Saint Raymund Nonnatus, ora pro nobis.
Saturday after the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost.
On the Reasons Why Herod put John the Baptist to Death.
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.
Saturday after the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost.
On the Reasons Why Herod put John the Baptist to Death.
Whilst our Lord went about among the towns and villages of Palestine teaching the people and working miracles, His great precursor was confined in prison by order of Herod the tetrarch. Cast a glance at the holy Baptist; imagine that you see him languishing in a gloomy dungeon at the very time when in the palace above Herod is seated at the festive board with his guests, nothing being farther from his thoughts than the intention of putting the saintly preacher of penance to death. How was it that he was induced so suddenly to issue the command that he should be beheaded?
1st. Consider that Herod was sitting at a sumptuous banquet, gratifying his sensual appetite with the feasting and revelry which usually prevailed at the table of heathen magnates on the occasion of festivities of this kind. Excess in eating and drinking had weakened the judgment of the otherwise shrewd tyrant. Fully conscious as he was of the high esteem in which John was held, prudential motives had hitherto led him to spare his life; but now over-indulgence in wine makes the ruler oblivious of state policy, and this is the first reason why, against his better judgment, he puts the Baptist to death. Consider, my soul, the dangers attending intemperance in eating and drinking. There is nothing more ruinous to the Priest and Religious. Many and many a time has all that was gained by the strenuous efforts, the struggles of years, been lost in consequence of taking part in some luxurious repast! “In wine is excess,” the Apostle says. (Eph. v. 18.) “The bride of Christ,” says St. Jerome, “should shun wine as if it were poison, for it is the first weapon the devil makes use of against the young. Wine and youth together stir the passions in a twofold manner. Why pour oil into the fire? Why add more fuel to the flames of youthful concupiscence?” Reflect, my soul, on these words of the saint.
2d. Consider the next means the devil employs to incite Herod to issue the fatal order. It is the spectacle of a beautiful and dissolute dancer. Salome, the daughter of Herodias, enters the banqueting-hall to entertain the guests by her dancing. The sight of the fair dancer’s charms has the effect of exciting Herod, who is already heated with wine, almost to frenzy; all his caution goes to the winds and he promises his step-daughter even the half of his kingdom. Herod, to what lengths thou dost go in consequence of one voluptuous glance! For the sake of looking on at a dance, he actually will give up half of the kingdom which he has built up at the cost of so much blood. Hence, my soul, you can see very clearly what follies a man is capable of who has looked with desire upon a woman; what mischief may be caused by indulgence in carnal, sensual pleasures. What wine began, the dance finished. Wherefore be on your guard, Christian, be doubly on your guard if you are a Priest or religious, against wandering glances; beware of taking part, however remotely, in sensual pleasures, in close intercourse with persons of the opposite sex. This would make you a murderer like Herod, a murderer of your own soul. Not in vain did the Seraphic Father St. Francis address to his Brethren words which we should do well to make the subject of serious meditation: “We must carefully avoid all intercourse and intimacy with women (and they with men), and this all the more since we see that it is often the means whereby the strong become weak, and the weak are ruined. Unless a man is of tried virtue, I am persuaded that it is no less difficult for him to hold such intercourse without being the worse for it than it would be to walk on red-hot embers without burning his feet. It is dangerous to bear about in one’s heart any image calculated to kindle the fire of our rebel nature, and stain the purity of a chaste soul.” Lay to heart this warning the saint utters, and take as your rule the maxim he lays down. He says that all converse with women (and this applies equally to that of women with men) is vain and useless, except for the sake of confession or to impart sound spiritual counsel; or again if good manners require such intercourse, and in that case let it be as brief as possible.
3d. Consider the third and last reason why Herod contracted the stain of bloodguiltiness. It was his passion for Herodias and hers for him, although she was his brother’s wife. John alone had the courage to rebuke severely this illicit union. In consequence of this, the woman, whose passions were so ill-regulated, hated the man who presumed to reprove her, and desired his death. “Give me here in a dish the head of John the Baptist.” (St. Matt. xiv. 8.) Such was the request which the damsel, instructed by her mother, presented to the king; and Herod, although, as the Evangelist tells us, he was “struck sad,” and shrank with horror from the idea of putting the Baptist to death, was yet too weak to deny the request, to resist the impulse of passion. Now examine your own heart, my soul, and ascertain whether some passion, by whatever name you call it, does not hold sway there. And if you should discover any such proclivities within you, begin at once to overcome them, fight against them, for unless you do so, they will, as St. Dorotheus says, strike deeper root, and gradually increase in strength. But if you begin to withstand them at the very outset, they will decrease day by day and gradually lose all their power. And St. Francis says that on the other hand if the devil can but obtain an inch of ground in the heart of man, he will soon take an ell.
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
Virtue 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).
Prayer to Saint Joseph Calasanctius, Confessor.
Saint Joseph Calasanctius, protector of youth, great servant of Our Lord, who didst work such marvels in their behalf; thou who, having made thyself a mirror for them of burning charity, of unwearied patience, of deep humility, of angelic purity and of every other heroic virtue, by a holy example, by words full of the Spirit of God, didst inspire them to flee dangerous occasions, to hate sin, to detest vicious courses, and to love piety and devotion, and thus didst guide countless souls to Heaven; thou who didst obtain for them the visible benediction of the Child Jesus and His holy Mother, obtain the like for us, thy humble and devoted servants; obtain for us a lasting hatred for sin, victory in the midst of temptation, and help in time of danger, so that, by living in the perfect observance of the law of God, we may attain to eternal salvation. Amen.
An indulgence of 300 days.
A plenary indulgence on the usual conditions, if this prayer is said with devotion every day for a month (Leo XIII, Audience, October 19, 1897; S. P. Ap., April 12, 1932 and June 12, 1949.).
A Mother’s Prayer to St. Augustine for her Children.
O God, Who enlightened St. Augustine by Thy grace, and inflamed him with Thy love in the midst of the darkness and miseries of a life of sin, have mercy likewise on my poor soul and upon those of my children and relatives! Pardon our ingratitude, our disobedience, our want of reverence, our indifference, finally, all the offenses of which we have ever been guilty against Thy Holy Name. We acknowledge that there is in this world no pain or punishment so severe as that which we deserve; therefore, full of dread of what is in store for us, we invoke the intercession of Thy holy servant Augustine, so inflamed with love of Thee!
O holy penitent Augustine, seraph of divine love, unspeakable miracle of Divine Mercy, obtain for us from God a true, perfect, and heartfelt sorrow for our sins, a devout and constant love of God, a love that triumphs over all difficulties, temptations, and tribulations, a wise and unremitting fervor in the observances of the divine Commandments and the fulfillment of our duties! Assist us especially in the training of our children. Behold to how many dangers their virtue and innocence are exposed in the world! See how numerous are the snares and deceits prepared for the ruin of their souls by the flesh, and through the words and example of evil and worldly-minded men! If they do not receive extraordinary help, how can they withstand such allurements? O great St. Augustine, take them under your protection! To our efforts in their behalf, join your intercession for them with God.
Exert all your influence and, with the compassion of your loving heart, intercede with the Most Holy Trinity for them. Permit not that our children, sanctified in the waters of Baptism, should through mortal sin be banished from the presence of God and suffer eternal punishment. Preserve them from the greatest of all evils here below, namely, that of denying the love of Jesus Christ, through affection to some creature or the fear of some misfortune. No, O great St. Augustine! Rather let them and us, their parents, die in the grace of God, than live to offend Him mortally! This favor we implore through your intercession, O holy son of a sainted mother, you who gladly receive and graciously hear the prayers of a mother! I confidently hope that you have already heard my petitions, and that you will obtain for me a favorable answer from God! Amen.
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