Crucifixion - by ANDREA DEL CASTAGNO - from National Gallery, London
Jesus Christ Died in-Battle, for us
Greater Love than this, no Man hath,
Maiorem hac dilectionem nemo habet
Some People make Perfection, Consist-in an Austere Life;
|Nota Bene: Bible Verses quoted-in this Book are from the English Douay-Rheims Translation, commissioned-by the Catholic Church.|
An Act-of-Sorrow, an Act-of-Love is enough to 'Blot-out' these Unavoidable Faults. The same Effect is Achieved-by the Reception-of Holy Communion. Thus, these Unavoidable Faults - even though they Really-are Faults - do not-'Prevent' us from Growing-in Holiness, because in this Life, we cannot-Reach Complete Perfection. That will come, only when we 'Enter' the Kingdom-of-the-Saints.
Deliberate (Avoidable) Faults
The Luke Warmness that does 'Hinder' Perfection, is the Tepidity which is Avoidable, as-when we Commit Deliberate Venial Faults. Willful Lies, Minor Detractions, Fits-of-Temper, Cutting Remarks, Words-of Self-Praise, Continued Resentments, Inordinate Attachments ─ all these could Readily-be Avoided, with the Help-of God's Grace.
We should, therefore, Tremble-at such Deliberate Faults, because they can Deprive us of God's Light and Help. As a Result, we Drag-through our Spiritual Exercises, with Weariness and Pain, and in-Time, Abandon Prayer and Devotion-to the Blessed Sacrament. And Finally, we are Severely Tempted to Forsake Everything.
Recall the Words, from the Book-of-Revelation (3:15-16): "I know thy Works, that thou art neither Cold, nor Hot. I would thou wert Cold, or Hot. But, because thou art Luke Warm, and neither Cold, not Hot, I will begin to-Vomit thee out of My Mouth". Is it really better to be Cold, than to be Luke Warm? Yes, in a Certain Sense it is; those who are Cold (Deprived-of Grace), will more-easily Amend their Lives, because their Tortured Consciences 'Bother' them; but Luke Warm Persons, tend-to Sleep-on their Faults, without Bothering to-Correct themselves.
Some 'Pamper' their Faults, and this Leads-to their own Destruction, especially-if the Fault is Coupled-with a Passionate Self-love, Ambition, or Resentment-of others. Such Persons will never become Saints, and will Lose the Crown that God has Prepared-for them, had they remained Faithful-to His Grace. While we are Bound-to-Earth, even by the Thinnest Thread, we cannot Fly-to God. Many People never-Reach Sanctity, because they Refuse to-do themselves the Violence, Necessary-to 'Snap' these Thin Threads.
All Tepidity (Luke Warmness) is due to a Lack-of Love, for Jesus Christ. Those who are Bloated-with Self-love, who become-Downcast when things do not go their-Way, who Purposely-encourage Distractions, who Cater-to their own-Comfort, who Resent every little Lack-of-Attention from others - all these are often Troubled, and as-a-Consequence, gradually find themselves Avoiding Prayer. One Minute - depending-on their Mood - they are Overjoyed, and the Next, they are Brooding Impatiently. Such Persons do not really Love Jesus Christ, or they Love Him very-Little.
If ever we find ourselves in this Miserable State, it is very Difficult to 'Regain' our Lost Fervor. But Our Lord has Promised-that, things that are Impossible-for Men and Women, are Possible-for God (see Luke 18:27). Those who Pray, and Resolve-to use the necessary-Means, are sure-to 'Regain' their Fervor.
Cures for Luke Warmness
There are Five (5) Ways of Curing the Spiritual Disease-of Luke Warmness. Those who use the following-Means to 'Overcome' their Tepidity, have an Excellent Chance of Recapturing, their former Ardor.
1) Desire for Holiness
Desire, not only Gives the Strength to Advance-toward Holiness, but it also 'Lightens' the Burden-of the Journey. Those who really Desire to-become Holy, never stop-Striving, and so they must finally-Reach it. On-the-other-hand, those who have no-such Desire, are always moving-Backward, and will gradually-Find themselves, more Imperfect than before. As Saint Augustine says: "Not to go-Forward, on the Path-to God, is to-go Backward".
Those who say, "God does not-Expect Everyone, to become Saints", are 'Mistaken'. Saint Paul writes: "For this is the Will-of-God, your Sanctification" - 1Thessalonians 4:3. We are All Expected to-become Saints, each Person, in-accord-with his or her, Calling-in-Life.
How Beautiful are the Words-of Saint Teresa, on this Subject: "Let us Expand our Thoughts . . . We must Beware-of Barren Desires. Instead, we should put all our Trust-in God, so that by always Pushing Forward, we may eventually, by Divine Grace, reach the Goal Attained-by so many Saints". The Saint herself had this Desire, and Spirit-of-Generosity. She once told Our Lord that if she were to see Others in-Paradise, 'Enjoying' Him more than she Could, she would not-Care. But, if she were to see anyone Loving Him, more-than she Should have Loved Him, she said that she did not-Know, how she could-Stand it.
We must, therefore, have Great Courage: "The Lord is Good to them, that Hope-in Him, to the Soul that Seeketh Him" - Lamentations 3:25. Even Past Sins, cannot Prevent us from becoming Saints, if we Sincerely Desire it. "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" - Romans 8:28. So, even Past Sins can Contribute-to our Holiness, because the Memory-of them, keeps us more-Humble and more-Grateful; and because they Help us to-Realize the Favors, God Showers-on us, even after we have Offended Him.
I am Capable-of Nothing (the Sinner should say); I 'Deserve' only Hell; but I Love a God of Infinite (∞) Generosity, Who has Promised-to Listen-to All, who Pray-to Him. And since He has 'Rescued' me from Hell, and 'Wants' me to become Holy, and 'Gives' me His Help, I can certainly Become a Saint, not by my own-Strength, but by the Grace-of-God, Who 'Strengthens' me. "I can do all these Things in-Him, Who Strengtheneth me" - Philippians 4:13.
Once we have developed a Firm Desire for-Perfection, we 'Put' our Trust in-God, and 'Try' to-Fulfill our Desires. But, if we later 'Encounter' Obstacles, we must Rest Quietly, in the Will-of-God. God's Will must be-Preferred, even-to our own Great Desires.
2) Resolution to Achieve Holiness
All Persons, are Called-to Holiness. Spurred-on by Grace, they 'Develop' a Desire-for it; but, because they never really Resolve-to Work-toward it, many Live and Die in the Disagreeable Odor-of their Imperfect Lives. The mere Desire-for Holiness, is not enough; it must be Followed-by a Strong Resolution to 'Achieve' it. How many Souls, 'Feed' themselves on-Desires, but never-Take One (1) Step, toward God? Imperfect Souls 'Generate' noble-Desires, but never-Resolve to-take the Means necessary, to-Become Saints. They tell themselves, that if they were only-in some Hermitage, and not in this House, they would become Saints. There, they say, they could 'Surrender' themselves Completely-to God. And meanwhile, they cannot endure a single Word-of-Contradiction, or get-along-with a certain Companion. They Exhaust themselves with many Senseless Worries, and Commit a Thousand (103) Faults of Gluttony, Curiosity, and Pride. Their Desires to be in some Other Place, do more Harm than Good, because they have no direct-Influence, on their Lives-of Imperfection.
We must, therefore, not only Desire Perfection, but also Resolutely-Take the Means to-Achieve it. Saint Teresa says: "The Lord only Waits, for a Single Resolution from us, and He will then do all the Rest Himself". Mental Prayer is Vitally Important, in this Area. Some Pray a Great Deal, but never come-to a Practical Resolution.
Our Initial (1st)-Resolution, must be to-Make every Effort to-Avoid Committing the Smallest Deliberate Sin. While it is True that our own Efforts, without God's Help, will not 'Conquer' Temptation, God 'Wants' us to-Use Severe Measures with-Ourselves, before He Strengthens us with His Grace, to-Aid our Weakness, and 'Ensure' our Victory. This Resolution, 'Removes' the Obstacles to our Progress, and at the same-Time, 'Fortifies' us with Courage, because it 'Provides' us with Assurance-of-Being, in God's Grace.
All this, 'Requires' what is called Delicacy-of Conscience. It is One-thing to-have a Delicate Conscience, and quite Another, to have a 'Scrupulous' One. A Delicate Conscience is a Means-of-Growth, but a 'Scrupulous' One, can only do Harm. We must, therefore, 'Obey' our Spiritual Directors, and 'Overcome' 'Scruples', which are simply False Alarms.
For these Reasons, it is Necessary to-Resolve on 'Choosing', not only what is Agreeable-to God, but what is most-Agreeable to-Him, without any Reserve. And we must begin-Quickly, not Waiting-for Tomorrow. In the Next Life, there is no-more Time to-Work, or make-Plans, or seek-Advice. After Death, what is-Done, is-Done.
Each Day, we must Begin-again, and Resolve-to 'Belong' Completely-to God. Nor should we Stop-to See, How-or-What, others may Do. Not too-many Persons here on Earth, actually become Saints; and if we 'Imitate' the Mediocrity-of many others, we will always Remain Imperfect. We must, therefore, 'Renounce' Everything, in-order-to 'Gain' Everything (∞). The Saints did not-Know how to-Spare themselves, when there was a Question-of 'Pleasing' the God, Who 'Gave' Himself completely, to 'Gain' their Love (see 2Corinthians 5:15).
3) Use of Mental Prayer
Without Mental Prayer, as a Means-of Overcoming Luke Warmness, we Stumble in Spiritual Darkness. The Truths-of-Faith are not Apparent-to our Physical Sight, and so they must be Grasped-with the Vision-of-the-Mind, in Meditation. Those who Refuse-to Meditate, will remain Blind, and, being Blind, will easily-become Attached-to Tangible Things.
Those who 'Stop' Praying, 'Stop' Loving Jesus Christ. Prayer is the Holy Furnace, in-which the Fire-of Holy Love, is Ignited and kept-Alive. Saint Teresa 'Affirms': "Those who do not Stop Praying, sooner-or-later Reach their Destination".
How Great are the Rewards-of Prayer? In Prayer, we 'Form' Holy Thoughts, 'Make' Fervent Affections, 'Excite' Lofty Desires, and 'Form' Efficacious Resolutions, to-'Give' ourselves Completely-to God.
We should not Go-to Prayer, merely to-Enjoy the Feeling-of Divine Love; those who Pray-with this Motive, are 'Wasting' their Time, and will 'Gain' very little. We must Begin-to Pray, simply to-Please God and to-Learn the Will-of-God for us, and to-Beg His Help to put it into-Practice. Prayer that is not Filled-with Sensible Consolation, can 'Bring' great Profit-to us. But, if we Stop Praying because we no-longer Enjoy it, we become Miserable.
Another Result-of Prayer, is that the Soul finds itself Constantly Thinking-of God. "The True Lover", says Saint Teresa, "is always Conscious-of the Loved One. And it follows that Persons-of-Prayer, are always Speaking-of God; they know how Pleasing it must be to Him, that His Lovers enjoy Talking-about Him, and His Love for them, and that they Try-to Share it, with Others".
Prayer also 'Creates' an Atmosphere, which makes it Possible-for us to-Speak-to God, in Solitude. It Helps us 'Retain' Interior Recollection, even while-'Performing' External Duties. Persons, who Recklessly 'Allow' the World, to-take-over their Lives, never become Saints. Even the Saints, who Worked-to Win Souls for God, in the Everyday World, always remained-Recollected. The same is True-for those who must 'Apply' themselves to-Study. Those who must have Knowledge, because they need it to-Teach others, can do so without Losing their Recollection. But those who Abandon Prayer for-Study, show that they are Seeking only-for themselves in their Studies, and not God.
It is a Sad Fact, that without Mental Prayer, we do not Pray at-all. Prayer is a Great Means-of Salvation. (Later in this Chapter, Prayer-of-Petition will be Proposed-as One-of the Means, to-'Overcome' Luke Warmness.)
The Love we seek to-Preserve, cannot Last, unless God 'Grants' us Perseverance. But how can we Gain Perseverance, unless we 'Ask' the Lord for it? And how, other-than by-Prayer, can we 'Ask' it of-Him? Without Prayer, there is no Communication-with God, for the Preservation-of Virtue. And so it 'Happens', that those who Avoid Mental Prayer, become Unaware-of the Needs-of their Souls, and cannot even 'See' the Means they must-'Take', to-'Overcome' Temptations. This Fact cannot be-'Ignored': Those with little Understanding-of the Importance-of Prayer, will Stop Praying Completely, and will-be Lost.
As to the Subjects-for Meditation, Nothing is more-Useful, than-to Meditate-on the Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. But it is especially Helpful-to Meditate-on Death ─ our Own, and that of Jesus Christ, Who Suffered and Died, that we might Live.
4) Practice of Frequent Communion
We can do nothing more-Pleasing to Jesus Christ, than to-'Approach' Him frequently, in the Sacrament-of-the-Altar. (This has been Treated quite-Thoroughly, in the Introduction) But, in-order-to Gain the most-Benefit, from Frequent Communion, we must Prepare ourselves:
We should also make a Careful and Fervent Thanksgiving. Saint Teresa tells us: "After Holy Communion we should be Careful, not to Lose the Opportunity of Interceding with God. His Majesty, Pays-well for His Lodging, if He is given a Good Reception".
Another Important Means-of Keeping the Fire-of-Love, Burning-in our Hearts, is the Practice-of Frequent Spiritual-Communion. Saint Thomas tells us that Spiritual-Communion, Consists-in an Ardent Desire-of 'Receiving' Jesus Christ, in the Holy Sacrament. Here are Two (2) ways to-Make it:
We can make Spiritual Communions as-often-as we Wish, each Day: during Meditation; during our Visit to the Blessed Sacrament; and especially when 'Attending' Mass.
5) Habit of Regular Prayer
The Most Important 'Means', for-Living a Spiritual Life, and for-Loving Jesus Christ, is Prayer. God uses this Means, to-Convince us of His Great Love for us. What Greater Proof-of Love can we Offer-to a Friend, than to say, "Ask, and you shall Receive; that your Joy may be Full" - John 16:24? When we Pray, God 'Gives' us the Grace that we 'Ask' for, even before we have Finished our Request. If we Lack Grace, then, we have only ourselves to-Blame. Our Dearth-of Grace, 'Deserves' no Sympathy from Others. The Lord wants to-Give us, whatever we 'Ask'; but if we 'Choose'-to Continue-in our Poverty, rather than to 'Ask' for what we Need, we have no one to-Blame, but ourselves.
Humble Prayer, then, 'Gains' everything-from God. It is Certain, that we Absolutely-need Divine Help, to 'Overcome' Temptation. Those who Pray, 'Gain' this Grace; and those who Refuse to-Pray, are Lost. And this is most Clearly True, in-regard-to the Grace-of-Final-Perseverance (of Dying-in the Grace-of-God). This, of course, is a Grace that is Absolutely Necessary-for our Salvation. But it is Received only-by those who Pray.
If, then, we want to Persevere-in the Grace-of-God until Death, we must 'Play' the Role-of a Beggar, and Ask-for God's Help. This Prayer should always be on our Lips:
These Words are especially-Helpful, when we are Severely Tempted.
We must have Great Faith in Prayer. Jesus said: "Therefore I say unto you, All things, whatsoever you Ask when ye Pray, Believe that you shall Receive; and they shall Come-unto you" - Mark 11:24.
Even if we are Sinners, we Know-that we will be-Heard. "For every one that Asketh, Receiveth; and he that Seeketh, Findeth; and to him that Knocketh, it shall be Opened" - Luke 11:10. The Power-of Prayer to obtain Graces, does not Depend-on our Merits, but on the Mercy-of-God. But the Graces that we 'Ask'-for, must be Graces related-to our Eternal (∞) Welfare. We may Ask-for Temporal Goods, but they must be Asked-for, only on the Condition-that, they will be-of Benefit-to our Souls.
"O my God, make me a Saint"