All are bound to become Perfect. – 2.
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.
All are bound to become Perfect.-2.
But now comes the question, what are we to say to persons living in the world, about their obligation of being perfect? Seculars are generally imbued with the foolish idea that perfection is the business of monks and nuns only, and is no concern whatever of theirs; that, for themselves it suffices to keep the commandments of God and of His Church in a lump, as it were, and without refining upon them; and that having done this much, they have done their whole duty. Nay, some will go so far as to make sport of these devout seculars who frequent the Sacraments, devotions, and churches, who are constant in prayer, who employ themselves in works of mercy, and whose bearing is modest and retired; such they will call crooknecked, hypocrites, saints, bigots, and other similar titles of disdain unworthy of the mouth of any Christian who professes and venerates the teaching of Christ.
Persons of this stamp have to be set free from so harmful a delusion by careful instruction. For this purpose, let them say what they understand by Christian Perfection.
If they understand thereby that sublime and arduous perfection which is implied in the three Gospel Counsels, poverty, chastity, and obedience, they are right in considering it no concern of theirs; for not being called by God to the Religious state, they are not bound to renounce their property, to forswear marriage, to lead a life of celibacy, or to subject themselves to the obedience of a superior who has to prescribe and appoint their every action.
But if by Christian perfection they understand certain other counsels, and especially certain precepts in slight matters which have been laid by God on the whole mass of the faithful, as, for instance, to live detached from property and wealth though they be possessed thereof; to make a good use of their means by devoting a portion of them to almsdeeds and to the Divine service; to flee not only unlawful pleasures, but such occasions and incentives, both proximate and more or less remote, that allure and egg on thoughtless people to such gratifications; to behave with due modesty and circumspection in their outward dealings; to choose a spiritual guide for the internal regulation of their conscience; to despise the pomps and vanities, the splendour and pride of worldly life, and, if their station require them to keep up certain appearances, to preserve, amid the outward circumstances of rank and wealth, the inward humility and lowliness of heart befitting a follower of Christ; to bear in patience wrongs, misfortunes, and trials of all kinds; to love their enemies, refraining not only from yielding to inward acts of resentment, but from all external marks of enmity; to mortify their passions, withdrawing from them all unreasonable gratifications; to avoid venial sins, especially such as are deliberate; to frequent the holy Sacraments; to pray often; to reflect from time to time on the maxims of faith which avail so powerfully to keep us in check, and to make us walk cautiously amid the dangers which surround us; to do many other things commanded by God — even though their omission, on account of the slightness of the matter, be not grievously sinful—or merely counselled by Him, since without precautions of this kind it is morally impossible to lead a well-regulated life; if I say, this is what they understand by Christian Perfection, and they deem it no concern of theirs, inasmuch as they are seculars living in the world, then they are wofully mistaken, for to this perfection all who glory in the name of Christian are most surely called.
Let us listen to what St. Thomas has to say on this point: “All seculars, as well as Religious, are bound within the limits of discretion to do whatever good they can; as the Book of Ecclesiasticus warns us. There is, indeed, a way of fulfilling this precept by avoiding sin, when a person does what he can in the measure of the requirements of his condition, and is careful not to harbour contempt for the greater good which he might perform, placing thus a hindrance to his spiritual progress.”
Seculars should observe that in this passage the holy Doctor speaks of “obligation,” “precept,” and “sin”; let them now say, if they have the courage, that perfection is the concern of Religious only.
But, in truth, there is no need of alleging the Authority of the Great Doctor, for the Holy Scriptures are plain enough on this head.
Let us ask to whom did St. James and the Apostle of the Nations address these Epistles wherein they are so earnest in inculcating perfection. Was it to Religious only or to the mass of Christians? When Jesus Christ exclaimed with such energy, “Be you perfect as also your heavenly Father is perfect;” when He commanded self-denial, to bear the cross willingly, to be meek and lowly of heart even as Himself, to whom pray was he speaking? Was it only to monks, to Religious, to cloistered virgins, or was it not rather to the whole body of believers who were desirous of being His true and faithful followers?
“Jesus Christ,” as St. Augustine says, “was then speaking to all. Nor are these His teachings to be listened to by virgins only, but not by married women—by widows, but not by those whom matrimony still holds in its bonds—by monks, but not by those who have taken to themselves wives—by the clergy, but not by the laity; no, the whole Church, the whole body of the faithful in their several ranks and degrees are to follow Christ, bearing the Cross upon their shoulders, and none are exempted from putting in practice His most holy lessons.”
St. John Chrysostom, having recited many of the admirable teachings wherein our Blessed Lord exhorts all to a perfect life, makes the apposite reflection that Christ has made no distinction between Religious and seculars, but addresses Himself indiscriminately to each and every one. “And,” the saint continues, “what ruins the whole mass of mankind is the belief that Religious are bound to use all diligence to lead a perfect life, while seculars may, if they list, live heedlessly and remissly.” “Not so, not so,” he proceeds to say, “ the same tenor of life is required of all I say this with all assurance; though, in reality, it is not I that say it, but Christ Himself, the Judge of all men, who says it with his own lips;” and then having set forth at full length this most important truth, he winds up as follows: “I do not think that there can be anyone so contentious and shameless as to deny that, as regards many points both seculars and Religious are bound to tend to the very highest perfection.”
A weighty authority indeed is this, which none may gainsay without incurring the reproach of great temerity. We may find in his writings much wherewith to stir up desires of perfection in the torpid hearts of slumbering Christians, by showing them how strictly they are bound thereto, according to the teaching of the Holy Fathers and of the Sacred Scripture.
We hope thus to efface from the minds of such persons the pernicious delusion that perfection concerns those only who are shut up in the cloister, that on such alone it is incumbent to lead a devout, exact, and exemplary life, while seculars, provided they keep clear of mortal sin, are free to lead a soft, independent, and unmortified life.
All Christians are bound to perfection, for it is required of all, and in Holy Writ inculcated upon all.
Those assuredly whose consciences are not seared, and who have some fear of God left, some care for their eternal welfare, will find in this thought an efficacious motive to exert themselves to enter upon a course of life more regular and exact (Scaramelli, Vol I, Section I, Article ii, Chapter II).
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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