“There is nothing better than the practice of aspirations, steadily growing in number.”
– Fr. William Doyle
Fr. Faber, in his fantastic work, ‘All for Jesus,’ writes that ejaculatory prayer “… was the chief practice of the Fathers of the Desert, by which they raised themselves to such heights of sanctity.” This can hardly be disputed; for prayer elevates the heart to God – and union with God is the essence of sanctity.
Ejaculations (or aspirations) are simply short prayers, “short, ardent movements of the heart,” which can be recited with one’s lips or prayed in one’s heart. St. Francis de Sales says that “the great fabric of devotion leans upon this exercise.” “No one,” he says, “can be excused from making this practice because it can be made while coming and going about one’s business.”
The Saints and Aspirations
Many of the Saints made frequent use of aspirations; this fact should be sufficient to incline us towards this pious exercise. Among the Saints who made frequent use of aspirations, we may include the following: St. Paul of the Cross, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Gemma Galgani, St. Alphonsus Liguori, St. Alphonsa, St. Therese, St. Gertrude, St. Leonard of Port Maurice and St. Bartholomew. We may also add Bl. Mariam, Sr. Benigna Consolata, Fr. Paul O’Sullivan, Fr. William Doyle, Sr. Consolata Betrone and many others to this list!
The Necessity of Aspirations
“Without this exercise,” writes St. Francis de Sales, “we cannot properly lead the contemplative life, and we can but poorly lead the active life.” It is principally in prayer – especially in silent contemplation, which is “mother of the wisest thoughts” (St. Diadochus) – that the heart and mind are elevated to God.
“Elevate thy heart to God by continual acts of love.”
– Jesus to Sr. Benigna Consolata (d. 1916)
Without frequent prayer, the mind wanders and the heart follows suit. Conversely, if we make a habit of addressing frequent aspirations to God, the consuming fire of His Love will descend into our poor hearts and minds, enlighten and inflame them, and divinize the least of our actions, giving them incomparable value. By means of frequent aspirations, God will unite Himself to us ever more intimately!
“I would like them to know how much I desire their perfection, and that it consists in doing their ordinary actions in intimate union with Me. If they once grasped this, they could divinize their life and all their activities by this close union with My Heart… When a soul is burnt up with desire to love, nothing is a burden to her, but if she feels cold and spiritless everything becomes hard and difficult.”
– Jesus to Sr. Josefa Menendez
“It was only by constant practice,” says St. Robert Bellarmine, “that the saints obtained the spirit of prayer.” St. Gertrude, for example, repeated the prayer: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven,” three hundred and sixty-five times a day.
If we wish to save our souls, we should make a firm resolution to pray at least 100 or so aspirations every day. What could be easier? What better way to follow Our Lord’s injunction to ‘pray without ceasing’ (1 Thess. 5:17)! “Without any constraint we may make scores of them in a day; and each one is more to God than a battle gained, or a scientific discovery, or a crystal palace, or a change of ministry, or a political revolution.” (Fr. Faber)
“The great work of our perfection,” writes St. Francis de Sales, “is born, grows, and maintains its life by means of two small but precious exercises – aspirations and spiritual retirement. An aspiration is a certain springing of the soul towards God, and the more simple it is, the more valuable. It consists in simply beholding what He is, and what He has done and is doing for us; and it should excite the heart, as a consequence, to acts of humility, love, resignation or abandonment, according to circumstances. Now, these two exercises have an incredible power to keep us in our duty, to support us in temptation, to lift us up promptly after falls and to unite us closely to God. Besides, they can be made at any time or place, and with all possible ease; therefore, they ought to be as familiar to us as the inspiration and expiration of air from our lungs.”
Seven Fruits of Aspirations
“Many of these ejaculations are indulgenced, and thus the same little brief sentence will:
- Gain merit
- Impetrate grace
- Satisfy for sin
- Glorify God
- Honour Jesus and His Mother
- Convert sinners
- Soothe with substantial indulgence the Holy souls in Purgatory.
Can we do nothing more for Jesus in this respect than we have done hitherto?” (Fr. Faber)
Our Lord said to Sr. Consolata Betrone that if she would focus her attention on loving Him, He would take care of everything in her life; He would guide her, keep her from grave sin, inspire her with the right words… everything! The same promise was given by Jesus to St. Margaret Mary, who, after having made a complex vow of perfection, was assured by Our Lord that if she directed her attention to loving Him, He would see to it that she satisfies her vows. “[Y]ou will satisfy all by loving Me without reserve,” He said.
“I want you,” writes Fr. William Doyle, “to stick to two things: the aspirations and the tiny acts of self -conquest… Two wings by which we can fly to God and become saints: the habit of little tiny acts of self-denial and the habit of making a definite fixed number of aspirations every day… As regards counting the aspirations, if you really find that it is a strain on your tired head, give up the practice.”
Some Aspirations of the Saints
“My beloved and despised Redeemer, how sweet it is to suffer for You.” – St. Alphonsus
“Do with me, O Lord, as you will and know to be best.” – St. Philip Neri
“O my Lord! O Divine Goodness! when wilt Thou give me the grace to be entirely Thine, and to love only Thee?” – St. Vincent de Paul
“Have mercy on me. O Jesus, have mercy on me!” – St. Leonard of Port Maurice
“My Jesus, mercy!” – St. Leonard, St. Gemma Galgani, Bl. Mariam etc.
“My God and my all!” – St. Francis of Assisi
Some Aspirations from Heaven
Our Lord revealed the following aspirations to Berthe Petit, St. Faustina, Sr. Consolata Betrone, and Yvonne-Aimee, respectively.
“Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!”
“Jesus, I trust in You!”
“Jesus, Mary, I love You! Save souls!”
“O Jesus, King of Love, I put my trust in Thy loving mercy!”
“The act of love also has value
because it eliminates from the spiritual life so many Marthas,
their being ‘turbaris erga plurima’ (troubled about many things).” (Lk. 10:41)
– Jesus to Sr. Consolata Betrone