Prayer: 8 Quotes from St. Josemaría Escrivá on Meditation

St. Josemría Escrivá, in The Furrow, discusses prayer in a way that reveals other prayer opportunities and that challenges the modern Catholic to consider meditative prayer with new eyes. Below are a few select comments of his on the matter.

josemaria

When we think of prayer, we often envision a kneeling position with folded hands, perhaps in a church, or an adoration chapel. It’s a posture with which we are all intimately acquainted (or ought to be). St. Josemría Escrivá, in The Furrow, discusses prayer in a way that reveals other prayer opportunities and that challenges the modern Catholic to consider meditative prayer with new eyes. Below are a few select comments of his on the matter.

Practise meditation for a fixed period and at a fixed time. Otherwise we would be putting our own convenience first; that would be a lack of mortification. And prayer without mortification is not at all effective.[1]

You haven’t been praying? Why, because you haven’t had time? But you do have time. Furthermore, what sort of works will you be able to do if you have not meditated on them in the presence of the Lord, so as to put them in order? Without that conversation with God, how can you finish your daily work with perfection? Look, it is as if you claimed you had no time to study because you were too busy giving lessons. Without study you cannot teach well. Prayer has to come before everything. If you do not understand this and put it into practice, don’t tell me that you have no time: it’s simply that you do not want to pray.[2]

Pray, and pray more. It may seem odd to say that now when you are taking examinations and working harder. But you need prayer, and not only the habitual prayer as an exercise of devotion; you also need to pray during odd moments, to pray between times, instead of allowing your mind to wander on stupidities. It does not matter if, in spite of your effort, you do not manage to concentrate and be recollected. That meditation may be of greater value than the one you made, with all ease, in the oratory.[3]

You belittle meditation. Might you not be afraid, and so seek anonymity since you dare not speak with Christ face to face? You must see that there are many ways of belittling meditation, even though you might say you are practicing it.[4]

We prayed that evening right out in the country as night was falling. We must have looked rather peculiar to anyone who saw us and did not know what we were up to: sitting on the ground in silence, which was interrupted only by the reading of some points for meditation. That prayer under the open sky, hammering away for everyone there with us, for the Church, for souls, was fruitful and pleasing to Heaven. Any place is fitting for that encounter with God.[5]

The scene of the Annunciation is a very lovely one. How often have we meditated on this. Mary is recollected in prayer. She is using all her senses and her faculties to speak to God. It is in prayer that she comes to know the divine Will. And with prayer she makes it the life of her life. Do not forget the example of the Virgin Mary.[6]

It is possible that you might be frightened by this word: meditation. It makes you think of books with old black covers, the sound of sighs, and the irksome repetition of routine prayers. But that is not meditation. To meditate is to consider, to contemplate God as your Father, and yourself as his son and in need of help. And then to give him thanks for all that he has given you and for all that he will give you.[7]

To meditate for a while each day and be united in friendship with God is something that makes sense to people who know how to make good use of their lives. It befits conscientious Christians who live up to their convictions.[8]

The Way, The Furrow, The Forge.  

 


  1. St. Josemaría Escrivá, The Furrow Meditation 446  ↩
  2. Ibid. 448  ↩
  3. Ibid. 449  ↩
  4. Ibid. 456  ↩
  5. Ibid. 461  ↩
  6. Ibid. 481  ↩
  7. Ibid. 661  ↩
  8. Ibid. 665  ↩
  • Joaco

    How could you?! You missed my favourite:

    “You say that you don’t know how to pray? Put yourself in the presence of God, and once you have said, ‘Lord, I don’t know how to pray!’ rest assured that you have begun to do so.”

    BTW, that photo of him celebrating the Mass, is so beautiful! I hadn’t seen it before, brought tears of joy. Knowing (from his writings) how much he loved the Holy Mass, makes me realize how much more should I love attending Holy Mass.

  • Thank you for posting these. I love this Saint and his writings always do me good. I see you linked to the one volume The Way, Furrow and Forge. I think that is the best book for anyone wanting to begin reading St. Escriva’s writings. It also fits easily into a purse or book bag.

  • Marty

    My parish, Corpus Christi, Cape Cod will be hosting the feast day Mass tonight. In my own town – as good as it gets!!

  • poetcomic1

    I plowed through ‘The Way’ and I am utterly baffled. I have never read such a mess of fortune-cookie platitudes, second-rate sentiments and shallow thinking since Kahlil Gibran was in vogue. He had no flair for coming to a memorable clear point. Please don’t tell me how ‘simple’ he is and that I cannot understand his ‘simplicity’. No one is as simple Brother Giles, beloved friend of St. Francis of Assisi. His sayings are SO superior and pure and inspired. No accounting for taste.

    • Joseph

      You cannot “plow” through the Way! No wonder you’re baffled. Try some humility, brother. You cannot read the way like the WSJ.

  • MariaElisa

    To POETCOMIC1, many of Saint Jose Maria’s talks are on YouTube, perhaps if (after praying to God the Holy Spirit) by watching him and listening to him in person you will be enabled to enjoy his beautiful talks and advice. Please give him a second chance, he is full of joy and love.
    My best wishes to you.

  • Hey PoetComic,

    The text isn’t designed to be read through. They are meditation points. You should read one or two a day and consider them throughout the day. I’ve had the book for years and have yet to get even halfway through.

    • poetcomic1

      I. Don’t. Like. It.

      • Sam Schmitt

        Why are you telling us? Just curious.

        • poetcomic1

          Because it AMAZED me how second rate it is. I wanted to like it. I kept going back trying to like it. There is an atmosphere of mediocrity and banality that pervades this key work. It is not transcendent, it is school-marmish, it is strangely worldly and for the life of me I can’t pinpoint why. I am NOT alone on this.

          • Elizabeth

            Everyone is entitled to his/her opinion. As are you. But I would like to leave you with something. Remember that the gospels are written by different authors for different audiences. Maybe just maybe you are not a member of the audience St. Josemaria was trying to reach. If you enjoy the more abstract then go for it.

          • Prudencio

            PoetComic1: perhaps you could try the homilies (Christ is Passing By, or Friends of God), if your way of reasoning comes by strips—instead of dots…

  • NescioQuid

    It amazes me that Poetcomic should have such a negative viewpoint of St Josemaria’s works. For myself I gain so much spiritually from his works. I think he/she is taking exception to the tone and style of the work, rather than the content, but other saints have also used aphorisms as a method of meditation – take John Henry Newman, for instance. Perhaps however, you would be better off reading some of his homilies as a starting point. The Church has canonised St Josemaria which of course indicates anything but mediocrity. As for banality, well, that was the whole purpose of his work – to urge lay people to offer up their daily work to God (including banal activities like washing dishes), and in doing so to sanctify their lives. If only every human being did that, the world would be anything but banal.

  • marylis murphy

    Josemaria

  • Tom ATK

    Escriva, said contradictory things about payer, mostly downgrading the need for real prayer. For him, work is same as prayer. This is contrary to Christ teaching, who instructed Martha that Mary did the better thing, by being with Christ, instead of a working busy body. We need real prayer to help us inform our work. Saint Benedict made the clear distinction between prayer, that he called Opus Dei, and human work, well done, which is also offered to God, but is distinct from payer. How can we now have two very different versions of Opus Dei in the Catholic Church? That of St Benedict, which is universal, and that of Escriva de Balaguer, which describes a specific modernist “spirituality”? This is confusing, and a form of double speak introduced by Escriva de Balaguer.

    The idea that work is prayer was specifically condemned by fathers of the Church for centuries. But Escriva de Balaguer confuses prayer and work. This is a clever trick to have people work, give money to OD and make them feel like that it is their only obligation. It is time for OD to couragioulsy look at this weakness, and correct this error of their founder.

    Some examples of contradictory teachings on payer:

    The Way: 86 “Your prayer should be liturgical. How I would like to see you using the psalms and prayers from the missal, rather than private prayers of your own choice.”
    The furrow 497 “Let us work. Let us work a lot and work well, without forgetting that prayer is our best weapon. That is why I will never tire of repeating that we have to be contemplative souls in the middle of the world, who try to convert their work into prayer.”
    Christ is passing by 10 “To work in this way is to pray. To study thus is likewise prayer. Research done with this spirit is prayer too. We are always doing the same thing, for everything can be prayer, all activity can and should lead us to God, nourish our intimate dealings with him, from morning to night. Any honorable work can be prayer and all prayerful work is apostolate. In this way the soul develops a unity of life, which is both simple and strong”

    • Joaco

      Dear TOM ATK,

      I think you should inform yourself better before such incorrect statements.

      First, I note that you refer to St. Benedict as “St. Benedict”, and to St. Josemaria as “Escriva de Balaguer”. Sounds like you disagree with the “St” of St Josemaria, i.e., sounds like you disagree with the Pope, the Vatican, the Church, und-zu-weiter.

      Now, to your point: Throughout all his works St. Josemaria gives utmost importance to mental prayer. I won’t quote points as you seem to know them well and the post gets too long. There’s hardly any activity organised by Opus Dei which is not centered on meditation (i.e. recollection evenings, silent retreats, annual courses for members, etc., particularly the last two, where the only event that receives more importance than mental prayer is Holy Mass).

      St. Josemaria never downgraded mental prayer, on the contrary, said it should precede any activity, whether work, apostolate, or whatever endeavour you were to embark (In fact, members of Opus Dei try to do one hour of prayer daily, no matter what.). He only said that, APART from mental prayer, everything you do can be offered to God and therefore becomes prayer.

      This is also held by Vatican II, spoken about by St. Francis de Sales, hey, even St Paul! (Corinthians 10:31)

      If you can make it to a silent retreat, I know you’d be very positively surprised.

      Regards

    • Prudencio

      Tom: I see no contradiction, as there is the practical side in both St Benedict and St Josemaria: “Ora et labora”, exactly in that order, whether in the cloister or out in the world. So perhaps Josemaria is simply extending Benedict’s ideal (turn the whole day into a liturgy of the hours, an Opus Dei) to the laypeople.

  • fabyluis

    yo creo que la mortificación es inútil y que Jesús nunca pidió eso ni Pablo de Tarso.
    slds,fbl

    • Catholic boricua

      El inútil eres tu que no quieres entender que sin mortificación no hay santificación.

  • Remi d’Souza

    Great article!

    A cradle catholic, I was living with the dichotomy of trying to apply my faith in every day life. Catholicism was a headache, until I found the “pills” in the medication chest of works by St. Josemaria Escriva.

    It might not make much literary sense nor might it be palatable to all as he is not cajoling/coaxing but, cuts through the fat (excuses) and gets straight to the point, incisive, specific and very practical. Yet upliftingand even dignifying the reader …dare I say charitable.

  • Juanjo

    To Poetcomic1:

    Think, is there any thing you need to change in your life? Do not depend on your intellect but on what God wants you to do or to suffer.
    Have a great day.
    Juanjo

  • Grace

    Thank you for this. It’s one of the few things I don’t feel as though I can be told I’m ‘doing it wrong’ or ‘not doing enough’ of by the church, thus giving me freedom in my prayer life which I can’t fully embrace in other facets of my faith, for example serving/loving people.

  • This fits through me and the youth we serve. After a long days of outdoor training in the last day, in the last night, in a personal solo night reflection, during personal development training, I quote this and share as one of reading meditation where all participants starts their reflection from.

    “We prayed that evening right out in the country as night was falling. We must have looked rather peculiar to anyone who saw us and did not know what we were up to: sitting on the ground in silence, which was interrupted only by the reading of some points for meditation. That prayer under the open sky, hammering away for everyone there with us, for the Church, for souls, was fruitful and pleasing to Heaven. Any place is fitting for that encounter with God.[5]”

  • mariejoseegamelle

    god has given life so that we can work and work so that we can live work is worship and we must pray so that we can work life itself is prayer

  • innocent wadamba

    Send me Daily prayers