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Brookline Carmel Bulletin†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

July 9, 1961


Cogitatio Sancta

(Holy Meditation)


Practice of the Presence of God


It is the common and constant teaching of the Christian Ascetic Tradition that no exercise of the spiritual life is as conducive to our oral transformation into Jesus Christ as the practice of Mental Prayer.Not that we can thereby dispense with participation in the Holy Sacrifice and the reception of the Sacraments, but rather, that the latter are most effective when they are made use of with the interior dispositions wrought in us by Prayer.Once we have resolved to make a serious effort to sanctify ourselves, we cannot afford to ignore the practice of Mental Prayer.


We have to admit, however, that we cannot always be actually engaged in a loving conversation with God.That is impossible to us who are wayfarers in this valley of tears.Ours is not yet the happy lot of the Angels and the separated souls of the just.Besides, it is Godís Will for us that we concern ourselves with certain temporal, material needs.So we have to restrict ourselves to that amount of Mental Prayer indicated by our status in the Mystical Body.Nevertheless, there is an exercise of soul, closely akin to Mental Prayer, which is compatible with the faithful fulfillment of our daily duties and which renders us receptive to the influence of the Holy Spirit.It is the practice of the Presence of God.Since we have likened Mental Prayer to the spontaneous, informal, loving encounter of two well-beloved spouses, we can compare the practice of the Presence of God to the activity of mind and heart of a young housewife as she goes about her work in the home while her husband is away during the day.


Because she lives in his house and is entrusted with the care of it, and especially because she is responsible for the care of the children, a young housewife is keenly aware of her estate, that is, of her relationship to her spouse.He is indirectly present to her because of her immediate concern with persons and things that have a direct or indirect bearing upon him.He is present to her memory because she canít help thinking of how he looks, of the sound of his voice, of his touch, etc.He is present to her intellect when she adverts to certain facts concerning him:he is so handsome; he is so kind and affectionate toward the children; he is such a hard, unselfish worker.Then, when the nature of her work absorbs her mind completely, when she cannot be mindful of him, she keeps him present to her will by applying herself to the task at hand with diligence for love of him.It is the last named means which can always be practiced, and which escapes the ability of no one.


The practice of the Presence of God, then, is the deliberate effort to keep God and related things present to our faculties of mind and heart.First of all it requires that we remind ourselves at stated times during the day that we are the children of God, co-heirs with Jesus Christ of the Kingdom of Heaven.We have to keep in mind that, even though we may own things outright, that we are stewards in Godís household.In particular, we have to get into the habit of seeing all persons as children of God for whose salvation and spiritual welfare we are to some degree responsible.We keep in the presence of God by remembering what we have read or heard concerning Him, by recalling images and incidents taken from the Gospels.Having sacred images in the home is a great help in this regard.We keep God present, too, by means of our intellect, when we make acts of Faith:God loves me; Jesus died for me, gave me Himself as my spiritual sustenance, gave me His own Mother; the Cross is necessary; a heavy Cross is a proof of signal favor, etc.And when the nature of our work makes this kind of mental activity impossible, we keep God present in our hearts by doing all things for love of Him.It is the minimum, but it is essential.


Of course, it is not wrong not to practice the presence of God.But it would be the height of imprudence in one committed to a life of prayer.If a young housewife spent all her time gossiping with her neighbors, or otherwise neglect her duties, she could hardly expect her spouse to greet her with terms of endearment when he returned home.The practice of the Presence of God maintains and nourishes the ardor of love that is enkindled when God and the soul meet in the embrace that is Mental Prayer.

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