Many Catholics have turned to Yoga and Transcendental Meditation for, what they believe to be, a more fulfilling and enlightening form of prayer than traditional Christian prayer. Both of these forms of meditation lead a person into an altered state of consciousness. Of course, alcohol, drugs, sex, exercise, hypnosis, jogging, fasting, breathing manipulation, and various forms of divination can also lead a person into an altered state of consciousness. An altered state of consciousness is not the criteria for authentic prayer.
I remember when I was young—the first time I tried drinking alcohol at a party with friends. I came home very inebriated. My father was waiting up for me. He said to me: “If you want to drink, there is no way I can stop you. You will find a way to drink no matter what I do. But, I want you to remember this.
Christian spiritual masters, such as the Saints, tell us that there are some things we can do in order to dispose ourselves for this grace of contemplation—union with God. First, we need to turn away from sin—to be in a “state of grace.” We need to receive the Holy Spirit—the grace of Baptism and Confirmation. We need to develop an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, acknowledging him as our Lord.
We need to acquire the virtues of obedience, humility, and the fear of the Lord—true devotion. We also need to abandon ourselves to the will of God—to have complete trust in God’s will and to desire it in all things. Lastly, we need to pray—to turn to the Lord in prayer, giving him our full attention. The rest is all up to God. If it is for our good, the Lord will grant us this grace.
The document, Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life, makes this suggestion: Helping people in their spiritual search by offering them proven techniques and experience of real prayer could open a dialogue with them which would reveal the riches of Christian tradition, and perhaps clarify a great deal about New Age in the process. (Pages 91-92).
As to their charism of prayer, Jane is quoted as saying: The great method of prayer is to have no method at all. When the Holy Spirit has taken possession of the person who prays, it does as it pleases without any more need for rules or methods. The soul must be in God’s hands like clay in the hands of a potter so that he might fashion all sorts of parts. Or the soul must be like soft wax to receive a seal’s impression, or like a blank tablet upon which the Holy Spirit can write the divine will.
If, going to prayer, one can become pure capacity for receiving the spirit of God, that will suffice for any method. Prayer must happen by grace not by artfulness. Go to prayer by faith, remain there in hope and go out only by charity which requires simply that one act and suffer. She also says: I have recognized that the almost universal attraction of the daughters of the Visitation is to a very simple practice of the presence of God effected by a total abandonment of themselves to Holy Providence.
St. Jane De Chantal has much more to say about prayer which would be of great interest to anyone that feels they are drawn to contemplation. Our Lord is very generous with his gifts and graces. He gives lavishly to those who have a great desire for holiness, to love God with their whole being, and want to serve him by loving others and building the kingdom of God on earth.
Contemplation enables them to do this. Otherwise, there really is no need for such an extraordinary grace. It would be wasted on us. Contemplation enables us to lay down our life, out of love, for others.
I would recommend for further reading, “Francis de Sales, Jane de Chantal Letters of Spiritual Direction” from THE CLASSICS OF WESTERN SPIRITUALITY.