Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Birth of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
At the birth of Our lord, the world was not dazzled by the splendor and majesty of a king. Instead, God desired to come humbly, embracing poverty from the very beginning. Christians who are familiar with the story of Jesus' birth may wonder in awe and reverence at the scene of the Baby Jesus lying in a manger in a cold Bethlehem stable surrounded by Mary and Joseph and a few animals. On this night, nearby shepherds were visited by an angel and told of the Savior's birth, "and suddenly there were with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will." (Luke 2:13-14). The Roman Martyrology says that Jesus desired to "consecrate the world by His most merciful coming." In this mystery of Christ's birth, He whom the heavens cannot contain comes to us in the most humble and unintimidating manner, that of a tiny babe, inviting us to draw closer in the same way the shepherds sought out the Divine Infant to pay Him homage.
(Excepted from Tan Books, 2005 Saints Calendar.)
Monday, December 12, 2005
The Conclusion and Spiritual Bouquet.
THE meditation should be concluded by three acts, made with the utmost humility. First, an act of thanksgiving;—thanking God for the affections and resolutions with which He has inspired you, and for the Mercy and Goodness He has made known to you in the mystery you have been meditating. Secondly, an act of oblation, by which you offer your affections and resolutions to God, in union with His Own Goodness and Mercy, and the Death and Merits of His Son. The third act is one of petition, in which you ask God to give you a share in the Merits of His Dear Son, and a blessing on your affections and resolutions, to the end that you may be able to put them in practice. You will further pray for the Church, and all her Ministers, your relations, friends, and all others, using the Our Father as the most comprehensive and necessary of prayers.
Besides all this, I bade you gather a little bouquet of devotion, and what I mean is this. When walking in a beautiful garden most people are wont to gather a few flowers as they go, which they keep, and enjoy their scent during the day. So, when the mind explores some mystery in meditation, it is well to pick out one or more points that have specially arrested the attention, and are most likely to be helpful to you through the day, and this should be done at once before quitting the subject of your meditation.[From 'Introduction to the Devout Life', Part Two, by St. Francis de Sales. Public Domain.]
Sunday, December 11, 2005
The Third Part of Meditation, Affections and Resolutions.
MEDITATION excites good desires in the will, or sensitive part of the soul,—such as love of God and of our neighbour, a craving for the glory of Paradise, zeal for the salvation of others, imitation of our Lord’s Example, compassion, thanksgiving, fear of God’s wrath and of judgment, hatred of sin, trust in God’s Goodness and Mercy, shame for our past life; and in all such affections you should pour out your soul as much as possible. If you want help in this, turn to some simple book of devotions, the Imitation of Christ, the Spiritual Combat, or whatever you find most helpful to your individual wants.
But, my daughter, you must not stop short in general affections, without turning them into special resolutions for your own correction and amendment. For instance, meditating on Our Dear Lord’s First Word from the Cross, you will no doubt be roused to the desire of imitating Him in forgiving and loving your enemies. But that is not enough, unless you bring it to some practical resolution, such as, “I will not be angered any more by the annoying things said of me by such or such a neighbour, nor by the slights offered me by such an one; but rather I will do such and such things in order to soften and conciliate them.” In this way, my daughter, you will soon correct your faults, whereas mere general resolutions would take but a slow and uncertain effect.
[From 'Introduction to the Devout Life', Part Two, by St. Francis de Sales. Public Domain.]
Saturday, December 10, 2005
of the HOLY HOUSE of LORETO
Towards the end of the thirteenth century, the terrible news reached Europe that the Holy Land was lost to the Christians, who during two centuries had been able to maintain the Latin kingdom there by virtue of their repeated Crusades. But at the time the Church was deploring this painful loss, a new joy was given them: the holy house of Nazareth — site of the birth of the Mother of God, of Her early education and of the Annunciation by the Angel Gabriel of the wondrous news of the Incarnation of the Son of God — had been found, transported miraculously, near Tersatz in Dalmatia (Yugoslavia) on May 10th of the year 1291. Between Tersatz and nearby Fiume, the residents of the region beheld one morning an edifice, in a location where never had any been seen before. After the residents of the region talked among themselves of the remarkable little house surmounted by a bell tower, and which stood without foundations on the bare ground, describing its altar, an ancient statue of Our Lady, and other religious objects which their wondering eyes had seen within it, another surprise came to astound them once more.
Their bishop suddenly appeared in their midst, cured from a lingering illness which had kept him bedridden for several months. He had prayed to be able to go see the prodigy for himself, and the Mother of God had appeared to him, saying, in substance: “My son, you called Me; I am here to give you powerful assistance and reveal to you the secret you desire to know. The holy dwelling is the very house where I was born... It is there that when the announcement was brought by the Archangel Gabriel, I conceived the divine Child by the operation of the Holy Spirit. It is there that the Word was made flesh! After My decease, the Apostles consecrated this dwelling, illustrated by such elevated mysteries, and sought the honor of celebrating the August Sacrifice there. The altar is the very one which the Apostle Saint Peter placed there. The crucifix was introduced by the Apostles, and the cedar statue is My faithful image, made by the hand of the Evangelist Saint Luke... Your sudden return to health from so long an illness will bear witness to this prodigy.” Nicolas Frangipane, governor of the territory of Ancona, was absent, but when the news was carried to him, he returned from a war in order to verify its authenticity. He sent to Nazareth, at the eastern limits of the Mediterranean Sea, the bishop and three other persons, to examine the original site of the house. Indeed the house was no longer there, but its foundations remained and were found conformable in every detail of dimension and substance, to the stones at the base of the house now in Dalmatia. The testimony of the delegates was drafted according to legal formalities, and confirmed by a solemn oath.
Then, after three years spent in Dalmatia, the house disappeared. Paul Della Selva, a holy hermit of that period and of the region of Ancona, wrote: “During the night of December 10th, a light from heaven became visible to several inhabitants of the shores of the Adriatic Sea, and a divine harmony woke them that they might contemplate a marvel exceeding all the forces of nature. They saw and contemplated a house, surrounded by heavenly splendor, transported through the air.” The angelic burden was brought to rest in a forest, where again the local residents were able to contemplate the signal relics which it contained. The antique Greek crucifix mentioned by Our Lady was made of wood, and attached to it was a canvas on which the words Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, were painted. The cedar statue of the Virgin had been painted also; she wore a red robe and a blue cloak and held the Infant Jesus in Her arms. His right hand was raised in blessing; His left hand held a globe, symbol of His sovereign power.
The story was far from ended. The house moved again, after robbers began to intercept pilgrims coming through the forest to visit the marvel. Twice more it rose from its place, the first time coming to rest on a private terrain, which became then a source of dispute between two brothers; and finally on a hilltop where a dusty and uneven public road became its permanent site. For centuries the people of Dalmatia came across the sea on pilgrimage, often crying out to Our Lady and Her House to come back to them! Finally in 1559, after one such visit by 300 pilgrims, the Sovereign Pontiff had a hospice built at Loreto for families who preferred to remain near the house, rather than return to a land deprived of its sacred presence.
The reddish-black stones of the house are a sort entirely foreign to Italy; the mortar cementing them is again entirely different from the volcanic-ash-based substance used in that country. The residents of the region put up a heavy brick wall to support the house, which was exposed to the torrential rains and winds of the hilltop and was completely without foundation. But no sooner was that wall completed, than they came back one morning to find it had moved away from the house, as if to express its reverence, to a distance which permitted a small child to walk around it with a torch in hand. The Author of the miracle wanted it to be well understood that He who had brought it without human assistance, was capable also of maintaining it there where He had placed it, without human concourse.
The episodes concerning the Translation of the Holy House, all duly verified, were consigned in documents borne to Rome to the Sovereign Pontiffs at various epochs. Pope Sixtus IV declared that the house was the property of the Holy See, and assigned duties to a specified personnel named to be its custodians. By Pope Leo X the indulgence applicable to the visit of several churches of Rome was accorded also to a pilgrimage to Loreto. Eventually a magnificent basilica was built around the house, which within the basilica was itself enhanced by a white marble edicule. Pope Clement IX in 1667, placed the story of the House in the Roman Martyrology for the 10th of December under the title: At Loreto, in the territory of Ancona, translation of the Holy House of Mary, Mother of God, in which the Word was made flesh. Pope Benedict XIV, a prodigious scholar before he became Pope, established the identity of the house with that of Nazareth, against its detractors, and later worked for the embellishment of the August sanctuary. The feast of Our Lady of Loreto is observed in many provinces of the Church, inscribed in the Proper of their dioceses by their bishops.
Sources: Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 14; Magnificat magazine, Vol. XXIX, no. 12, December 1994, pp. 260-264 (Magnificat: Saint Jovite, 1994); La Sainte Maison de la Sainte Vierge, by a priest of Montreal (Librairie Saint Joseph: Montreal, 1895).
Saturday, December 10, 2005
Dear friends, yesterday night at the Blue Cross there was an extra-ordinary apparition of the Virgin Mary to Ivan who is in Medjugorje for a couple of weeks. Here is the new message that She gave us. Let’s accept it with responsibility and let’s prepare for Christmas in the way She is asking us.
This is a personal translation of Anna, from the italian version coming from Krizan Brekalo in Medjugorje.
Message of the Queen of Peace of December 9th, 2005 given to Ivan at the Blue Cross.
Dear children,even tonight, with joy, I invite you in a special way during this time of grace : renew your prayer in the family.Dear children, pray in the family during this time, pray in front of the crib. Pray, dear children, so that with prayer joy returns in your hearts, that the light of Christmas shines in your hearts. Thank you for having responded to my call.
CHAPTER V. Considerations, the Second Part of Meditation.
AFTER this exercise of the imagination, we come to that of the understanding: for meditations, properly so called, are certain considerations by which we raise the affections to God and heavenly things. Now meditation differs therein from study and ordinary methods of thought which have not the Love of God or growth in holiness for their object, but some other end, such as the acquisition of learning or power of argument. So, when you have, as I said, limited the efforts of your mind within due bounds,—whether by the imagination, if the subject be material, or by propositions, if it be a spiritual subject,—you will begin to form reflections or considerations after the pattern of the meditations I have already sketched for you. And if your mind finds sufficient matter, light and fruit wherein to rest in any one consideration, dwell upon it, even as the bee, which hovers over one flower so long as it affords honey. But if you do not find wherewith to feed your mind, after a certain reasonable effort, then go on to another consideration,—only be quiet and simple, and do not be eager or hurried.
[From 'Introduction to the Devout Life,' Part Two, by St. Francis de Sales. Public Domain.]
Friday, December 09, 2005
The Third Point of Preparation, representing the Mystery to be meditated to Your Imagination.
FOLLOWING upon these two ordinary points, there is a third, which is not necessary to all meditation, called by some the local representation, and by others the interior picture. It is simply kindling a vivid picture of the mystery to be meditated within your imagination, even as though you were actually beholding it. For instance, if you wish to meditate upon our Lord on His Cross, you will place yourself in imagination on Mount Calvary, as though you saw and heard all that occurred there during the Passion; or you can imagine to yourself all that the Evangelists describe as taking place where you are. In the same way, when you meditate upon death, bring the circumstances that will attend your own vividly to mind, and so of hell, or any subjects which involve visible, tangible circumstances. When it is a question of such mysteries as God’s Greatness, His Attributes, the end of our creation, or other invisible things, you cannot make this use of your imagination. At most you may employ certain comparisons and similitudes, but these are not always opportune, and I would have you follow a very simple method, and not weary your mind with striving after new inventions. Still, often this use of the imagination tends to concentrate the mind on the mystery we wish to meditate, and to prevent our thoughts from wandering hither and thither, just as when you shut a bird within a cage, or fasten a hawk by its lures. Some people will tell you that it is better to confine yourself to mere abstract thought, and a simple mental and spiritual consideration of these mysteries, but this is too difficult for beginners; and until God calls you up higher, I would advise you, my daughter, to abide contentedly in the lowly valley I have pointed out.[From 'Introduction to the Devout Life', Part Two, by St. Francis de Sales. Public Domain.]
Thursday, December 08, 2005
WHY I LOVE THEE MARY.
LAST POEM OF SISTER TERESA.
Fain would I sing, O Mother blest! the reasons why I love thee;
Why e’en to name thy name, with joy, O Mary! fills my heart;
And why the glorious thoughts of thee, in greatness far above me,
Inspire no fear within my soul, so dear and sweet thou art.
Yet, if I were to see thee now, in majesty stupendous,
Surpassing all the crowned saints in highest heaven above,
Scarce could I dream I am thy child, (O truth sublime, tremendous!),
For I should think myself to be unworthy of thy love.
The mother, who desires to be her child’s best earthly treasure,
Must ever share its grief with it, must understand its pain.
Queen of my heart! how many years, thy sorrows had no measure;
What bitter tears thine eyes have shed, my worthless heart to gain!
So, musing on thy earthly life, in Scripture’s sacred story,
I dare to look upon thy face, and unto thee draw nigh;
For when I see thee suffering, — concealed thy marvelous glory —
It is not hard, then, to believe thy little child am I.
When Gabriel came from heaven’s courts, to ask thee to be mother
Of God Who reigns omnipotent to all eternity,
I see thee, Mary! then prefer to that great grace, another, —
Through all thy consecrated life a virgin pure to be.
And so I now can comprehend, immaculate white maiden!
Why thou wast dearer unto God than heaven itself could be;
And how thy humble, human frame, with mortal weakness laden,
Could yet contain the Eternal Word, Love’s vast unbounded Sea.
I love thee when I hear thee call thyself the handmaid only
Of God, Whom thou didst win to earth by thy humility;
All-powerful it made thee then, above all women, lonely,
And drew, into thy bosom chaste, the Blessed Trinity,
The Holy Spirit, Love Divine, o’ershadowed thee, O Mother!
And God the Father’s only Son incarnate was in thee.
How many sinful, sorrowing souls shall dare to call Him — Brother!
For He shall be called: Jesus, thy first-born, eternally.
And oh! despite my frailties, dear Mary! well thou knowest
That I at times, like thee, possess the Almighty in my breast.
Shall I not tremble at the gift, O God! that Thou bestowest ?
A mother’s treasure is her child’s: — I still my fears to rest.
For I, O Mary, am thy child! O Mother dear and tender.
Shall not thy virtues and thy love plead now with God for me?
Then, when the pure white sacred Host, in all its veiled splendor,
Visits my heart, thy spotless Lamb will think He comes to thee.
Oh, thou dost help me to believe that e’en for us, frail mortals,
‘Tis not impossible to walk where we thy footsteps see;
The narrow road before us now, thou lightest to heaven’s portals.
Who lowliest virtues here below didst practise perfectly.
Near thee, O Mother! I would stay, little, unknown and lowly;
Of earthly glory, oh! how plain I see the vanity!
In the house of St. Elizabeth, thy cousin dear and holy,
I learn of thee to practise well most ardent charity.
There, too, I listen on my knees, great Queen of all the Angels!
To that sweet canticle that flows in rapture from thy soul;
So dost thou teach me how to sing like heavenly, glad evangels
And glorify my Jesus, Who alone can make me whole.
Thy burning words of love divine are mystic flowers victorious,
Whose fragrance shall embalm the long, long, ages yet to be.
In thee, indeed, the Almighty King hath done great things and glorious!
I meditate upon them now, and bless my God in thee.
When good St. Joseph did not know the great archangel’s story,
Which thou wouldst fain conceal from men in thy humility,
O tabernacle of the Lord! thou didst not tell thy glory,
But veiled the Saviour’s presence in profoundest secrecy,
Thy silence, how I love it now, so eloquent, so moving!
For me it is a concert sweet, of melody sublime;
I learn thereby the grandeur of a soul that God is proving,
That only looks for help from Him and in His chosen time.
Then later still, O Joseph! and O Mary! I behold you
Repulsed in little Bethlehem by all the dwellers there;
From door to door you vainly went, for all the people told you
They had no place to shelter you, no time to give you care.
Their rooms were for the great alone; and in a stable dreary
The Queen of Heaven gave birth to Him Who made both heaven and earth.
O Mother of my Saviour! then, thou wast not sad nor weary;
In that poor shed how grand thou wert! how painless was that Birth!
And there when, wrapped in swaddling bands, I see the King Eternal, —
When of the Word divine, supreme, the feeble cry I hear —
O Mary, can I envy e’en the angels’ joy supernal?
The Master Whom they worship is My little Brother dear.
What praises must I give to thee, who, in earth’s gloomy prison,
Brought forth this lovely heaven-sent Flower, before our eyes to bloom!
Though unto shepherds and wise men a star had grandly risen,
These things were kept within thy heart as in some secret room.
I love thee when I see thee next, like other Hebrew women,
To Israel’s temple turn thy steps when dawned the fortieth day;
I love thee yielding humbly up, to aged, favored Simeon,
The Lord Who should redeem us all when years had fled away.
And first my happy smiles awake, to hear his glorious singing, —
That “Nunc Dimittis” that shall ring till Time itself shall die;
But soon those joyous notes are changed, and my hot tears are springing; —
“A sword of grief must be thy lot,” thus runs his prophecy.
O Queen of all the martyr-host! till thy life here is ended,
That sharp, sharp sword shall pierce thy heart! At once, it pierces sore.
That thy dear Child from Herod’s wrath may surely be defended,
I see thee as an exile fled to Egypt’s pagan shore.
Beneath thy veil thy Jesus slept, thy peace no fears were daunting,
When Joseph came to bid thee wake, and straightway flee from home;
And then at once I see thee rise, as called by angels chanting,
Content, without a questioning word, in foreign lands to roam.
In Egypt and in poverty, I think I see thee, Mary,
All glad at heart, all radiant, with joy beyond compare.
What matters exile unto thee? Thy true home cannot vary.
Hast thou not Jesus, with thee still? and with Him Heaven is there.
But, oh! in fair Jerusalem, a sorrow, vast, unbounded,
Indeed o’erwhelmed thy mother-heart with grief beyond compare; —
For three days Jesus hid Himself; no word to thee was spoken.
Thou truly wast an exile then, and knew what exiles bear.
And when, at last, thine eyes again were thy Son’s face beholding,
And love entranced thee, watching Him among the doctors wise.
My Child!” thou saidst, “now tell me why didst leave my arms enfolding?
Didst Thou not know we sought for Thee with tear-endimmed eyes?
The Child-God answered to thee then, to thy sweet, patient wooing,
O Mother whom He loved so well, whose heart was well-nigh broken!
“How is it that you sought for Me? Wist not I must be doing
My Father’s work?” Oh, who shall sound the depths those words betoken?
But next the Gospel tells me that, in His hidden mission,
Subject to Joseph and to thee was Christ, the Holy Boy;
And then my heart reveals to me how true was His submission,
And how beyond all words to tell, thy daily, perfect joy.
And now the temple’s mystery I understand, dear Mother!
The answer, and the tone of voice, of Christ, my King adored.
‘Twas meant the pattern thou shouldst be, thereafter to all other
Tried souls who seek, in Faith’s dark night the coming of the Lord.
Since Heaven’s high King has willed it so His Mother and His dearest
Should know the anguish of that night the torn heart’s deepest woe,
Then are not those, who suffer thus, to Mary’s heart the nearest?
And is not love in suffering God’s highest gift below?
All, all that He has granted me, oh! tell Him He may take it!
Tell Him, dear Mother! He may do whate’er He please with me;
That He may bruise my heart to-day, and make it sore, and break it,
So only through Eternity my eyes His Face may see!
I know, indeed, at Nazareth, O Virgin rich in graces!
As the lowly live, so thou didst live, and sought no better things;
Of ecstasies and wonders there, our eyes can find no traces,
O thou who daily dwelt beside the incarnate King of Kings!
On earth, we know, is very great the number of the lowly;
With neither fear nor trembling now we dare to look on thee.
By common lot and humble path, our Mother dear and holy,
Thou wast content to walk to heaven, and thus our guide to be.
Through all my weary exile here, I fain would walk beside thee.
O my pure and precious Mother! be near to me each day!
Thy beauty thrills my heart with joy. Deign now to guard and guide me!
What depths of love are in thy heart for me thy child, alway!
Before thy kind maternal glance, my many fears are banished;
Thou teachest me to gently weep, and then to sing for joy;
Thou dost not scorn our happy days, nor hast thou wholly vanished;
Thou smilest on us tenderly, as once upon thy Boy!
When bride and groom at Cana’s feast knew well the wine was failing,
And knew not whence to bring supply, their need thine eyes perceived,
To Christ, the Master, thou didst speak, who knew His power availing, —
The Maker of created things, in Whom thy soul believed.
But first He seemed thy mother-heart’s kind prayer to be denying.
“What matters this, O woman! unto Me and thee?” said He.
But “Mother,” in His soul’s deep depths, His filial heart was crying;
And that first miracle He wrought, Mother, lie wrought for thee.
One day, while sinners crowded round to hear what He was saying,
In His desire to save their souls and them to heaven beguile,
Lo! thou wast there amid the throng, and thou wast meekly praying
That they would let thee nearer come, and speak with Him awhile.
And then thy Son spoke out this word mysterious like that other.
To show us thus His marvelous love for all the souls of men; —
He said: “Who is My brother, and My sister, and My Mother?
‘Tis he who does My Father’s will!” The Father’s will, again!
O Virgin, pure, immaculate! O Mother, tenderest, dearest!
Hearing these words that Jesus spake, this time thou wast not grieved.
No! thy great heart it leaped for joy, O thou His friend the nearest!
Because our longing souls likewise to kinship He received.
Oh, how thy heart is glad to know His love to us is given, —
The treasure, that cannot be weighed, of His Divinity!
Who shall not love thee well to-day, and bless thee in high heaven,
Seeing thy tender care for us, thy generosity!
For truly thou dost love us all as thy Child Jesus loves us;
And for our sake thou didst consent to stay when He had risen.
Since, if we love, then all to give, e’en self, both tries and proves us,
So thou, to prove thy love, didst stay in earth’s dark, dreary prison.
Thy love for souls our Saviour knew, that love His heart had sounded;
He left thee to us when He went to God’s right hand on high.
Refuge of sinners! on thy prayers how many hopes are grounded!
Christ gave thee to us from His cross; for us He hears thy cry.
For thou — His Mother — there didst stand, that awful day, on Calvary;
As a priest before God’s altar, at the cross so thou didst stand.
And to appease the Father’s wrath, didst offer up, O Mary!
Thy Jesus, our Emmanuel, at God’s supreme command.
A prophet had foretold this thing, O Mother brokenhearted!
“Is any sorrow like to thine?” Thy grief no words can say!
Blest Queen of martyrs! left on earth when Jesus had departed!
‘Twas thy heart’s blood for us was given on that unequalled day.
Henceforth thy shelter in thy woe was St. John’s humble dwelling;
The son of Zebedee replaced the Son Whom heaven adored.
Naught else the Gospels tell us of thy life, in grace excelling;
It is the last they say of thee, sweet Mother of my Lord!
But that deep silence, oh! I think it means that, up in glory,
When time is past, and into heaven thy children safe are come,
The Eternal Word, my Mother dear, Himself will tell thy story,
To charm our souls, thy children’s souls, in our eternal home.
Soon I shall hear that harmony, that blissful, wondrous singing;
Soon, soon, to heaven that waits for us, my soul shall swiftly fly.
O Thou who cam’st to smile on me at dawn of life’s beginning!
Come once again to smile on me. . . . Mother! the night is nigh.
I fear no more thy majesty, so far, so far above me,
For, I have suffered sore with thee; now hear my heart’s deep cry!
Oh! let me tell thee face to face, dear Virgin! how I love thee;
And say to thee forevermore: thy little child am I.
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Invocation, the Second Point of Preparation.
INVOCATION is made as follows: your soul, having realised God’s Presence, will prostrate itself with the utmost reverence, acknowledging its unworthiness to abide before His Sovereign Majesty; and yet knowing that He of His Goodness would have you come to Him, you must ask of Him grace to serve and worship Him in this your meditation. You may use some such brief and earnest words as those of David: “Cast me not away from Thy Presence, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.”  “Shew me Thy Ways, O Lord, and teach me Thy paths.”  “Give me understanding, and I shall keep Thy Law: yea, I shall keep it with my whole heart.”  “I am Thy servant, O grant me understanding.”  Dwell too upon the thought of your guardian Angel, and of the Saints connected with the special mystery you are considering, as the Blessed Virgin, S. John, the Magdalene, the good thief, etc., if you are meditating in the Passion, so that you may share in their devout feelings and intention,—and in the same way with other subjects.[From 'Introduction to the Devout Life, Part Two, by St. Francis de Sales. Public Domain.]
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
A short Method of Meditation. And first, the Presence of God, the First Point of Preparation.
IT may be, my daughter, that you do not know how to practise mental prayer, for unfortunately it is a thing much neglected now-adays. I will therefore give you a short and easy method for using it, until such time as you may read sundry books written on the subject, and above all till practice teaches you how to use it more perfectly. And first of all, the Preparation, which consists of two points: first, placing yourself in the Presence of God; and second, asking His Aid. And in order to place your self in the Presence of God, I will suggest four chief considerations which you can use at first.
First, a lively earnest realisation that His Presence is universal; that is to say, that He is everywhere, and in all, and that there is no place, nothing in the world, devoid of His Most Holy Presence, so that, even as birds on the wing meet the air continually, we, let us go where we will, meet with that Presence always and everywhere. It is a truth which all are ready to grant, but all are not equally alive to its importance. A blind man when in the presence of his prince will preserve a reverential demeanour if told that the king is there, although unable to see him; but practically, what men do not see they easily forget, and so readily lapse into carelessness and irreverence. Just so, my child, we do not see our God, and although faith warns us that He is present, not beholding Him with our mortal eyes, we are too apt to forget Him, and act as though He were afar: for, while knowing perfectly that He is everywhere, if we do not think about it, it is much as though we knew it not. And therefore, before beginning to pray, it is needful always to rouse the soul to a stedfast remembrance and thought of the Presence of God. This is what David meant when he exclaimed, “If I climb up to Heaven, Thou art there, and if I go down to hell, Thou art there also!”  And in like manner Jacob, who, beholding the ladder which went up to Heaven, cried out, “Surely the Lord is in this place and I knew it not”  meaning thereby that he had not thought of it; for assuredly he could not fail to know that God was everywhere and in all things. Therefore, when you make ready to pray, you must say with your whole heart, “God is indeed here.”
The second way of placing yourself in this Sacred Presence is to call to mind that God is not only present in the place where you are, but that He is very specially present in your heart and mind, which He kindles and inspires with His Holy Presence, abiding there as Heart of your heart, Spirit of your spirit. Just as the soul animates the whole body, and every member thereof, but abides especially in the heart, so God, while present everywhere, yet makes His special abode with our spirit. Therefore David calls Him “the Strength of my heart;”  and S. Paul said that in Him “we live and move and have our being.”  Dwell upon this thought until you have kindled a great reverence within your heart for God Who is so closely present to you.
The third way is to dwell upon the thought of our Lord, Who in His Ascended Humanity looks  down upon all men, but most particularly on all Christians, because they are His children; above all, on those who pray, over whose doings He keeps watch. Nor is this any mere imagination, it is very truth, and although we see Him not, He is looking down upon us. It was given to S. Stephen in the hour of martyrdom thus to behold Him, and we may well say with the Bride of the Canticles, “He looketh forth at the windows, shewing Himself through the lattice.”
The fourth way is simply to exercise your ordinary imagination, picturing the Saviour to yourself in His Sacred Humanity as if He were beside you just as we are wont to think of our friends, and fancy that we see or hear them at our side. But when the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar is there, then this Presence is no longer imaginary, but most real; and the sacred species are but as a veil from behind which the Present Saviour beholds and considers us, although we cannot see Him as He is.
Make use of one or other of these methods for placing yourself in the Presence of God before you begin to pray;—do not try to use them all at once, but take one at a time, and that briefly and simply.[From 'Introduction t the Devout Life', Part Two, by St. Francis de Sales. Public Domain.]
Monday, December 05, 2005
CHAPTER I. The Necessity of Prayer.
1. PRAYER opens the understanding to the brightness of Divine Light, and the will to the warmth of Heavenly Love—nothing can so effectually purify the mind from its many ignorances, or the will from its perverse affections. It is as a healing water which causes the roots of our good desires to send forth fresh shoots, which washes away the soul’s imperfections, and allays the thirst of passion.
2. But especially I commend earnest mental prayer to you, more particularly such as bears upon the Life and Passion of our Lord. If you contemplate Him frequently in meditation, your whole soul will be filled with Him, you will grow in His Likeness, and your actions will be moulded on His. He is the Light of the world; therefore in Him, by Him, and for Him we shall be enlightened and illuminated; He is the Tree of Life, beneath the shadow of which we must find rest;—He is the Living Fountain of Jacob’s well, wherein we may wash away every stain. Children learn to speak by hearing their mother talk, and stammering forth their childish sounds in imitation; and so if we cleave to the Savior in meditation, listening to His words, watching His actions and intentions, we shall learn in time, through His Grace, to speak, act and will like Himself. Believe me, my daughter, there is no way to God save through this door. Just as the glass of a mirror would give no reflection save for the metal behind it, so neither could we here below contemplate the Godhead, were it not united to the Sacred Humanity of our Saviour, Whose Life and Death are the best, sweetest and most profitable subjects that we can possibly select for meditation. It is not without meaning that the Saviour calls Himself the Bread come down from Heaven;—just as we eat bread with all manner of other food, so we need to meditate and feed upon our Dear Lord in every prayer and action. His Life has been meditated and written about by various authors. I should specially commend to you the writings of S. Bonaventura, Bellintani, Bruno, Capilla, Grenada and Da Ponte. 
3. Give an hour every day to meditation before dinner;—if you can, let it be early in the morning, when your mind will be less cumbered, and fresh after the night’s rest. Do not spend more than an hour thus, unless specially advised to do so by your spiritual father.
4. If you can make your meditation quietly in church, it will be well, and no one, father or mother, husband or wife, can object to an hour spent there, and very probably you could not secure a time so free from interruption at home.
5. Begin all prayer, whether mental or vocal, by an act of the Presence of God. If you observe this rule strictly, you will soon see how useful it is.
6. It may help you to say the Creed, Lord’s Prayer, etc., in Latin, but you should also study them diligently in your own language, so as thoroughly to gather up the meaning of these holy words, which must be used fixing your thoughts steadily on their purport, not striving to say many words so much as seeking to say a few with your whole heart. One Our Father said devoutly is worth more than many prayers hurried over.
7. The Rosary is a useful devotion when rightly used, and there are various little books to teach this. It is well, too, to say pious Litanies, and the other vocal prayers appointed for the Hours and found in Manuals of devotion,—but if you have a gift for mental prayer, let that always take the chief place, so that if, having made that, you are hindered by business or any other cause from saying your wonted vocal prayers, do not be disturbed, but rest satisfied with saying the Lord’s Prayer, the Angelic Salutation, and the Creed after your meditation.
8. If, while saying vocal prayers, your heart feels drawn to mental prayer, do not resist it, but calmly let your mind fall into that channel, without troubling because you have not finished your appointed vocal prayers. The mental prayer you have substituted for them is more acceptable to God, and more profitable to your soul. I should make an exception of the Church’s Offices, if you are bound to say those by your vocation—in such a case these are your duty.
9. If it should happen that your morning goes by without the usual meditation, either owing to a pressure of business, or from any other cause, (which interruptions you should try to prevent as far as possible,) try to repair the loss in the afternoon, but not immediately after a meal, or you will perhaps be drowsy, which is bad both for your meditation and your health. But if you are unable all day to make up for the omission, you must remedy it as far as may be by ejaculatory prayer, and by reading some spiritual book, together with an act of penitence for the neglect, together with a stedfast resolution to do better the next day.
[From 'Introduction to the Devout Life, Part Two, by St. Francis de Sales. Public Domain.]
Sunday, December 04, 2005
All Evil Inclinations must be purged away.
FURTHERMORE, my daughter, we have certain natural inclinations, which are not strictly speaking either mortal or venial sins, but rather imperfections; and the acts in which they take shape, failings and deficiencies. Thus S. Jerome says that S. Paula had so strong a tendency to excessive sorrow, that when she lost her husband and children she nearly died of grief: that was not a sin, but an imperfection, since it did not depend upon her wish and will. Some people are naturally easy, some oppositions; some are indisposed to accept other men’s opinions, some naturally disposed to be cross, some to be affectionate—in short, there is hardly any one in whom some such imperfections do not exist. Now, although they be natural and instinctive in each person, they may be remedied and corrected, or even eradicated, by cultivating the reverse disposition. And this, my child, must be done. Gardeners have found how to make the bitter almond tree bear sweet fruit, by grafting the juice of the latter upon it, why should we not purge out our perverse dispositions and infuse such as are good? There is no disposition so good but it may be made bad by dint of vicious habits, and neither is there any natural disposition so perverse but that it may be conquered and overcome by God’s Grace primarily, and then by our earnest diligent endeavour. I shall therefore now proceed to give you counsels and suggest practices by which you may purify your soul from all dangerous affections and imperfections, and from all tendencies to venial sin, thereby strengthening yourself more and more against mortal sin. May God give you grace to use them.[From 'Introduction to the Devout Life, Part One, by St. Francis de Sales. Public Domain.]
Saturday, December 03, 2005
It is needful to put away all Inclination for Useless and Dangerous Things.
SPORTS, balls, plays, festivities, pomps, are not in themselves evil, but rather indifferent matters, capable of being used for good or ill; but nevertheless they are dangerous, and it is still more dangerous to take great delight in them. Therefore, my daughter, I say that although it is lawful to amuse yourself, to dance, dress, feast, and see seemly plays,—at the same time, if you are much addicted to these things, they will hinder your devotion, and become extremely hurtful and dangerous to you. The harm lies, not in doing them, but in the degree to which you care for them. It is a pity to sow the seed of vain and foolish tastes in the soil of your heart, taking up the place of better things, and hindering the soul from cultivating good dispositions. It was thus that the Nazarites of old abstained not merely from all intoxicating liquors, but from grapes fresh or dried, and from vinegar, not because these were intoxicating, but because they might excite the desire for fermented liquors. Just so, while I do not forbid the use of these dangerous pleasures, I say that you cannot take an excessive delight in them without their telling upon your devotion. When the stag has waxed fat he hides himself amid the thicket, conscious that his fleetness is impaired should he be in need to fly: and so the human heart which is cumbered with useless, superfluous, dangerous clingings becomes incapacitated for that earnest following after God which is the true life of devotion. No one blames children for running after butterflies, because they are children, but is it not ridiculous and pitiful to see full-grown men eager about such worthless trifles as the worldly amusements before named, which are likely to throw them off their balance and disturb their spiritual life? Therefore, dear child, I would have you cleanse your heart from all such tastes, remembering that while the acts themselves are not necessarily incompatible with a devout life, all delight in them must be harmful.[From 'Introduction to the Devout Life', Part One, by St. Francis de Sales. Public Domain.]
Friday, December 02, 2005
The Necessity of Purging away all tendency to Venial Sins.
AS daylight waxes, we, gazing into a mirror, see more plainly the soils and stains upon our face; and even so as the interior light of the Holy Spirit enlightens our conscience, we see more distinctly the sins, inclinations and imperfections which hinder our progress towards real devotion. And the selfsame light which shows us these blots and stains, kindles in us the desire to be cleansed and purged therefrom. You will find then, my child, that besides the mortal sins and their affections from which your soul has already been purged, you are beset by sundry inclinations and tendencies to venial sin; mind, I do not say you will find venial sins, but the inclination and tendency to them. Now, one is quite different from the other. We can never be altogether free from venial sin,—at least not until after a very long persistence in this purity; but we can be without any affection for venial sin. It is altogether one thing to have said something unimportant not strictly true, out of carelessness or liveliness, and quite a different matter to take pleasure in lying, and in the habitual practice thereof. But I tell you that you must purify your soul from all inclination to venial sin;—that is to say, you must not voluntarily retain any deliberate intention of permitting yourself to commit any venial sin whatever. It would be most unworthy consciously to admit anything so displeasing to God, as the will to offend Him in anywise. Venial sin, however small, is displeasing to God, although it be not so displeasing as the greater sins which involve eternal condemnation; and if venial sin is displeasing to Him, any clinging which we tolerate to mortal sin is nothing less than a resolution to offend His Divine Majesty. Is it really possible that a rightly disposed soul can not only offend God, but take pleasure therein?
These inclinations, my daughter, are in direct opposition to devotion, as inclinations to mortal sin are to love:—they weaken the mental power, hinder Divine consolations, and open the door to temptations;—and although they may not destroy the soul, at least they bring on very serious disease. “Dead flies cause the ointment to send forth a stinking savour,” says the Wise Man.  He means that the flies which settle upon and taste of the ointment only damage it temporarily, leaving the mass intact, but if they fall into it, and die there, they spoil and corrupt it. Even so venial sins which pass over a devout soul without being harboured, do not permanently injure it, but if such sins are fostered and cherished, they destroy the sweet savour of that soul—that is to say, its devotion. The spider cannot kill bees, but it can spoil their honey, and so encumber their combs with its webs in course of time, as to hinder the bees materially. Just so, though venial sins may not lose the soul, they will spoil its devotion, and so cumber its faculties with bad habits and evil inclinations, as to deprive it of all that cheerful readiness which is the very essence of true devotion; that is to say, if they are harboured in the conscience by delight taken therein. A trifling inaccuracy, a little hastiness in word or action, some small excess in mirth, in dress, in gaiety, may not be very important, if these are forthwith heeded and swept out as spiritual cobwebs;—but if they are permitted to linger in the heart, or, worse still, if we take pleasure in them and indulge them, our honey will soon be spoilt, and the hive of our conscience will be cumbered and damaged. But I ask again, how can a generous heart take delight in anything it knows to be displeasing to its God, or wish to do what offends Him?[From 'Introduction to the Devout Life, Part One, by St. Francis de Sales. Public Domain.]
Thursday, December 01, 2005
Conclusion of this First Purification.
HAVING made this resolution, wait attentively, and open the ears of your heart, that you may in spirit hear the absolution which the Lord of your soul, sitting on the throne of His Mercy, will speak in Heaven before the Saints and Angels when His Priest absolves you here below in His Name. Be sure that all that company of blessed ones rejoice in your joy, and sing a song of untold gladness, embracing you and accepting you as cleansed and sanctified. Of a truth, my daughter, this is a marvellous deed, and a most blessed bargain for you, inasmuch as giving yourself to His Divine Majesty, you gain Him, and save yourself for eternal life. No more remains to do, save to take the pen and heartily sign your protest, and then hasten to the Altar, where God on His side will sign and seal your absolution, and His promise of Paradise, giving Himself to you in His Sacrament, as a sacred seal placed upon your renewed heart. And thus, dear child, your soul will be cleansed from sin, and from all its affections. But forasmuch as these affections are easily rekindled, thanks to our infirmity and concupiscence (which maybe mortified, but which can never be altogether extinguished while we live), I will give you certain counsels by the practice of which you may henceforth avoid mortal sin, and the affections pertaining thereto. And as these counsels will also help you to attain a yet more perfect purification, before giving them, I would say somewhat concerning that absolute perfection to which I seek to lead you.
[From 'Introduction to the Devout Life', Part One, by St. Francis de Sales. Public Domain.]