Sometimes I’ve thought I mistitled this series of posts, “Mental Prayer” when it might have been more appropriate to give it the broader heading of “The Interior Life”. Well, it’s too late to change now I suppose, but just so you realize they go hand-in-hand, although they are not interchangeable. Mental prayer is the fuel for a powerful and rich Interior Life. In an earlier post we mentioned the first three of eleven Truths laid out by Dom Chautard in The Soul of the Apostolate. Notice he doesn’t call these ‘important’ or even ‘crucial’ but ‘Truths’. His description of them reads:
'“What Is the Interior Life? In this book the words life of prayer, contemplative life will be applied, as they are in the Imitation of Christ to the state of those souls who have dedicated themselves to a Christian life which is at the same time out of the common, and accessible to all, and, in substance, obligatory for all. Without embarking upon a study of asceticism, let us at least remind the reader that EVERYONE is obliged to accept the following principles as absolutely certain, and base his inner life upon them.”
FOURTH TRUTH. In proportion to the intensity of my love for God, my supernatural life may increase at every moment by a new infusion of the grace of the active presence of Jesus in me; an infusion produced:
1. By each meritorious act (virtue, work, suffering under all its varying forms, such as privation of creatures, physical or moral pain, humiliation, self-denial; prayer, Mass, acts of devotion to Our Lady, etc.).
2. By the Sacraments especially the Eucharist. It is certain, then (and here is a consequence that overwhelms me with its sublimity and its depth, but above all, fills me with courage and with joy) that, by every event, person or thing, Thou Jesus, Thou Thyself, dost present Thyself, objectively, to me, at every instant of the day. Thou dost hide Thy wisdom and Thy love beneath these appearances and dost request my co-operation to increase Thy life in myself. O my soul, at every instant Jesus presents Himself to you by the GRACE OF THE PRESENT MOMENT — every time there is a prayer to say, a Mass to celebrate or to hear, reading to be done, or acts of patience, of zeal, of renunciation, of struggle, confidence, or love to be produced. Would you dare look the other way, or try to avoid His gaze?'
When I read this I was reminded of the saint whose feast day we celebrate today, the great Mellifluous¹ Doctor of the Church, St. Bernard of Clairvaux. One of his greatest works, On Loving God is available on-line through Christian Classics Ethereal Library which I highly recommend if you’ve never tried any of their services.
According to Father Christopher Renger's The 33 Doctors of the Church, St. Bernard worked more miracles in his lifetime than any other saint whose miracles are recorded. He was a man of strong friendships, charming personality and a delightful sense of humor. A story is told where 'once, when he had cured a possessed man, he brushed aside the admiration caused by this by explaining, “It were small wonder that the devil suffered defeat; for with such a helpmate as I, God could not fail. Besides, we were two against one.”' (p. 290)
And yet despite all his activities and accomplishments St. Bernard was—is—one of the world’s great contemplatives. Or perhaps I should write, because St. Bernard was such a great contemplative, through the power of the Holy Spirit, he was able to accomplish so much. 'It has been claimed that the Imitation of Christ, printed more than any other book Catholic book except the Bible is in substance contained in the works of St. Bernard.' (p. 295)
Oracle of the Twelve Century down to our own, Last of the Church Fathers, Arbiter of Christendom, Thaumaturgus² of the West, St. Bernard pray for us that we may learn to adore, love and serve Him as you did!
¹ 1. Flowing with sweetness or honey. 2 Smooth and sweet: "polite and cordial, with a mellifluous, well-educated voice" (H.W. Crocker III).
² Miracle worker