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Posted April 13, 2011

Book: Difficulties in Mental Prayer
Author: M. Eugene Boylan, o.c.r.
Ave Maria Press. Notre Dame, IN. 2011. Pp. 119

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

Now with an extended biography and a foreword by leading Trappist Michael Casey, O.C.S.O., this new edition of Dom M. Eugene Boylan’s seminal work on prayer enlivens a spiritual classic that enables anyone to navigate the personal challenges that come with a pursuit of growth in prayer. Drawing on personal experience and the teaching of the mystics, Boylan systematically considers the difficulties that arise at each level of prayer and offers practical advice for overcoming them.

Boylan’s approach is unique because he always has in mind those readers who either find it difficult to meditate or seem to have lost the capacity to do so. According to the journal Catholic World, Boylan’s masterwork “will simplify a subject often unnecessarily complicated.”

An Excerpt from the Book:

The Prayer of the Priest

St. Thomas is quite definite in stating that the functions of the priest, whatever his “state” require greater interior sanctity than even the religious state. The pronouncements of the recent Popes leave no room for doubt about the necessity of sanctity in the priest. It will suffice here to quote Pius X: “There are some who think and teach that the whole value of a priest consists in the fact that he devotes himself to the needs of others. How false and disastrous is such a doctrine. Personal sanctity alone will make us the kind of men demanded by our Divine vocation: men crucified to the world, men to whom the things of the world are dead, men walking in the newness of life.”

It is true that a priest is not bound to the use of exactly the same means of perfection as a religious, but that does not lessen his obligations, for the fact is, that while the religious state is a way to perfection and therefore open to those who are still far from holiness, the priesthood actually presupposes that one has already acquired holiness. One might say, in fact, that whereas a religious is bound to tend to perfection by reason of his state, the priest is only bound to do so if he has not already attained the perfection required by his priesthood; his primary obligation to be perfect.

. . .Many fail in mental prayer for want of a grim determination — it must be grim, especially in the case of a priest living in the world, if it is to prevail — never to give up the practice of spending, say, at least half an hour daily in an attempt to pray, no matter how unsuccessful that attempt may seem to be. Even if the result is nothing but distractions or drowsiness, the resolution to persevere must not be relinquished. Three is always danger that when a priest who has to plan his own day considers the numerous urgent calls upon his time and the many — and apparently more profitable — purposes to which he could devote the period seemingly wasted in a fruitless attempt at prayer, he may yield to the temptation to abandon such a practice.

Table of Contents:

1. Introduction

2. The power of the soul

3. Discursive prayer

4. Modifying the method

5. Sources of difficulty in prayer

6. Towards affective prayer

7. Affective prayer

8. Further developments

9. Goodness of life

10. Prayer and the spiritual life

11. The path of progress

12. The difficulties of not praying

13. The prayer of the priest

14. The indwelling spirit of adoption

15. Our identification with Jesus

16. The growth of Jesus within us

17. Emmanuel — “God is with us”

18. Assets and liabilities

19. The prayer of faith

20. “Many are called”

21. Conclusion