Rorate Caeli

Prayer and Meditation, in the words of Saint Peter of Alcantara

Seraphic Lights                          Treatise on Prayer and Meditation                St Peter of Alcantara

The Fruit that is derived from Prayer and Meditation

Prayer is a spiritual reflection, a refreshment, dew from Heaven, a breath of the Holy Spirit and a supernatural affection, which regulates, strengthens and transforms the heart of man. According to St. Lawrence Justiniani, “before it, Heaven is opened, secret things are made manifest and to it, the ears of God are ever attentive.”

It is a well-known fact that one of the greatest hindrances we have in attaining our final happiness and blessedness, is the evil inclination of our hearts, the difficulty and dullness of spirit we have in respect to good rules; if this were not in the way, it would be the easiest thing possible to run on the path of virtues, and attain the end for which we have been created.

For this reason the Apostle says, “ I delight in the Law of God, according to the inward man: but I see another law in me” (Rom. 7:23).

This, then, is the universal cause of all our evil. One of the most efficacious means in overcoming this dullness and difficulty, and for facilitating this matter, is devotion. As St. Thomas says, devotion is nothing other than a certain readiness and aptitude for doing good. It takes our mind away from all that difficulty and dullness and makes us quick and ready for good.  It is a spiritual reflection, a refreshment, like the dew of Heaven, a breath and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, a supernatural affection. It so orders, strengthens and transforms a man’s heart, that it imparts a new taste for spiritual things, a new distaste and abhorrence for sensible things. 

The experience of every day shows us this. For when a spiritually-minded person rises from deep devout prayer, then straightaway all his good resolutions are renewed, together with fervor and determination to do good; the desire then to please and love a Lord so good and kind as He has shown Himself to be, a willingness to endure fresh troubles and chastenings, even to shedding blood for His sake, then finally all the freshness of soul is renewed and blooms again.

If you ask me by what means so powerful and noble affection of devotion is attained, the same holy Doctor answers that it is by meditation and contemplation on Divine things; for from deeply meditating and pondering over these things, there springs up this disposition and affection in the will which is called devotion; and this stirs and moves us to do all good.  It is on this account that this holy and religious exercise is so extolled and commended by all the Saints, as being the means of acquiring devotion, which though it is but one virtue only, yet it disposes and moves one to all the other virtues, and exists as a general stimulus to all of them. If you would see how true this is, hear how plainly St. Bonaventure (in the Life of Christ) declares it in these words:

“ If you would suffer patiently the adversities and miseries of this life, be a man of prayer. If you would gain power and strength to overcome the temptations of the enemy, be a man of prayer. If you would mortify your will with all its affections and lusts, be a man of prayer. If you would understand the cunning devices of Satan, and defend yourself against his deceits, be a man of prayer. If you would live joyfully and with sweetness walk in the path of penitence and sorrow, be a man of prayer. If you would drive out the troublesome gnats of vain thought and cares from your soul, be a man of prayer. If you would sustain your soul with the richness of devotion and keep it ever full of good thoughts and desires, be a man of prayer. If you would strengthen and confirm your heart in the pilgrimage with God, be a man of prayer. Lastly, if you would root out from your soul every vice and in their place plant the virtues, be a man of prayer;  for in this the unction and grace of the Holy Spirit Who teaches all things is obtained.  And besides all of this, if you would climb to the heights of contemplation and delight in the sweet embraces of the Bridegroom, exercise yourself in prayer, for this is the way by which the soul mounts up to contemplation and to the taste of heavenly things. You see, then how prayer is of great virtue and power and for proof of all that has been said (to say nothing of Holy Scripture) let this now be sufficient assurance that we have seen and heard, and see, day by day, many simple people who have attained all these things mentioned above and to others greater, through the exercise of prayer.”

Thus far, are the words of St. Bonaventure. Then, what richer treasure? What field can be found that is more fertile, yielding more abundantly than this?

Hear also what another most religious and holy Doctor, St. Lawrence Justiniani says , speaking of this same virtue: “In prayer – he says – the soul is cleansed from sin, pastured with charity, confirmed in faith, strengthened in hope, gladdened in spirit. By prayer the inward man is directed aright, the heart is purified, the truth discovered, temptation overcome, sadness avoided, perception renewed, languishing virtue restored, lukewarmness dismissed, the rust of vices done away; and in it there do not cease to come forth living sparks of heavenly desires, with which the flame of love burns. Great are the excellencies of prayer, great are its privileges! Before it Heaven is opened, secret things are made manifest, and to it the ears of God are ever attentive.”
From De Vita Comtemplativa (Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate - Italy) - Source and translation: Contributor Francesca Romana