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.
Let your thoughts dwell for a few moments on the toilsome life of man on earth, abounding as it does in sufferings and struggles. He has daily to fight against the enemies of his salvation; he is visited daily by tribulations and afflictions, bodily or spiritual; everyone can from his own experience say with holy Job: “The life of man on earth is a warfare” (Job vii. 1), and in truth every one can call himself in the words the Church places on our lips, a poor exiled child of Eve, weeping and mourning in this valley of tears. In the consciousness of our misery we entreat the divine aid, saying:
1st. Lead us not into temptation. God cannot tempt us directly; that is to say, He cannot as the all-holy God incite us to sin, but He permits us to be tempted either to punish us or to try us. Far from wishing to avoid temptation, we ought in a certain sense to wish for it. We know that our Lord Himself was tempted, that the saints and servants of God who were most dear to Him were vehemently assailed by the tempter, and daily experience shows that the more holy a man is the more he is attacked by the evil one; the more pleasing he is to God, the greater are the temptations he has to withstand. Therefore when we pray: Lead us not into temptation, we mean such temptations as might prove too strong for us. Not through cowardice, soldier of Christ, do you desire to be spared temptation, but aware of your own weakness and frailty you beg in all humility that your Father will not allow His feeble child to meet with a temptation to which, if he is abandoned by divine grace, he is likely to succumb. As an act of humility therefore repeat the words: Lead us not into temptation, remembering that the Apostle says: “He that thinketh himself to stand, let him take heed lest he fall.” (I. Cor. x. 12.) And if you see a Brother or a Sister commit a fault, do not judge him or her harshly, but call to mind your own frailty, and pray: Lead us not into temptation; adding to this petition on your own behalf one for the flock committed to your charge.
2d. Consider the concluding petition: But deliver us from evil. Amen. In this we ask to be delivered from the evil one who tempts us; to be delivered from the evil of sin, which we are tempted to commit; to be delivered, as St. Cyprian says, from all that leads to sin and from all that results from sin. This petition is moreover a supplement to the foregoing ones, or rather it is a summary or compendium of all the rest, for when you pray to be delivered from evil, to be liberated from the snares of sin and of Satan, you actually pray for the removal of the obstacles that impede the sanctification of the name of God, the advent of His kingdom, the accomplishment of His will; that hinder you from receiving worthily the bread He gives, from obtaining forgiveness of sin and the assistance of divine grace, which form the subject of the six preceding petitions. Now temporal evils, as St. Cyprian tells us, are the results of sin. As in the fourth petition you prayed that you might receive first spiritual blessings and then earthly, so in this you ask for deliverance primarily from spiritual and secondarily from corporal evils. Here observe that Christ does not mention any definite evil. He simply teaches us to pray: Deliver us from evil, because God knows better than we do ourselves what is really evil for us, what really will prove injurious to us. How often you have recited an Our Father for some special intention; God has not, however, granted your prayer. What was the reason? Because you prayed: Deliver us from evil, and the omniscient God knew that precisely this apparent good for which you asked would work your harm, and therefore He denied it to you. He, the all-wise Father, withheld it from the unwise child.
3d. Endeavor whilst meditating upon this prayer to view it as a whole and grasp its collective meaning; ponder upon its wondrous depths and the vast meaning comprehended in so small a space. One may repeat this prayer a thousand times without becoming weary of it, any more than one tires of bread to eat.
It contains the most beautiful and consolatory truths of the Faith:
† the fatherly providence of God,
† the existence of Heaven,
† the Holy Eucharist,
† the forgiveness of sin, etc.:
all these doctrines are recalled to our mind under the form of prayer.
† The most exalted moral code is proposed to us;
† the sanctification of the name of God,
† the accomplishment of the divine will,
† the pardon of our enemies, etc.,
are impressed on us as the duty of the Christian;
while all the virtues which it behooves a Priest, a Religious to practise,
† zeal for God’s glory,
† conformity to His divine will,
† unceasing efforts to extend His kingdom,
† continual conflict with temptation,
† contentment with a scanty supply of daily bread,
all these, I say, are contained, implied in this prayer. See therefore that from henceforth you do not repeat this marvelous prayer with so many distractions, such cold indifference as heretofore; let the fruit of your present meditation be that you recite it with the utmost fervor and devotion of spirit.
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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