Monday, May 07, 2012

The Key to Growth is Prayer and Contemplation

The best way I know of to grow in prayer is to get a copy of Fr. Dubay's retreat and EWTN talks. The best are Contemplation and Prayer Quest.

The key to growth is to understand the "snag stage"(first purification of John of the Cross)as Fr Dubay call it.

You just stay in the presence of God, don't think or image. It will be either a loving pleasing presence with God or "dry and difficult, a thirsting for God or yearning, and it feels empty.

There will be no images or concepts. It seems like nothing, but is the beginning of infused prayer(contemplation). Be like a catcher who seems to be doing nothing, but is waiting to recieve the baseball from the pitcher. He can only catch the ball if he stays still.

If you stop recieving either a loving pleasing presence with God or "dry and difficult, a thirsting for God or yearning, and it feels empty then go back to meditive prayer. That is thinking, imaging in order to talk to God until you get the loving pleasing presence with God or "dry and difficult, a thirsting for God.

-"Three main conditions for growing in deep contemplative prayer:

1. Live the Gospel fully with generosity in your vocation and in your duties
2. Understand the first purification of John of the Cross (”snag stage”)
3. Solve the time pressure problem and spend time in prayer. (Matt. 6:6)"

Fred


-[The start of contemplative prayer is either a loving pleasing being with God or] dry and difficult, a thirsting for God or yearning, and it feels empty, even then it is to be vehement prayer.

-Contemplation… the most important thing... to gaze on the beauty of the Lord, to have deep immersion in the Trinity, eternal ecstasy, unspeakable fulfillment and delight as a human person.

-We begin this on earth by meditative prayer, which leads to contemplative prayer as we grow normally. Make time for prayer as a top priority ... St. Teresa of Avila said, “You can’t produce the least spark of it”. John of the Cross calls it a “divine inflowing”.

-Von Balthasar said, “He who does not listen to God, has nothing to say to men.”

-How do we grow in deep contemplative prayer? Most people think they need to learn techniques. There are some methods of meditation, like the Ignatian method, but there are no techniques that produce contemplative prayer. Techniques like centering prayer do not produce contemplation. It is given by God.

-Three main conditions for growing in deep contemplative prayer:
1. Live the Gospel fully with generosity in your vocation and in your duties
2. Understand the first purification of John of the Cross (”snag stage”)
3. Solve the time pressure problem and spend time in prayer. (Matt. 6:6)


-Pope John Paul II said to the Austrian Bishops, “Your first duty as pastors is not projects and organizations, but to lead your people to deep intimacy with the Trinity.”

http://www.catholicspiritualdirection.org/retreat.html

"Universal Call to Contemplative Prayer"

Retreat Talks for Lay People given by Fr. Thomas Dubay, S.M.

All are called to a deep intimacy with God. 6 Biblical themes show that all the faithful are called to a deep intimacy with God...
1st Theme: In prayer we should be growing to where we experience God deeply.
2nd Theme: Even when prayer is dry and difficult, a thirsting for God or yearning, and it feels empty, even then it is to be vehement prayer.
3rd Theme: Prayer is called in scripture the “one thing”.
4th Theme: We are to find in our prayer (contemplation), an enthralling fulfillment.
5th Theme: We are called to continual prayer. We might say we can’t pray continually, but God can give it. It means being constantly aware of the Trinity. It doesn’t interfere with what we are doing on the surface, but they go together. It is about love.
6th Theme: There is no limit to growth in prayer. You can’t love God too much (or enough).

From Fr. Dubay's Retreat: Psalm 27:4: “The one thing I ask of the Lord, the one thing I seek, is to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life and gaze on the beauty of the Lord.” That’s contemplation… the most important thing... to gaze on the beauty of the Lord, to have deep immersion in the Trinity, eternal ecstasy, unspeakable fulfillment and delight as a human person.

We begin this on earth by meditative prayer, which leads to contemplative prayer as we grow normally. Make time for prayer as a top priority and then fit in the other things. Christian contemplation is a deep interpersonal love communion with the real God. It is so deep that it can only be received by God. St. Teresa of Avila said, “You can’t produce the least spark of it”. John of the Cross calls it a “divine inflowing”.


"God alone suffices."

St. Teresa of Avila said, “God alone suffices”. She said that the path to union with God is prayer. Fr. Dubay's retreat teaches about contemplation, the highest form of prayer, and how it is for everyone from all walks of life and all vocations. If we are in union with God, we experience an inner peace and joy no matter what is going on around us. We are made for eternal ecstasy. He said St. Paul got it right. Most of us don’t unless we are advanced in prayer and experience this deep intimacy with our God.

What did the Saints know that many of us have not yet come to realize? The answer lies in their close union with God… and this is the subject of this special retreat. Fr. Dubay mentions that the information given on the retreat is not something you generally hear during homilies at Mass but it should be. Pope John Paul II said to the Austrian Bishops, “Your first duty as pastors is not projects and organizations, but to lead your people to deep intimacy with the Trinity.” Here is an opportunity to learn what we might not have ever heard.

Important teachings that you often don’t hear in homilies

In 2003, I had the privilege to participate in this retreat given by Fr. Thomas Dubay (a well-known expert on the spiritual life and contemplative prayer) to my Secular Carmelite (OCDS) community. I was listening to the tapes from the retreat again and got the idea that I should share them will all of you.

So I got permission from both Fr. Dubay and my Carmelite community to make these tapes available to others because I felt they had so much valuable information and should be shared. Also Father said to go out and teach this to others. Many Catholics and Christians do not have the opportunity to attend a retreat like this so I wanted to give you the chance hear these talks and learn what many never hear or learn but should.

Many Catholics and Christians do not understand what contemplative prayer is or that we are ALL called to it. The only type of meditation or contemplation many people have heard about is what is popularly being taught from eastern religions and/or new age meditation techniques, which are not the same as Christian prayer and not recommended in the Bible or by the Saints. What we want is real union with the real God (not just a technique that will might make us feel good while we are practicing it.)

However we often don’t hear or learn about Christian contemplation, which is the Church teaches is the highest form of prayer. When we have this type of prayer and union with God, we are living life to the fullest in joy, thanksgiving, love and peace that Jesus came to give us. Fr. Dubay calls it the one important and essential thing in the spiritual life.

Union with God: Eternal Ecstasy

Listening to Fr. Dubay's talks is an opportunity to learn more about the authentically Catholic approach to union with God and contemplative prayer. The Bible and Church have many references to deep prayer and deep intimacy with God. The Saints achieved union with God while here on earth and they teach us how we can also grow in our relationship with God. No need to turn to other religions or new-age gurus because the Bible, Saints and Church have the correct information on how to reach union with God.

"Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried." G. K. Chesterton.

These retreat talks give excellent teachings and insights from the Bible, Church and Saints. Fr. Dubay illustrates his points with stories, examples, personal insights and humor. I learned a lot from attending this retreat and I think you will too. I suggest if you are interested in growing in prayer that you get a copy of the retreat talks and listen to them in a quiet place so you can really focus on what is said. They are worth listening to more than once. They also are great to listen to in the car… or with others who are receptive and discuss them.

Fr. Dubay is an expert on contemplative prayer, and he is very solid in his Catholic teaching. I have read many of his books, watched him on EWTN and also attend this retreat and met him in person. I recommend his books and teachings as a in-depth solid resources for growth in the spiritual life and they are very Biblical.

The retreat talks are available both on CD for CD players, and as Mp3s for Mp3 player or ipods. (By the way part of the money from the sale of these talks goes to Fr. Dubay’s religious order and some of it goes to help keep the CatholicSpiritualDirection.org website going. We appreciate your support.)

More about Fr. Dubay and his retreat on contemplation:

Fr. Thomas Dubay, S.M., is an author, retreat master, spiritual director and an expert on the spiritual life. He holds a Ph.D. from Catholic University of America. He has taught on seminary level and has had programs on EWTN. He is an expert on the teachings of the two mystical doctors of the Church, St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila.

Highlights of the retreat talks include:
• The reasons and benefits of going on a retreat and how a good retreat can transform a person for life
• An explanation of contemplative prayer, why it is the most important thing and why it should be a top priority for all
• How we are all called to this deep intimacy with the Trinity
• Six Biblical themes showing all the faithful are called to this
• Church teachings on the importance of contemplative prayer
• How a deep prayer life is basic and essential
• What is means to “pray continually” and “always”
• How an intimate communion with the Trinity prompts a person to want to live the Gospel fully and to give up pettiness
• A very important insight on better communication and getting your points across in marriages, communities and relationships… when I heard it I went “aha!”… it’s not just about the content of what we say but the quality of person we are and how we say things… some very valuable insights
• Insights on the meaning of “idle words”, “apostolic effectiveness”, “mutual communal enrichment” and more
• The ways contemplative prayer enriches an individual
• An essential ingredient for effective teaching and evangelism
• The main conditions needed for growing in prayer and deep intimacy with God
• How techniques do not produce union with God nor contemplative prayer and what does
• Insights from the Saints on prayer
• How to get the eternal perspective
• How transforming union is far greater than any sufferings in this life
• How we are created for eternal ecstasy

Time: 6 talks for a total of 4.2 hours

For those having a difficult time: Jesus is the answer.

Are you having a difficult time from problems (economic, health or relationships) to the point that you are losing your peace and joy and getting anxious and worried? Have you ever really experienced the peace, joy, and love that the Bible talks about and Jesus came to give us? How can we grow in our faith, hope and love?

Do we realize that many Saints had much worse sufferings than many of us are facing but were still happy inside, joyful and even ecstatic? How did they do it? Is it something we can learn? Is it a gift of God's grace that we can receive?

For example, how did St. Paul “rejoice always” even while being beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, hungry, thirsty, often starving and left for dead in a pool of blood? He calls all of his sufferings “very small”: "Yes, the troubles which are soon over, though they weigh little, train us for the carrying of a weight of eternal glory which is out of all proportion to them.” (2 Cor. 4:17) How can we be more like St. Paul and the other Saints who experienced joy even amidst trials?

Where does true happiness lie? We know by faith that true happiness comes from God but how can we experience it more? One thing is to pray to Jesus and ask for an increase in faith, hope and love as they are gifts from God. There are some other things we can do. One is to learn our faith better, practice it more devoutly and to develop a deep prayer life. One excellent way to learn about prayer and how to pray more effectively is to listen to Fr. Thomas Dubay's retreat below.

Here are a few more samples of some of the great teachings from the "Universal Call to Contemplative Prayer" Retreat Talks

All are called to a deep intimacy with God. 6 Biblical themes show that all the faithful are called to a deep intimacy with God...
1st Theme: In prayer we should be growing to where we experience God deeply.
2nd Theme: Even when prayer is dry and difficult, a thirsting for God or yearning, and it feels empty, even then it is to be vehement prayer.
3rd Theme: Prayer is called in scripture the “one thing”.
4th Theme: We are to find in our prayer (contemplation), an enthralling fulfillment.
5th Theme: We are called to continual prayer. We might say we can’t pray continually, but God can give it. It means being constantly aware of the Trinity. It doesn’t interfere with what we are doing on the surface, but they go together. It is about love.
6th Theme: There is no limit to growth in prayer. You can’t love God too much (or enough).

A deep prayer life is absolutely basic and essential to the spiritual life to have this intimate communion with the Trinity. It prompts a person to want to live the Gospel full and to gladly give up petty clingings and selfishnesses. “Every idle word a man speaks, he has to give an account on Judgment day.” An idle word is a word that does no good at all. It benefits neither the hearer, speaker or a third party.

The Bible says to overcome evil with good. If a husband or wife snaps, the other one doesn’t return it with a snap, but with a gentle response. You overcome evil with good, because you are in love with God. A person can’t flourish in life without a deep love for God. Saints say a complete “yes” to God; they are deeply in love with God. You can’t produce this love yourself, but God gives it to the extent that we want it and are living the Gospel fully.

How to be more effective in relationships and getting your points across:
“Your ‘apostolic effectiveness’ and ‘mutual communal enrichment’ depend first of all, not on the amount of time spent with others, but on the quality of your person.”

Frank Sheed said, “In teaching science or mathematics… the main thing is to be lucid. But for ideas, which could call on a man to change his life, lucidity is not enough. The self of the teacher has to make contact in depth, with the self of the hearer…. The speaker gives himself with the truth adhering… The speaker and his message reach the hearer together. If the hearer finds the speaker repellent, the message hasn’t a hope. It arrives discolored by, smelling of, the one who uttered it.” That’s why arguments get nowhere. That is why if we love each other, beginning with love of God, and then share amiably, then we get someplace. We need a deep prayer life, or a deep conversion is not going to happen. This is getting to the core of marriage problems. The mere psychological approach, while having some beneficial insight, doesn’t get to the heart of it.

Contemplative prayer causes an enrichment of an individual as one grows in depth of communion with the Lord in various ways:
1. One becomes more sensitive to the beauties of creation and the Creator.
2. One is led to linger over reality and appreciate it more.
3. Contemplation feeds us in our deepest hungers for truth, joy, beauty, celebration and most of all LOVE, real love. A person needs it to flourish in life. Jesus came that we might have abundant life.
4. Deep contemplative union with God gives us something to say to the world that good people want to hear. Von Balthasar said, “He who does not listen to God, has nothing to say to men.”

How do we grow in deep contemplative prayer? Most people think they need to learn techniques. There are some methods of meditation, like the Ignatian method, but there are no techniques that produce contemplative prayer. Techniques like centering prayer do not produce contemplation. It is given by God.

Three main conditions for growing in deep contemplative prayer:
1. Live the Gospel fully with generosity in your vocation and in your duties
2. Understand the first purification of John of the Cross (”snag stage”)
3. Solve the time pressure problem and spend time in prayer. (Matt. 6:6)

Newly Available:

"Universal Call to Contemplative Prayer"
Retreat Talks for Lay People given by Fr. Thomas Dubay, S.M.

Complete Set of Fr. Dubay's Weekend Retreat talks available in 2 formats: CD and Mp3
(These retreat CDs are not available elsewhere.)


Front of CD#1 4 CD Set (for CD Player)
$33. (plus $4.50 shipping in USA,
extra shipping for international orders):





Mp3 Audio Disc (1 Disc with Mp3 files for Mp3 Player or to transfer to ipod)
$25. (plus $4.50 shipping in USA,
extra shipping for international orders):








Back of CD#1:


Here are a few more samples of some of the great teachings from the "Universal Call to Contemplative Prayer" Retreat Talks

All are called to a deep intimacy with God. 6 Biblical themes show that all the faithful are called to a deep intimacy with God...
1st Theme: In prayer we should be growing to where we experience God deeply.
2nd Theme: Even when prayer is dry and difficult, a thirsting for God or yearning, and it feels empty, even then it is to be vehement prayer.
3rd Theme: Prayer is called in scripture the “one thing”.
4th Theme: We are to find in our prayer (contemplation), an enthralling fulfillment.
5th Theme: We are called to continual prayer. We might say we can’t pray continually, but God can give it. It means being constantly aware of the Trinity. It doesn’t interfere with what we are doing on the surface, but they go together. It is about love.
6th Theme: There is no limit to growth in prayer. You can’t love God too much (or enough).

A deep prayer life is absolutely basic and essential to the spiritual life to have this intimate communion with the Trinity. It prompts a person to want to live the Gospel full and to gladly give up petty clingings and selfishnesses. “Every idle word a man speaks, he has to give an account on Judgment day.” An idle word is a word that does no good at all. It benefits neither the hearer, speaker or a third party. The Bible says to overcome evil with good. If a husband or wife snaps, the other one doesn’t return it with a snap, but with a gentle response. You overcome evil with good, because you are in love with God. A person can’t flourish in life without a deep love for God. Saints say a complete “yes” to God; they are deeply in love with God. You can’t produce this love yourself, but God gives it to the extent that we want it and are living the Gospel fully.

How to be more effective in relationships and getting your points across:
“Your ‘apostolic effectiveness’ and ‘mutual communal enrichment’ depend first of all, not on the amount of time spent with others, but on the quality of your person.” Frank Sheed said, “In teaching science or mathematics… the main thing is to be lucid. But for ideas, which could call on a man to change his life, lucidity is not enough. The self of the teacher has to make contact in depth, with the self of the hearer…. The speaker gives himself with the truth adhering… The speaker and his message reach the hearer together. If the hearer finds the speaker repellent, the message hasn’t a hope. It arrives discolored by, smelling of, the one who uttered it.” That’s why arguments get nowhere. That is why if we love each other, beginning with love of God, and then share amiably, then we get someplace. We need a deep prayer life, or a deep conversion is not going to happen. This is getting to the core of marriage problems. The mere psychological approach, while having some beneficial insight, doesn’t get to the heart of it.

Contemplative prayer causes an enrichment of an individual as one grows in depth of communion with the Lord in various ways:
1. One becomes more sensitive to the beauties of creation and the Creator.
2. One is led to linger over reality and appreciate it more.
3. Contemplation feeds us in our deepest hungers for truth, joy, beauty, celebration and most of all LOVE, real love. A person needs it to flourish in life. Jesus came that we might have abundant life.
4. Deep contemplative union with God gives us something to say to the world that good people want to hear. Von Balthasar said, “He who does not listen to God, has nothing to say to men.”

How do we grow in deep contemplative prayer? Most people think they need to learn techniques. There are some methods of meditation, like the Ignatian method, but there are no techniques that produce contemplative prayer. Techniques like centering prayer do not produce contemplation. It is given by God.

Three main conditions for growing in deep contemplative prayer:
1. Live the Gospel fully with generosity in your vocation and in your duties
2. Understand the first purification of John of the Cross (”snag stage”)
3. Solve the time pressure problem and spend time in prayer. (Matt. 6:6)


4 CD Set (for CD Player)
$33. (plus $4.50 shipping in USA,
extra shipping for international orders):





Mp3 Audio Disc (1 Disc with Mp3 files for Mp3 Player or to transfer to ipod)
$25. (plus $4.50 shipping in USA,
extra shipping for international orders):






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THE ROSARY AND CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER
By Father Paul K. Raftery, O.P.
The Rosary, as a gift of prayer from the Mother of God, leads us to Christ in a way unique among the devotions in the Church. Pope John Paul II, in his Apostolic Letter on the Rosary, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, focuses with particular attention on the special way she is active on the soul as we ponder or contemplate Jesus through the eyes of His Mother.

We put ourselves under her maternal guidance and allow her to direct our hearts. "The Rosary," he says, "mystically transports us to Mary’s side as she is busy watching over the human growth of Christ in the home of Nazareth. This enables her to train us and to mold us with the same care, until Christ is ‘fully formed’ in us" (RVM 16). What is happening through this "contemplation of the face of Christ" in union with Mary, is far more than just a dry and abstract exercise of thought.

The Rosary brings us, through a devoted pondering of its mysteries, into intimate union with the very Person of Jesus. Below we will discuss this form of prayer called "contemplation," and the place the Holy Father wants it to have in the lives of the faithful through praying the Holy Rosary.


WHAT IS CONTEMPLATION?
Too often the false impression people have of contemplation is that it is some form of lofty mystical prayer that can be understood only by those versed in mystical theology. Moreover, there is the erroneous belief it is not something the ordinary Catholic can expect to experience; namely, that only monks and nuns, whose lives are completely dedicated to prayer, have the chance of advancing to such higher forms of prayer.

A wise and assuring guide in these matters, who has written extensively on the spiritual life, is Fr. Thomas Dubay. His book Fire Within (available from Ignatius Press) has been recommended in a previous article, and it will be used extensively here. From his experience he writes:

Over the years I have gradually come to the conclusion that one reason so many people assume that contemplation is reserved for a select few is that they imagine it to be what it is not. They presume that this type of prayer could not be for them because in a vague sort of way they consider it to be something other than it is. They equate it with oriental states of consciousness or with extraordinary phenomena such as divine messages and visions.

Being active and busy and little inclined to any lingering reflection, natural or supernatural, they do not take seriously, as meant for them personally, the mystical expressions sprinkled freely throughout the Scripture and liturgical worship (Fire Within, 57).

St. Teresa of Avila, one of the greatest mystics of the Church, gives us a thoroughly down to earth explanation of contemplative prayer. As Fr. Dubay describes it:

For her, contemplation is an experienced, mutual presence, "an intimate sharing between friends," a being alone with the God Who loves us. Hence, this prayer is a mutual presence of two in love, and in this case the Beloved dwells within. Actually, it is an interdwelling, a mutually experienced indwelling. She relates about herself how "a feeling of the presence of God would come upon me unexpectedly so that I could in no way doubt He was within me or I totally immersed in Him" (FW, 58).

NATURAL AND SUPERNATURAL

The way this takes place in the soul, St. Teresa will emphasize, is not through any efforts of the one praying. Now there is indeed a way one can speak of contemplation as an activity of the mind and heart. A person can ponder with wonder and amazement the night sky filled with stars, and be held in a kind of delightful, prayerful state, admiring the greatness of the Creator. This is a natural form of contemplation, and genuine prayer.

It has come through an exercise of the human intellect and will, considering how great the Creator of all that vast starry expanse must be. When we are filled with a sense of the greatness, the goodness, the holiness of God; when we are stirred by the beauty of nature or by a magnificent celebration of the Holy Mass, we are experiencing this natural contemplative activity of the mind.

But St. Teresa is speaking above of a state of prayer that has come through an act of God on the soul. She calls this contemplation "supernatural". Another term that spiritual writers will use for it is "infused," from the Latin word meaning to "pour in". God "pours" Himself into a soul in this higher supernatural form of contemplative prayer.

Fr. Dubay, however, goes on to say:

Even though contemplation is utterly divinely given and humanly received, and as a consequence we can do nothing to force God to grant it, yet we can and must prepare ourselves for the gift. God gives only to the extent that we efficaciously desire, that is, not merely wish something to happen but take concrete means to fit ourselves to receive it.

The gift of contemplative prayer, and the wonderful closeness to God present in the soul that takes place, with the indescribable joy this produces, is indeed for everyone as far as God is concerned. But a person must show God that he is ready for and wants this kind of direct intimate contact with Him. And this is demonstrated by living in conformity with His commandments:

Advancing communion with God does not happen in isolation from the rest of life. One’s whole behavior pattern is being transformed as the prayer deepens. So true is this that if humility, patience, temperance, chastity and love for neighbor are not growing, neither is prayer growing. Hence, contemplation is not simply a pious occupation in the chapel or in some other solitude.

The ordinary details of daily life, the choices made to love God above all things and to grow in virtue and holiness, are the necessary soil into which God plants His wonderful gift of contemplative prayer. And this is why contemplative prayer should not be understood as being just for those relatively rare souls who have the ability to live in monasteries.

Monasteries are indeed an ideal setting for the contemplative life to prosper; but not by any means the only mode of life. Whether it be life in the world or life in the monastery, all have the opportunity to develop that good soil of virtue and holiness into which God "pours in . . . infuses" His gift of contemplative prayer.


OUR COMMON VOCATION

Due to an unfortunate misunderstanding by many spiritual writers of how the gift of infused contemplation is given by God, Fr. Dubay observes that "it is not commonly considered to be an activity meant for plumbers as well as Poor Clares, for the married as well as for religious, for young and old" (FW, 57). In reality, it is for all Christian vocations. This is because contemplation is where prayer is supposed to lead every member of the Church, not just for an elite group. Like sanctity, contemplation is the goal for every Christian life, and will be the continuous state of prayer for everyone in heaven.

Both holiness and contemplation are meant to be our future! The contemplative prayer God calls us to in this life is simply an imperfect prelude to the ultimate contemplation of the Face of God in heaven. As St. Thomas explains, using a quote from St. Augustine:

"The contemplation of God is promised us as being the goal of all our actions and the everlasting perfection of our joys." This contemplation will be perfect in the life to come, when we shall see God face to face, wherefore it will make us perfectly happy: whereas now the contemplation of the divine truth is present to us imperfectly, namely "through a glass" and "in a dark manner" (II-II, 180, 4).

THE CALL FOR CONTEMPLATIVES

In Rosarium Virginis Mariae Pope John Paul II begins in Chapter One with the call that all Christians have to a life of contemplation of Our Blessed Savior. As St. Paul has written, He came into this world to become "the image of the invisible God" (Col. 1:15). Through Him our minds can rise to know and love God in Himself. And this pondering of God through His Incarnation cannot be considered as an optional extra for the Christian life. It is an essential part of our calling, which is meant to culminate, as we have seen, in the contemplation of God in heaven. As the Holy Father puts it:

To look upon the face of Christ, to recognize its mystery amid the daily events and the sufferings of his human life, and then to grasp the divine splendor definitively revealed in the Risen Lord, seated in glory at the right hand of the Father: this is the task of every follower of Christ . . . (RVM 9).

Drifting away from this contemplative gaze upon the Incarnate Word is one of the great dangers of life in our modern world. The hectic pace of life, the mesmerizing power of television, cinema, and all the many forms of media we live with; the omnipresence of the market place with so many items to tantalize us into making a purchase, these can so effectively draw our gaze away from God. These can turn us from contemplatives of our eternal and glorious God into contemplatives, in a real sense, of transitory material things.

There is no shortage of examples: the young person spending hours on video games, the shopaholic browsing compulsively through store after store, the vast numbers of people in our culture spending entire days in front of the TV screen. With all these there is a profound and addictive fixing of the gaze on material things. Little do we realize how prevalent a kind of materialistic version of the contemplative life is present in our culture. We are, in this way, a very contemplative society! Unfortunately, all our loving gaze is fixed not on God but on material things.

In a culture, then, pervaded by this obsessive and disordered contemplation of materiality, Pope John Paul encourages us to return to the Rosary. Through it we must once again fix our eyes on our God made visible, the Word made flesh:

But the most important reason for strongly encouraging the practice of the Rosary is that it represents a most effective means of fostering among the faithful that commitment to the contemplation of the Christian mystery which I have proposed in the Apostolic Letter "Novo Millennio Ineunte" as a genuine training in holiness (RVM 5).

THE ROSARY AND CONTEMPLATION

It must be admitted, however, that this contemplation of the face of Christ encouraged by the Holy Father in his Apostolic Letter on the Rosary and the contemplative union of the soul with God described by St. Teresa above are not entirely the same thing.

One is a meditative, loving gaze on the Savior, His life, and His work of redemption. It is for the most part an activity of the mind and heart, a natural form of contemplative prayer, arising from ourselves. This is what lies at the foundation of the Rosary, as Pope Paul VI has taught in a quote used by Pope John Paul in his Apostolic Letter:

Without contemplation, the Rosary is a body without a soul, and its recitation runs the risk of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas, in violation of the admonition of Christ: "In praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think they will be heard for their many words" (RVM 12).

Very much different, as has been pointed out, is the infused, supernatural contemplation described by St. Teresa, and marked by a mutual indwelling of the soul in God and God in the soul. As related in the quote above, this occurred for her in such a full and rich way that "I could in no way doubt He was within me or I totally immersed in Him." No mere imaginative exercise this, but a profound encounter with the very Person of Christ Himself present in the soul.

These two forms of contemplation, however, are not unrelated. One leads to the other and is a preparation for the other. The intense and serious prayer life of infused contemplation does not begin immediately, but (usually) only after years of persevering in meditative prayer such as the Rosary. As Fr. Dubay acknowledges:

. . . a serious prayer life does not begin with fullness. It commences humbly with small steps. Oak trees emerge from acorns, and scholars first learn the alphabet. While God is supremely free to give in a divine manner when and how He chooses, He ordinarily prepares the soul through the human mode of meditation upon His works of creation and redemption (FW 49).

IN UNION WITH MARY

Nevertheless, with souls who are dedicated to prayer, and to the constant struggle to overcome sins and failings, the greater gift of infused contemplation will come. It is in the normal course of growth in the life of the Spirit. It is simply what happens when one is faithful to prayer and striving for holiness.

"Infused contemplation," Fr. Dubay writes, "is the normal, ordinary development of discursive [mentally produced] prayer. The former gradually and gently replaces the latter when reasoned thought has run its course as a method of communing with the Lord" (FW 69).

One of the special contributions of the Holy Father in Rosarium Virginis Mariae is to the understanding of the powerful influence Our Lady has on the contemplative activity of the soul while praying the Rosary. In a special way, this puts us under the maternal guidance of she who, above all others, was given over to the contemplation of His Sacred Face:

Christ is the supreme Teacher, the revealer and the one revealed. It is not just a question of learning what He taught but of "learning Him." In this regard could we have any better teacher than Mary? From the divine standpoint, the Spirit is the interior teacher who leads us to the full truth of Christ. But among creatures no one knows Christ better than Mary; no one can introduce us to a profound knowledge of His mystery better than His Mother (RVM 14).

We must remember that the Rosary, as the Holy Father has pointed out, brings us into a kind of union with Mary in which we see "the mysteries of the Lord’s life as seen through the eyes of her who was closest to the Lord" (RVM 12). We join her in contemplating her Son and His deeds, as she did so many times herself while on earth.

Mary "kept all these things and pondered them in her heart" (Lk. 2:19). Thus, we can say that the Rosary is a form of contemplative prayer where we are receiving an extraordinary assistance from the Mother of God to ponder the Face of Christ her Son. In this she leads us, over the years, to that depth of prayer that is truly a gift from God, and a loving union with the very Person of Christ dwelling in the soul.

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