Mental prayer is indispensable to the spiritual life; normally it is, so to speak, its very breath. However, this spontaneity in prayer is usually realized only if the soul applies itself to meditation for some time by its own personal effort. In other words, one must learn how to pray. It is to teach souls this devout practice that various meditation books have been published. There are many methods, each with its own merit; among them is the Teresian method, so called because it is based on the teachings of St. Teresa of Jesus, the Foundress of the Discalced Carmelites and the great mistress of the spiritual life.
Some years ago, we outlined this method in a pamphlet called the Little Catechism of Prayer, which has since been translated into many European languages and into some of the Asiatic tongues. It is a simple exposition of the Teresian method according to the writings of many Carmelite authors; its widespread circulation shows very clearly that this method answers the needs and the desires of many prayerful souls. Hence we judged it timely to offer souls aspiring to advance in the interior life, a collection of subjects for meditation for each day of the year, according to the Teresian idea and method of mental prayer.
The idea of mental prayer which St. Teresa has left us is well known in our day. In her Autobiography she defines it as friendly intercourse and frequent solitary converse with Him who we know loves us (Life, 8).
In these words St. Teresa reveals the affective spirit of mental prayer which is its special characteristic. It is friendly intercourse, and exchange of mutual benevolence between the soul and God, during which the soul converses intimately with God intimacy, as we know, is the fruit of love and the soul speaks with Him whose love she knows. Each element of the definition contains the idea of love, but at the end the Saint mentions that the soul ought also to know and be conscious of God's love for her: this is the part which the intellect plays in prayer. Therefore, according to St. Teresa, there is an exercise of both the intellect and the will in mental prayer: the intellect seeks to convince the soul that God loves her and wishes to be loved by her; the will, responding to the divine invitation, loves. That is all. There could be no clearer concept of prayer. But how translate it into practice? This is the task of the method.
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In order to understand the structure of the Teresian method clearly, we must keep in mind the definition of prayer given above; then we shall easily see that it is fully realized by such a method, that it truly means conversing lovingly with Our Lord, once we understand that He loves us.
We cannot speak to God intimately unless we are in contact with Him. For this reason, we make use of the preparation, which consists in placing ourselves more directly in the presence of God, turning to Him by means of a good thought.
In order to convince ourselves that God loves us, we choose for the subject of meditation one of the truths of faith which can make His love evident: this is the purpose of the reading of an appropriate passage.
However, it does not suffice merely to read the matter; we must examine it thoroughly, and there is no better way of doing this than by reflecting upon it by meditating.
All revealed truth can manifest God's love for me, but today I try to understand it by reflecting on the theme I have chosen in my reading. I make use of the good thoughts contained in the subject of the meditation to actually convince myself of His love, so that love for Him will come spontaneously into my heart, and words perhaps, to my lips.
Thus my colloquy with God begins; I tell Him in every way possible (using the words which come to me most spontaneously) that I love Him, that I want to love Him, that I want to advance in His holy love, and that I wish to prove my love for Him by my actions, by doing His holy will.
And now we are at the center, the heart of prayer. For many souls, nothing more is needed. Some, however, prefer greater variety; therefore, to facilitate the prolonging of our loving conversation with God, the three final steps of the method are offered. These, however, are optional.
Thanksgiving: After having told Our Lord again that we love Him, we thank Him for all the benefits we have received from Him and show Him that we are grateful.
Offering: Aware of having received so many favors, we try to repay our debt as far as we can by making some good resolution. It is always useful to end our prayer in this way.
Petition: The consciousness of our weakness and frailty urges us to implore the help of God.
This is the whole Teresian method, divided into seven steps:
Two introductory: the preparation (presence of God) and reading.
Two essential: the meditation and the colloquy.
Three optional, to help in prolonging the colloquy: the thanksgiving, the offering, and the petition.
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The meditations in this book are based on this method.
We begin with the presence of God, an appropriate thought which brings us into contact with our Creator and orientates us toward Him.
The reading provides the subject for the meditation. And as many spiritual persons apply themselves to meditation twice a day, each meditation offers two points.
The soul then begins to reflect, using freely the text already read. In this way it will pass spontaneously to the colloquy which, according to the Teresian concept, is the heart, the center of mental prayer.
That is why our meditations are directed toward helping souls especially on this point. To this end we have tried to give the colloquies a form that is sufficiently ample; nevertheless, they may be used freely as desired, each soul choosing whatever corresponds to the need of the moment. To make the colloquies more efficacious, we have selected suitable ardent expressions and thoughts taken by preference from the writings of the saints and other loving souls. Very often we have been obliged to make slight modifications in these texts, in order to adapt them to the intimate form of a colloquy. However, we always indicate their source in parentheses.
The colloquies consist of expressions of love, alternating with petitions, acts of thanksgiving, and transports of the soul toward God; these are made concrete in the resolutions.
We hope that these meditations, written in this way, will help souls to apply themselves to mental prayer according to the Teresian idea and method.
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Teresian spirituality is the spirituality of divine intimacy, that is, it tries to nourish in souls the ideal of intimacy with God and it directs them toward this ideal, principally by means of mental prayer. Mental prayer should be attuned, therefore, to this great and lofty aspiration.
This is the tone we have tried to give our meditations, and the title, Divine Intimacy, indicates our intention to help souls as far as possible to attain this great end.
In addition, Teresian spirituality is also doctrinal. St. Teresa of Jesus, the great mistress of the spiritual life, always desired and endeavored to put her desire into practice that the ascetical and mystical life of those who were dear to her be based on solid doctrine, for the Saint greatly loved theology. That is why we have desired to build these meditations upon a sound theological basis. We have attempted to arrange them in such a way that, in the course of one year, the most important problems of the spiritual life and all the supernatural realities met with in the interior life will have been reviewed.
The meditations begin with the opening of the liturgical year, and are arranged in the following order:
December The Ideal: Holiness, Intimacy with God, The Apostolate - The Mystery of the Incarnation.
January Jesus : His Person, His Works, Our Relations with Him - The Church - The Sacraments.
February and March Interior Purification and the Exercice of Abnegation - The Passion of Jesus.
April The Life of Prayer.
May Our Blessed Lady - The Holy Spirit.
June Jesus in the Holy Eucharist - The Sacred Heart of Jesus - The Most Holy Trinity.
July The Divine Perfections - The Theological Virtues.
August and September The Moral Virtues - The Gifts of the Holy Spirit - The Beatitudes.
October and November The Apostolate - Union with God.
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We should like to call attention to one last point.
Precisely because Teresian spirituality is the spirituality of divine intimacy, the spirit impregnating the exercises by which we hope to attain this lofty ideal must be the spirit of love. We have tried to keep in mind this special mark of the spirit of Carmel. Not all meditation books are adapted to souls thirsting for divine intimacy, simply because they are too much imbued with a spirit of fear. Not, indeed, that fear is not profitable for certain souls, but since there are so many books of this type, we judged it timely to publish a collection of meditations in which love would be united to filial, reverential fear, instead of servile fear, while not denying that this latter can be very salutary. This is also the reason we have by preference emphasized the positive topics of virtue and spiritual progress rather than the negative ones of vice and sin.
May the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of love, who deigns to dwell in our souls in order to bring them gradually under His complete influence and direction, kindle in us, with abundant effusion, that love of charity which will lead us to intimacy with God! May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of fair love, whose soul, filled with grace, was ever moved by the Holy Spirit, obtain for us from this divine Spirit the favor of remaining docile to His invitations, so that we may realize, with the help of an assiduous, effective practice of mental prayer, the beautiful ideal of intimate union with God.
Rome, Feast of the Sacred Heart, 1952.
A NOTE ON THE LITURGICAL CALENDAR AND DIVINE INTIMACY
In bringing Divine Intimacy back to print, Baronius Press has kept the liturgical calendar that its meditations originally followed. This is the calendar of what is now known as the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, also known as the Traditional Latin Mass. In its current form, this calendar was last revised in 1962.
The 1962 liturgical calendar is markedly different in many details from the liturgical calendar that is presently followed in most Roman Catholic churches, which is the calendar of the Roman Missal of 1970, also known as the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite or more popularly as the Novus Ordo. In particular, the 1962 liturgical calendar has a distinct pre-Lenten season of three Sundays, successively called as Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima. The Sundays known in the 1970 calendar as Sundays in Ordinary Time are divided in the 1962 calendar into Sundays after Epiphany and Sundays after Pentecost. Finally, many of the fixed feasts of Our Lord, Our Lady and of the saints have different dates in the two calendars.
Nevertheless, these two liturgical calendars observe Epiphany and Pentecost on the same date: Epiphany on January 6 (at least in the universal Church) and Pentecost on the seventh Sunday after Easter Sunday. A reader who is unfamiliar with the details of the 1962 liturgical calendar can still avoid getting confused with the proper sequence of readings and meditations in Divine Intimacy by keeping in mind these two dates and following the sequence of Sundays after these. It is also advisable to consult an online Ordo of the 1962 Missal, such as that of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales.