Formation and Conscience


As part of becoming a Secular Carmelite, I have been praying the Liturgy of the Hours on a more regular basis lately, and we are urged to practice mental prayer, say the Rosary, and attend mass daily if we can.

This is all part of a formation process. I'm already very familiar with how to do much of the work, e.g. say the rosary, the divine office, follow the mass, etc., so now it comes down to a daily grind of making it a habitual routine.

When I first started - identifying formation was kind of easy - it was simply a question of saying, "Can you make it through the prayer correctly?" And, then, making sure I put everything together, like a puzzle.

Now I am asking myself a deeper question about formation. As I read and pray and study, it seems like formation is more than a question of going through the motions, but one of listening to the prayers and one of growing in and perfecting the virtues.

This problem seems to become most pronounced when I hit mental prayer. I'm not sure of what I am doing. It's like I sit in silence, but then what? This seems to be the most free form sort of prayer, so formation becomes a bit different - the structure of silent meditative prayer is almost completely amorphous, so how am I supposed to be "forming" my conscience in such great poverty? What am I supposed to be listening for? Thinking? Contemplating? Responding to?

I think this extreme example in mental prayer begs the question of what is happening when we form our consciences even on the more general level. At first, it seems a questions of forming good habits, but perhaps it is so much more.

I hope my question makes sense. I wont be able to review answers until later this evening, so, if I dont respond right away, then please excuse.


An idea for contemplative prayer is picking a line from a prayer, or the bible and meditating on that. Like in the Lord's Prayer: "Thy will be done" Meditating on what that means, how it applies to your life, etc. You can also do this with the mysteries of the Rosary, for example meditating on the Transfiguration. Ask yourself questions about it.....


I am no expert and hope that those who are will come in and contribute to your question.
When first unable to pray as one once did, it can feel like a struggle just being there and not able to put two good thoughts, as it were, together. For me it felt like time dragging and not able to really think in a normal type fashion including any sort of meditation. After a time - and for me a long time, I grew used to the silence and now can be in silence and aware of being in the Presence of The Lord - but it took me quite a while before I was comfortable with the Silence and it is not something that I did, just over time it happened. The depth of that Silence can vary. Not easy to explain if ever, but for me I can be moved by great sadness or great joy, or just quiet awareness.
Nowadays, I much prefer that Silence, but sometimes I talk to The Lord (never heard Him speak back during my prayer time) or I may pray a prayer I know by heart for some reason, often thinking carefully about what I am saying as I do. Perhaps I will recall some intentions (I have my intentions list handy and also an exercise book in which are my favourite prayers).
I have no one ‘method’ of praying, nor fuss myself over such things. I leave that up to The Lord as I may be moved - let The Holy Spirit move me as He May. And it was St Teresa who wrote something akin to that one should feel quite free ‘to roam in and out the various mansions’. Now I am not sure what exactly she means by that. I know what it means for me.
I trust The Lord since all good be it great or small comes from Him and if the way I am is not as He wants me, then I trust Him to get through to me. It may be a book, a homily, something my director says - or something that seems to come out the blue and clarify something for me. Sometimes I am talking with someone and not about spirituality etc. and they will make some comment, and suddenly I understand something that had been unclear to me.
I know no other way but to trust The Lord in all things and all weather as it were. When times are good or not so good…or worse. Trust Him.
Speak with your director or formator about your concerns and Trust The Lord!


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