How Can I Meditate and Pray Better?

Ask a Carmelite Sister…

Question: Dear Sister, I am just starting out on a deeper prayer life – how can I meditate and pray better?

Answer: Your question has been asked thousands of times, maybe millions, by people of all cultures and faiths.  All of us were born with an innate desire to pray, to acknowledge the“Uncaused Cause,” to logically follow the path of creation back to the “Prime Mover,”  to follow the inclination of our soul’s longing for God.

The story is told of a parent who did not believe in God. He did not teach his children about God. One day, as the story was told me, he found his little daughter, about four years old, in the woods with hands upraised and eyes fastened upon the sky. He asked her,“What are you doing?” for he had never told her about God nor about prayer. With a joyful smile on her face she said, “Daddy, I’m just thanking whoever made all this for me.”

This type of spontaneous prayer rises up within all of our souls. Your question, however, refers to a more stable time and place for prayer, a method, a way, a process.  After thinking about your question and praying about it, here is my answer.  It is just a beginning. . . . .

All prayer is a form of adoration. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2628) reminds us that the first attitude of man is to acknowledge that he is a creature before his Creator. This is the basis of all Christian spirituality. Thus, in any prayer we come before God in profound adoration.

All prayer whether vocal, meditative or contemplative requires a period of preparation, a settling down, silence, being present to God in order to ease into the actual time of prayer.

Meditation is a form of prayer that draws us into the Light where we beg, “Lord, that I may see!” In order to see more clearly we look into the mirror of Christ that we might come face to face with ourselves. The light reflected back to us enables us to better know ourselves, to know others and to know Christ. In this way we discover God’s will for us today – NOW.

As we read and reflect on some subject of the Christian life, a scene in the life of Christ, a passage in Scripture or some mystery of our faith we bring all our faculties: thought, imagination, emotion and desire (CCC 2708) into play. We are not merely spectators on the sidelines but participants in the scenes that unfold before us. The NOW is before us and Our Lord is speaking not to some historical person(s) of the past but He is looking at me personally, directing His conversation to me or unfolding His mystery to me.

Woman Praying in ChurchIn humility we have asked “to see”; therefore, we move from our faculties into the reality of our own lives in the here and now. What does this thought, this scene, these words have to do with me, with the way that I approach life? What does Jesus want me to learn? What is He asking of me? Is He perhaps leading me along a path I would rather not follow? Are there attachments in my life that are blocking my path, burdens that I would prefer not to carry, sufferings that I do not wish to endure? Where are the blind spots that prevent me from taking the next step?

Beg the grace of the Holy Spirit to remove whatever is preventing the full inflow of His grace. Make one resolution for the day that is practical and measurable that you can carry out before your next period of meditation. Take a brief thought that summarizes your prayer that you can repeat to yourself throughout the day.

Close your prayer with gratitude for this opportunity you have spent in God’s presence.

Sister Laus Gloriae, O.C.D.

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Promoting a Deeper Spiritual Life Among Families through Healthcare, Education and Retreats

The Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles strive to give striking witness as a vibrant, thriving community of dedicated women with an all-consuming mission. It is our God-given mission, a mission of the heart, a mission of loving service to the poor, the sick, the needy and the uneducated. Our loving service overflows from each sister’s profound life of prayer. We strive to reflect His life and hope and His promise to all that light has come into our world and darkness has not overcome it.

A look at the history of our community, with its motherhouse in Alhambra, California, reveals how its life-giving presence has come about. During the beginning decades of the 1900s just as the epic Mexican revolution was subsiding, a ruthless religious persecution was gaining momentum in Mexico. This horrible persecution accompanied the birth and humble beginnings of our community, a legacy that Mother Luisita, our foundress, and her two companions brought with them as religious refugees entering the Unites States in 1927.

Those seeds planted by Mother Luisita, now a candidate for sainthood, have taken deep root in the United States since those early days. People and places have changed throughout the years, yet the heart of our mission remains. As an autonomous religious institute since 1983 we continue to carry out our loving service in our healthcare facilities, retreat houses and schools which remain to this day centers of life and hope. Today we are moving forward together “Educating for Life with the Mind and Heart of Christ” in schools, being “At the Service of the Family for Life” through health and eldercare and “Fostering a Deeper Spiritual Life” through individual and group retreats. At the heart of our vocation is a passionate mission of loving service which facilitates our life-giving encounter with the living God.

The heritage of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles is rooted in the spirituality of Carmel, the Gospels, the Church, with our particular charism derived from our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

In His merciful goodness, God has graced our Institute with the Carmelite charism which has its roots in a long history and living tradition. The spirituality of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross is rooted in this tradition. Carmel means enclosed garden in which God Himself dwells. The divine indwelling in the soul is the foundation of Teresa's doctrine. Thus our vocation is a grace by which contemplation and action are blended to become an apostolic service to the Church.

Our ideal finds a living expression in the life and charism of our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament, whose spirit we faithfully preserve and foster.

Our life is characterized by: - A life of prayer and union with God - A deep love for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist - Devotion to our Blessed Mother - Steadfast fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church - Praying for priests - Commitment to works of the apostolate in ecclesial service

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