Pondering Prayer

September 11, 1994
Brother John Raymond

	There is a certain form of meditation that can be very useful on
 a daily basis. This technique can be likened to a cow that chews
 grass all day long until he extracts from it all the useful
 nutrients. How to do it? You take a short passage from the Gospels
 in the Holy Bible, say for example from the Beatitudes, "Blessed are
 the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." This becomes your key
 phrase to repeat and think about all day long. Some spiritual
 authors talk about repeating it until it becomes "part of your very
 person." In other words the profound meaning of the words passes
 from the head to the heart. You become a merciful person. Then when
 your kids track mud through the house for the one-millionth time or
 decide to do finger painting on the newly painted walls and you feel
 as if a volcano is about to erupt inside the words "Blessed are the
 merciful, for they shall obtain mercy" can save the day.
 Opportunities for practicing mercy will pop out of nowhere during
 the day - perhaps opportunities that were there all the time but you
 didn't "see" them before. Like the cow chewing its cud you will be
 extracting all you can from the little phrase you choose. You can
 use the same phrase for many days or change it every day. One cannot
 do better than to use the Living Word of God for the phrase. The
 Holy Spirit will teach you the depths of these seemingly simple
	Monks for centuries have used the same technique to meditate on
 the Psalms. Some could be heard mumbling a particular phrase or
 psalm all day long. Sometimes a particular passage can strike us in
 a way it never did before. This is a grace from the Holy Spirit and
 we shouldn't lose the opportunity to draw the most out of this
 grace. Take the phrase and ponder it in this way. One of the
 greatest missionaries the Church has ever known was converted by
 pondering one phrase of the Gospel. His name was St. Francis Xavier.
 He was studying at a college pursuing worldly honors and glory. St.
 Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, quoted to him Our
 Lord's words, "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world
 and loses his soul." Well, St. Francis Xavier took these words to
 heart, left everything and is now honored as the Patron Saint of the
	My high school football coach used to tell us that wherever our
 head went our body would follow. He was trying to get us to keep our
 heads up while playing. But this advice can be equally applied to
 the spiritual life. Where our heads are our hearts will follow and
 vice versa. Our daily tasks are constantly pulling our heads down to
 strictly earthly thoughts. At times our jobs can occupy all our
 thoughts - even after work. But these thoughts pull our hearts down
 and make us miss the more important opportunities for spiritual
 growth that arise throughout the day. We pass by people with many
 needs because our thoughts are so preoccupied with other things. By
 practicing this simple method of phrase repetition we continually
 pull our thoughts above these mundane and superficial things. We
 become a living Gospel for all to see.
	Some people have become saints by concentrating on even one
 phrase of the Gospel. These are the Words of Life. It's too bad we
 fill our minds with other words. Let us implore this simple method
 to keep our minds and hearts fixed on things above and not on the
 passing things below.