Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Preparation for Death - Consideration XXXIII

The Love of God.
“Let us therefore love God, because God hath first loved us.” – John, iv. 19.
Love and Goodness shown by God to Man.
Consider, in the first place, that God deserves your love, because he has loved you before you loved him, and because he has been the first of all to love you. I have loved thee with an everlasting love.1 Your parents have been the first to love you on this earth; but they have loved you only after they have known you. Before your father or your mother came into this world, God loved you: even before the world was created, he loved you. And how long before the creation of the world did God love you? Perhaps a thousand years, or a thousand ages? It is useless to count years or ages; God has loved you from eternity. I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore have I drawn thee, taking pity on thee.2 In a word, as long as he has been God, he has loved you; as long as he has loved himself, he has loved you. Hence the holy virgin St. Agnes had reason to say: “I am prevented by another lover.”3 When the world and creatures sought her love, she answered: No, I cannot love you. My God has been the first to love me; it is but just, then, that I should consecrate all my love to him alone.
Thus, my brother, God has loved you from eternity, and through pure love has taken you from among so many men whom he could create; he has given you existence, and has placed you in the world. For the love of you, God has created so many other beautiful creatures, that they might serve you, and remind you of the love which he has borne to you, and of the love which you owe to him. “Heaven and earth,” says St. Augustine, “tell me to love Thee.”4 When the saint looked at the sun, the moon, the stars, the mountains, the rivers, they appeared to him to speak, and say: “Augustine, love your God; for he has created us for you, that you might love him.” The Abbot de Rancé, founder of La Trappe, when he saw a hill, a fountain, or a flower, would say that all these creatures upbraided him with ingratitude to God. In holding a flower or a fruit in her hand, St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi felt her heart wounded as it were by a dart of divine love, and would say within herself: “Then, my God has from eternity thought of creating this flower Or fruit, that I might love him.”
Consider, moreover, the special love God has shown to you in allowing you to be born in a Christian country, and in the bosom of the true Church. ... The number of those who have the happiness of being born in a country where the true faith prevails, is small, compared with the rest of mankind; and he has chosen you to be one of that small number. Oh, what an infinite gift is the gift of faith! How many millions are deprived of the sacraments, of sermons, of the examples of good companions, and of all the other helps to salvation which are found in the true Church! And God is resolved to give all these great helps to you without any merit on your part, and even with a foreknowledge of your demerits; for when he thought of creating you, and bestowing these graces upon you, he foresaw the insults which you would offer to him.
Affections and Prayers.
O sovereign Lord of heaven and earth, infinite good, infinite majesty! who hast loved men so tenderly, how does it happen that Thou art so much despised by them? But among these men, Thou, O my God! hast loved me in a particular manner, and hast bestowed on me special graces, which Thou hast not given to so many others. And I have despised Thee more than others. I prostrate myself at Thy feet; O Jesus, my Saviour! “cast me not away from Thy face.”5 I would deserve to be cast off on account of my frequent ingratitude to Thee. But Thou hast said that Thou wilt not reject a penitent soul that returns to Thee. Him that cometh to Me, I will not cast out.6 My Jesus, I am sorry for having offended Thee. Hitherto I have not known Thee. I now acknowledge Thee for my Lord and Redeemer, who hast died in order to save me and to be loved by me. When, O my Jesus! shall I cease to be ungrateful to Thee? When shall I begin truly to love Thee with a true love? Behold, I this day resolve to love Thee with my whole heart, and to love nothing but Thee. O infinite Goodness! I adore Thee for all those who do not adore Thee, and I love Thee for all who do not love Thee. I believe in Thee, I hope in Thee, I love Thee, and offer my whole being to Thee. Assist me by Thy grace; Thou knowest my weakness. But if Thou didst bestow so many graces upon me when I neither loved nor desired to love Thee, how much greater graces should I hope for from Thy mercy now that I love Thee and desire only to love Thee! My Lord, give me Thy love, but a fervent love which will make me forget all creatures a strong love, which will make me conquer all difficulties in order to please Thee; a perpetual love, which will never be dissolved between me and Thee. I hope for all graces through Thy merits, O my Jesus! and I hope for them through thy intercession, O my mother, Mary.
God has given Himself to us.
But God has not only given us so many beautiful creatures—he was not content until he even gave us himself. He loved us, and delivered himself up for us.7 Accursed sin had robbed us of the divine grace, and made us the slaves of hell; but, to the astonishment of heaven and of all nature, the Son of God came on earth to become man in order to redeem us from eternal death, and to purchase for us the grace and the eternal glory which we had lost. How great would be our wonder if we saw a monarch become a worm for the love of worms! But our astonishment would be infinitely greater at the sight of a God made man for the love of men. He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, . . . and in habit found as man.8 A God clothed in flesh! And the word was made flesh.9 But the astonishment increases when we see all that this Son of God has done and suffered for the love of us. To redeem us it would have been sufficient for him to shed a single drop of his blood, or a single tear, or to offer a single prayer; for a prayer offered by a divine person would be of infinite value, and therefore sufficient for the salvation of the whole world, and of an infinite number of worlds. But, says St. Chrysostom, what was sufficient for redemption was not sufficient for the immense love which this God bore to us.10 He not only wished to save us, but, because he loved us ardently, he wished to be loved ardently by us; and therefore he resolved to lead a life full of sorrows and humiliations, and to suffer a death the most painful of all deaths, in order to make us understand the infinite love which he entertained for us. He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross.11 O excess of divine love, which all men and all angels will never be able to comprehend! I say, excess; for Moses and Elias, speaking of the Passion of Jesus Christ, called it an excess.12 St. Bonaventure called the Passion of Christ an “excess of sorrow and of love.”13 If our Redeemer had not been God, but a friend or a relative, what greater proof of love could he have given, than to die for, us? Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends.14 If Jesus Christ had to save his own Father, he could not have done more for the love of him! If, my brother, you had been God and the creator of Jesus Christ, what more could he have done for you than sacrifice his life in the midst of a sea of torments and sorrows, for the love of you? If the most contemptible man on earth had done for you what Jesus Christ has done for you, could you live without loving him?
But what do you say? Do you believe in the incarnation and death of Jesus Christ? You believe these mysteries; and do you not love him? or, can you think of loving anything but Jesus Christ! He, says St. Augustine, has come on earth to suffer and to die for you in order to make known to you the. immense love which he bears you.15 Before the Incarnation, man might doubt whether God loved him tenderly; but how, after the Incarnation and death of Jesus Christ, can he any longer doubt that God loves him with the most tender love? And what greater tenderness of affection could he show you, than to sacrifice his divine life for the love of you? Our ears are accustomed to hear of creation, of redemption, of a God in a manger, of a God on a cross. O holy faith, enlighten us!
Affections and Prayers.
O my Jesus! I see that Thou couldst have done nothing more in order to compel me to love Thee; and I also see that by my ingratitude I have labored to force Thee to abandon me. Blessed forever be Thy patience, which has borne with me so long. I would deserve a hell made on purpose for myself; but Thy death gives me confidence. Ah! make me understand well the claims which Thou, O infinite Good! hast to my love, and the obligations by which I am bound to love Thee. I knew, O my Jesus! that Thou didst die for me; how then, O God! have I been able to live for so many years in forgetfulness of Thee? Oh that the past years of my life commenced again! I would wish, O my Lord! to give them all to Thee. But years do not return. Ah! grant that I may at least spend all the remaining days of my life in loving and pleasing Thee. My dear Redeemer! I love Thee with my whole heart; but increase this love within me. Remind me always of all that Thou hast done for me; and do not permit me to be any longer ungrateful to Thee. No; I will no longer resist the lights Thou hast given me. Thou didst wish to be loved by me, and I desire to love Thee. And whom will I love, if I do not love a God of infinite beauty and infinite goodness? a God who has died for me? a God who has borne with me with so much patience, and who, instead of chastising me as I deserved, has changed chastisements into graces and favors? Yes; I love Thee, O God! worthy of infinite love, and I sigh and seek to live wholly employed in loving Thee, and forgetful of everything but Thee. O infinite charity of my Lord! assist a soul that ardently desires to be entirely Thine. O great mother of God, Mary, do thou too assist me by thy intercession; beg of Jesus to make me belong entirely to him.
Love that Jesus Christ has shown in His Passion.
Our astonishment increases when we consider the ardor with which Jesus Christ desired to suffer and die for the love of us. I have a baptism, says Jesus Christ, wherewith I am to be baptized; and how am I straitened until it be accomplished.16 I am to be baptized with the baptism of my own blood: and I feel myself dying through a desire that my Passion and death may soon come, that thus man may soon know the love which I bear to him. It was this desire that made him say on the night before his Passion: With desire have I desired to eat this pasch with you before I suffer.17 Then, says St Basil of Seleucia, it appears that our God cannot be satiated with loving men.18
Ah, my Jesus! men do not love Thee because they do not think of the love which Thou hast had for them. O God! how is it possible for a soul to live without loving God, if it considers that he died for its sake, and that he died with so great a desire of showing his love for it? The charity of Christ presseth us.19 St. Paul says that it is not so much what Jesus Christ has done and suffered for our salvation, as the love which he has displayed in suffering for us, that obliges, and, as it were, forces us to love him. Contemplating the love which Jesus Christ exhibits in his Passion, St. Laurence Justinian exclaimed: “We behold the All-wise infatuated through excess of love.”20 We have seen a God as it were foolish, through the excess of his love for us. And who could ever believe, had not faith assured us of it, that the Creator would die for his own creatures? In an ecstasy, St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, carrying a crucifix in her hands, exclaimed: “Yes, my Jesus, Thou art foolish through love.” This the Gentiles also said when they heard the apostles preaching the death of Jesus Christ; they, as St. Paul attests, regarded it as a folly which could not be believed. We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews indeed a stumbling-block, and unto the Gentiles foolishness.21 And how, said they, could a God that is most happy in himself, and stands not in need of any one, descend on earth, to become man, and die for the love of men, who are his creatures? This would be the same as to believe that a God had become foolish for the sake of men. But, it is of faith that Jesus Christ, the true Son of God, has delivered himself to death for the love of us. Christ hath loved us, and hath delivered Himself for us.22
And why has he done so? He has done so that we might no longer live to the world, but only to that Lord who has died for us. Christ died for all, that they also who live may not live to themselves, but unto Him who died for them.23 He has done it that, by the love which he has shown us, he might win all the affections of our hearts. For to this end Christ died and rose again, that He might be the Lord both of the dead and of the living.24 Hence the saints, contemplating the death of Jesus Christ, thought it very little to give their life and all things for the love of so loving a God. How many noblemen, how many princes, have left relatives, riches, country, and even kingdoms, to shut themselves up in a cloister, in order to live only to the love of Jesus Christ! How many martyrs have sacrificed their life! how many tender virgins, renouncing the nuptials of the great, have gone with joy to death, in order thus to make some return for the affection of a God who had died for their sake! And, my brother, what have you hitherto done for the sake of Jesus Christ? As he has died for the saints—for St. Laurence, for St. Lucy, for St. Agnes, so he has also died for you. What do you intend to do during the remaining days of life, which God gives you that you may love him? From this day forward, look frequently at the crucifix, and, in looking at it, call to mind the love which Jesus Christ has borne you, and say within yourself: Thou hast then, my God, died for me? Do this at least, I say, and do it often; if you do, you cannot but feel yourself sweetly constrained to love a God who has loved you so tenderly.
Affections and Prayers.
Ah, my dear Redeemer! it is true that I have not loved Thee because I have not reflected on the love which Thou hast borne me! Ah, my Jesus! I have been very ungrateful to Thee! Thou hast given Thy life for me by submitting to the most painful of all deaths; and have I been so ungrateful as not even to think of Thy sufferings? Pardon me; I promise, O my crucified Love! that from this day forward Thou shalt be the only object of my thoughts and of all my affections! Ah! when the devil or the world presents me a forbidden apple, remind me, O my beloved Saviour! of the pains which Thou hast endured for my sake, that I may love Thee, and may never more offend Thee! Ah! if one of my servants had done for me what Thou hast done, I could not bring myself to displease him. And I have dared to turn my back so often on Thee, who hast died for me. O beautiful flames, which have obliged a God to give his life for Me, come, inflame, fill my whole heart, and destroy all affections to created things. Ah, my beloved Redeemer! how is it possible for me to contemplate Thee, either in the manger, in Bethlehem, on the cross on Calvary, or in the sacrament on our altars, and not be enamored of Thee? My Jesus! I love Thee with my whole soul. During the remaining Years of my life Thou shalt be my only good, my only love. I have unhappily lived long enough forgetful of Thy Passion and of Thy love. I give Thee all things, and if I do not give myself to Thee as I ought, take me, and reign in my whole heart. Thy kingdom come. May my heart be the servant only of Thy love. May I speak of nothing else, may I treat of nothing else, may I think of nothing else, may I sigh and desire only to love and please Thee. Assist me always by Thy grace, that I may be faithful to Thee. In Thy merits I trust, O my Jesus! O mother of fair love! make me ardently love thy Son, who is so amiable, and who has loved me so tenderly.

1“In charitate perpetua dilexi te.” – Jer. xxxi. 3.
2“In charitate perpetua dilexi te; ideo attraxi te, miserans.” – Jer. xxxi. 3.
3Ab alio amatore præventa sum.
4“Cœlum et terra et omnia mihi dicunt ut te amem.” – Conf, l. 10. c. 6.
5“Ne projicias me a facie tua.” – Ps. l. 13.
6“Eum qui venit ad me, non ejiciam foras.” – John, vi. 37.
7“Dilexit nos, et tradidit semetipsum pro nobis.” – Eph. v. 2.
8“Semetipsum exinanivit, formam servi accipiens . . . et habitu inventus ut homo.” – Phil. ii. 7.
9“Et verbum caro factum est.” – John, i. 14.
10Quod sufficiebat redemptioni. non sufficiebat amori.
11“Humiliavit semetipsum factus est obediens usque ad mortem, mortem autem crucis.” – Phil. ii. 8.
12“Dicebant excessum ejus, quem completurus erat in Jerusalem.” – Luke, ix. 31.
13Excessus doloris, excessus amoris.
14“Majorem hac dilectionem nemo habet, ut animam suam ponat quis pro amicis suis.” – John, xv. 13.
15“Propterea Christus advenit, ut cognosceret homo quantum eum diligat Deus.” – De catech. rud. c. 4.
16“Baptismo autem habeo baptizari; et quomodo coarctor usquedum perficiatur!” – Luke, xii. 50.
17“Desiderio desideravi hoc pascha manducare vobiscum.” – Luke, xxii. 15.
18Hominum amore nequit expleri Deus.
19“Charitas enim Christi urget nos.” – 2 Cor. v. 14.
20“Vidimus sapientiam amoris nimietate infatuatam.” – Serm. de Nativ.
21“Prædicamus Christum crucifixum, Judæis quidem scandalum, Gentibus autem stultitiam.” – 1 Cor. i. 23.
22“Dilexit nos, et tradidit semetipsum pro nobis.” – Eph. v. 2.
23“Pro omnibus mortuus est Christus, ut et qui vivunt, jam non sibi vivant, sed ei qui pro ipsis mortuus est.” – 2 Cor. v. 15.
24“In hoc enim Christus mortuus est et resurrexit, ut et mortuorum et vivorum dominetur.” – Rom. xiv. 9.


Thursday, 7 October 2010

Preparation for Death - Consideration XXXII

Confidence in the Patronage of Mary.
“He that shall find me, shall find life, and shall have salvation from the Lord.” – Prov. viii. 35.
Power of Mary.
Oh! how great will be our thankfulness to the mercy of God, for having given us for our advocate, Mary, who, by her prayers, can obtain for us all the graces we stand in need of. “Truly wonderful,” exclaims St. Bonaventure, “is the bounty of our God, who has given thee, O Lady, to his guilty subjects as their advocate, so that thou art able to obtain for them by thy assistance whatever thou wilt.”1 Sinners, brethren, if we find ourselves debtors to the divine justice, and condemned to hell by our sins, let us not despair; let us have recourse to this divine mother; let us put ourselves under her protection, and she will save us. But we must have a sincere purpose of amending our lives. If we have such a purpose, and place confidence in Mary, we shall be saved. And why? Because Mary is a powerful advocate, a merciful advocate, an advocate that desires to save all.
In the first place, let us consider that Mary is a powerful advocate, who can obtain from the Judge all graces for her servants. This is a singular privilege, given to her by the Judge himself, who is her Son. “It is a great privilege, that Mary is most powerful with her Son.”2 John Gerson says that the Blessed Virgin asks nothing from God with an absolute will, which she does not obtain; and that, like a queen, she sends the angels to enlighten, to purify, and to perfect her servants. Hence, to inspire confidence in this great advocate, the Church makes us invoke her under the title of Powerful Virgin. Powerful Virgin, pray for us.3 And why is the patronage of Mary so powerful? Because she is the Mother of God. “The prayer of the divine Mother,” says St. Antoninus, “partakes of the nature of a command, and therefore it is impossible for her not to be heard.”4 The prayers of Mary are the prayers of a mother, and are therefore regarded by Jesus Christ, in a certain manner, as commands; hence it is impossible that her petitions should be rejected. St. George, Archbishop of Nicomedia, says that the Redeemer, as if to discharge the obligation which he owes to his mother for having given to him his human nature, hears all her prayers. Hence, St. Theophilus, Bishop of Alexandria, has written, “The Son is pleased that his Mother should pray to him, because he wishes to grant her whatsoever she asks, in order to repay her for the favor received from her in giving him flesh.”5 Hence the martyr St. Methodius exclaimed: Rejoice, rejoice, O Mary! thou hast for a debtor thy Son. We are all debtors to him; but he is a debtor to thee alone.”6
Hence Cosmas of Jerusalem says that the intercession of Mary is omnipotent.7 Yes, her prayers are omnipotent, because, as Richard of St. Laurence says, it is but just that the Mother should partake of the power of the Son. The Son, then, who is omnipotent, has made the Mother omnipotent.8 The Son is omnipotent by nature; the Mother is omnipotent by grace—that is, she obtains by her prayers whatsoever she asks, as is happily expressed in the celebrated verse: “What God doeth by right, thou, O Virgin, dost by prayer.”9 This was revealed to St. Bridget, who one day heard Jesus Christ addressing his mother in the following words: “Ask from me what you wish; for your petition cannot be fruitless.”10 My mother, ask as much as you please; for I shall hear all your prayers. He then subjoins the reason. “Because you refused me nothing on earth, I will refuse nothing to you in heaven.”11 You refused me nothing when I lived on earth; it is just that I should refuse nothing to you now that you are with me in heaven.
In fine, there is no sinner, however abandoned, whom Mary cannot save by her intercession. “You have,” says St. George of Nicomedia, “insuperable strength, lest the multitude of our sins should overcome your clemency. Nothing resists your power; for the Creator regards your glory as his own.”12 O Mother of God, nothing can resist thy power, since thy Creator regards thy glory as his own.”13 “Nothing, then,” says St. Peter Damian, “is impossible to thee, who can raise even those who are in despair to a hope of salvation.”14
Affections and Prayers.
My dear Queen and Mother, Mary, I will address thee in the words of St. Germanus: “Thou art omnipotent in saving sinners; thy prayers are all-powerful with God, because thou art the mother of true life.”15 Then, O my mistress, if I have recourse to thee, all my sins cannot make me despair of salvation. Thou obtainest by thy prayers whatever thou wishest. If thou prayest for me I shall certainly be saved. I will then say to thee with St. Bernard: Pray for me, who am so miserable, O great Mother of God, for thy Son hears thee, and grants whatsoever thou askest.16 I am indeed a sinner; but I wish to amend my life, and I glory in being specially devoted to thee. I am, it is true, unworthy of thy protection; but I know that thou hast never abandoned any one who has placed his trust in thee. Thou art able and willing to save me, and I trust in thee. When I was in the state of perdition, and forgetful of thee, thou didst think of me, and didst obtain for me the grace to enter into myself. How much more ought I to trust in thy mercy now that I am dedicated to thy service, and that I recommend myself with confidence to thy prayers! O Mary! pray for me, and obtain for me the grace to be a saint. Obtain for me holy perseverance; obtain for me a great love of thy Son, and of thee, O my amiable mother! I love thee, O my Queen! and hope to love thee always. Do thou also love me, and obtain for me the grace that I may be transformed from a sinner into a saint.
Mercy of Mary.
Let us consider, in the second place, that Mary is an advocate as merciful as she is powerful, and that she knows not how to refuse her protection to any soul that has recourse to her. The eyes of the Lord, says David, are upon the just; and this mother of mercy, says Richard of St. Laurence, keeps her eyes upon the just and upon sinners, that she may preserve them from falling into sin, or that, should they fall, she may raise them up.17 St. Bonaventure used to say that, in looking at Mary, he seemed to behold mercy itself.18 Hence St. Bernard exhorts us to recommend ourselves with great confidence in all our necessities to this powerful advocate, who is all sweetness and benignity to those who invoke her intercession.19 Hence Mary is called an olive-tree. As a fair olive-tree in the plains.20 As from the olive-tree nothing comes forth but oil, the symbol of mercy; so from the hands of Mary nothing flows but the graces and mercies which she dispenses to all who take shelter under her protection. Hence Denis the Carthusian has justly called her the “advocate of all sinners who have recourse to her.”21 O God! how great will be the remorse of the damned Christian in thinking that, during life, he could have saved his soul with so much facility by invoking the intercession of this mother of mercy; that he had not done so; and that there will be no more time to do it! The Blessed Virgin said one day to St. Bridget: I am called, and I really am, the Mother of mercy; for such God has made me.22 “I am called by all the Mother of mercy, and truly his mercy has made me merciful.”23 And who, but God in his mercy, because he desires our salvation, has given us this advocate to defend us? “Therefore,” adds Mary, “miserable will he be, who, while it is in his power, has not recourse to me, who am merciful.”24 Miserable is the man, and miserable for eternity, who, though he could, during life, have recommended himself to me, who am so benign and merciful to all, has neglected to have recourse to me, and is lost.
Perhaps, says St. Bonaventure, we are afraid that in asking Mary’s intercession she will refuse it to us? No, says the saint: “Mary does not refuse, and never has refused pity and aid to any sinner who has invoked her intercession.”25 She has not done so, and she cannot do so; because God has made her the queen and the mother of mercy; and as queen of mercy she is bound to attend to the care of the miserable. “Thou,” says St. Bernard, “art the queen of mercy; and who but the miserable are the subjects of mercy?”26 Hence the saint through humility adds: Since then, O Mother of God! thou art the queen of mercy, thou must have a special care of me, who am the most miserable of sinners.27 As mother of mercy it is her duty to deliver from death her sick children, to whom her mercy makes her a mother. Hence, St. Basil calls her a public hospital.28 Public hospitals are erected for the poor; and they who are in the greatest poverty have the best claims to be admitted into them. Hence, according to St. Basil, Mary ought to receive with the greatest tenderness and care the greatest sinners who have recourse to her.
But let us not doubt of the mercy of Mary. One day St. Bridget heard the Saviour saying to his mother: “Thou wouldst show compassion to the devil, should he ask it with humility.”29 The haughty Lucifer will never humble himself to ask her prayers; but if he humbled himself to this divine mother, and invoked her help, she, by her intercession, would deliver him from hell. By those words, Jesus Christ wished to give us to understand what Mary herself afterward said to the same St. Bridget—that when a sinner has recourse to her, however enormous his guilt may be, she regards not the sins with which he is charged, but the intention with which he comes. If he come with a sincere desire to amend, she receives him and heals all his wounds.30 Hence St. Bonaventure says: “Poor sinners! do not despair; raise your eyes to Mary, and trust in the mercy of this good mother.”31 Let us then, says St. Bernard, ask the grace we have lost, and let us ask it through Mary.32 The grace which we have lost, she has found, says Richard of St. Laurence;33 we therefore ought to go to her in order to recover it. When the Archangel Gabriel announced to the Most Holy Virgin the divine maternity, he said to her: Fear not, Mary, thou host found grace.34 But, since Mary was never deprived of grace, but was, on the contrary, always full of grace, how could he say that she had found it! In answer to this question, Cardinal Hugo says, that Mary found grace, not for herself, because she had always possessed it, but for us, who have lost it. Hence the same author says, that we ought to go to her and say: O Lady, property ought to be restored to him who has lost it; the grace which thou hast found is not thine, for thou hast always possessed it; it is ours, we have lost it through our own fault; thou shouldst then restore it to us.35 “Let sinners, then, who have lost grace by their sins, run—let them run to the Virgin, and say with confidence: Restore to us our property, which thou hast found.”36
Affections and Prayers.
Behold, O great Mother of God! at thy feet a miserable sinner, who has not once, but several times, voluntarily lost the divine grace, which thy Son had purchased for him by his death. O mother of mercy! I come to thee with a soul covered with wounds and sores; be not angry with me on that account, but have the greater pity on me, and assist me. I do not ask of thee earthly goods; I ask thee to obtain for me the grace of God and the love of thy Son. My mother, pray for me, and never cease to pray for me. It is through the merits of Jesus Christ and thy intercession that I am to be saved. Thy office is to intercede for sinners: I will then say, with St. Thomas of Villanova: “O our advocate, fulfil thy office!” recommend me to God and defend me. No cause, however desperate, is lost, when defended by thee. Thou, after Jesus, art the hope of sinners; thou art my hope. O Mary! I will not cease to serve thee, to love thee, and to have recourse to thee always. Do not then ever cease to pray for me, particularly when thou seest me in danger of again losing the grace of God. O Mary, O great mother of God, have pity on me.
Charity of Mary.
Let us consider, in the third place, that Mary is so merciful an advocate, that she not only assists all who have recourse to her, but also goes in search of the miserable, in order to defend and save them. Behold how she invites us all, and encourages us to hope for every good, if we have recourse to her. In me is all hope of life and virtue. Come over to me all.37 In explaining this passage, the devout Pelbart says: “She invites all, the just and sinners.”38 The devil, according to St. Peter, goes about continually seeking whom he may devour.39 But this divine mother, says Bernard da Bustis, goes about seeking whom she may save.40 Mary is called the mother of mercy; because, like a mother, she cannot see her children in danger of being lost without giving them assistance. Mary pities all our miseries, and constantly seeks our salvation. And, says St. Germanus, who, after Jesus, has greater care of our salvation, than thou, O mother of mercy?41 St. Bonaventure says that Mary is so solicitous about the relief of the miserable, that she appears to desire nothing with greater ardor than to comfort them.42
She certainly assists us as often as we have recourse to her; no one has ever been rejected by her, says the Idiot.43 But this, adds Richard of St. Victor, is not enough for her; she anticipates our supplications, and obtains aid for us before we ask her prayers.44 Moreover, the same author says, that Mary is so full of mercy, that, as soon as she sees misery, she instantly obtains relief, and cannot behold any one in distress without coming to his assistance.45 It was thus she acted when she lived on this earth, as we learn from what happened at the marriage of Cana in Galilee; where, when the wine failed, she did not wait to be asked, but taking pity on the affliction and shame of the spouses, asked her Son to console them, saying: They have no wine.46 Thus she induced him to change, by miracle, water into wine. But, says St. Bonaventure, if Mary’s compassion for the afflicted was so great while she was in this world, her pity for us is certainly much greater now that she is in heaven, where she has a better knowledge of our miseries, and greater compassion for us.47 Novarino adds: If Mary, unasked, shows such readiness to afford relief, how much more careful will she be to console those who ask her prayers!48
Ah! let us never cease to have recourse in all our necessities to the divine mother, who is always ready to obtain relief for all who pray to her. “You will find her ever ready to assist,”49 says Richard of St. Laurence. And Bernardine da Bustis adds, that she desires more ardently to obtain graces for us, than we do to receive them.50 Hence he says that, whenever we have recourse to her, we shall always find her hands full of graces and mercies.51 According to St. Bonaventure, Mary’s desire for our welfare and salvation is so great, that she feels offended not only with those who do her a positive injury, but also with those who neglect to ask favors from her.52 And, on the other hand, the saint affirms that they who invoke Mary’s intercession (that is, with a determination to amend their lives) are saved. Hence he calls her the salvation of those who invoke her.53 Let us, then, always have recourse to the divine mother, and always say to her with the holy Doctor: “In thee, O Lady, have I hoped; may I not be confounded forever.”54 No, O Lady, O mother of God, O Mary! I shall not be lost after having placed my hopes in thee after Jesus.
Affections and Prayers.
O Mary! behold at thy feet a miserable slave of hell, who implores thy mercy. I, indeed, deserve no good; but thou art the mother of mercy, and mercy is exercised in favor of those who are unworthy of it. The whole world calls thee the refuge and the hope of sinners; then thou art my refuge and my hope. I am a lost sheep; but to save the lost sheep, the Eternal Word came down from heaven, and became thy Son; he wishes that I have recourse to thee, and that thou assist me by thy prayers. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us, sinners. O great Mother of God! thou prayest for all; pray to thy Son also for me: tell him that I am thy Client, and that thou art my protectress: tell him that in thee, after him, I have placed all my hopes; tell him to pardon me, that I repent of all the insults I have offered to him; tell him to grant me in his mercy holy perseverance: tell him to grant me the grace to love him with my whole heart. In fine, tell him to save me. He does whatsoever thou askest. O Mary, my hope! in thee I trust; have pity on me.

1“O certe Dei nostri mira benignitas, qui suis reis te, Dominam, tribuit Advocatum, ut, quod volueris. pro nobis valeas impetrare” – Stim. am. p. 3, c. 19.
2“Grande privilegium, quod Maria apud Filium sit potentissima.” – St. Bonav. in Spec. lect. vi.
3Virgo potens, ora pro nobis.
4“Oratio Deiparæ habet rationem imperii; unde impossible est eam non exaudiri.” – P. 4, I. 15, c. 17, § 4.
5“Filius. quasi exsolvens debitum, petitiones tuas implet.” – Or. de Ingr. B. V.
6“Euge. euge, quæ debitorem habes Filium! Deo enim universi debemus, tibi autem ille debitor est.” – Or. de Sim. et Ann.
7“Omnipotens auxilium tuum, O Maria.” – Hymn 6 in depr. ad Deip.
8Cum autem eadem sit potestas Matris et Filii, ab omnipotente Filio omnipotens Mater effecta est.
9Quod Deus imperio, tu prece, Virgo, potes!
10“Pete quod vis; non enim inanis potest esse petitio tua.” – Rev. l. 6, c. 23.
11“Quia tu mihi nihil negasti in terra ego tibi nihil negabo in cœlo.” – Rev. l. 1, c. 24.
12Orat. de Exit. B. V.
13“Habes vires insuperabiles, ne clementiam tuam superet multitudo peccatorum. Nihil tuæ resistit potentiæ; tuam enim gloriam Creator existimat esse propriam.” – Or. de Ingr. B. V.
14“Nil tibi impossibile, cui possibile est desperatos in spem beatitudinis relevare.” – De Nat. B. V. s. 1.
15Serm. iii. in Dom. B. V.
16“Loquere, Domina, quia audit Filius tuus; et quacumque petieris, impetrabis.” – Depr. ad glor. V.
17“Sed oculi Dominæ super justos et peccatores, sicut oculi matris ad puerum, ne cadat, vel, si ceciderit, ut sublevet.” – De laud. B. M. l. 5.
18“Certe, Domina, cum te aspicio, nihil nisi misericordiam cerno.” – Stim, am. p. 3, c. 19.
19“Quid ad Mariam accedere trepidet humana fragilitas? Nihil austerum in ea, nihil terribile; tota suavis est.” – In sign. magn.
20“Quasi oliva speciosa in campis.” – Ecclus. xxiv. 19.
21“Advocata omnium iniquorum ad se confugientiam.” – De Laud. B. V. l. 2, a. 23.
22“Ego vocor ab omnibus Mater misericordiæ, et vere misericordia Filii mei fecit me misericordem.” – Rev. l. 2, c. 23.
23Rev. lib. I. cap. vi.
24Ideo miser erit, qui ad misericordiam, cum possit, non accedit.
25“Ipsa enim non misereri ignorat, et miseris non satisfacere nunquam scivit.” – Stim. am. p. 3, c. 13.
26Tu es Regina misericordiæ; et qui misericordiæ subditi, nisi miseri?
27“Tu Regina misericordiæ, et ego miserrimus peccator, subditorum maximus; rege nos ergo, O Regina misericordiæ.” – Paciucch. In Salve Reg. exc. 2.
28Publicum Valetudinarium.
29“Etiam diabolo exhiberes misericordiam, si humiliter peteret.” – Rev. extr. c. 50.
30“Quantumcumque homo peccet, si ex vera emendatione ad me reversus fuerit, statim parata sum recipere revertentem; nec attendo quantum peccaverit, sed cum quali voluntate venit; nam non dedignor ejus plagas ungere et sanare, quia vocor (et vere sum) Mater misericordiæ.” – Rev. l. 2, c. 23; l. 6, c. 117.
31“Respirate ad illam perditi peccatores, et perducet vos ad portum.” – Psalt. B. V. ps. 18.
32Quæramus gratiam, et per Madam quæramus.” – De Aquæd.
33“Cupientes invenire gratiam, quæramus Inventricem gratiæ.” – De Laud. B. M. l. 2. p. 5.
34“Ne timeas, Maria; invenisti enim gratiam.” – Luke, i. 30.
35“Currant igitur peccatores ad Virginem, qui gratiam amiserunt peccando; secure dicant: Redde nobis rem nostram, quam invenisti.” – In Luc. 1.
36“Advocata nostra. officium tuum imple.” – In Nat. B. V. conc. 3.
37“In me omnis spes vita et virtutis; transite ad me omnes.” – Ecclus. xxiv. 25.
38Omnes, justos et peccatores, invitat.
39“Circuit, quærens quem devoret.” – 1 Peter, v. 8.
40“Ipsa semper circuit, quæerens quem salvet.” – Marial. p. 3, s. 1.
41“Quis post tuum Filium ita generis humani curam gerit sicut tu?” – De sona Deip.
42“Undique sollicita de miseris. Solum misereri tu videris appetere.” – Stim. am. p. 3, c. 19.
43“Tanta est ejus benignitas, ut nemo ab ea repellatur.” – De cont. B. V. prol.
44“Velocius occurrit ejus pietas, quam invocetur, et causas miserorum anticipat.” – In Cant. c. 23.
45A Deo pietate replentur ubera tua, ut alicujus miseriæ notitia tacta, lac fundant misericordiæ, nec possis miserias scire et non subvenire.
46Vinum non habent.
47Magna erga miseros fuit misericordia Mariæ adhuc exsultantis in mundo, sed multo major est regnantis in cœlo.
48“Si tam prompta ad auxilium currit non quæsita, quid requisita præstitura est!” – Umbra virg. exc. 72.
49“Invenies semper paratam auxiliari.” – De Laud. B. M. l. 2, p. 1.
50Plus desiderat ipsa facere tibi bonum et largiri gratiam, quam tu accipere concupiscas.
51“Invenies eam in manibus plenam misericordia et largitate.” – Marial. p. 2, s. 5.
52In te, Domina, peccant, non solum qui tibi injuriam irrogant, sed etiam qui te non rogant.
53O salus te invocantium!
54In te, Domina, speravi; non confundar in æternum.


Monday, 27 September 2010

Preparation for Death - Consideration XXXI

“He that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved.” – Matt. xxiv. 13.
Necessity of Perseverance. – Means of Defence against the Devil.
St. Jerome says that many begin well but few persevere.1 Saul, Judas, Tertullian, began well, but ended badly, because they did not persevere in grace. The Lord, says St. Jerome, requires not only the beginning of a good life, but also the end:2 it is the end that will be rewarded. St. Bonaventure says that the crown is given only to perseverance.3 Hence St. Laurence Justinian calls perseverance the “gate of heaven.”4 No one can enter paradise unless he finds the gate of heaven. My brother, at present you have renounced sin, and justly hope that you have been pardoned. You are then the friend of God: but remember that you are not yet saved. And when will you be saved? When you will have persevered to the end. He that shall persevere to the end, he shall he saved.5 Have you begun a good life? Thank the Lord for it: but St. Bernard warns you that to him who begins, a reward is only promised, and is given only to him who perseveres.6 It is not enough to run for the prize, you must run till you win it. So run, says St. Paul, that you may obtain.7
You have already put your hand to the plough, and you have begun to live well; but now you must tremble and fear more than ever. With fear and trembling work out your salvation.8 And why? Because if—which God forbid—you look back and return to a life of sin, God will declare you unfit for paradise. No man putting his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.9 At present, through the grace of God, you avoid evil occasions, you frequent the sacraments, and make meditation every day. Happy you if you continue to do so, and if, when he comes to judge you, Jesus Christ will find you doing these things. Blessed is that servant whom, when his lord shall come, he shall find so doing.10 But do not imagine that, now that you have begun to serve God, there is as it were an end, or a lack of temptations: listen to the advice of the Holy Ghost. Son, when thou comest to the service of God . . . prepare thy soul for temptation.11 Remember that now more than ever you must prepare yourself for conflicts, because your enemies, the world, the devil, and the flesh, will arm themselves now more than ever to fight against you in order to deprive you of all that you have acquired. Denis the Carthusian says, that the more a soul gives itself to God, the more strenuously hell labors to destroy it.12 And this is sufficiently expressed in the Gospel of St. Luke, where Jesus Christ says: When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through places without water, seeking rest, and not finding it, he saith: I will return into my house whence I came out. And when he is come, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then he goeth, and taketh with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and entering in, they dwell there. And the last state of that man is worse than the first.13 When banished from a soul, the devil finds no repose, and does everything in his power to return: he even calls companions to his aid; and if he succeeds in re-entering, the second fall of that soul will be far more ruinous than the first.
Consider, then, what arms you must use in order to defend yourselves against these enemies, and to preserve your soul in the grace of God. To escape defeat, and to conquer the devil, there is no other defence than prayer. St. Paul says that we have to contend, not with men of flesh and blood like ourselves, but with the princes of hell. Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers.14 By these words the Apostle wished to admonish us that we have not strength to resist such powerful enemies, and that we stand in need of aid from God. With his aid we shall be able to do all things. I can do all things in Him that strengtheneth me.15 Such is the language of St. Paul; such, too, should be our language. But this divine aid is given only to those who pray for it. Ask and you shall receive. Let us, then not trust in our purposes; if we trust in them, we shall be lost. Whenever the devil tempts us, let us place our entire confidence in the divine assistance, and let us recommend ourselves to Jesus Christ, and to the Most Holy Mary. We ought to do this particularly as often as we are tempted against chastity; for this is the most terrible of all temptations, and is the one by which the devil gains most victories. We have not strength to preserve chastity; this strength must come from God. And, said Solomon, as I knew that I could not otherwise be continent exalt God gave it, . . I went to the Lord, and besought him.16 In such temptations, then, we must instantly have recourse to Jesus Christ, and to his holy Mother, frequently invoking the most holy names of Jesus and Mary. He who does this, will conquer; he who neglects it, will be lost.
Affections and Prayers.
Ah, my God! “cast me not away from Thy face.” I know that Thou wilt never abandon me, unless I first abandon Thee. Experience of my own weakness makes me tremble lest I should again forsake Thee. Lord! it is from Thee I must receive the strength necessary to conquer hell, which labors to make me again its slave. This strength I ask of Thee for the sake of Jesus Christ. O my Saviour! establish between Thee and me a perpetual peace, which will never be broken for all eternity. For this purpose I ask Thy love. “He who loves not is dead.” O God of my soul, it is by Thee I must be saved from this unhappy death. I was lost; Thou knowest it. It is Thy goodness alone that has brought me into the state in which I am at present, in which I hope I am Thy friend. Ah, my Jesus! through the painful death which Thou didst suffer for my salvation, do not permit me ever more to lose Thee voluntarily. I love Thee above all things, I hope to see myself always bound with this holy love, and to die in the bonds of love, and to live for eternity in the chains of Thy love. O Mary! thou art called the mother of perseverance; through thee this great gift is dispensed. Through thy intercession I ask and hope to obtain it.
We must Conquer the World.
Let us now see how we must conquer the world. The devil is a great enemy of our salvation, but the world is worse. If the devil did not make use of the world and of wicked men, by whom we mean the world, he would not obtain the victories which he gains. But says Jesus Christ, beware of men.17 Men are often worse than the devils; for these are put to flight when we pray and invoke the most holy names of Jesus and Mary. But when a person gives a becoming answer to wicked companions, who tempt him to sin, they redouble their efforts, they treat him with ridicule, upbraiding him with vulgarity and want of education; and when they can say nothing else, they call him a hypocrite, who only pretends to sanctity. To escape such derision and reproach, certain weak souls miserably associate with these ministers of Lucifer, and return to the vomit. My brother, be persuaded that, if you wish to lead a holy life, you must expect the ridicule and contempt of the wicked. The wicked, says the Holy Ghost, loathe them that are in the right way.18 He who lives in sin cannot bear the sight of those who live according to the Gospel. And why? Because their life is a continual reproach to him; and therefore to avoid the pain of remorse caused by the good example of others, he would wish that all should imitate his own wickedness. There is no remedy. The Apostle tells us that he who serves God must be persecuted by the world. All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.19 All the saints have been persecuted. Who was more holy than Jesus Christ? The world persecuted him so as to cause him to bleed to death on a cross.
There is no help for this; for the maxims of the world are diametrically opposed to the maxims of Jesus Christ. What the world esteems, Jesus Christ has called folly. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.20 And the world regards as folly what Jesus Christ has strongly recommended,—such as crosses, pains, and contempts. For the word of the cross, to them indeed that perish, is foolishness.21 But if the wicked revile and reproach us, let us console ourselves with the reflection that God blesses and praises us. They will curse, and Thou wilt bless.22 Is it not enough for us to be praised by God, by Mary, by the angels, the saints, and all good men? Let us, then, leave sinners to say what they please, and let us continue to please God, who is grateful and faithful to all who serve him. The greater the opposition and difficulty we meet in doing good, the more we shall please God and treasure up merits for ourselves. Let us imagine that we are alone with God in this world. When the wicked treat us with derision, let us recommend them to the Lord, let us thank him for giving us light, which he does not give to these miserable men, and let us continue our journey. Let us not be ashamed to appear like Christians; for, if we are ashamed of Jesus Christ, he protests that he will be ashamed of us on the day of judgment. For he that shall be ashamed of Me and of My words, of him the Son of man shall be ashamed, when He shall come in His majesty.23
If we wish to save our souls, we must resolve to suffer, and to do violence to ourselves. How narrow is the gate and strait is the way that leadeth to life. The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away.24 He who does not violence to himself, will not be saved. There is no remedy. If we wish to do good, we must act in opposition to our rebellious nature. In the beginning, it is particularly necessary to do violence to ourselves in order to root out bad habits, and to acquire habits of virtue. When good habits are once acquired, the observance of the divine law becomes easy, and even sweet. Our Lord said to St. Bridget, that when in the practice of virtue a person suffers the first punctures of the thorns with patience and courage, these thorns afterwards become roses. Be attentive, then, dearly beloved Christian. Jesus Christ now says to you, what he said to the paralytic: Behold, thou art made whole; sin no more, lest some worse thing happen to thee.25 Remember, says St. Bernard, that if you have the misfortune of relapsing into sin, your relapse will be more disastrous than all your falls.26 Woe, says the Lord, to them who begin to walk in the way of God, and afterward forsake it. Woe to you, apostate children.27 Such sinners are punished as rebels against God’s light. They have been rebellious to the light.28 The chastisement of these rebels, who have been favored by God with a great light, and have been afterward unfaithful to him, is, to remain in blindness, and thus die in their sins. But if the just man turn himself away from his justice . . . shall he live? All his justices which he hath done shall not be remembered; in the prevarication by which he hath prevaricated, and in his sin which he hath committed, in them he shall die.29
Affections and Prayers.
Ah, my God! such a chastisement I have often deserved, because I have, through the light which Thou gavest me, renounced sin, and have miserably returned to it. I infinitely thank Thy mercy for not having abandoned me in my blindness by leaving me entirely destitute of light, as I deserved. Great then, O my Jesus! are my obligations to Thee, and great should be my ingratitude, were I again to turn my back upon Thee. No, my Redeemer, the mercies of the Lord I will sing forever. I hope that during the remainder of my life, and for all eternity, I will always sing and praise Thy mercies by loving Thee always, and never more seeing myself bereft of Thy graces. The great ingratitude with which I have hitherto treated Thee, and which I now hate and curse above every evil, will serve to make me weep bitterly over the injuries I have done Thee, and to inflame me still more with the love of Thee, who, after I had given Thee so many grievous offences, have bestowed upon me so many great graces. Yes, I love Thee, O my God! worthy of infinite love. Henceforth Thou shalt be my only love, my only good. O eternal Father! through the merits of Jesus Christ I ask of Thee final perseverance in Thy grace and in Thy love. I know that Thou wilt grant it to me whenever I ask it. But who assures me that I shall be careful to ask this perseverance from Thee? Hence, O my God, I ask perseverance, and the grace always to ask it of Thee. O Mary, my advocate, my refuge, and my hope! obtain for me by thy intercession the gift of constancy in always asking of God the grace of final perseverance. Through the love which thou bearest Jesus Christ, I ask thee to obtain for me this gift.
We must Struggle against the Flesh.—Recapitulation.
Let us come to the third enemy—that is, the flesh, which is the worst of all: and let us see how we must defend ourselves against its attacks. The first means is prayer: but this we have already considered. The second is, to avoid the occasion of sin; and let us now ponder well upon this means of overcoming the flesh. St. Bernardine says that the greatest of all counsels, and the one which is, as it were, the foundation of religion, is to fly from sinful occasions.30 Being compelled by exorcisms, the devil once confessed that of all sermons, that which displeased him most was the sermon on avoiding the occasions of sin: and justly; for the devil laughs at all the resolutions and promises of penitent sinners who remain in the occasion of sin. The occasion of sins of the flesh, in particular, is like a veil placed before the eyes, which prevents the soul from seeing either its resolutions, or the lights received from God, or the truths of eternity: in a word, it makes it forget everything, and almost blinds it. The neglect of avoiding the occasions of sin was the cause of the fall of our first parents. God had forbidden them even to touch the forbidden fruit. God commanded us, said Eve, that we should not eat, and that we should not touch it.31 But through want of caution she saw, took, and ate it. She first began to look at the apple, she afterward took it in her hand, and then ate it. He who voluntarily exposes himself to danger, will perish in it.32 St. Peter tells us that the devil goeth about seeking whom he may devour.33 And what, says St. Cyprian, does he do in order to enter again into the soul from which he has been expelled?34 He seeks an occasion of sin. If the soul permit him to bring it again into the occasion of sin, he will enter again, and shall devour it. The Abbot Guerric says that Lazarus came forth from the grave bound hand and foot,35 and after rising in this state, he died again. Miserable, this author means to say, is the man who rises from sin bound by the occasion of sin; though he should rise, he surely will die again. He, then, who wishes to be saved must forsake not only all sin, but the occasions of sin—that is, the companions, the house, the connections which lead to sin.
But you will say: I have changed my life, and now I have no bad motive, nor even a temptation, in the society of such a person. I answer: it is related that in Mauritania there are bears that go in search of the apes. As soon as they see a bear, the apes save themselves by climbing up the trees: but what does the bear do? He stretches himself, as if dead, under the tree; and when the apes descend, he springs up, seizes, and devours them. It is thus the devil acts: he makes the temptations appear dead; and when the soul exposes itself to the occasions of sin, he excites the temptation, which devours it. Oh! how many miserable souls, that practised mental prayer, frequented Communion, and might be called saints, have, by putting themselves into dangerous occasions, become the prey of hell? It is related in ecclesiastical history, that a holy matron, who devoted herself to the pious work of burying the martyrs, found one of them not dead. She brought him to her house: he recovered. What happened? By the proximate occasion, these two saints, as they might be called, first lost the grace of God, and afterward lost the faith.
The Lord commanded Isaias to proclaim that all flesh is grass.36 Is it possible, says St. John Chrysostom, for hay not to burn when it is thrown into the fire?37 And St. Cyprian says that it is impossible to stand in the midst of flames, and not be burned.38 According to the prophet Isaias, our strength is like that of tow cast into the fire. And your strength shall be as the ashes of tow.39 And Solomon says that it would be folly to expect to walk on red-hot coals, without being burned. Can a man walk upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?40 Thus it is likewise folly to expose ourselves to the occasion of sin, and to expect not to fall. It is necessary then to fly from sin as from the face of a serpent. Flee from sins as from the face of a serpent.41 We ought, says Gualfrido, not only to avoid the bite or contact of a serpent, but should also abstain from approaching it.42 But you will say: My interest requires that I should frequent such a house, or that I should keep up a certain friendship. But if you see that such a house is for you a way to hell, there is no remedy; you must forsake it if you wish to save your soul. Her house is the way to hell.43 The Lord tells you that if your right eye is a cause of damnation to you, you must pluck it out and cast it from you.44 Mark the words; you must cast it, not beside you, but to a distance from you—that is, you must take away every occasion of sin. St. Francis of Assisi says, that the devil tempts spiritual souls, who have given themselves to God, in a way different from that in which he tempts the wicked. In the beginning he does not seek to bind them with a chain; he is content to hold them by a single hair: he then binds them with a slender thread; afterward with a cord; then with a chain; and thus drags them to sin. And therefore he who wishes to be free from the danger of perdition must, in the beginning, break all these hairs, he must avoid all occasions of sins, he must give up these salutations, presents, notes, and the like. And for those who have contracted a habit of committing sins against purity, it will not be enough to avoid proximate occasions: unless they fly even from remote occasions, they will relapse.
He who sincerely wishes to be saved, must, by often repeating with the saints, Let all be lost, provided God is not lost, labor continually to strengthen and renew his resolution of never again renouncing the friendship of God. But it is not enough to resolve never more to lose God; it is moreover necessary to adopt the means by which you may be preserved from the danger of losing him. The first means is, to avoid the occasions of sin; of this we have already spoken. The second is, to frequent the sacraments of penance and the Eucharist. In the house which is often swept there is no uncleanness. By the sacrament of penance the soul is purified; by it it obtains not only the remission of sins, but also help to resist temptations. The Communion is called the bread of heaven; because as the body cannot live without earthly food so the soul cannot live without this celestial bread. Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you.45 But on the other hand, to those who frequently eat this bread, is promised eternal life. If any man eat of this bread he shall live forever.46 Hence the Council of Trent calls the Communion a medicine which delivers us from venial, and preserves us from mortal sins.47 The third means is meditation, or mental prayer. Remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin.48 He who keeps before his eyes the eternal truths—death, judgment, eternity—will not fall into sin. God enlightens us in meditation. Come ye to Him, and be enlightened.49 In meditation God speaks to us, and makes known to us what we are to avoid, and what we are to do. I will lead her into the wilderness, and I will speak to her heart.50 Meditation is the blessed furnace in which divine love is lighted up. In my meditation a fire shall flame out.51 To preserve the soul in the grace of God, it is, as has been already said, absolutely necessary always to pray, and to ask for the graces we stand in need of. They who do not make mental prayer, will scarcely pray for God’s graces; and by neglecting to pray for them, they will certainly be lost.
It is necessary then to adopt the means of salvation, and to lead a life of order and regularity. It is necessary, after rising in the morning, to make the Christian acts of thanksgiving, love, oblation, and a purpose of avoiding sin, along with a prayer to Jesus and Mary that they may preserve you from sin during the day: you should afterward make your meditation, and hear Mass. During the day you ought to make a spiritual reading, visit the Blessed Sacrament and an image of the divine Mother. In the evening, say the rosary, and make an examination of conscience. Go to Communion several times in the week, according as your director may advise: you should ordinarily go to confession to the same confessor. It would also be very profitable to make the spiritual exercises in some religious house. It is likewise necessary to honor the Most Holy Mary by some special devotion—such as by fasting on Saturdays. She is called the Mother of perseverance, and she promises to obtain it for all who serve her. They that work by me shall not sin.52 Above all, it is necessary to ask of God holy perseverance, and especially in the time of temptation, invoking then more frequently the names of Jesus and Mary as long as the temptation continues. If you act in this manner, you will certainly be saved; if not, you will certainly be lost.53
Affections and Prayers.
My dear Redeemer! I thank Thee for the lights which Thou now givest me, and for the means of salvation which Thou makest known to me. I promise to endeavor to persevere in the practice of them. I see that Thou wishest for my salvation; and I wish to be saved principally to please Thy heart, which so ardently desires my salvation. O my God I will no longer resist the love which Thou entertainest for me. This love has made Thee bear me with so much patience when I offended Thee. Thou callest me to Thy love, and I desire only to love Thee. I love Thee, O infinite Goodness! I love Thee, O infinite Good! Ah! I entreat Thee, through the merits of Jesus Christ, not to permit me to be ever again ungrateful to Thee; either make me cease to be ungrateful to Thee, or make me cease to live. Lord! Thou hast already begun the work; bring it to perfection. Confirm, O God! that which Thou hast wrought in me.54 Give me light, give me strength, give me love. O Mary! who art the treasurer of graces, assist me, accept me for thy servant, and pray to Jesus for me. Through the merits of Jesus Christ first, and then through thy prayers. I hope for salvation.

1“Incipere multorum est, perseverare paucorum.” – Cont. Jovin. l. 1.
2“Non quæruntur in Christianis initia. scd finis.” – Ep. ad Fur.
3“Sola perseverantia coronatur.” – Diæl. Sal. l. 8, c. 2.
4“Paradisi janua.” – De obed. c. 26.
5“Qui perseveraverit usque in finem, hic salvus erit.” – Matt. xxiv. 13.
6“Inchoantibus præmium promittitur, sed perseverantibus datur.” – De modo bene viv. s. 6.
7‘Sic currite ut comprehendatis.” – 1 Cor. ix. 24.
8“Cum metu et tremore vestram salutem operamini.” – Phil. ii. 12.
9“Nemo mittens manum suam ad aratrum, et respiciens retro, aptus est regno Dei.” – Luke, ix. 62.
10“Beatus ille servus, quem, cum venerit Dominus ejus, invenerit sic facientem.” – Matt. xxiv. 46.
11“Fili, accedens ad servitutem Dei, sta in justitia et timore, et præpara animam tuam ad tentationem.” – Ecclus. ii. 1.
12Quanto quis fortius nititur Deo servire, tanto acrius contra eum sævit adversarius.
13“Cum immundus spiritus exierit de homine, ambulat per loca inaquosa, quærens requiem; et non inveniens, dicit: Revertar in domum meam, unde exivi. . . . Tunc vadit et assumit septem alios spiritus secum, nequiores se; et ingressi, habitant ibi. Et fiunt novissima hominis illius pejora prioribus.” – Luke, xi. 24.
14“Non est nobis colluctatio adversus carnem et sanguinem, sed adversus principes et potestates.” – Eph. vi. 12.
15“Omnia possum in eo qui me confortat.” – Phil. iv. 13.
16“Et ut scivi quoniam aliter non possem esse continens, nisi Deus det, . . . adii Dominum, et deprecatus sum illum.” – Wis. viii. 21.
17“Cavete autem ab hominibus.” – Matt. x. 17.
18“Abominantur impii eos qui in recta sunt via,” – Prov. xxix. 27.
19“Omnes qui pie volunt vivere in Christo Jesu, persecutionem patientur.” – 2 Tim. iii. 12.
20“Sapientia enim hujus mundi stultitia est apud Deum.” – 1 Cor. iii. 19.
21“Verbum enim crucis pereuntibus quidem stultitia est.” – 1 Cor. i. 18.
22“Maledicent illi, et tu benedices.” – Ps. cviii. 28.
23“Nam, qui me erubuerit et meos sermones, hunc Filius hominis erubescet, cum venerit in majestate sua.” – Luke, ix. 26.
24“Arcta via est, quæ ducit ad vitam.” – Matt. vii. 14. “Regnum cœlorum vim patitur, et violenti rapiunt illud.” – Matt. xi. 12.
25“Ecce sanus factus es; jam noli peccare, ne deterius tibi contingat.” – John, v. 14.
26“Audis recidere, quam incidere. esse deterius.” – In Cant. s. 54.
27“Vae filii desertores.” – Isa. xxx. 1.
28“Ipsi fuerunt rebelles lumini.” – Job, xxiv. 13.
29“Si autem averterit se justus a justitia sua, . . . numquid vivet? Omnes justitiæ ejus, quas fecerat, non recordabuntur; . . . in pectato suo morietur.” – Ezek. xviii. 24.
30“Inter consilia Christi, unum celeberrimum quasi religionis fundamentum est, fugere peccatorum occasiones.” – T. i. s. 21, a. 3.
31“Præcepit nobis Deus, ne comederemus, et ne tangeremus illud.” – Gen. iii. 3.
32“Qui amat periculum in illo peribit.” – Ecelus. iii. 27.
33“Circuit quærens quem devoret.” – T Peter, v. 8.
34“Explorat an sit pars, cujus aditu penetretur.” – De zelo et liv.
35Prodiit ligatus manibus et pedibus.
36“Clama: Omnis caro fenum.” – Isa. xl. 6.
37“Lucernam in fenum pone, ac tum aude negare quod fenum exuratur.” – In Ps. l. hom. 1.
38“Impossibile est flammis circumdari, et non ardere.” – De Singul. cler.
39“Et erit fortitudo vestra ut favilla stupæ.” – Isa. i. 31.
40“Numquid potest homo . . . ambulate super prunas, ut non comburantur plantæ ejus?” – Prov. vi. 27.
41“Quasi a facie colubri, fuge peccata.” – Ecclus. xxi. 2.
42Fuge etiam tactus, etiam accessum.
43“Viæ inferi, domus ejus.” – Prov. vii. 27.
44“Si oculus tuus dexter scandalizat te, erue eum, et projice abs te.” – Matt. v. 29.
45“Nisi manducaveritis carnem Filii hominis, et biberitis ejus sanguinem, non habebitis vitam in vobis.” – John. vi. 54.
46“Si quis manducaverit ex hoc pane, vivet in æternum.” – John. vi. 52.
47“Antidotum quo liberemur a culpis quotidianis, et a peccatis mortalibus præservemur.” – Sess. 13; cap. 2.
48“Memorare novissima tua, et in æternum non peccabis.” – Ecclus. vii. 40.
49“Accedite ad eam, et illuminamini.” – Ps. xxxiii. 6.
50“Ducam earn in solitudinem, et loquar ad cor ejus.” – Osee, ii. 14.
51“In meditatione mea exardescet ignis.” – Ps. xxxviii. 4.
52“Qui operantur in me non peccabunt.” – Ecclus. xxiv. 30.
53We must here remark that the means of perseverance so much recommended by St. Alphonsus are nothing else than a good Rule of Life, which is given in the last part of this volume. – ED.
54“Confirma hoc, Deus, quod operatus es in nobis.” – Ps. lxvii. 29.


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