Prayer: The Heart of the Matter

Think of mediation as a quest.

Meditation is above all a quest. The mind seeks to understand the why and how of the Christian life, in order to adhere and respond to what the Lord is asking. The required attentiveness is difficult to sustain. We are usually helped by books, and Christians do not want for them: the Sacred Scriptures, particularly the Gospels, holy icons, liturgical texts of the day or season, writings of the spiritual fathers, works of spirituality, the great book of creation, and that of history the page on which the "today" of God is written (CCC 2705).

It is in our heart's best interest to meditate using the kinds of texts and resources suggested by this last paragraph. Such resources hold a mirror to our own lives, and challenge us to take what they teach and make it our own.

The true aim of meditation leads us to Christ; it's all about Jesus.

There are as many and varied methods of meditation as there are spiritual masters. Christians owe it to themselves to develop the desire to meditate regularly . . . But a method is only a guide; the important thing is to advance, with the Holy Spirit, along the one way of prayer: Christ Jesus.

Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion, and desire...

Christian prayer tries above all to meditate on the mysteries of Christ, as in lectio divina [praying with scripture] or the rosary. This form of prayerful reflection is of great value, but Christian prayer should go further: to the knowledge of the love of the Lord Jesus, to union with him (CCC 2707 & 2708).

Meditating on spiritual reading helps us in "keeping the Word." If our meditation is advancing us toward Christ, then our ultimate quest is for union with Christ, and "dwelling in the presence of God."


On this side of heaven, we often experience a longing for union with God that can never be fully satisfied. But in holy contemplation, we get a glimpse of it. Just as Mass is a foretaste of the heavenly glory to come (CCC 1402-1405), as one grows closer to Christ, deeper and deeper forms of union in prayer exist.

Contemplation is a gift in prayer that plunges us deeper into the mystery of Christ's love for us. St. Teresa, again, teaches that "Contemplative prayer . . . is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us" (CCC 2709).

Note well all the references to the heart in the following excerpts from the Catechism (2709-2715):

Contemplative prayer seeks him "whom my soul loves" [Songs 1:7, cf. 3:14]. It is Jesus, and in him, the Father. We seek him, because to desire him is always the beginning of love . . . (CCC 2709).

The choice of the time and duration of the prayer arises from a determined will, revealing the secrets of the heart. One does not undertake contemplative prayer only when one has the time: one makes time for the Lord, with the firm determination not to give up, no matter what trials and dryness one may encounter... (CCC 2710).

Entering into contemplative prayer is like entering into the Eucharistic liturgy: we "gather up" the heart, recollect our whole being... abide in the dwelling place of the Lord... We let our masks fall and turn our hearts back to the Lord who loves us, so as to hand ourselves over to him as an offering to be purified and transformed (CCC 2711).

Contemplative prayer is a communion in which the Holy Trinity conforms man, the image of God, "to his likeness" (CCC 2713).

To read more, check out CCC 2697-2724.

In this Year of Faith, may God give us a new heart for prayer today.

This article was adapted and modified from an article originally appearing on Catholic Exchange in 2009. It is used with permission from the author.

12/2/2022 9:05:40 PM
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  • Pat Gohn
    About Pat Gohn
    Pat Gohn is a Catholic writer, speaker, and the host of the Among Women Podcast and blog. Her book Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood is published by Ave Maria Press.
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