Are Catholics Allowed To Meditate?
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Countless pop psychology articles promoting the benefits of mindfulness and meditation have most likely filled your newsfeed over the last few months, but can Catholics participate in these practices? Is this New Age spirituality?
Not only can Catholics practice meditation, but they are strongly encouraged to engage in this type of mental prayer. The Catechism of the Catholic Church emphasizes three forms of prayer - vocal prayer, meditation, and contemplative prayer. In regards to meditation, the CCC 2708 says, "Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion, and desire. This mobilization of faculties is necessary in order to deepen our convictions of faith, prompt the conversion of our heart, and strengthen our will to follow Christ."
For the Catholic, meditation is definitely not a new trend. In fact, this ancient form of prayer has been used for centuries by the saints in order to attain a greater understanding of the mysteries of God. St. Alphonsus, St. Francis de Sales, and St. Teresa of Avila are just a few of the saints who wrote about the importance of meditation as a part of the Christian life.
Of course, not all resources that address practicing meditation are in line with Catholic teaching and Christians should be discerning when it comes to what sort of meditation they are engaging in. Yet, it is clear that meditation is not always a "New Age" trend and can help deepen one's spiritual life.
In this brief video, Fr.Bartunek, online retreat director of rcspirituality.org and author of several books on Christian prayer and meditation, explains the "4 C's of Christian Meditation" that all methods have in common. He shares some practical tips to help those just beginning to use meditation as a form of prayer, as well as deeper insights for those who may be more experienced in meditation.
The first C that Fr. Bartunek presents is to Concentrate. The ability to give the Lord one's full attention is an essential element of engaging in mental prayer. Creating a dedicated space for prayer and setting aside a specific time each day are a few practical suggestions given in the video that will allow for deeper concentration during Christian meditation.
How much time should be spent in meditation? Fr. Bartunek says, "Each day you should reserve some time - 5, 10, or 15 minutes can be a good start - to spend in quiet, heart-to-heart conversation with Christ."
Consider is the second C that Fr.Bartunek explains. He describes this as the ability to listen to how God speaks through His Word, the Catechism, or another spiritual book. Slowly reading and re-reading is a necessary step in discerning the message God wants to share. Be sure to spend ample time in this stage of meditation, rather than rushing through to complete it.
The next step in the Christian meditation process is to Converse. Conversing occurs naturally when God reveals His truths through His Word and one desires to respond to what has been discovered. Fr. Bartunek tells us, "We may be moved to thank God, to praise Him, to tell Him we're sorry for sins, to ask Him for a grace." Much of the time spent in mediation will most likely be at this stage of prayer.
Finally, we enter into the fourth C, which is to Commit. During this stage of meditation, a recommitment to the love of Christ and desire to do God's will is what inspires one to go forth and implement the truths revealed in mediation throughout the day.
In the video, Fr. Bartunek further expands upon each of the C's and provides a better understanding of how to meditate in a way that draws one deeper into union with God. As Fr. Bartunek models what it looks like to pray using meditation, one begins to see that this is not a difficult spiritual method reserved only for the saints and great theologians. Meditation is beneficial no matter what stage of the spiritual journey a person is at and all can implement this type of prayer into the spiritual life.
Both Catholic Tradition and current teachers in the Church like Fr. Bartunek demonstrate that meditation can be an aid in one's daily prayer. It not only brings about the "mindfulness" and peace that secular meditation promises, but draws us closer and closer into a relationship with Christ, who is the true source of peace.
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