ON CHARITY TO OUR NEIGHBOUR – St. Alphonsus

“For with the same measure that you shall mete withal, it shall be measured to you again.” LUKE vi. 38.

IN this day’s gospel we find that Jesus Christ once said to his disciples: “Be ye merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” (Luke vi. 36.) As your heavenly Father is merciful towards you, so must you be merciful to others. He then proceeds to explain how, and in what, we should practise holy charity to our neighbour. “Judge not,” he adds, “and you shall not be judged” (v. 37).

Here he speaks against those who do not abstain from judging rashly of their neighbours. ”For give, and you shall be forgiven” (ibid). He tells us that we cannot obtain pardon of the offences we have offered to God, unless we pardon those who have offended us. ”Give, and it shall be given to you” (v. 38).

By these words he condemns those who wish that God should grant whatsoever they desire, and are at the same time niggardly and avaricious towards the poor. In conclusion he declares, that the measure of charity which we use to our neighbour shall be the same that God will use towards us. Let us, then, see how we should practise charity to our neighbour: we ought to practise it, first, in our thoughts; secondly, in words; thirdly, by works.

First Point

How we should practise charity to our neighbour in our thoughts.

1. “And this commandment we have from God, that he who loveth God, love also his brother.” (1 John iv. 21.) The same precept, then, which obliges us to love God, commands us to love our neighbour. St. Catherine of Genoa said one day to the Lord: “My God, thou dost wish me to love my neighbour; but I can love no one but thee.” The Lord said to her in answer: “My child, he that loves me loves whatsoever I love.” Hence St. John says: ”If any man say: I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar.” (1 John iv. 20.) And Jesus Christ has declared that he will receive, as done to himself, the charity which we practise towards the least of his brethren.

2. Hence we must, in the first place, practise fraternal charity in our thoughts, by never judging evil of any one without certain foundation. ”Judge not, and you shall not be judged.” He who judges without certain grounds that another has committed a mortal sin, is guilty of a grievous fault; if he only rashly suspects another of a mortal sin, he commits at least a venial offence. But, to judge or suspect evil of another is not sinful when we have certain grounds for the judgment or suspicion. However, he that has true charity thinks well of all, and banishes from his mind both judgments and suspicions. “Charity thinketh no evil.” (1 Cor. xiii. 5.)

The heads of families are obliged to suspect the evil which may be done by those who are under their care. Certain fathers and foolish mothers knowingly allow their sons to frequent bad company and houses in which there are young females, and permit their daughters to be alone with men. They endeavour to justify the neglect of their children by saying: ”I do not wish to entertain bad thoughts of others.” O folly of parents! They are in such cases bound to suspect the evil which may happen; and, in order to prevent it, they should correct their children. But they that are not entrusted with the care of others, ought to abstain carefully from inquiring after the defects and conduct of others.

3. When sickness, loss of property, or any misfortune happens to a neighbour, charity requires that we regret, at least with the superior part of the soul, the evil that has befallen him. I say, ”with the superior part of the soul ;” for, when we hear of the misfortunes of an enemy, our inferior appetite appears to feel delight; but, as long as we do not consent to that delight, we are not guilty of sin. However, it is sometimes lawful to desire, or to be pleased at, the temporal evil of another, when we expect that it will be productive of spiritual good to himself or to others.

For example: it is lawful, according to St. Gregory, to rejoice at the sickness or misfortune of an obstinate and scandalous sinner, and even to desire that he may fall into sickness or poverty, in order that he may cease to lead a wicked life, or at least to scandalize others. Behold the words of St. Gregory: “Evenire plerumque potest, ut non amissa charitate, et inimici nostri ruina lætificet, et ejus gloria sine invidiæ culpa contristet; cum et, ruente eo, quosdam bene erigi credimus, et proficiente illo plerosque injuste opprimi formidamus.” (Lib. xxii., Moral., cap. ii.) But, except in such cases, it is unlawful to rejoice at the loss of a neighbour. It is also contrary to charity to feel regret at a neighbour’s prosperity merely because it is useful to him.

This is precisely the sin of envy. The envious are, according to the Wise Man, on the side of the devil, who, because he could not bear to see men in heaven, from which he had been banished, tempted Adam to rebel against God. “But by the envy of the devil death came into the world; and they follow him that are of his side.” (Wis. ii. 25.) Let us pass to the next point.

Second Point

On the charity which we ought to practise towards our neighbour in words

4. With regard to the practice of fraternal charity in words, we ought, in the first place, and above all, to abstain from all detraction. ”The tale-bearer shall defile his own soul, and shall be hated by all.” (Eccl. xxi. 31.) As they who always speak well of others are loved by all, so he who detracts his neighbour is hateful to all to God and to men, who, although they take delight in listening to detraction, hate the detractor, and are on their guard against him.

St. Bernard says that the tongue of a detractor is a three-edged sword. ”Gladius equidem anceps, immo triplex est lingua detractoris” (in Ps. Ivi). With one of these edges it destroys the reputation of a neighbour; with the second it wounds the souls of those who listen to the detraction; and with the third it kills the soul of the detractor by depriving him of the divine grace. You will say: ”I have spoken of my neighbour only in secret to my friends, and have made them promise not to mention to others what I told them.” This excuse will not stand: no; you are, as the Lord says, the serpent that bites in silence. ”If a serpent bite in silence, he is nothing better that backbiteth secretly.” (Eccl. x. 11.)

Your secret defamation bites and destroys the character of a neighbour. They who indulge in the vice of detraction are chastised not only in the next, but also in. this life, because their uncharitable tongues are the cause of a thousand sins, by creating discord in whole families and entire villages. Thomas Cantaprensis (Apum, etc., cap. xxxvii.) relates, that he knew a certain detractor, who at the end of life became raging mad, and died lacerating his tongue with his teeth. The tongue of another detractor, who was going to speak ill of St. Malachy, instantly swelled and was filled with worms. And, after seven days, the unhappy man died miserably.

5. Detraction is committed not only when we take away a neighbours character, by imputing to him a sin which he has not committed, or exaggerating his guilt, but also when we make known to others any of his secret sins. Some persons, when they know anything injurious to a neighbour, appear to suffer, as it were, the pains of childbirth, until they tell it toothers.

When the sin of a neighbour is secret and grievous, it is a mortal sin to mention it to others without a just cause. I say, “without a just cause ;” for, to make known to a parent the fault of a child, that he may correct him and prevent a repetition of the fault, is not sinful, but is an act of virtue; for according to St. Thomas (2, 2, qu. 2, art. 73), to let others know the sins of a neighbour is unlawful, when it is done to destroy his reputation, but not when it is done for his good, or for the good of others.

6. They who listen to detraction, and afterwards go and tell what was said to the person whose character had been injured, have to render a great account to. These are called talebearers. Oh! how great is the evil produced by these talebearing tongues that are thus employed in sowing discord. They are objects of God’s hatred. “The Lord hateth him that soweth discord among brethren.” (Prov. vi. 16, 19.)

Should the person who has been defamed speak of his defamer, the injury which he has received may, perhaps, give him some claim to compassion. But why should you relate what you have heard? Is it to create ill-will and hatred that shall be the cause of a thousand sins? If, from this day forward, you ever hear anything injurious to a neighbour, follow the advice of the Holy Ghost. ”Hast thou heard a word against thy neighbour? let it die with thee.” (Eccl. xix. 10.)

You should not only keep it shut up in your heart, but you must let it die within you. He that is only shut up may escape and be seen; but he that is dead cannot leave the grave. When, then, you know anything injurious to your neighbour, you ought to be careful not to give any intimation of it to others by words, by motions of the head, or by any other sign. Sometimes greater injury is done to others by certain singular signs and broken words than by a full statement of their guilt; because these hints make persons suspect that the evil is greater than it really is.

7. In your conversations be careful not to give pain to any companion, either present or absent, by turning him into ridicule. You may say: “I do it through jest;” but such jests are contrary to charity. “All things, therefore,” says Jesus Christ, ”that you will that men should do to you, do you also unto them.” (Matt. vii. 12.) Would you like to be treated with derision before others? Give up, then, the practice of ridiculing your neighbours.

Abstain also from contending about useless trifles. Some times, certain contests about mere trifles grow so warm that they end in quarrels and injurious words. Some persons are so full of the spirit of contradiction, that they controvert what others say, without any necessity, and solely for the sake of contention, and thus violate charity. ”Strive not,” says the Holy Ghost, ”in matters which do not concern thee.” (Eccl. xi. 9.)

But they will say: “I only defend reason; I cannot bear these assertions which are contrary to reason.” In answer to these defenders of reason, Cardinal Bellarmine says, that an ounce of charity is better than a hundred loads of reason. In conversation, particularly when the subject of it is unimportant, state your opinion, if you wish to take part in the discourse, and then keep yourself in peace, and be on your guard against obstinacy in defending your own opinion.

In such contests it is always better to yield. B. Egidius used to say, that he who gives up conquers; because he is superior in virtue, and preserves peace, which is far more valuable than a victory in such contests. St. Joseph Calasanctius was accustomed to say, that “he who loves peace never contradicts any one.”

8. Thus, dearly beloved brethren, if you wish to be loved by God and by men, endeavour always to speak well of all. And, should you happen to hear a person speak ill of a neighbour, be careful not to encourage his uncharitableness, nor to show any curiosity to hear the faults of others. If you do, you will be guilty of the same sin which the detractor commits. ”Hedge in thy ears with thorns,” says Ecclesiasticus, ”and hear not a wicked tongue.” (Eccl. xxviii. 28.) When you hear any one taking away the character of another, place around your ears a hedge of thorns, that detraction may not enter. For this purpose it is necessary, at least, to show that the discourse is not pleasing to you.

This may be done by remaining silent, by putting on a sorrowful countenance, by casting down the eyes, or turning your face in another direction. In a word, act, says St. Jerome, in such a way that the detractor, seeing your unwillingness to listen to him, may learn to be more guarded for the future against the sin of detraction. ”Discat detractor, dum te videt non libenter audire, non facile detrahere.” (S. Hier. ep. ad Nepot.) And when it is in your power to do it, it will be a great act of charity to defend the character of the persons who have been defamed.

The Divine Spouse wishes that the words of his beloved be a veil of scarlet. ”Thy lips are as a scarlet lace.” (Cant. iv. 3.) That is, as Theodoret explains this passage, her words should be dictated by charity (a scarlet lace), that they may cover, as much as possible, the defects of others, at least by excusing their intentions, when their acts cannot be excused. ”If,” says St. Bernard, ”you cannot excuse the act, excuse the intention. ” (Serm. xl. in Cant.) It was a proverb among the nuns of the convent of St. Teresa, that, in the presence of their holy mother, their reputation was secure, because they knew she would take the part of those of whom any fault might be mentioned.

9. Charity also requires that we be meek to all, and particularly to those who are opposed to us. When a person is angry with you, and uses injurious language, remember that a “mild answer breaketh wrath.” (Prov. xv. 1.) Reply to him with meekness, and you shall find that his anger will be instantly appeased.

But, if you resent the injury, and use harsh language, you will increase the same; the feeling of revenge will grow more violent, and you will expose yourself to the danger of losing your soul by yielding to an act of hatred, or by breaking out into expressions grievously injurious to your neighbour.

Whenever you feel the soul agitated by passion, it is better to force yourself to remain silent, and to make no reply; for, as St. Bernard says, an eye clouded with anger cannot distinguish between right and wrong. ”Turbatus præ ira oculus rectum non videt.” (Lib. 2 de Consid., cap. xi.) Should it happen that in a fit of passion you have insulted a neighbour, charity requires that you use every means to allay his wounded feelings, and to remove from his heart all sentiments of rancour towards you.

The best means of making reparation for the violation of charity is to humble yourself to the person whom you have offended. With regard to the meekness which we should practise towards others, I shall speak on that subject in the thirty-fourth Sermon, or the Sermon for the fifth Sunday after Pentecost.

10. It is also an act of charity to correct sinners. Do not say that you are not a superior. Were you a superior, you should be obliged by your office to correct all those who might be under your care; but, although you are not placed over others, you are, as a Christian, obliged to fulfil the duty of fraternal correction.

”He gave to every one of them commandment concerning his neighbour.” (Eccl. xvii. 12.) Would it not be great cruelty to see a blind man walking on the brink of a precipice, and not admonish him of his danger, in order to preserve him from temporal death? It would be far greater cruelty to neglect, for the sake of avoiding a little trouble, to deliver a brother from eternal death.

Third Point

On the charity we ought to practise towards our neighbour by works

11. Some say that they love all, but will not put themselves to any inconvenience in order to relieve the wants of a neighbour. “My little children,” says St. John, “let us not love in word, nor in tongue, but in deed and truth.” (1 John iii. 18 ) The Scripture tells us that alms deliver men from death, cleanse them from sin, and obtain for them the divine mercy and eternal life. “Alms delivereth from death, and the same is that which purgeth away sins, and maketh to find mercy and life everlasting.” (Job xii. 9.)

God will relieve you in the same manner in which, you give relief to your neighbour. “With what measure you shall mete, it shall be measured to you again. ”(Matt. vii. 2.) Hence St. Chrysostom says, that the exercise of charity to others is the means of acquiring great gain with God.

“Alms is, of all acts, the most lucrative.” And St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi used to say, that she felt more happy in reliev ing her neighbour than when she was wrapt up in contemplation. “Because, she would add when I am in contemplation God assists me; but in giving relief to a neighbour I assist God ;” for, every act of charity which we exercise towards our neighbour, God accepts as if it were done to himself.

But, on the other hand, how, as St. John says, can he who does not assist a brother in want, be said to love God?”He that hath the substance of this world, and shall see his brother in need, and shall shut up his bowels from him, how doth the charity of God abide in him ?” (1 John iii. 17.) By alms is understood, not only the distribution of money or other goods, but every succour that is given to a neighbour in order to relieve his wants.

12. If charity obliges us to assist all, it commands us still more strictly to relieve those who are in tbe greatest need; such as the souls in Purgatory. St. Thomas teaches, that charity extends not only to the living, but also to the dead.

Hence, as we ought to assist our neighbours who are in this life, so we are bound to give relief to those holy prisoners who are so severely tormented by fire, and who are incapable of relieving themselves. A deceased monk of the Cistercian order appeared to the sacristan of his monastery, and said to him: “Brother, assist me by your prayers; for I can do nothing for myself.” (Cron. Cist.)

Let us, then, assist, to the utmost of our power, these beloved spouses of Jesus Christ, by recommending them every day to God, and by sometimes getting Mass offered for their repose. There is nothing which gives so much relief to those holy souls as the sacrifice of the altar. They certainly will not be ungrateful; they will in return pray for you, and will obtain for you still greater graces, when they shall have entered into the kingdom of God.

13. To exercise a special charity towards the sick, is also very pleasing to God. They are afflicted by pains, by melancholy, by the fear of death, and are sometimes abandoned by others. Be careful to relieve them by alms, or by little presents, and to serve them as well as you can, at least by endeavouring to console them by your words, and by exhortations to practise resignation to the will of God, and to offer to him all their sufferings.

14. Above all, be careful to practise charity to those who are opposed to you. Some say: I am grateful to all who treat me with kindness; but I cannot exercise charity towards those who persecute me. Jesus Christ says that even pagans know how to be grateful to those who do them a service. “Do not also the heathens this ?” (Matt. v. 47.)

Christian charity consists in wish ing well, and in doing good to those who hate and injure us. “But I say to you: Love your enemies; do good to them that hate you; and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you.” (Matt. v. 44.) Some seek to injure you, but you must love them. Some have done -evil to you, but you must return good for evil. Such the vengeance of the saints. This is the heavenly revenge which St. Paulinus exhorts us to inflict on our enemies. ”To repay good for evil is heavenly revenge. ” (Epis. xvi.)

St. Chrysostom teaches, that there is nothing which assimilates us so much to God as the granting of pardon to enemies. “Nothing makes men so like to God as to spare enemies.” (Hom, xxvii. in Gen.) Such has been the practice of the saints. St. Catherine of Genoa continued for a long time to relieve a woman who had endeavoured to destroy the saints reputation.

On an assassin, who had made an attempt on his life, St. Ambrose settled a sum for his support. Venustanus, governor of Tuscany, ordered the hands of St. Sabinus to be cut off, because the holy bishop confessed the true faith. The tyrant, feeling a violent pain in his eyes, entreated the saint to assist him. The saint prayed for him, and raised his arm, from which the blood still continued to flow, blessed him, and obtained for him the cure of his eyes and of his soul; for the tyrant became a convert to the faith. Father Segneri relates, that the son of a certain lady in Bologna was murdered by an assassin, who by accident took refuge in her house. (Christ. Instr., part 1, disc. 20, n. 20.) What did she do?

She first concealed him from the ministers of justice, and afterwards said to him: Since I have lost my son, you shall henceforth be my son and my heir. Take, for the present, this sum of money, and provide for your safety elsewhere, for here you are not secure.

It is thus the saints resent injuries. With what face, says St. Cyril of Jerusalem, can he that does not pardon the affronts which he receives from his enemies, say to God: Lord, pardon me the many insults which I have offered to thee?”Qua fronte dices Domino: remitte mihi multa peccata mea, si tu pauca conserve tuo non remiseris?” (Catech. ii.)

But he that forgives his enemies is sure of the pardon of the Lord, who says: “Forgive, and you shall be forgiven.” (Luke vi. 37.) And when you cannot serve them in any other way, recommend to God those who persecute and calumniate you. “Pray for them that persecute and calumniate you.”

This is the admonition of Jesus Christ, who is able to reward those who treat their enemies in this manner.

Final Perseverance – Preparation For Death – Considerations XXXI

” He that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved.”— Matt. xxiv. 13.

FIRST POINT.

Necessity of Perseverance.—Means of Defense against the Devil. 

JEROME says that many begin well but few persevere (Cont. Jovin. 1, 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: (Ep. ad Fur.) it is the end that will be rewarded. St. Bonaventure says that the crown is given only to perseverance. (Diaet. Sal. 1, 8, c. 2). Hence St. Laurence Justinian calls perseverance the “gate of heaven.” (De Obed. c. 26).

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 be saved (Matt. xxiv, 13). 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 S 82 (De modo bene viv. s. 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 (1 Cor. ix, 24). 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 (Phil. ii, 12). 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 (Luke, ix, 62). 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 ( Matt. xxiv, 46). 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 (Ecclus. ii, 1). 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.

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 83 than the first (Luke, xi, 24).

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 defense 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 (Eph. vi, 12).

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 strengthened me (Phil. iv, 13). 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 except God gave it, . . . I went to the Lord, and besought him (Wis. viii, 21). 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 84 Mary. He who does this, will conquer; he who neglects it, will be lost.

Affections and Prayers

Oh, 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.

SECOND POINT

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 (Matt. x, 17). Men are often A L 85 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 (Prov. xxix, 27).

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 (2 Tim. iii, 12). 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 (1 Cor. iii, 19). 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 (1 Cor. iii, 18). 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 (Ps. cviii, 28). Is it not enough 86 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 (Luke, ix, 26). 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 (Matt. vii, 14).

The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away (Matt. xi, 12). 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 (John, v, 14). Remember, says St. Bernard, that if you have the 87 misfortune of relapsing into sin, your relapse will be more disastrous than all your falls (In Cant. s. 54). Woe, says the Lord, to them who begin to walk in the way of God, and afterward forsake it. Woe to you, apostate children (Isa. xxx, 1). Such sinners are punished as rebels against God’s light. They have been rebellious to the light (Job, xxiv, 13).

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 (Ezek. xviii, 24).

Affections and Prayers

Oh, 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 shall be my only love, my A 88 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.

THIRD POINT

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 (T. i, s. 21, a. 3).

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 L 89 commanded us, said Eve, that we should not eat, and that we should not touch it (Gen. iii, 3).

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 (Ecclus. iii, 27). St. Peter tells us that the devil goeth about seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter, v. 8). And what, says St. Cyprian, does he do in order to enter again into the soul from which he has been expelled? (De zelo et liv.). He seeks an occasion of sin. If the soul permit him lo 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, 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 practiced 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 90 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 (Isa. xl, 6). Is it possible, says St. John Chrysostom, for hay not to burn when it is thrown into the fire ? (In Ps. 1, hom. 1). And St. Cyprian says that it is impossible to stand in the midst of flames, and not be burned. (De Singul. Cler.). 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 (Isa. i, 31). And Solomon says that it would be folly to expect to walk on redhot coals, without being burned. Can a man walk upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned’? (Prov. vi, 27).

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 (Ecclus. xxi, 2). We ought, says Gualfrido, not only to avoid the bite or contact of a serpent, but should also abstain from approaching it.

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 (Prov. vii, 27). 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 (Matt. v, 29). 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 91 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 (John, vi, 54).

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 (John, vi, 52). Hence the Council of Trent calls the Communion a medicine which delivers us from venial, and preserves us from mortal sins (Sess. 13, cap. 2). The third means is meditation, or mental prayer.

Remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin (Ecclus. vii, 40). He who keeps before his eyes the eternal truths— 92 death, judgment, eternity—will not fall into sin. God enlightens us in meditation. Come ye to Him, and be enlightened (Ps. xxxiii, 6). 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 (Osee, ii, 14).

Meditation is the blessed furnace in which divine love is lighted up. In my meditation a fire shall flame out (Ps. xxxviii, 4). 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 (Ecclus. xxiv, 30). 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.

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 (Ps. lxvii, 29). 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.

Blog Update

Many people have been asking that I complete an “about” section on the blog to explain about the changes over the course of the last few years.

I have finally got around to creating the page and publishing it and if you would like to read it, you can do so here: About This Blog.

 

On the love of the Three Divine Persons for man – St. Alphonsus – Trinity Sunday

 

ST. LEO has said, that the nature of God is by its
essence, goodness itself. ” Deus cujus natura bonitas ”
Now, goodness naturally diffuses itself. ” Bonum est
sui diffusivum.” And by experience we know that
men of a good heart are full of love for all, and desire
to share with all the goods which they enjoy God
being infinite goodness, is all love towards us his crea
tures. Hence St. John calls him pure love _ pure
charity. “God is charity.” (1 John iv. 8.) And there-
lore he ardently desires to make us partakers of his
own happiness.

Faith teaches us how much the Three
Divine Persons have done through love to man, and to
enrich him with heavenly gifts. In saying to his
apostles ” Teach ye all nations, baptizing them in the
name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
jnost, Jesus Christ wished that they should not only
instruct the Gentiles in the mystery of the Most Holy
Irmity but that they should also teach them the love
which the adorable Trinity bears to man. I intend to
propose this day for your consideration the love shown
to us by the Father in our creation ; secondly, the love
of the hon m our redemption; and thirdly, the love of
the Holy Ghost, in our sanctification.

First Point The love shown to us by the Father in
our creation.

1. ” I have loved thee with an everlasting love, there
fore have I drawn thee, taking pity on thee.” (Jer. xxxi.
3.) My son, says the Lord, I have loved you for eter
nity, and, through love for you, I have shown mercy to
you by drawing you out of nothing. Hence, beloved
Christians, of all those who love you, God has been
your first lover. Your parents have been the first to
love you on this earth ; but they have loved you only
after they had known you. But, before you had a being,
God loved you. Before your father or mother was
born, God loved you; yes, even before the creation of
the world, he loved you. And how long before creation
has God loved you? Perhaps for a thousand years, or
for a thousand ages. It is needless to count years or
ages; God loved you from eternity. “I have loved
thee with an evei lasting love.” As long as he has been
God, he has luved you : as long as he has loved himself,
he has loved you. The thought of this love made St.
Agnes the Virgin exclaim : ” I am prevented by another
lover.” When creatures asked her heart, she answered:
Ko: I cannot prefer you to my God. He has been
the first to love me; it is then but just that he should
hold the first place in my affections.

2. Thus, brethren, God has loved you from eternity,
and through pure love, he has selected you from among
so many men whom he could have created in place of
you; but he has left them in their nothingness, and has
brought you into existence, and placed you in the world.
For the love of you he has made so many other beauti
ful creatures, that they might serve you, and that they
might remind you of the love which he has borne to
you, and of the gratitude which you ^owe to him.
” Heaven and Earth,” says St. Augustine, ” and all
things tell me to love thee/ When the saint beheld the
sun, the stars, the mountains, the sea, the rains, they all
appeared to him to speak, and to say : Augustine, love
God ; for he has created us that you might love him.
When the Abbe de Ranee, the founder of La Trappe,
looked at the hills, the fountains, or flowers, he said that
all these creatures reminded him of the love which God
had borne him. St. Teresa used to say, that these crea
tures reproached her with her ingratitude to God.

Whilst she held a flower or fruit in her hand, St. Mary
Magdalene de Pazzi used to feel her heart wounded
with divine love, and would say within herself: Then,
my God has thought from eternity of creating this flower
and this fruit that I might love him.

3. Moreover, seeing us condemned to hell, in punish
ment of our sins, the Eternal Father, through love for
us, has sent his Son on the earth to die on the cross, in
order to redeem us from hell, and to bring us with him
self into Paradise. ” God so loved the world, as to give
his only begotten Son ” (John iii. 16), love, which the
apostle calls an excess of love. ” For his exceeding
charity wherewith he loved us, even when we were
dead in sin, has quickened us together in Christ.” (Eph.
ii. 4, 5.)

4. See also the special love which God has shown you
in bringing you into life in a Christian country, and in
the bosom of the Catholic or true Church. How many
are born among the pagans, among the Jews, among
the Mahometans and heretics, and all are lost. Con
sider that, compared with these, only a few not even
the tenth part of the human race have the happiness
of being born in a country where the true faith reigns ;
and, amon^ that small number, he has chosen you. Oh !
what an invaluable benefit is the gift of faith ! How
many millions of souls, among infidels and heretics, are
deprived of the sacraments, of sermons, of good example,
and of the other helps to salvation which we possess in
the true Church. And the Lord resolved to bestow on
us all these great graces, without any merit on our part,
and even with the foreknowledge of our demerits. For
when he thought of creating us and of conferring these
favours upon us, he foresaw our sins, and the injuries
we would commit against him.

Second Point. The love which the Son of God has
shown to us in our redemption.

5. Adam, our first father, sins by eating the for
bidden apple, and is condemned to eternal death, along
with all his posterity. Seeing the whole human race
doomed to perdition, God resolved to send a redeemer
to save mankind. Who shall come to accomplish their

redemption ? Perhaps an angel or a seraph. No ; the
Son of God, the supreme and true God, equal to the
Father, offers himself to come on earth, and there to
take human fle^h, and to die for the salvation of men.
prodigy of Divine love ! Man, says St. Fulgen-
tius, despises God, and separates himself from God,
and through love for him, God comes on earth to
seek after rebellious man. ” Homo Deum contem-
nens, a Deo disce-ssit : Deus hominem diligens, ad
homines venit.” (Serm. in Xativ. Christ.) Since, says
St. Augustine, we could not go to the Redeemer, he
has deigned to come to us. ” Quia ad mediatorem
venire non poteramus, ipse ad nos venire dignatus est.”
And why has Jesus Christ resolved to come to us ? Ac
cording to the same holy doctor, it is to convince us of
his great love for us. ” Christ came, that man might
know how much God loves him.”

G. Hence the Apostle writes : ” The goodness and
kindness of God our Saviour appeared.” (Tit. iii. 5.)
In the Greek text, the words are : ” Singularis Dei
erga homines apparuit amor :” ” The singular love
of God towards men appeared.” In explaining this
passage, St. Bernard says, that before God appeared on
earth in human flesh, men could not arrive at a know
ledge of the divine goodness ; therefore the Eternal
“Word took human nature, that, appearing in the form
of man, men might know the goodness of God. ” Pri-
usquam apparet humanitas, latebat beniguitas, sed undo
tanta agnosci poterat ? Venit in came ut, apparante
humanitate, cognosceretur benignitas.” (Serm. i., in
Eph.) And w r hat greater love and goodness could the
Son of God show to us, than to become man and to
become a worm like us, in order to save us from, perdi
tion ? What astonishment would we not feel, if we saw
a prince become a worm to save the worms of his king
dom ! And what shall we say at the sight of a God
made man like us, to deliver us from eternal death ?
“The word was made flesh.” (John i. 14.) A God
made flesh ! if faith did not assure us of it, who could
ever believe it? Behold then, as St. Paul says, a Gud
as it were annihilated. ” He emptied himself, taking
the form of a servant and in habit found as a man/

(Phil. ii. 7.) By these words the Apostle gives us to
understand, that the Son of God, who was filled with
the divine majesty and power, humbled himself so as
to assume the lowly and impotent condition of human
nature, taking the form or nature of a servant, and he-
coming like men in his external appearance, although,
as St. Chrysostom observes, he was not a mere man, but
man and God. Hearing a deacon singing the words of
St. John, ” and the Word was made flesh,” St. Peter of
Alcantara fell into ecstasy, and flew through the air to
the altar of the most holy sacrament.

7. But this God of love, the Incarnate Word, was not
content with becoming flesh for the love of man ; but,
according to Isaias, he wished to live among us, as the
last and lowest, and most afflicted of men. ” There
is no beauty in him, nor comeliness : and we have seen

him despised, and the most abject of men, a man of

sorrows.” (Isa. iii. 2, 3.) He was a man of sorrows.
Yes ; for the life of Jesus Christ was full of sorrows.
Virum dolorum. He was a man made on purpose to
be tormented with sorrows. From his birth till his
death, the life of our Redeemer was all full of sorrows.

8. And because he came on earth to gain our love,
as he declared when he said ” I am come to cast fire
on the earth ; and what will I but that it be kindled ?”
(Luke xii. 49), he wished at the close of his life to give
us the strongest marks and proofs of the love which he
bears to us. ” Having loved his own who were in the
world, he loved them unto the end.” (John xiii. 1.)
Hence he not only humbled himself to death for us, but
he also chose to die the most painful and opprobrious
of all deaths. ” He humbled himself, becoming obedient
unto death, even unto the death of the cross.” (Phil. ii. 8.)
They who were crucified among the Jews, were objects
of malediction and reproach to all. * He is accursed
of God that hangeth on a tree.” (Deut. xxi. 23.) Our
Redeemer wished to die the shameful death of the cross,
in the midst of a tempest of ignominies and sorrows.
” I am come into the depths of the sea, and a tempest
hath overwhelmed me.” (Ps. Ixviii. 3.)

9. ” In this/ says St. John, ” we have known the
charity of God, because he hath laid down his life for

us.” (1 John iii. 16.) And how could God give us a
greater proof of his love than hy laying down his life
for us ? Or, how is it possible for us to behold a God
dead on the cross for our sake, and not love him?
” For the charity of Christ presseth us.” (2 Cor. v. 14.)
By these words St. Paul tells us, that it is not so much
what Jesus Christ has done and suffered for our salva
tion, as the love which he has shown in suffering and
dying for us, that obliges and compels us to love him.
He has, as the same Apostle adds, died for all, that
each of us may live no longer for himself, but only
for that God who has given his life for the love of us.
” Christ died for all, that they also who live, may not
live to themselves, but unto him who died for them,
and rose again.” (2 Cor. v. 15.) And, to captivate our
love, he has, after having given his life for us, left
himself for the food of our souls. ” Take ye and eat :
this is my body.” (Matt. xxvi. 26.) Had not faith taught
that he left himself for our food, who could ever believe
it ? But of the prodigy of divine love manifested in
the holy sacrament, I shall speak on the second Sunday
after Pentecost Let us pass to a brief consideration of
the third point.

Third Point.
On the love shown to us by the Holy
Ghost in our sanctification.

.10. The Eternal Father was not content with giving
us his Son Jesus Christ, that he might save us by his
death ; he has also given us the Holy Ghost, that he
may dwell in our souls, and that he may keep them
always inflamed with holy love. In spite of all the in
juries which he received on earth from men, Jesus
Christ, forgetful of their ingratitude, after having
ascended into heaven, sent us the Holy Ghost, that,
by his holy flames, this di vine spirit might kindle in our
hearts the fire of divine charity, and sanctify our souls.
Hence, when he descended on the apostles, he appeared
in the form of tongues of fire. ” And there appeared
to them parted tongues, as it were of fire.” (Acts ii. 3.)
Hence the Church prescribes the following prayer :
” We beseech thee, O Lord, that the Spirit may inflame
us with that fire which the Lord Jesus Christ sent on

the earth, and vehemently wished to be enkindled.”
This is the holy fire which inflamed the saints with the
desire of doing great things for God, which enabled
them to love their most cruel enemies, to seek after con
tempt, to renounce all the riches and honours of the
world, and even to embrace with joy torments and
death.

11. The Holy Ghost is that divine bond which unites
the Father with the Son ; it is he that unites our souls,
through love, with God. For, as St. Augustine says,
an union with God is the effect of love. ” Charity is a
virtue which unites us with God.” The chains of the
world are chains of death, but the bonds of the Holy
Ghost are bonds of eternal life, because they bind us to
God, who is our true and only life.

12. Let us also remember that all the lights, inspira
tions, divine calls, all the good acts which we have per
formed during our life, all our acts of contrition, of
confidence in the divine mercy, of love, of resignation,
have been the gifts of the Holy Ghost. ” Likewise the
Spirit also helpeth our infirmity ; for we know not what
we should pray for as we ought ; but the Spirit himself
asketh for us with unspeakable groanings.” (Rom. viii.
26.) Thus, it is the Holy Ghost that prays for us ; for
we know not what we ought to ask, but the Holy Spirit
teaches us what we should pray for.

13. In a word, the Three Persons of the Most Holy
Trinity have endeavoured to show the love which God
has borne us, that we may love him through gratitude.
” When,” says St. Bernard, ” God loves, he wishes only
to be loved/ It is, then, but just that we love that
God who has been the first to love us, and to put us
under so many obligations by so many proofs of tender
love. ” Let us, therefore, love God, because God first
hath loved us.” (1 John iv. 19.) Oh ! what a treasure
is charity ! it is an infinite treasure, because it makes us
partakers of the friendship of God. ” She is an infinite
treasure to men, which they that use become the friends
of God.” (Wis. vii. 14.) But, to acquire this treasure,
it is necessary to detach the heart from earthly things.
” Detach the heart from creatures,” says St. Teresa,
“and you shall find God.” In a heart filled with
earthly affections, there is no room for divine love. Let
us therefore continually implore the Lord in our prayers,
communions, and visits to the blessed sacrament, to give
us his holy love ; for this love will expel from our souls
all affections for the things of this earth. ” When,”
says St. Francis de Sales, ” a house is on fire, all that is
within is thrown out through the windows.” By these
words the saint meant, that when a soul is inflamed with
divine love, she easily detaches herself from creatures :
and Father Paul Segneri, the younger, used to say, that
divine love is a thief that robs us of all earthly affections,
and makes us exclaim : ” What, O my Lord, but thee
alone, do I desire ?”

14. ” Love is strong ns death.” (Cant. viii. 6.) As no
creature can resist death when the hour of dissolution
arrives, so there is no difficulty which love, in a soul
that loves God, does not overcome. When there is
question of pleasing her beloved, love conquers all
things : it conquers pains, losses, ignominies. ” Nihil
tarn durum quod non amoris igne vincatur.” This love
made the martyrs, in the midst of torments, racks, and
burning gridirons, rejoice, and thank God for enabling
them to suffer for him : it made the other saints, when
there was no tyrant to torment them, become, as it
were, their own executioners, by fasts, disciplines, and
penitential austerities. St. Augustine says, that in doing
what one loves there is no labour, and if there be, the
labour itself is loved. ” In eo quod amatur aut non
laboratur, aut ipse labor amatur.”

You can read all of the sermons of the year here

 

The Folly Of The Sinner – St. Alphonsus

This is the twentieth consideration that St. Alphonsus cites in his book, Preparation for Death.  You can read the entire book online here.

The folly of the Sinner.
For the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God.”—I
Cor. iii. l9.

FIRST POINT.

The Large Number of Fools
The Saint John Avila would have divided the world
into two prisons, one for the incredulous, the other
for Christians who live in sin at a distance from God.
The prison of the latter he would have called the prison of
fools. But the greatest misery and misfortune is, that
these miserable men esteem themselves wise and
prudent, though they are the most foolish and imprudent
of mortals. And unfortunately they are exceedingly
numerous. The number of fools is infinite (Eccles. i, 15).
Some are foolish through love of honors; some for the
sake of pleasures; and others from attachment to the
miserable goods of this earth. And great as their folly is,
they have the temerity to call the saints fools, because
they despise the goods of this life in order to gain eternal
salvation and the possession of God, who is the true and
supreme good. They deem it folly to embrace contempt,
and to pardon injuries; folly to abstain from sensual
pleasures, and to practice mortification; folly to renounce
honors and riches, to love solitude and an humble and
hidden life. But they never reflect that the Lord has called
their wisdom folly. For, says the apostle, the wisdom of
the world is foolishness with God (1 Cor.iii, 19).
Ah! they will one day confess their folly; but when? When
there will be no remedy for it. They will then say in
despair We fools esteemed their life madness and their
end without honor (Wis. v, 4). Ah ! fools that we have been
! we regarded the lives of the Saints as folly; but now we
know that we have been miserably foolish. Behold how
they are numbered among the children of God, and their
lot is among the saints (Wis. v, 5). Behold how they have
obtained a place among the happy number of the
children of God, and have secured their lot among the
saints—an eternal lot, which will make them happy for
eternity; and we are among the number of the slaves of
the devil, condemned to burn in this pit of torments for all
eternity. Therefore we have erred, thus they shall
conclude their lamentation, from the way of truth, and the
light of justice hath not shined unto us (Wis. v, 6). Then we
have erred by shutting our eyes to God’s light; and what
renders our condition still more forlorn is, that for our
error there is no remedy, and there will be none as long
as God will be God. How great then the folly of sinners,
who, for a worthless gain, for a little smoke, for a
transient delight, lose the grace of God ! What would not
a vassal do in order to gain the favor of his sovereign ? O
God ! for a miserable gratification, to lose God, the
supreme Good ! to lose paradise ! to forfeit peace in this
life, by bringing into the soul the monster sin, which, by its
remorse, will torture it unceasingly ! and to condemn
yourself voluntarily to everlasting woe! Would you indulge
in that forbidden pleasure if, in punishment, your hand
was to be burned ? or if you were to be shut up for a year
in a grave ? Would you commit that sin, if after consenting
to it, you should forfeit a hundred crowns ? And still you
believe and know that in yielding to sin, you lose heaven
and God, and that you are condemned to eternal fire: and
after all you transgress the divine law.
Affections and Prayers.
God of my soul! what should be my lot at this
moment, if Thou hadst not shown me so many
mercies ? I should be in hell among the number of
the foolish to which I have belonged. I thank Thee, O my
Lord! and I entreat Thee not to abandon me in my
blindness, I feel that Thou tenderly callest and invitest me
to ask pardon, and to hope for great graces from Thee,
after the insults I have offered to Thee. Yes, my Saviour! I
hope Thou wilt admit me among Thy children : I am not
worthy to be called Thy child, after having so often
insulted Thee to Thy face. Father, I am not worthy to be
called Thy child: I have sinned against heaven and before
Thee (Luke, xv, 18). But I know that Thou goest in search
of the strayed sheep, and that Thou feelest consolation in
embracing Thy lost children. My dear Father! I am sorry
for having offended Thee. I cast myself at Thy feet, and
embrace them; I will not depart till Thou pardon and bless
me.
I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me (Gen. xxxii,
26). Bless me, O my Father! and let the fruit of Thy
benediction be, a great sorrow for my sins, and a great
love for Thee. I love Thee, O my Father! I love Thee with
my whole heart. Do not permit me ever more to depart
from Thee. Deprive me of all; but do not strip me of Thy
love. O Mary! if God is my Father, thou art my Mother.
Do thou also bless me. I do not deserve to be thy son:
accept me for thy servant; but make me a servant who
will always love thee tenderly and always confide in thy
protection.
SECOND POINT.
Great Folly
Poor sinners ! they labor and toil for the attainment of
worldly sciences, or the art of gaining the goods of
this life, which will soon end, and neglect the goods
of the next life, which is everlasting! They lose their
reason-to such a degree, that they become not only fools,
but senseless beasts; for, living like brute animals, they
attend not to what is lawful or unlawful, but only follow
the beastly instincts of the senses, and embrace what is
pleasing to the flesh, without ever reflecting on what they
lose, or on the eternal ruin which they bring upon
themselves. To live in this manner is, to act not like a man,
but like a senseless beast. St. John Chrysostom says: “We
call him a man who preserves intact the image of man;
but what is this image of man: To be rational.” (In Gen.
hom. 23). To be a man is, to be rational—that is, to act
according to reason, and not according to the sensual
appetite. Were beasts to receive from God the use of
reason, and to act according to its dictates, we should
say that they acted like men; and, on the other hand,
when a man follows the impulse of the senses in opposition
to reason, it must be said he acts like a beast.
O that they would be wise, and would understand, and
would provide for their last end (Eccles. iv, 13). He who
acts according to the rules of prudence, looks to the
future—that is, to what must happen at the end of life—to
death and judgment, and after judgment, hell or heaven.
Oh ! how much wiser is the peasant who saves his soul,
than the monarch who brings himself to hell. Better is a
child who is poor and wise, than a king that is old and
foolish, who knoweth not to foresee hereafter (Eccles. iv,
13). O God ! would not all pronounce the man to be a fool,
who, in order to gain a shilling, would risk his entire
property? And will he not be considered foolish, who, for
a momentary gratification, forfeits the grace of God, and
exposes his soul to the danger of eternal perdition ? The
care of present, and the total neglect of eternal goods
and evils, is the ruin of the immense multitude of the
damned.
God has certainly not placed us in this world to become
rich, or acquire honors, or to indulge our senses, but to
gain eternal life. But the end life ever-fasting (Rom. vi,
22). And nothing but the attainment of this end is of
importance to us. One thing is necessary (Luke, x, 42). But
there is nothing that sinners despise more than this end:
they think only of the present; they each day walk toward
death, and approach the gate of eternity, but know not
whither they are going. “What would you think,” says St.
Augustine, “of a pilot, who, when asked where he is going
should answer, that he did not know? Would not all
exclaim, that he is bringing the ship to ruin? Such,” adds
the Saint, “is the man who runs out of the way.” (In Ps. 31,
enarr. 2). Such are the wise of the world, who know how
to acquire wealth, to indulge in amusements, to gain
posts of honor and emolument, but know not how to save
their souls. The rich glutton knew how to lay up wealth;
but he died, and was buried in hell (Luke, xvi, 22).
Alexander the Great knew how to acquire many
kingdoms; but in a few years he died, and was lost
forever. Henry VIII knew how to preserve his throne by
rebelling against the Church; but seeing at death that he
lost his soul, he exclaimed: We have lost all. How many
miserable sinners now weep and cry out in hell: What
hath pride profited us? or what advantage hath the
boasting of riches brought us ? all those things are passed
away like a shadow (Wis. v, 8). Behold, they exclaim, for
us all the goods of the world have passed away like a
shadow, and nothing remains but eternal wailing and
everlasting torments.
Before man is life and death, that which he shall choose
shall be given him (Ecclus. xv, 18). Beloved Christian, God
places before you in this world, life and death—that is,
the voluntary privation of forbidden pleasures, by which
you will gain eternal life; or the indulgence of them, by
which you merit everlasting death. What do you say ?
What choice do you make ? In making the choice, act like
a man, and not like a senseless beast. Act like a Christian
who believes in the Gospel and says: What doth it profit a
man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his
own soul? Mat.. xvi, 26).
Affections and Prayers.
Oh, my God! Thou hast given me reason, Thou hast
given me the light of faith, and I have acted like a
senseless beast, by losing Thy grace for the
miserable pleasure of the senses, which have passed
away like air; and now I find nothing but remorse of
conscience, and debts to Thy divine justice. Enter not into
judgment with Thy servant (Ps. cxiii, 2). Ah, Lord ! judge
me not according to my merits, but treat me according to
Thy mercy. Give me light, give me sorrow for the offences
that I have committed against Thee, and pardon me. ” I
have gone astray like a sheep that is lost: seek thy
servant.” I am a lost sheep: and unless Thou seek after
me, I shall be lost forever. Have pity on me for the sake of
that blood which Thou hast shed for me. I am sorry, O
Sovereign Good ! for having left Thee, and for having
voluntarily renounced Thy grace. I would wish to die of
sorrow, but give me an increase of sorrow. Bring me to
heaven that there I may sing Thy mercies. Mary, my
Mother! thou art my refuge; pray to Jesus for me : beg of
him to grant me pardon and holy perseverance.
THIRD POINT.
True Wisdom.

Let us be persuaded that the truly wise are they who
know how to acquire the divine grace, and the
kingdom of heaven; and let us incessantly implore
the Lord to give us the science of the saints, which he
gives to all who ask it from him (Wis. x, 10). Oh ! what a
precious science to know how to love God, and to save
our souls !

This science consists in knowing how to walk in
the way of salvation, and to adopt the means of attaining
eternal life. The affair of salvation is of all affairs the most
necessary. If we know all things, and know not how to
save our souls, our knowledge will be unprofitable to us,
and we shall be forever miserable: but on the other hand,
though we should be ignorant of all things, we shall be
happy for eternity, if we know how to love God. ” Blessed
is the man,” says St. Augustine, “who knows Thee though
he be ignorant of other things.” (Conf. 1, 5, c.5). One day,
Brother Giles said to St. Bonaventure: Happy you, Father
Bonaventure, who are so learned. I am a poor, ignorant
man, who knows nothing. You can become more holy than
I can. “Listen, ” replied the Saint: ” If an ignorant old
woman love God more than I do, she shall be more holy
than I am.” On hearing this, Brother Giles began to
exclaim: O poor old woman ! poor old woman ! listen,
listen: if you love God, you can become more holy than
Father Bonaventure.
“The unlearned rise up,” says St. Augustine: “and bear
away the kingdom of heaven.” (Conf. 1, 8, c. 8). How
many rude and illiterate Christians, who, though unable
to read, know how to love God and are saved ! And how
many of the learned of this world are damned! But the
former, not the latter, are truly wise. Oh! how truly wise
were St. Paschal, St. Felix the Capuchin, St. John of God,
though unacquainted with human sciences ! Oh ! how
truly wise were so many holy men, who, abandoning the
world, shut themselves up in the cloister, or spent their
lives in the desert! How truly wise were St. Benedict, St.
Francis of Assisi, and St. Louis of Toulouse, who renounced
the throne !

Oh ! how truly wise were so many martyrs, so
many tender virgins, who refused the hand of princes, and
suffered death for the sake of Jesus Christ! That true
wisdom consists in despising the goods of this life, and in
securing a happy eternity, even worldlings know and
believe : hence of persons who give themselves to God,
they say : Happy they, who are truly wise, and save their
souls ! In fine, they who renounce the goods of the world
to give themselves to God, are said to be undeceived.
What then should we call those who abandon God for
worldly goods? We should call them deluded men.
Brother, to what class do you wish to belong ? In order to
make a good choice, St. Chrysostom tells you to visit the
sepulchres of the dead. The grave is the school in which
we may see the vanity of earthly goods, and in which we
may learn the science of the Saints. “Tell me,” says St.
Chrysostom, “are you able there to discover who has been
a prince, a noble, or a man of learning? For my part,”
adds the Saint, “I see nothing but rottenness, worms, and
bones. All is but a dream, a shadow.” (In Matth. hom. 77).
Everything in this world will soon have an end, and will
vanish like a dream or a shadow. But, dearly beloved
Christians, if you wish to be truly wise, it is not enough to
know your end, it is necessary to adopt the means of
attaining it. All would wish to be saved and to be Saints;
but because they do not employ the means, they never
acquire sanctity, and are lost. It is necessary to fly from
the occasions of sin, to frequent the sacraments, to
practice mental prayer, and above all, to impress on the
heart the following maxims of the Gospel: What doth it
profit a man if he gain the whole world? (Matt. xvi, 26).
He that loveth his life shall lose it (John, xii, 25). That is,
we must even forfeit our life in order to save the soul. If
any man will come after me, let him deny himself (Matt.
xvi, 24). To follow Jesus Christ it is necessary to refuse to
self-love the pleasures which it seeks. Life is His good will
(Ps. xxix, 6). Our salvation consists in doing the will of
God. These, and other similar maxims, should be deeply
impressed on the soul.
Affections and Prayers.
Father of mercies! behold my miseries, and have
pity on me; give me light, make me sensible of my
past folly, that I may bewail it, and make known to
me Thy infinite goodness, that I may love it. My Jesus! do
not deliver up to beasts the souls that confess to Thee (Ps.
lxxiii,10). Thou hast expended Thy blood for my salvation:
do not permit me ever more to be, as I have hitherto
been, the slave of the devils. I am sorry, O my Sovereign
Good! for having abandoned Thee. I curse all the
moments in which I voluntarily consented to sin ; and I
embrace Thy holy will, which desires nothing but my
welfare. Eternal Father! through the merits of Jesus Christ,
give me strength to do all that is pleasing to Thee. Strike
me dead rather than permit me to oppose Thy holy will.
Assist me by Thy grace to banish from my heart every
affection which does not tend to Thee. I love Thee, O God
of my soul! I love Thee above all things: and from Thee I
hope for every good, for pardon, for perseverance in Thy
love, and for paradise, that there I may love Thee for
eternity. O Mary! ask these graces for me. Thy Son
refuses thee nothing. My hope! I trust in thee.