Dan Burke is an award-winning author, writer, and speaker on Catholic spirituality. He has written and/or edited nine books on faithful Catholic spirituality and is the Executive Director and writer for EWTN’s National Catholic Register. Dan is the president of the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, and the creator of Divine Intimacy Radio and SpiritualDirection.com.
How long should you spend in meditation? What if you don't have that much time? When's the best time for meditation?
Counsels for Meditation, from Finding God through Meditation, by St. Peter of Alcantara
The Sixth Counsel—Avoid Brevity in Meditation
This counsel does not much differ from the former, which, notwithstanding, is equally necessary. And this it is that the servant of God must not content himself that he has felt a little sensible consolation from meditation, as many do when they have shed a little dry tear, or felt a little comforting of the heart, that they have attained to the scope and end of this exercise. But they are far deceived; for even as to make the earth fruitful, one little shower which lays the dust is not sufficient, but it must have a great deal of rain, thoroughly soaked into the roots of the plants, before it can give any hopes of a fruitful year, so the abundance of celestial waters are necessary to our souls to make them bring forth the fruit of good works. Wherefore, we are not without cause admonished by spiritual men that we should spend as much time as we possibly can in this holy exercise, and it is better to insist some long time together, than by fits, for when the time is short, it will be almost all consumed in focusing the imagination, and recollecting the heart, and it often happens, that while we should reap the fruit of our former trouble, meditation is quite broken off!
Concerning the prefixed time for meditation, it seems to me, whatsoever is less than two hours, or an hour and a half, is too little for this exercise; because almost one hour is spent in tuning the instrument of our souls, redirecting idle and unprofitable thoughts, and recollecting the mind from temporal things; and some time, also, is necessary to spend in reaping the fruit of our prayer in the latter end. Although I cannot deny, but after some pious action, the mind is better disposed for meditation, for as dried wood quickly burns, so the mind that is well disposed is sooner kindled with this celestial fire. The morning also is the best time for meditation, because the mind is then most free from occupations and therefore can with better facility apply itself to this holy exercise. But who, by reason of the multiplicity of outward affairs, cannot spend so much time? Yet, at leastwise, let them with the poor widow in the Gospel offer up to God the small mite of their sincere affection. And no doubt but he who provides for all creatures, according to their several necessities, will graciously accept it if their culpable negligence does not deserve the contrary.
Finding God through Meditation, by St. Peter of Alcantara, brings the wisdom of the great saint into your hands. St. Peter directed St. Teresa of Avila on difficult questions she had about prayer and she turned to this work for guidance.
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