Practical steps to make a good Ignatian Meditation or Contemplation

St. Ignatius Loyola in prayer

1.    Beg for the gift of prayer. Like the Apostles who said to Jesus, “Lord teach us how to pray….This should be our attitude. As Augustine says, “We are all beggars before God…”

2.    Place yourself in the Presence of God. Imagine that God is looking at you with tender love.   If we are aware of somebody’s presence then we pay more attention to him.

3.    PLACE:  In front of The BLESSED SACRAMENT would be the ideal place.
Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament

4.     In any case,  a place where there is quiet.   Silence is very important.  The example of Elijah and his mountain experience. God spoke to him not in the noise, but in the silent breeze.

5.    Prayer place/oratory.  Make proper use of the images to help you to pray.

6.    MARY.  Let us dedicate these Exercises to Mary who is our model. Two times in the Gospel of Luke--- the Gospel on prayer and the Gospel of the Holy Spirit—we find Mary pondering/meditating in her heart: in the visitation of the Shepherds and the when the Holy  Child was lost  and found after three days’ search.
Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament

7.    HOLY SPIRIT.  He is the Interior Master and can help us to pray. (Remember, Romans 8) He intercedes with ineffable groans.

8.    “SPEAK O LORD FOR YOUR SERVANT IS LISTENING.”  (Samuel in the temple).

9.    READ!  But remember that you  are not reading a “Normal” book, but the Bible that is truly “The Word of God.”  (1ST   Step in Ignatian method is the use of the Memory).

10.THINK/Ponder/Reflect.   CCC (The Catechism of the Catholic Church) says that prayer can be compared to the wrestling match between Jacob and the angel who wrestled the whole night. Indeed at times it can be a real struggle. (2nd   Ignatian step is Understanding) Take into account the following questions. Who is present in the scene?  Where is he? What is he doing? Why?  What is the meaning of this happening? When is this happening?  How does this affect me?  In other words the who, what where, when, why, and how of the scene.  Remember that the Word of God is like a two edged sword that can cut marrow from bone. It is active today as it was 2000 years ago.   All of this is done not as an academic exercise but as a means to entering into union with God.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary
11. AFFECTIONS OF THE HEART.  (3rd  Ignatian step, the use of the Will). Now we have arrived at the heart of meditation and it is the movement of the heart. Once the will/heart has been sparked by some thought then we have arrived at the essence of prayer. What might be some example of affections of the heart? Here they are: love, thanksgiving, gratitude, praise, worship, wonder or awe, contrition and sorrow, trust and confidence, desire to offer oneself as an oblation, petition and supplication, fears and securities to be brought to the Lord, anger, past wounds, confusion and doubts, questions (like Job), resting in the Lord (Come to me all you who labor, Mt 11:28-30)), proposals to change, yearning for God (Like the deer that yearns for the running streams, so my soul longs for you , O Lord…)

12.DISTRACTIONS   are par for the course. However, pay attention to them because the CCC states that often our distractions are a manifestation of a disordered affection and attachment that we might have and God wants us to resolve or even sever it.
Can you identify with this man in deep prayer?
13.RETURN.   It is totally in keeping with prayer to return to the well—that is to revisit the Biblical passage. At times it might seem as if the well is dry.  Fishing. You might even compare mental prayer to fishing. At times it seems as if no fish are in the pond or they might be asleep or avoiding the line. Then zoom! The bait is eaten and the catch.  God at times seems to hide Himself so that we search His face all the more ardently.

14. DRYNESS/ARIDITY.   It could be that in prayer your soul is going through a process of purification called aridity. This might be called a “Desert-experience”. If one has no spiritual direction, the neophyte might be deluded into believing that he is not praying but wasting time. On the contrary, God is purifying his heart. The love is becoming all the more pure.  Remember the words of St. John of the Cross:  “Seek the God of consolations and not the consolations of God.”  This great Mystical Doctor warns us of the danger of “Spiritual Gluttony”--- going to prayer only to feel good and receive sensible delights.  Married people cannot always be on a perpetual honeymoon! Reality sets in quick in the married life as well as in the mystical life.
Desert experience in prayer. Aridity in prayer can purify our hearts.
15.PERSEVERANCE.   A key note in success in prayer as well as in the lives of the saints is the capital importance of perseverance. Jesus praises the insistent widow who hounded the unbelieving judge simply because she did not give up. Likewise, we should never give up in our pursuit of God in prayer. The woman Doctor of the Church, St. Teresa of Avila, reminds us of this with these poignant words:  “We must have a determined determination to never give up prayer.”  Athletes are trained to fight until the end; so athletes of Christ engaged in the Spiritual Exercises should fight and persevere until the end of life, well- aware of the crown of glory that awaits the winner in heaven!
Film Chariots of Fire. Persevere till the end!
16. HOLY HOUR: THE HOUR OF POWER.    Words of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. This great “Servant of God” was faithful to his prayer--- his daily Holy Hour—for more than fifty years as priest and many as a Bishop. Despite his busy and hectic schedule he would always find time for his prayer that he called, “The hour of power!”

17. COLLOQUY.   This is a heart to heart conversation with God. (Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman) One should always close with this conversation with the Lord. However, one colloquy or many colloquies can be present during the period of prayer. St. Teresa of Avila calls prayer as simply spending a long time in silence with the Friend I know loves me! Great! Friendship with God!

18.TRIPLE COLLOQUY.  Jesus said to St. Faustina that God communicates with every soul in a different way. Like a snowflake or fingerprints everybody has to learn his own prayer style. St. Ignatius invites us to a Triple colloquy. Converse with Mary then end with the Hail Mary; then with Jesus and pray the Anima Christi; finally converse with the heavenly Father and end with the Our Father.
Triple Colloquy with Jesus, Mary, and Saint Joseph
19.REVISION.  This is a very important step in Ignatian meditation. It consists in a review of what happened during the course of the meditation, specifically, reviewing how God spoke to you. Being aware of this and noting this can be of great service to be aware of the different ways that God communicates to you individually.

St. Max Kolbe and the double crown of purity and martyrdom
20.MARY!   According to St. Louis de Montfort she is the quickest, easiest and the most efficacious path to Jesus. All to Jesus through Mary. Let us consecrate our prayer time to Mary, the Mother of God, the Mother of the Church, and our Mother.