The Goal Of Prayer

sanctus
#1
22 March 1615
St. Francis de Sales

Sermon for the Third Sunday of Lent, given on March 22, 1615, concerning
the usefulness and necessity of prayer, the operations of the
understanding, meditation, petitions, contemplation, and the goal of
prayer.
St. Bernard--whose memory is dear to those who have to speak on prayer--in
writing to a bishop, advised him that all that was necessary for him was to
speak well (meaning to instruct, to discourse); then to do well in giving
good example; and finally, to devote himself to prayer. And we, addressing
this to all Christians, shall dwell upon the third point, which is prayer.
First, let us remark in passing that, although we condemn certain heretics
of our time who hold that prayer is useless, we nevertheless do not hold
with other heretics that it alone suffices for our justification. We say
simply that it is so useful and necessary that without it we could not come
to any good, seeing that by means of prayer we are shown how to perform all
our actions well. I have therefore consented to the desire which urges me
to speak of prayer, even though it is not my intention to explain every
aspect of it because we learn it more by experience than by being taught.
Moreover, it matters little to know the kind of prayer. Actually, I would
prefer that you never ask the name or the kind of prayer you are
experiencing because, as St. Antony says, that prayer is imperfect in which
one is aware that one is praying. Also, prayer which one makes without
knowing how one is doing it, and without reflecting on what one is asking
for, shows clearly that such a soul is very much occupied with God and
that, consequently, this prayer is excellent.
We shall treat, then, on the following four Sundays, of the final cause of
prayer; of its efficient cause; of that which properly should not be called
the "material cause," but rather the "object" of prayer; and of the
effective cause of prayer itself. For now, I shall speak only of its final
cause. But before entering upon the subject of prayer, I must say three or
four little things that it is well to know.
Four operations pertain to our understanding: simple thought, study,
meditation, and contemplation. Simple thought occurs when we go running
over a great number of things, without any aim, as do flies that rest upon
flowers, not seeking to extract any juice from them, but resting there only
because they happen upon them. So it is with our understanding, passing
from one thought to another. Even if these thoughts be of God, if they have
no aim, far from being profitable, they are useless and detrimental and are
a great obstacle to prayer.
Another operation of our understanding is study, and this takes place when
we consider things only to know them, to understand them thoroughly or to
be able to speak correctly of them, without having any other object than to
fill our memory. In this we resemble beetles which settle upon the roses
for no other end than to fill their stomachs and satiate themselves. Now,
of these two operations of our understanding we shall speak no more,
because they are not to our purpose.
Let us come to meditation. To know what meditation is, it is necessary to
understand the words of King Hezekiah when the sentence of death was
pronounced upon him, which was afterward revoked on account of his
repentance. "I utter shrill cries," he said, "like a swallow," and "I moan
like a dove,"' in the height of my sorrow. [Cf. Is. 38:14]. He meant to
say: When the young swallow is all alone and its mother has gone in search
of the herb called "celandine" in order to help it recover its sight, it
cries, it pips, since it does not feel its mother near and because it does
not see at all. So I, having lost my mother, which is grace, and seeing no
one come to my aid, "I utter shrill cries." But he adds, "I moan like a
dove." We must know that all birds are accustomed to open their beaks when
they sing or chirp, except the dove, who makes her little song or cooing
sound whilst holding her breath and it is through the movement up and down
which she makes of it, without letting it escape, that she produces her
song. In like manner, meditation is made when we fix our understanding on a
mystery from which we mean to draw good affections, for if we did not have
this intention it would no longer be meditation, but study. Meditation is
made, then, to move the affections, and particularly that of love. Indeed,
meditation is the mother of the love of God and contemplation is the
daughter of the love of God.
But between meditation and contemplation there is the petition which is
made when, after having considered the goodness of Our Lord, His infinite
love, His omnipotence, we become confident enough to ask for and entreat
Him to give us what we desire. Now there are three kinds of petition, each
of which is made differently: The first is made by justice, the second is
made by authority, and the third is made by grace.
The petition which is made by justice cannot be called "prayer," although
we use this word, because in a petition of justice we ask for a thing which
is due to us. A petition which is made by authority ought not be called
"prayer" either; for as soon as someone who has great authority over
us--such as a parent, a lord or a master--uses the word "please,"2 we say
immediately to him, "You can command," or "Your 'please' serves as my
command." But true prayer is that which is made by grace, i.e., when we ask
for something which is not due to us at all, and when we ask it of someone
who is far superior to us, as God is.
The fourth operation of our understanding is contemplation, which is
nothing other than taking delight in the goodness of Him whom we have
learned to know in meditation and whom we have learned to love by means of
this knowledge. This delight will be our happiness in Heaven above.
We must now speak of the final cause [that is, the goal] of prayer. We
ought to know in the first place that all things have been created for
prayer, and that when God created angels and men, He did so that they might
praise Him eternally in Heaven above, even though this is the last thing
that we shall do--if that can be called "last" which is eternal. To
understand this better we will say this: When we wish to make something we
always look first to the end [or purpose], rather than to the work itself.
For example, if we are to build a church and we are asked why we are
building it, we will respond that it is so that we can retire there and
sing the praises of God; nevertheless, this will be the last thing that we
shall do. Another example: If you enter the apartment of a prince, you will
see there an aviary of several little birds which are in a brightly colored
and highly embellished cage. And if you want to know the end for which they
have been placed there, it is to give pleasure to their master. If you look
into another place, you will see there sparrow hawks, falcons and such
birds of prey which have been hooded; these latter are for catching the
partridge and other birds to delicately nourish the prince. But God, who is
in no way carnivorous, does not keep birds of prey, but only the little
birds which are enclosed in the aviary and destined to please Him. These
little birds represent monks and nuns who have voluntarily enclosed
themselves in monasteries that they may chant the praises of their God. So
their principal exercise ought to be prayer and obedience to that saying
which Our Lord gives in the Gospel: "Pray always." [Lk. 18:1].
The early Christians who had been trained by St. Mark the Evangelist were
so assiduous in prayer that many of the ancient Fathers called them
"suppliants," and others named them "physicians," because by means of
prayer they found the remedy for all their ills. They also named them
"monks," because they were so united; indeed, the name "monk" means
"single." Pagan philosophers said that man is an uprooted tree, from which
we can conclude how necessary prayer is for man, since if a tree does not
have sufficient earth to cover its roots it cannot live; neither can a man
live who does not give special attention to heavenly things. Now prayer,
according to most of the Fathers, is nothing other than a raising of the
mind to heavenly things; others say that it is a petition; but the two
opinions are not at all opposed, for while raising our mind to God, we can
ask Him for what seems necessary.
The principal petition which we ought to make to God is that of union of
our wills with His, and the final cause of prayer lies in desiring only
God. Accordingly, all perfection is contained therein, as Brother Giles,
the companion of St. Francis [of Assisi], said when a certain person asked
him what he could do in order to be perfect very soon. "Give," he replied,
"one to One." That is to say, you have only one soul, and there is only one
God; give your soul to Him and He will give Himself to you. The final cause
of prayer, then, ought not to be to desire those tendernesses and
consolations which Our Lord sometimes gives, since union does not consist
in that, but rather in conforming to the will of God.
NOTES
1. The old French for "I moan" is "mediteray," which St. Francis de Sales
is using as a pun for "meditate." 2. Francis de Sales is capitalizing on
the fact that in the French language "please," "pray" and "prayer" are
related.
 
talloola
#2
Quote: Originally Posted by sanctusView Post

22 March 1615
St. Francis de Sales

Sermon for the Third Sunday of Lent, given on March 22, 1615, concerning
the usefulness and necessity of prayer, the operations of the
understanding, meditation, petitions, contemplation, and the goal of
prayer.
St. Bernard--whose memory is dear to those who have to speak on prayer--in
writing to a bishop, advised him that all that was necessary for him was to
speak well (meaning to instruct, to discourse); then to do well in giving
good example; and finally, to devote himself to prayer. And we, addressing
this to all Christians, shall dwell upon the third point, which is prayer.
First, let us remark in passing that, although we condemn certain heretics
of our time who hold that prayer is useless, we nevertheless do not hold
with other heretics that it alone suffices for our justification. We say
simply that it is so useful and necessary that without it we could not come
to any good, seeing that by means of prayer we are shown how to perform all
our actions well. I have therefore consented to the desire which urges me
to speak of prayer, even though it is not my intention to explain every
aspect of it because we learn it more by experience than by being taught.
Moreover, it matters little to know the kind of prayer. Actually, I would
prefer that you never ask the name or the kind of prayer you are
experiencing because, as St. Antony says, that prayer is imperfect in which
one is aware that one is praying. Also, prayer which one makes without
knowing how one is doing it, and without reflecting on what one is asking
for, shows clearly that such a soul is very much occupied with God and
that, consequently, this prayer is excellent.
We shall treat, then, on the following four Sundays, of the final cause of
prayer; of its efficient cause; of that which properly should not be called
the "material cause," but rather the "object" of prayer; and of the
effective cause of prayer itself. For now, I shall speak only of its final
cause. But before entering upon the subject of prayer, I must say three or
four little things that it is well to know.
Four operations pertain to our understanding: simple thought, study,
meditation, and contemplation. Simple thought occurs when we go running
over a great number of things, without any aim, as do flies that rest upon
flowers, not seeking to extract any juice from them, but resting there only
because they happen upon them. So it is with our understanding, passing
from one thought to another. Even if these thoughts be of God, if they have
no aim, far from being profitable, they are useless and detrimental and are
a great obstacle to prayer.
Another operation of our understanding is study, and this takes place when
we consider things only to know them, to understand them thoroughly or to
be able to speak correctly of them, without having any other object than to
fill our memory. In this we resemble beetles which settle upon the roses
for no other end than to fill their stomachs and satiate themselves. Now,
of these two operations of our understanding we shall speak no more,
because they are not to our purpose.
Let us come to meditation. To know what meditation is, it is necessary to
understand the words of King Hezekiah when the sentence of death was
pronounced upon him, which was afterward revoked on account of his
repentance. "I utter shrill cries," he said, "like a swallow," and "I moan
like a dove,"' in the height of my sorrow. [Cf. Is. 38:14]. He meant to
say: When the young swallow is all alone and its mother has gone in search
of the herb called "celandine" in order to help it recover its sight, it
cries, it pips, since it does not feel its mother near and because it does
not see at all. So I, having lost my mother, which is grace, and seeing no
one come to my aid, "I utter shrill cries." But he adds, "I moan like a
dove." We must know that all birds are accustomed to open their beaks when
they sing or chirp, except the dove, who makes her little song or cooing
sound whilst holding her breath and it is through the movement up and down
which she makes of it, without letting it escape, that she produces her
song. In like manner, meditation is made when we fix our understanding on a
mystery from which we mean to draw good affections, for if we did not have
this intention it would no longer be meditation, but study. Meditation is
made, then, to move the affections, and particularly that of love. Indeed,
meditation is the mother of the love of God and contemplation is the
daughter of the love of God.
But between meditation and contemplation there is the petition which is
made when, after having considered the goodness of Our Lord, His infinite
love, His omnipotence, we become confident enough to ask for and entreat
Him to give us what we desire. Now there are three kinds of petition, each
of which is made differently: The first is made by justice, the second is
made by authority, and the third is made by grace.
The petition which is made by justice cannot be called "prayer," although
we use this word, because in a petition of justice we ask for a thing which
is due to us. A petition which is made by authority ought not be called
"prayer" either; for as soon as someone who has great authority over
us--such as a parent, a lord or a master--uses the word "please,"2 we say
immediately to him, "You can command," or "Your 'please' serves as my
command." But true prayer is that which is made by grace, i.e., when we ask
for something which is not due to us at all, and when we ask it of someone
who is far superior to us, as God is.
The fourth operation of our understanding is contemplation, which is
nothing other than taking delight in the goodness of Him whom we have
learned to know in meditation and whom we have learned to love by means of
this knowledge. This delight will be our happiness in Heaven above.
We must now speak of the final cause [that is, the goal] of prayer. We
ought to know in the first place that all things have been created for
prayer, and that when God created angels and men, He did so that they might
praise Him eternally in Heaven above, even though this is the last thing
that we shall do--if that can be called "last" which is eternal. To
understand this better we will say this: When we wish to make something we
always look first to the end [or purpose], rather than to the work itself.
For example, if we are to build a church and we are asked why we are
building it, we will respond that it is so that we can retire there and
sing the praises of God; nevertheless, this will be the last thing that we
shall do. Another example: If you enter the apartment of a prince, you will
see there an aviary of several little birds which are in a brightly colored
and highly embellished cage. And if you want to know the end for which they
have been placed there, it is to give pleasure to their master. If you look
into another place, you will see there sparrow hawks, falcons and such
birds of prey which have been hooded; these latter are for catching the
partridge and other birds to delicately nourish the prince. But God, who is
in no way carnivorous, does not keep birds of prey, but only the little
birds which are enclosed in the aviary and destined to please Him. These
little birds represent monks and nuns who have voluntarily enclosed
themselves in monasteries that they may chant the praises of their God. So
their principal exercise ought to be prayer and obedience to that saying
which Our Lord gives in the Gospel: "Pray always." [Lk. 18:1].
The early Christians who had been trained by St. Mark the Evangelist were
so assiduous in prayer that many of the ancient Fathers called them
"suppliants," and others named them "physicians," because by means of
prayer they found the remedy for all their ills. They also named them
"monks," because they were so united; indeed, the name "monk" means
"single." Pagan philosophers said that man is an uprooted tree, from which
we can conclude how necessary prayer is for man, since if a tree does not
have sufficient earth to cover its roots it cannot live; neither can a man
live who does not give special attention to heavenly things. Now prayer,
according to most of the Fathers, is nothing other than a raising of the
mind to heavenly things; others say that it is a petition; but the two
opinions are not at all opposed, for while raising our mind to God, we can
ask Him for what seems necessary.
The principal petition which we ought to make to God is that of union of
our wills with His, and the final cause of prayer lies in desiring only
God. Accordingly, all perfection is contained therein, as Brother Giles,
the companion of St. Francis [of Assisi], said when a certain person asked
him what he could do in order to be perfect very soon. "Give," he replied,
"one to One." That is to say, you have only one soul, and there is only one
God; give your soul to Him and He will give Himself to you. The final cause
of prayer, then, ought not to be to desire those tendernesses and
consolations which Our Lord sometimes gives, since union does not consist
in that, but rather in conforming to the will of God.
NOTES
1. The old French for "I moan" is "mediteray," which St. Francis de Sales
is using as a pun for "meditate." 2. Francis de Sales is capitalizing on
the fact that in the French language "please," "pray" and "prayer" are
related.


hmmmmmmmm- yawn
 
sanctus
#3
Quote: Originally Posted by talloolaView Post

hmmmmmmmm- yawn


you're not required to read posts that do not interest you.
 
selfactivated
#4
yes but she DID read it and she gave HER oppinion.
 
sanctus
#5
Quote: Originally Posted by selfactivatedView Post

yes but she DID read it and she gave HER oppinion.


Clearly she gave her opinion, how do you know she read it? And even so, it is an interesting thing to me that people here will complain about Church related or Christian related material posted in the appropriate section for such material. For example, I have no interest what-so-ever in most sports topics or in most topics involving the United States. Thus, I don't read most articles in those sections of CC. Yet people with animosity towards the Church or anti-Christian beliefs will willingly read material posted under the sub-heading of "Christian Discussion" and than feign annoyance or anger at the material they find under that heading. Most odd.

Logically, if one renounces Christian faith, one would seemingly avoid Christian posts.Instead, some people here seem to see each Christian related post as an invitation to attack either the faith or the Church.
 
selfactivated
#6
I get it......your only intrested in YOUR opinion.
 
sanctus
#7
Quote: Originally Posted by selfactivatedView Post

I get it......your only intrested in YOUR opinion.


That is not what I wrote. Frankly, you haven't a clue WHAT I am interested in. But as to this, or any other Christian related post, what I AM INTERESTED in is intelligent discussion on those topics, not anti-church rhetoric and assumptions.

And to reiterate my main point, why in all that makes sense would anybody want to read material of a subject they supposedly are not interested in?
 
selfactivated
#8
Quote:

And to reiterate my main point, why in all that makes sense would anybody want to read material of a subject they supposedly are not interested in?

Because she was INTRESTED! and she gave HER opinion.......which YOU dismissed. You dont want a conversation you want a monolouge......no you want to preach. I only looked because I was interested in HER opinion.
 
sanctus
#9
Quote: Originally Posted by selfactivatedView Post

Because she was INTRESTED! and she gave HER opinion.......which YOU dismissed. You dont want a conversation you want a monolouge......no you want to preach. I only looked because I was interested in HER opinion.


You assume to know the intention of others. Since the shared piece was not mine, it is hardly "preaching". It was an interesting sermon from one of the leading doctor's of the Church that I thought some Christians might be interested in reading. To be honest with you, I could care less what non-Christians think of Christian material shared on the internet.

The only point I am making is that it seems odd to me that anyone would willingly choose to read material they claim they are not interested in. Don't make a bigger deal of this than it actually is!
 
sanctus
#10
Quote: Originally Posted by selfactivatedView Post

Because she was INTRESTED! and she gave HER opinion.......which YOU dismissed. .


There was nothing for me to dismiss.."hmmmmm...yawn.." is hardly an opinion. I am not at all aware of what you consider dialogue, but for me that is hardly conversation/dialogue or, for that matter, an opinion on the overall content of the material. I cannot imagine writing a paper in University on any topic with the text being "hmmmmmmmmmmm....yawn" and expect to receive even a passing grade.
 
selfactivated
#11
Quote: Originally Posted by sanctusView Post

You assume to know the intention of others. Since the shared piece was not mine, it is hardly "preaching". It was an interesting sermon from one of the leading doctor's of the Church that I thought some Christians might be interested in reading. To be honest with you, I could care less what non-Christians think of Christian material shared on the internet.

The only point I am making is that it seems odd to me that anyone would willingly choose to read material they claim they are not interested in. Don't make a bigger deal of this than it actually is!


Well let me tell you what Ive done all night. Sat here and read because when I sleep I have night mares of my son. Ive been on site all night long. I sat here while she read this thread and I hopped from one thread o another. So I KNOW she read it or at least parked here for a great deal of time. YOUR post to her was
Quote:

sanctusQuote:
Originally Posted by talloola
hmmmmmmmm- yawn



you're not required to read posts that do not interest you.

Do you find that just a bit glib? You assumed she didnt read it.........she left her opinion. What you said in my Pagan opinion was rude. I didnt read it and if you had said "self you didnt read it so how could you have an opinion?" Youd be right. But you picked on her for having an opinion that didnt coinside with yours. Period.
I usually stay out of your threads all together because I HATE the church......Im workin on it.......But I do read certain people. So as far as I know this is an open forum where everyones opinion is welcome. Ive said my peace. Unless you want to yank my chain somemore.
 
sanctus
#12
Quote: Originally Posted by selfactivatedView Post

you have an opinion?" Youd be right. But you picked on her for having an opinion that didnt coinside with yours. Period.
I usually stay out of your threads all together because I HATE the church......Im workin on it.......But I do read certain people. So as far as I know this is an open forum where everyones opinion is welcome. Ive said my peace. Unless you want to yank my chain somemore.


Again, and I shall try and be simplistic in order for you to understand. "hmmm.yawn" is a statement, not an opinion of the content of the material posted. I had nothing to dialogue with, so did not have anything to dismiss. I merely stated the obvious, namely, if a particular topic bores you it is odd that one would read it.
Last edited by sanctus; Dec 11th, 2006 at 07:14 AM..
 

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