On False and True 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.
“By their fruits you shall know them.”—Matt. vii. 16.
Jesus Christ could not have given us a plainer or surer mark whereby we might know the difference between good and bad Christians than by telling us we shou1d know them, not by their words, but by their works. “A good tree,” He says, “can not bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.” Yes, dear brethren, those who possess only a false piety, a hypocritical or only a superficial virtue, will in spite of all the precautions they may take, be unable to prevent the true condition of their heart from sometimes manifesting itself outwardly, either in words or deeds. Nothing, my dear brethren, is so prevalent as this pretended virtue, or, in other words, this hypocrisy.
So as to give you the right idea of the unhappy state of these poor souls who will, perhaps, be damned, although doing good, just because they do not good the right way, I will show you:
I. A good Christian should not be contented to perform good works; he should know how to perform them properly.
II. It is not enough to be virtuous in the eyes of the world; we must be so in our hearts.
I. Now, if you ask me, dear brethren, how can we know whether a virtue is real, and whether it will lead us to heaven, the answer is: that in order to make an action pleasing to God, the following conditions must be fulfilled: First, the action should be sincere and perfect; second, it should be humble and without selfishness; third, it should be steadfast and enduring. If these conditions are found in everything you do, then you may be sure that you are working for heaven.
(I) We have said that an action must be sincere; it is not sufficient that it shows itself only outwardly It must come from our hearts, and love of God must be its prime cause and its beginning, for St. Gregory tells us that everything which God requires of us should be founded on the love which we owe Him. The action, therefore, should be nothing more than a sort of medium to express our intention. Words and actions that do not come from the sincerity of the heart are no more than hypocrisy in the eyes of God.
We say, further, our virtue should be perfect. That means, it is not sufficient for us to practise only those certain virtues to which we may be naturally inclined, but we should embrace them all; that is to say, all virtues the practise of which is possible for our state. St. Paul says that we should prepare a superabundant provision of all kinds of good works for our salvation.
(2) We said, also, that our virtue should be humble and free from selfishness. Jesus Christ tells us that we should never perform our actions in order that we may be praised by men. If we desire a heavenly reward, then we must hide the good which God works in us as much as possible, for fear that the devil of pride may rob us of the merit of those good works. But, perhaps, you will say, the good that we do, we do really for God, and the world has no benefit of it. My friend, I am not so sure about it. There are many who deceive themselves on this point. It might be easy to prove to you that your religion is largely on the outside only, and not founded in the soul. Tell me, would you not, rather than no; have people know that you observe all fast days? If you give money to the poor, or to the Church, would you not like to have this known by your neighbor? Does not that feeling make hypocrites of us?
The saints did exactly the contrary. And why did they? They knew their religion, and they sought to humble themselves to obtain the mercy of God. What poor Christians are those, whose religion is one of mood of habit and nothing else! You will, perhaps, think that these are rather strong words. Yes, without doubt they are rather strong, but they are the strict truth. It must be my endeavor to produce in you a horror of the sin of hypocrisy. How many people, alas, although they do good works will be lost because they do not know their religion thoroughly! Many people say a great many prayers, and even go frequently to the Sacraments; but they still keep their bad habits, and die in them, because they strive, at one and the same time, to be friends of God and friends of sin. Look at that man, who appears to be a good Christian. Just give him to understand, even if you have the right to do so, that he has wronged some one: point out his faults to him, or any wrong which he has been guilty of in his heart, and he will fly into a rage at once, and hate the sight of you. Hatred and ill-will spring up in his head. Look at another one. You can not have much of an opinion of his piety, for he answers you haughtily, and will not make up with those that have offended him.
The following example will show us how severely God punishes false virtue, which is so great a sin: We read in Holy Scripture that King Jeroboam sent his wife to meet the prophet, Ahias, in order to ask advice about the sickness of his son, and he made her to disguise herself in the garb of a poor and pious person. He had recourse to this artifice because he feared that, if his people knew that he asked advice of the prophets of the true God, they would come to the conclusion that he had very little confidence in their idols. But he could not deceive God. When this woman entered the abode of the prophet, the latter cried out, before even having seen her: “Wife of Jeroboam, Why dost thou seek to appear other than thou art? Approach, hypocrite. I have bad news to give you from the Lord our God. Bad news, indeed. Listen: The Lord hath commanded me to tell thee that he will send down all kinds of misfortune upon the house of Jeroboam; he will annihilate it, even unto the animals: those of his house that die in the fields will be devoured by dogs. Depart now, wife of Jeroboam. Go and acquaint thy husband with this. And at the moment when thou settest thy foot within the city, thy son shall die.” Everything occurred just as the prophet had foretold; not one of Jeroboam’s house escaped the vengeance of the Lord. You see, then, dear brethren, how God punishes this cursed sin of hypocrisy.
Moreover, I must tell you that it is not the size and greatness of deeds which give them merit, but the pure intention with which they are undertaken. The Gospel gives us a beautiful example of this. The Evangelist St. Mark relates that Jesus Christ on entering the temple one day, beheld how the people cast money into the receptacle for offering, and He saw that many that were rich cast in much. Then He saw how a poor widow approached the receptacle humbly, and cast in two mites. Thereupon, Jesus Christ, calling His disciples, said to them: “Behold, many persons have cast considerable alms into the almsbox and see there also a poor widow who has only cast in two mites. What do you think of this difference? To judge by appearances, you think, perhaps, that the gifts of the rich have more merit; but I tell yon that this widow has cast in more than all of them: for the rich cast in of their abundance, but she of her want hath cast in all she had. Most of the rich sought glory before men, and to be thought better than they were, while this widow hath given to please God alone.” A beautiful example, dear brethren, which teaches us with what pure intentions and with what humility we should perform all our actions, if we desire to be rewarded for them. Certainly, God does not forbid us to perform our works before men, but He desires that they should be done for His sake alone, and not for the sake of the glory of the world.
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 avoiding Rash Judgement.
There is in us a secret malice which delights in discovering the imperfections of our brethren; and this is why we are so prompt to judge them, forgetting that to God alone belongs the judgment of hearts. Instead of examining so closely into the consciences of others, let us descend into our own; we will find there sufficient motives to be indulgent towards our neighbours, and sufficient causes of trouble to ourselves. You are only charged with looking after yourself, you shall only have to answer for yourself: therefore judge not, that you may not be judged (Matt. vii. 1).–Thomas à Kempis–Imitation of Christ Bk I, Ch XIV reflection.
July Devotion: The Precious Blood of Jesus
Virtues to practice: Simplicity, faith, liberty of spirit, cheerfulness
Prayers in honor of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus.
Most merciful Jesus, lover of souls! I pray Thee, by the agony of Thy most Sacred Heart, and by the sorrows of Thy Immaculate Mother, wash in Thy Blood the sinners of the whole world who are now in their agony, and who are to die this day. Amen.
Heart of Jesus, once in agony, pity the dying.
100 days indul.—Pius IX., Feb. 1850.
“May Thy Blood, shed for us, O Lord Jesus Christ, obtain for me the remission of all my sins, my negligences, my ignorance; may It strengthen, increase and preserve within me, Faith, Hope, Charity, Grace, and every virtue, may It bring me to everlasting life; may It deliver the souls of my parents and of all those for whom I am bound to pray.”
—St. Catharine of Sienna.
O blood of my crucified Jesus, dwell in my soul to purify it. O Blood of my crucified Jesus, dwell in my heart to inflame it. O Blood of my crucified Jesus, dwell in my mind to enlighten it. O Blood of my crucified Jesus, dwell in my thoughts to elevate them! O Blood of my crucified Jesus, dwell in my every action to sanctify them; in every power and faculty of my being, that all within me may exalt Thy might, proclaim Thy benefits and publish Thy mercies!
Praises to the Precious Blood.
Glory be to Jesus!
Who in bitter pains,
Poured for me the life Blood,
From His sacred veins.
Grace and life eternal
In that Blood I find;
Blessed be His compassion,
Blessed through endless ages
Be the precious stream,
Which from endless torment
Doth the world redeem.
There the fainting spirit
Drinks of life her fill;
There, as in a fountain
Laves herself at will.
O the Blood of Christ!
It soothes the Father’s ire,
Opes the gates of heaven,
Quells eternal fire.
Abel’s blood for vengeance
Pleaded to the skies;
But the Blood of Jesus
For our pardon cries.
Oft as it is sprinkled
On our guilty hearts,
Satan in confusion,
Oft as earth exulting
Wafts its praise on high,
Hell with terror trembles.
Heaven is filled with joy.
Lift ye then your voices,
Swell the mighty flood
Louder still and louder,
Praise the Precious Blood!
(100 days indulgence once a day.— Pius VII. , Oct. 1815.)
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