May 15th.–Instruction 15. The Return from Egypt.
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.
May 15th.–Instruction 15. The Return from Egypt.
“Joseph took the Child and His Mother and came into the land of Israel.”–St. Matt. ii. 21.
The evangelist St. Matthew relates that at the death of Herod the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in Egypt and said to him: “Arise and take the Child and His Mother, and go into the land of Israel; for they are dead that sought the life of the Child.” Joseph at once took the Child and His Mother, and returned to the land of Israel. He had learned, however, that Archelaus, the eldest son of Herod, still reigned in Judea in the place of his father, and Joseph feared to return to the same place. But God still watches over the Holy Family, and again sends His angel to warn Joseph. Then he went to dwell in the city of Nazareth, that the words of the prophet might be fulfilled: “He will be called a Nazarene.” The Gospel always maintains an admirable simplicity when recounting the different circumstances in the life of Jesus and Mary. Joseph is always regarded as the head of the family. The angels, as messengers of heaven, speak to Joseph as the principal. Mary contents herself in obeying the commands of her spouse. Therefore, to-day we will consider her simplicity, her generosity, and her perseverance and obedience.
1. Her simplicity.–The characteristic of truly humble and simple souls is to blindly obey all that is commanded them and which is not sinful. It suffices for them to see God in the person of their superiors, to promptly execute the commands which they receive. The obedience of Mary to St. Joseph has always been marked with this character. Never has the least observation escaped her lips, even under the most trying circumstances. In obedience to the edict of Augustus she goes to Bethlehem, and follows her holy spouse without the slightest pretext concerning the length of the journey or the difficulties attending it. In a dream Joseph is directed to fly at once into Egypt. It would have been easy for Mary to say that the apparition of an angel during the night was only an illusion. Was it really necessary, to escape the hands of Herod, to undertake a journey of two months? Was it not an easy matter to seek a refuge in some country not so distant?
But no; Mary places herself entirely under the direction of her spouse, because she sees in him the guide and the protector whom God has given her. Joseph conducts her to Egypt, and she cheerfully goes there. It is true that it is a strange country, inhabited by pagans. How shall he take her and her Child, or how will he provide for them the indispensable necessaries of life; She leaves everything to the care of Joseph. And how long must she remain in this exile? These are questions she does not even think of asking. When, after seven years of exile, the angel commands Joseph to return to Judea, Mary returns with him without recalling the fatigues and privations of the first journey. It is with this simplicity we should obey those who, on the part of God, command us, and who are charged with our guidance. Our parents and our superiors hold the place of God for us; we should therefore be obedient to them as Mary was to Joseph.
2. Her generosity.–Mary in her obedience manifested the greatest generosity. It is easy to understand how severe it was for the weak and timid Virgin to undertake this long and fatiguing journey, and to seek a refuge in an idolatrous country and amongst a people who were naturally hostile to the Jews. She has not time to prepare even what is necessary in their hurried departure. With her holy spouse she journeys through the vast and unknown solitudes without assistance, without a refuge.
And if she succeeds in concealing the divine Infant from the fury of Herod, will she find this land of Egypt more hospitable, will the life of Jesus be more secure? What difficulties, what agony, what fears present themselves! Mary, however, is not discouraged. She does not hesitate for an instant, but with fullest confidence in God she generously undertakes the painful journey. During her long sojourn in Egypt she patiently endures obscurity, poverty, and labor. Well does she know that Jesus is the King of kings, and that the Pharaos of Egypt are only her subjects, since she is the Mother of the Ruler of men; nevertheless, she submits to the magistrates, the officers, and the common employees of the country. In a word, the generosity of Mary’s obedience has no limit. Oh! what lessons for us, who find so much difficulty in submitting to the most legitimate precepts, and who are so inclined to discuss the rights and authority of those who command us! Let us imitate the humility of Mary, and it will be easy for us to be obedient, even as she was, in the most trying and difficult circumstances of life.
3. Her perseverance in obedience.–Mary’s obedience was as continuous as it was simple and generous. The dignity of the Mother of God placed the Blessed Virgin not only above the laws, but above the makers of the laws. Still her love for obedience was so great that this virtue dominated every act of her life. When a child she knew the will of her parents only. In the temple she recognized in the priests and the sacred ministers the authority of God Himself. Her marriage with St. Joseph was only the consequence of her perfect submission to the Holy Spirit. At Bethlehem, on the way to exile, in Egypt, at Nazareth, we can only admire her perfect submission to Joseph, the head of the family. Later on her divine Son will speak of her, and then He will praise her obedience to the word of God. “Blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it.” Oh! how the continuous perseverance of Mary condemns our carelessness and weakness and indifference! We are obedient when the duties to be performed are not difficult; we are obedient in moments of zeal and fervor; we submit for a time, and soon we forget our good resolutions and most sacred promises. Our life is very far from being an act of constant obedience. It is, on the contrary, a continual revolt against the commandments of God. Let us ask of Mary to obtain for us, by her intercession, the grace of being faithful as she was in our duty of obedience. Then, when we shall have imitated her on earth, we will merit to contemplate her in heaven.
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.
Of following Christ, and despising all the vanities of the world.
In this world we have but one interest, that of our salvation, and no one can be saved but in Jesus Christ and through Jesus Christ; faith in his word, obedience to his commandments, imitation of his virtues,–that is life, there is none other: everything besides is vanity; and I have seen, says the wise man, that “man has no longer anything of all the labours with which he wears himself out under the sun.” Riches, pleasures, grandeur; what are all these when the body is cast into the grave, and when the soul departs into eternity? Think on these things from this day forward, nay from this very minute, for to-morrow perhaps it may be too late. Work while the light of day lasts; hasten to collect together a treasure which can never perish: the night cometh when no man can work (John ix. 4)· Barren desires will not save you; it is work that God requires. Therefore imitate Jesus if you wish to live eternally with Jesus. – Thomas à Kempis – Imitation of Christ Bk I, Ch I reflection.
May Devotion: The Blessed Virgin Mary
Virtues to practice: Meekness, purity, the spirit of poverty
O holy Mary, my Mistress, into thy blessed trust and special keeping, into the bosom of thy tender mercy, this day, every day of my life and at the hour of my death, I commend my soul and body; to thee I entrust all my hopes and consolations, all my trials and miseries, my life and the end of my life, that through thy most holy intercession and thy merits, all my actions may be ordered and disposed according to thy will and that of thy divine Son. Amen (St. Aloysius Gonzaga)
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that any one who fled to thy protection, implored thy help or sought thy intercession, was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins and Mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful; O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.
(For either of the above prayers: An indulgence of 3 years.
A plenary indulgence once a month on the usual conditions for the daily recitation of this prayer.)
The faithful who during the month of May take part in public exercises in honor of the B.V.M. may gain: An indulgence of 7 years on any day of the month; a plenary indulgence if they assist at the exercises on at least 10 days, and moreover, go to confession, receive Holy Communion, and pray for the Holy Father’s intentions.
Those who perform their devotions privately during the aforesaid month are granted: an indulgence of 5 years once on any day of the month; a plenary indulgence on the usual conditions, if they perform these devotions every day during the month; but where public exercises are held, this indulgence is granted only to those who are lawfully hindered from taking part in the same. (Raccolta).
Hymn for the Month of May
O Mary, dearest Mother,
We greet thee once again,
This month of all most welcome
To Angels and to men;
The month of birds and blossoms,
The flow’ry sunny May,
When earth and sky, dear Mother,
To thee fond tribute pay.
And so, O dearest Mother,
Before the simple shrine
Which we have decked with flowers
Because we call it thine,
We kneel to offer fragrance
And prayer and song to thee.
Look down, O dearest Mother,
Look down to hear and see.
Look down on us thy children,
O Mother dear, look down;
The Mother’s face beams kindly
When other faces frown.
So though thou ‘rt Queen of Heaven
And reignst in joy above,
Yet still, O dearest Mother,
Look down on us with love.
In Heaven’s eternal May-time,
Whose sunlight is the Lamb,
The gladness and the glory,
The rapture and the calm,
We’ll praise thee and we’ll bless thee
With happy saints above,
If now, O mighty Mother,
Thou look on us with love.
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