The 8 Keys to “Searching for the presence of God”

Some suggestions on how to stay ‘tuned’ with Him – Our Lord and Saviour

There are many ways to seek union with God. Without claiming to analyse every facet of spirituality, in this article I share 8 actions that will help you to seek God in everyday life and to join him wherever we are or whatever we are doing.

The key to reading these suggestions is in the intention, that is, in a heart that longs for God, who wishes to draw closer to Him and offer him what he has, even if only two minutes. You will see that your “habitual” life will change, God will be present in what you do. Let God model you.

1. Meditation

MeditationSpeaking of meditation can frighten even those with more experience in the spiritual life. But we are not talking about Buddhism, Mindfulness, Transcendental Meditation, pseudognosticism, Zen, yoga, reiki or any other Oriental practices which have absolutely no place in Catholicism or in Christianity (Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on some aspects of Christian meditation*, vatican october 15, 1989). Here we are talking about prayer, the dialogue between two people in the unity of love. It is like when you are talking with your father or mother, but instead here you are talking with God. Yes, it is really a dialogue. There is no need for many words, it is enough to open your heart to the Lord. There are mainly five types of prayer: blessing, adoration, prayer of request and intercession, thanksgiving and praise. I would personally recommend spending about 30 minutes a day in prayer. Preferably in the morning, before you are distracted and begin your daily routines, so that all that you are and do is filled with God and God alone. It is a time that you dedicate to Him only! It is important that you know that you are wanted, expected, and loved by Him. It is also necessary to accept the moments in which God is silent, when he does not speak to you and seems to move away: they are the best opportunities to join him with authentic faith.

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6).

2. The Holy Rosary

Carthusian RosaryWhen man is happy, he usually offers roses to the “to the person he loves the most in the world” (his mother or his wife). The rosary is more or less the same thing, but for our heavenly Mother, the Most Holy Virgin Mary. We can offer our prayers to her every day, like a bouquet of flowers, which she then hands to her Son Jesus Christ. Thus the Mother intercedes on behalf of her children. Like a caress and a smile that rises to Heaven and gives us an abundance of gratitude. This is the Holy Rosary. It moves me to think of how many people have depart this life with a rosary in hand, giving their lives for Jesus through the intercessions of Mary. Whilst others were suffering persecution, as they prayed one mystery after another. Many others having been freed from the shackles of the devil, just by uttering the Immaculate name of Mary.

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:30-33).

3. Spiritual reading

Spiritual ReadingIt involves the reading a book that is spiritually uplifting for 15 or 30 minutes a day. It could be the biography of a saint, the writings of a Pope, books on prayer, on the sacraments, etc. The important thing is that it is a “spiritual” reading. This practice should not replace your daily reading of the Bible, which can also be done during your morning meditation, this will be a great opportunity to deepen the spiritual work of the Church. It is necessary to pay attention to the content of spiritual books, and apply them to your life. Check that the book has the approval of the church (there are so many books these days that are simply miss the mark). Make sure it is from a Catholic publishing house such as Ignatius Press, Sophia Institute Press, Loyola Press, Ascension Press, Emmaus Road Publishing, Sapientia Press, Tumblar House, and St. Mary’s Hermitage Press. (St Mary’s Hermitage republish out of print catholic books in digital form which are free to download). I can guarantee that by doing this, you will gradually come to know more about Jesus, the Church, the saints, and be inspired by their lives, sacrifice and dedication to our Heavenly Father.

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12).

4. The Angelus or Angelus Domini

angelus-jean-francois-milletThis beautiful prayer dates back to the thirteenth century. The invitation to pray with the Our Father and the Hail Mary at the sound of the bell at Compline and at curfew. Saint Bonaventura († 1274) urged his friars to instil this pious practice to all the faithful.  The practice of reciting three Hail Marys then became widespread throughout Europe in the first half of the fourteenth century, and was recommended and Indulgenced by Pope John XXII in 1317 and again in 1327. A Plenary Indulgence were was granted by Benedict XIII, 14 September, 1724, but the conditions prescribed were modified slightly by Leo XIII, 3 April, 1884. (Complete history of The Angelus). 

The Angelus is a short practice of devotion in honour of the Incarnation repeated three times each day, morning, noon, and evening, at the sound of the bell (which is England is no longer heard). It consists essentially in the triple repetition of the Hail Mary, to which in later times have been added three introductory versicles and a concluding versicle and prayer. The prayer is that which belongs to the antiphon of Our Lady, “Alma Redemptoris”. The devotion derives its name from the first word of the three versicles, Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariæ (The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary). It should be prayed three times a day: one in the morning (it could be after your meditation), another at noon, and one last in the afternoon (after you have completed the recitation of the Holy Rosary). By reciting this prayer with faith you will join millions of Christians who, throughout the world, raise their prayers to God. Remember that the Mysteries of the life of Mary will make you concentrate on what is really important: Jesus. Because inevitably the Mother will convey us to Her Son. Furthermore it will assist you in your growth of faith, hope and love.

Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? …  And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” (Luke 1:41-43,45).

The Angelus

. Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariæ,

. Et concepit de Spiritu Sancto.

. The Angel of the LORD declared unto Mary,

. And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus. * Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostræ. Amen.

Hail Mary, full of grace; the LORD is with thee: blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the Fruit of thy womb, Jesus.* Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

. Ecce ancilla Domini.

. Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.

. Behold the handmaid of the LORD.

. Be it done unto me according to thy word.

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus. * Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostræ. Amen.

Hail Mary, full of grace; the LORD is with thee: blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the Fruit of thy womb, Jesus.* Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

. Et Verbum caro factum est.

. Et habitavit in nobis.

. And the Word was made flesh.

. And dwelt among us.

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus. * Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostræ. Amen.

Hail Mary, full of grace; the LORD is with thee: blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the Fruit of thy womb, Jesus.* Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

. Ora pro nobis, Sancta Dei Genetrix.

. Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi.

. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God.

. That we might be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Oremus.

Gratiam tuam, quæsumus, Domine, mentibus nostris infunde; ut qui, Angelo nuntiante, Christi Filii tui incarnationem cognovimus, per passionem eius et Crucem ad resurrectionis gloriam perducamur. Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum. : Amen.

Let us pray.

Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O LORD, Thy grace into our hearts; that, we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection. Through the same Christ our Lord. . Amen.

5. Visits to the Blessed Sacrament

Visit blessed SacramentIt does not take much time and it is very easy to do. When you go through a church and you only have a few minutes, this will be perfect for you. By this devotional practice, the presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Eucharist is regarded in the same light and honoured with the same ceremonial observance as would be paid to a sovereign who favoured any place in his dominions by taking up his abode there. Enter the chapel and make an act of faith “O my God, I firmly believe that you are one God in three divine persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I believe that your divine Son became man and died for our sins, and that he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths which the holy catholic Church teaches, because in revealing them you can neither deceive nor be deceived”, visit the Lord Jesus Sacrament. You can say what you want, for example: “Here I am, Lord, I came here briefly just to say thank you. …” Saint Francis, every time he entered a church, said: “We adore you, Lord Jesus Christ, here, and in all your churches throughout the world, and we bless you, for by your holy cross you have redeemed the world. Amen”. This is very simple. How many times have we passed a church and walked straight past without saying a single word? I’m not saying that you should stop at every church you walk past — especially for those who live in Rome, Spain and Portugal where there are just too many — but try to keep God in your life and dedicate a little time to Him, however little it may be. If you are not able to go to church, you can stop for a moment and join God with a “spiritual communion”, with this prayer to our Lord:

My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.”

This will really bring some radiance into your normally dull day, especially when you find yourself in times of difficulty.

You my also view the Blessed Sacrament online here, at the Tyburn Convent. The Tyburn Nuns (Adorers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Montmartre) are a Benedictine who’s life is dedicated to Divine Praise and Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration are the custodians of the relics of the English Martyrs, who died for their fidelity to the Catholic Faith, most of them executed at Tyburn Gallows. And as Saint Padre Pio so aptly articulated “A thousand years of enjoying human glory is not worth even an hour spent in sweetly communing with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me; and him who comes to me I will not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me; and this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up at the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6: 35-40).

6. Reciting The “Credo” before retiring to bed.

bedside prayerThis must be one the most difficult thing to do; if so, you are on the right track. When night comes the only thing a person wants to do is to lie down and go to sleep; giving God five minutes to recite the “Credo” will be a small sacrifice on our part. God certainly sees this act of self-sacrifice. In the beginning you may find it to be a burden, eventually you will get used to it and you will find it gratifying and receive fulfilment from your act. Saying the “Creed” before going to sleep will also be an indispensable help against temptation. 

THE NICENE CREED

I BELIEVE in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man; he was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried, and the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; from thence he shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end. And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceeded from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spake by the prophets. In one holy catholic and apostolic Church; we acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The next prayer acknowledge the danger of the night, written in a time before darkness could be dispelled at the flick of a switch. They bring forth our most basic, instinctual fear of the dark and give to God the job of protection. No matter how hard we try to eliminate them, sin, death, and darkness still surround us; surfing the Internet until dawn, watching pornography or visiting inappropriate sites, replying to messages at all hours until dawn. Therefore entrust your sleep to God, make a sign of the cross and tell the Lord:  

“Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping; that awake we may watch with Christ, and asleep we may rest in peace. Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give thine Angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ, give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for thy love’s sake. Amen.”

“But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him … In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for thou alone, O Lord, makest me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:3 and 4:8).

7. Via Crucis or Stations of the Cross (on a Friday)

Via CrucisAll the preceding exercises are also quite useful when focusing on the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ, whereas this is particularly so with the Stations of the Cross. Celebrating the fourteen stations will help you to bear the cross — however heavy it may be — and participate in the suffering of our Lord, consoling the multitude who themselves pass through times of difficulty and suffering. After some time you will discern which one of the station comes to your aid the most to provide you with comfort, at that point you should learn more about the particular station that has given you succour. When you arrive at the fifteenth Station (Although not traditionally part of the Stations, the Resurrection of Jesus is, in very rare instances, included as a fifteenth station). The Resurrection of the Lord, thanks God for your life, for your family, and for all that He has given you; this is where all the torment and agony begins to triumphs in a new life. The wounds begin to heal. How profoundly glorious this is to contemplate upon: let us walk with Jesus in this life, we carry our cross, but our footstep are not fruitless, they are the seeds of faith for others, they will be the light in the darkness, they will be “the salt of the earth.” May your journey in this life be fruitful, and may you have the courage to give a Christian meaning to your existence!

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25).

8. Ejaculatory Prayers or Devout Aspirations (Short Prayers) 

Ejaculatory prayerThe word ejaculatory derives from the Latin “iaculum”, which means either a dart or javelin. St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church, recommended that we “make spiritual aspirations to God by short, ardent movements of [our] hearts” and taught that “… ejaculatory prayer was strongly recommended by the great St. Augustine to the devout Lady Proba” (Introduction to the Devout Life, Pt. II, Ch. 13 ‘of Aspirations, Ejaculatory Prayers and Good Thoughts’). The Abbott Blessed Louis de Blois (François-Louis Blosius), O.S.B., a 16th century Flemish monk and mystical writer, wrote in A Book of Spiritual Instruction (Institutio Spiritualis): In the spiritual life the ejaculations are small phrases that are repeated throughout the day, especially during moments of difficulty, or when it seems like nothing is going right, don’t lose hope, join forces with God. Imagine them as small arrows of light that are fired towards the heavens, or incense raising up to God, where each sentence is a short prayer that goes directly to God. They can be: “Jesus, I trust in You”, “Lord, you know that I love you”, “Make me an instrument of Your peace”, “O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart similar to your heart ”, “Lord, have mercy upon me, a sinner”, “Body of Christ, save me”, “My Jesus, mercy!” And so forth. Bible verses, invocations, parts of prayers, phrases of faith. You can create one yourself, the important thing is to repeat it over and over so that breathe life into what you say, bringing hope and becoming a light in the darkness.

“But what does it say? The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart (that is, the word of faith which we preach); because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved.” (Romans 10:8-10).

“The diligent darting forth of aspirations and prayers of ejaculation and fervent desires to God, joined with true mortification and self-denial, is the most certain as well as the shortest way by which a soul can easily and quickly come to perfection …”

These suggestions should not be understood in a strict sense. It does not mean that the more acts you perform, the closer you are to God. What actually matters is the your purity of your intention, your genuine desire to unite with God, to tell him “Lord, I am here”. Once you have grasped this, you will be ready to change your life, becoming more spiritual, and in closer proximity to God. 

Before drawing to a close, I would like to share a maxim with you: “In the spiritual life he who does not advance goes backward. It happens as with a boat which always must go ahead. If it stands still the wind and tides will blow it back.” There is a difference between joining God and not doing so. Without prayer, your spiritual life does not go on the same way; on the contrary, come back. The world is like a river in flood, and we go against the current; any carelessness or interruption will cause us to be dragged by the current. Without falling into anguish or discouragement, we must fight for Christ to reign in our lives and therefore in society.

I conclude with Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, who said: “Pray, have hope and don’t worry”.

APPROVED FREE BOOKS TO DOWNLOAD ON SPIRITUAL LIFE AND ON PRAYER. SIMPLY CLICK ON THE TITLE.

SPIRITUAL LIFE:

The Foundations of the Spiritual Life by Fr. Jean Joseph Surin (1600-1665)

The Spiritual Man, or the Spiritual Life Reduced to its First Principles by Jean-Baptiste Saint-Jure (1588-1657)

All for Jesus: or, the Easy Ways of Divine Love by Frederick William Faber (1814-1863)

The Secret of Sanctity, according to St. Francis de Sales and Father Crasset by Francis, de Sales, Saint (1567-1622); Jean Crasset (1618-1692); Ella McMahon

The Way that Leads to God: Practical Counsels for those who aspire after True Piety by Auguste Saudreau (1859-1946)

PRAYER:

The Catholic Prayer Book and Manual of Meditations by Patrick Francis Moran (1830-1911)

Practice of Mental Prayer. First Treatise, Ordinary Prayer by Fr. René de Maumigny SJ (1837-1918); Fr. Elder Mullan SJ (1865-1925)

The Garden of the Soul: A Manual of Spiritual Exercises, in which are included many devotions of recent practice, and approved of by the Church by The Rt. Rev. Richard Challoner (1691-1781) Titular Bishop of Doberus, Vicar Apostolic of the London District

The New Raccolta; or, Collection of Prayers and Good Works, to which the Sovereign Pontiffs have Attached Holy Indulgences by Catholic Church. Congregatio Indulgentiarum et Sacrarum Reliquiarum.

CATHOLIC SAINTS AND SPIRITUALLY UPLIFTING:

The Saints through the Ages: A Manual for Catholic students in the upper grades by The Confraternity of Christian Doctrine of the Archdiocese of St. Paul

The Life Of St. Francis Of Assisi by St. Bonaventure

The Witness of the Saints: or, The Saints and the Church by Henry Sebastian Bowden (1836-1919)

The Imitation Of Christ by Thomas A Kempis Translated by Bishop Richard Challoner

St. Teresa of Jesus of the Order of Our Lady of Carmel embracing the life, relations, maxims and foundations written by the Saint; also, A history of St. Teresa’s journeys and foundations, with a map and illustrations by Saint Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)

The complete works of Saint John of the Cross, of the Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Vol. I.  Vol. II.  by Saint John of the Cross (1542-1591)

Beautiful Pearls Of Catholic Truth by Henry Cardinal Edward Manning, The Rt. Rev. Bernard O’Reilly; Et al. (This book also contains the Stations of the Cross in beautiful illustrations)

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