General Instructions on Prayer

September 29, 2021 • 4 min

From Introduction to the Devout Life, page 47
By St. Francis de Sales

Employ an hour every day before dinner in this spiritual exercise, or, if convenient, early in the morning, when your mind will be less distracted and more fresh, after the repose of the night: but see that you extend it not beyond an hour, except with the advice of your spiritual director.

If you could perform this exercise in the church, it would be the best and most convenient place possible; because neither father nor mother, wife nor husband, nor any other person whatsoever, could well prevent you from staying one hour in the church: whereas, being perhaps under subjection, you could not promise yourself so much leisure at home.

Begin all your prayers, whether mental or vocal, by placing yourself in the presence of God. By attending strictly to this rule, you will soon become sensible of its salutary effects.

Would you be advised by me, Philothea, say your Pater, Ave, and Credo in Latin; but, at the same time, learn perfectly to comprehend the meaning of the words in your own native tongue, so that whilst you unite with the faithful in prayer, in the language of the Church, you may, at the same time, relish the delicious sense of those holy and admirable prayers.

Pray with your attention fixed, and your affections excited by what the words signify; pray deliberately, and from your heart; for, believe me, one Our Father said with feeling and affection is of infinitely more value than ever so many repetitions of it run over in haste.

The Rosary is a most profitable way of praying, provided you know how to say it properly: to this end, procure one of those little books which teach the way of reciting it. It is good also to say the Litanies of our Lord Jesus, of Our Lady, and of the Saints, and of such other vocal prayers as may be found in approved manuals of devotion; yet with this caution, that if you have the gift of mental prayer you should always give it the preference. So that if, either through pressure of business, or some other cause, you cannot say your vocal prayers, you must not be troubled on that account, but rest contented with saying, either before or after your meditation, the Pater, Ave, and Credo.

If whilst at vocal prayer you feel your heart inclined to mental prayer, do not refuse the invitation, but let your mind turn gently to it, without being concerned at not finishing the vocal prayers you purposed to say; for the choice you have made is more pleasing to God and more profitable to your soul; with this exception, however, that if you are bound to say the Office of the Church you must fulfil your obligation.

Should it happen that, through pressure of business or some accidental cause, your morning should pass away without allowing you leisure for the exercise of mental prayer, endeavour to repair that loss some time after dinner, as much after it as possible, because by doing it immediately after, before digestion is advanċed, besides being heavy and drowsy, your health would be prejudiced thereby.

But if, during the course of the day, you should find no leisure for this heavenly exercise, you may in some measure make amends, by multiplying your ejaculatory prayers, reading some book of devotion, or by performing some penance, which may prevent the ill consequences of this omission, making the firm resolution to repair your loss the day following.

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