The Church provides us principally with the Sacraments and the most powerful type of grace that God gives: Sanctifying Grace. The other principle type of grace is what we call actual grace. We obtain actual grace from our personal prayer, the good deeds we do, the good example of other convinced Catholics that we witness, and good talks that we listen to that inspire us in our spiritual growth, etc. I am sure many of you may be wondering, “What is grace?” As you have probably surmised—it is not just a girl’s name or how we refer to the prayer we habitually say before eating. This is a link to a very understandable article about the types of grace that God gives us and how they function. Grace: What It Is and What It Does. Basically, sanctifying graces condition us for eternity and actual graces motivate and move us toward sanctity. Actual graces also help us to hold and appreciate sanctifying grace and even help us to actualize it; thus the name actual graces. The easiest and most effective way to augment the amount of actual grace in our lives is through prayer and the building of a relationship with God through that prayer. Part of our Catholic experience is learning certain vocal prayers by memory as we learn the faith. This is great because it teaches us and habituates us to prayer and a relationship with God, in His Spirit and through His Son.
When we read about the lives of the Saints and the amazing miracles that God did through them and their prayer, we realize that they practiced not just vocal prayer, but also liturgical and mental prayer. We practice the highest form of liturgical prayer when we concentrate at Mass and offer our sacrifices and prayer after communion for the graces we truly need. What is mental prayer? It is often called meditation. There are two main types of meditation: discursive and contemplative. Discursive is the easiest for most people and most start there. As we advance with discursive meditation, we can get into contemplation, which leads us to the very highest type of prayer which is a unitive connection to God. This last type of prayer is what the great mystics (those who have tangible and very real experiences of the supernatural while remaining in this world) enjoy. It is through this strong unitive bond with God that these saints are known to have worked miracles.
Where do we start? The rosary is a great place to begin and probably for this reason is the most popular prayer form in the Church. The rosary bridges us into meditation as it is the repetition of vocal prayers which form a leitmotif which helps us to concentrate on the actual mystery and meditate on it. By meditating on the mysteries of the rosary as we repeat the vocal prayers, builds our capacity for meditation and even contemplation. Another great way to begin and progress naturally in mental prayer is through a practice made famous by the Benedictines called “Lectio Divina”. There is a pamphlet available in the vestibule called “How to make a Holy Hour”, which gives an introduction to this style. You can also check this website: Do the Lectio 3-Step: An Easy Illustrated Guide to Praying Lectio Divina. There is a great instruction on “formed.org” called “Lectio”; where you saw the Lenten videos. We’ll look at it deeper next week.