6 Easy Ways to Grow in Divine Love (Pt. 2)

(6) Praise God in ALL THINGS and for ALL THINGS

What is it that attracts God to our souls? Is it our virtue? Our strength? Our talents?

Certainly not.

St. Augustine says that we cannot give what we don’t have. Well, okay – what do we have? “I am good at maths,” one will say; “I am a professional athlete,” another will say; “Yeah, well, I can bench 120!”

Yes, okay – but what do you have of yourself? What do you have that you have not received? (Bear in mind that we do not have existence of or from ourselves; our essence is distinct from our existence).

The answer? Nothing. Nada.

[Actually, there is an exception. Although we have neither existence from ourselves, nor talents, nor grace, we do have a unique claim to our sufferings and our sins].

This might seem all a bit depressing, a bit of a guilt-trip. But it isn’t. Rather, it is the foundation of happiness; it is the bedrock of the spiritual life, of a genuine relationship between the creature and the Creator; it is the key to holiness and, subsequently, to happiness.

It is humility that attracts God to our souls. [Humility and charity grow together.]

Let me attempt to explain.

Because God’s essence is Love, He is always seeking our good; He longs to communicate His Divine Life – which is nothing other than Love Itself – to us, His dear children, for whom He has paid so great a price! Whether we are the greatest sinner in the universe or not, matters little; the only impediment to God’s action in us… is us. If we are full of pride, of self-sufficiency, then God has no room to act (pride and God are like oil and water); but if we are humble, acknowledging our frailty and leaning on God alone, He will supply for our deficiencies, He will fill our empty vessels, bit by bit (“… fill the hearts of Thy faithful… “). And the greater our need, the more God is glorified in helping us!

Let Love be Love. Don’t try to give yourself to God; this is beyond your strength. Rather, ask God to take you to Himself. ‘I am thine: save Thou me’ (Ps. 118:94).

“God alone is capable, properly speaking, of giving – he to Whom ALL THINGS belong.”

– Louis Bouyer (p. 80, ‘The Meaning of the Monastic Life’)

God is more glorified by the feeble works of an imperfect soul who recognises her absolute dependence on God, and who trusts audaciously in His goodness, than He is by the most heroic acts of a soul who believes that, by their works, they are somehow giving God something that wasn’t already His to begin with; for ‘to Him nothing may be added’ (Eccles. 42:21).

God alone communicates life and goodness to His creatures. Until we grasp this truth, our relationship with God will suffer. There is nothing quite like knowing that God’s love for us is perfectly pure; that He seeks us, not because of what we are, but because of what He is. In ALL THINGS, then, let us rely on Him, let us glorify Him, let us thank Him. This is the key to great holiness. A grateful soul is necessarily a humble soul, and a humble soul is necessarily a loving soul, being inundated, as it were, with the graces of God.

+++++++

ALL THINGS IN GOD, ALL THINGS BY GOD,

ALL THINGS WITH GOD, ALL THINGS FOR GOD

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“Thou art my Treasure: be Thou my All!”

– Dom Pius de Hemptinne

+++

Everything is Grace

‘Giving thanks always for ALL THINGS, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God and the Father…’ (Eph. 5:20)

Those Who Possess God are Truly Rich (Even the Poor and Afflicted)

‘… as having nothing, and possessing ALL THINGS.’ (2 Cor. 6:10)

God Seeks Only to Give

‘He that descended is the same also that ascended above all the heavens, that he might fill ALL THINGS.’ (Eph. 4:10)

God Changes Everything we Give Him into Gold

‘And we know that to them that love God, ALL THINGS work together unto good, to such as, according to his purpose, are called to be saints.’ (Rom 8:28)

 ‘… if we have received good things at the hand of God, why should we not receive evil?’ (Job 2:20)

+++

+ Some Revelations to the Same Effect

(1) “Religious Soul, let thyself be guided in ALL THINGS by Love.

– Jesus to Sr. Benigna Consolata

(2) “… she [the soul] should have God alone in view in ALL THINGS, His glory, His good pleasure; doing this she will always be at peace.”

– Our Lady to Sr. Benigna Consolata

(3) “A soul who does the Will of God in ALL THINGS, not only accomplishing His Will but studying even His least desires in order to fulfill them, who is, so to say, ever on the alert, is a soul always in prayer.”

– Jesus to Sr. Benigna Consolata

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‘Furthermore I count ALL THINGS to be but loss for the excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of ALL THINGS, and count them but as dung, that I may gain Christ…’ (Phil. 3:8)

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“I WILL LOVE HIM IN ALL THINGS;

I will love Him in Himself and out of Himself, in His creatures, in His severity,

in His sweetness, in His magnificence, in my privations, contradictions, censures,

in oppression of heart and joy of  soul, in His abundance as well as in my poverty…”

– Sr. Jeanne Benigne Gojos (d. 1692)

[The next post will provide us with the easiest means for finding God, loving God and pleasing God in all things. I have never been so eager to share something.]



 

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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)!

 

A Prayer EVERY Christian Should Know and Love…

(Every person, actually – we are all impoverished without prayer – but we’ll let that pass for now.)

This prayer has been called “a priceless treasure inspired by God” (St. Louis de Montfort), “the storehouse of countless blessings,” (Bl. Alan de la Roche), “the greatest method of praying” (St. Francis de Sales), “the most efficacious means of attaining eternal life… the remedy for all our evils…” (Pope Leo XIII); for centuries it has been the source of countless miracles; St. Padre Pio held it very dear, and it was never far from his lips or his thoughts; by it, Bl. John Massias released thousands upon thousands of souls in Purgatory; for the saints it was a powerful weapon to convert even the most hardened and despairing sinners; it is a perpetual source of light to the blind, strength to the weak, hope to the despairing, and joy to the sorrowful; and in recent times, Mary, the Theotokos herself, has encouraged us to pray this prayer EVERY DAY.

What is this powerful prayer, of which the Saints speak with so much respect, love and admiration? My friends, it is none other than the Holy Rosary!

Greatly detested by the Serpent, but loved by all the Elect, the Rosary is a compendium of the Gospel: it is a meditation on the mysteries of Our Saviour’s life, death and resurrection. In a word, it is a meditation on Divine Love: ‘and in my meditation a fire shall flame out.’ (Ps. 39:3).

Properly said – i.e. attentively, reverently, confidently and humbly [thus forming the unintentional acronym ARCH] – the Rosary is extremely pleasing to Our Lord and Our Lady.

The arguments in favour of praying the daily Rosary (i.e. at least 5 decades) are innumerable. For those of you who have doubts about the orthodoxy or efficacy of the Rosary, you might consider asking Our Lord for light (as we all must), then make a resolution – perhaps for one month – to pray and reflect daily upon the following words of Scripture:

‘Hail [Mary], full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.’ (Lk. 1:28)
‘Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb [Jesus].’ (Lk. 1:42)

Surely no harm can come from this practice. In fact, nothing but good will come from this. Our Lord encouraged St. Francis of Assisi to seek perfection under the guidance of Mary. Should we not do the same? Can we possibly be led astray by one who seeks only to unite us to her Son, saying: ‘Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye’? (Jn. 2:5) Can we possibly be led astray if we follow the same path that the Saints (who are now in Heaven) have always taken?

One day St. Francis of Assisi had a vision in which his fellow religious were trying to reach Jesus by a very steep, red ladder; but after ascending a few of its rungs, they would lose their ground. Our Lord then revealed to Francis a different ladder; this ladder was white, it was much less steep than the previous ladder, and at the summit was the Blessed Virgin Mary. Jesus then said to Francis: “Advise your sons to go by the ladder of My Mother.”

As Mary’s spiritual children we ought to love her, to trust in her, and seek to please her. She has an ardent desire to help us! She is more than able to help us! We need her help!

We are truly Mary’s children, and as her children, we require nourishment. And with what, we might ask, does Our Lady nourish us? With the fruit of her womb: with Jesus!

‘I am the mother of fair love… Come over to me, all ye that desire me, and be filled with my fruits.’ (Ecclus. 24:24, 26)

To illustrate this point, we have a story from the life of Bl. Benvenuta Bojani. One day while she was praying in church, “she beheld a poor child of exquisite beauty, and, calling him to her, she inquired if he could say the Hail Mary.”
“Can you say it?” asked the child.
Benvenuta immediately began to recite it; and, when she came to the words: “Blessed is the fruit of thy womb,” the Child said: “And I am He,” and then disappeared.” (Words taken from ‘Dominican Saints’)

A similar event occurred in the life of St. Crescentia (one of my favourite Saints!). One day as she was praying thus: “Praised and blessed be thy noble treasure, Mary, which thou didst receive from the Holy Ghost! and praised be the blessed Fruit of thy womb,” Our Lady appeared to her with the Divine Child, saying: “This is the blessed Fruit of my womb.”

We must not think that honour given to Our Lady detracts from God’s glory. On the contrary, we love Mary because God loved her first; we honour her because He honoured her first; we ask for her prayers because He gave her to us to be our mother; and what mother is not eager to help her children? Can anyone truly doubt that Mary loves us as her most dear children, when we even find the prophet David dedicating himself to Mary as her son, despite the fact that she had not yet been born? ‘Save the son of thy handmaid,’ he said. (Ps. 86:16) “Whose handmaid? She who says: Behold the handmaid of the Lord.” (St. Augustine)

“My mother Mary,” said Our Lord to St. Bridget, “on account of her compassion and charity, was made mother of all in heaven and on earth.” “I have become mother of all of you,” said Our Lady to St. Gertrude, “in the womb of my charity, and you have become my children, the brethren of Jesus.” (cf. Luke 2:7).

Now, Almighty God has commanded us to honour our parents. ‘Honour thy father and thy mother.’ (Eph. 6:2) Nothing could be clearer. Well, if Mary is our mother, then we have the duty to honour her and to obey her as we would our biological mother.

With this in mind, let us all take seriously the words of Our Lady in some of her recent apparitions, which simply confirm the constant teaching of the Church and her Saints. Here are some of her words to us, her dear children:

1. “I am the Lady of the Rosary. Continue always to pray the Rosary every day.” – Our Lady of Fatima (in Portugal), October 13, 1917

2. “Pray and do penance. Pray the Rosary frequently. It is the only powerful weapon to attract the blessings from Heaven.” – Our Lady to Servant of God, Edvige Carboni (of Italy), March 1942

3. “Spread the devotion to my Immaculate Heart, in order that many souls maybe conquered by my love and that many sinners may return to my Maternal Heart. Do not fear, for I will accompany with my maternal protection my faithful ones, and all those who accept my urgent warnings, and they — especially by the recitations of my Rosary — will be saved.” – Our Lady to Bl. Elena Aiello (d. 1961)

4. “Each day, recite the prayers of the Rosary… Pray the Rosary often.” – Our Lady of Akita (in Japan), October 13, 1973

5. “Pray the Rosary. Meditate on the mysteries. Listen to the Word of God spoken in them.” – Our Lady of Cuapa (in Nicaragua), 1980

+ “My daughter, do not be afraid of me. I am your loving Mother whom you praise so faithfully every day. Be steadfast and persevere; I want you to know that the Angelic Salutation gives me so much joy that no man could ever really explain it.” – Our Lady to a member of the Confraternity of the Rosary

+ “Never has any man composed anything more beautiful than the Hail Mary. No salutation could be dearer to my heart than those beautiful and dignified words that God the Father addressed to me Himself.” – Our Lady to St. Gertrude

Some final words:

“Mary has recommended the Rosary at Lourdes and Fatima because of its exceptional value for us and our times.” – St. Padre Pio
“The power of the rosary is beyond description.” – Ven. Archbishop Fulton Sheen

“NOBODY WHO PERSEVERES IN THE ROSARY WILL BE DAMNED, BECAUSE SHE (MARY) OBTAINS FOR HER SERVANTS THE GRACE OF TRUE CONTRITION FOR THEIR SINS AND BY MEANS OF THIS THEY OBTAIN GOD’S FORGIVENESS AND MERCY.” – A revelation to St. Dominic

God is Patient and Rich in Mercy.

“When Sister [Saint] Mechtilde was once praying for someone who was afraid God had not forgiven a fault he had committed, the Lord told her:

‘That would be impossible. Whosoever regrets his sins receives their pardon from Me. If he continues to grieve for them, I give My grace in addition.’ (p. 47 of ‘Divine Communications’, Vol. 2, by Rev. Auguste Saudreau)

The following encouraging words are from Fr. Mueller’s book, ‘The Prodigal Son, or, the Sinner’s Return to God’:

“The Lord waits,” says Isaias, “that He may show mercy to you.” (Isaiah 30:18)… He delays His punishments as long as possible, that the poor ungrateful wretch may repent and at last return to His friendship. And, when obliged to punish, when He can delay no longer, He does it with such slowness that He discharges His anger little by little, to oblige the sinner to repent of his sins and to arrest the arm of His vengeance. God might have destroyed the city of Jericho in one instant, yet He spent seven days in destroying it. In like manner, He might have destroyed the world by water in one moment, yet He spent forty days in this work. Why? In order that those who were destroyed might have time for doing penance, and so be saved. (p. 281)

Encouragement for Those Who Wish to Abandon Sin

“… God grants the same favors to holy penitents as to innocent souls, and thereby fulfils the promise made by Him through the prophet Ezechiel: “The wickedness of the wicked shall not hurt him in what day soever he shall turn from his wickedness.”  But not only do holy penitents receive the same favors as innocent saints, many of them even seem to be more highly favored by God. Which of the apostles was made Head of the Church? Was it St. John or St. James, whose lives were always blameless? Not so; it was St. Peter, who denied his divine Master three times. And did not St. Paul, who persecuted the Christians with implacable hatred, become a vessel of election to preach the Gospel among the Gentiles? The innocent apostle St. John always remained faithful to our Lord, and stood beneath His cross at Mount Calvary. Yet it was not to him that our dear Saviour appeared first after His resurrection, but to St. Peter, His sinful apostle. It was not Martha but Magdalen, the penitent, that sat at the feet of our Lord and listened to his sacred doctrine; and it was she, too, to whom our Lord first appeared after His resurrection. How great are the graces and privileges which our Lord afterwards granted to so many holy penitents! To St. Augustine, for instance; to St. Margaret of Cortona. To this last saint, in particular, who had formerly spent several years in sin, God revealed the place prepared for her in Heaven amongst the seraphim; and even during her life He showed her many signal favors, insomuch that, beholding herself so highly favored, she one day said to God: “Lord, how is it that Thou lavishest so many graces on me? Hast Thou, then, forgotten the sins I have committed against Thee?” “And have you for gotten,” our Lord answered, “what I have told you, that when a soul repents of her faults I no longer remember the outrages of which she has been guilty towards me?”

… But will not innocent souls murmur at this love and mercy of God for sinners? … Oh! no, holy innocent souls! Show yourselves content with all this… Persevere in your piety, and your reward is most certain. “My son, thou art always with me, and all I have is thine.”  

But do you, wretched sinners who have hitherto been prevented from returning to the Lord by the consideration of the great number and hideousness of your sins, hearken to the words of the wise man: “Think well of the Lord. Think of the Lord in goodness, and seek Him in simplicity of heart.” Think of the Lord in a manner worthy of His goodness and exceedingly great mercy. Should you have committed all the sins that ever were committed, should you have stayed from confession for how long soever, let all this be no reason for you to stay away any longer. God is ever ready to receive you with open arms, to embrace you as His dearly beloved children, with so much the more joy and gladness the further you have strayed away from Him. “Fear not,” said He one day to St. Margaret of Cortona “fear not to obtain the full remission of all thy sins. Thou wilt infallibly obtain it, and thou shalt inflame others colder and more coy. I have destined thee as an example to all poor sinners, in order that they may clearly understand that I am that compassionate Father who welcomes back His most rebellious and most contumacious children, and that, if they ask my pardon and prepare to receive my grace, they will ever find me ready to give it just as quickly as I have turned to thee.”  From the moment of your repentance, all the disorders, all the crimes, of your life, no matter how black, how hideous they may be, will be drowned, as it were, in the ocean of God’s mercy, and disappear as the darkest night disappears at the rising of the sun. “As far as the east is from the west,” says the Lord, “so far I will put away from me all your iniquities.” 

The Mercy of God Towards a Great Sinner

Father Patrignani (Corona d’Esempi, IV. Esemp. 13, t. iv.) relates that a certain woman had committed a great many crimes, but Jesus patiently waited for her conversion. As the woman seeks the lost penny in the sweepings, so did Jesus seek this lost soul in the very midst of her sinful career. This woman at last went so far in her wickedness as to receive Holy Communion unworthily. After having received, she drew from her mouth the sacred particle and placed it in a handkerchief. She then went to shut herself up in her room, where she threw the Blessed Sacrament on the ground, and began to trample it under her feet. But lo! she casts her eyes down, and what does she see ! She sees the Sacred Host changed into the form of a beautiful Infant, but all bruised and covered with blood; and the Infant Jesus said to her:

“What have I done to you that you treat me so ill?”

Upon which the wretched creature, full of contrition and repentance, threw herself on her knees in tears, and said to Him: “O my God, dost Thou ask me what Thou hast done to me? Thou hast loved me too much.” The vision disappeared, and the woman changed her life and became a model of penance. Oh! the great patience of God in waiting for the return of the sinner.

Excellent Online Resources for Scrupulosity! (**Including an Excerpt from Blosius**)

Below is a collection of (free and legal) online resources that I believe will be of particular profit to scrupulous individuals.

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What we must always remember is that God loves us eternally – that is, always – with a tender, intimate love. We can do nothing more pleasing in His sight than to live joyfully in the light of His love, which we can neither preserve, earn or augment by our own strength. Avoiding sin is only made capable by God’s grace. But avoiding sin, in itself, is not the essence of sanctity or salvation. Love is. That is why we must ask God frequently for a boundless love for Him. Here is a “love letter” from God to you, which you might consider reading: https://littlestsouls.wordpress.com/2012/05/17/a-love-letter-from-god-to-you-2/

***

FREE ONLINE RESOURCES FOR OVERCOMING SCRUPULOSITY

1. ‘Light and Peace: Instructions for Devout Souls to Dispel Their Doubts’ (Quadrupani):

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/quadrupani/light

2. ‘Scruples and Their Treatment’ (Fr. William Doyle, SJ):

http://fatherdoyle.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/scruples-and-their-treatment.pdf

3. ‘Growth in Holiness’ (Fr. F. W. Faber):

https://archive.org/stream/growthinholiness00fabe#page/298/mode/2up

Recommend Chapters: Chapter XVII: Scruples (pp. 298 – 324)

 4. ‘Introduction to the Devout Life’ (St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church):

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/desales/devout_life.toc.html

Recommended Chapters: Part III, Chapter IX: On Gentleness towards Ourselves; Part IV, Chapter II: The Need of a Good Courage; Chapter III: Of Temptations, and the Difference between Experiencing them and Consenting to them; Chapter IV: Two Striking Illustrations of the Same; Chapter V: Encouragement for the Tempted Soul; Chapter XI: Anxiety of Mind; Chapter XII: Of Sadness and Sorrow;

5. ‘Treatise on the Love of God’ (St. Francis de Sales):

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/desales/love.toc.html

(You might like to browse the Chapter titles)

6. ‘Comfort for the Faint-Hearted’ (Ven. Louis of Blois, aka Blosius)

Here is Chapter III (pp. 9 – 12), which consists of a Sermon for the 3rd Sunday in Advent, from Bl. Henry Suso. Unfortunately, this excellent work is quite rare and expensive.

CHAPTER III

OF FIRST INDELIBERATE MOVEMENTS AND UNREASONABLE THOUGHTS

1. What sin really is.

2. No involuntary thought sinful.

3. When there may be venial sin.

1. In what does sin really consist? It is when a man with certain and deliberate will, knowingly and willingly, without contradiction of reason, turns his soul away from God and turns himself to wickedness.

2. From this it evidently follows that even if a man had as many suggestions of evil coming into the mind as there are moments in the day, and even if these imaginations were more foul than the heart of man could conceive or his tongue express, whether these images were of God Himself or any of His creatures, and even if the man remained thus afflicted for one or even for many years, against his will, he would not sin, if only, during all this time, his reason had a hatred, displeasure and aversion to such things. In this case he would never have consented to them with full deliberation and entire will, but rather resisted; although his nature is troubled by these things, he would by no means have sinned mortally. This doctrine is entirely in according with holy Scripture and the tradition of holy Church, by which the Holy Ghost teaches us. In fact, nothing is more certain. Indeed, one thought of vain self-conceit (fully consented to with the will) can render a man more displeasing in the eyes of God than a thousand of these imaginations, however bad (if there is no consent of the will).*

3. But in this matter there lies a certain secret source of anxiety which is the most craftily laid net of the devil and the cleverest trick he can devise. It is this. Sometimes a sudden evil thoughts comes into the mind when a man is off his guard, and thus he feels attraction of pleasure, and, forgetting himself for a moment, he does not turn from it as quickly as he ought. Then he thinks that he has turned to it with wilful and deliberate consent, and by his own neglect has sinned mortally. God forbid that we should thus think! For it is the unanimous opinion of holy men that the reason is often taken unawares through sudden thoughts exciting pleasure in the mind, and that it requires a sufficiently long delay and length of time before the reason with mature deliberation becomes fully master of itself. Then it can either receive or reject these suggestions, and thus either commit sin or turn away from it with disgust. And when this happens, men of good will ought never to feel guilty of mortal sin if they wish to trust to the wholesome Catholic teaching. For St. Augustine says that sin is a thing so voluntary, that where a thing is not voluntary it cannot be sinful. (De Vera Religione, cap. 14.)

* This opinion about the first motions of concupiscence and the fight of the flesh against the spirit without the consent of the will in the sin is taught by St. Thomas, Summa, I-II, ques. 80, art. 3, ad. 3m. See the Council of Trent, Sess. 5.

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Final Recommendations

Lastly, I would like to add that devotion to Mary is a great source of consolation to the afflicted. Our Lady, who is “the Spouse of the  Consoler” (as Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC, says), leads her children to the Sacred Heart of her Son. My purpose, here, is not to defend devotion to Our Lady (the Church, Popes, Saints, Mystics, and Our Lady herself – in various private revelations – have already done this); rather, I wish to encourage others to rely on their spiritual mother for spiritual nourishment. Fr. Michael Gaitley explains this concept well in his book, ’33 Days Days to Morning Glory’, which helps us to grasp the sublime doctrine propsed in St. Louis de Montfort’s classic work, ‘ True Devotion to Mary.’

Here is another work of St. Louis de Montfort that is well worth checking:

The Secret of Mary’: http://www.ewtn.com/library/Montfort/secret.htm

Here is a brief excerpt from ‘The Secret of Mary’:

“This devotion [consecration to Jesus, through Mary] makes the soul truly free by imbuing it with the liberty of the children of God. Since we lower ourselves willingly to a state of slavery out of love for Mary, our dear Mother, she out of gratitude opens wide our hearts enabling us to walk with giant strides in the way of God’s commandments. She delivers our souls from weariness, sadness and scruples. It was this devotion that our Lord taught to Mother Agnes de Langeac, a religious who died in the odour of sanctity, as a sure way of being freed from the severe suffering and confusion of mind which afflicted her. “Make yourself,” He said, “My Mother’s slave and wear her little chain.” She did so, and from that time onwards her troubles ceased.”

 

Consoling Thoughts On Salvation.

“How many are saved?” “What is the number of the elect?” Questions such as these are common. I do not intend to offer a definitive answer to these questions; that would be great presumption on my part (not even Jesus told us how many would be saved; rather He told us to love and obey Him). The purpose of this article is to provide reasons for doubting the most restrictive view of salvation.

Those who will derive the most consolation from this article (and it is for these relative few that it is primarily written) are those who have read the most restrictive view on salvation. I allude here to the writings of a particular Saint. As there is no obligation to say more than the Scriptures, I believe it would be imprudent to share his writings.

Some Preliminary Points

+ However many souls are saved, God is all good (the more we believe it, the more we will see it; therefore, cultivate hope in God e.g. by meditating on the Passion, or reading a simple book like ‘A Call to Souls’ by Sr. Josefa Menendez) + The devil can appear as “an angel of light” and deceive us with false visions etc. + Even canonized Saints have believed that they had certain revelations that were evidently false (e.g. http://www.ewtn.com/library/THEOLOGY/MARY523.HTM#27 — see ‘Appendix: Discernment of Spirits’) + Even great and influential Saints have been wrong on crucial issues (e.g. St. Augustine’s ‘massa damnata’ theory and denial of the universal salvific will: http://www.ewtn.com/library/THEOLOGY/AUGUSTIN.htm. St. Alphonsus also indirectly refutes St. Augustine on this point: http://www.catholictreasury.info/books/prayer/pr16.php) + The imagery in Scripture that refers to the number of the saved is not straightforward (compare the number of grapes left in a vineyard after harvest, to some of the New Testament passages or parables e.g. Parable of The Ten Virgins, the good fish and the bad fish, the wheat and the cockle etc.) + The Church teaching on “No Salvation Outside the Church” has been clarified since the 19th century (the Church has not changed its teachings; rather, God- in His infinitely wise and loving Providence- has clarified our understanding of this doctrine. The Church has always implicitly taught that salvation is possible to non-Catholics e.g. by means of an act of perfect contrition. It is worth adding- only because they do not add anything new to Church teaching- that Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich, St. Padre Pio and others confirm this fact.) + As Lagrange reminds us, the number of the elect is known only to God (one Saint apparently learnt through revelation that a particular percentage of people will be saved) + Even certain Saints who believed that the majority are lost, still believed that many are saved (which could hardly be said for the Saint alluded to in this article).

Some Optimistic Considerations

Now, let us consider which souls are certainly saved:

+ Baptized infants (this number alone is very great).

+ The Saints.

+ Blesseds e.g. Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati

+ Those who were reconciled to God at the moment of death (e.g. by means of the intercession of the Saints or a family member. We read frequently of such examples in the lives of the Saints.)

+ Those who die having sincerely confessed all their sins.

These considerations are sufficient to assure us that certain writings of the Saints are not dogma. To the aforementioned number we could add: those who faithfull fulfill the Nine First Fridays devotion, those who persevere in devotion to Mary, those who have a sincere devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows (it was revelealed to a Saint that no soul who had practised this devotion faithfully had yet been lost) etc.

Holy fear is very useful in detaching us from sin, and as Fr. Faber says, a holy fear of God and Hell is a solid foundation in the spiritual life. Nevertheless, God does not want us to give in to despondency. His love for us is so great that if we only entrust ourselves to God’s merciful love and Providence, we will see that (and numerous Saints have confirmed this) God will preserve us from serious sin, which is the only thing that can separate us from God. Even then, God is so generous as to offer us the grace of perfect contrition, which reconciles us to Him instantly!

St. Frances de Sales is an excellent guide in the spiritual life. The following words of his, though address to nuns, are truly applicable to all:  “Jesus Christ, full of gentleness sweetly invites you saying: ‘Come, very beloved soul . . . Look at the Most Holy Virgin who invites you like a mother and says to you: ‘Courage, my daughter . . . Look at the Saints who exhort you and that multitude of holy souls who with great sweetness invite you desiring to see one day your heart united with those who eternally praise God, and they assure you that the road to Heaven is not as difficult as the world paints it. Have courage, they tell you, because if you consider well the road of love by which we have ascended, you will see that we have arrived at these delights by other delights incomparably more sweet than those of the world” (Introduction to the Devout Life, Part 1, Chapter 17).

“The mercy of God is infinite. I have seen that at the time of the Deluge, many, very many were saved from eternal punishment. Fright and anguish converted them to God.”

– Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich (p. 91 of ‘The Life of Jesus Christ and Biblical Revelations Complete’)

*The Deluge (in which eight were saved from the flood) is often referred to by certain Saints and pious authors as a type for (or allusion to) the number of souls saved.

“I saw too that, by prayer and the offering of sufferings for others, many souls that have done no good upon earth may be converted and saved at the hour of death.”

– Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich (p. 53 of ‘The Life of Jesus Christ and Biblical Revelations Complete’)

More could be said on this topic, but what has been said suffices to plant a seed of holy optimism in God’s love and mercy, which desires our salvation with such ardour that Our Lord revealed the following to Bl. Dina Belanger:

“My Heart so loves souls that to obtain the affection of a single one, though it were the most miserable, the least worthy, I would have suffered infinitely more than I did during my whole mortal life, had it been possible.”

Our Lord does not want us to be lost. As St. Joseph Cafasso said: “Hope in Him and Heaven is yours!”

“… our Lord revealed to St. Gertrude that he would be ready to die as many times as there were souls damned, if they were yet capable of redemption: “I would die as many deaths as there are souls in hell.”

(Taken from p. 29 of ‘The Passion and Death of Jesus Christ’ by St. Alphonsus)

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