On the End of Man.
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 the End of Man.
“What doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?” (Matt. xvi. 26.)
Let me, therefore, begin with one of the very first questions: Why did God make you? This is a most natural as well as a most important question. Children when they see anything new and strange to them ask at once: What is it for? What are you going to do with it? Why do you want it? What is a knife for? To cut with. What is a pencil for? To write with. What is a spoon for? To eat with. Is it not, therefore, very natural to ask: Why am I in the world? What have I got to do here? What purpose do I serve?
One would imagine that thoughts such as these must occur to every man as soon as he is old enough to reflect at all. The question is not only natural, but also pre-eminently important. So long as I do not understand the use of a thing I really know next to nothing about it. Show a flute to a deaf and dumb man—he has no knowledge of sound, and the flute remains a riddle to him, because he can not understand the use to which it is put. A man who does not know for what purpose he has been brought into this world is an enigma to himself. If he does not know what his end is he can not possibly fulfil it. A man who neither knows nor fulfils his end is fundamentally a failure. A man who can not give a clear and decisive answer to the question, “Why am I in this world?”—even should he have counted the stars and probed all the secrets of nature—knows absolutely nothing.
Let us, then, look for an answer to this primary and most important question: What is our end in life? We may help ourselves to get at the true answer if we determine, first, what it is not. Have we power to choose it? There are many things in which choice is free: our dwelling-place, our business, our undertakings, our journeys. But can we choose in the same way what our last end is to be? Whether it shall be high or low, of the earth—earthy or soaring above the stars! No, that we can not do. And why not? Because in this matter we are not our own masters. If we would go to the root of the matter, it is simply because we are creatures.
The potter out of wet and plastic clay molds a vase. When it is finished to whom does it belong? Who is to decide its fate—whether it shall be destroyed or preserved, whether it shall be put to noble or base uses, whether the potter shall keep it for himself, or shall sell it, or give it away? All this the potter himself must decide. The vase is his own work, and belongs to him. Well, now, are we ourselves the authors of our own being? On the contrary, our body and soul are the work of the almighty hand of God. We are His creatures and entirely dependent upon Him. It is therefore not for us to decide what our end in life is to be, but for Him who is our master. And He has decided it. He says of mankind: “I have created him for My glory; I have formed him, and made him” (Is. xliii. 7). We must, therefore, give glory to God with our understanding, by endeavoring to apprehend Him and His perfections. All the powers of our soul and body must glorify Him by striving to do His holy will, that is, by keeping His commandments; we must also work for Him by making His glory our highest aim and our greatest happiness. We are in this world to know God, to love Him, and to serve Him. This is the end which God Himself has appointed for us.
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.
April Devotion: The Holy Ghost
Virtue to practice: Patience
Vexilla Regis prodeunt
The royal banners forward go;
The Cross shines forth in mystic glow,
Where Life for sinners death endured,
And life by death for man procured.
Where deep for us the spear was dyed,
Life’s torrent rushing from His side,
To wash us in that precious flood
Where mingled, Water flowed, and Blood,
Fulfilled is all that David told
In true prophetic song of old;
‘Amidst the nations, God,’ saith he,
‘Hath reigned and triumphed from the Tree.’
O Tree of beauty! Tree of light!
O Tree with royal purple dight!
Elect on whose triumphal breast
Those holy Limbs should find their rest.
On whose dear arms, so widely flung,
The weight of this world’s ransom hung:
The price of human kind to pay
And spoil the spoiler of his prey.
O Cross, our one reliance, hail,
Thou glory of the saved, avail*
To give fresh merit to the Saint,
And pardon to the penitent.
To Thee, Eternal Three in One,
Let homage meet by all be done;
Whom by the Cross Thou dost restore,
Preserve and govern evermore. Amen.
*Instead of: ‘Thou Glory of the saved,’ during Passiontide, say: ‘This Holy Passiontide‘, during the Paschal Season: ‘Thou joy of Eastertide‘, on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross: ‘On this triumphant day.‘
Vexilla Regis pródeunt,
Fulget Crucis mystérium,
Qua vita mortem pértulit,
Et morte vitam prótulit.
Quæ vulneráta lánceæ
Mucróne diro, críminum
Ut nos laváret sórdibus,
Manávit unda et sánguine.
Impléta sunt quæ cóncinit
David fidéli cármine,
Regnávit a ligno Deus.
Arbor decóra et fúlgida,
Ornáta regis púrpura,
Elécta digno stípite
Tam sancta membra tángere.
Beáta, cuius bráchiis
Prétium pepéndit sæculi,
Statéra facta córporis,
Tulítque prædam tártari.
O Crux, ave, spes única,
Gentis redémptæ glória!*
Piis adáuge grátiam,
Reísque dele crímina.
Te, fons salútis, Trínitas,
Colláudet omnis spíritus:
Quibus Cricis victóriam
Largíris, adde præmium. Amen.
(ex. Breviario Romano)
An indulgence of 5 years.
A plenary indulgence on the usual conditions for the daily recitation of this hymn throughout an entire month (S.C. Ind., Jan. 16, 1886; S.P.Ap., April 29, 1934).
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