THE NINE Days Which Precede The Saint's Feast, The
April, Or Follow The Translation Of His Relics, The
Sixth Of September.
The Fear Of God's Judgment.
" Confige timore tuo carnes meas: a judiciis enim tuis timui; " " Pierce Thou my flesh with Thy fear, for I am afraid of Thy judgments " (Psalm cxviii. 120).
WE cannot utter a word, nor conceive a single thought, nor feel a disorderly movement within us, which the Supreme Judge will not write in the book of life and death to be used as the matter of His examination and the motive of His sentence. " All things are naked and open to His eyes" (Heb. iv. 13). " Thou hast observed all my paths, and hast considered the steps of my feet " (Job xiii. 27). Why is the Divine justice so rigorous with regard to a feeble creature like man, corrupt in his thoughts, and drinking-in iniquity like water? Lord, if Thou didst exercise this rigour towards the celestial intelligences enriched with sublime perfections, there would be some room for astonishment; but as for a feeble being like myself, kneaded with unruly inclinations, Thou dost not tolerate an idle word that is spoken, nor the briefest moment that is wasted : this, O terrible God, is what exceeds ray comprehension ! And, nevertheless, it is true; Thou hast solemnly declared it. " But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall render an account for it in the day of judgment" (Matt. xii. 36). If we must answer for a word that injures no one, what must be said of unbecoming words ? — what of impure thoughts, murders, adulterous glances, a whole life prostituted to works of iniquity ? If this be so—and who shall doubt it ?—will not all that we can conceive of the rigours of that judgment fall far short of the reality ? Great God ! what fear will take possession of man when, in the sight of heaven and earth, he shall hear himself reproached with having, on such a day, spoken words that had no profitable meaning? But what confusion will especially cover the face of the sinner, when he shall behold those shameful actions of his which he so carefully concealed in the privacy of his home, the turpitude of his early life, the secrets of his conscience laid open to the gaze of the universe ? Who is the man whose purity of soul is so perfect as not to feel himself covered with shame ? The accusation of faults under the inviolable seal of confession sometimes appears so humiliating that the unhappy sinner prefers to groan under the weight of his prevarications rather than relieve his conscience by them in the sacred tribunal of penance. Ah! What will be his confusion when he shall see his conscience laid bare in the sight of God and of all generations past, present, and to come! This confusion will be so terrible says the Prophet, that the sinner, in his despair, will “call upon the mountains to cover him and the hills to fall upon him, to hide him from that frightful ignominy (Osee x.)
II.—How Terrible Will Be The sentence of the Supreme Judge
This sentence will resound with the noise of thunder in the ears of the wicked. “Depart from me you cursed,” the Son of God will say, “into everlasting fire, which was prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt XXV. 41) . Alas! says holy Job, “if we cannot support the least of His words, who shall be able to behold the thunder of His greatness?” (Job XXVI). This sentence will be of such effect that the earth will, at that very instant, open and engulph in its bosom all those voluptuous persons who consumed their hearts in the enjoyment of profane and criminal delights. But what of the torments of hell! There the body of the sinner shall be prey to devouring flames which shall never be extinguished, and his soul to the worm that will gnaw his conscience without ceasing. There eternal tears shall flow, there the frightful gnashing of teeth shall be heard, which the Holy Scripture tells us of in so many places; there the unhappy reprobate, mad with despair, shall turn his rage against God and himself; he shall devour his own flesh, he shall force out his entrails by the violence of his groanings, he shall tear himself in pieces, and seem, as it were, to consume himself with blasphemies against the Judge Who cast him into that place of vengeance. Then each one will curse his own miserable lot, and the day which gave him birth. O unhappy sinner ! thy tongue shall for ever utter blasphemies, thy ears shall be for ever greeted with groanings, thy eyes shall behold nothing but suffering and sorrow around thee, thy soul shall find no refreshment amid the flames that will for ever devour it!
Behold, such is the result of a life spent in criminal delights. Alas ! what torments of bitterness that drop of honey has produced! Then will they understand the vanity of sensible pleasures, the deceits of the enemy of salvation, the deplorable facility with which they fell into his snares. Fool, that I am," will the hopeless sinner exclaim, " I have erred from the way of truth, and the light of justice hath not shined unto me, and the sun of understanding hath not risen upon me. I wearied myself in the way of iniquity and destruction, and have walked through hard ways, but the way of the Lord I have not known " (Wisdom v. 6, 7). Useless regrets, barren repentance; weep, weep on without ceasing, ungrateful sinner, the time of merit is at an end !
O my God, the most illustrious solitaries trembled at the hour of death, although their lives were so pure and penitent; what reason then have I to fear the rigours of Thy judgment, 1 who have always lived in sin and impenitence ? If the just can hardly be saved, what shall become of the unjust and sinners ? O King of terrible Majesty, what answer shall I give when Thou passest sentence upon me ? What shall I be able to say to Thee before Whom the just shall scarce be found just when Thou shalt rigorously examine them and judge them without mercy ? I beseech Thee, O just Avenger of the world's iniquity, to let me experience the salutary effects of Thy mercy before I appear in Thy presence to give an account of my whole life. No, the source of Thine infinite goodness is not yet dried up, nor is the time of Thy rigorous justice yet come. O God, my Saviour, I, this day, implore Thy merciful forbearance. I repent, I detest my sins. Thou hast never despised, O good Jesus, Thou never wilt despise a contrite and humble heart. Pardon then, O Lord, pardon a heart bruised with the keenest sorrow. Withdraw not Thy hand from me, but deign to confirm me in the twofold sentiment of confidence and fear, especially that salutary fear which will securely work out my salvation. " Pierce Thou my flesh with Thy fear; for I am afraid of Thy judgment " (Psalm cxvii. 120).
I. Have I ever seriously reflected on the rigours of God's judgment ?
II. Has this fear been efficacious or barren ? What evil have I avoided by its impulse ? What good have I accomplished ? Am I not sunk in the mire of sin ? Am I not under the yoke of my passions? Is mine the strait path to heaven, or the broad road that leads to the abyss ? Am I not too loath to be converted ?
III. Have not I neglected the inspirations of God, His lights, graces, and consolations ? Have not I omitted the rules of life that I imposed on myself ? What fruits have I drawn from my exercises of piety, my confessions, communions, and other good works ? Do not I resemble the foolish virgins ?
IV. Have I had an exaggerated confidence in God's mercy ?
V. Have not I, on the contrary, to reproach myself with too great a mistrust, dejection, and faintheartedness in the affair of salvation ?
Conclusion.—Fear sin more than death.
Spiritual Instruction.—St. Vincent Ferrer must
have possessed, in a high degree, the fear of God in his heart since he so
effectually inspired his hearers with it. No one can impart to others what he
does not himself possess. The words of the Saint were truly a devouring fire, a
hammer which broke the stones in pieces, that is, hard and unpliant
hearts. From his mouth came forth " the blast of
the mighty," which the Scripture compares to " a whirlwind beating
against a wall" (Isaias xxv. 4). His voice was
truly " tlie voice of
the Lord which breaketh the cedars," "which
divideth the flame of fire " (Psalm xxviii. 5, 7). His radiant countenance, his voice
of thunder, his animated gestures. his language full of force and energy, his zeal, his ardour, all combined to subdue the souls of men, inspiring
them with sentiments of fear, which are the beginnings of salvation, and
disposed them to embrace a life conformable to the law of God. Besides the
wonderful conversions which the Saint accomplished by his preaching, some of
which have been already recorded, we shall instance two others which show the marvellous power that he possessed over the hearts of men.
The first is that of Olivier Rouger, who, at the
first preaching of the Saint at
THE VICE OF PRIDE.
'' Superbiam nunquam in tuo sensu, aut in tuo verbo dominari permittas: inipta enim initium sumpsit omnis perditio;" " Never suffer pride to reign in thy mind, or in thy words : for from it all perdition took its beginning" (Tobias iv. 14).
I. DlSORDER OF PRIDE.
A PROUD person is one who believes in an excellence which he does not possess, and takes complacency therein. Now, there is nothing less grounded than this absurd pretension. For what is man in a physical point of view ? A little dust, a mass of corruption; dust fit to be trodden under foot, fetid corruption which inspires disgust. " Why is earth and ashes proud ? " asks the Prophet (Eccles. x. 9). And what is man in his moral aspect ? A being conceived in sin, living in the obscure darkness of ignorance, inclined to evil from his infancy, without virtue, without grace, destitute of strength, a child of wrath, rebellious to his master, a traitor to his God, guilty of a multitude of prevarications. Consider thyself well, O man ; compound of evil qualities, thou art sunk in every species of disorder. Far from glorying in thyself, ought thou not rather to humble thyself to the lowest abyss ? Know thyself well: " Abominable to God and unprofitable on the earth, is the man who drinketh iniquity like water " (Job xv. 16).
He glories in a fortune. Is it his own? Cannot an accident despoil him of it ? Do riches impart virtue, health, or happiness ? The rich man dies like other men. He goes more easily to hell than others. The praises that surround him are not sincere, the pleasures that he has abused render him more contemptible.
Others are puffed up with their knowledge. But the science of this world is a mere vapour. What purpose does it serve without the science of salvation ? True science is the knowledge of one's duties.
are some men who make virtue and good works i subject of pride. " Yet, what hast thou that thou hast not received ? And
if thou hast received, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst
not received it ? " (1
Cor. if. 7.) We are totally ignorant of the merit of our works before
God. How many vices disguise themselves under the garb of virtue
! How many actions, good in themselves, are
corrupted by vainglory! How frequently it is that what appears light to us, is
only darkness in the eyes of God ! The infallible judgments
of the Sovereign Arbiter are very different from ours. "
II.—The Chastisements Of Pride.
The punishment of the proud angels is a terrible example of the horror which God bears to this vice ; in an instant they were precipitated from the highest heaven to the lowest hell. Blemished with this stain, he who eclipsed by his brightness the most brilliant stars of the firmament, became horrible as darkness; he was by the sublimity of his nature above the angels themselves, and he became a devil, the most hideous, the most horrible i.f the devils. If God therefore use such severity towards creatures so noble and so perfect, how will He act with regard to man, who is but dust and ashes ? God is never in opposition with Himself, and in man, as in the angels, pride angers Him, and humility pleases Him.
" God resisteth the proud," says the Book of
Proverbs (ch. iii). How does He resist them ? By sensible, terrible
chastisements. Thus did He resist the angels by chasing them from
being speedily devoured by worms, he expired. But God also resists the proud in a secret, hidden, and alas ! most terrible manner ; that is, by withdrawing His grace from them. " He giveth His grace to the humble ; " He refuses it to the proud. What shall man do, abandoned to his own strength and destitute of help from above ? Will he not necessarily fall into every species of disorder, and will he not surely end in perdition ? The wind extinguishes the light and withers the rose; pride is the breath of hell which quenches the light of wisdom and withers the rose of grace. Its result will be tears, flames, and confusion, which will have no end ; and these tears, these flames, this confusion will be proportionate to the degree of pride which the soul has exhibited in life. " As much as she hath glorified herself so much torment and sorrow give ye to her " (Apoc. xviii. 7). Contemplate with terror, O my soul, the chastisement which thou hast thyself merited by thy pride.
. I confess, O my God, that pride is one of my vices ; it is my deepest wound. I am born in sin, nothingness is my origin ; I am poor, miserable, and in want; this body which I treat with so much care will soon become a prey to worms and corruption; yet, O folly, I exalt myself, I imagine myself to be something, and I am desirous that others should esteem me. Yes, my God, to Thee alone belong honour and glory; our heritage is shame and confusion. All that I have, I owe to Thy liberality! all that I am is due to Thy mercy; to Thee alone I owe entire homage, and cannot claim for myself the glory which belongs to Thee. Let it be entirely Thine, O my God ! and woe to me if I desire to appropriate the least particle of it to myself! Even the benefits which Thou hast accorded me, far from inspiring me with pride, are to me a subject of humiliation, on account of the bad use I have made of them. How many others would have profited by them more than myself! Abandon me not, O Lord, to the spirit of pride. Grant me humility, that virtue so precious in Thy sight, that virtue by which I shall be pleasing to Thee, and to which Thou canst refuse nothing. Amen.
I. Have I felt in my heart an excessive longing for the esteem and praise of men ? Have I desired their admiration and applause ? Have I acted with a view to draw their notice, approbation, and praise upon myself? Have I sought, by a secret movement of pride, to appear better than I really am, carefully to conceal my defects, and to affect virtues which I have not ?.
II. How have I received the flatteries that have been addressed to me personally ? Was it with eagerness— did I earnestly court them ? If refused me, am I not sharp, irritable, passionate ?
III. Have I despised my neighbour? Have I shown disdainful airs, or fierce looks towards him ? Have I spoken haughtily to him ? Have I reproached him with his physical defects ? Have I wounded and contradicted him without reason ?
IV. Have I been disobedient to those who are placed in authority over me ? Have I been obstinate in my own opinions ? Have I received with a bad grace the counsel and advice that have been given to me? Have I been ambitious to command ?
V. Do I, on the contrary, esteem myself as nothing, as the mere refuse of the world, unworthy to live in the company of Christian men ?
VI. Have I sacrificed my conduct, my speech, my apparel to the tastes and whims of the age ? Have I incurred useless expenses to please the world ? Have I offended against the rules of modesty, simplicity, and humility, in my behaviour?
VII. How have I regarded humiliations, contempt, obscurity ? Do I sincerely delight in them ?
Conclusion.—Frequently beseech God to grant you the virtue of humility.
Spiritual Instruction.—The great
THE VICE OF AVARICE. (3 pages of the book are missing here.)
This paragraph is from the Catholic Encyclopedia.
Avarice (from Latin avarus, "greedy"; "to crave") is the inordinate love for riches. Its special malice, broadly speaking, lies in that it makes the getting and keeping of money, possessions, and the like, a purpose in itself to live for. It does not see that these things are valuable only as instruments for the conduct of a rational and harmonious life, due regard being paid of course to the special social condition in which one is placed. It is called a capital vice because it has as its object that for the gaining or holding of which many other sins are committed. It is more to be dreaded in that it often cloaks itself as a virtue, or insinuates itself under the pretext of making a decent provision for the future. In so far as avarice is an incentive to injustice in acquiring and retaining of wealth, it is frequently a grievous sin. In itself, however, and in so far as it implies simply an excessive desire of, or pleasure in, riches, it is commonly not a mortal sin.
Hence, an ardent desire to know his own faults. He fervently besought his brethren and companions to point Thus, the Apostle calls avarice an idolatry (Eph. v. 5). Forget fulness of God is always accompanied with indifference to our soul's salvation : the goods of eternity appear to the avaricious as nothing compared with those of time. Hence it comes that many, according to the Apostle, by yielding to this passion, " have made shipwreck concerning the faith" (1 Tim. i. 19).
The love of riches also inspires hardness of heart and insensibility to the miseries of the poor. God, the Sovereign Arbiter of the world, in the distribution which He has made of the goods of life, has, like a wise father of a family, so regulated the use of wealth for those who possess it, that a portion of it ought always to be set aside for the poor. But the avaricious man reverses this law of Divine Providence. He wrongs the poor, by withholding from him his bread; the naked, by denying him covering; the miserable, by refusing him the money which is due to him. He is without mercy. Thus, according to the wise man, he fills up the measure of his wickedness (Eccles.).
Finally, avarice is the parent source of deceit, injustice, robbery, and violence. He who is a slave to this passion, no longer regards good faith, honour, or right. He employs every means at his command, even the most criminal, to increase the treasure upon which he has set his heart. And what is more lamentable still, is that this passion grows and strengthens with the growth of years. Reflection and age tend to weaken the other passions; but avarice appears to be reanimated and. to acquire new strength in proportion as life advances. O my God, how cruel is the passion of avarice! It has no pity for the soul, no pity for mankind, no pity for conscience.
II.—Punishment Of Avarice.
Our Lord compares riches to thorns, and with reason, for they produce many more torments than joys. They lead man into a multitude of temptations and unceasing cares. They rob him of tranquillity and repose. What hardships to acquire them ! What cares to preserve them ! What bitter regrets when he loses them ! But, Lord, one of the most terrible chastisements whereby Thou punishest this vice of cupidity, is the consequent blindness which renders it incorrigible. Alas ! for those who are tainted with this evil, they will not admit they are its slaves. They justify themselves on the ground of necessity or prudence. Sometimes it is to raise a family to rank and respectability, at other times it is a fanciful future, whose chances may be fatal, and against which it is needful to provide. Avarice is a devouring fever, so much the more insensible the more violent it is. Moses beheld the sacred fire burning the bush without consuming it; on the other hand, the profane fire of cupidity consumes and devours the avaricious person, without appearing to burn him, at least in his own eyes.
And yet at the hour of death, what will remain to him of all the riches that he has accumulated with such great care ? Nothing, absolutely nothing. He was born poor, he will die poor. Death will relieve him of all temporal goods, and will leave him only his good or evil deeds. He will carry with him nothing else. And will he not forfeit the treasures of heaven, if he has occupied himself only in acquiring those of earth ? " What doth it profit a man," says our Lord, " if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul ? " (Matt. xvi. 26.) Miser, thou wilt lose thy soul. Wretched man, hast thou not sold it to the devil during thy lifetime ?—well, hell will not part with it at thy death. " The rich man died," says the Gospel—the rich man, that is, the covetous man, the man devoured by the love of riches — "and he was buried in hell" (Luke xvi. 20).
III.—Prayer. What folly, O my God, to place one's affections in perishable goods, to multiply them without measure, to make one's happiness consist in them, to hoard them up without enjoying them ! Is not a man truly blind, not to see how shameful and unreasonable this passion is ? Alas ! O Lord, I may fall myself into this excess, since others fall into it; I should not be less guilty than they, if Thy grace did not preserve me therefrom. Deign to grant me this grace, O my God ! If Thou bestowest riches upon me, permit me not to set my heart upon them. Suffer me not to abuse them, by employing them to gratify my passions, living in softness and delights. It is Thy Will that they should be serviceable to my salvation, by becoming in my hands the resource of the poor; vouchsafe that I may correspond to the desires of Thy Providence by relieving their miseries; and to detach my heart efficaciously from them, grant that I may frequently call to mind the frightful maledictions spoken of in the Gospel against the rich who make not a holy use of Thy benefits, and the glorious recompense promised to those who employ their riches in alleviating the distressed. Amen.
I. In what light have I till now viewed the things
of this world ? Is it as a secondary means for
accomplishing the providential object of my life, or as the chief end towards
which all my efforts converge ? Have I regarded the
II. Have I been wanting in confidence in the Providence of God, which feeds the birds of the air, clothes the lilies of the field, and promises to supply the necessities of every human creature ? Have I sighed after immoderate riches, fabulous treasures, vast possessions ? Do I not amuse myself with dreams of unlimited wealth ?
III. Have I been guilty of sordid meanness, unseemly parsimony, with a view to increase my prosperity ? Have I refused to the poor what my fortune and position prescribed me to give to them ? When I have shared with them God's gifts, have I done it reluctantly, with repugnance, without delicacy ?
IV. Have I neglected to pay my debts through avarice ? Have I been wanting in fairness in buying or selling ? Have I tried to deceive my neighbour to his prejudice? When I have found any article, have I carefully sought to discover the owner ? Have I restored what I knew belonged to another?
V. Have I regretted to have Masses said for the deceased members of my family, or for the souls in purgatory generally ? What sacrifices have I made for the propagation of the Faith and other pious works of Catholic charity ?
Conclusion.—Practise almsdeeds from early childhood. Accustom yourselves early, and teach those whom you direct, to practise Christian liberality.
Spiritual Instruction.— God endowed
While he sojourned in that island, a tavern-keeper one day went to ask him to preach on the obligation of the payment of debts; "for," said he, "I have given credit for several measures of wine, and cannot recover payment." "Very well," answered the Saint, "I shall say how guilty those are who keep what belongs to another; but first of all I should like to know what the wine is like which you sell." The man went for a bottle of wine to show him, and said : " Taste it, Father; you will see that it is of excellent quality." " Pour it on my scapular," said the Saint. " But I shall spoil your holy habit." " That concerns me ; do what I tell you." What was the tavern-keeper's astonishment when he saw the contents of his bottle separate into two parts; that which was wine ran upon the ground; the other, which was water fraudently mixed with wine, remained on the scapular.
1 Litanies of the Saint.
THE VICE OF IMPURITY.
" Haec ext voluntas Dei, sanctificatio vestra, ut abstineatis vos a fornicatione: ut sciat unusquisque vestrum vas suum possidere in sanctificatione et honore, non in passione disirderii, sicut gentes qua ignorant Deum; " " This is the Will of God, your sanctification : that you should abstain from all fornication; that everyone of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; not in the passion of lust, like the Gentiles that know not God " (1 Thess. iv. 3-5).
THIS abominable vice denies in an instant both the soul that is purified by the Blood of the Son of God, and the body in which Jesus Christ deigns to repose in person as in a sacred tabernacle. But if it be an enormous crime to profane a material temple, what must it be to profane the living temple wherein God dwells substantially ?
The sin of impurity is full of turpitude; it is evencalled by that name ; it is the shameful sin. There is no vice which exhales a more offensive odour, or which is more hateful even in the eyes of the world, than this.
1 Teoli. lib. i. Tratt. iii. c. 25.
The very discourses which are preached on this subject can scarce escape the defilement of its foul breath. What, then, must be the effects produced in the soul and body by the sin itself ? O man! let thyself be overcome by this passion, and thou mayest well blush with shame to find thyself on a level with the unclean beasts, the friend and equal of swine.
There would appear to be an almost necessary connection between an impure soul and every other vice; all are, so to speak, ready to obey his orders; all are prepared to serve him. To attain his impure purpose, the murderer sheds the blood of his rival; the perfidious wretch prepares his poisons; calumny is ingenious in inventing crimes ; injustice is all-powerful in soliciting; the perjuror forswears himself; the sacrilegious hand is laid upon that which is most holy. It is the source and cause of a thousand horrors.
In fine, what fills up the measure of its malice is the scandal which frequently results from it to our neighbour—a sad circumstance which singularly aggravates the load that is on the conscience at the moment of death, " Whosoever shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in Me," says our Lord, " it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea " (Mark ix. 41).
II.—Punishment Of The Vice of Impurity.
The infected breath of this infamous passion leaves nothing intact in man. It robs him first of honour, the most precious of all temporal blessings. It then debilitates his bodily strength, dulls the freshness of beauty, enfeebles temperament, ruins health, engenders cruel disorders, withers before its time the flower of youth, and brings on unseasonably a precocious and ignoble old age. It blunts the vigour of the soul, and impresses it with a sort of brutishness; it dries up in the heart the source of virtuous sentiments, it imparts to it a disrelish for noble exercises ; by it youth is precipitated into folly, and old age is filled with misery and shame.
St. Bonaventure discovered an anticipated hell in souls addicted to this ignominious vice. A raging fire devours them,—it is concupiscence; a horrible stench accompanies them,—it is the infamy, which cannot be concealed at least from itself, although it may be dexterous enough to divest it of its turpitude in the eyes of the multitude. The vice of impurity is its own punishment by reason of its insatiability. In vain does man sacrifice his thoughts and feelings to it, it only renders the passion more unquiet, more exacting. The more he abandons himself to voluptuousness, the less satisfaction does he feel. It is a food which irritates the desires instead of appeasing them. It is an unquenchable fire; it slackens only to be soon reanimated with fresh ardour.
Reflect well on this, my soul; the pleasure which is drawn from this poisoned source is short, the punishment which will follow it, will be eternal. How often has not our Lord struck with sudden death, while in the very act of this crime, the unhappy people who commit it! Oh, " how frightful a thing it is to fall (in that state) into the hands of the living God " (Heh. x. 31). Guard, then, O sinner, against exposing thyself to this peril by continuing to live according to the flesh, and not according to the purity of God's law. For a mere gliding enjoyment, expose not thyself to interminable punishment. For one hour of miserable voluptuousness, sacrifice not the joy of a good conscience on earth and the glory of victory in heaven.
Have pity on me, 0 Lord, have pity on me. I know that purity is a special gift of Thy goodness. Despite my unworthiness, " God of my fathers, and Lord of mercy, Who hast made all things with Thy word" (Wisdom ix. 1), I venture to ask it of Thee. " O God, come to my assistance; O Lord, make haste to help me " (Psalm lxix). " Lord, save me, I perish " (Matt. viii. 25). Suffer not that anything should tarnish the purity of my body and soul; attach me inviolably to this beautiful virtue which makes us resemble Thee, which unites us to Thee, O God of purity ! Yes, whatever it may cost me, I desire to recover, I desire to preserve, and henceforth to inviolably guard this treasure so precious; I desire carefully to avoid all that may threaten it, all that may place it in danger. With Thy grace, O God, shall I not be able to do what so many innocent souls do who glorify Thee in their bodies by repressing their passions ? I will invoke Thee then, dear Lord, I will unceasingly implore Thee either to screen me from temptations, or to give me strength to surmount them. Inspire me, I beseech Thee, with a salutary fear, and render impotent the efforts of ths enemy of my salvation to destroy me. Grant that I may use the means, which Thy holy law teaches me, to fight this arduous battle, and to come out of it victorious. Amen.
I. Have I distrusted myself ? Have I feared my instability ? Have I fled the occasions of evil ? Have I on the contrary, sought after them ?
II. How have I acted in temptations that relate to this delicate matter ? Have I, as soon as an unchaste thought has risen in my mind, striven to repress it ? Have I had recourse to humble, attentive, and fervent prayer, to rid myself of it ? Have I delighted in those foul imaginations ? Have I voluntarily tasted of a guilty pleasure ? Have I forgotten the presence of God and His angels ? Have I suffered myself to be enslaved to evil ?
III. Have I put a restraint upon my looks, my words, my conversation ? Have I been led by prurient curiosity to attend immoral lectures, to frequent doubtful localities, or to pay dangerous visits ? Have I exposed my soul by assisting at balls, dancings, and the assemblies of worldlings ?
IV. Have I contracted any fatal friendship calculated to lead me to destruction ? Have I shunned the company of persons of the opposite sex ? Have I, on the contrary, loved to frequent it ? In my necessary relations with them, have I kept within the limits of prudent discretion ?
V. Have I frequently entertained myself with thoughts of my last end? Have I always employed myself in some useful occupation ? Have I been temperate in my meals, attentive to repose, moderate in the use of the things of life?
VI. Have I frequently approached the Sacrament of Penance ? Have I humbly and modestly accused myself of my faults ? Have I reaped therefrom a lively horror of evil, and an exact vigilance over my conduct ? Have I appreciated the immense benefits of Holy Communion, and taken sufficient measures to receive it as often as possible ?
Conclusion.—Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation, or that you may conquer.
Spiritual Instruction.—Our amiable Saint was
truly an angel of purity. We have seen the great love he manifested towards
this virtue and the admirable battles which he victoriously fought in its defence. We shall briefly advert to a remarkable victory of
which we have hitherto had no occasion to speak. A wretched woman, who
conceived an unholy passion towards the Saint, feigned to be ill; and having
sent for him, attempted to entice him to sin.
The Saint delivered her from her obsession and inspired her with a sincere repentance. In his sermons, in order to show the enormity of the vice of impurity, he usually made use of the following comparison : " It would be," he observed, " an execrable crime to cast a picture of Christ our Lord into the mire. Yet, they who are addicted to impurity are guilty of no less a wickedness by sinking into the slime of carnal passions their souls, which are the images of God in a more perfect manner than are the paintings which represent the Saviour of man."
During his public life, modesty shone forth in a special manner in the whole exterior of our Saint. And it possessed, observes his biographer, three singular prerogatives. The first was a celestial odour which exhaled from his virginal body. One of his disciples deposed in the process of his canonization, that having for some time enjoyed the privilege and honour of helping him to mount and get off the humble beast which bore him from place to place, he had smelt a delicious fragrance from his hands, which was incomparably sweeter than any earthly perfume. He attributed this odour to his inestimable purity, and it was so powerful, so penetrating, that he perceived it not only as soon as he touched the Saint's hands, but even for many days afterwards on his own body.
The second prerogative was that the simple touch of his hands or even his religious habit cured the sick, imparted sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, speech to the dumb, and motion to the paralyzed.
The third and the most beautiful was that his look, like that of the Immaculate Virgin, put to flight unchaste affections in the hearts of those who beheld him. It was enough for him to fix his eyes on those who were affected by this vice, to inspire them suddenly with a marvelous love of purity and an extraordinary horror of everything contrary thereto. The process of his canonization supports this beautiful truth. His mere glance, his grave and modest looks, were fiery darts which inflamed corrupted hearts with a love of this angelic virtue, and effectually won them to a complete change of life.1 Frequently contemplate in spirit this prodigy of purity, and you will likewise be inflamed with a desire to practise this sublime virtue.
The Litanies of the Saint.
THE VICE OF ANGER.
" Ne sis velox ad irascendum, quia ira in sinu stulti requiescit;" " Be not quickly angry, for anger resteth in the bosom of a fool" (Eocles. xvii. 10).
LET us, my soul, distinguish anger from indignation. The latter sometimes leads man to reprehend with severity what sweetness is unable to correct. Such is the anger of a father or a master at the sight of disorders which he is obliged to oppose. 1 Teoli, lib. ii. Tratt. iii. c. 10.
Our Lord Himself was moved by this anger when He chased from the temple those who violated its sanctity. But anger, which is a mortal sin, is very different; consider this well, my soul. It is an impetuous movement of the heart which impels it to repulse what is displeasing to it.
The malice of its principle is the proof of its excess. Whence springs anger ? From a tyrannical and disordered passion which is roused by encountering an obstacle. The proud man, for example, flies into a passion against that which wounds his vanity or his ambition : the avaricious man is irritated when an accident deranges his project of gain; the voluptuous man is indignant when his pleasures are traversed. Is this sentiment according to God ? Is it according to right reason ? Clearly Not. It brings trouble to the soul, and the disorder which it produces therein, is painted on the countenance and the whole exterior of him who yields to it. The eyes are inflamed, the voice is oppressed, the whole body trembles, he no longer knows himself, he is not in possession of his reason, he cares for nothing. How can a passion which thus troubles the serenity of heart and body be excusable ?
Anger, if not promptly repressed, ends by changing man into a ferocious beast. Then, his mouth vomits forth abuse, outrage, slander, calumny, imprecations, blasphemies. Nothing is sacred to his impious tongue. From words he passes to violence; the most revolting cruelties hardly suffice to satisfy his vengeance, to quench his rage.
Let us early accustom ourselves to master this passion. For unless we know how to bridle it, it will revolt against us, and drag us on to excess, of which we shall one day have reason to repent. What is most lamentable in it, is that it scarce leaves us room to perceive the evil which we do under its influence. To an angry man, every kind of vengeance appears just; his reason is sometimes so obscured by it, that he mistakes for the zeal of justice what is the simple effect of anger, and vice is adorned in his eyes with all the colours of virtue. What Solomon says in regard to wine upsetting the reason of wise men, might also well be said of every vehement passion. Like treacherous liquors, anger blinds the reason, without any excuse to him who yields to it.
II.—Punishments of Anger.
Let us consider how mischievous this vice is to the soul and body of him who does not check it. It inflames the blood, agitates the heart, shocks the nerves and brain. This momentary folly, if not carefully repressed, will sometimes result in chronic disorder. Its paroxysms destroy the mind and even life itself. " Envy and anger shorten a man's days," says the wise man (Eccles. xxx. 26).
Let us further consider how destructive this vice is of the tranquility of families, societies, and people. It engenders a multitude of quarrels, lawsuits, resentments. Harshness gains nothing among men ; it wounds, it repels. Do we not carefully avoid contact with thorns and thistles? Is the hedgehog caressed ? Does not sweetness, on the contrary, gain conquest over the hearts of men ? Does it not evoke sympathies, kind words and deeds ?—" A passionate man stirreth up strifes: he that is patient appeaseth those that are stirred up " (Prov. xv. 18). " Blessed are the meek," says our Lord, " for they shall possess the land " (Matt. v. 4); that is, they shall be the masters of reasonable creatures.
Let us, in fine, consider how our Lord detests this vice. The emotions of anger drive Him from the hearts of those who are its victims. While hatred dwells in a ' soul, it cannot offer Him an agreeable sacrifice. " If therefore thou offer thy gift at the altar, and there thou remember that thy brother hath anything against thee ; leave there thy offering before the altar, and go first to be reconciled to thy brother, and then coming thou shalt offer thy gift " (Matt. v. 23, 24). Thus speaks our Lord.
At the judgment - seat of God, the vindictive and passionate man shall be severely punished, " Whosoever is angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgment And whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell-fire" (Matt. v. 22). This Divine Preceptor frequently repeats to us that the manner in which we act towards others will be the measure and rule that will be applied to ourselves, and that if we have not dealt mercifully towards our brethren, He will show no mercy to us. Let all these considerations then break down the unruly movements of anger in our hearts, and inspire us with Gospel meekness.
I acknowledge, 0 my God, that I frequently abandon myself to impatience, that I revolt at the least contradiction ; by yielding so often to anger, I run the risk of contracting the habit of this dangerous passion. Yes, I feel the necessity of overcoming my natural impetuosity, and forming in myself early habits of patience. I have my faults, and I am pleased when others bear with them ; it is but just, then, that I also should support those of my brethren. "Why should I, O my God, feel such repugnance in observing a law which Thou hast taught me both by Thy word and example ? Why should I be so sensitive to a slight contempt when I behold Thee suffering the blackest calumnies, the most cruel outrages with an unalterable patience, and submitting without the least plaint to the frightful punishment of the Cross ? O Jesus, God of peace ! O Jesus, meek and humble of heart! Thou commandest me to imitate Thy meekness, help me to reform my impetuous nature. Grant that I may never render evil for evil; and that after Thy example, I may remain silent when injurious words are uttered against me. Thou declarest those blessed who are meek. Thou callest them children of God who love and counsel peace. Impart to me, O God, this peaceful character, this meek and gentle disposition, which Thou desirest to find in all Thy children. Amen.
I. How do I receive contradictions ? Do they disgust me ? Do I at once express the sadness which fills my heart ? Do I, on the contrary, give way to murmurings, resentment, anger, bitterness, impatience ?
II. Have I easily pardoned the annoyance that others have caused me ? Have I treasured in my heart a remembrance of the injuries they have done me ? Have I entertained feelings of coldness, aversion, spite, anger, bitterness, revenge against those who I suppose have offended me ?
III. Have I made known to others the contradictions that I have suffered ? Do I complain of such to them ? Have I manifested my discontent and annoyance very often?
IV. Have I done all in my power to avoid what was likely to lead to contention and dispute ? Have I been desirous of deferring to the opinions of others rather than contradict them ? If perchance, I have felt it my duty to resist, have I always done it with suitable discretion ?
V. When ridiculed by others, have I indulged in rude and satirical repartee, or even used threatening words and gestures ?
VI. Have I suffered myself to be overcome by feelings of antipathy against persons with whom I am obliged to live ? Have I repulsed them ? Have I willingly listened to them ? Have I received them kindly ? Have I dismissed them without having satisfied them when it was in my power to do so ?
VII. Have I spoken harshly when correcting and reproving others, and is this manner of acting habitual with me ? Have I always been kind, meek, polite, affable, obliging, always ready to do a service, bearing with, lessening or excusing the faults of others ?
Conclusion.—Live in peace with all men by bearing with their defects.
Spiritual Instruction.—The meekness of St. Vincent Ferrer was ever unalterable. He was attacked on every side by persons who were jealous of his popularity. They treated him as a hypocrite, a false prophet, a preacher of fables and foolish things, a vagabond. They declared that he had entered on the work of his wonderful apostolate only to bid adieu to the solitude of his cell, to withdraw himself from obedience to his superiors, that he might gain access to the courts of princes, and be venerated by peoples. He carefully concealed all these calumnies ; he patiently bore them with calmness of heart and countenance, and never alluded to them in his discourses. This meekness and patience might have seemed to belong to his natural disposition rather than to virtue, if, on the other hand, he had not displayed the energy of his character by the vehement denunciations which he hurled at vice from the pulpit.
It was by this forgetfulness of himself that he succeeded in converting an old man who was sunk in the mire of impurity. In vain had he frequently sought to induce this man to change his life, who, instead of correcting himself, became his enemy and unrelenting persecutor. He availed himself of every means to calumniate and blacken his reputation. The Saint's patience shone forth so much the more the longer that the anger and vexation of the other lasted. But thanks be to God, what the Saint failed to obtain by his exhortations and prayers, he gained by his meekness. In the end, the old man, astonished at so much mildness, was converted; and, what rarely happens, he abandoned in his old age the vices of youth, which had grown old with him.
came this heroic patience of
" A certain king," said he, " imprisoned two persons who owed him a large sum of money. As they had nothing wherewith to pay him, he one day threw a purse of gold at one of them, which struck him on the back. The latter, irritated at the blow he received, took no notice of the purse and its contents. Then the king threw a similar purse at the other prisoner, hitting him on the arm, without causing him pain. He immediately seized the treasure which was given to him, thanked his benefactor, and with the sum thus supplied him paid his debts and left the prison. The first person," continued the Saint, " is the impatient and irascible man; the second is he who is meek and patient. We are all in this world as in a prison, and are debtors to God, on account of our sins. Unable to pay our debts, God, in His mercy, sends us the gold of patience in the purse of contradiction and tribulation. He who knows not how to profit by it, runs the risk of failing to discharge his debts to God;' while he who, on the contrary, avails himself of it by sweetly submitting to what is unpleasant, pays his debts, frees himself from the prison of this life and all its miseries, present and future, and attains, moreover, to eternal glory." l Medidate on this beautiful exhortation, and put it in practice. The Litanies of the Saint.
THE VICE OF GLUTTONY.
" Attendite vobis, ne forte graventur corda vestra in crapula et ebrietate; " " Take heed to yourselves, lest perhaps your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness " (Luke xxi. 34).
IS it forbidden to feel pleasure in eating or drinking ? No. By a wise foresight, God has imparted a relish to what is necessary to sustain life. Unhappily, we abuse this benefit when we seek only the pleasure it affords. Reason itself tells us that it is needful to eat and drink in order to live, and not to gratify sensuality. Besides, the satisfaction which is felt in food and drink should be regulated with 1 Teoli, lib. ii. Tratt. iii. c. 16
a view to our bodily strength, in such a way that we may be enabled to fulfil our duties and to serve God, according to these words of the Apostle, " Whether you eat or drink ... do all for the glory of God." To have any other motive in view, to seek merely the pleasure of the senses, is to be guilty of gluttony; it is, according to the same Apostle, to make a god of one's belly. It is a vice unworthy of man. What a dishonour, then, to a rational being, to allow himself to be governed by sensuality, instead of repressing its unruly movements ! If such a vice be unworthy of man, it is still more so of a Christian, who should regard food as medicine, and not as a means for gratifying the sensual appetite. He should imitate the mortifications of his Divine Master, Who, apart from His fast in the desert, submitted His Sacred Flesh to painful conflicts, not only to heal our evils, but also to serve us as a model.
See, my soul, how dangerous a vice this is. It begets contempt of the laws of the Church, for when a person is under its dominion, he is but little disposed to observe the fasts and abstinence prescribed by ecclesiastical authority. He is incapable of mortifying himself ; certain privations appear to him an insupportable burden; he labours to find out pretexts for being dispensed therefrom; and in the end is led not only to violate the precept of fasting, but even to use without scruple foods that are strictly prohibited.
What must we think of the vice of intemperance in drinking ? This, alas, is a disorder which we blush to name, which destroys reason, that essential attribute of humanity—a horrible excess which debases man, and lowers him beneath the condition of the beast.
II.—Punishments of The Vice OF Gluttony.
This vice clouds the soul, degrades the mind, brutalises the heart, ruins the health, and shortens life. " Gluttony," said an ancient writer, " kills more people than the sword." Strange result! that which was intended to maintain health, becomes the means of its destruction.
Gluttony exposes its slave to the danger of being abandoned by God at the hour of death. He will be surprised by the stroke of death without being prepared for it. For the sake of a pleasure which is as short in its duration as it is limited by the organ which it affects, man suffers himself to be plunged headlong into the abyss of hell, where all the organs of the body must expiate the disorders of one. The sensual man exhausts himself to saturate with delights a body that will shortly become the food of worms. Unhappy man ! he allows his soul to languish through want, which must one day appear at the tribunal of the Most High, where it will find itself necessarily shorn of virtue and merit. Will its reprobation be less because the body has been glutted with the daintiest food? And will the body itself escape punishment ? Created for the soul, will its lot be different from that of the soul ? Will it not share its chastisement ? By flattering the less noble of the two substances which constitute thy being, O man !
thou exposest thyself to lose both. Thou becomest the murderer of thy own flesh, which was given thee to serve the soul; thou makest it the instrument of its death; thou subjectest both to the same punishments by making them the accomplices of the same disorders. Call to mind poor Lazarus. He would have gladly contented himself with the crumbs that fell from the rich man's table; but there was no one who would bestow them on him. He died, and was speedily borne by angel hands into Abraham's bosom. The rich voluptuary, clothed in purple and fine linen, also died, and he was buried in hell. In vain did he cry out for a single drop of water to quench the thirst that devoured him. That drop of water was refused him; it will be denied him to all eternity! (Luke xvi.) But sensuality and abstinence cannot share the same lot: at death, misery succeeds pleasure, and pleasure succeeds misery.
It is to Thy paternal goodness, O my God! that we are indebted for all the necessaries of life, and Thou bestowest them on us to sustain and repair our strength. If Thou attachest a certain pleasure to the use of food, it is only a wise condescension on Thy part. Thou doest this that we may feel no repugnance for the nourishment of which we have need. But to use it solely for the pleasure which it affords, to exceed the bounds of necessity and decency, is a crying abuse; for we thereby turn Thy benefits against Thee, and employ in offending Thee that which ought to excite our gratitude. Permit not, O my God! that I should ever be guilty of this crime. Grant that I may use, as becomes a Christian, the food which Thy Providence hath provided, by never yielding to excess, nor seeking to please the palate, but only to find therein what is suitable to the wants of life. Preserve me from being seduced by the gross vice of gluttony. Suffer not sensuality to assume the voice of nature, that it may the more easily deceive me by seeming to solicit only what is legitimately and indispensably necessary. Keep me always on my guard against the attractions of pleasure. Make me faithful in the exact observance of the laws of Thy holy Church, which she prescribes for her children in regard to fasting, abstinence, and mortification of the senses. In a word, let my flesh be ever submissive to my soul, and my soul always subject to Thee. Amen.
I. Do I frequently entertain myself with the thought of what I may eat or drink, in order to gratify sensuality ? Have I felt a pleasure in calling to mind the delights of the table which I have experienced on former occasions ? Am I fond of speaking of such things with others ?
II. Have I eaten or drunk out of meals, without necessity or reason, solely for the sake of pleasure ? Have I also done this before the hour of repast, without any other motive ?
III. Have I shown a daintiness in, or repugnance to, certain kinds of food? Have I eagerly sought after that which was agreeable to the taste ? Have I eaten too quickly ? Have I exceeded the hounds of moderation ? Have my excesses been attended with injury to my health ?
IV. Have I, by a spirit of immortification, disregarded the laws of fasting and abstinence imposed by the Church on her children ? Have I never been deceived on this point ? Have I employed unworthy means to obtain certain dispensations ? Have I made amends by almsdeeds, prayer, and other good works, such as are usually imposed on the faithful ?
V. Have I been careful to sanctify my meals with prayer, before and after ? When drinking even a cup of cold water, have I been observant in making at least the sign of the Cross ?
VI. Have I taken care during my meals, to raise from time to time my heart towards God ? Have I thought of leaving a portion of my food for our Lord in the person of the poor ?
Conclusion.—Never allow a Friday to pass without practising some act of mortification at meals.
The Saint took but one meal a day, and that at midday. He was satisfied with one dish only, the first that was put upon the table. It was not that provisions were wanting; for his hosts were ever eager to serve him abundantly; but he was pleased to content himself with a little, and caused the rest to be given to the poor.
He never ate flesh-meat. Fish and vegetables were his sole diet. When these were wanting, he was satisfied with a little bread, and water scarcely coloured with wine. At night when it was not a fast, he ate only a few leaves of lettuce. He was careful to have the Holy Scriptures read to him by one of his companions or disciples during the repast.
Despite those rigorous fasts and abstinences, our Saint lived to a ripe old age. Thus, did he verify in his own person the doctrine which he preached. " The rich," said he, "live but a short time, because they eat too much; the multiplicity of the foods which they indulge in is injurious to their health. Of two persons of equal condition, the one mortified, and the other sensual, the first will live considerably longer than the second." To show this he alleges the following reason. " The food which we take, as for example bread and wine, is corruptible; consequently the body, already corruptible by its nature, receives a fresh degree of corruptibility by the assimilation of food. It follows, thence, that persons nourished with a superabundant and luxurious diet, corrupt their bodies and die very much sooner."'
these maxims of
Litanies of the Saint.
THE VICE OF ENVY.
" Invidia diaboli mors introivit in orbem terrarum : imitantur autem ilium, qui sunt ex parte illius; " " By the envy of the devil, death came into the world: and they follow him that are of his side " (Wisdom ii. 24, 25).
WHAT is envy? A sorrow that is felt at the sight of the gifts and good-fortune of others. The envious person is an enemy of his superiors, because he cannot equal them; of his inferiors, because they desire to rise to his level; of his equals, because they claim to take precedence of him. It was envy that animated Saul against David; that stirred up the Pharisees against our Lord, even to putting Him to death; for such is the rage of this monster that it pardons no one, however high and exalted his position. Alas ! this is one of the vices whose empire is spread far and wide. It moves noiselessly in secret, 1 Teoli, lib. ii. Tratt. iii. c. 16. heaping up ruins, sparing nothing, respecting nothing, and striving by preference to persecute the good, their talents, and their virtues. And can anything he conceived more odious than envy ?
The envious, says the Holy Spirit Himself, resemble the devil. Like him, they are less desirous of acquiring the advantages they are jealous of, than of seeing others deprived of them. They regard the good that results to others as an evil to themselves, the success of others as a loss which they sustain, the good repute of others as a stain which tarnishes them. Miserable beings! they are made worse by that which renders their neighbours better, they aggravate their poverty by that which increases the wealth of the latter.
Envy is essentially opposed to charity. Charity shares a neighbour's sufferings, envy rejoices and triumphs over them. Charity conceals a neighbour's defects, envy defames him by calumniatory speech. It strives to obscure his reputation; it lessens, as far as in it lies, the good that is said of him; it maliciously interprets all his actions; it turns the purest virtues into vices. Charity, far from injuring a neighbour, strives to serve him by every means in its power. Envy does just the contrary. From words it proceeds to acts; it thwarts all his designs ; it resorts to a thousand ways to give him pain, to prevent him from attaining the object of his desires, or to deprive him of it, if he has already gained it. It is capable of the greatest excess, of the utmost violence.
II.—Punishments Of Envy.
There is no passion that is more directly the instrument of its own punishment than that of envy. It consumes the heart, dries up the flesh, torments the mind, disturbs the peace of conscience, embitters life, and banishes from the soul every joy and contentment. Like the insect that gnaws the tree which has engendered it, envy becomes the torture of the heart that has conceived it. But it soon also exhibits its ravages from without, and the expression of the countenance clearly indicates the deep wounds within. Envy has not a more severe judge than itself; hence some of the Fathers call it a. just passion ; not that there is any rectitude in it, for it is an infamous vice, but because it is its own executioner, executing justice on itself. The Holy Scripture gives us clearly to understand how fatal are its effects on the soul and body, when it says: " Envy is the rottenness of the bones " (Proverbs xiv. 80). St. Bonaventure says that it is to the soul what the worm is to the wood and the garment, and rust to steel. St. Basil compares it to an arrow which, shot against a rock, rebounds and strikes the archer with his own dart; he also likens it to the offspring of the viper, which tear the mother's entrails in giving them birth.
Now, if the Son of God will one day act with such severity towards those who have refused merely the ordinary helps of life to their neighbour, how will He deal with the envious who have been hostile to their brethren ? What you did to the least among men, He will say, you did unto Me. You were jealous of Me, by your calumnies you defamed Me, you opposed Me, you ruined Me, you put Me to death. Children of Satan, whose rivals and imitators you have been, depart from Me, "Who am charity and love itself; you shall have no place in My kingdom, which is the assembly of hearts that are united by the bonds of love. Go into everlasting fire, you who burn with the infernal flames of envy; go into that fire which was prepared for him who is the demon of envy. As you have imitated him in his sentiments and acts, so now take part with him in his punishment.
Preserve me, O my God, from envy, that vice so odious in Thy sight, and so fatal to him who yields himself to it. Yes, I detest and renounce it for ever. By the help of Divine grace, I will endeavour to stifle its first movements when they rise within my breast. I will give place in my heart to sentiments that are conformable to reason and faith ; the blessings and misfortunes of my brethren shall be common to myself and to them, I will share their joys and their sorrows. Far from depreciating the good qualities that they possess, my heart shall be moved only to a worthy emulation; I will strive to imitate whatever is good in them. The sight of their talents shall excite me to cultivate those with which Thou hast gifted me; the virtues which I discover in them shall animate me to practise them
myself. If they succeed better than I, I will not be grieved, for Thou requirest only the effort on my part, not success. I will even rejoice therein, because, by sharing the happiness of my brethren, I shall draw down Thy blessing on my endeavours, and shall myself merit some success. Make me understand, O my God, that there is no loss to me in the merits of my neighbour, whatever they may be, and that, on the contrary, his advancement is my gain, seeing that Divine grace renders the treasure of good works and merits common to all Christians. Amen.
I. Envy proceeds from pride and ambition. Have I an exaggerated notion of my personal worth ? Have I aspired to any superiority ?
II. Another source of envy is a disorderly
affection for the things of this world. Have I preferred the heritage of heaven
and spiritual wealth to the goods of fortune ? Have I
viewed without pain my neighbour's prosperity
? Do I rejoice in the blessings which
III. Self-love, in fine, is the secret root of envy. Have I to reproach myself with feelings of egotism ? Have I carefully suppressed them when they sprung up in my soul ?
IV. Have I never manifested a spirit of envy in my conversation, by lowering the merits of others ? Have I never shown ill-will towards those who display a greater genius, more talent, more virtue than myself, and who meet with greater sympathy from those with whom we live ? Have I never adroitly alluded to their defects in order to gratify the resentment caused by the praise that is bestowed on them ?
V. Have I gone even further, by forming rash judgments, spreading false reports, undermining their reputation, using a thousand indirect, equivocal, and criminal means to injure their interests ?
VI. Have I, through envy, wished evil to my neighbour ? Do I rejoice in his misfortunes ? To what degree does my dislike of him carry me ?
Conclusion.—Bear not envy towards any one, but strive to imitate those who distinguish themselves by their estimable qualities.
Spiritual Instruction.—Instead of opening your heart to this detestable
vice of jealousy, make every effort to plant therein the opposite virtue, that
is, a Christian affection, which will render you sensible to the blessings and
misfortunes of your fellow-beings, and enable you to participate in them. This
is charity, that virtue which the Gospel so strongly inculcates. The amiable
if the Saint himself never yielded to the vile passion of jealousy, there were
those who became its victims on his account. Yet,
St. Vincent, preaching one Easter-day in the
preacher, as ill-disposed as the former, was nevertheless
better inspired than he. His defiance was speedily changed into admiration. He recognised in the language of
THE VICE OF SLOTH.
" Multam malitiam docuit otiositas; " " Idleness hath taught much evil" (Eccles. xxxiii. 29).
SLOTH is an indolence, a weariness which unnerves us for work, and especially spiritual works.
It is an ogre which devours by pure waste, time, that precious treasure which God has commanded us to improve during the short space of our trial on earth. There is not in this vast universe a single being that should be in a state of repose. In the heavens, the sun and moon and stars and all the luminous bodies incessantly perform their diurnal revolution for our use; on earth the 1 Valtlecebro, Perein Teoli, lib. i. Tratt. iii. o. 30. trees and plants labour without relaxation for their nutrition and development. The ant stores up in summer the grain that is to sustain its existence during the inclement season; the bee composes its honeycomb : in a word, all that has life and movement is in labour and activity. What a dishonour, then, for man. endowed with reason, to live in a state of idleness and sloth, which all creatures, by the simple instinct of their nature, have a horror of!
What follows from this ? The most sacred duties are neglected. The laws of religion are not complied with ; prayer is omitted or imperfectly performed ; the sacraments are abandoned or received without due preparation. The obligations of one's state are no better discharged; nothing is done that is prescribed, or it is done badly, without attention, without application.
is not all: activity being an essential characteristic of our nature, if not
applied to what is good and useful, will necessarily conduce to evil; evil
inclinations will assume the empire over it. " Be
always doing something," said
II.—Punishments Of Sloth.
the ignominy, poverty, and distress, which it frequently engenders in the
temporal order, this vice even exposes the soul to the loss of God's
friendship, and renders it so hateful to Him, that He is constrained to cast it
from His presence and to deprive it of all His gifts. A striking proof of this
is the Bishop of Ephesus, to whom our Lord said by the mouth of
Woe to the tepid, slothful soul at the hour of death ! It will be beyond the reach of succour. " Because of the cold the sluggard would not plough," says the Holy Spirit, that is, he would not apply himself to virtue, because of the difficulties that surround it. " He shall beg therefore in the summer," namely at the hour of death, in the heat of fever and anguish. " And it shall not be given him" (Prov. xx. 4); God and His angels will withhold from him every assistance, despite his entreaties. Is not this the very extreme of misfortune ?
Not having produced, not even at the hour of death, any fruit worthy of eternal life, the barren soul, after a rigorous judgment, shall be cast, like a withered and unfruitful tree, into eternal flames. " Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit," says our Lord, " shall be cut down, and shall be cast into the fire" (Matt. vii. 19). Elsewhere it is said : " The unprofitable servant cast ye out into the exterior darkness. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth " (Matt. xxv. 80). Strive, O my soul, to escape that terrible lot, by diligently applying thyself to thy duties.
O Lord, Thou hast commanded man to labour, and he swerves from the order which Thou hast established when he yields to sloth and spends his time in idleness or in frivolous amusements. Thou hast accorded him this time solely that he may employ it profitably, and Thou wilt one day demand a rigorous account of the use he shall have made of it. Woe to the barren tree! Woe to the unprofitable, indolent, slothful servant! Permit not, O Lord, that I fall into this deplorable misfortune. Grant me grace to spend the years of my life from this moment to the end in the faithful observance of Thy law. Make me diligent in the performance of my duties, with a view to please Thee, and to work out my salvation. Preserve me, O my God, from weariness of spirit and a dislike for spiritual things. Facilitate my application to what is good, that I may find a relish and sweetness therein. Sustain my courage, suffer me not to lose one moment of time so short and precious which Thy Providence bestows upon me. Grant me the dispositions of that holy man, who said each time that he heard the clock strike: " Lord, my God, one hour more is passed, of which I shall have to render Thee an account as well as of all those which Thou hast still in store for me." Yes, grant me, O God, these happy dispositions, for he who shall persevere to the end shall be saved. Amen.
I. Have I regarded the graces which God has heaped upon me as a talent which He has confided to me, and which I ought to have turned to a profitable account ? Have not I, like the servant in the Gospel, hid this talent, by receiving grace into my soul without producing fruit therein ?
II. Have I never resembled the barren fig-tree which bore only leaves, by contenting myself with the mere external fulfilment of the duties of my state, without either fervour or zeal ?
III. When I have been moved to correct some fault, to advance in the practice of virtue, to perform my religious exercises with fidelity, have I not neglected those good inspirations? Have I not also heedlessly resisted the interior warnings which invited me to avoid certain acts, to withhold such and such words, to overcome this or that fault ?
IV. In what manner do I approach the Sacraments ? Have I received them tepidly, through custom, without deriving from them any fruit for my spiritual advancement?
V. When God's spirit has moved me to lead a more perfect life, have I adopted the most suitable means for carrying out my good resolutions ? Do I not speedily fall back again into the same habits, by not doing sufficient violence to my evil propensities in order to correct them ?
VI. Have I a rule to live by ? Have I deliberately, and through my own fault, omitted any point of it ? Have I never neglected what appears to me of little importance, or what is not to my taste ? Have I never retrenched some portion of the time consecrated to prayer, spiritual reading, and the other exercises of the interior life ? Has not a repugnance to these led me to seek pretexts for dispensing myself from them ? And when I do perform them, is it not with languor, indifference, and through mere custom ?
VII. Has my fidelity to them been constant and generous, especially when grace was less sensibly present within me, and when it required a greater effort of the will to persevere in the accomplishment of my duties ?
Conclusion. Let us examine every evening how we have observed our rule, and impose on ourselves a penance for the faults committed.
Spiritual Instruction. Let us admire the faithful correspondence of St. Vincent Ferrer to all the graces which our Lord bestowed upon him. He preserved his baptismal innocence; he obeyed the voice that called him to a state of perfection; he scrupulously observed the rules of his Order, not only in the Convent, but outside, and that for more than fifty years, without ever failing; but, on the contrary, increasing daily in regularity, piety, detachment, prayer, charity, humility, progressing without ceasing in every virtue. In cities, among peoples, in his cell, on his journeys, in preaching, consoling the afflicted, devoting himself so lovingly to the good of souls, he was ever calm, peaceful, faithful to his duties, always holy. It was because he made an oratory of his heart, wherein he incessantly conversed with God, without experiencing the least interruption in his occupations. " He was on the one hand absorbed in God," observes Gomez, one of his biographers, " as though he were far removed from the conversation of men, and, on the other, he applied his mind so vigorously to his transactions with the world as if he had never had any intercourse with God."
It was thus that the Saint accomplished the resolutions of his youth. One night while he prayed before the crucifix in the church of his Convent, the devil appeared to him in the shape of an Ethiopian, deformed and horrible to behold. "I will plot so much against thee, and draw thee into so many snares," said Satan, " that thou shalt be miserably enchained, and precipitated into evil." "And I," replied the Saint, "hope that Divine grace will assist me." " Not always," rejoined the tempter; " very few persevere in grace. When Christ shall abandon thee, thou wilt then know what my power of drawing thee into vice is." "But," answered Vincent once more, " God does not forsake those who put their trust in Him, and as He has given me grace to begin, I hope that He will still grant me that of perseverance in His service." With these words, followed by the sign of the Cross, the Saint put the lying spirit to flight.1
May God impart to you the generosity of this great model! May your resolutions be firm and efficacious to the end!
Litanies of the Saint.
1. P. Antist. Nyder.
THE VIRTUE OF PENANCE.
"Paenitentiam agite: appropinquavit enim regnum coelorum;" "Do penance: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. iii. 2).
I.—What We Lose By Not Practising; Penance.
We lose immense benefits, treasures infinitely precious, namely: pardon, grace, merit. scourged themselves with disciplines, and expressed hy these signs their deep contrition and lively compassion for 4he sufferings of Jesus Christ. Picture to yourselves the tears of pity which flowed from the eyes of the beholders, and the salutary effects produced in their souls by this admirable display of penance. Were your hearts harder than stone, the sight of such a spectacle should soften them and dispose them to repentance; it might possibly be necessary even to modify the desire that would draw you to works of Christian mortification. The same thing might happen to you that took place in regard to a sinner whom St. Vincent converted at Lyons. This was a soldier whose conscience was burdened with many crimes. Having sincerely confessed to a priest of the Saint's company, the latter imposed on him, on account of the enormity of his offences, a penance to assist at the procession of disciplinants which took place every evening, and to scourge himself with his own hands. The soldier refused to accept this public and severe penance. Then, the priest, unable to overcome his reluctance, asked his permission to refer the matter to St. Vincent. This he granted. The Saint adopted a middle course, which showed his extreme kindness. "You will tell your penitent," he said to the confessor, "to go in the procession of disciplinants, but without obliging him to take the discipline."
The penance having been very much lessened, the soldier accepted it. He walked in the procession without any instrument of penance in his hand. But when he saw the generosity with which other sinners less guilty than himself scourged themselves, when he heard the groans of repentance which escaped from their breasts, his soul was keenly moved; he regretted not having provided himself with a discipline like the rest; he eagerly asked for one, he received it with joy, and commenced to flog himself with all his might, weeping and sighing. It became necessary to restrain his fervour, and to prevent him endangering his life.1 The Litanies of the Saint.
We lose pardon. "A contrite and humble heart God will not despise" (Psalm 1. 19). However great man's wickedness may be, however numerous his crimes, if he repents, if he does penance, God immediately pardons him; for He wills not the death of the sinner, but that he should be converted and live. "Should a person," observes St. Vincent Ferrer, "have slain the twelve Apostles, should he have sinned with all sorts of people, and even crucified with his own hands the Lord Jesus, if he were sincerely repentant, and asked pardon' of God, God would pardon him without delay, and restore him to His favour." But alas! if we have no regret for evils committed, if we do not humbly confess them, if we have no desire to correct them, if we do not purpose to avoid sin and to embrace the salutary exercises of penance, we can no longer count on God's pardon, His indulgence, and mercy. We close against ourselves the bowels of Divine goodness. See, my soul, the great danger thou incurrest, by refusing to do penance.
We lose grace, grace which gives life, which purifies the soul, which renders it white as snow, fragrant as a garden filled with flowers, like to God, the spouse of the Holy Ghost, the august temple of the Trinity, the true kingdom of the Most High! And with grace we lose at the same time peace of heart, the consolation of a good conscience, the inebriating caresses of the King of Heaven, light and joy! In fine, we lose merit. When grace is received, it becomes in the soul a fountain of water, springing up to life eternal. It animates every action with its own spirit; even those which, by their nature, are indifferent, become meritorious of endless glory; and as grace is the seed of glory, in proportion as grace increases, so does merit also increase. "The path of the just, as a shining light, goeth forwards, and increaseth even to perfect day" (Prov. iv. 18). But if we are without grace, can we lay claim to the smallest merit? No. Whatever good we may do will be of no avail.
Si scires donum Dei! "O my soul, if thou didst know the gift of God" (John iv. 10). If thou didst know the value of penance, the supreme glory, the rich crown that is reserved for thee in heaven: ah! thou wouldst find no difficulty in embracing this virtue, in renouncing sin, in loving God, in observing His commandments, in living in the practice of good works; no, thou wouldst not experience any repugnance; on the contrary, penance would be thy delight.
II.—What We Gain By Not Doing Penance. We lay up for ourselves hateful, fatal treasures, a terrible gain! These are the treasures of sin. The just man, despite his prayers, his vigilance, and every other precaution that surrounds him, frequently falls; and he sighs over his weakness, his frailty, his inability to do good, his deplorable facility in doing evil. What, then, shall the impenitent sinner do, who delights in iniquity, who nurses his passions, who daily supplies them with fresh food, who roots himself in his criminal habits? He shall heap up abominations one upon another; his heart shall be a sink wherein the most odious crimes shall rot with age; perhaps adulteries, impurities without number, blasphemies, detractions, mortal hatreds, treacheries, vengeance, thefts, and countless injustices; profligacies, nameless debaucheries, frightful impieties. And these treasures of sin, alas! form, at the same time, an accumulation of wrath and vengeance. 0, patience of my God, how formidable art Thou! When God supports with so much meekness, sweetness, and forbearance, the sinner who offends Him, His first purpose is to lead him to repentance. Thou heedest it not, O prevaricator of the Divine law, and thou multipliest daily thy sins, shamefully abusing the plan of grace; but art thou aware that God's second purpose, if thou refusest the first, is to allow thee to heap up wrath and punishment for the great day of His anger? The miser, who is continually adding to his treasure fresh pieces of gold and silver, without keep
IV. Have I never delayed to return to God under the pretence of His being good, patient, merciful, contrary to the advice of the Holy Ghost: "Delay not to be converted to the Lord, and defer it not from day to day. For His wrath shall come on a sudden, and in the time of vengeance He will destroy thee " (Eccles. v. 8. 9).
V. Have I never deferred my repentance, by flattering myself that it would be more easy at another time, or that the difficulties would be less, and grace more abundant; a false notion, and a fatal delusion, since, on the contrary, the difficulties increase with the delay, while the latter weakens grace, hardens the heart, and draws down upon us the scourge of Divine justice?
VI. On determining to lead a new life, have I resolved to abandon my mind to troubles, my heart to sorrow and my body to suffering till the moment of death?
VII. Do I voluntarily submit myself to all the afflictions which our Lord sends me to enable me to expiate my offences,— such as interior trials, aridity, weariness, bodily infirmities, physical indisposition, inclemency of the seasons, the fatigues of my employments?
Conclusion.—Forget not that the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and that the narrow gate of penance can alone afford us access to it.
Spiritual Instruction.—Carry yourselves back in spirit to the happy time when the earth was privileged to hear the preaching of St. Vincent Ferrer. Represent to your mind that procession of public penance, when the crowd of people, converted by that apostle of later times, scourged themselves with disciplines, and expressed hy these signs their deep contrition and lively compassion for 4he sufferings of Jesus Christ. Picture to yourselves the tears of pity which flowed from the eyes of the beholders, and the salutary effects produced in their souls by this admirable display of penance. Were your hearts harder than stone, the sight of such a spectacle should soften them and dispose them to repentance; it might possibly be necessary even to modify the desire that would draw you to works of Christian mortification. The same thing might happen to you that took place in regard to a sinner whom St. Vincent converted at Lyons. This was a soldier whose conscience was burdened with many crimes. Having sincerely confessed to a priest of the Saint's company, the latter imposed on him, on account of the enormity of his offences, a penance to assist at the procession of disciplinants which took place every evening, and to scourge himself with his own hands. The soldier refused to accept this public and severe penance. Then, the priest, unable to overcome his reluctance, asked his permission to refer the matter to St. Vincent. This he granted. The Saint adopted a middle course, which showed his extreme kindness. "You will tell your penitent," he said to the confessor, "to go in the procession of disciplinants, but without obliging him to take the discipline."
The penance having been very much lessened, the soldier accepted it. He walked in the procession without any instrument of penance in his hand. But when he saw the generosity with which other sinners less guilty than himself scourged themselves, when he heard the groans of repentance which escaped from their breasts, his soul was keenly moved; he regretted not having provided himself with a discipline like the rest; he eagerly asked for one, he received it with joy, and commenced to flog himself with all his might, weeping and sighing. It became necessary to restrain his fervour, and to prevent him endangering his life.1 The Litanies of the Saint.