Fourth Sunday of Lent. On Confession.

Fourth Sunday of Lent.

On Confession.

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 Confession.

Confess your sins one to another, and pray one for another that you may be saved . . . James v. 16.

On the preceding Sundays, my beloved brethren, I enlarged on the great, and manifold duties, which are imposed on you at this time: I described the extent of, and the necessity of complying with the precept of fasting: I admonished you, that the law is not confined to the exterior mortification of the flesh, but that you must rend your hearts, and be converted to the Lord by a true, and sincere reformation of life: and lastly I guarded you against the dangers of inconstancy, in order that your repentance might be permanent and effectual. – I will, now, enter upon the second part of my instructions for this time, and explain to you at large the preparation which is required for a worthy participation of the sacred mysteries at the conclusion of this season. I will begin with the sacrament of penance, and it shall form the subject of this, and the following discourse.

It is not my intention to enter into a controversial discourse on the institution of this sacrament, because such a disquisition would be unnecessary before a catholic audience. But I propose to discuss the conditions, on the due and faithful performance of which the whole fruit of the sacrament depends. This, perhaps, may appear, at first sight, as unnecessary as the subject of its institution, on account of the instructions which you have continued to receive on that head even from your childhood. But if you reflect on the many times you have presented yourselves at the sacred tribunal, and the little fruit that you have hitherto reaped, you must conclude that there are some deficiencies on your part; and that it is the duty of the pastor to scrutinize them, and to prescribe the remedies. On the part of God there can be no deficiency: the blood of Jesus is as powerful now, as at any former period. All the defects, therefore, must be laid entirely to your charge, and in compliance with my duty I will examine them, and lay before you the means of effecting their cure. – I shall reduce them to three heads, by observing, first, that you either acquire not a perfect knowledge of the state of your interior; or secondly, that you confess not your sins with sufficient candour, and explicitness; or lastly, that you are deficient in the most indispensable part, which is that of contrition.

1. Man, generally speaking, is a mystery to himself. Being influenced in all his decisions, and guided in all his actions by self-love, he always views his own conduct on the most favourable side; and is generally the last person who discovers the faults, into which this deceitful prompter has beguiled him.

This fatal ignorance of the true state of our souls can be dispelled only by two means; first, by a deliberate and attentive examination of our conscience; and secondly, by a strict attention to the relative duties of our state.

In the first place, the whole life of a Christian ought to be devoted to self-examination. We must scrutinize every thought; every word; every action: we must not desist even for one hour. For we experience such a continual and rapid succession of desires, of jealousies, of fears, of hopes, of troubles, of hatred, and love, that if the thread is but once broken in our recollection, we are instantly lost: if we cease for an instant to follow the secret windings of the passions in our souls, we know neither their extent nor their consequences: all is confusion on account of the multiplicity of things; our conscience is formed into an abyss which we cannot fathom; the surface alone is open to our view.

It is an error, therefore, to suppose that, after a long time spent in tepidity, and in a dissipated and worldly life, an hour or two spent in examination is sufficient to discover the true state of your interior. You must be habituated to give a daily account of yourselves to your own souls: you must enter into judgment on every action; if not frequently in the day, at least, during the silence of the night, after the labours, fatigues, and pastimes of the day are concluded; you must, like the Royal Prophet, (Ps. cxviii. 109.), place your souls in your hands before the Lord, and weigh in his sight every action that you have performed. By this means alone, can you be familiarized with yourselves, and be disposed to carry to the sacred tribunal hearts that have been already judged.

But, is it in this manner that, you prepare yourselves for the sacrament of penance? The generality of Christians live in such a state of dissipation that they dare not look into their own hearts: the closet of their interior is a place of melancholy and sadness, from which they fly with precipitation; they dread the idea of being left alone to their own reflections: they avoid with solicitude every thought about their past disorders. You, perhaps, my beloved, are of this unhappy number, and therefore I will ask you; whether it is possible that, in the space of one hour, you should be able to explore the intricate windings of your passions? Whether it is possible that so many unjust desires, so many criminal indulgences, so much tepidity, so many distractions, so many compliances with self-will, so many injurious words, so many reflections on your neighbours, such frequent hatreds and animosities, so many sinful thoughts, so many crimes which you have occasioned in others, the greatest part of which were sedulously erased from your mind almost as soon as committed. Whether it is possible, I say, that such an abyss should be so suddenly enlightened, and that such a disordered state of conscience, to which you have hitherto been strangers, should so suddenly be made known, and become, as it were, familiar to you?

That such a thing is impossible you must readily acknowledge, consequently you yourselves must draw this conclusion; that the person who neglects the sacrament of penance for any length of time, and is inattentive to the daily examination of his conscience, must necessarily be deficient in the knowledge of his interior, and ought to attribute, in part, to this cause the little fruit which he has hitherto reaped from his confessions.

I must observe, likewise, that a very notable defect arises from another quarter: you examine not the sins you commit in relation to the various capacities in which you stand: as a parent, for instance, – as a private individual, – as a tradesman, – as a servant, and so on: you attend only to personal failings in general terms, and omit the relative duties of your state and calling.

As parents, you are bound to consider your children, not as properly belonging to you, but as a sort of trust committed to your care by the providence of God. Him you are to consider as their Father, and yourselves, as merely occupying, for a time, the place of guardians.

The duties of this guardianship are manifold, and great. It is incumbent on you to bring them up in the fear and love of their heavenly Father; to prevent their entrance into the broad road of the world; to lead them by the hand into the narrow path of virtue, and piety; to convince them of the vanity, and emptiness of all things here below; and to warm their innocent bosoms with the flames of charity, and divine love. These are your duties in quality of parents – duties which are indispensable, and incommutable.

Nevertheless, how many are there, who confine their solicitude for their children to earthly things; who leave the task of instructing them in piety to their pastors, and then frustrate by their own example the instructions which they have received; who invite, and even force them to take part with the world, at the time that they commission their directors to solicit them to take part with Jesus; how many, I say, are there of this description! and how few who make this the subject of their examination! – Again, you have many duties to perform in respect to your servants. You are their father, and pastor, as long as they are under your command: and if you neglect their spiritual welfare, you become, as the scripture expresses it, worse than infidels: and do you ever examine yourselves on this head?

Moreover, as members of the body of the faithful, you owe to your brethren the example of an edifying, and irreprehensible life. The more exalted you are, the stricter is the obligation; because your example is either more efficacious, or more pernicious in proportion to your rank. – As members of the true Church, it is a duty incumbent on you, to shine like lights to those who sit in the shades of error, and infidelity; to display before them, by the purity of your lives, the holiness of your religion; and to convince them, if possible, of the truth of your faith, by your strict adherence to the rules of the gospel. But where are the Catholics whose lives are stricter, whose morals are more evangelical, whose example is more edifying than that of their unbelieving brethren? And yet, this subject never enters into their examination.

Again, if you are engaged in business, you are bound to follow the strictest line of justice; to be scrupulous in your dealings; and, if in trade, to see that all the orders which you receive are properly executed, and that every article, in point of durability and real worth, is answerable to the price you set upon it, and to the intentions of your employer. – If you are in service, you are bound to be exact in the performance of your duties; to avoid extravagance, and waste; to confine your perquisites within the bounds of allowance; and neither to give away, nor to assume to yourselves more than the will of your master has consented to. – These are your duties, and these must all form a part of your examination. But, alas! after you have read over the catalogue of sins in your prayer books, you conclude that your examination has been sufficiently minute? Although you enter into a new state, although it may happen that your obligations are increased, that you are entrusted with five talents, instead of two, or one, your examination is still the same as it was before. – Ah! this is not acting like disciples of Jesus: this is not judging yourselves as you will hereafter be judged.

The just man is minute in every point; he approaches to the sacred tribunal with fear, and trembling; he accuses himself in the bitterness of his soul of the smallest imperfections; he discovers even in his works of piety matter for accusation, and causes for penance ; he is afraid that the involuntary feelings of nature were free acts of his will; he imagines that he discovers in the first motions to sin, the guilt of having fully consented to it, although at the very time he acquired merit, by an immediate resistance; he is diffident even of the experience of his director, when he endeavours to expel his fears; and, like St. Peter in the excess of his prayer at Joppa, he fancies that he beholds objects forbidden by the law, even when an angel from heaven condemns his scruples, and commands him to eat.

And whence arises this difference? The one keeps a constant watch over his heart; the other neglects examination till he commences his preparation for confession. The one judges himself according to the maxims of the gospel; the other is influenced by the prejudices of self-love. The one examines himself strictly on all the duties of his state; the other looks no farther than to the open violations of the law, of which he knows neither the extent, nor the consequences. It is thus, O God, that thou enlightenest the hearts of the just, and that thou punishest the crimes of the worldling by permitting him to conceal them from his own eyes.

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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Although it is sovereignly praiseworthy and useful to serve God by pure love, we should not less earnestly commend the fear of His Divine Majesty. St. Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises.

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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, having 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 loving 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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