“Blessed is the man who hopes in the Lord,” says the Holy Spirit. The weakness of our souls is often attributable to lukewarmness in regard to the Christian virtue of hope.
Hold fast to this great truth: he who hopes for nothing will obtain nothing; he who hopes for little will obtain little; he who hopes for all things will obtain all things.
The mercy of God is infinitely greater than all the sins of the world. We should not, then, confine ourselves to a consideration of our own wretchedness, but rather turn our thoughts to the contemplation of this divine attribute of mercy.
“What do you fear?” says Saint Thomas of Villanova: “this Judge whose condemnation you dread is the same Jesus Christ who died upon the Cross in order not to condemn you.”
Sorrow, not fear, is the sentiment our sins should awaken in us. When Saint Peter said to his divine Master: “Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man,” what did our Saviour reply? “Noli timere,—fear not.” Saint Augustine remarks that in the Holy Scriptures we always find hope and love preferred to fear.
Our miseries form the throne of the divine mercy, we are told by Saint Francis de Sales, for if in the world there were neither sins to pardon, nor sorrows to soothe, nor maladies of the soul to heal, God would not have to exercise the most beautiful attribute of His divine essence. This was our Lord’s reason for saying that He came into the world not for the just but for sinners.
Assuredly our faults are displeasing to God, but He does not on their account cease to cherish our souls.
It is unnecessary to observe that this applies only to such faults as are due to the frailty inherent in our nature, and against which an upright will, sustained by divine grace, continually struggles. A perverse will, without which there can be no mortal sin, alienates us from God and renders us hateful in His eyes as long as we are subject to it.
At the feast spoken of in the Gospel, the King receives with love the poor, the blind, and the lame who are clothed with the nuptial garment,—that is to say, all those whom a desire to please God maintains in a state of grace notwithstanding their natural defects and frailty: but his rigorous justice displays itself against him who dares to appear there without this garment.
This distinction, found everywhere throughout the Gospels, is essential in order to inspire us with a tender confidence when we fall, without diminishing our horror for deliberate sins.
A good mother is afflicted at the natural defects and infirmities of her child, but she loves him none the less, nor does she refuse him her compassion or her aid. Far from it; for the more miserable and suffering and deformed he may be the greater is her tenderness and solicitude for him.
We have, says Saint Paul, a good and indulgent High-Priest who knows how to compassionate our weakness, Jesus Christ, who has been pleased to become at once our Brother and our Mediator.
Do not forfeit your peace of mind by wondering what destiny awaits you in eternity. Your future lot is in the hands of God, and it is much safer there than if in your own keeping.
The immoderate fear of hell, in the opinion of Saint Francis de Sales, can not be cured by arguments, but by submission and humility.
Hence it was that Saint Bernard, when tempted by the devil to a sin of despair, retorted: “I have not merited heaven, I know that as well as you do, Satan; but I also know that Jesus Christ, my Savior, has merited it for me. It was not for Himself that He purchased so many merits,—but for me: He cedes them to me, and it is by Him and in Him that I shall save my soul.”
Far from allowing yourself to be dejected by fear and doubt, raise your desires rather to great virtues and to the most sublime perfection. God loves courageous souls, Saint Theresa assures us, provided they mistrust their own strength and place all their reliance upon Him.
The devil tries to persuade you that it is pride to have exalted aspirations and to wish to imitate the virtues of the saints; but do not permit him to deceive you by this artifice. He will only laugh at you if he succeed in making you fall into weakness and irresolution.
To aspire to the noblest and highest ends gives firmness and perseverance to the soul.
You cannot teach what you do not know yourselves. Teach them to love God, to love Christ, to love our Mother the Church and the pastors of the Church who are your guides. Love the Catechism and teach your children to love it; it is the great handbook of the love and fear of God, of Christian wisdom and of eternal life. -Pope Pius XII
“May you wear the Queen’s uniform–the scapular–faithfully and thoughtfully. May it be a means of many graces, the means also of the greatest grace – everlasting life…” ~ Father Arthur Tonne
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Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, that it may give light to all who are in a house.
Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (St. Matthew, c. V., vv.15-16.)
Contend not in words, for it is to no profit, but to the subversion of the hearers. (St. Paul, II Tim., c. II. v. 14.)
Conversation should be marked by a gentle and devout pleasantness, and your manner when engaged in it, ought to be equable, composed and gracious. Mildness and cheerfulness make devotion and those who practice it attractive to others.
The holy abbot Saint Anthony, notwithstanding the extraordinary austerities of his penitential life, always showed such a smiling countenance that no one could look at him without pleasure.
We should be neither too talkative nor too silent,—it is as necessary to avoid one extreme as the other. By speaking too much we expose ourselves to a thousand dangers, so well-known that they need not be mentioned in detail: by not speaking enough we are apt to be a restraint upon others, as it makes it seem as though we did not relish their conversation, or wished to impress them with our superiority.
Do not conclude from this that it is necessary to count your words, as it were, so as to keep your conversation within the proper limits. This would be as puerile a scruple as counting one’s steps when walking. A holy spirit of liberty should dominate our conversations and serve to instill into them a gentle and moderate gaiety.
If you hear some evil spoken of your neighbor do not immediately become alarmed, as the matter may be true and quite public without your having been aware of it.
Should you be quite certain that there is calumny or slander in the report, either because the evil told was false or exaggerated or because it was not publicly known, then, according to the place, the circumstances and your relations towards those present, say with moderation what appears most fitting to justify or excuse your neighbor.
Or you may try to turn the conversation into other channels, or simply be content to show your disapprobation by an expressive silence.
Remember, for the peace of your conscience, that one does not share in the sin of slander unless he gives some mark of approbation or encouragement to the person who is guilty of it.
Do not imitate those who are scrupulous enough to imagine that charity obliges them to undertake the defense of every evil mentioned in their presence and to become the self-appointed advocates of whoever it may be that has deserved censure.
That which is really wrong cannot be justified, and no one should attempt the fruitless task: and as to the guilty, those who may do harm either through the scandal of their example or the wickedness of their doctrines, it is right that they should be shunned and openly denounced. “To cry out wolf, wolf,” says Saint Francis de Sales, “is kindness to the sheep.”
The regard we owe our neighbor does not bind us to a politeness that might be construed as an approval or encouragement of his vicious habits.
Hence if it happens that you hear an equivocal jest, a witticism slurring at religion or morals, or anything else that really offends against propriety, be careful not to give, through cowardice and in spite of your conscience, any mark of approbation, were it only by one of those half smiles that are often accorded unwillingly and afterwards regretted.
Flattery, even in the eyes of the world, is one of the most debasing of falsehoods. Not even in the presence of the greatest earthly dignitaries, will an honest, upright man sanction with his mouth that which he condemns in his heart. He who sacrifices to vice the rights of truth not only acts unlike a Christian, but renders himself unworthy the name of man.
In small social gatherings try to make yourself agreeable to everybody present and to show to each some little mark of attention, if you can do so without affectation. This may be done either by directly addressing the person or by making a remark that you know will give him occasion to speak of his own accord,—draw him out, as the saying is.
It was by the charm and urbanity of his conversation that Saint Francis de Sales prepared the way for the conversion of numbers of heretics and sinners, and by imitating him you will contribute towards making piety in the world more attractive. In regard to priests you should always testify your respect for the sacerdotal dignity quite independently of the individual.
Disputes, sarcasm, bitter language, and intolerance for dissenting opinions, are the scourges of conversation.
Although this adage comes to us from a pagan philosopher, we might profitably bear it always in mind: “In conversation we should show deference to our superiors, affability to our equals, and benevolence to our inferiors.”
Generally speaking, it is wrong for those whom God does not call to abandon the world, to seclude themselves entirely and to shun all society suited to their position in life. God, who is the source of all virtue, is likewise the author of human society. Let the wicked hide themselves if they will, their absence is no loss to the world; but good people make themselves useful merely by being seen.
It is well, moreover, the world should know that in order to practice the teachings of the Gospel it is not necessary to bury one’s self in the desert; and that those who live for the Creator can likewise live with the creatures whom He has made according to His own image and likeness.
Well, again, to show that a devout life is neither sad nor austere, but simple, sweet and easy; that far from being for those in the world an impediment to social relations, it facilitates, perfects and sanctifies such; that the disciples of Jesus Christ can, without becoming wordlings, live in the world; and that, in fine, the Gospel is the sovereign code of perfection for persons in society as well as for those who have renounced the world.
Fénelon, who perhaps had even greater occasion than Saint Francis de Sales to teach men of the world how to lead a Christian life in society, wrote as follows to a person at court:
“You ought not to feel worried, it seems to me, in regard to those diversions in which you cannot avoid taking part. I know there are those who think it necessary that one should lament about everything, and restrain himself continually by trying to excite disgust for the amusements in which he must participate.
As for me, I acknowledge that I cannot reconcile myself to this severity. I prefer something simpler and I believe that God, too, likes it better.
When amusements are innocent in themselves and we enter into them to conform to the customs of the state of life in which Providence has placed us, then I believe they are perfectly lawful.
It is enough to keep within the bounds of moderation and to remember God’s presence. A dry, reserved manner, conduct not thoroughly ingenuous and obliging, only serve to give a false idea of piety to men of the world who are already too much prejudiced against it, believing that a spiritual life cannot be otherwise than gloomy and morose.”
If all confessors agreed in instilling these maxims, which are as important as they are true, many persons who now keep themselves in absolute seclusion and live in a sad and dreary solitude would remain in society to the edification of their neighbor and the great advantage of religion. The world would thus be disabused of its unjust prejudices against a devout life and those who have embraced it.
Never remain idle except during the time you have allotted to rest or recreation. Idleness begets lassitude, disposes to evil speaking and gives occasion to the most dangerous temptations.
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“The need for admiration is manifest in the young boy. He doesn’t realize this, but it is part of his makeup. When his parents observe his manly qualities and express their admiration, it builds his confidence and helps his growth into manhood, encouraging all the potential within him. Equally important is the kindly feelings it awakens toward his parents, creating a bond of love between them. When he feels close to them he is fortified against youth problems which lie ahead. Because this acute need is not understood by many parents, admiration is sadly lacking. Some young men survive a life of correction without praise, but many don’t. There are sad casualties along the way. Some who could have become shining lights fall by the wayside.” -Helen Andelin
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Loving the will of God is the secret to true happiness. May we desire it…
Saint Francis de Sales says that the cross is the royal door to the temple of sanctity, and the only one by which we can enter it. One moment spent upon the cross is therefore more conducive to our spiritual advancement than the anticipated enjoyment of all the delights of heaven.
The happiness of those who have reached their destination consists in the possession of God: to suffer for the love of Him is the only true happiness which those still on the way can expect to attain. Our Lord declared that those who mourn during this exile are blessed, for they shall be consoled eternally in their celestial fatherland.
Notice that I say, to suffer for the love of God, for, as Saint Augustine remarks, no person can love suffering in itself. That is contrary to nature, and moreover, there would no longer be any suffering if we could accept it with natural relish.
But a resigned soul loves to suffer, that is she loves the virtue of patience and ardently desires the merits that result from the practice of it. A calm and submissive longing to be delivered from our cross if such be the will of God, is not inconsistent with the most perfect resignation.
This desire is a natural instinct which supernatural grace regulates, moderates, and teaches us to control, but which it never entirely destroys. Our divine Savior Himself, to show that He was truly man, was pleased to feel it as we do, and prayed that the chalice of His Passion might be spared Him.
Hence you are not required to be stolidly indifferent or to arm yourself with the stern insensibility of the Stoics; that would not be either resignation, or humility, or any virtue whatsoever. The essential thing is to suffer with Christian patience and generous resignation everything that is naturally displeasing to us. This is what both reason and faith prescribe.
The Redeemer of the World seems to wish to show us in His Agony the degree of perfection which the weakness of human nature can attain amidst the anguish of sorrow. In the inferior portion of the soul where the faculty of feeling resides, instinctive repugnance to suffering, humble prayer for relief if it please God to accord it; and in the superior portion of the soul where the will resides, entire resignation if this consolation be denied.
A desire for more than this, unless called to it by a special grace, would be foolish pride, as we should thus attempt to change the conditions of our nature, whereas our duty is to accept them in order to combat them and to suffer in so doing. (See Imitation, B. III., Ch. XVIII-XIX.)
In the following terms Saint Francis de Sales proposes to us this same example of our Savior’s resignation during His agony: “Consider the great dereliction our Divine Master suffered in the Garden of Olives. See how this beloved Son, having asked for consolation from His loving Father and knowing that it was not His will to grant it, thinks no more about it, no longer craves or looks for it, but, as though He had never sought it, valiantly and courageously completes the work of our redemption.
Let it be the same with you. If your Heavenly Father sees fit to deny you the consolation you have prayed for, dismiss it from your mind and animate your courage to fulfill your work upon the cross as if you were never to descend from it nor should ever again see the atmosphere of your life pure and serene.” (Read The Imitation. B. III., Chapters XI and XV.)
The same Saint also gives us some sublime lessons in resignation applied to the trials and temptations that beset the spiritual life. He draws them from this great and simple thought that serves as foundation for the Exercises of Saint Ignatius, namely, that salvation being the sole object of our existence, and all the attendant circumstances of life but means for attaining it, nothing has any absolute value; and that the only way of forming a true estimate of things is to consider in how far they are calculated to advance or retard the end in view.
Accordingly, what difference does it make if we attain this end by riches or poverty, health or sickness, spiritual consolation or aridity, by the esteem or contempt of our fellow-men? So say faith and reason; but human nature revolts against this indifference, as it is well it should, else how could we acquire merit?
Hence there is a conflict on this point between the flesh and the spirit, and it is this conflict that for a Christian is called life.
“Would to God,” he says elsewhere, speaking on the same subject, “that we did not concern ourselves so much about the road whereon we journey, but rather would keep our eyes fixed on our Guide and upon that blessed country whither He is conducting us.
What should it matter to us if it be through deserts or pleasant fields that we walk, provided God be with us and we be advancing towards heaven?… In short, for the honor of God, acquiesce perfectly in his divine will, and do not suppose that you can serve him better in any other way; for no one ever serves him well who does not serve him as he wishes.
Now he wishes that you serve him without relish, without feeling, nay, with repugnance and perturbation of spirit. This service does not afford you any satisfaction, it is true, but it pleases Him; it is not to your taste, but it is to His…. Mortify yourself then cheerfully, and in proportion as you are prevented from doing the good you desire, do all the more ardently that which you do not desire.
You do not wish to be resigned in this case, but you will be so in some other: resignation in the first instance will be of much greater value to you…. In fine, let us be what God wishes, since we are entirely devoted to him, and would not wish to be anything contrary to his will; for were we the most exalted creatures under heaven, of what use would it be to us, if we were not in accord with the will of God?…”
And again: “You should resign yourself perfectly into the hands of God. When you have done your best towards carrying out your design He will be pleased to accept everything you do, even though it be something less good.
You cannot please God better than by sacrificing to Him your will, and remaining in tranquility, humility and devotion, entirely reconciled and submissive to His divine will and good pleasure. You will be able to recognize these plainly enough when you find that notwithstanding all your efforts it is impossible for you to gratify your wishes.
For God in His infinite goodness sometimes sees fit to test our courage and love by depriving us of the things which it seems to us would be advantageous to our souls; and if He finds us very earnest in their pursuit, yet humble, tranquil and resigned to do without them if He wishes us to, He will give us more blessings than we should have had in the possession of what we craved.
God loves those who at all times and in all circumstances can say to him simply and heartily: Thy will be done.”*
A nation can be no stronger than its families are, and they can be at their best in the country. And when to this natural strength we add the crowning glory of the Catholic Faith, when we strive to bring Christ to the countryside, and the land to Christ, we are certainly exercising a great apostolate. -An Australian Dominican Sister, 1950’s, Painting by Eugenio Zampighi
A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit; a contrite and humble heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. (Ps. L., 19.)
According to the teaching of St. Thomas there are three ways of doing penance, namely, fasting, prayer, and alms-deeds—either corporal or spiritual.
Therefore you must not suppose you are prevented from doing penance when not allowed to subject your body to severe fasts and painful mortifications.
The other two penitential works, prayer and alms-giving, can in this case take the place of corporal austerities in the fulfillment of the Christian duty of penance.
Observe also that it is not in accordance with the spirit of the laws of God and of his Church, which prescribe fasting, to injure your health thereby, nor to hinder the accomplishment of the duties of your state of life.
Labor, sickness, disappointments, reverse of fortune, dryness in prayer, all these when accepted with resignation are penitential works, such, too, as are the more agreeable to God from their being so distasteful to ourselves.
All virtues may be divided into two great classes, active and passive. The characteristic of the active virtues is to do good, of the passive, to endure evil.
Now the virtues of the second class are more meritorious and less perilous. In the active virtues nature can have a large share, and a dangerous self-complacency, or satisfaction in their effects, may easily glide into them.
This danger is less to be feared in the practice of the passive virtues, especially when the sufferings are not of our own choosing but come to us direct from the hand of God.
St. Jerome teaches that when the devil cannot turn a soul away from the love of virtue, he tries to urge it to excessive mortification, in order that it may thus become exhausted and lose the vigor indispensable to its spiritual progress. Numbers of devout people have fallen into this snare.
“I charge you,” says St. Francis de Sales, “to preserve your health carefully, for God exacts this of you, and to husband your strength so as to employ it in His service.
It is even better to save more than the requisite amount of strength than to reduce it too much, for we can always lessen it at will, whereas, once lost, it is no easy matter to regain it.”
Therefore give your body the nourishment it needs to maintain its strength and health.
We learn from Cassian and St. Thomas that in a celebrated conference held by the holy Abbot St. Anthony with the most learned religious of Egypt, it was decided that of all virtues moderation is the most useful, as it guards and preserves all the others.
It is owing to the lack of this essential moderation in their devotional exercises and mortifications that many persons whilst seeking holiness find only ill health.
As a consequence they eventually abandon the path of perfection, judging it impracticable because they have attempted to walk in it bound with fetters.
St. Augustine makes the following apt comparison, which you can look upon as a good rule in this matter: “The body is a poor invalid confided to the charity of the soul, the soul being commissioned to give it such assistance as it requires.
Hunger, thirst, fatigue, are its habitual ailments; let the soul then charitably apply to them the needful remedies, provided these be always within the bounds of moderation and prudence.” He who acts in this way fulfills a duty of obedience to his Creator.
From these various opinions it is easy to see how false are certain maxims met with in some ascetical works: for example, that it is of small consequence if one should shorten his life by ten or fifteen years in order to save his soul.
If this were true, a much surer way would be to secure a still speedier death, and see to what that would lead.
No: it is not permissible in ordinary practice to impose upon ourselves arbitrarily any kind of mortification that would directly tend to shorten life.
“To kill one’s self with a single blow,” says St. Jerome, “or to kill one’s self little by little—I make but slight distinction between these two crimes.”
Life, health and strength are blessings that have been given us in trust, and we cannot lawfully dispose of them as though they belonged to us absolutely.
The example of those saints who practiced extraordinary penances deserves our sincere admiration, but it is not in these exterior acts that we should try to imitate them; to do this would necessitate being as holy as they were.
Duplicate their miracles also, then, if you can. “If we had to copy the saints in everything they did,” says St. Frances de Chantal, “it would be necessary to spend our life in a horrible cave like St. John Climachus, or on top of a pillar as St. Simon Stylites did, to live several weeks without other nourishment than the Holy Eucharist like St. Catharine of Sienna, or to eat but a single ounce of food each day as St. Aloysius did.”
Aspirations to imitate the saints in what is extraordinary are the effect of secret pride and not of genuine virtue.
The French translator of these Instructions had a conversation in Rome with the learned and pious Jesuit, Rev. Father Rozaven, on this subject.
Speaking of the extraordinary fasts and mortifications of St. Ignatius, Father Rozaven said: “Do not let us confound cause and effect. It is not because he did these things that Ignatius became a saint: on the contrary, it is because he was already a saint that it was possible and permissible for him to do them.”
In truth every act that exceeds human strength is an act of presumption unless it be the result of a special inspiration, and the Church approves it only if she recognizes this divine impulse which alone can authorize a deviation from the general rule.
It is owing to such an exception that she venerates among those who suffered for the faith Saint Theodora, Saint Pomposa, Saint Flora and Saint Denys, notwithstanding the fact that they violated the law which forbids any one to seek martyrdom.
The same spirit influenced her in sanctioning the voluntary death of Sampson and of Saint Appolonia, who might be called pious suicides were it allowable to connect two such contradictory words.
Only in Heaven will we understand what a divine marvel the Holy Mass is. No matter how much effort we apply and no matter how holy and inspired we are, we can only stammer if we would explain this Divine Work, which surpasses men and angels. -Fr. Stefano Manelli, Jesus Our Eucharistic Love http://amzn.to/2uUTT8C (afflink)
It’s what we Catholics do on Sundays….
In With God in Russia, Ciszek reflects on his daily life as a prisoner, the labor he endured while working in the mines and on construction gangs, his unwavering faith in God, and his firm devotion to his vows and vocation. Enduring brutal conditions, Ciszek risked his life to offer spiritual guidance to fellow prisoners who could easily have exposed him for their own gains. He chronicles these experiences with grace, humility, and candor, from his secret work leading mass and hearing confessions within the prison grounds, to his participation in a major gulag uprising, to his own “resurrection”—his eventual release in a prisoner exchange in October 1963 which astonished all who had feared he was dead.
Powerful and inspirational, With God in Russia captures the heroic patience, endurance, and religious conviction of a man whose life embodied the Christian ideals that sustained him…..
Captured by a Russian army during World War II and convicted of being a “Vatican spy,” Jesuit Father Walter J. Ciszek spent 23 agonizing years in Soviet prisons and the labor camps of Siberia. Only through an utter reliance on God’s will did he manage to endure the extreme hardship. He tells of the courage he found in prayer–a courage that eased the loneliness, the pain, the frustration, the anguish, the fears, the despair. For, as Ciszek relates, the solace of spiritual contemplation gave him an inner serenity upon which he was able to draw amidst the “arrogance of evil” that surrounded him. Ciszek learns to accept the inhuman work in the infamous Siberian salt mines as a labor pleasing to God. And through that experience, he was able to turn the adverse forces of circumstance into a source of positive value and a means of drawing closer to the compassionate and never-forsaking Divine Spirit.
He Leadeth Me is a book to inspire all Christians to greater faith and trust in God–even in their darkest hour. As the author asks, “What can ultimately trouble the soul that accepts every moment of every day as a gift from the hands of God and strives always to do his will?” This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for your support.
It is a dangerous error to seek recollection in sadness: it is the spirit of God that produces recollection; sadness is the work of the spirit of darkness.
Do not forget the rule given by Saint Francis de Sales for the discernment of spirits: any thought that troubles and disquiets us cannot come from the God of peace, who makes his dwelling-place only in peaceful souls.
“Yes, my daughter, I now tell you in writing what I before said to you in person, always be as happy as you can in well-doing, for it gives a double value to good works to be well done and to be done cheerfully. And when I say, rejoice in well-doing, I do not mean that if you happen to commit some fault you should on that account abandon yourself to sadness.
For God’s sake, no; for that would be to add defect to defect. But I mean that you should persevere in the wish to do well, that you return to it the moment you realize you have deviated from it, and that by means of this fidelity you live happily in the Lord…. May God be ever in our heart, my daughter…. Live joyfully and be generous, for this is the will of God, whom we love and to whose service we are consecrated.”—Saint Francis de Sales.
It is wrong to deny one’s self all diversion. The mind becomes fatigued and depressed by remaining always concentrated in itself and thus more easily falls a prey to sadness. Saint Thomas says explicitly that one may incur sin by refusing all innocent amusement. Every excess, no matter what its nature, is contrary to order and consequently to virtue.
Recreations and amusements are to the life of the soul what seasoning is to our corporal food. Food that is too highly seasoned quickly becomes injurious and sometimes fatal in its effects; that which is not seasoned at all soon becomes unendurable because of its insipidity and unpalatableness.
As to the amount of diversion it is right to take, no absolute measure can be given: the rule is that each person should have as much as is necessary for him. This quantity varies according to the bent of the mind, the nature of the habitual occupations, and the greater or less predisposition to sadness one observes in his disposition.
When you find your heart growing sad, divert yourself without a moment’s delay; make a visit, enter into conversation with those around you, read some amusing book, take a walk, sing, do something, it matters not what, provided you close the door of your heart against this terrible enemy. As the sound of a trumpet gives the signal for a combat, so sad thoughts apprise the devil that a favorable moment has come for him to attack us.
“Men of Galilee, why stand here looking heavenwards?“
The apostles stood on Olivet, eyes wide open, their gaze turned heavenward, their hearts beating hard. Jesus had just vanished from their sight above the silvery cloud that shimmered in the radiance of His glory. He had come to earth as a helpless Child; now He was returning to His Father’s house as the world’s Redeemer.
The little group on Olivet stood in silent, joyful prayer, their hearts ascending with Him. Heaven was reflected in their eyes – until an Angel’s chiding words brought them hurriedly down to earth.
Nothing succeeds like failure. Christ’s cross was the price of His glorious Ascension. That is why the angel sent the apostles back to the city – to suffer for Christ.
A lesson for me!
Painting by John Singleton Copley, 1775
“We often live with this illusion. With the impression that all would go better, we would like the things around us to change, that the circumstances would change. But this is often an error. It is not the exterior circumstances that must change; it is above all our hearts that must change.” –Fr. Jacques Philippe, Searching For and Maintaining Peace
Our family LOVES this book! All of us who are “of age” have read it, and more than once. It is a love story. A love story of one special family’s undying devotion to Christ.
The family story of St. Bernard will inspire you! It is written with an easy-to-read style and once you start, you won’t want to set it down. 🙂
Do you want to get your teenage children to read a great book? Hand them this one!
“He was called the man of his age, the voice of his century. His influence towered above that of his contemporaries, and his sanctity moved God himself.
Men flocked to him–some in wonder, others in curiosity, but all drawn by the magnetism of his spiritual gianthood. Bernard of Clairvaux–who or what fashioned him to be suitable for his role of counseling Popes, healing schisms, battling errors and filling the world with holy religious and profound spiritual doctrine?
Undoubtedly, Bernard is the product of God’s grace. But it is hard to say whether this grace is more evident in Bernard himself or in the extraordinary family in which God chose to situate this dynamic personality.
This book is the fascinating account of a family that took seriously the challenge to follow Christ… and to overtake Him. With warmth and realism, Venerable Tescelin, Blesseds Alice, Guy, Gerard, Humbeline, Andrew, Bartholomew, Nivard and St. Bernard step off these pages with the engaging naturalness that atttacks imitation.
Here is a book that makes centuries disappear, as each member of this unique family becomes an inspiration in our own quest of overtaking Christ.”
Father Raymond wrote many extraordinary books and these are some we especially like:
LIGHT AND PEACE is a handbook for getting to Heaven a short and practical course in proper Christian living that covers all the important aspects of our religious duties. By far, the most telling feature of this little book is its immense common sense and good advice. LIGHT AND PEACE shows that perfecting one’s self is not a complicated task, but one which requires good, practical thinking and a knowledge of the task at hand in short, Light on the path which is what this book is. Thereafter, the result of one s knowing where he is going spiritually and how best to achieve this end is Peace, that peace which Our Lord promised and which the world cannot give.
Save We live in an age characterized by agitation and lack of peace. This tendency manifests itself in our spiritual as well as our secular life. In our search for God and holiness, in our service to our neighbor, a kind of restlessness and anxiety take the place of the confidence and peace which ought to be ours. What must we do to overcome the moments of fear and distress which assail us? How can we learn to place all our confidence in God and abandon ourselves into his loving care? This is what is taught in this simple, yet profound little treatise on peace of head. Taking concrete examples from our everyday life, the author invites us to respond in a Gospel fashion to the upsetting situations we must all confront. Since peace of heart is a pure gift of God, it is something we should seek, pursue and ask him for without cease. This book is here to help us in that pursuit.
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Many persons fail to make a distinction between the presence of God in their souls and the consciousness of this adorable presence, between faith and the sensible feeling of faith.
This shows a great want of discernment. When they do not realize God’s presence dwelling within them, they suppose He has withdrawn himself through some fault of theirs.
This is an ignorant and hurtful error. A man who endures martyrdom for love of God does not think actually and exclusively of God but much of his own sufferings; and yet the absence of this feeling of faith does not deprive him of the great merit due to his faith and the resolutions it caused him to make and to keep.
Your vocal prayers should be few in number but said with great fervor. The strength derived from food does not depend upon the quantity taken but upon its being well digested.
Far better one Our Father or one Psalm said with devout attention than entire rosaries and long offices recited hurriedly and with restless eagerness.
If you feel whilst saying vocal prayers—those not of obligation—that God invites you to meditate, gently and promptly follow this divine impulse.
You may be sure that in doing so you make an exchange most profitable to yourself and agreeable to God from whom the inspiration comes.
Prepare yourself for prayer by peaceful recollection and begin it without agitation or uneasiness.
St. Francis de Sales has this to say on the subject: “Some little time before you are going to pray, calm and compose your heart, and be hopeful of doing well; for if you begin without hope and already devoid of relish, you will find it difficult to regain an appetite…. The disquiet you experience in prayer, accompanied by great eagerness to discover some object that can fix and satisfy your thoughts, is of itself sufficient to prevent you finding what you seek.
When a thing is searched for with too great eagerness, one may have his hands or his eyes almost upon it a hundred times and yet fail to perceive it. This vain and useless anxiety in regard to prayer can result in nothing but weariness of mind, and this in turn produces coldness and apathy in your soul.”
Be careful not to overburden yourself with too many prayers, either mental or vocal. As soon as you feel uncontrollable weariness or distaste, postpone your prayers, if possible, and seek relief in some pleasant pastime, or conversation, or in any other innocent diversion.
This advice is given by St. Thomas and other learned Fathers of the Church and is of the utmost importance. Follow it conscientiously, for lassitude of mind begets coldness and a kind of spiritual stupor.
Never repeat a prayer, even should you have said it with many distractions. You cannot imagine the innumerable difficulties in which you may become entangled by the habit of repeating your prayers. Therefore I beg of you not to do it.
*In St. Ignatius’ time there was a certain religious of the Society of Jesus who was a victim of this kind of scruple. The recital of the daily Office always kept him much longer than was necessary because he would repeat again and again and for hours at a time any passage that he suspected had not been said with sufficient attention.
St. Ignatius tried to correct him by various means, but in vain. At length the thought occurred that one scruple might be cured by another.
He therefore commanded the poor Jesuit, under pain of sin and in virtue of religious obedience, to close his breviary every day at the end of a specified time, this being just enough to allow him to read the Office through once and rather quickly.
The first day the religious was obliged to stop before he had half finished. This caused him such intense regret that ere long the fear of not being able to say the entire Office made him contract the habit of finishing it within the allotted time.
* Begin your prayer with the desire of being very recollected. This is all that is necessary. “A desire has the same value in the sight of God as a good work”, says St. Gregory the Great, “when the accomplishment of it does not depend upon our will.”
During these involuntary distractions God withdraws the sensible feeling of His presence, but His love remains in the depths of our hearts. St. Theresa, in the midst of dryness and distractions, was wont to say: “If I am not praying I am at least doing penance.”
I should say: you are doing both the one and the other: you do penance by all that you are suffering, you pray by the desire and intention you have to do so.
You should never repeat a prayer nor a point in your meditation even if you have had in the inferior portion of your soul ideas and feelings at variance with the words pronounced by your lips or with the sentiments you wished to excite in your heart.
Nay, do not be induced to do it, even were these ideas and feelings injurious to God. Under such conditions, be careful not to give way to anxiety and agitation and do not try to make reparation for an imaginary offense.
Continue your prayer in peace as if nothing had disturbed it, not taking the trouble to notice these dogs that come from the devil and that can bark around you while you pray in order to distract you, if may be, but that cannot bite you unless you let them.
“This temptation should be treated exactly the same as temptations of the flesh: do not dispute with it at all, rather imitate the children of Israel who made no attempt to break the bones of the paschal lamb but cast them into the fire.
You need not answer the enemy, nor even pretend to hear what he says. Let the wretch clamor at the door as much as he wants to, it is not even necessary to call: Who is there? What you tell me is no doubt true, you say, but he annoys me and the uproar he makes prevents those within from hearing one another speak.
That makes no difference. Have patience, prostrate yourself before God and remain at his feet. He will understand from your very attitude, although you utter no words, that you are his and that you crave his help.
Above all, however, keep yourself well within and do not on any account open the door, either to see who it is, or to drive the importunate fellow away. Eventually he will tire of shouting and will leave you in peace.”
St. Augustine says that the devil is a formidable giant to those who fear him, but only a miserable dwarf to those who despise him.
“As a family, try to lead a hidden life with Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. Through holy Mass, offer yourselves through Mary’s hands as a sacrifice with Jesus; at Holy Communion, you will be changed into Jesus by divine grace so that you may live His life; by your visits to the tabernacle, you will enjoy His friendship in the midst of the many problems of life.” -Fr. Lawrence G. Lovasik. The Catholic Family Handbook (Photo from our daughter’s wedding)
Why did the Saints love to pray? Just because they knew and they felt that they were talking to God. Therefore, far from being wearisome it was an immense joy for them to pray… From Father Paul O’Sullivan, How to Be Happy, How to Be Holy
Who can persevere the whole day in the praise of God? I will suggest a help. Whatsoever thou doest do well, and thou hast praised God. (S. Aug., on Ps. xxxiv., Disc. 2.)
Oh! what do I suffer interiorly whilst with my mind I consider heavenly things; and presently a crowd of carnal thoughts interrupt me as I pray. (Imit., B. III., c. XLVIII., v. 5.)
We ought to love meditation and should make it often on the Passion of our divine Lord, striving above all to derive therefrom fruits of humility, patience and charity.
If you experience great dryness in your meditations or other prayers, do not feel distressed and conclude that God has turned His Face away from you. Far from it. Prayer said with aridity is usually the most meritorious.
It is quite a common error to confound the value of prayer with its sensible results, and the merit acquired with the satisfaction experienced. The facility and sweetness you may have in prayer are favors from God and for which you will have to account to him: hence the result is not merit but debt. (Read the Imitation, B. II, c. IX.)
The very fact that we derive less gratification from such prayer, makes it all the more pleasing to God, because we are thus suffering for love of Him. Let us call to mind at such times that our Lord prayed without consolation throughout His bitter agony.
“All this trouble comes from self-love and from the good opinion we have of ourselves. If our hearts do not melt with tenderness, if we have no relish or sensible feeling in prayer, if we do not enjoy great interior sweetness during meditation, we are at once overwhelmed with sadness: if we find difficulty in doing good, if some obstacle is opposed to our pious designs, we give way to disquietude and are eager to conquer all this and to be free from it. Why?
Undoubtedly because we love consolations, our own comfort, our own convenience. We wish to pray immersed in sweetness, and to be virtuous that we may eat sugar; and we do not contemplate our Savior Jesus Christ, who, prone upon the ground, is covered with a sweat of blood caused by the intense conflict He feels interiorly between the repugnances of the inferior portion of His soul and the resolutions of the superior.”*—St. Francis de Sales.
The same teaching is given by another great master of the spiritual life: “We frequently seek the gratification and consolation of self-love in the testimony we desire to render to ourselves.
Thus we are disturbed about our lack of sensible fervor, whereas in reality we never pray so well as when we are tempted to think we are not praying at all.
We fear to pray badly then, but we should fear rather to give way to the vexation of our cowardly nature, to a philosophical infidelity, which ever wishes to demonstrate to itself its own operations—in fine, to an impatient desire to see and to feel in order to console ourselves.
There is no penance more bitter than this state of pure faith without sensible support. Hence I conclude that it is freer than any other from illusion. Strange temptation! to seek impatiently for sensible consolation through fear of not being sufficiently penitent!
Ah! Why not rather accept as a penance the deprivation of that consolation we are so tempted to seek?”*—Fénelon.
You will sometimes imagine that at prayer your soul is not in the presence of God and that only your body is in the church, like the statues and candelabras that adorn the altars. Think, then, that you share with those inanimate objects the honor of serving as ornaments for the house of God, and that in the presence of your Creator even this humble rôle should seem glorious to you.
“You tell me that you cannot pray well. But what better prayer could there be than to represent to God again and again, as you are doing, your nothingness and misery?
The most touching appeal beggars can make is merely to expose to us their deformities and necessities.
But there are times when you cannot even do this much, you say, and that you remain there like a statue. Well, even that is better than nothing.
Kings and princes have statues in their palaces for no other purpose than that they may take pleasure in looking at them: be satisfied then to fulfill the same office in the presence of God, and when it so pleases Him He will animate the statue.”*—St. Francis de Sales. 4. When you have not consciously or voluntarily yielded to distractions, do not stop to find what may have been their cause, or to discover if you have in any way given occasion to them.
This would be simply to weary and disquiet yourself unprofitably.
From whatever direction they come, you can convert them into a source of merit by casting yourself into the arms of the Divine Mercy.
St. Francis de Sales when asked how he prayed, replied: “I cannot say it too often—I receive peacefully whatever the Lord sends me. If he consoles me, I kiss the right hand of his mercy; if I am dry and distracted, I kiss the left hand of his justice.”
This method is the only good one, for as the same Saint says: “He who truly loves prayer, loves it for the love of God: and he who loves it for the love of God, wishes to experience in it naught but what God is pleased to send him.”
Now, whatever you may experience in prayer, is precisely what God wills.
St. Francis de Sales teaches us that merely to keep ourselves peacefully and tranquilly in the presence of God, without other desire or pretension than to be near him and to please him, is of itself an excellent prayer.
“Do not exhaust yourself,” he says, “in making efforts to speak to your dear Master, for you are speaking to Him by the sole fact that you remain there and contemplate Him.” *“Remember that the graces and favors of prayer do not come from earth but from heaven and therefore that no effort of ours can acquire them, although, it is true, we must dispose ourselves for their reception diligently, yet withal humbly and tranquilly.
We ought to keep our hearts wide open and await the blessed dew from heaven.
The following consideration should never be forgotten when we go to prayer, namely, that we draw near to God and place ourselves in His presence principally for two reasons. The first is to render to God the honor and the homage we owe Him, and this can be done without God speaking to us or we to Him, for the duty is fulfilled by acknowledging that He is our Creator and we are His vile creatures, and by remaining before Him, prostrate in spirit, awaiting His commands.
The second reason is to speak to God and to listen to Him when He speaks to us by His inspirations and the interior movements of grace…. Now, one or other of these two advantages can never fail to be derived from prayer.
If, then, we can speak to our Lord, let us do so in praise and supplication: if we are unable to speak, let us remain in his presence notwithstanding, offering him our silent homage; he will see us there, our patience will touch him and our silence will plead with him and win his favor.
Another time, to our utter astonishment, he will take us by the hand, and converse with us, and make a hundred turns with us in his garden of prayer.
And even should he never do this, still let us be content to know it is our duty to be in his retinue, and that it is a great favor and a greater honor for us that he suffers us in his presence.
In this way we do not force ourselves to speak to God, for we know that merely to remain close to him is as useful, nay, perhaps more useful to us, though it may be less to our liking.
Therefore when you draw near to our Lord speak to him if you can; if you cannot, stay there, let him see you, and do not be anxious about anything else….
Take courage, then, tell your Savior you will not leave Him even should He never grant you any sensible sweetness; tell Him that you will remain before Him until He has given you His blessing.”*—St. Francis de Sales.
“How beautiful it would be if, during their evening prayer together, there could be a pause such as the one for the examination of conscience during which time a husband and wife would pray silently for the other, recommending to God all the other’s intentions sensed, guessed, and known as well as those that only God the Master of consciences could know. Even more beautiful would it be if they would receive Holy Communion together frequently so that each of them could speak more intimately to Our Lord about the needs of the other, begging not only temporal but spiritual favors for this cherished soul. ” – Fr. Raoul Plus, S.J., Christ in the Home http://amzn.to/2sPR32w (afflink)
Charity towards your neighbor, tolerance for his opinions, indulgence for his defects, compassion for his errors, yes; but no cowardly and guilty concessions to human respect. Never allow fear of the ridicule or contempt of men to make you blush for your faith.
We are not even forbidden to call one human weakness to the assistance of another that is contrary to it: men do not like to contradict themselves, and they dread to be considered fickle.
Well, then, in order that no person may be ignorant of the fact that you are a Christian, once for all boldly confess your faith and your firm resolve to practice it, and let it be known that in all your actions your sole desire is to seek the glory of God and the good of your neighbor.
Let this profession be made upon occasion in a gentle and modest manner, but firmly and positively; and you will find that subsequently it will be much easier for you to continue what you have thus courageously begun.
We should not undertake to perfect ourselves upon all points at once; resolutions as to details ought to be made and carried out one by one, directing them first against our predominant passion.
By a predominant passion we mean the source of that sin to which we oftenest yield and from which spring the greater number of our faults.
In order to attack it successfully it is essential to make use of strategy. It must be approached little by little, besieged with great caution as if it were the stronghold of an enemy, and the outposts taken one after another.
For example, if your ruling passion be anger, simply propose to yourself in the beginning never to speak when you feel irritated.
Renew this resolution two or three times during the day and ask God’s pardon for every time you have failed against it.
When the results of this first resolution shall have become a habit, so that you no longer have any difficulty in keeping it, you can take a step forward.
Propose, for instance, to repress promptly every thought capable of agitating you, or of arousing interior anger; afterwards you can adopt the practice of meeting without annoyance persons who are naturally repugnant to you; then of being able to treat with especial kindness those of whom you have reason to complain.
Finally, you will learn to see in all things, even in those most painful to nature, the will of God offering you opportunities to acquire merit; and in those who cause you suffering, only the instruments of this same merciful providence.
You will then no longer think of repulsing or bewailing them, but will bless and thank your divine Savior for having chosen you to bear with Him the burden of His cross, and for deigning to hold to your lips the precious chalice of His passion.
Some saints recommend us to make an act of hope or love or to perform some act of mortification when we discover that we have failed to keep our resolutions. This practice is good, but if you adopt it do not consider it of obligation nor bind yourself so strictly to it as to suppose you have committed a sin when you neglect it.
It is by this progressive method that you can at length succeed in entirely overcoming your passions, and will be able to acquire the virtues you lack. Always begin with what is easiest. Choose at first external acts over which the will has greater control, and in time you can advance from these, little by little, to the most interior and difficult details of the spiritual life.
Resolutions of too general a character, such as, for example, to be always moderate in speech, always patient, chaste, and peaceable and the like, ordinarily do not amount to much and sometimes to nothing at all.
To undertake little at a time, and to pursue this little with perseverance until one has by degrees brought it to perfection, is a common rule of human prudence. The saints particularly recommend us to apply it to the subject of our resolutions.
“I am convinced that the best way to grow is to bring the sense of freshness and newness of a new year down to the level of each day. For each day is truly a new beginning. Each day is an entirely fresh start—much more so than a calendar year. Waking to greet a new morning is, in a sense, a resurrection. We rise from the grave of sleep to new life. The failures of yesterday mean nothing. What matters is this day, even this moment, and what we do with it.” -The Catholic Gentleman https://www.catholicgentleman.net/2019/01/dont-make-new-years-resolutions/
We are like a block of shapeless marble. If we want the master artist (God) to sculpt something beautiful out of us then we need to accept the blows of the hammer and chisel with confidence in God and with the realization that “for those that love God everything works together for the good”…
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Thus our purest inclinations, our holiest habits, our wisest rules of conduct, should yield without murmur or complaint to every manifestation of this divine will, in order that they may never become for us obstacles or impediments to good or the occasion of trouble and disquietude. By this means only can we perform all our actions with cheerful confidence and devout courage.
“I leave you the spirit of liberty; not that liberty which hinders obedience, for such is the liberty of the flesh, but that which excludes scruples and constraint…. We ask of God above all things that his name be hallowed, that His kingdom come, that His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
All this implies the spirit of liberty; for provided God’s name be sanctified, that His divine Majesty reign in you, that His will be done, the spirit desires nothing more.”(Imitation, B. III., Chap. XXVI.)*
St. Francis de Sales, speaking on this important subject, says: “He who possesses the spirit of liberty will on no account allow his affections to be mastered even by his spiritual exercises, and in this way he avoids feeling any regret if they are interfered with by sickness or accident. I do not say that he does not love his devotions but that he is not attached to them.”
A soul that is attached to meditation, if interrupted, will show chagrin and impatience: a soul that has true liberty will take the interruption in good part and show a gracious countenance to the person who was the cause of it. For it is all one to it whether it serve God by meditating or by bearing with its neighbor. Both duties are God’s will, but just at this time patience with others is the more essential.
The fruits of this holy liberty of spirit are prompt and tranquil submission and generous confidence. Saint Francis de Sales relates that Saint Ignatius ate flesh meat one day in Holy Week simply because his physician thought it expedient for him to do so on account of a slight illness.
A spirit of constraint would have made him allow the doctor to spend three days in persuading him, he adds, and would then very probably have refused to yield. I cite this example for the benefit of timid souls and not for those who seek to elude an obligation by unwarranted dispensations.
This matter is of such importance and a just medium so difficult to follow in practice, that it seems useful to transcribe the following passage from Saint Francis de Sales in its entirety, with the rules and examples it contains, in order that the proper occasions for the exercise of this virtue and its limitations may be well understood.
A heart possessed of this spirit of liberty is not attached to consolations, but receives afflictions with all the sweetness that is possible to human nature. I do not say that it does not love and desire consolations, but that its affections are not wedded to them…. It seldom loses its joy, for no privation saddens a heart that is not set upon any one thing. I do not say it never loses it, but if it does so it quickly regains it.
The effects of this virtue are sweetness of temper, gentleness, and forbearance towards everything that is not sin or occasion of sin, forming a disposition gently susceptible to the influences of charity and of every other virtue.
The occasions for exercising this holy freedom are found in all those things that happen contrary to our natural inclinations; for one whose affections are not engaged in his own will does not lose patience when his desires are thwarted.
There are two vices opposed to this liberty of spirit,—instability and constraint, or dissipation and servility. The former is a certain excess of freedom which causes us to change our devout exercises or state of life without reason and without knowing if it be God’s will. On the slightest pretext practices, plans and rules are altered and for every trivial obstacle our laudable customs are abandoned. In this way the heart is dissipated and spent and becomes like an orchard open on all sides, the fruit whereof is not for the owner but for the passers-by.
Constraint or servility is a certain lack of liberty owing to which the mind is overwhelmed with vexation or anger when we cannot carry out our designs, even though we might be doing something better. For example: I resolve to make a meditation every morning. Now if I have the spirit of instability or dissipation I am apt to defer it until evening for the most insignificant reason,—because I was kept awake by the barking of a dog, or because I have a letter to write, although it be not at all pressing.
If on the contrary I have the spirit of constraint or servility I will not give up my meditation even though a sick person has great need of my aid just then, or if I have an important and urgent dispatch to send which should not be deferred; and so on.
It remains for me to give you some examples of true liberty of spirit which will make you understand it better than I can explain it. But, before doing so, it is well that I should say there are two rules which it is necessary to observe in order not to make any mistake on the subject.
The first is that a person must never abandon his pious practices and the common rules of virtue unless it is plainly evident that God wills that he do so. Now this will is manifested in two ways,—through necessity and through charity.
I desire to preach this Lent in some little corner of my diocese; however, if I get sick or break my leg I need not give way to regret or inquietude because I cannot do as I intended, for it is evident that it is the will of God that I serve Him by suffering and not by preaching.
Or, even if I am not ill or crippled, but an occasion presents itself of going to some other place which if I do not avail myself of the people there may become Huguenots, the will of God is sufficiently manifest to make me amiably change my plans.
The second rule is that when it is necessary to make use of this liberty of spirit from motives of charity, care should be taken that it is done without scandal or injustice.
For instance: I may know that I should be more useful in some distant place not within my own diocese: I should have no freedom of choice in this matter for my obligations are here and I should give scandal and do an injustice by abandoning my charge.
Thus it is a false idea of the spirit of liberty that would induce married women to keep aloof from their husbands without legitimate reason under pretext of devotion and charity…. This spirit rightly understood never interferes with the duties of one’s vocation nor prejudices them in any way. On the contrary, it makes every one contented in his state of life, as each should know it is God’s will that he remain in it.
Saint Charles Borromeo was one of the most austere, exact and determined of men; bread was his only food, water his only drink; he was so strict, that during the twenty-four years he was an Archbishop he went into his garden but twice, and visited his brothers only on two occasions and then because they were ill.
Yet this austere priest when dining with his Swiss neighbors, which he often did in order to move them to amend their lives, did not hesitate to join them in drinking toasts and healths on every occasion and in doing so to take more than was necessary to quench his thirst.
Here is true liberty of spirit exemplified in the most mortified man of his time. An unstable spirit would have gone too far, a spirit of constraint would have thought it was committing a mortal sin, a spirit of liberty would act in this way from a motive of charity.
Saint Spiridion, a bishop of olden times, once gave shelter to a pilgrim who was almost dying of hunger. It was the season of Lent and in a place where nothing was to be had but salt meat. This Spiridion ordered to be cooked and then gave it to the pilgrim. Seeing that the latter, notwithstanding his great need, hesitated to eat it, the Saint, although he did not require it, ate some first in order to remove the poor man’s scruples. That was a true spirit of liberty born of charity.—Saint Francis de Sales.
Again, it is this Christian spirit of freedom that excludes fear and uneasiness in regard to all those things which God has not permitted us to know. It gives us a sweet and tender confidence as to the pardon of our past sins, the present condition of our souls and our eternal destiny.
It reminds us continually that although we have deserved hell, our divine Lord has merited heaven for us, and that it would be doing a great injury to His goodness not to hope for pardon for the past, assistance of divine grace for the present, and salvation after death. Finally, it teaches us to drown our remorse for sin in the ocean of the divine mercy.
I earnestly exhort you never to make indiscreet vows in the hope of thus increasing the merit of your ordinary works. One can attain the same end by many ways that are easier and less dangerous. Those who are guilty of this imprudence often run the risk of breaking their vows and of thus sinning gravely. And if they avoid this misfortune it is only at the expense of their peace of soul, sacrificed to a craven and unquiet servitude which is totally incompatible with the tranquility and confidence required in the great work of our spiritual perfection.
Many pious persons are too prone to advise obligations of this kind. If they do so to you, humbly excuse yourself by saying that you do not possess the extraordinary virtue requisite in order to fulfill them without disquietude.
Saint Francis de Sales disapproved of all the particular vows made by Saint Jane Frances de Chantal and declared them null. I have almost invariably found persons bound by such solemn obligations restless and agitated, and have frequently seen them exposed to the gravest falls.
Do not allow yourself to be misled by the example of some of the saints who made vows. Rarely is the desire to imitate certain extraordinary practices of theirs an inspiration of divine grace: rather is it a temptation from the devil inciting us to pride and temerity.
Saint Francis de Sales exclaimed: “Give me the spirit that animated Saint Bernard and I shall do what Saint Bernard did.” Let us apply ourselves, I repeat, to the imitation of those simple and solid virtues by which the saints attained sanctity, and be content to admire those supernatural acts that suppose it already acquired.
To bind one’s self by arbitrary vows without compromising salvation, three things are necessary: 1st. supernatural inspiration urging one to make them; 2d. extraordinary virtue so as never to violate them; 3d. unalterable tranquillity in order to preserve peace of soul in keeping them.
It is wrong to strip our altars and our Churches of all the splendid display due to Our Lord. “The saints have always shown wholehearted zeal and resourcefulness in seeing to the beauty and tidiness of the house of God, because, as St. Thomas Aquinas teaches, it is necessary to take care first of the real Body of Jesus, then of His Mystical Body.” -Jesus, Our Eucharistic Love, http://amzn.to/2fS4n1R (afflink)
What does it take to be a holy family especially in today’s world where everything is anti-family? Dating? Courting? How do you prepare for marriage?
All scripture divinely inspired, is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice. (S. P. Timoth., Ep. II, iii, 16.)
1. Spiritual reading is to the soul what food is to the body. Be careful, therefore, to select such books as will furnish your soul with the best nourishment. I would recommend you to become familiar especially with the works of Saint Francis de Sales.
2. When the choice of reading matter is made by the advice of a spiritual director the teaching it contains should be looked upon as coming from the mouth of God.
3. Do not affect those lives of the Saints in which the supernatural and marvelous predominate. The devout imagination becomes inflamed by such reading and is imbued with vain and useless desires: it leads some to aspire to the revelations of Saint Bridget or the raptures of Saint Joseph of Cupertino, others to imitate the mortifications of the Stylites; and thus by losing time in desiring extraordinary graces, they neglect, to their great detriment, ordinary duties and real obligations.
Take great care, then, not to allow yourself to be absorbed in those wonderful characteristics of the saints which we should be content to admire; give preference rather to their simple and interior virtues, for these alone are imitable for us.
“We ought not to wish for extraordinary things, as, for example, that
God would take away our heart, as He did with Saint Catherine of
Sienna’s, and give us His in return.
But we should desire that our poor hearts no longer live save in subjection to the Heart of our loving Savior, and this will be the best way of imitating Saint Catherine, for we shall thus become meek, humble and charitable….
True holiness consists in love of God, and not in foolish imaginations and dreamings that nourish self-love whilst they undermine obedience and humility. The desire to have ecstasies and visions is a deception.
Let us turn rather to the practice of true meekness and submissiveness, of self-renunciation and docility, of ready compliance with the wishes of others. Thus we shall emulate the saints in what is more real and more admirable for us than ecstasies.”—St. Francis de Sales.
4. Use still greater precautions in regard to ascetical works. Many of these are carelessly written, confound precepts with counsels, badly define the virtues by not showing the limits beyond which they become extravagances, and entertain the reader with trifling and purely exterior practices that are more apt to flatter self-love than to reform the heart.
5. It has been remarked very justly by a learned theologian that the ignorance and indiscreet zeal of certain writers of ascetical books have furnished the heretics of later times with arms to attack our holy religion and to turn it into ridicule.
6. A judicious author expresses himself thus on the same subject: “In order to write on spiritual matters it is not enough to have great piety,—great learning is also necessary. A man actuated by the best motives in the world may yet have strange delusions, and feed his imagination with devout extravagances.”
An author should be equally well versed in theory and experienced in practice, otherwise he will err either in regard to principles or to their application.
There is a well-known saying generally attributed to Saint Thomas: “If a man be good and holy let him pray for us; if he be learned too, then let him teach us.”
It is essential, in matters of religion especially, to give none but true and precise ideas, or else they will do more harm than good. Doctrines that are not exact create scruples in weak souls and invite the criticisms of intelligent Christians, whilst they excite the railleries of free-thinkers and furnish arguments to unbelievers.
7. Almost every day we find ascetical works published which contain many inaccuracies of the kind described. Exercise great care, therefore, in the selection of this kind of reading or you may injure your soul instead of sanctifying it. The safest course is to consult your director on the subject.
“The bone-dry definitions in the catechism are as essential as the recipe for the cake, but if we put them together with imagination and enthusiasm, and add love and experience, then set them afire with the teaching of Christ, His stories, His life, the Old Testament as well as the New, and the lives of the saints, we can make the study of catechism a tremendous adventure.” -Mary Reed Newland, http://amzn.to/2wSJI3w
“In With God in Russia, Ciszek reflects on his daily life as a prisoner, the labor he endured while working in the mines and on construction gangs, his unwavering faith in God, and his firm devotion to his vows and vocation. Enduring brutal conditions, Ciszek risked his life to offer spiritual guidance to fellow prisoners who could easily have exposed him for their own gains. He chronicles these experiences with grace, humility, and candor, from his secret work leading mass and hearing confessions within the prison grounds, to his participation in a major gulag uprising, to his own “resurrection”—his eventual release in a prisoner exchange in October 1963 which astonished all who had feared he was dead.
Powerful and inspirational, With God in Russia captures the heroic patience, endurance, and religious conviction of a man whose life embodied the Christian ideals that sustained him.”
“He Leadeth Me is a deeply personal story of one man’s spiritual odyssey and the unflagging faith which enabled him to survive the ordeal that wrenched his body and spirit to near collapse. Captured by a Russian army during World War II and convicted of being a “Vatican spy,” Jesuit Father Walter J. Ciszek spent some 23 agonizing years in Soviet prisons and the labor camps of Siberia. Learning to accept even the inhuman work of toiling in the infamous Siberian salt mines as a labor pleasing to God, he was able to turn the adverse forces of circumstance into a source of positive value and a means of drawing closer to the compassionate and never-forsaking Divine Spirit. He Leadeth Me is a book to inspire all Christians to greater faith and trust in God—even in their darkest hour. For, as the author asks, “What can ultimately trouble the soul that accepts every moment of every day as a gift from the hands of God and strives always to do his will?”