After Mass, no matter what parish I go to, my family and I always be sure to grab a bulletin. It allows us to see how other parishes do things, and what activities they may have. One announcement that I usually see is for a meditation class. There is certainly nothing wrong with a Catholic meditating. Everyone should spend some time everyday doing it. What many don’t seem to realize is that there is a right and wrong way for a Catholic to meditate. Unfortunately, the wrong way is what most parishes (granted probably a bit unwittingly) seem to be promoting.
Have you ever seen a Buddhist or Hindu meditating? Looks peaceful, doesn’t it? I mean they’re sitting on the floor relaxed, cross legged, hands resting on the knees, index finger and thumb forming a circle, clearing their mind of all questions. Some attempt to clear their mind of all thought. What’s the worry? Isn’t that what meditation is about?
If you are a Catholic, the answer is no. In many Eastern religions the goal of meditation is to clear your mind of all thought. One does this by repeating a name or phrase over and over again; or by making a low, constant noise. This rhythmic practice settles the mind, and it has the effect of almost emptying the mind. This allows one to achieve “enlightenment”.
This kind of meditation is sometimes referred to as “centering meditation”. Although it does have a calming effect on the mind, it is not a good practice to get into. The calm is deceptive.
You see, the mind is like a vessel. Think of it as a cup. A cup’s purpose is to contain things. When the cup is empty its primary purpose for “existing” is not being fulfilled. It needs to be filled with something.
The mind is much the same way. Man was made in the likeness of God. Just as God is always at work, so is man. If man is not physically working, his mind is working. The whole function of the mind is to think. The mind must always have some thought.
So when we empty our minds we are playing a dangerous game. Proverbs says, “Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop.” The same could be said of the mind. The idle mind is the Devil’s thinktank. If we empty our minds of thought, this opens it up to Satan. He is always waiting on a perfect moment to insinuate some evil thoughts in our minds. What better time than when our minds are empty?
So how should a Catholic meditate. We should contemplate God. It can start simply. Maybe we are thinking of a particular Teaching of the Church. Maybe we’re meditating on a passage of Scripture. We may even be thinking of one of the wonderful attributes of God. Soon God begins to take control of our thoughts. If we are lucky, we may be given the gift of contemplative prayer. This is the highest of the three kinds of prayer, and it can not be attained. It is purely a gift from God.
I encourage all of you to meditate everyday. You may be surprised how powerful your spiritual life may become. St. Teresa of Avila could not get through the words “Our Father” in the “Lord’s Prayer” without going into ecstasy. That is how powerful her prayer life had become. May we all be so blessed by God!
Peace in Christ,
David J. Pollard
American Catholic Solidarity