Thursday after the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost.
On the Hireling and the Good Shepherd.
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.
Thursday after the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost.
On the Hireling and the Good Shepherd.
Set before you the image of the good shepherd, who watches over his flock with vigilance and love. He leads them to the best pastures, goes after the wandering sheep until he finds it, takes the tired lamb upon his shoulders and carries it to the fold. Such a shepherd is Jesus Christ, loving, careful, anxious for the welfare of His sheep. He says so Himself. Listen and meditate upon His words as recorded by St. John.
1st. “I am the Good Shepherd.” (St. John x. 11.) According to St. Jerome the signs of a good shepherd are these: He clothes himself with a sheepskin, that the sheep may follow him. Besides this, he has a shepherd’s pouch, a staff and a horn. Now as Jesus is a shepherd, the Good Shepherd of men, He clothed Himself with the apparel of His sheep, He took on Himself our human nature, in order that we, His sheep, might follow Him more willingly. He also has a shepherd’s pouch, wherein are provisions for the sustenance of His flock, the Holy Sacraments He instituted; He also has a staff, wherewith to drive away the wolf, the evil enemy of His sheep, the devil, and that staff is His holy cross. Finally He has also a shepherd’s horn, that by its sound He may call together the lost and straying sheep and bring them back to Him, a pipe whose dulcet notes attract the flock and induce them to follow Him, and that is His sacred doctrine. Our Lord Himself points out another characteristic of the Good Shepherd: “The Good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep.” (v. 11.) Not only did He give His life for us by the death He suffered for our sakes, He did more; He gave us His life under the form of food, and by means of this He gives life to His sheep, gives His life “that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly”; that is, a life not for time only but one which passes over into a life of bliss that lasts to all eternity. Meditate, my soul, on these distinctive qualities of the Good Shepherd, behold their excellence, pray fervently, imploringly that all His sheep may follow Him, that the wandering sheep may return to Him; and ask yourself seriously whether you belong to the number of those sheep of whom our Lord says: “I know Mine and Mine know Me.” (v. 14.)
2d. Consider the contrast which the hireling presents to the Good Shepherd, in the description here given of him: “But the hireling, and he that is not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming and leaveth the sheep, and flieth; and the wolf catcheth and scattereth the sheep.” (v. 12.) What a dreary, forbidding picture is here presented, in comparison with that of the Good Shepherd. St. Gregory says that the hireling is not concerned for the welfare of his flock, but for his own profit. Unfaithful hirelings, St. Augustine bids us observe, see the injury that is being done to a soul, but for the sake of their own temporal interests, they do not interfere to correct it. They see a man going headlong to eternal perdition, they see the wolf of hell laying in wait for him, they see all this, yet they do not cry out, they do not rebuke or punish, they flee. If only they can have the milk, the wool, the flesh of their sheep they do not trouble themselves further about them. What miserable, contemptible creatures! It is to them that St. Boniface referred when he spoke so severely, saying: “If one who is commissioned to feed the sheep of Christ’s flock, leads a godly life as far as his own person is concerned, but from diffidence or timidity shrinks from rebuking sinners, he will suffer the same damnation as those who have lost their souls through his culpable silence. What will it then profit thee to have corrected thine own faults, if thou art punished for the sins of others?” Wherefore do not be dissatisfied, but give thanks to God, if you are not placed over others as their pastor, but only have to follow as a simple sheep whither you are led. Instead of envying your pastors their position, pity them, pray for them, that they may not be lost on account of the misdeeds of their flock.
3d. Consider that it is the bounden duty of every one, without exception, to be a good shepherd. The Superior has this duty towards his underlings, the parish Priest towards his flock, the Confessor towards his penitents, the teacher towards his pupils, the master of a house towards his family, and finally every man towards his fellow men and towards his own soul. How do you fulfil this pastoral duty? Are you a good shepherd or a hireling? Do you leave your own soul or the souls entrusted to your charge to suffer hunger? To what pastures do you lead them? To those where the herbage is good or where poisonous plants abound. What do you do when the wolf approaches, when temptation comes, when occasion for sin presents itself, when danger threatens, when disorder prevails? Ask yourself these questions to-day, for perhaps these are the very points concerning which you seldom examine your conscience. Since it is your duty to follow Christ, follow Him pre-eminently in His office of Good Shepherd, imitate Him in the love you cherish for your own immortal soul and the souls of your fellow men. Of this that eminent servant of Christ, St. Francis, offered a beautiful instance. “Nothing,” he was wont to say, “is to be preferred to the salvation of souls, because for them the Son of God vouchsafed to be nailed to the cross.” For this object he labored, he struggled, he prayed day and night; for the salvation of souls he chastised and tortured his frail body; and when begged to moderate his excessive zeal, he would reply: “I am sent to give you an example, and had I not sufficient charity to perform this duty, I should do little good to others and gain nothing myself, even if I spoke with the tongue of men and of angels.” That is what a saint says. Ask yourself, my soul, what your conduct is when your duty as a shepherd calls you to labor for the sanctification of your own soul or the souls of others.
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.
September Devotion: The Holy Cross
Virtues to practice: Piety, fervor in the performance of sacred duties, the spirit of prayer
O Mary, most holy Virgin and Queen of Martyrs, accept the sincere homage of my filial affection. Into thy heart, pierced by so many swords, do thou welcome my poor soul. Receive it as the companion of thy sorrows at the foot of the Cross, on which Jesus died for the redemption of the world. With thee, O sorrowful Virgin, I will gladly suffer all the trials, contradictions, and infirmities which it shall please our Lord to send me. I offer them all to thee in memory of thy sorrows, so that every thought of my mind, and every beat of my heart may be an act of compassion and of love for thee. And do thou, sweet Mother, have pity on me, reconcile me to thy divine Son Jesus, keep me in His grace and assist me in my last agony, so that I may be able to meet thee in heaven and sing thy glories. Amen.
An indulgence of 500 days (taken from The Raccolta (c)1957).
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.
Prayer of Pope St. Pius X
O most sweet Jesus! Who didst come into the world to give to all souls the life of Thy grace, and Who, to preserve and foster it in them, hast willed to become the daily remedy of their infirmity and their food for each day, we humbly beseech Thee through Thy Sacred Heart, burning with love for us, to pour out Thy Divine Spirit upon all souls, in order that those who, unhappily, are in mortal sin may be converted to Thee and recover the life of grace which they have lost, and that those who by Thy help are already living in this Divine life, may, when it is possible for them, approach Thy Holy Table every day; so that daily receiving in Holy Communion the antidote of their daily venial sins, and daily nourishing in themselves the life of Thy grace, thus ever purifying their souls more and more, they may at last arrive at the possession of the life of eternal happiness. Amen.
Written by Pope St. Pius X and indulgenced on the 30th of May, 1905.
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