Saturday, January 31, 2009
Friday, January 30, 2009
The Apostle, writing to his favourite disciple, Timothy, instructs him that " piety with sufficiency is great gain. Because they who would become rich fall into temptation and into the snare of the devil ;" (1 Tim. vi. 9) whereby we see what a grievous obstacle the rich have in being open to dangers and temptations more numerous and various, and at the same time more powerful, than those whom Providence has placed in an inferior rank. Their temptations are more varied and more numerous, because they may be said to live in a state of habitual exposure to their attacks. First, their occupations are few, and their leisure long, and it is a leisure procured by the interruption of amusements and pastimes, which leave the mind relaxed, unarmed, unnerved. Languor, listlessness, and empty-mindedness, are the privileged habits of the rich alone. Hours and hours of their time are to be spent while recovering from the fatigue of past pleasures, or anxiously awaiting the hour of fresh dissipation; employment, occupation is to be sought, only in desultory and unimportant actions or conversation, and in throwing the mind open to every trifle that chooses to claim its attention ; or, what is worse still, in indulging the vain, unprofitable current of thought which flows spontaneously through it, in pursuing the wandering and bewildered mazes through which their wayward fancy leads them, or in colouring up to a false and bewitching glare the picture which their hopes paint in the air before them. In this manner, for want of sufficient food, the mind's energies are forced to act, and feed, upon its very stuff and substance. Instead of being like" the strong man armed, who keepeth his court, so that those things which he possesseth are in peace," (Luke, xi. 21) all is disorderly, unguarded, unsuspicious. Every thought that passes is gladly harboured, every vain desire that enters is indiscriminately received ; for " as a city," says Solomon, " that lieth open, and is not compassed with walls, so is a man who ruleth not over his own spirit." (Prov. xxv. 28.)
On the other hand, religious who live with a tranquil conscience cannot but
love solitude; and when they find themselves out of it,
they feel like fish out of water they enjoy no peace,
and are, as it were, in a violent state. It is true that
man loves society; but what society preferable to the
society of God ? Ah! to withdraw from creatures and
to converse in solitude with our Creator brings neither
bitterness nor tediousness. Of this the Wise Man assures us: For her conversation hath no bitterness, nor her
company any tediousness, but joy and gladness. 1 The Venerable Father Vincent Carafa, General of the Society of
Jesus (as has been said in another place), said that he
desired nothing in this world, and that were he to desire
anything, he would wish only for a little grotto, along
with a morsel of bread, and a spiritual book, in order to
live there always in solitude.
It is not true that a life of solitude is a life of melancholy: it is a foretaste and beginning of the life of the
saints in bliss, who are filled with an immense joy in the
sole occupation of loving and praising their God. Thus
St. Jerome said, that flying from Rome he went to shut
himself up in the cave of Bethlehem, in order to enjoy
solitude. Hence he afterwards wrote: "To me solitude
is a paradise." The saints in solitude appear to be
alone, but they are not alone. St. Bernard said: "I am
never less alone than when I find myself alone;" 3 for I
am then in the company of my Lord, who gives me more
content than I could derive from the conversation of all
creatures. They appear to be in sadness, but they are
not sad. The world, seeing them far away from earthly
amusements, regard them as miserable and disconsolate;
but they are not so; they, as the Apostle attests, enjoy
an immense and continual peace. As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing? The prophet Isaias attested the same
when he said: The Lord therefore, will comfort Sion, and
will comfort all the ruins thereof; and lie will make her desert
as a place, of pleasure, and her wilderness as the garden of the
Lord. Joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving
and the voice of praise? The Lord well knows how to
console the solitary soul, and will give a thousandfold
compensation for all the temporal pleasures which it
has forfeited: he will render its solitude a garden of his
delights. There joy and gladness shall be always found,
and nothing shall be heard but the voice of thanksgiving
and praise to the divine goodness. Hence, Cardinal
Petrucci describes the happiness of a solitary heart in
the following words: " It appears to be sad, and it is filled
with celestial joy. Though it treads on the earth, its
dwelling is in heaven. It asks nothing for itself, because
in its bosom it contains an immense treasure. It appears
to be agitated and overwhelmed by the tempest, and it
is always in a secure harbor."
In order to find this happy solitude, it is not necessary
for you, dear sister, to hide yourself in a cave or in a
desert; even in the monastery, you can, whenever you
wish, find the solitude which you desire. Shun the
grates, shun useless conversations and discourses; love
the choir and the cell; remain in the choir or cell when
ever obedience or charity does not call you elsewhere;
and thus you will find the solitude that is suited to you,
and that God wishes from you. Thus David found it,
even in the midst of the great concerns of a kingdom, and
therefore he said: Lo, I have gone far off, flying away; and
I abode in the wilderness? St. Philip Neri desired to retire
into a desert, but God gave him to understand that he
should not leave Rome, but that he should live there as
in a desert. The Lord wishes the same from religious,
whom he desires to be his true spouses; he wishes them
to be enclosed in gardens, that in them he may be able
to find his delights. My sister my spouse is a garden enclosed?
But Gilbert well remarks: "He knows not how
to be a garden, that does not wish to be enclosed." 3
The nun who is unwilling to be enclosed, that is, careful
not to bring into her heart the thoughts and dangers of
the world by frequent intercourse with worldlings, can
not be the garden of Jesus Christ.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Sermon on the Love of the World by Cd. Wiseman
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
The Life of St. Charles Borromeo, Cardinal Archbishop of Milan By Giovanni Pietro Giussano, John Peter Giussano
To the Right virtuous Lady, Anne Lady Hungarfoorde, his honorable good Mistress, Iohn Bucke wishes all health.
For so much as man born into this world has no long time to live here, he being (as the Wiseman says) lent, not given to life: And for that we must render an account, at the day of Judgment (before that dreadful Judge, which is void of partiality) not only of words and works, but of each moment of time spent here, yea even unto the thoughts of our hearts, every one in his vocation and degree: And for my part calling all this to the eyes of my mind: seeing also all my actions hitherto to be very base and barren in his sight, which is the true searcher of all thoughts: I began to think how I might employ myself in some work acceptable to so bountiful and benign a Patron, and Lord, as has beside Creation and Redemption, not only sanctified me and preserved me from my infancy: but also brought me out of that dark Egyptiacal England, (the very sea of heresy) and placed me under so good and gracious a lady, in whom I daily behold many examples of true Religion, holy fear, constant patience, and Christian piety. Therefore finding nothing more agreeable to his divine pleasure, than is the charitable travail in moving the devotion of others to the effectual service of his Divine Majesty by prayer and meditation: and considering how great commodity a little direction in prayer may bring to the unlearned and ignorant, whose weakness I would be glad anyway to relieve: I have thought good to put forth such spiritual exercises, as I myself have privately used, with great comfort, in saying the Rosary, Crown, or Psalter of our Blessed Lady the Virgin Mary, upon the beads.
And I have also set down sundry meditations and considerations to be used otherwise, touching as well the passion of our Saviour and our Redemption: as also the infinite benefits and Graces most plentifully bestowed upon every Christian: to the end that in thinking therof a good religious mind may be more diligent and attentive to note and mark what is said: more inflamed to devotion: and more moved with compunction and sorrow for sins committed. And this meditations a man may divide into seven parts, according to the days of the week: to the end that a thankful heart Daily beholding (as in a glass) the bountiful gifts of God may take occasion to hate sin, and to love God so good a benefactor and patron. And because many well disposed persons would fain walk according to the will of their Lord and Creator: yet do they wander astray by want of good instruction, rather than upon malice: I have collected out of devout authors certain lessons an directions showing, not only, good means to avoid sin, and to frame the whole course of life according to his rule and commandment, which says: Hoc fac, et vives. Do this, and thou shalt live: but also profitable signs and arguments, whereby one may perceive, whether he stands in the state of God his grace and favor, or no. Lastly I have added some rules to know from whence evil thoughts do proceed and means to avoid them: with a figure or portrait of the beads, containing your Ladyship's usual Meditation upon them.
This with such like being the slender fruit of my barren wit having no better crop to put into the barn, I have published for the benefit of the unlearned, which cannot skill of curious discourses penned by great clerks. And I have presumed to dedicate this fruit of my poor talent unto your Ladyship, my honorable, and most bountiful mistress: by whose example of Christian life and conversation I have been much edified, and animated, as to other Christian exercises, so to this work now here set forth. Which I hope shall find better entertainment; for that it passes under the favor of your honorable countenance. And good reason I have so to think, for (to omit other places, times, and proofs testifying your virtues) since your coming in to these Countries, you have given such demonstrations of true Religion, by the fruits of your good life, as for you pitiful heart, and charitable compassion, with the effect of alms and works of mercy, I may well compare you to Paula, whom St. Jerome so highly commends. The town of Louvain and other places in time of plague, famine, war, and heresy can testify your piety. The naked then by you clothed, the hungry then by you fed, the sick of dangerous diseases then by you visited, comforted, and relieved; the dead then by you buried, the captives then by you ransomed, yea the simple seduced souls then by your means reconciled to God and his Church are sufficient testimonies and proofs of your zeal to virtue, and of your perfection in Catholic Religion: and will plead for you before God and man: that as the whole course of your life hitherto has been accounted among the most honorable in virtue: so will your temporal end be indeed alright famous in all good memory and your second life in heaven very glorious among holy Confessors, for (as Saint Jerome truly says) seldom or never dies that man an evil death, which willingly exercises the works of Charity. And his reason is, for that such persons have many intercessors among the good and virtuous poor people: and very unlike it is and almost impossible that none of their prayers should not be heard.
And though (good Madame) you have endured many afflictions and grievous adversities: yet have you no cause therefore to be discouraged: for they are evident signs of the favor that God bears toward you. It is a peculiar property of God to punish them whom he loves. Examples thereof we have infinite in Holy Scripture and otherwhere. Holy Iob did never willingly eat morsel of bread alone, without company of someone or other poor and needy person: yet were his plagues and afflictions so terrible, and his diseases so loathsome as we tede [?] not of any greater. Who was more pitiful to the poor and needy than old Tobias, which buried the dead; fed the hungry; and supplied the wants of many: visited an comforted his fellows captives? Yet did he bear the burden of many heavy crosses. And when he did stand in most need of all comfort, he lost the use of his sight: But with these and such examples of Scripture you are well acquainted. I will recount unto you others. It is well known how charitable a hand and heart Saint Gregory the Great had, the restorer of Christian Religion in England, to whom our Saviour appeared among others poor beggars, as a special token that God was well pleased with that good man's almsdeeds, and works of charity: yet was he vexed with bodily sickness continually. It is written of a holy woman called Lidwina so pitiful towards the poor and needy, as when she had not sufficient of her own to give, she would beg and borrow of others to relieve the necessity of the poor, such increase oftentimes followed her hand, as thought she ever gave where need required, yet did her portion find no decrease: In so much as one time (if not oftener) thirty poor persons were well relieved of the meat that was put in one pot, and in the end as much meat found in the pot as was at the first put into it. yea she had a purse wherein she used to put here alms money, which she called IESVS's pot, for that it never failed: yet was this good woman ever sickly, and often afflicted with many most grievous diseases and adversities. And it is well known how your Ladyship being at Namure in a time of great famine you relieved the hungry soldiers with flesh and pottage, and how God so blessed your alms, as the meat provided in two pots for thirty persons did suffice well nigh two hundred people. Therefore as you have Good cause with that good woman Lidwina to magnify God, which gave you ability and good will to exercise the works of charity) and multiplied your gifts in your hands: So have you good matter of comfort by patient bearing of your worldly afflictions, expect with Lidwina the reward prepared for faith full and charitable Christians: knowing perfectly that he which gives but a cup of cold water for the love of Christ shall not lose his reward.
These examples show you that temporal afflictions casually falling upon good men, are signs and arguments of God's favor. For (as Saint Gregory does well note) there is no greater mark of God's wrath and displeasure, than is a continual good success in health, wealth, and worldly prosperity. Yea sickness and affliction does frame and conform us like to our Savior Iesus Christ: whom God the Father sent into the world not to reap the delicate pleasures thereof: but to suffer great pains and miseries. What careful troubles and dreadful perils did his blessed mother endure, when it was known that our master Iesus should be born? And after he was born a great number of deadly enemies did daidly arise against that sweet babe and her. What terrible fear and care with painful labors did she endure traveling over hills and dales; when she heard the cries of mothers of their children haled out of their arms and murdered before their eyes: when she did meet the cruel butchers that sought to murder her dear child by the cruel edict of wicked Herod, proclaiming all male children from two years old and under to be slain? what sorrowful cares and hard traveling did that Blessed Virgin endure to hide and save her only son from the cruelty of those sinful creatures, whom her son came to save and keep from hell and damnation if they would accept him? Shall we then look for privilege and immunity from worldly afflictions, when we see that spotless lamb the Son of God, and the immaculate Virgin his mother to have endured all miseries that the world could procure against them? In very truth, afflictions and miseries sustained by a faithful Christian are the badges of Our Lord and Master. Therefore we must not grudge to wear our Master's liveries, and to bear our cross and follow him: considering that in so doing we have an assurance of his entertainment with life everlasting in his high palace of heaven: Whereunto he that bought your Ladyship bring you whence it shall please him. In mean time I humbly beseech you accept this myte putin [?] to the box. Interpret of it as I mind to your honor and to all good Catholics to whose view it shall come. I crave only the Glory of God hereby to increase, to whom I commend your Ladyship with all true Catholics.
Your Ladyship's obedient servant Iohn Bucke.
Certain Matters of meditation or mental prayer to be considered in reciting the Rosarie, Psalter, or Crown of our Lady the most Blessed Virgin Marie upon the beads.
It is an ancient exercise of devout Christians in time of prayer, and specially in the use of the beads, to set before the eyes of the Soul some conceit or Imagination of one or other matter contained in the life of our Savior, or of the Blessed Virgin Marie. And this conceit well imprinted in mind, will keep it from wavering in the vain thoughts, and will make it more attentive and heedful: whereby devotion is sooner kindled: without which prayer yields small fruit. Therefore when you are disposed to pray upon the beads: you may think upon three sorts of mysteries (whereof five points in every one are Joyful, five are dolorous, and five are glorious) in manner following.
Of five Joyful Mysteries to be thought upon when you are to pray upon the beads.
The first Joyful Mystery or secret is the annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Therefore when you take your beads, and have advisedly commended yourself to God, blessing yourself to God, blessing yourself with, In nomine Patris & Filii & Spiritus Sancti, Amen. Then may you first set before the eyes of your soul, the Annunciation to our Blessed Lady: and imagine in your mind that you behold the Angel Gabriel presenting himself before that Blessed Virgin with his heavenly salutation Aue Maria, and declaring to her his message from the Counsel of the Trinity.
And with that Imagination still kept in mind, say the first Pater noster, and ten Aue Maries following (which is the first part of the beads) attentively, distinctly, and devoutly: there let these cogitations following run through your mind awhile, before you go any further.
1. First think how the Angel found her at prayer: and here admonish yourself how nigh unto you your good Angel stands in time of prayer: and how apt you are then to receive heavenly comfort and good motions: and that in consideration hereof it is good to pray ever, more or less.
2. Secondly mark with what modest silence she gave ear to the message, not uttering any idle or curious speech: and study you to follow that example.
3. Thirdly note her zeal to keep her maidenhood and virginity, vowed and promised to God and so think to keep your Christian vow made at your baptism.
4. Fourthly consider her present faith in believing the words of the Angel, passing all natural reason that she being a virgin should bear a child: and here learn faithfully to believe the promises of God.
5. Fifthly behold her humble obedience and resigned will to the disposition of Almighty God. And when you have thus occupied your mind some little time: then prepare yourself to the second Joy.
The second Joyful Mystery is her Visitation of her cousin Saint Elizabeth. Here you may think that you see the meeting of that Blessed Virgin, and that holy matron, with the two infants in their wombs: what heavenly joy was there. And in this thought say the second Pater noster, and ten Aue Maries, following with like attention and devotion as before.
Then learn a lesson of great humility and charity of Our Lady. And when thou hearest thyself commended give all the thanks to God as she did. And if thou are advanced to any degree of honor: bear not thyself more highly, nor neglect to do good offices to others under thee. Consider also how effectual the words of Our Lady (then having conceived Our Savior in her womb) were to cause the babe Saint Iohn to move, in the womb of his mother, when the virgin saluted her. And therefore cease not to laud and praise her, and to call upon her help in thy need. And when thou hast thus thought, begin the third part of the beads, as follows.
The third Joyful Mystery is the Nativity and birth of Our Saviour. Here think that thou seest sweet Iesus newborn, wrapped in poor clothes, laid in a crib between two beasts in an abject place of a common Inn, for want of ability to hire a better lodging. And with this thought say the third Pater noster, and ten Aue Maries following attentively and devoutly as before.
Then consider with what pain the most Blessed Virgin mirror of humility went from Nazareth to Bethlehem in cold winter, yielding obedience to the Emperor: And how the Son of God would before his birth show obedience with humility at all seasons: yea to thy inferior if need require or good occasion.
Secondly consider in what poor estate the Lord of all the world would be born and brought into this world: and here learn to contemn all worldly pomp and vainglorious curiosity.
Thirdly note here the love of our Saviour to mankind, and requite him with love again to the uttermost of all thy powers. Fourthly behold how the Angels from heaven preached to poor Shepherds the coming of our Redeemer: And here learn to have ever due regard to the poor: and imitate thou those poor men which with great zeal simplicity and diligence sought our Saviour, to yield unto him all that honor and service which was requisite. And after these thoughts prepare thyself to the fourth Joy devoutly as before.
The fourth Joyful mystery is the Presentation of our Redeemer in the temple before the Bishop. And here behold Our Lady offering her son in the temple of Ierusalem: regard how old Simeon the Bishop (knowing by revelation that babe to be the Saviour so long looked for) took him up in his arms, and adored him with all Joy and reverence, saying: Now thou doest dismiss thy servant O Lord, according to thy word in peace. Because mine eyes have seen thy Salvation. And with this thought say the fourth Pater noster, and te Aue Maries, following, devoutly as before. And then learn to present thyself oftentimes in the Church with all diligence, reverence and devotion, specially at the holy sacrifice fo the Mass: that thou mayest be partaker of great mysteries. And think how Just and faithful persons by devout prayer, and godly patience, have at last obtained their holy desires, as this man did. And here also mark how our Saviour in his infancy, being but eight days old, shed his blood for thee at his holy Circumcision: and learn for his sake to suffer from thy childhood what adversity soever fall upon thee: And with this thought prepare thyself to the fifth Joy devoutly as before.
The fifth Joy is the finding of our Saviour in the temple. Here behold our Lady and ancient Ioseph with great care seeking for her son, whom she had lost: and at last finds him disputing of deep mysteries, with great Doctors in the Temple. And with that Impression say the fifth and last Pater nostser, and ten Aue Maries following, as devoutly as before.
1. Then learn here of the Virgin and good Ioseph to seek for Christ with all care and diligence: and rest not till thou find him.
2. And think not to find him with worldly affection toward thy kindred, nor among the delights of flesh and blood: but in the Church of God, by often hearing the word of God, and frequently the Sacraments.
3. Always provide to thy uttermost power that thou keep him in the cabinet of thy heart: and loose him not after thou hast found him. This order thou must observe in reciting the Rosary the second and third time. And when thou hast thus well ended the last part of the beeds: then with a cheerful courage and bold spirit thou mayst safely say the conclusion, which is Credo in Deum, &c. And this much for the first Rosary, or first part of the psalter of our Lady.
Of five dolorous Mysteries to be thought upon when you are to use the beads.
When you have said the Rosary, or beads ones over, with the meditations and thoughts before mentioned: then may you with like preparation and order as before muse upon the five dolorous mysteries: that is to say five special pangs of the sorrows and pains that our Saviour endured for our Redemption.
The first dolorous mystery was the sweating of blood and water which our Lord and Master suffered in the Garden. And here behold Christ in the Garden kneeling upon his knees, holding up his face and hands to heaven, and praying thrice to his Father, in this sort. Father if it be possible let this chalice pass from me: yet not my will, but thy will be done: And mark his great agony upon the impression and conceit of the great pains which he was to suffer upon the Cross for mankind: and how for very labour of sorrow he sweats water mixed with blood: and behold withal an Angel sent from heaven to comfort him. And with this Imagination say the first Pater noster, an ten Aue Maries devoutly.
1. Then note first how in all adversities thou must flee for succor to God.
2. Secondly that it is not enough to pray with thy lips, but that all thy senses and inward powers must be earnestly bent to prayer, and that with continuance.
3. Thirdly how great need you have to pray for avoiding eternal pain, which you have deserved for your sins: seeing the Innocent son of God did flee to prayer for escaping or patient enduring a temporal pain to be sustained for the Redemption and delivery of others.
Fourthly comfortly continue in prayer and think that God in the end will hear thee, and send his holy Angel to relieve thee when need shall require. This being done prepare thyself as before to the second dolor.
The second dolorous mystery is the apprehension and arrangement of our Lord and Master with all manner of contumelious scorn and despite. And here mark the traitor Iudas betraying his master with a kiss, and the barbarous soldiers in armour with all violence taking hold of our Saviour: hailing and drawing him by night from Judge to Judge, reviling, mocking, and with their filthiness all bespitting him: behold what stern and sour countenances they cast upon him: how rudely they bind him to a pillar: how unmercifully they whip and wound him with scourges made of hard cords so as no part of his holy body was free.
And with these thoughts say the second Pater noster, and ten Aue Maries devoutly: and then consider that when thou upon wilful malice doest commit any deadly sin, thou art become a persecutor of thy Saviour, and a partaker and companion with Iudas in betraying, scorning, whipping, and contumelious abusing the Redeemer.
Learn also with patience to suffer all affliction laid upon thee for thy sins: and refuse not any pain nor affliction that shall be offered to thee for his sake that suffered so much for thee. This being done prepare thyself to the third dolour as before.
The third dolourous mystery is the crowning of Our Saviour with a crown of Sharp thorns, a horrible torment, and given with great despite: here behold the most savage cruel Infidels bringing with great mockery a crown made of most boisterous sharp thorns, like unto nails, and beating the same violently into his head: and with loathsome derision saluting him as king. A terrible fight, able to brust the heart of a good Christian to consider rightly. With this Imagination and conceit say the third Pater noster, and ten Aue Maries. And then note the insolent pride and hypocrisy of all Iews, heretics, and infidels against the head of the Church then, and now against his members. And learn to embrace the true adoring of Our Saviour withal humility and simplicity, without all pride and insolency. And here note that the property of all heretics is ever with most rigour and malice to assault the head principal directors of true religion: which is a plain demonstration of their disobedience, think therefore how thou mayest take the contrary course, and embrace obedience in singleness of heart: which Almighty God more esteems then sacrifice: and thereupon conclude thou that Idolatry is in no degree worse than is disobedience: And with this thought prepare thy mind to the fourth dolour.
The fourth dolorous mystery was the false sentence of Christ his condemnation, and the heavy burden of his Cross. Here behold the dissembling judge Pilate against his conscience, leading Our Saviour by the Arm, and delivering that Innocent Lamb into the hands of his foes, to wreak their wicked wills upon him. And view the Redeemer of mankind his holy body worn with stripes and blows, all bloody forced to bear a most heavy burden of the cross, and for very weakness falling down under it. And with this sorrowful sight pass over devoutly the fourth Pater noster, and ten Aue Maries. And then note that if we will be perfect servants of Christ we must bear our own crosses: that is, we must patiently suffer all pains, afflictions, and adversities which fall upon us for our sins, or for his sake that endured so much for us. And here learn to detest all false Judgment, and corruption of conscience for any fear or reward, lest thou become another Pilate by condemning Christ in his members as he did Christ in his own person. And thus thinking prepare thy mind with good devotion to the fifth dolour.
The fifth dolorous mystery was the crucifying of Christ. And here behold how the cruel tormentors do boisterously pull of his clothes fast cleaving to his flesh which procure a new torment. Mark how they stretched him along and nailed his hands and feet with rough and blunt nails to the cross. Consider what huge torture he endured in every member and part of his body, through all his senses on one instant, while they hoysed him up thus hanging upon nails by his hands and feet, with all the weight of his body, having no other thing to rest upon. And with this terrible sight say the fifth and last Pater noster, and ten Aue Maries. And then draw together all thy senses and with all the powers of thy mind consider how thou mayst fall in to a true mortification of all thy vices and concupiscences, and prepare thyself to die with him that thou mayst be found worthy to arise with him. This sight only (if thou view all circumstances duly and thoroughly) will be able by the grace of God to pull thee away from all worldly delights, and to settle the love of God rightly in thy heart. Now when you have well mused upon these matters, you may conclude with a good confidence the Credo. And this much for the second Rosary or second part of the psalter of Our Lady.
Of five glorious Mysteries to be thought upon when you are to pray upon the beads.
When you have twice said the Rosary, or the beads twice once with the meditations and thoughts before mentioned: then if you leisure serve, it shall be good with like devotion as before to think upon the five glorious mysteries which came after the death of Our Redeemer.
The first glorious mystery was the resurrection of Christ here may you present to the eyes of your mind in what beauty, brightness, and glistering clearness the body of Our Saviour so before disfigured with stripes and torments is now risen again impassible, and immortal. Behold how he visits first is sorrowful mother to comfort her. How he shows himself to Marie Magdalen, and to all his disciples. And with this comfortable sight repeat the first Pater noster, and ten Aue Maries devoutly. And then weigh the glorious victory of Our Saviour against whom neither devil nor hell with all their ministers was able to prevail further than he himself listed. Note how all the practices of Iews against the Gospel are disappointed and overthrown: Even so shall all devises of heretics when it shall please God. Therefore consider how in all temptations, afflictions, persecutions and troubles for a Just case, we must not yield nor relent to the wicked: but expect with true patience the Will of God: who after many troubles gives quietness, with everlasting rest. And here may we conceive an assured hope of our resurrection in soul and body: and in meantime by continual prayers and good life to have many visions and sights of Our Saviour in our hearts: as the blessed Marie Magdalen and many others had visible after his resurrection.
The second glorious mystery was the Ascension of our Saviour forty Days after his resurrection. Here consider how Our Lord after he had many times appeared to his dear mother and to his disciples, at last he called them all together on the mount olivet: and thereafter a loving farewell he mounted up to heaven in all their sights with great triumph, accompanied with many Saints, whom before he had delivered out of Limbo: and with this comfortable sight recite the second Pater noster, and ten Aue Maries. And pray to God that thou may so humble thyself in this life and so keep thy heart pure and Innocent as thou may ascend after him to those Joys which God has prepared for his elect.
The third glorious Mystery is the coming of the Holy Ghost. And here thou may view the Blessed Mother of God our Redeemer, together with the holy Apostles and Disciples beholding the wonderful Ascension of Our Saviour: and remaining together in one place, with humble prayer and fervent devotion attending the coming of the Holy Ghost. And thou may mark how the Holy Ghost to their great comfort came down in fiery tongues in the day of Pentecost being the fiftieth day after the Resurrection of Our Saviour. And with this thought recite devoutly the third Pater noster, and ten Aue Maries. And then note his faithful performance of his promise, and their firm faith and belief in the same, and use thou that example to thy benefit, here also for thy instruction and comfort consider six special causes of the coming of the Holy Ghost: to wit, for to rejoice the pensive: to revive the dead in sin: to sanctify the unclean; to confirm his Disciples in love: to save the Just: to teach the ignorant. These gifts and graces are preserved and increased in us by special means. whereof prayer with humility is one: diligent frequenting the Sacraments with hearing divine service is another: continual exercise of the works of Charity is a third. for thus it gives strength agaist all assaults and temptations of ghostly and bodily enemies. Therefore no peril nor persecution can annoy that person which has the holy Ghost.
The fourth glorious mystery is the Assumption of Our Lady. Here behold the Blessed Virgin mother of God and man about the fifteenth year after the resurrection of her Son, having passed her time with exercises of piety was assumed and taken up to heaven in soul and body with inestimable triumph. And here conceive the sight of her Son our Saviour accompanied with legions of angels coming to conduct her. Note how the Apostles being all dispersed abroad in the world exercising their functions in several far distant places, are miraculously come together in a moment to testify her death and assumption. And with these thoughts recite the fourth Pater noster, and ten Aue Maries. And here consider how our Saviour can and will reward those which serve and love him faithfully. Mark also how dear she was to him, and thereupon how available her prayers are with him.
The fifth glorious mystery is the Crowning of the Blessed Virgin Mary, here behold how that glorious Virgin before assumpted in Bodily and Soul was in the presence of all the holy company in heaven with inestimable honor and glory by the Holy Trinity crowned and placed above all Angels. And with this cogitation recite the last Pater noster, and ten Aue Maries. And then note how in heaven she makes daily intercession for the good estate of holy Church: and is ready to assist each one which with a contrite heart prays to her. For the more reverence and devotion we bear towards her, the greater help shall we receive of her Son, in all our distresses. And this we may be sure of, that living here according to her example in continence, humility, patience, and mortification we shall arise at the day in body and soul to rest in heaven forever. Unto which Joy God of his mercy bring us, where that Blessed Virgin rests in presence of the Holy Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. To whom be all honor and glory. Amen.
An admonition for the unlearned touching the use of the figure of the beads hereafter portrayed.
Thou hast here (gentle reader) a figure or form of the beads; with certain matters of meditation to be used when thou art disposed to recite the crown of Our Lady upon the beads which matters have not been before this time put into English meter, for the better memory and delectation of devout persons. Therefore if thou hast been heretofore delighted with vain ballads and sonnets, thou may now upon better advise please thyself with songs and ditties more profitable. And of what good trade, occupation or quality soever you are, whiles you go about your necessary business in your vocation, or whiles you are traveling by the way: or in tilling or ploughing the ground that it may bring great increase, you may notwithstanding, some time among, call upon our Saviour or upon the Blessed Virgin Mary, either in word or in thought, and with great comfort, yea and profit also both spiritual and temporal, repeat or think upon the Pater noster and Aue Mary, or some part thereof, and of the verses, or of some of them set down in the table following. And thereupon may you take occasion to muse and think less or more of the matters contained in the verses or any of them. Whereupon you by God's grace shall be induced into a sweet cogitation what special graces God has bestowed upon you; from what evils he has preserved you; to what good end he has created you; what good reward he has provided for you, if you come to that end: and to come unto in you are assured if you be so willing as you ought to be. Thus shall you also take occasion to keep yourself well occupied, avoid idle thoughts, the snares. Whereupon you by God's grace shall be induced into a sweet cogitation what special graces God has bestowed upon you; from what evils he has preserved you; to what good end he has created you; what good reward he has provided for you, if you come to that end: and to come unto in you are assured if you be so willing as you ought to be. Thus shall you also take occasion to keep yourself well occupied, avoid idle thoughts, the snares of satan, and so keep yourself in the way towards Heaven.
Top Half of the Rosary illustration:
Bottom Half of the Rosary illustration
If my disciple thou wilt be,
Monday, January 26, 2009
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Saturday, January 24, 2009
St. Anthony Mary Claret wrote his autobiography reluctantly and only under obedience to his religious superiors. This chapter out of his book details the apostolic techniques which proved so successful in saving souls. Our Lord told him several times: "Give me blood (mortification) and I will give you spirit."
St. Anthony resolved never to waste a moment of time and during his 35 years a priest; he wrote 144 books and preached some 25,000 sermons. On one trip, besides traveling, he preached 205 sermons in 48 days – 12 in one day. Giving the reason he worked so zealously, he wrote: "If you were to see a blind man about to fall into a pit or over a precipice, would you not warn him? Behold, I do the same and do it I must, for this is my duty. I must warn sinners and make them see the precipice which leads to the unquenchable fires of Hell, for they will surely go there if they do not amend their ways. Woe to me if I do not preach and warn them, for I would be held responsible for their condemnation."
Here are his words on mortification:
The missionary is a spectacle to God, to the Angels, and to men. For this reason, he must be very circumspect and prudent in all his words, works, and ways. To this effect, I resolved that my conduct both at home and away from it, should be to talk very little, and to weigh every word I uttered, because people not infrequently take words to mean other than the speaker intends them to mean.
When talking to others, I proposed never to make gestures with my hands. In some places this is strongly ridiculed and looked upon as displeasing. My constant intention was always to speak sparingly, and that only when necessary. I resolved to speak briefly, and in a quiet and grave manner, without touching my face, chin, head, and much less my nose. I determined also never to make grimaces with my mouth, or to utter any funny or ridiculous statement, and never to ridicule anyone, because I saw that by doing these things, the missionary loses much of the authority, respect and veneration which is his due. All this is the result of fickleness, scant mortification, and little modesty. These habits and similar coarseness of manners manifest little or no education on the part of their possessors.
The missioner must also be at peace with all as St. Paul says. Now, with this in mind, I never scolded anyone, but tried to be kind to all. I endeavored also never to pass funny remarks about anyone, nor did I like to indulge in any form of buffoonery or mockery at another's expense. Laughing did not appeal to me, although I always manifested joy, gentleness and kindness in my person, for I remembered that Jesus was never seen to laugh, although He was seen weeping on some occasions. Those words also helped me determine my conduct: "Stultus in risu exaltat vocem suam; vir autem sapiens vix tacite ridebit -- The fool raises his voice in laughter, but the wise man will scarcely laugh silently."
Modesty, as we all know, is that virtue which teaches us how to do all things in the right way. It sets before our eyes how Jesus did things, and it tells us to do the same. So, before each action that I was about to do, I always asked myself, and still do, how Jesus Christ would do it. What care, purity and rectitude of intention should I have if I were to act like my Divine Model! How He preached; how He conversed; how He ate and rested; how He dealt with all manner of people; how He prayed; in fine, all His ways of doing things, were the sum and substance of my constant meditation and efforts, for with God's grace I determined to imitate Our Lord in everything, so as to be able to say with the Apostle, if not by word of mouth, then by my works: "Be ye imitators of me as I am of Christ."
I understood, O God, that if the missionary is to gather fruit in his ministry, it is essential for him to be not only irreproachable, but also in all places a man of virtue. People respect much more that which they see in a missionary than what they hear about him. This is proved by those words concerning Our Lord, the Model Missionary: "Coepit facere et docere." First of all He did things, then He taught afterwards.
Thou knowest, O my God, the number of times that in spite of all my resolutions I have failed against holy modesty. Thou wilt surely know if some have been scandalized by my lack of observance of this virtue. My Lord, if such be the case, I beg Thy pardon and mercy. I give Thee my word that, putting into practice the words of the Apostle, I will do my best to make my modesty known to all men. I promise that my modesty shall be like that of Jesus Christ, as St. Paul exhorts so strongly, and that I will imitate the humble St. Francis of Assisi who preached by his modesty, and converted many people by his good example. O my Lord Jesus, Love of my heart. I love Thee, and wish to draw all men to Thy most holy love!
Without mortification I knew that modesty was impossible. therefore I endeavored with the utmost determination to acquire this virtue of self-denial, cost what it might, yet always relying on the help of God's grace.
In the first place, I resolved to deprive myself of all taste or preference, and to give it to God. Without knowing how, I felt myself obliged to fulfill what was only of precept. My understanding was confronted with an inevitable alternative; either I should cater to my own taste or to God's. Now, as my understanding saw this gross inequality even though in such a small matter as this, I felt myself obliged to follow the good pleasure of God. Therefore, I willingly denied myself innocent and legitimate pleasures in order to have all my taste and gratification in God. I follow this rule even now in all things, in regard to meals, drink, sleep, in talking, looking, listening, and going to any part of the country, etc...
The grace of God has helped me a great deal in the practice of mortification, for I know that this habit of denying oneself is indispensably necessary to make one's work for souls fruitful, as well as one's prayer pleasing to God Our Lord.
In a very special manner have the examples of Jesus and Mary and the Saints encouraged me in this practice of mortification. I read assiduously the Lives of the Saints to see how they were wont to deny themselves, and I have made special notes which regulate my personal conduct. Singular among them must be mentioned St. Bernard, St. Peter of Alcantara, and St. Philip of Neri, of whom I have read that after having been for thirty years the confessor of a Roman lady renowned for her rare beauty, he still did not know her by sight.
I can say with certainty that I know the many women who come to confession to me more by their voice than by their features, because I never look at any woman's face. In their presence I blush and turn red. Not that the looking at them causes me temptations, for I do not have them, thanks be to God, but the fact still remains that I always blush, even though I cannot explain why. I might mention here that I naturally and in an entirely unaccountable manner keep in mind and observe that oft-repeated admonition of the holy Fathers, which goes: Sermo rigidus et brevis cum muliere est habendus et oculos humi dejectos habe -- Speech with women must be serious and brief, while the eyes must be cast on the ground. I know not how to hold a conversation with a woman, no matter how good she may be. In few and grave words I tell her what she must know, and then immediately I dismiss her without looking to see if she be rich or poor, beautiful or ugly.
When I was giving missions in Catalonia, I stayed at the rectories of those parishes in which I gave missions. During all that time I do not remember having looked at the face of any woman, whether she happened to be the housekeeper, the servant, or the relative of the parish-priest. Once it happened that after some time I returned to Vich, or some other town, and I was accosted by a lady who said to me: "Anthony Claret, don't you know me? I am the housekeeper of such and such a priest in whose parish you were for so many days giving a mission." but I did not recognize her; neither did I look at her. With my gaze fixed on the ground, I asked her: "And how is his Reverence the pastor?"
What is more, I shall relate another instance which could not have been so, had I not received very special graces from heaven. While I was in the island of Cuba, for six years and two months to be exact, I confirmed more than 300,000 persons, the majority of whom were women, and young ones at that. If any one were to ask me what are the characteristics of the Cuban women's features, I would say that I do not know, despite the fact that I have confirmed so many of them. In order to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation, I had to look where their foreheads were, and this I did in a rapid glance, after which I shut my eyes and kept them shut all during the administration of the Sacrament.
Besides this blushing that was natural to me when in the presence of women, and which hindered me from looking at them, there was another reason which prompted me to adhere to this mode of conduct. It was the desire to profit souls. I remember having read years ago of a famous preacher who went to preach in a certain town. His preaching turned out to be very fruitful, and all the townsfolk were lavish in their praise of him. "Oh, what a saint!" said they. Yet there was one exception of all these praises, and it came from a wicked man who said: "Perhaps he is a saint, but I can tell you one thing, and it is this: he likes women a great deal, for he was staring at them." This single expression was enough in itself to decrease the prestige which the good preacher had merited in that town, and not only that, but it brought to naught all the fruit which his preaching had produced.
Incidentally, I have also noticed that people form a poor opinion of a priest who does not mortify his eyes. Of Jesus Christ I read that He was always mortified and modest in regard to His looks, for the Evangelists have accounted as an extraordinary occurrence each time He lifted up His eyes.
The hearing was another faculty which I tried to mortify continually, especially disliking to listen to superfluous conversations and idle words. I could never suffer or tolerate those conversations which were detrimental to charity. If I happened to be present at one of them, I would either withdraw or refrain from taking part in it, or I would show my disapproval by the sad expression my face. This distaste applied also to conversations about food, drink, riches, or any worldly topic, including political news. Neither did I care to read newspapers, for I should prefer to read a chapter of the Holy Bible wherein I know for sure that what I read is true. In newspapers, as a general rule, one finds only a great deal of lies and useless reading.
It was my constant aim to deny myself in regard to speaking. Just as I have said that I dislike to hear useless things, so also in the same way I hated to talk of useless nothings. My resolution also embraced my keeping quiet about my sermons. I resolved never to talk of my sermons after their delivery. Since I myself was repelled by others talking of what they delivered, I concluded that others would be displeased with me if I, too, talked about my sermons. Thus, my fixed resolve was never to mention my sermons after delivering them, to do my very best in the pulpit, and to recommend all to God. If anyone gave me advice about my preaching, I received it with sincere gratitude and without excusing myself or explaining my views on the matter. I tried to amend and correct myself as much as possible.
I have observed before now that some people behave like hens which cackle after they lay their eggs, and thus are deprived of them. The same happens to some priests of little prudence, who, as soon as they have done some good work, such as hearing confession, or delivering a sermon or lecture, go in search of the baubles of vanity by speaking so smugly of what they have done and what they have said. Just as the hearing of this repels me, I conclude that I would repel others if I were to talk of the very same subjects. Thus, I have made it an inflexible rule never to speak of what I have done.
The subject which was most repugnant to me was the talking of things heard in confession, not only because of the danger involved in breaking the sacramental seal of confession, but also because of the bad effect produced on such people as may happen to hear anything of this nature. In view of these facts, I resolved on no account to speak of persons and their affairs in relation to confession, whether they had not been to confession for a long or short time, whether they had made a general confession or not, in a word, to say absolutely nothing of these affairs. I disliked hearing of priests who spoke of those who had gone to confession to them, what they had confessed and how long it had been since they had absented themselves from that sacrament of reconciliation. If any priest came to consult me about certain problems encountered in the confessional, I could not bear to hear him using the words: "I find myself in such a situation, with such a case; what shall I do?" I would tell them to recount their difficulties in the third person, as for example: "Let us suppose that a confessor is confronted with such and such a case of a certain nature. What steps should be taken?"
Our Lord gave me to understand that one of the things which would be of the utmost utility to the missionary is the virtue of self-denial in the matter of food and drink. The Italians have a saying which goes: "Not much credit is given to saints who eat." People believe that missionaries are more heavenly than earthly beings, that at least they are like unto the saints of God who need not eat or drink. God Our Lord has given me a very special grace in this regard, of going without eating, or eating very little. There were three reasons in my case for not eating much. Firstly, because I was unable to do so, not having an appetite, especially when I had to preach very often or had to hear many confessions. At other times I used to be somewhat hungry, but I did not eat even then, particularly when I was traveling, for I would refrain from doing so in order to be able to walk better. Finally, I would abstain from eating in order to edify, for I observed that everybody was watching me. From this it can be gathered that I ate very little, in spite of the fact that I was, at times, very hungry.
Whenever I did eat, I took what was given me, always however, in small quantities, and food of inferior quality. If I happened to reach the rectory of the parish at an unseasonable hour, I would tell the cook to prepare only a little soup and an egg -- nothing more. I never took meat; not even now do I eat it, not because I do not like it, for I do, but because I know that not taking it is most edifying. Neither did I take wine; although I like it, it has been years since I have tasted it, excluding, of course, the ablutions at Mass. The same may be said of liquor and spirits of any kind; I never take them, although I am still fond of them, since I used to take a little in years gone by. Abstaining from food and drink is a source of edification, and is even necessary nowadays in order to counteract the disgraceful excesses so prevalent in these times.
When I was in Segovia in the year 1859, on the 4th of September, at 4:25 in the morning, while I was at meditation, Jesus Christ said to me: "You have to teach mortification in eating and drinking to your missionaries, Anthony." A few minutes afterwards the Blessed Virgin told me: "By doing this you will reap fruit in souls, Anthony."
At that time I was giving a mission in the cathedral of Segovia to the clergy, the nuns, and the people of that city. One day while all were at table it was mentioned that the former Bishop, a man of marked zeal, had exhorted some priests to go and give missions -- an exhortation which they fulfilled to the letter. After having walked a fair distance, these priests began to get so hungry and thirsty that they decided to stop and have lunch, since they had brought some food and drink with them. Meanwhile some people of the town to which they were going came to welcome them, but finding the priests eating, the people lost their esteem for them, so much so that those missionaries were unable to make any headway in that town. So the story goes at any rate, although I do not know how it originated. All I know is, that it was as a confirmation of what had been told me by Jesus and Mary.
My experience has taught me that mortification is very edifying in a missionary. Even now it stands me in good stead. In the Palace here at Madrid, banquets are held frequently, while before they were even more frequent. I am always invited to them, but if it is possible, I excuse myself. If I cannot possibly excuse myself from attending, I go to them, but always eat less than usual on those festive occasions. It is my custom then to take only a little soup and a small piece of fruit; nothing else -- no wine, no water. Of course, all look at me and are highly edified. Before I came to Madrid, as I am led to understand, disorders were rampant everywhere. Indeed, this could be easily gathered. So many rich and sumptuous dishes, exquisite meals, and so much wine of all kinds decked the tables, that inducements to excess were not wanting. But since the time that I was obliged to take part in the banquets, I have not noticed the slightest excess; on the contrary, it appears to me that the guests refrain from taking what they need, because they see me not eating. Often at the table, those guests sitting on both sides talk to me of spiritual subjects, and even ask the name of the church in which I hear confessions, so as to come there themselves and confess their sins.
In order to edify my neighbor more and more, I have always refrained from smoking and taking snuff. Never have I said, or even hinted, that one thing pleases me more than the another. I have done this for as long as I can remember. Our Lord had so bestowed upon me this heavenly blessing of indifference that my dear mother (requiescat in pace) died without knowing what things I liked most. As she loved me so very much, she would try to please me by asking if I would like to have certain things in preference to other things. I would answer that I was pleased most of all by whatever she chose and gave me. But this reply would not be enough, for she would add: "I know that very well, but we always like some things more than others." To this I would respond that whatever she gave me was the thing I liked most of all. I naturally had inclinations for what suited me best, as we all have; but the spiritual satisfaction I had in doing another's will was so great that it surpassed the natural satisfaction resulting from doing my own will. Thus, I told the truth when I assured my mother that her will was my greatest pleasure.
Besides denying self in regard to sight, hearing, speaking, in the senses of taste and smell, I tried also to perform some acts of mortification, such as taking the discipline on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and wearing the cilice on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. If, however, I found that circumstances of time and place did not favor these modes of penance, I used to practice some other form of mortification, as for example: praying with the arms stretched out in the form of a cross, or with the fingers under the knees. I know very well that worldly people and those who have not the spirit of Jesus Christ make little of, and even disapprove of, these mortifications. But for my part, I keep in mind the teaching laid down by St. John of the Cross which states: "If anyone affirms that one can reach perfection without practicing exterior mortification, do not believe him; and even though he confirm this assertion by working miracles, know that his contentions are nothing but illusions."
As for me, I look to St. Paul for my example, for he mortified himself, and said publicly: "Castigo corpus meum et in servitutem redigo, ne forte cum aliis praedicaverim ipse reprobus efficiar -- I chastise my body and bring it into subjection, lest perhaps when I have preached to others I myself may become a castaway." All the saints until now have done in like manner. Venerable Rodriquez says that the Blessed Virgin said to St. Elizabeth of Hungary, that no spiritual grace comes to the soul, commonly speaking, except by way of prayer and bodily afflictions. There is an old principle which goes: "Da mihi sanguinem et dabo tibi spiritum." Woe to those who are enemies of mortification and of the cross of Christ!
In one act of mortification one can practice many virtues, according to the different ends which one proposes in each act, as for example:
- He who mortifies his body for the purpose of checking concupiscence, performs an act of the virtue of temperance.
- If he does this, purposing thereby to regulate his life well, it will be an act of the virtue of prudence.
- If he mortifies himself for the purpose of satisfying for the sins of his past life, it will be an act of justice.
- If he does it with the intention of conquering the difficulties of the spiritual life, it will be an act of fortitude.
- If he practices this virtue of mortification for the end of offering a sacrifice to God, depriving himself of what he likes, and doing that which is bitter and repugnant to nature, it will be an act of the virtue of religion.
- If he intends by mortification to receive greater light to know the divine attributes, it will be an act of faith.
- If he does it for the purpose of making his salvation more and more secure, it will be an act of hope.
- If he denies himself in order to help in the conversion of sinners, and for the release of the poor souls in purgatory, it will be an act of charity towards his neighbor.
- If he does it so as to help the poor, it will be an act of mercy.
- If he mortifies himself for the sake of pleasing God more and more, it will be an act of love of God.
In other words, I shall be able to put all these virtues into practice in one act of mortification, according to the end I propose to myself while doing the said act.
Virtue has so much more merit, is more resplendent, charming and attractive, when accompanied by greater sacrifice.
Man, who is vile, weak, mean, cowardly, never makes a sacrifice, and is not even capable of doing so, for he never resists even one appetite or desire. Everything that his concupiscence and passions demand, he concedes, if it is in his power to yield or reject, for he is base and cowardly, and lets himself be conquered and completely overcome, just as the braver of two fighters conquers the cowardly one. So it is with vice and the vicious -- the latter is crushed and the slave of his vices. Continence and chastity are therefore worthy of the highest praise, because the man who practices purity refrains from the pleasure which proceeds from nature or passion. Thus, the greater merit will be his the greater the pleasure he has denied himself. His merit will be the greater in proportion to the amount of repugnance he will have in conquering himself, in proportion to the intense and prolonged suffering he will have to undergo, to the human respect he will have to vanquish, and to the sacrifices he will have to make. Let him do all this and suffer all for the love of virtue and for God's greater glory. As to my exterior deportment, I proposed to myself modesty and recollection and in the interior of my soul my aim was continual and ardent occupation in God. In my work I aimed at patience, silence and suffering. The exact accomplishment of the law of God and of the Church, the obligations of my state of life as prescribed by God. I tried to do good to others, flee from sin, faults and imperfections, and to practice virtue.
All disagreeable, painful and humiliating happenings I considered as coming from God and ordered by Him for my own good. Even now, as I think of it, I fix my mind on God when such things occur, bowing in silence and with resignation to His most holy will; for I remember that Our Lord has said that not even a hair of our head shall fall without the will of our heavenly Father, Who loves us so much.
I know that three hundred years of faithful service to God are paid, and more than paid, when I am permitted an hour of suffering, so great is its value. O my Jesus and my Master, Thy servants who suffer tribulation, persecution, and abandonment by friends, who are crucified by exterior labors and by interior crosses, who are deprived of all spiritual consolation yet who suffer in silence and persevere in Thy love, O my Lord -- these are Thy loved ones, and the ones who please Thee most and whom Thou dost esteem most.
Thus I have resolved never to excuse or defend myself when others censure, calumniate and persecute me, because I would be the loser before God and men. I realize this because my calumniators and persecutors would make use of the truths and reasons I would bring forward in order to oppose me still further.
I believe that all my crosses come from God. Furthermore, God's will in my regard is that I suffer with patience and for the love of Him all pains of body and soul, as well as those persecutions directed against my honor. It is my firm belief that I shall be thus doing what will be for the greater glory of God, for I shall then be suffering in silence, like Jesus, Who died on the Cross abandoned by all.
To labor and to suffer for the one we love is the greatest proof of our love.
God was made man for us. But what kind of man? How was He born? How did He live? Yes, and what a death He endured! Ego sum vermis et non homo, et abjectio plebis -- I am a worm and no man, and the outcast of the people. Jesus is God and Man, but His Divinity did not help His Humanity in His crosses and sufferings, just as the souls of the just in heaven do not help their bodies which rot under the earth.
In a very special manner God helped the martyrs in their sufferings, but this same God abandoned Jesus in His crosses and torments, so that He was indeed a Man of Sorrows. The body of Our Lord was most delicately formed, and therefore more sensitive to pain and suffering. Well, then, who is capable of forming an idea of how much Jesus suffered? All His life, suffering was ever present. How much did He have to suffer for our love! Ah, what pains He underwent, so long-enduring and intense!
O Jesus, Love of my life, I know and realize that pains, sorrows and labors are the lot of the apostolate, but with the help of Thy grace I embrace them. I have had my share of them, and now I can say that by Thy aid, my Lord and my Father, I am ready to drain this chalice of interior trials and am resolved to receive this baptism of exterior suffering. My God, far be it from me to glory in anything save in the cross, upon which Thou wert once nailed for me. And I, dear Lord, wish to be nailed to the cross for Thee. So may it be. Amen.
Friday, January 23, 2009
WHAT struck the world with astonishment was the austerity and penance which the Saint practised in the midst of ail the anxieties and business of his diocese. He had reached such a degree of perfection in the latter part of his life that he fasted almost daily on bread and water except on feast days when he made some addition but took neither meat eggs fish nor wine. During Lent he gave up the use of bread and lived upon dried figs and boiled beans and during holy week on lupines alone and had only one meal a day the year round"
Besides the little sleep he took in general, at the times when he had any unusual amount of business, as in his Provincial and Diocesan Councils, and his translations of the relics of the saints, he either slept very little, or merely took a little rest in a chair; which he liked doing, as he used to say there were generals who were so vigilant in time of war that they never lay down in bed, but only slept in a chair, and quoted his uncle, John Joseph de Medici, as an instance. "Hence," said he, "a Bishop who has the direction of souls, and lights against the legions of hell, ought not to be less watchful than a general in worldly warfare." To maintain this watchfulness gave him perhaps more trouble than anything else in this life, for he was naturally much inclined to sleep, and his body, wearied by his continual labours, needed more rest than he allowed it; and having to use violence in this way, there arose in him a continual struggle between body and spirit. Although he had the inferior part in subjection, yet he was never able entirely to overcome his strong propensity for sleep, notwithstanding his struggles against it. "As to his great austerities during the whole course of his life,"
This struggle against sleepfulness was manifest to all, as an enemy that was perpetually troubling him; but at the same time it was noticed that he never suffered himself to be overcome by it. When he was so far overcome by nature that he seemed as if he were asleep, still he was so far on the alert that he heard everything, and could give, for instance, an account of what the preachers said in sermons, and noticed if they made any mistakes, just as if he were the most wakeful of all. The last time he was in Rome, he used to go sometimes to hear Father Francesco Toledo, afterwards Cardinal, and on one occasion he appeared to be fast asleep all the time, when a prelate said to Francesco Bernardino Nava, then present : "If I were Cardinal Borromco's confessor, I should bid him sleep at night for his penance, that he might keep awake in the daytime, especially at sermons." It chanced that the Saint had a Cardinal and others to dine with him that day, and in conversation began to speak of the sermon, and gave a minute account of it, at which his brother Cardinal and those who had seen him asleep were much surprised. Some who saw him righting such a hard battle pitied him, and recommended him to take a little more sleep; one person gave him the opinion of a spiritual Father of great authority, who said that he ought to have at least seven hours' rest in order to keep in health and to bear fatigues; to which he replied, that the Father did not understand it was a Bishop he was speaking of. I remember that in a conversation with me on this subject he said that he certainly felt it a hard struggle with nature to avoid sleep, but when he considered his duty to God and the Church, he was able to overcome every difficulty. It gave him much trouble to see that his austere mode of life was not approved of, as ninny advised him to abstain from so much penance, lest he should shorten his life; and others wrote to him begging him to mitigate his austerities, among whom was the Archbishop of Valencia, in Spain, Father Luis of Granada. One of his intimate friends wrote also to Pope Gregory XIII., complaining that if his Holiness did not prevent it, the Cardinal would soon put an end to his days, as he could not survive under the weight of so many toils. A letter from his Holiness forbidding his austerities reached him in the beginning of holy week, 1584. During that Lent he had eaten dried figs, but had begun to take only lupines, but that diet he gave up immediately out of obedience to his Holiness. To others, as to the Archbishop of Valencia, before mentioned, he quoted the example of many saints who had used similar austerities, as follows : "It is unnecessary to remind you of holy men like St. Nicholas, St. Chrysostom, St. Spiridion, and St. Basil, who, although Bishops of large dioceses, persevered in continual prayer and fasting, and yet reached a good old age."
By these examples he wished to show that he could conscientiously, without risk of shortening life, continue his usual penances, and that even if it should please God to call him away soon, he should consider it a great favour, from the desire he had to offer up his life for the love of God in the service of His Church. He said the same in another passage of his letter to the Archbishop, as follows: "We ought to esteem it our greatest gain to spend our strength and our lives, which we must sooner or later lay down, in the service of the Church for which Christ died. No one, much less a Bishop, ought to be hindered by anxiety about health, or by fear of death, from the discharge of his duty, which is more important than any other consideration."
Although this austere life of the Saint was not approved of by all, as beyond human power to endure, yet it seems to have been pleasing to God, that in a time of great sensuality he should set an example in order to recall the pastors of souls in particular from the pursuit of pleasure and gain to the true discipline of the spiritual life. Our Lord therefore manifested by many signs and miracles that his servant's mode of life was most pleasing and acceptable to Himself, although not understood or approved of by all men.