Conformity to the Will of God; What an excellent virtue it is
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
Conformity to the Will of God; What an excellent virtue it is
When we speak of conformity to the will of God, we understand by His will the path He has marked out for us to tread on, and by a more or less rigid adherence to which we are to obtain Salvation. The Son of God, according to the holy fathers, descended from heaven, and clothed Himself with our flesh for two reasons; the one to redeem us by His blood; the other, to teach us by His doctrine, the way to heaven, and to instruct us by His example. For as it would have been to little or no purpose, says St. Bernard, to have known the way had we been kept in prison, so it would have been to as little purpose to take us out of prison, had we remained ignorant of the way. Wherefore, since God is invisible, it was necessary, in order that we might be able to follow and imitate Him, that He should render Himself visible, and clothe Himself with our humanity, as shepherds are wont to clothe themselves with the skins of their sheep, that on seeing their own resemblance, the sheep may follow the more willingly. “If He were not truly God He could not have given us a remedy; and if He were not truly man, He could not give us an example” (St. Leo, Ser. I, Nat. Dom.).
He has expressed in both these things, the excess of His love towards man. He has given us grace in abundance, and His instructions have abounded as much. He has instructed us not only by the doctrine of His words, but far more by the example of His deeds. “Jesus began to do and to teach “(Acts I, I). He began first to act, and continued to do so throughout His whole life, and afterwards He employed two or three of the last years of His life in teaching.
But amongst many other instructions He has given us one of the chief is, that we should have an entire conformity to the will of God. This is a doctrine which He taught us not only in words, when He bid us say to His Eternal Father, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt, vi, 10); but also by His own example, because He Himself tells us, “I came down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of Him that sent Me” (John vi, 38), Wherefore, in His prayer in the garden, when He was upon the point of finishing the work of our Salvation, though as man He had a great horror of death, as we learn from His words; “Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me.” Yet His will always remained in perfect submission to the will of His Father, for He immediately adds; “Nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt” (Matt, xxvi, 39).
Our advancement in perfection consists in this conformity to the will of God; and the greater this conformity is, the greater also will be our perfection. This truth is clear and easy to comprehend; because, beyond all doubt, perfection essentially consists in the charity and love of God; and the more we love God, the more perfect we shall consequently be. The four Gospels are full of this doctrine, as well as the Epistles of St. Paul and the works of the holy fathers. But as the love of God is the most elevated and most perfect of all virtues, so the most sublime, the most pure, and the most excellent practice of this love is an absolute conformity to the Divine Will, which consists in having no other will in all things but the will of God. “For that friendship only, is firm and solid, when we can neither will nor not will anything, but what our friend wills or does not will” (St. Jerome, Ep. ad Demet.). And, therefore, the more we shall conform and submit our wills to the will of God, the more perfect, without doubt, we shall find ourselves. Moreover, ii is certain that there is nothing better or more perfect than the will of God; and, consequently, we shall become better and more perfect according to the proportion of our greater union with this will, according to the reasoning of the philosopher, who said, “if God be the most perfect of all things, it is infallibly true, that the more anything shall resemble Him, the more perfect it will be.”
Since, then, all things come to us from the hand of God, and since all our perfection consists in conforming ourselves to what He wills; we must receive all things as coming from Him, and in them conform ourselves entirely to His divine will. We must look upon nothing as happening by chance, or by the conduct or malice of men, nor must we imagine that this or that thing has happened to us because such or such a one had a hand in it; nor that if such and such an accident had not happened, things would have fallen out after a different manner. This is not what we are to consider or trouble ourselves about; but what way or what manner soever anything happens to us we must always receive it as coming from the hand of God, because it is He in reality, who, by these means sends these things to us. St. Dorotheus relates that the ancient fathers so accustomed themselves to receive all things as coming from the hand of God, that they enjoyed a profound tranquillity and peace of mind, and always led a heavenly life upon earth (Rodriguez; Christian Perfection, Vol I, Eighth Treatise, Chapter I).
Let us always make the will of God ours, and conform ourselves in all things to Him by neither accepting nor refusing anything but what we know He would accept or refuse; and by this means we shall always be brought to follow our own will, and live in perfect peace and tranquillity of mind. It is certain, that if we never desire anything but what God desires, we will always attain the object of our desires, because God’s holy will can never fail to be completely accomplished. Seneca, himself, was sufficiently convinced of this truth, by the light of natural reason; “Our main point,” says he, “is to be able to support adversities and crosses with joy and cheerfulness,” and to receive whatever occurs as though we desired it should happen. For we should have felt it our duty to desire it, if we were persuaded that nothing happens but by order of Divine Providence. How happy should we be, could we but make our will the will of God, and never covet anything but what He pleases? And how happy ought we deem ourselves, not only because our own will would be accomplished, but because we would see the will of God, Whom we love, accomplished in us and in all things? For though we make use of the first consideration, nevertheless, it is the second upon which we ought chiefly to dwell, and it is only in the contentment of God, and in the execution of His holy will, that we ought to ground and establish all our joy and satisfaction. “Whatsoever the Lord pleased he hath done in heaven, in earth, in the sea, and in all the deeps” (Ps, cxxxiv, 6). (Rodriguez; Christian Perfection, Vol I, Eighth Treatise, Chap. VI).
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
You must avoid every vice, but above all those which tempt you most: it is in these you will find your greatest danger, if you do not take wise precautions. – St. Ignatius of Loyola, Ribadeneira, ch. 37.
March Devotion: St. Joseph
Virtue to practice: Mortification
O St. Joseph whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires. O St. Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord; so that having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of fathers. O St. Joseph I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms. I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine Head for me, and ask Him to return the kiss when I draw my dying breath. St. Joseph, patron of departing souls, pray for me. Amen.
Prayer to St. Joseph by Pope St. Pius X
O Glorious St. Joseph, model of all those who are devoted to labor, obtain for me the grace to work conscientiously, putting the call of duty above my natural inclinations, to work with gratitude and joy, in a spirit of penance for the remission of my sins, considering it an honor to employ and develop by means of labor the gifts received from God, to work with order, peace, moderation, and patience, without ever shrinking from weariness and difficulties, to work above all with purity of intention and detachment from self, having always death before my eyes and the account that I must render of time lost, of talents wasted, of good omitted, of vain complacency in success, so fatal to the work of God. All for Jesus, all through Mary, all after thine example, O Patriarch, St. Joseph. Such shall be my watchword in life and in death. Amen.
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