Monday, April 28, 2014

Joy in Loneliness

This homily was presented by Archbishop Soc Villegas to priests last Holy Thursday, April 17, 2014 in Dagupan City. This meditation does not only apply to priests who are struggling with loneliness, but in a very special way to people struggling with same-sex attractions as well. May we all find real joy even in the midst of loneliness.

Today is our feast day. It is a happy day for us. Our parishioners are here. Our friends are here to show their appreciation and their love. They echo one common message.Thank you for being a priest. Thank God he called you to be a priest.


Beyond the feasting and the greetings today, I dare to ask. Who among us has never experienced loneliness? Who among us has never experienced deep painful isolation? Who among us has never battled with repeated rejections and tasteless ministry? Who among us has never been hurt by the feeling of being disconnected, suspected and ignored? We all know the feeling of swimming against the current—to be tired, to be bruised and to be alone.

In fact, some of our seminary confreres have abandoned our vocation because of this unbearable feeling of isolation and extreme loneliness.

Today, I say to you my brothers: your archbishop is not alien to these feelings. I get lonely too. I have known isolation and frustration. I have battled with the temptation to give up, to lower down my ideals, to take it more leisurely and to join the flow of mediocrity and convenience. I am aware that sometimes I am reluctant to reach out, to make a phone call or to send a text message for fear of another rejection. I know the feeling of being abruptly uprooted from familiar soil and being forced to bloom in another garden away from home. The tears are shed in secret and that secrecy of those tears makes it more painful.

In the void that loneliness and isolation creates, we can be misled to fill the gaping abyss with new phones and ipads. We can cover the gaping vacuum with another luxury car or designer jeans or more fashionable shoes more than our shoe racks can contain; with a vacation out of the country or another gadget for the bedroom. We can hold on to the whisky bottle and hope that the bottled spirit will exorcise the spirit of boredom in us. It can also be filled up by working like a horse to impress the people, to create a fans’ club and move you up higher to a better assignment. It can also increase our interest in bank savings, the stock market and the accumulation of more properties. Church funds and personal funds are deliberately mixed up. The parish crawls in financial difficulties while we sprint and jump with financial security. The vacuum of loneliness can make us numb to the peril of worldliness. It can make us at ease with ecclesiastical vanities.

As a fellow celibate struggling and battling with loneliness like all priests, I ask the question: How is priestly loneliness to be faced?

Every priest a mystic

You must always remember: the priesthood is a spiritual gift from God. Celibacy is a spiritual supernatural reality. This being so, we cannot live our celibacy happily without an intimate and deep relationship with God. Every priest must allow himself to be touched by the fire of God. Every priest must have had a mystical experience of God in his younger years in the seminary; that mystical experience must be kept at heart at all costs, all the time. If the priest is not a mystic, he will cross over to old age bitter, angry and cynical, materialistic and vain, lukewarm and lifeless. There is no happy celibate without a healthy prayer life. You want to be happy priests, keep your spiritual life intact. We must pray not only during the annual retreat or when we are in difficulty. We must pray daily as we eat daily and bathe daily.

We priests tend to be shy and private about our personal life with God. I hope you can choose to be brave and make a bold step to share with one another your personal conversations with God, not just to prepare a homily or a seminar talk, but to share your faith, share your vulnerabilities, share your encounters with God.

Called to be friends

This brings me to the second leg on which happy celibacy stands—your friendship with your brother priests. An isolated priest is headed for a fall. We only become lonely if we allow ministry to take over us and neglect our need for friendship.

Most of us have many acquaintances but acquaintances are not friends. We see acquaintances every now and then; they might invite us for occasional dinners in Dagupena, but friends are more than that. Friends can share deep joys and dreams, vulnerabilities and frustrations with the assurance of compassionate acceptance, at the same nurturing and supporting one another.

Do you have real friends?

This is the litmus test. Think of a very difficult struggle you are going through right now—a health problem, church difficulties, emotional crisis? Have you shared this with anyone? Whom would you tell? That person is your friend. If you cannot tell anyone, you don’t have any friend.

Celibacy does not forbid friendships. Celibacy needs friendship with God and friendship with brother priests. We have many very good priests in the Church. They serve with vigour. They finish projects and make strategic plans for the next project. Sometimes, these are used to cover up for low self esteem, a gnawing fear of rejection, a long standing feeling of inadequacy and the disturbing feeling of being unwanted. When the applause subsides, loneliness sets in. When trouble strikes, the fall is great and shocking.

Healthy and happy celibacy demands holy and happy friendships.

Life of Integrity

The third and last leg for a happy and meaningful celibate living is living a life of personal integrity. Only honest and truthful celibates can be happy celibates. Hypocrisy among priests dooms the priests to bitterness. What you do when no one sees you is who you really are. How you are in your conscience is who you are. Hypocrisy is stressful.

Our celibacy is a living proclamation in our sex starved society that there is something more important than sex. More important is love and mercy, compassion and kindness, friendship and service. Celibacy is not simply a renunciation of family and children and genital expression. Celibacy lived with a hidden secret life contrary to it leads to stress and tension. Celibacy can only thrive with integrity. If you become dishonest and untruthful, you also become unhappy and bitter. Celibacy must be proven by a life of humility and kindness. A happy celibate cannot frown too long. The joy of his heart will always take over a momentary irritation. The broken hearts club cannot be happy celibates. Celibacy is for the brave and the compassionate, for the humble who serve the Lord with joy. Celibacy tells people: God is with us. He is with us in his priests.

Hope in the Lord

My brother priests: We are called to be happy priests. Beyond the disappointments and frustrations; the discouraging results of our hard work all night catching nothing; the wine running out in our banquet– there is a multi coloured rainbow across our Holy Thursday horizon.

If we dare to be mystics, if we deepen our priestly friendships, if we fight on to be truthful and faithful, we have hope. Our hope is in the Lord. Our joy is to serve him.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Lenten Reflections on The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Composition of Place – Picture to yourself the Risen Christ – beautiful, glorious, triumphant – and consider that you hear St. Paul’s voice saying, “We suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified with Him.” (Rom. 8:17)

Prayer of Petition – Grant me, O Lord, the joy and gladness of keeping Thee company, and the strength to imitate Thee in the patient with which Thou suffered Thy pains and hardships, so that I will share in Thy Glory.

First Point

As great and horrifying was the bitterness of Christ’s Passion, likewise great was the gladness and glory of the victory of His Resurrection. Four principal things that Jesus experienced in His Passion were bitter. They are: terrible bodily pain, extreme affliction in His Soul, unheard of abuse to His Honor, and the unbelievable ill will of His enemies. Now we will consider, my soul, the blessings into which these bitter elements turned.

(1) Jesus arose with wonderful bodily beauty. In order to form an idea of this beauty, my soul, consider first that if the glorified body of any one of the saints were to replace the sun in the sky, it would give such light that all the world would be illuminated with a brightness greater beyond comparison than that of the present sun, bright as it is.

Second, consider that if God gathered into one body the combined beauty of all the saints, this beauty would fade away to a pin point beside the beauty of the single Body of Jesus Christ. Yet this is that Body which, three days previously, was the target of cruelty and barbarity, and appeared as the body of a leper, made into one wound.

(2) The Risen Jesus had immense joy in His Soul. To understand this joy, reflect, my soul, that just as the bitter pain which Jesus’ Soul experienced in the garden of Gethsemane was such that, were it distributed among all human hearts, it would be enough to cause their death, likewise the joy which He experienced in His Resurrection was such that, if it were parceled out to everyone in the world, it would be enough to take their lives away, so powerfully delightful would be the sweetness with which these hearts would be flooded. Such was the joy that penetrated the Soul of Christ.

(3) Jesus Christ arose infinitely exalted in dignity. Ah! What a difference now, my soul! Jesus is the Glory of the angels who came down from Heaven to take delight in the Glory of His Resurrection. He is the joy of the ancient Fathers, who all kneel to honor and praise Him as their Redeemer. He is Judge of the living and dead, and so the saints and the damned alike will reverently adore Him on that day of General Judgment.

He is the crown of those who will reach Heaven. Everyone among them will ceaselessly bless Him for all eternity. Yes, this is the glorious sight that Jesus presents for those who see Him on that day – that Jesus who three days previously was treated like a fool by Herod, ridiculed as a mock king by soldiers, nailed to a cross like a criminal by the Hebrews.

(4) As He rose again, Jesus achieved the happy status of Someone universally loved. I am not speaking of that love with which all the blessed angels burned for Jesus on that day; nor do I speak of the love of the Fathers in limbo, who had access to His most Sacred Heart and took their delight in it. I speak only of the love with which everyone in Heaven was penetrated.

There, for all eternity, there will not be a single moment in which they fail to consider Jesus, nor an instant in which they fail to praise and bless Him, nor will they ever cease to tenderly love Him.

Affective Acts

(1) The joy of the glory of Jesus – Now Thy Suffering has ended, O my Jesus! At last, the day of Thy Glory has dawned and Thy Most Holy Body, now the jewel of all paradise, shines forth more than all heavenly bodies. Thy Soul has been plunged into joy, Thy Most Sacred Heart is a sea of delight. We see Thy Name adored by Heaven and earth. Thou art the joy of all the saints, are fondly desired by all of us pilgrims on earth and by those beholding the glory of Heaven.

I rejoice at Thy Glory and Blessedness and take my delight in it more than if it were my own. I am glad for Thee with all my heart. Let gladness and joy crown Thee forever. It is Thy due to be rewarded with such great glory, Thou Who, with great long suffering, chose to die for the glory of Thy Eternal Father.

(2) Desire for similar blessedness – Oh, what happiness would be mine if I should have the fortune some day to also rise again gloriously! Who could ever express my joy at seeing the beauty of Jesus’ Face with my own eyes, of hearing His kind voice, of loving Him and being loved by Him, of embracing Him and being embraced, of being forever in His company, and of never being separated from it for all eternity! Oh, what good fortune! It is Thou that shall be the object of all my desires and the goal of all the affections of my heart!

Second Point

After having reflected well on Jesus Christ’s Resurrection, turn your gaze, O my soul, on yourself and apply yourself to making these considerations:

First Consideration – Just as it is certain that Jesus Christ rose glorious from the grave, it is also certain that one day you will rise glorious if you imitate His example. After Jesus suffered so much in the flesh, it is your place, says the Apostle, to arm yourself with like sentiments, realizing that He Who raised up Jesus Christ will also raise you up with Jesus Christ.

Oh how full of consolation is this doctrine! How well able it is to banish all sadness from the heart! The eyes with which you see on earth, you will open one day in paradise! With those hands of yours you will one day embrace Jesus! With those ears of yours you will one day hear the melodies of the angels! With that mouth you now have you will one day taste the heavenly sweetness! With those feet of yours you will one day walk above the stars!

Second Consideration – As it is certain that by His Cross and Passion Jesus obtained the glory of His Resurrection, it is likewise certain that there is no better way to reach the same glory than by the Cross and by tribulation. This is what the Apostle teaches us also. These are his words: “If we be dead with Him…if we suffer, we shall also reign with Him…” (2 Tim. 2:11-12)

O my God, what then will I think of my past afflictions and reverses? “O blessed sorrows!” I will say: “O blessed afflictions! Which have earned for me such great glory!”

Third Consideration – The more we resemble Jesus in His Sufferings, the more we will be like Him in the glory of His Resurrection. Listen again to the Apostle to the Gentiles when he says, “If we be dead with Him…if we suffer, we shall also reign with Him.”

Note carefully, my soul, these two words, if…also; for they mean that the more one suffers with Jesus on earth, the more he will rejoice with Him in Heaven in the Resurrection; the heavier are the hardships borne in company with Jesus on earth, the more splendid will be the glory one reaches in the Resurrection. (cf. Rom. 8:17)

In view of this truth, in what way, my soul, do our troubles, our humiliations under contempt, our desolations and pains, appear to us? Are they not some of the most loving designs of God, the most effective means for reaching holiness, the most beautiful inheritance of Jesus Christ, the surest pledge of our resurrection and of our eternal and immortal glory?

Yes, it is truly so; for Jesus Christ has taught this to us. And you will afflict yourself and call yourself unfortunate if these things come upon you? Oh, how blind you would be! You should rather raise your hands to Heaven and bless the Divine Mercy if God is so generous with you. If men rose up against you and heaped insult and injury upon you and mistreated you in other more outrageous ways, then know, O my soul, that these are just the means whereby God would fulfill in you His loving designs.

They would be putting in your hands the most beautiful means for your sanctification. They would be the means that would make you like your crucified Lord, would increase your glory in Heaven, and would fashion for you the crown that you would wear forever on your head.

Yes, without the slightest doubt that is what they would be. Jesus Christ teaches us so. And – I have regarded them as loathsome? Alas! O evil self-love! How many beautiful and excellent truths you have hidden from me until now! How far you have pushed me aside and have taken me off the road of holiness, the road that follows Jesus Christ!

Affective Acts

(1) Faith – It is true, Jesus is alive. He has risen from the dead. He has entered into His Glory, and now, in His Body and His Soul He is enjoying a sea of delight. Indeed there can be no doubt, and I believe it, O my Jesus. I believe it because Thou hast told it, Who are the Truth by Thy very nature. Furthermore, I will also live forever if I follow Jesus. I will be victorious over death and will enter into the heavenly Jerusalem, and these eyes of mine will see Jesus my Redeemer.

Yes I am sure of it and I believe it. O my Jesus, for Thou, Who art the eternal Truth, hast revealed it. Furthermore, I will then receive the reward for all the pains I will have suffered. For a momentary grief I will have eternal blessings. For having borne insult, I will receive an eternal glory. For a brief bit of sorrow, I will gain eternal joy. Indeed there is no doubt, and I believe this because Thou, the Infallible Truth, have declared it. O Holy Faith, what stupendous truths you show me and what consolation you give to my heart!

(2) Repentance – O brilliant light of Faith, how I must reproach myself in what I see! If it is true that God grants a special reward for every mortification, hardship, and pain that we suffer, how many of these rewards have I not forfeited by my impatience and self-love? If it is true that all the humiliations, injuries and insults which we have patiently borne for love of Him, God will reward in the Resurrection with a crown of special glory, how many crowns have I not forfeited by my pride and vanity?

If it is true that for every act of resignation during trials and interior desolations, God will grant a special blessedness, of how many such blessings have I not deprived myself by my faintheartedness and laziness? Yes, I have forfeited all these benefits! And why? Oh! How this loss should fill me with bitterness! What abundant, bitter tears I ought to shed! But console yourself, O my soul, because, knowing how Jesus entered into His Glory, you too can enter with Him by following, and you can repair this loss. Kneeling at Thy feet, O my Jesus, I resolve to do this.

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)

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Lenten Reflections on Death

Commentary – There is nothing that restrains man from sinning so much as the thought of death. It was the thought of death that God appealed to in order that our first parents, Adam and Eve, might observe the command that He had given them. In fact, they did not break the command, nor did they sin, until Satan led them to make light of the thought of holy fear of death. “You will not die the death. Do not be foolish; do not be silly,” he said to Eve; “you will not die.”

Alas! When that restraint was removed, she fell miserably into sin. Let us then think continually on death; and thus we will never sin.

Composition of Place – Imagine that you see yourself sick in bed, and that you have been advised to confess your sins to the priest and receive Holy Viaticum and Extreme Unction. Then imagine that you are dying, that the prayers for the recommendation of your soul are being said, and that you are losing your senses, and finally die.

Prayer of Petition – O my Jesus! By Thy most holy death I beg Thee to grant me the grace never to lose sight of my death and that I may always be well prepared to die. May I firmly and constantly withdraw myself from evil and keep myself aloof from sin, and always practice virtue; for virtue will be the only thing that will render my death happy.

First Point

What is it to die? It is to suffer the separation of the soul from the body. Death is also an eternal separation from all the things of earth. It is a separation from your money, from all your worldly interests and all your possessions. It is a loss of all titles of nobility and of all earthly pleasures and diversions. To die is to take leave of one’s father, mother, children, husband, wife, brothers, sisters, friends and acquaintances without the hope of ever seeing them again on earth until the day of the Last Judgment.

Death means taking out of your home that body of yours and taking it to the cemetery, where it will remain alone day and night, surrounded by skulls and bones of the other dead. To die is to leave your body alone, a lifeless corpse, to be eaten by worms. This is what cadaver means; namely, caro data vermibus – flesh given as food to the worms. Cadaver also refers to something as having fallen (Lat. cadere = to fall). Yes, that man, that woman, has fallen like a tree that fell and is abandoned so that it will serve as firewood for whoever wants it. Just look at what happens to that body, once so beautiful and so pampered, now dead. It is now buried; it has fallen. Presently insects will come. Toads, nasty bugs and vermin will taste it and take pleasure in the bad odor that it will yield and in the rottenness that develops. Rats also will come and perforate its clothes or shroud. They will entangle themselves in the hair, enter the mouth and begin to eat the tongue. Then they will come out and they will explore the whole body between the flesh and the clothes.

In the meantime the rotting process has built up. We can see a great number of worms multiplying to eat the flesh of the stomach, the face and the whole body. Then their feast is over. The worms die of hunger, leaving bones that are dark and bare, which in due time will calcinate and convert into dust. Remember, O man, that as far as your body is concerned, thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return; for you are a man of slime or earth.

Affective Acts

(1) Act of Candor – Are you not disillusioned, my soul, at the sight of a dead body? Its fate will come to your body, too, which you pamper and idolize so much. Yes, you will die, and experience what others have experienced.

(2) Resolution – In order to pamper the cravings of my body I have many times offended God. But from now on I will mortify my flesh and crucify it with all its vices and concupiscence, as the Apostle Saint Paul admonishes me: “They that are Christ’s have crucified their flesh, with its vices and concupiscences.” (Gal. 5:24).

Second Point

The death of the just: Death will reach everyone, the good and the bad; but the destiny of each one is quite different. The just man sees himself in this valley of tears as a prisoner, serving a very hard term. He considers himself a slave in this world, suffering an extremely distressing servitude. He regards himself a sailor caught in a horrible storm. And as death means an end of his confinement, an end of his slavery, and is the port of his salvation, he ceases not to cry with David, “Woe is me that my sojourning is prolonged!...” (Ps. 119:5) He ceases not to ask with the Apostle, “…Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom 7:24)

Thus it is that a just man is not frightened by the sight of death. It is certain that he must leave the things of this world, the goods, the riches, the dignities. But what is all this in the estimate of one who knows his heart is perfectly right with God? A flower which appears fresh at dawn and at night fades; a vapor which vanishes in an instant; a shadow which flees with rapidity without leaving a trace of itself. And will the soul which has this appreciation of this world, feel very pained at leaving these counterfeit goods? The just man knows that he is not made for this world nor this world for him. He knows that its pleasures are misleading and deceitful. He knows that worldly rank and dignitaries are vanity and nothing more. With these lights, what value will he give to those things? And if he does not value them, how can their loss afflict him? If he abhors and detests them, how can it grieve him to have to separate himself from them? Is it not insanity to grieve over goods which must perish? Or for honors which must lose all value? Or for pleasures which carry such bitterness and disgust? No, the just man is not troubled like the wicked Baltasar (Dan 5:6) on hearing the sentence of his death. Nor does he rave like the proud Nabuchodonosor. (Dan. 4:27-30). Nor does he become spiteful like the impious Antiochus. (2 Mach. 9:4). On the contrary, it is then that he says what the angelic Saint Aloysius Gonzaga said to a fellow religious, “Do you not know the good news that they have brought me, that I must die within eight days? Be so kind as to join me in saying the Te Deum in thanksgiving for this favor that God is granting me.” It is then that the just man says with the psalmist, “As the heart panteth after the fountains of water, so my soul panteth after Thee, O God!” (Ps. 41:2). Then it is that the just man takes leave of his companions with joy – of his father and mother, like the little Marquis of Castellon: “O mother,” he said, “do not cry for one who is to live with God, as if he were dead. This absence will not be long. We will see each other again and be happy without ever separating again.”

Thus they take leave, thus they sigh – the Davids, the Pauls, the Aloysiuses, and all the just, at the moment of death. It is true that the just, also, at that hour feel the pains and afflictions of their illness; but in what sweet peace are their souls! God places them under His Sacred Mantle, and under His Shadow they remain calm and tranquil. How precious is the death of the just! And what renders it so precious? What, other than a holy life?

Yes, a holy life is what leads a man to a happy death. This is as natural as it is for a good tree to produce good fruit. Death is the echo of life. What exquisite pleasure, then, is caused by the memory of the virtues one has practiced, of the Sacraments well received, and the works of mercy one has done! What great consolation there is for the soul that loved God with devotedness and served Him faithfully! What sweet joy for the just man at death to have withdrawn from dangers of sin, not to have taken part in sinful amusement, and of having deprived himself of unlawful pleasures! Can you compare this joy with anything else in the world? A man engaged in litigation rejoices at the news of having won a lawsuit of importance. One in exile is happy when his painful banishment ends. A prince is greatly cheered at a victory which assures him of the crown. But what is all this in comparison with the triumph which is declared in favor of a holy soul at the hour of death? He wins a victory of infinite importance over his enemy. An exile that is sad, painful and full of dangers ends for him. He obtains a victory which brings to him a pure, perfect and eternal blessedness, a victory which assures him of an unfading, incorruptible crown and of an immense reward. Oh, blessed mortifications! Oh, happy tears! Oh, happy fasting, that give so much joy to the upright soul at the moment of his death! Then he blesses his birth and his parents who gave him existence. Then he blesses the day he received the grace of Baptism and the ministers whom God used to bring all this about. He praises his days spent in the service of God and glorifies His mercies. The past consoles him beyond measure. The present gratifies him because he approaches the end of his labors. The future fills him with content because of his well-founded expectation of eternal happiness. Thus the death of the just is like a foretaste of final bliss.

Affective Acts

(1) Joy – Ah, Lord, “I rejoiced at the things that were said to me,” that I would go to the holy house of Thy heavenly glory! (Ps. 121:1). O death, how sweet you are to the soul which desires to go with fervor to see Jesus!

(2) Resolution – I resolve to abstain from every fault, to practice virtue, particularly the love of God, and to awaken the desire to die like Holy Mary, St. Paul, and the other saints.

Third Point

It is certain that the sight of his sins can cause the servant of God who had the misfortune of offending Him some fear. But the prayers of the Church encourage him, the protection of the angels and saints comforts him, the favor of the Blessed Virgin inspires him with great confidence, and the consideration that a God was crucified for him gives to a pure and penitent soul an unspeakable security which no temptation nor tribulation that he might experience can take away; no, not even the natural horror of death. It is also true that the devil attacks the dying with greater fury than ever. But he who has prepared himself for death, he who already has wept over his sins, can insult Satan with the words of Saint Martin – “What are you doing here, you fiendish beast? I have put my affairs in order. You will not find in me anything that you can accuse me of.”

No doubt the thought of the judgment which follows upon death, will terrify the sinner; but the just man solves his fears by being ready for death. You will not find anyone who feared more the judgments of God than Saint Jerome. However, with what eagerness finally he desired death! With what fond expressions did he invoke her! “Come,” he said; “come my friend, my sister, my spouse. Let me see the God that my soul loves! O death! You are wrapped in darkness, but that darkness unveils for me the inaccessible light in which my God is found. You terrify earthly kings because you take away their splendor and majesty. You are frightful to all who place their hopes in the goods of this world. But for me you are most agreeable, because you deprive me of what I abhor and you lead me to the possession of what I love.”

What do you say, my soul, upon hearing this? “Friend, sister, spouse,” Saint Jerome calls death. Why? Because it opens to him the door to infinite glory; because it is the end of all his labors and the beginning of his happiness; because it brings him to the eternal possession of the Heavenly Spouse of his soul. Yes, this happy hope consoles the man of upright will at the last moment. Angels and saints surround his bedside. The Gates of Heaven are open wide to him. The Blessed Virgin Mary invites him with mercy. Jesus Christ beckons him with open arms. The Blessed Trinity offers him the mansion of Its glory. Thus the upright person sweetly closes his eyes, surrendering his last breath with the greatest peace. The angels and saints receive his blessed soul. They, together with their loving Queen, present him to Jesus. Jesus gives him the kiss of peace, embraces him fondly, and in the midst of joyful hymns leads him into the region of the blessed. Indeed, the death of the just is precious in the eyes of the Lord.

O my soul, do you want to gain this happiness? You are not asked to fast all your life on bread and water, nor to take continuous bloody disciplines. You are not asked to lock yourself up in a cave forever. All that is asked of you is a fruitful confession and a reform of your life. All that is commanded is that you constantly observe God’s sweet plan and law for you and the laws of the Church. With this alone you will die without anguish or distress. The privation of your goods, your relatives and friends, will not torment you. The fear of judgment and eternity will not distress you. Just the contrary. You will be greatly consoled at leaving behind a few worldly goods in exchange for other solid ones, a few earthly friends for Heavenly ones, a life full of labor and fatigue for one full of happiness. Courage, my soul! Take courage! A little labor and fatigue brings you a tranquil life, a happy death, and eternal glory.

Affective Acts

(1) Resolution – I am resolved to employ the necessary means to attain the death of the just. I will make a good general confession of all the sins I have committed until now, and I hope that God in His Goodness and Infinite Mercy will forgive them. Thus I will not need to fear about the past. For the future my will is to observe God’s law and that of the Church and accomplish with exactness the obligations of my state, avoiding all sin, not only mortal, but also venial. I will receive frequently and fervently the holy Sacraments of Penance and Communion, and I will practice works of charity, and do all that I know is pleasing to God and for the good of my neighbor.

(2) Prayer of Petition – O Most Holy Virgin and Mother of God, pray for me now so that I may live uprightly and pray for me at the hour of my death. O glorious Saint Joseph, pray for me, assist me and defend me from Satan at the hour of my death. Amen.

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)

Friday, April 18, 2014

Lenten Reflections on The Parable of the Prodigal Son

The parable as St. Luke tells it in chapter 15:11-24

A certain man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of substance that falleth to me.’ And he divided unto them his substance. And not many days after, the younger son, gathering all together, went abroad into a far country and there wasted his substance, living riotously. And after he had spent all, there came a mighty famine in that country and he began to be in want. And he went and cleaved to one of the citizens of that country. And he sent him into his farm to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks the swine did eat, and no man gave unto him.

And returning to himself he said, ‘How many hired servants in my father’s house abound with bread, and I here perish with hunger? I will arise and will go to my father and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before thee. I am not worthy to be called thy son. Make me as one of thy hired servants.”’ And rising up, he came to his father. And when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion and running to him fell upon his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before thee. I am not worthy to be called thy son. And the father said to his servants,’ Bring forth quickly the finest robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it, and let us eat and make merry because this my son was dead and is come to life again, was lost and is found.”

Composition of Place – Imagine you see a young man who is sad and worried, reddened by the sun, wearing tattered clothes, seated on a rock beneath a holm oak, surrounded by a herd of swine. Pressed by hunger, he takes from the ground some of the husks that these dirty animals have driveled and tread upon, which he eats, as they grunt and stink all around him. He deplores his misfortune, saying: “Oh, what a miserable life this is, as I compare it with what I was!”

Prayer of Petition – My God and Lord, grant me light and grace to understand this parable well, and I beg Thee to grant that, as I imitated the prodigal son in separating myself from Thee, I may now imitate him in returning to ask Thy forgiveness.

First Point

In this parable the Father is a reminder of Our Lord. The elder son, so humble, obedient and good, represents a good Christian who keeps God’s law always in every way, and the prodigal son is a very vivid reminder of the sinner.

Youth brings on its own calamities when a young man lets himself be carried away by delusions – by a love for pleasure, for gambling, for going places. He makes companions and friends of those who have his likes and dislikes. He is anxious to see and be seen and to always appear elegantly dressed.

As is the way with young men, he lets himself be drawn by his passions, in particular by impurity. Instead of resisting temptation, he stirs up these passions by the conversations he has with companions and friends. He is always looking for and remaining in occasions of impurity, so that if he did not fall into sin, it would be a greater miracle than that of the three young men who were cast into the fiery furnace in Babylon and walked about in the flames without being burned (Dan. 3:50). But there is a great difference between those three youths and that one. They did not thrust themselves into the furnace, but others cast them in, and because of that God preserved them with a miracle. But the prodigal son voluntarily entered into, and remained in the occasion of sin, and for this reason, he was lost so miserably.

According to the way of young men, he craved independence and wanted to be rid of parental authority, even though it was something suitable and profitable for him. He was even rash and bold enough to ask his father to give him the portion of the inheritance that fell to him. What ingratitude! What bad will!

Affective Acts

(1) Self-knowledge – My soul, you have here a picture of what you have done. You have surrendered to pleasure and fun. You have placed yourself into the midst of the fires of passion, and have let yourself become so inflamed that through all your faculties and senses you have spurted forth sparks of impurity so as to scandalize others and inflame them. Your very eyes have appeared full of adultery, as St. Peter says of certain sinners. Your mouth has had the rottenness of an open sepulcher, from which evil words come forth and dirty stories, dirty jokes, evil songs, by which you blacken the pure silver of chastity in everyone who has the misfortune to listen to you. Your actions, your bodily movements, and your clothing and manners reveal what you are. Impurity leads you to desire and to gain an independence from God and from your parents and superiors, so that you become fully a person of loose morals. You have the boldness to ask God, your Father, for what you think is your due according to nature. No, you do not ask for it; you snatch it and abuse your whole patrimony. You abuse your faculties and your senses, all your natural graces, such as health, good looks, wealth, and all the rest – which belong not to you, but to God. For what do you have which you have not received?

(2) Repentance – Alas! What a terrible thing I have done! What ingratitude! What injustice!

Second Point

The prodigal son, with the patrimony that he received from his father, went away from his homeland and squandered all he had. A great famine came, and he hired himself out to an employer who made him take care of swine. Here in this parable, O Christian, you have a discourse by Christ Himself about what has happened to you. By sin you separated from God your Father. You wasted everything by a discarded life. You found yourself stripped of grace like another Adam and Eve. A great spiritual famine has stricken you. You lack the bread of God’s grace, the Eucharistic Bread, for you do not receive Holy Communion. You lack the nourishment that comes from reading good books and the Word of God. Deprived of these holy foods by which the just man lives, from which you have voluntarily cut yourself off, you are afflicted and hungry. Just as the body cannot live without eating, and if it cannot eat one thing, it will eat something else, so likewise the soul will act. If it is not nourished with virtues, it will feed on vice.

The prodigal son hired himself out to an employer who had him keep swine. And you, O Christian, what have you been doing? Alas! You have hired yourself out – or we will do better to say that you have enslaved yourself – to Satan, who makes you keep the unclean swine of vice and sin, such as pride, covetousness, anger, lust, gluttony, sloth, unbelief, indifference, irreligion, impiety.

All of these vices are keeping you company as the swine were company to the prodigal son. Just as he fed himself with the food of the swine he tended, so you feed on vice. You have an employer so tyrannical and cruel that he does not feed you with a satisfactory diet. He does not provide you with enough to meet your needs, nor does he even permit you to fill your stomach with unclean husks. How often you crave riches which you cannot obtain, or thirst for honors which you cannot acquire, or want to get revenge on someone when you cannot, or you want some delicious food and drink that you cannot get! Perhaps you struggle after some elegant clothes, some indecent fun and amusement, and even get it. But is it a diet that satisfies you? You are always left hungry. What a pitiful state!

With the prodigal son, it was his hunger that led him to comprehend the situation. He said, “I am perishing here with hunger. What, then, shall I do? Ah, I know what I will do. I will arise and go to my father and say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against Heaven and against you. I am not worthy to be called your son. But at least admit me to be one of your least servants.”

You see, Christian soul, the decision which the prodigal son soon made? You, too, should make such a decision. Do you not now perceive that vice is a diet insufficient for nourishing you? Vices can be engaging and fascinating, but they cannot meet your needs and satisfy you. Remember what you were before. Reflect on what you are, and how things go with those who are serving God faithfully. They go about clothed with the garment of grace, virtue and merit. They feed on the bread of life and understanding, are sustained by a good conscience and by trust in God. They are content, joyful and satisfied. For once, then, decide to arise and go see your Father.

Affective Acts

(1) Determination – I do not want to tend the unclean animals of vice, guilt and sin. I do not want to give any further service to such a cruel tyrant as Satan, who, after enslaving me and degrading me, and making me undergo so many miseries, would give me eternal damnation as my reward. I want to go back to my Father. Now I perceive what I have lost. – Alas! My Father! How evil I have been! How heedless! I have offended Thee. Oh, what a wretched thing to do! What an outrageous thing to do! I have done wrong to myself. I have made no progress. I have gained nothing but discredit, displeasure, hardship, and damnation.

(2) Resolution – My Lord and Father, I am resolved to return to Thee. I know well that I am unworthy to be accepted as Thy son. But at least receive as the least of Thy servants. Though I have failed as Thy son because of my foolishness and malice, Thou hast not disowned me. Thou hast always been and are my good Father. Thou wilt forgive me. Yes, my Father, Thou wilt accept me. I know Thy generous, kind heart. Thou wilt pardon me.

Third Point

The prodigal son set about his undertaking. At once difficulties appeared. He would have to overcome certain human fears. He would have to overlook the things that might be said by people in his home, by his friends, relatives and neighbors. Doubtless he would say to himself: Alas! Everybody will look. Everybody will talk. Everyone will remember what you were before, what you said and did. And now, when they see you this way, what will they say?

But fearlessly he conquers and overcomes everything. He presents himself at his home. His father receives him with all tenderness, love and joy. As for all those obstacles and difficulties which before had appeared overwhelming, he saw them vanish like smoke.

Yes, Christian soul, make up your mind for once. Then carry out that mind. Go, hasten to your Father. Do not be afraid. Do not let Satan deceive you. He will make obstacles appear unconquerable. He will make your conversion appear scarcely less than impossible. He will construct a great barrier by suggesting that God will not pardon such great and numerous sins, that your confessor, who holds God’s place, will not welcome you, that he will gruffly send you away. Satan will tell you that there is no longer any remedy, that you cannot get rid of your evil ways, that it is impossible for you to always stay away from certain fun-seeking, from certain sinful pleasures. Also he will bring before you the things that worldly people say. Put no stock in Satan. See to it that your change is a genuine one. Make a good confession of all your sins, and you will see that all these difficulties vanish like smoke.

The Father confessor will listen to you with all sweetness and charity. He does not show alarm at the numerous and great sins of a penitent. What gives him pain – and very much pain – is if he sees that the sinner comes without the disposition, without the willingness to correct himself. That is what grieves his zealous heart. But if he sees that a sinner comes with a converted and humble heart, then he is unable – nor would he know how – to have contempt for him. Just the opposite is true. He receives the soul with open arms, and from his heart welcomes him. A tenderness and affection rather incline him to tears. He thanks the Lord as he witnesses this great mercy which is showered on the sinner before him. With joy he admires the sinner’s courage and determination in conquering himself and conquering Satan and all human respect. Oh, what gladness he experiences! And what joy the sinner feels when the Father confessor, having heard the confession, gives absolution. In the midst of his sobs of emotion he says these words of St. Augustine: “Those tears that I shed out of sorrow for sin are sweeter than all the delights and pleasures of the theater and worldly amusements.” Oh, what gladness does his heart not experience when he finds himself clothed again in sanctifying grace by means of the sacrament of penance! The greatest joy comes when he sees himself admitted to Holy Communion. Oh, what gladness! It seems to him that the whole Heavenly court comes to make festival in his heart.

Affective Acts

(1) Resolution – I am now resolved. I will go to Confession today. I will not delay any longer. I will tell all my sins to the Father confessor. I hope to receive pardon for them all. O my Heavenly Father, how sorry I am for my sins! I will always, always avoid sin, my Father, with the help of Thy Divine Grace.

(2) Prayer of Petition – O Mary, my most loving Mother, Advocate of poor sinners who want to amend. I truly wish to amend my ways. I want to make a good confession of all my sins. By Your holy sorrow obtain for me a great sorrow for my sins. Oh, how grieved I am, my Mother, for having sinned! for having offended my God and Thee! For having again crucified Thy Holy Son, Jesus, by my sins!

O my Jesus, I come to Thee full of sorrow for my sins. I am ashamed and distressed at seeing how I have put Thee on that Cross by my sins. But I am encouraged as I remember that Thou prayed from the Cross for the very ones who crucified Thee. Thy Most Precious Blood does not plead for vengeance like the blood of Abel, but It begs for pity, mercy, pardon. And so, filled with confidence, I pray:

Soul of Christ, sanctify me;
Body of Christ, save me;
Blood of Christ, inebriate me;
Water from the side of Christ, wash me;
Passion of Christ, strengthen me;
O Good Jesus, listen to me;
Within Thy wounds, hide me;
Never let me be parted from Thee;
From the malignant foe, guard me;
At the hour of my death, call me;
and bid me come to Thee
that with Thy saints I may praise Thee forever.

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 17, 2014

Lenten Reflections on the Malice of Mortal Sin

First Prelude

Composition of Place – Imagine you see God seated on a throne of majesty and grandeur as Judge, and yourself, guilty sinner that you are, with hands bound standing before the Judge, and an account concerning yourself is read of all the sins that you have committed in the whole course of your life, with all the circumstances of places and persons, with mention of your state in life and your age at the time. You cannot excuse yourself nor deny anything.

Prayer of Petition – My God and Lord, I beg that I may know the number and gravity of my sins, and may be sorry and repentant for having committed them.

First Point

The text of Saint Ignatius: “…Recall to mind…the particular sin of any person who went to hell because of one mortal sin. Consider also the countless others who have gone to hell for fewer sins than I have committed…We speak of this as the third particular sin (the first being of Lucifer, the second of Adam and Eve).

Call to mind the grievousness and malice of sin against our Creator and Lord. Let the understanding consider how in sinning and acting against Infinite Goodness, one has justly been condemned forever. End this reflection with acts of the will, as we said above…

“I shall call to mind all the sins of my lifetime, considering them year by year, period by period. Three things will help me to do this: first, I will recall the place and home where I live; secondly, the associations I have had with others; thirdly, the positions I filled.

“The second point is to weigh my sins, considering the loathsomeness and malice which each mortal sin committed has within itself, even if it were not forbidden.

“Next, consider who I am… Let me see myself as a sore and an abscess from which there have come forth so many sins, so many evils and very vile poison.

“…Next consider who is God, against Whom I have sinned, recalling His attributes and comparing them to their contraries in me.”

Explanation(1) In the very moment in which sin is committed, the soul, from being a likeness of God, becomes transformed into a very horrible monster. It is not possible for a man to comprehend the wonderful beauty with which a soul which enjoys God’s grace, is adorned. When in that state it is a portrait and a copy of the Divine Beauty. For its formation, nothing less is required than Infinite Wisdom and Power.

One day, when God had enabled her to see this beauty, a great saint, Teresa of Avila, declared that she would gladly give a thousand lives and suffer a thousand deaths, to preserve the beauty of a single such soul. But just as grace makes a soul lovely, sin makes it ugly. A soul in sin and a condemned spirit are quite equal in ugliness. Just as a man could not see a demon in any vision that would fairly represent it, without dying of fright, neither could he see a soul that is in sin without dying of terror.

(2) In the moment in which sin is committed, a soul becomes extremely repulsive to God. It is not possible for any intelligence in Heaven or on earth to come to a comprehension of how great the abhorrence is, how profound the hatred is, with which God regards sin. Yes, indeed! God hates sin and necessarily abhors it. Just as it is not possible for Him to cease loving Himself as the Supreme Good, likewise it is not possible that He cease hating sin as the supreme evil.

(3) The moment one sins, his soul, from being a child of God, becomes a slave of the devil. The condition of a possessed person moves us to compassion; for he is compelled to make room day and night within his body, for a demon from hell. But much more pitiful is the condition of someone’s soul who, by sin, becomes a slave of the devil and is constrained to live under his tyrannical power.

Someone possessed may happen to be a child of God and enjoy His grace, having full confidence that he will succeed in enjoying Him forever in Heaven. But one in sin is God’s enemy, is without His grace, and is liable to fall into hell at any time, with the same slave-master accompanying him to torment him there forever.

(4) The moment one sins, his soul falls into the vilest, most deplorable condition. There is nothing more shameful than sin, nothing more blameworthy than the sinner. Imagine, O my soul, that God opened everyone’s eyes so that they could look into your heart clearly and see all your vices, all the sins you have committed during your lifetime by thought, word and deed. Oh God! What embarrassment! What shame you would have!

Would you not first seek a hiding place in the grottos and caves of deserts rather than appear before men? Even in the judgment of the same natural right reason, there is nothing more shameful than sin, nor anything more vile than the sinner. Ah! How much you ought to blush before God, in Whose presence you have committed so many sins and before Whose eyes all the hideous things of your life continually lie bare!

Affective Acts

(1) Shame – Oh my God, how many sins I have committed! There is not a faculty of my soul nor a sense in my body that has not offended Thee. O unfortunate memory! How many unworthy recollections you have fed to yourself! O unhappy mind! How many bad thoughts have you not produced! O wretched will! How many bad desires you have entertained!

O unhappy tongue! How many loose words have you not uttered! O unworthy hands! How many forbidden acts have you not performed! O disorderly heart! How many objects have you not wrongfully loved or wrongfully hated!

O my God, if a single sin arouses in Thee a nausea, a horror and an infinite displeasure, how in Thy sight does my soul appear in which nothing else is seen but sin? Where shall I flee to hide myself and conceal my shameful guilt? O sin! How lovable you seem to one who commits you! How bitter and hateful you are after you have been committed! Truly, if everybody knew me as God does, there would not be a saint in Heaven nor a man on earth who would not look away in greatest horror…

(2) Prayer of Petition – O my God, as I consider my madness I am ashamed and completely horrified. Ah, my God! To whom shall I turn but to Thee, O God of Eternal Goodness and Infinite Mercy! In Thy Pity deign to grant me a sorrow that will penetrate my whole heart and will have power to successfully purify my soul of all uncleanness. I cannot have this sorrow without a special help of Thy grace. Grant it to me, O Lord! And Heaven and earth will have another reason to praise and bless Thy Mercy.

Second Point

The evil of sin is something supreme by reason of the supreme meanness and lowliness of the man who offends God…O my soul, reflect attentively on what you are, and then make your judgment about sin.

(1) You are a creature who possesses, of yourself, nothing good. For, what goodness can a creature possess – a creature which can be called nothingness? A few years ago such a creature was nothing. Now, as to the body, it is a handful of clay. In a little while it will be put in a grave, to change into powdery substance, to serve as food for very disgusting worms, and change back into dust.

Who can have an existence so contemptuous, the low status of which no man can comprehend, and whose nothingness not even sovereign (angelic) intelligence, not even the Blessed Virgin’s intelligence, can fathom and measure? For that is something for God’s intelligence alone to do…And yet this handful of dust, this worm of the earth, this wretched creature, has dared to be bold against God and oppose His Will, and its rashness has gone so far as to treat God lightly and say in deeds, if not in words, “Who is the Lord, that He should want me obedient to His voice? I know no master who is superior to myself…”

(2) You are a creature with whom God has shown Himself to be infinitely generous. O my soul, God has loaded you with countless benefits and in all the course of your life there has not been a single moment in which you have not experienced some new effect of His loving kindness; and (if there is no failure on your part) in the future for all eternity there will not be an instant in which He will not do you some new favor.

He has shown this generosity toward you with an eternal love; for the Lord has not loved Himself at a time before He loved you. He has loved you with a love you did not deserve; for He had no need of you nor your works. He has loved you with a magnanimous love. He could have given the same graces to others who would have used them better than you have.

And in spite of this you have been so rash and ungrateful, O my soul, and have had the boldness to offend a God so kind to you, and offend Him so many times with so much shamelessness! How monstrous it would be for a son, in the sight of his father, to commit every kind of depravity and then spit in his father’s face! Ah! Have you not done something just as bad, O vile creature, against your God Who has shown Himself to be your loving Father?

(3) You are a creature who owes all of himself to God. Indeed, my soul, for all there is in you, you are indebted to your Creator. He it is Who gave it to you and Who preserves it for you. Oh, what impiety, to abuse the benefits and graces received from God and to use them in a way that is bold and outrageous toward His Infinite Majesty!

Would not it be a monstrous thing if someone whose paralyzed hand Jesus Christ had miraculously cured, were to use that very hand later to give Christ a beating? Would it not be a great example of unworthiness, if somebody who had been miraculously cured of muteness by Jesus Christ were to break out later into blasphemies against Him on the Cross? Ah, turn your eyes to yourself, my soul. Who gave you that tongue? those eyes? those ears? those hands and all other members of your body and powers of your soul, which you so often have used to offend your God? Is this how you have paid Him back for such great favors?

(4) You are a creature whom God has drawn from hell by the operation of His Power and Mercy. (“Thy mercy is great towards me: and Thou hast delivered my soul out of the lower hell.” Ps. 85:13) My soul, if you forsake God’s friendship just once, you have deserved hell and are indebted to God’s pure Mercy for not being plunged into hell. Faith teaches you this.

Now does this circumstance not make your sins appear the more grievous? If today God delivered a damned soul from hell and gave it time to do penance, and in spite of this great favor it blasphemed Him again tomorrow, what would you think? God has delivered you from hell, ten, twenty, perhaps more times, and after having such extraordinary Mercy toward you, what have you done? Alas! To the dismay of Heaven, you have sinned!

Affective Acts

(1) Humility and sincere confession of guilt before God – My most lovable God, I tremble before Thy Divine Majesty, ranking myself as one belonging to the depths of hell. Indeed a more proper place for me could not be found. Am I any more than dust and ashes? Yet I have dared to treacherously rebel against the Most High God, from Whose Hand I have received all. All that I am, all that I have, all that I can do, is a gift of God, Who, like an immense river, floods me at all hours with ever new benefits. Yes, against God, Who has forgiven me by His overflowing Mercy after a vast number of sins.

O my God! I confess that my conduct has been more than diabolical; for I have deserved not one hell, but a thousand. You, o wretched damned spirits, you are not more wretched than I; for I have been more sinful. Indeed you are so unhappy because God was less merciful with you than He has been with me.

Your chance lasted but a moment; mine has lasted many years. You committed a single sin; I have committed countless sins. To you He gave just one grace. He has given me thousands. God condemned you for one sin, and has been willing to pardon me after many, many sins. In spite of all this, I have continued to offend Him. Ought my eyes not turn into sea of tears and weep all the remaining hours of my life?

(2) Repentance – O my God, Thou dost penetrate all the corners of my heart. My will is to detest, hate, curse sincerely and with all the power of my soul, all the sins I have committed up to this moment. Ah, would that I could put together within my heart all the acts of sorrow and repentance of all the most contrite penitents, in order to deplore and detest my sins, if not as much as they deserve, then at least as much as is possible for me! In compensation I offer Thee the sorrow, the grief, the agony, which Jesus suffered for my sins, which made Him sweat blood in the garden.

Third Point

The infinite evil of sin is evident on account of the supreme Majesty of God, Whom we offend by sinning. The greater the dignity of the person offended, so much the greater and graver is the offense which He receives.

To give a slap to the face of some high public authority for whom the common good requires great respect – would this not be a graver offense against good order than if this were done a hundred times to a criminal? Natural reason teaches this. According to this principle, my soul, evaluate the gravity of sin.

Who is God?

(1) God is One Who is infinitely good – He is a Being Who contains within Himself all possible perfections. He is Infinite Goodness, Infinite Power, Infinite Wisdom, Infinite Generosity, Infinite Mercy. To sum things up, He possesses Infinite Perfections. Now, as He is Supreme Good in Himself, so is He also the origin and source of all good things that there are in creatures.

There is no power, goodness, holiness, beauty, mercy nor generosity in Heaven or on earth, in angels or in men, nor in any other creature, which does not spring from God as the singular, inexhaustible Source that He is. To offend, to disregard, to dishonor, knowingly and deliberately, a God so great – oh, what malice!

(2) God is Infinite Majesty and Greatness – Raise your gaze to Heaven, my soul, and picture the Lord seated there on a throne with thousands of angels about Him, awestricken before the splendor of His Divinity, and who devote themselves to praising and blessing Him to the fullest extent of their powers. Knowing that they cannot honor Him as much as His Greatness deserves, they prostrate themselves humbly before His Face and confess that He ought to receive infinite love and glory – much more than they are capable of giving.

But, now all the while that this is done in Heaven where all blessed spirits vie in holy competition in praising and glorifying the Great Majesty of God, a vile man rises from the ground to do insult to that same Supreme Majesty, heaping that Majesty with reproach and abuse. Oh, what enormous and incomprehensible malice! Oh my soul, it is beyond explanation! Two reflections will be of use to give you some small idea about its enormity.

(1) Imagine that all angels came down from Heaven and took human bodies, and that all men who have lived from the beginning of the world emerged from their graves, and for a thousand year period all did the most rigorous, frightening penance, and that finally all shed their blood for love of God in the most painful martyrdom. With all this could they satisfy for the offense done to God by a single mortal sin? No. It is not possible; for mortal sin is an infinite evil, and this satisfaction would be limited.

(2) If all the angels of Heaven with all the power of their intelligence were to investigate sin for all eternity, they nevertheless could never fully comprehend the depths of its malice.

Affective Acts

(1) Sincere self-accusation – The light Thou givest me enables me to know, O my God, that my malice has reached a high point. I have offended Thee…Who am I? Not a cherub, nor an angel, nor another noble spirit, but a wretched little man, a handful of dust, a worm of the earth. I have offended Thee! Who art Thou? Not a monarch, nor an angel, nor a seraph, but God, Supreme Goodness, Source and Origin of all Good, Supreme Lord of Heaven and earth.

I have offended Thee! And where? Not in secret, nor in Thy absence, but in Thy presence and in the midst of the splendor of Thy Majesty…I have offended Thee! With what? With my eyes, the ears, the tongue, the hands, the heart, which Thou gavest me by Pure Mercy. I have offended Thee! But why? Not out of hope to gain a kingdom, nor from fear of being threatened with death, but for a vile satisfaction of the senses, for fear of some slight embarrassment. I have offended Thee!

When? During the very hour in which Thou were engaged in preserving my bodily health, in giving my soul new benefits, in checking the rage of the demon so that he would not drag me with him to hell. O my God! How enormous is my ingratitude, my folly, my madness, my malice! Still in Thy sight my (mortal) sin is something infinitely greater than what I can know. (“May I know myself, may I know Thee, that I may despise myself and love Thee.” – St. Augustine)

(2) Repentance – This is how I have lived, O my God! And what has been the way I have offended Thee? And what kind of sorrow and repentance have I had after the offenses? From time to time I have made an act of contrition, I have struck my breast, and then continued living, unworried, as though I were now assured of pardon. How so?

After so many offenses against God, will I be content with a repentance so feeble and so hastily formed? Ought my heart not to be in deep continual grief, and should not my eyes shed continuous tears? I have offended the Supreme, Infinite Good. That fact is enough to let me never cease grieving. Ah! Would that I had never offended Thee! O Being Who art infinitely lovable, why did I not rather sacrifice my body and my life a thousand times?

(3) Resolution – The evil has now been done. I have let myself be deceived by my senses and be overcome and led astray by my evil inclinations. Forgive me, O my God, I beg Thee, by Thy Infinite Mercy and by the merits of the Precious Blood of Thy Son Jesus Christ. I turn to Thee with all my heart and in Thy presence resolve to prefer death rather than ever sin again. O holy resolve! O blessed resolution! But is it sincere? Yes, my Jesus; I sincerely resolve it. Lord, Thou hast mastery over life and death. If Thou foresee that I am to commit another sin, I beg Thee to take me with Thee to Heaven before that sad day arrives…

(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)

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)