Tag Archives: prayer

Prayer/Meditation (and subsequent chapters)

The following excerpts are from a book entitled The Spiritual Combat. By Lorenzo Scupoli. A book that subsequently, St. Francis de Sales carried with him for 18 years!


PRAYER
WE HAVE SHOWN that distrustfulness of self, confidence in God, and proper application of the faculties of the soul are the indispensable weapons of conquest in the spiritual combat. Yet a far more important weapon is prayer, since by it are obtained, not only the above-specified virtues, but everything requisite for our salvation. Prayer is the channel of all Divine grace; by it God is compelled, as it were, to grant us the strength of Heaven, and destroy by our weak hands the fiercest of our foes. But in order to receive full benefit from our prayer, the following method should be observed:
1. We must desire sincerely to serve God with ardent fervor in the manner most agreeable to Him; and this desire will be enkindled within our breasts if we consider three things attentively. The first is that Almighty God deserves our homage and service by reason of the excellence of His sovereign being, His goodness, beauty, wisdom, power, and His ineffable, infinite perfection. The second is that God in Heaven became man on earth to consecrate a life of thirty-three years to the cause of our salvation. He condescended to dress our wounds with His own hands, and heal them, not with oil and wine, but with His own precious blood and immaculate body, torn and disfigured by cruel whips, thorns, and nails. The third point is our realization of the obligation to observe His law, and discharge every duty, since this is the only way we can expect to triumph over the devil, to become masters of ourselves, and children of God.

2. We must have a vibrant, living faith and a firm confidence that God will not refuse the assistance necessary to serve Him faithfully and work out our salvation. A soul rekindled with this holy confidence is like a sacred vessel, into which Divine Mercy pours the treasures of His grace; and the larger the vessel, the greater the abundance of Heavenly blessings it receives through prayer. For how can God, Whose power is limitless, and Whose goodness is alien to all deception, ever refuse His gifts to those whose petitions He has encouraged, and whose perseverance and faith He has promised to reward with the blessings of the Holy Spirit?

3. But our motive for prayer must be the will of God rather than the will of self. We must apply ourselves to this divinely appointed duty because He has commanded it, and we must wish no more than that which is in utter conformity to God’s plan. Thus, our intention will not be to make the Divine will subservient to our own, but rather, to transform the human will so that it is in complete harmony with the Divine. The reason for this humble accedence to the Divine will is the perversity of our own, tainted as it is with a blind self-love. Guided by ourselves alone, we would err and stumble, but the will of God, essentially just and holy, cannot be mistaken. Thus the will of God should be the will of men, since not to follow the former is to go astray. Let us, then, be most solicitous that all our petitions be agreeable to God, and if doubts arise concerning the concurrence of the human with the Divine, let a humble submission to Divine Providence accompany our requests. If, however, the things we ask are, by their very nature, pleasing to Him, such as grace, virtue, etc., then let us beg them with a view to pleasing and serving His Divine Majesty, rather than for any other consideration, however creditable.

4. If we wish our prayers to be efficacious, our actions must suit the petitions, and we must exert much energy in making ourselves worthy of the favors we ask. For prayer and interior mortification are inseparable, and he that seeks a particular virtue, without making a serious effort to practice it, only tempts God.

5. Before we ask anything of God, we ought to thank Him most humbly for the innumerable benefits He has graciously bestowed upon us. Let us say to Him: “O Lord, Who after creating me, didst mercifully pay the price of my redemption, delivering me from the fury of myriad enemies, come now to my assistance; and forgetting my past ingratitude, bestow upon me this favor I now ask.” If, however, at the very time we seek to attain a particular virtue, we find ourselves tempted to the contrary vice, let us thank God for granting us the opportunity of practicing the virtue in question, and look upon the occasion as a favor.

6. As the entire force and efficacy of prayer is attributed solely to the goodness of God, at the conclusion of our petitions we should constantly remember the merits of our Savior’s life and passion, and His promise to graciously hear our requests, with one or the other of these sentences:

A) “I beseech Thee, O Lord, through Thy infinite mercy, to grant my petition.”

B) “Through the merits of Thy Son, bestow this favor on me.”

C) “Be mindful, O God, of Thy promises, and hear my prayers.” Again, we may have recourse to the intercession of the blessed Mother and the other Saints; for they prevail much with God, Who is pleased to honor them, in proportion to the honor they accorded Him on earth.

7. We must persist in prayer, since God certainly cannot overlook our humble perseverance. For if the pleadings of the widow in the Gospel prevailed with the wicked judge, how can our pleadings be ignored by God, Who is infinitely good? Thus, although our favors may not be immediately granted, and may even appear to be ignored by God, we must not lose our confidence in His infinite goodness, nor desist from prayer. For God possesses both immense power and will to grant us those things conducive to our ultimate welfare. Therefore, if we are not wanting in ourselves, we shall inevitably obtain what we ask for, something better, or perhaps both. As for the rest, the more we churlishly think ourselves slighted by God, the more we should hold ourselves in contempt. But in considering our misery, we should contemplate the Divine mercy, and far from lessening our confidence in Him, we must increase it; for the steadier we remain in situations attended by fear and diffidence, the greater will be our merit. Finally, let us never cease to thank God, blessing equally His wisdom, His goodness, His charity, whether He grants or refuses our petition. Whatever happens, let us be undisturbed, contented and resigned to divine Providence in all things. 

MENTAL PRAYER

MENTAL PRAYER is the elevation of our minds to God, asking of Him either expressly or tacitly those things of which we stand in need. We ask for them expressly when we say in our hearts: “O my God, grant me this request for the honor of Thy holy name”; or “Lord, I am firmly convinced that this petition is Thy will, and for Thy greater honor, I ask this petition. Accomplish, therefore, Thy Divine will in me.” When harassed by the attacks of the enemy, let us say: “Come swiftly, O Lord, to my assistance lest I fall a prey to my enemy”; or “O God, my refuge and my strength, help me speedily, lest I perish.” When temptation continues, we must continue the same prayer, courageously resisting the foe; and when the fury of the combat has passed, let us address ourselves to the Almighty, imploring Him to consider our weakness in the face of the enemy’s strength: “Behold, my God, Thy creature, the work of Thy hands, a man redeemed by Thy precious blood. And behold Satan trying to carry him from Thee to utterly destroy him. It is to Thee I fly for aid, and it is in Thee that I place my entire confidence, for I know that Thou alone art infinitely good and powerful. Have pity on a miserable creature who stumbles blindly, though willfully, into the path of his enemies, as do all who forsake the assistance of Thy grace. Help me therefore, my only hope, O sole strength of my soul!” We tacitly ask favors of God when we present to Him our necessities, without making any particular request. Placing ourselves in His Divine presence, we acknowledge our incapacity to avoid evil or do good without His aid. We are nevertheless inflamed with a desire of serving Him. Thus we must fix our eyes upon Him, waiting for His assistance with unbounded confidence and utter humility. 

The confession of our weakness and the desire to serve Him, this act of faith so performed, is a silent prayer which will infallibly obtain our request from Heaven. The more sincere the confession, the more ardent the desire, and the more lively the faith, the greater will be the efficacy of the prayer before the throne of God. There is another method of prayer similar to this, but more concise, consisting as it does in but a single act of the soul. The soul presents her requests to the Almighty, adverting to a favor already asked and still sought, although not formally expressed. Let us endeavor to cultivate this kind of prayer, and employ it on all occasions; for experience will convince us that nothing is more easy, yet nothing more excellent and efficacious.

MEDITATION

WHEN A CONSIDERABLE length of time is to be spent in prayer, it is advisable to make a meditation on some feature of our Savior’s life or passion; the reflections naturally arising from such meditation should then be applied to the particular virtue we are striving to attain. If, for instance, you need patience, contemplate the mystery of your Savior scourged at the pillar.

Consider first the blows and revilements hurled at Him by the soldiers as they brutally drag their innocent victim to the appointed place as ordered.

Secondly, consider Him stripped of His garments, exposed to the piercing cold. 

Thirdly, picture those innocent hands, bound tightly to the pillar.

Fourthly, consider His body, torn with whips until His blood moistened the earth. And finally, envision the frequency of the blows, creating new wounds, reopening others on that sacred body. Dwelling on these or similar details, calculated to inspire in you a love of patience, you should try to feel within your very soul the inexpressible anguish so patiently borne by your Divine Master.

Then consider the excruciating agony of His spirit, and the patience and mildness with which that agony was endured by Him Who was ready to suffer even more for God’s glory and your welfare. Behold, then, your Master, covered with blood, desiring nothing more earnestly than your patient acceptance of affliction; and be assured that He implores for you the assistance of the Heavenly Father that you may bear with resignation, not only the cross of the moment, but the crosses to come. Strengthen, therefore, by frequent acts your resolution to suffer, with joy; and, raising your mind to Heaven, give thanks to the Father of mercies, Who didst send His only Son into this world to suffer indescribable torments, and to intercede for you in your necessities. Conclude your meditation by beseeching Him to grant you the virtue of patience, through the merits and intercession of this beloved Son in Whom He is well pleased.

ANOTHER METHOD OF MEDITATION

THERE IS ANOTHER method of prayer and meditation besides the one to which we have adverted. In this latter method, having considered the poignant sufferings of your Savior and His patient endurance of them, you proceed to two other considerations of equal importance. The one is the consideration of Christ’s infinite merits, and the other, of that satisfaction and glory which the eternal Father received from His obedience—an obedience unto death, even the death of the Cross. You must represent these two considerations to the Divine Majesty, as two powerful means of obtaining the grace you seek. This method is applicable, not only to all the mysteries of Our Lord’s passion, but to every exterior or interior act He performed in the course of His passion.
A METHOD OF PRAYER BASED ON THE INTERCESSION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN

BESIDES THE METHODS of meditation already mentioned, there is another which is addressed particularly to the Blessed Virgin. We first consider the eternal Father, then Jesus Christ Our Lord, and finally, the Blessed Mother. With regard to the eternal Father, there are two considerations. The first is the singular affection He cherished from all eternity for this most chaste Virgin whom He chose to be the mother of His Divine Son. The second is the eminent sanctity He was pleased to bestow upon her and the many virtues she practiced in her lifetime. 

Meditating on the affection of the eternal Father for our Lady, you must begin by raising your mind above all created beings; look forward to the vast expanses of eternity, enter into the heart of God, and see with what delight He viewed the person destined one day to become the mother of His Son; beseech Him by that delight to give you sufficient strength against your enemies, especially those who most grievously afflict you. Contemplate, then, the virtues and heroic actions of this incomparable Virgin; make an offering of each or all of them to God, as they are of such efficacy as to obtain for you divine assistance in your particular necessities. 

After this address yourself to Jesus, begging Him to be mindful of that loving mother who for nine months carried Him in her womb, and from the moment of His birth paid Him the most profound adoration. For this was her acknowledgment that this Child was at once God and man, her Creator and her Son. With compassion she saw Him poorly accommodated in a humble stable, nourished Him with her pure milk, kissed and embraced Him a thousand times with maternal fondness, and through His life and at His death, suffered for Him beyond expression. Present this picture to the Savior, that He may be compelled, as it were, by such powerful motives, to hear your prayers. Appeal to the Blessed Virgin herself, reminding her of her commission from all eternity, to be the Mother of Mercy and the refuge of sinners, and that after her divine Son, you place your greatest confidence in her intercession. Present to her the fact, asserted by the learned and confirmed by miracles, that no one ever called upon her with a lively faith, and was left unaided. Finally, remind her of the sufferings of her Son for your salvation, that she may obtain of Him the grace necessary to make proper use of His sufferings for the greater glory of that loving Savior.

God Bless BJS!!

Uniformity of God’s Will and the Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ

St. Alphonsus de Ligouri

O Jesus, my love, I am determined to love Thee as much as I can, and I wish to become a Saint; and I wish to become a Saint for this reason, in order to give Thee pleasure, and to love Thee exceedingly in this life and the next!

I can do nothing of myself, but Thou canst do all things; and I know that Thou wishest me to become a Saint. I see already that by Thy grace my soul sighs only for Thee, and seeks nothing else but Thee. I wish to live no more for myself; Thou desirest me to be wholly Thine, and I desire to be wholly Thine.

Come, and unite me to Thyself, and Thyself to me. Thou art infinite goodness; Thou art He Who hast loved me so much; Thou art, indeed, too loving and too lovely; how, then, can I love anything but Thee? I prefer Thy love before all the things of this world; Thou art the sole object, the sole end of all my affections.

I leave all to be occupied solely in loving Thee, my Redeemer, my Comforter, my hope, my love, and my all. I will not despair of becoming a Saint on account of the sins of my past life; for I know, my Jesus, that Thou didst die in order to pardon the truly penitent. I love Thee now with my whole heart, with my whole soul; I love Thee more than myself, and I bewail, above every other evil, ever having had the misfortune to despise Thee, my sovereign good.

Now I am no longer my own. I am Thine; O God of my heart, dispose of me as Thou pleasest. In order to please Thee, I accept of all the tribulations Thou mayest choose to send me—–sickness, sorrow, troubles, ignominies, poverty, persecution, desolation—–I accept all to please Thee: in like manner I accept of the death Thou hast decreed for me, with all the anguish and crosses which may accompany it: it is enough if Thou grantest me the grace to love Thee exceedingly.

Lend me Thy assistance; give me strength henceforth to compensate, by my love, for all the bitterness that I have caused Thee in past time, O only love of my soul!
O Queen of Heaven, O Mother of God, O great advocate of sinners, I trust in thee!

Efficacious Novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

O my Jesus, You have said: “Truly I say to you, ask and it will be given you, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you.” Behold I knock, I seek and ask for the grace of… (state intention) Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be; Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in Thee.

O my Jesus, You have said: “Truly I say to you, if you ask anything of the Father in My name, He will give it to you.” Behold, in Your name, I ask the Father for the grace of…Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be; Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in Thee.

O my Jesus, You have said: “Truly I say to you, heaven and earth will pass away but My words will not pass away.” Encouraged by Your infallible words I now ask for the grace of…Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be; Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in Thee.

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, for Whom It is impossible not to have compassion on the afflicted have pity on us miserable sinners and grant us the grace which we ask of You, through the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, Your tender Mother and ours. Say the Hail, Holy Queen and add: St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus, pray for us.

This Novena prayer was recited every day by Saint Padre Pio for all those who asked his prayers. The faithful are invited to recite it daily, so as to be spiritually united with the prayer of Saint Padre Pio.

In a letter, Sister Lucy of Fatima wrote the following:
“About the other questions, if it will be convenient to insist in order to obtain the Consecration of Russia…

Intimately I have spoken to Our Lord about the subject and not too long ago I asked Him why He would not convert Russia without the Holy Father making the consecration. (He replied) ‘Because i want My whole Church to acknowledge that consecration as a triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary so that it may extend its cult later on and put the devotion to the Immaculate Heart beside the devotion to My Sacred Heart.'”

Existence of Purgatory

 

Both reason and faith tell us that there is a middle ground of expiation, where the soul is cleansed from all stain of sin before it can enter the glory of heaven. “There shall not enter into it anything defiled” (Apoc. 21:27). Christ said, “Amen, I say to thee, thou will not come out from it until thou hast paid the last penny” (Matt. 5:26). Even persons who deny the existence of purgatory instinctively pray for their loved ones who have died. This would be great inconsistency if their reason did not tell them that their prayers would do the dead good. Prayers are useless for those in heaven or hell.

    What is purgatory? –Purgatory is a place of temporary punishment for those who die in the state of grace, but are guilty of venial sin, or have not fully satisfied for the temporal punishment due to their sins.

  1. Purgatory is a middle state where souls destined for heaven are detained and purified. Souls in purgatory cannot help themselves, for their time for meriting is past. But they can be helped by the faithful on earth, by prayers and other good works.In some places, at eight o’clock at night, the church bells sound, to admonish the faithful to pray for the souls in purgatory. This hour is in commemoration of Christ’s prayer in the garden. We should then kneel and pray one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and the Requiem aeternam: “Eternal rest give unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them,” etc. 
  2. Belief in the utility of praying for the dead automatically includes belief in the existence of purgatory. If there were no purgatory, it would be useless to pray for the dead, because saints in heaven need no help, and those in hell are beyond aid.And we can be sure there will be no more purgatory after the General judgment; because the reason for its existence will have passed. 
  3. Purgatory is a place of temporary punishment for those who have died in venial sin, or who have not fully satisfied God’s justice for mortal sins already forgiven.
       

    1. A boy steals an apple from a stall in the market; this is a venial sin punishable in purgatory. Some argue that God is a good God, and will not punish such slight sins with the pains of purgatory. We must remember, nevertheless, that the judgments of God are different from those of men, as His holiness is far above human holiness.“My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are exalted above the earth, so are my ways exalted above your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts.” Let us reverence God’s holiness and justice, as we have loving confidence in His mercy. 
    2. A man commits a cruel murder. This is a mortal sin which, unrepented and unconfessed, will send him to hell.The man repents, confesses, and obtains absolution for his sin; the guilt therefore is removed. But justice requires that he make up for the evil he has done; this atonement takes place in purgatory, unless he makes full satisfaction before death.

     

  4. The doctrine of purgatory is eminently consoling to the human heart. It consoles us when our loved ones die. Purgatory is a bond of union making us realize that death is not an eternal separation for the just, but only a loss of their bodily presence.Purgatory gives us an assurance that we are still in touch with our beloved dead. We are consoled by the knowledge that we can still help them with prayer, as in life we so helped them.
    Is the doctrine of the existence of purgatory reasonable? –The doctrine of the existence of Purgatory is not only reasonable, but its negation is eminently contrary to reason; it is taught in Holy Scripture, and has been taught by the Church from the very beginning.

  1. The doctrine of a middle state of purgation is taught in the Old Testament,and was firmly believed in by the Hebrews.After a battle, Judas Machabeus ordered prayers and sacrifices offered up for his slain comrades. “And making a gathering, he sent twelve drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection. For, if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead. And because he considered that they who had fallen asleep with godliness had great grace laid for them. It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins” (2 Mach. 12:43-46). 
  2. When Our Lord came on earth, He purified the Jewish Church of all those human changes that with the years had crept into its usages and beliefs. But He never reproved anyone for belief in a middle state of purgation, or prayers for the dead.On the contrary, Christ more than once implied the existence of purgatory. He said “And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this world, or in the world to come” (Matt. 12:32). When Our Lord said that a sin will not be forgiven in the next life, He left us to conclude that some sins will be thus forgiven. But in the next life, sins cannot be forgiven in heaven: “There shall not enter into it anything defiled” (Apoc. 21:27). Neither can sins be forgiven in hell, for out of hell there is no redemption. They must therefore be forgive middle state, Purgatory. 
  3. Belief in the existence of Purgatory is a continuous and solemn teaching of the Church. From St. Paul, the early Fathers, the Doctors of the Church, on through the ages, the Church has taught the existence of Purgatory, and the correlated doctrine of the usefulness of praying for the dead.From the beginning Christians prayed for the dead at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The oldest books used at Mass contain prayers for the dead.The doctrine of Purgatory was given solemn definition by the Council of Trent as follows: “There is a purgatory, and the souls there detained are assisted by the suffrages of the faithful, but especially by the most acceptable, sacrifice of the altar.”

    This dogmatic definition contains three points of faith that all Catholics are compelled to believe: (a) that there is a purgatory; (b) that after death souls suffer there for their sins; (c) that the living can extend assistance to such souls.

     

  4. Reason demands belief in the existence of purgatory. If a man dies with some slight stain on his soul, a sin of impatience, or an idle word, is he fit to enter heaven? God’s sanctity forbids it: “There shall not enter into it anything defiled” (Apoc. 21:27) . But must such a soul be consigned to hell? God’s mercy and justice forbid it.Therefore reason concludes the existence of a middle and temporary state of expiation, where the soul is cleansed from all stain of sin before it can be admitted into the perfect holiness and bliss of heaven. “Amen, I say to thee, thou wilt not come out from it until thou hast paid the last penny” (Matt. 5:26). 
  5. Among nearly all peoples there has persisted a belief that souls must undergo some sort of purification after death. This would point to the doctrine of purgatory.The Greek story of Prometheus implies a place of purgation. The Egyptians and others believed in the transmigration of souls. Legends and myths of all nations, as well as burial customs, indicate belief in the possibility of helping the dead.