The Predominant Passion.
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.
The Predominant Passion.
In our examination of conscience it is important for us to pay particular attention to our predominant passion, because if we overcome this we overcome all other vices, it being very often the root and foundation of all the other passions which leads us on to sin. It is certain, and the very light of nature teaches us this truth, that we are better able to resist one vice alone, than many vices together. It is a common saying – that he who grasps at too much holds fast but little – the sense which is spread upon divers objects, acts more weakly upon any one of them in particular. By attacking them one by one, we easily overcome our enemies, whom we could not vanquish in an entire body. Cassian says that this way of overcoming our enemies, that is to say, our vices and passions, was taught us by the Holy Ghost, when he instructed the children of Israel how they were to act in order to overcome the seven nations their enemies in the land of promise. “He will consume these nations in thy sight by little and little and by degrees. Thou wilt not be able to destroy them all together” (Deut. vii, 22).
The same Cassian, as though he answered an objection that might be made, takes further notice upon this point, that we must not be afraid, that by being employed against one vice alone, and by using our whole endeavours to overcome it, we shall receive any prejudice from the rest. First, because the attention we exercise in overcoming one particular vice will excite in the soul a general horror of all the rest, by reason of that malice which is common to them all, and therefore when we shall be well armed and fortified against one vice, we shall also be fortified against all others, and be in a condition to make vigorous resistance to them all. Secondly, because the care we take in our examination of conscience, to root out of our hearts any evil habit, cuts by degrees the root of all the rest, which root is nothing else than the too great facility with which we suffer ourselves to embrace whatever we feel an inclination for. To endeavour, therefore, in our examen to overcome one vice, is to overcome all; because the means we make use of to secure ourselves from that, will secure us from all the others; just as pulling in and correcting a stubborn horse will prevent him from being stubborn on other occasions. There is, therefore, no danger that endeavouring to correct one vice in ourselves, will occasion the rest to fortify themselves against us (Rodriguez, Vol. I, Seventh Treatise, Chapter IV).
It is good here to observe that in our examen we are not to go from one passion to another, sometimes taking one, sometimes another subject; for this would be to go round and round, without advancing; but we must begin with the predominant passion, direct all our forces against it until we have brought it well under subjection, and afterwards prepare to pursue another, and then another, with equal constancy. The reason why some reap so little fruit from their examen is, that they make it by starts; so that having pursued an object for ten or fifteen days, or for a month at most, they grow weary, and without having succeeded, they break off and pursue another. This pursuit too they give up, and commence a third, in which they are as unsuccessful as in the two former. If a man that had undertaken to carry a stone to the top of a high mountain, having carried it a considerable way up, should let it fall down again, and should often do the same; it is certain that what pains soever he takes, he will never carry the stone to the top of the mountain. It is just so with those who embrace one matter for their examen, and before they have finished it, leave it there and take up another, and then another. They can never attain the end they propose to themselves – they fatigue themselves, yet do nothing; “ever learning, and never attaining to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. iii, 7). The affair of perfection is not an affair that is gained by sudden starts – it requires long perseverance – we must take it to heart – we must insist upon it – we must fully resolve to compass it whatever it costs us.
It is a thought of St. John Chrysostom, that as those who dig for a treasure, or a mine of gold or silver, continue to work and to remove every obstacle, till they find the object sought for, so we who seek after true spiritual riches, and the rich treasure of virtue and perfection, must persevere in our search, till we have overcome those difficulties that oppose us, and have found what we seek after; “I will pursue after my enemies, and overtake them, and I will not turn again till they are consumed “ (Psalm xvii, 38). It is by this strong and constant resolution, and not by short sallies, or weak endeavours, that vice is overcome, and virtue obtained.
Let us, then, for a moment inspect the account. How long is it since you commenced your examen? How many objects has it comprised? Had you succeeded in them all you would have been long since perfect; and if there be any one point in which you have not succeeded, why did you leave it off? You will, perhaps, tell me, it is because you found you failed in it. But do you know why you failed? It is because you changed your design every moment; and because you did not persevere long enough, in order to crown your efforts with success. Moreover, if even while you directed your examen and your attention to one object only, you did not attain it, is it not plain, that without this examen and this attention, you would be much farther from attaining the object in question. For if he who makes good resolutions is, as we have said elsewhere, liable to fall, how will he be, who either makes none, or at least makes them too late? To resolve against your usual failings must be a curb on you; and though after some time you think you are not more advanced than you were in the beginning, yet lose not courage, nor leave off what you have undertaken, but humble yourself in your examen, conceive a great confusion for your weakness, and make new resolutions to correct and amend yourself. God permits our failings; He always suffered a Jebusite in the land of promise: that is, He permits some defect or vice to remain in us, that we may resist and fight it; that being thereby fully convinced that of ourselves we can do nothing, and that it is from God we must alone expect strength and succour, we should always have recourse to Him and be always attached to Him. And it often happens that from the difficulty we feel in perfectly overcoming our passions, we take greater care, and become more fervent in our spiritual advancement, than if God had presently granted us the victory we begged of Him.
But you will ask me, how long then must I continue in my examen upon the same matter? St. Bernard, and Hugo of St. Victor, ask almost the same question; that is, how long ought we to fight any vice? And they answer, that we must fight it till we find we have got so much ground and advantage over our enemy, that as soon as he dares show himself, we are presently able to overcome him, and subject him to reason. So that we must not stay till the passion is quite extinguished, and till we feel no repugnance at all, for this we must never expect in this life; and Hugo says, this is rather what is bestowed upon angels than men. It is sufficient that the passion we propose to ourselves to overcome gives us not much trouble, and that it is of so little hindrance to us, that as soon as it rises we are able easily and certainly to overcome it; and then we may attack other enemies, and take another subject for our examen. Seneca himself teaches us how we are to behave ourselves in this matter. “We fight against vices, not that we may entirely overcome them, but that we may not be overcome by them” (Seneca Lib. Ill, de Ira.). It is not necessary, therefore, that we should wait till the vice is so dead in us, that we feel nothing at all of it, it is sufficient that we have so weakened and so disarmed it, that it is no hindrance to us in the performance of what conduces to our salvation (Rodriguez, Vol. I, Seventh Treatise, Chap. VI).
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.
– by Rev. P. Ryan
– Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur October 10, 1910
One must wage war against his predominant passion and not retreat until, with God’s help, he has been victorious. – St. Ignatius of Loyola, Maffœi, Book iii, ch. 1.
March Devotion: St. Joseph
Virtue to practice: Mortification
O St. Joseph whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires. O St. Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord; so that having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of fathers. O St. Joseph I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms. I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine Head for me, and ask Him to return the kiss when I draw my dying breath. St. Joseph, patron of departing souls, pray for me. Amen.
Prayer to St. Joseph by Pope St. Pius X
O Glorious St. Joseph, model of all those who are devoted to labor, obtain for me the grace to work conscientiously, putting the call of duty above my natural inclinations, to work with gratitude and joy, in a spirit of penance for the remission of my sins, considering it an honor to employ and develop by means of labor the gifts received from God, to work with order, peace, moderation, and patience, without ever shrinking from weariness and difficulties, to work above all with purity of intention and detachment from self, having always death before my eyes and the account that I must render of time lost, of talents wasted, of good omitted, of vain complacency in success, so fatal to the work of God. All for Jesus, all through Mary, all after thine example, O Patriarch, St. Joseph. Such shall be my watchword in life and in death. Amen.
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