Third Sunday of Lent.
On Inconstancy in the Ways of Virtue. – 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 Inconstancy in the Ways of Virtue. – continued.
3. In the third place, the repenting sinner is confirmed in his resolutions by the sacraments. The awful solemnity of the tribunal of penance, the shame and confusion occasioned by the declaration of his crimes, make an impression on his mind which is not easily effaced. – But what advantage does the inconstant Christian derive from this plentiful and last resource? Do these things make an impression on him? No: he is familiarized with confusion; he is hardened against impression: he changes the waters of life into waters of malediction; he profanes the sacraments, Yes, I say, he profanes the sacraments; and I appeal to your candour for the truth of my assertion. Can it be said that the man who is constantly sinning and constantly repenting; who rises up from the unclean bed of vice, merely to shake himself and lay down again; who says, I have sinned, in order to sin again with greater freedom; can it be said, that such a man is received every time into favour, and made acceptable to God? Ought it not rather to be said, that he mocks, that he insults the Almighty, and that he receives the sacraments to his greater condemnation?
I pretend not, however, to insinuate that a worthy participation of the sacraments will fix the soul unchangeably in a state of justification; or, that we must conclude that we have been guilty of a profanation, if we fall again into our former sins. But my object is, to prove that the man who is truly justified in the sight of God, retains the deep impression for a length of time; and if he falls again, that he falls not immediately, but continues steadfast until time and repeated temptations have obliterated the impression, – until many trivial faults have led him on by degrees to the fatal precipice; for no one passes on a sudden from a state pf justice to a state of sin.
A true conversion is not the work of a moment. It requires floods of tears, long prayers, painful self-denials, and perseverance in good works. Now, what a person has acquired with such difficulty and labour, he will not easily part with: he will not on a sudden pass from a state of justice to a state of sin.
A true conversion is a work of firmness and solidity. It forms the sinner into a new creature; it changes the inclinations; it renews the whole man; it builds the house upon a rock. Now, the first breath of temptation cannot destroy that which is capable of withstanding the violence of the united elements. The house that falls as soon as the waves beat, and the winds blow, is built on quick sand.
A true conversion is the work of thought. A person deliberates before he undertakes it – he hesitates, – he trembles – he shrinks – he wills, and he wills not – he reckons up the obstacles, and calculates their effects – he is lost in the multitude and variety of his reflections. Now, a work that is undertaken after such mature consideration, certainly will not be abandoned in an instant.
A great change, therefore, must be wrought, when the sinner is duly prepared for the sacrament, and really absolved in the sight of God. You, therefore, of my present hearers, who are addicted to mortal sin, you may conclude, that, if you are the same after confession as you were before; if you are as eager in the same criminal pursuits; if you feel the same repugnance to fasts, watchings, prayer, and retirement; if you take no precautions to guard against future sins; you, 1 say, may conclude, that as the finger of God is not visible in your conversion, the devil is not cast out of your soul. No; my God! when Thou recallest a sinner from his evil ways, the effects of Thy grace are durable; it is not received and forfeited again almost at the same moment.
For this reason, the pretended repentance of these inconstant souls has been always treated by the saints as public insults offered to the most sacred mysteries of religion. They forbad them to approach the altar, they considered them as unclean, before whom it was unlawful to throw the pearls of the Sanctuary – the Holy of Holies. They even suspected the reality of that Christian’s repentance who relapsed only once into his former sins. This, however, would be an excess of severity in these times: an excess, as detrimental to religion, by deterring the faithful from their duty, as a criminal compliance would be in admitting all indiscriminately. – It is, nevertheless, an indubitable truth, that the body of the Lord should not be given to those who have repeatedly profaned it; that reliance should not be placed on promises which have been repeatedly broken; that absolution should not be pronounced, when there is every probability that it will draw down the maledictions of heaven, and strengthen the bad habits of the false penitent, instead of procuring his discharge from God.
Of all characters, therefore, my beloved friends, the character of inconstancy is the most unfit for the kingdom of heaven. Hardened sinners, as I said above, are frequently converted by the means I have described. But these means are insufficient to procure the same effect on the inconstant. Extraordinary means are necessary; and extraordinary means are seldom resorted to by the Almighty. – This class of men, nevertheless, are of all others the least aware of their dangerous state. They are lulled into a false security by the sentiments of piety which, from time to time, accompany them to the altar. The unbounded licentiousness of so many, in the present age, who live without God, without religion, without sacraments, sets off to advantage their exterior pious, and regular deportment. They are satisfied, because they are not yet arrived to the same pitch of irreligion and immorality. They applaud themselves, because they are regular, at the place of worship, and frequent the sacraments. They thank God in their hearts, like the Pharisee, that they are not like the rest of men, Luke xviii. 11. This comparison flatters their pride, and increases their false security; whereas their whole religion, their whole piety, is no more than the reiterated profanation of the most tremendous mysteries of the Deity.
If there are any in this assembly, who live in these alternatives of grace and sin; who will neither renounce their passions, nor their devotions; let me entreat them to come to a determination. You cannot serve both God and Baal. If Baal be your God, as a prophet said to the Jews, follow him; but if the Lord be your God, adore him alone. Why these pleasures, and these tears? Either dry up your tears, and receive your consolation in this world; or seek that consolation, that pleasure alone which proceeds from virtue and innocence. Have pity on your own souls: come to a determination: fix a solid peace in your interior: embrace the mercies of God, which are offered you at this time. – Perhaps your inconstancy is hastening to a fatal conclusion. Enter, therefore, the paths of virtue without delay; fix the foundation of your new building on the firm basis of charity; and be no longer like those men, of whom our Lord speaks, who believed in him only for a time. By this means, you will be entitled to the crown of glory and immortality in heaven, which is promised to all who persevere faithfully to the end.
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.
If you wish to advance in the love of God, speak of it; for pious conversations are to charity what the wind is to the flame.. – St. Ignatius of Loyola, Letter of April 15, 1543.
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.
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