On July 16, we celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, a solemnity for the Carmelites. The Carmelites look to Our Lady of Mount Carmel as a model of prayer and contemplation, especially taking as a point of emphasis the fact that she “kept all of these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19) following the finding of the Child Jesus in the temple. But what does it actually mean to ponder things in your heart, which requires going beyond cognitive reasoning? How can we learn to perform this action like Mary did, instead of instantly reacting or becoming angry?
When we ponder in our hearts, we consider quietly the things of God and the events in our own lives in light of His will and His sovereignty. It is human instinct to want to analyze things and think of them in light of what we want for ourselves or make a certain decision based on what others might think of us. We also want instant gratification or to understand now why things are happening and we don’t like having to wait for answers. But Jesus calls us to enter more deeply into the things going on around us and the mysteries of our faith by reflecting and listening and not just thinking about things without His input. That’s the difference. Thinking about things with our brains often doesn’t allow for divine input and it often makes us anxious or angry about things that we can’t control. When we surrender ourselves to pondering in our hearts, we allow God to come into the events that are happening and we ask Him to give us light concerning them so that we can remain thoughtful and prayerful and handle things prudently. It also helps us become more patient and accepting of God’s time instead of our own time.
Being able to ponder things this way starts with fostering a strong prayer life and making frequent quiet times for prayer. Inviting the Holy Spirit to fill us, just as He filled the apostles at Pentecost, also will lead us to His seven gifts which will better equip us to ponder in our hearts. Praying the novena to the Holy Spirit, particularly before the feast of Pentecost, is a great way to reflect on the individual gifts of the Spirit and ask for them individually. The gifts of wisdom and knowledge, specifically, will give us the graces to be able to be calm and reflective in the face of trials and tribulations. When we understand that everything works out for the glory of God and according to His will and not our own, we can put aside our own expectations for how things ought to be and think about them according to how God wants them to be. Let us also ask Our Lady of Mount Carmel for this grace.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for us!