On Spiritual Fasting.
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 Spiritual Fasting.
Recall to mind, my soul, once more the manifold graces, the good thoughts, the increase of devotion, and occasionally the singular joy which you have experienced in seasons of fasting. Now as no man can serve two masters, it seems almost impossible that both body and soul can have pleasure at one and the same time. When all goes well with the body, the soul mourns; and vice versa. And yet it may easily happen that the body may be gratified without injury to the soul; the only thing needful is that the soul should fast if the body is not mortified, if the body does not fast. It is this spiritual abstinence which gives corporal abstinence its value, as we shall proceed to see.
1st. St. Augustine says that spiritual fasting, i.e., abstinence from sin, is true fasting, and pleasing to God even if unaccompanied by corporal abstinence. Of a truth, apart from spiritual abstinence, corporal fasting, much as it was valued and practised by the Lord and all the saints, is of no worth at all. Pope Leo says: It is useless to withhold food from the body if the soul does not at the same time abstain from sin. St. Isidore goes further, for he asserts that those who fast with the body and not with the soul are like the devil, who can do without eating, but cannot refrain from evil deeds. What does your conscience say to you on this point, my soul? Alas, I fear that you do not fast either corporally or spiritually.
2d. Consider that corporal fasting is only a means to an end. The end is to atone for sin. Now hear what St. Augustine says on this subject: “Of what avail is it to have the body void of food and at the same time to let the soul be filled with sins? Of what avail is it for your countenance to become pale with fasting, while your heart burns with envy and hatred towards your neighbors? Of what avail is it to drink no wine and yet steep yourself in the venom of anger? Of what avail is it to eat no animal food, but allow yourself to gnaw like a rat at the good name, the reputation of your neighbor?” You propose to yourself to make satisfaction for your misdeeds by corporal fasting, while by your spiritual intemperance you add sin to sin. You propose to heal the wounds of your conscience by corporal fasting, whereas by your spiritual incontinency you do but open fresh sores. useless mortification, unprofitable austerities! Of what use are the means to him who does not wish for the end? Enter, my soul, upon a fresh course of conduct from this day forth.
3d. Consider how corporal fasting is said by the Fathers to be a medicine, a remedy for all the wounds and hurts of the soul. Now sin alone is capable of wounding and injuring the soul; it is a poisoned dart that brings death and destruction to the soul. And no more than a wounded man has any chance of recovery, even though he makes use of the best medicaments, balsam possessed of the most healing properties, as long as the arrow that caused the injury is left in the wound no more can the soul, struck by the poisoned arrow of sin, be cured by bodily fasting, be it ever so strict and severe, unless the poison of sin that renders all remedies useless is expelled from the soul by spiritual abstinence. Wherefore make a firm resolution to-day to practise both spiritual and corporal abstinence; and reflect particularly in what respect this is most necessary, bearing this truth always in mind: One alone is of little avail, but with both united all the powers of hell may be defied.
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 Saturday
O Lord, God Almighty, I beseech Thee by the precious Blood that gushed forth from the side of Thy Divine Son Jesus, in the sight and to the extreme pain of His most holy Mother, deliver the souls in purgatory, and amongst them all especially that soul which was ever most devout to this great Lady, that it may soon attain unto Thy glory, there to praise Thee in her and her in Thee, world without end. 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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