HOLY GHOST, TEACH US TO PRAY WELL
"This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me." St. Matt. 15:8
Here Our Lord gives us to understand that when we pray, our heart must be united with our lips. At least by intention, for it is impossible not to have distractions. Fr. Zuadrupani says, "Begin your prayer with the desire of being recollected. This is all that is necessary."
"A desire has the same value in the sight of God as a good work," says St. Gregory the Great, "when the accomplishment of it does not depend upon our good work."
"The best of all prayers is to do everything with a pure intention, and frequently to renew the desire to perform all our actions for God and in accordance with His divine will." But we must ward off voluntary distractions, and involuntary ones as soon as we are aware of them. He also gives us to understand that our heart must be united to His in the state of grace, for one who prays while yet living in sin has his heart far from the Lord.
"Let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord," St. James 1:7.
However, the exception to this is the sinner who turns to God with a sincere desire to amend. Him God promises to hear, as in the case of the Good Thief who heard words of eternal life, "This day thou shalt be with Me in paradise." St. Lk. 23:43. Whereas, the bad thief prayed, "If thou be the Christ, save thyself and us," St. Lk. 23:39, but was not heard because "his heart was not right in the sight of God." Acts 8:21.
One day St. Bernard saw how an angel of the Lord wrote down in a book the divine praises of each of his brethren when they were reciting the Divine Office. Some were written in letters of gold to express the devotion and fervor with which they were recited; other in letters of silver on account of the pure intention with which they were performed; others were written in ink to signify that they were said by way of routine and in a slothful manner; others, again, were written in watercolor to indicate that they had been performed with great lukewarmness and without devotion or fervor.
The Divine praises of some of St. Bernard's brethren were not written down at all; but instead of the chanted psalms, the following words were written; "This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me" (Is. 29:13) to signify that the angel of the Lord was much displeased with this kind of prayer. There is good reason to fear that the prayers of many are written down in letters of ink, others in watercolor and the greater number of them, I fear, are not written down at all; so that the devil himself must rejoice and laugh at them as he did at the prayers of two Christians of whom Jourdanus speaks; "They recited their prayers in so careless a manner that at the conclusion of it, the devil appeared and cast an intolerable odor around at the same time exclaiming with great laughter, "Such incense is due to such prayer!"
This seems especially true with the Holy Rosary. Many people look on it more as a burden than devotion. St. Louis de Montfort says, "It is really pathetic to see how most people say the Holy Rosary - they say it astonishingly fast and mumble so that the words are not properly pronounced at all. We could not possibly expect anyone, even the most unimportant person, to think that a slipshod address of this kind was a compliment and yet we expect Jesus and Mary to be pleased with it! I beg you to temper the speed which comes all too easily to you and pause briefly several times as you say the Our Father and Hail Mary."
"Blessed Alan de la Roche," says St. Louis, "tells the story of three sisters, on the advice of their confessor, said the Rosary for a year to make beautiful robes for Our Lady. The priest had received this secret from heaven. After a year Our Lady appeared with St. Catherine and St. Agnes. Our Lady was wearing beautiful robes that shone and all over them "Hail Mary, full of grace" was blazoned in letters of gold. She came to the eldest sister and said, "I salute you, my daughter, because you have saluted me so often and so beautifully, I want to thank you for the beautiful robes that you made me."
An hour later She appeared wearing green with no gold lettering and did not gleam, thanking the second sister as the first. The second sister asked her why the change and the Blessed Mother said, "Your sister made Me more beautiful robes because she has been saying the Rosary better then you."
About an hour later She appeared to the youngest wearing tattered and dirty rags, thanking her as she did the others. The young girl was covered with shame and she called out: "Oh my Queen, how could I have dressed you so badly! I beg you to forgive me. Please grant me a little more time to make you beautiful robes by saying my Rosary better." Our Lady and the two saints disappeared, leaving the girl heartbroken. Her confessor urged her to say her Rosary another year. At the end of the second year Our Lady appeared, clothed in a magnificent robe, with St. Catherine and St. Agnes, saying, "My daughters, I have come to tell you that you have earned heaven at last - and you will all have the great joy of going there tomorrow." That same night they all died thanking their confessor for the holy practice he had taught them. 44th Rose - Secret of the Rosary.
St. Peter Damian relates the story of St. Severinus who, one day soon after his death, appeared in a vision to a priest. He seemed to be in great suffering and marks of sadness were upon his face. The priest said to him, "My father, how is it that you are so sad, and in a state of suffering? You are so holy that I was sure you had entered the happiness of Heaven as soon as you had left this world." "It is true," replied the Saint, "God in His infinite goodness has given me the great grace of dying well, and I am to reign with Him eternally in Heaven. But, alas," he continued, "I am not there yet; I am suffering in the purifying flames of Purgatory because when I was alive, I sometimes said my prayers hurriedly and with distractions. I was so much taken up with the duties the emperor required of me, that I would sometimes put off my prayers, or say them without devotion. It was my own fault and God is now punishing me for it." He asked the priest to intercede for him and then suddenly disappeared, leaving him filled with a great fear of God's judgment. #319 Stories from the Catechist.
These stories are not meant to discourage us, nor to give us scruples, for who does not have a hundred distractions when praying the Rosary or other prayers, but they are given to us by God for our instruction to be more respectful to Him in prayer, to not pray so hurriedly and to put distractions out of doors when we are aware of them.
The next story shows one who had pure intention, but many involuntary distractions. Upon finishing the Rosary, a holy Carmelite nun was disturbed because her thoughts had not remained upon the mysteries. But Our Lady, who saw only the nun's intention to meditate upon them, reassured her that the involuntary distractions that often creep in during the Rosary no more hinder the worthiness of our praise than the flies that buzz around us on a country walk hinder us from reaching our destination.
Again, the beautiful story of a young friar related in the Chronicles of St. Francis, who would pray his Rosary so devoutly that witnesses saw beautiful roses issuing from his mouth at each Hail Mary. The same was said too of Brother Alphonsus Rodriguez who also said his Rosary with great fervor. - 7th Rose.
The learned Cardinal Hugues says, "One should really be as pure as an angel to approach the Blessed Virgin and to say the Angelic Salutation." One day Our Lady appeared to an immoral man who used to always say his Rosary everyday. She showed him a bowl of beautiful fruit, but the bowl itself was covered with filth. The man was horrified to see this, and our Lady said: "This is the way you are honoring me! You are giving me beautiful roses in a filthy bowl. Do you think I can accept presents of this kind?"
St. Louis de Monfort says, "Your Guardian Angel is at your right side, taking your Hail Marys, if they are well said, and using them like roses to make crowns for Jesus and Mary. But be sure the devil is at your left hand to snatch every single one of your Hail Marys that you have not said attentively, devoutly and with reverence." Blessed Hermann used to say the Rosary attentively and devoutly while meditating on the mysteries and Our Lady would appear to him resplendent in breathtaking majesty and beauty. But as time went on his fervor cooled and he fell into the way of saying his Rosary hurriedly and without giving it his full attention. Then one day Our Lady appeared to him again - only this time she was far from beautiful and her face was furrowed and drawn with sadness. Bl. Hermann was appalled at the change in her and than Our Lady explained; "This is how I look to you, Hermann, because in your soul this is how you are treating me; as a woman to be despised and of no importance. Why do you no longer greet me with respect and attention, meditating on my mysteries and praising my privileges?"
"The Rosary well said," says St. Louis, "gives more glory to Jesus and Mary and is more meritorious for the soul than any other prayer." Listen well, you who have little or no use for the holy Rosary and think your private devotions are better! St. Louis says, "This is a deception of the devil."
St. Augustine says, "He who does not know how to pray well, will not know how to live well." St. Chrysostom said that, "Everyone who does not pray, and who does not wish to keep in continual communion with God, is dead, he has lost his reason, he must be insane, for he does not understand what a great honor it is to pray and...not to pray is to bring death upon the soul.." And St. Francis of Assisi said, "Never expect anything good from a soul that is not addicted to prayer." "Of all means," says St. Charles Borromeo, "that Jesus Christ has left us for our salvation, prayer is the most important."
Our prayer must be humble. Dust and ashes, why art thou proud? Ecclus.10:9. "The prayer of the humble shall pierce the clouds." Eccllus.35:21. How did Solomon pray, the wisest of men? Scripture says, "he had fixed both knees on the ground, and had spread his hands toward heaven." 3 Kings 8:54. St. Stephen converted St. Paul and many others by his prayer. Falling on his knees, he cried with a loud voice, saying: "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." Acts 7:59. St. James the Apostle used to pray so long on his knees that the skin of them became as hard as that of a camel. St. John Chrysostom adds that also the skin of his forehead had become quite hard from lying with it prostrate on the ground while at prayer. The same was related also of St. Bartholomew the Apostle. And how did Jesus Christ Himself Pray? "Kneeling down, He prayed." St. Lk. 22:47. Even more than that, "He fell upon his face praying and saying: Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me." St. Matt. 26:39. Persevering in prayer and praying repetitiously, "And leaving them, He went again and He prayed the third time, saying the selfsame word." Verse 44. And bidding us to follow His example, "For I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so you do also." St. John 13:15. St. Paul the Hermit was so much accustomed to pray on his knees, and with his hands lifted up to Heaven, that he died in this posture. Therefor, Father Mueller says, "Let him who does not know how to pray with fervor, make a voyage at sea. There the storms and dangers of death will teach him to pour forth most fervent prayers. Such prayers are most powerful with the Lord and they are heard by Him."
The prayer of children is also most efficacious. When Agar was wondering in the deserts of Arabia with her little boy Ismael, dying thirst, she began to cry for the poor dying boy. Then an angel of God spoke to her, "Fear not, for God hath heard the voice of the boy... Genesis 21:17-19, and He gave them water to drink. And the prayer of children, honoring their parents, is also most pleasing to God. "He who honoreth his father...in the day of his prayer he shall be heard." Ecclus. 3:6.
Say this prayer daily: Lord, I am living in a wicked world, surrounded with dangers that lead to perdition. I am like a child, not knowing how to walk on, or follow the true way. Give, therefore, to Thy servant an understanding heart to discern between good and evil. Make me understand how great an evil sin is, and how great a good it is to love Thee above all things. Give me a great hatred of sin, the gift of devout prayer, and make me love Thee most ardently to the end of my life. Amen.
* from Our Lady of the Rosary Library
dated Sun, Oct 24, 2010 at 6:04 PM