On the Gift of Devotion.
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.
On the Gift of Devotion.
Although the occasions on which our Lord appeared to His disciples after His resurrection differed much as regards time and circumstances, yet the joy of seeing their divine Master was for the most part granted to them when they were at their devotions, in pious anticipation of His visits, when they devoutly betook themselves to His sepulchre, or were assembled together for religious converse in the upper room. You also, my soul, will be more likely to enjoy the privilege of our Lord’s visits if you apply yourself diligently to prayer and meditation, to the practices of devotion. Hence we see how important the grace of devotion is. It is in fact well worthy to be made the theme of a special meditation. Place yourself therefore in the presence of God; or what is better, imagine yourself a saint, glowing with fervent devotion, holding sweet intercourse with the Most High.
1st. Consider what devotion really is. It is a beauteous ray of light shed upon our hearts, emanating from the Sun of infinite and eternal devotion, the Holy Spirit of God. A soul thus favored, oblivious of self, closing her eyes to all created things, only longs for God and is absorbed in the contemplation of His beauty. This devotion is to a certain extent a kind of beatific vision such as the blessed shall enjoy in Heaven to all eternity, and consequently it is a delicious foretaste of the sweetness and bliss which shall be our portion hereafter. It is a powerful attraction to God of all the powers of the soul, so that the understanding only thinks of Him, the affections only delight in Him, and the will is aflame with the sacred fire of divine charity. In this condition the soul cannot express herself otherwise than by exclaiming with St. Francis: “My God and my all!” Yet alas, you are far from experiencing such devotion; what is the reason of this?
2d. In order to find the answer to this question consider the means for obtaining the grace of devotion. In order to obtain this precious interior gift you must first of all seek it in prayer for a long season; you must exert yourself to acquire it; that is, you most observe strict custody of the outward senses, otherwise you will lose the measure of devotion you have already attained. Devotion flows from the heart; the heart is guarded when the senses are guarded. “Accustom thyself therefore,” St. Dorotheus says, “not to allow thine eyes to wander and look around on idle and new things; beware of much talking, for this tends to banish the holy, profitable thoughts that are suggested to us from above.” Whosoever desires to maintain the fire of devotion within his heart must, as Cassian asserts, be blind and deaf and dumb; that is, he must see as if he saw not, he must hear as if he heard not. St. Bernard had lived in his cell for a whole year, yet he did not know whether it was roofed with stone or ceiled with wood; and the patriarch Palladius inhabited one and the self-same cell for twenty years without having ever raised his eyes once to the ceiling. Those were men of fervent devotion; if you are not kindled in the same manner, is there any longer need for you to ask the reason?
3d. Consider the advantages of devotion. The Apostle writes: “Exercise thyself unto godliness; for bodily exercise is profitable to little, but godliness is profitable to all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.” (I. Tim. iv. 7, 8.) External practices without interior godliness, i.e. devotion, are of little use. To say the office, to fast, to pray, to go on pilgrimages without real devotion is like a body without a soul. If the soul lacks devotion she will be wanting in holy zeal, in interior enlightenment, in spiritual consolation. But where there is devotion the soul feels herself blissfully elevated, animated and inspired by charity. Without devotion you are like land without water, dry and barren; you are like a furnace without fire, cold and useless. Wherefore implore this glorious and most necessary gift, and on your part remove out of the way all obstacles that may be opposed to the spirit of devotion; for unless indeed it is permitted in exceptional cases as a special trial, we ourselves are mostly to blame for our want of devotion. Let it be the object and point of your meditation to-day to ascertain where you are to blame in this respect; to discover the causes which hinder devotion in your case, and the means whereby they are to be eliminated.
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.
– Meditations on the Life, Teaching, and Passion of Jesus Christ
(Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur: New York, December 31, 1900)
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