Friday, January 22, 2010
From Father Girardey’s "Instructions on Prayer"
VOCAL prayer is prayer recited with the lips, and usually according to some certain formula. Although in itself vocal prayer is not so excellent as mental prayer, we should, nevertheless, beware of underrating its usefulness or necessity. All true Christians frequently recite vocal prayers, such as the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Apostles Creed, the acts of faith, hope, charity, and contrition. The Church prescribes vocal prayer very strictly to her priests and her Religious, in the Mass, in the liturgy, and in the divine office. She has enriched many vocal prayers with numerous indulgences, and has approved of many prayer-books filled with prayers suited to every want and devotion. Vocal prayer, then, is both useful and necessary for all men without exception even for those who are soaring in the heights of contemplation. In reciting vocal prayers, we should strive to attend to the meaning of the words, appropriating it to ourselves with all, possible fervor and earnestness. A few short vocal prayers well said are far more acceptable to God than a great many long ones recited without attention or fervor.
One of the best forms of vocal prayer is the frequent recitation during the day of some favorite aspiration or ejaculatory prayer, especially if we do so in time of trial and temptation. This commendable practice gradually imparts a habit of recollection, and renders all other prayers comparatively easy and free from distraction. We should, as far as practicable, prefer reciting those vocal prayers which the Church has enriched with indulgences, for we thereby gain a twofold advantage the benefit of the beautiful and devout prayers themselves, and the indulgences, which help us to acquit ourselves of the great temporal debt which we have contracted towards the divine justice on account of our numerous sins. Or we may also apply said indulgences, when so applicable, to the souls in purgatory, who will be relieved thereby and will not fail to intercede for us in our wants.
It would be well to join, to a certain extent; mental prayer with our vocal prayers, for the merit of the latter would be thereby greatly increased. We may do so in this wise. During the recitation of our vocal prayers we pause at short intervals to reflect either on their meaning or on some supernatural truth; or, without at all pausing, we reflect thereon while actually pronouncing the prayers with our lips. The rosary is the most common and readily understood example of this manner of praying. While we are reciting the Our Father and the Hail Marys of each decade of the rosary, we meditate or reflect on some mystery connected with the life of Jesus Christ or of His blessed Mother.
It is also useful, in using the prayers of our prayer- book, to read them slowly and deliberately, making in the meantime practical reflections on their contents, or pausing from time to time to meditate a little and apply the words of the prayers to our own wants. If we accustom ourselves to recite our vocal prayers in this way, we shall not only make them our own and pray well, but we shall also gradually acquire the habit of making mental prayer, which tends to unite us more closely to God, and, through the practical imitation of our divine Savior’s virtues, to render us conformable to Him.