Thursday after the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany.
On the Forty Days’ Fast of Our Lord.
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 Fifth Sunday after Epiphany.
On the Forty Days’ Fast of Our Lord.
To-day you are called to go out into the desert and in solemn stillness contemplate your Lord, as in this sacred seclusion, solitary and alone, He holds intercourse with His heavenly Father in prayer. There He remains for forty days, forty days of the most rigorous fasting. One day after another passes, yet Jesus takes no food; weeks go by, but no morsel passes the Saviour’s lips until forty days were ended; then He was hungry. O marvellous fast, full of instruction for us!
1st. Jesus fasts as an act of atonement for man’s unlawful excesses. Alas! it was the inordinate gratification of sensual appetite that brought on the human race all the untold misery from which Jesus came to redeem us. The sins we commit are every one of them acts of unlawful indulgence, and therefore He fitly begins His work of redemption with what is diametrically opposed to sensual indulgence, with fasting, in order by His abstinence to atone for the sins of mankind which arise from the inordinate desire for enjoyment. So you too, Christian, ought to fast as an atonement, an atonement for your craving for enjoyment, which displays itself in a threefold manner, as coveteousness, ambition, sensuality. And in fasting you ought not only to have the intention of expiating your own sins, but—and this Religious and Priests should ever bear in mind, for it is what gives dignity to their vocation—also of expiating the sins of your fellow men, who cannot or will not fast themselves. Think to yourself, to-day I will fast, not for myself, but like Jesus, for this or that sinner, for this or that unhappy soul suffering on account of her inordinate desire for sensual gratification, and this thought will render fasting easier to yourself and more acceptable to God.
2d. Consider that Jesus fasts as a preparation for His career. As all the great saints fasted previously to taking in hand the work God commissioned them to accomplish, as we see Moses fasted, Elias fasted, St. John the Baptist fasted in view of preparing themselves for their work, so our Lord also fasted. His task was to defeat the devil and overthrow his kingdom. Satan founded that kingdom first of all on indulgence in unlawful gratifications, now the great Conqueror comes and founds His kingdom on that which is most opposed to such indulgence, on fasting and abstinence. Mark this, my soul, fasting has not only the nature of an atonement, it is also an excellent means of advancing in virtue, and a very powerful weapon wherewith to resist the devil. And as the devil retains his power over men so long as they cannot subdue in themselves the craving for inordinate gratification of the senses, so on the other hand those who by fasting conquer their fleshly lusts, prove too strong for him to overcome. If therefore you desire effectually to combat the evil within and around you, commence the warfare as Jesus did, by fasting. If you have any special work to perform for God’s glory, if you are about to undertake a post of responsibility, arm yourself beforehand against Satan’s darts and his assaults, as Jesus did, by fasting, and divide the period of fasting so that for one week it may be as an act of expiation that you fast, for another, as a means of acquiring certain virtues, or resisting certain temptations.
3d. Finally, consider that Jesus fasted without intermission. During the whole time of His sojourn in the desert His fast was unbroken. Herein is a lesson of great importance for you, my soul. As you ought to pray without ceasing, so you ought likewise to fast without ceasing. A Religious ought never to allow a day to pass without some act of self-denial, be it ever so slight. You will of course fast more rigorously in the prescribed season, fast, that is, in the strict sense of the word, but do not drop the practice at other times. If in Lent you fast chiefly in view of the mortification of the flesh, at other times let it be for the mortification of the spirit. By embracing the Religious life or entering the Priesthood, you place yourself in the foremost ranks of the army of Jesus Christ, waging war with the devil and his kingdom; you belong to the chosen warriors of the Lord; wherefore see that you never lay aside that important weapon against the malign foe, the practice of fasting. Make a resolution to this effect to-day, and consider one point more:
Although the Saviour fasted so rigorously, He did not feel it until the forty days were ended. Till then it was easy and pleasant to Him because of the strength imparted by His divine nature and the ineffable delight of the contemplation of heavenly things. If you are in the grace of God, if during the season of fasting you contemplate heavenly things in your mental prayer, then fasting will no longer seem difficult and onerous, you will find in it a celestial sweetness, in comparison with which all the enjoyments of the world will be as vinegar is to honey. Therefore before you close this meditation make a resolution cheerfully and gladly to keep up the practice of fasting, in one way or another, both now and throughout the whole year.
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.
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.’ Amen. – 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 month (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.
V. O Mary, conceived without sin,
R. Pray for us who have recourse to thee.
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