Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Our Eternal Safety Consists in Prayer

Prayer is not only useful, but necessary for salvation; and therefore God, who desires that we should be saved, has enjoined it as a precept, Seek, and it shall be given you.1 It was an error of Wickliff, condemned by the Council of Constance, to say that prayer was a subject of divine counsel to us, and not of command. It is necessary,--not, it is advisable or fitting,--always to pray.2 Wherefore Doctors of the Church always say that he cannot be held innocent of grievous sin who neglects to recommend himself to God, at least once in a month, and at all times when he finds himself assaulted by severe temptation.

The reason of this necessity of recommending ourselves often to God arises from our inability to do any good work, or to entertain any good thoughts, of ourselves: Without Me ye can do nothing.3 We are not sufficient of ourselves to think anything of ourselves.4 Therefore, St. Philip Neri said that he despaired of himself. On the other hand, St. Augustine wrote that God desires to bestow His graces, but only on those who beg them.5 And, especially, said the saint, God only gives the grace of perseverance to those who seek it.6

It is a fact that the devil never ceases to go about to devour us, and therefore we need ever to defend ourselves by prayer. “Continual prayer is necessary for man,” said St. Thomas.7 And Jesus Christ first taught us, We must always pray, and not faint.8 Otherwise, how can we resist the perpetual temptations of the world and the devil? It was the error of Jansenius, condemned by the Church, that the observance of certain precepts was impossible, and that sometimes grace itself fails to render it possible to us. God is faithful, said St. Paul, who does not suffer us to be tempted above our strength.9 Yet he desires that, when we are tried, we should have recourse to him for help to resist. St. Augustine wrote: “The law is given, that grace may be sought; grace is given, that the law may be fulfilled.”10 Granting that the law cannot be obeyed by us without grace, God has yet given us the law, in order that we may seek the grace to fulfil it; and, therefore, he gives the grace that we may fulfil it. All this was well expressed by the Council of Trent, in these words: “God does not command things that are impossible, but, in commanding us, he counsels thee both to do what thou canst, and seek for aid for what thou canst not do, and he helps thee that thou mayst be able to do it.”11

Thus, the Lord is ever ready to give us his help, in order that we may not be overcome by temptation; but he only gives this help to those who fly to him in the time of trial, and especially in temptations against chastity, as the Wise Man wrote: Because I knew that thus only could I preserve continence, if God should grant it, therefore I went to the Lord and besought him.12 Let us rest assured that we can never overcome our carnal appetites, if God does not give us help, and this help we cannot have without prayer; but if we pray, we shall assuredly have power to resist the devil in everything, and the strength of God, who strengthens us; as St. Paul says, I can do all things, through God who strengthens me.13

It is also most useful to us, in order to obtain the divine grace, that we should have recourse to the intercession of the saints, who have great power with God, especially for the benefit of those who have a particular devotion to them. And this is not a mere devotion dependent upon our private fancy, but it is a duty, as St. Thomas writes,14 that the divine law requires that we mortals should receive the aid which is necessary for our salvation, through the prayers of the saints. Especially this aid comes through the intercession of Mary, whose prayers are of more value than those of all the saints; so much so, indeed, as St. Bernard says, that it is through her intercession that we have access to Jesus Christ our Mediator and Saviour. “Through thee we have access to the Son, O thou giver of grace, and Mother of our salvation! that through thee he may receive us, who through thee was given for us.”15 This, indeed, I have sufficiently proved in my book called “The Glories of Mary;”16 and, so in my work “On Prayer,”17 chap, 1, I have brought forward the opinion of many saints, especially St. Bernard, and many theologians, as, for example, Father di Alessandro and Father Contenson, that through Mary we receive all the graces which we receive from God. Hence, also, St. Bernard says, “Let us seek for grace, and let us seek it through Mary; for he that seeks finds, and cannot be deceived.”18 The same was said by St. Peter Damian, St. Bonaventure, St. Bernardine of Sienna, St. Antoninus, and others.

Let us then pray, and pray with confidence, says the Apostle. Let us go boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.19 Jesus Christ now sits on the throne of grace to comfort all who fly to him, and says, Seek, and it shall be given to you.20 On the day of judgment he will also sit upon his throne, but it will be a throne of judgment; what madness, then, it is in those who, having it in their power to be delivered from their miseries by going to Jesus, now that he sits on his throne of grace, wait till he becomes their judge, and will not avail themselves of his mercy. Now he says to us that whatever we ask of him, if we have confidence, he will give us all. And what more can one friend do to another to show his love than say, “Seek what thou wilt, and I will give it thee.”21 St. James adds more, and says, If any man need wisdom, let him ask it of God, who gives to all men liberally, and reproaches not, and it shall be given him.22 By “wisdom” is here meant the knowledge of the salvation of the soul; to have this wisdom, we must seek of God the graces necessary to bring us to salvation. And will God give them? Most assuredly he will give them, and in still greater abundance than we ask them. Let us observe also the words, “He does not reproach us.” If the sinner repents of his sins, and asks salvation from God, God does not that which men do, who reproach the ungrateful with their ingratitude, and deny them what they ask; but he gives it to them willingly, and even more than they beg for. If, then, we would be saved, we must have our lips ever opened to pray, and say, “My God, help me; my God; have mercy; Mary, have mercy.” When we cease to pray, we are lost. Let us pray for ourselves: let us pray for sinners, for this is most pleasing to God. Let us pray also daily for holy souls in purgatory; those holy prisoners are most grateful to all who pray for them. Whensoever we pray, let us seek grace of God through the merits of Jesus Christ, for he himself assures us that whatever we ask in his name, he will give it to us.23

O my God! this is the grace which, above all others, I ask through the merits of Jesus Christ: grant that throughout my life, and especially in time of temptation, I may recommend myself to Thee, and hope for Thy help through the love of Jesus and Mary. O holy Virgin! obtain for me this grace on which depends my salvation.

1“Petite, et dabitur vobis.” -- Matt. vii. 7.

2“Oportet semper orare.” -- Luke, xviii. 1.

3“Sine me nihil potestis facere.” -- John, xv. 5.

4“Non quod sufficientes simus cogitare aliquid a nobis.” -- 2 Cor. iii. 5.

5“Deus dare vult, sed non dat nisi petenti.” -- In Ps. cii.

6“Alia non nisi orantibus Deum præparasse, sicut perseverantiam.” -- De dono pers. c. 16.

7“Necessaria est homini jugis oratio.” -- 3. p. q. 39, a. 5.

8“Oportet semper orare, et non deficere.” -- Luke, xviii. 1.

9“Fidelis autem Deus est, qui non patietur vos tentari supra id quod potestis.” -- I Cor. x. 13.

10“Lex data est ut gratia quæreretur; gratia data est ut lex impleretur.” -- De spir. et litt. c. 19.

11“Deus impossibilia non jubet; sed jubendo monet, et facere quod possis,et petere quod non possis; et adjuvat ut possis.” -- Sess. 6, ch. 11.

12“Et ut scivi quoniam aliter non possem esse continens, nisi Deus det . . . adii Dominum, et deprecatus sum illum.” -- Wis. viii. 21.

13“Omnia possum in eo qui me confortat.” -- Phil. iv. 13.

14In 4 sent. d. 45, q. 3, a. 2.

15“Per te accessum habeamus ad Filium, O Inventrix gratiæ, Mater salutis, ut per te nos suscipiat, qui per te datus est nobis.” -- In Adv. Dom. s. 2.

16P. 1, ch. 5.

17P. 1, ch. 1.

18“Quæramus gratiam, et per Mariam quæramus; quia quod quaerit, invenit, et frustrari non potest.” -- De Aquæd.

19“Adeamus ergo cum fiducia ad thronum gratiæ, ut misericordiam consequamur, et gratiam inveniamus in auxilio opportune.” -- Heb. iv. 16.

20Petite, et dabitur vobis.

21“Omnia quæcumque orantes petitis, credite quia accipietis, et evenient vobis.” -- Mark, xi. 24.

22“Si quis autem vestrum indiget sapientia, postulet a Deo, qui dat omnibus affluenter et non improperat; et dabitur ei.” -- James, i. 5.

23“Amen, amen dico vobis; si quid petieritis Patrem in nomine meo, dabit vobis.” --John, xvi. 23.

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