Of the Chief Obstacles to the Acquisition of Solid 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.
Of the Chief Obstacles to the Acquisition of Solid Virtue.
The fruit to be derived from the considerations presented in this work should be an earnest and persevering effort to acquire solid virtue. To compass this end, it is absolutely necessary to commence by removing the chief obstacles to its attainment. If this be not our first care, all will end in useless desires, and our exertions will be fruitless.
These obstacles are venial sin, tepidity, abuse of grace, the predominant passion, human respect, and sloth in rising in the morning. All these vices injure the life of grace, conspire to destroy the soul, impair its merits, and ruin the work of its perfection; so long as they exist there can be no hope of our acquiring solid virtue. In this first part of the work, therefore, which corresponds to the purgative way, we shall apply ourselves exclusively to the destruction of the smallest vestige of those things so detrimental to our spiritual progress.
OF VENIAL SIN.
Mortal sin extinguishes charity, banishes the Holy Ghost, withdraws us from our last end which is God, inflicts death on the soul, closes heaven against it, and leads straight to hell.
There can be no question, then, of reckoning this monstrous evil, the very mention of which fills the friends of God with horror and dismay, amongst the obstacles to our progress in virtue. We shall not allude to it here.
Venial sin, according to the Doctors of the Church, is the first obstacle to our perfection. To learn how to avoid it, and to stimulate ourselves to do so, let us reflect that it is a great evil—1st, in itself; 2nd, in its effects; and 3rd, in the chastisement it involves.
We will conclude . . . by examining whether we entertain a genuine hatred of venial sin and a firm resolution to fly even the least faults.
1. Of the malice of venial sin considered in itself.
Mortal sin excepted, there is no evil so great as venial sin.
According to a revelation made to St. Catherine of Genoa, venial sin is a greater evil than all others combined, even including death and hell. St. John Chrysostom, St. Anselm, St. Dorotheus, St. Thomas Aquinas, and all the Fathers unanimously hold this doctrine; and Aristotle, guided by the light of reason alone, teaches that ‘we should prefer to die rather than commit an action contrary to virtue.’ To these testimonies a convincing argument is added by St. Thomas, who tells us that, ‘the punishment inflicted on sin participates less than the guilt in the nature of evil.’ Now, all the pains of this life, nay, even those of hell itself, being but the just punishment of sinners, it follows that the most trivial fault is a greater evil than all those. Besides, God, the essential and infinite sanctity, cannot be the author of sin, though, according to the Theologians, He is the author and positive cause of the punishment of sin. It is true, therefore, ‘that the punishment of sin is a lesser evil than the sin itself,’ and we should prefer to fall into hell rather than be guilty of it.
Children of men, I will cry out with the Prophet, ‘Give ear, and hear my voice; hearken, and hear my speech.’ The least venial sin is a greater evil than all others, not excepting death or hell. The only inference to be drawn from this truth is, that if by the smallest venial sin we could avert the greatest evils and obtain the most substantial and desirable goods for the whole human race, we should not thereby be justified in committing it. Oh! thou who makest light of venial sin, ‘drinking iniquity like water,’ would to Heaven that this ‘were deeply graven on the stone’ of thy heart.
Yes, could we by a trivial lie avert all kinds of diseases, wars, famine, conflagrations; could we dispel all sorrows, re-establish our reputation, insure the union of families, preserve our country from imminent calamities; could we, by an impossibility, abridge or prevent all persecutions of Antichrist and extinguish the fires enkindled by the Divine Justice in the other life, it would not be permitted us to tell that little lie. What do I say? If by a slight emotion of anger we could obtain the conversion of heretics, infidels, and idolators, release from hell and purgatory all the souls therein detained, could we insure the salvation of all mankind, we should not be justified in committing that venial sin. This is a certain truth attested by all the Fathers and Theologians of the Church. It is a dogma of the Christian Faith which cannot be controverted without impiety. The destruction of the world at the end of time, the consternation of nations, the eternal reprobation of the damned, are a less evil than the commission of a venial sin. All these evils only affect the creature, but sin, even such as is only venial, is an injury to God; it saddens and wounds His heart. In proportion, therefore, as the creature is inferior to the Creator, is sin an evil greater than all others.
Between God and the creature there is an infinitely greater disparity than between man and an insect; but since man sacrifices the life of an insect the moment he receives the least inconvenience from it, it must then be incomparably better to consent to the utter annihilation of the whole universe than to offend the Sovereign Majesty by even a light fault.
And yet, ‘O ye heavens be very desolate;’ men, nay, religious, are to be found who presume to allege this culpable excuse, ‘it is only a venial sin!’ Oh! how differently we shall regard it at the hour of death.
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.
September Devotion: The Holy Cross.
Virtues to practice: Piety, fervor in the performance of sacred duties, the spirit of prayer.
Mary, most holy Virgin and Queen of Martyrs, accept the sincere homage of my filial affection. Into thy heart, pierced by so many swords, do thou welcome my poor soul. Receive it as the companion of thy sorrows at the foot of the Cross, on which Jesus died for the redemption of the world. With thee, O sorrowful Virgin, I will gladly suffer all the trials, contradictions, and infirmities which it shall please our Lord to send me. I offer them all to thee in memory of thy sorrows, so that every thought of my mind, and every beat of my heart may be an act of compassion and of love for thee. And do thou, sweet Mother, have pity on me, reconcile me to thy divine Son Jesus, keep me in His grace and assist me in my last agony, so that I may be able to meet thee in heaven and sing thy glories. Amen.
An indulgence of 500 days
Crux mihi certa salus.
Crux est quam semper adoro.
Crux Domini mecum.
Crux mihi refugium.
The cross is my sure salvation.
The cross I ever adore.
The cross of my Lord is with me.
The cross is my refuge.
His Holiness, Pope Pius IX., by an autograph rescript, June 21, 1874, granted to all the faithful who, with at least contrite heart and devotion, shall say these prayers, drawn up in the form of a cross by the Angelic Doctor, S. Thomas Aquinas: AN INDULGENCE OF THREE HUNDRED DAYS, once a day.
Adoramus te, sanctissime Domine Jesu Christe, benedicimus tibi; quia per sanctam crucem tuam redemisti mundum.
We adore Thee, O most blessed Lord, Jesus Christ, we bless Thee; because by Thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world.
His Holiness, Pope Leo XIII., by a rescript of the S. Congr. of indulgences, March 4, 1882, granted to all the faithful who, with at least contrite heart and devotion, shall recite this ejaculation: AN INDULGENCE OF ONE HUNDRED DAYS, once a day.
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