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Meditation and Contemplation

A simple ‘how to’ book by this recently prolific Ignatian scholar and teacher. The author has one purpose: to present in a clear and usable way two foundational Ignatian methods for prayer with Scripture – meditation and contemplation. Gallagher’s thesis in this short book is that prayer “comes alive when presented through experience”. He consistently illustrates Ignatius of Loyola’s teaching on prayer through reporting the actual experience of some of his own spiritual directees.

Gallagher follows Ignatius’ teaching as given in the Spiritual Exercises. He begins by stressing Ignatius’ conviction that when we come to pray we need to get in touch with what we wish and desire since this is really our quest for God. He teaches the reader the basics of Ignatian meditation – ‘praying with memory, understanding and will’ and contemplation – “a loving imaginative process by which we enter God’s Word and hear that Word as spoken to us today”. Gallagher tackles the often asked question, how do I know that using the Ignatian contemplative method is not just an imaginative ego trip? He recounts with absolute clarity Ignatius’ advice on immediate preparation for a prayer session and on how to end the session.

Gallagher stresses that Ignatius involves the total person in prayer not forgetting the body! Of crucial importance too is accompaniment in prayer – “it helps to sustain a prayer life”, Gallagher writes. We can always judge real prayer by its fruits – “prayer goes over into the day”.

The endnotes to this deceptively simply book are helpful and show Gallagher’s Ignatian erudition.

Timothy M. Gallagher, OMV. Meditation and Contemplation – An Ignatian Guide to Praying with Scripture
Crossroad Publishing Company, New York, 2008 pp. 107

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