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.
Thus we see that those souls who are most united to God through sanctity, are also most united to men through charity. Those who love God above all things, love their neighbour as themselves for the love of God. All the holy affections of earth come from heaven. They are reflected in a pure soul as we see the stars which shine in the skies reflected in a transparent piece of water by our side; and as these bright stars have but one. Creator, so all these pure affections which shine in our souls have but one centre, God, Who is pure love, Who is Charity. In Him are united holy family affections, pious friendships, generous sacrifices, brotherly feelings towards all men, as being, like ourselves, God’s children, compassion for their sufferings, and sympathy with their joys. Mary is the most holy of creatures. How easy it is to shew that she was also the most charitable! How often in her holy life do we see charity in every shape! Let us first seek it in this painful journey undertaken to visit her cousin St. Elizabeth.
Sometimes we make to ourselves a stem and gloomy picture of our holy religion, we fear God more than we love Him, and, like little children who call upon their mother when they suffer, we stretch out our hands, with tears in our eyes, to our Mother who is in heaven. But why should we consecrate to her our sorrowful days alone? Has she no smiles for our joys as well as comfort for our griefs? See how she leaves her beloved solitude: she rose up and went with haste. Her cousin is happy. The Lord has delivered her from the reproach she had suffered among men. Mary, the child given to St. Anne in her old age understands the joy of Elizabeth: she hastens to her aged kinswoman; she comes to rejoice with her, to offer her services, to add to her joy the blessing of her own friendship.
Some pious authors have thought that gratitude was joined to Mary’s love for her friend, and that Zachary was one of the priests who had taught her as a child in the temple, had protected her youth, and had chosen her spouse. Gratitude is one of the forms of charity, for charity means affection, and what is more just than to love those who have done us good? See how prompt and devoted is the gratitude of Mary’s generous heart, the sanctuary of all love!
“The Blessed Virgin left Nazareth,” says St. Bonaventure; “the difficulty and length of the road did not delay her. She hastens because she does not wish to expose herself too long to notice. Consider how the Queen of Heaven travels: on foot, alone with her spouse, without means of conveyance. She is not surrounded by a retinue of courtiers and guards, she is not accompanied by a number of ladies of honour, or servants. She is escorted by poverty, by humility, and by the honourable assemblage of all virtues. Her Lord is also with her, attended by a numerous escort of honour, very different from the vain pomp of this world.”
What a wonderful train attends this lowly maiden, walking over the rough mountain path, leaning on the arm of the humble Joseph! O wonderful train, which God has put within the reach of each one of His children! There are times in life when we feel ourselves to be very poor, very unhappy, and very much abandoned. Let us then think of the train that waited on Mary. Is holy poverty of spirit and heart our companion? Are our steps followed by humility, purity, and the noble company of all virtues? If our conscience can render us this testimony, let us raise our heads and take courage. Listen once more to what St. Bonaventure says: “The Lord is with her, bringing with Him all graces and all blessings.” Courage, then, and if we can say with truth that we seek them, we may be sure that God Himself is with us, and may continue to walk on with confidence.
Let us remember, above all, that this train of honour accompanies us every time that, following Mary’s footsteps, we go to perform a mission of charity. I have just said that we find this virtue in many different shapes in the life of our holy Mother. In ours also it ought to be found under the most different forms; what is necessary is, that in one way or another it should be everywhere. Let us practice in our families, let us carry out into the world, this devoted affection, this sympathetic consoling ministering friendship, of which the Blessed Virgin sets us the example, in setting off without delay as soon as St. Elizabeth had need of her; this reverence for age, from which she does not think herself exempted by her dignity of Mother of God, this gratitude for past services which calls her to the side of the protectors of her youth. What blessings would be found at the domestic hearth, what ease in all human relations, what softening of painful jars, if charity was always present, like oil to a wheel, making it turn quickly, noiselessly, and with ease. The reason that it is so often wanting in family life and in society is, that even good people know and understand it not. For instance, it is confounded with alms-deeds, which is, in truth, but one of its forms. People say, “I cannot afford to give in charity.” This is rarely the case, but grant that it is so, does this prevent the practice of charity? Would God, Who has so many times said that poverty is holy, have put the most beautiful of the virtues out of the reach of the poor? It would be a kind of blasphemy to say so. Charity is more in the heart than in the purse. The rich can and ought to be charitable to the poor. The poor also can and ought to be charitable to the rich, like Mary, the spouse of the poor carpenter Joseph, to her cousin, the wife of Zachary. The great secret is to love, whoever we may be, our brethren, whoever they may be. Love your equals, you will make them happier and better, for charity is infectious, and your example will teach them. If they are happy, rejoice with them without inquiring whether their happiness is greater than yours. If they are unhappy, dry their tears as you would wish them to dry yours. If they are poorer than you are, seek in your hearts the means of helping them, and you will find it; if you are the poorest, suffer without bitterness in charity with your brethren, and, above all, with Jesus Christ, Who has suffered so much for you, and you will find a treasure in your misery.
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.
August Devotion: The Most Pure Heart of Mary
Virtues to practice: The sanctification of our actions, diligence, edification, fidelity in little things
O Heart of Mary, Mother of God, and our Mother; Heart most worthy of love, in which the adorable Trinity is ever well pleased, worthy of the veneration and love of all the angels and of all men; Heart most like to the Heart of Jesus, of which thou art the perfect image; Heart full of goodness, ever compassionate toward our miseries; deign to melt our icy hearts and grant that they may be wholly changed into the likeness of the Heart of Jesus, our divine Saviour. Pour into them the love of thy virtues, and kindle in them that divine fire with which thou thyself dost ever burn. In thee let Holy Church find a safe shelter; protect her and be her dearest refuge, her tower of strength, impregnable against every assault of her enemies. Be thou the way which leads to Jesus, and the channel, through which we receive all graces needful for our salvation. Be our refuge in time of trouble, our solace in the midst of trial, our strength against temptation, our haven in persecution, our present help in every danger, and especially at the hour of death, when all hell shall let loose against us its legions to snatch away our souls, at that dread moment, that hour so full of fear, whereon our eternity depends. Ah, then most tender virgin, make us to feel the sweetness of thy motherly heart, and the might of thy intercession with Jesus, and open to us a safe refuge in that very fountain of mercy whence we may come to praise Him with thee in paradise, world without end. Amen.
An indulgence of 7 years once on any day of the month; A plenary indulgence on the usual conditions, if this act of devotion is repeated daily for entire month (Apostolic Brief Dec. 21, 1901)
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