On the Vanity of the World


Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes - by LANFRANCO, Giovanni - from National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin

 

I have Compassion on the Multitude, for Behold they have now
been with Me Three Days, and have Nothing to Eat - Mark 8:2

 

On the Vanity of the World

by Saint Alphonsus Liguori

Such were the Attractions-of our Divine Savior, and such the Sweetness with which He Received all, that He Drew after Him, Thousands of People. He One Day saw Himself surrounded by a Great Multitude of Men, who followed Him, and remained-with Him Three (3) Days, without Eating anything. Touched with Pity for them, Jesus Christ said to His Disciples: "I have Compassion on the Multitude, for Behold, they have now been with Me Three Days, and have Nothing to Eat" - Mark 8:2. He, on this Occasion, Wrought the Miracle of the Multiplication of the Seven (7) Loaves and a Few Fishes, so as, Satisfy the Whole Multitude. This is the Literal Sense, but the Mystic Sense is, that in this World, there is no Food which can Fill the Desire-of our Souls. All the Goods of this Earth - Riches, Honors, and Pleasures - Delight the Sense of the Body, but cannot Satiate the Soul, which has been Created for God, and which God alone can Content. I will, therefore, Speak Today on the Vanity of the World, and will show how Great is the Illusion of the Lovers of the World, who Lead an Unhappy Life on this Earth, and Expose themselves to the Imminent Danger of a still more Unhappy Life in Eternity (∞).

"O ye Sons of Men", exclaims the Royal Prophet against Worldlings, "how long will you be Dull of Heart? why do you Love Vanity, and seek after Lying?" - Psalm 4:3. O Men, O Fools, how long will you fix the Affections of your Hearts on this Earth? Why do you Love the Goods of this World, which are all Vanity and Lies? Do you Imagine that you shall find Peace by the Acquisition of these Goods? But how can you expect to find Peace, while you Walk-in the Ways of Affliction and Misery? Behold how David describes the Condition of Worldlings. "Destruction and Unhappiness in their Ways; and the Way of Peace they have not known" - Psalm 13:3. You Hope to obtain Peace from the World; but how can the World give you that Peace which you Seek, when Saint John says that, "the Whole World is Seated in Wickedness" - 1John 5:19. The World is Full of Iniquities; hence, Worldlings Live under the Depotism of the Wicked One - that is, of the Devil. The Lord has declared, that there is no Peace for the Wicked, who Live without His Grace. "There is no Peace to the Wicked, saith the Lord" - Psalm 48:22.

The Goods of the World are but 'Apparent' Goods, which cannot 'Satisfy' the Heart of Man. "You have Eaten", says the Prophet Haggai, "but have not had Enough" - Haggai 1:6. Instead of Satisfying our Hunger, they increase it. "These", says Saint Bernard, "Provoke, rather than Extinguish Hunger". If the Goods of this World made Men Content, the Rich and Powerful should Enjoy complete Happiness; but Experience shows the Contrary. We see every Day, that they are the most Unhappy of Men; they Appear always Oppressed by Fears, by Jealousies and Sadness. Listen to King Solomon, who Abounded-in these Goods: "I have seen All Things that are done under the Sun, and Behold, all is Vanity and Vexation of Spirit" - Ecclesiastes 1:14. He tells us that All Things in this World are Vanity, Lies, and Illusion. They are not only Vanity, but also Affliction of Spirit. They Torture the Poor Soul, which finds in them a Continual Source, not of Happiness, but of Affliction and Bitterness. This is a Just Punishment on those who, instead of Serving their God with Joy, Wish to Serve their Enemy, the World, which makes them Endure the Want-of every Good. "Because thou didst not Serve the Lord thy God with Joy and Gladness of Heart, for the Abundance of All Things: Thou shalt Serve thy Enemy, whom the Lord will send upon thee, in Hunger, and Thirst, and Nakedness, and in Want of All Things: and he shall put an Iron Yoke upon thy Neck, till he Consume thee" - Deuteronomy 28:47,48. Man expects to Content his Heart with the Goods of this Earth; but, howsoever Abundantly, he may Possess them, he is never Satisfied. Hence, he always Seeks-after more of them, and is always Unhappy. Oh! Happy he who Wishes for Nothing but God; for God will Satisfy all the Desires of his Heart. "Delight in the Lord, and He will give thee the Requests of thy Heart" - Psalm 36:4. Hence Saint Augustine asks: "What, O Miserable Man, dost thou Seek in Seeking after Goods? Seek One Good, in which are all Goods". And, having Dearly Learned that the Goods of this World do not Content, but rather Afflict the Heart of Man, the Saint, turning to the Lord said: "All Things are Hard, and Thou alone Repose". Hence, in saying "My Lord and my All", the Seraphic Saint Francis, though Divested-of all Worldly Goods, enjoyed Greater Riches and Happiness than all the Worldlings of this Earth. Yes, for the Peace which Fills the Soul, that Desires nothing but God, Surpasses all the Delights which Creatures can give. They only Delight the Senses, but cannot Content the Heart of Man. "And the Peace of God, which Surpasseth all Understanding, keep your Hearts and Minds in Christ Jesus" - Philippians 4:7. According to Saint Thomas, the difference between God, the Sovereign Good, and the Goods of the Earth, consists in this, that the more Perfectly we Possess God, the more Ardently we Love Him, because the more Perfectly we Possess Him, the Better we Comprehend His Infinite (∞) Greatness, and therefore the more we Despise other Things; but, when we Possess Temporal Goods, we Despise them, because we then see their Emptiness, and Desire other Things which may make us Content. "Summum bonum quanto perfectius possidetur, tanto magis amatur, et alia contemnuntur. Sed in appetitu temporalium bonorum, quando habentur, contemnentur, et alia appetuntur" - Saint Thomas.

The Prophet Hosea tells us, that the World holds in its hand, a Deceitful Balance. "He is like Chanaan (i.e. the World), "there is a Deceitful Balance in his hand, he hath Loved Oppression" - Hosea 12:7. We must then, Weigh things in the Balance of God, and not in that of the World, which makes them appear Different from what they are. What are the Goods of this Life? "My Days have been Swifter than a Post: they have fled away and have not seen Good. They have Passed by as Ships carrying Fruits" - Job 9:25,26. The Ships signify the Lives-of Men, which soon Pass Away, and run Speedily-to Death; and if Men have Labored only to Provide themselves with Earthly Goods, these Fruits Decay at the Hour of Death; we can bring none of them with us to the Other World. We, says, Saint Ambrose, 'Falsely' call these things 'Our Property', which we cannot bring with us to Eternity (∞), where we must Live Forever (∞), and where Virtue alone will accompany us. "Non nostra sunt, quae non possumus auferre nobiscum; sola virtus nos comitatur". You, says Saint Augustine, attend only to what a Rich Man possessed; but tell me, which of his Possessions shall he, now that he is on the Point of Death, be able to take with him? "Quid hic habebat attendis, quid secumfert, attendo" - Saint Augustine Sermon 13. The Rich bring with them a Miserable Garment, which shall Rot with them in the Grave. And should they, during Life, have Acquired a Great Name, they shall be soon Forgotten. "Their Memory hath Perished with a Noise" - Psalm 9:7.

Oh! that Men would keep before their Eyes, that Great Maxim of Jesus Christ: "For what doth it Profit a Man, if he Gain the Whole World, and Suffer the Loss of his own Soul?" - Matthew 16:26. If they did, they should certainly Cease-to Love the World. What shall it Profit them at the Hour of Death, to have Acquired all the Goods of this World, if their Souls must go into Hell, to be in Torments for all Eternity (∞)? How many has this Maxim, sent-into the Cloister and into the Deserts! How many Martyrs has it Encouraged-to embrace Torments and Death! In the History-of England, we read of Thirty (30) Kings and Queens, who left the World and became Religious, in order to Secure a Happy Death. The Consideration-of the Vanity of Earthly Goods, made Saint Francis Borgia retire-from the World. At the Sight-of Empress Isabella, who had Died in the Flower of Youth, he came to the Resolution-of Serving God alone. "Is such, then", he said, "the End of all the Grandeur and Crowns of this World? Henceforth I will Serve a Master Who can never Die". The Day of Death is called the Day of Destruction ("The Day of Destruction is at hand" - Deuteronomy 32:35), because on that Day, we shall Lose and Give-up all the Goods of the World; all its Riches, Honors, and Pleasures. The Shade of Death obscures all the Treasures and Grandeurs of this Earth; it obscures even the Purple and the Crown. Sister Margaret of Saint Anne, a Discaled Carmelite, and Daughter-of the Emperor Rodolph the Second, used to say: What do the Kingdoms Profit us at the Hour of Death? "The Affliction of an Hour, maketh one Forget great Delights" - Ecclesiasticus 11:29. The Melancholy Hour of Death, puts an End to all the Delights and Pomps-of this Life. Saint Gregory says that all Goods which cannot Remain-with us, or which are Incapable-of Taking away our Miseries, are Deceitful. "Fallaces sunt quae nobiscum permanere non possunt; fallaces sunt quae mentis nostrae inopiam non expellunt". Behold a Sinner, whom the Riches and Honors which he had Acquired, made an Object of Envy to others. Death came upon him, when he was at the Summit-of his Glory, and he is no longer what he was. "I have seen the Wicked Highly Exalted, and Lifted up like the Cedars of Libanus. And I passed by, and Lo, he was not: and I sought him, and his place was not found" - Psalm 36:35-36.

These Truths, the Unhappy Damned, Fruitlessly Confess in Hell, where they Exclaim-with Tears: "What hath Pride profited us? or what Advantage hath the Boasting of Riches brought us? All those things are Passed Away like a Shadow" - Wisdom 5:8-9. What, they< say, have our Pomps and Riches Profited us, now that we are all Passed Away like a Shadow, and for us, nothing Remains but Eternal (∞) Torments and Dispair? Dearly Beloved Christians, let us Open our Eyes, and now that we have it in our Power, let us Attend-to the Salvation of our Souls; for, if we Lose them, we shall not be able to Save them in the Next Life. Aristippus the Philosopher, was once Shipwrecked, and Lost all his Goods; but such was the Esteem which the People entertained for him, on Account-of his Learning, that, as-soon as he Reached the Shore, they Presented him with the Equivalent for all that he had Lost. He then Wrote to his Friends, and Exhorted them to Attend-to the Acquisition-of Goods which cannot be Lost by Shipwreck. Our Relatives and Friends who have Passed-into Eternity (∞), Exhort us, from the Other World, to Labor in this Life, for the Attainment-of Goods which are not Lost at Death. If at that Awful Moment we shall be Found to have Attended only to the Accumulation-of Earthly Goods, we shall be called Fools, and shall Receive the Reproach addressed-to the Rich Man in the Gospel, who, after having Reaped an Abundant Crop from his Fields, said to himself: "Soul, thou hast much Goods Laid up for Many Years, take thy Rest; Eat, Drink, make Good Gheer. But God said to him: Thou Fool, this Night do They Require thy Soul of thee: and whose shall those Things be, which thou hast Provided?" - Luke 12:19-20. He said, They Require thy Soul of thee, because to every Man, his Soul is given, not with Full Power to Dispose-of it as he Pleases; but it is given to him in-Trust, that he may Preserve and Return it to God, in a State of Innocence, when it shall be Presented-at the Tribunal of the Sovereign Judge. The Redeemer concludes this Parable by saying: "So is he that Layeth up Treasure for himself, and is not Rich towards God" - Luke 12:21. This is what happens to those who seek to Enrich themselves with the Goods of this Life, and not with the Love of God. Hence Saint Augustine asks: "What has the Rich Man, if he has not Charity? If the Poor Man has Charity, what is there that he has not?" He that Possesses all the Treasures of this World, and has not Charity, is the Poorest of Men; but the Poor who have God, possess All Things, though they should be Bereft-of all Earthly Goods.

"The Children of this World", said Jesus Christ, "are Wiser in their Generation, than the Children of Light" - Luke 16:8. O how Wise in Earthly Affairs are Worldlings, who Live in the Midst of the Darkness of the World! "Behold", says Saint Augustine, "how much Men Suffer for things for which they Entertain a Vicious Love". What Fatigue do they Endure-for the Acquisition-of Property, or of a Situation of Emolument! With what Care do they Endeavor to Preserve their Bodily Health! They Consult the Best Physician, and Procure the Best Medicine. And Christians, who are the Children of Light, will take no Pains, will Suffer nothing, to Secure the Salvation of their Souls! O God! at the Light of the Candle which Lights them to Death, at that Hour, at that Time, which is called the Time of Truth, Worldlings shall See and Confess their Folly. Then each of them shall Exclaim: O that I had Led the Life of a Saint! At the Hour of Death, Philip the Second, King of Spain, called in his Son, and having shown him his Breast, Devoured with Worms, said to him: Son, Behold how we Die; Behold the End of all Worldly Greatness. He then Ordered a Wooden Cross to be Fastened-to his Neck; and, having made his Arrangements for Death, he Turned-again to his Son, and said: My Son, I Wished you to be Present at this Scene, that you might Understand how the World, in the End, treats even Monarchs. He Died saying: Oh! that I had been a Lay Brother in some Religious Order, and that I had not been a King! Such is the Language, at the Hour of Death, even of the Princes-of the Earth, whom Worldlings regard as the most Fortunate of Men. But these Desires and Sighs of Regret, serve only to Increase the Anguish and Remorse of the Lovers of the World at the Hour of Death, when the 'Scene' is about to Close.

And what is the Present Life, but a 'Scene', which soon Passes-away Forever (∞)? It may End when we least expect it. Cassimir, King of Poland, while he Sat at Table with his Grandees, Died in the Act-of Raising a Cup to take a Draught; thus the 'Scene' Ended for him. The Emperor Celsus, was Put-to Death in Seven (7) Days after his Election; and the 'Scene' Closed for him. Ladislaus, King of Bohemia, in his Eighteenth (18th) Year, while he was Preparing-for the Reception-of his Spouse, the Daughter of the King of France, was suddenly Seized-with a Violent Pain, which Took-away his Life. Couriers were Instantly Dispatched to Announce to her, that the 'Scene' was over for Ladislaus, that she might return to France. "For the Fashion of this World passeth away" - 1Corinthians 7:31. By these Words, Saint Paul meant, that this World is but a 'Scene' - a Comedy. "The World", says Cornelius a Lapide, in his Comment upon this Passage, "is like a Stage. One Generation Passes-away, and a New Generation comes. The King does not take with him the Purple. Tell me, O Villa, O House, how many Masters had you?" In every Age, the Inhabitants of this Earth are changed. Cities and Kingdoms are filled with New People. The First (1st) Generation Passes to the Other World, a Second (2nd) comes on, and this is followed by Another. He who, in the 'Scene' of this World, has Acted the Part-of a King, is no-longer a King. The Master of such a Villa or Palace, is no-longer its Master. Hence the Apostle gives us the following Advice: "The Time is Short; it remaineth, that they also who have Wives, be as if they had None; And they that Weep, as though they Wept not; and they that Rejoice, as if they Rejoiced not; and they that Buy, as though they Possessed not; And they that use this World, as if they Used it not: for the Fashion of this World passeth away" - 1Corinthians 7:29-31. Since the Time of our Dwelling-on this Earth is Short, and since all must End with our Death, let us make use of this World to 'Despise' it, as if it did not Exist for us; and let us Labor to Acquire the Eternal (∞) Treasures of Paradise, where, as the Gospel says, there are no Moths to Consume, nor Theives to Steal them. "But Lay up to yourselves Treasures in Heaven: where neither the Rust nor Moth doth Consume, and where Thieves do not Break through, nor Steal" - Matthew 6:20. Saint Teresa used to say: "We should not Set Value on what Ends with Life; the True Life consists in Living in such a Manner, as not to be Afraid of Death". Death shall have no Terror for him who, during Life is Detached from the Vanities of this World, and is Careful to Provide himself only with Goods which shall accompany him to Eternity (∞), and make him Happy Forever (∞).

 

- End of Liguori Sermon -

 

Prayer for the Graces Necessary for Salvation

Eternal Father, Your Son has Promised that You will Grant us all the Graces which we ask for in His Name. In the Name and Merits of Jesus Christ, I ask the following Graces for myself and for all Mankind. Please give me a Lively Faith in all that the Church Teaches. Enlighten me, that I may know the Vanity of the Goods of this World, and the Immensity of the Infinite Good that You are. Make me also see the Deformity of the Sins I have Committed, that I may Humble myself and Detest them as I should.

Give me a Firm Confidence of Receiving Pardon for my Sins, Holy Perseverance, and the Glory of Heaven, through the Merits of Jesus Christ, and the Intercession of Mary. Give me a Great Love for You, that will Detach me from the Love of this World, and of myself, so that I may Love none other, but You.

I Beg of You a Perfect Resignation to Your Will. I Offer myself entirely to You, that You might do with me, and all that belongs to me, as You Please.

I Beg of You a Great Sorrow for my Sins.

I ask You to give me the Spirit of True Humility and Meekness, that I may Accept with Peace, and even with Joy, all the Contempt, Ingratitude and Ill-treatment I may receive. At the same time, I also ask You to give me Perfect Charity, which shall make me wish well to those who have done Evil to me.

Give me Love for the Virtue of Mortification, by which I may Chastise my Rebellious Senses and oppose my Self-Love. Give me a Great Confidence in the Passion of Jesus Christ and in the Intercession of Mary Immaculate. Give me a Great Love for the Blessed Sacrament, and a Tender Devotion and Love to Your Holy Mother. Give me, above all, Holy Perseverance, and the Grace always to Pray for it, especially in Time-of Temptation, and at the Hour-of Death.

Finally, I recommend to You the Holy Souls of Purgatory, my Relatives and Benefactors, and in a special manner I recommend to You all those who Hate me or who have in any way Offended me; I Beg You to Render them Good, for the Evil they have done or may wish to do me. Grant that, by Your Goodness, I may come One Day to sing Your Mercies in Heaven; for my Hope is in the Merits of Your Blood and in the Patronage of Mary. Mary, Mother of God, Pray to Jesus for me.

Amen

 

Ancient Miraculous Prayer to Saint Joseph
Patron of Departing Souls

This Prayer was found in the Fiftieth Year of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In 1505 it was sent from the Pope to Emperor Charles, when he was going into Battle. Whoever shall Read this Prayer, or Hear it, or Keep it about themselves, shall never Die a Sudden Death, or be Drowned, nor shall Poison take-effect on them; neither shall they Fall into the Hands of the Enemy, nor shall they be Burned in any Fire, nor shall they be Overpowered in Battle.

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O Saint Joseph, whose Protection is so Great, so Strong, so Prompt before the Throne of God, I Place in you, all my Interests and Desires.

O Saint Joseph, do Assist me by your Powerful Intercession, and Obtain for me from your Divine Son, all Spiritual Blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord; so that having Engaged here below your Heavenly Power, I may Offer my Thanksgiving and Homage to the most Loving of Fathers.

O Saint Joseph, I never Weary Contemplating you and Jesus Asleep in your Arms; I dare not approach while He Reposes near your Heart. Press Him in my name and Kiss His Fine Head for me, and ask Him to Return the Kiss when I Draw my Dying Breath, Saint Joseph, Patron of Departing Souls, Pray for us.

Amen

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Many Miracles have been attributed to this Daily Prayer.
Make this Prayer known everywhere . . .

 

Consecration to God thru Mary