Contemplata aliis Tradere

A meagre contribution to the mission and work of the Order of Preachers: my reflections, thoughts, ideas and the occasional rant on matters mainly theological, philosophical and ecclesiastical, drawn primarily from my reading and experience of life and the world. Striving to be always Catholic, firmly Christian and essentially Dominican, flavoured with dashes of Von Balthasar.

My Photo
Location: Oxford, United Kingdom

A son of the English Province of the Order of Friars Preachers (Dominicans); born in Malaysia but have lived in the USA, Singapore, the UK & the Philippines for varying durations. A pilgrim and way-farer, a searcher for Truth on the journey of Life... "Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, There’s always laughter and good red wine. At least I’ve always found it so. Benedicamus Domino!" - Hilaire Belloc

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Craft of Prayer

Recently, one of the things Emmanuel and I discussed over a glass of wine was prayer. Wine was very much in our minds on Sunday, given that day's Gospel on the Vine and the branches and Emmanuel's work - he is a viticulturalist. Moreover, as I am coming to the conclusion of the superlative book by fr Paul Murray OP, 'The New Wine of Dominican Spirituality', it seemed very natural to move from a discussion on wine to the topic of prayer and faith.

He began by commenting that many people talk about their difficulties in prayer but few actually talk about the joy of prayer; that joy of course forms the basis of the above book and was at the core of early Dominican preaching. I believe Emmanuel was right to point out that all too often we worry and are distracted about the hows and whats of prayer and thus don't actually pray; instead of thinking and talking about it and becoming anxious over it, one ought to just do it! Admittedly, that's rather like me and my non-existent fitness regimen!

Anyway, this talk on the joy of prayer and its difficulties reminded me of something I'd read by fr Vincent McNabb OP (left) and I shared the passage with my friend. I think there is a lot of beauty and profound wisdom in what that saintly English Dominican said in 1935 and I would like to share with you some of his reflections on 'Prayer - How Easy It Is':

"Prayer is almost the easiest thing in the world. Our blessed Lord tells his Apostles they should pray always, therefore it must be easy. If our blessed Lord says we must pray always, it is no business of anybody's to set that aside. Prayer must be something extraordinarily easy - at least, some form of prayer. Movement is easy, but that does not mean that all forms of movement are easy. Some movements are so exceedingly difficult that they require great practice. In the same way, some forms of prayer are difficult not to do! But some are rather difficult physically for some people; other forms are psychologically or mentally difficult... Others can pray by thinking about God, and by doing that they get the habitual power of prayer. They can think about somebody if they love them. It is extraordinarily difficult for us not too think, if we love somebody...

It is very consoling to think that it is difficult not to pray. Ordinary good Catholics are praying when they do not think they are. They are praying when they offer implicitly all that they are doing to God. The only thing we cannot offer to God and turn into a prayer is sin. If we could turn sin into a prayer, it would mean that we were turning away from sin. There is no detail of our life that could not be made into a prayer...

It would be blasphemy to think that we could reach the supernatural order by ourselves. We cannot lay hold of God by ourselves. We can lose hold of Him. But we can hardly ever reach out towards God without His help.

The supernatural must be given. The condition is, it must be asked. Hence the essential prayer of a human being in the presence of the supernatural is to ask... the essential thing is we must ask God. If God is prompting us for anything, we shall have an instinctive desire to ask for it...

The great doctor, St Thomas Aquinas, teaches us that all our petitions should be for union with God. When we ask for the lesser things, our mistake is not in asking, but in the particular petition that we ask. I often ask people, to make them think, 'Meditation isn't prayer, is it? Contemplation isn't prayer, is it?' The devil in a sense is a perfect contemplative. He is always contemplating God - because he hates Him and wants to thwart His purposes. It depends on why you are thinking about God. The Pharisees constantly contemplated Him, in order to ensnare Him. Contemplation itself need not be prayer at all. Love turns contemplation into prayer. People should contemplate because they love God and cannot keep their thoughts away from Him. If you love God, you can hardly help thinking about Him. I remember a dear old lay sister who complained that she did not know how to meditate. I found she was constantly thinking about God the whole of the day. God was in among the dishes. She couldn't keep her eyes off Him. Her union with God went on all day long...

Prayer is a most wonderful thing; and I love to think it is easy in many ways. The chief thing is to love God and His Holy and Adorable Will... When we have the heart that loves God and that is weaned from the beauties of this world, it is exceedingly difficult for our soul not to pray and to be united to God."
The above images are an alabaster altarpiece in the wine cellar of Caleruega showing Bl Jane of Aza's miracle in which she prayed and God filled the vats with wine and a stained glass from the novices' chapel in Caleruega showing St Dominic at prayer.


Post a Comment

<< Home