READ over the subject of the meditation carefully. This can be done the previous evening. Place yourself in the presence of God; stand (if convenient) and reflect on the truth that God sees into your inmost soul; kneel and make an act of faith and an act of adoration with all the intensity of your inmost being.
As to the remote preparation: Having read the subject of the meditation over night, reflect what fruit you may gather from it, considering the actual need of your soul. When in bed, dwell on no thought which might distract you from the subject of the meditation.
When you awake in the morning, after some appropriate ejaculatory prayers, and after offering to God your heart and your actions, banish every other thought; reflect before Whom you are about to appear, and try to excite in yourself some affection, analogous to the fruit which you desire to gather from the meditation.
The acts of faith and adoration need not occupy much time. They have for object to prepare you by devout recollection to commune with God. They form the immediate preparation, together with the preludes.
1st Prelude. This is an exercise of the imagination which you can omit if you do not find it helpful. Picture to yourself some scene connected with the mystery which forms the subject of your meditation, i.e., form your composition of the place.
2d Prelude. Ask for a grace in keeping with the mystery on which you intend to meditate. Thus, if you have chosen the Passion of Our Lord, pray for a deep hatred of sin or perfect contrition.
II. THE MEDITATION PROPER
Having called to mind very vividly, by acts of faith and adoration, that you are in the presence of God; having made your preparatory prayer; having formed your composition of place, if desirable, by means of the imagination, and having finished your preludes, you proceed to the meditation proper, namely, to the second part.
Here we consider the subject carefully and devoutly.
If you have for subject some maxim of Our Lord, think when, where, and why He uttered it. See what lesson you can learn from it, and how far your conduct is at variance with the precept. Take a practical resolution to amend. Determine some definite act of virtue in question. A vague purpose of amendment is useless.
In this part of the meditation, avoid spending all the time in reflections, since they are a means, not an end. Their great object is to stir up your will to do some good action, and to serve as solid foundation for your resolutions. The most important part of meditation is the exercise of the affections, and all the preceding steps should lead up to this essential point.
As Father Chaignon, S J., says in his "Sacerdotal Meditations;" "Prayer is a gift of the Spirit of God; it is a science of which this Holy Spirit is the first, or rather the only, veritable Master. Let us earnestly pray to Him to grant us this gift, which shall be for us the channel of the most precious graces. Let us learn of Him this science, which is so important a part of the science of the saints."
Domine, doce nos orare. (Luke i. n.) He teaches it, says St. Bernard, in acting upon our memory, our intellect, and our will. Monet, et docet, et movet; monet memoriam, docet rationem, movet voluntatem: suggerendo, instruendo, afficiendo. (St. Bernard, Serm. de Pent.). One could not have more clearly designated the exercises of the three faculties, in which the method of St. Ignatius precisely consists.
A. The Memory: Propose to yourself the whole subject of the meditation; place before yourself the whole of the truth or mystery under consideration, as if you were relating or describing it to another person very clearly and briefly. An act of faith will help you.
B. The Intellect or Understanding: It first considers the truth and then makes the application.
1. Consider what you have to believe, or do, with respect to the truth which you have proposed to yourself; what lesson for the amendment of your life you will find in this truth, or in this mystery. Search for it, and as soon as you have arrested it, you will pass on. to the consideration of some motives, which may move your heart and engage you to put it in practice.
2. Examine also very carefully how much you esteem a truth so important for your salvation as that which engages your attention ; whether you are in the habit of regulating your conduct by what it inculcates, or whether you are negligent with regard to it. Admit your negligence; acknowledge your faults. What is the cause of your errors? What means will you employ to avoid them?
C. The Will:
1. Pious affections are aroused. These affections differ as the subject varies, or in accordance with the dispositions of the soul and the motions of the Holy Spirit confusion, shame, and contrition; distrust of ourselves; confidence in God; thanksgiving; offering of ourselves; sacrifice of whatever obstructs or retards perfection; resignation; abandonment to the will of God.
2. The will makes strong resolutions, with regard to a certain virtue, for instance, humility, or, with regard to certain occasions and certain means, tending to greater perfection.
3. You will make some colloquies, especially toward the end of the meditation.
This is a direct prayer; so make acts of faith, hope, charity, etc., as they are suggested by the subject of your meditation. This part of the meditation should occupy perhaps one-fifth of the whole time allotted to the exercise.
The colloquy may also be called a familiar and respectful address to God, in which we praise Him, thank Him, beg His pardon, ask Him for some grace, sometimes as His child, sometimes as His servant or spouse. In the colloquies we may also address ourselves to Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin, or the saints.
IV. RESOLUTIONS AND SPIRITUAL BOUQUET AFTER MEDITATION
Finish with the offering of resolutions. You can use a set form, or your own words. Then, as a reminder of your meditation, choose a "spiritual bouquet," that is, some thought which bears on the subject and which you can recall when tempted to break your resolution.
Finally, recite some vocal prayer, such as the Our Father, Hail Mary, or the Anima Christi. This is a brief exposition of the Ignatian method.
Remember that there are times of spiritual desolation, when mental prayer or meditation is very difficult. This is not a reason for neglecting or curtailing your meditation. Try to fix your attention and say some vocal prayers to obtain the grace you desire; humble yourself before God; do not be discouraged. God asks for your efforts; the success does not depend entirely on you.
When you find sufficient food for reflection and affections in one point, do not be in a hurry to pass on to the next.
Do not adhere slavishly to the thoughts suggested in the colloquies; those that come to you naturally are far more helpful. Speak to God with respectful familiarity.
In choosing your resolution, base it on some well grounded motive; endeavor to foresee when and how you can put it into practice.
Those who desire further information on this subject can consult the “Method of Meditation” by Pere Roothan, S.J., or any other similar work.