The Vice of Routine and Want of Reflection.
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.
The Vice of Routine and Want of Reflection.
Let us adore God, the Sovereign Lord of time, the arbitrator of our life and of our death, who gives us this new year, not that we may dispose of it after our own liking, but in order to employ every moment of it in serving Him well. Let us ask of Him grace not to fall this year into the vice which paralyzed all the preceding years; the vice of routine and want of reflection, on which Jeremias pronounced this terrible lamentation: ‘‘All the land is made desolate because there is none that considereth in the heart” (Jer. xii. I).
Gravity of the Evil of Routine or Want of Reflection.
What greater evil can we imagine than an evil which renders the graces of God useless, faith sterile, the reform of morals impossible? Now such is the evil of routine or want of reflection.
1st. It renders graces useless. God gives us the grace of prayer; but prayer performed through routine and without reflection reduces itself to a mechanical movement of the lips, incapable of honoring God or obtaining anything from man. God bestows upon us the gift of a good thought; of a pious movement, of a warning precious for our salvation. But this seed, which would have brought forth fruit if it had been ripened by reflection, is nothing but seed sown upon the high-road, where vain imaginations and worldly matters tread it under foot, and cause it to perish. God grants us the grace of His Sacraments; but the life of routine and want of reflection paralyzes all the fruit of it. God grants us a new year wherein to work out our salvation, but routine, unless we destroy it, will only serve to accumulate upon our heads, like a fresh anathema, a year of abuse of graces added to the preceding years.
2d. Routine and want of reflection render faith sterile. It is a deplorable thing to see what becomes of faith under the empire of routine. It has become nothing else within the soul but a secret portion of ourselves into which we never enter, or an obscure distance whence its light no longer reaches our eyes; so that we believe as though not believing; we speak, we act, we think, as though we did not really believe. The advance of death, the judgment which follows it, followed by paradise or hell, nothing touches us any longer. The most august mysteries of religion, the Sacraments, even the Eucharist, find nothing in the soul but the coldness of marble. It is an indifference, an insensibility which nothing touches. We have familiarized ourselves with these great mysteries, we have made of them a routine; it is finished, they will be sterile for us as long as we have not cured the evil.
3d. Routine renders the reform of morals impossible. Carried along by it as by a river which flows always in the same bed, we never think seriously of reforming ourselves, we do not even understand the need of it, and we do not feel any energy for it. We allow ourselves to be carried along by the torrent of habits and customs; it seems to us sweeter; it even seems to us the only thing possible. In this terrible state it is as though we were asleep. Let us fear the awaking. It will be terrible!
Remedies for Routine and Want of Reflection.
The first remedy is prayer. Let us ask God, with all the fervor of which we are capable, to cure our sick soul (Ps. xl. 5), to revive our faith (Luke xvii. 5), in the greatness of the Divinity, in the profound devotion due to It, and to give us grace to lead a better life during the new year.
The second remedy is to be faithful to all our pious exercises, that is to say, not only to perform them with exactitude, but to perform them well, by bringing to them an attitude of recollection, a great desire to profit by them in regard to the improvement of our life, and always to treat God as God, that is to say, with sovereign respect.
The third remedy is often and seriously to examine ourselves in order to see whether we still allow ourselves to indulge in our old habits of routine and want of reflection, whether our acts and our words, our intentions and our thoughts are always inspired by a spirit of faith, humility, and charity, which is the love of God that characterizes a Christian soul; and when we discover that we are falling back into our old habits, to rise promptly, setting ourselves to work with zeal and a good will.
Make the resolution: 1st, to perform with great exactitude and in the best possible manner our spiritual exercises; 2d, to reflect before acting, in order to excite ourselves to perform everything in a very holy manner, and with the aim of pleasing God in every one of our actions.
Our spiritual nosegay shall be the prayer of the Machabees: My God, give me a heart to love Thee and serve Thee as I ought (II. Mach. i. 3).
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.
St. Simeon Stylites, ora pro nobis.
Twelfth Night Prayer for the Eleventh Day of Christmas.
When in the agony and cold sweat of death, when I shall give the last look to heaven for mercy, may the parting sigh of my soul be Jesus, sweet Jesus.
Our Lady of Prompt Succor Nine Day Novena
(December 31 – January 8)
Our Lady of Prompt Succor, thou are after Jesus our only hope. O Most Holy Virgin, whose merits have raised thee high above angel choirs to the very throne of the Eternal and whose foot crushed the head of the infernal serpent, thou art strong against the enemies of our salvation. O Mother of God, thou art our Mediatrix most kind and loving. Hasten, then, to our help, and as thou didst once save thy beloved City from ravaging flames and our Country from an alien foe, do now have pity on our misery, and obtain for us the graces we beg of thee. Deliver us from the wiles of Satan, assist us in the many trials which beset our path in this valley of tears, and be to us truly Our Lady of Prompt Succor now and especially at the hour of our death. Amen.
O Mary, Mother of God, who amid the tribulations of the world, watches over us and over the Church of thy Son, be to us and to the Church, truly, Our Lady of Prompt Succor; make haste to help us in all our necessities, that in this fleeting life thou may be our succor, and obtain for us [mention your request here] Help us to gain life everlasting through the merits of Jesus, thy Son, Our Lord and Redeemer. Amen.
Our Lady of Prompt Succor, hasten to help us. (Three times.)
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P.S. 6th day for anyone praying Total Consecration by St. Louis de Montfort that ends February 2nd!