The Undervaluation and Neglect of the Soul – pt. 4.
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 Undervaluation and Neglect of the Soul – pt. 4.
But I forget myself. What am I saying? Is it not a fact that many defer all serious reflection to their old age, and postpone it to such time, as when languishing in death they can scarce retain their spirits within them, and are drawing nigh to their very last gasp? Can it be doubted but that this anxiety must amount to indifference? not to say, that it is their very least care, or no care at all? You do not act thus in your temporal concerns. Have you to bestow a daughter in honorable wedlock? you take the first opportunity. Have you to obtain some proud distinction for your family? you take the first opportunity. Have you to enlarge your estate? you take the first opportunity. Have you to bring some lawsuit to a close? you take the first opportunity. Have you to prove your title to a property? you take the first opportunity. And why all this hurry? Can you not defer the settlement of such matters to your death-bed? Unquestionably you can; but you refuse to do this; for, you say, matters like these require a clear head, leisure time, fixed attention, and prudent arrangement: whereas some have found a single moment quite enough time to save their souls in. Ah! Christians, how can you possibly utter such folly as this? Oh, what detestable words! what outrageous nonsense! what a reply for a Christian to make! But grant what you say: you cannot deny me this, that it is, at the least, extremely hazardous to defer the salvation of the soul to the last moment, and that such a course is not alike successful in all cases: where it succeeds in one, it fails in a hundred. It is not impossible for a man in his last moments to repent. The truth of this proposition is allowed by that famous Doctor, Scotus; but he adds, “Yet this is extremely difficult on the part of man, and on the part of God. It is difficult on the part of man, because he is become more hardened in his sin; and it is also difficult on the part of God, because He is become more roused in His indignation.” What token, in the meanwhile, of your anxiety is this, to prefer the risk of your eternal salvation to risking the marriage of your daughter, or the aggrandizement of your family, or of the interests of your farm, your lawsuit, or your property? This would be to set aside that most sure rule of Eucherius, “Salvation, as being our principal concern, ought to demand our principal care and attention.”
Such was not the lesson taught us by the prudent Jacob. Listen to it; for it is most excellent. Jacob was in the act of returning with all his family to Canaan, there to settle down again after his long self-banishment twenty years ago, when he fled from the violent and implacable wrath of Esau, his eldest brother. When he was approaching his journey’s end, behold this very brother advancing against him with a troop of four hundred brave men in his rear. Poor Jacob at once surmised that Esau, still harboring in his mind the ancient grievance, was now coming to take vengeance on him; a vengeance tardy indeed but so much the more grievous and severe, as it would now no longer fall on himself alone, who was the offender, but on his beloved wives and his dear innocent children. At such a crisis, what did he do? He immediately distributed his family into separate bands, after the fashion of a little regiment of soldiers. In front he placed the two handmaids, Bala and Zelpha, with the four children he had by them: Lia with her seven children he placed next: and hindermost he placed his beautiful Rachel with the lovely child Joseph, her single blooming offspring. Now, I ask, what did he intend by this particular arrangement? Did he mean to meet the attack? to close in the battle? Or rather to sustain the shock of Esau by virtue of some more gentle and constraining power? For what could a helpless band of women and children avail against a set of ruffians, the very sight of whom was enough to frighten them to death? Well did Jacob know that all resistance on his part was utterly hopeless. Therefore, if he must die, he will, at least, take thought for the best, and by no means expose to an equal danger persons not equally dear to him. His handmaids he esteemed the least; accordingly he put them in front, to stand the first shock. Lia he esteemed more than his handmaids; accordingly, he took more pains for her safety. Rachel he loved still more than Lia: accordingly, he labored still more for her preservation. “ He put the handmaids foremost,” writes Oleaster, a famous commentator; “ so that the less objects of his love might have to endure first his brother’s anger; hereby teaching us that we ought to adventure what we love least, in order to preserve by such means what we love most.”
Strengthened by such authority, how shall I speak of you, my brethren, when I observe that, whatsoever the risk be, your soul is the very thing you first expose to danger: just as if to stand in front, to be on the extreme edge of the battle, was its proper place? It is the soul, that in your estimation occupies the position of the handmaid; it is the soul that must venture on the forlorn hope, in order that you may preserve your credit, may preserve your property, may preserve your profane amusements; in order that your children, in order that your parents, in order that your friends, in order that your impure connections, in order that the very horses in your stable and dogs in your kennel may not suffer any damage. Oh, what folly! Oh, what madness! Oh, what brutish stupidity! “I am full of the fury of the Lord.” Let me find some outlet to my feelings. “I am full of the fury of the Lord; I am weary with holding in.”
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.
Of the Confession of our own Infirmity, and of the Miseries of this life.
Prayer. Vouchsafe, O Lord, to grant us Thy grace, to the end that we may detach ourselves from this life, that we may quit this world, that we may renounce ourselves, and that nothing may prevent us from obtaining those spiritual delights which are to be found but in Thee, O my God; delights Thou hast promised to all such abnegations, and which are a foretaste of the eternal felicity to which we aspire. Amen.– Imitation of Christ Bk III, Ch XX.
February Devotion: The Holy Trinity (also the Holy Family)
Virtue to practice: Humility
I vow and consecrate to God all that is in me: my memory and my actions to God the Father; my understanding and my words to God the Son; my will and my thoughts to God the Holy Ghost; my heart, my body, my tongue my senses and all my sorrows to the sacred Humanity of Jesus Christ, ‘who was contented to be betrayed into the hands of wicked men and to suffer the torment of the Cross.’ – St. Francis de Sales
An indulgence of 3 years.
A plenary indulgence on the usual conditions, if this act of oblation is devoutly repeated every day for a monh (S.P.Ap., Sept. 22, 1922 and May 12, 1934).
The faithful who devoutly offer any prayers in honor of the Most Holy Trinity with the intention of continuing them for nine successive days, may gain:
An indulgence of 7 years once each day:
A plenary indulgence on the usual conditions at the end of the novena (S.C. Ind., Aug. 8 1847; S.P. Ap., Mar. 18, 1932).
Novena in Honor of Our Lady of Lourdes
O ever Immaculate Virgin, Mother of Mercy, Health of the Sick, Comforter of the Afflicted, thou knowest my wants, my troubles, my sufferings; deign to cast upon me a look of mercy. By appearing in the grotto of Lourdes thou wert pleased to make it a privileged sanctuary from where thou dost dispense thy favors, and already many sufferers have obtained the cure of their infirmities, both spiritual and corporal. I come, therefore, with the most unbounded confidence, to implore thy maternal intercession. Obtain, O loving Mother, the granting of my requests. Through gratitude for thy favors, I will endeavor to imitate thy virtues, that I may one day share in thy glory. R. Amen.
V. O Mary, conceived without sin,
R. Pray for us who have recourse to thee.
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