Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Lenten Reflections on Venial Sin

First Prelude

Composition of Place – Imagine you see a soul living the life of grace, but because of venial sin it resembles Job on the dunghill amid crawling worms an filth, in a dying condition, now almost at the point of falling into mortal sin and undergoing a death of grave guilt. For God Himself says that one who makes light of small faults, little by little comes to fall into grave sins. (“…He that despises small things, shall fall by little and little.” Ecclus. 19:1).

Second Prelude

Prayer of Petition – Grant me, my Lord, a horror for light faults so that I may never fall into them, and a great sorrow for those I have committed up to now, so that I will not have to pay for them in Purgatory.

First Point

Consider, my soul, what venial sin is, and why it is called venial. It is an offense, though a light one, which a creature does to the Creator. It is called a light fault not in itself absolutely, but by reference to mortal sin, in comparison to which a venial sin, though enormous in its mischief, is called a small evil; just as the earth, vast in itself, is called small in comparison with the whole universe. Or it is like the Mediterranean Sea, which is itself immense, but compared to the ocean is small.

Venial sin is an offense done to God, and this offense contains in itself so much malice that one should not commit it, not even if thereby he could save a man’s life, not even if he could save all the inhabitants of the world. If, for example, by a small lie one could draw all the damned out of hell and convert them into saints and save everyone, one could not tell that lie, because it is an offense against God.

Saint Camillus de Lellis used to say that he would let himself be cut into a thousand tiny pieces rather than commit a single venial sin advertently. Venial sin is more terrible than the pains of hell. Convinced of this truth, Saint Anselm said that if on one hand he saw hell opened up and he saw that on the other hand he would be obliged to commit a deliberate venial sin advertently, then rather than commit it, he would choose to fall into hell. I ought to do the same in such circumstances; for hell is an evil of suffering, and venial sin is an evil of guilt.*

*Note – While this is true doctrine, it is not the wise approach for the priest while hearing confessions, according to St. Alphonsus de Liguori, who teaches that to receive forgiveness, our sorrow indeed must be supreme – supreme in our rational appreciation of things (summus appreciative) – so that we detest nothing more “than sin and would rather undergo all the evils of this world than morally sin against God; yet there is no need, and in fact it is not expedient (for the confessor) to make particular comparisons – for example, ‘I prefer to undergo this or that evil rather than sin mortally’; for this is dangerous. It is even less expedient to imagine our choice of hell. Since hell in God’s present Providence is destined for those who have become fixed in sin (at death) with an eternal hatred for God, a man acts incongruously who, to avoid sin, would choose hell, in which he could not remain without sin.” (Theol. Mor., vi, 433)

The same saint says: “Something that often discourages many on their way to God, is worrying about the painfulness of having to proceed until death with much strictness, always resisting selfish impulses. The best means to conquer this temptation is to imagine that you only need live for that day. If one knew he had but one day to live, would he not take care to do everything well and perfectly? But souls that are strong and fervent in Divine Love do not need to shun thoughts of the hardships ahead; for they are glad to and thirsty to suffer in order to please God.” (Vera Sposa, vii, sec 4 n. 16) And he adds: “Holy souls…live always with a firm resolve to suffer death rather than sin with eyes open, even venially.”)

Suffering – as suffering is not an offense against God, so no matter how horrible a suffering may be, it is a lesser evil than sin, even if it were the destruction of the whole world, the exile of all angels and saints from Heaven, and the condemnation of all souls to the fires of hell. The reason is that all these evils, great as they are, touch limited creatures, whereas sin, even light sin, touches and offends God, Who is Infinite and most deserving of all honor and glory, Who ought to be loved above all things and yet is disregarded for a trifle. God is a lovable God, a loving God. He has created us for Heaven. He preserves us. He gives us every kind of natural, supernatural, visible and invisible benefit. And we fail to love Him! We offend Him! Oh, what ingratitude!

If the malice of venial sin is frightening, its frequency is more horrifying. Alas! Scarcely a day passes that you do not commit many venial sins, either out of malice or from frailty, or by not paying due attention to what you do. These sins may be vain, useless thoughts, a dislike for neighbors, disordered affections, or words that are idle, proud, loose, sarcastic, untruthful, or actions or omissions. They may occur in our eating, our drinking, in our retiring or our rising, by acts of laziness. They may happen in public streets, at home, in church, in the way we walk or look about, or otherwise behave. And even in undertakings which are good, how many faults do you not commit, by being too hurried, or by carelessness or laziness, by voluntary distractions, by unfaithfulness to God’s inspirations! So many are the faults you commit that one may say they outnumber the hairs of your head.

Affective Acts

(1) Admiration – O my God, I am full of wonder and alarm! Yes, my Jesus, I am frightened as I consider the malice of venial sin and the great number I have committed. I can say that from the soles of my feet to the crown of my head I have nothing but the bruises of sin. I am also alarmed, my Jesus, at Thy patience in bearing the many faults by which I have offended Thee. I cannot bear a fly that harasses me, but am quick to chase it away. I cannot endure it if a dog snaps at me, and for a long time Thou hast borne it when by my venial sins I have harassed Thee and snapped at Thee!

(2) Repentance – O my Jesus, pardon me. My will is to sin no more. I know now the malice and numerousness of the venial sins I have committed. Note: St. Alphonsus de Liguori writes: “Because our nature is infected by sin, we carry within us such an inclination to evil as to make it impossible, without a very special grace (such as was granted [for example] to the Mother of God), to avoid all venial faults throughout life, even those committed without full awareness…As for deliberate, fully voluntary venial sins, with Divine help these can all be avoided, just as holy souls indeed avoid them who always live with the firm resolution to rather suffer death than commit a venial sin with eyes opened.” (Vera Sposa, V, nn. 1-3). And the saint adds: “in confession one’s purpose of amendment must be universal…This is meant to refer to all thoughts, words, deeds that could take away God’s friendship…More spiritual persons, furthermore, ought to be resolved to avoid all deliberate venial sins. As for unintentional ones, since it is impossible to avoid them all, it is enough to resolve to guard against them as much as one can.”*

I repent, and I declare with the Prophet: Cleanse me, Lord, of all my sins, grave and light, known and unknown, and I ask pardon for the sins that I did not commit myself, but caused others to commit.” (“Who can understand sins? From my secret ones cleanse me…and from those of others spare Thy servant.” Ps. 18:13-14)

Second Point

Consider, my soul, the effects which a venial sin causes. It does in a soul what sickness does in a body. There are two ill effects which sickness causes in a body: a present one, which is weakness, fatigue, pallor, and the like; and as for the future, it hastens death. Likewise venial sin, which is a sickness of the soul, at the present time does not eliminate the life and beauty of grace, but does remove that special bright splendor which would be enough to move the Divine Eyes to tender, devoted satisfaction. It is true that it does not deprive the soul of God’s friendship, but it does deprive us of many special favors. Alas! Venial sin makes a soul unworthy of God’s generous gifts, it prevents many particular, extraordinary graces. It deprives it of a large part of the fruit of the holy Sacraments, especially Holy Communion, as it hinders that very intimate union which the Lord would want. As heavy fluids in the body hinder movement and perception, venial sins do the same thing and worse in the soul. They weaken the will; they make devout exercises distasteful and boring; they make a soul dislike to do works of charity; they cool down its fervor, and leave it miserable.

The soul in venial sin is like a sick person with a stomach obstruction, who eats without relish, sleeps without resting, laughs without joy, is so wearied in everything and so fully bored that he drags himself rather than walks. Such is the soul with venial sins. They make a soul captive of bad habits and inclinations, which leaves it with a kind of obstruction to all good works, so that many are omitted, and the few that are performed are done without devotion and with distaste and reluctance. Prayers and penances are omitted, or if they are done they are without fervor, few in number and small in merit.

Because of venial sins the soul proceeds to grow weaker, graces continue to withdraw, and finally it comes to the point where it falls into mortal sin. A seriously wicked act of grumbling into which one lapses, a secret hatred which rages in the heart, an impulse for revenge which is not yet put down, a depraved desire to which one consents – these succeed in extinguishing and putting out that dying flicker of God’s grace. The Holy Scriptures are full of examples of this truth. There is the example of David: From a curious look came desire; from desire came acts of adultery and murder. With Judas it was from a disordered love of wealth. In the beginning this was a light fault; but in time it grew so much that he even sold Jesus Christ, his Divine Master. The Jews began with a light sin of jealousy and envy at the miracles and wonders which Jesus Christ performed. But on seeing everyone follow Him, the envy in their hearts grew to such size that they did not stop until they did away with Him by crucifixion. Who should not be horrified at the effects of venial sin!

Affective Acts

(1) Admiration – Ah, my God, how much the tubercular patient arouses our sympathies when he is too helpless to do anything! Now if one sickness puts a body in such bad condition, in what condition is my soul, with as many sicknesses as there are venial sins that I have committed? For every venial sin is a cancer which gnaws into the soul; it is a leprosy which loads it with filth; it is a palsy which weakens it from doing good; it is a dropsy which gives it a thirst for the goods of the world; it is a gout which will not let it march promptly ahead; it is an asthma which hinders it from sighing for Heaven; it is a deafness which will not let it hear God’s voice; it is a blindness which will not let it see the way of perfection.

(2) Supplication – O my Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me as Thou pitied the blind man on the road to Jericho, Grant that I may see! Cleanse me, O Lord, as Thou cleansed the leper! O my Jesus and my Redeemer, O true Samaritan! Pour the oil of Thy Mercy and the wine of Divine Grace upon my wounds and bruises caused by the thieves which are venial sins, into whose hands I have fallen. See, Lord, how they have robbed me of virtues and merit and have left me half dead along the way.

Third Point

To perceive the malice of venial sin, a suitable way is to observe the sufferings with which God has punished it, taking into account that He Who punishes is a wise God, Who does nothing from ignorance; that He is a just God Who does not let Himself be carried away by passion; that He is a merciful God Who is on His part more inclined to forgive than to punish; that He is a kind God Who does not punish except when constrained to do so; and yet He punishes venial sin in a soul which is in grace, which is His friend and an heir to Heaven. Yes, He punishes it nevertheless.

Oh, how great must be the evil of venial sin!

Numberless examples are in the Holy Scriptures. Because Miriam, sister of Moses, had murmured venially against her brother, the Lord suddenly punished her with the unclean disease of leprosy (Num. 12). God punished Lot’s wife and turned her into a pillar of salt because she had venially sinned by turning her eyes out of curiosity toward the city, against the Lord’s command (Gen. 19). For a small mistrustfulness into which Moses and Aaron lapsed, they did not enter the Promised Land (Num. 20). The deaths of Nadab and Abiu (Lev. 10:2), sons of Aaron, the deaths of Oza (2 Kings 6:7), of Ananias and Saphira (Acts 5:5), and of many others, resulted from venial sins. Who will not fear? Who will not walk with care to avoid such faults? Not only does God punish those faults with these penalties, but He also punishes them with other greater sufferings in Purgatory. For a light lie, for an indecent smile, for an improper word, for grumbling, etc., etc., souls there suffer a pain of loss from being denied the sight of God, and a pain of sense in very dreadful fires for a longer time than people think, and their suffering is more than all the pains that can be witnessed or experienced in this world. What conception would you have, my soul, of those light sins which you easily commit, if you were now in Purgatory amid the sufferings you deserve for them? Would you call them slight faults which keep you from an Infinite Good, which is the sight of God and the possession of glory in Heaven? Would you count as trifles, and dismiss as scruples, the faults that earn a most dreadful confinement with the most painful afflictions? Suppose you saw some distinguished person dragged from his home or palace and carried off to prison, and that there, in the middle of the courtyard, they set a fire and thrust that person into its great blaze. Suppose then, when you asked what crime he had committed, the person in charge answers that he was punished this way for having told a lie, for a little grumbling, or another venial fault. Would you then say that a venial sin is nothing? Realize, then, my soul, that in Purgatory venial sins are punished by very painful confinement and torment.

Affective Acts

(1) Repentance – O my God, now I know something of how great is the evil of venial sin! Ah, if I had understood it before, I would not have sinned as I did! Up to now I have treated it as a joke. But I give Thee my word, my God, that from now on, with the help of Thy grace, I will avoid sinning again. Forgive me, my Father, because Thou art Who Thou art, Infinite Goodness, and I promise Thee I will yield worthy fruits of repentance.

(2) Resolution – My Father, I give Thee my word that from now on I will make use of the means I know to be best suited to keep me from ever falling again into venial sins. Therefore I promise, my God, that every morning I will make a firm resolve not to sin venially that day, and at night I will examine myself and make an act of repentance if at any time I have sinned. I will avoid the occasions of falling down; I will proceed with more caution in my conversations, and I will keep my passions and senses mortified. I will in particular keep my eyes modest and recollected, and will take greater care to guard my tongue. I will keep silent, and when I have to speak, I will proceed with great caution so that my words will not be lacking in the truth, in charity, in humility, or in chastity. I will reflect that I am in Thy Divine Presence, and that on Judgment Day Thou must pass judgment on everything, even an idle word (Matt. 12:36) and even things that are just. (“…I will judge justices.” [Ps. 74:3], says the Lord.)

Now pray one Our Father and the Hail Mary.

(Source: The Golden Key to Heaven, An Explanation of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius by St. Anthony Mary Claret)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Lenten Reflections on the Sin of the Angels and of Our First Parents

First Prelude

Composition of Place – Imagine you see the Eternal Father seated on His throne of majesty and grandeur, Who, as Judge, passes sentence against the rebellious angels, against Adam and Eve, and against Jesus Christ, His Son, Who has assumed the figure of the sinner. Imagine that one of the angels who stands before the Lord’s throne approaches you and says, “Know and understand how evil and bitter it is to have offended your God.” (“…Know thou, and see that it is an evil and a bitter thing for thee, to have left the Lord thy God” Jer. 2:19)

Second Prelude

Petition – My God and Lord, I beg light and grace to know the malice of sin, to grieve at the faults I have committed, and to firmly resolve to die rather than sin again.

First Point

Words of St. Ignatius – “The first point will be to recall to memory the first sin, which was that of the angels, then to apply the understanding by considering this sin in detail, then the will by seeking to remember and understand all, so that I may be the more ashamed and confounded when I compare the one sin of the angels with the many that I have committed. Since they went to hell for one sin, how many times have I deserved it for my many sins. I will recall to mind the sin of the angels, remembering that they were created in the state of grace, that they refused to make use of their freedom to offer reverence and obedience to their Creator and Lord, and so sinning through pride, they fell from grace into sin and were cast from Heaven into hell. In like manner my understanding is to be used to reason more in detail on the subject matter, and thereby move more deeply my affections through the use of the will.

Explanation – From the punishment given the angels, one can gather the infinite malice of sin. Turn back a little in your thought, O my soul, to those marvelous times when God created Heaven and peopled it with angels. Who could ever imagine a happiness greater than what was given those spirits? So remarkable was their beauty that no man could have gazed at it without being overcome with joy. So astonishing was their wisdom that compared to it, Solomon’s could be called pure and genuine ignorance. Their essential blessedness was such that they were not capable of suffering any pain. Their dwelling was as lovely as a paradise could be. In spite of the greatness of their gifts of nature, their gifts of grace were too great to compare. They had a very perfect knowledge of God; a most ardent charity was infused into them; and their friendship and union with God was very intimate. Also they had a certain promise that after a few moments they were to enter into His glory to enjoy it forever.

Then all at once some angels abused this great kindness. They were unwilling to serve God in the way His Majesty wanted. They sinned, and received punishment. (“…I will be like the Most High.” Isaias 14:14)

Reflect, now, with all the powers of your mind, on the circumstances of this punishment.

(1) This punishment deprived them of all good. These very unfortunate angels were transformed in a moment from the extremely beautiful spirits which they were, into horrible demons. From preferred sons of God they became objects of everlasting hatred and were cast like a lightning bolt from the height of Heaven to the depths of hell-fire. (“…I saw Satan like lightning falling from Heaven.” Luke 10:18)

(2) This punishment was the sum-total of all possible misfortunes. In their memory there remained the very distressing recollection of the past. In their minds was extreme storminess. In their wills was supreme despair; and very painful flames afflicted all their powers of perception.

(3) This punishment was without a remedy. More than four thousand years had passed in which these miserable spirits burned in these flames, when Jesus Christ came into the world to destroy sin. But of what help was His coming to them? That merciful Jesus, Who shed so many tears over wicked Jerusalem, shed not one tear for them. That loving Jesus, Who gave all His Blood for His treacherous enemies, offered not a drop to His Eternal Father for them. It took but a single moment to commit the sin, but the punishment will last for all eternity.

Pause here a little while, my soul, and go in thought down into that prison of fire. Picture to yourself the misery of those condemned spirits. Observe what a horrible, terrifying appearance it has, which no mortal man could gaze upon without dying of fright. Their dwelling place is a dreadful prison, confined and blazing all around with fire. The torments which they suffer are so very painful that no mind can grasp it. After you have observed these things, ponder with me as follows:

These monsters were once very beautiful spirits, very dear sons of the Most High God, masterpieces of the Divine, Almighty Power, first occupants and very beautifying sights in the heavenly mansion. What evil have they done, to have fallen into such great misfortune? All their guilt comes down to a single thought, consented to in an instant, a single act of disobedience, one single sin. For this single sin they have been burning for at least six thousand years, and will burn for all eternity. And who is it Who has pronounced this horrifying sentence against them? God. O awesome truth! It is God! We must say, then, either that God is not Infinite Wisdom, Infinite Justice, Infinite Mercy, or that sin is truly an infinite evil. The first is unthinkable. Therefore we must admit the second and declare that sin is an infinite evil.

Affective Acts

(1) Admiration – O my God, I know not which I should marvel at more, the strict justice with which Thou treated the rebellious angels, or the greatness of the mercy Thou hast shown me. Those very noble spirits, those beautiful likenesses of Thy Divinity, committed a single sin, and for this sin alone they were damned for all eternity. I, who am a heap of dirt and dust, have committed many sins. And Thou hast borne up with me!...I have abused Thy Mercy, and after I had been pardoned for earlier sins, I committed others. And Thou forgavest me again. Even now at this very moment Thou dost look on me with fatherly eyes and stretch out to me the arms of Thy mercy. O sovereign spirits, O blessed souls who are in Heaven, cast a glance down on me and in me you will see as many evidences of God’s mercy and long suffering as there are sins which I have committed. Ah! Supply for me what I ought to do, but cannot. Praise and bless God, for He is good, and great is the mercy He has had for me.

(2) Repentance – This mercy is what fills my heart with grief. I have offended a God Who has loved me more than so many thousands of millions of very noble spirits, a God Who, at the very time I committed the greatest offenses, clasped me to the bosom of His Mercy; a God Who, in spite of my sins, wants to love me for all eternity. And I, an ungrateful person, how could I make light of such great love and offend such great kindness? How can I now remember such malice without breaking down into sad, bitter tears? O my Jesus, I recognize and admit my sins. I am repentant and hate them all.

Second Point

Words of St. Ignatius – “The second point is to use the three powers of the soul to consider the sin of Adam and Eve. Call to mind how they did such long penance for their sin and what corruption fell on the human race, causing so many to go to hell. Call to mind the second sin, that of our first parents. Recall that after Adam had been created in the Plain of Damascus and placed in the earthly paradise, and Eve had been formed from his rib, they were forbidden to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, and eating it, they committed sin. After their sin, clothed in garments of skin and cast out of paradise, without the original justice which they had lost, they lived all their lives in much travail and much penance.”

“The understanding is likewise to be used in considering the subject matter in greater detail and the will is to be employed as already explained.”

Explanation – Perceive the infinite malice of sin from the punishment imposed on our first parents. Never in the world has a happiness been seen like that in which God created our first parents.

(1) How pleasant their dwelling place was, this earthly paradise! It was not subject to cold, nor to hot, nor rainy nor windy weather, but there was the continuous, peaceful enjoyment of the sight of the sun. Needing no one’s toil, some trees of themselves bore excellent fruit, vines bore tasty grapes, and the soil yielded wonderful sprouts of plants and flowers.

(2) How perfect their dominion was over the animals! At first call, birds would descend from the sky and show them their dependence. At a word, animals would run up and halting at their feet, would give them proof of their obedience. At a signal, fish would come swimming through the water to the bank and show their joy.*

(*NOTE – We have seen these teachings in the Roman Catechism of the Council of Trent and in writings of the Holy Fathers. Original sources cited for them were certain profound passages of Scripture and continuous and persistent tradition.)

(3) How marvelous was the condition of their body! It was not subject to exhaustion, nor weariness, nor pain, nor sickness, nor old age, nor even death. In order to always keep the flower of youth, it was enough that they eat fruits from the Tree of Life.

(4) How wonderful was the good condition of their soul! It had perfect control over all the passions. No melancholy, nor envy, nor hatred, nor any other disorderly movement dared rise up against reason. Their soul was endowed with a plentiful knowledge of God, a very ardent love for Him, a tender fondness for His Divine Majesty.

Finally, a promise had been made to our first parents that after a long and happy life, without first undergoing sickness or death, they would be transported body and soul into Heaven, to reign there forever with God. But if God’s generosity to our first parents was enormous, no less was their monstrous ingratitude towards Him. They were unwilling to serve Him in the way He wanted to be served. They sinned and received the punishment. Reflect now on the circumstances of this punishment, and the seriousness of the sin in their case.

(1) For this single sin, Adam was left deprived of all happiness. The ground is under a curse. Henceforth it would produce nothing else but thorns and thistles. The human body is under a curse and condemned to pain, sickness and death, and as God’s enemy, is in this valley of tears as a place of exile from paradise.

(2) For this single sin, all of Adam’s descendants are condemned alike to these misfortunes. Imagine a piece of land, for instance (let us say) one league square and completely piled about half a league high with corpses, and say to yourself: All these thousands of millions of men had to undergo death for this single sin.

(3) For this single sin, a majority of adults are damned for all eternity. Everyone who is damned is damned on account of the uncontrolled passions of his heart which draw him to sin. This vehemence of his bad inclinations is a punishment of that disobedience which our first parents committed. Here is something more frightful: If, by an impossibility, the world were to last forever in the present state, every for all eternity millions of men would fall into the fire of hell on account of this single sin.

(4) For this sin Jesus died on the Cross. Oh, amazing miracle! The Supreme Lord of Heaven and earth, Who by essence is Holiness, and is the Only-Begotten Son of God, was condemned by His own Father to the disgraceful death of the Cross! And this was on account of that sin.

(5) In spite of this death, the Heavenly Father continues to punish us poor men for that sin. *

Thus, having lost paradise, we are pilgrims in a valley of tears with life plentiful in bitter things, with death full of anguish and terror and eternal salvation in doubt, and no other way to enter Heaven except a way of penance and tears.*

*NOTE: Four points in the Traditional Patristic teaching will answer in advance certain difficulties:

1. Sin is truly so terrible as to deserve all these unhappy consequences, and one doubting this while appreciating the good authority for it, would not have this doubt if he appreciated how terrible sin is.

2. In casting aside God’s friendship, Adam lost all title to further protection from Providence and God would have been justified in damning him at once. If God had, we would not be here. But God gave him another chance, and us a chance to exist, on condition that we be earmarked to share with Christ in a reparation wherein, if we would cooperate, we would be rewarded a hundredfold in this life and the next.

3. God does none of this haphazardly but in all things follow principles of wisdom and fitness, which our glimpses often recognize to be beautiful, though their depths stay beyond our grasp.

4. This fitness demands that children inconvenience themselves to practice gratitude to their parents as instruments of their existence which they would not otherwise have. In so inconveniencing ourselves by suffering for Original Sin, we will be rewarded by God many times over sand see ourselves obliged to praise God for His goodness.

Affective Acts

(1) Fear – O Holy Faith, how amazing are the truths you bring to my view! The most beautiful angels are cast down to hell! The whole human race is exiled from Heaven! Millions of souls are condemned to hell! Jesus, Son of God, has died on a Cross, and so died by the Will of His Eternal Father! And all this on account of one thing, namely, sin! O sin, how great is the evil hidden within you! If the Eternal Father dealt in such a severe way with His beloved, only-begotten Son on account of sin, with how much rigor will He deal with me, who has committed so many sins? – with me, who, after receiving pardon, has fallen back into sin so many times?

(2) Repentance – I see very well, O my God, that there can be no other way open for me except Thy Infinite Mercy on Thy part, and on my part true and persevering repentance. So I kneel down before Thee, hating with all the powers of my spirit, all the sins I have committed. I have done evil. I know it and confess it. I should never have offended Infinite Goodness. I ought rather to have died, and even given up a thousand lives, than have done so much evil. Ah! Who will give a spring of bitter tears to my eyes and an intense grief to my heart, such as I need?

Third Point

Reflections on the foregoing truths – Gather your thoughts again, my soul, to comprehend well the following reflections:

(1) If a single sin is so hateful in God’s sight, how hateful should my soul be in His presence? If I have committed one single (mortal) sin, I have sinned as much as one rebel spirit. If I have done a hundred, I have sinned so much that alone I am like a hundred rebel spirits. Again, if I have committed a single (mortal) sin, I have made myself as displeasing to God as each one of the rebel spirits. If I have committed a hundred, I have made myself, taken alone, as displeasing as a hundred of those spirits taken together.

(2) If one who (mortally) sins once, deserves hell, how obliged am I to bless God’s Infinite Mercy! If I have committed a single sin, I have deserved hell, just like all the reprobate spirits. If I have committed more than one, I have deserved it more than any of them. And why do I not find myself where those unhappy creatures are? Ah! That very God Who used all the strictness of His Justice with them, has used with me all the riches of His Infinite Mercy. Oh, what goodness! What love! What long suffering!

(3) If for a single sin God gave such a terrible punishment to angels and men, with what good reason should I not fear His Justice? For just one sin God damned so many thousands of millions of angelic spirits to burn forever in the fire of hell, leaving no remedy, no grace, no period to do penance. If I were to boldly sin again, could He not do, and perhaps will He not do, the same with me? O my God, I see my duty to confess that now I could not sin again without extreme boldness, and that Thou couldst not forgive me now if Thy Mercy were not Infinite.

Affective Acts

(1) Repentance – Heaven and earth bear me witness that Thou hast an infinite hatred for sin. Ah! Would that a single drop of that holy hatred would descend into my heart! Unfortunate as I am, what have I done? There is nothing so deserving of my love as Jesus. Nothing ought to be hated be me so much as sin. And I, a fool, have abhorred Jesus and loved sin. By my works I have said: long live sin! Give life to Barrabas and death to Jesus!...Crucify Him! Or rather, I have crucified Him by the sin I have committed. Oh, impiety that deserves to be punished forever in hell! I know it, O my God, and I weep for it! How much better it would have been for me to have rotted under the ground before sinning! But these sighs of regret come very late. I have sinned! I have sinned, oh, so many times! I have sinned enormously! Forgive me, my Jesus. I do repent.

(2) Thanksgiving – But my great malice calls to my mind Thy Mercy. Without fear and trembling I cannot reflect on that unhappy hour in which I sinned for the first time. O wretched hour! Ah! Would it had never come! O God, if Thou hadst treated me then as Thou treated the angels, oh, for how long a time I would have been in hell! Ah! Just the recalling of it makes me tremble – of that great peril in which my precious one and only immortal soul stood at that time. Thou hast had mercy on me and have given me time to do penance. Oh, what praise, what blessing, what thanks I owe Thee!

(3) Prayer of Petition – Have mercy on me, O my God, have mercy! I know now the infinite evil that sin contains. I know it by the hell fire of the rebel spirits. I know it by the fate of man exiled from paradise. I know it by the sufferings and torments Jesus underwent dying on a Cross. O awesome mystery! The Son of God had to die, and die in this way, for my sins! Could I have committed a greater wrong than this, of leading Jesus to the Cross? I am Jesus’ executioner! O sin, O accursed sin! How is it you have seemed sweet and agreeable to me? O Jesus, by the Blood Thou shed for my sins, I beg Thee to grant me the special graces I need in order to bitterly weep over my past sins and avoid them in the future and hate them more than death.

Now pray the Our Father and the Hail Mary.

(Source: The Golden Key to Heaven, An Explanation of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius by St. Anthony Mary Claret)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Lenten Reflections on Our Duty to Separate from Occasions & Dangers of Sinning

First Prelude

Composition of Place – Imagine you see yourself in this world as in the midst of a great field with traps laid everywhere in it, like the vision seen by St. Anthony; or, as St. Bernard says, with robbers lying in ambush who wish to rob us of our rich treasures of grace and virtue.

Second Prelude

Prayer of Petition – My Lord Jesus Christ, give me the wings of a dove so that I may fly and quickly escape the dangers of sin and take refuge in Thy Most Holy Wounds.

First Point

My soul, you must consider how important it is to shun the occasions of sin and to know this for the following reasons: One maxim agreed among philosophers is this: Remove the cause and you remove its effect. Thus, with fire put out, the heat is gone. If the spring dries up, the stream stops flowing. If the cause is not removed, in vain are efforts to stop the effect. When a wise and experienced physician wants to cure a sickness, he tries to find the cause that produced it and remove the cause; otherwise he would be wasting his time. So too, a man who is trying to correct himself would spend his time in vain, if he does not remove the occasions and dangers of sin. Moreover, in the spiritual warfare against vice, and in particular against impurity, he who is the most careful to flee, conquers more gloriously. God Himself declares that “…He that loveth danger shall perish in it…” (Ecclus. 3:27); “He that toucheth pitch, shall be defiled with it,” (Ecclus. 13:1); and he who touches fire will feel its burning. Thus one who voluntarily puts himself in a proximate occasion, sins already, and he remains defiled and stained; for he loves the danger, and by that fact perishes in it. The occasion makes the thief, according to the proverb, and it is so true, as experience has shown concerning many people who, not having any intention of sinning, the occasion in which they found themselves hurled them down, as they did not know how to flee, like chaste Joseph (Gen. 39:12), nor cry out, like chaste Susanna (Dan. 13:24)* [Joseph, “leaving the garment in her hand, fled” from his master’s wife. Susanna, approached by the wicked elders, “cried out with a loud voice.”]

Affective Acts

(1) Repentance – O my God, now I know that if I have sinned, it has been because I did not flee, as Joseph did, nor cry out, as did chaste Susanna. Alas! I have been not only neglectful, but I have been rash, like Sampson, David, and Solomon, who fell because they put themselves in the occasion of sin.

(2) Resolution – O Lord, I resolve to sin no more, and to achieve this I will separate myself from the dangers and occasions of falling into sin. I will be mindful of that maxim of St. Philip Neri, which says, “In the warfare of sensuality, the cowards who flee are the winners.”

Second Point

Consider, my soul, that our chief enemy, Satan, never stops laying traps, as he seeks every chance that presents itself to carry out his aim. He makes people incautious when they frequently go about with persons of the other sex. At the outset he sees to it that their association is upright. Then he proceeds to mix in some silly behavior, then he keeps going further until finally they fall miserably into sin. The same happens to them as happens to the moth which hovers about the flame, singes its wings, and falls to its doom. Ah, how many souls were once chaste, but because they proceeded like the moth to the flame of that danger, the flame of that occasion, they were singed, were burned, and perished forever! Oh, how many of both sexes have miserably fallen because repeatedly they frequented dances, theaters, and engaged in love affairs and the like! The same thing happens to many as happens to a pitcher of cold water which, when placed next to a fire, proceed imperceptibly to receive heat until finally it comes to a boil and boils over. Many begin friendships and courtships, go out to certain entertainments without the least precaution, and little by little, almost without knowing how, they find themselves caught by passion, in which they simmer and boil over. Just as there is no more effective remedy for stopping the pitcher from overflowing and cooling it down, than to move it away from the fire, likewise the most effective remedy is keeping away from dangers and occasions of sin.

Affective Acts

(1) Fear – Alas! I am alarmed about myself. I am astonished that I have not sinned more, considering the danger in which I have been. I find myself like one who has been asleep, and upon awaking discovers he is on the edge of a cliff, or notices that he has at his side a poisonous snake. Oh, what fear seizes him! How promptly he moves away!

(2) Resolution – I will move away from sin and the occasions of sin as from the sight of a serpent. “Flee from sins as from the face of a serpent,” says Ecclus. (21:2-4), “for if thou comest near them, they will take hold of thee. The teeth thereof are the teeth of a lion, killing the souls of men. All iniquity is like a two-edged sword…”

I do not wish to do as Eve did, who, being idle and engaging in conversation with the serpent, fell miserably into sin. I will strive to be always worthily occupied and stay away from all occasions of offending my Lord and God.

Third Point

Consider the means you must resort to in order to not put yourself in danger of sinning. The first will be to reflect that you have at your side your guardian angel who, like a protector and guide, counsels you with the words of the psalm: “Turn away from evil and do good: seek after peace and pursue it.” (Psalm 33:15).

The second will be that if anything in the course of time becomes an occasion of sin, leave it, or uproot it and cast it far from you, as your Master and Redeemer teaches you and commands you. Even if it be something as necessary as the eyes of your face, uproot it; though it be a person as useful to you as your hands and feet, cut it away and put it far from you (Mt. 5:29-30).

The third means will be the holy fear of God. God truly sees you. God hears you. God perceives all your thoughts and inclinations. This God Who watches you, Who hears you and Who knows all things, has power not only to take the life from your body, but He also has power to cast body and soul into hell. Thus He is One you must fear, as He teaches you in the holy Gospel (Mt. 10:28)

Get away from dangers and occasions of sin not only because of the holy fear of God, but also understand that you are being wise; as the Holy Ghost declares that the fool is over-daring and over-confident and therefore falls; while the wise man walks with fear and thus escapes evil. (A wise man feareth and declineth from evil: the fool leapeth over and is confident.” Prov. 14:16). Indeed, one who puts himself in danger shows his foolishness. He lets you see that he does not know himself; for if he knew himself and that he is so fragile, and more so than glassware, that he is more flammable than gunpowder, he would not proceed as he does to put himself in danger of offending God. Gunpowder is not ignited by itself. All the harm comes from without; so that if glass or gunpowder is well protected, even if quite fragile or flammable, it lasts for ages. But a man, in addition to facing external hazards, has internal ones which he cannot so easily avoid, but which makes him all the more obliged to avoid external danger. Ah, Christian soul! Is it true that you do not know that you live in a body which breeds a destructive element and that in that body is the root of your ruin! Oh, if you were wise, how surely you would save your soul! Oh, if you knew yourself, how surely you would move away from danger! Fear God, and you will be wise; fear God, and you will be saved.

Affective Acts

(1) Prayer of Petition – Lord, grant that I may know what I am and what Thou art…Ah, if I knew myself I surely would not be so overconfident in myself, nor would I put myself in occasions of sin. The soldier who knows that gunpowder easily ignites, does not proceed to turn over hot coals with a cartridge; for he knows and understands well that the powder would explode and injure him. If I knew well how easily I am excited with the fire of passion, I would not be so foolish or rash about putting myself in the occasion of sin. Oh, if I knew Thee better, and I would fear Thee with a filial fear, and thus I would never sin again.

(2) Resolution – I am resolved to separate always and promptly from the persons, places and things which I know can be an occasion of sin. If any occasions present themselves to me which would catch me by surprise and would make me fall, I will say to Thee, my God, the prayer of the Prophet, “O God, come to my assistance; O Lord, make haste to help me” (Ps. 69:2). And I will address Thee, my Jesus, as the Apostles did, “…Save us! We perish!” (Mt. 8:25). And Thee, O Most Holy Virgin, I beg and will beg, that You pray to God for me now and always and at the hour of my death. And you, O ye angels and saints, I remind you of the charges that you have from my Heavenly Father, to guard me in all my ways so that I may not fall into sin and may happily arrive at my fatherland in Heaven.

Now pray the Our Father and the Hail Mary.

(Source: The Golden Key to Heaven, An Explanation of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius by St. Anthony Mary Claret)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Lenten Reflections On The End of Man

Composition of Place – Imagine that you see God full of majesty and grandeur seated on His throne, and that you hear a voice that says: “I am the Beginning and the End.” (Apoc. 22:13) You can also imagine that you see a vast ocean from which many rivers come forth and return, and that this ocean represents the goodness of God, from Whom come forth all creatures and to Whom they return, and that you are one of them, who has come from Him, and to Him you must return.

Prelude – My God and Lord I ask Thee that Thou let me know my end, that I may seek it and attain it, and I beg that Thou give me the grace to make myself better than I am and overcome all the obstacles that can hinder me. In the words of St. Ignatius, “Man was created to praise, honor, and serve God our Lord, and thereby save his soul.”

First Point

What is my origin? Who is author of my being? This knowledge is so important that I cannot excuse myself from it without forsaking common sense and the religion which I profess. This knowledge guides me by the hand, as it were, to the accomplishment of my essential duties. All nature shouts to me that I owe submission, respect, obedience, acknowledgment, and love to the Author of my being.* [“Heaven, earth, and all things tell me to love Thee.” – St. Augustine, Confessions)

Now Who is the Author of my being? I exist. There was a time when I did not exist. Twenty, thirty, sixty, eighty years ago, I did not exist. Where was I then? I was nothing. How have I come into the world? Who has created me? Did I give being to myself? No; for since I was nothing. I could do nothing. Was it a force called chance that formed me? No; for such a chance is a deceptive dream. Did my parents produce me out of nothing? No; they have been instruments which God has used.

But God is my Creator, not they, although I should always honor them. Ask yourself if the following is not so: The non-material, spiritual, eternal and immortal soul which you have, which makes you above all animals and almost equal to the angels, and this soul is the image of God – could anyone have made this, but God Himself? Right reason declares the answer, and faith teaches it when God states, “Let Us make man to Our Image and likeness…” (Gen 1:26).

The same thing is to be said of your body, which is material. Something material is changeable, and does not independently exist of its own power nor does it possess existence of itself. It possesses it from the Supreme Being, Who is God. Thus you see that you ought to raise yourself – even the less important part of you – to God as your first Principle Who created you, drew you from your parents, and keeps you in existence.

Furthermore, the complex structure of your body, the coordination and movements of the numerous parts which form its wonderful machinery, are not familiar knowledge to our parents.* [The mother of the seven Machabee children who were martyred, said to them in order to encourage them: “I know not how you were formed in my womb, for I neither gave you breath, nor soul, nor life, neither did I frame the limbs of every one of you. But the Creator of the world….” 2 Mach. 7:22-23)

God alone, Who is the First Intelligent Cause, Mover and Ruler, formed your body and preserves it whole. Indeed, preserving is continuous creating. He lets secondary causes operate, but even they would not function without the cooperation, the order, and the movement of the First Cause.

You ought, then, to be well convinced that God has given you all you have – the soul with its powers, and the body with its senses. It is He and no one else who preserves you. Indeed if He withdrew His Almighty Hand you would at once return to the nothingness from which you came.* [Thy hands have made me and formed me…Thou hast laid Thy hand upon me.” Ps. 118,73; 118,5]

God has given you existence and preserves by His Goodness and Mercy the existence you have.* [“…I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore have I drawn thee, taking pity on thee.” (Jer. 31:3)

He has preferred you to others whom He could have created and will never create. He has given you the noble existence of a man, and not that of a beast, nor of a plant, nor of a stone; although you had no right to such a noble and privileged existence.

And what did He do this for? Ah, an Infinite Wisdom cannot make anything without assigning it an end that matches its greater or lesser excellence. And this holds true here. The final end for which this Immense Being drew you out of nothing is simply this: that you know Him here on earth, and that hereafter you enjoy Him eternally in Heaven.* [“I have created him for My glory…” (Is. 43:7) “You have your fruit unto sanctification, and the end life everlasting.” (Rom. 6:22)]

Are you persuaded about this, my soul?...Do you believe it? In all the moments of your past life you should have glorified and loved God, and in every moment remaining to you, you will have to serve Him, glorify and love Him…and why?

(1) Because the Goodness of God requires it. Imagine that you had come to the world in the same state in which you now find yourself, except that you were completely speechless, without the power to utter one word; and that today God should come down from Heaven, loose your tongue and give you speech, adding at the same time, this command: “In recognition of the kindness I have shown you, you shall not utter a word except what is in My Honor.”

Could anything ever be more proper that that a tongue, to which God has given the power of speech, should praise Him?...Now look at yourself, and tell me, do you find any part of your body, no matter how small, which you have not received from God? Is there in you some power which He Himself has not given you?* [“What hast thou that thou hast not received?...” 1 Cor. 4:7]

Is it not, then, very just that God be loved by that heart which you have received from Him, and that those hands which He has fashioned be engaged in working for God?

(2) Because God’s supreme Ownership calls for it. It is He Who created you and brought you out of nothingness. One who plants a garden gains an ownership of the garden and is owner of all its fruits. A person who chooses to take a single apple against that owner’s will, would commit a theft and an injustice.

God has created you and is your owner, and of all there is in you, so that every affection which is not directed to Him, every word that is not to His praise, every deed that is not done for love of Him, is a theft and an injustice.

Do you understand now, oh! my soul, how right it is that you serve God and that you honor and love Him with all your heart? How have you complied with this obligation? A master receives a bad service in two ways: First, by our loafing and utterly neglecting the duties we owe to him as master, or by our doing them carelessly. Second, by your doing things with evil intent so that the master is offended. Up to now how have you served your God and Lord? What does your heart say?

Affective Acts

(1) Confession – Oh my God! I am well aware of the disorders of my life so far. My only goal and pursuit should have been to love Thee, to serve Thee, and to glorify Thee with all my heart. I should never have used one moment, nor uttered one word, nor performed any work, except for Thy Honor and Glory. But, how have I behaved?

How many thousands of hours there have been in my life, how many thousands of words my lips have uttered, thousands of deeds my hands have performed, and to what purpose have they been directed? Oh, how many times it has been to creatures, and how few times to Thee, oh my God!...But that is not so important as this; How many days have passed in which I have not committed new outrages and new offenses against Thee? What a wretch I am! How neglectful, how ungrateful and how perverse I have been, Lord!...

(2) Act of Sorrow – I cannot do more, oh! my God, except implore Thy Infinite Mercy, humbly asking for forgiveness. I detest and abhor with all my heart and all the powers of my soul, as much as I can, all the moments that I have not used for Thy Honor and Glory…Oh, if I could recover as many precious hours as I have wasted and used badly! Pardon, Lord, pardon; already I am weighed down by my sins. Have mercy, my God and my Father.

Second Point

Nothing is more profitable than living for the Last End by serving, glorifying and loving God with one’s whole heart.

The Final End for which God has created you has not been merely that you serve Him and love Him solely for His glory, but also that you gain eternal blessedness and come to enjoy it in the next life. By serving God you will, after a while, go to enjoy Him in Heaven. This is as sure as it is that you are now alive on earth. Pause here a bit, my soul, to reflect on the benefits that await you.

(1) In Heaven there is an immense blessing for the soul. To comprehend fully the blessing that the soul will enjoy in Heaven is as impossible as it is to swallow the ocean. The only idea that in any way lets you understand its greatness is this: As God is an Infinite Being, His Blessedness must be, as a consequence, infinite; for an inferior blessedness cannot match an Infinite Being.

Oh, what a marvelous fact! God’s Blessedness, His happiness, is infinite, and this very same happiness is your last End. God wants you to enjoy the same object of happiness by which He is happy and the same delights that He enjoys.

(2) In Heaven there is a blessing beyond measure for the body. The soul cannot serve God in the things He commands it, in His holy law, unless it has cooperation from the body. Just then, as the soul will gain blessedness, the body will likewise gain the same favor. Now what will this happy state be for the body and how great will it be?

Faith tells us this much: It will be of such a nature and such greatness that eye has not seen nor ear ever heard the like, nor can any imagination ever picture it nor any mind comprehend it. To put it in a few words, God engages all His Almighty power in order to make the body happy in all its senses.

(3) In Heaven the blessedness of both body and soul are eternal. Oh how empty is all the glamor and pleasure of earth! A hundred years ago there were kings and queens; and millions of their citizens humbly bent their knee to acknowledge the royal authority. Everyone was awed at the splendor of these rulers, and their power made kingdoms tremble.

Where are these rulers now? They have rotted under the ground. Their bones have changed into dust, and this dust is now trampled underfoot. Likewise today on earth are kings and queens who are honored like gods. But let a century pass, and what will be left of them?

Nothing more than a heap of dust that wind will scatter…The kingdom that awaits you is of a very different kind. Everything in it is everlasting. That infinitely delightful enjoyment of the Holy Trinity is eternal. Those sweet exchanges with Jesus Christ are eternal. That tender love and close friendship with the Mother of God and with the other saints and angels is eternal. The beauty of paradise is eternal.

That overflowing measure of joy that engages all the powers of the soul is eternal. That river of delight that floods all the senses of the body is eternal. Everything there is without any lessening, without change, without interruption, without end – eternal, eternal…

Affective Acts

(1) O God! O Infinite Goodness! How consoling this truth is to me! Heaven is my homeland! Heaven is my inheritance! Heaven is my reward! It is my last end. Yes, it is really true. God has made it for me. If I serve Him and love Him, a day will come when I will shine with a loveliness greater than that of the sun and mood, when I will behold paradise with my own eyes, when I can embrace my beloved Jesus, and when my body and soul will be plunged into a sea of delight.

Oh happy day! Can I expect this? Indeed I do expect this, and expect it with assurance. Jesus Himself has promised it to me. For all this, it is enough that I keep His law, that I act according to the end of my creation.* [If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Matt 19:17). Fear God , and keep His commandments; because for man everything depends on this.” (Eccles 12:13)]

(2) Detachment from temporal things – If Heaven is mine, then how is it that I do not make light of this world and all that this world can give? Why do I get upset and make myself sad because of the aches and pains of my body, if a day will come when my body will have nothing but pure delights for all eternity? Why do I feel so badly when men treat me as of no account, if for all eternity I am to be loved and honored by God and all the saints? Oh how blind I have been up to now, O my God, in valuing so highly the vile goods of this world! From now on I choose and resolve to treat the things of this world as of no account, and to love what belongs to eternity and Heaven.

Third Point

Nothing can be more necessary than to hope and strive for the last end by loving, serving and glorifying God with all our heart. Here is a fact, O my soul: In creating you, God’s goal was His honor and glory, and He ought to obtain it and unfailingly will obtain this goal of His. This is as certain as it is that God is God. Therefore consider and reflect.

(1) God is infinite Goodness and infinite Justice. O my soul, let these truths sink deeply into your heart. As God is infinite Goodness, it is absolutely certain that He must love and reward eternally all those who have glorified Him, served Him, and loved Him. And as He is infinite Justice, it is impossible that He not hate and punish eternally all those who treat Him disrespectfully. Have you understood these truths well? Let us proceed further.

(2) As God is infinite Goodness, He has created paradise; and as He is infinite Justice, He has created hell. In paradise God will love and reward forever the souls that have been faithful, and they, in return, will praise and bless Him forever. In hell, He will oppose and punish forever the unfaithful souls, and they will curse and blaspheme Him forever. In paradise, His infinite Goodness and Mercy will be praised for all eternity; in hell, His Majesty will be upheld and His Justice fulfilled. What is the consequence of this? The consequence is…

(3) God always and unfailingly will achieve His goal. Very well, then, regardless of what you do, it will always turn out that you will serve God’s glory. If you serve Him and love God on earth, you will love and praise His Mercy forever in Heaven. If you do not serve Him on earth, you will forever glorify His Justice in hell.

It equally honors a Lord of infinite Majesty, namely God, to reward for all eternity His faithful servants, as well as to punish forever those who rebel. Now picture to yourself, O my soul, on one side Heaven opened and those immense joys that the saved experience there, and on the other side, picture hell with the immense torments which the damned suffer there; and say within yourself: I must of necessity glorify God for all eternity; this is His decree, and it is as impossible for it to be cancelled or changed as it is for God to cease to be God.

Oh frightening truth! One of these two things will come upon me: either I will live forever in Heaven or I will live forever in hell; - for we understand that in the other world all is eternal (after Purgatory). This soul of mine will praise or blaspheme, will love God or hate God forever, for it is eternal. My body will be forever plunged in heavenly delights or it will wail in the torments of hell; for it will also be eternal. These hands of mine will embrace Jesus as I please forever, or they will be bound with the chains of hell; for they are eternal.

My eyes will contemplate forever the resplendent bodies of Heaven’s citizens, or will forever see the horrifying phantoms of hell; for they will be eternal. My flesh and all senses of my body will forever have a matchless happiness, or will forever burn in fire, and in the midst of flames, for all these things are eternal. What an awesome and frightening affair, but certainly real! What is my choice to be? It is for me to choose to follow the one or the other. One of the two is to be my lot for eternity, and it will be what I myself pick.

Affective Acts

(1) Fear – What a serious affair, O my God! Shall I go to Heaven or to hell? What a frightening question, which makes my heart pound! Will I go to paradise? I cannot know if that will be my fortune, but I know Thou hast said, “He that loveth his life (in this world) shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world, keepeth it unto life eternal.” (John12:25)

These are Thy words. To love one’s life in this world means to surrender oneself to bodily pleasure and sin, to obey one’s self-will, to run away (from duty) in order to escape contempt, to hold bitter resentment against people who offend us. To hate one’s life means to practice (dutiful) mortification generously, to deny one’s self-will, to hunt contempt (when to do so is in accord with duty,) to return good for evil. Have I done this? Alas for me!

(2) Resolution – And how much, my God, I have failed! If an endless and happy eternity depends on gaining my End, and an unhappy eternity comes from losing it, how is it possible for me to be so negative about pursuing it? If it were necessary, should I not gladly sacrifice my life this minute to gain Heaven? Should I not shed all my blood in a moment to escape hell? Yes, gaining an infinite Good, avoiding an infinite evil – these are two objectives for which one can never do too much or put up with too much.

In the presence of Thy Divine Majesty, I now resolve to go about pursuing my Last End at all costs, O my God! And in order to safely gain it I also resolve to faithfully follow everything in these holy Spiritual Exercises which I recognize to be needful and profitable for success.

(3) Prayer of Petition – How many times have I made these resolutions, and later been unfaithful and failed to fulfill them? I realize well that if Thou dost not help me by giving me greater strength, I am lost. I turn to Thee, O my God, and with a heart contrite and humbled I cry: Forgive me, O Supreme Good! Forgive my sins and neglects! Look not on my lack of merit, but on Thy Mercy, and deal not according to the rigor of Thy Infinite Justice, but according to the kindness of Thy Infinite Mercy.

Grant me new lights that enable me to clearly understand the importance of my End, new promptings that deeply move my heart. Grant me new graces that make me constant in my (right) resolves. How would the creation of me profit me, O my God, if I perish forever? How would Thy shedding Thy Blood for me help me, O Son of God, if I am lost? How would my having become an heir by grace benefit me, O Divine Spirit, if I am damned?

Now pray the Our Father and the Hail Mary.

Source: The Golden Key to Heaven, An Explanation of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius by St. Anthony Mary Claret)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Understanding Same-Sex Attraction

It's been a while since I posted a video on the topic of same-sex attraction. This 30-minute documentary will give men struggling with SSA a better understanding of the issue and hope for change. If you're a guy struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction, this is for you.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Hail Mary of a Protestant

In honor of Mary's Feast of Annunciation, I dedicate this post most especially to our Protestant and Born Again Christian brothers and sisters who view the Blessed Virgin as an obstacle in their relationship with our Lord and Savior. It is my prayer that you will all begin to appreciate Mary's unique role in salvation history even as we differ in our dogmatic beliefs and doctrines. Please read also this article Mary in Islam and Protestantism for a more in-depth view of this subject.

The Hail Mary of a Protestant
(A true story)

A little six-year-old Protestant boy had often heard his Catholic companions reciting the prayer "Hail Mary." He liked it so much that he copied it, memorized it and would recite it every day. "Look, Mommy, what a beautiful prayer," he said to his mother one day.

"Never again say it," answered the mother. "It is a superstitious prayer of Catholics who adore idols and think Mary a goddess. After all, she is a woman like any other. Come on, take this Bible and read it. It contains everything that we are bound to do and have to do." From that day on the little boy discontinued his daily "Hail Mary" and gave himself more time to reading the Bible instead.

One day, while reading the Gospel, he came across the passage about the Annunciation of the Angel to Our Lady. Full of joy, the little boy ran to his mother and said: "Mommy, I have found the 'Hail Mary' in the Bible which says: 'Hail full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou amongst women.' Why do you call it a superstitious prayer?"

On another occasion he found that beautiful Salutation of St. Elizabeth to the Virgin Mary and the wonderful canticle MAGNIFICAT in which Mary foretold that "the generations would call her blessed."

He said no more about it to his mother but started to recite the "Hail Mary" every day as before. He felt pleasure in addressing those charming words to the Mother of Jesus, our Savior.

When he was fourteen, he one day heard a discussion on Our Lady among the members of his family. Every one said that Mary was a common woman like any other woman. The boy, after listening to their erroneous reasoning could not bear it any longer, and full of indignation, he interrupted them, saying:

"Mary is not like any other children of Adam, stained with sin. No! The Angel called her FULL OF GRACE AND BLESSED AMONGST WOMEN. Mary is the Mother of Jesus Christ and consequently Mother of God. There is no higher dignity to which a creature can be raised. The Gospel says that the generations will proclaim her blessed and you are trying to despise her and look down on her. Your spirit is not the spirit of the Gospel or of the Bible which you proclaim to be the foundation of the Christian religion."

So deep was the impression which the boy's talk had made that his mother many times cried out sorrowfully: "Oh my God! I fear that this son of mine will one day join the Catholic religion, the religion of Popes!" And indeed, not very long afterwards, having made a serious study of both Protestantism and Catholicism, the boy found the latter to be the only true religion and embraced it and became one of its most ardent apostles.

Some time after his conversion, he met his married sister who rebuked him and said indignantly: "You little know how much I love my children. Should any one of them desire to become a Catholic, I would sooner pierce his heart with a dagger than allow him to embrace the religion of the Popes!"

Her anger and temper were as furious as those of St. Paul before his conversion. However, she would change her ways, just as St. Paul did on his way to Damascus. It so happened that one of her sons fell dangerously ill and the doctors gave up hope of recovery. Her brother then approached her and spoke to her affectionately, saying:

"My dear sister, you naturally wish to have your child cured. Very well, then, do what I ask you to do. Follow me, let us pray one 'Hail Mary' and promise God that, if your son recovers his health, you would seriously study the Catholic doctrine, and should you come to the conclusion that Catholicism is the only true religion, you would embrace it no matter what the sacrifices may be."

His sister was somewhat reluctant at the beginning, but as she wished for her son's recovery, she accepted her brother's proposal and recited the "Hail Mary" together with him. The next day her son was completely cured. The mother fulfilled her promise and she studied the Catholic doctrine. After long preparation she received Baptism together with her whole family, thanking her brother for being an apostle to her.

The story was related during a sermon given by the Rev. Fr. Tuckwell. "Brethren," he went on and said, "the boy who became a Catholic and converted his sister to Catholicism dedicated his whole life to the service of God. He is the priest who is speaking to you now! What I am I owe to Our Lady. You, too, my dear brethren, be entirely dedicated also to Our Lady and never let a day pass without saying the beautiful prayer, 'Hail Mary', and your Rosary. Ask her to enlighten the minds of Protestants who are separated from the true Church of Christ founded on the Rock (Peter) and 'against whom the gates of hell shall never prevail.'"


“Is Christ only to be adored? Or is the holy Mother of God rather not to be honoured? This is the woman who crushed the Serpent’s head. Hear us. For your Son denies you nothing”.
- Martin Luther, Father of the Protestant Reformation


If you're free on Saturdays, you can attend this year's First Saturday Marian Conferences at San Carlos Seminary Auditorium, Guadalupe, Makati. The theme of this year's conference centers around the role of the laity. Refer to the poster above for specific topics.

For more inquiries, call 043-7571534, 0906-4058545, 0927-9006468. Email: or

Admission is FREE!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Patronage of St. Joseph

Once again, we celebrate today the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary. May we all be inspired to have a special devotion to him as our powerful intercessor and protector before God. This post is an excerpt from the book Saint Joseph As Seen by Mystics and Historians.

"I have been informed concerning certain other privileges conferred upon Saint Joseph by the Most High on account of his great holiness, which are especially important to those who ask his intercession in a proper manner.

In virtue of these special privileges, the intercession of Saint Joseph is most powerful; first, for attaining the virtue of purity and overcoming the sensual inclinations of the flesh; secondly, for procuring powerful help to escape sin and return to the friendship of God; thirdly, for increasing the love and devotion to most holy Mary; fourthly, for securing the grace of a happy death and protection against the demons in that hour; fifthly, for inspiring the demons with terror at the mere mention of his name by his clients; sixthly, for gaining health of body and assistance in all kinds of difficulties; seventhly, for securing issue of children in families.

I beseech all the faithful children of the Church to be very devout to him, and they will experience these favors in reality, if they dispose themselves as they should, in order to receive and merit them."

- Venerable Maria de Agreda


"To gain a favorable hearing with our Lord, I took Saint Joseph as advocate and protector and prayed very specially to him. His help was most strikingly shown. As a tender spiritual father and a loving protector, he quickly cured me of my sickness (while still so young, she was seriously paralysed) just as he had saved me from greater dangers of other sorts which were menacing my honor and my eternal salvation.

In his eagerness to make me happy, he has always answered my prayers far beyond my expectations. To this very day, I do not remember ever having asked him anything that he did not give me. What a picture I would have before my eyes if I could recall all the signal graces which God gave me, and all the dangers, bodily and spiritual, from which he delivered me through the intercession of this good saint. To the other saints, God gives the grace to help us in certain particular needs, but to Saint Joseph, I know by experience, He gives power to help us in all our needs.

Our Lord wants us to understand that just as He was obedient in this land of exile, recognizing in Joseph the authority of a foster-father and a master, so now He is happy to do his will in Heaven by listening to all his demands. Other persons whom I advised to pray to this incomparable protector have agreed with me: the number of his clients is growing and every day the happy effects of his mediation confirm my words.

Knowing now, by long experience, Joseph's power with God, I would like to persuade everyone to pray to him. I have seen persons with a real solid devotion to him progress steadily in virtue, for he helps in a very striking manner those who pray for help along the path of perfection.

I dare the skeptics to try praying to Saint Joseph, and they will see by experience the advantage of praying to this great Patriarch and honoring him with a special devotion."

- St. Teresa of Avila


Once, on the Feast of the Annunciation, St. Gertrude had a vision during which the Heavenly Mother revealed to her the glory of Her spouse, St. Joseph, in order to awaken in the saint a greater love for him and to encourage her to have confidence in his intercession. Of this vision, St Gertrude wrote:

"I saw Heaven opened and Saint Joseph sitting upon a magnificent throne. I felt myself wonderfully affected when, each time his name was mentioned, all the saints made a profound inclination toward him, showing by the serenity and sweetness of their looks that they rejoiced with him on account of his exalted dignity."


St. Alphonsus Liguori, the founder of the Redemptorists, burned with love for the Blessed Sacrament and for Mary, the Mother of Jesus, but he also inculcated into the hearts of his listeners a great confidence in the patronage of St. Joseph. He taught that the whole world acknowledges St. Joseph as the advocate of the dying, and this for three reasons; first, because being loved by Jesus not only as a friend but as a father, he possesses in Heaven a power of intercession greater than that of other saints; second, because he has special power over the demons who attack us on our deathbed, this privilege having been given him in recompense for the fact that he preserved the life of Jesus from the impious designs of Herod; and third, because of the assistance rendered him by Jesus and Mary at the hour of his death. In consequence, St. Joseph has received the privilege of obtaining for his devout clients, the inestimable grace of a holy and peaceful death in the sight of the Lord.


The Angelic Doctor, Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches, that God has been pleased to give some saints a special power to protect under certain peculiar necessities, and others He has endowed with gifts of various kinds; but to Saint Joseph He has been more generous - He has made him, as it were, His plenipotentiary, His treasurer-general, that he may have it in his power to assist and relieve every description of person, whatever may be his necessity.

The other saints, it is true, have great power, but only to a certain extent. They intercede and supplicate as dependants, but they do not rule as masters; whereas, St. Joseph, to whom at Nazareth Jesus and Mary had lived submissive, as being the father of One and husband to the Other, now that he dwells in the House of God, where his titles, far from being obscured, shine out with incomparable brilliancy, may doubtless obtain all he desires from the King, his Son, and the Queen, his Spouse. His influence with Both is unbounded, and as Gerson says, "he rather commands than supplicates. Hence it may be seen, how powerful is the intercession of St. Joseph!"


St. Francis de Sales assures us, that St. Joseph's purity surpassed that of the angels of the first hierarchy; for, as he says, if the material sun can perfect the dazzling whiteness of the lily in a few days, who can conceive the admirable degree of perfection to which St. Joseph's purity was raised, when it was exposed, not for a few days only, but for the space of 30 years, to the rays of the Sun of Justice and of the Mystical Moon, which derived from that Sun all Her splendor?


As the sentence of death has been pronounced on all, without exception, it follows that all and each, without exception, should endeavor to secure the interest and friendship of him who is all-powerful in procuring every assistance for his clients at that awful and decisive hour, to enable them to die happily. If a person engages in a lawsuit, on the event of which depends an immense gain or utter ruin, does he not call in the aid of some eminent lawyer, of one whose zeal for his interest he may safely depend?

Now every Christian at the hour of death, is about to hear an irrevocable sentence pronounced upon him, upon which will depend his eternal life or death, the rage and temptations of the devil at that critical moment - the remembrance of past sins - the uncertainty as to the real state of one's soul at that awful moment - the terror of the future - all combine in disputing, as it were, his claim to the Kingdom of Heaven, and in torturing his spirit with the dread apprehension of being condemned to the eternal loss of that God, Who loved him even so well as to die for him, Who alone can make him happy - to that Hell of fire where the worm dieth not, and the fire is never extinguished!

Why not, at that critical moment, call on some saint to plead his cause, and to obtain a favorable sentence for him at that awful tribunal, whence there is no appeal, should he once have the misfortune to be condemned? Who is there better qualified to perform this charitable office than Saint Joseph? He is acknowledged by all Christendom to be the special advocate of dying Christians; whence it is that congregations have been everywhere established and altars raised in his name, and that the feast of his blessed death is celebrated in many places.


St. Joseph Speaks:

"I bring to souls, the purity of my life and the obedience that crowned it.

"All fatherhood is blest in me whom the Eternal Father chose as His representative on earth, the Virgin-Father of His Own Divine Son. Through me, the Heavenly Father has blessed all fatherhood, and through me He continues, and will continue, to do so till the end of time. My spiritual fatherhood extends to all God's children, and together with my Virgin Spouse, I watch over them with great love and solicitude.

"Fathers must come to me to learn obedience to authority: to the Church always, as the mouthpiece of God, to the laws of the country in which they live, insofar as these do not go against God and their neighbor. Mine was perfect obedience to the divine will, as it was shown and made known to me by the Jewish law and religion. To be careless in this is most displeasing to God and will be severely punished in the next world.

"Let fathers also imitate my great purity of life and the deep respect I held for my Immaculate Spouse. Let them be an example to their children and fellowmen, never willfully doing anything that would cause scandal among God's people. Fatherhood is from God, and it must take, once again, its rightful place among men.

"I desire souls to come to my heart that they may learn true union with the divine will.

"God wishes me to be honored in union with Jesus and Mary to obtain peace among men and nations.

"The privilege of being chosen by God to be the Virgin-Father of His Son was mine alone, and no honor, excluding that bestowed upon my Holy Spouse, was ever or will ever be as sublime or as high as this. I desire that a day be set aside to honor my fatherhood. The Holy Trinity desires thus to honor me, that in my unique fatherhood, all fatherhood might be blessed."

- Sr. Mildred Neuzil, Our Lady of America

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Million Prayers. A Walk for Life.

Forwarded FB invitation.

A Million PRAYERS..A March for LIFE..
By RED Movement.

Respect, Enhance and Defend Life.

MARCH celebrates WOMEN'S MONTH AND MARCH 25 IS THE DAY OF THE UNBORN (Declared by former Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo Proclamation No. 586 issued in 2004)

The Supreme Court will decide on the constitutionality of the RH Law this coming April.

Please join us on March 22, 2014, Saturday, in an event entitled: "A Million Prayers...A Walk for Life” Pro-Life Philippines and various Pro-Life and Family and Life groups will be present in order to walk around Luneta 7 times, praying the rosary with all of you, our allies in the defense of life, for the defeat of the RH Law at the Supreme Court & heal our land from sins committed against family and life.

8:00 a.m. - Assembly time at MUSEO PAMBATA, Roxas Blvd. March towards Luneta follows / Prayers start. (Wear RED, bring your rosaries and portable radios, organizations banner holy images of Jesus, Mary and Saints.)

10:00 a.m. - Disperse – Home Sweet Home.

Please call Pro-Life office at 733-70-27 or text us at 09192337783 or email us at for questions and clarification.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Courage Philippines Daet/Legazpi Chapters

Good news to our brothers and sisters in Daet, Camarines Norte and Legazpi, Albay! We have just established local Courage chapters in those places through the efforts of Bishop Gilbert Garcera  of Daet, Bishop Joel Baylon of Legazpi, and Bro. Rollie. This is our first provincial chapters outside of Manila and we hope and pray that more Church leaders will take the initiative to introduce our ministry to their respective localities. 

Dear brothers and sisters,

I have just accomplished my mission in Daet, Camarines Norte.

The good bishop, Most Rev. Gilbert Garcera, has agreed to take leadership in the establishment of Courage Daet chapter, with himself as the interim spiritual director. He has appointed a point contact person for this endeavor. I have also met with the first four (4) interested members of the group: F_, N_, B_ and O_. (names withheld for anonymity)

From these four (4) persons will come others who may express desire to be helped in building a chaste life, and in April 2014, we are being invited by the bishop, particularly those who have their origins here in Daet, to come and meet them in a private group discussion where we would already introduce to them how to conduct a support group sharing meeting. I am hoping that we would respond generously to the bishop's request and find time to come here in Daet, Camarines Norte.

Bro. Rollie


I am pleased to inform you that we have finalized the establishment of Courage chapters in two (2) areas of the Bicol region - Daet, Camarines Norte under Bishop Gilbert Garcera and Legazpi, Albay under Bishop Joel Baylon.

In line with this, I have just spoken to Bishop Garcera and he is willing to host Courage Manila and to include initial members from Daet and Legazpi to the following upcoming activities:

* April 13 (Palm Sunday) - evening Courage orientation and fellowship

* April 14 (Holy Monday) - whole day Courage workshop (code of conduct and how to run a sharing meeting)

* April 15 (Holy Tuesday) - whole day Courage Lenten Recollection (for Manila, Daet and Legazpi - with Bishop Gilbert as recollection master)

Please pray for these activities to be well-attended and to be a success.