On the Healing of the Lunatic.
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 Healing of the Lunatic.
Whilst upon the heights of Thabor the wondrous transfiguration of our Lord took place, at the foot of the mountain a scene presenting a painful contrast to that glorious and entrancing sight was being enacted. An unfortunate boy, an epileptic, possessed by an evil spirit, is seized by a fit, and struggles, foaming at the mouth, in the arms of his afflicted father; our Lord’s disciples endeavoring meanwhile by their exorcisms to cure him, but without success. (St. Luke ix. 38-43.)
1st. According to St. Jerome’s interpretation this boy suffering from this terrible malady is a symbol of the unstable, inconstant Christian. As by his father’s report, he falls at one time into the water, at another into the fire; oftentimes he cries out, and then casting himself down upon the ground, lies like one dead; so these unstable souls to-day display an ardent zeal for the practice of virtue, an unbounded abhorrence of sin, and by the morrow all their zeal has died out, their hatred of sin has disappeared; at one time the devil casts them into the fire of unruly passions, at another into the waters of tepidity and indifference. To-day one might think they were about to climb the highest summits of virtue, to-morrow they may be seen grovelling miserably upon the ground. O terrible and incurable malady, the existence of which Thomas a Kempis bewails in the following words: “As long as thou livest thou art subject to change, even against thy will; so as to be found sometimes joyful, at other times sad; now at peace, then troubled; now devout, now without devotion; now full of zeal, now sluggish; now grave, now gay.” (Imit. B. iii. ch. 33.) What can you say of yourself in this respect, my soul? “He who is wise stands above all these changeable things,” we are told in the Imitation. As a Priest, a Religious, you have long been a disciple in the school of wisdom, of heavenly wisdom; you may even have grown gray in that school, but without learning true wisdom. Bewail your past inaptness, and begin at last to strive to acquire greater stability of purpose.
2d. Consider how dangerous, how injurious this distressing malady must have been to its unhappy victim. Must not his powers have gradually wasted away in consequence of his being continually tormented by the evil spirit? Was he not in constant danger of meeting with an untimely death through being cast into the fire and into the water? And in like manner nothing is more prejudicial, more perilous to the soul than to be the prey of an evil spirit of changefulness, of instability. Souls that are thus inconstant never find any rest, never make any progress. They are like a ship without a rudder, that to-day is carried on its course by a favoring wind, to-morrow is driven backwards by an adverse blast; and it is greatly to be feared that the soul in such circumstances should at last grow weary and disgusted with the incessant vacillation, and no longer struggling against sin, should fall into irremediable and deplorable perdition. In view of these grave dangers do not neglect to implore this very day the inestimable grace of perseverance; for, as Brother Giles was wont to say, “What would it profit me were I to enjoy bliss like that of Heaven for a hundred years, and then after all not persevere, and so make a bad end?” St. Augustine says: “It is no great thing to begin well, but to end well, it is in that that perfection consists.” To accomplish this, prayer is not all-sufficient.
3d. Consider that the disciples had made every effort to cast out the evil spirit by means of their prayers and exorcisms, but in vain. “This kind,” our Lord says, “can go out by nothing but by prayer and fasting.” (St. Mark ix. 182 28.) Hence we learn that something more than prayer is needed, something which, like fasting, is painful to human nature, which costs an effort, and demands self-conquest. You must fight bravely and withstand the spirit of instability; you must strive by means of mortification and self-chastisement to subdue it to your own will. Too many yield themselves to its sway without a struggle. To such persons St. Bonaventure gives in his meditations upon the life of Christ a salutary and instructive admonition, one which the Blessed Virgin herself gave to a holy soul. “Dost thou imagine,” so spoke the holy Mother of God, “that all the graces I received were bestowed on me without any exertion on my part? Not so by any means. Let me tell thee that I did not acquire a single virtue without having earned it by strenuous effort, unremitting prayer, eager desire, humble devotion, countless tears and bodily austerities.” And do you, a poor sinner, think that the gift of constancy will be granted you without toil or trouble? Reflect upon this, my soul, and make suitable resolutions as to the best means of overcoming your changeableness in future.
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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