Read the Ladder of Divine Ascent: https://desertfathers.webs.com/ladderofdivineascent.htm
Read about women mystics on this URL: http://www.umilta.net/cloister.html
Read about the classic, The Cloud of the Unknowing, author unknown. This is not for the faint of faith. https://www.catholicspiritualdirection.org/cloudunknowing.pdf
Read about St. Thomas Aquinas: https://www.azquotes.com/author/490-Thomas_Aquinas
Read about key Cistercian men and women: https://www.trappists.org/history-of-the-trappists/notable-monks-nuns/
The following is a prayer from St. Augustine.
You are Christ,
my Holy Father,
my Tender God,
my Great King,
my Good Shepherd,
my Only Master,
my Best Helper,
my Most Beautiful and my Beloved,
my Living Bread,
my Priest Forever,
my Leader to my Country,
my True Light,
my Holy Sweetness,
my Straight Way,
my Excellent Wisdom,
my Pure Simplicity,
my Peaceful Harmony,
my Entire Protection,
my Good Portion,
my Everlasting Salvation.
Christ Jesus, Sweet Lord,
why have I ever loved,
why in my whole life
have I ever desired anything except You,
Jesus my God?
Where was I when I was not in spirit with You?
Now, from this time forth,
do you, all my desires, grow hot,
and flow out upon the Lord Jesus:
run… you have been tardy until now;
hasten where you are going;
seek Whom you are seeking.
O, Jesus may he who loves You
not be an anathema;
may he who loves You
not be filled with bitterness.
O, Sweet Jesus,
may every good feeling that is fitted for Your praise,
love You, delight in You, adore You!
God of my heart,
and my Portion, Christ Jesus,
may my heart faint away in spirit,
and may You be my Life within me!
May the live coal of Your Love
grow hot within my spirit
and break forth into a perfect fire;
may it burn incessantly on the altar of my heart;
may it glow in my innermost being;
may it blaze in hidden recesses of my soul;
and in the days of my consummation
may I be found consummated with You!
I love to read the late G.K. Chesterton’s works. Find ebooks on: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/author/80
I recommend that you read the following Chapter 4 from the Rule of St. Benedict. https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/
Slow down! Slow way down! All humans are hole diggers. Our whole life is spent using a shovel to dig holes of our own making. Some of them we fill up and some of them we let stand empty. It is what we choose to fill these holes that make us different from each other. Let me be less obtuse. When your mom or dad dies, that is a hole in your life. It may be a deep one or a shallow one. What is important, and why you have the ability to reason and then select what you have chosen as meaningful, is that you are the only one that can fill that hole. What you fill it with determines if you made a good choice or one that will destroy you. Back to the example: your mother has died and you are heartbroken. What will you fill that void with? You have some choices: a) nothing, you continue to grieve until the hole is filled; b) you drink alcohol so you won’t have to think about it, but the hole is still there, unfilled; c) you fill it with destructive, loose living, drugs and pills, and companions that will never allow you to fill the hole; d) you can fill it with the love and care of a living, the authentic person in the form of Jesus of Nazareth, both God and one of us. One of these will fill all the holes you have, those left by divorce, bankruptcy, failures on your part to fill that longing in your heart to be loved and to love. St. Augustine is quoted as saying: Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee, O Lord. All we have is what was given to us by Christ. Taste and see, says the Scriptures, how good the Lord is. Happy is the one who takes refuge in Him. No easy paths here. But, just because your path in life is rocky doesn’t mean you are on the wrong path. What follows are some readings that I have used to fill my own holes in life. They may not fill your hole. That only you and Christ can do together.
READ THE RULE OF THE MASTER. This precedes the Rule of St. Benedict and is one of the sources he used to write his Rule. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_the_Master
READ “DEI VERBUM” This document was created and approved by the Synod of Bishops in 1965 and promulgated by Pope Paul VI. Read it very carefully and very, very slowly. https://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html
READ THE CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH TO GROW DEEPER IN THE LOVE THAT CHRIST HAS FOR US. This is an excerpt from the section on prayer. Read it carefully and deliberately. Write down just one thought that came from your reading. This excerpt is itself an excerpt from my book The School of Love.
Moving ever deeper into the subject of prayer, I found that the Catechism of the Catholic Church has a beautiful description of prayer, much of which I will quote in its entirety because I don’t want you to lose the depth of meaning. I will place my comments where appropriate and allow you a space to write down your reflections.
There are three types of prayer, according to the definition from the Catholic Catechism. One is the audible prayer of the Church Universal), then meditation (prayer of the mind), and last contemplation (prayer of the heart). http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p4s1.htm
“CHAPTER THREE THE LIFE OF PRAYER
EXPRESSIONS OF PRAYER
I. VOCAL PRAYER
2700 Through his Word, God speaks to man. By words, mental or vocal, our prayer takes flesh. Yet it is most important that the heart should be present to him to whom we are speaking in prayer: “Whether or not our prayer is heard
12 depends not on the number of words, but on the fervor of our souls.”2
2701 Vocal prayer is an essential element of the Christian life. To his disciples, drawn by their Master’s silent prayer, Jesus teaches a vocal prayer, the Our Father. He not only prayed aloud the liturgical prayers of the synagogue but, as the Gospels show, he raised his voice to express his personal prayer, from exultant blessing of the Father to the agony of Gesthemani.3
2702 The need to involve the senses in interior prayer corresponds to a requirement of our human nature. We are body and spirit, and we experience the need to translate our feelings externally. We must pray with our whole being to give all power possible to our supplication.
2703 This need also corresponds to a divine requirement. God seeks worshippers in Spirit and Truth, and consequently living prayer that rises from the depths of the soul. He also wants the external expression that associates the body with interior prayer, for it renders him that perfect homage which is his due.
2704 Because it is external and so thoroughly human, vocal prayer is the form of prayer most readily accessible to groups. Even interior prayer, however, cannot neglect vocal prayer. Prayer is internalized to the extent that we become aware of him “to whom we speak;”4 Thus, vocal prayer becomes an initial form of contemplative prayer.
2705 Meditation is above all a quest. The mind seeks to understand the why and how of the Christian life, in order to adhere and respond to what the Lord is asking. The required attentiveness is difficult to sustain. We are usually helped by books, and Christians do not want for them: the Sacred Scriptures, particularly the Gospels, holy icons, liturgical texts of the day or season, writings of the spiritual fathers, works of spirituality, the great book of creation, and that of history the page on which the “today” of God is written.
2706 To meditate on what we read helps us to make it our own by confronting it with ourselves. Here, another book is opened: the book of life. We pass from thoughts to reality. To the extent that we are humble and faithful, we discover in meditation the movements that stir the heart and we are able to discern them. It is a question of acting truthfully in order to come into the light: “Lord, what do you want me to do?”
2707 There are as many and varied methods of meditation as there are spiritual masters. Christians owe it to themselves to develop the desire to meditate regularly, lest they come to resemble the three first kinds of soil in the parable of the sower. But a method is only a guide; the important thing is to advance, with the Holy Spirit, along the one way of prayer: Christ Jesus.
2708 Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion, and desire. This mobilization of faculties is necessary in order to deepen our convictions of faith, prompt the conversion of our heart, and strengthen our will to follow Christ. Christian prayer tries above all to meditate on the mysteries of Christ, as in lectio divina or the rosary. This form of prayerful reflection is of great value, but Christian prayer should go further: to the knowledge of the love of the Lord Jesus, to union with him.”
III. CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER
2709 What is contemplative prayer? St. Teresa answers: “Contemplative prayer [oracion mental] in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us.”6 Contemplative prayer seeks him “whom my soul loves.”7 It is Jesus, and in him, the Father. We seek him, because to desire him is always the beginning of love, and we seek him in that pure faith which causes us to be born of him and to live in him. In this inner prayer we can still meditate, but our attention is fixed on the Lord himself.
2710 The choice of the time and duration of the prayer arises from a determined will, revealing the secrets of the heart. One does not undertake contemplative prayer only when one has the time: one makes time for the Lord, with the firm determination not to give up, no matter what trials and dryness one may encounter. One cannot always meditate, but one can always enter into inner prayer, independently of the conditions of health, work, or emotional state. The heart is the place of this quest and encounter, in poverty ant in faith.
2711 Entering into contemplative prayer is like entering into the Eucharistic liturgy: we “gather up:” the heart, recollect our whole being under the prompting of the Holy Spirit, abide in the dwelling place of the Lord which we are, awaken our faith in order to enter into the presence of him who awaits us. We let our masks fall and turn our hearts back to the Lord who loves us, so as to hand ourselves over to him as an offering to be purified and transformed.
2712 Contemplative prayer is the prayer of the child of God, of the forgiven sinner who agrees to welcome the love by which he is loved and who wants to respond to it by loving even more.8 But he knows that the love he is returning is poured out by the Spirit in his heart, for everything is grace from God. Contemplative prayer is the poor and humble surrender to the loving will of the Father in ever deeper union with his beloved Son.
2713 Contemplative prayer is the simplest expression of the mystery of prayer. It is a gift, a grace; it can be accepted only in humility and poverty. Contemplative prayer is a covenant relationship established by God within our hearts.9 Contemplative prayer is a communion in which the Holy Trinity conforms man, the image of God, “to his likeness.”
2714 Contemplative prayer is also the pre-eminently intense time of prayer. In it the Father strengthens our inner being with power through his Spirit “that Christ may dwell in [our] hearts through faith” and we may be “grounded in love.”
2715 Contemplation is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus. “I look at him and he looks at me”: this is what a certain peasant of Ars in the time of his holy curé used to say while praying before the tabernacle. This focus on Jesus is a renunciation of self. His gaze purifies our heart; the light of the countenance of Jesus illumines the eyes of our heart and teaches us to see everything in the light of his truth and his compassion for all men. Contemplation also turns its gaze on the mysteries of the life of Christ. Thus it learns the “interior knowledge of our Lord,” the more to love him and follow him.11
2716 Contemplative prayer is hearing the Word of God. Far from being passive, such attentiveness is the obedience of faith, the unconditional acceptance of a servant, and the loving commitment of a child. It participates in the “Yes” of the Son to become a servant and the Fiat of God’s lowly handmaid.
2717 Contemplative prayer is silence, the “symbol of the world to come”12 or “silent love.”13 Words in this kind of prayer are not speeches; they are like kindling that feeds the fire of love. In this silence, unbearable to the “outer” man, the Father speaks to us his incarnate Word, who suffered, died, and rose; in this silence the Spirit of adoption enables us to share in the prayer of Jesus.
2718 Contemplative prayer is a union with the prayer of Christ insofar as it makes us participate in his mystery. The mystery of Christ is celebrated by the Church in the Eucharist, and the Holy Spirit makes it come alive in contemplative prayer so that our charity will manifest it in our acts.
2719 Contemplative prayer is a communion of love bearing Life for the multitude, to the extent that it consents to abide in the night of faith. The Paschal night of the Resurrection passes through the night of the agony and the tomb – the three intense moments of the Hour of Jesus which his Spirit (and not “the flesh [which] is weak”) brings to life in prayer. We must be willing to “keep watch with [him] one hour.”14
2720 The Church invites the faithful to regular prayer: daily prayers, the Liturgy of the Hours, Sunday Eucharist, the feasts of the liturgical year.
2721 The Christian tradition comprises three major expressions of the life of prayer: vocal prayer, meditation, and
17 contemplative prayer. They have in common the recollection of the heart.
2722 Vocal prayer, founded on the union of body and soul in human nature, associates the body with the interior prayer of the heart, following Christ’s example of praying to his Father and teaching the Our Father to his disciples.
2723 Meditation is a prayerful quest engaging thought, imagination, emotion, and desire. Its goal is to make our own in faith the subject considered, by confronting it with the reality of our own life.
2724 Contemplative prayer is the simple expression of the mystery of prayer. It is a gaze of faith fixed on Jesus, an attentiveness to the Word of God, a silent love. It achieves real union with the prayer of Christ to the extent that it makes us share in his mystery.