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March 11, 2004

A Lenten Meditation

I offer this excerpt from St. Gaspar's letter 43 for your Lenten meditation today. It is helpful to remember that this letter was written while he was imprisoned by Napoleon. In this letter he give us three means by which we might revive our faith in the presence of God:

This matter of our advancement in perfection surely does not consist in doing great things, but rather in fulfilling the will of the Lord and becoming sanctified along the path through which he is pleased to lead us. So, what is most important to our being successful in this great undertaking is the exact execution of those ordinary and common daily actions which God wants us to do in the state of life in which he, in his loving kindness, has placed us. In my opinion, this constitutes the very essence of a holy and virtuous life. Upon this does advancement in goodness depend; upon this the more copious bestowal of God's blessings. A fortress that is under constant attack needs to be kept well-armed with the necessary means so as to be able to offset the enemy's strength. A soul that is always engaged in warfare against the powers of hell must never be left unguarded, but rather be continually on the defensive so as always to sing the song of victory. Let us pause briefly to consider this idea and, since the necessity for our leading a methodical and virtuous life is very evident, let us now recall those means that are conducive to achieving it with perfection and in concordance with God's good pleasure.

The first of the means suggested by the saints as a most effective way to attain the desired result is to revive our faith in the presence of God. Seneca said that any person who desires to be virtuous and to do things well must imagine that he has before him a person whom he greatly venerates. Perhaps this would be enough for doing things well, but, how much more efficacious would that means be if we walked in the presence of God? Especially is this true since this is not a mere imagining as Seneca asserts but an unshakeable teaching of our faith. And oh what a great consolation it is for us to reflect that no matter where we may be, we are with God. This is the same thing as saying that we are with our one and only Good, with the object of our delights, with the only one who can satisfy our heart's desires. My God and all. The saints, meditating on this, were not able to hold back their tears and, overwhelmed with joy, they never ceased to bless and praise the all-merciful God. So, when dwelling on the words: It is necessary to pray always and not to grow weary, they were wont to say that the person who is engaged in doing good works is one who is praying at all times. St. Augustine, commenting on the words of the Psalmist: All day your praise says: Do you want a way in which you can spend the entire day praising God? Whatever you do, do it well, and you will have praised God. Thus, if a servant makes the effort of showing his master that he is diligent in serving him, in pleasing him, in demonstrating his abilities, this is already a strong plea for greater affection, greater favors, and greater rewards from his master. We follow the same argumentation when speaking of our own spiritual conduct: let us imitate the faithful servant. We must remember that our heavenly master is watching us at all times and knows very well how to reward one who is deserving of it: Those who keep the law multiply prayer. (Eccl 35); A saving sacrifice is to observe the commandments, and to depart from every iniquity. and again, I shall no longer call you servants but friends. The Lord wants us to serve him perfectly, not only because he is present to us as master, but also because he is present to us as friend. He expects from us definite proof of our true love of him. Finally, he is present to us as father and wishes us to love him with filial love: Son, offer me your heart, behold my heart.What a difference there is (generally speaking) in the love of a servant, the love of a friend and the love for one's child. Oh what thoughts are these that re-animate our spirits in such a way that they are to be completely inflamed by the exercise of that beautiful virtue of charity! What an anticipated heaven do we not experience in being intent on working for the greater glory of God. What unspeakable joy! What a calming peace! My God and all ... my eyes always on the Lord.

The second means for doing well the deeds and work of our state in life is to do each thing as though it were the only thing left for us to do. The devil, implacable enemy of our advancement and our eternal salvation, though unsuccessful in getting us to fall into sin, is nevertheless clever enough to get us to be languid in the practice of virtue, supplying us with a thousand different distractions and disturbances. Therefore, let us avoid those diabolical subtleties and deal with our infernal enemy with great courage. Let us always keep etched in our minds that beautiful principle of Fr. Avila. "When a thought suddenly comes to your mind at the wrong time, simply say: My Lord does not order me in any way with regard to this, and so I need not think about it; when my Lord does command it, then I will consider it". In that way, we will remain firm in our decision.

The third means is found in those beautiful words of St. Bernard: In all your work say to yourself: if you were about to die this moment, would you do that? What a great counsellor is the thought of death.

Posted by Fr. Jeffrey Keyes, C.PP.S. at March 11, 2004 10:05 AM

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Welcome to your new home!

Posted by: MaryH at March 11, 2004 7:58 PM