God is love, a love that wants to give itself. God has loved us so much that he did not hesitate to give us His Son. At every moment he wishes to give himself to us, He wants to give us his Love and we cannot fathom how to receive it.
My wish in these notes is to show a method of praying named in different ways: “Prayer of the heart”, “mental prayer”, “meditation”, “Jesus prayer”, “ejaculations”, “aspirations”, “short prayers”, “the presence of God”,…. The method explained here, is in a way the common denominator of all these prayers we mentioned above. We find it in all the Christians traditions and schools of prayer. It is the summary of the mystery of prayer and petition and actualises them; it is their synthesis. It is like the core, the common denominator of every kind of prayer. This presentations hopefully will help us rediscover it. It is necessary to grasp it truly so as to be able to enter into the mystery of all real and efficacious prayer. It can truly be said that this is prayer, the very heart of prayer.
2- Some definitions of prayer
This prayer is, in fact, a movement of the heart. A movement of all our being toward God, an immersion in Him. This movement could be seeing as a “lifting up” or a sinking in, or entering and recollecting. But in all these movements we are getting closer to God expressing our love to Him. Because to love is to give oneself.
Some definitions of prayer will enable us to seize this movement:
– “Dwell in me” (John 15,4) “entering” or “seeing” the “kingdom of God” in various passages in the Gospels, “the kingdom of God is in us” (Luke 17,22), “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Co 3,16) “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14,23) “a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were afraid as they entered the cloud” (Luke 9,34)
– “Pray without ceasing” (Luke 18,1; 1 Th 5,17)
– “Prayer, St. Dionysius Areopagite assures us, inspired by the essence of prayer, is the gift that the soul makes of itself to God and its union with Him”
– John Damascene said prayer is “the elevation (lifting up) of the mind (mens, noûs) to God”
– In the Mass: “- Let lift up our hearts; – we lift them up to the Lord”
– Tauler also defines it: “The unitive introversion of the spirit created by man in the uncreated spirit of God”
A unitive entering, a permeation, a gathering together of the soul in God, of the spirit in God, an enlivening immersion in God.
3- What is the prayer of the heart?
This prayer consists in the fact of offering oneself to God. To offer one’s life and one’s soul freely to God. This offering is an act which is almost “physical” where we offer our heart and give it to God. In thus disposing our heart it is immersed in His heart which is full of Love. It is like putting the dough of our heart in the oven of the Heart of God, full of His Fire of Love, so in can cook (be transformed in Jesus). Its immersion in HIM, its nourishment by His Love, renews and transforms it. We can practice this movement of immersion in God in two ways, that complement each other. One way is practising it during the day, throughout the day, from time to time, in order to spend the time, non only in the Presence of God, but “in God”. Any time is suitable for this movement, and God is everywhere. The second way of practicing it is as well very recommended: we can freely and out of love, decide to dedicate, daily, a specific time for this type of prayer, this contact with God: i.e. 20 mins, a half-an-hour, an hour. During this time of practice of the Prayer of the heart, we are invited to repeat, from time to time, this act of offering in order to remain immersed in God under the transformative influence of His Holy Spirit.
In order to do in easier and more secure way this movement or act of offering of oneself to God we need the help of Our Lady. Therefore, counting on her all-powerful intercession we may offer ourselves to her; she comes and takes our heart and put it our Lord’s Heart.
The offering is done in silence, without necessarily the noise or words. In fact, as we shall see, words, either spoken or in the mind, as also the work of the imagination, are not at a condition for this act to “work”. They can be – and we will see it – a sort of a catalyst, expressing our feelings and love to God.
4- The purpose of this prayer
The purpose of all prayer is to enter in a direct contact with God, spirit to spirit, in order to be united with Him. The distance that separates us from Him is infinite. On top of that, as we have the area of our freedom, God has his, and we need to respect it: we cannot interfere in His freedom, or force him to love us. He does it spontaneously, love being His very nature. We are created beings and he is uncreated, what is there in common between Him and us? This total distance that separates us from Him is in a way divided into two stretches of road. The first part of the journey depends on us, we can and we have to do it. He gives us always his the general help of his grace in order to do it. The second part of the journey, moving within God’s Kingdom depends on Him. God here is the one who moves us in Him. He comes and takes us, and introduces us in Him.
In the Gospel it is said that the Lord obliged the crowd, the disciples to go to the other bank of the lake of Genesareth. The other bank is God. To decide to take the boat, to go there and to live there depends on us. But what happens on the road escapes us. Because that belongs to God.
5- Where does this encounter happen?
Where does this encounter happen? By what faculty or part of ourselves do we enter into God? Here are the fundamental questions we must ask ourselves to reach the central question of the essence of prayer.
We can take our heart, symbol of our whole being, of our entire life, into our hands and lift it up to God, and in asking the Virgin Mary to come to take it and place it in the burning love of the Heart of the Lord. As a first step we do what we can; that of lifting up and offering our heart. We are unable, in this gesture of offering, to lift our heart beyond a certain limit (the barrier between general and particular help). We are unable to pass this limit by our own resources. We believe, however, in the action of the Virgin Mary who comes to take our heart and place it in that of the Lord. We believe in this supernatural action.
6- The Virgin Mary always comes
Mary comes always. She is the “vehicle”, she comes and takes us.
She summarises our “yes” to God. Her “yes” is the “boat” of ours.
Mary summarises and embodies all the elements of our “yes” to God, of our gift of ourselves to God, she is its “frame” and ship. “The Virgin Mary “cooperated through free faith and obedience in human salvation” (LG 56). She uttered her yes “in the name of all human nature” (St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III, 30, 1). By her obedience she became the new Eve, mother of the living.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 511)
We can take our heart in our hands and elevate it toward God, asking Mary to come and take it and put it in the burning Heart of the Lord.
As a first step we do what we can do which is to elevate and offer our heart (this is our part). In this movement of offering we can lift our heart only to the meeting point, the limit between the general help of the Grace of God and the particular help of his grace. We can’t enter in the “area” of His freedom (the Kingdom of God). We can’t cross that border with our own will and own power. We believe instead in the action of Mary, who is totally full of God, and come and take our heart and put it in the Heart of the Lord. We believe in this supernatural action of God.
The Virgin Mary always comes. This is a certainty in which we must live. She is the key to the world of grace; it is she who lifted the embargo to access to the Tree of Life (Jesus) imposed after the fall. She it is who said “yes” to God and who repeated it for us, on condition that we have recourse to her, that we recognise that God has given her to us, like a door, or a key, as a way of gaining access, as a loving and effective presence, one which acts in a maternal way. She comes
7- The requirements for a successful movement
The requirements for a successful movement as we present them here in this handout are the following:
a) we should make ourselves like a little child, putting all our worries and concerns in the Hands of God
b) To be in the presence of Mary, and count on her action. We offer ourselves (like little children) in her hands, abandoning ourselves to her action, with total trust.
c) To give ourselves totally (and not in part), and by doing that, we are, interiorly “moving”, coming out of ourselves, as if we are dispossessing ourselves, giving God total access to our heart.
If one of these conditions is lacking, the movement cannot normally occur. Because God never allows Himself to act in us, until we don’t give Him, clearly, freely and truly access to us. Our heart (that we give Him) is the deepest and dearest part of ourselves, the most intimate part of our being. God has for it the utmost respect, therefore, he doesn’t touch it.
There are several recommendations for achieving this movement of the gift of oneself to God and to accomplish them all at once may seem complicated. Here are the recommendations:
– The movement should be done freely. “Lord I give you my heart in total freedom”
– We need to offer all our being. “Here Lord is my heart, entirely”
– We shouldn’t put any restrictions of conditions in this offering.
– We should be doing it with real humility. “Lord, I await in humility”
– We should have total trust in God. “I have complete confidence in your action and I leave myself in your hands”
– We should abandon ourselves totally in His hands, to let Him act and work in us.
Yes, it is complicated to fulfil all these conditions in the same time. But this is how it is practised. If we read the works of St. Theresa of Jesus we will find there the same thoughts but expressed in the language of the 16th century. In the book of Life, at the beginning of chapter 8 where she praises the prayer of the heart, then at the beginning of chapter 9 she proceeds to explain how God gives himself to us and at once she goes on to talk about water and how it irrigates the garden. The garden is us and it is God who waters us (the action of God). The first way of watering the garden is by meditation. In the second, we see the advices she gives, how it is that God waters the garden. She goes on to explain the movement of prayer but without naming it. She speaks about humility, the gift of oneself, how we need to wait for His supernatural Action, trust in God and she stops there, but we would like to see how it works, because it is not clear enough.
Here is what St. Therese of Jesus says:
“I hope you do not think I have written too much about this already; for I have only been placing the board, as they say. You have asked me to tell you about the first steps in prayer; although God did not lead me by them, my daughters I know no others, and even now I can hardly have acquired these elementary virtues. But you may be sure that anyone who cannot set out the pieces in a game of chess will never be able to play well, and, if he does not know how to give check, he will not be able to bring about a checkmate. Now you will reprove me for talking about games, as we do not play them in this house and are forbidden to do so. That will show you what kind of a mother God has given you — she even knows about vanities like this! However, they say that the game is sometimes legitimate. How legitimate it will be for us to play it in this way, and, if we play it frequently, how quickly we shall give checkmate to this Divine King! He will not be able to move out of our check nor will He desire to do so.
It is the queen which gives the king most trouble in this game and all the other pieces support her. There is no queen who can beat this King as well as humility can; for humility brought Him down from Heaven into the Virgin’s womb and with humility we can draw Him into our souls by a single hair. Be sure that He will give most humility to him who has most already and least to him who has least. I cannot understand how humility exists, or can exist, without love, or love without humility, and it is impossible for these two virtues to exist save where there is great detachment from all created things.
You will ask, my daughters, why I am talking to you about virtues when you have more than enough books to teach you about them and when you want me to tell you only about contemplation. My reply is that, if you had asked me about meditation, I could have talked to you about it, and advised you all to practise it, even if you do not possess the virtues. For this is the first step to be taken towards the acquisition of the virtues and the very life of all Christians depends upon their beginning it. No one, however lost a soul he may be, should neglect so great a blessing if God inspires him to make use of it. All this I have already written elsewhere, and so have many others who know what they are writing about, which I certainly do not: God knows that.
But contemplation, daughters, is another matter. This is an error which we all make: if a person gets so far as to spend a short time each day in thinking about his sins, as he is bound to do if he is a Christian in anything more than name, people at once call him a great contemplative; and then they expect him to have the rare virtues which a great contemplative is bound to possess; he may even think he has them himself, but he will be quite wrong. In his early stages he did not even know how to set out the chess-board, and thought that, in order to give checkmate, it would be enough to be able to recognize the pieces. But that is impossible, for this King does not allow Himself to be taken except by one who surrenders wholly to Him.” (Way of Perfection ch.16 (in fact it is a copy from ch 25 of the Manuscript of Escorial)
It is good to note that at a given moment when she speaks of “Lady humility”, we are given the impression that she is speaking of Mary. Such a little clarification is needed, but she doesn’t do it! But, happily, there is this little secret which, as it were, “cooks” it all, making it much easier and accessible to our poverty. And what is this secret? Very simply, it is the Virgin Mary.
We have a spacious vessel which is called Mary and which is ready to come to take our heart and place it in the heart of the Lord. An enormous distance which the Virgin crosses.
But, first of all, why the Virgin Mary? Because this is the logic of God. When he wanted to give Himself to us humans he took the road of the Virgin Mary. Therefore when any human being will like to meet God and give himself to Him, it is logical to take the same road and logic He took: Mary. “A servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him” (John 13,16). Why would we then dare take another route than His? If the Lord established that in order to come to us he needed Mary’s “Yes”, why would he change this logic for us to come to Him? We still need Mary’s “Yes” to go to Him. Her “YES” and her action are necessary; it is the logic of the Incarnation.
If this movement of offering is, in fact to throw ourselves into the arms of Mary, trusting that she will take our heart and put it in the heart of the Lord, it is done, all the necessary ingredients for a successful immersion in God are present. Why? Because to give oneself to the Virgin Mary is easy and simple. When one gives oneself to the Virgin Mary this implies some degree of humility, because we put ourselves as a little child in her arms. We cannot deal frequently with the Virgin Mary and remain proud. She said: “he has regarded the humility of His servant” (Luke 1,48) – “humility” not “beauty” nor “virtue”.
When we give ourselves to the Virgin Mary, we give ourselves in the same way that a little child gives himself to his mother, and the Lord has said: “unless you become like little children you cannot enter the Kingdom of heaven”. Unless I trust in her action, the spacious vessel will not be able to be effective.
The recourse to the Virgin Mary is fundamental and, more than this, “SHE ALWAYS COMES”. St. Therese of Jesus said: If you are there, spending your whole life in waiting, do you not think it is already a grace to be in the presence of the Lord? Very well, today this is unacceptable because our knowledge of the Virgin through Grignon de Montfort and through Therese of the Child Jesus, is more fully developed and more profound. The Virgin Mary is present, she acts, she wants to act but it is necessary to have recourse to her. Whe we do so, she comes and acts every time. Her presence acts as a catalyst to ensure that all the right conditions are there. And so when we practice the prayer of the heart this way, we are putting together all the ingredients without fulfilling them separately one after the other: she brings them all together. Only from time to time, if we feel that something is not working, we may check that all the ingredients are present: if the gift of ourselves to the Virgin Mary is truly total, if we have total trust in her action and abandon ourselves in her hands like a little child. The presence of the Virgin Mary is of the utmost importance.
The gesture of offering oneself to the Virgin Mary ought to be honest and direct. It is a productive movement. Often times we keep our heart in our hands and will not give it up. We say to the Lord: “here I am before you, here is my heart”. But it is always held in our hands and not given! There is a movement depending on us: to offer, to give our heart.
Often, also, we offer our heart but in giving it we think that we are truly giving it while, in fact, we are holding on to it, holding to a part of our heart which we do not want the Lord to touch or to take. We keep it for ourselves. No, it is necessary to give all. The Lord will not take our heart by His power, He will not violate our freedom. As much as we do not give our heart to him totally, He will not take it. We can say what we like, but as long as we are not doing it, in a determined manner (this movement of the heart) he will not take it! Only the total gift of ourselves attracts God and allowing Him to act in our heart. This point will later be addressed.
8- The concerns of our heart are an obstacle
In order to be able to raise up our heart it must be light and free. A concern or a worry will occupy our heart and nail it to the earth. In order to free ourselves from this boundary we are invited to offer these concerns or worries to God entrusting them to Him. “To entrust” means to give them to God, freeing oneself from them and keeping them in our hands, reflecting upon them in front of God or under His light. God asks us to seek the Kingdom of God above all else. And for the rest, what causes our concerns, the problems which preoccupy us ought be entrusted to the Lord. In this way, being free, we can raise our heart to God.
Attachment to created things or beings is also a real obstacle in this offering. If we are wilfully attached to a person, an object or a situation and we do not receive them from the hands of God, this attachment blocks the interior movement of our heart and prevents it from being free to go forward towards God. The attachment to a created being shapes us at the likeness of this “object” of our affection, instead of being free and shaped at the Likeness of Jesus. In this case, Mary cannot handle our heart, because it is held by this deviant “affection”. She doesn’t have power over it to work on it!
Freedom of heart is, then, a condition for the realisation of this movement. It is important to verify that all the conditions are fulfilled: “freedom of heart” (which contrasts with anxiety) is realised by confiding to God these things. God is God and he will take care of them: when it is time for prayer no created obstacle has the right to stop us from meeting him. It is important to believe in a divine Action which is beyond us, and belongs to Mary, key of the world of Grace.
9- The areas of the heart and of the mind are independent
We need to make it clear that the area of the mind (thoughts, imagination) is different from the area of the heart that is offered to God. Therefore, even if thoughts do cross our mind during this moment of immersion of God, we don’t have to worry, they can’t obstruct the process of lifting our heart to him, or even being immersed in Him. On the contrary, if we do worry, or we give too much attention to them will obstruct the elevation of our heart to God or will decentre us from God.
In order to understand the difference between thoughts or imagination that occur in our mind and the core of our being immersed in God, we can take the example of the cinema: what happens on the screen is not us, and is not real life, it is just a movie! If an actor kills another in the movie, we are not guilty of that, and we are not the authors of what we see! It is the same thing during the immersion in God! What happens in the “screen” of our mind and imagination is not us! They are just passing thoughts or images, not generated by us. This is a passive distraction, not moved by our will; just there! It has no power to take us out of that sacred encounter with God! We don’t need to give it more attention that a bee entering in our car while we are driving! We can still drive, we didn’t come out of that sacred meeting with God. He still communicates with us! Our mind and imagination is exterior to this meeting as we will see it in the existential diagrams in the second part of this document.
During this immersion in God, it is not as well necessary to have fine thoughts, even inspired, but to give one’s heart. St. Theresa of Jesus says: here it is more about loving than thinking (Way of Perfection 26,3 ecc). And “to love” is to give our heart. It is good then to notice where our attention is taking us: into the area of the mind or into the area of the heart. We need to direct our attention from the mental activity to that of the heart. Attention is, simply, the place where we are or want to be. We can navigate and go here or there as we wish. One thing should be clear to us: the area of the mind and imagination is not the place were God is, not the place where our attention is brought by our love to God. On the contrary, we are invited not to dwell in it but “in Jesus” who is in the centre of our being. It is by offering ourselves to Mary like a little child that we spontaneously and effortlessly find ourselves in the area of the heart, immersed in God. Offering ourselves is the shortest way for recollection and after immersion in God.
10- How to calm the thoughts?
How can we calm our thoughts so as to be able to offer ourselves? How can we escape a train of thought?
To avoid thoughts becoming a snare to prevent the lifting up of the heart, one can repeat slowly the “Hail Mary” or any other short prayer that bears the name of Jesus and/or the name of Mary. The slow repetition of the angelic salutation recalls the thoughts because it will enable us to enter into the womb of Mary. It is important to acknowledge that we can repeat the “Hail Mary” a) without meditating on the any mystery and b) without thinking of the words of the greeting. This prayer is encapsulated in the words: “pray for us…”. We are seeking her all-powerful capacity to lift us to God. She is the Hands of Jesus that lift us to His Heart. All our desire is expressed in these short words: “Mother of God, pray of us”… lift us, and put us in God. He can’t say no to you, and you can’t say “no” to us. He gave you to us, on the Cross as a personal spiritual mother. So this loving repetition of these powerful words, almost in a “routine/mechanical” way, or in a “lullaby” fashion, is enough to allow the Action of Mary, introducing us in God, or keeping us immersed in him. “Without meditating any mystery of the Rosary” because in fact, being immersed in God, we are in front of the Main Mystery: God, and we are realising Jesus’ will: “Dwell in me” (John 15). we are before the mystery par excellence, that of our meeting with God Himself, present in the depths of our heart.
By this repetition, we invoke the Virgin Mary and ask for her swift help: “Pray for us poor sinners”. We recognise our fundamental inability to attract God. She is Immaculate Conception, “full of Grace” (Luke 1,28), God is always with her (Luke 1,28) and in her actions, and so she draws to us infallibly God and his action: “you have found favour with God” (Luke 1,30). And she makes herself present to us when we invoke her. Her presence is active. It is as if she was putting our heart in her hands to protect this sacred meeting, this direct contact and communication with God. She protects it. But also she facilitates the meeting. Her help is a real divine catalyst, that makes it easier, like when we want remove a ring from our finger using soap, the Virgin Mary frees us from the mental influence which imprisons us in the mind, allowing us to descend into our hearts so as to unite us to God. The repetition of the angelic salutation facilitates the encounter and protects it. It prevents mental activity from having a hold over our heart and to draws our heart back into the encounter.
But it often happens that we focus on things outside, things of the mind. We lose the contact and the communication with God. We allow ourselves to be led by a thought, an image , by a memory or a feeling. To what purpose? As soon as we are aware, we must not become disturbed, get carried away by the awareness that yet again we have failed to persevere in our communication with God. No, we are not engaged in sporting exploits to determine for how long we can remain present to God. God is not looking for length of contact with him; and doesn’t value the human being according to the length of contact with him, or the vigilance exercised to maintain this contact. This would only serve to distort matters or at least cause us to be stressed. God sees our goodwill. So, as soon as we recognise that we have relinquished our contact with God, that we have strayed in our imagination, or our thoughts, alright, peacefully resume the movement and as often as is necessary. Sometimes, this happens very strongly but this is only an exception. We must remain in him and we will be drawn to him in an irresistible and prolonged way. But this is part of it. To return to him to whom we belong and who is our daily bread, because each time we decide and choose to return to hi, we renew our love. We let him see what we do with our liberty. Then it is good to repeat a prayer slowly and peacefully to the rhythm of our breathing such as “Sweet heart of Mary, / be our refuge” to the rhythm of breathing in / and breathing out. To repeat it in a mechanical way without thinking about it in order to occupy the mental, to coax, to entice and to ask the help of Mary so that from her hands she will protect and brood over this sacred meeting with God. It is important that the prayer, the repeated phrase, contains the name of Mary or, at least, that of Jesus.
Mary’s intervention lessens the disturbing action and influence of mental activity. In fact mental activity exercises an enormous hold over us. We become accustomed to it to the point where nothing else exists! We fail to know what it means to stop mental activity. We left, a long time ago, the paradise of being “heart to heart with God” and we remain outside, lost in mental activity, suffering from thirst. And so Mary’s intervention modifies but cannot give a hundred per cent assurance of a complete defence against all temptation arising from mental activity. Mental arrows, thought, images, memories can always limit our attention and deter it from achieving the encounter with the sacred. As soon as we are hooked into mental activity, let us return slowly and peacefully in renewing our direction. We need to do this every time the necessity presents itself, as often as it is necessary.
11- The role of a third person
Additionally, the priest or the “spiritual counsellor” prays and intercedes for this.
The role of the Priest, or a spiritual director, who can be a lay-person, is of the greatest importance. It is he/she who has the experience of the Fire. It is s/he who becomes united with the person, becoming one with him/her. S/he awaits the fire in him/her. Whilst awaiting the fire (fervour?) s/he helps the other to understand the movement. It is his task to verify the steps and the quality. The Lord being united with the other, it is the other and he experiences in himself what is necessary for the other to do. If the other hesitates, because of his character, of who he is, if he is blocked by his sins, if he fails to give himself totally to God, if he is making a superhuman effort, if he is not allowing God or Mary to act, if he is unable to open himself to this new experience of the action of God.
12- Frequency and duration of the offering
If we find that we came out of the immersion, it is important not to get angry with oneself but, peacefully, to resume the process. To be angry with oneself is not good. Stress increases stress and peace draws us to peace. So the more our attitude and our reaction in the face of our weakness is peaceful and serene, the more we will be drawn to God who is Peace. He knows our weakness and is not concerned about our waywardness. He wishes to see our love renewed and it is this , much of the time, that is necessary.
Sometimes He will intervene in strongly but this will be an exception. He intervenes and attracts us to him in an irresistible and sometimes prolonged way. But this is his affair. On the other hand to return towards him belongs to us and this is our daily bread because every time that we decide and choose to return to him, we but renew out love for him. We show Him that this is how we use our freedom.
It is necessary, then to repeat the prayer. In fact it doesn’t last longer than two minutes. If this goes well, very good, and there is a desire for prayer and to prolong it. If it does not work out, it is necessary to return. It must proceed. The fact that the father and the fire open to him both the door and the heart of the Virgin.
What is the time to give to this prayer, this offering? Very well, if it is a prayer instead of – in fact it constitutes the very essence of the prayer, of its movement, – the time will coincide with that of the prayer. But it should permeate all prayer. This is what St. Therese of Jesus said of prayer; to unite interior prayer with vocal prayer (see: “The Way” – there where she deals with vocal prayer.) And so it permeates all prayer, making it efficacious because it immerses us in God. Mass, the rosary, divine office, etc. should be filled with this lifting-up, this immersion in God. It is obvious that at a certain moment in the spiritual life this will be difficult because the absorption in God will be strong (ecstasy) but the more one is united to God, the more one moves to a union of love, unless one sustains this absorption. Because the union of self is not comfortable with ecstasies, normal behaviour is resumed.
13- Remarks on this prayer
a- Relationship with mental prayer
This prayer is an excellent introduction to mental prayer because in it is a true synthesis, enabling it to be authentic and efficacious. Otherwise it is possible to go on for years praying in a way that is not effective. This will bring about a radical change. It triggers the divine life in a very real and actual way (in the scholastic meaning of “actual”)
It also enables us to see that the prayer of recollection (the effort to recollect oneself, and effort concerned with help in a general way) and the prayer of quiet (a supernatural action of God; a special help) are, in fact, two parts on one same movement!
b- Relationship with the Mass
1 To ask for forgiveness (confident that we are focused on God in order to be liberated) (Penitential rite)
2 The offering of our life (offertory)
3 Mary comes to take our heart and place it in the heart of the Lord (“through Him, with Him and in Him”)
c- Relationship with the act of offering of St. Therese of the Child Jesus
This prayer is like a summary of the Act of offering of St. Therese of the Child Jesus (9th June, 1895) but made in a dynamic and efficacious manner.
“In order to live in one single act of perfect Love, I OFFER MYSELF AS A VICTIM OF HOLOCAUST TO YOUR MERCIFUL LOVE, asking You to consume me incessantly, allowing the waves of infinite tenderness shut up within You to overflow into my soul, and that thus I may become a martyr of Your Love, O my God!
May this martyrdom, after having prepared me to appear before You, finally cause me to die and may my soul take its flight without any delay into the eternal embrace of Your Merciful Love.
I want, O my Beloved, at each beat of my heart to renew this offering to You an infinite number of times, until the shadows having disappeared I may be able to tell You of my Love in an Eternal Face to Face!” (Saint Thérèse, Act of offering)
“For simple souls there must be no complicated ways; as I am of their number, one morning during my thanksgiving, Jesus gave me a simple means of accomplishing my mission. He made me [34 r] understand these words of the Canticle of Canticles: “DRAW ME, WE SHALL RUN after you in the odor of your ointments [Sg 1.3].”‘ O Jesus, it is not even necessary to say: When drawing me, draw the souls whom I love! This simple statement: Draw me suffices; I understand, Lord, that when a soul allows herself to he captivated ‘by the odor of your ointments, she cannot run alone. all the souls whom she loves follow in her train; this is done without constraint, without effort, it is a natural consequence of her attraction for You. Just as a torrent, throwing itself with impetuosity into the ocean, drags after it everything it encounters in its passage, in the same way, O Jesus, the soul who plunges into the shoreless ocean of Your Love, draws with her all the treasures she possesses. Lord, You know it, I have no other treasures than the souls it has pleased You to unite to mine; it is You who entrusted these treasures to me, and so I dare to borrow the words You addressed to the heavenly Father, the last night which saw You on our earth as a traveller and a mortal.” (Sainte Thérèse, Ms C 34r°)
“All the saints have understood this, and more especially those who filled the world with the light of the Gospel teachings. Was it not in prayer that St. Paul, St. Augustine, St. John of the Cross, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis, St. Dominic, and so many other famous Friends of God have drawn out this divine science which delights the greatest geniuses? A scholar has said: “Give me a lever and a, fulcrum and 1 will lift the world.”. What Archimedes was not able to obtain, for his request was not directed by God and was only made from a material viewpoint, the saints have obtained [36 v] in all its fullness. The Almighty has given them as fulcrum: HIMSELF ALONE; as lever: PRAYER which bums with a fire of love. And it is in this way that they have lifted the world; it is in this way that the saints still militant lift it, and that, until the end of time, the saints to come will lift it.” (Sainte Thérèse, Ms C 35 r°-v°)
 We need to remember that the Prayer of the heart has its roots in the very moment of “Communion”, during the Mass: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood dwells in me and me in him” (John 6,56). The prayer of the heart is the movement that makes us dwell in Jesus, in the Fire of his love, therefore the second part of the Mass, especially the very moment of Communion is the Source of the prayer of the heart. In fact with the movement of the prayer of the heart we come back to the Treasure we received at the last communion and we draw from it “grace upon grace” (John 1,16), dwelling in Jesus.
 We can start with 20 minutes, every early evening, preferably at the same time, for a month, and after strengthening this habit, we can increase to 30 minutes, etc… until we reach one hour.
 “Finally, I offer You, O Blessed Trinity! the Love and merits of the Blessed Virgin, my dear Mother. It is to her I abandon my offering, begging her to present it to You.” (Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, Act of oblation to the merciful love)
“146. Since by this devotion we give to our Lord, through the hands of his holy Mother, all our good works, she purifies them, making them beautiful and acceptable to her Son.
(1) She purifies them of every taint of self-love and of that unconscious attachment to creatures which slips unnoticed into our best actions. Her hands have never been known to be idle or uncreative. They purify everything they touch. As soon as the Blessed Virgin receives our good works, she removes any blemish or imperfection she may find in them.
147. (2) She enriches our good works by adorning them with her own merits and virtues. It is as if a poor peasant, wishing to win the friendship and favour of the king, were to go the queen and give her an apple – his only possession – for her to offer it to the king. The queen, accepting the peasant’s humble gift, puts it on a beautiful golden dish and presents it to the king on behalf of the peasant. The apple in itself would not be a gift worthy of a king, but presented by the queen in person on a dish of gold, it becomes fit for any king.
148. (3) Mary presents our good works to Jesus. She does not keep anything we offer for herself, as if she were our last end, but unfailingly gives everything to Jesus. So by the very fact we give anything to her, we are giving it to Jesus. Whenever we praise and glorify her, she sings today as she did on the day Elizabeth praised her; “My soul glorifies the Lord.”
149. At Mary’s request, Jesus accepts the gift of our good works, no matter how poor and insignificant they may be for one who is the King of kings, the Holiest of the holy. When we present anything to Jesus by ourselves, relying on our own dispositions and efforts, he examines our gift and often rejects it because it is stained with self-love, just as he once rejected the sacrifices of the Jews because they were imbued with selfish motives.
But when we present something to him by the pure, virginal hands of his beloved Mother, we take him by his weak side, in a manner of speaking. He does not consider so much the present itself as the person who offers it. Thus Mary, who is never slighted by her Son but is always well received, prevails upon him to accept with pleasure everything she offers him, regardless of its value. Mary has only to present the gift for Jesus graciously to accept it. This is what St. Bernard strongly recommended to all those he was guiding along the pathway to perfection. “When you want to offer something to God, to be welcomed by him be sure to offer it through the worthy Mother of God, if you do not wish to see it rejected.” (Grignon de Montfort, “True Devotion”, 146-149)
 “It seems beside the point to say this, as we know that God always understands us and is always with us. There is no possible doubt that this is so; but this Emperor and Lord of ours desires us now to realize that He understands us, and what is accomplished by His presence, and that He is about to begin a special work in the soul through the great satisfaction, both inward and outward, that He gives it, and through the difference which there is, as I have said, between this particular delight and contentment and others which we experience on earth, for He seems to be filling the void in our souls that we have caused by our sins. This satisfaction resides in the most intimate part of the soul, and the soul cannot tell whence or how it has come to it; often it knows neither what to do, nor to wish, nor to ask. It seems to find everything at once, yet not to know what it has found: I do not myself know how to explain this. For many purposes it is necessary to be learned; and it would be very useful to have some learning here, in order to explain what is meant by general or particular help – for there are many who do not know this – and how it is now the Lord’s will that the soul should see this particular help (as they say) with its own eyes; and learning would also serve to explain many other things about which mistakes may be made. However, as what I write is to be seen by persons who will know if I am wrong, I am going on without worrying about it. I know I have no need to worry from the point of view either of learning or of spirituality, as this is going into the possession of those [the theologians] who will be able to judge it and will cut out anything which may be amiss.” (Autobiography 14,16)
 We can say either that God comes and takes us or Mary. It is the same, because she is totally filled with the Holy Spirit, so all the movements of her being are all done by the Holy Spirit. “God alone moves the faculties of these souls to do those works which are meet, according to the will and ordinance of God, and they cannot be moved to do others; and thus the works and prayers of these souls are always effectual. Such were those of the most glorious Virgin Our Lady, who, being raised to this high estate from the beginning, had never the form of any creature imprinted in her soul, neither was moved by such, but was invariably guided by the Holy Spirit.” (Saint John of the Cross, “Ascent of Mount Carmel” Book III, chapter 2 paragraph 10.)
 There is a big difference between praying in the Presence of God, and being immersed in Him. It is the same difference than when we have two candles, one is God, it is lit, and the other one is us, not lit yet! They are in presence of each other, but they are distant, the Fire of God didn’t take in the other candle. This is why, it is very important to offer ourselves to the Action of God, to the Fire of His love, and it is not enough just to be in His Presence, in Faith! This is why saint Therese of the Child Jesus was struck by these words of saint John of the Cross, from very early in her life: “It is vital for individuals to make acts of love in this life so that in being perfected in a short time they may not be detained long, either here on earth or in the next life, before seeing God.” (Living Flame of Love B, I, 34) cfr. Yellow notebook, 27th July, n°5, And she will explain in another place that to love is to give/offer everything (to God) and offer/give ourselves. So exercising love, or making acts of love, is to offer ourselves to the Fire of the Holy Spirit. This is what she will find in a clear way the 5th of June 1895, and do the Act of oblation. An Act she will repeat very often, having a real Fire in her heart (Yellow notebook 7th of July n°2), at every beat of her heart. In the end of her Manuscript C she will explain a shorter form of that Act: “draw me and we will run”.
 To love really a person is to set him/her free, and not to be attached to them in a disordered manner (not in God).
 In his second book of the Ascent of Mount Carmel, st. John of the Cross lists all the problems related to the mental activity during the prayer of the heart, and how they can obstruct the real immersion in God if we give them too much attention.
 There two ways of meditating the Rosary: one is closer to a “Lectio divina” way, and one closer to a “Prayer of the heart” way. In the first one, we need to take a mystery and meditate on it, while saying the “Hail Mary”. While the second way, is more silent, more interiorised; we say the “Hail Mary” but being immersed in the Mystery of God. These two way are complementary and not exclusive to each other, like the “Lectio divina” and the “Prayer of the heart” are, being the extension of each Table of the Mass.
 Mary’s reply is always swift. Real love is swift. The Fire of Love goes upward in a swift way. “[…] love desires the act to be very brief and quick. The strength and power of the act is commensurate with its brevity and spirituality, for virtue when united is stronger than when scattered. And love is introduced as form is introduced into matter; it is done in an instant, and until then there is no act but only the dispositions toward it. Spiritual acts are produced instantaneously in the soul because God infuses them.” Etc. (Saint John of the Cross, “Living flame of love” B, Stanza 1, v. 6, 33)