ON THE MERCY OF GOD TOWARDS SINNERS – St. Alphonsus

THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

” There shall be joy in heaven upon one sinner that doth penance, more than ninety -nine just, who need not penance.” LUKE xv. 7

In this day’s gospel it is related that the Pharisees murmured against Jesus Christ, because he received sinners and eat with them. ”This man receiveth sinners and eateth with them” (v. 2). In answer to their murmurings our Lord said: If any of you had a hundred sheep, and lost one of them, would he not leave the ninety-nine in the desert, and go in search of the lost sheep? would he not continue his search until he found it? and having found it, would he not carry it on his shoulders, and, rejoicing, say to his friends and neighbours: ”Rejoice with me, because I have found my sheep that was lost ?” (v. 6.)

In conclusion, the Son of God said: ”I say to you, there shall be joy in heaven upon one sinner that doth penance, more than, upon ninety-nine just, that need not penance.” There is more joy in heaven upon one sinner who  returns to God, than upon many just who preserve the grace of God. Let us, then, speak Today on the mercy which God shows to sinners, first, in calling them to repentance; secondly, in receiving them when they return.

First Point

Mercy of God in calling sinners to repentance.

1. After having sinned hy eating the forbidden apple, Adam fled from the face of the Lord through shame of the sin he had committed. What must have been the astonishment of the angels when they saw God seeking after him, and calling him as it were with tears, saying: ”Adam, where art thou ?” (Gen. iii. 9.) My beloved Adam, where art thou? These words, says Father Pereyra, in his commentary on this passage, ”are the words of a father in search of his lost son.”

Towards you, brethren, the Lord acts in a similar manner. You fled from him and he has so often invited you to repentance by means of confessors and preachers. Who was it that spoke to you when they exhorted you to penance? It was the Lord. Preachers are, as St. Paul says, his ambassadors. ”For Christ, therefore, we are ambassadors; God, as it were, exhorting by us.” (2 Cor. v. 20.) Hence he writes to the sinners of Corinth: ”For Christ, we beseech you, be reconciled to God.” (Ibid.) In explaining these words St. Chrysostom says: ”Ipse Chris tus vos obsecrat: quid autem obsecrat? Reconciliamini Deo.”

Then, says the holy doctor, Jesus Christ himself entreats you, sinners: and what does he entreat you to do? To make peace with God. The saint adds: ”Non enim ipse inimicus gerit, sed vos.” It is not God that acts like an enemy, but you; that is, God does not refuse to make peace with sinners, but they are unwilling to be reconciled with him.”

2. But notwithstanding the refusal of sinners to return to God, he does not cease to continue to call them by so many interior inspirations, remorses of conscience, and terrors of chastisements. Thus, beloved Christians, God has spoken to you, and, seeing that you disregarded his words, he has had recourse to scourges; he has called you to repentance by such a persecution, by temporal losses, by the death of a relative, by sickness which has brought you to the brink of the grave.

He has, according to holy David, placed before your eyes the bow of your damnation, not that you might be condemned to eternal misery, but that you might be delivered from hell, which you deserved. “Thou hast given a warning to them that fear thee, that they may flee from before the bow, that thy beloved may be delivered.” (Ps. lix. 6).

You regarded certain afflictions as misfortunes; but they were mercies from God; they were the voices of God calling on you to renounce sin, that you might escape perdition. ”My jaws are become hoarse.” (Ps. lxviii. 4.) My son, says the Lord, I have almost lost my voice in calling you to repentance. ”I am weary of entreating thee.” ( Jer. xv. (5.) I have become weary in imploring you to offend me no more.

3. By your ingratitude you deserved that he should call you no more; but he has continued to invite you to return to him. And who is it that has called you? It is a God of infinite majesty, who is to be one day your judge, and on whom your eternal happiness or misery depends. And what are you but miserable worms deserving hell? Why has he called you? To restore to you the life of grace which you have lost. “Return ye and live.” (Ezec. xviii. 32.) To acquire the grace of God, it would be but little to spend a hundred years in a desert in fasting and penitential austerities.

But God offered it to you for a single act of sorrow; you refused that act, and after your refusal he has not abandoned you, but has sought after you, saying: “And why will you die, house of Israel?” (Ez. xviii. 31.) Like a father weeping and following his Page 135 of 233 son, who has voluntarily thrown himself into the sea, God has sought after you, saying, through compassion to each of you: My son, why dost thou bring thyself to eternal misery?”Why will you die, house of Israel ?”

4. As a pigeon that seeks to take shelter in a tower, seeing the entrance closed on every side, continues to fly round till she finds an opening through which she enters, so, says St. Augustine, did the divine mercy act towards me when I was in enmity with God. Circuibat super me fidelis a longe misericordia tua.” The Lord treated you, brethren, in a similar manner. As often as you sinned you banished him from your souls.

The wicked have said to God: “Depart from us.” (Job xxi. 14.) And, instead of abandoning you, what has the Lord done? He has placed himself at the door of your ungrateful hearts, and, by his knocking, has made you feel that he was outside, and seeking for admission. ”Behold I stand at the gate and knock.” (Apoc. iii. 20.) He, as it were, entreated you to have compassion on him, and to allow him to enter. “Open to me, my sister.” (Cant. v. 2.)

Open to me; I will deliver you from perdition; I will forget all the insults you have offered to me if you give up sin. Perhaps you are unwilling to open to me through fear of becoming poor by restoring ill-gotten goods, or by separating from a person who provided for you? Am not I, says the Lord, able to provide for you? Perhaps you think that, if you renounce a certain friendship which separates you from me, you shall lead a life of misery?

Am I not able to content your soul and to make your life happy? Ask those who love me with their whole hearts, and they will tell you that my grace makes them content, and that they would not exchange their condition, though poor and humble, for all the delights and riches of the monarchs of the earth.

Second Point

Mercy of God in waiting for sinners to return to him

5. We have considered the divine mercy in calling sinners to repentance: let us now consider his patience in waiting for their return. That great servant of God, D. Sancia Carillo, a penitent of Father John D’Avila, used to say, that the consideration of God‟s patience with sinners made her desire to build a church, and entitle it”The Patience of God.”

Ah, sinners! who could ever bear with what God has borne from you? If the offences which you have committed against God had been offered to your best friends, or even to your parents, they surely would have sought revenge. When you insulted the Lord he was able to chastise you; you repeated the insult, and he did not punish your guilt, but preserved your life, and provided you with sustenance. lie, as it were, pretended not to see the injuries you offered to him, that you might enter into yourselves, and cease to offend him. “Thou overlookest the sins of men for the sake of repentance.” (Wis. xi. 24.)

But how, Lord, does it happen, that thou canst not behold a single sin, and that thou dost bear in silence with so many? “Thy eyes are too pure to behold evil, and thou canst not look on iniquity. Why lookest thou upon them that do unjust things, and boldest thy peace ?” (Hab. i. 13.)

Thou seest the vindictive prefer their own before thy honour; thou beholdest the unjust, instead of restoring what they have stolen, continuing to commit theft; the unchaste, instead of being ashamed of their impurities, boasting of them before others; the scandalous, not content with the sins which they themselves commit, but seeking to draw others into rebellion against thee; thou seest all this, and holdest thy peace, and dost not inflict vengeance.

6. “Omnis creatura,” says St. Thomas, “tibi factor! deserviens excandescit adversus injustos.” All creatures the earth, fire, air, water because they all obey God, would, by a natural instinct, wish to punish the sinner, and to avenge the injuries which he does to the Creator; but God, through his mercy, restrains them.

But, Lord, thou waitest for the wicked that they may enter into themselves; and dost thou not see that they abuse thy mercy to offer new insults to thy majesty? “Thou hast been favourable to the nation, O Lord, thou hast been favourable to the nation: art thou glorified ?” (Isa. xxvi. 15.) Thou hast waited so long for sinners; thou hast abstained from inflicting punishment; but what glory have you reaped from thy forbearance? They have become more wicked. Why so much patience with such ungrateful souls? Why dost thou continue to wait for their repentance? Why dost thou not chastise their wickedness?

The same Prophet answers: “The Lord waiteth that he may have mercy on you.” (Isa. xxx. 18.) God waits for sinners that they may one day repent, and that after their repentance, he may pardon and save them. “As I live, saith the Lord, I desire not the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.” (Ezech. xxxiii. 11.)

St. Augustine goes so far as to say that the Lord, if he were not God, should he unjust on account of his excessive patience towards sinners. ”Deus, Deus incus, pace tua dicam, nisi quia Deus esses, injustus esses.” By waiting for those who abuse his patience to multiply their sins, God appears to do an injustice to the divine honour.

”We,” continues the saint, “sin; we adhere to sin (some of us become familiar and intimate with sin, and sleep for months and years in this miserable state); we rejoice at sin (some of us go so far as to boast of our wickedness); and thou art appeased! “We provoke thce to anger thou dost invite us to mercy.” We and God appear to be, as it were, engaged in a contest, in which we labour to provoke him to chastise our guilt, and he invites us to pardon.

7. Lord, exclaimed holy Job, what is man, that thou dost entertain so great an esteem for him? Why dost thou love him so tenderly?”What is man that thou shouldst magnify him? or why dost thou set thy heart upon him ?” (Job. vii. ] 7.)

St. Denis the Areopagite says, that God seeks after sinners like a despised lover, entreating them not to destroy themselves. ”Deus etiam a se aversos amatorie sequitur, et deprecatur ne pereant.” Why, ungrateful souls, do you fly from me? I love you and desire nothing but your welfare.

Ah, sinners! says St. Teresa, remember that he who now calls and seeks after you, is that God who shall one day be your judge. If you are lost, the great mercies which he now shows you, shall be the greatest torments which, you shall suffer in hell.

Third Point.

Mercy of God in receiving penitent sinners

8. Should a subject who has rebelled against an earthly monarch go into the presence of his sovereign to ask pardon, the prince instantly banishes the rebel from his sight, and does not condescend even to look at him. But God does not treat us in this manner, when we go with humility before him to implore mercy and forgiveness.

“The Lord your God is merciful, and will not turn away his face from you if you return to him.” (2 Par. xxx. 9.) God cannot turn away his face from those who cast themselves at his feet with an humble and contrite heart. Jesus himself has protested that he will not reject any one who returns to him.

“And him that cometh to me, I will not cast out.” (John vi. 37.) But how can he reject those whom he himself invites to return, and promises to embrace?”Return to me, saith the Lord, and I will receive thee.” (Jer. iii. 1.) In another place he says: Sinners, I ought to turn my back on you, because you first turned your back on me; but be converted to me, and I will be converted to you. “Turn to me, saith the Lord of hosts, and I will turn to you, saith the Lord of hosts.” (Zach. i. 3.)

9. Oh! with what tenderness does God embrace a sinner that returns to him! This tenderness Jesus Christ wished to declare to us when he said that he is the good pastor, who, as soon as he finds the lost sheep, embraces it and places it on his own shoulders. ”And when he hath found it, doth he not lay it upon his shoulders rejoicing?” (Luke xv. 5.)

This tenderness also appears in the parable of the prodigal son, in which Jesus Christ tells us that he is the good father, who, when his lost son returns, goes to meet him, embraces and kisses him, and, as it were, swoons away through joy in receiving him. ”And running to him, he fell upon his neck and kissed him.” (Luke xv. 20.)

10. God protests that when sinners repent of their iniquities, he will forget all their sins, as if they had never offended him. “But, if the wicked do penance for all the sins which he hath committed. .. .living, he shall live, and shall not die. I will not remember all his iniquities that he hath done.” (Ezech. xviii. 21,22.) By the Prophet Isaias, the Lord goes so far as to say: “Come and accuse me, saith the Lord. If your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made white as snow.” (Isa. i. 18.)

Mark the words, Come and accuse me. As if the Lord said: Sinners, come to me, and if I do not pardon and embrace you, reprove me, upbraid me with violating my promise. But no! God cannot despise an humble and contrite heart. “A contrite and humble heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” (Ps. l. 19.)

11. To show mercy and grant pardon to sinners, God regards as redounding to his own glory. “And therefore shall he be exalted sparing you.” (Isa. xxx. 18.) The holy Church says, that God displays his omnipotence in granting pardon and mercy to sinners. ”O God, who manifested thy omnipotence in sparing and showing mercy.”

Do not imagine, dearly beloved sinners, that God requires of you to labour for a long time before he grants you pardon: as soon as you wish for forgiveness, he is ready to give it. Behold what the Scripture says: ”Weeping, thou shalt not weep, he will surely have pity on thee.” (Isa. xxx. 19.)

You shall not have to weep for a long time: as soon as you shall have shed the tirst tear through sorrow for your sins, God will have mercy on you. ”At the voice of thy cry, as soon as he shall hear, he will answer thee.” (Ibid.) The moment he shall hear you say: Forgive me, my God, forgive me, he will instantly answer and grant your pardon.

Catholic Education

I happened on this article the other day that discusses the great importance of having a Catholic worldview and that is only obtained through having an authentic Catholic education.  Now, in the current state of the world, you can not, on the whole, find this in “catholic” schools, but you can study for yourself and with the aid of Our Lady, the Holy Ghost, and St. Thomas Aquinas, you can learn a good bit through reading, prayer and meditation.

This Article was written by Mitchell Kalpakgian, PHD, and you can read it on the Truth and Charity Forum here or you can read it below.


Rooted in the classical world of Greek thought and Thomistic philosophy, Catholic education is not shaped by trends, fashions, and fads but founded on a great tradition that has passed the test of time. It teaches all subjects in their integrity, according to their first principles, the logos that conforms to the structure of reality and the nature of things–whether it is the grammar that governs language, the reasoning that underlies arithmetic and geometry, or the revealed truths that form the basis of theology. Catholic education is founded on universal truths derived from all spheres of knowledge, that is, the unchangeable laws, the eternal truths, and the perennial wisdom that form the food of the mind and the life of the soul. Catholic education does not dilute, oversimplify, or “dumb down” subject matter to accommodate students but teaches them how to rise to the level of demand required by a particular discipline such as grammar, theology, Latin, or chemistry.

Like its moral teaching that inspires moral excellence and an imitation of Christ, Catholic education holds high ideals for its students and instills a love of learning because of man’s innate desire for knowledge —a love of truth that climaxes in a sense of wonder at God’s created and supernatural order and His revealed truths. This authentic education does not lower its standards or commit grade inflation. Recalling the words of St. Thomas Aquinas that “All truth, whoever said it, comes from the Holy Spirit,” it cultivates in the mind openness and love of truth to “all that is,” that is, the truths that come from all bodies of learning, both the arts and the sciences. All these fields of knowledge illuminate some attribute of God’s nature as goodness, love wisdom, justice, beauty, mercy, or power.

Catholic education has its heritage in the liberal arts that pass on the wisdom of the past and the venerable traditions of Western civilization known as The Perennial Philosophy—what is universally true for all people, in all times, in all places (“the best that has been thought and said” in Matthew Arnold’s famous phrase). Thus it rejects the doctrines of moral relativism, political correctness, indoctrination, and ideology by educating the mind to detect lies, propaganda, and heresies in all their various disguises. It embraces what Edmund Burke in Reflections on the Revolution in France refers to as the accumulated knowledge of the human experience that transcends one person’s “private stock of reason” and encompasses “the general bank and capital of nations, and of ages.”

Catholic education recognizes that just as there is a health of the body and a perfection of the soul, there is also an excellence of the intellect, both the knowledge of the head and the knowledge of the heart—the ability to read, write, speak, and listen; the skill to observe, calculate, and think logically; and the sensitivity to respond to the wonder of beauty and appreciate the virtues of the heart: kindness, charity, mercy, gratitude, loyalty, and hospitality. This education does not ignore man’s social or emotional nature, and therefore it cultivates manners, courtesy, tact, and propriety in speech, behavior, and clothing, recognizing that the beautiful or gracious is the attractive aspect of the good. In the words of Gerard Manley Hopkins, “Glory be to God for dappled things–/For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;/For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim; Fresh-firecoal chestnut falls; finches’ wings.” Catholic education, then, integrates and sees the unity between all bodies of knowledge ordered to to a greater understanding of God’s truth, goodness, and beauty as objects of the mind to know and contemplate with wonder, love, and gratitude and then to incorporate in one’s own life.

Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman best describes this ideal of Catholic and liberal education in these words from The Idea of a University that define the nature of intellectual excellence at its highest: “the clear, calm, accurate vision and comprehension of all things”:

It is almost prophetic from its knowledge of history; it is almost heart-searching from its knowledge of human nature; it has almost supernatural charity from its freedom from littleness and prejudice; it has almost the repose of faith, because nothing can startle it; it has almost the beauty and harmony of heavenly contemplation, so intimate is it with the eternal order of things and the music of the spheres.

It is common to hear students dismiss certain fields of knowledge as useless to their profession and career. Why should a student majoring in information technology, accounting, music, or biology study philosophy, literature, or Latin? Surely they will not need this knowledge in their specialized, technical fields of study. The courses designated as “liberal arts” have no practical, utilitarian value for many professions that require skills acquired only in that particular discipline. Business majors need to study accounting, economics, and statistics to become expert in their field, and pre-medical students benefit more from the study of the sciences than the humanities.

Newman, however, addressed this very question during the Victorian Age when trade schools and technical training established respectability as models of education essential for the Industrial Age centered upon the importance of manufacturing and the progress of science. Thus Newman’s age made the common distinction between “the good” and “the useful,” separating the two ideas as exclusive. While the useful was good, the good was not useful or “utilitarian” as it was defined in that period. For something to be classified as “good” or beneficial, it needed to have immediate results and produce tangible benefits. As Sir Francis Bacon argued, knowledge is power. An education that led to a job was useful; work that resulted in good income was useful; the income that improved a person’s standard of living was useful. The useful, then, was measured in quantitative ways and seen in materialistic advantages.

A bone fide classical or Catholic education, however, is not utilitarian, a form of training in a marketable skill motivated by economic considerations for the sole purpose of earning a livelihood. It is a love of learning for its own sake, a desire for truth as an end in itself and as a great good that suffuses all areas of life. Classical education views the study of the liberal arts as a pursuit that resembles the habit of worship, the cultivation of friendship, the appreciation of beauty, the enjoyment of play, and a love of learning as activities that are intrinsically good in and of themselves. They lift the heart, animate the spirit, and inspire a love of life and of the goodness of creation. As Newman explains, the good, while not utilitarian, is always useful. The good is “not useful in any low, mechanical, mercantile sense, but as diffusing good, or as a blessing, or a gift, or power, or a treasure, first to the owner, then through him to the world.”

Good is not only good, but reproductive of good; this is one of its attributes; nothing is excellent, beautiful, perfect, desirable for its own sake, but it overflows, and spreads the likeness of all around it. Good is prolific . . . . A great good will impart a great good.

In short, if there is no limit to all the good a blessing, a gift, power, an act of love, or a precious treasure can add to the world or to the life of one person and if there is no limit to the overflow of goodness that communicates and diffuses itself everywhere and touches many lives, a Catholic education is the most useful of educations because of all the practical, real good that abounds for all who receive this goodness and transmit it in a generous, charitable sharing way for all to know, love, and perpetuate.

 

 

 

On Holy Communion – St. Alphonsus

“A certain man made a great supper.” LUKE xiv. 16.

IN the gospel of this day we read that a rich man prepared a great supper. He then ordered one of his servants to invite to it all those whom he should find in the highways, even though they were poor, blind, and lame, and to compel those who should refuse, to come to the supper. “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled” (v. 20). And he added, that of all those who had been invited and had not come, not one should ever partake of his supper. “But I say unto you, that none of those men that were invited shall taste of my supper” (v. 24).

This supper is the holy communion; it is a Page 130 of 233 great supper, at which all the faithful are invited to eat the sacred flesh of Jesus Christ in the most holy sacrament of the altar. “Take ye and eat: this is my body.” (Matt. xxiv. 26.) Let us then consider today, in the first point, the great love which Jesus Christ has shown us in giving us himself in this sacrament; and, in the second point, how we ought to receive him in order to draw great fruit from the holy communion.

First Point

On the great love which Jesus Christ has shown us in giving us himself in this sacrament.

1. ”Jesus, knowing that his hour was come that he should pass out of this world to the Father, having loved his own that were in the world, he loved them unto the end. ”(John xiii. 1.) Knowing that the hour of his death had arrived, Jesus Christ wished, before his departure from this world, to leave us the greatest proof which he could give of his love, by leaving us himself in the holy eucharist.

”He loved them to the end. That is, according to St. Chrysostom, ”with an extreme love.” St. Bernardino of Sienna says that the tokens of love which are given at death make a more lasting impression on the mind, and are more highly esteemed. ”Quæ in fine in signum amicitiæ celebrantur, firmius memoriæ imprimuntur et cariora tenentur.”

But, whilst others leave a ring, or a piece of money, as a mark of their affection, Jesus has left us himself entirely in this sacrament of love.

2. And when did Jesus Christ institute this sacrament? He instituted it, as the Apostle has remarked, on the night before his passion . “The Lord Jesus, the same night on which he was betrayed, took bread, and giving thanks, broke and said: “Take ye and eat: this is my body.” (1 Cor. xi. 23, 24.)

Thus, at the very time that men were preparing to put him to death, our loving Redeemer resolved to bestow upon us this gift. Jesus Christ, then, was not content with giving his life for us on a cross: he wished also, before his death, to pour out, as the Council of Trent says, all the riches of his love, by leaving himself for our food in the holy communion. “He, as it were, poured out the riches of his love towards man.” (Sess. 13, cap. ii.)

If faith had not taught it, who could ever imagine that a God would become man, and afterwards become the food of his own creatures? When Jesus Christ revealed to his followers this sacrament which he intended to leave us, St. John says, that they could not bring themselves to believe it, and departed from him saying: ”How can this man give us his flesh to eat ?…This saying is hard, and who can hear it?” (St. John vi. 53, 61.) But what men could not imagine, the real love of Jesus Christ has invented and effected. ”Take ye and eat: this is my body.” These words he addressed to his apostles on the night before he suffered, and he now, after his death, addresses them to us.

3. “How highly honoured, ” says St. Francis de Sales, “would that man fed to whom the king sent from his table a portion of what he had on his own plate? But how should he feel if that portion were a part of the king‟s arm?” In the holy communion Jesus gives us, not a part of his arm, but his entire body in the sacrament of the altar. “He gave you all,” says St. Chrysostom, reproving our ingratitude, ”he left nothing for Himself. ”

And St. Thomas teaches, that in the eucharist God has given us all that he is and all that he has. “Deus in eucharistia totum quod est et habet, dedit nobis.” (Opusc. 63, c. ii.) Justly then has the same saint called the eucharist”a sacrament of love; a pledge of love. ”“Sacramentum charitatis pignus charitatis.”

It is a sacrament of love, because it was pure love that induced Jesus Christ to give us this gift and pledge of love: for he wished that, should a doubt of his having loved us ever enter into our minds, we should have in this sacrament a pledge of his love.

St. Bernard calls this sacrament”love of loves.”“Amor amorum.” By his incarnation, the Lord has given himself to all men in general; but, in this sacrament, he has given, himself to each of us in particular, to make us understand the special love which he entertains for each of us.

4. Oh! how ardently does Jesus Christ desire to come to our souls in the holy communion! This vehement desire he expressed at the time of the institution of this sacrament, when he said to the apostles: ”With desire I have desired to eat this Pasch with you.” (Luke xxii. 15.)

St. Laurence Justinian says that these words proceeded from the enamoured heart of Jesus Christ, who, by such tender expressions, wished to show us the ardent love with which he loved us. ”This is the voice of the most burning charity. ”Flagrantissimæ charitatis est vox hæc.” And, to induce us to receive him frequently in the holy communion, he promises eternal life that is, the kingdom of heaven to those who eat his flesh. ”He that eateth this bread shall live for ever.” (John vi. 59.)

On the other hand, it threatens to deprive us of his grace and of Paradise, if we neglect communion. ”Except you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you.” (John vi. 54.) These promises and these threats all sprung from a burning desire to come to us in this sacrament.

5. And why does Jesus Christ so vehemently desire that we receive him in the holy communion? It is because he takes delight in being united with each of us. By the communion, Jesus is really united to our soul and to our body, and we are united to Jesus. “He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, abideth in me and I in him.” (John vi. 57.) Thus, after communion, we are, says St. Chrysostom, one body and one flesh with Jesus Christ. ”Huic nos unimur, et facti summus unum corpus ut una caro.” (Hom. lxviii. ad Pop. Ant.)

Hence St. Laurence Justinian exclaims: “Oh! how wonderful is thy love, O Lord Jesus, who hast wished to incorporate us in such a manner with thy body, that we should have one heart and one soul inseparably united with thee.” Thus, to every soul that receives the eucharist, the Lord says what he once said to his beloved servant Margaret of Ipres ”Behold, my daughter, the close union made between me and thee; love me, then, and let us remain for ever united in love: let us never more be separated.”

This union between us and Jesus Christ is, according to St. Chrysostom, the effect of the love which Jesus Christ bears us. ”Semetipsum nobis immiscuit, ut unum quid simus ardentur enim amantium hoc est. ” (Hom. lxi.) But, Lord, such intimate union with man is not suited to thy divine majesty.

But love seeks not reason; it goes not where it ought to go, but where it is drawn. ”Amor ratione caret, et vadit quo dicitur, non quo debeat.” (Serm. cxliii.) St. Bernardino of Sienna says that, in giving himself for our food, Jesus Christ loved us to the last degree; because he united himself entirely to us, as food is united to those who eat it. “Ultimus gradus amoris est, cum se dedit nobis in cibum quia dedit se nobis ad omnimodam unionem, sicut cibus et cibans, invicem uniuntur.” (Tom. 2, Serm. liv.)

The same doctrine has been beautifully expressed by St. Francis de Sales. ”No action of the Saviour can be more loving or more tender than the institution of the holy eucharist, in which he, as it were, annihilates himself, and takes the form of food, to unite himself to the souls and bodies of his faithful servants.”

6. Hence, there is nothing from which we can draw so much fruit as from the holy communion. St. Denis teaches, that the most holy sacrament has greater efficacy to sanctify souls than all other spiritual means. ”Eucharistia maxim am vim habet perficiendæ  sanctitatis.”

St. Vincent Ferrer says, that a soul derives more profit from one communion than from fasting a week on bread and water. The eucharist is, according to the holy Council of Trent, a medicine which delivers us from venial, and preserves us from mortal sins. “Antidotum quo a culpis quotidianis liberemur, et a rnortalibus præservemur.” Jesus himself has said, that they who eat him, who is the fountain of life, shall receive permanently the life of grace. “He that eateth me, the same shall also live by me.” (John vi. 58.)

Innocent the Third teaches, that by the passion Jesus Christ delivers us from the sins we have committed, and by the eucharist from the sins we may commit. According to St. Chrysostom, the holy communion inflames us with the fire of divine love, and makes us objects of terror to the devil. ”The eucharist is a fire which inflames us, that, like lions breathing fire, we may retire from the altar, being made terrible to the devil.” (Hom. lxi. ad Pop. Ant.)

In explaining the words of the Spouse of the Canticles, “He brought me into the cellar of wine; lie set in order charity in me” (ii. 4.) St. Gregory says, that the communion is this cellar of wine, in which the soul is so inebriated with divine love, that she forgets and loses sight of all earthly things.

7. Some will say: ”I do not communicate often; because I am cold in divine love.” In answer to them Gerson asks, Will you then, because you feel cold, remove from the fire? When you are tepid you should more frequently approach this sacrament. St. Bonaventure says: ”Trusting in the mercy of God, though you feel tepid, approach: let him who thinks himself unworthy reflect, that the more infirm he feels himself the more he requires a physician” (de Prof. Rel., cap. lxxviii).

And, in”The Devout Life,” chapter xx., St. Francis de Sales writes: ”Two sorts of persons ought to communicate often: the perfect, to preserve perfection; and the imperfect, to arrive at perfection.” It cannot be doubted, that he who wishes to communicate should prepare himself with great diligence, that he may communicate well. Let us pass to the second point.

Second Point

On the preparation we ought to make in order to derive great fruit from the holy communion.

8. Two things are necessary in order to draw great fruit from communion preparation for, and thanksgiving after communion. As to the preparation, it is certain that the saints derived great profit from their communions, only because they were careful to prepare themselves well for receiving the holy eucharist.

It is easy then to understand why so many souls remain subject to the same imperfections, after all their communions. Cardinal Bona says, that the defect is not in the food, but in the want of preparation for it. ”Defectus non in bibo est, sed in edentis dispositione.”

For frequent communion two principal dispositions are necessary. The first is detachment from creatures, and disengagement of the heart from everything that is not God. The more the heart is occupied with earthly concerns, the less room there is in it for divine love. Hence, to give full possession of the whole heart to God, it is necessary to purify it from worldly attachments.

This is the preparation which Jesus himself recommends to St. Gertrude. ”I ask nothing more of thee,” said he to her, ”than that thou come to receive me with a heart divested of thyself.” Let us, then, withdraw our affections from creatures, and our hearts shall belong entirely to the Creator.

9. The second disposition necessary to draw great fruit from communion, is a desire of receiving Jesus Christ in order to advance in his love. ”He,” says St. Francis de Sales, ”who gives himself through pure love, ought to be received only through love.”

Thus, the principal end of our communions must be to advance in the love of Jesus Christ. He once said to St. Matilda: “When you communicate, desire all the love that any soul has ever had for me, and I will accept your love in proportion to the fervour with which you wished for it.”

10. Thanksgiving after communion is also necessary. The prayer we make after communion is the most acceptable to God, and the most profitable to us. After communion the soul should be employed in affections and petitions. The affections ought to consist not only in acts of thanksgiving, but also in acts of humility, of love, and of oblation of ourselves to God.

Let us then humble ourselves as much as possible at the sight of a God made our food after we had offended him. A learned author says that, for a soul after communion, the most appropriate sentiment is one of astonishment at the thought of receiving a God. She should exclaim: ”What! a God to me! a God to me!” Let us also make many acts of the love of Jesus Christ.

He has come into our souls in order to be loved. Hence, he is greatly pleased with those who, after communion, say to him: “My Jesus, I love thee; I desire nothing but thee.” Let us also offer ourselves and all that we have to Jesus Christ, that he may dispose of all as he pleases: and let us frequently say: ”My Jesus, thou art all mine; thou hast given thyself entirely to me; I give myself entirely to thee.

11. After communion; we should not only make these affections, but we ought also to present to God with great confidence many petitions for his graces. The time after communion is a time in which we can gain treasures of divine graces. St. Teresa says, that at that time Jesus Christ remains in the soul as on a throne, saying to her what he said to the blind man: ”What wilt thou that I should do to thee ?” (Mark x. 51.) As if he said: ”But me you have not always.” (John xii. 8.)

Now that you possess me within you, ask me for graces: I have come down from heaven on purpose to dispense them to you; ask whatever you wish, and you shall obtain it. Oh! what great graces are lost by those who spend but little time in prayer after communion. Let us also turn to the Eternal Father, and, bearing in mind the promise of Jesus Christ “Amen, amen, I say to you, if you ask the Father anything in my name, he will give it you” (John xvi. 23) let us say to him: My God, for the love of this thy Son, whom I have within my heart, give me thy love; make me all thine. And if we offer this prayer with confidence, the Lord will certainly hear us. He who acts thus may become a saint by a single communion.

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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.