How useful an exercise it is to think of God’s Presence, further explained.
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, further explained.
“Seek ye the Lord, and be strengthened, seek His face evermore” (Ps. civ). St. Austin says, that the face and presence of God are one and the same thing; so that to seek continually God’s face, is to walk always in His presence, by turning all the desires and motions of our heart towards Him. Hesichius and St. Bonaventure affirm, “that to employ ourselves continually in the exercise of the presence of God, is to begin in this life to enjoy the felicity of the blessed in the next.” For though on earth we cannot clearly see Him as He really is as the blessed do in heaven; yet we may at least imitate them, as much as our frailty will permit, by placing ourselves continually in His presence, and by acts of love and adoration. For His goodness was not merely satisfied with having created us to enjoy Him eternally in heaven; but would also wish us to enjoy a part of His beatitude even upon earth, by always walking in His presence, and continually adoring, and beholding Him through the dimness and obscurity of faith, which makes us at present see Him through a glass in a dark manner, but then face to face (I Cor. xiii, 12). “The sight we have of God at present, is that which causes our merit, but that which we shall then have, will become our recompense” (Hesich. in cent. ult.).
That we may, therefore, merit so great a reward, let us continually do what will make us obtain it; let us view God in all our actions, and as much as we can, let us always have Him present before our eyes. The angels who take care to guard and defend us, acquit themselves in such a manner of their charge, that they never lose the sight of God. “I seemed indeed to eat and to drink with you, but I use an invisible meat and drink, which cannot be seen by men” (Tob. xii, 1 9).
The angels nourish themselves with God; and the Son of God Himself tells us, “that their angels in heaven always see the face of My Father who is in heaven” (Matt, xviii, 10).
Let us endeavour to imitate them in this, that whether we eat, drink, or converse with men, it may appear that we have no other entertainment or nourishment but God. Let us continually endeavour to partake of this invisible food, and entertain ourselves with what we cannot see; and this nourishment and entertainment consist, in always beholding God, in always loving Him, and in always conforming to His Divine Will.
The saints and patriarchs of the Old Testament took very particular care to walk always in God’s presence, and the Royal Prophet was not content with praising Him only seven times a day, but he says – “I set the Lord always in my sight” (Ps. xv, 8). It was, in fine, so familiar and customary a practice with them to place themselves in God’s presence, that they commonly had no other way of giving expression to their feelings than to say “The Lord liveth; the God of Israel, in Whose sight I stand” (3 Kings xvii, I). And, without doubt, their great attention to this devotion proceeded from the perfect knowledge they had of the great advantage of walking in God’s presence, and of thinking that He continually beheld them. This alone is sufficient to oblige us to be very particular in all our actions; for what servant is there so insolent as to despise his master’s orders, at least in his presence? But God is our Master; He continually beholds us; He is our judge; He is all-powerful; He can make the earth to open, and cause hell to swallow us up, as He has several times done to those that displeased Him or provoked Him to anger. Who, therefore, dares to be so bold as to provoke Him? When I attentively consider, O Lord, says St. Austin, that You have Your eyes continually fixed upon me, and that night and day You keep a continual watch over me, with so great a care as if, neither in heaven, nor in earth, You had any other creature to govern besides myself – when I think You behold all my actions, that You penetrate my most hidden and secret thoughts, and that all my desires are exposed to Your view, I feel myself filled with confusion. Without doubt they ought to impose upon themselves a strict obligation to live well, who consider that all they do is done in the presence of a Judge who observes all, and from whom nothing can be concealed. If the presence of a grave person is sufficient to keep us to our duty, what effect ought not the presence of the infinite majesty of God produce in us?
St. Jerome, upon the reproach which God made to Jerusalem, “because it had forgot God” (Ezech. xxii, 12), takes notice that “the remembrance of God banishes all sorts of sins” (St. Jerome, Lib. de Fide Resur. t. 4). The same St. Jerome adds in another place, “that when we find ourselves tempted to commit any sin, if we would think that God beholds us, and that He is present with us, we should never consent to anything that were displeasing to Him” (Lib. de Fide Resur. t. 4). No other consideration than this was needed to oblige the sinner Thais to change her life, and to do penance in the remotest part of the desert. “Doth not He consider my ways, and number all my steps?” (Job xxxi, 4). This being so, who dares be so bold as to sin, or to do anything that is displeasing to Him?
On the contrary, the ruin and damnation of the wicked proceed from nothing else but because they forget that God is present and that He beholds them. “There is none that seeth me” (Isaias xlvii, 10). St. Jerome takes notice of this when commenting upon the twenty-second Chapter of Ezechial, where the prophet, after a long enumeration of the crimes of Jerusalem, reproaches her in the end with her forgetfulness of God as the cause of all those disorders she had fallen into. A horse without a bridle casts himself headlong into a precipice, and a ship without a rudder cannot but perish. A man also that has not the bridle of God’s presence, and is not governed by His fear, runs headlong to his own destruction, and abandons himself to all irregular passions. “God is not before his eyes, his ways are filthy at all times” (Ps. ix, 26).
The presence of God is that sovereign and universal remedy that St. Basil prescribes for overcoming all the temptations of the devil and all the repugnances of nature. So that, if you desire a short and easy means to gain perfection, and such a one as contains within itself the force and efficacy of all others, make use of this very powerful means which God Himself gave to Abraham, “Walk before me, and be perfect” (Gen. xvii, I). Hereupon we must take notice, that though the text says “be perfect,” yet here, as in many other places of Scripture, the future is expressed by the imperative, thereby to let us see the infallibility of the success. It is, therefore, a thing so very certain, that you will become perfect by setting God before your eyes, that from the very moment you apply yourself with all attention to His presence, you may account that you are perfect. For as the stars borrow all their lustre and virtue from the sun, so the just, who are stars in God’s Church, derive from His presence, and from their continual elevation of heart to Him, all that light with which they interiorly burn before Him, and exteriorly before man; and also all the virtue they possess, in order to promote the general good of the whole world. There is nothing can better express the need we have always of God’s presence than this simile. See how the moon depends upon the sun; see how necessary it is for her to keep her face always to it. Her light varies according as her position with respect to the sun varies: she acts not upon sub-lunary bodies, in proportion to the light communicated to her by the sun; so that this action increases or diminishes according as her borrowed light increases or diminishes; and as soon as anything interposes between the sun and the moon, the moon presently loses its light and force. The same thing happens between the soul and God, Who is the sun; and it is for this reason that the Saints so carefully recommend to us that we have the presence of God constantly before our eyes.
St. Ambrose and St. Bernard, speaking of the diligence we ought to have in calling it continually to mind, say: “That, as there is not a moment in which man enjoys not the effects of God’s goodness, so there ought not to be a moment but he should have God present in his thoughts” (Lib. de dig, con. humanæ, c 2). And St. Bernard adds in another place, that in all our thoughts and actions we ought to remember the presence of God, and make account that all the time is lost in which we think not of Him” (Bern, in Spec. Monach.). God never forgets us; it is very just, then, that we should endeavour never to forget Him. St. Austin, upon these words of the Psalmist, “I will fix my eyes upon Thee” (Ps. xxxi, 8), cries out: “I will never withdraw my eyes from beholding You: because You never take off Yours from me; I will imitate the prophet” (St. Aug. sup, Ps. xxxi).
St. Gregory of Nazianzen says, “that we ought not to breathe as often as we ought to think of God” (Greg, in I, Orat. Theol.). For as we every moment stand in need of breathing to refresh our heart, by tempering the natural heat and preserving our life; so we stand in need of having recourse to God by prayer, to repress the irregular heat of concupiscence that incites us continually to sin, and thereby leads us to death. (Rodriguez, Christian Perfection, Vol. I, Sixth Treatise, 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.
If you look into it, you will see that in times past, when you fell into many sins, and were less desirous to serve our Lord, you were neither tempted nor troubled as much by this serpent, who is ever seeking to disturb us. For then your mode of life pleased Him, while now He cannot endure the change in you. – St. Ignatius of Loyola, Letter 13.
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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