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no. 62


How to Pray with the Heart
part fourteen

by Father Stephen Valenta, OFM Conv.
INTRODUCTION: "Hearts-to-heart Talk" is a compendium of talks & writings on "How to Pray with the Heart" by the popular Franciscan from upstate New York - Father Stephen Valenta, O.F.M. Conv. and will be a regular column in each on-line issue. This quiet, sincere priest, with over 45 years in pastoral care and in the radio/television ministry, will touch your heart as he pinpoints the "how to's" of praying with and from the heart. In his twelfth column, his seventh in the DAILY CATHOLIC he touches on what causes "spiritual cholesterol."    Fr. Stephen's column along with columns by Sister Mary Lucy Astuto and Father John H. Hampsch, C.M.F. promise simple, but effective and vital insights into our faith and ways of fulfilling God's Will every day in every way. You can reach Fr. Valenta at Hearts to heart Center at P.O. Box 212, Rensselaer, New York, 12144 or you can reach him at (518) 434-1723.
How to Pray with the Heart
Part Fourteen: "spiritual cholesterol" that blocks us from truly praying from and with the heart.
      We have an idea of what a cholesterol problem could do to the flow of blood into the heart and into the brain. Our day brings this out in living color. We could make a parallel with what can be called, "spiritual cholesterol." It is comprised of all the various blockages which prevent the flow of the gifts of the Holy Spirit into the mind and into the heart. There are a goodly number of these. Pride is the greatest. It is a very massive blockage because it puts one on a pedestal equal to or even greater than God. A proud person pivots his life around himself, leaving God out of the picture. It is self-worship, it is a looking at all things, all people, God Himself, through his/her own eyes, making oneself obsessively more important than any thing or anyone else. As a person is filled with himself, there is no room for the Holy Spirit to function. With a ckaked-up possession of oneself, one crowds out the Spirit and prevents His free access to, and movement within, the soul. Pride cannot be the foundation on which is built any prayer life let alone prayer with the heart!

      Excessive Fear is yet another blockage. Fear can be so great within a person that it prevents one from exercising even the ordinary things of everyday life like sleeping, eathing, and working. A person crippled by fear, nonetheless, can still plead in desperation for help from the Spirit. When that plea comes from the depth of a person, it will be acted on.

      Some other blockages to grace, preventing the flow of divine life within a soul are: low self-esteem, self consciousness, an undisciplined mind, excessive activity, undue attachment to the world - to pleasures - to a life of ease - to a craving for power, a lust for material goods. The sanctifying activity of the Holy Spirit is stifled. A soul effected by any one or more of these blockages makes it impossible for the Spirit to have a part in its life. God does not force Himself on anyone. It follows that, since it is the Holy Spirit Who makes prayer with the heart possible, one meshed in self, in the world, in pleasure, cannot receive grace enough to enter into any valid form of prayer.

      In my next installment I will treat the final part of this thought process on measures by dealing with how to clear these blockages to "spiritual cholestoral."

To review Father Valenta's previous columns in this series, go to Archives beginning with the August 18, 1997 issue of A CALL TO PEACE: volume 8, no. 16.

December 29, 1997     volume 8, no. 62
Father Stephen Valenta Column

December 1997