Saint Vincent himself instructs us: ” In closing, let’s thank God for the lights and graces He has granted us during meditation, and for the resolutions He has inspired us to take; let’s also ask Him for His help so that we may be able to put into execution as soon as possible whatever we have proposed to ourselves to do. “(CCD:XI:361).
In this last moment of Mental Prayer, we are invited to dive deeper into God and feel the divine life pulsating within us. True experience of contemplation, generator of commitment and hope.
Meditation aims at an experience of contemplation, the fruit of the encounter between the grateful love of God and the thirsty and trusting openness of prayer. In contemplation, the person simply savors the presence of God, abandons himself completely in his hands, flies free and happy in the breadth of the Mystery that surrounds him. And the mature fruit of that experience is the ability to see people, the world, and yourself with the eyes of God. In the end, as Pope Francis recalls: “Here we see that intercessory prayer does not divert us from true contemplation, since authentic contemplation always has a place for others.” (EG 281). And he adds: “When evangelizers rise from prayer, their hearts are more open; freed of self-absorption, they are desirous of doing good and sharing their lives with others.” (EG 282).
In the perspective of Saint Vincent, a true mystic, contemplation is presented as a gift from God and, at the same time, as a result of a mature spiritual life. This is how he defines the experience of contemplation, in the context of one of the Daughters of Charity, the same as that of May 31, 1648: “In this the soul, in the presence of God, does nothing but receive what He gives. It doesn’t act and, with no effort on the part of the soul, God himself inspires it with everything it may be seeking, and much more. Haven’t you ever experienced this sort of prayer, dear Sisters? I’m sure you’ve done so very often in your retreats, when you’ve been amazed that, with no contribution on your part, God himself filled your mind and imprinted on it knowledge that you never had.” (CCD:IX:330). The naturalness with which Vincent spoke of contemplation is an unequivocal sign that he himself was having that experience (cf. CCD:IX:9, 330s; CCD:XIIIa:160). The intuitions and the prayers that arose spontaneously in his talks are indications of this reality (cf. CCD:IX:336; XI:321). In explaining the first chapter of the Common Rules to the members of the Congregation of the Mission, on October 13, 1658, the founder reflects: “Oh, if we only had a vision incisive enough to penetrate a little into the infinity of His excellence, O my God, what lofty sentiments we’d take away from it, brothers! Like Saint Paul, we’d say that eyes have never seen, nor ears heard, nor the mind understood anything like it. God is an abyss of gentleness, a sovereign, eternally glorious being, an infinite good that embraces all good” (CCD:XII:94-95).
– Thank God for the prayer.
Savoring the presence of God who spoke to our hearts and inspired us with resolutions and purposes, let us tell him of our joy and gratitude for the possibility of experiencing Him present and active in our personal, family and community life, as well as in the events of history. It is convenient, therefore, to conclude the journey of the PM by addressing ourselves directly to the one who spoke to our hearts and created new dispositions within us, granting us his enlightenment and thanks.
Commenting on the Rules of the Daughters of Charity, at the conference of October 13, 1658, founder: “You’ve seen the beauty of virtue, and have taken your resolutions. You still have to thank God for the grace He has given you of making your prayer, Sisters, which is the greatest grace God can give to Christians, and therefore to Daughters of Charity. What greater favor could Our Lord give a soul than to allow it to speak to and communicate intimately with Him? So, it’s very reasonable to thank God after having made this prayer. And who gave you the grace to make it? Wasn’t it God? You must, then, thank Him warmly for it. And those who pray without thanking God for having banished the darkness from their mind, enlightened them to see the beauty of virtue, and kindled their will to practice it, lack a very necessary element for making their prayer properly.” (CCD:X:460).
– Review the resolution.
Let the assumed resolution pass into the memory of the heart. It would not be wise to multiply resolutions or unfold a resolution into many particulars. On the contrary, it is worth summarizing it in order to facilitate memorization and implementation. Let us not forget, it is most important to take only one resolution at a time.
The Vincentian tradition provides for the exercise of the Particular Examination, usually done around noon (see CCD:X:485-486). Before God, briefly, the person takes up the resolution born of meditation, in order to expand desire and stimulate creativity. At night, before going to bed, the General Examination should be done, in the perspective of a life review to prepare for conversion, persevere in good and avoid evil. Saint Vincent did not fail to explain the meaning of this exercise, speaking to the Daughters of Charity, at the conference of August 16, 1641: “And as for your examination, be faithful. Know that it must be done on the resolution taken in the morning prayer. Thank God if, by his grace, you have practiced your resolution or ask forgiveness if, due to negligence, you have failed “(CCD:IX:36-37).
Saint Vincent spoke of two forms of Examination: “The first by seeing whether you’ve been faithful to the resolutions made at morning prayer (…) For example, there’s a virtue I need (…) Or it may be made in another way, which is to try to discover the particular failing to which you’re most inclined in order to correct it.” (CCD:X:485). It concludes, citing an example to encourage not only mortification, but also the practice of virtue contrary to vice, which must be corrected: “‘What did I resolve to do this morning at meditation?’ If, for example, it was to mortify impatience, for example, you’ll say, I’m in the habit of being impatient with my Sister; how did I act?’ And if you see that you’ve practiced patience when the occasion arose to be annoyed and you weren’t, thank God; if not, then beg for forgiveness and impose a penance on yourself. For you see, it’s impossible to correct a vice properly if you’re not exact in that.”(CCD:X:486).
– Offer God the resolution.
As without God we are nothing, we can do nothing, we do not want to do anything, we close the journey of the PM, asking the Lord to help us bring to fruition all that we assume in his presence. “After that, dear Sisters, offer your resolutions to God; give Him back what you just received from His Goodness. (…) We have a great need to put our resolutions into practice, which we can’t do without the grace of God, (CCD:X:460).
The holy founder will also say, inviting his Sisters to cooperate with the grace of God: “But, Sisters, all our resolutions are nothing without grace. That’s why we really have to ask God to give us strength and set to work courageously.” (CCD:IX:12).
Saint Vincent himself taught the Sisters a prayer that is very conducive to this final moment, as it corresponds perfectly to the spirit of PM: “’Yes, my God, I’m determined to begin to practice those good things you taught us. I know I’m weak, but with Your grace I can do all things, and I feel confident that You’ll help me. I implore you by the love that prompts You to teach us Your holy Will, and I beg you to give us the strength and courage to live them.’ (CCD:IX:10).
The repetition or sharing of prayer, so strongly recommended by Saint Vincent to the Missionaries and the Daughters of Charity (cf. CCD:IX:304-305).
P. Vinicius Teixeira Ribeiro, CM
Province of Rio