Category Archives: Virtue

Faith is an act of the intellect directed by the will – ST II-II, Q2, A1, ad 3

Often in our 21st century, North American millieu, I think we understand “faith” as an assent but ruled by a requirement of “feel good” rewards for that act of faith,  our requirement for “good feels”.  No “good feels”, no “faith”, right?  This couldn’t be farther from the truth as the Catholic Church defines.  Feelings are highly mutable.  Up one day, down the next.  Happy one hour, angry the next.  One of the qualities of God is “impassibility”, notice the “a”.  This means God does not feel.  Not that He is not compassionate or not merciful or does not love, but that whether we believe or not, we bless or curse Him, He is completely unaffected by His creatures.  God dwells in beyond eternal bliss and unapproachable light from which we would instantly perish seeing it as unpurified mortals.  Think “Indiana Jones:  Raiders of the Lost Ark”, when the Nazis finally open the Ark of the Covenant of God.  Yeah, that one.

Faith, as defined by St Thomas Aquinas, OP, is an act of the intellect. We decide, by human reason, inspired by divine grace, and we choose to embrace all the implications of that assent, acting through our will to put into motion that faith, that grace inspired decision. Faith is not, by the above, I believe now because I have “good feels”. But, when that’s over, so is my faith. When the party resumes, I’m in. No. 2 Tim 4:7 -“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 1 Cor 9:24.  Kept, fought, finished, run, win being decisions to act, acts of intellect directed by the will. I believe, credo, whether I’m feelin’ it or not. I believe, credo.

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – I recollect myself in the presence of God living in my soul, to learn how to seek Him by the light of faith.

MEDITATION

“He that cometh to God, must believe.” (Hebrews 11:6), says St. Paul, and he gives us this definition of faith: “Faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1). In heaven, we shall see God by the light of glory, but on earth, we know Him by the light of faith.

We must not base our interior life, our search for God, on sentiment or spiritual consolations, but on an intensive practice of the theological virtues. St. John of the Cross gives this advice to a soul seeking God, “Hear a word full of substance and unapproachable truth: it is that thou seek Him in faith and in love, without desiring to find satisfaction in aught.” (Spiritual Canticle, 1,11). Therefore, we must learn to seek God without any desire for pleasure, consolation, satisfaction, even though it be purely spiritual; we must learn to walk in the path of “naked faith.” Faith, more than any kind of knowledge or of reasoning, puts the soul into direct contact with God. Faith is “the proximate and proportionate means whereby the soul is united with God; for such is the likeness between itself and God, that there is no other difference save that which exists between seeing God and believing in Him” (John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel II, 9,1). Faith places us before God as He is; it does not make us see Him, but it makes us believe in Him, and thus puts our intellect in contact with Him. By means of faith, “God manifests Himself to the soul in divine light which passes all understanding. And therefore, the greater the faith of the soul, the more closely is it united with God” (ibid.). Faith unites the soul with God, even though it experiences no spiritual consolation; on the contrary, God often deprives the soul of all spiritual consolation that it may exercise itself more in faith and grow in it.

COLLOQUY

“O Lord, give me a pure, ardent, strong faith to sustain and guide me in my continual search for You, and to make me adhere to You with perfect confidence although You remain hidden from my sight.

Only by faith can my soul adhere to You, as You really are—infinite, omnipotent, and merciful, unity in Trinity: thus faith presents You to my soul. Faith comprehends You as You are, in Your divinity, Your mysteries, and Your works—all of which it proposes to my belief, so that in faith I find You completely, and in the act of faith, even though I do not see You, I possess You truly. If faith holds You hidden and veiled, if it permits me to see You only “through a glass in a dark manner” (1 Corinthians 13:12), I am certain, however, that it does not deceive me; it proposes You to me as You have revealed Yourself. How shall I not believe, Lord, in Your word, since You have spoken to us not only by the mouths of the prophets, but by the mouth of Jesus, Your Incarnate Word? Even if faith presents mysteries and wonders to believe which my poor mind cannot understand, I shall not be bewildered. What mystery is greater than that of Your infinite charity which has loved me from all eternity, created me by an act of love, redeemed me by the Blood of Your Son, and made my poor soul the temple of the Most Holy Trinity? “On Your word alone, I believe with full certitude. I believe everything the Son of God has said; there is nothing more true than the Word of Truth.” (St. Thomas Aquinas, OP).

“O God, far from being astonished by Your works, they are for me but one more reason for praising You. The more difficult they are to understand, the more they arouse devotion in me; and the greater they are, the greater is the devotion…. So the less of a natural foundation these truths of the faith have, the more firmly I hold them and the greater is the devotion they inspire in me. Since You are almighty, I accept all the wondrous works which You have done as most certain, and in this respect I have never harbored a doubt.” (Teresa of Jesus, Life, 28 – 19).

I want to seek You, O God, in this ardent faith, and cling to You always, even if such faith is “naked” and stripped of every consolation. “Nothing shall affright me, neither wind nor rain; and should impenetrable clouds come, O Jesus, to conceal You from my eyes, I shall not change my place, knowing that beyond the dark clouds the sun of Your love is still shining and that its splendor cannot be eclipsed for a single instant.” (Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Story of a Soul, 13).”

Love, intellect, will, and faith,
Matthew

Patience 2

I have found this virtue to be supremely necessary in adult life. A dear and pious friend of mine joked with me, “DO NOT ask God for patience!!! He will make you practice!!” I think acts of patience make excellent penances.

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Lord, give me greater patience that I may be able to endure more for Your love.

MEDITATION

Patience is a virtue of primary importance and daily necessity. As we need bread to live, so every day, even every moment, we need patience, because every day and every moment brings with it its own trial. We become patient by making acts of patience, that is, by accustoming ourselves to accept peacefully all that contradicts us and makes us suffer. If, however, instead of accepting the practice of patience in annoyances, we use every means possible to avoid them, we shall never acquire patience. For example, we may at our work come in contact with someone who clashes with us, or we may be given a difficult or disagreeable task; if under these or similar circumstances we do our utmost to free ourselves as soon as possible, asking for a change, we are depriving ourselves of a precious opportunity prepared for us by God Himself to make us practice the virtue of patience. In certain cases it is lawful and even a duty to represent our problems to our superiors and to ask humbly for a solution, but we should never insist on obtaining one at all costs. On the contrary, we should think that divine Providence has arranged these circumstances to help us acquire the patience we do not yet possess. St. Philip Neri once complained to Our Lord because he had to deal with an extremely insulting, disagreeable person. Our Lord replied to him interiorly, “Philip, you have asked for patience. Here is the means of acquiring it.”

God will surely give us the virtue we ask of Him, but only on condition that we make use of the means He gives us, and apply ourselves to practice that virtue with the help of His grace. Whoever wishes to become a saint will not be anxious to avoid opportunities for practicing patience, but will welcome them, recognizing in them the means offered by God for his sanctification. And how can a mere creature dare wish to make any change in what has been ordered “in measure, and number, and weight” (Wisdom 11:20) by God’s infinite wisdom?

COLLOQUY

“O Lord, we want to serve and please You, yes, but we do not want to suffer anything. Yet we must be much more pleasing to You when after Your example and out of love for You, we endure suffering in Your service. Suffering is so noble and precious, O eternal Word, that when You were in the bosom of the Father, superabounding in all the riches and delights of Paradise but unadorned with the robe of suffering, You came to earth in order to clothe Yourself with it. You are God and cannot be deceived; since You have chosen stark suffering, I too desire it for love of You. I beseech You, therefore, Lord, to permit me to experience this suffering which is unmixed with any consolation, and by the confidence I have in Your goodness, I trust that You will grant me this grace before I die.

But in order to obtain profit from tribulations, teach me to accept them in total conformity to Your will; otherwise, they will be a great and unbearable burden. When, however, a soul abandons itself entirely in the arms of Your will, then it finds strength in the midst of its sorrows, and even if You leave it in darkness for a time, very quickly will its sadness be changed into joy, so that, for no delight in the world would it exchange this suffering.

O blessed, happy, and glorious is he who suffers for love of You, O eternal Word, for—shall I dare to say it?—as long as we are here below, it is a greater thing to suffer for You than to possess You, because possessing You, we can still lose You, but if we suffer for love of You, it will admit us to eternal life where we can never lose You.” (St. Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi).

Love, may God grant each of us His infinite patience,
Matthew

The Adventure of Obedience

Obey & Live; Obey & Be Freed from the Tyranny of Death & Sin, which leads to eternal, the second & final, Death!!

“And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” —Genesis 2:16,17

“If they obey and serve Him, they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity and their years in contentment.” – Job 36:11

“Follow My decrees and be careful to obey My laws, and you will live safely in the land.“ – Lev 25:18

“Love the LORD your God and keep His requirements, His decrees, His laws and His commands always.” – Deut 11:1

“Now if you obey Me fully and keep My covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is Mine…” – Ex 19:5


-by Br Joseph Martin Hagan, OP

“God writes the best adventures. From Abraham to the Apostles, God draws unsuspecting men out of their routines and sets them on unexpected journeys. Moses was tending his father-in-law’s flock, but after meeting a burning bush, he eventually found himself leading a whole nation out of slavery. Peter was fishing in a remote corner of the world, but after encountering an exceptional man, he ended his life in Rome, leading God’s people.

These journeys were entirely unexpected, and often undesired, at least at first. Moses said he wasn’t eloquent enough, and Jeremiah objected that he was too young. In each case, God answered their objection and redoubled his offer. He still respected their freedom. They had to take the first step willingly. Thus, the secret ingredient of these adventures was obedience. Their adventures only began when they obeyed, leaving their routine and following God.

Without obedience, there’s no adventure. The Gospel records various would-be followers of Jesus. They try to write their own adventures, but without obedience, their attempts fail. In one case, a man tells Jesus: “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” But Jesus answers: “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Lk 9:61ff.). Or remember the rich man, who refused the adventure of poverty, choosing rather to depart in sadness.

To us, this connection between adventure and obedience may seem a bit strange. Our culture prizes the former and disdains the latter. Yet the real thrill in an adventure is the unplanned moment or the unscripted wrinkle, even if it is a hardship that must be overcome or simply endured. If we want a truly thrilling adventure, we cannot plan it ourselves. Another author must take up the pen. The better the author, the better the adventure.

What does this look like in our lives? We probably won’t encounter burning bushes or receive angelic visitors. Rather, God often speaks to us in more subtle ways. Sometimes it’s the exceptional moment that inspires us. Or perhaps it’s the everyday obedience to a parent or a spouse, or the obedience in accepting one’s personality or even one’s body, with their limits and weaknesses. With due prudence—and sometimes a helpful friend or spiritual director—we can discern God’s hand in these circumstances.

Obedience doesn’t always feel like an adventure. For the most part, it’s only in the rearview mirror that we glimpse how far God has brought us and the wonders He has done. Remembering these wonders prepares us for the daily adventure of obedience.”

Love, & Freedom for Excellence & Life!!, the love of Him,
Matthew

Jun 7 – Suffering & Abandonment, Bl Marie-Therese Soubiran of the Sacred Heart (1834-1889), Religious, Foundress, Sisters of Mary Help of Christians

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Lord, teach me to suffer with simplicity, without useless concentration on self, but in total abandonment to Your divine will.

MEDITATION

The secret of learning to suffer in a virtuous way consists chiefly in forgetting oneself and one’s sorrows and in abandoning oneself to God.

The soul that is absorbed in its own sufferings and concentrates its whole attention on them, becomes unable to bear them serenely and courageously. “Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof” (Matthew 6:34), said Jesus, thus teaching us to bear calmly, day by day, moment by moment, whatever sorrows and crosses God places in our path, with no thought of what we suffered yesterday, no worry about what we shall have to endure tomorrow. Even when our suffering is intense, let us not exaggerate it, nor attach too much importance to it; let us not foster a morbid tendency to nurture our sorrow, to ponder over it, weighing and analyzing it under every aspect. To act in this way would result in the paralysis of our spirit of sacrifice, of our ability to accept and to act, and would make us useless to ourselves and to others. One who is oversensitive and preoccupied with his own suffering, often becomes insensible and indifferent to the suffering of others.

In order to resist these selfish tendencies which have been rightly defined by Father Faber as “the worm of Christian sorrow,” we must forget ourselves, go out of ourselves and our own sufferings, become interested in the sufferings of others and endeavor to alleviate them. This is a very effective way to regain in times of discouragement the strength to bear our own crosses. We should be mindful of the truth that we are never alone in suffering; that if our sufferings are great, there are always those who suffer incomparably more than we. Our troubles, often enough, are but a drop compared to the sea of sorrows in which mankind is engulfed, and are practically nonentities in comparison with the Passion of Jesus.

Those who are overly concerned with their own troubles eventually become exasperated by them. Drowned in their sorrows, they stifle every impulse to generosity. By contrast, those who know how to forget themselves, maintain their equilibrium, and take greater thought for others than for themselves. They are always open to charity and generosity toward God and their neighbor. These are simple souls who, because they are unmindful of themselves, can bear suffering magnanimously and derive much profit for their own sanctification.


-plaque on the house of Bourges where Marie-Thérèse de Soubiran lived from 1871 to 1874. Please click on the image for greater detail.

COLLOQUY

“O Lord, grant that I may never cease to turn to You, and to look only at You. In consolation or desolation I shall run to You, stopping at nothing else; I shall run so quickly that I shall have no time to look at anything, nor to see the things of earth, because my pace will be so rapid. Therefore, out of love for You, I shall spurn pleasure, repose, dependence upon the judgment of men, satisfaction in their approval, dread of physical discomfort, sadness of spirit, and success or failure. In a word, I shall spurn everything that is not God.

I realize that my crosses have been permitted and willed by You, my God, to teach me to trust in You in spite of everything.

O God, be my sole strength in fear, weakness, and distress; be my confidant, or rather my confidence. Divine Guest, dwelling within me, on the throne of my heart, abide with me as my protector; You alone have dominion and power over my whole being; You alone are its love!

Why should I worry or fear? All is Yours, O God, and You will take care of my wants and provide for them. You are infinite Love, and You love the works of Your hands more than they can know and love themselves. Who would dare question Your power, or the loving, providential care You bestow on Your creatures from all eternity, and with the efficacy of Your love?

I believe that all You do and permit is for my good and my salvation, and I abandon myself to Your guidance with love and trust, and without anxiety, fear, or calculation.” (Bl. M. Thérèse Soubiran). Read her story. The order she founded and was calumniously expelled from, Sisters of Marie-Auxiliatrice, Sisters of Mary Help of Christians, endures to this day, under the patronage of their foundress, Bl M. Therese Soubiran of the Sacred Heart.

The Sisters of Mary Help of Christians are dedicated to various projects of assistance, especially for the poor, and young women, and the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

They are present in:

Europe: France , Ireland , Italy , United Kingdom
Africa: Cameroon
Asia: South Korea , Japan , Philippines
Oceania: Micronesia

“Now, in the oblivion, inactivity, the most complete nullity, I shall be passionate about Our Lord Himself.” – Bl M. Therese Soubiran

“Be able to emerge life from death!” -Bl M. Therese Soubiran

Love,
Matthew

Patience 1

Why does the most necessary spiritual reading appear when I need it most? Holy Spirit, help us!!!

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

“Presence of God – O Jesus, meek and divinely patient, teach me the secret of true patience.

MEDITATION

Patience is the virtue which makes us accept for love of God, generously and peacefully, everything that is displeasing to our nature, without allowing ourselves to be depressed by the sadness which easily comes over us when we meet with disagreeable things.

Patience is a special aspect of the virtue of fortitude which prevents our deviating from the right road when we encounter obstacles. It is an illusion to believe in a life without difficulties. These are usually all the greater and the more frequent as our undertakings are more generous. Great works, magnanimous and heroic virtues, always grow in the midst of difficulties. In the presence of these, fortitude has a double function: to face them and to bear them. Many difficulties are surmounted and overcome by an act of courage; others, on the contrary, cannot be mastered. We must learn to bear with them, and this is the role of patience—an arduous task, because it is easier to face obstacles directly, than to support the inevitable oppositions and sufferings of life, which, in time, tend to discourage and sadden us.

Only by fixing our glance on Jesus, the divinely patient One, can we learn to practice patience. When we see Him Who came into the world to save us, living from the first moment of His earthly existence in want, privation, and poverty, and later in the midst of misunderstanding and persecution; when we see Him become the object of the hatred of His own fellow citizens, calumniated, doomed to death, betrayed by a friend, and tried and condemned as a malefactor, our souls are stirred: we realize that we cannot be His disciples unless we follow the same road. If Jesus, the Innocent One par excellence, bore so much for love of us, can we, sinners who are deserving to suffer, not endure something for love of Him? Whatever the total of suffering in our lives, it will always be very small, and even nothing, compared with the infinite sufferings of Jesus; for in His Passion Christ not only endured the suffering of one life or of several human lives, but that of all mankind.

COLLOQUY

O Jesus, for love of You and with Your help, I wish to suffer in peace all the contradictions of my life. “Your thoughts are not our thoughts, Your ways are not our ways. You offer us a cup so bitter that our feeble nature cannot bear it. But I do not want to draw back my lips from the cup prepared by Your hand. You have taught me the secret of suffering in peace. Peace does not mean joy, at least not sensible joy; to suffer in peace, all I have to do is to will all that You will.

To be Your spouse, I must be like You; and You are all covered with blood and crowned with thorns. You wish to make me like You; then, should I fear that I cannot carry the Cross without weakening? On the way to Calvary, You fell three times; and I, a poor little child, do I not wish to be like You? Should I not wish to fall a hundred times to prove to You my love, rising up again with more strength than before my fall?

It is very consoling for me to remember that You, the God of might, knew our weaknesses, that You shuddered at the sight of the bitter cup which earlier You had so ardently desired to drink.

O Jesus, what it costs to give You what You ask! But what happiness that it does cost! Far from complaining to You of the crosses You send me, I cannot fathom the infinite love which has moved You to treat me so. O Lord, do not let me waste the trial You send me, it is a gold mine I must exploit. I, a little grain of sand, want to set myself to the task, without joy, without courage, without strength, and all these conditions will make the enterprise easier; I want to work for love.

In spite of this trial which robs me of all sense of enjoyment, I can still say: ‘You have given me, O Lord, a delight in Your doings.’ For is there any greater joy than to suffer for Your love, O my God? The more intense and the more hidden the suffering, the more do You value it. And even if, by an impossibility, You should not be aware of my affliction, I should still be happy to bear it, in the hope that by my tears I might prevent or atone for one sin against faith” (Thérèse of the Child Jesus Letters 63,51,184,59; Story of a Soul 9).””

Love,
Matthew

Supernatural Obedience

When considering religious life, especially in the Order of Preachers, who only take one vow, obedience, it was this vow that freaked me out. It still does. In fact, my fear of this vow, very justifiably so, has gotten worse with thirty years of experience of human beings in organizations.

Let me be clear, if you think this vow, obedience, at the end of the day, is taken in any metaphorical sense by the Dominicans or any other Catholic religious order, allow me to disabuse you in kindness and Christian charity of that delusion. They do not. They do not.

Everything else is generally light and happiness, but this moment is most solemn, most solemn. And, in the time one spends in religious life, in general, by the default of time elapsed, disqualifies one from a career external to religious life, so the sacrifice is real and permanent as time progresses. It is. No do-overs. They play for keeps.

Catholicism, I have found, in general, if taken seriously, disqualifies you somewhat from many practical careers, by definition. Or, at least it makes them harder to practice in the way they are secularly practiced. Deo gratias!!! And, a decade or more of religious life, means mainly Church employment, or entry level roles if not.

Religious superiors are human, too. They have all the foibles, temptations, errors any of us do. And, so my apprehension not only remains after thirty years, it has become worse.

Ego N. spondeo obtemperat praecipienti Deo et beatae virgini, et beato Dominico et tibi famulam tuam N., et ad posteros, secundum Regulam Sancti Augustini ordo et institutum, usque ad mortem.

I, N., pledge obedience to God, the Blessed Virgin, to Blessed Dominic, and to you, N., and your successors, according to the Rule of Saint Augustine, and the institute of the order, until death.

This isn’t why I left. As I mentioned in prior posts, “God spoke to me” in my sleep Holy Thursday evening, the anniversary of the priesthood, and awoke with conviction, unreasoned, Good Friday morning. Who says God does not an ironic sense of timing?

Even as a Lay Dominican, the errors of human superiors is too painfully evident, and I don’t play well with such. I just don’t. This would be a cross had I pursued religious life. But, crosses, as Christians, are to be embraced through supernatural grace, never our own efforts. It is impossible, impossible.

It is not possible, as well, in reality, now, I realize to revisit this moment now in life. His will has been done. And, I am sanguine, and grateful. May it always be so, Lord. May it always be so, regardless of events, regardless. However, I sometimes now consider how I might approach this moment given thirty years of experience. Being young, and all the limitations lack of experience provides, I was decidedly and only relying on my own powers, quite understandably so. And, knowing myself to the extent, not incorrectly, as I did, my fears were reasonable and correct. It is ONLY through supernatural grace, never, never, our own efforts is this commitment possible to be lived out.

Marriage has its own vow/form of obedience, in love. It is not the fear of the reality and pain being subject to human superiors in religious life or even marriage, rather it is the love of Christ, intense enough, relying enough upon Him alone, His grace, His will, our total, complete surrender to Him, through Him & His supernatural grace, that permits living these faithfully.

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Jesus, teach me to see only You in my superiors.

MEDITATION

An excellent instruction from St. John of the Cross says: “Never look upon your superior, whoever he may be, with less regard than upon God Himself” (Precautions). If we do not have this supernatural spirit which makes us see God in the person of our superior, our obedience cannot be supernatural. It is necessary to be a soul animated by this motive alone: I obey because my superior represents God for me and speaks to me in His Name; my superior is another Christ to me: Hic est Christus mens. This is my Christ.

We should not obey through the motive of human confidence in the person of our superior: because he is intelligent, prudent, capable, because he understands or likes you, and so forth. That is human obedience, the fruit of human prudence—a good act in itself but not supernatural. Neither should we obey because what we are told to do is the most perfect; again this is not the real reason for obedience. We must obey only because God wills whatever our superior commands. The one exception is an order involving sin, which of course God cannot want, or a command not conformable to the Rule or Constitutions which we have embraced. In either case, obedience would be unlawful. Apart from these exceptions no limit should be put to our obedience. We need not hesitate through fear that the superior is asking something less perfect. Even if he commands what is objectively less perfect than its alternative (for instance, to take some rest instead of working), it would nevertheless be the more perfect thing for us. By the simple fact that the superior has expressed an order, it is clearly the fulfillment of that, and not something else, that God wants from us at the moment. It could very well be that in the abstract we see the possibility of performing an action more perfect than what we have been told to do, and that our idea is better than our superior’s. But in reality there is no doubt about it: nothing can be more perfect for us than what God commands by means of our superior.

COLLOQUY

O Lord, increase my spirit of faith, so that I will see You in the soul of my superior. May I repeat, spontaneously and sincerely, in his presence, Hic est Christus mens! Only by this way of obedience will a life of continual contact and uninterrupted for “Supernatural Obedience” postintimacy with You be possible. If I find You present and living in the Sacrament of the Altar under the veil of the Eucharistic species, always ready to welcome and nourish my soul, I can also, but in a different way, find You hidden in the person of my superior, through whom You speak to me, always ready to disperse my doubts, to manifest Your holy will, and to direct and guide me along the road You have chosen from all eternity for my sanctification.

O Lord, why should I stop at the human appearances of my superiors? Such an attitude will only serve to keep me from finding You in them and recognizing Your will in theirs. Help me, O God, to pass over all the human aspects of obedience and to put myself in contact with You and Your divine will. Just as in the Eucharist I do not halt at the created species of bread and wine, so I ought not in obeying to consider the person of my superior, but only Your will, which reaches me under the appearance of a human order or command. O Jesus, what a great mystery! The Eucharist gives me Your Body, Your Blood, Your divinity—such is the power of the Sacrament which You have instituted. Obedience gives me Your will and makes me communicate with it—such is the power of the authority which You have established.

Once I have understood this profound truth, how can I still dare to argue or hesitate at the commands of my superiors? “It would be a terrible thing if God were to be telling us plainly to go about His business in some way, and we would not do it but stood looking at Him because that gave us greater pleasure. A fine way it is of advancing in the love of God to tie His hands by thinking that there is only one way in which He can benefit us” (Teresa of Jesus Foundations, 5). No, Lord, grant that I may never act thus. I shall follow You wherever You lead me by means of holy obedience.”

Love, pray for me,
Matthew

Alter Christus

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Jesus, deign to imprint Your likeness on my poor soul, so that my life may be a reflection of Yours.

MEDITATION

The imitation of Christ should not be limited to some particular aspect of His life; it means living Christ and becoming completely assimilated to Him. The life-giving principle of our resemblance to Christ is grace: the more grace we possess, the greater our resemblance to Him. The principal characteristic of Christ’s soul is the unlimited charity which urges Him to give Himself entirely for the glory of His Father and the salvation of souls. This same charity increases in our souls in the measure in which we grow in grace and live under the influence of Jesus, who is the source of grace, and to the degree in which our souls are directed by the same divine Spirit that directed the soul of Jesus. Each one of us will be an alter Christus (another Christ) in the measure in which he receives Christ’s influence, His grace, His virtues, the gifts of the Holy Spirit and, above all, the motion of the Holy Spirit, which urges us to make a complete gift of self for the glory of God and the good of our neighbor. However, in order to accomplish this fully, we must continually die to ourselves, “always bearing about in our body the mortification of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest … in our mortal flesh” (2 Corinthians 4:10, 11). Jesus lived a life of total abnegation in order to save us; we too must follow in His footsteps that He may live in us and we in Him. “For to me, to live is Christ.” (cf Philippians 1:21) is the cry of the Apostle who had so lived Christ that He was able to say, “I live, now not I but Christ liveth in me.” (Galatians 2:20).

COLLOQUY

“O my Christ, Whom I love! Crucified for love! I long to be the bride of Your heart! I long to cover You with glory and love You … even until I die of love! Yet I realize my weakness and beg You to clothe me with Yourself, to identify my soul with all the movements of Your own. Immerse me in Yourself; possess me wholly; substitute Yourself for me, that my life may be but a radiance of Your life. Enter my soul as Adorer, as Restorer, as Savior!

O consuming Fire, Spirit of Love, descend upon me and reproduce in me, as it were, an incarnation of the Word; that I may be to Him a super-added humanity wherein He may renew all His mystery!” (St Elizabeth of the Trinity, Elevation to the Most Holy Trinity).

O my Jesus, this is my great desire: to be an extension of Your humanity, so that You can use me with the same freedom with which You used the humanity that You assumed on earth. Now in Your glory in heaven, You continue to adore the Father, implore Him on our behalf, give grace to our souls; You continue to love us and offer the merits of Your passion for us; but You can no longer suffer. Suffering is the only thing that is impossible for You, who are glorious and omnipotent, the only thing which You do not have and which I can give You. O Jesus, I offer You my poor humanity, that You may continue Your passion in me for the glory of the Father and the salvation of mankind. Yes, Jesus, renew in me the mystery of Your love and suffering; continue to live in me by Your grace, by Your charity, by Your Spirit. I want my humble life to be a reflection of Yours, to send forth the perfume of Your virtues, and above all the sweetness of Your charity.

You know O Jesus, that the world needs saints to convert it—saints in whom it will be able to recognize and experience Your love and infinite goodness, saints in whom it will find You again. O Lord, although I am so miserable, I also want to be of the number of these Your faithful followers in order that through me You may continue to win souls for the glory of the Blessed Trinity. O Jesus, give us many saints and grant that many priests may be counted among them.”

Love,
Matthew

Final Perseverance


-Stations of the Cross, Pasierbiec, Poland, using Saints and other heroic Catholics from Poland. The Station in question thus substitutes Saint John Paul II in the place of Simon of Cyrene (fifth station).

“But he that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved.” (Matt. 24:13)

“But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we share in Christ, if only we hold our first conviction to the end….” (Hebrews 3:13-14)

“Run in such a way as to get the prize.” (1. Cor. 9:24)

One of the fundamental propositions of the Ignatian Exercises is to pray for the grace you need. Thus, if you are impatient, you should pray continually for the virtue of patience. Ask, and it shall be given to you (Luke 11:9). Now, paying heed to the immense wisdom of our Catholic spiritual heritage, it is incredibly prudent to pray for the most important grace of final perseverance. In his 750 page treatise, The Spiritual Life, Father Adolphe Tanquerey makes the following observation (p. 68):

“…final perseverance is a singular and priceless gift. We cannot merit it strictly speaking. To die in the state of grace in spite of all the temptations that assail us at the last hour, to escape these by a sudden and tranquil death – falling asleep in the Lord – this is truly in the language of the Councils the grace of graces. We cannot ask for it persistently enough. Prayer and faithful co-operation with grace can obtain it for us.”

Still further, in the Theological Dictionary of Father Karl Rahner, SJ, et al, it is stated:

“It is the defined teaching of the Church that actual perseverance to the end (perseverantia finalis) is impossible without a special grace (D 832); it remains uncertain whether this later will be granted (D 826); it cannot be merited, but the Christian is to pray for it and cherish the firm hope of it.”

The great Dominican and Thomist, Father Garrigou-LaGrange, OP*, says this: “Therefore, to obtain this grace of final perseverance, we should frequently unite ourselves with the Eucharistic consecration, the essence of the sacrifice of the mass, pondering on the four ends of sacrifice: adoration, supplication, reparation and thanksgiving” (Providence, p.331). This is quite a beautiful and powerful recommendation. He also mentions the advice of Pope Benedict XV to have a mass said while you are living for the grace of a happy death. Make the effort – it will be well worth it! – to have a mass said for you and your spouse (or sibling, etc.) to die in sanctifying grace.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus is mindful of our need for final perseverance (I recall the prayer Jesus said for Peter’s perseverance at the Last Supper, Luke 22: 31-32, and also Judas’ tragic fall from grace despite such a good beginning). One of the great promises of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to Saint Margaret Mary involves a special grace of final perseverance:

“I promise you in the excessive Mercy of My Heart that My all-powerful Love will grant to all those who communicate on the First Friday in nine consecutive months the Grace of Final Penitence; they shall not die in My disgrace nor without receiving the Sacraments; My Divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.”

Of this promise (quoted above) Father Garrigou-LaGrange states:

“We may here remind the reader of the great promise of the Sacred Heart, to those who receive Communion well on nine successive First Fridays. This promise, we have said, is absolute, that it supposes that Communion has been well made for these nine times. This would be, therefore, a grace given only to the elect.” (Life Everlasting, p. 262).

-Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

* Father Garrigou-LaGrange once had a student named Karol Wojtyla (Pope St John Paul II, of recent memory)

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-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Lord, make me persevere in seeking You and in serving You, in spite of all the difficulties which I may encounter.

MEDITATION

St. Teresa says that anyone who wishes to give himself to prayer with profit must make “an earnest and most determined resolve not to halt” on the way he has chosen. This means that we must give ourselves to prayer, not for a stated time only, but at all times, every day, all our life; let us not be dissuaded from prayer for any reason whatsoever. “Come what may, happen what will, let those complain who will, tire yourself as you must, but even if you die half-way along the road … tend always toward the goal” (Way of Perfection, 21). Let us ever remember that this goal is the living water promised by Jesus to those who sincerely thirst for Him and His love.

Without a strong, determined resolve, the soul will too often find more or less plausible reasons for neglecting prayer. Sometimes aridity will make the soul think that it is a waste of time to devote itself to an exercise from which it seems to draw no fruit, and that it would be better to use this time in good works. Sometimes, too, our numerous employments will seem to justify this idea. At other times, the feeling of our wretchedness—especially when we consider our want of fidelity to grace—will make us think ourselves unworthy of divine intimacy and that, therefore, it is useless to persevere in prayer. It should be evident that all these pretexts are suggestions of the enemy who, sometimes under the pretext of zeal for exterior works, sometimes under that of false humility or of waste of time, does all he can to draw souls away from prayer. “No temptation,” declares St. Teresa, “is more serious” than this one, “and the devil does us the very greatest harm by it” (cf. The Book of Her Life, 7 – 8). Therefore, she insists: “One who has begun to make mental prayer must never give it up, in spite of the sins into which he may fall. Prayer is the means which will help him to rise. Without prayer, this would be more difficult. He should not allow himself to be deceived by the devil to abandon prayer under the pretext of humility” (The Book of Her Life, 8).

COLLOQUY

“O Lord, I know that in order that love be true and friendship lasting, equal conditions must exist between the two friends. I also know that there can be nothing wrong in You; while my nature, on the contrary, is vicious, sensual, and ungrateful … Hence I cannot love You as You deserve.

O infinite goodness of my God! I see who You are and who I am, and seeing how different You are from me, O joy of the angels, I long to be wholly consumed in love for You! How true it is that You bear with those who permit You to be with them! How good a friend You are to them! How You lavish Your favors upon them and bear with them, and wait until their ways become more like Yours. You remember the time spent in loving You, and at the first sign of repentance, You forget all their offenses. This I know from experience, and I do not understand, O my Creator, why the whole world does not strive to draw near You in this intimate friendship. The wicked, who are not like You, ought to come so that You may make them good, allowing You to be with them, at least two hours each day, even though they are not with You but with a thousand cares and thoughts of the world, as I used to be. In exchange for the effort which it costs them to want to be in such good company (for You know that in the beginning they cannot do more, nor afterwards sometimes) You force the devils not to attack them, and make the devils every day less strong against them, and give these souls strength to conquer them. Yea, Life of all lives, You slay none of those who put their trust in You and desire You for their Friend” (Teresa of Jesus, The Book of Her Life, 8).

O Lord, give me also that holy audacity which will make me always persevere in prayer, in spite of exterior and interior difficulties, aridities, weakness, and lack of correspondence with Your grace…. You will remedy all my ills.”

Love,
Matthew

Humility 2


-please click on the image for greater detail

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O my God, help me to know You and to know myself! I know that You are He Who is, and I am he who is not!

MEDITATION

Among all the creatures in which we take pleasure and toward which our nature seems to be attracted the most, self undoubtedly holds the first place. There is no one, no matter how limited in talents and good qualities, who does not love his own excellence, and who does not try, in one way or another, to make it shine forth to himself and to others. It is for this reason that we often spontaneously exaggerate our own worth, and, as a result, are demanding and pretentious. This makes us haughty and arrogant, as well as difficult in our relations with others. Humility is the virtue which keeps within just limits the love of one’s own excellence. Whereas self-esteem often induces us to make ourselves too evident, or to occupy a place which is higher than our due, humility keeps us in our own place. Humility is truth: it tends to establish in truth both our intellect—by making us know ourselves as we really are—and our life, by inclining us to take, in relation to God and to men, our proper place and no other.

Humility makes us realize that, in the sight of God, we are only His little creature, entirely dependent upon Him for our existence and for all our works. Having received life from God, we cannot subsist even one moment independently of Him. He Who gave us existence by His creative action, maintains life in us by His conserving action. In addition we cannot perform the slightest act without God’s cooperation, in the same way that a machine—even a perfect one—cannot make any motion until it is started by the one who made it. It is very true that, unlike the machine, our acts are neither mechanical nor compulsory, but are conscious and free; yet, we cannot move even a finger without the concurrence of the divine Artist.

It follows then that everything we possess in the order of being—qualities, gifts, capacities—and everything we have accomplished in the order of action, is not ours, but all, in one way or another, are gifts of God, all are acts performed with God’s help. “What hast thou that thou hast not received? And if thou hast received it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7).

COLLOQUY

“O omnipotent Father, God of truth, God of love, permit me to enter into the cell of self-knowledge. I admit that of myself I am nothing, but that all the being and goodness in me comes solely from You. Show me my faults, that I may detest my malice, and thus I shall flee from self-love and find myself clothed again in the nuptial robe of divine charity, which I must have in order to be admitted to the nuptials of life eternal” (St. Catherine of Siena).

“Give me, O my God, a thorough knowledge of myself! Let me be really convinced that I am nothing and that You are everything! Do not let me think that I am anything more than the nothing I am. Let me do nothing more for myself, but all for You! Grant that no creature may think any more about me, do anything more for me, give me anything more, but let all be done for You and given to You. And may my nothingness be reduced to nothing in the eyes of all creatures and in Yours, my God, that You, the All, may be all, in all and through all.” (St. John Eudes).

Reveal my nothingness to me, O Lord, reveal it so well that, not only shall I understand it, but I shall also have a practical, profound conviction of it. You know how painful that is to my proud nature! My intellect cannot resist the evidence of truth and is obliged to admit that I am nothing, have nothing, and can do nothing without You, yet my ego is always trying to attribute something to itself, to take the credit for this or that and to take as much pleasure in it as if it were its own. Help me, O Lord, to triumph over this pride which, as You see, steals Your gifts and makes my life sterile by preventing me from receiving the abundance of Your graces.

Grant that I may know my nothingness, O Lord, for the more I recognize it with simplicity and humility of heart, the more You will take pleasure in being my All—You are All, I am nothing; You, He Who is and I, he who is not! Glorify Yourself then in my nothingness! May Your love and grace triumph in this nothing, but may Your mercy also triumph, for I am a nothing which has sinned. Peccavi, Domine, miserere mei! [I have sinned, O Lord, have mercy on me!]

Love, Lord, make me humble, but not yet, 🙂
Matthew

Filial Obedience 2

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Jesus, teach me the secret of humble obedience which submits to every superior and every command.

MEDITATION

Although obedience is precious because it places our whole life in God’s will, nevertheless, in practice it has its difficulties and these arise chiefly because the command itself does not come directly from God but through His representatives. Thus it often happens that we fail to see God in our superiors and to recognize His authority in them. For example, when, as often happens in religious life, we have as our superior a former colleague or perhaps even a former pupil, younger and less experienced than we, one whose weaknesses and defects we know only too well, we could easily be tempted to have insufficient respect for his authority and his commands. Then a life of obedience becomes especially difficult: it is hard for us to obey, we do not have recourse to the superior with childlike trust, and what is worse, we justify this attitude to ourselves. Here we are making a great mistake in perspective; we forget that, no matter who the superior is, he is invested with authority which comes from God, authority placed on him solely because he has been called to this office. This authority is unchangeable and has the same force whether the superior is old or young, experienced and virtuous or inexperienced and less virtuous. Basically, if we find ourselves in these difficulties, we must lay the blame on our lack of a supernatural spirit, a spirit of faith. We are judging spiritual matters according to natural standards and from the point of view of human values, which makes it impossible for us to live a life of real obedience, a life entirely based on supernatural values and motives. We must learn how to rise above human views concerning the person of our superior—his good qualities or his faults, his actions in the past, and so forth—to look upon him only as the representative of God and of His divine authority. It is true, we often find it absolutely necessary to use all our strength and efforts to do this if we do not wish to lose the fruit of a life of obedience. It is certain that the more we force ourselves to see in our superiors the authority which comes from God, so much the more perfect and meritorious our obedience will be, and God Himself will guide us by through them.

COLLOQUY

“My sweet Savior, can I see You obedient to Your creatures for love of me, and refuse to be obedient out of love for You to those who represent You? Can I see You obedient unto death, the death of the Cross, out of love for me, without lovingly embracing this virtue and the Cross on which You consummated it?

“I will force myself to the utmost of my power to imitate Your example, and for love of You, obey all creatures—my superiors, equals, or inferiors—in all things, without argument, murmuring, or delay, but joyfully and lovingly. Therefore, I will not question the reasons why I am told to do this or that; I will not think about the way in which the order is given to me, or the person who gives it. I will consider Your will alone, letting myself be moved like You in any direction, by anyone, in agreeable or disagreeable, suitable or unseemly circumstances. It matters not! Grant me the obedience You desire.

“O Jesus, who willed to make reparation for Adam’s disobedience and mine at the cost of Your life; O Jesus who by Your death acquired for me the grace of knowing how to obey, I wish to live longer only to sacrifice my life by perfect, continual obedience” (St. Francis de Sales).

“O Lord, You desire to infuse obedience into our hearts, but You cannot because we will not recognize that You speak and work through our superiors, and also because we are attached to our own will” (St. Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi).”

Love,
Matthew