One of the ten principal virtues of the Blessed Virgin Mary was “continual mental prayer.” During her life, the Blessed Mother was constantly in tune with God’s will. Every morning she woke up thinking about God, she thought about Him continually throughout the day, and she went to bed thinking about Him. She was “the new Eve,” who possessed the same preternatural gifts that Adam and Eve possessed before they sinned.
As a reminder, in addition to an immortal soul, God gave our first parents, Adam and Eve, the preternatural gifts of integrity, bodily immortality, and infused knowledge. The definition of preternatural is “that which is beyond the natural but is not strictly supernatural.”
The preternatural gift of integrity (the absence of concupiscence) gave Adam and Eve the natural ability to control their desires and passions. Although they could be tempted from outside forces, they could not be tempted from within. The preternatural gift of bodily immortality meant that Adam and Eve possessed bodies that would never die. The preternatural gift of infused knowledge meant that they did not have to study, work, or sacrifice to obtain knowledge. They were created with some knowledge of God and complete knowledge of the secular world.
It was the first sin of Adam and Eve that destroyed the preternatural gifts of integrity, bodily immortality, and infused knowledge. From then on, every person who has come into existence has been conceived without the preternatural gifts, except for the Blessed Virgin Mary. Because of the direct intervention of the Holy Spirit, the Mother of God was conceived in her mother’s womb without sin; therefore, from the moment of conception, she possessed the preternatural gifts of integrity, bodily immortality, and infused knowledge.
If you and I had been conceived without sin and possessed the preternatural gifts, it would not be difficult for us to live a life of continual mental prayer. But because we were conceived with original sin on our souls, by our very nature, we are more focused on our own selfish desires than the desire to know, love, and serve God. Because of this, it is difficult for us to continually think about and focus on God.
Is it even possible for us to live a life of continual mental prayer – a life in which we are always aware of God while we go about our daily activities of working, eating, socializing, playing, exercising, and relaxing.
I suspect that Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Pope John Paul II lived most of their waking hours in continual mental prayer. But then again they were saints. So what would you and I need to do to get to the point where we are constantly aware of God, regardless of the activity that we are engaged in?
There’s a practice that I recently adopted that, combined with the rituals that I wrote about last week, is helping me get closer to my goal of engaging in continual mental prayer.
The practice I’m referring to requires that I recite three Hail Marys every time I have a negative thought about anyone. Studies have shown that the majority of our thoughts are negative. One of our greatest challenges is to learn how to deal with our negative thoughts.
Where do most of my negative thoughts come from? They come from other people. Most of the time, I get irritated with people because they fail to live up to the expectations that I have for them.
Here’s how my recently adopted process works. Whenever I’m irritated or angry with someone, I pray one Hail Mary and ask God and His mother to work things out between me and the other person in a way that is in conformity with God’s will.
The second Hail Mary is offered up for the person that I’m irritated with. When I say the prayer, I ask God and His mother to help the person to always know, love, and serve God in this world, and to be happy with Him in Heaven for all eternity.
When I pray the third Hail Mary, I thank God for two things: I thank Him for allowing me to carry the cross that I’m currently burdened with, which requires me to deal with the person that I’m irritated with, and I thank Him for what He is going to do when He answers my prayer and helps me favorably resolve the problem that I have with the person.
It’s important to always thank God in advance for helping you work out your problems and disputes, even though He has not yet answered your prayers. By doing this, you are showing Him that you have complete faith, trust, and confidence in Him and whatever He decides to do.
Even though His response to your request may not come immediately, or He may not give you what you think you need, by thanking Him in advance for answering your prayer, you are showing confidence that whatever He ends up doing for you, will be in your best interest and will bring you closer to Him.
This newly adopted process has done wonders for me. There have been instances where I have been very angry with someone and by repeatedly going through the process, I have gotten to the point where I have prayed so many Hail Marys that I have completely forgiven the person for what he or she did and I have dropped the entire matter and moved on, refusing to waste any more time thinking about the matter.
There have been other instances where I have followed this process and I have ended up realizing that I should have never become angry with the person in the first place.
Regardless of the outcome, this process not only benefits me, but it also benefits the person that I’m angry with, because I have prayed for that person. The process also brings my actions into conformity with the two great commandments that were declared by Jesus: to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and body, and to love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22:36-39
Are you irritated or angry with your spouse, a parent, a child, a sibling, a friend, a coworker, a neighbor, or anyone else? If you are, the process that I’ve outlined will help you deal with your anger and will help to resolve the problem that exists between you and the person you are angry with.
More importantly, the process will help you move closer to perfection because you will be thinking about God and praying more frequently throughout the day. While it won’t get you to the point where you are engaging in continual mental prayer, it will provide you with several opportunities throughout the day to think about and pray to God.