“The Grace of Contemplative Prayer” Part One of Three

Join Mark and Frances on an introduction and discussion on contemplative prayer. We start by defining the words: prayer, grace, and contemplation. The word “contemplation” means many different things depending on the context and culture it is used. There is much misinformation regarding different aspects of this word. Mark and Frances talk about what contemplation is NOT as well as how it is compared to New Age practices. We then go into both the natural and supernatural modes of contemplative prayer. St. John of the Cross, Doctor of the Church, is the expert we turn to in order to define the term.

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Resources:

Scripture:
Jeremiah 29:11-14
Psalm 46:11

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC):
CCC #2559
CCC #2558
CCC #2709
CCC #1997
CCC #2003
CCC #2005
CCC #2724

Books:
“Spiritual Canticle” by John of the Cross, from “The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross” translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, OCD and Otilio Rodriguez, OCD; ICS Publications.

“The Dark Night” by John of the Cross, from “The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross” translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, OCD and Otilio Rodriguez, OCD; ICS Publications.

Silence and poetry

In this second of a two part series, Mark and Frances continue a discussion of the important role of silence in our contemplative prayer life, and in our daily life. Building on the more objective list of the twelve degrees of silence they discussed in the previous program, this week they introduce the writings of Saint Mary of Jesus Crucified, a Carmelite Saint who was Canonized in 2015, where Jesus Himself instructs the Saint on how to practice silence. The Lord uses very powerful poetic imagery to try and provide a picture of just what He wants Miriam (Saint Mary of Jesus Crucified), and for that matter all of us, to try and practice this deep interior silence. The Lord well understands that it is not the external noise of the world that often interrupts our efforts to find this silence, but rather it is the reverberating echo of our own thoughts and internal conversation that disrupts our prayer life. External events and circumstances will always pose a threat to our interior silence, but it is more how we respond to them and what permission we give them to enter into our hearts that has the potentially most negative consequences for our prayer. This program is very helpful for anyone looking to find more effective ways to practice silence, both in prayer and in their daily life.
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The Practical Practice of Silence

Here Mark and Frances reintroduce a topic they believe does not get enough attention in our discussion of contemplative prayer or even in conversations about the spiritual journey. The topic is the important role of silence in our daily prayer and in our daily lives. Mark and Frances begin by explaining that the spiritual definition of silence goes well beyond the simple absence of noise, and they readily admit that our human language always falls short when trying to adequately explain what is meant by true silence. Indeed, they contend it is something that can only be experienced by the individual soul; it is really a gift of the Holy Spirit and really the most we can hope to do it dispose ourselves to receive this gift. None the less, in this two part series, Mark and Frances do attempt to provide some explanation of what is meant by this gift if silence, and more importantly they hope that by offering what descriptions they can, the listener will be in a better position to seek after this intimate encounter of silence in prayer. In this conversation they begin by explaining the twelve degrees of silence that are offered from the writings of the Desert Fathers. These include some of the more obvious elements of quieting our imagination, our feelings or emotions and our self love. But the list also includes the less obvious elements of needing to quiet our intelligence, judgement and will. This program is a very good introduction to the critically important role of silence in our prayer life and in the daily circumstances of our spiritual journey.
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RESOURCES:

 Books:

“The Twelve Degrees of Silence” by Marie-Aimee de Jesus, OCD; ed. By Lucinda M. Vardey; The Bible Reading Fellowship.

“Thoughts: Blessed Mary of Jesus Crucified” by Reverend D. Buzy, S.C.J.; Carmel of Bethlehem.

“The Complete Works of Elizabeth of the Trinity, Vol. 1: Major Spiritual Writings,” by Elizabeth of the Trinity, Translated by Aletheia Kane, OCD; ICS Publications.

“Exploring Silence” by Wendy Robinson; Fairacres Publications.

Scripture:

Roman 8:26

1 Kings 19:11-12

Ps. 46:10

An interview with Fr. and Carmelite Friar Don Brink, OCD

In this conversation Mark and Frances invite Fr. Don Brink into the studio for a lively conversation on a range of topics, all things Carmel. Fr. Don reflects on the different stages of Contemplative prayer and how we might identify some of the elements of our progression through these stages. He also discusses the sometimes difficult balance individual souls must attempt to find between our lives of prayer and our call to active ministry in the world. Fr. Don makes very clear, consistent with sound Carmelite teaching, that our more active ministry in the Church, whether teaching, assisting the poor or anyone of a number of works of charity we may engage in, must always be grounded in and preceded by our life of prayer. Additionally, Fr. Don goes to some length to emphasize the importance of the role of the Holy Spirit in our spiritual journey. He strongly advocates that we must continually seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit and allow this great gift of God to direct our path through all the circumstances of our life. This is a very good program for those who may be looking for a broad introduction to all the key elements of Carmelite life.
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The Way of the Cross with the Carmelite Saints

The Way of the Cross is a remarkably powerful and grace filled devotion, one we should certainly find time to practice during the Season of Lent. In this particular program Mark and Frances draw from the writings of the great Carmelite Saints to provide a complete reflection on each of the Stations of the Cross. Each reflection includes a brief statement on the significance of a particular Station, a verse from the Bible that enhances and expands our understanding of that Station, and then a reflection from one of the Carmelite Saints, which seeks to further deepen our experience and encounter with the Man of Sorrows and His Passion. This is a particularly moving series of reflections and it is a program best listened to when you have the time to be quiet, reflective and in a situation to meditate on each of the readings offered along the Way of the Cross. This is a program rich in material for our sanctification and will be one that many people will want to listen to more than once.
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RESOURCES
Books:
“The Way of the Cross with the Carmelite Saints” Compiled and Illustrated by Sister Joseph Marie, Carmelite Hermit of the Trinity; ICS Publications.
“Meditations on the Way of the Cross of Albert Servaes” by (Blessed) Titus Brandsma, O. Carm; Carmelite Press Publication.
“Calvary and the Mass” by (Archbishop) Fulton J. Sheen; P. J. Kenedy & Sons, Publishers, 1936.
“The School of Jesus Crucified: the Lessons of Calvary in Daily Catholic Life” by Father Ignatius of the Side of Jesus, Passionist; Tan Books.

Article:
“How Did the Stations of the Cross Begin?” by Fr. William Saunders, found on http://www.ewtn.com.

Provoking Contemplation: Who are these Contemplatives Anyway?

In this last in a series of five conversations on a book entitled ‘Contemplative Provocations,” by Fr. Donald Haggerty, Mark and Frances conclude their earlier discussion on how Christ hides Himself in and among the Poor. This is an important discussion to reflect on as we continue through this Extraordinary Year of Mercy. Indeed, we are all called to not only to receive Mercy, but also to share it with others, even those who may have offended us. Mark and Frances then go on to discuss the very nature of the contemplative personality. What does it mean to live the Contemplative life? What are the characteristics of a true call to contemplation? What unique stages of development does the contemplative soul go through that might give evidence to a genuine call to contemplation? And, perhaps most importantly, what is the goal of the contemplative encounter with the living God? Finally, this conversation concludes with solid counsel from St. John of the Cross, one of the masters of the mystical or contemplative life. The reflection from St. John seems to sum up very succinctly what this entire series has been about.
RESOURCES
Books:
“Contemplative Provocations: Brief, concentrated observations on aspects of a life with God” by Fr. Donald Haggerty; Ignatius Press.

“The Way of the Cross with the Carmelite Saints” Compiled and Illustrated by Sister Joseph Marie, Carmelite Hermit of the Trinity; ICS Publications.

Provoking Contemplation—Suffering Trials, the Poor and Contemplation

The single most difficult aspect of the journey of prayer are the times of suffering and trial. Just when we believe we have launched on the correct path to holiness and are responding to God in the way that He desires, we seem to be met with no end of trials and setbacks. In this open but difficult conversation on this topic, Mark and Frances reveal the hard truth of the journey of the soul that desires to arrive at union with God. To be sure, there are many graces and blessings along the way, but in this fourth in a series of conversations from a book by Fr. Donald Haggerty called “Contemplative Provocations,” Mark and Frances present the reality of our individual need for purification and self denial. Our greatest consolation during this journey is found in the suffering and trial of our Lord’s own passion and poverty. And for those looking for the model of that poverty in our world today, one need look no further than the very poor in our midst. Fr. Haggerty draws on his own experiences with Mother Teresa of Calcutta to explain how we must seek the hidden Christ in the very eyes of the most impoverished in our society’ indeed it is among them where Christ continues to express His own plea from the Cross “I Thirst.” This is ultimately a very encouraging conversation for those seeking a deeper meaning in the midst of trials and suffering.

RESOURCES

Books:
Contemplative Provocations by Fr. Donald Haggerty; Ignatius Press.
 
“Worshipping a Hidden God: Unlocking the Secrets of the Interior Life” by Archbishop Luis M. Martinez; Sophia Institute Press.
 
Scripture Passages:
Mt 25:40, Mk 14:7, Mt. 25:35, Jn 19:28.

Provoking Contemplation au Deux

This particular program aired on the eve of the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. This feast recalls not only the Lord’s arrival at the temple, but also the preparation of the two individuals who were able to recognize the Lord, Anna and Simeon. It is written that both these contemplative souls had prepared themselves well through prayer and fasting, and that they waited with heroic patience and perseverance for the arrival of the Lord. In a very real way they serve as models of the persons of prayer we are all called to be. In this program Mark and Frances pick up the conversation on the book by Fr. Donald Haggerty entitled “Contemplative Provocations.” Here they discuss the clear signs that a person has begun to enter into contemplative prayer, and they provide recognizable affirmations that the can assure the soul they are not actually regressing or losing time in prayer. They also discuss the importance of not being led by our emotions in prayer, and how we must seek to go beyond a felt experience. Finally, Mark and Frances discuss the role of the mind in contemplative prayer, and most especially what we can do about the wild thoughts that so often try to distract us away from our loving focus on the Lord.
RESOURCES
Books:
“Contemplative Provocations” by Fr. Donald Haggerty, Ignatius Press.
 
“The Practice of Contemplation According to John of the Cross” by James W. Kinn, ICS Publications.
 
“Union with the Lord in Prayer” by Rev. Venard Poslusney, O.Carm, 101 Foundation.
 
“My Only Friend is Darkness: Living the Night of Faith with St. John of the Cross” by Barbara Dent, ICS Publications.
 
“The Dark Night” from “The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross,” Translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, OCD and Otilio Rodriguez, OCD, ICS Publications.

Provoking Contemplation

This program originally aired on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. During this conversation Mark and Frances first discuss the event of Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. What is most striking about this event is the presence of the unbearable light that Paul cannot view with his human eye. Instead, Paul is gifted with spiritual vision and provided an encounter with Christ that, in some way, we are all called to. We are called to this light because we are all called to ever deepening levels of conversion. The conversation then moves on to look in detail at our individual call to a contemplative encounter with Christ. For this conversation Mark and Frances are using a book entitled “Contemplative Provocations” by a Fr. Donald Haggerty. Fr. Haggerty gives due credit to St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross for many of the insights he shares in this series of reflections. This first in a series of discussions on this book focuses on how and why God often conceals Himself when we seek Him in contemplative prayer. Mark and Frances also discuss how we must continue to respond in faith to these early and often confusing first stages on contemplative prayer.
RESOURCES
Books:
“Contemplative Provocations: Brief, Concentrated Obersvations on Aspects of a Life with God” by Fr. Donald Haggerty, Ignatius Press.

“The Practice of Contemplation According to John of the Cross” by James W. Kinn, ICS Publications.

Poetry and Prayer with St. Teresa

In the on-going series on poetry and prayer, Mark and Frances explore the prayerful poem by St. Teresa of Avila entitled, “In the Hands of God.” This wonderful reflection by St. Teresa is her own version of prayerful abandonment to the will of God. Much like the more later prayer penned by St. Therese of Lisieux, titled ‘Act of Oblation to Merciful Love,’ this poem by St. Teresa is a heartfelt outpouring of her deep desire to place everything in the hands of her Heavenly Father. Mark and Frances walk through each verse of the poem and provide both the literal explanation as well as uncover the deeper meaning of Teresa’s words. This is a great introduction not only to one of St. Teresa’s great poems, but also to the use of poetry as a means for vocal, meditative and even contemplative prayer.