of anything else. I leave the world behind me in order to know, see, and hear no one
but you."
Naturally, knowing your frailty, you will add: "Help me, Lord, to remain in this
purity of heart and to hold a conversation with you that will be pleasing to you. Come,
Holy Ghost, give me light and love. You yourself pray in me."
Of these three initial acts — union, detachment, and petition — only the first is
always necessary. The other two will also be necessary ordinarily. Comes the day when
you approach your mental prayer in a state of great fervor, you can omit them. We do not
chase away an absent enemy. We do not ask for what we already possess.
But the first, the regaining of a closer contact with God, elevation toward God, the
look which fixes itself on him more intensely in order that the heart may follow — that is
indispensable. It is essential to all mental prayer. It is mental prayer. As soon as you are
thus united with God, you are in the state of prayer.

If someone were to ask me for a plan of prayer, I would tell him: first, unite
yourself to God who is present; secondly remain united to Him; and thirdly, persevere to
the very end in this union. That suffices, for to pray is to unite oneself to God.
Gaining contact with God is not a simple preliminary. It must persist throughout
the entire exercise as the integral and principle element. Once that contact ceases, you
may meditate, read, recite formulas, but it is no longer mental prayer.


Apart from this essential point and the correlative effort to detach ourselves, there
is in this matter no absolute rule to be imposed as a guide to mental prayer. The more
spontaneous it is, the better it will be. The ideal thing would be for everyone to make his
own program, if there is a program.
On the other hand, we must not allow our mind to wander. Controlling our
thoughts is important. There is no danger as long as we remain united to God. But this
union does run the risk of flagging if it is not watched, if it is not likewise fed and
replenished by a variety of supplies. That is why it is good to provide a sort of plan for
yourself, at least an outline, which you can dispense with, however, if God draws you to
Himself in a different way.
Beginners might find it helpful to have a model prayer of conversation, which
could be rather frequently applied. The first subject of your mental prayer, as we have
seen, will ordinarily be the habitual exercise of union with God. It goes without saying
that if you really try to put into practice what we have said above, if the search for God is
your preoccupation for the moment, it is only natural that, finding yourself alone with
God, you will talk to Him about it. You are interested in it and so is He. There can be no
doubt that it is a "subject of conversation" which comes to mind quite naturally if you
have taken the matter seriously.
The first point of the mental prayer, therefore, will, according to the time of the
day, be one of the examinations we have spoken of. Such an examination must always be
made in the form of a prayer, a speaking to God. It is already a kind of mental prayer.
Obviously it must be included in the prayer of conversation. If you have already made it
at some other time, it will suffice to go over it again quickly. But under ordinary
circumstances we hardly have the leisure to multiply exercises to such an extent, and
therefore we combine the two into one.
We shall not repeat what has already been said in this regard — the examination
of the preceding hours, and the examination of foresight, improving the future by means
of the past. But let us see how many things there are for you to talk over with the Lord —
points that will rise spontaneously from your heart during your mental prayer. You have
adored God by placing yourself in his presence and you remain in this adoring frame of
mind. Now, taking inventory in his presence of how much you have neglected and
forgotten him, you will experience a veritable shame and great sorrow at seeing so little
love, faith, and supernatural courage in your heart, and in all humility you will ask his
forgiveness. The need will make itself felt to make amends for your lukewarmness. You
will desire and take active measures to do better, and likewise call on his divine help
without which you are only too sure of falling again. Then, too, remembering the good
impulses you had, your returns to God, and other more fervent upliftings, you will thank

Him for His merciful help, for the graces, for the holy inspirations whereby He drew you
to Himself and which are a precious proof of His love. All the classical ends of prayer are
to be found in an examination thus made piously under the eye of God — all without
having followed a preconceived plan. It is all so natural and as it were flows necessarily
from so practical an exercise.

And now, what will the immediate conclusion and the first effect of your
examination be? Why, it will be to bring into play the desire to do better and to apply
yourself then and there to unite yourself with God more fervently, and to do it from now
on, especially now, since you have nothing else to do and that is what you are here for.
The second point of the mental prayer will therefore be an exercise of union.
In truth, you have been doing it from the very beginning of your prayer, for you
began by becoming conscious of the presence of God and by getting in touch with Him.
But perhaps the contact made in view of the examination to follow was somewhat hasty.
Now is the time to tarry over it, to plunge yourself into this union which is the heart of
mental prayer, to make it a reality for its own sake. M ake it your one and only concern.
Here, the union becomes the very object of the exercise. Raise your mind, then, to God;
imbue yourself with the thought of his holy and sanctifying presence to the extent that
you become so keenly moved by it that it becomes the one and only reality, that for you,
here and now, there is nothing else: God with you and you with God, so much so that the
cry of the Apostle Thomas, "My Lord and my God," rises spontaneously from your soul.
Tell him: "M y God, my M aster, and my Savior, it is true that You are here, so
close, so inmost in me, so attentive to me that I can speak to you in whispered tones as I
would to a confidential friend. It is true that you are looking at me, that You are listening
to me, that You love me.... I adore You and I love You. How I wish my love were
boundless! Take what little love I have to offer you. Behold my soul, my poor weak love;
my whole being is prostrate before You. Be in truth 'my God and my All.' "
Repeat that prayer or whatever one the presence of God suggests to you. Perhaps
in saying it you will not feel any unction, or emotion. It makes no difference. You know
that you love God — and He knows it too — and that your words are no less true and
sincere than when you feel them. Perhaps the thought of God's presence will not succeed
in penetrating you and will seem quite superficial. Again, that makes no difference. You
believe in his presence. Let your faith, then, suffice.
At other times, when grace will take hold of you, it will be sweet and easy for you
to speak to your M aster in such wise, and to contemplate him now and then in silence. Be
glad and pursue this intimate conversation. Do not worry about anything else. Do not
interrupt the union; do not interfere with the action of the Holy Ghost. You have reached
the goal. Do not try to find new roads that will lead you to it. Otherwise, all you will
succeed in doing is to remove yourself further from it. The seraphic St. Francis spent
entire nights constantly repeating, "My God and my All," with an indescribable fervor.
But for that a great love is needed. Ordinarily, you will see that the vein soon runs
dry. Then quietly return to conversation. Love does not generally stay at a high pitch for a
long time. When it ebbs away, the only thing to do is follow its course and simply revert
to conversation. Then will be the moment to take up one of those occasional subjects we

have already spoken of. It will be your subject of conversation with God. See to it,
however, that the conversation remains a union, less intense but just as real as the
preceding phase.

These subjects are of an infinite variety. It is up to you to choose the one which,
for the moment, appeals to you most. It might well be the feast-day or the current
liturgical season. For instance, if you are in the Christmas season, it would be quite
natural to speak to Our Lord of His Incarnation, of His birth, to approach the crib in
company with the shepherds to adore, thank, and pray to the Divine Child. During Pas-
siontide you can kneel at the foot of the cross and grieve over the sufferings of Christ. At
Easter, you can congratulate Him, rejoice with Him, and ask Him to effect a spiritual
resurrection within you. At Pentecost, you can invoke the Spirit of Love. On the feast of
the Assumption, your prayer and filial love can be directed to the Blessed M other. On the
feast of All Saints, you can think of heaven and pray Our Lord that he lead you there. On
the feasts of the saints you love, for example, Paul, Francis, M agdalene, and the Little
Flower, you can pray God with them, and try somewhat to imitate their fervor and
virtues. The liturgical cycle is an inexhaustible treasure of mental prayer.
Public worship, the prayers of the Church as found in the missal or breviary, also
provides nourishing food for mental prayer. In bygone days, mental prayer consisted
principally in leisurely going over the psalms that had already been chanted in choir.
If such subjects seem too elevated for our present state of soul, look for others that
are more interesting. Now, what interests you most? Yourself, undoubtedly. Then, take
yourself as the subject of mental prayer: you and your personal affairs, but in relationship
to God.
Take your spiritual affairs first: a fault that stands in the way of your attempts at
prayer, a fault you have lapsed into again, a doubt, an anxiety, a temptation that weighs
over you, a virtue you are trying to acquire and which you admire in another, a difficulty
you are having with such and such a person, a grace you have received. Or, simply revert
to the life of prayer just as you did in the first point, but this time in a freer way than in
the examination.
I mentioned above that you should not think of your sins at the beginning of your
mental prayer. But it is quite one thing to be troubled by them and to have your flight
toward God held back by them and another thing, once you are united to him, to speak in
a filial way about them to him and to tell God again of your sorrow and, then, go on to
form good resolutions.
In this regard there are so many things to say to your heavenly Father that there
can be no thought here of developing them. They are, moreover, so simple and flow so
naturally from the subject contemplated that they will easily and quite spontaneously
come to mind because they are personal things which form part of life.
And why not talk to God about your temporal affairs? Do we not talk over these
things with our father or our best friend? It was God himself who placed you in this
world and made it a law that you were to earn your bread here. Does He demand that you
leave the world in order to love Him, that you lead a double life, the greater part of which
should be cut off from Him? Everything comes from Him; everything is His and must

render Him homage. And just as you must sanctify your life by constant prayer, so also
your present life can and must find its way into your mental prayer in order that it be the
gift of your entire self.
You are peeved or concerned about something. What a beautiful proof of
confidence it would be to tell Jesus, in all simplicity, what weighs on your heart, and to
go to Him for comfort and advice! What a wonderful proof of love to smile at the cross
and to offer your sorrow to Our Lord in union with his Passion! Such a prayer will do you
an immense good. The sorrows and joys of every day, the incidents in your professional
life, family happenings, a baptism, a wake, a loss of money, an inheritance, a praise, a
criticism — all must be brought to Christ. You must tell Him everything, and confide in
Him. Treat him just as you do those you love very much. He is the Spouse of souls.
Everything must be held in common between Him and you. In this way you will
supernaturalize the temporal; you will sanctify it. And since you live in the world,
nothing could be more necessary.
Use the same procedure for the news of the day. Your newspaper offers a host of
subjects for mental prayer. You talk to your friend about what you have read, and most of
the time you grumble about it: "Everything is going wrong; the world is in a mess."
Suppose you talk these things over with your Divine Friend! You could tell Him: "Yes,
Lord, current history is painting a discouraging picture. Far be it from me to become
attached to this miserable earth and to this life of trials. I wish to concentrate my efforts
on preparing myself for the wonderful life to which You have invited me." Or you might
say to him: "It would, indeed, be discouraging to see where the world is heading, but I
know, my God, that you are interested in it, that you have your plan, and I have
confidence in your infallible wisdom." You will bounce back with supernatural optimism.
You will, likewise, pray to Him for some particular mission, some endeavor, some poor
parish mentioned in the Propagation of the Faith column, for the deceased who are listed
in the newspaper, for all the unfortunate who bear the cost of these news items, even for
politicians regardless of what party they belong to. If you do this, you will be performing
an apostolic work.
Here, too, a danger lurks. Interesting subjects can easily become too absorbing
and so quickly capture your attention that you forget about God and prayer. Hence, this
sort of prayer needs to be seriously disciplined. Extreme attention must be used to see
that every subject of mental prayer be referred to God. The way to accomplish this is to
talk to God about it as you ponder it. Your conversation must never become a
monologue. As you think it over with God as your witness and confidante, you cannot do
otherwise than to bring everything round to the supernatural point of view.
You may also take for a subject some thought that struck you in the course of
your spiritual reading or in regard to some happening: the vanity and ephemeral nature of
human things, hell, the greatness or the mercy of God, some scene or teaching in the
Gospel, the immense goodness of Christ, confidence in his love, his presence in the
Eucharist, a particular virtue of some saint, or some prayer which you know from experi-
ence will stimulate your piety.
In short, it is up to you to find what befits your present disposition. You must
choose, try, and change subjects deliberately. To open a door we try different keys until
we find the right one. When, in the course of a conversation, we exhaust a theme, we go

on to another. There must be no prejudice. The correct criterion is utility, and your mental
prayer will be beneficial if the subject you choose is adapted to the state of your soul.

There are days when none of these suggestions will answer your problem. We all
have bad days, days when the mind is sluggish or restless, and we find ourselves in a
regrettable state of mind: sad, angry, worried, impatient. Try first of all to discover the
cause and examine whether the exercise of detachment at the beginning of your mental
prayer was not made too superficially. If that is the case, make it over and try to
neutralize, to digest the troublesome element. Even if you restrict yourself to that one
point, you will have made a very good mental prayer, and a very useful one. Sometimes,
you will find no apparent cause. It could very well be purely physical. What should you
do then? Try your best to pray just the same. If your efforts are fruitless, humbly offer
yourself before God just as you are with your inability to pray and your bad humor. He
loves you that way because it is not your fault. Your good will suffices for him. It should
suffice for you, too.
In your struggle against distractions, that scourge of mental prayer, you might try
this: when you become aware that you are distracted, make the distraction the subject of
your mental prayer. Examine its contents. You will find that it is a ques tion of money, of
vanity, of spitefulness perhaps, or simply of amusement. You will catch yourself red-
handed in the act of self-love. For that is always, or nearly always, the case. You will be
able to put your finger on the self-love, the attachment, the excessive interest you give to
temporal things. "The old man" has again made his presence felt. This information is
precious. Humble yourself before God; then, under His eye, see what your attitude ought
to be on this occasion; reason with yourself supernaturally, and force your will to adopt
the frame of mind which refers all things to God only. You will conclude with an act of
virtue exactly where you need to make one. Thus will you play a good trick on the devil.
Your sharp counter-attack will turn his weapons against him.
It may happen, however, that the distraction obstinately reappears, either that one
or another, despite all your efforts. After two or three attempts, be satisfied with chasing
it away each time you are conscious of it, and affirm your good will before God by
begging Him to help you. Do this calmly without mental strain, without getting impatient
or sad. This recommendation of self to God is all that you can do and therefore all that
you ought to try to do. Realize, also, that you are not the only one who has distractions.
The Little Flower had them. They are normal.
If you lose your footing in this harassing stream of distractions, use a book to
anchor yourself and try to read attentively, that is, think and pray as you read. Or say your
rosary slowly or, if you prefer, indefinitely repeat some short invocation.
The main thing is to hold on and to make your mental prayer just the same, in one
way or another, remembering to make it short enough so that it does not become too
heavy a burden.
It is no great marvel to be faithful to mental prayer when it is easy and pleasant;
but to persevere when it is difficult, that is what is beautiful, useful, and meritorious. The
soldier proves his worth in battle. Here you are before the enemy, pressed and reduced to

a purely defensive position. Its purpose is to prepare you for future offensives.
M eanwhile, orders are to hold.
Those who abandoned mental prayer have done so during such periods and not in
the good periods. Hence, the extreme importance of the following advice: persevere
despite distractions and ill humor. Let that be a golden rule with you.

We have now come to the final points of mental prayer. All that has preceded will
normally end in inciting some resolutions having to do with the object of your mental
prayer. Other resolutions will concern a more or less distant future. The former should be
very practical, and it will be wise to prepare guide-marks in order not to forget them at
the desired moment. The latter apply to life in general and, therefore, to the immediate
future: notably that of living more united to God.
It is not, moreover, necessary that every mental prayer comprise an explicit
resolution on a definite point: it can suffice that it create a more upright and pious
disposition in the soul, that is, have an over-all effect on your life. This is even often
more important than specific resolutions because it goes deeper into the soul: it is the
motor itself which has thus been adjusted.
The dispositions and resolutions of immediate application are to be carried over
into the next hour. The question of coupling comes up again.
To insure this, it will be good — unless you are strongly under the divine
influence — to have foreseen in a concrete way the first moments which will follow
mental prayer; going from the chapel, the first journey, and the first people you will meet,
going back to your work: all opportunities to lose your mental prayer on the way. (How
many times has this not happened?) Picture these different things to yourself and the way
in which you would like to do them in union with God, that is, in the pious disposition in
which mental prayer placed you.
Then, when the time comes, be very careful to couple, to insure the continuity.
When a boy is learning to ride a bicycle, he has someone help him until he gets
his balance. Then with a push from his friend, he takes off and tries to better his initial
speed. If, on the contrary, when his friend lets go he hesitates for a moment, the boy falls
and has to begin learning all over. M ental prayer is a coaching in the business of leading
a holy life. There must be no gap between the two.
This would be the time to practice the "prayer of the doors" with great care. There
is the door of the church you are about to leave, the door of the room where you are going
to take up your work — as well as the other artifices previously mentioned. These are the
moments when great vigilance is needed to preserve the spirit of recollection.
Recollection is the seal on the flagon which prevents the perfume from evaporating.
In this way you will prolong your mental prayer; you will live it, and if it has been
a fervent one, you will remain the entire day under its beneficial influence.

This program offers you ample material for ten minutes or a half hour of mental
prayer, depending on how you develop it. Its explanation takes longer than its execution,
for you will take only one of the subjects proposed, and you can treat it in few words.
You must be penetrated with it rather than develop it. These different phases of mental
prayer, moreover, form a cycle which, once determined, can be taken up again under the
same form or under another.
Finally, let us examine the case where, having made a short mental prayer, you
must fill in the half-hour imposed on you.
You can do this by reading a spiritual book. The reading will serve as a
preparation, a primer for mental prayer. In general, it would be better to do your reading
before mental prayer, but you may take it up again if there is time left. Your reading,
however, should not be done in a haphazard way, but should be chosen in so far as
possible in accord with the subject of your mental prayer. And if your mental prayer does
not take hold, then pick up your book again as a check on your distractions.
You can also fill in the time with prayers which, it seems, it would be better to say
after your mental prayer, where they will be a sort of sequel and crowning. Whether it be
a formula, a psalm, the Our Father or the Hail M ary or a repeated ejaculatory prayer, try
to choose one in conformity with the preceding mental prayer and one that will tie in with
In these two cases, if the reading or the prayers follow mental prayer, it would be
fitting, before the conclusion of the exercise, to take up the subject of the mental prayer
again briefly, especially the resolutions and the coupling in order to insure its practical
We should agree that all of this is really not difficult. A mental prayer of this kind
is always possible for everyone. It has, furthermore, the advantage of being practical and
of being an integral part of life. So much so that it will efficaciously help you to act more
supernaturally; and by a fortunate law of the spiritual life the higher the spiritual level of
your life is raised, the easier will mental prayer become for you.

Chapter IX
Private Vocal Prayer
mental prayer, it will not be out of place to offer a few remarks about vocal prayer. Vocal
prayer, too, is an authentic form of prayer which is used and recommended by Holy
M other Church, and it is certainly the most universally widespread form of prayer. Since
the faithful encounter difficulties with vocal prayer as well as with mental prayer, it
behooves us to try to help them remove these stumbling blocks to their perfection. The

close relationship between these two forms of prayer is an additional reason for this
treatment of vocal prayer.
We shall begin by defining our terms.
If we take the expression literally, vocal prayer is that in which the words are
actually pronounced. Yet two different cases can arise.
Even when a person prays mentally, his prayer will almost always express itself
interiorily by words and phrases, for such is our psychological make-up. We think while
discoursing. M ental prayer without interior words is hardly met with, except in certain
forms of mental prayer which are rather rare or of fleeting duration. If the person is alone,
the thought or the sentiment of the soul will sometimes tend to express itself have seen, is
to awaken or express interior devotion.
The first quality of vocal prayer will therefore be attention. A voluntarily
unattentive prayer is no longer a prayer. It is no longer homage to God; it is a breach of
good manners. It is a sin. So, first of all, attention to God. Just as in mental prayer, so
here, too, we begin our prayer by placing ourselves in the presence of God and by
becoming conscious of the fact that we are talking to him. Next comes attention to the
words, not only with our mind, but with our will and heart too, in such a way that piety
will be the fruit of our prayer and that our whole soul soar toward God.
To do that we must above all avoid haste. We must bring to each prayer a
deliberate slowness so that this interior operation may take place. A moderate pace will
ordinarily suffice to accomplish this. But we would find it very beneficial to linger over a
sentence, to go back over it in order to reflect on it, in order the better to make it our own,
to extract the marrow, to ponder it at some length depending on the wealth of connotation
it has for us and its pertinence to our state of soul, and make it a real personal prayer.
Sometimes a vocal prayer may even be the starting point and the mainstay of an entire
mental prayer.
Try the Our Father that way. This divine prayer is so profound, so pregnant with
meaning that when we meditate on it we always find new treasures. Instead of hastening
through its several petitions and scarcely giving them any thought, you might devote
more or less time to each point depending on the possibilities it has and say, for example:
"Our Father who art in heaven ... Father infinitely good, kind, and merciful; and
you, Christ my Savior, who came on this earth to reveal the Father to us and to teach us
how to pray — I adore you. My Father, you are in heaven and you are here too, for by
your holy presence, you have really brought heaven down to us in order to be with your
poor children. My Father most tender, my God most paternal, grant me the grace to love
you with a filial heart.
"Jesus, do me the kindness of praying with me to your Father and mine.
"Hallowed be thy name ... by the holiness of our life, by our thought which is in
harmony with yours, and by our will which is absorbed in yours. Alas! I have so often
profaned your sweet name of Father by having said it without respect, by praying to you
without attention or fervor. Help me to sanctify it henceforth by being faithful and by
adoring you in spirit and in truth.
"Thy kingdom come ... the kingdom which is none other than you in our hearts
and you governing in us. M ay this kingdom of purity, this kingdom of love, this kingdom
of divine joy which we have been seeking so eagerly for so many years, may it come at
last. M ay your kingdom include the many unfortunate souls who do not know you, those

who reject you, those who for lack of hope are sad, and those who, like myself, would
like to love you but are weak and unfaithful. My Father who art my King, until now I
have not made you reign over me. I have left you at the door of my heart. Do come in
now and be the sole M aster.
"Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.... How we wish that our will were
dead and that your will would become ours, for then only would we be living for you, by
you, with you, and in you. In heaven the angels and saints spend their eternity in lovingly
accomplishing your divine will, which is the norm of all wills. The few years of trial on
this earth have been given us for that purpose: to please you by making our wills
correspond with your supreme and loving will. M y God, make me a little like the angels
and the saints, spending my days adoring you by my prayer and by my life. Beginning
today, I am going to start by doing.... (here think of some concrete point) . Help me, my
Father; help all those who want to serve you. Be their support and comfort ever.
"Give us this day our daily bread ... our material bread which we have to earn at
the cost of so much sorrow and fatigue. Help us to seek it with less eagerness and with
more filial confidence in your Divine Providence. Give us especially the bread of your
grace without which our best desires come to nought. We are hungry for you, Jesus, our
supersubstantial Bread. We were hungry yesterday and we are hungry today.
Come in us; nourish us not only through holy communion but in spiritual
communion. However intense our desire is to receive you, your yearning to be united to
us is far greater. Father, do not allow our souls to die of starvation. Satisfy them with
your holy manna.
"Heal our souls likewise by forgiving our sins. Our sins, our laxity, our egotism,
and our meanness, while wounding your love, infect us and hide you from our vision.
Wipe away our stains, we beg of you. M ake our hearts pure and remove the scales from
our eyes so that we may see you. To merit your forgiveness, we wish to forgive all, to be
without bitterness or resentment. My Father, I have in a most infamous way offended
you. I have been most ungrateful to your most beloved Son, but I am deeply sorry. That I
may obtain forgiveness, I willingly forget all the evils that have been done to me." (Here
reflect a moment to be sure that there is no trace of rancor in your heart for anyone and
that you have, indeed, forgiven all.)
"And deliver us from evil ... that is, from what pained your Sacred Heart, from the
one and only evil — to offend you and to forget you. We wish to be ungrateful no longer.
Our profound hope is that you may never have reason to weep over us again. Today, we
shall praise, bless, and sanctify your Name, lovingly accomplish your will, and in our
turn give you the bread of love which you longingly await from us.
"And now, dear Lord, who deigns to be our Friend, stay with us, and since you
wish for my poor love and for my unworthy companionship, let us remain united as you
wish us to be united forever under the gaze of the Father, you and me and all my brethren
consummated in the unity of your love.
"In the name of the Father who is most good, in your blessed Name, Jesus, and in
the name of the Holy Ghost. Amen."
Do the same with the Hail M ary. Try to paraphrase it yourself. If you find nothing
of your own to add, then at least try to say it piously. Repeat the words slowly, pausing
briefly after each phrase. For want of doing better, you will have become conscious of the
meaning of the words you are saying.

If no inspiration is forthcoming today, it will come at some other time, for these
prayers are full of graces, provided you form the habit of saying them that way, provided
you make them real prayers, that is, prayers that go in search for grace and prayers that
attract grace.


You will perhaps say, "Praying that way is, indeed, very beautiful, but too time
consuming. After all, I am not a Trappist. My rosary alone would take three-quarters of
an hour. And the rest of my prayers.... Take tonight as an example. I still have my night-
prayers to say. Ordinarily I follow the formulas in my prayer book. And I still have three
decades of my rosary, the litany of the Blessed Virgin, my prayer to Saint Joseph, to
Saint Anthony, and to the Little Flower, the Paters of my Third Order Office, my three
Hail M ary's, the prayer for a happy death, and the one ... "
Wait a minute. For a person who does not know how to pray — and who doesn't
have much time — I am of the opinion that you spend quite a bit of time praying. I
wonder, not without some misgivings, what will become of you in that forest of prayers.
M ay I venture to say that you will begin your rosary in a hurry. After a decade you will
already be thinking of the end. And you will mumble the Our Father's and the Hail
M ary's one after the other as fast as possible, and meanwhile the Lord alone knows what
you will be thinking about. You will run through your Third Order Office and the other
prayers the same way. As for the three Hail M ary's, you will hardly have enough breath
to finish them. The conclusion: you will have ruined beautiful prayers, and you will not
have prayed. Is that not the way you often pray?
Perhaps you will say, "Why, more or less. Yes."
To this I answer that you are saying too many prayers and that there is no real
praying, that to overburden yourself with more devotional practices than you can
reasonably carry is often the surest way of praying poorly and likewise of making prayer
irksome. Could that not be one of the reasons for your difficulties? Why not follow my
advice and, beginning tonight, abandon all these excellent prayers, or at least a good part
of them.
"What about the Third Order Office?" 8
"Well, first of all, it would be far more prudent if you satisfied that obligation
earlier in the day. These few Our Father's and Hail M ary's take the place of the Divine
Office. The least you can do is to accord them the necessary time. The best way is to
distribute them over the day and in that way say them piously. You are, moreover, aware
that this obligation is such that for a reasonable cause you are dispensed from it. Now,
today you have a serious reason to omit your Office.
"And what," you ask, "might that reason be?"
It is, simply this. You have to relearn how to pray. To do that, you must unlearn
how to pray poorly. The sick person must be put on a diet. Do you know what? Instead of
reciting your twelve Our Father's, say one in the manner we have just seen. The purpose
of the Office is to make you pray, not to render lip-service to God. A fortiori, do the same

The Third of Saint Francis members recite 12 Our Fathers, Hail Marys and Glory Bes each day. This
book was published by Franciscan Herald Press, whose first audience is the Third Order of Saint Francis

thing with your rosary, which is in no way obligatory. You say that you have already said
two decades. Let that suffice for today.
"What! Don't say my rosary? This would be the first time I ever missed it. Is it not
an excellent devotional practice?"
Certainly it is. But do not forget this: devotional practices are made for piety and
not piety for devotional practices. If you say your rosary, you must say it well.
"What do you mean by saying it well? To dwell on each Our Father and Hail
M ary as you pointed out would take hours."
But I did not say that. All I said was that it would be well sometimes to afford
yourself the luxury of meditating on some prayer that way. You could pray the first Our
Father and the first Hail M ary of your rosary in that way and then say the rest of your
rosary slowly enough to remain under the influence of these two, and from them find the
most profitable elements for your piety.
"What about the mysteries?"
If you have meditated on the corresponding mystery before beginning the decade,
you will weave your Ave's into that background by relating the text of the prayer to it.
Such a procedure will break the monotony of repetition. For example, how many nuances
can the thought "the Lord is with thee" take on, depending on whether you consider our
Blessed M other hearing them from the mouth of the angel, as she carried Our Lord within
her, as she pressed him to her heart at Bethlehem, in the Temple, as she followed him in
his Passion, found him again after his Resurrection, or as she reigns with him in heaven.
And so on with the other phrases. In this way your prayer will always have something
new about it.
"But saying the rosary in this fashion will still require a great deal of time."
You are always harping on the question of time. Let's settle it once and for all. Let
us suppose that you set aside fifteen minutes or a half-hour for your evening devotions.
Whatever the amount of time, the thing to do is to use it to pray correctly. This
consideration alone must determine and limit the number of your prayers. The trouble is
that you want to cram more into that space than is possible. You give the impression that
you are being paid by the piece. And the result is poor workmanship. What counts is
quality, not quantity. Were this not true, all we would have to do is imitate lamas with
their prayer wheels. Everything in excess of what you can "do well" is harmful and
conducive to praying poorly. With that, we have put our finger on a frequent abuse and
one that is an obstacle to any and all progress in prayer for many a soul.
Apply this principle to your rosary. Suppose you still have three decades to say.
How long would that take you ordinarily? Six minutes? Good. (I presume that you cannot
spare more time.) In that case, begin the first decade and say it slowly and piously, as
previously suggested, as if you had two hours in which to say it. Now, when the six
minutes are over, stop. You will perhaps have said one Our Father and a few Hail M ary's,
but you will have prayed and prayed well. And what you have said will be much more
pleasing to God and far more beneficial to you than three decades muttered without atten-
"But the indulgences?"
Indulgences, too, were made for piety and not piety for indulgences. If the Church
has attached indulgences to certain prayers, she has done so to encourage the faithful to
pray — to pray well, of course, and not to massacre prayers. Now then, do you know

what happens? You fail to gain your indulgences, because they are won only to the extent
that your prayer is well said. Hence, in rushing through your rosaries you lose everything,
both the indulgences and the merit of the prayer. You may be quite sure of this: one act of
real love of God is worth more for you and for your sins than many indulgences which
you do not gain.
"If that is the case, I'll stop saying my rosary. It seems to me that you are teaching
me the art of ceasing to pray."
Say rather that I am trying to teach you the art of ceasing to pray poorly, or to put
it in a different way, the art of praying better. To do that you must make certain
curtailments; you must reduce quantity for quality. You must lessen the number of pieces
by the hour in order to turn out better workmanship and relearn how, in your prayers, to
do things well, and all the more so because over and above your oral prayers you will
have to attend later on to mental prayer, to your examination of conscience, and to the
exercise of the presence of God.
For the rest, have no worries about the devotional practices you cherish. You will
return to them later on if they are useful to you — either to the same ones or to others,
once you have learned how to discharge them according to the desire of God.
Even if you never return to them, so what? as long as you pray better, as long as
your prayer becomes more intimate, more spiritual, and more fervent. So much the better
if your soul reaches the point where it prays so well and so easily that you no longer need


For, despite all that has been said about vocal prayer, we must not forget what has
been said in the preceding chapters and what remains to be said in succeeding ones about
the other kind of prayer — that of the heart. It is very recommendable to repeat the
beautiful texts in prayer books piously, but there is something else, too. To limit
ourselves to this method of piety would be to get ourselves into a rut. Vocal prayer must
be given its rightful place in the general economy of prayer. And never forget this: vocal
prayer is only secondary, a means rather than an end. The goal is interior devotion. Vocal
prayer will have to give way to interior devotion each time piety demands it. (We are
speaking naturally of private and not public prayer.)
Such is the most excellent thinking of St. Thomas. "Vocal prayer is a means of
exciting internal devotion and it is by means of internal devotion that the mind is raised to
God.... Vocal prayer should be used to the extent that it is useful in stimulating devotion,
but as soon as it distracts the mind or hinders its soaring it should be abandoned — a
point which happens especially with those whose mind is so sufficiently prepared for
mental prayer as to have no need for vocal prayer." 9
This enlightening remark defines the limitations of vocal prayer independently of
all question of time. In our relationships with God the mind takes precedence. Has not the
M aster said: "But in praying, do not multiply words, as the Gentiles do; for they think
that by saying a great deal, they will be heard" (M t. 6,7) .

Summa theo, IIa IIae, q. 83, a. 12.

We must ever be aware of this primacy, never lose sight of the goal, and exercise
great freedom in regard to the means. Never become a slave to external practices. When
you read your prayers from a book or use some prayer formula, you do well if they help
your devotion. Should they become dull, cumbersome, or distracting, leave them.
It may well happen that formulas, even extremely beautiful ones, through
repeated use lose their savor and their stimulating action. In that case, discard them and
replace them with new ones.
It may also happen that at a given time vocal prayer act so well that it excites a
great interior devotion. Interrupt it at once without hesitation and follow the impulse of
the Holy Ghost. It has accomplished its purpose. If you were to cling to it, you would lose
its fruit. The usher has led you to the King. Let him return alone. Repeat to yourself, if
necessary, the sentence or the word that inspired you. Follow that inspiration very freely,
and do not take up the remainder of the text until you have milked it dry.
And if, even before opening your book, you feel like speaking to God simply and
spontaneously, if you have something to say to him, leave the book closed. What wells up
in your heart will almost always be more living, more truly your prayer, and the soaring
of your own soul toward God.
These various remarks naturally concern what we call devotional prayers, that is,
those which are left to our own initiative. We cannot use such liberty in regard to prayers
of strict obligation: for example, our penance after Confession, practices we have
imposed upon ourselves under vow (which should not be undertaken without prudence
and spiritual counsel), or the recitation of the breviary for those bound to it. There can be
no question of shortening these prayers at will or of replacing them with others for
reasons of personal devotion. A serious reason is needed in order to be dispensed from

Chapter X
Public Prayer
official prayer of the Church. As defined in the preceding chapter, the liturgy by its very
nature is a public prayer. It is an ecclesiastical function. Even if performed privately, as
for example, in the non-choral recitation of the breviary, liturgical prayer is public in the
sense that the one saying it is delegated by the Church to do so and because it is said in
communion with the universal ecclesiastical prayer. On the other hand, it is a private
prayer in the second meaning of the term, because it is said privately. Likewise, a lay
person assisting at holy M ass takes part in a public act of worship but he may spend the
time saying strictly personal prayers or engage even in purely mental prayer.
Of the various kinds of vocal prayer, liturgical prayer holds an unrivaled place
both by the homage it renders to God and by the blessings it calls down upon men.

Being of divine inspiration, liturgical prayer is the perfect worship. It is the
universal and truly catholic praise, that of holy mother Church and, therefore, the prayer
of every Catholic. The soul who participates in it leaves his own small personal sphere to
unite himself with all his brothers in Christ. It is a prayer of communion, a prayer of
charity, in which each one forgets himself and uses the plural pronoun "we" instead of "I"
to invoke the common Father of all mankind.
As the prayer of the entire Mystical Body, it has an intercessory power greater
than any private prayer. Inspired by the Holy Ghost, it instills us with piety better than
any other prayer. It enlightens our minds and warms our hearts. It is a gushing fountain of
devotion. The inexhaustible grace which overflows from it comes from unfathomable
Such efficacy naturally demands that the sacred functions be performed with a
bearing, purity, and piety in keeping with their meaning, beauty, and eminent grandeur.
Sometimes divine services are dispatched with so distressing a lack of deference as to
suggest a charade rather than an act of worship. Then they are an injury inflicted on our
Lord, an obstacle to piety, and a scandal to the laity.
The generations which preceded us lived in an age of true liturgical decadence
and witnessed the day when prayers and hymns of questionable inspiration and good taste
were introduced into the official worship of the Church. That the faithful grew to dislike
the holy liturgical services of the Church and became more and more estranged from
them is not difficult to explain. The liturgy was the business of monks and priests, and
sometimes even they discharged it rather poorly. Hence the spiritual schism between lay
Catholics and those who stood as mediators between them and God. Devotion became
unduly individualistic. Instead of religion clustering man around Christ and his Church, a
narrow moralism centered religion around man. The truly Catholic sense of worship
became obscured; and piety, now cut off from the great source of traditional Catholic
worship, took on secondary devotions and innovations, some of which were questionable.
And so, there is great reason to rejoice in the liturgical movement. Since the time
of Pius X, the Benedictines especially have been trying to restore and purify the liturgy,
to recapture its beauty and dignity, and to place it within the reach of the laity by
encouraging them to become interested in it and take an active part in it. It is one of the
most magnificent undertakings of our century and one of inestimable value.
We should, however, avoid the excesses to which some have been led by reason
of a somewhat one-sided zeal. There are those who confuse the liturgy with archeology.
They would have us return to antiquity and thereby deprive divine worship of any
possibility of progress or of adaptation. Others, on the contrary, are overanxious to set up
a modernized liturgy. The liturgy is undoubtedly a living thing: the expression of the
religious sentiment of Christian society. It evolves with it, develops, and enriches itself
with the passage of time. Yet, nothing is more dangerous than to want to force a process
of life artificially.
We must, likewise, beware of all exclusivism. Let us not use the liturgy as a
pretext and reject everything that does not conform to it according to the laws of strict
logic and, parading disdain for all other forms of devotion, see in them but devotionism,
mawkishness, sentimentality, or blameworthy, individualism. We should be broadminded
enough to excuse the non-liturgical ecstacies of Saint Teresa. We can pardon certain

excesses which result from a reaction, but it would be regrettable to hinder a good cause
by pushing it to the absurd.
From the fact that the liturgy is excellent we must not infer that it is everything
nor that it is equally adapted to everyone's needs or means. The language, the style, the
complexity of the rubrics are baffling to some. Nevertheless, they should try to conform
to them and learn them. There is, moreover, a minimum of participation obligatory on all.
But there is also a limit which varies with each individual. We would be mistaken not to
keep in mind the variety of temperaments in this matter. Some people are naturally
social-minded; others are asocial. The former live on the spoken word, the latter on si-
lence. The "hermits" are less attracted to public exercises and garner less profit from them
than from a private mental prayer. For all of that, they are not less Catholics. The Church
has canonized Paul the Hermit. 10 A man may be patriotic and yet show little interest in
official demonstrations, celebrations, and ceremonies whereas for others these things are
a source of enthusiasm.
If, in one sense, man is made for the liturgy, it being the public worship due to the
Lord of all, it remains true, on the other hand, that the liturgy is made for man and must
nourish his devotion. And that, in the final analysis, is what everything must lead to.
Religion is a meeting of souls with God. What God wants is men. Each and every one of
his children must save his own soul and sanctify himself. Each and every man must love
and adore God personally. God does not want a society as such which has only a moral
personality, even if the society of the Church is of a unique and eminent type. The society
is as good as the individual members that compose it, and their devotion is the very soul
of public worship. The social spirit must not end in a sort of spiritual totalitarianism
which would exclude concern for the person and belittle all private devotion. No one
loves and understands the liturgical exercises better than the mystics; but because they
also love solitude, let us beware of despising their precious interior life and of accusing
them of individualism and of sentimentality. The two forms of piety are no contradictory.
They are mutually complementary.

Although we can assist at holy M ass without saying any vocal prayers, we shall
treat the subject here because the M ass is a public function and of all public functions the
most exalted and the most sacred. It is more than a prayer and more than a liturgy. It is
the perpetuated sacrifice of Christ our Savior. It is the center and the summit of the
Christian economy, just as the redemptive Passion of Christ on Calvary is the center and
the summit of the history of mankind.
Volumes would be needed to treat of the M ass properly. In order to remain within
the framework of this book, we shall limit ourselves to a few succinct remarks on how to
pray during the holy sacrifice.
First, let us begin with a general principle. While no particular prayer is of
obligation during M ass, to spend the time in devotional practices which have nothing in
common with the holy sacrifice would, indeed, be a rather indifferent way of assisting at

Saint Paul, the First Hermit went into the desert to pray and was unable to assist at Mass for decades.
This was before the Church made it obligatory to assist at Mass on Holydays.

M ass. The main thing about a good method of assisting at M ass is to be well aware of
what is transpiring at the altar and to unite oneself in heart and mind with the sacrifice
which is being offered.
The M ass is not a simple ceremony, a spectacle, or a worshipful formality. It is a
dramatic and august action: the drama of Calvary, the work of redemption continued, the
sacrifice of the Lamb of God. And of this we should be fully convinced when we assist at
M ass. And to think that each day the same sacrifice that was consummated on the Cross
is perpetuated on our altars! Had we stood at that tragic hour next to our Lord's M other
with her pierced heart and in the company of John and M agdalene weeping, had we seen
the blood of the innocent Victim flow and had we heard his last words, we surely would
not have been able to think of anything else. The sorrowful spectacle would have
remained before our eyes and in our hearts until our dying breath. Well, the very same
drama is mystically re-enacted at M ass. With what holy trembling should the priest
ascend the altar! With what love and compassion ought he, as the minister of such a
sacrifice, dis charge so sublime and so awesome a duty! And with what piety, respect, and
love ought the faithful assist and participate in so divine a mystery! Let us pray before
M ass to our Blessed M other and to John and M agdalene; let us ask them to give us a little
of that immense love which tore their hearts that day so that we may not be too unworthy
of standing with them at the foot of the cross of Christ.
If we approach the holy sacrifice of the M ass with their thoughts and sentiments,
we will assist as M ass with excellent dispositions, whatever method we follow, and even
if we follow no method at all. Yet, it may be helpful to add a few words concerning some
of the various methods that have been proposed.
The most normal and the most natural method, it seems, is to use a missal and
follow the M ass with the priest. Since the priest prays in the name of the faithful, it is
proper that the faithful know what is being said for them and that they unite themselves in
the one and same prayer with him who represents them at the altar before the Lord. These
prayers were either composed or chosen especially for the M ass. They are very beautiful,
very profound, and in great part inspired by the Holy Ghost. Then, too, they are the
prayers of holy mother Church. He who prays them is no longer alone, for his voice is
integrated with the great voice of the universal Church and he participates in their
absolute power of intercession and praise.
Some, however, do not like to use a missal. They find the rubrics quite
complicated and the antiquity of the style of the prayers discourages them. To spend the
time at M ass thumbing pages and rushing through prayers that mean nothing would be a
rather distracting way of assisting at M ass. The liturgical method requires preparation, an
elementary acquaintance with the rubrics, and some initiation into its sacred literature.
Laudable efforts are being made in our day to train the laity in this matter, but there are
still many people who do not use a missal.
They might, however, use a missal adapted to their mentality, one that is written
in a more modern style and one which, at least in the essential texts, approximates as best
as possible the liturgical text. M ost prayer books include "A M ethod of Assisting at
M ass." Here again, a choice must be made. Some are good; others smack of an
exaggerated modernism or are composed with regrettable bad taste or in a tedious style.

Such formularies become monotonous much more quickly than do the liturgical
texts themselves. To avoid this unpleasantness, it would be well sometimes to change to
another method.
We could, for example, meditate during M ass on the sufferings of Our Lord,
either by covering the entire Passion from Gethsemani to the burial, or by dwelling on
some particular scene more apt to arrest our attention and move our hearts, and by
recalling to mind that the very same Passion and sacrifice once enacted on Calvary is
now being re-enacted and offered to God on the altar. This method is less social-minded
and farther removed from the liturgy than the preceding one.
On the other hand, it has the advantage of keeping the mind riveted on the central
idea of the holy sacrifice and of giving one's piety a greater freedom. It may be helpful to
souls who are more inclined to a more interior devotion or to those who are blessed with
an active imagination.
We may also keep our mind occupied with some other thought or sentiment
related to the holy sacrifice. Saint Leonard of Port M aurice proposes as food for thought
the four great ends of the sacrifice and apportions them as follows: up to the Gospel,
adoration; up to the Elevation, expiation; up to the Communion, thanksgiving; from the
Communion of the M ass to the end, petition. Other similar ways have been suggested: for
example, up to the Gloria, humility, sorrow, and confidence; up to the Credo, sentiments
of faith; up to the Preface, the offering of oneself with Christ; up to the Pater Noster, the
immolation of oneself with Christ; up to the end of the M ass, the giving of oneself to
This latter plan seems more conformable to the action of the M ass as it unfolds at
the altar. But, generally speaking, the difficulty with these methods is that the parallelism
between the sequence of the ideas chosen and that of the liturgical action will always be
more or less forced, especially when we want to make the different phases of the Passion
coincide with the ceremonies of the M ass. We must not, therefore, tie ourselves down to
any one method too rigidly. Every one in this matter must decide for himself what
bolsters his devotion and his attention during M ass and what weighs them down.
The best thing to do would be to adopt a mixed solution, one which would be
sufficiently liturgical and yet leave enough latitude for personal devotion. Such a method
is particularly suitable to souls who are more given to contemplation, souls who are
accustomed to praying without a book, souls for whom formularies are an inconvenience
and who yet desire to follow the M ass in union with the celebrant. It consists in
remaining attentive to the unfolding of the sacred function, but in a rather free way,
concentrating on the meaning rather than on the words, and especially on the general and
profound meaning of the M ass, uniting themselves to the acts of the priest by a
spontaneous prayer and at the same time relying on the liturgical text whenever it fosters
their piety.
Here, briefly, is how one may proceed:
At the beginning of the M ass, we can unite ourselves with the priest, with the
faithful who are present, and with the praying Church. 11 Having reminded ourselves of

The corporate union of the faithful present at Mass is brought about at the altar, and not necessarily by
the prayers they say or the hymns they sing together. The latter may prove a distraction to devotion, espe-
cially if the music director unconsciously diverts their attention from the altar. What makes for their
oneness at Mass is their participation in the same Eucharistic sacri fice, for there they are united in Christ;

our solidarity, it will be quite natural to blend our voice with theirs in the beautiful
opening psalm: "I will go in to the altar of God, the God of my gladness and joy" (Ps.
42,4) , and then to take part in the common confession of sins and purify ourself by sor-
row as a fitting preparation for so exalted a mystery and so that no obstacle may stand in
the way of divine grace.
What follows from then until the Offertory is still not the M ass, but the reunion of
the faithful in whose midst the holy sacrifice will be celebrated. To avoid too rapid and
too complex a succession of ideas, you might say the Kyrie Eleison and the Gloria with
the priest. As for the variable parts of the M ass, tarry over a particular text which is better
adapted to your devotion and which puts you in the atmosphere of the feast day. On great
feasts where the proper is particularly beautiful and rich, it would be well to follow it
entirely from the missal in union with the spirit of the Church.
From the Offertory on, prepare yourself for the sacrifice which is about to be
consummated by meditating, if you wish, on the Passion of our Savior and by already
offering the Divine Victim to the Father for yourself and for others. Then, unite yourself
with the Church on earth and with the heavenly court to praise and thank him in the
beautiful prayer of the Preface and the acclamation of the Sanctus.
Next comes the most sacred moment of all, the moment that constitutes the center
and the very essence of the M ass, the Consecration. Jesus is there as by a new
Incarnation. His Sacred Heart beats in the host. If the priest had enough faith, it seems
that he ought to feel the sacred pulse under his fingers. Jesus is there as victim in a new
representation of his Passion, which is constantly being perpetuated and offered for our
salvation and sanctification.
How important it is at that moment not merely to assist at the sacrifice of the
M ass but to participate in it through an effective compassion and to make it our very own
sacrifice, to see to it that the solidarity of the faithful with Christ which the Apostle
speaks of and which has already been symbolized by the drop of water added to the wine
becomes a reality, and to be a Simon of Cyrene on the road of the cross and not a mere
Let us come to the aid of our divine Savior in his great and exhausting
undertaking. We are, as it were, bound by a debt of honor to pay off the debt which the
afflictions of Christ leave still to be paid. Let us say to him: "O Jesus, it is we who have
sinned and you who expiate, and that is not just. Give me my share in your too generous
sacrifice. You plead for souls who consent to be victims with you. Here I am. Grant me a
share in your redemptive cross and strengthen me that I may carry mine resolutely."
Thus, in union with the priest, you can offer Christ the host to the Eternal Father
and offer yourself as a host together with Christ in the most sacred action of holy mother
Church, his mystical Spouse. Of the various ways of assisting at the holy sacrifice, this is
the best. And when, in the course of the day, a trial is laid on you, you will recognize that
it is in answer to your prayer. Your cross, then, will be changed into a great joy.
Having made yourself a victim with Christ, you may then present your petitions
with confidence, with boundless confidence, in fact. The M ass is the hour of

Christ is the unifying force. The direct union of the faithful with one another is to manifest itself outside of
church, in their daily life by mutual understanding, charily, and collaboration in good — all of which will
be a logical outcome of their common love of Christ and which has its source at the altar.

superabundant graces, the great hour of salvation and sanctification, the great apostolic
hour. Just as on Calvary the seven sacraments and all the graces of Redemption gushed
from the heart of Christ in an outpouring of blood and water, so the graces of Redemption
still continue to be poured out at holy M ass as from an inexhaustible source.
The one condition is that we know how to tap these saving waters. The graces of
just one M ass would in themselves suffice to save the entire world, but not, however,
without the free consent of men. M en do put an obstacle in their way and they are thus
deprived of the full effects of the M ass. A pious soul had a symbolic vision one day of
the M ass: the precious Blood overflowed from the chalice. The faithful present came to
catch it in cups; but they were too few and the vessels were too small, so much so that
some of the precious Blood spilled on the ground and was lost. Would that we could
come to the altar with a heart so wide open that it would be capable of receiving both for
us and for all others all the graces which Christ pours out for us at M ass.
In union with the priest, pray for the living and the dead, for sinners, for yourself,
and for the Church. Say Christ's prayer, the Our Father, with the priest. It was not
inserted in the M ass for nothing. Pray that through Christ all glory may be given to the
Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost. I repeat, pray for yourself; above all, ask for a
greater love of God. Any other petition you make God may modify, but the prayer for an
increase of love is always answered.
If the Holy Ghost suggests other sentiments to you, follow his inspiration without
feeling obligated to restrict yourself to the preceding suggested method. This phase of the
M ass is its contemplative part. It is fitting to leave the door open to the influx of grace
which descends from the altar. Let your eyes, your mind, and your heart be riveted on
Jesus present in the host. Adore him; tell him over and over again of your love, your
compassion, your gratitude, your promises, of your desire to belong entirely to him, to
share everything with him, and to work to the end that his immolation may fructify and
bring joy to his Sacred Heart. If any one of these sentiments persists, it will provide you
with ample food for prayer.
But do not forget that before the Last Supper, our Lord gave us the commandment
of charity. Pray, then, that the Lamb of God establish peace among men, and see that
peace is in your own heart by the pardon, the kiss of peace, given to all for love of him.
This will be a fitting way to prepare yourself for the last of the great actions of the
M ass: after the bitterness of sacrifice, the sweetness of communion, its most exquisite
Holy communion is the morning kiss of Jesus. Yes, it is that and more too. Watch
a mother press her child to her heart. She "would like to eat it up." By an unheard of
miracle, the loving Savior brings about what humans find impossible to do. The sweet
and admirable union of communion, free of material barriers, gives him to us better than
if he were visibly present. Jesus in us, heaven, the wish of the Last Supper, in us, the "I in
them" (Jn. 17, 23) is accomplished.
What a prodigious life bursts forth in us. Ordinary food produces its effects by
being changed into our substance, but in holy communion this divine food changes us
into Itself. The life of Christ flows in our veins. This life, this eucharistic grace acts of
itself, sanctifies us without any effort on our part, and in a glorious way compensates for
our insufficiencies; for the Lord in an unspeakable effusion of his love passes on to us his
own merits and gratuitously dispenses to us the blessings which he bought so dearly for

all mankind on Calvary. Would that we appreciated the gift of God! If we did, then we
would hunger and thirst for this banquet of love of which the angels are so envious.
Before approaching the communion table, strike your breast once more and beg
the Lamb of God to heal your soul which is unworthy of so august a visit. Then, receive
him with all the love possible. If communion leaves you emotionless, let him act in you;
communion is then not our flight toward God but God's descent into us. All that is asked
of you is to do your best to receive Christ with all the good will possible.
Then, too, concentrate your thoughts solely on this marvelous gift, and nothing
else. Nourish yourself with Christ, become drunk, as it were, with the blood of Christ and
entertain this heavenly drunkenness. Daily holy communion will be for you a renewed
Pentecost. You will draw from it a love stronger than death. You will leave these holy
banquets filled with a revitalized spiritual energy. Enlightened, fired, uplifted by the love
of Christ, embalmed with the fragrance of Christ, and comforted again by the life of
Christ, you will be invincible in good.
After M ass, be extremely solicitous not to forget your divine host. Carry him
around in your heart. Although his sacramental presence has ceased, do you think that his
love is satisfied with a quarter of an hour and that after those fifteen minutes he is going
to withdraw himself? Oh, no. He remains in you in a mystical way and although his
presence is no longer physical, it is none the less real. Continue your communion and let
your entire day be a spiritual communion. Entertain him by a few visits to the blessed
sacrament. This form of union, centered around the Eucharist, is one of the best and one
of the most pleasant ways of practicing the interior life.
Continue your M ass. A saintly priest once said: "We must always be at M ass." At
every hour of the day, on some spot of the globe, the Redeemer is offering himself on the
altar. Be there in spirit and unite yourself in mind with the continuous sacrifice of the
universal Church. How wonderful to think that we can assist and participate in this great
work of salvation at every minute of the day, that we can harvest graces from it, help
missionaries, and that we can constantly be a powerful, active, and efficient element in
the Church of Christ. How many riches we lose daily by being unmindful of this! Be
present, then, at this perpetual M ass which ever continues to save and sanctify the world.
If it is of help to you, use the "eucharistic clock." It will remind you at each hour of the
day at what places the holy sacrifice is being consummated. In brief, lead an eucharistic
life. This devotional practice can in a very pleasant and efficacious way suffice for all
your needs of piety, and for a life of union with God and with the Church. 12
You must never grow accustomed to the M ass, whether in assisting at it or in
celebrating it. It must never become a burden nor a routine. Rather, each day it should
renew the youth of your soul. Your day should be divided into two parts: the first part is
more important than the entire second part. Let holy M ass be the center of your life and
the place of your supernatural refueling. Assist at it with a love ever new. Be conscious of
what you add to the sacrifice by your fervor. Each and every one of us is responsible for
the blood and for the Passion of Christ. For love of Christ, let us see to it that we never
default at this sublime mission.

Unfortunately this is not true today. There are no Masses yet said that are pleasing to God, so let us
make our Spiritual Communion and pray for the restoration of the Mass, as well as learning the Art of
Prayer so that when we can again assist at Mass we are prepared to do so profitably.

Next to the M ass, the canonical office is the principal act of worship rendered to
God by the Church. Those who have assumed this sacred duty ought to be convinced that
next to the holy sacrifice and in connection with it the recitation of the breviary
constitutes the best, the highest, the holiest, the most important, and the most useful
occupation of their life both for their apostolic and for their own spiritual good. It is the
opus Dei. 13
In truth, it is a way of life. In general, the canonical Hours are apportioned
throughout the day so that those obligated to recite them may never remain long without
returning to God to praise him and pray to him. Between times, they ought, according to
ancient practice, to continue to live them, going over in their mind the sacred text which
they have recited and thus draw nourishment from it. Our elders felt that the divine office
meditated and lived in this way took the place of spiritual reading and mental prayer.
One's entire interior life concentrated itself around the Sacred Word and it adequately
sufficed to sustain that life. Where, for practical reasons of necessity, this procedure had
to be more or less relaxed, the divine office still had to preserve its exalted signification
of perpetual adoration and systematic refueling of piety.
The divine office recited in choir enjoys the added blessing of corporate prayer,
for Christ said: "Where two or three are gathered together for my sake, there am I in the
midst of them" (M t. 18, 20) . A fraternal community, delegated by the Church to adore
the Lord in the name of the universal Church, assembles in choir for the recitation of the
divine office. At the same hour and in all the countries of the world, other communities
are doing the same thing and come together to unite their voices with them in the same
The entire Church M ilitant, together with the Church Suffering and the Church
Triumphant, the blessed in heaven and the choirs of the angels gather around the throne
of God: a magnificent realization of the communion of saints in an ecumenical prayer.
What a powerful voice it is, being composed of all the fervor, all the love, and all
the merits of the purest souls, ascending to the Lord to adore, sing, and pray to him for all
the needs, the sins, and the sorrows of men. The Virgin M ediatrix unites her all-powerful
prayer to ours. And among all these beautiful voices and above them all, the voice of
Christ joins with that of his spouse in glorifying the heavenly Father and continues in
heaven to intercede for redeemed souls: duo in voce una. 14
With what delight must the Father listen to such a prayer and hear so pure a
praise! How these petitions expressed by voices surrounding his throne, and therefore so
dear to him, must do violence to him! See how our weak prayer is buttressed by the surest
intercessors, how our supplication and our love becomes theirs. This is so because we
approach God as members of His mystical body and thereby share fully in the divinely
intense life which He in his love has quickened his body with.
With what joy, enthusiasm, respect, and love should we go to this office so rightly
called divine! There, we are led into the court of our King for sacred and truly angelic

Work of God. Saint Benedict told his monks to pray and to work, calling the Divine Offi ce the Work of
Two in one voice

functions. Under the Old Law, the High Priest trembled as he entered the Holy of Holies
alone and stood before the fearful throne of Yahweh.
We, however, come near to the throne of the Lamb with confidence. Grouped
about the tabernacle, we form a court about him that is most intimate and fragrant with
love and sweetness. Furthermore, he encourages us with his gracious smile and helps us
to pray. He even prays with us by giving us his Spirit.
The first sound of the bell summoning you to choir should remind you of what
was said to M ary of Bethany: "The M aster is here and calls thee" (Jn. 11, 28) . Hurry then
with all joy to so precious a meeting. There, adore Christ and ask his grace: "Aperi,
Domine." "Lord, open my lips that I may bless your holy Name with the dignity,
attention, and piety due to you." 15 Then, tell yourself that you are in heaven, that you are
associated with the angelic choirs and the legions of the elect. Yes, heaven at that
moment has lowered itself to the earth and you have but to enter into it.
Join with them and exclaim: "Come, let us sing joyfully to the Lord. Let us
acclaim the rock of our salvation." Listen to the call of his love: "Oh, that today you
would hear his voice: `Harden not your hearts' " (Ps. 94:1,8) . Respond to the plea of your
Savior. Open your heart wide in order that it may be ready to receive the divine words
which are about to fall from heaven.
And then, give yourself over to the Holy Ghost and relish the splendors of the
sacred liturgy. M ay the divine office be for you a daily feast and a spiritual banquet. Its
splendor is not so much the chant or the literary form as it is the inner splendor which
sparkles from the sacred words.
In truth, they are divine words and in the strict meaning of the word, for the
majority of them are drawn from sacred Scripture and are therefore divinely inspired.
"That he might receive fitting praise, God has praised himself," says Saint Augustine. Ut
bene laudetur, laudavit seipsum Deus. What a joy thus to be able to render to the Lord
homage worthy of him and which is most certainly pleasing to him!
For that reason the divine office has graces which are quite special to it. Even the
most contemplative souls, who are so eager for the solitude of mental prayer, receive
light during it and promptings of love which they receive nowhere else. Such is their
daily experience. These texts, inspired from on high, have a singular depth and efficacy,
and this latent faculty of theirs is everyone's daily experience. Religious, priests, deacons,
and laity who are imbued with these sacred words are amazed with what plasticity, with
what exactitude, and with what surprising appropriateness they adapt themselves to their
own devotion, to their state of soul, to their needs of the moment. It is as if the inspired
words had been written especially for them and for the very hour in which they are saying
them. By means of his own words the Spirit is acting in them and is praying in them with
unspeakable utterances.
Such is the action of the divine words. Their fullness infinitely surpasses the
letter. They are living and active words laden with graces. And in truth they have been
given to each one of us and for each hour of our life. In inspiring them, God knew the
needs of the least of his children, and has spoken to each one beforehand in order to help
him through some particular day of his pilgrimage. The Church, as we know and believe,

The new rubrics have suppressed the Aperi Domine. There is profit in saying this beautiful prayer
privately, for it so well expresses the sentiments which should animate us as we begin our divine office.

is the sole authorized interpreter of sacred Scripture; but over and above the canonical
and universal meaning which it has imposed on every Christian, the Holy Ghost con-
tinues through his words to act on each soul, enlightening him and inspiring him with
holy sentiments. If the Holy Ghost can and does act so eas ily through human words, why
should he not do so in an eminent way when there is question of His own word, which is
our daily manna?
As long as these spontaneous interpretations of the sacred text are strictly between
God and the soul, as long as they do not deny doctrine, and as long as we cling faithfully
to the Catholic and official meaning of Scripture, which remains the basis of all the other
meanings which we can discover in it, there is no tinge of Protestantism. The most
orthodox spiritual writers abound in discoveries of this kind. For the rest, as we have
already said, the most faithful and the holiest of souls are the ones who receive such
illuminations from the reading of the sacred words, and they are well aware that these
graces come to them from on high. The stirrings of the Holy Ghost awaken generous acts
of love in them and nourish their piety in an admirable way. "What tears your hymns and
canticles brought to my eyes," Saint Augustine said, "for I was touched to the quick by
the sweet voice of your Church! Wafting to my ears, they distilled the truth in my heart.
The affections of my heart overflowed. Tears flowed from my eyes, and how beneficial
those tears were for me" (Confessions I, IX, Ch. vi) .
M ay such sentiments be ours when we discharge this sacred function. But we
must merit it. And in this matter it is everything or nothing. If you go to choir distracted
and lukewarm, if the office for you is but an irksome formality and a hindrance to your
work, it will not have its divine quickening power. You will be deprived of the graces
which were waiting for you, and in the end the office will become an unbearable routine
for you. Therefore, give it all your care and fervor. Let God do with you what he wills. If
you let him speak in you, the office will be a bottomless source of graces. Each day it will
have a new charm for you. You will come to look upon it as more than a prayer. In fact, it
will become a completely divine prayer, the ever-renewed song of your love, the poem of
your life sanctified in the life of the Church and of Christ.
There can be no question here of giving even a succinct exposition of all the
splendors, the sweetnesses, the exalted and salutary lessons of the sacred liturgy, of the
admirable prayers it places on our lips, of the beauty of the cycle of the feasts that recur
annually and the harmony of its sumptuous sequence, of all that it tells us in penetrating
words of the grandeur of God, of his wisdom, of his touching mercy, of all the sentiments
of love, sorrow, confidence, and of adoration with which it inspires us. This profound
subject must be studied if we would be well instructed as to its content, if we would
understand its many meanings, and if we would wish to be better able to mine its
inexhaustible riches. We cannot urge you too strongly to read and re-read a work such as
the Liturgical Year by Dom Gueranger. M odern studies on the subject, despite their new
findings, have not succeeded in replacing it.
Even if you do not grasp everything — and this is especially true of choir
religious who do not know Latin — rest assured that God understands. You are uniting
your voice with the great voice of the Church and the Church says wonderful things to
Him. Be satisfied with being a member of that great choir and of fulfilling your part.
Simply sing before God. Sing with fervent love. God is satisfied and you should be filled

with joy. It is, of course, to be hoped that everyone will do his best to deepen his
knowledge of the meaning of the texts.
Since there is the danger that repetition begets routine, a good practice would be
to renew your attention from a special point of view before beginning your office; for
example, to praise the Lord in union with all creatures, or to praise Him with M ary, or to
console the Heart of Jesus; or you might have some special intention, for example, for the
Church, for the missions, for some grace that you are asking of the Lord.
I have already referred to the immense power of entreaty of the divine office, and
that is one of the reasons we hold it in such high regard. We would like to mention,
however, that it is not necessary while saying the office to keep in mind the favors we are
praying for. That could be distracting, especially where there is question of temporal
favors. Furthermore, God knows our desires without our having to tell them to him. I read
the following pleasant anecdote in the life of a saint. She went to office with many
intentions that people had recommended to her and she obtained everything she prayed
for — without, however, giving them any explicit thought in choir. One day, a good lady
came and begged her to intercede for, of all things, her chickens. They had stopped
laying. The saint, moved by compassion, promised her that she would, and then went to
choir for Vespers. Once there, she gave no further thought to the chickens, but she did
think a great deal about God. The next day the farm-woman, all smiles, brought a large
basket of fresh eggs to the convent.
Finally, because of the homage due to God, our own devotion, and the edification
of the faithful, it is highly important that the divine office, whether sung or recited recto
tono, 16 be executed with the dignity, respect, and recollection suitable to such a function,
with moderate slowness, and in the strict observance of all the rubrics. It must be made a
thing of beauty. Let each one, therefore, begin the divine office with a maximum of good
will, submerging self rather than standing out in choir, as in a well-directed orchestra
where every musician loses himself in the harmony of the ensemble. And give special
attention to the external beauty. If, in trying to observe the rubrics, if keeping the tone or
the rhythm, demands sometimes that we relax our attention from the text, then interior
devotion must be sacrificed for the exterior perfection because we are discharging a
public worship. Ordinarily, the two will dovetail harmoniously. Being associated with the
choirs of the angels, our solicitude and piety ought to rival theirs. Thus, the Lord will be
glorified; we will be sanctified —and the laity present will be edified. We are not
sufficiently aware of the deep impression, either elevating or degrading, which the divine
office leaves on those who hear it. It is a true form of the apostolate.

Except for the last remark, all that has been said holds true when the office is said
privately. It is still the prayer of the Church, and he who says his breviary in his room is
no less a member of the universal choir, is no less delegated by the Church than are those

The Divine Office is either sung or recited recto tono, which means on one tone. This is not like the
manner in which we say the Rosary or other prayers, but a form of singing on one note.

who recite it in choir. It remains the sacred function of priests, deacons, and of religious
— a duty imposed upon them by reason of their role as intercessors and adorers — to
assure a sufficient amount of prayer in their life and a continuity in prayer that befits men
consecrated to God.
The important thing is that it be a true prayer. Otherwise, the breviary falls short
of its purpose and no longer complies with the intentions of the Church. If we say it
perfunctorily, we satisfy the letter, but not the spirit of the precept. That is Christian
Pharisaism. The basic principle which regulates all vocal prayer holds here: the breviary
must not be recited but prayed. Si cor non orat, incassum lingua laborat.
We must never lose the stimulating and keen awareness of the greatness and the
exalted supernatural utility of the divine office. Even when said in private, it must be
celebrated with as much respect as in choir. We must approach it with an attitude
befitting one who is speaking to God in the name of the Church, maintain the attention
and piety which so noble a prayer requires, and assume a pace which allows the text to
act upon our soul, stopping at times to savor it and to be penetrated with it. If the breviary
is not a mental prayer for us, the reason is that we are discharging it poorly.
It should be given its proper place within our day — the place of honor. The ideal
would be to recite the various hours at their proper time, but this is rarely possible. The
next best thing would be to divide the breviary into two or three parts of the day and in
that way assure ourselves of relays in order to revive our devotion and so that the hymns
of the hours, for example, will not lose their meaning. We can reserve Compline for our
evening prayer. Foresight should be used so as not to leave too much of the breviary for
the end of the day lest we find ourselves running a close race with the second hand of our
It is highly improper to recite the breviary hurriedly and to consider it the least
important of our obligations under the pretext that the time consumed in saying it could
be spent in much more profitable work. That is the heresy of Americanism. The divine
office is the principal occupation which must sanctify our other priestly duties. To be
careless about it is to dry up the source of this sanctifying grace, and in the last analysis it
is our work and our apostolate which are sterilized. Likewise, in hurrying through the
office, we are (perhaps) fulfilling the positive precept of the breviary, but we are not
fulfilling that most important law which obliges all of us to pray well. We should never
be in a hurry when we are talking with God, and no precept can oblige us to pray poorly.
If, for some serious reason, we are dispensed from the office, we suggest that
some part of it be said so as not to deprive ourselves of so precious an aid.
The breviary together with the M ass and mental prayer must be our daily food.
But in order to enjoy its marvelous effects, we must put ourselves in a state of receptivity
for the divine action. To mumble it as quickly as possible, without attention or piety,
would be a profanation of the sacred word. Not only would we be doing injury to the
Lord instead of praising him, not only would we be grieving the Holy Ghost, but we
would be closing the door of our soul to him. The result, therefore, is the very opposite of
what it should be. When we eat hurriedly and do not chew our food, the food poisons us
instead of nourishing us. So too, when said poorly, the breviary turns into poison: instead
of nourishing devotion, it taints it, dries it up, makes us lose our liking for prayer, and
even draws us away from it. We have "fulfilled our obligation," yes; but we have acted

like a bad boy who reluctantly recites his lesson in order to escape punishment. Is that
really what God expects of us?
His wish is that the repeated audiences which he grants us bring us closer to him;
that they activate our love, and be for us a constant source of piety and of apostolic zeal.
They do this in an excellent way if, with a filial heart, each time we say our office we
make it a real prayer.
The laity who are in a position to do so are highly encouraged to say at least a part
of the breviary. 17 They should look upon the opportunity of taking part in the grand
prayer of the Church as a joy and an honor. Furthermore, they will reap great spiritual
profit from it. In saying the divine office, they should put themselves in the same state of
mind as those who celebrate the office in choir. They, too, will receive the same graces.
Since, however, there is no obligation for them to recite the breviary, they may take a
certain liberty with the rubrics, should these prove distracting. Their predominant concern
should be with quality rather than with quantity. It will be much more to their advantage
to limit themselves to what they can say in the time at their disposal than to hurry through
it in order to complete what they had decided on saying. Someone has said: "Never be
sure of finishing," and that is an excellent rule for devotion.


We are not concerned here with the various exercises of worship, such as
benediction, the stations of the cross, the sacraments or the sacramentals. An adequate
treatment of these would call for a textbook about the prayers, whatever they be, which
the faithful say out loud and in common, either in church, at home, during a procession, a
pilgrimage, or at any other such gatherings.
A few remarks will suffice. These prayers must have the same essential qualities
as the great liturgical prayer: respect, attention, and piety. But perhaps because of greater
liberty, of less solemnity, or because of the monotony of the formulas, there is greater
danger of their not fulfilling these conditions. Lulled by the monotonous murmur of the
congregation, one's attention is soon distracted, piety vanishes, and one's attitude and tone
are naturally affected, especially if it is a question of the better known prayers which are
worn thin from repetition.
I remember a preacher reading the well-known prayer to Saint Anthony from the
pulpit. It was followed by a Pater and an Ave. The invocation to the "great Saint
Anthony" was read with much conviction and even with grandiloquence. When he came
to the Pater — Christ's own prayer — his manner changed quickly to a confused and
hasty mumbling. It was as if he had taken a prayer wheel from his pocket. And the
congregation answered in the same way. Who has not heard litanies and rosaries reeled
off in record time and in a most bored way, prayers that so sorrily recalled to mind the
words of Isaias: "This people honor me with the lips, but their heart is far from me" (Is.
29,13) . Sometimes the prayers are recited in a sing-song tune that is almost insufferable.
There is certainly no question of any bad intention. It is an acquired habit and a
vile one. A few thoughtful moments of reflection will convince us that such an attitude is

In Acerbo Nimis, Pope Saint Pius X encouraged the pastors to give Catechism classes on Sunday
afternoons before the office of Vespers. Unfortunately they did neither!

not indicative of a very vital piety. In fact, there is something repulsive about it, not to
say scandalous. One day an unbeliever was waiting for his friend in the vestibule of the
church while the congregation was praying in its usual way. After the services were over,
he could not but remark: "You don't claim that those people believe they are talking to
God. If they did, they would speak to him in a different tone of voice." We would not
permit such a lack of deference toward a statesman, especially if we were asking him for
a favor.
When we are speaking to the King of Heaven, and especially when we are doing
so in public, let us try our best to remember to talk to him in a way worthy of so exalted
an honor. Lack of respect is an offense to God, and we cannot treat his worship lightly. It
is important that we be aware of this.
The surest way to avoid such a fault is by interior devotion. We recognize saints
by the way in which they pray. A truly pious soul would not speak to God in a
disrespectful way. The mouth speaks out of the abundance of the heart. We must not
allow our piety to become lethargic as can easily happen when we say our vocal prayers.
Rather let us keep ourselves on the alert by paying attention either to the words we are
pronouncing or simply to God's presence.
Next, we must watch the externals, for the interior and the exterior in this matter
react on each other. Being conscious of the fact that we are speaking to God, we should
assume a manner that will make attention possible. The tone and the inflections should
express the meaning of the words and be indicative of the devotion which animates them.
There is no question of declaiming. In this matter the nuances are discreet and entirely
spiritual. Even if the prayer is said recto tono, a certain restrained expression will indicate
that we are thinking and sensing the words.
In that way, public prayer will be a real prayer for you. You will edify those
around you and you will stimulate their piety. Finally, your prayer will be pleasing to the
Lord and he will answer it by his blessings.

Chapter XI
I presume that you have followed the advice given you thus far: you have
resolutely set about practicing the presence of God; you have conscientiously used the
method of relays and signs; and you have applied yourself to the prayer of conversation. I
have been waiting for you to reach this point. So now, let us pause and examine what
ordinarily happens. I say ordinarily, because there are many variants, all of them specific
cases, each with its own history.
After the difficulties of launching, we became aware of very encouraging results
within a few days. Our returns to God were more and more frequent. New habits tended
to form. To our great joy we compared all these good impulses with what we did or did

not do in the past. Our progress in mental prayer, however, was less spectacular, but we
nevertheless engaged in it and not without some success. There were times when we felt
closely united to God; perhaps there were even periods of real fervor. One noticeable
point was that our interest in mental prayer had been aroused; we were happy, and full of
gratitude for the assistance God had given us. We felt like we were living a new life full
of interior joys.
Then, little by little, after such a beautiful beginning, the impulse slackened,
prayers were said less frequently; we became aware that we were laying the signals aside
unintentionally. They were less evocative. Any attempt to revive them was all in vain;
their power had been dulled. Habit had taken its toll here as it does in everything. When
we came to think of God or to speak to him, we did so in a rather routine and superficial
fashion. The outbursts of fervor became rare and were short-lived. The process yielded
little or nothing. In brief, after a certain length of time, it seemed that we found ourselves
where we were at the very beginning, except that now we are concerned about it, whereas
before we were not. And so finding ourselves faced with a monotonous exercise that
seemed fruitless, we began to doubt its efficacy; we grew to dislike it; we became
discouraged, and finally we abandoned it.
I can picture you coming back to me with a long face and saying: "Things are not
going well at all. The little aids you taught me to use are no longer effective. I am as
distracted as before, and when I begin to pray my heart is far from God. I see no change
in my life whatsoever. What's the use of continuing? Do you really believe that we learn
to love God through these humble, artificial means?"
And I welcome you with a smile of encouragement. Do not be so upset. You think
that things are not going well at all. Well, they are. First of all, there are the benefits of
the period that has elapsed: you tried; you prayed more than usual. All of this is to your
credit. Then, there is your present concern, your preoccupation with God which is surely
something very precious. You have become "a man of desires," a man who is looking for
God. And that is the primary requisite of any attempt at perfection. The only mental
attitude that should disturb you is indifference toward God and spiritual inactivity.
What is happening to you happens to everyone who begins the spiritual life.
Beware, for here some go off on a tangent. Nine-tenths of your fellow-beginners,
disconcerted by the uncertainty of the road, give up at this point. The rest, advancing as
best they can, live to see the fruit of their perseverance. Above all, beware of becoming
discouraged at such difficult times. Such periods do not mean that you have come to an
impasse, but only to a bend in the road.
Discouragement is the child of ambition. You must not expect to accomplish
everything at once nor pretend to be at the end of the road when you have only started.
We most assuredly do not attain to a love of God by using those artificial means but,
thanks to them, we set out on the road to love. M any souls must make several attempts in
the course of their spiritual life before they are finally launched. But every attempt leaves
a lasting experience and makes subsequent efforts more successful.
This halt in your spiritual progress, this apparent failure should not alarm you. It
is in the cards, as they say; it is normal, foreseen, and easy to explain.
Recall to mind the procedure we have thus far followed: after having searched for
the causes of failure in prayer, we saw in a general way that intensifying our faith,
practicing renunciation and cultivating love were indispensable if we wished to obviate

such a failure. In other words, we drew up a complete, although elementary, program of
asceticism. Then, before going any further in that direction, we suggested that you begin
to pray without any further ado, with whatever virtue you had, and that you compensate
for your deficiency by using material means.
It was able to work for a while and produced good results in the beginning, thanks
to the attraction of the novelty and ease of the practices suggested. But the impulse which
was started on a weak foundation and with artificial means could not long last. It was
excellent work unquestionably, and one that was beneficial to you and which you had no
reason to hinder — we must always do what we are capable of at the time — but it was
superficial work. The depths of the soul have not been affected, and that explains the
basic ineffectiveness of the method; for profound prayer and constancy in devotion
emanate from the center of the soul.
Your soul is still very earth-bound. Its supernatural poverty explains why, when
you begin to pray, the subject matter is soon exhausted and why conversing with God
quickly becomes monotonous or empty. Your heart lacks that keen and ardent love which
gives savor to divine commerce and makes prayer a persistent necessity. On the other
hand, lack of detachment, too many temporal needs, desires, and irrelative anxieties
occupy your mind to the point of absorbing all your interest. All these things constantly
distract you from loftier preoccupations.
If, then, you wish to pursue this exercise with profit and find pleasure and facility
in prayer, supernaturalize your soul. Improve the bad soil by eradicating self-love and
attachment to this life. Nourish and enrich your interior life by penetrating it more with
the knowledge of God and consequently in the love of God.
Thus far, we have limited ourselves to the psychological aspect of the question.
There is another — the constant remembering of God. This we shall never attain by our
own efforts. A grace is needed, a powerful grace from the Holy Ghost. And our main
endeavor will be to place ourselves in a state which will favor such a divine action — to
purify our heart that it may be able to see God.
And there the trouble lies. Your heart is not pure enough. The means thus far
recommended have produced all they could, considering the present state of your soul.
The stone wall facing you is by no means an indication that you cannot advance further.
It means simply that you have reached the term of one phase of your spiritual life and that
the moment has come to enter into a new one. So much the better.

The question now is to tackle the basic work, to work not from the exterior but
from the interior, to begin the program all over from the very beginning, but this time on
a large scale, systematically and methodically. You are facing the enemy lines. The
small, easy forays are a thing of the past. Now you must assume the offensive. The time
has come to remind yourself that life is a warfare and that the kingdom of God is not
conquered except by violence — and by patience also, which is a form of courage.
The undertaking is a serious one. First, it will demand, as we have already seen, a
strenuous effort of reflection. When a general finds himself in contact with the enemy, he
begins by noting carefully the enemy position. Then, he ponders over his plan of attack.

So you, too, must enter within yourself, examine the situation, the obstacles, the
resistances to be expected, and look for the means to surmount them.
Whether you like it or not, you must engage in one phase of meditation. Not
meditation for meditation's sake, as so often happens, done solely to satisfy a duty,
haphazardly following the topics suggested in a meditation book or, as in the preceding
type of prayer, according to the attraction of the moment; but an organized, realistic
meditation, one with a definite goal in mind. And that goal is to open up the road of
prayer by attacking the successive defenses which block its progress. Your aim is a
voluntary meditation, one that tends to action, that resolves itself in ascetical work
culminating in interior reform. M editation then should be accompanied by practical
exercises that will be its natural prolongation. It must be an integral part of life, even
more so than the prayer of conversation. A meditation without practical resolutions is a
dead meditation. You must want to do something, and reflect on how you can accomplish
That is one of the reasons why I had you try your hand at the life of prayer before
you were thoroughly prepared to do so. You have tasted somewhat of its sweetness, noted
its utility, and divined what a continuous and fervent life of prayer would be like. The
desire for prayer has been awakened in you; the goal has become clear in your mind. And
finally knowing what conquests you are striving for will give you more courage in the
And that is also why I let you continue to the point of failure: the raids, the
reconnaissances led you to the enemy positions and made you discover them. You have
reached the point where you have run into an obstacle. Was there a better way of
becoming aware of the enemy's presence and of his nature and likewise of convincing
you of the necessity of routing the enemy? This is particularly true of renunciation which,
by its very nature, is repulsive and which, at first sight, presents itself only in a negative
light. Having learned from experience that attachment is the greatest obstacle to the ac-
complishment of your desire, that to destroy it will prove extremely practical and useful,
in fact, necessary, you will attack it with greater conviction. No one would think of
tearing down a wall unless there were something behind it he wanted; but the prisoner
who knows that the wall deprives him of liberty and life will work passionately and
relentlessly until he breaks though it.
I am going on the presupposition that the exercises leading to union with God
have almost completely failed. Of course, such will not always be the case. It may happen
that for a long time they continue to succeed to a satisfying degree and to show progress.
Even in this eventuality it will be good to set aside periods of reflection or at least to
devote oneself to reflection at times without suspending the preceding practices. Such a
procedure can only favor union with God. Reflection is necessary to make our union with
God more earnest, thanks to the new light and the deeper betterment of the soul that will
result from it. Furthermore, there is always work to do in this domain. Those days or
periods when the practices conducive to union with God yield less might be chosen for
this. But in any case, ultimately you will have to begin to meditate.
If you are going through a period of great fervor, you must not hamper the action
of the Holy Ghost. The time will come when his action will not be so strong. That will be
the time to have recourse to meditation.

In any eventuality, there is spiritual reading which to a certain degree takes the
place of the prayer of reflection. We cannot afford to neglect spiritual reading. Our
supernatural life needs nourishment.


In the prayer of conversation it was suggested that you talk to God about
anything, provided the subject interested you. In the present case, the subjects are
imposed on you and follow a certain order, like the movement of a company of soldiers
in a regular attack. As a rule they are divided among three principal points: faith,
detachment, and love. (Note that these subjects refer to the three theological virtues, for
detachment is to put all one's hope in God and in the things of the future life and to
expect nothing from this earth. It has, then, a close relationship with the virtue of hope, of
which it is, so to speak, the opposite). All other subjects, especially the different moral
virtues, will be grafted on to these basic ones. We will treat of them later under the
subject of "moral prayer."
I. Faith — These three topics of meditation follow each other and are linked with
one another. Faith is, evidently, the point of departure. It would be useless to prove this.
Here, however, we are concerned with a certain quality of faith. Every Catholic believes
the dogmas which holy mother Church teaches. No point is more common among the
faithful. But a faith that is profound, vital, active, one that permeates and impregnates
one's whole being, that commands one's complete will, that governs all one's actions is
rather rare. Now, that is the faith that must be solidly anchored in your soul if you would
create an atmosphere favorable to prayer: a dynamic not a static faith, one that is a
motivating idea and not a dead one, one that is at the center of your preoccupations and
fosters a keen and constant interest in things supernatural.
For example, suppose a man is to take up his residence in a foreign land within a
month. How seriously he prepares for his departure! During that last month, his thoughts
and his entire day's activities are concentrated on that one idea and everything related to
it: his passport, the ship he will take, all the preparations for the trip. He sells everything
he no longer needs, and makes whatever purchases are necessary for his new life. He
already lives in his new home in imagination. The thought obsesses him. The town he is
about to leave no longer interests him. So too, with just as keen and active a faith, should
we believe in the primary of the supernatural enterprise of our earthly life, in the
imminence of our departure, in the urgency and absolute necessity of preparing for that
other life that awaits us — namely, to love and serve God at the expense of everything
Now, ponder over your way of life. What place does faith hold in your habitual
thoughts? What influence does it exercise over your daily behavior? You agree that there
is much to be done. It is ever the same: the preoccupation with things earthly clouds and
chokes the supernatural and robs it of all practical interest. Despite the faith you profess,
in real life the scale of values is reversed.
The first order of business, then, is to re-establish the fundamental order of the
spirit: a real reversal of values. You understand that success requires much deep thought.
This subject and the one following have been touched upon in Chapter III where I invited

you to make your first attempt at meditation; but here we are concerned with a complete
and methodical examination in view of a definite result.
As a guide in this matter, here are the main points you must give some thought to.
They can be proposed here only in a cursory way. In the beginning you will find it
indispensable to use some book which develops them, such as the meditation books
which can be found in Catholic libraries. 18
1. Reality — Real things are not those which we see, but those of the supernatural
world. In truth, reality is God. He is being; He is the all of everything. The rest have but
borrowed being and exist only because of Him and for Him.
God created us out of love, that we might love Him and He love us and, in that
way, make us happy like the angels. Our one true and sure good is the friendship of God
— grace here below and glory in eternity.
2. The M eaning of Life — Our destiny is to reach heaven by serving God. Our
earthly life has no meaning in itself, but only in its end, the future, definite, and eternal
life. This life is a preparation, a pilgrimage, a combat in quest of our happiness.
Everything must be referred to that. All things pass away; one thing alone remains: the
sum total of the merits we have amassed. How well it would be if we were convinced of
the relative and ephemeral character of our present life: a passing trial of infinite
3. Aberration — We believe that, but how do we act? In exactly the opposite way
from what the most ordinary common sense demands. With a sort of unconsciousness,
we settle down in the ephemeral, as if there were nothing else. We believe one way and
act another: like a man who, instead of tending to his business, enjoys himself and
squanders his fortune. The result is deception and sadness, because our present life
cannot give us happiness; and when the day of reckoning dawns, instead of being rich in
merits, we find ourselves empty-handed.
4. The Last Things — The finale is what counts. What will it be? Death is one
truth we do not question. A few years from now our life will have terminated; we will
have stepped across the threshold. Where will we be? There is but one alternative: heaven
or hell, eternal happiness or everlasting misery. We talk of making a place for ourselves.
But there it is, fixed and irrevocable. What food for thought! What will we think then?
How will we judge our conduct? If we could return to earth and begin our life over, how
different it would be from the one we are now living!
5. Wisdom — Let us think now as we will think then, since our thinking then will
be logical. Let us live now as we would have wished to live. Act in all things in view of
the end, of life eternal, referring everything to it, the one thing which must be of
consequence to us, considering everything else as accessory, or rather as so many means
to attain our glorious end better and more surely.
That is what the saints did. They cared little for the things of this earth and fought
valiantly for the kingdom of heaven. And today they stand before the great white throne
of God; they enjoy unlimited happiness; they rejoice over the sacrifices they made in
order to receive so glorious a crown. In other words, they acted reasonably.
6. Applications — If we wish to live rightly, we must recall these primary truths
to mind every day, at least once a day and more often if possible, until they become the

In general, it would be better to use classical works. While their style may be dated, their contents are
more meaty than certain more recent ones.

very basis of our thought (for, indeed, it is the basis of our life). It would be well if this
basic meditation served as a prelude to each one of our mental prayers. In that way we
would place ourselves once again in a supernatural climate.
And in order to preserve ourselves in that climate, we will have to do some
spiritual reading. Spiritual books are an antidote to the naturalistic environment we live
in. The spiritual food these books offer will permeate us with these primary truths and
keep the light of faith clear before our eyes. Oh, that our faith would become living and
alert — in fact, more than a faith — a spirit of faith.
Next, these convictions must be translated into our conduct, otherwise known as
the resolutions of our mental prayer. They must be practical and definite. They must
correct, point by point, each of our actions in such a way as to reorganize our whole life
in the supernatural order.
This is the first part of your program. It is indispensable that you comply with it.
In proportion as you accomplish this adjustment from within, your interest in things
divine will revive, and you will become capable not only serving God well, but also of
praying well.
II. Detachment — Once you are penetrated with this spirit of faith, you will be
capable of detaching yourself from things earthly, for this second point flows logically
from the first. This virtue, which is so difficult and so contrary to our tendencies, is the
consequence and the fruit of faith. It can proceed from it alone, for faith gives it its
motive and meaning. Without faith renunciation is absurd. No one would renounce
temporal things if he did not believe in the eternal.
Faith purifies the intellect; detachment purifies the heart. And with that we have
put our finger on the crucial point.
In spiritual combat, the key position must be seized and if that is conquered the
enemy line will crumble. Here the enemy concentrates his resistance. When a soul comes
to a halt in his spiritual progress, and especially in his progress in prayer, look for the
answer in his detachment. With rare exceptions, you will always discover a lack of
renunciation in him. His soul is not free.
There you have the basic reason for failure in spite of excellent means. Any and
every technique of prayer will soon show itself inoperative if it is applied to poorly
prepared soil. The most perfect machine will produce nothing good if it works on
defective matter.
On the other hand, when the depths of the soul are purified, these means succeed
wonderfully and soon become superfluous. All good soil asks is to be allowed to produce.
Give me a detached man and I will make a man of prayer out of him. I will make him a
saint, and with ease. No obstacle stands in the way of his forward march. Detachment is
the condition of all the virtues. All of them are in one way or another but modalities of
this parent virtue, just as they are modalities of love.
Hence, in our program, we shall not treat systematically of each virtue in
particular. For the greater part, detachment will take care of that. It remains for each one
to set about reducing the hold a particular tenacious fault has on him, and notably those
which are more directly obstacles to prayer. Later, we shall see that there is another
method of eradicating all of them. Love, in fact, will accomplish this miracle. But first,
we must reach love through detachment.
Here are a few points of meditation to this effect:

1. Logic and illogicality — Detachment is the immediate result of faith, for it but
one thing is necessary, all the rest is accessory and of little importance. It is, therefore,
unreasonable to be attached to temporal things. Not only is it unreasonable, but it is fatal;
for apart from the fact that these things are contemptible in themselves, they are harmful
to us because they stand in the way of our progress toward the essential goal and make us
lose valuable time and precious efforts.
We are reluctant to draw so clear a conclusion because it affects our life and
entails sacrifices. Lack of courage induces a lack of logic. We would like to win both the
kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of this world. Although that is the aspiration of a
misled humanism, it became impossible with the advent of original sin. "No man can
serve two masters" (Mt. 6, 24) , says the Lord.
2. The Obstacle — Our sickness is love of the world, attraction for things visible.
Hence arise concupiscences, vices, and sins. Our desire for immediate and sensible
pleasure creates an egocentricity in us which draws everything to it, shackles us to
everything and immobilizes us in an inextricable net. Progress in love becomes
impossible, of which it is the exact opposite; it puts an obstacle in the way of all the
virtues; it is the chief enemy of prayer; it induces spiritual dryness and all sorts of
distractions. Should you have any doubts, two minutes of self-examination will convince
you of the dire effects of love of the world.
3. Purpose and Necessity of Renunciation — If we would march forward, love of
the world must be overcome. Love needs a free heart. The resolve is a necessity; it is
inescapable. If it seems irksome to us, then we have but to think of the reward promised
us: divine love, virtues made easy, prayer in all its sweetness and, in the end, celestial
glory and the possession of all good. On the contrary, think for a moment of what earthly
things can give: they can never satisfy us and one day they will be taken away from us.
Christian renunciation has nothing negative about it. It tends toward a magnificent term,
the only one after all to which we aspire: happiness.
4. Remedy: Reflection and Action — The only conclusion we can faun is that it is
a difficult virtue. Hence, we must meditate on these things frequently and profoundly if
we wish to reach a point of conviction that will lead us to action. I have asked you to
think on the last things every day. Let your daily conclusion be such that your faith
resolves itself in detachment. Your meditation must be made in a practical way. It must
take your life into consideration, to the extent that your reflection be followed up by
concrete exercises that make your reflection fruitful. The work to be done is threefold.
a) Interior Detachment. Discover where the obstacle holds you back most, and
remove it by reflection. If it is pride or vanity, convince yourself that there is no vice
more stupid, and that it sins against truth. Recall to mind how you scoff derisively at the
conceited people you meet. If it is ambition, then what connection does it have with
eternity? The ambitious man works exclusive of and in opposition to his eternal goal. If it
is esteem and honors, what do they profit you? Rest assured that other people are thinking
of themselves far more than they are thinking of you and that they laugh at your merits.
You are chasing wind. Is it money, riches? Recall to mind the Gospel story of the farmer
who died while dreaming of his ambitious projects. Pleasures? Except for necessary
relaxation, they are a waste of time; they sap your energy; often they are degrading and
leave you with but regrets. Having given careful attention to all this, bend your will never
to desire these things, to will but eternal goods, to take a supernatural attitude, an attitude

of disinterestedness toward the world, an attitude of truth. Then, apply this disposition to
the various occasions in which you will have to exercise it.
b) Active Renunciation. If interior detachment is sincere, then it will translate
itself, in so far as possible, in effective renunciation of what it makes us despise. It is at
this point that the concrete resolutions of your meditations will fit in: to do nothing that
flatters your vanity, to know how to accept humiliations, to be satisfied with a modest
share of temporal goods, to be ready to part with something to give pleasure to another, to
curb your ambitions, and moderate your pleasures. These resolutions must be practical
and applied to specific points of your life. The same thing will apply to the third domain:
c) Penance. Now comes the counter-attack: penance goes directly against our
desire for pleasure and suppresses our evil tendencies. Were it not for that, it would be
absurd, but because of it, it is indispensable. "Unless you repent, you will all perish" (Lk.
13,3); you will be victims of your passions.
The modern man wants no mention of this virtue. But if you wish to remain a
Catholic, you will see to it that there is always a certain amount of it in your life: some
small corporal mortifications, nothing excessive. In themselves these small penances are
negligible, but they create in you an aptitude to resist the spirit of pleasure. They keep
you in combat condition. Perform penances of a spiritual nature, too: combat your
curiosity, dissipation, gossiping, laxness, insubordination, and caprice. Accept the
misfortunes of life: sickness, failures, worries, humiliations, and all the sorrows that
burden your mind and heart. These are penances which God in His mercy sends us, for
He knows that we have need of suffering if we would be purified. And they are the best
penances. So why complain about them? Since we must suffer, why not make a virtue of
necessity? It is so simple. All we have to do is say "yes" to our heavenly Father who
wishes to cure us. Our suffering would be alleviated and we would learn to reconcile
ourselves to its daily companionship.
5. Prayer — Left to ourselves, we would never reach the point of practicing the
austere virtue of prayer properly. We must ask for help from on high. Therefore, let every
one of your meditations conclude with an urgent and confident prayer. "God has
commanded us to do what we can and to ask him for what we cannot do," and the result
will be that with the help of his grace we can do all things.
6. The New Soul — Finally, think of the result of this struggle, of the wonderful
effects of detachment. It is a release; our chains will have been removed and we will
become free to be what we want to be, to do what we wish to do. Detachment is a source
of energy and makes us strong and constant in doing good. It gives us a peace which
nothing can disturb because none of the things which we formerly feared so much can
now harm us. And finally, it makes prayer pleasant and easy because the causes of
distraction have disappeared and because, freed of our worldly cares, we feel at home
with God.
All of this takes place because the soul has become responsive to divine love, and
all that remains is for divine love to come to full bloom in that soul.
III. Love — Detachment opens the way. The man who is freed of self-love finds
himself in a position to love God. Loving God then becomes something natural. No one
can live without love. He must either love himself or love God. Only when the heart is
empty of self can God enter it.

But we need help. The break in the wall has been made, but we must keep
hammering away. Success is not automatic. We must use the forces liberated by
renunciation and direct them in a positive way toward the conquest of divine love.
Detachment is but an essential condition, the negative side of the problem. It would be
foolish and deplorable to stop there. Some souls make laudable efforts of renunciation
and then restrict themselves to a narrow asceticism with no horizon or warmth. They
were able to conquer but they did not know how to exploit their success in order to end in
what would be its crowning: the flowering of the heart in love.
Such is the third point of the program and the third subject of reflection: the
training of the heart and the direct search of love, the climate of perfect mental prayer. In
this first phase, God himself is the object of our meditation, and particularly the God-
M an. We should try to penetrate more and more profoundly into the knowledge of His
beauty, His grandeur, His goodness, of everything that can awaken in us admiration and
affection for Him, of what can touch our hearts and will make God the object of love in
all the force of the word. Next, we should dwell on that immense love with which Our
Savior, has loved us both as God and as Savior, on His merciful Incarnation, on
everything that Christ willed to endure for our salvation. Our hearts will then feel urged
to return the love of Him who gives us such proofs of His love and with the Holy Ghost,
seconding his effort, our love and fervor will gush forth naturally.
Now this last meditation has to do directly with affective prayer. Of this, more
later. For the present, what we might keep in mind here is its corollary, love of neighbor.
Although it derives from the love of God, it is not, like the love of God, immediately
ordered to affective prayer. It will be well, in view of its outstanding importance, to make
love of neighbor the frequent subject of our meditation, and reflect, for example, on the
following points:
1. M otives and Importance of Fraternal Charity— Its close connection with divine
love: the two commandments are but one, and refer to the same virtue which is love, the
queen virtue. Our Lord made it so in his testament. Speaking of the general judgment, He
makes love the passport of admission into heaven. The reason is that it comprises the
entire Law and the prophets.
2. Charity and Detachment — The exercise of charity calls into play a host of
other virtues, particularly detachment. We sacrifice our own good for that of another, thus
killing one bird with two stones. Fraternal charity is the daughter of renunciation as it is
of the love of God.
3. Applications — There are many forms of charity which we must foresee in
meditation. The following is an incomplete list.
In the material order: assistance to the poor, the sick, to all outcasts, concern for
the misfortunes of others and active compassion, and an eagerness to render service.
In the moral order: kind judgments, charity in word and conduct, treating others
as we would like to be treated, patience, gracious condescension, affability: to be bearers
of joy.
In the supernatural order: to be preoccupied with the good of souls, to practice an
active apostolate suitable to our condition in life, at least to support apostolic endeavors
when we cannot devote ourself to them, to pray for the conversion of sinners and the
sanctification of souls.

"And so you will fulfill the law of Christ" (Gal. 6,2) . A Catholic without charity
is not a Catholic. "By this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love
for one another" (Jn. 13,25)
To enlighten the mind, purify the will, warm the heart, such is the triple road you
now have to travel. Begin it with confidence. When you reach the end, you will enter into
the ways of prayer without any difficulty, no longer artificial means, but with a
spontaneous movement of your profound being.


Serious and repeated thought must be given to what has just been said. We do not
discover our deficiencies at once. Often they are unconscious or, what is worse,
unadmitted. Nor do we create in ourselves new convictions that are strong enough to
transform our lives. Our good tendencies, submerged by the tide of small passions and
contrary habits, are so inert that it is quite an undertaking to get them to function.
Here a retreat would be very beneficial to you. In so far as possible, make it a
closed retreat: a few days during which, removed from your habitual duties, you will be
alone with truth. There is nothing comparable to it for a spiritual bath and as a
preparation for the period of reflection which you are about to begin.
Contrary to the prayer of conversation, you must, during this period, adhere to the
same subject or to one point of the subject for a definite time. The important thing here is
to do some thorough and deep thinking and this requires that you have to return to the
same thought many times, to look at it from different aspects until you have assimilated it
and until it has produced its desired effect. What is important is not the meditation itself,
but the result, the effect it produces on your life and consequently on your prayer.
You must not, however, tie yourself down to this rule in an absolute way and
consider yourself bound to divide the time of meditation into three successive, watertight
periods, one devoted to faith, the second to detachment, and the third to love. What I have
suggested is the general and theoretical sequence, but psychological factors must be taken
into consideration also. You must avoid boredom and exertion. Everyone must decide
what profits him best. For some souls it would be well to run through the entire cycle in a
few days, then go through it again but this time searching more deeply into the subjects
and returning to them again and again until the desired result is achieved. Use a certain
freedom of choice according to the circumstances and the needs of the moment. If, in the
course of these meditations, some particular thought strikes you forcefully and seems to
be more fruitful, dwell on it as long as it has something to offer. There is nothing to stop
you on any given day from taking a subject other than the three fundamental points: for
example, an important liturgical feast you are celebrating or some circumstance which
awakens a salutary thought in you, or the necessity of reviving one of the special virtues
which flows from the three mother virtues. But try to refer these casual meditations to the
subject at hand and include them in the general pattern of your reflections. You will do
this naturally if you have seriously plunged yourself into your reflections. In the spiritual
life everything meshes.
Finally, I must return to an important point. It would be vain to limit yourself to
reflection. There is the matter of applying your reflection to your conduct, of carrying it
over into your life. And this involves a whole aggregate of practical exercises and a series

of actions and reactions between meditation and life. Only in this wise will meditation be

Chapter XII
How to Meditate
First, a very important point must be made. Because you are about to begin to
meditate, you must not brush aside the preceding exercises: namely, the practice of the
presence of God and the quest for union with him. Because these two practices are
essential, because they are the goal of the other exercises, they can never be abandoned.
Whatever else you do, you must discharge them to the best of your present ability.
If your leisure hours are limited, you will have less time to devote to the
preparation of your meditation and to the different examinations of conscience. Better
still, as we shall see, you might integrate them into your new form of mental prayer.
M oreover, they will have become easier for you because by this time they have become
somewhat of a habit.
The only thing in need of modification is the manner of making your mental
prayer. Then, too, constant concern for the presence of God and intimate union with Him
must find a place in your meditation.
Having said that, we may now proceed to a few general principles on the manner
of meditating.

M editation must be pious. By this I mean that it must never be a simple reflection,
an isolated and cold exercise from which God is absent. Let us recall to mind the
difference between meditation and mental prayer. M editation is reflection. In itself it is a
work of the mind alone and requires no one to converse with. M ental prayer is
conversation with God, union with God. It is an activity of the whole soul and one in
which God necessarily has a part. Now, meditation in the Catholic sense must always be
mixed with mental prayer; it must be mental prayer and at the same time reflection. It is
but a special form of mental prayer. Consequently, I prefer the expression "mental prayer
of reflection" to that of "meditation."
M ental prayer of reflection consists, therefore, of thinking in the presence of God,
of speaking to Him, and of listening to Hhim. It will always be made in the manner of an
affectionate conversation in which the heart is as active as the mind, just as in the mental
prayer of conversation. But whereas the latter was a free conversation on any subject, the
mental prayer of reflection is a serious conversation on a very specific point. When two
friends meet casually, their conversation may ramble from one subject to another; but
they may come together to discuss some important question. In that case, the

conversation takes on an entirely different form. It is more restricted, more rigid, and
more methodical. But it ever remains a conversation. Even though the affection is
implicit, it is in no way excluded.

M editation must be practical, have a concrete goal, and help us to live. To a
certain degree, it will accomplish this, thanks to the three fundamental subjects that have
been chosen and arranged methodically for a well-defined purpose, which is to reach the
point where we live better in order to pray better. We cannot overstress the point that it
must be made in a detailed way in terms of life — your own life — in terms of your
present state and needs. You must now begin by becoming conscious of your manner of
living and by discovering your personal needs. Do this in order to determine the
particular themes you will select for your meditations.
During your meditations, keep them before your mind's eye and, finally, apply
what your mental prayer suggests to your conduct.
The mental prayer of reflection must be active, dynamic, and voluntary, aimed
toward its particular goal and part and parcel of a definite program. Beware of mental
passivity and indolence. M editation must not be considered as some sort of exercise of
piety on the fringe of life, nor must it be made in a haphazard manner, without too clear
an idea of what we want to get out of it. Such a meditation is headed for dis tractions; it
lacks interest and yields scant fruit.

M editation must be ordered. A thought that is not watched and controlled comes
to nought. An undisciplined meditation leads to reverie and confusion.
We must, however, be on our guard against certain errors in the use of meditation
The fact that these methods offer ready-made points encourages laziness, and this
is especially true if we use a book. The book, naturally, follows a particular method. We
therefore run through the different points conscientiously, but without deep thought, with
no concern to assimilate them or apply them to ourselves. The effort we expend is
superficial and the work artificial. Surely, it is an easy method. We have but to follow
and the subject matter is there. But we neither think nor do we pray. We have the illusion
of doing so. We have been occupied and, when the period is over, we think we have
engaged in mental prayer. Our effort has been no greater than the lazy student who
idiotically repeats what his neighbor whispers to him. Used in this wise, meditation
methods, whatever they are, deceive the soul because the soul dispenses itself of any
effort and yet fancies that the goal has been attained.
Another fault, which we have already touched on, is to be a slave to some method.
Some souls believe that they are obliged to dwell on all the points of a preconceived plan.
Whether they succeed or not, they think they have not made a good meditation if
they omit a single point. This is downright absurd. A method is not meant to be an
obstacle but must help you to think and to pray. Now, how do such souls expect to be

able to think effectively in such an assembly-line production, and how can they catch the
inspirations of grace?
Finally, some spiritual directors are stubbornly guilty of the gross error of
attempting to bend all souls to the same method. This is tantamount to ignoring the
infinite variety of temperaments, graces, and needs. Such insistence can provoke
regrettable trouble for some souls and definitely arrest their progress.
The best method for each one will be one of his own making, one comformable to
his own spiritual constitution. Naturally, you may try one or the other method suggested
in different books and adopt the one most beneficial for you. Or you may combine from
several of them the points that suit you best. Or having tried them, you may prefer to
work out a personal method of your own.
A method must be tailor-made. There are discursive souls who like to treat a
subject in a strictly logical way, and there are intuitive souls who would be cramped by
such a system. They can think only by direct impression of the truth. Let everyone reflect
during meditation in his own way, the way he usually does in any other circumstance.
Now, what do you do when you examine any problem? You do not sit down and
figure out in advance how one thought will logically lead to another; you do not, except
rarely, set down the points you intend to treat successively. No, your thought follows its
natural course. It creates a certain logical order for itself, one that is spontaneous because
the thoughts are naturally logical. So why act differently when you meditate on the
articles of our faith? Why do you cease being yourself and subject yourself to a way of
thinking that is foreign to you? You may object and say that it is easier to reflect on
things earthly than on things supernatural. That is true. But do you not increase the
difficulty by adding to it the cumbersomeness of an artificial method which seems to
relegate such matters outside of reality? That, I believe, is one of the reasons for the
repulsion many experience when faced with methodical meditation. After all, what is
methodical meditation but examining a question to reach a definite result? Any and all
processes of thought that lead to that end are good. Does that require so very much
previous organization? The ideal would be to do without any preconceived method
whatsoever; and for a man little accustomed to thinking that indeed is not very difficult.
Ready-made methods are only last resorts.
The truth is, however, that many find it necessary to have recourse to some such
temporary expedient, and they need a great deal of courage to adhere to it. Furthermore,
they must avoid boredom. Likewise, the simplest and most natural of methods will be the
best: those which give the impression that that is exactly how we would have gone about
it had we not been taught how.
The method must be flexible. We must even go so far as to say that each one must
use several methods according to the subject one is contemplating. Saint Ignatius
proposes an entirely different method for meditating on a subject of one's choice than he
does for meditation on a fact related in the Gospel. Even in regard to the same subject, we
may one day be inclined to reason upon it and the next day ponder it over with greater
freedom and more affection.
The method must leave you with a degree of independence. It is only an
instrument. There is great wisdom in knowing how to omit what proves to be less useful
and on occasion to dispense with it completely. The method is made for the man, and not
the man for the method.

Of course, if you cannot make profitable meditations without using the method
you have chosen, then hold on to it. Using it is far better than wasting your time. But do
so with the hope of throwing off its yoke whenever possible, and of gradually making
your meditation more and more personal.

Just as in the preceding type of mental prayer, so here, too, you must not attempt
to exceed your ability. M editation, for some people, is a difficult exercise. To overdo it
would quickly end in dis gust. If you experience difficulty, begin with short simple
meditations. One single thought, if it is well chosen and dwelt on, can suffice. And the
one that comes to mind at once will often be the one best adapted to you. You might also
precede or follow your meditation with some spiritual reading on the same subject.

For mental prayer of reflection — much more so than for the mental prayer of
conversation — it will often be recommendable to avail yourself of a book, especially in
the beginning. Do so only when it is necessary or useful. You will, however, find this to
be the case frequently. The point here is to think. Now, as long as we have not meditated
at length nor lived things divine, our ideas along these lines are rare and poor. For the
most part, it is an unknown domain. A book will help us explore it. There we find things
that we would never have thought of by ourselves. We will find ideas unexpected, rays of
light completely new to us which will make a deep impression on us and will open up
veins rich in graces. The old monks always preceded meditation with spiritual reading.
"Seek by reading," said Guigues the Carthusian, "and you will find by meditating."
The meditation books you use will naturally be those which treat of the subject
you are concerned with at the moment. It might be a collection of meditations (the book
will offer you a plan which you may profitably use without, of course, making yourself a
slave to it) or some other work of spirituality. Whichever it is, begin by opening the table
of contents and finding the meditation or the chapter which fits you at the moment.
Even in these passages you will have to make a selection. You must read them
with meditation — your meditation — in mind. Everything on the printed page will not
be equally useful to you. You must glean from it and choose the most profitable points,
just as bees choose their flowers, just as the carpenter standing before a pile of wood
takes only the pieces he needs for his creation and rejects the others.
You will pause when you come upon something that is capable of being
integrated into your mental synthesis, to what can become for you motivating ideas or
motivating sentiments. Ponder these thoughts for your own benefit, and in your own way.
Dig away at them and thus you will make the transition from spiritual reading to personal

From what has just been said, it is understood that the plan here proposed is only
a suggestion, a simple guide which each one will follow or modify to his liking. It is one
of twenty approaches. I have chosen this particular one because it seems to me to be the
most simple, the most logical and natural one, and at the same time the best adapted to
the kind of meditation subjects called for at this period of your spiritual life. It is no more
than a schematic plan.

The preliminaries are the same as for the mental prayer of conversation.
Begin, therefore, by placing yourself in the presence of God, by putting yourself
in communication with him as intimately as possible. That is the proper way to think
Then, cast aside your worldly cares. M ake a serious effort to raise yourself to the
plane of divine realities. If you fear being distracted, stop for a minute and think of the
meaning, the brevity, the vanity of this earthly life, and of the necessity of taking Christ's
warning seriously: "Seek first the kingdom of God" (M t. 6, 33). It is always well, as we
have seen, to put this fundamental question squarely before ourselves before beginning to
meditate and come face to face with reality again. I urge you to do it each time you
meditate in order to create a supernatural climate in you, except when you feel the action
of God from the very outset of your meditation.
And lastly, humbly implore God's help by a prayer such as: "Come in me, Holy
Ghost. Fill my mind with your light and my heart with Your love."

You are now ready to begin the body of the mental prayer.
In general, it will be useful to have anticipated the subject and to have already
given it some thought before you begin your mental prayer. In that way the ground will
be ready and you will not risk wandering from the subject. But if for some reason you
find occasionally that another subject would fit you better, then use it as the subject of
your mental prayer. For instance, some passage from your spiritual reading or from your
breviary may strike you, and you feel that it would benefit you to exploit this grace. Do
not hesitate to do so, and for as long as its light burns. Or you may have intended to
meditate on the goodness of God, but meanwhile you have had words with someone and
you are still disturbed with feelings of resentment. "Go first to be reconciled to thy
brother" (Mt. 5, 24) , says the Lord. M ake charity and forgiveness the subject of your
mental prayer, and all the more so because with this poison in your soul the subject of
God's goodness will succeed very poorly. You could, moreover, link the two together.
Or, to take another example, suppose you had prepared a meditation on death and, as you
are about to begin, the Lord gives you a grace of union which awakens a fervent love in

you. Brush aside the subject and all reflection in order to live in this precious union.
Should you talk to him of death, it will be in an entirely different way than you had
Aside from these exceptions, the point we are concerned with here is to give some
thought to the theme you have chosen for mental prayer, to develop it somewhat. That is
the difficult part, and that is where a book can be of service to you, provided, as we saw,
that it is used like the phosphorous on the tip of a match, to start you thinking by yourself.
It is impossible to give a system of thinking, a recipe, or fixed and infallible rules
for correct thinking. Books on the Art of Writing never made a writer. They may be
helpful, but nothing will replace inspiration or spontaneous effort. A book on the Art of
Thinking would be even more useless. Thought is something too subtle, too personal, too
essentially variable to allow itself to be hemmed in by such laws.
What can be said and what would be far more useful, I think, is that you must
bestir yourself. Obtuseness comes more often from a lack of energy than from any real
intellectual inability. If your mind refuses to work, it is because of laziness and inertia.
You must then shake off its lethargy and bend your will if you would overcome your
This is all the more necessary when one has but little skill in reflecting on
supernatural truths. That is why it would be well in the beginning to draw up a sort of
general plan for yourself and follow its broad outlines as you develop different subjects
(with all the variations necessary at times)+. Try to find such a plan.
Let us suppose that you have chosen charity as the subject of your meditation.
You have prepared nothing in advance. I can picture you thinking along the following
"Charity is an exquisite and excellent virtue. There is nothing nicer than a
charitable, a good, and a generous man. Nothing stirs up sympathy and affection more.
People easily forgive the mistake of a good man. There is nothing surprising about that,
Lord. You are Charity, and the goodness we have is but a reflection of your sovereign
Being. We defile your image when we sin against charity.
"That is why you made of this noble virtue a law that transcends all other laws, a
corollary of the fundamental law of love that we owe you: the second commandment is
like unto the first. The Gospel scene of the Last Judgment portrays you forgiving all to
those who observed this law while on earth.
"And what an admirable example of charity you yourself gave us during the
whole of your life!" (Here you recall to mind some of the Gospel episodes which
exemplify the great love of Christ.) "And before giving us the supreme proof of your
love, you left us your commandment: 'Love one another' (Jn. 15, 12) .
"Jesus, I am the heir of this testament of your love. You are asking me to love my
brothers as you have loved me, me whom you have created to your image so that I might
reflect your divine charity.
"How, then, could I have been harsh and angry with my brother just a short while
ago? Why does resentment loiter in my heart?
"I am not your disciple if I do not forgive. I am not wearing the sign whereby you
recognize your own. I am not worthy of your love. M atters cannot stay as they are. In the
same way as I would like to be treated by others, so in the same way must I and do I want

to treat my brother. Forgive me my offenses just as I forgive, as of now, the offenses
others have done to me."
There you have a succession of ideas which seems logical enough and which
would be easy to develop. Now, let us pause for a moment, analyze the path your mind
took, and attempt to reconstruct the plan it spontaneously followed.
First, you examined the notion of charity itself both from the doctrinal and the
moral point of view. The doctrinal point of view was further subdivided into the human
consideration of the beauty of the virtue of charity and the supernatural fact that the
virtue of charity is a reflection of God. Your thoughts on the moral aspects of charity
were naturally concerned with the obligation to practice it. All in all, you engaged in
good theology without knowing it.
Next, you made these reflections more living by recalling to mind the example
and the teaching of Christ.
After having made these considerations of a general nature, you applied them to
yourself; you came face to face with your life — in fact, a concrete detail of your life;
and since your life did not square with this law and doctrine, you came to a practical
And with that you had enough material to make a good meditation. Notice, too,
that everything took place in an atmosphere of talking with God. Your meditation was a
There is no reason, then, why you cannot, with few evident modifications, treat
the majority of subjects in a similar way. For instance, let us take a meditation on death
(one of the most useful you can make) .
"What a strange thing death is! How terrifying, how certain!
"Thanks to you, my God, death has a meaning which throws light on our life and
sweetens it. It is, of course, a punishment for sin and we accept it as such. But in
punishing man, you softened the chastisement with the balm of hope, for death is the
blessed termination of the miseries of this life and the gateway to life eternal.
"By consenting to your own death, Jesus, you held out Life to us once more.
" ... Provided, of course, that I die well. It is entirely up to me whether I accept or
reject your Redemption. I shall die, surely, and, on that day my lot shall be irrevocably
fixed. My entire life, my every action must converge toward that one reckoning.
"Is that the way I live? Alas! I seem to forget death. I live contrary to the faith you
have given me. What did I do this morning? What did I think this morning? A great
change has to be made in my outlook and in my behavior."
A great number of subjects will lend themselves to a similar development.
Whatever other reasoning your mind might have followed, the result would have been the
same. You might, for example, have started with Christ and the Gospel and grouped
everything around him and his teaching. There are a hundred ways. All plans are good
provided they are neither artificial nor too complicated.
In order to avoid such faults, a good procedure would be to begin by letting your
mind work freely over a subject, and then arrange the few ideas which come to mind.
Often they will be most practical for you, because they arose spontaneously.
If you are an intuitive soul, meditation will be even more simplified. The thought
will occur to you: "I am running toward death. My God, you are waiting there for me....
What am I doing, then? I am wasting my time." And you let this simple thought sink in

deeply and you apply it to the details of your life. Or it might be sufficient to imagine
how you will judge your present conduct once you have crossed the threshold of death
and can see clearly. If you are meditating on charity, two glances, one on Jesus uttering
his commandment of love at the Last Supper, the other on the condition of your soul, will
jolt your conscience. Or more simply still, you might simply say: "Jesus, what do you
think of me at this moment?" The rest will follow automatically.
If, on the contrary, you adopt a more detailed plan, you must not develop each
point equally, but rather pause over the ideas that take hold of you, dwell on one idea that
helps you better than all the others, and center your reflections on this or that point. At
the time of an attack, we sound out the enemy position in different places. If one section
begins to yield, the attacking army concentrates its strength on that flank in order
to assure success.

What has preceded is but the first part of the body of mental prayer, the part of the
intellect, the part which is more properly meditation, reflection. We cannot be satisfied
with that. Every soul must be interested in mental prayer, and mental prayer must take
into consideration the heart and the will.
This is quite natural. Truth tends to action; the good or evil we perceive moves
our will. Even without being told, you would proceed spontaneously to this second part,
so human is it. Go back to the preceding meditations for a moment. The final
considerations naturally led you to make acts of love and resolutions. They called for
them. They were already partly so, for by their very nature they overlapped into the
affective domain. If I have lingered over this point, I have done so uniquely for didactic
purposes, to point out the logical division of the parts. The temptation was to continue,
and all the more so because these meditations give the impression of begin truncated. We
feel that they lack something.
Let us go back over the one we made on charity. You will already discover
contrition and a firm resolve in the last lines: affection and resolutions. You surely would
have gone one step further and said:
"Forgive me, Jesus, for having sinned against charity, and for so paltry a reason.
How egotistical and earthly I still am! I still love you very little, since I am forgetful of
your strongest desire. Yet, you do know that I love you. Oh, how I want to love you. To
prove this to you, I will shortly go and make amends for my faults, even if I have to
humiliate myself in doing so. As for the future, I shall take steps not to fall again, to be
ever kind and patient." (Among the specific resolves you form, do not to forget his holy
M any other sentiments will come to mind: admiration for the charity of Our Lord,
a desire to become like him ("M ake my heart like unto yours") , sadness for having
wounded his Sacred Heart ("You did it to me") , fear of being reproached by him on
Judgment Day, the desire to console him, and so on.
The same thing applies to the meditation on death: contrition, shame at the
thought of your flightiness and inconsistency, regret over time lost and graces wasted, an
acute awareness of the brevity of life, of the urgent need of reforming your life, the fear
of unavoidable chastisements. Then, the clean-cut decision: "Things must change — and

right away." So you resolve to live by faith. In order to give concrete expression to this,
you apply it to some particular detail of your life and, to make sure not to forget it,-you
decide on some practical measures to take (notably, to do everything under the gaze of
God) .
Every meditation resolves itself in sentiments and resolutions.
Do not say: "None of this means anything to me. My heart is dry." You are not
asked to feel your sentiments, but solely to see that they are sincere. Sentiment here must
be understood in the basic sense of a simple disposition of the soul, regardless of whether
it reaches the level of an emotion or not. If it does, so much the better for you. If not, the
sentiment is none the less good, neither less true nor less acceptable to God.
As for the resolutions, they are of various kinds. There could be a general
resolution (to be kind and patient, to live by faith) . In the beginning, one ordinarily starts
with a resolve of this kind. However, to be satisfied with that would be running the risk
of remaining indefinite and of accomplishing little unless, by a grace of God and
consequent upon a keen light, this decision were deeply rooted in your soul somewhat
after the manner of a compelling idea and you feel that it is capable of sustaining itself. If
this is not the case, you will have to foresee that it is brought into play in certain details of
your life. You will have to break down the general resolution into a few specific resolves
so as not to encumber yourself with too much at one time.
The best resolutions are those which are of immediate application and those
which concern very practical matters: "In a short while, I shall listen calmly to the
observations of my foreman or to the recriminations of my mother-in-law.... As I walk
down the street, I shall think that I am walking toward heaven.... As I add up my
expenses, I shall recall to mind that this money will be of no use to me at judgment time
and I will allot a certain amount for some specific parochial cause," and so forth. Do not
multiply your resolutions. Sometimes one alone will suffice, provided it hits a nerve
center or applies to a frequently recurring circumstance.
As in the mental prayer of conversation, although less rarely, the resolution may,
in certain cases, be replaced by an idea, and even by a simple impression which struck
you during mental prayer and which by its nature will influence your conduct: a thought
that has a bearing on your life. But whether it is a thought or a sentiment matters little as
long as it is dynamic and beneficial. The one thing is not to lose sight of its leading idea,
and when necessary to use a memory aid to this effect, as you do to recall to mind the
presence of God.
For the rest, whatever procedure you use, you must persistently practice the
exercise of the presence of God. The two practices go hand in hand and naturally
complement each other. The same exercise will serve two purposes: union with God and
faithfulness to your resolutions, the latter being but the concrete manifestation of your
love. The two are one. When you use a reminder to help you remember God in some
particular circumstance, it stands to reason that it will also remind you then and there to
do what you have promised him.

Is that the conclusion of mental prayer? No, it is not. After the previous
meditation in the form of mental prayer, it is desirable that you reserve a time for pure

prayer. This will be especially the part of the heart. The heart has already intervened in
the preceding affections, but it did so rather in view of preparing the resolutions. (We
must not, however, dissociate the actions of the different faculties too much.)
First comes the prayer of petition, which is completely logical and natural: after
having made some good resolutions, the remembrance of your past infidelities will fill
you with anxiety. Fear that these resolutions will fare no better than so many others you
have made and a consciousness of your avowed helplessness will bring the following
prayer to your lips: "My God, help me! Distrust me, otherwise I shall fall again. I have
good will, as you know, but you likewise know how fickle I am. Sustain me by your
powerful grace. I will do what I can, I promise, but I count on you for the rest." What you
are asking for here, under one form or another, is the grace to love and serve God better.
Follow that with a prayer of union, because everything must be conducive to that:
"And now, dear Lord, let me rest on your Sacred Heart ... " Unite yourself to Him. Forget
all the rest and whisper words of adoration and of love to Him. Or, if you prefer, remain
in the silence of simple contemplation. It will be the golden moment of your mental
prayer, and the sweetest, too, should he give you the grace of experiencing his love. That
will convince you in a wonderful way of all that you have thought and resolved, and will
help you to "keep these things in your heart." Then, too, it will connect and unite the two
practices of your devotion: pious reflection and holy union with God.

Such are the three essential elements which constitute the body of mental prayer:
the mind reflects, the will forms sentiments and resolutions, and from the deepest
recesses of the soul arises the prayer of petition, particularly, the prayer of union.
Someone may ask how much time should be devoted to each of these phases. Do
not try to regulate such matters. The length of time to be given to this or that point will be
determined by its utility, which will vary for each individual depending on the subject,
one's temperament, and inspiration of the moment. On a certain day, you will devote
more time to reflection in order to reach a needed conviction. On another, the emphasis
will be placed on a necessary resolution. At another time, if the Holy Ghost so moves
you, love and the prayer of petition will have free run.
But above all you must be on your guard against two diametrically opposed
excesses: affective souls have too great a dislike for reflection. Consequently, they will
have to force themselves to reflect, otherwise their soul will remain fallow and their
devotion will be restricted to remain pure sentiment, and a rather superficial sentiment at
that. For others, on the contrary, meditation is hardly more than the study of a question,
and they care little for the rest. Such souls will not improve their life either and will
always be ignorant of the ways of prayer.
Everything has its proper place. Reflection is a means; resolutions are the goal;
sentiments are both means and goal, and prayer crowns everything. As a rule, all three are
needed, for there is a reciprocal action among them and one affects the other.
There is no reason why we should feel obliged to observe a rigid and uniform
order in all of this, to line up these different parts one after the other in a column like
battalions on maneuvers. There is no need to forbid ourselves from experiencing a
sentiment during the time of reflection or from inverting the sequence of the parts when

to do so seems opportune. M ental prayer is the most human act there is. Our reaction
toward it must be human and we must not rob it of the suppleness of a living thing. A
single thought can immediately call forth a resolution; a sentiment or a prayer can well up
at any point of mental prayer or the outpouring of our affections may wait until the end,
in conjunction with the prayer of petition. just as there is no one plan for composing a
book or a discourse, so neither is there for thinking in the presence of God.


We have now reached the epilogue of mental prayer. It consists of two important
The first is coupling. It will always include, first, a return to everyday life while at
the same time remaining united to God, just as in the mental prayer of conversation.
There is no exception here. The concluding prayer of your mental prayer will help you do
this. This union, on the other hand, will take on the nuance of the meditation you have
just made. Special attention must be given that you do not forget to carry out your
resolutions, that those which are immediately or constantly applicable are put into
practice under the gaze of God, and that you are careful to remain in the happy
disposition in which your conversation with God put you. We have talked at sufficient
length of the means of accomplishing this.
But this first linking is not enough. It is useless to skip a point only to come to a
halt at the next one. You must continue your mental prayer. You have restocked your
provisions. And you did so in order to enable you to travel the next lap of the journey
until the next relay.
Your entire day must be a mental prayer and a continual meditation (even if
slower and proportionate to your strength) impelled by a persistent idea: a union with
God tinged with the "thought of the day." This thought, this resolution, must remain in
you, in your subconscience, as a driving thought, ready to emerge on every occasion. In
that way, you will react to all things in a supernatural way. It is also the way to evoke
those flashes of light, like the inventor who suddenly and accidently discovers the
solution of his problem by dint of having carried it within himself.
To do that, you must from time to time briefly return to your meditation,
frequently repeat the main idea in the form of a slogan (spiritual bouquet), apply it to
concrete things, couple the remembering of it to your returns to God, and be attentive to
the resolutions it comprises. Persistent repeating of this one thought will make it
gradually sink into the profound depths of your being. In the end it will become an
integral part of you, and will transform your life and your soul.

1. The reader who is somewhat familiar with spiritual literature has been aware
that I have tried to find a simple and natural plan for mental prayer. The result has been
that I simply fell back on all the points of the traditional methods, and especially on those
of Saint Ignatius: preludes, considerations, affections, resolutions, and a conclusion. I
have not even omitted the majority of the subdivisions.

Some may perhaps consider that so much searching to rediscover America was
not worthwhile. Yet, it is interesting to discover things you already know. Old questions
take on current interest that way. Then, too, we become well aware of how natural and
human these procedures were. We grasp the technique better and avoid the unfortunate
impression we sometimes get, when they are handed to us on a platter, of how
mechanized mental prayer is.
These procedures are so natural that every inquiry must come to the same
conclusion. The internal logic of things makes it so. A problem of geometry has but one
solution. M ental prayer, being a complete human act, demands the cooperation of the
various human faculties according to the order of their normal activity. So, too, all the
classical methods of mental prayer are basically the same. The differences are only
The focal point of the first Ignatian method is the exercise of the powers, "these
being, according to the psychology of the time, the memory, the understanding, and the
will." Saint Francis de Sales, with a few variants and despite an even more modern
classification of the faculties, did not do otherwise. Neither did Saint Alphonsus. The
Sulpician method centers all mental prayer on Christ, but in this setting we again find the
same psychological system.
My sole intention has been to recall and explain the normal workings of the mind,
and yet leave it sufficient freedom. In the plan proposed you will have noticed, for
instance, that there is a regular return to Christ. The procedure is not a systematic one,
although that would be the natural and excellent thing to do.
This plan insists especially on two points: first, the concrete application of our
reflections and resolutions to the details of our everyday life and to the carry-over of
mental prayer into life; secondly, the necessity that our meditation be also a mental
prayer, that it ever preserve the character of a conversation, and the utility of tying it in
closely with the exercise of the presence of God and of concluding it with a prayer of
2. In those parts where there is question of your exterior life, you must be careful
not to let your thoughts meander into the temporal domain. That danger ever lurks as long
as the heart is attached to things earthly, which is to say, always. Awareness of this peril
should help us keep a firm grip on the wheel as we come to these "dangerous
intersections" and use the preventive we have already suggested, namely, to remind
ourselves that we are talking to God.
3. If some idea strikes you forcefully during your meditation, interrupt the
sequence of your reflections to dwell upon it. M ine it; milk it dry. Lay your plan aside if
this one thought suffices and for as long as it suffices. One idea, well assimilated, is more
efficacious than thirty-six others skipped over superficially.
If you experience a movement of fervor, do the same thing. Put aside all reflection
and enjoy this grace at leisure. The Lord is giving you "the better part." Do not refuse it
for that of M artha's. You can return to M artha's role later. The only exception is the case
where a meditation was undertaken to reach a resolution that can brook no delay. Even
then, this outburst of fervor will be able to induce you to make that resolve better than
any amount of reflection.
4. It may happen, on the contrary, that nothing appeals to you. No idea has any
bite to it, no sentiment moves you; dis tractions harass you like flies. What should you do

in that case? Assure yourself, first of all, that the reason is not mental laziness. If it is,
then bestir your will. Try to discover the cause of the distraction, and fight it with the
suggestions given you in the chapter on the mental prayer of conversation. Having done
that, continue your mental prayer, continue your search. Only in that way will you make a
discovery. If you strike the flint long enough, perhaps the spark will burst into flame. If
the flame is not forthcoming during your mental prayer, perhaps it will come later. There
is such a thing as ideas that evolve. They need time to incubate before they develop and
then, all of a sudden, when we least expect it, they will come forth in all their clarity.
Thus it is that "night brings counsel." Intellectual men are well aware of this long period
of incubation which ends in a find. But until then, you must force yourself to search a
long time without finding.
Another method would be to change subjects to see whether some more attractive
matter would not give better results, even if you have to abandon the general outline of
your meditation.
M oreover, you need not unduly persist on meditating and wear yourself out trying
to pray out of sheer obstinacy. There are days when, for various and unknown reasons,
whether moral or psychological, it is absolutely impossible to make a good meditation.
This happens to everyone. It is no small thing to know this. You must resign yourself to
the inevitable and humbly admit your helplessness. All that is asked of you in this case is
to do your best, however little it is. The important thing is not to give up mental prayer.
At such times, you may shorten it, and by way of compensation add some other pious
Fall back on some simple measure. Be content, for example, with repeating some
idea from time to time and doing your best to make it sink in. The result may seem nil,
but it is not. Such an exercise has a hidden action. Only when the mist has lifted will you
see proof of this.
Or pick up a book and read something that interests you. Read the Gospels, or
your Imitation of Christ. Read slowly, stopping at certain sentences. Repeat them if that
helps you. At times, interrupt your reading to say a word to Our Lord or to invoke the
Holy Ghost.
Or on such days go back to an easier form of mental prayer: the mental prayer of
conversation, and make it as simple as possible. Simpler still, repeat an ejaculatory
prayer, or a vocal prayer.
5. What is far worse is when this inferior condition prolongs itself and the mind is
sterile and the heart inert for days, weeks, even for months on end. This is, indeed, a
trying ordeal. During such periods we are tempted to say: "What's the use!" and give up.
But don't. Persevere, persevere despite everything. Remain faithful to mental prayer even
if all you think about is politics or your kitchen and do not succeed in ridding yourself of
Remember, the devil is waiting to trap you. His weapon is discouragement. It is
up to you to make his efforts come to naught. He cannot harm you so long as you
And in this matter, too, it is well to know that such trials are normal, that such
periods of dryness happen to the most pious of souls, that even saints go through such
times. The ecstatic Saint Teresa lived twelve years with inextricable distractions. Such a
trial was needed to prepare her for the prodigious ecstasies of love that followed.

Yes, I mean what I said: to "prepare" her. No farmer expects wheat to grow in his
field during winter, but he knows that the seed is germinating under the snow and that the
ground is already fashioning the new sap. The spiritual life, too, has its seasons. Winter is
the prelude to spring and the harvests of summer. But you will never see these harvests if
you neglect the field. Be patient. Under the apparent aridity of the bad season, one stores
up precious elements in the subconscious regions of the mind. It is the sap which
tomorrow will seek but to rise.
To engage in mental prayer requires a grace from God and this grace you must
know how to merit. Your merit will be to remain steadfast under the gust of distractions
and to continue to do your best despite lack of success and distaste. Such fidelity is no
small merit. It is greater than when mental prayer is easy — another point that is
important to know and which we are all too tempted to forget during these difficult
periods. One day Saint M agdalene of Pazzi spent a whole hour in adoration before the
Blessed Sacrament, and her mental prayer was woven with distractions. (You see, the
same thing happens to the saints.) Seeing her grief, Our Lord deigned to appear to her and
said: "M y daughter, for whom were you kneeling here before the Blessed Sacrament?"
And she answered: "For you, Lord." "Well," Our Lord reassured her, "you have prayed to
me during that entire hour and your prayer has pleased me despite your involuntary
You might perhaps retort and say that your distractions are not always
involuntary, that in the end you consent to them.
How are you so sure? There is nothing more difficult than trying to disentangle
the extent to which your free will consented to these distractions. Do not try it. Be content
with making an act of contrition for whatever culpability there was. As for the rest,
remember that only one thing is essential before God: your basic good will. Now, you
knelt down to pray, and as long as your good will endures you must believe that as a rule
your distractions are never completely voluntary. But if they are, you are free to rid
yourself of them.
Sometimes God delays in receiving us. He does so to measure the intensity of our
desire. If he does not open the door to you, it is because he wants you to knock again.
Such searching for God is the profound preparation for the spirit of mental prayer. It
maintains the soul in a state of waiting with regard to grace. The sails are unfurled despite
the dead calm. If the wind comes up, the sails are ready to receive it. In order not to miss
the hour of the Holy Ghost, we must never furl the sails.
M eanwhile, we can always repeat one thought, say a prayer, make a resolution, in
a word, show God our good will.
6. Finally, there are people who suffer, it seems, from a sort of congenital or
invincible repugnance with regard to meditation. Do not be too hasty to believe this to be
your case: the so-called inability to meditate may be nothing more than laziness. It may
be an unconscious prejudice against meditation. Then again there may be a substratum of
secret vanity. "I am a mystic." A mystic? You ought to know that you will begin to be a
mystic when your soul is purged of self-love.
But, after all, there are souls for whom meditation is a chore. We must bear in
mind the natural disposition of such souls — the affectives and the intuitives — and not
force them inopportunely to engage in an exercise that will only shackle them. Yet, they
are not by that token dispensed from reflecting. They must train themselves to it by

means appropriate to their nature: replace methodical meditation with a more free, more
intuitive reflection, one more mixed with sentiment and of rather short duration. Instead
of a half hour at a stretch, let them stake out over the day a series of more brief returns to
a chosen thought. Finally, they can frequently repeat this thought which they have
reduced to a concise formula, much in the nature of an ejaculatory prayer. In a word, they
can multiply instead of stretching out. It is just another way of deepening the furrow.
For that matter, everyone can profitably use this method at certain times.
In a general way, the less one is capable of reflection, the more fitting it is for him
to compensate for that deficiency by spiritual reading.

Although we have already spoken about spiritual reading, we feel that more
should be said about it at this point. It is closely allied to meditation. It is its natural
support. It may, as we have seen, be made an integral part of meditation and sometimes
even replace it.
But it cannot always take its place. Spiritual reading is an exercise that differs
from meditative mental prayer in that it is less active, less directly adapted to our personal
needs and in that it leaves more to chance. It is, nevertheless, an indis pensable support for
our meditations; it nourishes us with supernatural thoughts, rejuvenates our prayer, and
renews our interest in meditation. Every soul concerned with its own spiritual progress
must, therefore, be faithful to daily and fixed periods of spiritual reading and read as
much as possible as a precautionary measure against his negligences.
Spiritual reading has something special about it in that it must not lose the nature
of a spiritual exercise. Its immediate purpose is the supernatural welfare of the soul, the
perfecting of one's inner life. We must, then, if we are reading a doctrinal book, not make
a study of the reading, not let ourselves be absorbed by the thought to the detriment of
devotion, nor deviate toward the anxieties of our ministry or apostolate. If we are reading
the life of a saint, we must not linger too much over the narrative or the story but rather
search for the soul of the saint beneath the facts and draw useful lessons from them.
We must be choosy. The best spiritual books are those that accord best with our
present stage of spiritual development and which can be integrated into our future
meditations. Nothing need prevent us, however, by way of relaxation, from picking up a
more attractive work or one that treats of an entirely different subject if we think that it
can be useful to us.
There are, on the other hand, some basic books which are at the basis of all
Christian meditation: the Sacred Scriptures and theology. In Holy Scripture and
especially in the New Testament we find the very word of God which reveals frequently
to this unique and original source of light. It has been abandoned too much. This eternal
truth is further developed in theological works: dogmatic, moral, and especially in what
concerns us, ascetical and mystical theological writings. Every soul must, according to its
abilities, penetrate into this sacred domain and become familiar with it so that he may
better know God, Christ, his blessed M other, the Church, and all the wonderful mysteries
of religion. Every Catholic needs to nourish and develop his supernatural thinking and
open his mind to the rich discoveries which such an exploration has in store for him.
Depending on our needs and personal taste, we should choose either more or less

popularized treatments of pure doctrine, or works of a more general appeal, such as the
Introduction to a Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales, An Easy M ethod of M ental Prayer
by Fr. Witherforce, O. P., One with Jesus by Fr. de Jaegher, S. J., or any one of the more
recent and numerous books which treat of theological or spiritual matters.
We will bring the thought gleaned from our reading to our meditation, but in a
less theoretical way. We should preferably muse over those thoughts which favor
devotion and try to draw pious sentiments and holy resolutions from them for improving
our life. Only after gathering nectar can we transform it into honey. See to it that the
mental prayer based on such readings does not become a pure intellectual occupation.
You should not read too many books on speculative theology, but preferably choose
works of pure piety or of asceticism which are more directly to your need.
Spiritual reading is not a relaxation but an exercise, even though it can be both. It
must be done seriously. It is far better to read slowly than to read much. Pause now and
then to let the text penetrate your soul, and develop it yourself. Read intelligently,
choosing what you need, pausing at what is the most profitable for you, and skipping
over what does not concern you. Finally, read with piety, under the gaze of God, and
without abandoning in so far as possible constant communion with him. To accomplish
this you might use the book-marker or some other means. Attention to the presence to
God and his action will make spiritual reading much more supernaturally efficacious.
One type of spiritual reading more akin to meditation is what is known as
"meditated reading." It differs from meditation only by its less methodical character and
in the sense that in "meditated reading" reflection relies solely upon the text whose ideas
it absorbs. It is done more slowly than ordinary reading. We pause, not after each phrase,
but after each thought and especially after the more moving passages to ponder them, to
let them sink in, to assimilate them, in a word, to make a more or less brief meditation on
each one of them. After each part, we make a synthesis; and if the reading has set our
mind to work, we put aside the reading to engage in a pure and simple meditation. This is
an excellent exercise for those who find it difficult to meditate.

Chapter XIII
Moral Mental Prayer
BE REDUCED TO one point: change egoism into love. This is likewise the basic
problem in the life of mental prayer, since mental prayer is nourished by love, since
mental prayer is the expression of love and must in its turn nourish love. It is a practical
problem, too, that must be resolved in a concrete way.
Now egoism is at the heart of the entire gamut of vices and takes recognizable
shape in the sins which follow. Love, on the contrary, incarnates itself in all the different
virtues. The problem, therefore, reduces itself to suppressing our vices and making room
for the opposite virtues to reign in us.
That is where the battle must be fought. For if it is true that love of its very nature
tends to make man virtuous, it is no less certain that vices shackle love and arrest its
growth; whereas virtues cause love to blossom and wax strong.

Imbued with the fundamental truths which must direct our entire life, we must
now apply them to our conduct in a more detailed and diversified way, taking each virtue
in particular. Here especially, mental prayer and the practical exercises must be closely
united, constituting one and the same action or, if you prefer, two exercises combined for
the same combat.


In spiritual combat, the first thing to do is to determine the definite point of attack.
It would be exceptionally bad tactics to open fire on all points simultaneously. Dispersed
effort can only end in no victory whatsoever. Incompetent generals begin a battle that
way — and lose it. To want to combat all our faults at one time is far too vast an
undertaking. We scatter our efforts and accomplish nothing. "Grasp all, lose all," says the
Some people are constantly changing their objective and never stick to any
particular one. Today they attack impatience, tomorrow gluttony, the next day,
dissipation, and so on. Success is never theirs because they abandon each assault before
they have finished it. Work on each point must be pursued until success is reached.
In the tenth chapter of my book Holiness Is For Everyone, 19 I propose an
ascetical method which consists simply in re-enforcing love and abnegation, the two
queen virtues. It is their function to arouse and promote all the other virtues. A good
general sees to it that his troops go to battle well-armed, well-trained, and in good
physical and moral condition. This is half the victory and will contribute success all along
the line; but these ordinary measures do not dispense him from marshalling his troops.
The correct thing then is to use both procedures simultaneously and to bolster the
one with the other. On the one hand, never drop the basic work. Comply with all that has
been said in the preceding meditations and with what will be said in subsequent ones. See
to it that all you do is motivated by faith and love. On the other hand, do not leave your
good resolutions in the abstract, but apply them to precise objects.
You must then begin with one point and stick to it. But be sure you make a wise
Of course, there are some who, whether out of laziness or blindness, attack every
point except where the enemy is. They follow their taste and agree to strike only where it
pleases them. They have, for example, a praiseworthy tendency to recollection, so all
their self-discipline, their examinations of conscience, and their spiritual exercises will be
concentrated on strengthening this good disposition. M eanwhile, they allow pride,
egoism, and laziness to persist, even to sink deeper roots. It is equivalent to putting a
bandage where there is no open wound. These vices will prevent them from ever
attaining perfect recollection.
Each one must examine himself, find out where the shoe pinches, and cure the
sore spot. Everyone has a dominant fault which determines his behavior and provokes the
majority of his failings. Generally speaking, that is the fault to begin with, on which all
our efforts must be concentrated. One might likewise begin with the fault — very often it

*Martial Lekeux, O.F.M., Holiness Is For Everyone, trans. Paul J. Oligny, O.F.M. (Westminster, Md.:
The Newman Press, 1953)

is the same one —which hinders mental prayer most and causes trouble and distractions
during prayer. Sometimes it is advisable to postpone such a basic and necessary attack in
order to attack some particular failing, less serious perhaps, but which nevertheless
wounds charity, provokes scandal, or interferes with discipline. In such a case, the soul is
faced with an immediate duty.
Once the dominant vice is conquered, or at least sufficiently repressed, we may
then undertake the others successively. Curtailing the principal enemy will weaken
resistance all along the line, for everything is of a piece in our chain of faults.
Thus far we have seen but one side of the combat. Triumph over one's vices is to
be followed by conquest of the opposing virtues. The two go hand in hand. Every
conquest of vice is a victory for the opposing virtue. But some confine themselves too
much to this negative side of the problem and concentrate exclusively on the faults they
have to master. It is important to look at things from a positive point of view and to keep
in mind the virtues to be practiced. The above statement works the opposite way too:
what is won in one virtue shackles the contrary fault to the same degree. M oreover,
progress is more rapid. The virtue goes further than the simple suppression of the vices.
Virtue is not content with avoiding illicit things. It even renounces things permitted, and
pushes ever forward to the attainment of perfection.
This perfection of life is what we must tend to in order to make progress in the
way of mental prayer. And we will accomplish this through mental prayer itself and
through the exercises which it suggests.
Here is another important point. Do not defer the combat. M any souls are forever
procrastinating. Today they are not feeling well; they will be feeling better tomorrow....
But tomorrow will have its own difficulty. Or they persuade themselves that to begin well
they must first conclude some annoying business. Alas! It is only followed by another,
and one obstacle replacing another, they postpone the battle indefinitely. We must begin
the battle in the state and in the circumstances in which we find ourselves, not tomorrow,
but today. We have no right to put off the service of the Lord until tomorrow.
To undertake the study of all the rules of this spiritual combat and of the different
procedures to use in acquiring each virtue would lead us so far that this chapter would
become a volume. The development of these points can be found in a number of ascetical
works, for example, The Spiritual Combat, by Scupoli, The Spiritual Directory of
Scaramelli, The Primer of Perfection by M eyer, or The Practice of Christian Perfection
by Rodriguez. 20 We shall limit ourselves here to some general indications, paying
particular attention to the relationship of these exercises to mental prayer.


In this, as in other matters, the first step will be an effort at reflection.
Having chosen the point of attack, a certain fault or a certain virtue, make it the
subject of your meditation for as long a time as necessary. This is "moral meditation,"

'Despite its somewhat outmoded style, the last mentioned work is still an excellent one, except for its
exaggerated suspicion of mystical prayers.

which has been downgraded a good deal. Yet, it is excellent, provided we do not restrict
ourselves to it exclusively. Furthermore, everyone needs it at certain times.
To place your moral meditation from the very first in a practical climate, begin it
with an examination of conscience. See how you are at the mercy of some particular
fault, how often you fall into it, all that needs to be done to free you of it and to practice
the opposite virtue habitually, and the little you have done thus far.
Next, consider — and here a book will be of great help to you — how hateful this
vice is, how vile, how offensive to God, your neighbor, and to yourself, and how
beautiful and advantageous the virtue you lack would be.
By way of an example, let us take impatience. This fault is directly opposed to the
spirit of kindness which the Gospel breathes. It causes you to become irritable and angry;
it wounds charity, makes you unjust, and provokes misunderstandings. And what does it
do to you? It stirs up frequent trouble which estrange you from God; it monopolizes your
mind and reaches the proportions of making mental prayer impossible. The patient man
keeps the law of Christ; he wards off disputes or resolves them peacefully; he keeps his
mind free and his heart serene; he is ever ready to receive the Lord's visit.
If your weak point is vanity, recall what has already been said about pride. Vanity
is the grotesque face of pride. Not only is it ridiculous but it makes us ridiculous. It is an
error, a fault against truth, and often an hypocrisy. It is a sin against love too, since it is
one of the most subtle forms of egoism. Ever attentive to what concerns him, of the
opinion of judgments of others, the vain man is deplorably sensitive to praise and
criticism. He is easily offended and changes moods according to what he has heard. Such
self-preoccupation and vulnerability encumbers prayer with distractions. It predisposes to
vain glory, to illusions, and to all the aberrations of a warped devotion. Humility lives in
truth; it is wise, open, and reasonable. It opens the way to love because it is the deep-
seated form of detachment. It keeps an even keel, evaluating criticisms and praise as of
equal worth. If the humble man has any preference, it is for humiliations, so much so that
they delight him instead of disturbing him. Such a soul has no misplaced ambitions and
thinks only of serving. He is occupied with the Lord instead of worrying about himself,
and this disposition makes mental prayer easy and forearms the soul against illusions.
If you are waging war against sensuality, recall that it reduces man to the level of
animals and sometimes lower. It makes him a slave to matter, leaves him unarmed and
cowardly in the face of temptation, and exposes him to serious sins. It dulls his mind and
cools his enthusiasms. What is given to the flesh is lost to the soul. Those who live
according to the flesh become incapable of understanding spiritual things. Their mental
prayer, too, is lukewarm, painful, and easily turns into sleep.
An austere life makes us participate in the angelic nature. It dominates the flesh
and makes it a docile instrument. It steels us for battle. It keeps the heart pure and mind
alert. Living in the realm of spiritual things, the chaste and mortified man finds God
there. Purity is the wing of fervor.
And so on with every other fault which you choose to attack. Whatever it is, you
will continue to consider that each time you fall you offend your heavenly Father and
increase your responsibility for the sufferings of Christ, your Savior, that God wants you
to fight valiantly against this enemy, and that you should consider no effort too
demanding to accomplish his holy will.

By way of encouragement, remind yourself that God does not ask the impossible.
This is true both for the simple reason that He asks it, and because He makes it possible
through His grace. Look at the example of the saints — people like yourself. Look at
their confidence, their generosity, their triumphs. Look at the example of Christ Who, in
order to give us a model, came among us to practice to the highest degree all the virtues
which He demands of us.
And finally, think that it is your bad dispositions and your laxness in correcting
your faults that prevent him from acting in you and from speaking in you as he would
like; that vice repels him and stems the action of his grace, that virtue attracts him and
prepares a fitting place for the holy intimacies which he desires to have with you.
Once you have deeply convinced yourself of all this, you will cry out: "My God, I
am a poor servant and an unworthy child. I have not done what you expect of me. I now
resolve to do better. I have offended you enough. I have left you waiting at the door of
my soul long enough. I wish to amend my life, and I resolve, as of now and with the aid
which you promise me, to begin this combat which will open my heart to you." These
convictions will be the natural conclusion of your reflections.

Having done that, return to the concrete details of your life. Try to determine the
reason why some particular vice persists and on what occasions you continually fall into
it. The basic causes, as we know, are your lack of faith, of detachment, of love, or piety,
and the habitual dissipation of your thought and life. Your examination of conscience,
especially, should ferret out the occasions.
Reconsider some of your faults. Ask yourself how and why you fall into them,
how they habitually happen? What are the occasions of sin? They could have been
occasions of virtue, you know. These incidents were so many questions which God asked
you to see how you would answer them. It was as easy to answer them correctly as it was
to bungle them, the simple reason being that you knew the solution.
And since you must conclude your meditation in a practical way, otherwise your
good resolutions will remain vague and bear no tangible fruit, here is a highly
recommended procedure. Take one or the other of those occasions which regularly prove
to be a stumbling-block to you. Look at it, and paint a very clear picture of it with all its
concrete details. Pretend that you are really there. Think of how you ought to react to it,
and mentally act that way. Do this, as I say, in a very detailed and realistic way, like a
novelist who puts himself in the place of his characters and himself intensely lives all that
he makes them do in the novel. It is a rehearsal in view of action, the same as was
suggested for the presence of God. It is the exercise, the preliminary maneuver, the
fictitious combat which soldiers execute before they go out to face the enemy.
Thus, if we may go back to the preceding examples, what frequently unleashes
your impatience is, perhaps, the visit of some bothersome person who interrupts your
work. You storm interiorly; you kick a poor innocent chair, and you greet him with the
air of a bear — an attitude hardly Christian. Now when you make your mental prayer,
place yourself in such a situation, and in thought compel yourself to react to it in the spirit
of Christ. Remind yourself that Christ sends this gentleman as an opportunity for you to
be "meek and humble of heart" like Him. Say: "Yes, Jesus, I am going to receive your

friend kindly, for you, however annoying he is." Place this thought in your heart and put a
smile on your face. Bear with this man's visit as if it filled you with joy and as if you had
nothing else to do. Abbe Poppe told his confreres that "a saintly priest is one who can
listen to an imbecile for an hour without becoming impatient."
Whatever the occasion of sin may be — contradictions, oppositions, or contact
with some person "who gets on your nerves" — use the policy of the smile. Act as Christ
would and for love of Christ.
You have a foreman who is not easy to get along with. His cutting observations
wound your pride, irritate you, and embitter you. You have to do something about it.
Paint the scene for yourself. "That disagreeable man is coming toward me." Remind
yourself that God gave you this foreman to exercise your humility. Think of Christ's
attitude before his judges, and prepare yourself to take the verbal shelling stoically, for
him. While your foreman reproves you, think calmly of Christ, and if possible with joy.
And if you have any excuses to offer, present them in such a way that your foreman will
be induced to accept them. Showing temper will only worsen matters.
In company you have the annoying propensity to talk about yourself. This is a
sign of vanity, of an excessive preoccupation with yourself. Remind yourself that in
doing so you are only engraining the fault all the more and that, furthermore, you are
perhaps antagonizing others. Imagine some conversation in which this temptation
presents itself. Immediately switch the conversation to some other subject. Talk about
others; interest yourself in what they are saying. The orders are: the "I" is forbidden. You
must overshoot the mark in order to hit the bull's eye.
At table you instinctively take the best cut of meat or the nicest piece of fruit.
During mental prayer let the tempting dishes file past your imagination. Tell yourself that
this succulent portion would bring pleasure to someone else as well as yourself, and in
the spirit of charity and penance, offer it to Our Lord or what amounts to the same thing,
to your neighbor.
And so on. Repeat this exercise for each object as often as necessary. In the end
you will be so well acquainted with the maneuver that it will become automatic. When
the occasion does present itself in real life, you will do it correctly.

Besides this exercise of reflection, you must take certain security measures in
order to be ready to ward off possible attacks. Our divine M aster has given us the
program to follow: "Watch and pray, that you may not enter into temptation" (Mt. 26,41).
Distrust yourself, but have confidence in God. Prepare the following measures during
mental prayer so that you may apply them later on.
First, keep before your mind's eye your resolution for the day. See that it is ever-
present and ready to go to work at the desired moment. Be on the alert and very attentive.
A good resolve is quickly forgotten. Use signs, if necessary, just as you do to remind
yourself of the presence of God.
Keep a close watch over your senses. They are the door through which the enemy
gains entrance. Without putting on the airs of an hypocrite, learn how to discipline them.

Foresee the occasions when you will fall so that you may avoid them. Do not
consider yourself stronger than you are. If certain occasions cannot be avoided, try to
neutralize them by raising your mind to God and to your duty.
And, finally, pray. The degree of distrust in yourself should be the degree of your
dependence on God. Count on Him. M any souls forget Him completely. Keep up your
confidence in Him. Let your constant concern be to assure yourself of His grace in the
fight. Each time you say: "And lead us not into temptation" think of your temptation and
believe that the good Lord will make victory possible.
Besides this prayer of petition, practice the prayer of union. Be solicitious to keep
the thought, the sentiment of God's divine presence in you. It is a talisman against all
M ake frequent use of the sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion. Whether
you sense it or not, these two sacraments will give you abundant grace and strength.
Finally, make as many acts as possible of the virtue contrary to the fault you are
struggling against. This is the counterattack. Strategists say that we only defend ourselves
well when we attack. We must never limit ourselves to the defensive alone. Do not wait
for temptation. Anticipate it. If you are irritable, find occasion to show your patience, first
on a small scale, then in more difficult things. Armed with a hearty smile both within and
without, go out and deliberately find the person who gives you goose pimples; do so for
the express purpose of exercising your patience. Interrupt your work just as if that
annoying person were there. If you are vain, go in search of humiliation. Perform some
little thing that lowers you a little in the eyes of others. If you are sensual, look for some
penitential practices which vex you and which mortify this tendency.


These repeated exercises will train you and harden you for warfare. You will
become accustomed to victory. When the temptation comes, you will be ready to meet
the emergency. But do not forget that, before the attack, the first measure to take — and
the one most forgotten — is prayer, whatever it is and whatever your dispositions are. It
is the call for help; and this help you need. It will be given you if you ask for it. Praying
at the very first onset of temptation is an act of resistance directly opposed to the
temptation to evil. Now, in temptation, the decision ordinarily is made at the first
moment, according to the attitude we took at the very beginning. It is a rebounding in the
supernatural spheres. Simply say: "Jesus! M ary!" even if you say these words with your
lips only. (Sometimes that is the best we can do.) Immediately you will feel a current of
pure air clearing away the foul fumes of evil. Often, that is enough to dispel the
temptation, and with it calm, humility, and strength will return to you. The majority of
our falls are due to the fact that we did not pray at the moment of temptation.
Thus armed with grace and persisting in prayer, force your will to act. It is always
able to consent or not. We can always say "yes" or "no." As long as you say no, the
enemy gains no victory over you. Recall some good thought of your preceding
meditations, then bow your will, bend it, force it to will the contrary of that fault toward
which it feels drawn. And if the attraction persists, create a diversion for yourself. Detach

your attention from the temptation by occupying your mind with something that interests
you, if possible, by an act of the virtue opposed to the temptation. The important thing is
to be convinced that victory is always possible. Napoleon's soldiers returned victorious
from the most critical situations because they never imagined that they could be beaten.
All this must be foreseen, examined, and prepared during meditation.

If despite everything, if through weakness, surprise, or failure to have observed
the above recommendations, you do succumb, do something about it. When anyone falls
down, his first thought is to pick himself up. Do the same. Let your first thoughts be to
repairing the evil, for nothing is irreparable here below.
First, make an act of contrition without delay. Already the fault is erased. And if
your sorrow is sincere, profound, and dictated by love, you will perhaps be more pleasing
to God than you were before your fall because your good will survives the accident and
has grown stronger because of your sorrow.
And then, when you have regained your equilibrium, take up again the exercise
previously suggested to you: relive in spirit what you so poorly did in reality. Applied to
a real and very recent event, the exercise will be easier, more efficacious.
Let us suppose that you gave way to wrath, to wranglings, insults, slamming
doors, and so forth? And now you are deeply ashamed of this commotion and of the
resulting consequences. So, reconstruct the scene mentally for yourself in the presence of
God. Imagine how you should have conducted yourself, especially how you should have
reacted the moment your anger opened fire. Raise your thoughts for a few moments to
God; then answer the person you were talking to with moderation and charity. Try to
harmonize his point of view with yours. If he is obstinate, give in or, for want of
something better, be quiet if you are not master enough of yourself. Place yourself in an
atmosphere of peace, and strongly resolve to act that way the next time.
The result? First, you will have concluded a good spiritual transaction. Add it up.
The outburst of temper which escaped you was certainly largely involuntary: the passion,
the temperament, the suddenness of the temptation are excuses which God is the first one
to take into account. Your will is better than your act: you have just proven that by the
return which followed the fall. The return, on the contrary, is fully voluntary. This time
you are really yourself. This exercise was entirely meritorious and its merit will be
attributed to you as if you had really acted that way. The whole thing therefore came out
on the black side of the ledger. This is surely a good way to utilize your faults.
Then, too, you have learned an excellent lesson in supernatural savoir-faire. It will
not be lost on the next occasion. M oreover, if you have performed the exercise well, you
will be inclined to harvest its immediate fruits and to repair the harm at once. You will go
out and find the person you jostled. You will excuse yourself politely for your outburst of
temper — very likely he will do the same — and you will calmly and meekly explain the
reason for your behavior. You will re-establish peace with your neighbor and with

If you score a success in the combat, see to it that you do not lose its benefit for
the future. Do not rest on one laurel. If you fool yourself into thinking that all is won, you
will dispense yourself from a sane vigilance. Since you must expect an offensive return
of the enemy, persevere humbly in mental prayer and utilize the security measures which
helped you to victory this time.
See to it, likewise, that you exploit the success, that you extend it by numerous
acts of virtue. You must avoid the occasions, we said; but we also noted that an occasion
of sin was likewise an occasion of virtue. When you feel strong enough — and past
successes make you stronger — you can attack the already weakened vice directly. You
can anticipate the occasions, provoke them, create them according to your means,
continue to strike the enemy, and accustom yourself to victory. That is the method I
suggested to you previously as a preventive measure. But here it is not simply a
counterattack, but a pursuit.
Note that this tactic can never be applied to our carnal passions. In this domain,
the only strategy is flight. In all other matters, however, you must not overestimate your
strength. These practices call for a great deal of ardor and wisdom. Talking about tactics,
here is another military aphorism: the more audacious one is, the more prudent one must

In all this spiritual combat, some general principles should never be forgotten.
Several have already been pointed out in the course of this chapter. Here are a few others.
Amidst the ups and downs of battle, take great care that you always preserve your
peace of heart. Do not be surprised that difficulties are forever showing their heads. Such
a thing is normal. Do not be disturbed by your failures. You do not beat yourself without
giving yourself some blows. After a fall, simply ask yourself: "What is the best advantage
I can gain from this fall?" Then begin the combat once again. Effort, not success, is what
interests God. Victory is His business.
Avoid ambition, excessive haste. Impatience has no place in your ascetical life, as
if you wanted to be a saint in a week. Holiness is a long and exacting undertaking that has
its ups and downs. Only tenacious perseverance will lead to complete victory. "Through
many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14,21) .
If it is true that you should not become discouraged in failure, it is equally true
that you should beware of becoming proud over success. Each success, on the contrary, is
the time to make a good act of humility, to attribute all the good to God, and think of all
the evil that still remains in you. Be on your guard, for if you take pride in your virtuous
acts, you run the risk of losing more than you gain.
As for the senses, these great purveyors of temptations, refuse them everything
you can reasonably do without. Then, since it is not entirely possible to silence them, try
to make them tractable, to orient them toward God, to spiritualize, to supernaturalize the
object they present to you: a beautiful landscape, a work of art, a song, a perfume, even a
pleasant meal can serve as a point of departure for exalted ascensions of the soul. See

with what mastery and simplicity the Seraphic Saint Francis sang the hymn of divine
praise on the lyre of creation. All creation should cause us to raise our thoughts to God,
its Creator.
Finally, one important point. Throughout the combat, see that you do not lose
contact with your M aster from whom you must receive instructions and ammunition and
who directs the operation. You are fighting for Jesus, not for yourself. In practice many
forget this and think only of themselves, of their perfection, of the pursuit of their
excellence, and so they fall into a very human moralism which flatters their vanity and
fosters their self-love. There are "saints" of that type who spend their life adoring their
sanctity. It is nothing but sheer egoism, often unconscious, however. Christ must ever
remain the center of everything. In your service to Him, see that you do not forget to love
Him, that the motive of love quickens your efforts and maintains them in a straight line,
that you humbly and generously accept failure in some point if such is God's good
pleasure, for He is always satisfied with your good will. As you struggle against your
faults, keep the flame of love burning. Feed it. Love will guarantee the purity of your
efforts and be its most powerful mainstay.
Complete failure is inconceivable if you struggle as you should. By dint of patient
repetition of acts of virtue, habits will take root in you, and these habits will render the
acts easy. What formerly seemed impossible to you, as contrary to your deepest
tendencies, will become natural. In truth, a new nature will be formed in you, a
renaissance — the new man taking the place of the old conquered man.
One by one you will acquire virtues that are solid and of good quality. And as
they all are interconnected with charity, charity will glow and blossom on the ruins of
You will feel your whole inner being ordered, pacified, subject to divine action.
The way will be open for you to new flights toward the summits of holy mental prayer.

Chapter XIV
Introduction to Affective Prayer
AND were directed to the intellect and the will. The purpose of these indispensable
exercises is to strengthen the soul for the combat against itself, a combat involving
correct seeing, willing and acting.
The present meditation is of an entirely different nature. It aims more at the heart,
at the affective side of the soul, in order to awaken its love, which is the food of mental
prayer. The first meditations were an indispensable but indirect preparation for prayer.
The present one is a direct and immediate preparation.
This meditation is still "a mental prayer of reflection" since we are reflecting on
the mysteries of our faith. But since the mind here works on the mysteries of love, our
prayer will now have a greater affective aspect. We might say that our present meditation
will be an intermediary between mental prayer of reflection and affective prayer properly
so-called and that is why we introduce it here. Besides, all mental prayer is to some

extent affective and there is no sudden transfer from one form of mental prayer to
This meditation on love crowns all the preceding ones, for love is the term of all
our spiritual exercises. As we take leave of the austere meditations on renunciation, the
battle against self, and approach our prayer of love, we have the impression we are
leaving some dark and somber valley to emerge into the bright and clear light of the


Lest we lead ourselves astray, it is advisable at this point to state clearly some
well-established conclusions from psychology. Feelings, emotions, sentiments, passions
are words used to describe common human experiences. But much confusion can arise
unless we understand clearly the meaning of these various states and can distinguish one
from the other.
We become aware of, or conscious of an object. We adopt an attitude or
predisposition towards this object. We are affected by the object. Then arises
involuntarily what is called a feeling — a movement of attraction or repulsion. There are
many degrees and derivatives in this movement which, when quickened, may even
become a passion. If the experience is sudden or violent, there is a disturbance in our
equilibrium, and we have then an emotion.
Feeling must be distinguished from emotion. The former is simply an affective
attitude; it can be calm, perfectly balanced and even permanent, even though we may not
be always conscious of it. Emotion is a state of agitation, and by nature is short-lived.
Feelings "color" the object in some fashion and thus are a predisposition to the emotions,
but they can exist without the emotions. We might say, that the emotions are episodes,
exceptionally heightened states of our feelings.
Apart from the bodily repercussions which accompany every human act, but
which are particularly pronounced in emotional states, all of this transpires in the will,
which is sometimes active and sometimes passive. However, everyday usage restricts the
word will to deliberate action. When here is some "affection" involved, we speak of the
heart or of affectivity.


Our love for God lies essentially in the will: "He who has M y Commandments
and keeps them, he it is who loves M e" (Jn. 14,21) . This is the only form of charity
which is always and absolutely required, because it alone is immediately within our
reach. On the other hand, it is natural and to be desired for piety that love be in our heart
also. This is a perfection of charity which we cannot afford to neglect.
This love of the heart appears under two different aspects. It may be simply
affective: a sentiment, a deep and permanent disposition of the soul, or it may translate
itself through sensible emotions. The same must be said of devotion, which is an attitude
of love toward God. This is so true that we have three forms of devotion: devotion of the
will, promptness in the service of God; affective devotion, a predisposition of the heart

toward God; and sensible devotion, made up of the emotions which flow from this
Affective devotion is certainly an excellent thing. It is the flower and perfection of
charity. Added to the devotion of the will, it brings about the total gift of ourselves with
all our faculties to God. The second part of Christ's commandment of love reads: "Thou
shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, with thy whole soul, and with thy
whole mind" (M t. 22,37)
It differs from the first commandment in that we are required to practice it in so
far as we are able; but to refuse it to God intentionally would be a sin.
As for sensible devotion, it too is good in itself. It is normal that the sentiment of
love overflow sometimes into the emoitons. But because of its accidental and unstable
nature which withdraws it from our free will, sensible devotion is only secondary and
These two forms of the love of the heart are often confused and both are identified
by the name of sensible devotion. M istakes necessarily result. During this era of intensive
action, there is a tendency, at least in devotional matters, to underestimate affectivity and
to reject it outright under the disdainful term of sentimentalism. This is an error which
can be prejudicial both to the spiritual life and to action itself. We should, most assuredly,
beware of falling into sentimentalism, and there are good souls who are victims of a silly
and annoying sentimentality; but the abuse does not condemn the good.
God, our heavenly Father, demands this love of affection from us. If He has given
us a heart, He did so primarily that we might use it primarily to love Hhim. "My son, give
M e your heart" (Prov. 23, 26), He has said. And to convince us all the more of this, He
Himself took a human heart that He might love us in a human way. Without affective
love, our love is incomplete; and we see that all the saints have loved Him with won-
derful outbursts of affection. How very natural and human that a profound love of the
will should burst forth in affective love! As for those who feel nothing in their heart, the
reason often enough is that their will is not sufficiently nor deeply conquered.
Not only is this form of devotion good in itself, but it is extremely useful for the
exercise of affective love itself. Everyone knows the enormous influence which sentiment
exercises on the will: sentiment sparks the will with an enthusiasm which increases its
power tenfold and makes the practice of virtue surprisingly easy. It would be a sad
mistake, indeed, to pooh-pooh such an asset.


Finally, and this is what particularly interests us here, affective devotion is an
indispensable transition from the mental prayer of reflection to that new form of union
with God which is a step forward in the ways of prayer and which is correctly called
affective prayer. Even if the contribution of the heart were not necessary for your
ascetical life, it would be for the life of prayer.
Affective devotion makes all forms of prayer singularly easy, especially those
frequent returns to God which we began with. But we must ever forge ahead. "To pray
always without interruption" is the goal we must strive for. Those who have tried it know
that it is not easy. No matter how many times we renew our good intention to turn our
thoughts to God, the simple truth of the matter is that we fail frequently. Voluntary acts

are never more than acts whereas prayer must become a state, a permanent activity. Go
back to the first chapters of this book. What artificial means were proposed to try to
approach this ideal! Yet complete success was never ours. Such means can never lead us
to the end and we are very conscious of the fact that they are so many expedients. To be
sure, they are excellent; they must be used, but they are but a step toward something more
profound. To interrupt the flow of life every now and then and turn our thoughts to God
gives us but a fragmentary union. And no matter how frequent these returns are, they are
but transitory and never achieve an enduring union. To bring about this kind of union,
another element, something more intimate, more vital is required: love, an ardent,
invading, dominating love that impregnates life, becomes life itself, and transforms into
itself all our activities.
The problem, therefore, is to reach a degree of fervor where love plays this
unifying role. And such a task is not accomplished coldheartedly. The affective life is
especially irreplacable in order to reach those higher forms of prayer which are nothing
more than the uncontested reign of divine love in the soul. Spiritual authors unanimously
agree that discursive prayer must normally be followed by affective prayer, the latter
being the transition and ordinary step leading to contemplative prayer. This doctrine is
classical. The reason for this is that the life of the heart, pious sentiments, and holy affec-
tions are prerequisites for active goodness; they constitute an instrument which the Holy
Ghost has but to take hold of in order to substitute his victorious action for our feeble
But how can we talk of affective prayer if we frown on sentiment?
Those who will have nothing to do with this life of the heart will never go beyond
discursive prayer. M oreover, they will need a strong will, for too often this exercise in the
long run weighs heavily upon them; and they abandon mental prayer in order to devote
themselves exclusively to action. Or, if mental prayer is imposed on them, they look upon
it as the most unpleasant point of their rule and seek every opportunity to excuse
themselves from it.
If we are to persevere in prayer, them prayer must be made attractive. That
precisely is the role of the heart. It alone puts savor into prayer; it alone gives it an ever-
new and ever-increasing charm. The man whose heart has fallen in love with God never
grows tired of prayer. He alone will reach the summit of the unitive way.

From what has been said above, certain practical conclusions can be deduced.
We must cultivate sentiment, stir up, feed, and activate affective love for God by
appropriate meditations and exercises. You must not say: "I am an unemotional person, a
self-controlled individual. Sentiment is not my strong point." To be sure, we must take
temperaments into account. Some are more inclined than others to affective devotion, and
even among these there will be shades of differences. But that a man can be totally
incapable of affection is impossible. Those who think they are have neglected this facet
of their personality or have not made the necessary effort to develop it. For a real effort is
required, in fact a complete interior asceticism is needed in order to reach that point
where the heart is in perfect harmony with the will.

On the other hand, sentiment is not always "felt." There are moments and periods
when it sometimes veils itself to the point where it seems to have vanished. But it has not.
It is only asleep. It remains in the recesses of the heart, making itself felt by a vague yet
permanent dissatisfaction, which precisely proves that it has not detached itself from God
and that its fundamental predisposition has not changed. When the chance to make a
sacrifice for God presents itself, it will welcome the opportunity spontaneously, even
though it no longer does so with the same joy or the same ardor as before.
You should be neither surprised nor discouraged by these eclipses. They are
normal. It seems to be a law of sentiment that it has to rest periodically, just as one leaves
land fallow which, when cultivated later, has renewed vitality. Knowing that love is none
the less real even though it is not felt, let us not try in an exaggerated way to awaken this
dormant devotion. We can try most assuredly, and we must begin to do so. Often, the
source of our aridity is a cause for which we are responsible and are in a position to do
something about. The cause may be laziness, dissipation, a sin, an excessive anxiety, or a
poorly suppressed passion. The first thing to do is suppress or neutralize this noxious
agent, then have recourse to thoughts and exercises which we know from experience have
stimulated our fervor, and lastly pray God to touch our heart himself. Should these efforts
prove fruitless, then instead of obstinately and uselessy exerting ourselves, it would be
better to await grace calmly, assure God of our love, and carefully maintain that basic
disposition which will be strengthened by this diet.
The usual associates of affection will have disappeared: impressions, emotions,
and the satisfactions which they give the heart, in a word, sensible devotion. The rule to
follow in the matter of sensible devotion is very simple: accept it as it comes. You must
convince yourself that sensible devotion is entirely secondary and that to experience
impressions is in no wise necessary for the love of God nor for good prayer. If you are
enjoying sensible devotion, profit by it and thank the good Lord for it. If you are without
it, learn to do without it, to be satisfied with the essential, and to unite yourself with God
as you are. That is a good way to make it return in its own good time. I am not saying that
we cannot at times seek it for the spiritual good it affords, provided we use it with
moderation, as something accessory, and never becoming attached to it.
In this matter certain souls fall into a gross error with unfortunate consequences.
Confusing love with sensible devotion, they place the essence of perfection in sensible
devotion. All their efforts are concentrated in cultivating it exclusively. When they have
it, they think they are saints because they experience sweet emotions. M eanwhile they
neglect to struggle against their faults. If sensible devotion is absent, they become sad,
are discouraged, and no longer do good, not to mention the over-nice airs they sometimes
take on and which make devotion intolerably odious and ridiculous. Each thing has its
proper place. Impressions must be used intelligently as an additional grace without
placing too much dependence on them and the will must ever be kept active. The heart is
of the best of things, provided it is governed wisely.
Keep a watch then on your sentiments, but having said that, do not develop a
phobia for sensible devotion nor especially for affective devotion. Do not imitate some
who despise sentiment, who exclude it from their spiritual life, who denounce it as
useless, ridiculous, and as something in itself dangerous. This form of love, which is so
human and so beautiful, is a grace from God, and wisdom dictates that it be welcomed
with gratitude and that it be used to make you more faithful and ever more generous. Let

us be simple and natural in our dealings with our heavenly Father. Love him like the men
that we are, with all the powers he has given us and, as he has asked us. Let us give him
our heart along with our activity.


"That is all well and good," you say, "but how do you put sentiments in the heart
when they are not there: Love — affective love — cannot be requisitioned. It depends on
a thousand imponderable factors independent of the will."
Are you so sure that love is not requisitioned? Not directly, to be sure, but we can
to a certain extent incite it, open the way for it, and help to awaken it.
See how matters come to pass in certain "arranged marriages." A meeting is
arranged in which the parties concerned get acquainted. They have never seen other, and
at the outset they are perfectly indifferent toward each other. But notice the exchange of
looks. Despite their concern to conceal their pleasant surprise, the exchange of glances is
very enlightening and we easily surmise the following reflections.
"What pretty eyes she has," he notices. And she is thinking: "He is good looking."
Then, he says: "I like her serious and modest manner." Then, after he has retorted with a
happy repartee, she says: "How intelligent and witty he is." And so on. They find out
more about each other; they study each other; they discover one another. They
accumulate the wherewith for the work of idealization which will be in the making during
the hours to follow. Since everything seems to point to their eventual marriage, the
parents will arrange for later meetings which in turn will lead to new discoveries. So
much so that at the end of six months both partners are convinced that they have found
the pearl of great price and that God created them especially for each other. The
announcement of the engagement has all but to be made. The curious thing about it all is
that the same thing would have happened had a different candidate been involved.
We might note this also: sometimes it suffices that this evolution of love takes
place on the part of one only. The other becomes aware of how much he is loved, and is
touched by it. This prepares the way for the rest, and soon love is returned. Love attracts
In order to love anyone, the first requisite is to become acquainted with him, to
keep company with him, and to discover little by little the virtues that make him lovable
—among others the affection he has for us.
The exact same thing transpires between us and God. If men love Him so little,
He who should be loved so much, the reason is because for them He is the Great
Unknown. And they do not know Him because they do not think of Him; they do not
look at Him; they do not study him; they do not keep company with Him. The first step to
take to set their hearts aglow with divine love is to set about knowing God better in order
to discover how amiable He is, and to try to understand that He loves us and the extent of
His love. As His sublime beauty, His unfathomable love, and the deep-rooted
resemblance which He has established between Himself and us come to light, love will
bud, grow, and blossom in our souls.
Here are a few points for meditation on this subject:
1. The Beauty of God. We cannot know God directly, but He does make himself
known to us through his creatures.

Everything we admire in creatures comes from God and is found in Him in a far
superior and perfect mode. Let us try to perceive the beauty of God in all the beautiful
and wonderful things we see, and we will be dazzled, transported, and drawn to Him.
But our love goes out to our fellow-man. Now, man is the image of God, Who is
the supreme object of all love. Summon up all the qualities that have moved our heart in
all those whom we have ever loved and admired, and the sum total will be but a faint
reflection of the infinite perfection of him who is their source and exemplar.
2. Love of God. But, God is especially love. Not only is He our Creator, but our
Father. He created us out of love that we might be His children. He gave us the most
precious thing He had, intellect and will and, to crown these, supernatural grace which
deifies us.
His love for man is so excessive that even sin could not dis courage His love.
Instead of abandoning man, He, our sovereign God, became incarnate to save man and
assumed the debt of the culprit.
And despite the repeated ingratitude of man, God continues to love him, seeing
always, beyond man's stains, the original beauty that He had clothed him with. If God
hates sin, He has pity on the sinner and he tenderly and untiringly invites man to return to
3. Love incarnate. Knowing that it was difficult for us to raise ourselves to the
heights of his transcendence and that the only thing we understand well is human love,
He did an unheard-of thing: He lowered himself to the point of becoming one of us, for
the twofold purpose of redeeming us and to make love easy for us. He showed himself to
us as the most beautiful of the children of men, and He took a human heart which is
capable of loving us with a human love, as we wish to be loved.
Read and reread the Gospel as the earthly story of Love incarnate. Bear in mind as
you read of His labors, His fatigues, and His cruel Passion that we were present to Him,
that He thought of us, that all He did and suffered was for us, for each and everyone of us
in particular.
4. God with us. Finally, on the eve of dying for us, it was as if He needed our
companionship as much and far more than we need His. And so He wrought His final
miracle whereby He continues to remain in our midst. In the Divine Eucharist, He ever
offers Himself as a victim, unites Himself in an unspeakable way to us, becomes our very
food and, in the tabernacle, dwells in our midst.
Then, too, He is in us by His grace, in the center of our heart, closer and more
intimate to us than those around us, sustaining us, comforting us, enlightening us, loving
each and every one of us with an unspeakable love, with all his Sacred Heart, as if He had
no one else to love but us. He is ever the Friend who understands and lends a helping
And, whereas other loves always disappoint us in some respect, in Him we find a
perfect love that ever surpasses our desires and which death will but deepen. Happy the
man who understands and values this sovereign love! Our hungry heart will find rest and
happiness in him alone, for our heart was created for that purpose.

Chapter XV
The Divine Friend
impregnate the soul with love of God, bestir it to its very depths, and dispose it to return
the love of God it has slighted.
Our previous meditations with their attendant exercises have prepared the ground.
Our faith, henceforth, has become clearer, and especially more active. Whereas
detachment loosens the shackles of the soul, asceticism purifies it, removes the obstacles
in its way, and cools the passions. The soul becomes fit to receive the action of love.
The thought of this love must continually nourish the soul. To do this, we must
read and re-read everything that speaks to us of love, and piously go over all these things
in our heart. The search for love must become the dominant thought, the preoccupation,
and the foundation of our very life. In this way our heart will obey our will. The
conformity of the will blossoms into affection. The new discoveries that will result from
the incessant thinking on this love will impress, touch, and captivate the soul. A new day
will begin to dawn and with it a light that warms as it enlightens the soul. We begin to
understand, to discern the delicate touches of divine love which formerly had little hold
over us. Then, our heart will gradually open like a flower at dawn.
At first, we gasp with surprise at the delightful discovery of knowing that we are
loved. Nothing sparks love better than the revelation that we are the object of love. And
so now, we discover that an unfathomable and burning love has ever been pursuing us,
surrounding us, hovering over us, and defending it jealously, that this love has even
sacrificed its blood for us, that to save us and win us it has done the most un-dreamable
and the most heroic acts that tenderness could dictate to an enraptured heart. The thought
had never struck us before — at least not enough and not personally enough. Had we
thought of it, we would never have dared to hope for such condescension on the part of a
God whom we had grown accustomed to serve simply as a good M aster.... But the dream
now faces us in all its radiant beauty and attractive sweetness. My Lord and King is
asking for my heart. We knew that God loved us, but the knowledge remained
theoretical, extraneous to us. Now we see; we grasp this dazzling truth as a reality
incorporated into our life. Then with the realization that we have walked beside love
without seeing it, there wells up a cry of gratitude in our heart: "Thank You, my God;
We raise our eyes toward him who extends so cordial an invitation. And for the
first time, so it seems, the soul understands that God is Beauty, that He is Light, that He is
Love, that He is All. In Him, everything lovable and desirable is offered to the soul. "The
instinct for God" is awakened in a heart that was made for God, and in our desire to be
united with him, the soul begins to beat its wings.
The crowning experience is to see Our Lord come to us not only as our sovereign
God but in the garb of a Brother full of sweetness, tenderness, and charm, qualities that
are so indicative of his heart. We smile at this love so tailor-made for our hearts: an

infinite love accomodated to our needs which, without ceasing to be divine, made itself
so truly human. We contemplate the face of Love incarnate in ecstasy. The longer we
look the more beautiful it becomes, and with each passing day the more touching. When
we think of the martyrdom our Saviour suffered for us, a sting of compassion pierces our
heart. Piously, we bow down before his loving sorrow. We feel the need of consoling
him, and a wave of sorrow sweeps us to the foot of the cross.
Oh, soul loved by Christ, go to him; look at him a long time; cling to him.
Through him you will obtain access to divine love. He is the way, the truth, and the life.
He became incarnate to reveal love to you and to give you love. The whole humanity of
Christ is the cartridge of divine love. It is the easy way, the one which God in his infinite
goodness selected for us. Jesus, perfect God and perfect man, the natural intermediary
between man and God, is the mediator of love, as He is of all grace. Through Him and in
Him the soul easily comes to understand the love and the beauty of God. He will move
your soul and ignite the flame of His holy love in your heart.
But if Our Lord lowered Himself to the extent of clothing Himself with the rags
of human nature in order to make us love Him, we must not belittle His love to the point
of seeing His humanity only. Beyond and in this very dear humanity, we must always
find the divine Person of the Word. Jesus is God. His divinity explains Him; it confers on
Him a depth, a radiance, a uniqueness and unspeakableness without which the love we
bear for Him would lose all meaning. It is the presence of this divinity in Christ which for
twenty centuries has lighted up that supernatural tenderness for Christ in the hearts of
Christians that has no analogy on earth. What excellence is His! To contemplate the most
wonderful, the most perfect of created beings; to see Him illumined in such an unequaled
glory; to know that he, our love, is our God; to see Him at once so humble and so mighty,
so close and so sublime, that is what has incited the astonishing love of the saints of all
ages. Such contemplation of Christ floods the soul with a wonder that makes the
seductions of the world pale and attracts the soul to Him, the One and Only, the God-
M an.
In this contemplation, our eyes gain a greater vision; the veil that hid God from us
becomes more transparent. Instead of being hardly more than a name and an idea, as He
was before, Christ now becomes a Being loved, the divine Friend who has moved our
We have not yet, to be sure, reached the ardent love of the Seraphic Francis of
Assisi. Our love is none the less a very real affection, full of sweetness and one
heretofore unknown, one that inclines us toward Him, attaches us to Him and which will
deepen as we come to know Him better. This love of friendship now has a decided place
in our life, will grow little by little, and will more and more penetrate our mind and our
And in our life, sweetly invaded by love, a transformation is wrought. It is as if a
supernatural springtime were making itself felt. The delusion in which we were living
gives way to light; vain cares fade away before this new interest; a peace comes over us,
and an unknown joy begins to sing deep within us, the enduring joy of the man who has
found his center and who lives in abiding truth and fathomless love. "O Lord," the soul
murmurs, "where was I when I was not with you? What was I doing when I did not love

The Spirit of Love has entered our heart and gradually raises it up, helps it to
spread its still awkward wings, and teaches us to soar toward God.

The man whose heart has thus been opened to the tide of holy love soon becomes
aware of what proves to be a great joy; thinking of God, living in the presence of God
now becomes easier and more natural. He has less reason to have recourse to the
laborious and multiple inventions which he needed to remind himself of God's presence.
He is like the cured sick person who rejoices that he no longer needs a wheelchair. The
thought of God comes to mind spontaneously now and then. Any thought that interests
the heart repeatedly comes to mind.
In truth, it is more than a thought. Now that Christ has captivated us, a secret
attraction brings us back to him. Each time we now think of God we do so because our
heart calls out for Him. Thinking of Him is an enjoyable and stirring thought, because it
is a thought of the heart that has issued from the depth of our being. We have understood
how sweet the Lord is; we feel at home in His company, and love to tarry with Him.
A real intimacy is created between us and our Savior. "I will call you M friends."
We now experience the truth, and taste the sweetness of these words which heretofore
seemed too beautiful for God to say to us. Now, fear gives way to love. Jesus is, in truth,
our divine Friend, full of condescension and tenderness. He himself has invited us to this
"astonishing familiarity" which a God only could permit to those who love Him. In our
conversation with our dear Lord, we gradually throw off our shyness; we come to Him
with an ever-growing confidence and abandon; we grow accustomed to telling Him
everything; we confide our joys, our difficulties, our troubles, and our projects to him.
Our Lord loves such simplicity in a friend, and rewards it with new graces.
Between Christ and the soul there is an affectionate exchange of attentions. Here is a soul
that was a straying sheep; it has now returned to the fold. Right order has been restored
and God has regained his rightful place.
And he does so in order to restore all other things to their rightful place. The man
preoccupied with loving does not, nevertheless, forget the duties of virtue. On the
contrary, he practices them with greater solicitude and ardor. But this asceticism now
takes on a different form. Love more distinctly and more directly motivates his efforts.
And this is as it should be, since love is the root of the other virtues. He considers them
less in themselves than as proofs of his love and as occasions to show his love for Christ.
Thus, he makes more rapid progress than he would through pure asceticism and comes to
realize the power of detachment love has. By clinging to Christ, he detaches himself from
the world; by seeking to please Christ, he forgets himself — a form of abnegation that is
both most lovable and most profound in that it purifies the soul without hardening or
depressing it. It gives wings to sacrifice, makes virtue pleasant and, as it were, natural.
We say "natural" because it is of the nature of man that the action of ever-increasing
charity brings about a change deep within him.

This idyllic life, however, is not without its setbacks, for as yet it is not very solid.
There will be ups and downs of fervor. Love does not invade all of man, turn him inside
out, nor transform him all of a sudden. Save for exceptional cases, love penetrates the
heart little by little, by a slow infiltration. Affection at the beginning is keen and often
operates the change, but it is a flame that still lacks heat. It only grazes the surface,
quickly consumes the superficial twigs, only to die out before more resistant matter. In
truth, it is not yet love in the full precise meaning of the word, but only an affection, an
inclination toward God, an ardent flame — but a flame that will have to go on growing a
long time before reaching its maximum intensity.
The reason for this is that self-love is still far from being annihilated. Self-love is
the humidity that permeates the hearth, injects vapor into the flame, and prevents the fire
from catching. Our preceding meditations, efforts, and devotion of the heart have dealt a
blow to our self-love and as a result it is already muffled, but there still remains a great
deal to do. Unbeknown to us, our soul is still attached to too many things to be truly free,
and its flight toward God is constantly being thwarted or slowed down by all these
antagonistic attractions. Its flight is like the first attempts of a fledgling, clumsy and brief
with the danger always of a sudden fall to the ground. When that happens look out for the
cat! One cannot underestimate the many dangers that lie in wait for the soul that is so
pleasantly occupied with loving.
The apprentice in divine love must not, therefore, count too heavily on his wings.
How many budding fervors have known no tomorrows because the departure was taken
for the arrival. They thought that everything was finished and that this beautiful flight
was definitive. Absorbed in the effusions of sensible devotion, the novice soon became
accustomed to depending on them exclusively. It was so much more easy and pleasant.
Such souls forgot the austere exercise of the will, and when aridity came they did not
have the courage to go back to these austere exercises again. Presumption brought on
inconstancy, and what was a grace became an evil, for lack of having used it wisely. Such
is the history of a great number of pious souls, and the reason why so few ever succeed in
soaring higher. As a rule, this grace is given them several times, and each time with the
same result. It is not altogether rare that the first attempts result in failure. Fortunate are
they who find a wise guide who will keep them on the right road, and who have enough
humility, common sense, and courage to obey him. They will, as it were, break through
the sound barrier and soar higher. The others will come to a halt. They will settle down
where they are, and that will be their status quo for the rest of their life or, as happens all
too often, their fervor will slowly diminish.
In view, then, of the conclusions of the preceding chapter, here are the rules of
conduct to follow in this matter:
1. As long as the affective elan lasts, you must follow it, and with great joy; but
you must not abandon the usual ascetical exercises, however useless they may seem to
you at the time. Such will not always be the case, and it would be dangerous to break off
the habit of using them. You must keep this reserve motor running. Neglect none of your
daily duties; practice the virtues with great fidelity; pay special attention to keeping

yourself humble. Far from relaxing your efforts, profit by the help which the heart gives
you to reinforce the action of the will. Do these things with a discretion equal to your
earnestness, for there are some who at this point fall into an opposite excess and who by
reason of their rash austerities put themselves hors de combat.
2. Persevere in praying and in practicing virtue even when you do not feel like
doing so as well as when you do. Use the other motor. This is the crucial moment when
you will have to decide whether you are going to forge ahead in the spiritual life or come
to a standstill, when you can show whether you are seeking God or His consolations, and
whether you are made of the metal of a mystic soul. Believe, too, that such constancy in
the midst of dryness is the only way to regain sensible fervor later on.
3. Do not at any cost desire to enjoy this sensible fervor continually. It depends on
too many imponderables and is by its very nature transitory. There is no reason why we
should not try to regain it, and it is well to do so, but always with the moderation befitting
a point of secondary importance and with serene resignation if you fail. To persist in
trying to do so, to want by sheer force to arouse pious emotions would only end in tiring
your nerves.
4. Be humble and wise enough at such times to return to the little means
previously suggested to talk with God in the even purely ascetical mental prayer of
reflection and in a prayer that has no appeal, no pleasure, or no apparent profit, namely to
a purely vocal prayer. This might seem irksome after having tasted the first sweetmeats
of Eden. But it is the only thing to do if you do not want to waste your time while waiting
for a second encounter with the Lord.
This happy meeting will most assuredly take place if you have remained faithful.
And what an exquisite moment! Some day, perhaps when you least expect it, when
everything in you and around you seems empty, of a sudden, we know not how, Jesus is
at the bend in the road, more beautiful, more tremendous than ever before. Enthralled, the
soul cries out: "Rabboni!" (Jn. 2o, 16) . M aster! And the soul runs towards him with a
renewed love, overjoyed, and pent up by the waiting of long days of absence. But it is the
hour of God, and the Spirit breathes where he will, for it is already the Holy Ghost who,
in a still latent way, here acts with man and mysteriously assists his efforts.

He who is careful to observe these wise rules — everyone will necessarily have to
subject himself to them some day —will taste the delights of love in all security.
He will have to protect and foster this still fragile and rather weak love despite its
appearances of great fervor. A fire we have just lit, no matter how crackling it is, must
still be protected against gusts of wind, against water, and the blows that would
extinguish the flame, and more wood must be added from time to time. So, too, the fire of
love must be kept burning by detachment and recollection, and fed by meditation and
Detachment. As long as love is not solidly entrenched in the soul — and we are
still far from this — the sensations of love are extremely unstable and constantly being
thwarted by antagonistic attractions. The touches of the Holy Ghost are infinitely
delicate: a small omission, a selfish thought, a gratification of self-love, the slightest thing
suffices to lose contact with him. Then a lapse of time and many efforts will be needed to

re-establish it. You have, I suppose, held a captured bird in your hand at one time or
another. You stroked the little quivering body lovingly. Then you opened your cupped
hand for one second and he swiftly flew away. When you feel the divine action in you, be
careful not to neglect it for some other paltry interest. Beware, the Holy Ghost has wings,
too. He is not represented under the form of a dove for nothing.
The Lord is a jealous God. He has to be. Because He loves us so deeply He
cannot bear a rival. To those whom He manifests himself He expects that, being
preoccupied with Him in all things and detached from everything, they will hold Him
close to their heart. Inattentiveness, egoism, and a divided heart wound Him and, being
sad, He departs.
Recollection. During this period of the spiritual life, recollection is more
indispensible than ever before. The fact that it has not yet become natural and self-
assertive, as it will later on, requires all the more vigilance. It will not maintain itself in a
somewhat habitual way except at the price of constant efforts of attention and
concentration. It may perhaps be necessary to take irksome measures, to suppress certain
distractions from your life; and finally, the mind must be kept alert as it constantly and
repeatedly scrutinizes the soul coddling its inner treasure.
Like the practice of asceticism, this must be done without exaggeration or
agitation. Keep in mind, too, your present means. Now, to remain recollected
uninterruptedly is as impossible for the moment as to preserve sensible fervor constantly.
Were we to wish this, we would induce an unfortunate mental strain that would be
prejudicial to both body and mind and would jeopardize any further progress. The main
thing is to do what we can; he who would like to do more will not go far. Remember, the
road ahead is long. Far better, exert less effort and keep yourself fit. Patient perseverence
yields greater dividends than unstable violence.
M editation. We must, in the second place, activate the fire of devotion by
meditation and union.
The preceding reflections awakened holy affections in the heart. But, if this first
fervor is not to fade fast, we must continue to meditate on the love of God. It is not
enough, evidently, to have made one meditation of this kind in order to have a sudden
and enduring seraphic heart completely imbued with love. Such a result is reached only
by returning to that thought for a long period of time, every day and several times a day
and with the aid of God's grace.
If this meditation is to preserve its efficacy, we must deepen it, inject new life into
it, bring it points heretofore unexploited, surprise it with new aspects, not only by
reflection, but also by reading. There is no end to the exploration of divine love. Each day
has its unspeakable discoveries and meetings replete with charm.
Read, reread, and meditate on the holy gospels in the manner I have suggested to
you: as "the most beautiful of all love stories" and as an ever-current story, one in which
you are personally involved. Relive with Christ what He willed to live for you.
Remember that He already knew you and called you by name. Follow Him in the
company of the disciples and the holy women; admire His sublime wisdom and
goodness; praise Him; pray to Him; love Him; have compassion on the fatigues and
anxieties you have caused Him; in spirit render Him all the services that you would have
offered Him had you been actually present. Follow Him, particularly in His passion; be a
Simon and a Veronica; give Him in His immense suffering the comfort of your love in

reparation for the abandonment of the Apostles. Imagination? Yes, but imagination of
actual things, things only that the weakness of our present condition prevent us from
discerning otherwise, but which for Him are ever present and ought to be so for us.
Select, if you wish, some commentary on the Gospels to help you in this active
meditation. By preference choose one that fosters piety rather than one that attempts to
reconstruct the story of Christ's life — although this can be helpful to piety too. The
M editations on the Life of Christ for a long time attributed to Saint Bonaventure are most
helpful. They gave depth to the devotion of our forefathers.
In your meditations, return often to the mysteries which refer more closely to the
person of Christ: the Eucharist, the Sacred Heart and, in the liturgy, the feasts of Christ
which, in the course of the year, recall the outstanding deeds of his earthly history.
In a general way, nourish your thoughts with everything that has to do directly
with God: His beauty, His goodness, His love, His incarnation; in a word, all the things
that make Him more lovable and that touch your heart. Do all of this quickened by the
profound conviction in His loving presence. Do it in such a way that this interior work is
not just a reflection but always and ever a union with Him.
In other words, meditation at this point must be made in the presence of God and
by talking to him. For that matter, as you will note well, you cannot do otherwise if your
heart is already in love. This union, we have seen, will now be easier for you, because
God has become closer to you through knowledge and love, and has entered more into
your life. Profit by it and concentrate your attention on it for, despite this greater facility,
your efforts are still necessary.
Union. Union must be your main exercise, otherwise all else will be jeopardized.
Try to keep the keen awareness of God's holy presence in mind as constantly as possible.
Go back to the "mental prayer of life," union with Jesus in all your activities. It will be
more pleasant, more profound, and more true than when you took it up in the early stages
of your spiritual life, when you were inciting it by artificial means.
When possible, make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament and there before the
tabernacle renew your contact with Christ. Converse with Him by aspirations, constantly
repeated words of love. Do not neglect vocal prayer. It will now have a new savor for
you, unexpected meaning, and a power that you were unconscious of. The divine office
will be a spiritual feast for you, a conversation with God replete with graces.
In short, let your whole life strive to be but one uninterrupted act of love. (I say
"strive" because it is still an unattainable ideal for you for the time being.) This will
resolve itself in practice in a twofold way: talk to Christ and listen to Him — the mental
prayer of conversation — but quickened now by a current of affection which makes it
vibrant and pleasant. Talk to Him of everything that happens. Lovingly accept what His
love sends you, the unpleasant as well as the pleasant things. Offer Him your actions. Ask
His help and advice in your difficulties. Tell Him over and over of your love, your
confidence, your gratefulness for His immense goodness. Talk to Him about Himself as
much as you do about yourself. Adore Him in all things and in regard to all things. Your
conversation with God will be infinitely varied, as diversified and inexhaustible as your
daily conversations with those you come in contact with.
We have no difficulty talking with our friends. Yet, when it comes to listening to
our Lord, some souls become nonplussed. "He does not talk to me," they say. They cock
their ears, hold their breath, and naturally hear nothing. How mistaken they are! They

want to materialize the spiritual, and this leads them to a void. God is a spirit. He does
not talk to our ears, but to our soul. Words and human language are but a very imperfect
vehicle of thought. God does not make use of them to communicate with us. By a
sovereign action He goes directly to the mind and the heart, instructing them, warming
them, not with words, but with illuminations and inspirations. Those who are accustomed
to discern this divine language hear very well and make no mistake.
Someone may object and say, "All this transpires within us. Do we not form these
thoughts and sentiments ourselves?"
Perhaps, but God makes us form them. He acts in us according to the nature of
our soul which is His handiwork. This action, being completely spiritual, is not
discernible in itself, but only in the expression with which our mind has clothed the
divine inspiration.
For the rest, do you really want to hear God? Then, keep yourself recollected in
Him; tune your soul to God; make your thoughts agree with His, and your sentiments
reflect His. Then His Spirit will espouse yours, and you will hear Him speaking in your
soul in a more profound way than through words because He Himself will be
communicating Himself to you.
Over and above this constant conversation with the Lord, when you finally
withdraw to pray, your mental prayer will take a new form: the mental prayer of
reflection will very definitely become affective prayer — the next subject we shall treat.

Chapter XVI
Affective Prayer
defined as mental prayer in which the affections predominate. Affections are certainly
one of its most apparent characteristics. But there is something else. What distinguishes it
from mental prayer or reflection goes much deeper. It is not simply a question of
quantity. There is a clear-cut difference between the procedure and the very nature of
these two types of prayer.
In discursive prayer, reflection is necessary to arouse the affections: a kind of
logical conclusion to the reflections. Furthermore, they often remain somewhat cold and
purely voluntary. For example, we meditated on the goodness of God as Creator, Savior,
and the Dispenser of all graces. And we concluded that He has a right to our complete
love, to our total gratitude. And we said: "My God, thank You. I give You my heart and
my entire life in gratitude for Your paternal love." We repeated that in a very sincere and
convinced way. Now, that is precisely the point. It was a conviction more than a
sentiment. It was in our head more than in our heart.
It comes about, nevertheless, that through such meditations the heart itself is
moved and pours itself out in spontaneous expressions of love. We then have an affective
element in discursive prayer, but discursive prayer as a whole is not properly affective
prayer because the procedure is based on reflection.

In the mental prayer of the heart, the soul lives on its capital. Having finished
gathering its raw material from the flowers, the bee returns to the hive and converts the
nectar into honey. The meditations and the spiritual reading previously made have
produced their effect, at least to a sufficient degree for the moment. They have wrought a
permanent affective predisposition in the soul. There is no further need to stir up senti-
ment by reasonings. Sentiment is there, in the depths of the heart, waiting to be poured
out. And these outpourings are no longer "voluntary affections" (we sense that the two
words clash when juxtaposed) , but spontaneous affections conformable to the notion of
Some thought may be needed to bring this to the surface and put it into action, but
ordinarily a reminder, a more or less prolonged glance at the thoughts gleaned from
previous meditations will suffice. Heretofore, these thoughts came to mind successively
and the mind pondered over them one by one in an analytic fashion. Now they are
assimilated and become part of our spiritual capital. They reappear under the form of a
synthetic whole, and the soul reconsiders them in an intuitive look. These intuitive
surveys are the very ones that move the heart and incite sentiment; we see things with all
the imponderables that escape reason, with that depth of mystery, those unexpected
aspects, those extensions that confer on them an evocative power and a new brilliance.
All of this strikes the mind forcefully, and immediately makes the ideas moving ones.
Intuition is to sentiment what reason is to the will.
Like sentiment, intuition gives the impression of forming itself in us without us,
often without immediate effort. Too serious an effort to incite intuition may sometimes
even stifle it. But ordinarily intuition is the result of a long, previous work, of a slow
maturing of thought. That is why the mental prayer of reflection and spiritual reading
normally precede affective prayer. The soul now reaps the recompense of the sometimes
disheartening exertion of meditation. It has but to dig into the acquired treasure.
At the very outset of this prayer, the soul will instinctively go out to the thought
most favorable to mental prayer: the one closest to the surface, the one that unconsciously
was preoccupying the mind and which is ready to emerge. Being a vital thought, the heart
will immediately follow it. Often simply returning to the thought of the presence of God,
or the mere interior pronouncing of the name of Jesus with all that this blessed Name
represents of sweetness, beauty, and love will suffice.
Sometimes, too, none of this is necessary. The intuitive synthesis was there, all
ready, and so was the affection. As soon as the mind is free of external concerns, these
latent forces being no longer held in check, enter into action. We kneel down and the
union comes about. M ental prayer begins of itself.
This, of course, takes place in an ordinary manner only for those who have
already practiced the mental prayer of the heart, whose spiritual synthesis is rather rich,
whose heart is sufficiently conquered to love, and whose life is impregnated with the
divine in a rather enduring way.
This happy facility will be given to those who are lukewarm, who are
insufficiently trained in the affective spiritual life and too accustomed to methodical
mental prayer, practiced only now and then and for rather short periods of time. Let them
capitalize on these precious occasions. As for the rest, let them persevere in the form of
mental prayer they are accustomed to, trying only to simplify their thoughts during
meditation and to give more and more place in their meditation to the affective element.

The transition from one form of mental prayer to another, as we saw, is not
brought about suddenly nor without turning backwards. Between the two there will be a
period of transition when mental prayer will be now discursive, now affective. M ore
frequently it will take on that mixed form just alluded to: a mental prayer or reflection in
which the heart strives to assume a more and more preponderant role.
For those who are accustomed to the mental prayer of the heart, things will not
always follow the smooth course we have just described. Do not forget that intuition, like
sentiment, is an essentially fleeting thing over which we have no immediate command.
Both are the reverse side of the medal. M any times they will not respond to the call and
elude all pursuit without being able to put our finger on the reason for this defaulting. We
shall see that the method of procedure varies with each case, but that more than once we
will have to make up our mind to put the motor in reverse and return for a time to
meditation or to mixed mental prayer.


M ental prayer of the heart is certainly more common among pious souls than the
other forms of mental prayer. Unfortunately, there is precious little that can be said about
it and few precise rules to be offered.
In the case of mixed mental prayer, all that concerns the discursive part has
already been explained. As for the affective part, it may be well to restate this essential
point: as soon as the heart is moved, give it free rein. Do not thwart it by new reflections.
Rather avail yourself of the sentiment that comes to the front. Enjoy it as long as it lasts,
and have no scruple about omitting this or that point you intended to meditate on, even if
the entire time of mental prayer is spent on this one affection. Take up the thread of the
meditation only when the sentiment has died away.
Affective prayer properly so-called resembles mental prayer of conversation a
great deal, except that in affective prayer love is more ardent. It will be easier, more
cordial, and more affectionate, and will center more and more directly around the Lord
Like the mental prayer of conversation, and more so, its course will be quite free.
It should be, because intuition and sentiment can hardly bear regimentation. To want to
impose this on them would be like clipping their wings. The approaches which the soul
will take will be infinitely varied. It is impossible to suggest an outline for so varied a
mental prayer. The best that can be done is to give a few general instructions on the way
to conduct ourselves.

The preparation for affective prayer is of capital importance. Since all the soul has
to do is to draw on its capital — mental prayer should spontaneously arise from it —
everything depends, barring a possible sudden change, on the spiritual state in which we
find ourselves as we begin to pray. Cassian's remark is especially applicable here: "What
we wish to be when we pray, that we ought to be beforehand. The dispositions of the soul

at prayer depend on the state of our soul before prayer." The important thing, therefore, is
to come to mental prayer in a state of soul favorable to divine union.
This state of soul will depend much more on the remote and general preparation
than on the immediate preparation for prayer. Our manner of living, and the habitual state
of our soul, set the stage for mental prayer; they create the favorable climate where it can
blossom. What is particularly important is to keep ourself in a permanent state of fervor
by purity of heart and union with God despite our everyday occupations, in such wise that
mental prayer will be but the extension of life, a freer and more intense expression of a
prayer that persists in a more or less latent state. We readily understand that, under such
conditions, prayer will arise spontaneously. Having risen to the level of affective prayer,
the soul begins affective prayer without any difficulty.
That is true of all prayer. You will remember that in the beginning of this book
that was the answer given to those who, so they say, "do not know how to pray." But the
point is particularly true of affective prayer. It is always possible, whatever the initial
conditions are, to speak to God about simple and daily events or to take an idea and
examine it under different aspects and reach some concrete resolution. This question of
putting ourselves in a certain state of soul which depends precisely on our basic
dispositions is quite different.
Likewise, to those who complain that their heart is dry during mental prayer, we
must always begin by answering: "Look at your life. Is it habitually and basically
orientated toward God? Do your thoughts frequently revert to Him? Is your heart pure? Is
it free of blameworthy ties? Does it not conceal, is it not itself a permanent obstacle to
prayer? There is where you must begin. You must once again take up the business of
your personal reformation, supernaturalize your entire life, and work at it harder than
ever before. M ake your whole life more a life of prayer, a life dedicated to God. The bulk
of affective prayer is done in advance, outside of mental prayer itself. As you live, so you
pray. Never forget that; it is essential.
Once the reform has been accomplished, will matters go smoothly? Not
necessarily so. Despite your good habitual dispositions, it can happen on certain days,
even during certain periods, that the heart will recoil from mental prayer. We shall treat
of these cases later. But at least the main obstacle has disappeared, and normally mental
prayer will be easy. The immediate preparation will consist simply in choosing the
thought that will fan the affections, in emphasizing the sentiment of the divine presence
(this is always essential) , and in strengthening the union.
Is it advisable to have considered this guiding thought beforehand, to have, as
they say, prepared a subject for our mental prayer? That depends. For those who are
beginning affective prayer, the answer is yes. In time, the usefulness of this precaution
will diminish and eventually become needless. Generally, a very simple and completely
intuitive idea comes to mind spontaneously at the time of mental prayer. Very often it
will be the one that filled your mind during the day. Accept it and it will give your prayer
the maximum freedom and the advantage of being conformed to the present state of your
soul. It will, nevertheless, be well to have a subject on reserve in the event that the mental
prayer does not arise spontaneously. For the rest, it is up to everyone to know himself and
to take his past experiences into account.

We now come to the prayer itself. At this point there is no question of dividing it
into logically connected parts, but simply of exciting sentiment in order to allow it to
develop itself according to its own interior rhythm which is the logic of the heart, a logic
completely different from that of the intellect.
I presume that you are in the requisite dispositions. If these are excellent, if you
are in a state of fervor, you will neither need to search nor to reflect: the mental prayer
will form itself, or rather will proceed with an increase of devotion. The fire is already
ablaze. There is no need of lighting it. A little agitation with a poker is all that is needed.
A simple aspiration often enough will revive the hearth: "My God and my All!"
"Jesus, I love you," or the word "Jesus" alone, and the flame will spurt and will be
followed by ever brighter and more lively ones. For you will naturally continue either to
repeat the same prayer indefinitely with an ever-growing fervor, your heart becoming
more enkindled as you pronounce the affectionate words, or you will modify them,
allowing your fervor to develop freely as you go from one aspiration to another.
You might say for example: "My God and my All! My God, my supreme Good,
my beloved treasure, my joy, my hope, my light, my love, my life, my all! Indeed, you
are my all, you who are all in all things and give them being and life. O sole desirable
One, O beauty, O love, source ever rich of all good, how late have I known You; how late
am I in loving you! . Close my eyes to the vain things of this world that have estranged
me from You; detach me; tear away from everything under heaven. Let me know, desire,
and love nothing except You or for You, my God, my Creator, my Lord, my Savior, my
All! ..." And so, you can continue in this manner using either the same beautiful theme or
any other that deals with God.
Or: "Jesus, I love You.... How could I not love You, You the splendor of the
Eternal Hills? The honor and happiness I have is too great. You permit me to speak
words that only spouses whisper to each other. Thank You, my Lord, my too good Lord,
for having deigned to manifest Yourself to me and for calling me to Your sublime
friendship ... How could I not love you, you who, when you could have condemned me,
yet came to suffer and die for me? O, how poorly I still love you in return for such love.
Help me to love you somewhat as You deserve to be loved. Send me Your Spirit of
love.... "
Instead of a simple aspiration, it will often be a more explicit thought that will set
your mental prayer in motion and will act as a theme — at least at the beginning of your
prayer, for you must not hesitate to follow your heart and go on to another thought, even
if it bears no relationship to the theme you began with.
This might consist solely in remembering the presence of God, and this will often
suffice, as we have seen, to establish the union and begin the conversation: "O my God,
You are here, so close, ever to close to me. I lovingly adore You. Because of Your
presence, this place is a Tabor. 'How lovely is Your dwelling place' (Ps. 13,2) . It is good
to be with You, in this divine intimacy.... " And going on from there, you will continue to
talk to Him, and you will find all sorts of things to say to Him, the important thing here
being not what we say, but the love we bring to this conversation with our divine Friend.
Or finally, it may be some other pious thought. By way of furnishing you with
more examples, here are several mental prayers of the same kind which I merely sketch,

since space does not permit me to develop all of them at length. Furthermore, why should
I attempt to do so, since everyone will have to follow his own inspiration?
The goodness of God: "Our Father who art in heaven...." How wonderfully
comforting to know that I have a Father in heaven and a Father like You, so immensely
good, so infinitely powerful, so delightfully indulgent! How calming to know, my Father,
that You take such watchful care of me, arranging all things for my good! My good Lord,
I owe You everything.
What have you not done for me?" Then recall to mind all God's goodnesses
toward you, as you did in the previously suggested meditation on the love of God. But do
so freely and simply, speaking to Him and transforming these thoughts into holy
affections. And you will continue: "Thank You, my God, thank You a million times —
and forgive me, too. I am a poor child who commits many sins and a very ungrateful
child. My Father, you ask me for my heart. It is so difficult for me to give you a perfect
heart. Take it yourself, transform it, and may I be a grateful and faithful child of yours,
one completely devoted to your love.... "
You will naturally vary this plan to your liking, pausing at each thought, at each
sentiment if they nourish your devotion.
Suppose you are suffering from some reverse, that some trouble weighs heavily
upon you, and throws a gloom over your day. If your soul is well disposed, you will be
aware that these trials detach you from the world and purify you. Bring your suffering,
then, to the God of all consolation and say to Him: "M y God, life is deceiving and
sometimes very sad. It has been cruel to me.... But I still have You. What am I
complaining about? I have You; I have Your love, and ultimately heaven which You are
preparing for me in compensation for my sorrow. My heart is wounded; You know how
to heal it. Let me rest my forehead on Your Sacred Heart and I will forget my pain....
You, my Father, purposely dispose things in this wise for my good. You did not want me
to become attached to vain things, and so You took them away from me that I might
belong to You all the more. You are jealous of having me because You love me. Thank
You, my God, for this jealous love; thank You for this trial. Continue Your work of
wisdom, Your work of tenderness in me. Detach me more and more from this deceptive
life, and convince me, no matter what the price, of the truth of your unique love." In this
prayer, you should linger over the thought of heaven, the fleetingness of earthly things,
the sweetness of divine love, and the usefulness of suffering.
The love of Jesus: "It is true, my Lord, that You love me, that You love me out of
love, that You seek me, that You are waiting for me, and that You take pleasure in my
poor companionship; You, the sovereign King of glory, You who are God! indeed, You
are too good, too humble, too condescending. And I am the happiest of men! O wondrous
love! My Lord and my King has come to me, full of meekness and love. It is indeed His
desire to make me a present of this sweet and precious gift which alone gives meaning to
life: the gift of love ... of His sublime love! O Jesus, You came from heaven to earth to
have me all to Yourself. It was Your wish to call yourself my Brother. You worked and
suffered. Love made You do foolish things. What return shall I make for so great a love?
The answer is the only thing You ask: to welcome with trembling gratitude the too
beautiful gift of Your Heart. And I offer You mine, since You are kind enough to be
content with it. Dear Lord, let us walk away together from this feast of love which You
so graciously offer me. What harm now can the setbacks of this life do to me, seeing that

I walk beside You, bathed in Your loving look? What sadness could lay me low, now that
I know that You love me? M y life, my joy, my sweetness henceforth will be to love You
in return, to serve You, to be kind toward you who have been so thoughtful of me, and to
try not to be too unworthy of calling You by the Name that You Yourself deigned to take:
"Jesus, my sweet, my dear, my divine Friend!"
The Passion: "My Love, how You have suffered! ... You suffered for me, for me!
... Your meek Heart was crushed in the Garden of Olives. During Your agony You called
me, but I did not answer. Your sensitive body quivered under the sting of the whip; blood
flowed from Your forehead pierced by the thorns; You painfully bore Your gibbet amid
the jeers of the crowd, You whom they should have adored on their knees! ... Instead of
welcoming with grateful hearts the redemption You brought them, they seized Your arms
and legs and nailed them to the cross. This, to You, my love; You, my immaculate One!
They tortured You brutally. Alas! in Your martyrdom you called out to me again ... and I
did not come. And so you breathed Your last in desolation ... because of me. O Jesus,
kneeling at Your bruised feet, let me bemoan and weep over Your indescribable and so
undeserved sufferings. Let me sob over my cruelty to You, my well-beloved, You whom
I should never have offended. How I would like to spend my life pouring the balm of my
love over Your wounds and by repeated attentions dry Your tears and blood. I want to be
so kind to You that Your beautiful but dimmed eyes might again smile and make You
forget what my wickedness caused You to endure. M y wish, O too generous Savior, is to
help You in your Passion, to accept my share of Your sorrows, to put my lips to Your
chalice, to welcome the pains of life as graces, and suffer all for You Who suffered
everything for me."
Likewise, you might take any other Gospel scene as the theme of your mental
prayer and follow Our Lord through it as was previously suggested, recalling to mind that
He was then thinking of you, and that He wore Himself out and spent Himself to such an
excess for you personally. Tell Him of your gratitude. Contemplate Him in His
apostolate, His struggles, His labors. Learn from His divine virtues of His goodness,
generosity, patience, humility, and courage. Promise Him that with His help you will try
to resemble Him somewhat, especially in some particular virtue which is very difficult
for you. And all this will translate itself into flights of love.
Should you want other examples of affective prayer, I might point out, among
others, the M editations of Saint Augustine, of Saint Anselm, of Saint Bernard, and of the
"Simple M an," The Exercises of Saint Gertrude, The Little Book of Eternal Wisdom and
The Little Book of Love by Blessed Henry Suso, the Indica mihi, the prayers of
Venerable Louis of Blois and those of Cardinal Bona in his Voie de raccourci vers Dieu.
You will note that in the majority of these prayers the personal pronoun "I" plays
an important role and that there is nothing corporate about these prayers. In this context
there is nothing detestable about it. It is of the nature of friendship, which is a two-way
relationship, and which loves to withdraw itself from others during the hours of intimacy.
There must be no excess in this attitude, for it is also of the very nature of a true affection
to forget self for the Loved One. In certain mental prayers it would be well to focus your
attention on God and others, with no thought of yourself: sentiments of admiration, of
praise, of pure adoration; and to talk to him about His own interests (which are your own
if you love Him): His redemptive work, the needs of His church, the apostolate, the state
of other souls and of humanity in general, everything which is a source of sorrow or of

joy to Him. In this communion with His sentiments, you forget yourself, but He finds you
that much more lovable.

Finally, just as in the mental prayer of conversation, there are a thousand and one
details of your everyday life that you might talk about with him in the confidence and
simplicity of friendship: everything that concerns you, everything that concerns him.
These small confidences, this complete openheartedness, this closeness of mind and heart
maintains and quickens affection. You will group all of this around the central point of
mental prayer which is always love. And love will feed itself on this variety.
But more and more, in your daily life, the principal point will tend to love itself
and that affectionate union which must be the motive of all your actions. You may talk to
him at length about this during mental prayer. Your examinations of conscience on this
subject, which you should not omit now any more than before, will be more general and
more affective. They will be examinations on love, made out of love and with an ever-
growing love. If you become aware that you are distracted, ask his pardon with great
sorrow. You will experience the need of making reparation by greater effort and more
vigilant attention. You will keenly feel how hateful are these moments of forgetting him
who never forgets you. And so, in his presence you will sincerely make new resolutions.
Do likewise for every other fault which you recall in the course of your mental
prayer. Each mental prayer must be a bath that purifies you of your sins. Never engage in
mental prayer with a sin on your conscience. If you do, your mental prayer will be poorly
made. In keeping an appointment with a close friend, we carefully avoid wearing soiled
Should we find a spot somewhere, we run for the cleaning fluid. If our friend
offers to help us, we grant him the opportunity to do so. If some point of discord comes
between two friends, their first concern is to clear up the misunderstanding. If you love
Christ, the only thing left for you to do is first to ask His forgiveness for your sins and for
the sorrow you have inflicted on Him. Secondly, you will want to make reparation at
once. In that way you erase, you drown your fault in love. You will thank Him for
forgiving you so easily and for forgetting so quickly and, overdelighted by the fact that
He has kept all His love for you, you will feel your heart being imbued with a new
affection. The sin served as a springboard to a more fervent union. The contrition itself,
as is evident, here takes on a more affective tone than before. It becomes in addition an
act of love.
Hundreds of other subjects can be used to feed your affective prayer. In speaking
of a subject, I do not mean that you restrict yourself to one theme. Never fear, I repeat, to
follow your heart and turn to another point as soon as it feeds the flame of your love. It
matters little what we throw on the fire as long as it burns. Some may object and say:
"But such a mental prayer lacks unity; it does not hold together." Pay no attention to that.
Love is the bond, and it completely satisfies. It is both the goal and the instrument of
mental prayer.
These different sentiments and thoughts with which your conversation with God
is woven must be expressed with great simplicity and with perfect abandon. There should
be no concern about balanced sentences. Let the thoughts come freely from your heart.

God has no need of literature; He is interested in your soul. Open it to Him; give it to
Him such as it is without any frills.
Then, too, listen to Him. Be wise enough now and again to keep silence in order
to catch his answer and intercept his holy inspirations. Question Him; ask Him for His
light. Rest assured that He will answer your prayer. It is especially during mental prayer
that the Holy Ghost speaks to the heart, and one of His precious words will be more
profitable to you than anything you can say to Him. Happy is the man who knows how to
listen to this mysterious voice! He will hear marvelous things which will deeply touch his
heart. One alone will suffice to quicken him for days and, sometimes, for years.

When you feel moved by divine grace, linger over the sentiment that it produces
in you. Do not thwart it by changing to some unseasonable idea. You have reached the
goal. Remain there. Hold on to this sentiment as long as it feeds your love. Should the
flame lower, try to revive it. If that does not succeed, then go on to some different
thought which will revive the flame. All this should be done without exertion, without
being too methodical or too reasoned, but simply and naturally. The more free and
spontaneous these movements are the better.
If you are enjoying a period of fervor, these dead stops ordinarily will be skipped
over rather rapidly and your mental prayer will proceed without difficulty. But it also
happens that the period of dryness may prolong itself and that even from the very
beginning of our mental prayer you find yourself in a state of stagnation.
The cause may well be poor physical health. Beware then of becoming sad and of
complaining. On the contrary, accept the trial that God sends you gladly. Let your filial
acceptance of the will of God serve as the theme of your mental prayer. Your generosity,
which is an act of love, will sometimes be wonderfully rewarded. It will stimulate
devotion so well that the fervor of your soul will overflow into the weakness of the flesh,
and even your body will come to the aid of your soul. In the end you will make a better
and more pleasant mental prayer than had you been in far better physical condition.
Such is not always the case, however. If not, be patient; do your best; offer your
torpor and your distractions to the Lord, and repeat: "Your will be done, God, and not
It could also be that your inability to pray stems from a defective disposition of
your soul. The trouble lies with your life, with your remote preparation, with your
behavior before the time of prayer. Examine these first, and if you uncover a dis order,
make amends for it at once by a repentance, a disavowal, a good resolution, and a
vigorous attempt to practice detachment. This will re-establish order in your soul.
Having done that, bestir yourself, summon all your faculties, face the truth
squarely, put yourself before Christ Who is looking at you, think of Him on the Cross,
and protest your love. Repeat: "Jesus, I love You. You know that I love You, even if I am
unable today of feeling it or of telling You about it as I would like." Then, pray to Him;
beg Him to help you. Pray also to the Holy Ghost and to our Blessed M other.
Then choose a thought which you think is best capable of awakening your
dormant heart and of sparking sentiment, and penetrate yourself with it. Or take some

prayer which on previous occasions has helped you. Repeat some pious aspiration until a
spark is forthcoming.
If you have no success, take a book, not simply to read, to occupy your time or to
study a question, but to glean some good thoughts from it. Try to find something that
might light or relight holy affections. As soon as they appear, close the book and let your
heart take flight. Look no further. If the sentiment is short-lived, begin to read again.
And finally if none of these attempts succeed, there is no reason why you should
hesitate to return to discursive meditation. All roads lead to God and must be used when
neces sary. Yet varied cases may present themselves:
If discursive meditation answers your problem, continue to use it. It is a sign that
its full benefit was not exhausted and that the work of reflection was not carried to its
completion. Perhaps returning to discursive meditation will be repugnant to you. It may
seem to chill you even more and estrange you from affective prayer. But, think nothing of
it; this is normal. When we throw more coal on a dying fire, it becomes black; it smokes,
and seems to die out. But let the coal take fire and the hearth will take on a new vigor. Be
patient enough to await the results and continue with discursive prayer until a new
affective area takes fire.
It may even happen that discursive meditation does not take hold any more than
affective prayer. Should the cause be a bad physical or moral disposition, hindering
thought as well as sentiment, we have already told you what to do. If you discover no
such obstacle and the difficulty continues, it is perhaps the sign of a new evolution of
mental prayer which we shall treat of later on. I say "perhaps," because you should reach
that decision only with prudence. Whatever the case may be, during these periods of
complete inability to pray, the program to follow is as simple as it is unpleasant. After
doing what you can, the only thing to do is be patient. Stand before God as you are,
keeping the depths of your soul quietly directed toward him and with the psalmist be
reconciled to God's holy will: "Into your hands, 0 Lord, I commend my spirit" (Ps. 30,6) .
Whatever the fervor of the mental prayer may be, you must not deceive yourself.
Simply because affective prayer succeeded once is no guarantee that it always will. You
are treading on very unstable ground, that of intuition and sentiment. You must expect
baffling ups and downs and constant sudden changes. Resign yourself to the inevitable
and firmly believe that the only important thing during the time of these set backs is to
preserve the gift of your entire being to God intact. Never abandon mental prayer under
the pretext of dryness.
Nor does it automatically follow that once mental prayer has been begun with
great fervor that it will necessarily continue this rhythm and not slacken off during the
entire half hour. Such cases are rare. If such is your good fortune, thank God for it
because He alone has wrought this blessing in you. But you will ordinarily notice that
your best mental prayers will have flaws and be punctured with moments of distraction.
Do not be surprised at this, for this too is normal. Every time you become aware that you
are distracted, be humbled by the weakness of your love, then patiently, courageously
pick up the thread of your prayer, if necessary a hundred times. God will be pleased with
you. Try, as much as possible, to forestall these side glances by greater mental effort and
more sustained attention to the fact that you wish to have an uninterrupted conversation
with God who is present. If affective prayer should not be directed, it must be supervised,

or rather the attitude of the soul whence affective prayer constantly proceeds must be
watched over.
There is, at this point, sound justification to repeat that one of the most dangerous
temptations of affective prayer is to want to force sentiment. Some souls do not want to
see themselves deprived of their dear emotions, no matter what the price. They believe
that their mental prayer has been unsuccessful if they have not experienced affectionate
impressions from it. Every effort is expended to excite them and by any means
whatsoever — and sometimes by questionable means. This is absurd; these souls are
confusing the whole issue. What happens is that they seek emotion for itself. They make
mental prayer an artificial exercise which misfires. They deceive themselves and fall into
Be simple and natural in your relationships with God. Be utterly convinced that
all He asks of you is that the depths of your soul stay turned toward Him. Having done
that, sensible devotion will follow; but in His way, with unforeseeable ups and downs
according to the circumstances, the dispositions of the moment, and the designs of God.


The question may rightly be asked: Does affective prayer have its own
resolutions? And the answer is yes. You will find examples in the sketchy meditations
that have been proposed to you. But resolutions will be more rarely imperative than in the
mental prayer of reflection, and especially in the moral mental prayer, where they are
practically always indispensable. The only rule here is that resolutions should be made
every time it seems useful to do so. But more often, in this new type of prayer, the
tendency will rather be to create a general and profound disposition, or quite simply a
salutary impression. The resolve, which may not be formally expressed, will be to remain
in this disposition or under this impression, to preserve and maintain this grace in order
that it may have an over-all influence on your entire conduct. To assure this perseverance,
it will sometimes be necessary before concluding your mental prayer to forearm yourself
with certain means, as was suggested for the presence of God.
Of course, just as for all mental prayer, there must be a coupling. Affective prayer
must be carried over and pursued in your everyday life with no hiatus between the two.
The procedure is the same as before, but here it will be noticeably facilitated by
sentiment, which from now on is in the depths of the heart and asks but to come to the
surface, with no effort of the will. Once again we must not presume on its fervor. It
would be wise to watch this delicate point.


Affective prayer normally follows mental prayer of reflection. It is the natural
term of meditation. In meditation, according to the classical plan, the "considerations,"
which are the meditation properly so-called, are oriented to the acts of the will, to the

affections, and to the resolutions, because that is where love enters in, and love is the
The assiduous practice of meditation, we have seen, exerts a gradual influence
over us, and creates in us a climate of purity favorable to the blossoming of holy
affections. The time comes when this inner work brings about a happy transformation in
the soul. The soul now has a supernatural sense and a deep-rooted supernatural way of
acting. It moves about habitually in the domain of God, and a tendency of love begins to
take shape in it which requires expression and which at times spontaneously gushes forth.
The hour has come to give it free rein and to introduce it to affective prayer.
At what precise moment should one pass from one form of mental prayer to
another? There is no precise moment. There is no moment at all, no cut and dried
transfer, save in exceptional cases; but rather a slow and sometimes long transformation
in one's manner of praying in the course of which the two forms are ordinarily found
juxtaposed or mixed. It is a preparatory step rather than an abrupt turn.
No hard and fast rules or clear indications can be given in this matter. The point is
too delicate, too subtle to be put down in formulas. It must be felt, not reasoned. A simple
soul, who is not deceived by false ideas or bad direction, will easily and quite naturally
feel it.
Two general signs, however, can be given which will quite clearly point out the
reasonableness of this change:
First, the soul will experience an attraction for this new mode of prayer. It
becomes aware of a movement of affection within itself which feels the need of
expressing itself, of certain pleasant impressions which it willingly lingers over to extract
their full flavor, and of intuitions that rivet its attention. The soul feels that Christ is
inviting it to speak to HHim. How can it tarry with reasoning? Thus, without being told,
the soul little by little slips into affective prayer, by simply following the bent which has
been taking shape and the grace of the moment. On the contrary, when this grace is
operative, the soul no longer has any liking for meditation because it no longer needs it,
and for the moment derives nothing worthwhile from it.
The second sign, which is a verification, is that this affective prayer succeeds. The
soul is easily interested in it, is not bored with the half hour, and in particular draws
appreciable fruit from it. This heart-to-heart discourse with God does the soul good. It
feels that it has become better, more patient, more generous, more detached, its
recollection more profound and more permanent, and the love in the soul happily
influences all its behavior and makes virtue easy for it. Now, this is the touchstone of all
mental prayer. These are the marks it leaves on one's life, the improvement it works in
the soul. A good mental prayer resolves itself into virtues. Which does not mean that he
who prays well will immediately find himself changed into a saint ready for canonization
nor that, if a pious soul retains its faults, we can censure, as often happens, his way of
praying. This would be over-simplification and unjust. The proof of a good prayer is
simply that it helps us to correct ourself and to become better gradually.
There are some people who begin immediately with affective prayer, without
having first gone through the mental prayer of reflection, either because they were unable
to practice it or because they received certain graces which introduced them immediately
into a more cordial relationship with God or simply because, from the very beginning,

sometimes from childhood, they reacted that way spontaneously and quite naturally.
After all, it is the most natural way of going to God.
This does not mean, of course, that there was no previous thought. For them it
was a more intuitive, latent, and general thought fed by free reflection and by reading.
And it is important, as we have seen, that they continue to maintain that thought by
means which are suitable to them, otherwise the thought will become anemic, and so will
the affections, because the thought feeds the affections. Under these conditions, they can
make progress without running counter to their nature.
But there are other souls who make no headway in affective prayer because they
neglected the basic work and because they have never consented to make a meditation
that for them was a necessity. Once they have this courage to do so, they will see
sentiment renew itself and take on new vigor.
On the contrary, there are those who obdurately cling to discursive prayer. Some
do so on principle, because they can not conceive that there might be a method better
than their own, or because they disdain sentiment. Others do so out of routine. That is the
way they were taught and that is the way they have always done it. These, too, run the
risk of remaining stationary.
For if, on the one hand, affective prayer follows discursive prayer, on the other
hand — and this is its main advantage —it progresses toward higher ways, and ordinarily
it is necessary to give in to it. This mental prayer will gradually take on a simplified form
which is an immediate preparation for contemplative prayer. To refuse to engage in it
would be to renounce deliberately the precious graces of holy contemplation
We are not saying that at a certain moment we must abandon all meditation. We
must not and we cannot abandon it under pretext of affective prayer. In fact, we can never
abandon it completely. Divine truth is unfathomable, and we must constantly force
ourselves to probe it to renew and enrich our capital of supernatural thought. Thought is
the food of love. But this meditation will be made preferably outside the time of mental
prayer properly so-called or at the beginning by way of a primer, and no longer under the
form of methodical prayer, except when there is reason to revert to it temporarily.
In conclusion, affective prayer is not uniquely recommendable as an introduction
to contemplation. In itself affective prayer is excellent, pleasing to God, and efficacious
for spiritual advancement. It marks real progress over the mental prayer of reflection.
It goes more directly to God, tends more to union, and thereby increases love in
the soul. We take to it more easily because it is more pleasant and less stilted. It prolongs
itself more easily in our everyday life and favors habitual union with God. The soul is
gradually changed in all things by the affection it bears deep within itself; and this
disposition produces in an unconscious yet sure way a general progress in all the virtues
on which it stamps a motive of love.

Chapter XVII
The Prayer of Simplicity
with all our soul. All our faculties are consecrated to Him and are used to love Him. At
first sight, it would seem that the goal has been reached and that nothing futher remains
to be done. However, we are still wide of the mark. This gift of the soul to God is yet
very relative, and so too is God's possession of the soul. There is plenty of margin
between the giving of ourselves and the full realization of this gift. This will be accom-
plished only when, after long work and many trials, our being has been conquered,
transformed, and assimilated by love to its very roots. And so there will always be an
unlimited road stretching before us waiting to be traveled.
In fact, this affective prayer is but the first step into a vast domain. It presents
itself to us more as a transition between the first forms of prayer and other higher kinds of
prayer, and hence its necessity for those who are eager for the perfection of divine love. It
is, normally, a necessary passage in order to attain to a higher union with God. We must
therefore advance toward it, and even to the point of going beyond it.
The unfortunate truth is that the majority of souls never advance beyond it. The
reason is that progress demands an increasing effort of purity and a more and more
profound concentration in recollection. This is not accomplished without great
generosity. In general, we do not have such courage. This is all the more true because, of
those who take up affective prayer, the majority do so from natural inclination, being by
temperament affective. Now, these souls are usually poorly endowed with strong wills.
And as for those who have a strong will, they are inclined to sacrifice too much to action;
they neglect mental prayer and never place any price on it. Hence, perpetual fluctuation
in fervor on the part of both. In mental prayer, they reach a degree of union which is
certainly already considerable, but they will never exceed it. After ten or twenty years of
interior life, you will find them on that same level.
They will never enter into the Promised Land. Their mediocrity closes the door to
the action of the Holy Ghost, Who alone could introduce them to it. For — and this is
capital — to cross the frontier that now faces them it is absolutely necessary that Another
join in and by his sovereign action lend effective as sistance to the soul's human efforts.
Only the Spirit of love will create perfect love and perfect mental prayer in us.


The soul that is generous, that strives to put the Lord at the center of its life, that
perseveres in detachment and in prayer, giving to the latter the time and the effort it
deserves, will generally experience an evolution in its mental prayer. The latter tends to
simplify itself.
Thought becomes more purely intuitive. Whereas in the beginning the soul had to
appeal to certain particular ideas, gradually, effortlessly, and in one look, it espouses an

already formed synthesis. Even the object of this contemplation is simplified and tends to
unity. The attention preferably centers itself on the love of God, on God himself, on
Christ. Such is the natural effect of an ever-growing affection.
This dominating sentiment either drives back or integrates all the others into
itself. The soul more and more lives on it, there finds its joy, its pleasure, and its interest.
The simplified, concentrated look which it rivets on the Lord is a penetrating gaze that
makes its affection more alive and deeper. It discovers that one learns to love not through
reasoning but by contemplation and experiencing from contact with the Lord how sweet
and lovable he is.
The soul is happy when the time comes for mental prayer. Its primary concern
now is to shake off the cares which were fettering it and to pray in union with God Who
is present. It immediately finds God to speak to Him and knows what to talk about.
In truth, it speaks little, very simply and without studied refinement. It reflects
still less. No attempt is made to arouse various impressions and affections; but the soul
takes them as they come, as they flow from a sentiment that has become permanent, and
follows them more than it induces them.
Its mental prayer consists in remaining attentive to God by faith and in remaining
united to him by affection in a simple, pleasant, and peaceful contemplation, based on a
simple theme, ordinarily somewhat indefinite, with variants depending on the grace of the
moment. Frequently there is no definite theme whatever.
Naturally, to be able to cling to so divested a mental prayer, the soul must have
made sufficient progress in faith and in union with God; affection, which alone feeds
such a contemplation, must have already become a rather rich and profound sentiment,
and its life must reflect its mental prayer: a state of almost permanent attention to God
and to his holy will. Then mental prayer will be the image of life and will proceed
directly from it. The soul will feel inclined of itself to pray in such wise. It will habitually
enjoy a great sweetness from it. It will be its repose after work, a joyful and serene repose
in him whom it loves.
M ore than once, however, it will have to make an effort to put itself in this
recollection and to maintain itself there. But the mind, the imagination, and its natural
penchants will strive resolutely to stir up a host of anxieties and distractions. Although
the soul is aided by divine grace, it must still use its own means to recollect itself contrary
to the prayer of contemplation. The heart is not sufficiently conquered to remain fixed on
God for a long time in the immobility of contemplation. Likewise, the moments when it
is thus absorbed in God will generally be rather short in the beginning. It will have to
return to an ordinary affective mental prayer, patiently chase away its distractions, strive
to keep its mind attentive on God who is ever-present, untiringly repeat simple and affec-
tionate invocations and aspirations, and persevere in this search for God until interior
recollection is regained.
The soul will grow accustomed to this kind of simplified mental prayer. And this
will be a period of waiting for the gifts of the Holy Ghost. As the soul in its prayer grows
more and more independent of the over-active operations of the mind and comes much
closer to full love, it will be all the more capable of receiving the divine influx.
The way is thus open to the action of the Paraclete. The mind and the heart reach
the point where they are in the dispositions necessary for it to embark on that special,
mysterious, and unspeakable way which will introduce the soul into new regions.

As for embarking on this form of mental prayer, there are some souls who are at a
loss. They cannot decide to abandon the more active and more precise procedures to
which they have grown accustomed. It seems to them a waste of time not to do anything,
and they struggle desperately to return to a type of mental prayer which alone seems
acceptable to them. They confuse recollection with idleness and, of course, are mistaken.
The adoring silence of the prayer of simplicity is an active silence wherein the soul is by
no means inactive. The soul is talking to God, more eloquently than with words, and God
is speaking to it in the same way. The soul contemplates God intensely and the
persistence of this look is a state of tension, lovable tension unquestionably, perhaps
unconscious, more united but stronger than in discursive prayer. For the rest, the value of
a mental prayer is not measured by the difficulty it entails but by the union it produces.
Now, here every thing converges toward this union. Even if the soul no longer acts, God
acts in it, which is better. There are moments when we must know how to step aside and
let God take the initiative.
When is the proper time to take up this type of mental prayer? When God inclines
us to do so. The soul feels this, and the transfer is made spontaneously, provided we are
free of prejudices and accustomed to follow the movement of divine grace. It is
especially a question of the maturing of love. There comes a time when love is such that
we feel inclined to pray that way. And on the contrary, the preceding ways become
irksome. All we need do is obey this inclination. To follow this attraction is one of the
great rules of the life of mental prayer, and this in spite of the opposite pull of the
ascetical life.
It is important that we wait until the fruit is ripe and not try to anticipate the
attraction. For here are some people who sin by excess of zeal. Having read some
description of this type of mental prayer, they try to introduce it into their spiritual life
ahead of time and do their utmost to produce it artificially. Such an effort is as useless as
it is ridiculous. They recollect themselves, but over a void, and not having the wherewith
to feed their silence, they will not remain in it very long, at least not without creating a
dangerous mental tension.
This is another rule for mental prayer. A mental prayer is good if we perform it
well. When a method of prayer easily nourishes our conversation with God, when our
previous way proves fruitless and leaves an empty impression, that is a sign that it is time
to change.
And the third sign is the profit we draw from mental prayer: progress in virtue and
in union with God.
These three signs are the same as those we gave for passing over to affective
prayer, but on a different plane. And there is no possibility of a mistake, the moment we
approach it with that good simplicity which brushes illusions and counterfeits aside, the
moment we begin it with no vanity, no extraordinary desire, no concern to copy the
descriptions found in books, resolved not to look at ourself, not to study ourself, but seek
only to love God and to please Him.
Once these conditions are fulfilled, there is no reason to hesitate, nor any reason
why we should look upon this type of mental prayer as something exceptional. In general,

those who pray this way find it very natural, like the peasant from Ars with his candid
and meaningful remark: "I look at Him and He looks at me." That a pious soul should
attain to this manner of praying at some given time is normal, for it is but the spontaneous
expression of love. People deeply in love with each other naturally reach this most
exquisite stage of communing with each other in silence.


If it is difficult to describe this prayer of recollection, it will be all the more so to
point out the course to be followed. There is no question, naturally, of a method in an
exercise whose sole rule is not to have any. All that can be attempted is to lay down a few
counsels on points where errors are possible.
Let us first insist on this advice, one moreover that has already been given and
which is of capital importance here: if one may still speak of a method, it would concern
not the mental prayer itself, but rather our conduct as a whole. What is important is to
lead a pure, detached, pious, and recollected life, to be habitually occupied with the Lord,
and to be very generous in our service to him, in such a way as to create a general
disposition favorable to the visits of the Holy Ghost. This is our principal contribution.
The rest will in greater part be God's business.
As for prayer itself, although it relies on a divinely marked action, it is amenable
to ordinary graces. The soul to a good extent has to use its own resources. The bulk of its
effort will be to withdraw within itself, to hold itself aloof from everything temporal, and
to be keenly aware of the divine presence. Often that will be enough to place it in the
state of simple regard of God — where heart speaks to heart uninterruptedly. If
necessary, the soul will choose the thought best suited to bring this about, a simple
thought that has reference to love: Jesus in the tabernacle, if you are praying in church; a
token of His goodness; some act recorded in the Gospels; or it might be some short
prayer, a simple aspiration (sometimes this is better than a thought) , a word that
bespeaks your affection. The soul will then discontinue its search and will be content
with this one sentiment. It will quicken the sentiment with unaffected words — often by
frequently repeating the same word with periods of silence to let it sink in — by reviving
the sentiment if it grows feeble, either by taking up the same thought again or by having
recourse to another, by conversing with the Lord, reassuring him of your love and ador-
ation, by praying to him, thanking him, praising him — and by keeping silence when
your heart inclines you to do so. All this transpires peaceably, with no systematic plan,
and without offering resistance to the mind. The important thing in this mental prayer is
not to complicate matters. It is the contrary of methodical prayer. You must be truly
convinced that this is not the time for reflections nor for acts of the will. All that is asked
of the soul is to abandon itself to the movement of divine grace.
This does not mean that you are deliberately forbidden to think. In the prayer of
simplicity nothing is deliberate, except the will to be with God. If some thought therefore
comes to mind, issuing from love or capable of stimulating love it would be wise to pause
over it, but very simply, making no attempt to develop it in a bookish way, but linger
over it in a way more affective than speculative, and by adhering to the one and only
point which the sentiment aroused.

Nor is there any necessity to maintain a strict silence. We are silent because we
feel the need of it. If, as sometimes happens, we feel inclined to speak inwardly or even
exteriorly to our Lord, we should, naturally, follow that attraction, but according to the
same principles as for the thought. It is rather normal that love at times should seek to
translate itself through a few words: very simple words that gush spontaneously from the
heart and which express no other thought than love itself.. Often a single expression such
as: "My God! ... Jesus! ... My love! ... " is repeated with great fervor for a few moments,
only to end in a new silence. But if the love lasts longer, that, too, is all very well as long
as it is spontaneous.
The essential thing is to follow the movement. Every effort must be brought forth
to maintain yourself under the divine action, to be supple to supernatural attractions, to
remain attentive to the inner M aster, to whom you are united by contemplation and love.
And as long as the recollection persists, the preferable type of such a mental prayer will
be silence, not in a voiding of the faculties, but in a sort of filling them: in a synthetically
rich thought and in a dominating sentiment which, because of a lively faith, a fervent
love, and a peaceful detachment, arrests the soul as it is caught up in the simple regard of
a sweet contemplation of the Lord: an attention to the Loved One, a prolonged smile to
Christ and, without any self-seeking, a confident abandonment to his sovereign action.
The soul basks in the radiance of God.
One last point: the resolutions. Ordinarily, they will not be expressed nor is it
necessary to do so. The good resolution here is synthetic, even virtual and, like the rest, is
in the depths of the soul. It consists in the will, whether conscious or not, to belong to
God and to love him entirely and in all things. Should a particularly useful resolution
come to mind, there is nothing to prevent you from lingering over it. But ordinarily this
will take place after or at the end of the mental prayer, and not during the time of


The prayer of simplicity offers alternatives of joy and sorrow more marked than
in the preceding form of prayer, because love has become more ardent and the soul is
more sensitive.
When God reveals his presence to the soul, when divine grace passes through it
like a refreshing breeze, the soul throbs with fervor. It then experiences a great sweetness
in living with him. Even when it has compassion on the sufferings of our Lord, its sorrow
has within it a kind of plenitude, because it is the expression of love.
But there are days when this fervor declines. We know neither how nor why. The
soul becomes dry, and mind empty, and the heart inert. The electric current, so to speak,
is turned off, and all our efforts to turn it back on are fruitless.
The fault may lie with us. Recollection, it was said, is not idleness, and we must
beware lest this eventuality ever comes to pass. It will never happen as long as we are
under the influence of sensible grace. But when this action ceases the danger is real. Our
attention is no longer sustained by reflection nor even by a variety of sentiments and, if
we are not careful, the uniformity of the simple regard can turn into inertia. Or what may
happen is that the heart has over-exerted itself with the result that our nerves need to
relax. (Never forget the instrument, our body, on which we are dependent.) And so

abetted by our sluggishness, we fall into an uncontrollable reverie which has nothing
prayerful about it. During this period of spiritual dryness we must bring to mental prayer
an alert and active mind, an unflagging attention, and a will resolutely intent in its flight
toward God. Love of God, alas! is no longer "natural" to us like human love; and if it is
proper to abandon ourselves to the invitations of the Holy Ghost, we maintain ourselves
in it only at the price of a constant spiritual energy.
We can, on the contrary, err by an unwarranted tension of the will. Certain souls,
having tasted the sweetness which this mental prayer affords at times, would like to be in
this happy state always. They bend their faculties without respite in order to excite this
condition or to prolong it forcibly. This is very foolish. All they succeed in doing is to
force themselves into a completely artificial immobility. And this is dangerous. Not only
does such inhuman and fruitless gymnastics head them for a breakdown, but is to be
feared that the time will come when they will become disgusted with mental prayer.
M ore frequently we have no hand in this state of dryness or at most we are unable
to discover the cause. It is simply the effect of the inherent instability of the affective
states. The fervor experienced is ordinarily transitory and in any case cannot maintain
itself indefinitely. God's action, furthermore, depends on Him alone. When it is
withdrawn from us, we must resign ourselves to it, be sensible enough not to wish for
more than is given us, remember that the one thing necessary is the profound disposition
of the heart, and be satisfied to love as we are, with the sole support of a bare faith,
stripped of enthusiasm, pleasantness, with our inability to recollect ourselves, together
with our distractions and aridity, waiting for the hour of God. All that He asks of us, then,
is to will to remain before Him, abandoned to His holy will, not to please ourselves but to
please Him, and to persevere thus, knowing that whatever He desires is our will, that
when we want to love we love, whatever be our psychological state, that this attitude of
dry and unarrayed adoration is acceptable to Him, better perhaps than the other, being
more uniquely the expression of a meritorious abandonment, and because of our
courageous fidelity we induce Him to grant us other graces. The statues that adorn our
churches honor God by their presence alone and we ask nothing further of them. And so
it is with us when, despite our desire, we feel as cold and inert as a statue.
One might think that in the prayer of simplicity distractions would be rarer than in
the other preceding types of mental prayers. To the contrary — except at times when the
divine influence uplifts the soul. This is due to the fact that the heart is more occupied
than the mind, with the result that the latter will tend to wander. In the other types of
prayer, the mind played its part and was thus kept on the alert. In the prayer of simplicity
we ignore the mind, except to apply it to God in a simple act, or at most to some simple
thought without variety. It is not surprising that the mind grows tired as soon as the
enthusiasm of love no longer focuses the attention on its object from which it is ever
seeking to break loose.
Distractions in this connection have less importance than before because the
mental prayer transpires in the depths of the heart, outside the domain of distractions.
Despite them we continue to love God and to remain united to him in this inviolable
retreat, which is the center of ourselves. And so, the soul has a certain tendency to rid
itself of distraction. Because of the need of God who dwells in the soul, the soul excites
in itself an unconscious uneasiness which will soon lead it back to him.

If you are aware of these spontaneous returns, there is no reason to be disturbed
over your distractions, and you should struggle against them only moderately, because
too intent a preoccupation with them would create a more serious distraction for simple
contemplation. If these returns are not made, the probable reason, but not necessarily so,
is that you are not in the desired state for the prayer of simplicity, and it would be
advisable either to improve this state if possible or to try a more active mental prayer for
a time. Even if that does not solve your problem and succeeds no better at warding off
distractions, the reason is perhaps that God is inviting you to a more supernatural form of
mental prayer (something you should not be too hasty to believe). In any event, this trial
is willed by God and must be accepted from His hands. All that you can do is resign
yourself to it and, with humble and lovable submission, without stubbornly wishing for
what he does not want, persevere in the mental prayer of simple regard, difficult as it may


Because of its simplicity and its depth, the mental prayer of peaceful recollection
tends to carry itself over into our daily life. It attaches us to God. The graces we receive
from it give the soul a taste for God, a desire for God, so much so that the soul feels
kindly inclined to return to Him and the life of union becomes as it were natural. It
demands no present repeated efforts because it is a state, an attraction, a lasting sentiment
deep in the heart which keeps the soul in a state of constant fervor. It begins to carry out
the fusion of mental prayer and life which formerly seemed too difficult and required so
much ingenuity and precaution, but which now as a result of the faith and love that
impregnates it comes about naturally.
Arid and apparently fruitless mental prayer instills a deep and persistent
dissatisfaction in the heart, a sort of anxiety which is none other than the need of God.
This painful need is also precious to the soul. It remains imbedded in the depths of the
soul like a thorn whose stabbing serves as a constant reminder of God. With more
concern than ever before, the soul begins to seek Him who hides Himself. If God hides
Himself, He does so in order that we may come to know Him better and He does this by
inciting a desire in us to love Him more ardently.
These graces of sweetness or of suffering effect a profound detachment in the
soul. It lives on His love, which becomes its main interest and which strips it of love for
the things of this world. M ore and more it feels like a pilgrim in this world. The
important duty here is to profit by the divine gift, to cultivate this detachment, to deepen
it, to have it become part of our conduct. Should the soul then revert to certain consider-
ations on the meaning of life and renunciation, it will observe that they have taken on a
clearer meaning, something living, a kind of inner evidence, and that they tend to trans-
late themselves into acts. It feels that God is asking it to belong to this world no longer.
All our life must be a life of love, fostered by purity of heart and attention to our
Lord. On awakening, our first movement must be to recall to mind His presence, to
rejoice over it, to give ourself, our thoughts and our actions of the day to Him, and to
dispose ourself to begin the day in the light of His gaze and in union with Him. At Holy
M ass we should offer ourself wholeheartedly as a small host together with Christ, and we
should steep ourself in the spirit of sacrifice. Holy Communion will be the grace of

adhesion to Christ, which we should try to prolong in as lasting a way as possible, and by
means of Spiritual Communion even until tomorrow's Communion. We will discharge all
our obligations faithfully and devoutly in this spirit of faith and love, making each of our
actions, even the smallest and the more ordinary ones, an offering, a prayer, a work of
love. We will struggle against our faults in this union with God. With solicitude for love,
we will practice all the virtues and accept trials with courage. Our exercises of piety will
be impregnated with this union of love and above all they will become more fervent.
This is nothing more than that "prayer of life," which we have already spoken of
at some length: the exercise of the presence of God, only now it is supported by a lively
and illuminating faith which effects a certain consciousness of this divine presence and is
activated and enkindled by an ever-growing affection. Like mental prayer, both have
become independent of reflection and of positive search, although the interior effort at
detachment and recollection ever remain necessary. When the union does not come about
spontaneously, we must revert to some of the means previously suggested. It is a sign that
faith and love have not yet sufficiently penetrated the depths of the soul. This takes time;
but gradually they will take the form of a stable and profound disposition, and God will
more and more become the sole M aster of our life.

The particular value of the prayer of simplicity is that it leads the soul up to the
gate of a domain where mental prayer will assume its perfect form. It is the threshold of
the mystical life. The transition will not be sudden, that is for sure. M any obstacles may
still be encountered. The door is half-open; unfortunately the path is blocked, and only
hard work will clear the way. But this form of mental prayer creates an immediate
disposition in us to receive the gifts of the Holy Ghost to the fullest extent and to profit
from them. The soul is capable not only of welcoming these divine touches, but still more
of letting God himself accomplish the necessary work of clearing the way and of
The reason for this sensitiveness to mystical grace is easy to understand. The Holy
Ghost proceeds by illuminations and inspirations, a work that transpires in the secret
depths of the soul, where intuition and sentiment reign, these being "passive" faculties
which are receptive to His action. It is they which are called into action in affective
prayer and, in a complete way in its outcome, the prayer of simple regard. The
progressive simplification of the activity dispatches the soul toward that state where it
will have to abstain from acting in order to leave free rein to the divine operation. It
makes peace reign there, attention to the Host within, docility to the movement of grace,
all of these being dispositions which are favorable to this supernatural action. All that is
lacking is the touch of the spirit. This, in truth, is everything, but the soul for its part is
ready. This prayer, by its very nature, stimulates and enkindles love. Now, this ardent
love is the domain of the Paraclete, his gift par excellence and the essence of the mystical
The soul already receives some small fragments of this gift and they will make it
eager for more. Even now, they are definitely sufficient to transform its mental prayer.
Through them the soul gains a much more perfect knowledge of God and a more
intimate, more profound, and more loving union than through considerations.

Without a shadow of doubt, the more God acts during mental prayer the better
that prayer is, the soul obeying the inspirations which God himself awakens in it. He is
now beginning to make a light and a new love mysteriously break through, even if feebly,
in a scarcely apparent way, and in simple co-operation with the action of the soul, so
much so that the latter is not aware of this. In fact, it may have the impression that it is
drawing all of this form itself and that there is nothing new about its manner of praying,
except a more marked degree of intensity and depth. But the truth is that these are the
effect of the action of God. Already there is a latent influx of the Holy Ghost and of
isolated mystical elements, still not very distinct and mixed with human activity. The
mystical state has not yet been reached, but rather a pre-mystic state, the last evolution of
active mental prayer which, by the combined operation of man and God, is an immediate
preparation for contemplative prayer.
There is, as we see, a continuity between the two kinds of prayer. Nevertheless,
they are essentially different. The definite preponderance of the gifts of the Holy Ghost
which, in mystical prayer, shed on the soul lights and a love directly infused from on high
make it definitely passive under the divine influence.
This will have to be made more precise. It is, in truth, a new phase of the life
prayer which is about to begin, in which there will no longer be any question of an "art of
prayer," but an overflow in the soul of a completely supernatural prayer in which the
Spirit himself prays in us "with unutterable groanings" (Rom. 8, 26). This prayer of
contemplation presents such peculiar characteristics, the conduct to be assumed differs so
radically from what it previously should have been, and the number of those who reach it
is so few that it seemed best to make a separate study of contemplation. Please God, this I
hope to accomplish in another book dealing with Mystical Prayer.
For the moment, all I can do is point out to the reader that already visible
Promised Land and urge him to walk courageously down the road that leads to it.
Contemplation is the term to which the life of prayer normally tends. That should
encourage us. But only they cross the threshold of divine ravishments who have first
learned and practiced the art of prayer with perseverance.

Pope M ichael
4137 102nd
Delia KS 66418-9792

By reading and meditating we learn our duty, but by

prayer we obtain the grace to do it. Saint Alphonsus.

Miscellaneous Thoughts From Various
In effect, nothing more is requisite for Meditation, than to be a reasonable
creature, because Meditation is nothing more than an exercise of the three powers of the
soul-memory, understanding, and will; that is, an application of these three powers to
some particular subject, whether spiritual or temporal. Therefore, it is clear that
Meditation, rightly understood, it not only easy, but universally practiced, since all, from
the highest to the lowest, have some object in view; some scheme to accomplish; some
business to pursue; and there is no one, if he wish to avoid being rash or foolish, who
does not frequently reflect on and adopt the means most likely to insure success. A Saint
is not distinguished from a worldling, precisely be reflecting or meditating more
frequently and more profoundly; but by a difference in the subject of his reflections or
meditations. It is on the concerns of the soul only that Meditation is found troublesome
and difficult. For example, what difficulty does a merchant find in meditating, that is, in
reasoning or reflecting on commerce? A farmer on husbandy? A tradesman on his
employment? Those persons frequently call to mind what they have heard and read, for
or against the plans they pursue, and thus they exercise the memory. They make serious
reflections upon what they have found profitable or the reverse, and consider frequently
how far their plans are calculated to insure success, or expose them to failure; this is the
exercise of the understanding. Lastly, however, little capacity those persons may have,
their reflections never fail to excite in their will hopes and desires of success, fears of
danger, or sorrow for failures; this is the exercise of the will. And these same reflections
afterwards urge them to take precautions against the accidents they foresee, and adopt
such measures as may repair past losses, and insure ultimate success. The Catholics
M anual.

No time must be lost, but every moment must be employed in prayer, in

reading or in performing the duties of your state of life. Saint Alphonsus.

Remember, with one moment of time, if you employ it well, you can purchase
eternal happiness, but with all eternity you cannot purchase one moment of time!
Goffine’s The Church’s Year.

Teach children their catechism and preach detachment from earthly things.

Saint John Bosco second prophesy