How useful an exercise it is to think of God’s Presence.
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.
How useful an exercise it is to think of God’s Presence.
The exercise of God’s presence amid the distractions continually soliciting our attention, is so closely connected with that of prayer, whether mental or vocal, that mental prayer may be truly said to consist essentially in keeping ourselves in God’s presence by an effort of the mind alone; and further, that prayer of petition is nothing else than keeping the presence of God before ourselves, and by an act of the mind breaking forth into fervent petition. But more than this nothing so effectually helps us to success in mental or vocal prayer than to have kept in the presence of God throughout the whole course of the day: for as a log of wood, if thoroughly dry – and thus in some sort prepared – kindles as soon as laid upon the fire, so a spiritual man, who has maintained throughout the day a certain degree of fervour by the exercise of God’s presence no sooner applies himself to prayer – which is the furnace, so to say, of divine love – than his fervour becomes more intense and the flames of charity burst forth within his heart. Hence, it will not be out of place, if we speak in the present Chapter of that sense of God’s presence which we should ever strive to keep in the midst of indifferent or distracting pursuits, because the realization of the divine presence is one of the most effectual means of speedily attaining to Christian Perfection.
God is ever present to us, since He abides in all things by His essence, His presence, and His power; but we cease to be present to Him, when, forgetful of His Divine Majesty, we allow our minds to be filled with vain fancies, or to be absorbed in the shadows of earth. Hence it has been well said by St. Bernard, in his treatise “On Consideration” addressed to Pope Eugenius: “Bear in mind, High Priest of God, that so often as you give yourself to the contemplation of things visible and earthly, so often do you withdraw from God” (St. Bernard De Consid.). Whence it follows, that the presence of God, of which we are now speaking, is nothing else than the thought and remembrance of God; by which, in every place, and in every occupation, we consider Him as present to us and turn to Him with the affections of our soul.
This sense of the presence of God is so effectual a means of acquiring perfection that, as we may gather from the teachings and examples recorded in Holy writ – it alone would seem to be sufficient to lead to the loftiest summit of perfection. God said to Abraham, “Walk before Me, and be perfect” (Gen. xvii, i), as if to say: thou hast but to remain in union with Me, and I, by My Almighty power, will remove every obstacle from thee in the path to perfection. And indeed, what else can be required of a man, that he may not fall short of the perfection suitable to his state of life, than that he do each of his actions as it should be done? Now Solomon says, that he who keeps God ever present to his mind, will attain to this because the Lord will then take care to guide every action of his in such a manner that it will not fail in its due perfection. “Have confidence in the Lord with all thy heart, and lean not upon thy own prudence. In all thy ways think on Him, and He will direct thy steps” (Prov. iii, 5, 6). Hence, too, the Royal Psalmist tells us that in order to be firm and constant in well-doing we must always seek the face of the Lord. “Seek ye the Lord, and be strengthened: seek His face evermore. Remember His marvellous works which He hath done; His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth” (Ps. civ, 4, 5). Now St. Augustine in his commentary on this verse interprets the face of God to mean His presence. In short, God declares most unequivocally, by the mouth of the prophet Micheas, that our goodness and perfection depend upon walking in His presence. “I will show thee, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requireth of thee, verily to do judgment, and to love mercy, and to walk solicitous with thy God” (Mich, vi, 8). And observe the expression solicitous whereby we are warned that the Divine presence is to be sought after with great diligence and earnestness, as that one thing upon which our progress in virtue and our perfection mainly depend.
If we desire to be further persuaded of this truth, let us observe that, when great servants of God are praised by the Holy Ghost Himself for their eminent holiness, frequent mention is made in the Old Testament of their having spent all their lives in God’s presence. We have seen how, in order to train him to perfection, Abraham was directed, by God Himself, to walk in His presence. It is also clearly stated in the sacred text that Isaac followed in the footsteps of his saintly father, and walked ever in the sight of the Lord.
Josephus, in his “History of the Antiquities of the Jews” tells us that the guileless Abel made use of this very means to tend to perfection, and that by keeping God before his eyes in all his doings he manfully practised all kinds of virtue. Of Noe we are told by the Holy Spirit, that he “was a just and perfect man in his generation, and that he walked with God” (Gen. vi, 9). Tobias, in his instructions to his much-loved son, lays down, as a most important precept, to have the remembrance of God ever in his mind, “all the days of thy life have God in thy mind,” (Tob. iv, 6). He who left so magnificent a spiritual legacy to his son, and who, in order that the memory of it might last throughout life, wished that, of all the admonitions given, this one should hold the first place in importance, must certainly himself have always acted upon it. The pious king Ezechias while striving to touch the heart of God by prayer and to move Him to restore his former health, urges, as that claim which seemed to him the greatest he possessed to the favour of the Almighty, that he had ever walked in the sight of the Lord. “I beseech Thee, O Lord, remember how I have walked before Thee in truth, and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in Thy sight” (Isaias xxxviii, 3). It were folly to doubt that the holy King David lived continually in the exercise of the Divine presence, as he himself repeatedly asserts it in many of his Psalms: for instance: “I set the Lord always in my sight, for He is at my right hand, that I be not moved” (Ps. xv, 8). And again: “My eyes are ever towards the Lord, for He shall pluck my feet out of the snare” (Ps. xxiv, 15). It must, then, of necessity, be inferred that until God points out another road to perfection, it behoves us to walk in His Divine presence, if we desire to be perfect; for this is the path trodden by the saints of the Old Law, and by those especially whom God has placed upon this earth to be models, teachers, and guides to all mankind in all that concerns the perfect life.
The reason why God’s presence should be a source of every spiritual grace is most evident. Everything is by so much the more perfect as it approaches nearer to the principle and source of its being. Thus, that water is the clearest which is drawn at the fountain-head. That heat is the most intense which is nearest to the fire from which it is produced. The closer a ray is to the sun from which it proceeds, the brighter does it shine. And on the contrary, the further water is from the wellspring the more discoloured it becomes; the intensity of heat is diminished in proportion as its distance from the fire is increased; the ray becomes dimmer in proportion to its remoteness from the sun. The same thing happens to us when we draw nigh unto God; not indeed physically – for in Him we live, move, and have our being – but morally, by making Him present to our minds through our holy thoughts and devout affections. How useful an Exercise to think of it 103 The closer our union with Him, the more do we advance in perfection; while, on the other hand, the further our minds and hearts wander from Him, the more imperfect and wretched do we become. A branch must remain united to the trunk in order to bear fruit. The body, to produce vital acts, must be united to the soul: for, what the trunk is to the branch, the soul is to the body, inasmuch as the soul is the source and cause of the operations of our body.
Thus too, if the Christian would produce perfect works and bear fruits of eternal life, he must, as far as in him lies, remain united to God by his mind and have God ever present in his thoughts since God alone is the primary and main cause of all our spiritual progress. This reasoning and the accompanying comparisons are all borrowed from St. Gregory of Nazianzen, who, taking his stand on this solid foundation, goes so far as to say that we should think of God as often as we draw our breath. He concludes by affirming that when we have acquired this habit, we have, as it were, done everything, and our perfection is, in a manner, placed out of the reach of danger (Orat. De Cura Pauperibus praestanda, et Or. I de Theod.).
St. Dorotheus relates that the first lesson he gave his disciple Dositheus, and which he besought him to engrave upon his mind in letters of gold, was this: “Never let thy heart lose sight of God, or forget that He is ever present to thee, and that thou standest always in His sight” (In Vita Dosithei). Dositheus obeyed, and in his journeys, at his meals, in his daily toil, he ever kept before his mind’s eye this Divine presence, nor did he lose sight of it in the many serious and very dangerous illnesses which he suffered in the course of his religious life. By this means (St. Dorotheus adds) from being a dissolute soldier and debauched youth, steeped in vices and lost in the pursuit of the vanities of the world, he became in the short space of the five years which he spent in the cloister, a saintly young man and a perfect religious (Scaramelli, Vol I, Section i, Article vii, Chapter I).
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.
We do not always rejoice in consolations; but all is for our good, whether God gives or denies it. – St. Ignatius of Loyola, Letter 8.
March Devotion: St. Joseph
Virtue to practice: Mortification
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.
To thee, O blessed Joseph, do we have recourse in our tribulation, and, implored the help of thy thrice-holy Spouse, we confidently invoke thy patronage also. By that charity wherewith thou was united to the immaculate Virgin Mother of God, and by that fatherly affection with which thou didst embrace the Child Jesus, we beseech thee and we humbly pray, that thou wouldst look graciously upon the inheritance which Jesus Christ hath purchased by His Blood, and assist us in our needs by thy power and strength. Most watchful guardian of the Holy Family, protect the chosen people of Jesus Christ; keep far from us most lovely father, all blight of error and corruption: mercifully assist us from heaven, most mighty defender, in this our conflict with the powers of darkness; and, even as of old thou didst rescue the Child Jesus from the supreme peril of His life, so now defend God’s Holy Church from the snares of the enemy and from all adversity; keep us one and all under thy continual protection, that we may be supported by thine example and thine assistance, may be enabled to lead a holy life, die a happy death and come at last to the possession of everlasting blessedness in heaven. Amen.
An indulgence of 3 years. An indulgence of 7 years during the month of October, when said after the recitation of the Rosary and on any Wednesday throughout the year. A plenary indulgence once a month on the usual conditions, If this prayer is devoutly said daily (Leo XIII, Encyclical Aug. 15, 1889; S.C. Ind., Sept. 21, 1889; S.P.Ap., May 17, 1927; Dec. 13, 1935; and March 10, 1941).
Good St. Joseph protect us, protect the holy Church.
O good and kind St. Joseph guide us in the way of perfection.
Copyright © 2013 – 2014. Holy Cross Publications. All rights reserved.