Catholic Meditation Is Simple, Difficult, and Worthwhile

A couple of weeks ago, on a Tuesday, I was praying the rosary and meditated over the sorrowful mysteries, the first of which is Jesus’ agony in the garden.

What could I learn from the events in Gethsemane to develop a true relationship with Christ?

Meditating on the Agony of Christ

It was the first time in which I truly meditated on Jesus’ agony.

I’ve read and listened to that scripture passage, Mark 14, 32-42, many times but did not dig deeper. In past years, I’ve attended reenactments of our Lord’s passion, so in a sense I’ve watched the events “live”.

However, after many years I didn’t notice any changes; I was still the same person with the same vices.

And that’s a sign that what one is doing is not helping one grow in holiness.

There were times in which I would feel discouraged to continue the path towards virtue. I thought “what’s the point?” and even contemplated not going to Mass anymore. The main reasons I kept going were fear of going to hell and to not disappoint my earthly mother. So basically, to avoid a consequence and save face.

So I decided to be brutally honest with myself.

I had to admit that most things I did, like going to Mass, were out of habit, not love. I then realized that I expected God to do all the work, regarding building an authentic relationship with Him. It’s as if I wanted to become a saint with no work or sacrifices from my end.

His Love Will Open the Door to Your Heart

When I was part of a youth group, a member showed me a picture of Jesus standing outside a door. He said the door symbolized our hearts. Also, that Jesus knocks to ask us to let Him in.

The door had no knob on the outside. Only we can open our hearts to God, he won’t force himself in.

On the path to opening “the door of my heart” I acknowledge that I need to truly know God. If we don’t know who He is, then it’s hard to genuinely love Him. Going to Mass occasionally and praying inconsistently will be no use.

Meditating with The Lord

Which brings me back to meditation, which I’d associate to Eastern culture and had tried it before once or twice.

But after reading Devin’s post explaining how to meditate I decided to try it.

Before going to sleep I pray the rosary and meditate on the mysteries. Afterwards for ten minutes I meditate exclusively on the mystery that stood out to me the most. I decided to start meditating this way first, and then eventually move on to other methods, like using scripture.

I’ve mentioned our Lord’s agony because through meditating that mystery I questioned how I deal with suffering.

It is inevitable that we are going to suffer since we live in a very sinful world. It comes with the territory, but through it some people build strong characters and others the opposite.

Do we handle suffering as best as we can, or do our actions lead to more negativity?

For me it’s been mixed, at times I’ve handled negative situations well, and other times not so much. Looking back, some of my actions made the situations worse.

Realizing that we don’t have total control of what happens, or doesn’t, can make one feel weak and vulnerable. Our Lord’s apostles witnessed His power many times and could not imagine him going through any type of suffering.

Jesus’ Agony Is the Key

Jesus felt “sorrowful, even to death” in the garden and asked the disciples to “keep watch” (34). The disciples were not prepared for what was to come and had no sense of urgency.

Jesus went further along, “fell to the ground and prayed” to His father, our father (35). This was minutes before His arrest; He didn’t drink alcohol or overindulge in food to ease his worries.

Jesus acknowledged that “all things are possible” to God and asked that God’s will be done and not His own (36). Even though He knew that he would suffer greatly, for our salvation, He still chose to follow the Father’s will. Jesus knew that He would be beaten, insulted and crucified to save people who didn’t, and don’t, care about Him.

Meditating on the agony of our Lord made me realize that it’s important to offer my suffering to God.

In the past, during times of suffering I would do things to try and numb the pain. I’d listen to music, message friends, play video games and over-indulge in food just to “distract” myself.

I felt alone through the suffering because I wouldn’t turn to God and allow Him into my heart.

Sharing Our Suffering with God

Pain, in all its forms, is unpleasant and we often do everything within our reach to stop it.

Some people shop compulsively and enter unhealthy relationships to end their pain, which often leads to more negativity. Other people use several types of drugs, legal or illegal, which pushes them towards hopelessness.

It took me a while to accept the fact that God did not create me to fulfill my own desires. He brought us into this world for a specific reason; to complete a mission for His kingdom. If God had wanted to, he would’ve changed the original plan and Jesus would not have been crucified. However, we would still be slaves to sin without the sacrifice of the Lamb of God.

Our understanding about the events around us can be very limited. That’s why it’s important to include God in our lives, especially during difficult moments. He will comfort and reassure us to keep moving forward because He has a bigger plan. When the storm passes, a better version of ourselves will be revealed; more willing to answer God’s call to love.

God Gives Grace, And We Decide

Despite having positive experiences meditating I’ve struggled to do it daily.

Positive habits–aka virtues–are difficult to start and maintain, as opposed to negative ones (vices). However, we can start meditating consistently for a couple of days a week and eventually do it every day.

God desires to have a personal relationship with us, but we decide if that comes to fruition or not. I hope you make significant steps towards growing spiritually.

We must strive to remain in communication with our Heavenly Father, especially during moments of darkness. Following Jesus’ example, we won’t ask Him to take the pain away, but rather that His will be done.

This guest post is by Carlos Mendez

Carlos is originally from Mexico, but has lived in Texas for over 20 years. He enjoys spending time with his nieces and nephew, and reading about the Catholic Faith.

He got his degree in social work, and has worked with children, adolescents and adults.

What I Learned by Meditating During Lent

During Lent I practiced meditating for 10 minutes per day.

Here’s what I did and what I learned from it.

Meditation: What Is It?

Quite simply, meditation is a form of prayer where you focus your mind for a period of time on some attribute of God, Christ, His Church, etc.

For instance, you could spend 10 minutes meditating in silence on God’s goodness, or His omnipotence, or His omniscience, or Christ’s life on earth, His Passion, the marks of the Church, and so on.

It will be hard at first. You may only make it through five minutes. You may have to go into a completely quiet room or church to block out distractions. Your mind may jump around everywhere to worries, tasks you need to do, or fears, but you simply train it back to your topic of meditation.

This is not Eastern Mysticism, Buddhist meditation, centering prayer, or anything like that. It is an ancient Catholic practice of prayer.

Meditation: A Key to Growing in Holiness

Why meditate? One cannot become as holy as God wills without meditation. The saints all meditated (and ascended to higher levels of prayer). One cannot conquer venial sin without meditation, a claim I had never heard before!

Meditation is the gateway to deeper forms of prayer, but you can’t bypass it. Years ago I read books by St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila–two saints considered geniuses on prayer–but it was too deep for me. I couldn’t understand, practically, how to meditate and begin to penetrate into the inner levels of the Interior Castle.

How to meditate

Sit or kneel in silence for as long as you are able meditating on some truth of the Catholic Faith. Your goal should be 15 minutes of meditation. For me that means about 7 minutes in the morning and 8 in the evening, but I’m working up to more.

  1. Prepare: Place yourself in God’s presence and pray for the grace to pray.
  2. Begin the meditation:
    1. Reflect on particular subject, some truth of God or the Faith (more on this later).
    2. Affections like sorrow for sin, hope in God, and love arise in your heart from considering the subject of your meditation.
    3. Offer petitions in your heart to God: for people in your life, for yourself, your family, your enemies, for the Church, and so on.
    4. Resolve to conquer your main vice or grow in a needed virtue.
  3. Conclusion: Thank God for the graces He gave you

For beginners like me, ten to fifteen minutes of meditation per day is all I can handle. Some of the saints were known to meditate for hours at a time—a feat I don’t suggest you attempt immediately.

What I Learned From Meditating During Lent

Meditating was hard. 

I got distracted every time. Sometimes I did a good job quickly bringing my mind and heart back to the meditation, othertimes I got wrapped up in worries about my family, work, children, and so on.

But God also sent bursts of grace: moments of deep peace, quietness, His gentle presence.

The main learning was: by showing up each day to meditate, I show God I want to be a saint. 

I want to spend time with Him. Just showing up and trying is a big part of the battle of prayer. And I trust He will bless the effort with grace. Without grace, it is impossible to meditate or grow in holiness. But God promises His grace to us, so we can have child-like confidence and simply ask Him for this grace to meditate.

I didn’t stop meditating once Lent ended. Instead, I’ve continued meditating each day (well, most days), and plan to keep it going.

My recommendation: begin meditating today!