Liberty of Spirit: The End of Scrupulosity

Our_Mother_of_Perpetual_Help

Mother of Perpetual Succour, whose Feast Day is celebrated today (June 27)

Mother of Perpetual Succour, ora pro nobis!

“Walk simply in the way of the Lord, and do not torment your mind.”

– St. Francis de Sales

It was one day revealed to Bl. Bernard Francis de Hoyos that a “holy liberty of spirit” is essential to holiness. Jesus wants our hearts to be dilated, full of trust in His merciful goodness. Think of a little child in the presence of its loving father. Even when the child is not looking at its father, it is nevertheless aware of his loving gaze, his power, and his protection. Supposing that the child were to walk towards the edge of a precipice, the father will warn the child; he is always looking out for his little one. Can we doubt that God would do likewise?

Self-Centredness: An Obstacle to Holiness

It often happens that a soul who is advancing towards God, becomes increasingly aware of the many dangers and obstacles that surround us. If the soul possesses good-will, she will strive to avoid sin and its near occasions. So far so good. But the Devil, seeing that he will not win such a soul by the allurement of mortal sin, resorts to more insidious means. If only he can divert the soul’s attention away from God, his job will be that much easier. Why? Because the soul that is preoccupied with self, remains there, instead of going to God (as Our Lord said to St. Mariam of Jesus Crucified). Instead of taking the “elevator of love” (St. Therese), she remains on the earth; her thoughts dwell there, and her heart, of necessity, follows suit.

It is a great shame when a soul turns in on itself; it is deprived of many lights and merits that it would otherwise have received, and God is deprived of the glory of seeing His beloved child happy and holy. ‘The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I am come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly.’ (Jn. 10:10)

The Remedy / The Key to Liberty of Spirit

Go to Jesus.

“By His continual contact with you He will free you from your weakness and your faults and from all that troubles you. Nothing ought to prevent our going to Him.”

– Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity (who will be canonized on 16 October, 2016)

We ought to imitate King David, who, after having committed adultery and murder (I don’t say we should imitate him in that), immediately beseeched the Father of all Mercies, of Whom King David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, speaks thus:

‘For thou, O Lord, art sweet and mild: and plenteous in mercy to all that call upon thee.’

(Ps. 86:5)

Commenting on this passage, St. Alphonsus writes: “David declares that God shows not only mercy, but great mercy, to those who invoke Him…” In the same text (‘How to Pray at All Times’), the saint shares with us these consoling words:

“Consider that God is so willing to pardon sinners that He laments their perdition, when they depart far from Him and live dead to His grace. Therefore, does he lovingly call them, saying: Why will you die, O house of Israel? Return ye, and live (Ezek. 18-31). He promises to receive a soul that has forsaken Him, if only it returns to His arms: Turn to Me . . . and I will turn to you (Zach. 1-3). Would that sinners only knew how mercifully our Saviour awaits them in order to pardon them: The Lord waiteth that He may have mercy upon you (Isa. 30-18). Would that sinners realised the desire on the part of God, not, indeed, to chastise them, but to see them converted and to embrace and press them to His Heart: As I live, saith the Lord God, I desire not the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live (Ezek. 33-11). He has even still more consoling words: Come and accuse Me, saith the Lord; if your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made as white as snow (Is. 1-18). In other words, He says: Sinners, repent of having offended Me and then come to Me. If I do not pardon you, accuse Me of being unfaithful to My promises; but, no, I will keep My word.”

Source: http://www.ecatholic2000.com/cts/untitled-211.shtml

What a great pity it would have been if St. Dismas (the Good Thief), instead of turning his attention to the merciful gaze of our Saviour, chose instead to contemplate the fruit of his own iniquity? Perhaps he would have remained with his sins and been damned. But no; Dismas looked to Jesus, Who is “plenteous in mercy” to all those who invoke Him with even the slightest desire to avail themselves of God’s mercy; and in looking upon the wounds and the gentle Countenance of our Divine Redeemer, his heart was moved to repentance, and he was saved.

What good can possibly come from fixating on our weakness and misery?

When Going to Jesus Appears Fruitless

Our Lord often said to St. Margaret Mary that she would only be lacking in help when His Divine Heart was lacking in power. He meant by this that, if we succumb to distrust – by which we doubt God’s infinite love and power (which is principally manifested in showing mercy to His creatures, as the Collect for the 10th Sunday after Pentecost attests) – we deprive ourselves, to some extent, of God’s assistance. ‘And He wrought not many miracles there, because of their unbelief.‘ (Mt. 13:58)

If we are making little progress in Divine Love, it is because we lack confidence in God. Our prayers should be bold, persevering, even audacious. God knows that we have nothing and can do nothing without His grace. It is precisely for this reason that we have the right and even the obligation to rely on God for everything. “My God and my All!” Every movement towards God, however slight, is the work of God. We cannot merit anything; we are neither good, nor learned, nor holy. ‘Tu solus sanctus.‘ God alone is holy (Rev. 15:4). We are only good to the extent that God acts within us. And God only acts within us to the extent that we rely on Him or let Him.

How often did Our Lord addressed these words to chosen souls:

“LET ME ACT.”

It is as if He said to us: “My little child; you are so weak that you do not know it. You can do nothing without me; you cannot so much as think a good thought without my grace. Come to Me, then, with great confidence; give yourself to Me. I will take care of you. I already am taking care of you. How else can you explain the desire that you have to possess Me? Was it not I Who put this desire in your heart?”

If we lack confidence, we should frequently beg God for this grace; He will give it, gladly. We must “not fear to be importunate” (Jesus to Sr. Josefa Menendez). God wants to teach us all a valuable lesson: all good comes from Him, and it is only when we truly seek Him and the Kingdom first, that we can absolutely rely on His infallible assistance. ‘You shall seek me, and shall find me: when you shall seek me with all your heart.’ (Jer. 29:13)

St. Alphonsus says that certain pusillanimous souls do not perceive that their lack of confidence is a consequence of their lack of generosity towards God; because they will not abandon themselves to God without reserve, He cannot give Himself without reserve to the soul.

“Is this a sin?”

One of the greatest obstacles to liberty of spirit is habitual analysis of the sinfulness of particular scenarios, hypothetical events, and so on. In a word, if we are fixated on sin, we are not free to love. God never intended things to be this way. “Love and do what you will,” says St. Augustine. Our Lord wants us to be as ‘simple as doves‘ (Mt. 10:16).

It must be known that, although there is a great need for vigilance, the best form of vigilance is to frequently converse with Jesus, Whose very name means “Saviour.” By speaking to Him frequently and with simplicity, invoking His aid, He will guide our feet, just as a father guides his little infant. If it should happen that we commit some fault, it will not be a great one, because our will was more or less focussed on God.

“Do not give a thought to your involuntary imperfections!”

– Jesus to Sr. Consolata (p. 36, ‘Jesus Appeals to the World’)

By means of frequent prayer (e.g. the aspiration, “My Jesus, mercy!”) the soul is liberated from a great deal of trouble; she is free to love. Such souls might happen to commit many imperfections, but God always sustains them; He redirects their attention to Him the moment they perceive their misery.

“If you should happen to commit some fault, do not grieve over it, but come and place it quickly within My Heart; then strengthen your determination to strive for the opposite virtue, but with great calmness. In that manner your every fault will become a step in advance.”

– Jesus to Sr. Consolata (p. 34, JATTW)

St. Therese perfectly exemplifies this perseverance in going to Jesus, Who seeks to purify us at every moment:

“O my good Jesus, who so benignly dost use our continual miseries to feed the fire of Thy divine Mercy, look with pitying eyes upon Thy solicitous purveyor, who lets not a moment pass without giving Thee something to burn!”

– From ‘The Tendernesses of the Love of Jesus for a Little Soul,’ taken from a prayer given by Jesus to Sr. Benigna Consolata

Jesus asks one thing of us: LOVE. But first, He asks that we go to Him – the emptier our hearts, the better. How else are we to receive LOVE?

Doubts may arise from time to time to confuse our conscience, to distract us from loving; but we should know that we are always safe when we turn to Jesus and Mary, and when we obey our confessor (unless we receive patently evil advice – God forbid!). Good-will, according to the saints, is the perfection that God requires of us.

Some Examples of Liberty of Spirit

+ “I was very much pleased to read,” writes St. Francis de Sales, “in the Life of St. Charles Borromeo, how he yielded to the Swiss incertain things, in which otherwise he was very strict…”

+ “… and that St. Ignatius of Loyola, being invited to play, did not refuse.”

+ “… As to St. Elizabeth of Hungary, she played and danced sometimes, when she was present at assemblies of recreation, without any prejudice to her devotion; for devotion was so deep in her soul, that her devotion increased amongst the pomps and vanities to which her condition exposed her.” (‘Introduction to the Devout Life’)

+ “Saint Spiridion, a bishop of olden times, once gave shelter to a pilgrim who was almost dying of hunger. It was the season of Lent and in a place where nothing was to be had but salt meat. This Spiridion ordered to be cooked and then gave it to the pilgrim. Seeing that the latter, notwithstanding his great need, hesitated to eat it, the Saint, although he did not require it, ate some first in order to remove the poor man’s scruples. That was a true spirit of liberty born of charity.” (Saint Francis de Sales, quoted in Rev. Quadrupani’s brilliant chapter on ‘Liberty of Spirit’: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/quadrupani/light.v.ch_16.html )

+ For the sake of charity, some of the Desert Fathers would eat as often as they had guests, even if they themselves were already sufficiently fed. They would not have eaten until they were absolutely glutted; but they knew charity is primary, and that one can always fast later, or delay the next meal.

[In the Conferences of St. John Cassian, we are given this sage advice: if we have taken on certain spiritual practices, in self-will, that are impeding our peace and spiritual growth, we should give them up. Ideally, we should submit these concerns to our confessor; that way, we avoid self-deception.]

+ St. Teresa Margaret (d. 1770), a Carmelite nun, upon seeing the sufferings of Sr. Mary Victoria at meal-time, leaned over and gave her a kiss. By this simple act of affection, St. Teresa Margaret liberated her from her violent toothache. “The Carmelite rule,” writes Berth Ghezzi (p. 12, ‘Mystics and Miracles’), “forbade one sister to kiss another, but Theresa Margaret wasn’t thinking about rules that day. She was thinking about love, and that led to a small gesture of kindness, and that led to a miracle.” ‘The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath’ (Mk. 2:27).

Like St. Teresa Margaret, St. Therese, St. Francis de Sales, and so many others, we should not be so calculating. It is God, after all, Who is our guide, our protector and our Counsellor. Rather than studying ourselves, then, as if we were some kind of characters in a play, we should prefer to study God, to love Him, to speak to Him with simplicity, and thereby to forget self. “Forgetfulness of self is the tomb of scruples.” Let us turn to our Mother of Perpetual Succour/Help, and let us avoid being children of perpetual worry; we must stop analysing our first movements, involuntary imperfections, venial sins, falls, intentions, words and the like. Go to Jesus, Go to Mary, Go to Joseph (Ite ad Joseph); enjoy their company; do not become the sport of demons by listening to their vile suggestions, which can easily be detected by the effect they have on the soul, and by the fact that they keep the soul from God.

Saint Teresa Margaret Redi

St. Teresa Margaret, Carmelite nun (d. 7 March, 1770)

Some Advice Given to Sr. Consolata Betrone

“Think no longer about yourself, about your perfection, on how to attain sanctity, or about your defects, your present and future troubles. No, I will see to your sanctification, to your sanctity. You must henceforth think only of Me and of souls; of Me to love, and of souls to save them!” (p. 131, JATTW)

Some Final Advice

If you want to acquire liberty of spirt, get to know the following holy souls and their writings:

– St. Therese

– St. Francis de Sales

– St. Gertrude

– Ven. Louis de Blois (Blosius)

– Sr. Benigna Consolata

– Sr. Gertrude Mary

In time, one will imbibe their spirit.

+++++

‘Offer up the sacrifice of justice, and trust in the Lord: many say, Who sheweth us good things?’
(Ps. 4:5)

+++++

“Jesus, be to me a Jesus [i.e. a Saviour]!”

– Part of a prayer given by Our Lord to Sr. Benigna Consolata (The same prayer – minus the word “a” – was recommended by a Visitandine to Sr. Jeanne Benigne Gojos)

+++++

“My Jesus, my only God, my All, I conjure Thee to bury me so deeply in Thy Sacred Heart that I may never be able to come forth.”

– Part of a prayer given by Our Lord to Sr. Benigna Consolata

[This post is dedicated to my Superior and spiritual Father, who gave me permission to spend a greater length of time completing this article.]

+BENEDICTUS DEUS+

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Custody of the Eyes: A Commentary on St. Alphonsus

‘And Jesus looking on him, loved him…’ (Mk. 10:21)

In his excellent work, ‘The True Spouse of Jesus Christ’, St. Alphonsus speaks to religious about custody of the eyes. Mark these words, to religious. His advice is not to be applied to one and all without distinction; this could have disastrous repercussions. Also, his writings must be read with prudence. Overly literal interpretations and St. Alphonsus do not always mix.

One must know that religious have been called by Our Lord to be His spouse (this is to be understood in a spiritual sense). It is for this reason that they are called to practice custody of the eyes in a particular way.

The purpose of this commentary is to clarify some points that might be a source of confusion and scruples for some. Do not think that I am correcting St. Alphonsus! Far from it; I am merely clarifying what he has said, for the sake of those who will misread him. At times I am only stating the obvious. Furthermore, I am explaining his words (or the words that he quotes) in relation to non–religious individuals. This is a very important point.

The format of this commentary needs no explanation.

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“A deliberate glance at a person of a different sex often enkindles an infernal spark, which consumes the soul.”

[Comment: True; but this does not amount to saying that all deliberate glances are sinful. A deliberate glance is sinful when done for the sake of sexual pleasure, or when there is a near occasion of sin, namely lust (i.e. “seeking venereal pleasure not in accordance with right reason” – Aquinas).]

St. Gregory says, that “the eyes, because they draw us to sin, must be depressed.”

[Comment: In other words, we should mortify our desire to look at everything that pleases us. We are not forbidden to appreciate all beauty. Have you ever found words like these in an examination of conscience: ‘Did I look at a sunset?’ There is a reason for that. If it were wrong to appreciate all beauty, the Popes would long ago have asked for the removal of several sculptures at the Vatican, which depict naked men and women. The fact is, not all beauty excites lust. Take the beauty of Our Lady, for example.]

“He that looks at a dangerous object,” continues the saint, “begins to will what he wills not.”

[Comment: A dangerous object is something that is likely to lead us to lust.]

“Gaze not about,” says the Holy Ghost, “upon another’s beauty… hereby lust is enkindled as a fire.”  Gaze not upon another’s beauty; for from looks arise evil imaginations, by which an impure fire is lighted up.

[Comment: That is, don’t gaze with the intention of arousing sexual pleasure, or when there is a near occasion of sin e.g. when you are likely to experience unlawful sexual pleasure. Many of the Saints had visions of Our Lord, Our Lady and the Saints, and they often appreciated and commented on their great beauty. In his work, ‘The Ladder of Divine Ascent,’ St. John Climacus – no liberal – writes: “A certain man (St. Nonnus, Bishop), on seeing a beautiful woman, thereupon glorified the Creator; and from that one look, he was moved to the love of God and to a fountain of tears. And it was wonderful to see how what would have been a cause of destruction for one was for another the supernatural cause of a crown.” (These words are even included in Dom Maurus Wolter’s classic text, ‘The Principles of Monasticism,’ p. 365, which is specifically for religious)]

“Hence, to avoid the sight of dangerous objects, the saints were accustomed to keep their eyes almost continually fixed on the earth, and to abstain even from looking at innocent objects.

[Comment: Some saints, not all. When asked by a Sister why she was looking so intently at her, St. Therese answered: “No, I just love looking at you!” (p. 120 of ‘Her Last Conversations’, Clarke)]

“After being a novice for a year, St. Bernard could not tell whether his cell was vaulted. In consequence of never raising his eyes from the ground, he never knew that there were but three windows to the church of the monastery, in which he spent his novitiate.”

[Comment: This was not the practice of St. Padre Pio, for example. Some who met him, such as Fr. Vincenzo (cf. padrepiodevotions.org ‘Newsletter archive’) , have commented on his penetrating gaze, which, at times is a source of consolation.]

“St. Hugh, bishop, when compelled to speak with women, never looked at them in the face.”

[Comment: Perhaps this was necessary for him in order to maintain purity. Priests are permitted to look at those who they are talking to. Dom Marie–Gabriel Sortais (d. 1963), Abbot General of the Trappist Order (O.C.S.O.) – and a very holy and penitential man – shared an intimate bond with Mother Yvonne Aimee (Servant of God), and he even kept a picture of her on his desk.]

“St. Aloysius never looked at his own mother in the face.”

[Comment: Supposedly. Hagiographers have been known to embellish things from time to time. Besides, if this is true, it is not necessary. ‘When Jesus therefore had seen his mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son. (Jn. 19:26) A holy priest and mystic, Pere Lamy (Servant of God), was once given a statue of Our Lady, which depicted her with her head bent. Pere Lamy asked the sculptor why this was the case. “She looks mystical like that,” was the reply. “Oh,” he said; “Well, she does not look at all mystical. She stands there. She looks at you straight in the face; and that is as it should be, straight in the face.” (Words taken from ‘Pere Lamy’ by Biver)]

“For having once looked deliberately at a woman who was gathering ears of corn, the Abbot Pastor was tormented for forty years by temptations against chastity.”

[Comment: Then, for him, it must have been a dangerous look. Also, he seems to have been called to a very high degree of sanctity, as all Abbots are.]

“If,” says St. Augustine, “our eyes should by chance fall upon others, let us take care never to fix them upon any one.”

[Comment: These words do not apply to holy images, nor to Our Lord and Our Lady. They cannot possibly apply to those who are married. They do not forbid us from looking at our parents or siblings. What do they mean, then? It means, again, that when there is a near occasion of sexual impurity, we must restrain our glance.]

“But I do not see how looks at young persons of a different sex can be excused from the guilt of a venial fault, or even from mortal sin, when there is proximate danger of criminal consent.”

[Comment: Note the words, “when there is proximate danger of criminal consent”, thereby implying that the look itself is not sinful.]

“It is not lawful,” says St. Gregory, “to behold what it is not lawful to covet.”

[Comment: This must be read in the light of a true understanding of what lust is. Taken literally, this would mean that we can look at almost nothing, for Scripture says: ‘Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house… nor any thing that is his.’ Surely this is not what St. Gregory meant!]

“To practise modesty of the eyes is the duty of a religious, not only because it is necessary for her own improvement in virtue, but also because it is necessary for the edification of others.”

[Comment: Very true. Even so, it is still possible for the religious to look at others in a pure way.]

“From the moment we awake in the morning, let us pray continually in the words of holy David: Turn away my eyes, that they may not behold vanity.”

[Comment: We should ask God to be kept from impurity. Looking at swimsuit calendars, for example, is hardly going to lead to an increase in virtue.]

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Summary

– If certain writings leave us scrupulous and confused, we should avoid them.

– God’s creation is good and beautiful (Gen. 1:31). Immodest dress, impure glances and the like are a misuse of this goodness.

– Everything must be framed in relation to Church teaching. The Catechism is the official summary of Church teaching; therefore we are safe in following it.

“Q. 881. WHAT is lechery, or lust?

An inordinate desire of carnal sin, or delights of the flesh.” (The Douay Catechism of 1649)

“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 Catechism Explained’, 1899, p. 393)

“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.” (# 2391, Current ‘Catechism of the Catholic Church’)

In the words of the Liturgy, Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum (The peace of the Lord be with you always)!

 

Consolation for Scrupulous Souls (Some Advice from St. Alphonsus)

Jesus to St. Veronica Giuliani: ‘… tell everything to him who holds My place [the priest]. Be obedient to him; do whatever he commands. You can never be mistaken when you are obedient.’ (p. 264, Vol. 2)

The following words, though addressed to all – and which contain some very helpful advice for the spiritual life – will be particularly appreciated by those who are inclined to doubts, fears, scruples and the like. The words are taken from ‘The Way of Salvation and Perfection,’ (pp.451–460; Ch VI. Interior Trials):

“… the chief thing they [scrupulous souls] ought to consider is this: that he who acts in obedience to a learned and pious confessor, acts not only with no doubt, but with the greatest security that can be had upon earth, on the divine words of Jesus Christ, that he who hears his ministers is as though he heard himself: He that heareth you heareth Me; whence St. Bernard says, “Whatever man enjoins in the place of God, provided it be not certainly displeasing to God, is altogether to be received as though enjoined by God.” It is certain that, as to the personal direction of conscience, the confessor is the lawful superior, as St Francis de Sales, with all spiritual instructors, declares, while F. Pinamonti, in his Spiritual Director, says: “It is well to make the scrupulous perceive, that submitting their will to the ministers of the Lord provides them the greatest security in all that is not manifestly sin. Let them read the lives of the saints, and they will find that they know no safer road than obedience. The saints plainly trusted more to the voice of their confessor than to the immediate voice of God; and yet the scrupulous would lean more on their own judgment than on the Gospel, which assures them, He that heareth you heareth Me.”

The Blessed Henry Suso says, that “God demands no account from us of things done under obedience.” St. Philip Neri says the same: “Let such as desire to advance in the way of God submit themselves to a learned confessor, and obey him in God’s stead; let him who thus acts assure himself that he will have to render no account to God for his actions.” He says, moreover, that one should have all faith in one’s confessor, on the ground that God would not permit him to err; and that there is nothing that more surely cuts asunder the snares of the devil than to do the will of another in what is good, nor anything more full of danger than to be guiding ourselves according to what seems best to us; which is confirmed by St. John of the Cross, who says, in the name of the Lord: “When thou art unfaithful to confessors, thou art so unto Me, who have said, He that despiseth you despiseth Me.” And again: “Not to rest satisfied with what the confessor says is pride and failure in faith.” We are, therefore, to have this certain confidence, that each person, in obeying his spiritual Father, may be sure of not sinning. “The sovereign remedy for the scrupulous,” says St. Bernard, “is a blind obedience to their confessor.” John Gerson relates, that the same St. Bernard told one of his disciples, who was scrupulous, to go and celebrate, and take his word for it. He went, and was cured of his scruples.

“But a person may answer,” says Gerson, “Would to God I had a St. Bernard for my director! but mine is one of indifferent wisdom.” And he answers, “Thou dost err, whoever thou art that so speakest; for thou hast not given thyself into the hands of the man because he is well read, etc., but because he is placed over thee; wherefore obey him not as man, but as God.” For this reason St. Teresa well said, “Let the soul accept the confessor with a determination to think no more of personal excuses, but to trust in the words of the Lord, He that heareth you heareth Me. The Lord so highly values this submission, that when, in spite of a thousand inward conflicts, and considering the decision to be an absurd one, we execute it nevertheless, cost us what it may, the Lord so assists us,” etc.; and she goes on to say, that we then comply with his divine will. Hence St. Francis de Sales, speaking of direction from a spiritual Father in order to walk securely in the way of God, says, “This is the very counsel of all counsels.” “Search as much as you will,” says the devout Avila, “you will in no way discover the will of God so surely as by the path of that humble obedience which is so much recommended and practised by the devout of former times.” Thus, too, Alvarez said, “Even if the spiritual Father should err, the obedient soul is secure from error, because it rests on the judgment of him whom God has given it as a superior.” And F. Nieremberg writes to the same effect: “Let the soul obey the confessor; and then, although the thing itself were matter of fault, he does not sin who does it with the intention of obeying him who holds to him the place of God, persuading himself (as is, indeed, the case) that he is bound to obey him;” forasmuch as (according to the words of F. Rogacci and F. Lessius) the confessor is to us the interpreter of the divine will. And this is confirmed also by the gloss: “But if what is prescribed be of a doubtful kind, the virtue of obedience exempts from sin, although the thing in itself be evil;” and in the chapter Inquisition de Sent, exc., from the same text, obedience to the confessor is enjoined, when it says that scruples “ought to be dismissed at the judgment of one’s pastor.”

St. Francis de Sales gives three maxims of great consolation to the scrupulous: “An obedient soul has never been lost; 2. We ought to rest satisfied with knowing from our spiritual Father that we are going on well, without seeking a personal knowledge of it; 3. The best thing is to walk on blindly through all the darkness and perplexity of this life, under the providence of God.”

And therefore all the doctors of morals conclude, in general, with St. Antoninus, Navarro, Silvester, etc., that obedience to the confessor is the safest rule for walking well in the ways of God. F. Tirillo and F. La Croix say that this is the common doctrine of the holy Fathers and masters of the spiritual life. In the second place, the scrupulous should know, not only that they are safe in obeying, but that they are bound to obey their director, and to despise the scruple, acting with all freedom in the midst of their doubts. This is the teaching of Natalis Alexander: “That scruples ought to be despised when one has the judgment of a prudent, pious, and learned director; and that one ought to act against them is plain from the chapter Inquisitioni,” etc., as above; and of Father Wigandt: “He who acts against scruples does not sin; nay, sometimes it is a precept to do so, especially when backed by the judgment of the confessor. So do these authors speak, although they belong to the rigid school; so, too, the doctors in general; and the reason is, that if the scrupulous man lives in his scruples, he is in danger of placing grievous impediments in the way of satisfying his obligations, or, at least, of making any spiritual progress; and, moreover, of going out of his mind, losing his health, and destroying his conscience by despair or by relaxation.

Hence St. Antoninus agrees with Gerson in thus reproving the scrupulous, who, through a vain fear, is not obedient in overcoming his scruples: “Beware lest, from overmuch desire to walk securely, thou fall and destroy thyself.” For this reason F. Wigandt also says, that the scrupulous man ought to obey his director in all cases where the precept is not plainly sin, “unless the director enjoins what is manifestly against God;” and it is the general and undoubted decision among Doctors, that in things doubtful each one is bound to obey him who is placed over him, if it be not evidently a sin. This is proved by St. Bernard in a passage quoted at the commencement; and by St. Ignatius Loyola, who says: “There must be obedience in all things in which no sin is perceived, that is, in which there is not manifest sin.” Also by Blessed Humbert, General of the Friars Preachers, who says: “Unless the precept be plainly evil, it is to be received as though enjoined by God.” Moreover, by Blessed Denis the Carthusian: “In things doubtful as to whether or not they are against the divine precept, one must stand by the precept of him who is set over one; because, although it should be against the precept of God, yet, in virtue of obedience, the person under direction sins not.” Of the same opinion is St. Bonaventure. This makes Gerson say: “The scrupulous are to act against their scruples, and plant their feet firmly in resisting them. We cannot set scruples to rest better than by despising them; and, as a general rule, not without the advice of another, and especially our Superior. Otherwise, either ill–regulated fear or inconsiderate presumption will be our fall.” “With a firm foot,” says he, “they ought to overcome the scruple.”

And so the remedy that St. Philip Neri gave the scrupulous was, to make them despise their scruples. It is thus written in his life: “Moreover, besides the general remedy of committing one’s self altogether and for everything to the judgment of the confessor, he gave another, by exhorting his penitents to despise their scruples. Hence he forbade such persons to confess often; and when, in confession, they entered upon their scruples, he used to send them to Communion without hearing them.” So, then, in conclusion, the scrupulous man ought to set before himself obedience, and look upon his scrupulous fear as vain, and so act with freedom. Nor does this require (say the Doctors Busembaum, with Sanchez and others) that in each particular act he should expressly determine that the thing is a scruple, and that he ought to obey his confessor in despising it; it is enough that he act against it in virtue of a judgment made beforehand, since, from his past experience, the same judgment resides in his conscience habitually or virtually, though dim and confused. Hence La Croix and Tamburini, together with Vasquez, Val., etc., add, that if he who is scrupulous be unable amid that darkness to lay aside his scruple at once, or call clearly to mind the obedience laid on him by the confessor, which some anxious consciences are disabled from doing, perplexed as they are how to put by their scruple, by reason of the fear that weighs upon them, in that case he does not sin, though he act with a positive fear of sinning; and for this reason that as he has already passed a like judgment upon former scruples, and on the duty of obeying the injunction given him to despise them, he ought assuredly to believe himself to possess it now also, though, from the force of his fear, he does not perceive it.

But the scrupulous ought at such a time to despise the fear, inasmuch as it forms no true verdict of conscience. Hear how Gerson openly confirms this point, and what advice he gives: “A formed conscience is, when, after discussion and deliberation, a definite sentence of the reason judges that a thing is to be done or to be avoided; and to act against this is a sin: but fear or scruple of conscience is, when the mind wavers in doubt, not knowing which of two things it is bound to do, and yet would not omit whatever it could ascertain to be agreeable to the divine will; and this fear is as much as possible to be cast away and quenched.” In fact, then, Gerson says that a person sins by acting under a practical doubt, when the doubt proceeds from a formed conscience; but that this formed conscience exists when, after examining the circumstances, he deliberately judges with a definitive sentence on what he is obliged and what he is forbidden to do; and he sins by acting against such a conscience as this. But that, when the mind is doubtful and wavering, and yet would not do anything that was displeasing to God, this, says Gerson, is no true doubtfulness, but a vain fear, which ought as much as possible to be cast away and despised. So that when there certainly exists in the scrupulous person the habitual will not to offend God, it is certain (according to Gerson) that while he acts in his doubtfulness he does not sin; and with reason, since it is then not a true doubt, although he may apprehend it to be a doubt, but a vain fear.

On the other hand, it is certain, that for the commission of a mortal sin there is required a full perception on the part of the reason, and a complete deliberate consent on the part of the will, and to will something which grievously offends God. This doctrine is undoubted, and common to all the theologians, and even to the most rigid, as Juenin, Habert, and that most rigorous of all, Genet, who speaks thus: “But if (the act) contain only an imperfect degree of deliberation, the sin will be venial, not mortal.” And this, too, is the teaching of all the rest, with St. Thomas, who says: “That which is mortal may be venial, owing to the act being imperfect, since it does not absolutely amount to the perfection of a mortal act, being not deliberate, but sudden.”

Let scrupulous souls, then, suffer this cross of theirs with resignation, and not perplex themselves in the greatest distresses which God may send or permit. It is for their profit, to the end that they may be humbler, may guard better against such occasions as are beyond doubt and seriously dangerous, may commend themselves oftener to the Lord, and put a more entire trust in the divine goodness. Meanwhile let them often have recourse to the most holy Virgin Mary, who is called, and is in truth, the Mother of Mercy, and comforter of the afflicted. Let them, indeed, fear to offend God, wherever they do in truth discern what will offend him; but if only they are steadfast in resolving rather to die a thousand times than lose the grace of God, let them, above all things, fear lest they fail in obedience to their directors. On the other hand, while they blindly obey, they may assure themselves of not being abandoned by that Lord who will have all men saved, and who, loving good–will as he does, never suffers a really obedient soul to perish.

No one hath hoped in the Lord, and hath been confounded. Casting all your care upon Him, for He hath care of you. The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? In peace in the self-same I will sleep and I will rest; for Thou, O Lord, singularly hast settled me in hope. In Thee, O Lord, have I hoped; let me never be confounded.”

How to Attain Lasting Peace

“It is impossible to explain the abundance of this peace in the soul altogether given to God and seeking Him alone.” – Bl. Dom Columba Marmion

“Souls that do not wish to give all to Our Lord,” writes Bl. Dom Columba Marmion, “and to bring all their desires to unity by this total donation, cannot taste this true peace. They are divided, tossed to and fro between themselves and God, between the satisfaction of their self–love and obedience; they are the prey of trouble and disquiet. (Like St. Augustine, we should cleave to God, the immutable good).”

If we desire true peace, we must seek God with a pure heart. He has loved us first; let us love Him in return.

“One night while I was praying,” writes St. Veronica Giuliani, “I beheld issuing from the side of Our Saviour a liquid which exhaled a heavenly perfume, and it filled up a kind of fountain which stood before the Lord. I saw many souls plunge into it. The Lord gave me to understand that these were the pure souls who had given themselves absolutely to Him.”

“The more I am faithful to this little way of love,” writes Sr. Consolata Betrone, “the more is my soul flooded with joy and true peace that nothing is able to disturb, not even my continual falls. For, when I bring these to Jesus, He makes me remedy them through acts of humility, and these in turn increase the peace and joy in my heart.”

Ponder in your heart the profound truth of these words: “Our souls are made for God; unless they are set towards this end they are perpetually in agitation and trouble. Now St. Benedict wishes that we should have but this one and universal intention: That we should seek God… By the unity of this end, he brings unity to the manifold actions of our life, and especially into the desires of our being; and this is, according to St. Thomas one of the essential elements of peace… Our souls are troubled when they are torn by desires that bear upon a thousand different objects… when we seek God alone by an obedience full of abandonment and love, we sum up all things in the one thing necessary; and it is this that establishes strength and peace within us.” Bl. Dom Columba Marmion

If we simply do our duties for the love of God, seeking always to purify our intentions, then we will surely taste the sweetness of Our Lord’s yoke. He is the Way: let us follow Him; He is the Truth: let us trust Him; He is the Life: let us unite ourselves to Him, Who will lead us safely to Paradise. The more sinful we have been in the past, the greater right we have to trust in His infinite love, which is the source of all our good desires. If we desire Him, He desires us still more (as He revealed to St. Margaret of Cortona).

In 1809, the Divine Precursor [St. John the Baptist] appeared to His humble servant, Bl. Elizabeth Canori–Mora. Showing her the Promised Land, He said: “Look! There the Divine Paraclete awaits you, to celebrate with you celestial espousals. I will be your guide and conductor. O fortunate soul, what a happy fate is yours!” At these words, the Angels introduced her into the kingdom of Glory, and the Saint pointed out to her the Heavenly Palace, and began to describe its magnificence. Then he added: “But the door of this Palace is narrow: those who enter must be humble and lowly.” (p. 116 of her biography)

Jesus to Marie–Dominique Moes (on the Feast of the Sacred Heart in 1859): “O blinded men, what has become of you? Have I not shed all My Blood for you, and given Myself to you for food? And all that was not enough to awaken a return of love in you? Ah, what sorrow for My loving Heart!”

Do We Value God’s Love As Our Only Good?

“I would a thousand times rather die than consent to anything which might displease Thee.”

– St. Veronica Giuliani

After reading the lives of the Saints, I am often left wondering: How is it that anyone could possess so much love?!

… After much prayer and consideration I am convinced that the only way to arrive at such love is to love. “We learn to love by loving,” says a Saint. And how exactly do we love God? By doing His will. And what is His will? Our Lord says the following: “Keep My commandments… Take up your cross and follow Me… Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart…”

Charity unites us to God, who is Love itself. The closer the bond, the greater our love. Love is not merely act of the will, nor does it consist in “headwork”, but rather it is “… the result of accepting generously all sacrifices, in accepting with a loving heart all trials” (Saudreau).

After having been purged of their sinful affections, the Saints were able to comprehend the most sublime spiritual truths. Sin appeared to them in all its vileness as nothing more than a detestable thorn in the side of their Beloved; worldly goods and honour were despised as temptations to pride, vanity and self-love, which stain the soul, displease God, and take us far from the narrow gate that leads to eternal life. “No more sin! No more sin!” cried out St. Catherine of Genoa. “Enough of sin! LOVE HIM! LOVE HIM!” exclaimed Bl. Alexandrina. These are the words of souls in love with God; souls who knew that sin has frightful consequences, and that it has nothing to offer us but emptiness; for where sin is, there God is not.

St. Paul was able to exclaim: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ Who lives in Me.” These are the words of one who has reached a state of sublime union with God! These words are not fitting for one who takes delight in sin, however small. It is only in uniting our will with God’s will that we allow His love to act within us, to transform us, and to carve us into beautiful statues fit for the Garden of Paradise!

Jesus suffered excruciating torments for 33 years so that we might give ourselves entirely to Him, just as He offered Himself to us without reserve. We lose nothing by such generosity; on the contrary, we stand to gain eternal life, happiness, the conversion of sinners, peace, and something – or rather, Someone -truly worth living for:

***

“Do you not actually possess all things if you have Him who possess all? Nothing is wanting to him to whom God is present, nothing is lacking to him for whom Christ is all-sufficient.”

-Peter de Blois (Serm. 42, in fest. OMnium Sanct. II, col. 691)

***

Daily Meditation

As it is impossible to value something that we do not know, let us make a resolution to meditate for at least 15 mins a day (if we do not already do so) on God’s love for us. (All the Saints recommend this, and charity demands it, considering that God’s showers countless graces upon us each day)… We may consider the graces that He has bestowed upon us, what He suffered for us, the countless times He has drawn us from sin to repentance etc. etc.

Here are some pertinent words from a Saint: “When the Blessed Angela of Foligno asked God what she could do to please Him more, He vouchsafed to appear to her several times, both sleeping and waking, always as crucified on the cross, and He told her to look at His wounds, and then showed her, in a marvellous manner, how He had endured all those things for her; and lastly, He said,

“What then can you do for Me which would be enough?”

Another time, as the Bollandists relate, He appeared to her, and said,

“Whosoever wishes to find grace, let him never take his eyes from the cross, whether My providence be visiting him with sorrow, or with joy.”

God can only will what is best for us. We please Him greatly when we place no small value on His love, which is no less in times of adversity than in times of consolation. The truth is, God is the source of all good; the more we come to know the love of God, the more we will see that in Him is everything we need and could possibly desire:

“Give me your heart to place in mine in order that you will have no other love but for me and for the things that are mine.”

– Jesus to Bl. Alexandrina

Pax Domine!

 

 

 

 

Amend Your Life and You Will Be Saved!

“… know for a certainty that if anyone of you wills to correct himself, amend his life, and humbly turn back to Me, then like a loving shepherd, I shall joyfully run out to meet him, lifting him onto My shoulders and personally carrying him back to My sheep. For by My shoulders I mean that if anyone amends his life, he will share in the benefit of My passion and death, which I endured in my body and shoulders; and he will receive with Me eternal consolation in the kingdom of Heaven.”

– Jesus to St. Bridget of Sweden

“Who can be mad enough,” says Ven. Louis de Blois (Blosius) “not to wish to be saved? What can be easier than to obey a most loving Father, commanding nothing except what promotes our happiness?” (p. 160 of ‘Comfort for the Faint-Hearted’)

“Mercy is, accordingly, pronounced to anyone who repents of his sins and resolves to sin no more, for My Spirit shall inspire him to perform good works. Whoever freely desires to be separated from the vanities of this world is made more fervent by My Spirit.
The person who is even ready to die for me will be so inflamed by My Spirit that he will be wholly in Me and I in him.” (Our Lord to St. Bridget) 

“Likewise, if any sinner were so rooted in diabolical deeds that he was standing at the very brink of destruction, he could still obtain forgiveness and mercy, if he called upon God with contrition and a will to improve.”

– Jesus to St. Bridget

***
“Peace to men of good-will!”

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Some Beautiful Words About HEAVEN.

(Words taken from Martin Von Cochem’s ‘The Four Last Things’)

The more good a saint has done on earth, the grander is the residence assigned him in heaven. These palaces and mansions are transparent as crystal and built of precious stones of the costliest kind. And we may add on the authority of a learned theologian, that the blessed hold intercourse with one another, and meet together to laud and magnify the omnipotence of the Most High, who prepared for them such glorious abodes, and join in extolling His wisdom and His love…

St. Augustine, St. Anselm, and many other saints do not hesitate to maintain that there are in heaven real trees, real fruits, and real flowers, indescribably attractive and delightful to the sight, taste, smell, and touch, different from anything we can imagine. In the revelations of the saints mention is made of the gardens in heaven, and the flowers that blossom there; and we know it is recorded in the legend of St. Dorothea, that she sent to Theophilus by the hands of an angel a basket of flowers culled in the gardens of the celestial paradise, of such surpassing beauty that the sight of them led him to become a Christian, and lay down his life for the faith of Christ.

We also read in the life of St. Didacus, that on coming to himself after a trance into which he fell shortly before his death, he cried aloud: “O what flowers there are in paradise! what flowers there are in paradise!” Similar incidents are frequently to be met with in the legends of the saints. 

Consider how delightful it will be for the happy ones who are saved to wander in the celestial gardens, and contemplate those fair flowers. How pleasing the lovely blossoms are to the eye, how delicious is the fragrance they exhale! Of a truth, if a man were to obtain possession of a single one of these heavenly flowers, it would produce on him the same effect as on Theophilus. He would be spoiled for all the beauty of earth, and would strive with his whole soul after the perfect beauty of heaven… 

In her revelations to St. Bridget, the Blessed Mother of God once said:

“The saints stand around my Son like countless stars, whose glory is not to be compared with any temporal light. Believe me, if the saints could be seen shining with the glory they now possess, no human eye could endure their light; all would turn away, dazzled and blinded.”

The glorified body will be able to traverse the greatest distance with the speed of thought. In one moment it can come down from heaven to earth; in one moment it can pass from one end of the heavens to the other, without labor, without fatigue, without difficulty. We often wish that we could fly like the birds, that we could speed on our way like clouds on the wings of the wind, that we could follow thought in its rapid flight. If it were possible to purchase this power, every one would part with all his worldly wealth for it, if only to obtain it for one single year… 

It would be unwise were we to attempt to describe the gratification it will be to the ear to hear the canticles of the angels, and the soft music of their harps. The nine choirs of angels will sing the praise of God, and the blessed will join them not only in heart, for they will mingle their voices also in the sweet harmony. Thus the powers of both soul and body will be exercised, and the praises of God will ascend in melodious hymns and celestial songs. For if we mortals are impelled by fervent love and heartfelt joy to lift our voice in song, how much more will the holy angels and blessed saints do so, who are all aflame with the love of God, and filled with joy unspeakable. Their hymns of praise will resound without ceasing through the courts of heaven. In a prophetic spirit the elder Tobias says: “The gates of Jerusalem shall be built of sapphire and of emerald, and all the walls thereof round about with precious stones, all its streets shall be paved with white and clean stones, and alleluia shall be sung in its streets” (Tob. xiii. 21, 22)… 

The delicious odors of paradise surpass anything that man can imagine. The fairest lilies, roses, violets, carnations, and other rare and lovely flowers grow in the gardens of the heavenly paradise, and their fragrance is so delightful, that if a man had but a petal of one of those flowers, he would be overcome by the sweetness of the perfume. “Israel [that is the company of the redeemed] shall spring as the lily, and his smell shall be that of Libanus” (Osee xiv. 6). 

Experience has abundantly shown that the bodies of the saints whilst in their graves already emit a fragrant smell; how much more powerful will that fragrance be when they are again raised to life and glorified. Above all the bodies of Christ and of His Blessed Mother will exhale so sweet a perfume that all heaven will be pervaded by it… 

Even the sense of taste will be gratified in heaven, not, it is true, by the consumption of ordinary food, but in a manner whereof we can as yet form no conjecture. The blessed will taste a sweet sustenance which will satisfy them, as we learn from the words of the Royal Psalmist: “They shall be inebriated with the plenty of Thy house, Thou shalt make them drink of the torrent of Thy pleasure” (Ps. xxxv. 9).

The sense of touch will have its own peculiar enjoyment. The more one has mortified himself here on earth, the greater will be his bodily wellbeing hereafter. St. Anselm says: “In the future life the saints will experience a feeling of untold comfort and ease. This pleasurable sensation will pervade every member, producing a wondrous sense of peace and contentment.” 

Finally, the redeemed will take very great pleasure in beholding one another, in conversing with one another, in kindly intercourse and friendly communication. Think how beautiful a sight it will be to see hundreds of thousands of beings in all the splendor of their glorified state. If on earth we esteem it a pleasure to look upon a handsome face, we can appreciate in some slight degree what it will be in heaven, the lowliest of whose inhabitants is possessed of a beauty far exceeding the personal attractions of any mortal man.

 

A Beautiful Revelation For Every Christian

“Nothing has ever happened and nothing happens save by the plan of My divine Providence. In all things that I permit, in all things that I give you, in tribulations and in consolations, temporal or spiritual, I do nothing save for your good, so that you may be sanctified in Me and that My Truth be fulfilled in you.”

– God to St. Catherine of Siena

These words are actually addressed to all. God loves us so much that He wants us to become holy. The greatest gift God can give us is to make us like His Son, Jesus. Even when God corrects us, He does so with the intention of bringing us to His Heavenly Kingdom. The more we let the Holy Spirit (His Love) act within us, the more pleasure we give to God, the more of His love we receive, the more merit we receive (which will be rewarded eternally in Heaven), and the more God can use us to bring souls to Him!

“Sanctity is to allow Me to live in you, and it is I who bring it to pass within you. It is to give Me your human nature so that I may live on among you.” – Jesus to Sr. Mary of the Trinity

A Powerful Meditation: The Thirty-Three Years of Jesus’ Life

“Our Lord revealed to Blessed Michael of Florence, the Camaldolese, how He longed that those who loved Him should honour the Thirty-Three Years with affectionate minuteness.”

– Fr. Faber (‘The Precious Blood or The Price of Our Salvation’) 

We think often of those we love. It is very difficult to love God if we do not take the time to know Him e.g. by means of prayer, meditation, and spiritual reading. In the late 19th century, it was revealed to Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich* that there were living approximately 100,000 souls who loved God greatly. Would we have been counted among this number?

A Fruitful Meditation

“The life of our loving Redeemer was all full of desolation, and bereft of every comfort. The life of Jesus was that great ocean which was all bitter, without a single drop of sweetness or consolation: For great as the sea is thy destruction:

This is what was revealed by our Lord to St. Margaret of Cortona, when he said to her that in his whole life he never experienced sensible consolation.”

(Taken from ‘The Passion and Death of Jesus Christ’ by St. Alphonsus)

How small our crosses are in comparison!

Furthermore, consider the incredible words of our Lord to St. Gertrude:

“Even though a soul be lacking in fervor, yet will I look upon her with much love, if she sometimes meditate upon My Passion. It is an exercise possessing a value in My eyes infinitely surpassing that of any other. Even a short meditation upon My Passion, is worth more than long and multiplied acts of piety that have no direct reference to My sufferings and death.”

 

* The writings of Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich are very edifying. Unfortunately, however, many of her prophecies have been manipulated by disobedient or confused Catholics. Here is one such example: http://jloughnan.tripod.com/forgery.htm (How much deception and apparent forgery I have encountered on the internet! Given that the number of false mystics greatly outnumbers the authentic mystics, we would be better off following the example of Bl. Elena Aiello, St. Padre Pio and other holy Saints and mystics who submitted to the Church at all times.)

God Abandons No One.

God Abandons No One.

“Love is good actions freely performed. I never refuse love to someone who asks for it—but it is your will*, your actions that will develop it in you.” – Jesus to Sr. Mary of the Trinity *We must not forget, … Continue reading