On the Small Number of the Elect. – continued.

On the Small Number of the Elect.continued.

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 Small Number of the Elect.continued.

Who then will be saved? The man, who, in these days of irreligion and vice, walks in the footsteps of the primitive Christian: – whose hands are innocent, and whose heart is pure;who has not received his soul in vain, (Ps. xxiii. 4.); – who has successfully struggled against the torrent of worldly example, and purified his soul; –  who is a lover of justice, and swears not deceitfully against his neighbour, (ib.); – who is not indebted to double-dealing for an increase of fortune; – who returns good for evil, and heaps favours on the enemy that had laboured for his destruction; – who is candid and sincere, and never sacrifices truth to interest, nor conscience to civility; – who is charitable to all in distress, and a friend to all in affliction; – who is resigned in adversity, and penitent even in prosperity.

He, my dear brethren, will be saved; and he only. Oh! how alarming is this truth! And nevertheless, all, the chosen few only excepted, who work out their salvation with fear and trembling, all, I say, live on in the greatest peace and tranquillity of mind. They know that the greater number is lost; but they flatter themselves with the assurance that, although they live like the world, they shall die like the just: each one supposes that God will favour him with a particular grace: each one looks forward with confidence to a happy death.

These are your expectations likewise. I will, therefore, say no more about the rest of mankind, but address myself solely to you, as if you were the only inhabitants of the earth. Now this is the thought which occupies my mind, and strikes terror into the very centre of my soul. I suppose that the last day is arrived; that the trumpet has sounded; that you are risen from the dead; that you are assembled together in this place to wait the coming of the great Judge; that the heavens are about to open; and that you will shortly behold the Son of Man descending with great power and majesty to pronounce upon you the sentence either of election or reprobation. – Rouse your attention, my brethren. Are your accounts in order? Are you prepared for the trial? Are you ready to meet your Judge? Do not say that you will prepare yourselves hereafter. This is a delusive hope. What you are now, the same will you probably be at the hour of death. The intention of reforming your conduct, which has so long occupied your thoughts without effect, will continue without effect as long as you live. This is testified by the experience of ages.

Now I ask you; – I ask you with dismay, and without meaning to separate my lot from yours; were the Son of Man to appear in this assembly, and separate the good from the bad, the innocent from the guilty, the penitent from the impenitent, how many would He place on His right hand? Would He place the greater number of us? Would He place one half? Formerly He could not find ten just men in five populous cities: and could He find as many, do you think, in this small assembly? How many, then, would He place on His right? –  You cannot give an answer: neither can I. Thou alone, my God, knowest Thy elect  – Thy chosen few. – But if we cannot say who will be placed on His right hand, we can say, at least, that sinners will be placed on His left. – Who, then, are sinners? They may be divided into four classes. Let every individual attend, and examine whether he may not be ranked in one of them. 1st, They who are immersed in vice, and will not reform: 2d, They who intend to reform, but defer their conversion: 3d, They who fall into their former habits, as often as they pretend to renounce them: 4th, They who think that they need not a change of life. These are the reprobate: separate them from the rest of this assembly, for they will be separated from them at the last day. Now, ye chosen servants of my God  – ye remnant of Israel, lift up your heads; your salvation is at hand: pass to the right: separate yourselves from this chaff, which is destined for the fire. –  O God! where are Thy elect! How few of us will be comprehended in the number!

Beloved Christians, our perdition is almost certain; and why are we not alarmed? If a voice from heaven were heard in this temple, proclaiming aloud that one of us here present would be consigned to eternal flames, without disclosing the name; who would not tremble for himself? who would not examine into the state of his soul? who would not, like the apostles at the last supper, turn to Jesus, and say: Is it I, Lord? And, if time were still at our disposal, who would not endeavour to secure his own soul by the tears, and sighs of repentance?

Where then is our prudence? Perhaps not more than ten of my present auditory will be saved: perhaps not even so many: perhaps . . . But, O God! I dare not, I cannot fix my eyes on the dreadful, unfathomable abyss of Thy justice: – perhaps not more than one of us will see heaven. And yet, we all flatter ourselves that we shall be the happy souls that will escape: we all imagine, without considering either our virtues or vices, that God will have mercy on us in preference even to those who are more innocent and deserving.

Good God! how little are the terrors of Thy justice known in the world! The elect in every age withered away through fear, when they contemplated the severity, and the depth of Thy judgments on the sins of men. Holy solitaries, after a life of the severest penance, were terrified at the thought; and, when stretched on the bed of death, shook their hard couch of poverty and mortification by the trembling motions of their emaciated frame. They turned towards their weeping brethren, and with a faultering and dying voice asked them: “Do you think that the Lord will have mercy on me?” Their fears bordered on despair, and their minds were in the greatest agitation, until Jesus himself appeased the storm, and produced a calm. But now, the man, who has lived like the multitude, who has been worldly  – profane  – sensual  – and unthinking, dies with the assurance of a happy immortality: and the minister of God, when summoned to attend him, is necessitated to cherish this false confidence, to speak only of the infinite treasures of the mercies of God, and, in some measure, to aid and assist him in deceiving himself. – Good God! what wrath is stored up by Thy justice against the day of wrath!

What conclusion, my beloved, are you to draw from these alarming truths? That you are to despair of salvation? God forbid. The impious man alone, in order to indulge his passions with less restraint, endeavours to convince himself that salvation is unattainable, and that all mankind will perish with him. My object is, that you should be undeceived, respecting that almost universally received opinion, that it is not unlawful to do what is done by others, and that universal custom is a sufficient rule for your conduct. My object is, that you should be convinced, that in order to be saved, you must live in a different manner from the generality of mankind, that your piety must be singular, and that you must be separated from the multitude.

When the captive Jews were on the point of departing from their beloved country for the land of bondage – the great Babylon, the prophet Jeremiah, who was commanded by God to remain in Jerusalem, addressed them in words to this purport: “Children of Israel, when you arrive in Babylon, you will behold their gods of silver and gold, borne on the shoulders of the inhabitants, and the multitude before and behind adoring them: but do not you imitate their example; on the contrary, say in your hearts, Thou alone, O Lord! art worthy to be adored” Bar. vi. 6.

My advice to you, at parting, is nearly in the same words; and I earnestly exhort you never for a moment to lose sight of it – As soon as you have left the house of God, you will find yourselves in the midst of Babylon. You will behold the idols of gold and silver, before which are prostrated the greater part of mankind: you will see the gods of this world, wealth, glory, and pleasure, surrounded by their numerous votaries and adorers: you will witness abuses, errors, and disorders, authorized by univeral example. Then, my beloved brethren, if you are Israelites indeed, you must turn to God, and say: Thou alone, O Lord! art worthy to be adored. I will not take part with people who are strangers to Thee: I will follow no other law but Thine. The gods, which the senseless multitude adores, are not gods; they are the work of men’s hands; and they shall perish with them. Thou only art immortal: Thou alone art worthy to be adored. The laws of Babylon have no connection with Thy holy laws. I will adore Thee in the society of Thy elect; and with them I will ardently sigh after the heavenly Jerusalem, – the seat of bliss. The world, perhaps, may attribute my conduct to weakness, my singularity to vain-glory: but, do Thou, O Lord, give me strength to resist the torrent of vice; and suffer me not to be seduced by evil example. The days of captivity will have an end. Thou wilt remember Abraham, and David, Thy servants. Thou wilt deliver Thy people from slavery, and lead them into Sion. Then shalt Thou alone reign over Israel, and over the nations that refuse to know Thee. Then shall the former things pass away; and Thou alone shalt remain for ever. Then shall all nations know that Thou alone, O Lord! art worthy to be adored.

In order, therefore, to profit by this discourse, you must be resolved to live differently from the rest of men: you must bear constantly in mind that the greater number are lost: you must disregard all customs, which are not consistent with the law of God: you must reflect, that the saints in every age were men of singular lives. Then, after having been distinguished from sinners on earth, you will be gloriously separated from them for all eternity.

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.

Sermons for Every Sunday and Festival of the Year.

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There is not among men, nor even among the angels, an exercise more sacred, nor a work more excellent, than to glorify God in Himself, and in creatures by bringing them to adore and serve Him as far as they are capable. – St. Ignatius of Loyola, Letter 50.

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February Devotion: The Holy Trinity (also the Holy Family)

Virtue to practice: Humility

I vow and consecrate to God all that is in me: my memory and my actions to God the Father; my understanding and my words to God the Son; my will and my thoughts to God the Holy Ghost; my heart, my body, my tongue my senses and all my sorrows to the sacred Humanity of Jesus Christ, ‘who was contented to be betrayed into the hands of wicked men and to suffer the torment of the Cross.’ – St. Francis de Sales

An indulgence of 3 years.

A plenary indulgence on the usual conditions, if this act of oblation is devoutly repeated every day for a monh (S.P.Ap., Sept. 22, 1922 and May 12, 1934).

The faithful who devoutly offer any prayers in honor of the Most Holy Trinity with the intention of continuing them for nine successive days, may gain:

An indulgence of 7 years once each day:

A plenary indulgence on the usual conditions at the end of the novena (S.C. Ind., Aug. 8 1847; S.P. Ap., Mar. 18, 1932).

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