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MINUTE MEDITATION: THE MERCIFUL HEART OF JESUS

MINUTE MEDITATION: THE MERCIFUL HEART OF JESUS

HE GIVES HIS LIFE TO SNATCH US, HIS CHOSEN SHEEP, FROM THE DEATH OF SIN AND OF HELL.

Tender and compassionate, immense and truly incomprehensible is the pity of the Heart of Jesus for our miseries.

It was pity which made Him descend from heaven to earth, to work so many prodigies of mercy and compassion on our behalf. Like a good shepherd, He gives His life to snatch us, His chosen sheep, from the death of sin and of hell. Lamb of God, He exposes Himself to the rigours of divine justice, that we may be spared. Mediator between God and man, He consents to be abandoned, that we may be received into the friendship of His Heavenly Father.

And all this mercy, all this compassion, is living still in the Heart of Jesus. How He grieves to see so many perishing, or exposing themselves to perishing eternally! “O men,” He cries to them, “my poor children, why do you perish thus? Rather return to Me and live.”

“Return to Me and live.”

And when at length, contrite and humbled we return to Jesus, oh! with what tender mercy and compassion He welcomes us, embraces us, and re-establishes us in our rights! And – prodigy truly incomprehensible! – He even forgets our iniquities, so that, banishing from His Heart all resentment and all idea of vengeance, He seems never to have suffered the smallest injury at our hands.

– From: Laverty & Sons (eds), 1905

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IF GOD BE WITH US, WHO IS AGAINST US? (RM 8:31)

ON CONFIDENCE

How essential the spirit of holy confidence is in the spiritual life St Ignatius makes very plain in his book of Spiritual Exercises, where he is at pains to give us elaborate rules as to what our conduct should be in the time of what he calls “desolation”. This state of soul he describes as “the darkening and troubling of the mind, the prompting to things base and earthly, a certain uneasiness resulting from a state of agitation and temptation, and including diffidence, without hope and without love: as when the soul finds itself all weary, tepid, sad, and fancies itself separated from God”. And though the Saint does not hold a certain amount of desolation hurtful for the soul, yet, as in the matter of scruples, he deprecates a too deep-seated and long-continued state of despondency and discouragement as being one that detracts from the service of God, and robs it of all its spontaneity and generosity.

The thought of past sins which have darkened our existence

This spirit of diffidence and dejection arises in many cases from the thought of past sins which have darkened our existence. Closely connected with this source of temptation is the constant uneasiness and fear which many, even pious souls, entertain in regard to their confessions. It is true that they regret their misdeeds, that they have done penance for them, that they have had recourse times without number to the sacrament instituted for the remission of sins. Still they are restless, ill at ease: they rack and torture their souls as to the integrity of their former confessions. They would seem to be unaware that one honest effort made once for all, however imperfectly, is all that that is required of them; that forgotten sins, many perhaps of a serious nature, are as truly forgiven as those they have actually mentioned; that there is no obligation to confess sins of which they are not certain, that it is better even not to enter into the circumstances attending our transgressions unless they be such as to change their theological species.

Am I profoundly sorry for each and every sin I ever committed? Really?

Others worry over the dispositions with which they have received the sacraments in the past, especially over their contrition, which they imagine has never been sincere or really felt, as if feeling sorry was a necessary part of their dispositions, and not rather the will to be sorry. The first is not always in our power, however much we may desire it. The second, the act of the will, is always possible, presupposing of course the influx of divine grace; and even were that act slack and remiss, if it were there at all, it is enough with the sacraments to destroy all sin.

Man knoweth not whether he be worthy of love or hatred (Eccles. 9:1)

And yet some of these timorous souls seem to have reached the conclusion that they have never repented as they should, that they cannot shake off the burden that oppress them, and that their case is desperate beyond redemption. If only they could have the assurance that all the terrible past is cancelled, if only they could make a fresh start, with a clean slate before them, they imagine that the path of duty would be rendered smooth and the service of God become pleasant and comforting. In the present order of Providence, however, it has not seemed good that we should possess such an assurance. In our own interest and as an incentive to further effort, it is well that the great affair of our salvation should be shrouded in some obscurity; and accordingly the Holy Spirit tells us that “man knoweth not whether he be worthy of love or hatred” (Eccles. 9:1), not indeed that we can form or judge of our present state in the eyes of God, but that we cannot attain to any absolute, infallible certainty concerning it. Still we are far from being forbidden to entertain that inward moral certainty that usually guides us in the affairs of this life and which should be abundantly sufficient to make us walk in the way of the Lord in perfect peace and tranquillity of soul. “For the Holy Spirit giveth testimony to our spirit that we are the sons of God” (Rom. 8:16). Nay, to be troubled and uneasy, to doubt of our forgiveness after we have done our best and made an honest effort to be reconciled to God by the means He has appointed, is nothing short of injurious to His goodness: it is to disbelieve His plighted word: “Whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven.” It is in a way to reproduce the final crime of the traitor apostle, in whom were found all the elements of true repentance, acknowledgement of sin, sorrow, restitution, all save one, the most indispensable of all, namely confidence and hope. “Son,” said Our Lord to the man sick of the palsy, “be of good heart, thy sins are forgiven thee” (Matt. 9:2). We may take these words as addressed to ourselves. Short of a revelation, which we cannot expect, we have every reason to trust that we have to put away the past. We should be acting foolishly and falling into the toils of the tempter, were we to give ourselves over to anxiety, and doubt the assurance of Him who says: “I am he that blots out thy iniquities for my own sake, and I will not remember thy sins (Is. xIiii 25).

Is secret pride at the bottom of all this?

There are others, and many religious among them, who allow themselves to be disheartened, not so much perhaps at the thought of their past delinquencies, as because of the present failings and shortcomings which they detect in themselves. By the mercy of God, they may be habitually preserved from serious faults; but instead of realising that in this very fact they have a signal assistance of the special care which Providence is exercising over them, they dwell on the minor faults into which they are continually falling. They experience thereat a sense of humiliation: they are disappointed with themselves: they expected better results from their efforts; and accordingly they are ever finding fault with their corrupt nature, inclined to think that all their spiritual exercises are useless, their good resolutions of no avail; that they will never improve; that they are not pleasing in the sight of God, and that all their exterior observance is but hypocrisy and make-believe. Thus their whole life is one unbroken chain of restlessness, fear, and despondency, from which they derive no manner of profit or merit but rather cause God to keep aloof and withhold His help, since such feelings, far from honouring Him, are really offensive to Him. They are derogatory to His goodness and contrast with the wonderful patience He displays in bearing with our many defects. This spirit of dejection, moreover, often proceeds from a root of secret pride. It is not the offence to God contained in every sin, grievous or venal, which the proud man really heeds. What he considers is the loss of self-esteem, the fact that he has lowered himself, the shame of discovering so plainly his own weakness and impotence. He is astonished to find himself at fault after relying so much upon his own strength; and hence he is vexed, disappointed, disgusted with himself. A man of truly humble soul, on the other hand, hates his failings and sins for the sole reason that they are displeasing to God; but he is not surprised or taken aback because of a relapse. He knows only too well and he acknowledges freely the infirmity of his nature: he expected no better from his waywardness. In consequence he does not lose heart, he looks to God for more efficacious assistance on the next occasion, and thus actually rises from his defection stronger and more acceptable to His Maker.

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us (1 Jn 1:8)

We must learn to bear with ourselves, even as God bears with us: we must possess our souls in patience, for we cannot avoid all faults. “If we say that we have no sin,” says St John, “we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). We should no doubt labour to diminish their number and the deliberation with which they are committed, but it must be done gently. We may be sorrowful but not dismayed at their recurrence, and should nurture in ourselves the full confidence that little by little God will detach our hearts from the vain things of earth, and purify us more and more from such stain as we cannot altogether avoid in this world.

When we find our path beset with crosses, when misfortune seems to dog our steps, and one sorrow or affliction succeeds upon another…

The most usual cause of discouragement, however, from which we suffer takes its rise in the disappointments, hardships, and discomforts of life itself. It is when we find our path beset with crosses, when misfortune seems to dog our steps, and one sorrow or affliction succeeds upon another, when all our efforts end in failure and time brings with it no relief – it is then especially, perhaps, that we are tempted to abandon our trust in God, to doubt His providence, to think Him harsh, insensible, forgetful of our welfare. Now we are all liable to the law of suffering, sometimes acute and enduring, but whatever be our trial, it is undeniable that in all such cases a spirit of distrust only serves to intensify and to aggravate the evil.

The crosses of our own making are ordinarily more painful by far than those that are sent to us from above

The inner self-torture which springs from dissatisfaction and rebellion is a heavier burden than that which God would lay upon us, and crosses of our own making are ordinarily more painful by far than those that are sent to us from above. It is often because we brood upon them that our trials assume such proportions; it is because we are faint of heart that we feel them so keenly; it is because we fear “where there is no fear”, because we are slow to place our trust in the strong arm of the Lord that they crush and tear us to pieces.

…They are the clouds that gather round the base of the mountain but leave the summit radiant in everlasting sunshine

Samson once met a lion in his way, and though he was unarmed, he closed with the furious animal and overpowered it. A few days later on passing by the spot he found a honey-comb in the dead lion’s mouth. So it is that if we are brave, and face our difficulties with unflinching faith, we shall issue triumphant and find nothing but sweetness in the task. A truly confident soul, indeed, lives upon this earth in a kind of paradise. It may be sorely tried, assailed by the fierce blasts of temptation or tossed upon the waters of many tribulations; but these trials do but affect the outer man, the lower nature, the senses and the appetites; they cannot reach the higher spirit, the will and the understanding in which the true man consists. They are the clouds that gather round the base of the mountain but leave the summit radiant in everlasting sunshine: they are the waves that ruffle the surface of the ocean but disturb not the profound calm and tranquillity of the great deep below. It is that confidence that explains the serenity, the sweetness, the unutterable peace of many holy souls with whom we have sometimes been brought into contact. It is that confidence and love which in the case of certain saints has transformed the nature of things and rendered pleasant what was bitter and made them fall in love, as it were, with suffering itself, which caused St Teresa to cry out: “Either to suffer or to die,” and St Mary Magdalen of Pazzi, “Not to die but to suffer,” and St John of the Cross, when asked what reward he would have for his labours, “None other, Lord, than to suffer and to be condemned for thy sake.” It is that confidence that sustained the great Apostle of the Gentiles in the midst of the untold hardships of his mission – “in many labours, in prisons most frequently, in stripes above measure, in deaths often” (2 Cor. 11:23). He could say, “I speak the truth in Christ that I have great sadness and continual sorrow in my heart” (Rom. 9:2), and could yet utter the triumph, “I am filled with comfort, I overflow with joy in all our tribulation” (2 Cor. 7:4), “for I know whom I have believed and I am certain that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him, against that day” (2 Tim. 1:12). And we, too, have every reason for reposing our trust in Him whom we daily call our Father.

Putting our trust in Him whom we daily call our Father

The spirit of evil indeed is ever busy whispering in our ears that God is a stern and severe Lord and that we can live much more happily without Him. But in reality to look upon Him as a hard and unmerciful task-master is as untrue as it is blasphemous: it is as if we should say white is black or that light is darkness. The very essence of God is goodness. There is no creature so lowly, so insignificant that God does not care for it with the tenderness of a Father. “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And not one of them shall fall on the ground without your Father” (Matt. 10:29). What is there that is held of less account than a sparrow? Men despise it, but God cares for it: He provides it with food, He clothes it against the winter, He protects it in face of its assailants. And yet it is but a sparrow, a thing of no value or import. And shall He not care for man, the masterpiece of His hands, for man who is His image, who is His child? “Fear not,” says our Saviour in words of everlasting comfort, “ye are better than many sparrows.”

The pledge and proof that God has been watching over us and directing our steps

We are His children and His compassion is greater than that of any earthly parent. Is it not He who has imparted to so many millions of parents, and of wicked parents too, so tender a love for their offspring? And does He not possess what He has given them in such abundance? Nay, is it not He who addresses to us the almost incredible words: “Can a woman forget her infant, so as not to have pity on the son of her womb? And if she should forget, yet will I not forget thee” (Is xlix 15). We have only to look upon our past to see how gently and lovingly God has led us by the hand, in spite of much frailty, in spite of many infidelities, and perhaps most serious sins. Is not our baptism into His one true Church, the sacraments we have received, the life, the health we have enjoyed, the many other blessings given us, the many helps afforded us in difficult and trying moments, is not such a long chain of benefits of every kind, the pledge and proof that God has been watching over us and directing our steps with unfaltering solicitude? Is the source sealed or dried up from which so many blessings have flowed to this day? He who has been with us in the past will be with us in the future and “if God be with us, who is against us?” (Rom. 8:31). When the servant of Eliseus came to inform his master how a vast army with horses and chariots was in view, the Prophet replied: “Be not afraid, for there are more with us than against us.” We have with us the saints and the angels, the Queen of Heaven, God Almighty Himself, and against us, those who cannot move hand or foot without His sanction.

I know that I may count upon His love and His mercy

St Therese of Lisieux said, as we may read in her autobiography, “Even if I had on my conscience all the sins that could be committed, I should lose none of my trustfulness. With my heart broken in repentance, I should go and throw myself into my Saviour’s arms… I know that I may count upon His love and His mercy.” Let us pray to the Saint that we too may share in her confidence. “The voice of rejoicing and of salvation is in the tabernacles of the just” (Ps 142:15).

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

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2016 in Words of Wisdom

 

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THE ANGELS OF THE FIRESIDE: INDULGENCE

PRACTICAL STEPS FOR CHRISTIANS TO HELP IN CREATING A HAPPY HOME 

Loving the way God loves

Indulgence

Gracious Angel of the fireside, whom I first summoned to my aid when I wished to diffuse happiness in my family, it is not thy charms that I desire to describe, but thy counsels that I wish to make known.

Approach the loving heart, so sensitive and so delicate that the least neglect, the smallest inconsiderate word will wound and rend; come and strengthen it by the sweetness of thy teachings.

Indulgence is even more than kindness. It anticipates it without doubt, but it adds to that virtue a great strength of character, a powerful affection, an habitual innocence; the art of being indulgent is the offspring of a pure soul.

The art of being indulgent is the offspring of a pure soul

Those who have no heart do not understand indulgence.

Persons of little intelligence believe that indulgence is culpable.

Those who are not at peace with their own conscience are often led to excessive rigour. The overlooking of nothing in others is often a proof that we overlook very much in ourselves.

Indulgence is more than pardon

Indulgence is even more than pardon, it is excusing; it is the seeking of a favourable interpretation for everything; it is, above all, the faculty of never showing that such and such a thing has wounded us.

Indulgence is remarking of the person who has wounded us: “She did not reflect, otherwise she would not have done it; she did not intend to cause me pain, she loves me too much to do so; she could not do otherwise, and perhaps she is suffering because she thinks she has displeased me.” There is no more efficacious balm for wounds of the heart than the excuses which we make for those who have offended us.

“Today I will be stronger than yesterday”

To be indulgent is to forget every evening the contradictions which we have borne during the day, and to say to ourselves each morning: “Today I will be stronger and more calm than yesterday.”

Indulgence goes so far as to make us accuse ourselves inwardly for not having been sufficiently kind, affable, or charitable. To be indulgent is not only to accept the excuses which are made to us, but to anticipate those who timidly come to us in order to ask pardon.

How do we punish those who overstep the mark, though?

Then we should never punish?

Yes,… by loving still more!

The penal code of the fireside may be almost entirely summed up in the above words.

“As long as you love me”

“You will never believe me wicked,” said a young man to his sister, whom he frequently pained by his misconduct, and who always excused him.

“No,” she replied, “not as long as you love me…. Would you always give me pain?”

Nothing preserves affection in the heart like the indulgence with which we surround it, and, whilst affection lasts, it will eventually make the heart good.

A very good influence on those around you eventually “rubs off”

When we are young, we do not know how to be indulgent, for we cannot sufficiently understand human weakness. Oh! if we but knew the terrible struggles which take place in the soul of the friend who wounds us by the frivolity of his character, who irritates us by his forwardness, who sometimes even  scandalises us by his faults… Oh! if we could but see him weep, if we could see how vexed he is with himself, perhaps on our account, how we would pity him.

Let us love him and excuse him; but let him not know that we know of his weakness.

Act so that someone else may believe that he is good, thus we help him to become good almost in spite of himself.

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

 

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2016 in Words of Wisdom

 

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MANY OF US GIVE LITTLE THOUGHT TO IMPROVING ON OUR CHRISTIAN CONFIDENCE

SPIRITUAL COMFORT

“Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, saith the Lord” (Is10:1)

One of the great virtues, the importance and necessity of which we are many of us far from impressing upon ourselves enough, is the virtue of Christian Confidence. We may aim at leading an orderly existence, we may practise our religious duties with some exactitude, we may aim at keeping ourselves for the most part pure, truthful, and upright, but one may fear that many of us have little or no thought of deepening within ourselves the feeling of holy confidence.

A spiritual luxury?

We look upon it, perhaps, as a counsel of supererogation, a sort of spiritual luxury, a mere adjunct or condiment of the inner life, comforting, it may be, but still unnecessary and superfluous. Nevertheless, in point of fact there is perhaps no virtue of which people of goodwill stand more in need. Like Peter walking upon the waters they consider the fury of the wind and the tumult of the waves. They do not keep their eyes on Christ Our Lord, and the inevitable result follows – they begin to sink. “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” was the gentle reproof of Our Lord on that occasion.

Like Peter walking upon the waters…

But there are numberless occasions when He seems at special pains to enforce upon us the same lesson: He exhausts every comparison: He appeals to the birds of the air, to the flowers of the earth, to the grass of the field, that He may bring home to us the great commanding truth that God does really care for us, that He has our interests at heart, even though at sundry times He may appear to have forgotten us, He is in reality watching over us at every moment with the solicitude of a Father, and that not one hair shall fall from our head without his knowledge and consent.

…we consider the fury of the wind and the tumult of the waves

We all need these assurances of God’s providence and tender watchfulness, for there is no temptation so common, so insidious, so calculated to sap the roots of the spiritual life, as the temptation to diffidence and discouragement. It assumes different shapes in different persons. It may arise from the thought of past failings and sins, or, again, it may be the result of the hardships and sufferings we have to encounter in the life. The subject is too vast to be treated in the course of one conference and we may be content here to deal with the first of these causes of diffidence.

“O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”

In the first place, there are many for whom the temptation to diffidence springs from a spirit of disquietude on the score of past sins. They are conscious of the error of their former ways, they recollect periods in their life when they gave themselves up to disorder, they are haunted by the thought of the divine chastisements they have incurred.

It is true that they regret their misdeeds: they have done penance for them: they have had recourse times without number to the Sacraments instituted by Christ for the cleansing of human sin. Nevertheless they are restless, anxious, ill at ease. They rack and torture their conscience as to the integrity of their confessions, or sincerity of their sorrow, and perhaps come to the conclusion that they have never repented as they should, that they cannot shake off the burden that oppresses them, that their case, in short, is desperate beyond redemption.

Feeling restless, anxious, ill at ease

Such a frame of mind is lamentable, and, moreover, is based upon a complete fallacy. It ignores the loving mercy of God which surpasses all our sins, however grievous and numerous they may be. It refuses to take into account the true Fatherhood of God, who knows the clay of which we are formed.

He knoweth our frame and remembereth we are dust (Ps120:14)

He makes allowance for us far beyond all we can imagine, certainly far beyond the allowances we make for one another, even in the case of our best friends. There is a saying that to understand all is to forgive all; and God, whom nothing escapes, does understand us through and through. He it is who searches the reigns and the heart and reads into the depths of our souls more clearly than we ourselves can ever hope to do. He discerns the many motives, both good and evil, which inform our best and our worst actions, the cross-current that distract the soul, the striving as well as the failing, the good intention as well as the miserable failure, the abiding love that persists even after many repeated relapses. He knows that most of our sins are sins of frailty, due to the pressure of temptation and the weakness of our nature. He knows that few of us, and perhaps only rarely, are guilty of the heinous sins, those which in His sight overshadow every defection of the flesh and every indulgence of the senses, inasmuch as they are directed immediately against Him and His infinite perfections.

God, whom nothing escapes, understands us through and through

And here, to make a disgression, it may be observed that there is a scale according to which sins, even mortal sins, may be graded. Many people do not seem to have been clearly educated into recognising the difference in gravity between sin and sin.

There are some who practically restrict mortal sins to those of the flesh. Even when guilty, they will not accuse themselves of sins of disbelief, or of entirely losing heart and confidence in God. And yet the very order in which the Decalogue enumerates the commandments more or less corresponds to the degree of gravity involved in their transgression. The higher and nobler the virtue to which it is opposed the more grievous is the sin.

Are all mortal sins equally grievous?

Now, among the virtues, the highest are unquestionably the theological virtues, faith, hope, and charity, which have for object the Increate Divinity Itself. Accordingly, the most terrible and grievous of all sins are the hatred of God, despair, unbelief, formal heresy, blasphemy, and the like.

In the second rank are to be placed those sins which are opposed to cardinal and moral virtues, first of all to the virtue of justice in regard to God Himself or in regard to His creatures. Injustice as regards God infringes the virtue of Religion, and is more serious if directed against the honour and service due to the Deity immediately. And so as we go down the scale of the virtues the gravity if the sins opposed to them also diminishes.

In the next place, St Thomas, whose teaching we have been following, places sins against the virtue of justice in relation to creatures, a virtue which gives to each its due, whether it be the Church, or State, or family, or our fellow beings. Sins then which are against the Creator, i.e. against Faith, Hope, Charity and the virtue of Religion, are the most grievous of all. Other sins are against the creature and therefore in a different category altogether. There is a gulf between them. Then, last in order, come the virtues of temperance and fortitude, by which we restrain our concupiscible and our irascible proclivities.

When the intellect is clouded and the will is weakened…

It is here, however, that human passion enters, and passion always takes away from the voluntariness of our actions, sometimes more, sometimes less, but on occasion to such an extent that St Thomas allows that it may do away with the entire guilt that would otherwise attach to some objectively evil action.

Wine and women, drink and lechery and other vices on the one hand, and on the other, hatred, anger, revenge, calumny, assault, murder, are no doubt mortal sins, given the necessary conditions – freedom of will, knowledge, and advertence – for gravity; and, moreover, some of these are the most common of all the sins that occur. But they have been described by certain authoritative writers as the least of mortal sins, precisely because they have not God in view directly, and because of the element of emotional passion which they contain, tending to cloud the intellect and to weaken the will. And it is this element which renders it difficult to apportion the guilt, and state which are the most grievous sins, those inspired by sensual love or those resulting from the passion of anger and hatred, the sins of impurity or those of violence and malignity. In any case, it is clear that they stand lowest in the scale as it appears in the sight of God.

To return now to our main subject, it may therefore be that we have often reproached ourselves in the past and held ourselves guilty of a grave transgression: it may even be that our confessors have judged in the same way as we have done, basing themselves, as they necessarily must do, upon what we have told them – and yet in the eyes of the all-seeing God the measure of our iniquity may have been diminished to an extent we cannot gauge.

Mortal or venial sin?

How many of these sins were made venial through lack of that full and entire knowledge and advertence at the time, which are requisite to constitute a deadly offence? How often were we not surprised or betrayed into some temptation when we were off our guard and acted on the spur of the moment without much thought, without much deliberation? How often has it happened that it was after committing a certain act that we have felt anxiety, lest it might prove to be wrongful, when we should have remembered that there can be no more evil in a deed than we apprehended at the moment itself? How often again have we been agitated with a doubt as to the lawfulness of some course of action in our past life, when in reality we had, though perhaps unconsciously, resolved that doubt and “formed our conscience” according to strict theological principles, thereby avoiding any serious guilt. If they go back to their first youth, some may realise now that in sundry directions their views of right and wrong were vitiated from the beginning without much fault on their part, through prejudice, through early education, through the example of others, sometimes even to a certain twist or kink of the mind peculiar to themselves.

Circumstances to be taken into account

Then again, it is impossible for us to surmise how many of our former transgressions have been shorn of their full grievousness because the consent we gave them was not complete and wilful. We may have been negligent or curious, we may have dallied with temptation, played with it, even yielded some sort of half consent, but on all the occasions when we did not let ourselves go altogether, we did not simply lay down our arms and surrender, when we continued to offer some resistance at least, on all these occasions we did not incur the serious imputation of mortal sin.

Perhaps we were engaged in doing what is perfectly lawful up to a certain point, yet one day, more by accident than otherwise, we went beyond and overstepped the mark. Perhaps we were placed in some occasion from which it was difficult to extricate ourselves, and where temptation was powerful and incessant. In all these cases can we suppose that a merciful God did not see and weigh in the scales the difficulty, the goodwill, the effort, though unattended with success at the last?

If any man lose his soul in the end, it will never be because of any act of his committed before his last good and valid confession, or before his last act of perfect contrition.

Many of our failings may thus be less serious than we have imagined. We may dwell too on the confidence we should entertain that the more undoubtedly mortal sins of our past life have been really and truly remitted, never to return, in so much that if any man lose his soul in the end, it will never be because of any act of his committed before his last good and valid confession, or before his last act of perfect contrition. God indeed is a kind and indulgent Father, always “ready and easy to forgive” and “His mercy is above all His works.”

Were it possible for us to choose for ourselves the Judge who should equitably and finally pronounce sentence upon our deeds as we pass out of this world, it would not be, I think, any parent or earthly friend that we should elect, one like ourselves subject to error and misapprehension – it would surely be Our Saviour Himself, for is He not the best friend we have, the one who knows everything concerning us, the good as well as the bad, the pressure of temptation as well as the reluctant fall?

“His mercy is above all His works”

Is He not the one who understands every detail of our actions, and who therefore can make allowance such as none other could; a Judge overflowing with kindness, goodness and love; nay one, we might almost say, who has a personal interest in passing a favourable sentence upon us, for has He not redeemed us at the price of His most precious Blood?

“Who shall accuse against the elect of God?” St Paul asks, and he answers, “God that justifieth. Who is he that shall condemn? Christ Jesus that died, yea that is risen also again, who is at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us (Rm 8:33-34), the while the Church, at that most solemn moment of our existence, appeals to Him in her prayers for the dying, making that only but most powerful plea, “However much he may have sinned, yet he hath not denied Father and Son and Holy Ghost, but hath believed.”

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

 

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2016 in Words of Wisdom

 

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COMPLYING WITH “LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR” IN A VERY IMPERFECT WORLD

How to get good from others

We are all brought into a more or less close intimacy with a certain number of our fellow beings. There is our own family whom we see more often than others, but in addition we may have a wide circle of friends with whom meetings are frequent. Among all these people, we find characters of the most varying dispositions and temperaments. Some of them are naturally attractive, with a charm of manner and an interesting personality that make their company always welcome. On the other hand there are others with whom we are obliged often to consort who are distinctly unattractive and are apt to jar upon our sensibilities. And yet we know that if we are to follow the injunction of Christ, to all, whoever they be, whether naturally pleasing or unpleasing, we must show that charity which is the distinctive mark of His followers.

To all we must show that charity which is the distinctive mark of Christ’s followers

To comply with this commandment of “Love thy neighbour as thyself” we must not forget that we live in a very imperfect world, where few, if any, reach absolute perfection and can be pleasing to us in every possible respect. At the same time we have ever to keep in mind that there is no one, without exception, in whom we cannot discover, if we only take the trouble to look for it, some redeeming good quality. Indeed, it may be that some of these possess, unsuspected by us, virtues that render them more pleasing to us than are our favourites.

Looking for virtues and excellences in others

In the life of that young saint of the Society of Jesus, St John Berchmans, we are told that he made a practice of observing in each member of his community – and though religious they were by no means all saints – the particular virtue or excellence which distinguished the other, and then trying himself to imitate him in that respect. If one, for instance, was remarkable for his charity, St John would take note of the particular ways in which he showed it, and then he would set out to act likewise, according to his opportunities.

Self-love makes humans fix upon another’s faults rather than his merits

This practice of the Saint is one that we ourselves, if we are striving to be fervent Catholic Christians, might follow with great spiritual advantage. The tendency of human nature, as we know, is rather to fix upon the faults of others and to make them the subject of criticism. But the faults we fix upon are generally those that are a cause of annoyance to ourselves. It is our self-love that resents them. If we are not personally affected by them, we are little concerned that God may be in some way affronted and be deprived of some external glory due to Him.

We deprive God of some external glory due to Him

A man may be a throrough-paced blackguard, steeped in the most grievous sin, but if he have engaging manners and makes himself a pleasant companion, doing and saying nothing that hurts the susceptibilities of others, it is extraordinary with what complaisance his bad life is regarded even by those who are considered good.

This fact only brings home to us the truth that when we animadvert upon the failings of those about us it is not as a rule out of any zeal for God’s honour but because such failings in some way or other are offensive and hurtful to ourselves.

You might observe, for instance, that a particular individual of your acquaintance is selfish and generally contrives to get the best things that are going for himself and you might make some very harsh comment on his conduct. But often enough that comment is elicited for no better reason than that his way of acting reduced the chance of your getting any of those best things for yourself.

Questioning one’s motives for criticising neighbour

No, if we are lynx-eyed to the faults and imperfections of others and show a virtuous indignation in denouncing them, we may well suspect the purity of our motives for doing so. Unless we be one in authority whose duty it is to correct, we are better advised to be very shortsighted where others’ shortcomings are concerned, and to see how clever we can be in discovering their virtues. Indeed it requires little cleverness, if only we set ourselves to the task, to find that there is something, and often much, in everyone with whom we are thrown into daily contact that will serve for example to ourselves.

Setting ourselves to the task of discovering good in another

There is a legend that Baring-Gould has commemorated in verse of a young monk who in his monastery was a source of disedification to his fellow religious, because he broke all the rules of decorum, raced about the house, whistled and sang in the silence of the cloisters, shot off pellets of bread at the cat, and did similar things that were not in keeping with the rigid discipline of monastic life. When he fell ill and seemed on the point of dying, the Abbot visited him and, amazed at his cheerfulness, asked him how he could be happy in the presence of death after such an unsatisfactory religious life. “Yes, my Lord Abbot,” humbly replied the poor monk, “I confess all my many infringements of the rule and I beg pardon for them. When I first fell ill, I was much distressed and frightened at the thought of my many defects and I prayed God for His mercy. But when I had sorrowed and prayed there came to me a vision of an angel from heaven, and the angel told me to take heart of grace because all my sins were forgiven me, because of my charity to others that had never consciously failed in thought, in word or in act. And so, my Lord Abbot, I now look by God’s sweet mercy in the face of death without dread.”

Among all your circle, family, friends, acquaintances, there are always one or more that have annoying defects of one kind or another. It will not help you to dwell upon them, much less to talk about them. But if you turn a blind eye to these blemishes, you will have quickened vision to see that in matters of greater moment they exercise a degree of virtue to which you yourself have not yet attained.

There is that rather forbidding blooming man, whom you have sometimes to meet at your club and to whom you have taken a dislike because his manners remind you of a savage. He is a widely at ravelled man, is an authority on some scientific subject, has been through two world wars, winning distinctions. You dislike him. But notice he never talks about himself without absolute necessity, gives no account of his not inconsiderable triumphs, never pushes into the limelight, does not resent it when he is unnoticed, in short it may be said of him what was said of a famous British General, “He doesn’t advertise.” He is a Catholic like yourself and you meet him every Sunday outside the church doors, but you would meet him every day there if you went to Mass every day, as he does, and you would see him going up to Holy Communion every day. That is how he has learnt to be humble and to efface himself, just as his Divine Master was humble and has effaced himself in the Sacrament of the Altar.

Yes, your forbidding-looking man is rather uncouth and boorish in his manners, but if you refrain from dwelling upon that fact you will come to discover what real virtue lies concealed under that rough exterior and you may be incited to imitate what is so good in him.

Looking beyond the exterior

There is that young woman in your family or among your friends who is rather vain and displays her charms for the admiration of those about her. You may be inclined to make some very caustic remarks about her at the expense of charity. But look the other way and you will become aware of the wonderful patience she exhibits. In these hard and suffering times through which we are living it is not surprising that there are many, you perhaps among the number, who are grumbling. But you will notice that the young woman who thinks a little too much about her personal appearance never utters a murmur of discontent.

The virtue of patience

She makes no complaints about the hardships, discomforts, and inconveniences that have followed upon these dreadful wars. Indeed it is remarkable what uniform cheerfulness she shows. She does not plaintively bleat because her portion of meat is small, and tough at that, and she exhibits no impatience because the meals are unpunctually served. She listens unruffled to the oft-repeated and pointless stories of those boring visitors whom as many as can seek to escape. In fine, she is so patient that you may make the mistake of thinking her apathetic and of not taking a lesson from her virtue to control yourself when placed in like circumstances. I think you may say that her vanity is cancelled out by her patience, especially as it is being exercised for supernatural motives.

Countless opportunities to imitate others’ virtue

So you can go round your circle, be it great or small, and always discover something in each one to admire and imitate. Don’t lay stress upon the little outbursts of temper to which the choleric old Colonel, retired from the Indian Army, sometimes gives way, but think of his generous nature which never refuses help when called upon. All that he has seems to be at the disposal of others and he never thinks that others are asking too much of him. There is that aristocratic gentleman who may take undue pride in his birth and the nobility of his family, but against that, you may remark how careful he is never by any word of his to hurt the feelings of others. In the company of one less well educated than himself, he does not exhibit his knowledge in such a way as to show up the ignorance of his neighbour and so to cause humiliation and shame. He remembers that another has not his social advantages and so avoids any topic or remark that may lead to the other’s embarrassment.

Life is about serving God; not about others entertaining us

At first inspection some of the people with whom in the course of our lives we have to live appear very unattractive and dull, and if we are only on the look-out to be entertained and amused we may turn away from them with a feeling that almost amounts to contempt. A little more insight into character and a closer observation will often reveal in such people qualities of mind and heart of much greater worth than those superficially attractive accomplishments we in our self-seeking prefer.

God sees good in all His creatures

But the thought that the all-seeing and infinitely wise God Himself sees good in all His creatures, if for this reason alone that in them all He sees the impress of His own likeness, should be incentive to us to try to regard them with something at least of His vision.

Regarding people with God’s eyes

And when He came down upon this earth and took our human nature, it was the “sinner of the city” whom in her repentance He favoured.

So eager was He to find good in every one, however degraded and condemned by his fellows, that He gladly bore the reproach of being “the friends of publicans and sinners”.

He died making a friend of the felon who in his agony turned to Him for consolation and help. He saw that there was good in all these, even though it was only a glimmer that showed it.

We may pray with great profit to our souls that we may imitate the example of our merciful Saviour, and turning a blind eye to the faults of those about us may see the good in them to the betterment of ourselves.

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

 

 

 

 

 

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ENCOURAGEMENT AND PRAISE

A great deal of our spirituality is taken up with our faults and backsliding. We are constantly being reminded that ours is a fallen race and that sin is our heritage. No inconsiderable part of ascetical treatises is composed of the survey of sin and its malice, and we are continually being invited to reflect on what miserable sinners we are and what a hash we have hitherto made of our lives. The sole object of a great number of sermons we hear is to point out to us the sins and faults into which we fall and to persuade us at once to set about the correction of them.

A necessary part of our spiritual training

All this is without doubt a most necessary part of our spiritual training, which we can never overlook or neglect. But there may be at times just too much of it. It may be unmeasured and disproportionate. If we keep our minds exclusively fixed upon such topics the natural result must be one of gloom and despondency.

Anyone who is engaged in the reformation of a sinner will prove his unfitness for the task if he is for ever harping upon the sinner’s depravity.

We need to encourage as well as correct

If we would do any permanent good to such a one we need to encourage as well as correct. We need to remind him that if there is evil in him, so is there good. Souls in whom there is nothing but evil are only to be found in hell. As long as a man is living on this earth, however bad he may be, there always remains in him some little spark of goodness which by co-operation with grace can be fanned into a flame of salvation.

A spark of goodness which by cooperation with grace can be fanned into a flame of salvation

That we need to encourage as well as to correct seems obvious enough to anyone with any knowledge of human nature; and yet, obvious as it is, it is a truth that is sometimes strangely overlooked.

The mistake is the greater when the people with whom you have to deal are not bad characters at all but in reality are substantially good, even though subject to many sins, imperfections and faults. Among such people we may most certainly and unquestionably count those Catholics who never neglect to hear Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation and regularly frequent the Sacraments. They may not have attained to any high degree of perfection but by fulfilling their duties they are making sacrifices which prove the genuineness of their faith and their endeavour to please God. A preacher, therefore, whose congregation is made up for the most part of such Catholics will conceive a certain respect for them and will avoid a form of address that may lead some of his hearers to go away with the idea that they are compounded of nothing but sins, with no redeeming virtues as a set-off to their failures.

A skewed picture

To be continually harping upon the faults and shortcomings of a congregation will not only have the effect of depressing or irritating them, but such a habit of speaking will not be conveying the full truth.

It will be as false as the picture entitled The Island in the North that leaves the impression that England is a country where nothing but damp and fogs prevail and where sunshine and beauty are never found. Whistler was fond of painting that kind of picture. It was sometimes described as a nocturne and a certain king of melancholy beauty was claimed for it. But it was really rather depressing, and one felt that on the same wall on which it was exhibited there should be another picture, say, of an English wooded country-side under a June sun, as a set-off to, and a correction of, the other. It is the distinguishing art of the Dutch school of painting that in their quiet scenes of home-life they manage so well the lights and shades; and it is the light of course that reveals the beauty of the picture as a whole.

We live in evil days when God’s laws are openly flouted

There is no doubt that we live in evil days when God’s laws are openly flouted by so many and His very existence denied.

But that is not the whole picture. There are still millions of substantially good Catholics and other Christians who acknowledge God as their Creator and Lord and strive to live by His commandments. Some of them are leading very holy lives in obscurity, unknown to the world at large.

Some live very holy lives in obscurity, unknown to the world at large

They are the really great ones in the eyes of God, who serve to counteract much of the evil surrounding them and by their example inspire us with hope for the regeneration of mankind.

This is a fact we need to dwell on when the outlook on what is undoubtedly a bad world is apt to depress and discourage us.

There have always been dark periods in the history of the Church but even in the worst of these God has always raised up saints who have helped to eradicate the evil and to bring back men to a sense of their duty to Him. What a scandal, for instance, was that of the great Schism of the West, when the faith of many must have been shaken or even wholly destroyed; and yet by the shining example of such saints as St Vincent Ferrer, St Catherine of Siena and others the Church emerged with her divinity unimpaired and entered upon a new life of worthier living.

“Lo, I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world”

So does Christ fulfil His promise: “Lo, I am with you always even to the consummation of the world.” It is faith in Him and in His presence in our midst that is the foundation of our confidence and gives us that encouragement, so necessary to preserve, in our service of God. It is the cheerful outlook that helps to advance in perfection; and sadness and melancholy, as we are constantly reminded, are enemies to be combated.

It is our faith in God that gives us that confidence

Our duty is not only to encourage ourselves but to encourage as well others with whom we may come in contact and to whom our influence extends.

As it is a means of encouraging, it is good sometimes to give people praise, show recognition of their good points and virtues, to let them see that if in some ways they have failed there are many more ways in which they have succeeded.

Encouraging ourselves and others

Charles Brookfield, a well-known actor of his day and a convert to the Catholic Church, once jokingly remarked: “I think there ought to be in every church not only the confessional where we have to tell our sins but another confessional where we can tell our virtues. In that way we recover our self-respect and the priest would have a truer and more complete knowledge of us.”

Every sincere sacramental confession is not only a confession of sin but an unconscious revelation of virtue

There is, of course, no need for this second confessional. We may assume that the priest has the qualities of a good confessor and will know that every sincere confession is not only a confession of sin but an unconscious revelation of virtue. It is testimony to the penitent’s faith, to his hope, to his humility – and often much else. Remembering this, the good confessor’s inclination is not to upbraid but on the contrary to be sympathetic, encouraging and helpful. If he sees his penitent unduly cast down or even suspects that he is likely to be, it is for the priest to remind him that he is not without some virtue, or at any rate has a substantial foundation of good upon which virtue can be raised.

In all accounts of Our Lord’s risen life, we do not find a word of recrimination to his repentant disciples for deserting Him

It is characteristic of Our Blessed Lord in His dealings with men, and especially with sinners, that He was always striking the note of encouragement and cheer.

When sinners repented, it was not His wont to bring up their past against them but He hastened at once to put them on the footing of friends who had never gone wrong.

In the dark hour of His suffering and death, Peter denied Him, and the rest of His apostles who with Peter had declared they would die with Him had on the contrary ingloriously fled and left Him to His fate.

But in all the accounts of His risen life, where do we find a word of recrimination for their defection, a word of blame to those shame-faced repentant disciples who cane out of their hiding-places to have share with Him in the victory of His Resurrection?

If there was in one instance a gentle chiding of them for their want of faith, there was no lack of warmth of welcome, no diminution of His love and friendship now that they had seen their folly and had hastened to His side again.

Though always aware of the evil in men, Our Blessed Lord seemed ever more intent upon seeing what was good in them.

And so in the Gospels we find Him constantly commending and praising those who had shown faith in Him and had done something to win His favour. Even when they had been guilty of much evil but had turned from the evil with sorrow, it is not on their evil He dwells but on the goodness that led to their sorrow.

Her love was more than her sins

“Many sins are forgiven her,” he said of the Magdalen, “because she has loved much,” to show us her love was more than her sins. He did not reproach the good thief with his multiplied crimes; but because one act of perfect contrition outweighs years of iniquity, He has for him only the consoling words:”Even this day shalt thou be with me in Paradise.”

Our Lord’s mercy for repentant sinners

We might multiply the instances in which Our Lord proves that He makes the utmost allowances for human frailty, and seemingly ignoring what is wrong and defective, eagerly seizes and expatiates upon what is good in men, that He might give them hope and encouragement.

In the spirit of Christ

We must learn the spirit of Christ in our dealings with our fellow men and in the ordering of our own interior life.

Many of us have a long record of sins against us for which by the grace and mercy of God we have repented, and whilst we ever retain an abiding sorrow for those sins let us never forget that the merits of our Redeemer on our behalf are infinite, only to be measured, if any measurement were possible, by the infinite love that He bears for each and every one of us.

The merits of Our Redeemer are infinite

He knows the clay of which we are formed. Most of us are far from being saints even now: we still sometimes sin, but if the habitual set of our wills is on good, the Saviour of men is ever there to assist us at once to rise and with courage renewed to continue the struggle.

The Saviour of men is ever there to assist us

Nor can it escape His notice that we are living in times of unusual trial and strain, brought about directly and indirectly by the terrible wars in which the greater part of the world has been involved. Everything, as we know, has been made more difficult – travelling, food, clothes. We often consider ourselves lucky to find even standing-room in our over-packed trains. We no longer get the abundance and variety of food which we once enjoyed. Poverty for many who once were in possession of riches has become such a real thing that they are now content to wear, if they can get them, the second-hand clothes of a pawn-shop.

Under these conditions of living we may be quite sure that if we humbly and patiently resign ourselves to the dispositions of Divine Providence, our credit balance in heaven will rapidly mount up and we need not fear to find ourselves declared bankrupts when the great day of reckoning comes.

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

 

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2016 in Words of Wisdom

 

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“WITH SO MUCH SUFFERING IN THE WORLD, WHERE IS GOD’S MERCY?”

THE MERCY OF GOD

There are those who in the welter of suffering and sorrow in which practically the whole of this world is now involved are incline to doubt the very existence of God, or if they still have a vague and indistinct belief in it they ask with blasphemous lips, “Where is his mercy?”

Looking at everything from a merely human point of view

Their mistake is to look at everything from a merely human point of view, to forget or ignore the eternity that lies before them and to regard this life as the only measure of time.

The mistake of regarding this life as the only measure of time

They do not, or will not, see that it is not God but men themselves who have brought all these present evils upon us. Granted the gift of freedom of will, the choice between good and evil, men have deliberately chosen the latter, and in doing that, they have wrought their own destruction and have made of earth a hell, when it might be the place of peace and contentment.

Man was granted the freedom of will, the choice between good and evil

There are degrees, of course, in wrongdoing; but in the case of those who have striven to thrust God out of His own world and, as far as they could, to force a whole nation to join their rebellion, it has now been made evident to what an appalling issue it leads.

These wretched men, in their arrogance and pride, thought to make themselves the lords of the world and, ignoring all the rights to freedom and justice of the rest of their fellow men, have not scrupled to take the basest and most atrocious means to accomplish their ends.

The self-inflicted consequences of arrogance and pride

The nemesis of ill-doing has inevitably fallen upon them and they now lie in the dust, in a state of misery and destitution in which, though in a less degree, the rest of the world has to take a share. Nor can we entirely exonerate the rest, for great numbers of them have neglected God, have broken His commandments and laws, and discarded religion. Even among nations who have followed some ethical standard of good, paganism and irreligion are rife and have brought in their train what departure from God sooner or later always means.

What about the innocent, the fervent servants of God?

If it be asked why should many totally innocent people, fervent servants of God, be subjected to these widespread miseries and calamities, the answer is that they have been chosen to be co-victims with the crucified God-Man Himself in His great work of redemption. For the mercy of God is such that out of evil He designs, and will always ultimately draw, good.

This was first proved when, immediately after the fall of man in Paradise, God decreed that a Redeemer should come and raise up mankind, so that by the merits of Christ, the God made Man, it might be pardoned its sin and once more be restored to the greatest of privileges it had lost, eternal felicity with its Maker in heaven. So that the Church in her liturgy calls that original sin a “Felix Culpa”, seeing that out of it, God was able to draw so much good to the countless millions of the saved.

“Thy kind hand wipes away their tears”

It is this thought of the infinite mercy of God that made St Augustine in his Confessions (v 2) exclaim:

Oh, that they might turn and seek thee; for though they have abandoned thee, their Creator, thou hast not abandoned thy creatures. Oh, that they might turn and seek thee. And lo, thou art there in their hearts, in the hearts that confess unto thee, and cast themselves upon thee, and weep in thy bosom after all their weary wanderings.

And thy kind hand wipes away their tears, that they may weep no more and find joy in weeping. For thou, Lord, art not a man of flesh and blood. Thou art the Lord who canst renew what thou didst create, and canst console. Where was I myself when I was seeking thee? Thou hast before me: but I had forsaken mine own self, and could not find myself – how much less, then, thee?

If there be a God – and reason itself besides revelation proves His existence – then it logically follows that one of His attributes must be that of infinite mercy. The Venerable Leonard Lessius, one of the greatest theologians of his time, thus writes:

“God is called Merciful first, because He is the source of all mercy and of every merciful prompting in men and angels. Second, because in so far as depends upon Him, He is ready to save the whole human race which had lapsed from eternal salvation into eternal misery.

God is ready to restore the whole human race to eternal happiness

He is ready not only to free it from that misery but restore it to eternal happiness. For that He has paid a price more than sufficient, and besides He has in effect delivered from eternal misery an infinite number of souls whom He has enabled to attain to the enjoyment of the infinite and eternal good.

For that He has paid a price more than sufficient

Third, nor has he done this in an easy manner, as when He created the world or when He conferred beatitude on the angelic nature, but at the cost of labours, pains and immense sacrifices, humbling Himself by assuming the baseness and infirmity of human nature; embracing poverty and want, and countless miseries and afflictions, anguish and toil; submitting to shameful outrages, buffets and scourgings; permitting Himself to be spat upon, and accepting the cross and the cruellest kind of death; and finally delivering Himself up to us under the species of bread and wine in the most holy Sacrament of the Eucharist. All that He has done out of His Infinite Mercy to lift us out of infinite evil and raise us up to infinite good.”

All that He has done out of His Infinite Mercy is to lift us out of infinite evil and raise us up to infinite good

All these reasons are enough in themselves to prove the infinite mercy of God; but we can see in our own days of bitter suffering and trial how He has contrived to draw good out of evil; and to show mercy in the many spiritual benefits He has conferred.

There have been many thousands of souls who because of the war and its menace to safety and life have from bad or indifferent lives turned to the practice of their religion for consolation and help. The number of converts to the Church has markedly increased, as most priests on the missions in this country alone can testify. Now that the war is over, its spiritual effect is seen in the large number of those who have joined Religious Orders or Congregations, so that in some cases at least their novitiates were never so crowded. In one Order that the writer knows of, not only is there a record number of novices, but ten of the number are converts to the Faith. If we believe, as we should do, that spiritual good is of infinitely greater value than temporal, then we must conclude that God’s mercy has been wonderfully displayed and that He has known how to draw eternal gain out of temporary loss and suffering.

Eternal gain from temporary loss and suffering

God’s mercy must be regarded in the light of eternity. There are many men and women who are spoilt by prosperity and the material good things of this world, which lead so often to forgetfulness of God and to the neglect of the practice of religion.

In such cases God will show His mercy by depriving them of their riches and reducing them to a state of comparative poverty. Again, there are those who when abounding in strong physical health have given themselves up to sinful sensual pleasure and have denied their bodies nothing that they unlawfully craved and were unceasingly seeking. It is in God’s mercy that such people were suddenly crippled and forced to spend the rest of their lives on a bed of suffering. In this state they may turn to God and find in their misfortune a means of making expiation for all the sins of their past, while at the same time they are given an opportunity for gaining great merit in heaven.

We must remember that the whole Church is the Mystical Body of Christ and that each one of her members must contribute to the well-being of the Body

We have already alluded to the difficulty that some feel in seeing so many good and innocent people being made to suffer because of the evils that the guilty have brought upon the world and we have said that they are privileged to be co-victims with our Crucified Lord in His redemptive work for souls.

To understand this we must remember that the whole Church is the Mystical Body of Christ and that each of its members must contribute to the well-being of the Body. Christ lives on in His Church and His Life is being reproduced in a greater or less degree in each and every one of her faithful members. As suffering was the chief means by which Christ wrought our redemption, so suffering, self-denial, and sacrifice are the means by which each one, according to the graces accorded to him, must cooperate with the great work of the Saviour. This is the meaning of the words of StPaul (Col1:24): I… now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the Church.”

I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the Church (Col 1:24)

No Catholic would deny that God extended His infinite mercy to the Immaculate Mother of God, and yet she had her grievous dolours to suffer and stood at the foot of the Cross of her crucified Son to share in His anguish and pain.

All the saints of God from first to last had in their lives to bear the heavy weight of the Cross and so to participate in the Passion of their Redeemer and Lord.

It was in the mercy of God that they had so to suffer, for the nearer they got to Christ’s Cross the closer became their union with Him and the greater share they had in His eternal life of glory in heaven. And while on this earth their sufferings did not deprive them of their inner peace and joy. On the contrary, they were so filled with the love of Christ that they had a positive longing to suffer with and for Him and could exclaim with St Teresa, “Aut pati aut mori”, “let me either suffer or die”.

Let me either suffer or die (St Teresa)

Most of us have not the graces given to the great saints of God and may not hope to reach their heights of holiness; but as they never doubted God’s infinite mercy and saw their sufferings as a proof of it, a close fellowship with Him who was crucified, so it is possible for all of us who are fervent in the practice of our religion to gain something of their spirit.

Amidst all the difficulties and trials that beset us to-day we may see God’s mercy in the opportunities He has given us to exercise such virtues as will infallibly secure our eternal salvation. Is it not a sign of God’s mercy that as the outcome of these devastating wars we have been forced to realise that this world is not in itself worth living for, and that many of its allurements and attractions which in the past led to our spiritual undoing have now vanished, never in the lives of some, or perhaps most of us, to return?

There may be those whose sins in the past have been many and great, they may be filled now with dread and be tempted to despair of forgiveness

There may be those whose sins in the past have been many and great and they may be filled now with dread and be tempted to despair of forgiveness. Such souls need to dwell on the meaning of God’s infinite mercy and to recall the inspired words of Holy Scripture: “His mercy is above all His works.”

Let us suppose that some one of them has exceeded in his iniquities every soul that has ever lived before him. So far from despaitlring he has only to turn to God with sorrow and pray in the words of the publican in the gospel, “O God, be merciful to me, the sinner” – the world’s worst sinner, if you will – and at once his debt is cancelled and he can rest secure in the love of his all-merciful God.

O God, be merciful to me, the sinner

To all of us, no matter what degree of sinfulness may be laid to our charge, the words of St Theresa of the Child Jesus, who never lost her baptismal innocence, afford matter for comfort.

In her well-known autobiography she writes:

Even if I had on my conscience all the sins that could be committed, I should lose none of my trustfulness. With my heart broken in repentance, I should go and throw myself in my Saviour’s arms… I know that I may count upon His Love and His Mercy.

It is an insult to God to doubt His mercy, because it is an attempt to put a limit on His infinity.

Never was there greater proof of that mercy than when He came down on this earth and as the God-Man died for all men without exception that death of anguish in soul and body on the hill of Calvary.

The very greatest proof of God’s mercy

That was the day of His triumph; but it adds to His triumph when we, who reckon ourselves amongst the greatest of sinners, filled with repentance and love, approach that suffering Figure and let the Blood that He is so lavishly shedding pour over our own sinful souls to the renewal of our life and of our fellowship with Him.

We may ever have on our lips and in our hearts the words of St Thomas Aquinas:

Crux mihi certa salus.

Crux eat quam semper adore.

Crux Domini mecum.

Crux mihi refugium.

1) The Names of God and Meditative Summaries of the Divine Perfections, by the Venerable Leonard Lessius, S.J. Translated by T.J. Campbell, S.J. New York, The American Press, 1912
2) “O God, be merciful to me, the sinner” (Luke xviii 13) – An indulgence of 500 days may be gained from each recitation. As in the original Greek the definite article is used it is more correct to say “the” than “a” sinner.
3) For those unacquainted with Latin, this may be literally translated: “The Cross is my sure salvation. The Cross is that I worship evermore. The Cross of the Lord is with me. The Cross is a refuge to me.” (An indulgence of 300 days for each recital, and a plenary indulgence if recited daily for a month.)

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

 

 

 

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