The Grounds of Conformity to the Will of God. – 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.
The Grounds of Conformity to the Will of God. – continued.
We now come to the second point, viz., to the consideration of the effects produced by free causes, which are, in other words, the actions of intelligent creatures endowed with free-will; the actions, that is, of men, of Angels, and of demons. And since these are not unfrequently sources of trouble to us, we will look into their dependence on God’s Will, in order that we may behave with due conformity in their regard. True it is, that such actions proceed from the will of created agents, who were free to perform or not to perform them; yet still they depend on the Will of God, either positively or negatively, to use the language of the Schoolmen. If these acts of rational creatures are virtuous and holy, they are positively intended by God, because they are either commanded or counselled by Him, and because He takes a special delight in concurring in their production. If, on the contrary, they are evil, they are not indeed willed by God, but only permitted by Him inasmuch as, for His own most exalted ends, which are inscrutable to our limited minds, He does not hinder them, though quite able to do so. He concurs therein, it is true, yet reluctantly, and, so to speak, in despite of Himself, as He complains by the mouth of Isaias, “Thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thy iniquities” (Isaias. xliii, 24), so that also these actions depend to a certain extent on His Divine Will.
It will further be requisite, for our purpose, to observe that every sinful act implies two distinct things; the malice of the act which God wills not, but only permits; and certain results which flow from such an act. Now as these results are not morally evil, God allows them for His own most holy purposes; purposes which are chiefly concerned with our spiritual advantage. For instance, an enemy lessons your honour by complaints and slanders; or outrages you with opprobrious words. We must here distinguish between the calumny, the verbal outrage – which, though God permits, He does not will, but on the contrary abominates and punishes – and the hurt or displeasure you are made to feel there by; this God intends, in order to exercise your humility, patience, and charity towards those that ill-use you. A thief secretly takes away from you something of great price; an unfavourable judge delivers a decision against you that is unjust; a servant gives you constant annoyance by the evil habits which he has contracted. In these several cases, God certainly does not will the injustice or the bad habits of your neighbours; but He does will to afflict you, to try you by the crosses which come to you from the perversity of your fellows; and He seeks herein the salvation and perfection of your soul. For which reason, abstracting from the faults of others, you must in every cross that falls to your lot, be wholly resigned to the Divine Will (Scaramelli, Vol. IV, Article iv, Chapter II).
In every external sin we commit, two things may be distinguished. The one is, the motion or exterior act; the other is the irregularity of the will, whereby we trangress what the Commandments of God prescribe. God is the cause and author of the first; man alone is the cause and author of the second. Let us put the case, for example, that a man fights against another and kills him with a sword. To kill him he must have a sword in his hand, he must lift up and stretch out his arm, and make a thrust, and perform several other natural motions, which may be considered in themselves, and are quite distinct from that irregular will which caused him to kill the man. God is the cause of the motions considered in the first place; and it is He who properly produces them, as He produces all other effects that proceed from irrational creatures. For, as they cannot move themselves or act without God; so neither can man without His help be able to move his arms, or put his hand to his sword. Moreover, these kinds of natural motions or actions have nothing in them that is bad; because if a man should make use of them, either for his own defence, or in a just war, or as a minister of justice should kill another, it is certain he would not commit any sin at all. But as regards the sinful action, that is to say, as regards the irregularity of the will that moves or determines him to commit a murder, and makes him commit an action contrary to the dictates of his reason, though God permits this by a secret judgment of His providence, because when He might He does not hinder it, yet for all this we may say with truth, that He is not the cause of it. The truth of this is explained by the following comparison; One has received a hurt in his foot which makes him lame. What causes him to walk is the faculty and power he has to move himself; but what causes him to halt is the hurt in his foot. It is the same in every vicious or sinful action. The cause of the action is God; but the cause of the sin mixed with the action, proceeds from the free will of man (Rodriguez, Vol. I, Eighth Treatise, Chapter II).
The practice of this most important doctrine may be learnt from one of the greatest heroes of antiquity, holy Job, when at the very height of his prosperity, he all of a sudden received, from every side, the most distressing tidings. A messenger arrives, breathless with the news that the Chaldeans have driven away all his herds; another comes to tell him that the Sabeans have slaughtered his numerous household of slaves. To this succeeds a third, with the far more mournful intelligence that a mighty wind smiting the four corners of his house, had buried his sons beneath the ruins. What did Job do meanwhile? What did he say on receiving the tidings of so many and such dreadful calamities? He merely replied; “The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away” (Job I, 21). “How now, holy prophet! God, you say, God hath taken away; surely you mistake. It is not God, but the treacherous Chaldean robbers, that have driven away your herds; not God, but the barbarous and bloodthirsty Sabeans that have put your slaves to the sword. God did not lay your house low, and kill your dear children; it was the doing of the devil who was sworn to destroy you.” “For God’s sake, speak not thus,” might we fancy this most patient man exclaim. “I know well how to trace troubles to their right source. God it is Who overwhelms me with so many grievous calamities. True, God did not desire the robbery by these Chaldeans, the cruelty of the Sabeans, the malice of the devils who are my persecutors; but He does will that I be tried, be afflicted, and suffer severely. He allows these sins in my enemies as means of making me suffer. He employs the malice of my persecutors as a rod wherewith to scourge me.” Such is the development given to this passage by St. Augustine. “It is not Satan, nor the Sabeans, nor yet the Chaldeans, that have despoiled Job of his wealth; it is God; His Will be done, may He be blessed for evermore!” (In Ps. xxxiv).
We may now form a true estimate of the folly of certain Christians, who, when injured by men, do not remember that the trial which causes them inward grief, comes from the hand of God. My present distress, says one, does not come from God, but from the malice of an enemy, whose tongue robs me of my good name, and whose conduct is ever thwarting my interests. My suffering, says another, is not from God, but from a perverse neighbour who provokes me by his ill-natured remarks, – from a wayward and unruly son whose ill behaviour grieves me, – from a peevish wife who cannot let me be at peace. My trials, will she say in her turn, are not God’s work, but arise from my husband’s unreasonable conduct, his bad habits, his extravagance. Such persons, according to St. Dorotheus, are like dogs which, when struck by a stone rush in a fury to bite the guiltless stone that has smitten them, instead of turning to discover the hand which has dealt them the painful blow. For these people fret, rage, and grow furious with their neighbour who smites them either with the tongue, or by some wrong action; they should rather lift up their eyes to discover the beneficent hand of God aiming these strokes at them; for God allows all this trouble to befall them, in expiation of their sins, and for the increase of their merit (Doct. 7).
Far different was the behaviour of holy David when reviled by Semei, a man of low birth, in those most outrageous terms; “Go forth. Come out, come out, thou man of blood, and thou man of Belial” (II Kings xvi, 7); and who, moreover, pelted the king with a shower of stones. David cared not to notice either the hand or the unbridled tongue of him that outraged him; but lifting up his soul to God, he acknowledged that the blows which smote him came from the hand of the Lord; and that it was his Lord who sent him the abuse. Wherefore he exclaimed; “Shall I be so bold as to withstand His most righteous and Holy Will?”
Thus should we, too, behave, if the light of faith really be kindled within us, when tried by the divers evils we have to undergo from the perverse will of others. We may conclude then that whatever evils can happen to us in this life, whether they arise from necessary causes, such as disease, pain, the loss of life or health, scarcity, sterility, pestilence, earthquakes, the inclemency of the seasons, poverty or misery; or whether they are the result of the action of free causes, as injuries, wrongs, affronts, injustice, slander, opposition, annoyance, or any other effect of the malice of our fellows; they each and all most assuredly depend on God’s appointment, Who, from eternity, has so disposed them for our greater advantage. Wherefore it behoves us to submit to all that grieves and troubles us in a disposition of humble subordination to this most Holy Will (Scaramelli, Vol IV, Article iv, Chapter II).
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.
All creatures are at the service of God’s friends; they help them to acquire greater merit to attach and unite themselves by a closer affection to their Creator. – St. Ignatius of Loyola, Letter 34.
March Devotion: St. Joseph
Virtue to practice: Mortification
Novena in honor of St. Joseph – Day 3
A nine day novena in honor of St. Joseph may be said anytime but especially from March 10th through March 18th before the Feast of St. Joseph on March 19th. Any of the following prayers are suitable.
Prayer Before the Novena
Great Saint Joseph, prostrate at thy feet, with feelings of unlimited confidence, I beg thee to bless the Novena that I begin in thy honor. I will meditate upon thy virtues; grant that I may learn fully to appreciate them. The knowledge of them will be the source of great confusion for me because of the poverty and destitution of my soul.
Great dispenser of the heavenly treasures, assist me in my poverty, help me to display thy virtues in my own soul. “Thou art never invoked in vain,” says the seraphic Theresa of Jesus; be thou to me what thou hast been to that Spouse of the Sacred Heart of Jesus; graciously hearken to me as thou didst hearken to her. Amen.
Saint Joseph, Model of Charity
JOSEPH loved God from his earliest youth and loved Him during his whole life. Joseph loved God with his whole heart, with his whole soul, with his whole strength. Joseph loved God with a love of preference, giving Him his first affections, and cutting off his heart from all that could hinder or alter his love for his Lord and Sovereign Master.
Joseph loved God with a love of union, keeping himself constantly united to God by prayer, meditation, the thought of Hist holy presence, and the most perfect conformity to the will of God.
Joseph loved God with a love of immolation which prompted him to perfect devotedness, enabling him to perform with joy the greatest and most numerous sacrifices. Joseph loved God with a love of perseverance that experienced neither decrease nor alteration. He always loved God with all his power to love, and constantly endeavored to love Him more and more.
BLESSED Saint Joseph, enkindle in my cold heart a spark of thy charity. May God be always the first and only object of my affections. Keep my soul always in sanctifying peace, and, if I should be so unhappy as to lose it, give my the strength to recover it immediately by a sincere repentance.
Grant me such a love of my God as will always keep me united to Him, and will be the principle and motive of all my actions. Grant me a generous love that will make me overcome all obstacles, and accept the greatest sacrifices rather than separate myself from the charity of my God. Amen.
Litany of St. Joseph
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of Heaven, Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost, Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, One God, Have mercy on us.
Holy Mary, pray for us.
Saint Joseph, pray for us.
Illustrious Son of David, pray for us.
Splendour of patriarchs, pray for us.
Spouse of the Mother of God, pray for us.
Chaste Guardian of the Virgin, pray for us.
Foster-father of the Son of God, pray for us.
Watchful Defender of Christ, pray for us.
Head of the Holy Family, pray for us.
Joseph most just, pray for us.
Joseph most pure, pray for us.
Joseph most prudent, pray for us.
Joseph most couragious, pray for us.
Joseph most obedient, pray for us.
Joseph most faithful, pray for us.
Mirror of patience, pray for us.
Lover of poverty, pray for us.
Model of all who labor, pray for us.
Glory of family life, pray for us.
Preserver of virgins, pray for us.
Mainstay of families, pray for us.
Solace of the afflicted, pray for us.
Hope of the sick, pray for us.
Patron of the dying, pray for us.
Terror of demons, pray for us.
Protector of the Holy Church, pray for us.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, Have mercy on us.
V. He hath made him master of His house,
R. And ruler of all His possessions.
Let us Pray.
O God, Who in Thine ineffable providence didst vouchsafe to choose Blessed Joseph to be the spouse of Thy most Holy Mother; grant, we beseech Thee, that we may be worthy to have him for our intercessor in heaven whom on earth we venerate as our Protector. Who livest and reignest world without end. Amen.
Ancient Prayer to St. Joseph
(This prayer was said to be founded in the 50 A.D. In the 1500′s it was sent by the Pope to Emperor Charles when he was going into battle. According to oral tradition, whoever reads this prayer, hears it, or carries it, will not fall into the hands of the enemy, nor be burned in any fire, nor will they be defeated in battle.)
O St. Joseph whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in thee all my interests and desires. O St. Joseph, do assist me by thy powerful intercession and obtain for me from thy Divine Son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord; so that having engaged here below thy heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of fathers. O St. Joseph I never weary contemplating thee and Jesus asleep in thy arms. I dare not approach while He reposes near thy 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.
Good St. Joseph protect us, protect the holy Church.
O good and kind St. Joseph guide us in the way of perfection.
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