How are Catholics supposed to approach meditation?


#1

I’ve lived with a solid Catholic family all of my life, so my beliefs are very important to me. I do my best to not deviate myself from the faith.

I’ve always known about meditation, but, growing up, I always thought it was something the Buddhists did, so I always assumed it was evil, but, when I would hear that Catholics are encouraged to do meditation, I became very confused; I never really understood what it meant to meditate.

So, for the past few years, usually daily, I would go to my room, kneel, close my eyes, and do my best to keep my mind as silent as I could (usually for about 10 or so minutes). Every once in a while, I would think about this approach and begin to wonder why when I do this it’s OK, but when the Buddhists do it, it’s evil; so, something I’ve tried for the past few weeks or months is to think about God, Jesus, heaven, anything or anyone closely associated with the faith.

Today, I recently came across an article on this, and, being scrupulous, I became slightly anxious and died inside a little.

So, again, how is a Catholic supposed to approach meditation?

Until I receive an answer I’m confident in, I’ll probably just stop altogether.


#2

Lectio Divina is the safest way to go.
Start with a verse of scripture,
put yourself in it,
ponder it with you hear and mind,
rest in it.

You start with words and your mind and end in silence and spirit.

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/what-lectio-divina


#3

Meditation is a spiritual good. There is no problem with that you were doing.

Some say that to empty one’s mind, making it void of imagination, runs some risks. I have heard this more than once.

You are not practising another religion. You know on some level the identity of God because He has revealed Himself to Humankind. This is not a vague or ambiguous knowledge. It is personal. Therefore, letting the heart rest in God, is safe ground.

To be sure, start with the Sign of the Cross. Safe ground, verbally offered up. One can say “Come, Holy Spirit”, and “Come, Lord Jesus”, thereafter.

Don’t worry about what the mind is doing. This is a difference between Catholic and non-Catholic meditation: it is putting oneself into God’s hands, in the knowledge that your soul is in His Hands, and not about forcing one’s mind into a mind-state, mind-over-matter, or even emotional state. Catholic meditation is via grace. God present with you in the silence.

You can invite, as another poster has just stated, meditative words, such as words or lines from Scripture. You can go into silence after a personal prayer of some kind. You can possibly reflect upon holy imagery, during.


#4

Yes, have no fear of inner silence.


#5

You may want to read something like St. Teresa of Avila’s book “The Interior Castle” to get a Catholic perspective on contemplative prayer and meditation.

Some would call what you are doing more of a contemplative prayer, because “meditation” for Catholics is more often used to describe a form of prayer where we focus on something like Scripture or a Mystery of the Rosary or the passion of Christ, and we become absorbed in it and try to apply it to our lives. Although this form of “meditation” is a good prayer practice, it doesn’t really involve silencing the mind.


#6

Or the Carrigan edition of “Ascent of Mt Carmel”.

very easy to read


#7

Buddhists are emptying themselves - even of hope.

Christians are being filled with and by the Holy Spirit.

Difference?


#8

I wonder if by quieting the mind and emptying oneself of all the cognitive chatter we have bouncing around in our heads, that those among us who believe in a Holy Spirit might be in a more auspicious position from which to receive and experience it through meditation. Meditation isn’t just for Buddhists. There are forms of it in most religions. Meanwhile, I can’t recall off hand where Siddhartha Gautama (The Buddha) was promoting a religion rather than simply a guide for living. It’s two different things, and here in the west, we try to shoehorn everything we encounter into western mental and linguistic tiles. The Buddha never said he was God or the son of God or an object of worship or a prophet. He was a guy with a path for living. A lot of Christians follow his guide for living while practicing whatever faith they claim to follow. I don’t see a conflict. With regard to not having hope, well I think that some level of contentment with the here and now negates the need for a lot of wishful thinking beyond the moment we’re in. And I imagine that if there is a heaven, it would be something like that - contentment in the presence of the here and now. Rather than seeing a difference between the two, I see them as having the potential of being complimentary to those who might have both Christianity and meditation in their lives. This is just how I see it.

Thanks and all the best.


#9

Centering Prayer has it’s origins going back to the fourth century hermits of the desert, like Abba Isaac and St John Cassian

It is still used and taught in monasteries, but the Holy Spirit brought it to the laity out in the world, over 40 years ago.

Here is how from the Spiritual Master and Trappists Monk, Fr Thomas Keating.

Jim


#10

Friend, chill. You sound way too worried about this. Meditation comes in many forms and exists in many religions.


#11

Until and unless you effectively deal with your anxiety/OCD, you will never be at peace.

Make that a priority.


#12

I would think a trusted spiritual director is a must for a Christian battling OCD or serious anxiety issues. Internet advice is not going to cut it and could be counterproductive, since any careless word we offer might be sticking point for mental perseveration. I would say, “period,” and I would say you would do well to find someone who has experience working with people who have challenges similar to those you are faced with. Don’t follow my advice!! Find someone who has experience with others who have challenges similar to yours, and work out with your spiritual director how to handle what comes up.

These days, even blind people know they can climb mountains, but they all know they will never do it alone. That is OK. It is an act of humility to seek out the help you need, but especially if you actually need a level of help that not everyone has to have.


#13

There seems to the idea that it is wise to diagnose people online as having medical issues. Unless a member states that he has been diagnosed with a medical issue, then it ought to not be asserted (certainly not in such definite terms).

Sometimes it is, that people simply care about the faith. If scruples were the case, then they can exist, from mild to serious. Prayer can relieve the person of them. Certainly, a spiritual director would help, if so.


#14

Thank you for the chance to clarify: I did not mean that this poster has OCD. I meant that someone who tends to become anxious when they try to find their own way would probably do well to find someone they trust to help them. There is nothing like an experienced director “with skin on,” particularly in our times when the internet can easily supply a great amount of seemingly-conflicting and even mutually-exclusive advice.


#15

I was not singling out your comment amongst others. That said, I think it is helpful that you have clarified for the person that they have not necessarily got a medical illness, because people mentioning such things, in categorical terms, does run the potential risk of bringing about unnecessary worry.


#16

Vocal prayer, meditation, and contemplation are major types of prayer in the Catholic tradition. Every time you think about the meaning of the words you are saying in prayer, you are meditating. The Rosary can lead to deep and fruitful meditation on each decade’s mystery. You can meditate on scripture by reading a passage and thinking about it.
There are various forms of contemplation. A medieval manual that has helped me is The Cloud of Unknowing. It is a simple and effective guide to contemplation.


#17

‘The Cloud of Unknowing’ seems to have been written by an unknown Christian author.


#18

Oh, yes!! Just because someone worries a lot does NOT mean they meet the criteria for a mental health disorder that warrants professional treatment!!

I know a lot of physicians who say that medical students are infamous for thinking they have the symptoms of some disease or other that they are studying. Well, these days we all have access to lists of symptoms but that doesn’t mean we can diagnose anyone, even ourselves!! The medical and other information on the internet is often useful as a way to identify whether or not we want to consider consulting with a professional. We should not jump to the conclusion that even the majority of people who find a good case for being seen are going to be diagnosed with anything at all, let alone that they are going to be diagnosed with the condition they think they will! There is a reason that these are professions that take a long period of study and supervised internship before someone is ready to practice!

As for spiritual direction, we have to find our own way and many can do that with the level of direction available from fulfilling the Sunday obligation, living the sacramental life, praying and doing spiritual reading on our own, but just knowing how to make one’s requires practice. Those who find they get off the trail on a regular basis shouldn’t be shy about finding guides, rather than thinking that inevitably wandering off into the brambles is their lot in life. (To take the analogy farther, those in religious life are aiming to make their journey under unusually intense circumstances and are usually given this kind of direction as a matter of course.)


#19

A critique of cwntering prayer which might clarify the differences between Catholic Catholic meditation and other forms: https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/the-danger-of-centering-prayer


#20

Just because western society names someone from somewhere as having practiced something for the first time and given it a name by which it can be popularly recognised, does not mean that the type of meditation was not in use, beforehand i.e:- in the early centuries, saints went to live in caves, and were probably praying unceasingly, in whatever ways they thought necessary, as were people probably doing in Scripture. Meditation is meditation, and is spiritually healthy, in whatever form, unless utilizing another religion’s technique and/or invoking a non-Catholic identity, in contrast to whom God has revealed Himself to be.


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