On Holy Poverty.
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 Holy Poverty.
You have already, my soul, seen in your meditations how perfectly our Lord practised poverty throughout His whole life from its very beginning to its end, how He sanctified poverty in the crib and on the cross. Now you are called upon to observe that after He had risen from the dead He displayed the same love of poverty, the same esteem and preference for it. You will see that it was not to Joseph of Arimathea, who was a rich man, nor to the principal and wealthiest inhabitants of Jerusalem that He appeared, but to the poor apostles and a few lowly women. And to them He did not appear as a great and glorious monarch, though this He really was, but He showed Himself to Mary Magdalen in the guise of a humble gardener; He was met by the disciples on the way to Emmaus as a homeless traveller, and the apostles saw Him standing on the shores of the lake of Genesareth as a destitute stranger, asking for food. Thus after His resurrection our Lord practised the doctrine which He taught previously to it: “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” (St. Matt. v. 3.)
1st. Consider that our Lord does not say in general: Blessed are the poor, but: Blessed are the poor in spirit; those therefore who, as St. Hilary remarks, have actually left all temporal things of their own free will, who keep their heart and their unruly passions so well in check that they desire nothing; and such persons, as the saint adds, are few in number. Few they are indeed! The great majority of men, including a goodly number of Religious, are, it is true, externally poor, but in their hearts they are by no means detached from the things of the world. Consequently they are only poor in appearance, and have no right to bear the name of monk. It is to such individuals that St. Vincent refers when he says: “It is nothing to be poor unless poverty be loved, and all the hardships involved in it are borne cheerfully for the love of Christ.” But, you will perhaps rejoin, I have left the things of the world both in will and in deed, and I cherish no attachment to superfluities. This may be so, but there is another question you must ask yourself.
2d. Ask yourself whether you have not too great an attachment to necessary things, whether you are not too solicitous lest aught should be lacking to you of what is needful, too anxious that you should be well fed, well clothed, comfortably lodged; whether, moreover, you do not begin to complain if you have not all that you want? If this be so, you have not the true spirit of poverty. St. Bernard most justly says: “It is extremely painful to see how many in the present day boast of the name of poverty and yet only want to embrace poverty in order to be well provided for and enjoy all manner of comforts. That is not being poor; it is being well off, richer in fact than many persons living in the world.” These latter may perhaps have more which they can call their own, but they have far less ease and comfort. Wherefore if you do not wish to fail in your vocation, which is based on holy poverty, consider what poverty of spirit really is.
3d. Perfect poverty of spirit consists in bearing cheerfully all the trials and privations which a life of poverty brings with it. We are poor in spirit, both when we suffer the want of necessaries, and also when we reduce in dispensable necessaries to the narrowest limits. “If any one desires to know whether he is poor in spirit,” says the Ven. Rodriguez, “let him search into his own heart, and see whether he loves the ordinary consequences and usual effects of poverty, such as hunger, thirst, cold, weariness, the want of proper habiliments; whether he is glad when his habit is shabby and worn out, when he has not something that he would like at table, when the cell appointed for him is badly furnished and uncomfortably arranged. For if you do not rejoice at such things, if you endeavor to elude what is disagreeable instead of embracing it, it is a proof that you have not yet attained perfect poverty of spirit. Wherefore, my soul, imagine yourself lying in your cell at the point of death, look upwards to your Lord hanging in His poverty upon the cross, and remember that you took a solemn vow to follow Him in His poverty. Then, meditating on this fact, turn your eyes upon your own person, the couch whereon you rest at night, the habit you wear, the furniture of your cell, the pictures and books about you; and if while you make this mental survey of your surroundings you see anything calculated to reproach you, anything which in your contemplation of death appears likely to render your last hour less easy, oh delay not, but this very day eliminate that object whatever it may be, that when death really comes there may be nothing for you to regret in regard to your observance of holy poverty.
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.
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).
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