On Progress in Virtue after the Example of Our Lord.
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 Progress in Virtue after the Example of Our Lord.
“What a pleasing picture is this upon which you look, my soul, when you fix your eyes upon the Saviour, and observe how after His return from Jerusalem, dwelling in His parents’ house, He grew and developed, exhibiting from day to day greater loveliness, greater sweetness, so that it was truly said of Him: “Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and grace with God and man.” (St. Luke ii. 52.) Let these words form the subject of your meditation to-day.
1st. Consider that the assertion that our Lord advanced in wisdom and grace is not to be taken literally, since we know that from the very moment of His birth He possessed continually all the plenitude of divine grace and wisdom. What we are to understand is that the light and glory concealed within shone out more and more from day to day, and the dormant Godhead, unfolding its splendor, became day by day more apparent beneath the veil of His sacred humanity. In you too, my soul, a divine germ is hidden; you also bear within you the sanctifying grace of the Most High, since on the day of your regeneration in the laver of baptism the Holy Ghost infused into you the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity. These virtues ought to expand and exhibit themselves externally from day to day in a greater degree; you ought to grow in them daily, and daily those around you ought to see more clearly from your words, your actions, that your heart is the dwelling-place of our Lord and of His grace. Is it so with you?
2d. Or do you perhaps belong to the number of those who decrease instead of increasing? How many begin well! Supernatural grace daily grows and expands within their soul like a flower in the sunshine. Hence the daily increasing fervor of their devotion, hence their spirit of penance becoming week by week more manifest, hence their good works, more numerous as each month goes by. All at once however, a change comes over them, and they exemplify the sorrowful dictum of our Lord: “No man putting his hand to the plough and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (St. Luke ix. 22.) To pass suddenly from the way of virtue to the paths of sin is far more dangerous, is far more likely to involve the soul in eternal perdition, than to walk from the very outset in the way of iniquity, for one who thus falls away has a weighty responsibility; he has to answer for having misused the graces given him, whereas the ordinary sinner has not to do so. Wherefore be on your guard, and implore your Redeemer, who Himself advanced in grace and wisdom, rather to drive you forward with the whip of His chastisements, to lay upon you crosses and sufferings, than to permit you to recede, to decrease in grace, or even to lose it altogether.
3d. Consider that it is quite possible to decline in grace without completely deviating from the way of justice, and a great many Christians are found to do this. They do not entirely desist from their former striving after perfection, but they become careless about it; they do not lead a sinful life, but they are lukewarm, and that is a very perilous state; one step more and they fall, and then their destruction is imminent. There is a deep truth in what the Son of God says to the bishop in the Apocalypse (ch. ii. 4, 5): “I have something against thee, because thou hast left thy first charity – that is to say, thy early fervor has grown cold – Do penance, and do thy first works, or else I will come to thee and will move thy candlestick out of its place.”
Cannot you imagine, my soul, that Jesus is addressing those words to you? Alas, where is your first charity! Think of the fervent devotion wherewith you celebrated the holy sacrifice of the Mass for the first time, and contrast it with your present coldness. Think of the zeal you displayed when you first entered your Order, and contrast it with your present indifference. Is this trading with the talent committed to you? Up then, do penance, perform once more your first works, that the Lord may not take your candlestick out of its place, that is, cast you away! Ask yourself seriously this question: Wherein, and to what extent have I advanced since the day of my betrothal to Christ until the present time? a period of perhaps ten, twenty, thirty years or even more, each year replete with graces innumerable with which you ought to have co-operated. Have I advanced in wisdom and in grace as I have advanced in age? Then do not conclude this meditation without having carefully considered what you must do from henceforth, what means you will employ from this very day, in order at last to make solid progress in virtue.
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)
A Week for the Poor Souls:
Prayer for Monday
O Lord, God Almighty, I beseech Thee, by the precious Blood which Thy Divine Son Jesus shed in His cruel scourging, deliver the souls in purgatory, and amongst them all especially that soul which is nearest to its entrance into Thy glory; that so it may soon begin to praise and bless Thee forever. Amen.
Our Father, and Hail Mary.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.
De Profundis for the Faithful Departed (Ps. 129)
Out of the depths I have cried to Thee, O Lord! Lord, hear my voice.
Let Thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication.
If Thou, O Lord, shalt mark our iniquities: O Lord, who shall stand it?
For with Thee there is merciful forgiveness: and by reason of Thy law I have waited for Thee, O Lord.
My soul hath relied on His word: my soul hath hoped in the Lord.
From the morning watch even unto night, let Israel hope in the Lord.
Because with the Lord there is mercy: and with Him plenteous redemption.
And He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.
V. Eternal rest give unto them, O Lord.
R. And let perpetual light shine upon them.
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