Jesus: “My child, you canst do nothing more gratifying to Me than to…”

Jesus said to St. Gertrude:

“My child, you canst do nothing more gratifying to Me than to submit patiently to all the tribulations that befall you.”

The reward in Heaven for patiently accepting even the slightest suffering is so great that, according to many Saints, if we knew its true value, we would willingly embrace all sufferings, and even go so far as to seek more!  

“The angels are jealous of us for one reason only; they are not able to suffer for God. Only through suffering can a soul say with certainty: My God, You see I do love You!”

– St. Padre Pio

Why does God permit tribulations?

For our salvation! The more we love God, the more blessings we receive, both here and hereafter; every occasion for growing in love and humility, therefore, should be seen as a great- nay, an INFINITE- blessing! 

God desires not only that we be saved, but that we become Saints!  

“And why should you become a saint except to please your Jesus ever more and more.”

– Jesus to Sr. Benigna Consolata

Why does God desire that we become Saints?

Let us consult the Scriptures. In James 5:16, it says: “… the continual prayer of a just man availeth much.” While it is true that God loves us all, His Heart is so merciful and so sensible to love that He grants great graces to those who are conformed to His divine will:

“For the prayers of one loving soul prevail more with God, both for the living and the dead, than the prayers of a thousand souls who love less.”

– Jesus to St. Gertrude

(almost the exact same words were spoken to St. Teresa)

“The prayer of a humble and loving soul disarms the anger of My Father and draws down an ocean of blessings”

– Jesus to Sr. Josefa Menendez

The prayers of the Saints were extremely powerful: they obtained miracles, the conversion of a great number of sinners, and many other graces that surpass all earthly gifts, such as money, fame, and all else that withers and leaves only emptiness. God’s infinite love impels Him to seek holy souls who will lead sinners to the Heart of God, as He revealed to Sr. Benigna Consolata Ferrero:

“My Benigna, the thirst I experience of saving the greatest possible number of souls, impels Me to seek generous ones whom I can associate in My work of love. Thou wilt be the victim of My Justice and the consolation of My Love. Thou wilt be consumed by Love. Yes, My little spouse, I accept thy sacrifice with all the expansion of My love. I will immolate thee, but it will be always with the sword of Love- I will enchain thee, but with the bonds of love. I will consume thee, but in the fire of My Love.”

When we consider that our sins have merited eternal punishment, we should be greatly consoled by the thought that Our Lord offers us occasions to save our soul, to become holy, and thereby to help Him save other souls, who will love Him forever! The wickedness of one mortal sin, according to Ven. Louis of Grenada, is worse than all the sufferings on Earth and in Hell! I share these words for the purpose of humbling us and helping us to realise that the small crosses God “sends” us are trivial in comparison, and should therefore be received with much gratitude! God will bless us abundantly if we seek holiness, His glory, and the salvation of souls:

“The greatest charity is to take away souls from Satan and to bring them back to God!”

– Saint Padre Pio

I need not warn you of the dangers of selfishness and lukewarmness. The greater we grow in humility, the more we will see our own unworthiness, which, far from discouraging us, will fill us with love for and confidence in Him “… Who came from Heaven to seek you at the very time you were flying from Him.” (St. Thomas of Villanova).

However cold, ungrateful or sinful we might have been in the past, let us forget all that; instead, may we follow- with the help of Our Lady- the first movement of grace in our souls that calls us to love the God Who created us out of and for infinite love! That is no pious exaggeration! If only the world knew such love!

“What can there be more agreeable to the Heart of the infinite love of God than to pray for the conversion of those who are in a state of mortal sin? To be a child of love, is to sacrifice oneself to the love of God for the conversion of sinners.”

“If one could understand the value of an act of love for God in suffering, one would experience the greatest grief at being obliged to pass a single moment without being able to make this meritorious act. HAPPY IS HE WHO, IN SUFFERING, MAKES ACTS OF LOVE!”

– Fr. Paul of Moll, Benedictine “wonder-worker”

(I strongly recommend reading the book ‘Father Paul of Moll’; especially if you are scrupulous)

A Cause For Hope: God’s Unchanging Goodness!

“I am love and mercy itself.”

– Our Lord to St. Faustina

“For I am the Lord, and I change not.” (Mal. 3:6) God is infinite. In Him there are no parts: His essence is undivided, eternal, self-giving love. God had no need in creating us; rather, we were created to share His love, His joy, and His goodness. Our Lord revealed to a chosen soul that He desires us to be less anxious about avoiding Hell, and more intent on occupying the place in Heaven that He has prepared for us (cf. ‘Words of Love’ by Bartholomew Gottemoller).

Even the most wretched or discouraged sinners need not lose hope. Every inspiration to love God is inspired by God, Who said: “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”

Just as the sunflower grows towards the sun when it receives its light, so too do souls draw closer to God as they receive the rays of His love. Remember: it only takes one spark to light a forest. What does this mean? It means that however cold we are, or however sinful, when God offers us His grace, He offers us grace without limit. Our love will continue to grow if we humbly (and with much gratitude!) follow that first inspiration. Many great sinners have followed this inspiration and become great saints.

 “God hates sin infinitely, but He loves His creatures infinitely. As soon as the soul repents of its sin, it recovers the love of God. If all sinners wished to return to God with contrite and humble hearts, all would be saved.”

– St. Leonard

To contemplate God’s unchanging goodness is most consoling. We must not be guided by feelings in the spiritual life; our feelings change as the tides. Instead, be guided by grace, which has its source in the unchanging beauty and love of God, and which leads to that same fountain of goodness!

“God is immutable, i.e., He ever remains the same. God never changes; He never becomes better or worse; He never breaks His word. Creation made no change in God; from all eternity He had decreed the creation of the universe. God changes His works, but not His eternal decrees. By the Incarnation humanity was changed, but the Godhead underwent no change, just as the sun is in no way changed when it hides itself behind a cloud. Our thoughts are not changed when they clothe themselves in words; so the divinity was not changed when it clothed itself in the nature of man. God does not change when He punishes the sinner. When the heart of man is in friendship with God, God shows Himself to him as a God of infinite love and mercy; when the heart is estranged from Him, the sinner sees in the unchangeable God an angry and avenging judge. When the eye is sound, the light is pleasant to it; but if it is diseased, light causes it pain: it is not the light that is changed, but the eye that looks upon it [this analogy was used by God Himself to St. Catherine of Siena]. When an angry man looks in the glass he sees a different reflection from that which he saw when he was cheerful and in good-humour; it is not the glass that has changed, but the man. When the sun shines through colored glass, its rays take the color of the glass; the sun does not change, but the light is changed by the medium through which it passes. So when God rewards, it is not God Who changes, but man, who performs different and better actions, thereby meriting the grace of God. When in Scripture we read that God repented of having made man, that God is angry with the wicked, the phrases used are accommodated to our imperfect comprehension.

Sufferings are no real evil: 

“Sufferings then are no real evil, but are benefits from the hand of God. They are the means of bringing us both to temporal and eternal happiness. God, Who loves us tenderly, has no other object in sending us sufferings but to make us happy. What we count as an evil is the bitterness of the medicine that is necessary for the health of our soul. There is really no evil in the world except sin. Sufferings can never really make us unhappy; men can be happy in spite of all kinds of sufferings. We see this in Job, in Tobias, in Our Lady. St. Paul says, ” I am filled with comfort ; I exceedingly abound with joy in all our tribulation” (2 Cor. vii. 4).

“If we have a bit little of the love of God is us, to Him alone should we give honor and glory; He has placed it in us, for without Him we can do nothing. There remains for us the obligation of gratitude.”

– St. Francis de Sales

MARY, MOTHER OF MERCY: Refuge For Even The Hardest, Most Despairing Sinners! (part 6)

“This mother of mercy has such a desire to save the most abandoned sinners, that she even goes to seek them; and if they have recourse to her, she will surely find a method of rendering them dear to God.”

– St. Alphonsus

The following anecdotes, taken from ‘The Glories of Mary’ by St. Alphonsus, should encourage readers to trust in the intercession of their mother, Mary.

+ It is narrated by Father Bevms, of a very sinful person named Helen, that having gone to church, she accidentally heard a sermon on the rosary. As she went out she bought one but carried it hidden, so that it should not be seen. Afterwards, she began to recite it; and although she recited it without devotion, the most holy Virgin infused into her heart such consolation and sweetness in it, that she could not cease repeating it. And by this she was inspired with such a horror of her evil life, that she could find no peace, and was forced, as it were, to go to confession. She confessed with so much contrition, that the confessor was amazed. Having finished her confession, she went immediately before an altar of the blessed Virgin, to thank her advocate; she recited her rosary, and the divine mother spoke to her from her image, and said; “Helen, you have too long offended God and me; hence forth change your life, and I will bestow upon you many of my favors.” The poor sinner in confusion, answered: “Ah, most holy Virgin, it is true that hitherto I have been very sinful, but thou, who art all-powerful, assist me; I give myself to thee, and will pass the remainder of my life in doing penance for my sins.” Assisted by Mary, Helen bestowed all her goods upon the poor, and commenced a rigorous penance. She was tormented by dreadful temptations, but she continued to recommend herself to the mother of God; and always, with her aid, came off victorious. She was favored also with many supernatural graces, as visions, revelations, and prophecies. At last, before her death, of which she had been warned a few days previously by Mary, the Virgin herself came with her Son to visit her; and in death, the soul of this sinner was seen, in the form of a beautiful dove, ascending to heaven.

+ Father Charles Bovius relates that in Doinana, in France, lived a married man who had held a criminal connection with another woman. Now the wife being unable to endure this, continually besought God to punish the guilty parties; and one day in particular went to an altar of the blessed Virgin, which was in a certain church to implore vengeance upon the woman who had alienated her husband from her; and this very woman went also every day to the same altar, to repeat a “Hail Mary.” One night the divine mother appeared in a dream to the wife, who, on seeing her, began her accustomed petition: “Justice, mother of God, justice.” But the blessed Lady answered: “Justice! do you seek justice from me? Go and find others, to execute justice for you. It belongs not to me to do it for you. Be it known to you,” she added, “that this very sinner offers every day a devotion in my honor, and that I cannot allow any sinner who does this, to suffer and be punished for his sins.” The next day the wife went to hear mass in the above-named church of our Lady, and on coming out met her husband’s friend; at the sight of her she began to reproach her and call her a sorceress, who had even enchanted with her sorceries the blessed Virgin. “Be silent,” cried the people: “what are you saying?” “Be silent!” she answered: “what I say is only too true; this night the Virgin appeared to me; and when I implored justice of her, she answered me that she could not grant it on account of a salutation which this wicked woman repeats daily in her honor.” They asked the woman what salutation she repeated to the mother of God, She answered that it was the “Hail Mary;” and then on hearing that the blessed Virgin had dealt with her so mercifully in return for that trivial act of devotion, she cast herself on the ground before the sacred image, and there, in the presence of all the people, asked pardon for her scandalous life, and made a vow of perpetual continence. She afterwards put on a religious habit, built for herself a little cell near the church, where she retired, and persevered in continual penance until the day of her death.

+ Father Eusebius Nierembergh relates that there lived in the city of Aragona a girl, named Alexandra who, being noble and very beautiful, was greatly loved by two young men. Through jealousy, they one day fought and killed each other. Their enraged relatives, in return, killed the poor young girl, as the cause of so much trouble, cut off her head, and threw her into a well. A few days after, St. Dominic was passing through that place, and, inspired by the Lord, approached the well, and said: “Alexandra, come forth,” and immediately the head of the deceased came forth, placed itself on the edge of the well, and prayed St. Dominic to hear its confession. The saint heard its confession, and also gave it Communion, in presence of a great concourse of persons who had assembled to witness the miracle. Then, St. Dominic ordered her to speak and tell why she had received that grace. Alexandra answered, that when she was beheaded, she was in a state of mortal sin, but that the most holy Mary, on account of the rosary, which she was in the habit of reciting, had preserved her in life. Two days the head retained its life upon the edge of the well, in the presence of all, and then the soul went to purgatory. But fifteen days after, the soul of Alexandra appeared to St. Dominic, beautiful and radiant as a star, and told him, that one of the principal sources of relief to the souls in purgatory is the rosary which is recited for them; and that, as soon as they arrive in paradise, they pray for those who apply to them these powerful prayers. Having said this, St. Dominic saw that happy soul ascending in triumph to the kingdom of the blessed.

+ “… when a sinner, although he may not have left his sins, makes an effort to quit them, and seeks the aid of Mary, this mother will not fail to assist him, and bring him to the grace of God. This St. Bridget once learned from Jesus Christ himself, who, speaking with his mother, said:

“Thou dost aid those who are striving to rise to God, and dost leave no soul without thy consolation.”

While the sinner, then, is obstinate, Mary cannot love him (we must accept our mother’s love); but if he finds himself enchained by some passion which makes him a slave of hell, and will commend himself to the Virgin, and implore her with confidence and perseverance to rescue him from his sin, this good mother will not fail to extend her powerful hand; she will loose his chains, and bring him to a state of safety. It is a heresy, condemned by the sacred Council of Trent, to say that all the prayers and works of a person in a state of sin are sins. St. Bernard says that prayer in the mouth of a sinner, although it is without supernatural excellence, since it is not accompanied by charity, yet is useful and efficient in obtaining a release from sin; for, as St. Thomas teaches, the prayer of the sinner is indeed without merit, but it serves to obtain the grace of pardon; for the power of obtaining it is based not upon the worth of him who prays, but upon the divine bounty, and upon the merits and promise of Jesus Christ, who has said, “Every one that asketh receiveth.” The same may be said of the prayers offered to the divine mother. If he who prays, says St. Anselm, does not deserve to be heard, the merits of Mary, to whom he commends himself, will cause him to be heard. Hence St. Bernard exhorts every sinner to pray to Mary, and to feel great confidence in praying to her; because if he does not deserve what he demands, yet Mary obtains for him, by her merits, the graces which she asks of God for him. The office of a good mother, says the same saint, is this: if a mother knew that her two sons were deadly enemies, and that one was plotting against the life of the other, what would she do but endeavor in every way to pacify him? Thus, says the saint, Mary is mother of Jesus, and mother of man; when she sees any one by his sin an enemy of Jesus Christ, she cannot endure it, and makes every effort to reconcile them. Our most indulgent lady only requires the sinner to commend himself to her, and have the intention to reform. When she sees a sinner coming to implore mercy at her feet, she does not regard the sins with which he is laden, but the intention with which he comes. If he comes with a good intention, though he have committed all the sins in the world, she embraces him, and this most loving mother condescends to heal all the wounds of his soul; for she is not only called by us the mother of mercy, but she really is such, and shows herself such by the love and tenderness with which she succors us. The blessed Virgin herself expressed all this to St. Bridget, when she said to her,

“However great may be a man’s sins, when he turns to me, I am immediately ready to receive him; neither do I consider how much he has sinned, but with what intention he comes; for I do not disdain to anoint and heal his wounds, because I am called, and truly am, the mother of mercy.”

23. Father Crasset relates, that a certain military officer told him, that after a battle he found a soldier on the battle-ground who held in his hand a Rosary and the scapular of Mary, and asked for a confessor. His forehead had been pierced by a musket-ball, which had passed through the head and came out behind, so that the brain was visible and protruded through each opening, and he could not live without a miracle. He however raided himself, made his confession to the chaplain with great compunction, and after receiving absolution, expired.  

24. The same author adds, that this very captain told him of being present when a trumpeter of his company received a pistol-shot from someone near, and when be examined his breast where he said that he had been hit, he found that the ball had been stopped by the scapular of the Virgin, which the man wore, and that it had not even touched the flesh. He took it and exhibited it to the whole company. 

46. The blessed Bernard Tolomeo, founder of the livetan Fathers, who, from his childhood, had a great devotion to Mary, was one day greatly tormented in his hermitage at Accona, called Mt. Olivet, with the fear that he should not be saved, and that God had not yet pardoned him; but the divine mother appeared to him, and said: “What do you fear, my son? Take courage; God has already pardoned you, and is pleased with the life you lead; go on, and I will help and save you.”

The blessed religious continued to lead a holy life till he died a happy death in the arms of Mary.

May we, too, die in the arms of our tender mother, Mary.

 

Clarity for Scrupulous Souls: Simple Explanations of “Grey” Sins

“It is so much the essence of sin to be voluntary, that if not voluntary, it is not sin.”

– St. Augustine

Humility is essential for conquering scrupulosity, as is the virtue of magnanimity. We must pray for these precious graces. Apart from these virtues, however, there is another attainable remedy for scrupulosity, namely, a good understanding of basic theological principles.

In this article I will provide a simple explanation/clarification of a few sins that are often misunderstood. I will not necessarily provide a definition of the sin. I think we all have an idea of what blasphemy is, for example. The sins I will explain are: –

– Lying

– Blasphemy

– Sinful thoughts (of any kind)

– Lust

– Gluttony (I will not deal with spiritual gluttony etc.)

The definitions provided are based on the Traditional understanding of sin that has been transmitted by the Apostles and the Catholic Church, to whom Our Lord entrusted the “keys” to His Kingdom. The three conditions necessary for a sin to be mortal/ serious are well-known, so I will only provide a link explaining them:  http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c1a8.htm

Before sharing these explanations, please ask God (frequently) for the grace to be humble, confident and loving. The intercession of St. Gertrude- who manifested a boundless confidence in God- is very powerful in this regard.

Lying

“When a person tells a lie, he or she deliberately says something that is contrary to what is on that person’s mind; there is a real opposition between what one says and what one thinks.” (‘Modern Catholic Dictionary’, Fr. John Hardon,)

“Lying is in itself a venial sin; but it can easily become a mortal sin if it is the means of doing great harm, or causing great scandal.” (‘The Catechism Explained’, 1899, p. 410)

Blasphemy

“St. Thomas Aquinas declares blasphemy (hateful words, thoughts etc.) to be a mortal sin, unless it is committed in a hasty moment without deliberation.” (‘The Catechism Explained’, 1899, p. 344)

Those who desire to love God should pay absolutely no attention to such temptations. Imagine that a child (Thomas) loves his mother. Would he worry about accidentally saying something to offend her? Of course not. Similarly, if he came to know that his mother could read his thoughts, would he then be justified in worrying? Of course not. Nothing, in essence, has changed. Thomas’ mother, having a mind of her own, would understand if Thomas had the occasional bad thought. She would be more upset if, instead of loving her, he spent his time worrying that he was not loving her! Love, you see, is what God asks of us. Nothing else.

Sinful thoughts (of any kind)

“The thought doesn’t make the sin, but consenting to the thoughts does it.” – St. Padre Pio

“Do not be disturbed about bad thoughts; it is one thing to have them and quite another to consent to them.” – St. Francis de Sales

A holy and learned priest of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter gave the following advice: “If you toy with a thought for a brief moment, without giving yourself over to it fully (i.e. without giving full consent), it is a venial sin.” How clear and simple! Certainly we must not voluntarily dwell on the thought when it comes, but if we find that we have done so for a brief moment, we should not be discouraged. Instead, we should humble ourselves, recommend ourselves to God and to Our Lady, and focus our attention calmly on something else. Why spend our time worrying when we can simply make an act of perfect contrition? https://littlestsouls.wordpress.com/2013/06/18/perfect-contrition-the-golden-key-of-paradise/

Try this and you will find that God rewards your confidence. With what, you ask? With more confidence! … And peace! And a greater joy! Confidence in God is like a snowball; the more we practice it, the more it grows.

Lust

“… The inordinate craving for, or indulgence of, the carnal pleasure which is experienced in the human organs of generation. The wrongfulness of lust is reducible to this: that venereal (sexual) satisfaction is sought for either outside wedlock or, at any rate, in a manner which is contrary to the laws that govern marital intercourse.” (Catholic Encyclopaedia)

“… the unbridled desire for one’s own pleasure.” (‘Modern Catholic Dictionary’, Fr. John Hardon,)

“Lust is disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes.” (Current ‘Catechism of the Catholic Church’, 2391)

“… the sin of lust consists in seeking venereal pleasure not in accordance with right reason.” (‘Summa Theologiae’, St. Thomas Aquinas)

*For the sake of simplicity, I will only address lust in relation to those who are unmarried. I will not get bogged down with hypothetical situations and thought experiments. If we know what lust is, simple prudence will fill in the gaps.*

To merely look at a woman is not lustful in and of itself. A child can recognise the beauty of his mother without giving in to unnatural sexual urges; a Saint can appreciate the great beauty of the Blessed Virgin, or the incomparable beauty of Jesus; a man is obviously attracted to his wife. It is not inherently long to look at God’s beautiful creation. Looking at, or thinking about another, becomes lustful (and therefore sinful) when our intention is to arouse ourselves, or when there is a near occasion of sexual pleasure/arousal.

The Scriptures recommend that we practice a reasonable custody of the eyes. We should not “gaze” upon another when it gives rise to sexual pleasure or when this is likely to happen e.g. when “scanning” the body of another.

Some have applied the counsels of the Scriptures very rigorously. Certain Saints, for example, scarcely lifted their eyes from the ground. Their purity is surely commendable, but we are not obliged to do the same. Simple souls should not read certain writings of the Saints, as this may lead them to form false impressions, or to discouragement. It is recounted of one Saint that he would shed tears when beholding the beauty of a woman. Of course, he appreciated the beauty of God’s creation with reference to God.

“Immodest looks. Bold [daring] looks are forbidden, because they lead to sin, just as a parent forbids his child to play with edged tools. The sin on which the eye looks with pleasure soon takes possession of the heart… He who observes no custody of the eyes, is like a driver who pays no heed to his horses; he will be carried away and dragged to destruction.” (‘The Catechism Explained’, 1899, p. 393)

Gluttony

“A) Gluttony is a grievous fault: a) when it goes to such lengths that for a notable space of time it incapacitates us for the fulfilment of our duties of state or for the compliance with divine or ecclesiastical laws, for example, when it injures our health, when it is the cause of useless expenditures which endanger the interests of our home, when it makes us violate the laws of fast or abstinence. b) It is also a grave fault when it is the cause of other grievous faults.

B) Gluttony is a venial fault when one yields to the pleasure of eating and drinking in an immoderate manner, yet without falling into grave excess, and without exposing oneself to violate a grave precept. Thus it would be venially sinful to eat or drink more than is proper in order to show one’s appreciation of a fine repast, or in order to please a friend.” (‘The Spiritual Life: A Treatise on Ascetical and Mystical Theology’, Rev. Adolphe Tanquerey)

Final Thoughts/Recommendations

God is all-good, all-knowing, and the source of all good. God knows our hearts; He knows our every good desire, because He is truly the source of every good desire. When faced with doubt and uncertainty, we should reason thus: Dear Lord, you have placed in my heart the desire to love you. I do not want to hurt you by committing intentional sin- much less intentional mortal sin. This gives me confidence that I could not fall into such sin without being fairly certain of it, because you alone have given me this noble desire! Thank you, dear God. Please help me to trust more in you, and to cast aside all useless doubts and worries. Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.

“Don’t voluntarily dwell on what the devil presents to you.” – St. Padre Pio

“Don’t philosophize on your defects.” – St. Padre Pio

“NO SIN IS A TRUE SIN IF WE HAVE NOT WILFULLY CONSENTED.”

– St. Padre Pio

(Speaking of temptations): “I see you, but I do not look at you: I see you because it does not depend upon me that my imagination places before my eyes things I would wish not to see; I do not look at you because with my will I repulse and reject you.”

– St. Antony

A final piece of advice, which is extremely helpful and should be practiced by all:

“He who remembers having invoked the name of Mary in an impure temptation, may be sure that he did not yield to it.”

– St. Alphonsus Liguori