From Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, IV, 8:
To correct the abuse and distraction of our wandering and dissipated imagination, it is necessary to fill it with holy images. When our memory fills up, it will only take us to those religious ideas. The water wheel pushed by the flow of a river always goes, but it only matters that water crosses its path. If the waters are pure, it will carry nothing but pure water; but if they are impure, the contrary happens. Thus, if our memory is filled with pure ideas, the turning, so to speak, of our restless imagination will not draw from this well and will only take us to holy thoughts. The wheel of a mill will always turn, but it will grind the grain that is there: if it is barley, we will have ground barley; if it is wheat and pure grain, we will have flour. Let us put in our memory all holy and pure images, and whatever is the agitation of our imagination, it will only return to us, at least generally, in the spirit, as the fine and pure substance of items with which we will be filled.
Let us be filled in Jesus Christ, in his actions, his suffering, his words. To give more than one object to our senses, let us be filled with the holy ideas of Abraham sacrificing his son; of a Jacob pulling from God by a holy battle the blessing he hoped for: from a Joseph leaving His coat in the hands of an immodest person to rescue his chaste body; of a Moses who dared approach the burning bush which the fire does not consume, and take off his shoes out of respect; of an Isaiah, who trembles before God until His lips Were purified; of a Jeremiah, who stutters so humbly before God and dares to announce His word; of the three young men for whom the flame of a burning furnace respects the faith; of a Daniel also saved by faith from the teeth of hungry lions: of a John the Baptist preaching repentance under poverty and the hair shirt; of Saul, who was beaten down by the powerful word of Jesus whom he persecuted; and all the other beautiful images of prophets and apostles. Your memory and imagination, consecrated as a holy temple by these holy images, should not bring you anything that is not worthy of God.
Catholic preachers and authors have long been made fun of the “pure thoughts” business. But with the images coming across our computer screens these days, I think they have the better part of the argument. It’s the spiritual version of the “garbage in-garbage out” mantra coding people have used for years.
It’s also interesting that all the images the Bishop of Meaux uses are from the Scriptures, contrary to the #straightouttairondale approach in fashion these days. He doesn’t even include the Mother of God in the list!