Third Sunday of Lent. – On Inconstancy in the Ways of Virtue.

Third Sunday of Lent.

On Inconstancy in the Ways of Virtue.

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 Inconstancy in the Ways of Virtue.

And the last state of that man becometh worse than the first. . . . Luke xi. 26.

This parable of the impure spirit is, according to St. Chrysostom, a mystical prophecy of our Saviour, denouncing the final reprobation of the Jews, and the evils which were, in a short time, to befal Jerusalem. He seems to describe the wretched state to which that ungrateful city was so frequently reduced by the sins of their fathers, and to display the excess of his mercies in as frequently hastening to her relief. Hence, he leaves them to conclude, that Jerusalem will so often relapse into her infidelity, that God will at length entirely forsake her; and her last state will become worse than the first.

Let us apply this parable to ourselves. We, like the unfaithful Jerusalem, have been oftentimes delivered from the impure spirit; and as often have we again opened the doors of our hearts to him: we have oftentimes bewailed our offences; and as often have we dried up our tears by a repetition of the same crimes: we have oftentimes been disgusted with the world and its follies, and then we returned to the Lord; the next day, disgusted with piety, we demanded back our hearts, and restored them to the world: our whole lives have been a continued succession of confessions and relapses. – After so many ineffectual attempts, therefore, we have every reason to fear that God will at length entirely forsake us, and that our last state will become worse than the first. – Perhaps you may ask me, in what consists the danger of this state? We are not extortioners; we are not unjust; we are not adulterers: we fast; we frequent the sacraments; we are not like the rest of men; why then should we fear that the Lord will abandon us? Is he rendered more inexorable by the few sins which we commit, than by the multiplied enormities of others? I answer, that the resources which have frequently wrought the conversion of the most abandoned sinners, are too weak to complete the reformation of the fickle and inconstant Christian; and that of all characters, the character of inconstancy is the most remote from salvation. This truth I will endeavour to establish in this discourse.

1. Although the spirit of God breathes where He will, and can, by innumerable means, draw the rebellious heart of man to Himself; although He can work a change in the minds of the most voluptuous, and turn their schemes of pleasure into plans of repentance; there is, nevertheless, a class of men who have frustrated all the merciful designs of Providence, and of whose salvation, consequently, little hopes can be entertained.

This class is composed of those unsteady and fickle Christians, who are virtuous and worldly by turns; who relapse into their former crimes as often as they repent of them; who are, at one time, full of zeal for the honour and glory of God; and at another, full of ardour in the pursuit of vanity and pleasure.

Of the salvation of this numerous class of people, I say, little hope can be entertained. St. Paul says in express terms, that it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, have tasted also the heavenly gifts, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, have moreover tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, and are fallen away, to be again renewed to penance! Heb.vi. 4,5,6. Candour, indeed, obliges me to acknowledge, that by the word impossible, is meant, not an absolute impossibility in the sight of God, for the examples of David and St. Peter are proofs of the contrary, but only, that it is impossible to be renewed to penance by the ordinary means employed by Providence for reclaiming sinners. This position I will prove by a few conclusive arguments.

The first method employed by the Providence of God to withdraw the sinner from the evil of his ways, is to infuse into his soul a clear knowledge of the truth. – The children of the world are immersed in the shades of darkness: they are ignorant of the great duties of religion; they know not that their maxims are false, their prejudices unfounded, their customs dangerous and sinful. The moment, therefore, that the light of truth bursts upon their sight, they are struck with amazement; they awake, as it were, from a profound sleep; they are astonished to find that they are ignorant of the only thing which it behoved them to know; they are startled at the sight of the precipice, on the brink of which they had been sleeping. These first agitations of the soul are seconded by the powerful attractions of grace, and a sudden and permanent conversion is frequently the effect.

This plentiful source of benedictions, however, is closed to the inconstant Christian; or rather, it has been frequently opened to him, and his inconstancy has always prevented its effect. – He has oftentimes been enlightened, and as often has he replunged into darkness: he has oftentimes seen the error of his ways, and the danger to which his salvation is exposed, and as often has he stilled the tumults of his breast by a few works of piety, and returned to his former habits. – The first time, indeed, that the light of truth flashed on his soul, he felt the agitations which I have described; he was for a time fervent, and repentant. But now, that he has so often turned his back on his God, the returns of light are like the glimmerings of an expiring taper, the gleam is momentary and faint; it enlightens not his soul; he can barely discern the gross defilements of more heinous sins, and he vainly imagines that he removes them by a mechanical reception of the sacraments.

Much better would it have been, says an apostle, if he had never known the way of justice, than after having known it, to turn back, 2 Pet. ii. 21. – The Jews, on their return from captivity, melted into tears, when the book of the law, of which they had been so long deprived, was publicly read by the prophet Esdras. They struck their breasts, they dismissed their unlawful wives, and they regulated their conduct according to its maxims: so powerful is the force of truth not abused. But the daily lecture of this same law occasioned, in process of time, not a reform of conduct, but a hardness of heart. In the same manner, the most enlightened sinners, now a days, are generally the most incorrigible: they are familiar with every argument with which we enforce the necessity of repentance; they will speak with a flow of eloquence on the vanities of the world, and on the importance of salvation. But the knowledge of the truth seems to increase their tranquillity: they are veterans in the warfare against God; and, vainly supposing that it will be, at any time, as easy to love the truth, as it is to know the truth, they remain deliberately obstinate in the ways of sin; till at length they are surprised by the unexpected summons of the Almighty to render an account of their stewardship. – Depend upon it, my friends: there is every reason to be alarmed for the salvation of these enlightened sinners, who know every thing, and who practise nothing. Yes: it is impossible for those who have been enlightened, and who are fallen away, to be again renewed to penance.

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.

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Be assured that in the study of perfection, as in that of the sciences, any act animated by holy fervor makes more progress than a thousand others produced by sloth; so that what the careless man acquires with trouble, after many years, the fervent man readily obtains in a short time. St. Ignatius of Loyola, Letter 50.

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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.

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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.

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