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TWELVE STEPS OF SILENCE – SILENCE OF THE MIND

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THE TWELVE DEGREES OF SILENCE

Step 8: Silence of the mind

Silence useless thoughts, pleasing and natural thoughts; truly these only damage the silence of the mind and not the thought in itself which cannot cease to exist. Our mind wants the truth and we give it falsehood! Now the essential Truth is God. God is sufficient for His Divine Intelligence and is not sufficient for poor human intelligence!

A contemplation of God which is sustained and immediate, is impossible in the infirmity of the flesh, without a particular gift of the Divine Goodness; but silence in one’s own exercises of the mind is, with respect to the Faith, to content oneself with its obscure light.

Silence to the subtle reasoning which weakens the will and makes love become arid. Silence in one’s intention: purity, simplicity; silence to self-seeking; in meditations, silence to curiosity; in prayer, silence in one’s own dealings, they do nothing but hinder the work of God. Silence to pride which seeks itself in everything, everywhere and always, that wants that which is beautiful, good and sublime; it is the silence of holy simplicity, of total dispossession, of rectitude. A mind that fights against such enemies is similar to those Angels who see the face of God without interruption. The Lord raises up this intelligence to Himself, always in silence.

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– From: The Twelve Degrees of Silence, Supplemento am.n. 2/2008 di “De Vita Contemplativa”

 

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WHERE I GO, YOU CANNOT COME (JN 8:21-29)

Homily of St Augustine on John 8:21-29

The Lord spoke to the Jews, saying: “I go.” For to Christ, the Lord, death was a going to that place whence he had come, yet from whence he had never departed. “I go,” he says, “And you shall seek me, not for desire of me, but for hatred.” For after he had passed away from the eyes of men, he was sought, both by those who hated him, and by those who loved him: the former for the sake of persecuting him, the latter for the desire of possessing him. In the Psalms, the Lord himself says through the Prophet: “Flight has failed me, and there is no one that has regard for my soul.” And again he says in another place in a psalm: “Let those be confounded and ashamed, who seek after my soul.”

He blamed those who sought him not, he condemned those who did seek him. For it is a good thing to seek after the soul of Christ, that is, in the way that the disciples sought it; and it is a bad thing to seek after the soul of Christ, that is, in the way that the Jews sought it; for the former sought to possess it, the latter to destroy it. Accordingly, because these men sought it thus in a wrong way, with a perverted heart, what next did he add? “You shall seek me; and that you may not think you are seeking me rightly, you shall die in your sin.” This comes from seeking Christ in an evil way, to die in one’s sin; this comes from hating him, by whom alone you can be saved.

For while men, whose hope is in God, ought not to return to evil, even for evil; yet these men rendered evil for good. Therefore, the Lord announced to them beforehand, and in his foreknowledge uttered the sentence, that they should die in their sin. And then he added: “Where I go, you cannot come.” He said this to his disciples also in another place, yet to them he did not say: “You shall die in your sin.” But what did he say? The same as he said to these men: “Where I go, you cannot come.” He did not deprive them of hope, but he foretold a delay. For at the time when the Lord was speaking this to his disciples, they were not able to go where he was going, but afterwards they were to come; but these men never, to whom in his foreknowledge he said: “You shall die in your sin.”

– St Augustine, Treatise 38 on John, from: An Approved Translation of the Breviarium Romanum, Burns & Oates, London, 1964

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2016 in Words of Wisdom

 

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PSALM 12 – USQUEQUO, DOMINE

Psalm 12 [Psalm 13]

A prayer in tribulation.

Unto the end, a psalm for David.

How long, O Lord, wilt thou forget me unto the end? how long dost thou turn away thy face from me?

How long shall I take counsels in my soul, sorrow in my heart all the day?

How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider, and hear me, O Lord, my God.

Enlighten my eyes, that I never sleep in death: lest at any time my enemy say: I have prevailed against him.

They that trouble me, will rejoice when I am moved: but I have trusted in thy mercy.

My heart shall rejoice in thy salvation: I will sing to the Lord, who giveth me good things: yea I will sing to the name of the Lord the most high.

 

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WHAT IS THE REASON FOR THE INQUIETUDE OF A SOUL OR OF A FAMILY?

The inquietude of a soul or of a family always comes from the absence of the direct action of God.

Do you wish that life should return to these drooping souls with all its fullness, bringing its clear sky and joyous sun?

Bring back God to them.

 

– From: Golden Grains, Eighth Edition, H.M. Gill and Son, Dublin, 1889

 

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OH! HOW HAPPY IS HE WHO CAN HAVE RECOURSE TO WORK AND PRAYER!

Oh! how happy is he who can have recourse to work and prayer in sad and desponding hours! – work, which powerfully distracts us, and prayer, which brings us sweet repose.

At such times, writes a holy soul, who had suffered much, I lay my complaints before God, as a child lays them before its mother. I become calmer when I have told Him all, and I can repeat with a more courageous heart the prayer of St Frances de Chantel, who certainly suffered more than I:

“Thy will be done to-day and for ever, O my God! without an “if” or a “but”

When I have said this, I hasten to occupy myself busily at my work, lest a murmur should arise in my heart.

– From: Golden Grains, Eighth Edition, H.M. Gill and Son, Dublin, 1889

 

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WHAT WAS DONE IN THE FLESH IS ACCOMPLISHED DAILY IN THE CONVERSION OF BELIEVERS (LK 11:14-23)

Homily of St Bede the Venerable on Luke 11:14-23

This man possessed with a devil was, according to Matthew, not only dumb but also blind; and he was cured by the Lord, we are told, so that he both spoke and saw.

Three miracles

Three miracles, therefore, were wrought upon this one man at one and the same time: blind, he saw; dumb, he spoke; possessed, he was delivered from the devil.

What was done according to the flesh is accomplished daily in the conversion of believers; in the first place, the devil is driven out and they behold the light of faith; then their mouths, which before were dumb, are set free to sing the praises of God.

But some of them said: “He casts out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of devils.” This was not said by any among the multitude, but it was the Scribes and Pharisees who maligned him, as the other Evangelists bear witness.

– St Bede the Venerable, Bk. 4. Ch. 48, on Luke, Ch. 11, from: An Approved English Translation of the Breviarium Romanum, Burns & Oates, London, 1964

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2016 in Words of Wisdom

 

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TO ROB DEATH OF ITS TERRORS

Most people fear death in a greater or less degree, however much they may outwardly conceal the fact. And if we ask the reason why they should fear it, the reason is not far to seek. Death is a punishment of sin. It was the penalty that was attached by God Himself to the first transgression of His law. To our first parents, Adam and Eve, He said: “In the day thou eatest of it, thou shalt die the death.” He was speaking, of course, “of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste brought death into the world and all our woe”, as Milton says in the opening lines of his Paradise Lost. For this reason we shrink from it and all its circumstances – the coffin, the corruption, the worms, all so many marks and signs of our fallen condition. Disease, old age with its disabilities, the natural decay and loss of our faculties are its normal forerunners and are invested with the same reproach as testimonies to our being originally born in sin.

The older you get, the more real death becomes 

When you were still going, you did not think about death. It was almost impossible for you to envisage it. When you were older death became more real, and if it were a disturbing thought perhaps you turned hastily away from the grim spectre. When you become old, if you are not so already, its approach will be so near that you can hardly avoid thinking of it and the thought of it may, though it need not, have a paralytic effect on you.

Looking death straight in the face

The wise thing to do at all times in your life is to look death straight in the face, for the thought of it is a deterrent from sin – a much greater evil. But your consideration of death must not be morbid, but sane and calm. Acknowledge it to be a frightening thing but accept it, as a punishment of sin, in entire resignation to God’s will. Offer it, in advance, as often as the thought of it occurs, as an expiation for all your sins, and unite it with the death of Our Lord on the Cross. In this way you will ensure a happy death, one that will be full of consolation and hope for the actual moment of its happening. The fears and anxieties that during life may come to you at the thought of death are indeed veritable sufferings, but united to our Blessed Redeemer’s sufferings they can be converted into so many acts of penance that will bring their certain reward in not only procuring you a happy and peaceful death but in winning for you great merit in heaven. So the naturally disturbing thought of death can by degrees become a consoling one, seeing that it can be the means of immense spiritual gain.

“Watch and pray, for ye know not the day nor the hour”

But there is another consideration that can help to rob death of its terrors. After it, our destiny will be fixed for eternity. There will then be no more chance of doing penance and no more chance of practising virtue, of being patient under the daily annoyances and troubles of life, of exercising charity in the many ways and opportunities that offer themselves every single day, of acquiring merit and hoarding up treasure in heaven. Death is the end of our trial and probation; and death may come at any time, be we young, middle-aged, or old. “Watch and pray,” Our Blessed Lord said, “for ye do not know the day nor the hour.”

“While it is day”

The thought of death therefore should be the stimulus to instant action. We recall the words of Our Lord, “I must work the works of Him who sent me, while it is day,” and again He said, “The night cometh when no one can work” (John 9:4). The night is, of course, death. Let us then make Our Lord’s word ours, act upon them at once, now, to-day and every day. Let us work as it were against time. There is a Tuscan proverb that runs: “Pray as if you had to die to-day, work as if you had to live for aye.” If we live in this spirit, how faithful we shall be to our prayers, how constant in our frequentation of the sacraments, how often we shall turn to God during the day offering our work with a renewed intention of doing it all for Him, how careful and assiduous we shall be in doing that work, whatever it be, for we shall know that we are doing His will, the complete doing of which is the summit of all perfection. To those who live in this spirit, death when it comes will only be the end of a long day of toil and service in the interests of our dear Lord and Master, who will know how to console, bless, and reward His faithful servant. Death for such a one will have lost its terrors. This is the consolation of those who “live and die in the Lord”.

The joy of having finally made it all the way through the valley of the shadow of death

Yet though we have a natural dread of death, there is another sure way of getting rid of its terrors, and it is one that every good Catholic can acquire. To those who have a great and true love of God, who have thought and meditated upon His perfections – His goodness, His beauty, His lovableness, and the rest, all of which He has in an infinite and ineffable degree – to those who have come so to love Him that nothing and nobody apart from God has any attractions for them except in so far as they lead them to an ever-increasing love for God and an ever-growing desire to possess Him, to such souls death is not a dread, it is only the unfolding of the gate that gives entrance to the full vision of Him.

Why should they fear now that they are freed from the prison-house? 

One of our English poets has described us as “the prisoners of death”, but death can hold us only on this earth. When death comes for those who love God above all things, it is the beginning of their true life. While on this earth, all their aspirations and hopes have been directed to the unseen world, why should they fear now they are freed from the prison-house? Their heart has long been in heaven and the Treasure they most prize is there; there is their King and their Lord, their dearest and unfailing friend; and there too is their Mother Mary, and with her, the angels and the saints, the very élite of God’s creation. The soul in love with God has all this in mind and so is detached from all earthly things and ever looks to the world to come.

Our dearest and unfailing friend

Death reminds us to grow in this love of God, to love ever more entirely for Him, continually to push out self-love so that He may find room to wholly possess us.

It is not difficult for a good Catholic to arrive at a pure love of God, loving Him for Himself alone and His ineffable goodness. The thought alone that the greatest pain of the damned in hell is the loss of this Infinite Good is enough to convince our intellect and to stir our will, so that (as has been pointed out in another conference) we love Him with the whole of our minds and our hearts. Fear, such as the thought of hell may inspire, is – especially in the initial stages of conversion, as St Augustine points out in his Confessions – a motive for serving God; but this fear should by degrees give way to love, so that love becomes the dominating motive in our lives and sanctifies them as nothing else can.

It is then that we shall be able with all sincerity to say with St Paul, quoting from the prophet Osee [Hosea], “O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?” (1Cor. 15:55).

– From: Lift Up Your Hearts, Christopher J. Wilmot, S.J., The Catholic Book Club, London, 1949

 

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