Society of Saint Pius X Africa

by John Sandham

Shortly before he passed away, a parishioner of Roodepoort priory submitted an article on his progress, painful but very necessary; towards a solid and regular prayer life, We reproduce, it here, slightly abridged Pray, for the repose of his soul. Our Lord's words to Martha, "She has chosen the better part and it will not be taken away from her" surely apply to him.

At first I was unable to pray at all; apart from a few quick words in the morning and before retiring. Concentration at the Holy Mass and Devotions was an ordeal. Disciplined prayer on the knees; was out of the question - I just could not. do it. Five decades of, the Holy Rosary was taboo because it was too much repetition and far too long: The most I ever, did accomplish was a hurried, decade once in, a while. Reading Holy Scripture or a good spiritual book, was to no avail for, it was too boring. Sometimes my conscience bothered me after reading a particular passage of Scripture and this did-not appeal to me at all: Meanwhile I was practising my Faith by attending Holy Mass on Sundays, on Holy Days of Obligation
and. often during: the week. Confession and Holy Communion was; a priority but I could not bring myself to pray regularly and with devotion.

Suddenly I became very ill in mind and body: The repercussions of leading a life that was pleasing to myself had set in and I needed to pray and could not. My health continued to deteriorate. In desperation I would force myself onto my knees in an attempt to pray and found that I became hysterical in the process. This state of affairs required a daily sojourn at the priory and the assistance of my spiritual director. I hid nothing from my priest in Confession and eventually I told him I was unable to pray. My priest understood my predicament immediately and suggested that I say only a few words on my knees every morning and every evening to start with. He also suggested that I have recourse to the Ever Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God.

I recall an incident when I told my confessor that I could not partake of Holy Communion because I felt that I had made a bad Confession. Although I had not withheld a serious sin from Confession and had not dressed up a sin to sound less serious, I felt unworthy. Father gave me an instruction to go to Holy Communion because he, as a priest, would be taking full responsibility for any desecration or sacrilege I may commit. Father told, me that he was my conscience for the moment and that I was under obedience to partake of the Blessed Sacrament. In spite of this I nearly had a heart attack as I approached the Communion rail and, prepared to receive Our Lord's Most precious Body under the species of bead. I thought that I would choke but did not. After that, it became easier to receive the Most Holy Sacrament. At the time it, occurred to, me that our priests speak with great authority - the authority of Our Divine Lord Jesus Christ!

A sound fear-of God is a healthy attribute. However; to be terrified of God for the point of distraction is not advisable. I suffered an abnormal fear of God. Thorefe I was terrified of praying, attending Holy Mass and partaking, of the sacraments lest I desecrate or offend Glod by; messing up one, way or another.

It has taken three years and much hard work to develop a reasonable quality of daily prayer on my knees. A kind parishioner fashioned a kneeler for me out of a spare piece of Wood and this has certainly enhanced my prayer life: However it is only by, the grace of God; the Virgin Mother Mary's intercession, my priest's kindness and sheer hard work that I can do sixty-six minutes of prayer a day on my knees....

Apart from God's grace and my spiritual director's advice I had to start at the beginning. Concentration did not come easily: Whenever, I tried really hard to pray properly, my mind was bombarded with a volley of turbulent thoughts. Meditation was the worst of all. I dreaded shutting my mind off and stilling my tongue to be able to meditate on the things
that appertain to God. Eventually, after many trials and tribulations, I began to make some headway. This was because Father told me not to try so hard in trying to say the perfect prayer or to do a deep meditation His advice was that I should simply keep in mind whom I was praying to and to listen to the words of prayer being said. I followed his advice. Practising repeatedly became the name of the game. Three years later I discovered that I loved praying, meditating and the rest. I even enjoy saying the Holy Rosary alone or in a group. At last I can concentrate at the Holy Mass and Devotions as well. The fear and consternation that plagued me in the past seem to have disappeared.

The accomplishment of a disciplined prayer and devotional life requires some planning at the outset. it is necessary to decide when Holy Masses or Devotions will be attended. Time must be set aside for prayer and meditation. A fixed time for daily prayer and meditation is absolutely necessary. Sufficient sleep is very important otherwise prayer and devotions will be neglected. A change of lifestyle is essential before undertaking a disciplined devotional life. Television and Cinema are out of the question because the nature of most movies detracts from the things of God. Reading should be censored lest the mind be led astray. Friends should be carefully selected and therefore also sensible recreation area amusements.

Excesses of any kind are to be avoided. Idleness or brooding is the worst distraction of all.

I have based by kind of prayer on the prayers of the Holy Mass. My prayers revolve around four basic aspects of the liturgy: honour God; offer expiation for sin; thank God and petition God. The Holy Rosary encompasses all four aspects because it includes the Pater, Ave Maria and Gloria Patri.

Although I have made some progress with my devotional life there is always the danger of being interrupted by an unexpected visitor, the telephone or a minor calamity. As a rule I do not answer the telephone if I am at prayer. I have an answering service. I tell my close friends when I will be at prayer, at Holy Mass or Devotions. In spite of this there is sometimes an unwanted interruption. It has become necessary to get my prayers done as early as possible during the day: leaving only night prayers to be said at night. This has reduced the chance of prayers not getting said because of a distraction.

Prayer is the most important facet of the spiritual life. Without prayer the soul is in danger of being lost. A lack of prayer leads to a carelessness about the attendance at Holy Mass, the partaking of the sacraments and the rest .....

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