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December the Twenty-Fourth

Morning Meditation


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I am come to cast fire on the earth, and what will I but that it be kindled? (Luke xii. 49).

Before the coming of the Messias, who loved God upon the earth? He was known, indeed, in one corner of the world; that is, in Judea; and even there how very few loved Him when He came! Even today few there are who think of preparing their hearts for Jesus to be born in them! What sayest thou? Dost thou wish to be ranked amongst the ungrateful ones?

I. The Jews solemnised a day called by them Dies ignis — the day of fire, in memory of the fire with which Nehemias consumed the sacrifice upon his return from the Captivity of Babylon. Even so, and indeed with more reason, should Christmas Day be called the Day of Fire on which a God comes as a little Child to cast the fire of love into the hearts of men.

I am come to cast fire upon the earth; so spoke Jesus Christ. Before the coming of the Messias, who loved God upon the earth? Some worshipped the sun, some the brutes, some the very stones, and others again even viler creatures still. A few years after the Redeemer was born God was more loved by men than He had been before from the creation of man. Ah, truly every man at the sight of a God clothed in flesh, and choosing to lead a life of such hardship, and to suffer a death of such ignominy, ought to be enkindled with love towards a God so loving! Oh, that thou wouldst rend the heaven and wouldst come down; the mountains would melt away at thy presence … the waters would burn with fire (Is. lxiv. 1). Oh, surely Thou wouldst enkindle such a furnace in the human heart that even the most frozen souls would catch the flame of Thy blessed love! And, in fact, after the Incarnation of the Son of God, how brilliantly has the fire of divine love burnt in loving souls! How many youths, how many of those nobly born, and how many monarchs even, have left wealth, honours, and even kingdoms, to seek the desert or the cloister, that there, in poverty and obscure seclusion, they might the more unreservedly give themselves up to the love of their Saviour! How many Martyrs have gone rejoicing, making merry on their way to torments and death! How many tender young virgins have refused the proferred hands of the great ones of the world in order to go and die for Jesus Christ and so repay in some measure the affection of a God Who stooped down to take human flesh and to die for the love of them!

O Jesus, Thou hast spared nothing to induce men to love Thee! O Word Incarnate, Thou wert even made Man to enkindle divine love in our hearts. I love Thee, O Incarnate Word! I love Thee, O sovereign Good! Suffer me not to be separated from Thee! Suffer me not to be separated from Thee!

II. It may, indeed, be asserted without fear of contradiction that God was more loved in one century after the coming of Jesus Christ than in the entire forty centuries preceding His appearance on earth. Yes; all this is most true; but now comes a tale for tears. Has this been the case with all men? Have all men sought to correspond with the immense love of Jesus Christ? Alas! my God, the greater number have combined to repay Him with nothing but ingratitude! And you also, my brother, tell me what sort of return have you made up to this time for the love your God has borne you? Have you always shown yourself thankful? Have you ever seriously reflected what these words mean — a God to be made Man, a God to die for Thee?

A certain man while hearing Mass one day without devotion, as too many do, at these concluding words of the last Gospel: And the Word was made flesh (Jo. i. 14), made no external act of reverence. At the same moment a devil struck him a blow, saying: “Thankless wretch, thou hearest that a God was made Man for thee, and dost thou not even deign to bend the knee? Oh, if God had done the like for me I should be eternally engaged in thanking Him!”

Tell me, O Christian, what more could Jesus Christ have done to win thy love? If the Son of God had engaged to rescue His own Father from death, to what lower depth of humiliation could He have stooped than to assume human flesh and lay down His life in sacrifice for His salvation? Men appreciate the good graces of a prince, of a prelate, of a nobleman, of a man of letters, and even of a vile animal; and yet these same people set no store by the grace of God, but renounce it for mere smoke, for a brutal gratification, for a handful of earth, for a nothing!

What sayest thou, dear brother? Dost thou wish to be ranked among such ungrateful ones? Go, find thyself a prince more courteous, a master, a brother, a friend more amiable, and one who has shown thee a deeper love.

Ah, how comes it that we are so ungrateful towards God, the same God Who has bestowed His whole self upon us, Who has descended from Heaven to earth, has become an Infant to save us and to be loved by us? Come, let us love the Babe of Bethlehem! Let us love Jesus Christ Who, in the midst of such sufferings, has sought to attach our hearts to Him.

O my sweet, amiable and holy Child, Thou art at a loss what more to do in order to make Thyself loved by men! And how is it that Thou shouldst have encountered such ingratitude from the majority of men! I see that few, indeed, know Thee, and fewer still love Thee! Ah, my Jesus, I too desire to be reckoned among this small number. But Thou knowest my weakness. Thou knowest my past treasons. For pity’s sake do not abandon me, or I shall fall away even worse than before. O Mary, my Mother, thou art the Mother of fair love (Ecclus. xxiv. 24), do thou obtain for me the grace to love my God. I hope it of thee.

Spiritual Reading


I am not come to call the just but sinners (Matt. ix. 13).

St. Thomas of Villanova gives us excellent encouragement, saying: “What art thou afraid of, O sinner? … How shall He reject thee if thou desirest to retain Him Who came down from Heaven to seek thee?” Let not the sinner, then, be afraid, provided he will be no more a sinner, but will love Jesus Christ; let him not be dismayed, but have full trust; if he abhor and hate sin, and seek God, let him not be sad, but full of joy: Let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord (Ps. civ. 3). The Lord has sworn to forget all injuries done to Him, if the sinner is sorry for them: If the wicked do penance … I will not remember all his iniquities (Ezech. xviii. 21). And that we might have every motive for confidence, our Saviour became an Infant: “Who is afraid to approach a Child?” asks the same St. Thomas of Villanova.

“Children do not inspire terror or aversion, but attachment and love,” says St. Peter Chrysologus. It seems that children know not how to be angry; and if perchance at odd times they should be irritated, they are easily soothed; one has only to give them a fruit, a flower, or bestow on them a caress, or utter a kind word to them, and they have already forgiven and forgotten every offence.

A tear of repentance, one act of heart-felt contrition, is enough to appease the Infant Jesus. “You know the tempers of children,” St. Thomas of Villanova goes on to say, “a single tear pacifies them, the offence is forgotten. Approach, then, to Him while He is a little One, while He would seem to have forgotten His majesty.” He has put off His divine majesty, and appears as a Child to inspire us with more courage to approach His feet.

“He is born as an Infant,” says St. Bonaventure, “that neither His justice nor His power might intimidate you.” In order to relieve us from every feeling of distrust, which the idea of His power and of His justice might cause in us, He comes before us as a little Babe, full of sweetness and mercy. “O God!” says Gerson, “Thou hast hidden Thy wisdom under a Child’s years, that it might not accuse us.” O God of mercy, lest Thy divine wisdom might reproach us with our offences against Thee, Thou hast hidden it under an Infant’s form. “Thy justice under humility, lest it should condemn.” Thou hast concealed Thy justice under the most profound abasement, that it might not condemn us. “Thy power under weakness lest it should punish.” Thou hast disguised Thy power in feebleness, that it might not visit us with chastisement.

St. Bernard makes this reflection: “Adam, after his sin, on hearing the voice of God: Adam, where art thou? (Gen. iii. 9), was filled with dismay. — I heard thy voice, and was afraid (Gen. iii. 10).” But, continues the Saint, the Incarnate Word now made Man upon earth, has laid aside all semblance of terror: “Do not fear; He seeks thee, not to punish, but to save thee. Behold, He is a Child; the voice of a child will excite compassion rather than fear. The Virgin Mother wraps His delicate limbs in swaddling-clothes: and art thou still alarmed?” That God Who should punish thee is born an Infant, and has lost all accents to affright thee, since the accents of a child, being cries of weeping, move us rather to pity than to fear; thou canst not fear that Jesus Christ will stretch out His hands to chastise thee, since His Mother is occupied in swathing them in linen bands.

“Be of good cheer, then, O sinners,” says St. Leo, “the Birthday of the Lord is the Birthday of peace and joy.” The Prince of peace (Is. ix. 6), was He called by Isaias. Jesus Christ is a Prince, not of vengeance on sinners, but of mercy and of peace, constituting Himself the Mediator betwixt God and sinners. If our sins, says St. Augustine, are too much for us, God does not despise His own Blood. If we cannot ourselves make due atonement to the justice of God, at least the Eternal Father knows not how to disregard the Blood of Jesus Christ, Who makes payment for us.

A certain knight, called Don Alphonsus Albuquerque, being on one occasion at sea, and the vessel driven among the rocks by a violent tempest, at once gave himself up for lost; but at that moment seeing near him a little child, crying bitterly, what did he do? He seized him in his arms, and lifting him up towards Heaven, “O Lord,” said he, “though I myself am unworthy to be heard, give ear at least to the cries of this innocent child, and save us.” At that same instant the storm abated, and all were saved. Let us miserable sinners do in like manner. We have offended God; already has sentence of everlasting death been passed upon us; divine justice requires satisfaction, and rightly. What have we to do? Should we despair? God forbid! Let us offer up to God this Infant, Who is His own Son, and let us address Him with confidence: O Lord, if we cannot of ourselves render Thee satisfaction for our offences against Thee, behold this Child, Who weeps and moans, Who is benumbed with cold on His bed of straw in this cavern; He is here to make atonement for us, and He pleads for Thy mercy on us. Though we ourselves are undeserving of pardon, the tears and sufferings of this Thy guiltless Son merit it for us, and He entreats Thee to pardon us.

This is what St. Anselm advises us to do : he says that Jesus Christ Himself, from His earnest desire not to have us perish, animates each one of us who finds himself guilty before God with these words: O sinner, do not lose heart; if by thy sins thou hast unhappily become the slave of hell, and hast not the means to free thyself, act thus: take Me, offer Me for thyself to the Eternal Father, and so thou shalt escape death, thou shalt be in safety. What can be conceived more full of mercy than what the Son says to us: Take Me, and redeem thyself. This was, moreover, exactly what the divine Mother taught Sister Frances Farnese. She gave the Infant Jesus into her arms, and said to her: “Here is my Son for you; be careful to make His merits your gain by frequently offering Him to His heavenly Father.”

And if we would have still another means to secure our forgiveness, let us obtain the intercession of this same divine Mother in our behalf; she is all-powerful with her blessed Son to promote the interests of repentant sinners, as St. John Damascene assures us. Yes, for the prayers of Mary, adds St. Antoninus, have the force of commands with her Son, in consideration of the love He bears her: “The prayer of the Mother of God has the force of a command.” Hence St. Peter Damien wrote that when Mary entreats Jesus Christ in favour of one who is dearest to her, “she appears in a certain sense to command as a mistress, not to ask as a handmaid, for the Son honours her by denying her nothing.” For this reason St. Germanus says Mary can obtain the pardon of the most abandoned sinners. “Thou, by the power of thy maternal authority, gainest for the most enormous sinners the most excellent grace of pardon.”

Evening Meditation


I. And Joseph also went up … to be enrolled with Mary his espoused wife, who was with child (St. Luke ii. 4).

God had decreed that His Son should be born, not in the house of Joseph, but in a cave and stable for animals, in the poorest and most painful way that a child can be born; and therefore He so disposed events that Caesar should publish an Edict that every one should go and enrol himself in the city whence he drew his origin. When Joseph heard this order he was much agitated as to whether he should leave or take with him the Virgin Mother, as she was now near childbirth. My spouse and my lady, said he to her, on the one hand I should not wish to leave you alone; on the other, if I take you, I am afflicted at the thought that you will have to suffer much during this long journey, and in such severe weather. My poverty will not permit me to conduct you with that comfort which you require. But Mary answers him, and encourages him with these words: My Joseph, do not fear; I shall go with you; the Lord will assist us. She knew, by divine inspiration, and also because she was well versed in the prophecy of Micheas, that the Divine Infant was to be born in Bethlehem. She therefore takes the swathing bands, and the other poor garments already prepared, and departs with Joseph. And Joseph also went up … to be enrolled with Mary.

My dear Redeemer, I know that in this journey Thou wert accompanied by hosts of Angels from Heaven; but here on earth, who was there to bear Thee company? Thou hast only Joseph, and Mary who carries Thee within herself. Disdain not, O my Jesus, to let me also accompany Thee, miserable and ungrateful as I have been. I now see the wrong I have done Thee; Thou didst come down from Heaven to make Thyself my companion on earth, and I by my frequent offences have ungratefully left Thee! When I remember, O my Saviour, that for the sake of my own wicked pleasures, I have so often separated myself from Thee and renounced Thy friendship, I could wish to die of sorrow. But Thou didst come into the world to pardon me; pardon me then quickly, for I repent with all my soul of having so often turned my back upon Thee and forsaken Thee. I purpose and I hope, through Thy grace, never more to leave Thee, or separate myself from Thee, O my only Love!

II. Let us consider the devout and holy discourses which these two saintly spouses must have held together during the journey, concerning the mercy, goodness, and love of the Divine Word, Who was shortly to be born, and to appear on earth for the salvation of men. Let us also consider the praises, the blessings, the thanksgivings, the acts of humility and love, which these two illustrious pilgrims uttered on their way. This holy Virgin, so soon to become a Mother, certainly suffered much in so long a journey, made in the midst of Winter, and over rough roads; but she suffered in peace and with love. She offered to God all these her sufferings, uniting them to those of Jesus, Whom she carried in her womb. Oh, let us also unite ourselves with Mary and Joseph, and accompany them in the journey of our life; and, with them, let us accompany the King of Heaven, Who is about to be born in a cave, and make His first appearance in the world as an Infant, but an Infant the poorest and most forsaken that was ever born amongst men. And let us beseech Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, that, through the merits of the sufferings which they endured in this journey, they would accompany us in the journey that we are making to eternity. Oh, happy shall we be, if in life and in death, we are always accompanied by these Three Great Personages!

My soul has become enamoured of Thee, O my amiable Infant-God. I love Thee, my sweet Saviour; and since Thou hast come upon earth to save me and to dispense to me Thy graces, this one grace only do I ask of Thee: never permit me to separate myself from Thee again. Unite me, bind me to Thyself, enchain me with the sweet cords of Thy holy love. O my Redeemer and my God, who will, then, have the heart to leave Thee, and to live without Thee, deprived of Thy grace? Most holy Mary, I come to accompany thee on this journey; and thou; O my Mother, cease not to accompany me in the journey I am making to eternity. Assist me always, but especially when I shall find myself at the end of my life, and near that moment on which will depend either my remaining always with thee to love Jesus in Paradise, or my being for ever separated from thee and hating Jesus in hell. My Queen, save me by thy intercession; and let my salvation be in loving thee and Jesus for ever, in time and in eternity. Thou art my hope; I hope for all from thee.
Christmas Day

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Morning Meditation

Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy that shall be to all the people, for this day is born to you a Saviour. (Luke ii. 10, 11).

Arise, all ye nobles and peasants! Mary invites all -- rich and poor, just and sinners, to enter the Cave of Bethlehem to adore, and to kiss the feet of her new-born Son. Come then, all ye devout souls -- come in and see the Creator of Heaven and earth on a little hay under the form of a little Infant; the power of God, as it were, annihilated, and the wisdom of God become mad, through excess of love! I come, then, dear Jesus, to kiss Thy feet and offer Thee my heart.


Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy ... This day is born to you a Saviour! And what tidings could be a greater joy to a race of poor exiles condemned to death, than to be told that their Saviour was come, not only to deliver them from death, but to obtain for them liberty to return to their own country? And this is what the Angels announce to you: A Saviour is born to you! Jesus Christ is born to you to deliver you from everlasting death, and to open Heaven to you, our true country from which we were banished because of our sins.

No sooner had Mary entered the cavern than she began to pray; and the hour of her delivery being come, behold she sees a great light, and feels in her heart a heavenly joy. She casts down her eyes -- and, O God, what does she see? An Infant so tender and beautiful that He fills her with love! But He trembles and cries and stretches out His arms to show that He desires that she should take Him up into her bosom. "I stretched forth My hands to seek the caresses of My Mother," as Jesus said to St.Brigid. Mary calls Joseph. "Come Joseph, come and see, for the Son of God is now born." The old man entered, and prostrating himself, wept for joy.

Mary, holding Him to her bosom, adores Him as her God, kissing His face as her Child. She then hastily seeks to cover Him and wraps Him up in swaddling clothes. But, O God, how hard and rough these clothes are! They are the clothes of the poor, and they are cold and damp, and in that cave there is no fire to warm them.

Let us arise and enter, the door is open. There are no satellites to say that this is not the hour. The Cave is open and without guards or doors, so that all may go in when they please to seek Him and to speak to Him, and even to embrace their Infant King if they love and desire Him.

Lord, I should not have dared to approach Thee seeing myself so deformed by sin; but since Thou, my Jesus, dost invite me so courteously, and dost call me so lovingly, I will not refuse. After having so many times turned my back upon Thee I will not add a fresh insult by refusing, out of distrust, this affectionate, this loving invitation. It is true my heart offended Thee at one time, but now it is penitent. I confess that I have been a traitor, cruel and ungrateful, that it is I who have caused Thee to suffer so much and made Thee shed so many tears in the stable of Bethlehem, but Thy tears are my hope. I am a sinner, it is true, and I do not deserve to be pardoned, but I come before Thee, Who being God hast become a little Child to obtain pardon for me. Eternal Father, if I deserve hell, look upon the tears of Thy innocent Son. He asks Thee to pardon me this night, a night of joy, of pardon and salvation.


Let every soul, then, enter the Cave of Bethlehem. Behold and see that tender Infant, Who is weeping as He lies in the manger on that miserable straw. See how beautiful He is: look at the light which He sends forth, and the love which He breathes; those eyes send out arrows which wound the hearts that desire Him; the very stable, the very straw cry out, says St. Bernard, and tell you to love Him Who loves you; to love God Who is infinite Love, and Who came down from Heaven, and Made Himself a little Child, and became poor, to make you understand the love He bears you, and to gain your love by His sufferings.

Come and say to Him: "Ah, beautiful Infant! tell me whose Child art Thou?" He replies: "My Mother is this pure and lovely Virgin who is standing by Me." "And Who is Thy Father?" "My Father," He says, "is God." "How is this? Thou art the Son of God, and art so poor; and why? Who will acknowledge Thee in such a condition? Who will respect Thee?" "Ah," replies Jesus, "holy Faith will make known Who I am, and will make Me loved by those whose souls I come to redeem and to inflame with My love." I am not come, says He, to make Myself feared, but to make Myself loved; and therefore I wished to show Myself to you for the first time as a poor and humble Infant, that, seeing to what My love for you has reduced Me, you might love Me the more. But tell me, my sweet Infant, why dost Thou turn Thine eyes on every side? What art Thou looking for? I hear Thee sigh; tell me wherefore are these sighs? O God! I see Thee weep; tell me wherefore dost Thou weep? Yes, replies Jesus, I turn My eyes around; for I am seeking for some soul that desires Me. I sigh out of desire to see Myself near to a heart that burns for Me, as I burn with love for it. But I weep; and it is because I see but few souls, who seek Me and, wish to love Me.

Come, then, O all ye devout souls. Jesus invites you to come and kiss His feet this night. The shepherds who came to visit Him in the stable of Bethlehem brought their gifts; you must also bring your gifts. What will you bring Him? The most acceptable present you can bring Him is that of a contrite and loving heart.

O Jesus, Thou must know that I am poor and that I have nothing to give Thee. I have nothing but my penitent heart. This I now offer Thee. Yes, O Infant, I repent of ever having offended Thee, and I hope for pardon from Thee. But the forgiveness of my sins alone is not sufficient for me. On this night Thou dost grant great spiritual graces; I also desire that Thou shouldst bestow a great grace on me -- it is, the grace to love Thee. Now that I am about to approach Thy feet, inflame me wholly with Thy holy love, and bind me to Thee; but bind me so effectually that I may never more be separated from Thee. I love Thee, O my God, Who didst become a little Child for my sake; but I love Thee very little; I desire to love Thee very much, and Thou hast to enable me to do it. I come, then, to kiss Thy feet, and I offer Thee my heart; I leave it in Thy hands; I will have it no longer; do Thou change it and keep it forever; do not give it back to me again; for if Thou dost, I fear lest it should betray Thee afresh.

Most holy Mary, thou who art the Mother of this great Son, but who art also my Mother, it is to thee that I consecrate my poor heart; present it to Jesus and He will not refuse to receive it when presented by thee. Do thou, then, present it, and beg Him to accept it.

Spiritual Reading

Plato says that love is the "loadstone of love."

Hence the Proverb: "If you wish to be loved, love." But, my Jesus, this rule, this Proverb holds good for others, holds good for all, but not for Thee! Thou art at a loss what further to do to show men the love Thou bearest them! And yet how many are there that love Thee? Alas, the greatest number, we may say nearly all, not only do not love Thee -- they offend Thee and despise Thee!

And shall we stand in the ranks of these heartless wretches? God has not deserved this at our hands -- that God, so good, so tender to us, Who, being great, has thought it fit to make Himself little in order to be loved by us.

To understand the immense love of God towards men in becoming Man and a feeble Child for our love, it would be necessary to comprehend His greatness. But what mind of man or Angel can conceive the Infinite greatness of God?

St. Ambrose says that to say God is greater than the heavens, than all kings, all Saints, all Angels, is to do an injury to God; just as it would be an injury to a prince to say that he was greater than a blade of grass, or a little fly. God is Greatness itself, and all greatness together is but the smallest atom of the greatness of God.

David, contemplating the divine greatness, and seeing that he could not and never would be able to comprehend it, could only say: O Lord, who is like to thee? (Ps. xxxiv. 10). O Lord, what greatness shall ever be found like Thine? And how in truth could David ever be able to comprehend it, since his understanding was but finite, and God's greatness infinite? Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and of his greatness there is no end (Ps. cxliv. 3). Do I not fill heaven and earth, saith the Lord (Jer. xxiii. 24). Thus all of us, according to our mode of understanding, are nothing but so many miserable little fishes, living in this immense ocean of the essence of God: In him we live and move and have our being (Acts xvii. 28).

What are we then in respect to God? And what are all men, all monarchs of earth, and even all Saints and all Angels of Heaven, compared with the infinite greatness of God? We are all like, or even smaller than, a grain of sand in comparison with the rest of the earth: Behold, says the Prophet Isaias, the Gentiles are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the smallest grain of a balance; behold, the islands are as a little dust ... All nations are before him as if they had no being at all (Is. xl. 15, 17).

Now this God so great has become a little Infant; and for whom? A child is born to us (Is. ix. 6): for us He is born. And wherefore? St. Ambrose gives us the answer: "He is a little One, that you may be a perfect man; He is bound in swaddling-clothes, that you may be unbound from the fetters of death; He is on earth, that you may be in Heaven."

Behold, then, Immensity Whom the heavens cannot contain, become an Infant: see Him imprisoned in poor rags, and laid in a narrow, vile manger on a bundle of Straw, which was at once His only bed and pillow. "See," says St. Bernard -- "see Power ruled, Wisdom instructed, Virtue sustained. God taking milk and weeping, yet comforting the afflicted!" A God Almighty so tightly wrapped in swathing-bands that He cannot stir! A God Who knows all things made mute and speechless! A God Who rules Heaven and earth needing to be carried in the arms! A God Who feeds all men and animals, Himself having need of a little milk to support Him! A God Who consoles the afflicted and is the joy of Paradise, Himself weeps and moans and has to be comforted by a creature!

For this, then, did the Eternal Word become Man. For this, moreover, He became an Infant. Little children are loved. To see them is to love them.

St. Peter Chrysologus writes: "How should our Lord come, Who wished to drive away fear and to seek love? What breast so savage as not to soften before such a Childhood as this? What hardness will it not subdue; what love does it not claim? Thus, therefore, He wished to be born Who willed to be loved and not feared." The Saint would say that if our Redeemer had come in order to be feared and respected by men, He should have come as a full grown Man and with royal dignity, but because He came to gain our love He chose to come and to show Himself as an Infant, and the poorest of infants, born in a cold stable between two animals, laid in a manger on straw, without clothing or fire to warm His shivering little limbs: "thus would He be born Who willed to be loved and not feared." Ah, my Lord! what was it that drew Thee from Heaven to be born in a stable? It was love, the love Thou bearest towards men. What took Thee from the right hand of Thy Father, where Thou sittest, and placed Thee in a manger? What snatched Thee from Thy throne above the stars, and made Thee to lie on a little straw? What changed Thy position from amidst the Angels, to be placed betwixt two beasts? It was all the work of love; Thou inflamest the Seraphim, and dost Thou not shiver with cold? Thou supportest the heavens, and must Thou be now carried in the arms? Thou providest food for men and beasts, and now dost Thou crave a little milk to sustain Thy life? Thou makest the Seraphim happy, and now dost Thou weep and moan? What has reduced Thee to such misery? Love has done it: "Thus would He be born Who willed to be loved and not feared."

Love, then, love, O souls, exclaims St. Bernard, love now this little Child, for He is exceedingly to be loved. "Great is the Lord, and exceedingly to be praised. The Lord is little, and exceedingly to be loved." Yes, says the Saint, this God, existing from eternity, is worthy of all praise and reverence for His greatness, as David has sung: Great is the Lord and exceedingly to be praised (Ps. cxliv. 3). But now that we behold Him become a little Infant, needing milk, and unable to move Himself, trembling with cold, moaning and weeping, looking for some one to take and warm and comfort Him; ah, now indeed does He become the most cherished One of our hearts! "The Lord is little, and exceedingly to be loved!"

We ought to adore Him as our God, but our love ought to keep pace with our reverence towards a God so amiable, so loving.

St. Bonaventure reminds us that "a child finds its delights with other children, with flowers, and to be in the arms." The Saint's meaning is, that if we would please this divine Infant, we too must become children, simple and humble; we must bring to Him flowers of virtue, of meekness, of mortification, of charity; we must clasp Him in the arms of our love.

And, O man, adds St. Bernard, what more do you wait to see before you will give yourself wholly to God? See with what labour, with what ardent love, your Jesus has come down from Heaven to seek you. Hearken, how, though scarcely yet born, His wailings call to you as if He would say: O soul, it is thee I am seeking! For thee and to obtain thy love, I am come from Heaven to earth. "Having scarcely quitted the Virgin's womb," says the Saint, "He calls thy beloved soul after the manner of infants: A! A! anima mea, anima mea, te quaero! Ah! Ah! my soul, my soul, I am seeking Thee! For thee I am making this pilgrimage!"

O God, even the very brutes, if we do them a kindness, if we give them some trifle, are so grateful for it; they come near us, they do our bidding after their own fashion, and they show gladness at our approach. And how comes it, then, that we are so ungrateful towards God, the same God Who has bestowed His whole Self upon us, Who has descended from Heaven to earth, and has become an Infant to save us and to be loved by us.

Come, let us love the Babe of Bethlehem! is the enraptured cry of St. Francis. Let us love Jesus Christ Who has sought in the midst of such sufferings to attach our hearts to Him.

Evening Meditation


The birth of Jesus Christ brought universal joy to the whole world. He was the Redeemer Who had been desired and sighed after for so many years; and therefore He was called the Desired of the nations, and the Desire of the eternal hills. Behold Him already come, and born in a little cave. Let us consider that this day the Angel announces to us also the same great joy that he announced to the shepherds: Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people; for this day is born to you a Saviour (Luke ii. 10).

What rejoicing there is in a country when the heir is born to a king! But surely we ought to keep still greater festival when we see the Son of God born and come down from Heaven to visit us, urged to this by the tenderness of His mercy: Through the bowels of the mercy of our God, in which the Orient from on high hath visited us (Luke i. 78). We were lost; and behold Him Who came to save us: He came down from Heaven for our salvation (Symb. Nic.). Behold the Shepherd Who came to save His sheep from death by giving His life for their sake: I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd giveth his life for his sheep (John x. 11). Behold the Lamb of God, Who came to sacrifice Himself, to obtain for us the divine favour, and to become our Deliverer, our Life, our Light, and even our Food in the most Holy Sacrament!

I have gone astray like a sheep that is lost; seek thy servant (Is. ix. 6). O Lord I am that sheep which, by following after my own pleasures and caprices, have miserably lost myself; but Thou, Who art at once the Shepherd and divine Lamb, art He Who came down from Heaven to save me by sacrificing Thyself as a victim on the Cross in satisfaction for my sins. Behold, the Lamb of God; behold him who taketh away the sins of the world (Ps. cxviii. 176). If, therefore, I desire to amend my life, what need I fear? Why should I not confide entirely in Thee, O my Saviour, Who wert born on purpose to save me? Behold, God is my saviour; I will put my trust in him, and will not fear (Is. xii. 2). What greater proof couldst Thou give me of Thy mercy, O my dearest Redeemer, to inspire me with confidence, than to give me Thyself? O my dear Infant, how grieved I am that I have offended Thee! I have made Thee weep in the stable of Bethlehem. But since Thou are come to seek me, I throw myself at Thy feet; and although I behold Thee afflicted and humbled, lying upon straw in the manger, I acknowledge Thee for my supreme King, and Sovereign. I feel that Thy tender infant-cries invite me to love Thee, and demand my heart. Behold, my Jesus, I present it today at Thy feet; change it and inflame it, O Thou Who didst come into the world to inflame the hearts of men with Thy holy love.


St. Maximus says that for this reason amongst others, Christ chose to be laid in the manger where the animals were fed, to make us understand that He had become Man also to make Himself our Food: "In the manger, where the food of animals is placed, He allowed His limbs to be laid, thereby showing that His own body would be the eternal Food of men." Besides this, He is born every day in the Blessed Sacrament in the hands of the Priest at holy Mass; the Altar is the Crib, and there we go to feed ourselves on His flesh. Some one might desire to have the holy Infant in his arms, as the aged Simeon had; but Faith teaches us that, when we receive Communion, the same Jesus Who was in the manger of Bethlehem is not only in our arms, but in our breasts. He was born for this purpose, to give Himself entirely to us: A child is born to us, a son is given to us (Is. ix. 6).

I hear Thee, O my Jesus, say to me in Thy manger: Love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart (Is. xii. 2). And I will answer: Ah, my Jesus, if I do not love Thee, Who art my Lord and my God, whom shall I love? Thou callest Thyself mine, because Thou wert born in order to give Thyself entirely to me; and shall I refuse to be Thine? No, my beloved Lord, I give myself entirely to Thee; and I love Thee with my whole heart. I love Thee, I love Thee, I love Thee, O sovereign Good, the one only Love of my soul. I beseech Thee accept me this day, and do not permit me evermore to cease to love Thee. O Mary, my Queen, I pray thee, through that consolation which thou didst enjoy the first time thou didst behold thy new-born Son and didst give Him thy first kiss, beseech Him to accept me for His servant, and to enchain me forever to Himself by the gift of His holy love.
December the Twenty-Sixth

Morning Meditation


Blessed be the Lord God of Israel because he hath visited and wrought the redemption of his people (Luke i. 68).

Heretofore we were all slaves of hell. But what has the Eternal Word and Sovereign Lord done to free us from this slavery? Ah, who would have believed it if holy Faith did not assure us of it? Who could ever have conceived it? But holy Faith tells us and assures us that this Supreme and Sovereign Lord, being in the form of God, emptied himself, taking the form of a servant -- to release us from the slavery of our deadly foe.


Almighty God is Lord of all that is, or that can be, in this world, and yet He did not rule over the hearts of mankind that was groaning under the miserable tyranny of the devil. Before the coming of Jesus Christ this tyrant was lord, and even made himself worshipped by men as a god, with incense and sacrifices, not only of animals, but even of their own children and of their very lives. And he, their enemy and tyrant, what return did he make them? How did he treat them? He tortured their bodies with the most barbarous cruelty, he blinded their minds, and by a path of pain and misery conducted them unto everlasting torments. It was this tyrant that the Divine Word came to overthrow, and thereby to release mankind from his wretched thraldom, in order that unfortunate creatures, freed from the darkness of death, rescued from the bondage of this savage monster, and enlightened as to what was the true Way of Salvation, might serve their real and lawful Master, Who loved them as a Father and, from being slaves of Satan, wished to make them His own beloved children: That being delivered from the hands of our enemies, we might serve him without fear (Luke i. 74). Our Saviour came, then, to release us from the slavery of this deadly foe; but how? -- in what manner did He release us? Let us learn from St. Paul what He did: Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal to God, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men (Phil. ii. 6).

O my Jesus, Thou hast been pleased to become a servant for love of me, and in order to release me from the chains of hell; and not only the servant of Thy Father but of men and of executioners, even to the laying down of Thy life! And I, for the love of some wretched, poisonous pleasure, have so often forsaken Thy service, and have become the slave of the devil! A thousand times over I curse those moments in which, by a wicked abuse of my free will, I despised Thy grace, O Infinite Majesty. In pity pardon me, and bind me to Thyself with those delightful chains of love with which Thou keepest Thy chosen souls in closest contact with Thee. I love Thee, O Incarnate Word! I love Thee, O my Sovereign Good! O, never suffer me to be separated from Thee again.


Our Saviour Jesus was, says the Apostle St. Paul, the only-begotten Son of God, equal to His Father, eternal as His Father, almighty as His Father, immense, most wise, most happy, and sovereign Lord of Heaven and earth, of Angels and of men, no less than His Father; but for love of man He stooped to the lowly form of a servant, clothing Himself in human flesh, and likening Himself to men; and since sin had made them vassals of the devil, He came in the form of man to redeem them, offering His sufferings and death in satisfaction to the divine justice for the punishment due to them. Ah! who would have believed it, if holy Faith did not assure us of it? Who could ever have hoped for it? Who could ever have conceived it? But Faith tells us that this supreme and sovereign Lord emptied himself, taking the form of a servant.

From His tenderest childhood, the Redeemer, by becoming a servant, was eager to begin and wrench from the devil that dominion which he had over man, according to the prophecy of Isaias: Call his name -- Hasten to take away the spoils: Make haste to take away the prey (Is. viii. 3). "That is," as St. Jerome explains it, "suffer the devil to reign no longer." Behold Jesus, scarcely born, says the Venerable Bede, before He is registered in the Census of Cesar, and for our liberation "is Himself inscribed in the list of servitude." Observe how, in token of His servitude, He begins to pay off our debts by His sufferings; how He allows Himself to be wrapped in swaddling clothes (a type of the cords which should bind Him at a later day, to be led to death by cruel executioners). "God suffers Himself," says a certain author, "to be bound up in swaddling-bands, because He had come to release the world from its debts."

I beseech Thee, O my Jesus, by all the sufferings of Thy life and death, do not suffer me ever more to leave Thee! Suffer me not to be separated from Thee! Suffer me not to be separated from Thee!

O Mary, my refuge, thou hast hitherto been my sweet advocate, for it is thou who didst prevail on God still to wait for me and to pardon me with so much mercy. Succour me now, and obtain for me the grace to die, and to die a thousand times, rather than ever again to lose the grace of God. Amen.

Spiritual Reading


Well may the words addressed by Moses to God in regard to the children of Israel, after their delivery from the tyranny of Pharaoh, and the bondage of Egypt, be applied to Religious: In thy mercy thou hast been a leader to the people which thou hast redeemed, and in thy strength thou hast carried them to thy holy habitation (Exod. xv. 13). As the Hebrews, compared with the Egyptians, were, in the Old Law, the beloved people of God, so are Religious, contrasted with seculars, in the New Law. And as the Hebrews went forth from Egypt, a land of labour and slavery, where God was not known, so Religious retire from the world, which gives to its servants no other recompense than pains and bitterness and in which God is but little known. Finally, as the Hebrews in the desert were guided by a pillar of fire to the Land of Promise, so Religious are conducted by the light of the Holy Ghost into the sanctuary of Religion, which is like the Promised Land of Heaven. In Heaven there is no thirst for earthly riches, or for sensual pleasures, or of doing one's own will; in the cloister, by means of the holy Vows of Obedience, Poverty, and Chastity, these pernicious desires are effectually excluded. In Heaven, to praise God is the constant occupation of the Saints, and in Religion, it is the same, since every act of the Community is referred to the glory of His Name. "You praise God," says St. Augustine, "by the discharge of every duty; you praise Him when you eat or drink; you praise Him when you rest or sleep." Religious praise the Lord by regulating the affairs of the monastery, by assisting in the sacristy, or at the grate; they praise God when they go to table; and they praise Him when they retire to rest and sleep; in a word they praise God in everything they do. Lastly, in Heaven the Saints enjoy continual peace; because they find in God the Source of every good; and, in Religion, where God alone is sought, is found that peace which surpasses all understanding, and contentment which the world cannot give. Well, then, might St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi say, that Religious should have a high esteem and veneration for their state; since, after Baptism, a Vocation to Religion is the greatest grace which God can bestow.

You should, therefore, hold the Religious state in higher esteem than all the dignities and kingdoms of the earth. In that state you are preserved from sins, which you would commit in the world; there you are constantly occupied in holy exercises; there you have every day opportunities of meriting eternal joys; there you are the spouse of Jesus Christ, and, after this short life, He will make you to reign in the eternal kingdom of His glory. How is it that this grace is yours in preference to so many others more worthy than you? Black, indeed, must be your ingratitude if you do not, with all the love of your heart, thank God every day for the great grace of your Vocation. No one has described the advantages of the Religious state better than St. Bernard. The holy Doctor asks: "Is not the Religious state holy, in which a man lives more purely, falls more rarely, rises more speedily, walks more cautiously, is bedewed with grace more frequently, rests more securely, dies more confidently, is purified more quickly, and rewarded more abundantly?" Let us examine these advantages one by one, and see the great treasures which each of them contains.


All the works of Religious, considered in themselves, are most pure and acceptable before God. This great purity consists in doing what we do solely to please God. Hence, our actions will be agreeable to God in proportion to their conformity to His holy will, and to their freedom from self-will. The actions of a secular, however holy and fervent they may be, partake more of self-will than those of Religious. Seculars pray, receive Holy Communion, hear Mass, make Spiritual Reading, take the discipline, and recite the Divine Office when they please. But a Religious performs these duties at a time prescribed by obedience -- that is, when God wills them, for it is God Himself speaks through obedience. Hence, a Religious, who obeys his Rule and superiors, merits, not only by his prayers and other spiritual duties, but also by his labours, his recreations, his attendance at the door, his meals, his amusements, and his repose. For, in doing these things, not through self-will, but by obedience, he does in each the holy will of God, and by each gains merit.

Oh! how often does not self-will vitiate the most holy actions! Alas! to how many, on the day of judgment, when they shall ask, in the words of Isaias, the reward of their labours -- Why have we fasted, and thou hast not regarded? -- have we humbled our souls, and thou hast not taken notice? -- to how many, I say, will not our Lord answer -- What pretence! Reward for you! Behold in the day of your fast your own will was found (Is. lviii. 3). Have you not, in doing your own will, already received the recompense of your toil? Have you not, in all your works, sought your own pleasure rather than Mine? Abbot Gilbert says that the smallest work of a Religious is more meritorious than the greatest action of a secular. St. Bernard asserts that if a person in the world did the fourth part of what is ordinarily done by Religious, he would be venerated as a saint. And has not experience shown, that the virtues of many, whose sanctity shone resplendent in the world, faded away before the bright example of the fervent souls, whom, on entering Religion, they found in the cloister? A Religious, then, because in all his actions he does the will of God, can truly say that he belongs entirely to Him. The Venerable Mother Mary of Jesus, Foundress of the Convent of Tolouse, used to say that she entertained a high esteem for her Vocation -- first, because a Religious enjoys the society of Jesus Christ, Who, in the Blessed Sacrament, dwells with her in the same house; and secondly, because a Religious, having by the vow of obedience sacrificed her own will and her whole being to God, belongs unreservedly to Him.

Evening Meditation


Consider that the first sign which the Angel gave to the shepherds, by which to discover the new-born Messias, was, that they would find Him in the form of an Infant: You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger (Luke ii. 12). The littleness of infants is a great attraction for love; but a still greater attraction must the littleness of the Infant Jesus be to us, Who, being the incomprehensible God, has made Himself small for the love of us. For our sake He has become a little Child.

Adam came into the world at a full age; but the Eternal Word chose to appear as an Infant -- a child is born to us -- that He might thus attract our hearts to Himself with greater force. So would He be born Who willed to be loved. He came into the world not to inspire terror, but to be loved; and for this reason He preferred to show Himself at His first appearance, as a tender, weak Infant. "Our Lord is great, and greatly to be praised," says St. Peter Chrysologus. My Lord is great, and therefore He deserves highly to be praised on account of His Infinite Majesty. But when the Saint considered Him as a little Child in the stable of Bethlehem, he exclaimed with tenderness: "My Lord is a little Child and greatly to be loved." My great and supreme God has made Himself little for me, and deserves my love.

Ah, how is it possible that any one can reflect with faith on a God become a little Child, crying and weeping on the straw in a cave, and yet not love Him, and invite all men to love Him, as did St. Francis of Assisi, who said: "Let us love the Child of Bethlehem, let us love the Child of Bethlehem." He is an Infant; He does not speak, He only cries; but, O my God, are not these cries all voices of love, with which He invites us to love Him, and demands our hearts!

Eternal Father, I, a miserable sinner, worthy of hell, have nothing of my own to offer Thee in satisfaction for my sins; I offer Thee the tears, the sufferings, the blood, the death of this Infant, Who is Thy Son; and through them I implore pity from Thee. If I had not this Son to offer Thee, I should be lost; there would be no longer any hope for me; but Thou hast given Him to me for this purpose, in order that, in offering Thee His merits, I might have a good hope of my salvation. My ingratitude, O Lord, is great; but Thy mercy is still greater. And what greater mercy could I hope for from Thee, than that Thou shouldst give me Thy own Son for my Redeemer, and as the Victim for my sins. For the love, therefore, of Jesus Christ, forgive me all the offences that I have committed against Thee, of which I repent with my whole heart, because by them I have offended Thee, O infinite Goodness. And for the sake of Jesus Christ I ask of Thee holy perseverance.


Let us consider, moreover, that infants also gain our affection because we consider them innocent; but all other infants are born with the infection of original sin. Jesus was born an Infant, but He was born holy -- holy, innocent, undefiled (Heb. vii. 26). My beloved, says the holy Spouse, is all ruddy with love, and all white with innocence, without a spot of any sin: My beloved is white and ruddy, chosen out of thousands (Cant. v. 10). In this Infant did the Eternal Father find His delight, because, as St. Gregory says, "in Him alone He found no fault."

Let us miserable sinners comfort ourselves, because this Divine Infant has come down from Heaven to communicate His Innocence to us by means of His Passion. His merits, if we only knew how to apply them to ourselves, can change us from sinners into innocents and saints: in these merits let us place all our confidence; through them let us continually ask for graces from the Eternal Father, and we shall obtain everything.

O my God, if I should again offend Thee, after Thou hast waited for me with so much patience, after Thou hast assisted me with so much light, and forgiven me with so much love -- I should indeed deserve a special hell for myself. O my Father, do not forsake me, I pray Thee. I tremble when I think of the number of times I have betrayed Thee; how many times I have promised to love Thee, and then have again turned my back upon Thee? O my Creator, let me not have to lament the misfortune of seeing myself again deprived of Thy favour. Permit me not to be separated from Thee! Permit me not to be separated from Thee! I repeat it, and will repeat it to my very last breath; and do Thou always give me the grace to repeat to Thee this prayer: Permit me not to be separated from Thee! My Jesus, my dearest Infant, enchain me with Thy love. I love Thee and will always love Thee. Permit me not to be ever again separated from Thy love. I love thee, too, my Mother; oh, do thou also love me. And if thou lovest me, this is the favour I beg thee to obtain for me -- that I may never cease to love my God.
December the Twenty-Seventh

Morning Meditation


Great had been the sin of man, but greater, the Apostle says, has been the gift of Redemption. Not as the offence so also the gift (Rom. v. 15). It was not only sufficient, but superabundant. And with him plentiful redemption. I love Thee, O infinite Goodness! I love Thee, O most lovable God!


Be comforted, be comforted, my people, saith your God. Speak ye to the heart of Jerusalem ... for her evil is come to an end (Is. xl. 1, 2). The reason is, God Himself has discovered a way of saving man, while at the same time His justice and His mercy shall both be satisfied. Justice and peace have kissed (Ps. lxxxiv. 11). The Son of God has Himself become Man, has taken the form of a sinner. He appeared to take away our sins, says St. John (1 Jo. iii. 5). He presented Himself before His heavenly Father and offered Himself to pay for mankind; and then the Father sent Him on earth to take the appearance of sinful man, and to be made in all things like to sinners: God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom. viii. 3). And St. Paul adds: And of sin condemned sin in the flesh (Ibid.).

God, therefore, in order to save mankind, and at the same time to satisfy the claims of His Justice, was pleased to condemn His own Son to a painful life, and a shameful death. And can this be true? Jesus Christ Himself affirms it: God so loved the world as to give his only-begotten Son (Jo. iii. 16). What! a God condescends to love men, miserable worms, who have been rebellious and ungrateful towards Him; and to love them to such an extent as to give His only-begotten Son, One Whom He loved as much as Himself! Not a servant, not an Angel, not an Archangel, did He give, but His own Son! He gave Him to us lowly, poor, despised; He gave Him into the hands of slaves, to be treated as a miscreant, even to be put to death, covered with shame, on an infamous gibbet. O grace! O the strength of the love of God! exclaims St. Bernard.

O my Redeemer and my God, and who am I that Thou shouldst have loved me, and still continuest to love me so much! What hast Thou ever received from me that has obliged Thee so to love me? What, except slights and provocations, which were a reason for Thee to abandon me, and to banish me for ever from Thy face! But, O Lord, I accept of every penalty except this! Pardon me, O my beloved Infant, for I am sorry with my whole heart. O Mary, my Mother, thou art my hope and the refuge of sinners.


Say to the faint-hearted: Take courage and fear not ... God Himself will come and will save you (Is. xxxv. 4). Be no longer in despair, O poor sinners! What fear can you have that you will not be pardoned when the Son of God comes down from Heaven to save you? If you cannot by your own works appease an offended God, behold One Who can appease Him! This very Infant Whom you now see reposing on straw, and weeping -- He with His tears, propitiates Him. You have no grounds for being sad any more, says St. Leo, on account of the sentence of death fulminated against you, now that Life Itself is born for you -- "nor is there any lawful reason for sadness when it is the Birthday of Life." And St. Augustine: "O sweet day for penitents! today sin is taken away, and shall the sinner despair?" If you are unable to render due satisfaction to the divine justice, look on Jesus Who does penance for you. Already does He commence to do it in this little Cave, and He will persevere in doing penance all His life and finally bring it to an end only on the Cross to which, according to St. Paul, He affixed the decree of your condemnation cancelling it in His own Blood: Blotting out the handwriting of the decree that was against us, which was contrary to us. And he hath taken the same out of the way, fastening it to the cross(Coloss. ii. 14).

Pardon me, O my beloved Infant, for I am sorry with my whole heart for every single displeasure I have given Thee. O Redeemer, and Redeemer again and again of my soul! my soul is now enamoured of Thee and loves Thee. Thou hast loved me above measure, so that, overcome by Thy love, I could no longer resist its winning appeals. I love Thee, then, O Infinite Goodness! I love Thee, O most lovable God! Do Thou never cease to enkindle more and more in my heart the flames and fiery darts of love. For Thy own glory cause Thyself to be greatly loved by one who has greatly offended Thee. O Mary, assist a poor sinner who desires to prove faithful to God. Help me to love Him and to love Him exceedingly.

Spiritual Reading



Religious are certainly less exposed to the danger of sin than seculars. Almighty God represented the world to St. Anthony, and before him to St. John the Evangelist, as a place full of snares. Hence, the holy Apostle said that in the world there is nothing but the concupiscence of the flesh, that is, carnal pleasures; the concupiscence of the eyes, or earthly riches; and the pride of life, or worldly honours, which swell the heart with pride. In Religion these poisoned sources of sin are cut off by the holy vows; for by the Vow of Chastity a Religious bids adieu to the pleasures of sense; by the Vow of Poverty the desire of riches is eradicated, and by the Vow of Obedience the ambition of empty honours is extinguished.

It is, indeed, possible for a Christian to live in the world detached from its goods; but he who handles pitch, as the saying is, easily blackens his hands. The whole world, says St. John, is seated in wickedness (1 Jo. v. 19). St. Ambrose, in his comment on this passage, says that they who remain in the world live under the miserable despotism of sin. The atmosphere of the world is noxious and pestilential for the soul, and he who breathes it easily catches some spiritual infirmity. Human respect, bad example, and evil conversations, are powerful incitements to earthly attachments, and to estrangement of the soul from God. Every one knows that the damnation of numberless souls is attributable to the occasions of sin so common in the world. From these occasions Religious who live in the retirement of the cloister are far removed. Hence St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi was accustomed to embrace the walls of her convent, saying: "O blessed walls! O blessed walls! from how many dangers do you not preserve me!" Hence, also, blessed Mary Magdalen Orsini, whenever she saw a Religious laugh, used to say: "Laugh and rejoice, dear sister, for you have reason to be happy, being far away from the dangers of the world."


If a Religious should be so unfortunate as to fall into sin, he has, at least, the most efficacious helps to rise again. His Rule, which obliges him to frequent the holy Sacrament of Penance; his meditations, in which he is reminded of the Eternal Truths; the good example of his companions, and the reproofs of his superiors, are powerful helps to rise from his fallen state. Woe, says the Holy Ghost, to him that is alone; for when he falleth he hath none to lift him up (Eccles. iv. 10). If a secular forsake the path of virtue, he seldom finds a friend to admonish and correct him, and therefore he easily remains in his fallen state; but in Religion, if one falls he shall be supported by the other (Ibid.). If a Religious commits a fault, his companions assist him to correct and repair it. "He," says St. Thomas, "is assisted by his companions to rise again."


How much greater are the spiritual advantages enjoyed by Religious than those of the first princes or monarchs of the earth. Kings, indeed, abound in riches, honours, and pleasures; they have soldiers and lords to serve them, but they have no one who will dare to correct their faults, or to point out their duties. All abstain from alluding to their defects, through fear of incurring their displeasure; and to secure their esteem many even go so far as to applaud their vices. But, should a Religious go astray, he has many eyes upon him to correct him. His superiors and companions in Religion will not fail to admonish him and to point out his danger; and even the good example of his brother will remind him continually of the transgression into which he has fallen. Surely a Christian, who believes that eternal life is the one thing necessary, should set a higher value upon these helps to salvation than upon all the dignities and kingdoms of the earth.

As the world presents to seculars innumerable obstacles to virtue, so the cloister holds out to Religious continual preventatives against sin. In Religion the great care which is taken to prevent light faults is a strong bulwark against the commission of grievous transgressions. If a Religious resists temptations to venial sin, he merits by that resistance additional strength to conquer temptations to mortal sin; but if, through frailty, he sometimes yields to them, all is not lost-the evil is easily repaired. Even then the enemy does not get possession of his soul; at most he only succeeds in taking some unimportant outpost, from which he may be easily driven; while, by such defects, the Religious is taught the necessity of greater vigilance and of stronger defences against future attacks. He is convinced of his own weakness, and being humbled and rendered diffident of his own strength, he recurs more frequently and with more confidence to Jesus Christ and His holy Mother. Thus, from these falls, the Religious sustains no injury, since, as soon as he is humbled before the Lord, God stretches forth His all-powerful arm to raise him up. When he shall fall he shall not be bruised, for the Lord putteth his hand under him (Ps. xxxvi. 24). Such victories over his weakness contribute in some way to inspire greater diffidence in himself, and greater confidence in God. Blessed Egidius, of the Order of St. Francis, used to say that one degree of grace in Religion is better than ten in the world; because in Religion it is easy to profit by grace, and hard to lose it; while in the world, grace fructifies with difficulty, and is easily lost.

Evening Meditation



Imagine that you see Mary, having now brought forth her Son, take Him reverently in her arms, adore Him as her God, and then wrap Him up in swathing-bands: she wrapped him up in swaddling-clothes (Luke ii. 7). The Holy Church says the same: "His tender limbs in swathing-bands the Virgin Mother binds." Behold the Infant Jesus, Who obediently offers His little hands and feet, and allows Himself to be swathed. Consider how every time the Holy Infant allowed Himself to be swathed He thought of the cords with which He would one day be led captive in the Garden, and of those also which would bind Him to the pillar, and of the nails which would fasten Him to the Cross; and, thinking of these things, He willingly allowed Himself to be bound, in order to deliver our souls from the chains of hell. Bound, then, in these swaddling-clothes, and turning to us, Jesus invites us to unite ourselves closely to Him with the sweet bonds of love. And turning to His Eternal Father, He says: My Father, men have abused their liberty, and, rebelling against Thee, have made themselves the slaves of sin; but I, to make satisfaction for their disobedience, am willing to be bound and confined in swathing bands. Bound with these, I offer Thee my liberty, in order that man may be delivered from the slavery of the devil. I accept these bands; they are dear to Me, because they represent the cords with which, from this moment, I offer Myself to be one day bound and led to death for the salvation of men.

And what fear can I have of Thy chastisements, O my beloved Infant, now that I see Thee in these swathing-bands, depriving Thyself, so to say, of the power of raising Thy hand to punish me? Thou dost give me to understand by these bands that Thou wilt not chastise me, if I will loose myself from the chains of my vices, and bind myself to Thee. Yes, my Jesus, I resolve to free myself. I repent with all my heart of having separated myself from Thee, by abusing that liberty which Thou hast given me. Thou dost offer me another and a nobler liberty; a liberty which delivers me from the chains of the devil, and places me among the children of God.


His bands are a healthful binding (Ecclus. vi. 31). The bands of Jesus were the healthful binding to heal the wounds of our souls. Therefore, O my Jesus, Thou didst will to be wrapped in swathing-bands for the love of me. "O Love, how great is thy bond, which could bind a God!" O Divine Love, Thou alone couldst make my God Thy Prisoner. And shall I then, O Lord, refuse to have myself bound by Thy holy love? Shall I for the future, be so unfaithful as to loose myself from Thy sweet and amiable chains? And for what? To make myself a slave of hell? O my Lord, Thou remainest bound in this manger for the love of me; I desire always to remain bound to Thee. St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi used to say that the bands which we ought to take are a firm resolution of uniting ourselves closely to God by means of love; detaching ourselves at the same time from all affection for any thing that is not God. For this reason also it seems that our loving Jesus has allowed Himself to be, as it were, bound and a Prisoner in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, under the sacramental species, that He might see His beloved souls made also prisoners of His love.

Thou hast given Thyself up to be imprisoned in these bands for the love of me; I will be a prisoner of Thy immense love. O blessed chains, O beautiful emblems of salvation, which unite souls to God, bind also my poor heart! But bind it so fast, that it may never in future be able to disengage itself from the love of this sovereign Good. My Jesus, I love Thee; I bind myself to Thee; I give Thee my whole heart, my whole will. No, I will never leave Thee again, my beloved Lord. O my Saviour, Who, to pay my debts, didst will not only to be wrapped by Mary in swathing-bands, but even to be bound as a criminal by the executioners, and thus bound, go through the streets of Jerusalem, to be led to death as an innocent lamb to slaughter; O Thou Who didst will to be nailed to the Cross, and didst not come down from it until Thou hadst given up Thy life upon it -- permit me not, I beseech Thee, ever to separate myself again from Thee, so as to see myself once more deprived of Thy grace and of Thy love. O Mary, who didst bind in swathing-bands this Thy innocent Son, bind me also, a miserable sinner, I pray thee; bind me to Jesus, so that I may never again leave His feet; that bound to Him I may always live and die thus bound, in order that I may have the happiness to enter into that blessed country, where I shall no longer have the power, and no longer the fear, of separating myself from His holy love.
Feast of the Holy Innocents
(December 28th)

Morning Meditation

Tell me, cruel Herod, why dost thou command so many innocent babes to be murdered and sacrificed to thy ambition of reigning? Art thou perchance afraid that the Messias just born may rob thee of thy kingdom? This King Who is now born has come, not to vanquish by fighting, but to subdue the hearts of men by suffering and dying for their love.


The cruel Herod commanded the innocent babes to be murdered, and sacrificed to his ambition, afraid, perchance, that the new-born Messias would rob him of his kingdom. "Why art thou so troubled, Herod?" asks St. Fulgentius. "This King Who is born has come, not to vanquish kings by fighting, but to subdue them by dying." This King is come to reign in the hearts of men by suffering and dying for their love. "He has come," continues the Saint, "not, therefore, that He might combat alive, but that He might triumph slain." Leave Herod aside, O devout souls, and let us come to ourselves. Why, then, did the Son of God come upon earth? Was it to give Himself to us? Yes. Isaias assures us of it: A child is born to us and a son is given to us. The love which this loving Saviour bears us, and the desire which He has to be loved by us has induced Him to do this. Being His own He has become ours! This God over Whom none can rule, has, so to speak, yielded Himself Captive to love. Love has gained the victory over Him, and, from being His own, has placed Him in our possession. "He is born Who belonged to Himself," says St. Bernard. He Who appertained wholly to Himself chose to be born for us and to become ours; love triumphs over God! God so loved the world as to give His only-begotten Son! And behold Him already arrived from Heaven in a stable, as a Child -- born for us and given to us. A child is born to us and a son is given to us (Is. xi. 6). This is precisely what the Angel signified when addressing the shepherds: Today is born to you a Saviour (Luke ii. 11). As much as to say: O ye men, go to the Cave of Bethlehem; there adore the Infant Whom you will find lying in the straw in a manger and shivering with cold. Know that He is your God, Who would not consent to send any one else to save you, but would come Himself that He might gain for Himself all your love.

Oh, my beloved Infant, my dear Redeemer, since Thou hast come down from Heaven to give Thyself to me what else shall I care to seek in Heaven or on earth besides Thee? Be Thou the sole Lord of my heart; do Thou possess it wholly. May my soul love Thee alone and seek to please Thee alone!


In divers ways had God already striven to win the hearts of men: at one time with benefits, at another, with threats, and again with promises; but He had still fallen short of His aim. His infinite love, says St. Augustine, made Him devise the plan of giving Himself entirely to us by the Incarnation of the Word, in order thus to oblige us to love Him with our whole hearts. "Then Love found out the plan of delivering up Itself!" He could have sent an Angel, a Seraph, to redeem man. But aware that man, had he been redeemed by a Seraph, would have to divide his heart by partly loving his Creator, and partly loving this redeemer, God, Who wished to possess the entire heart and the entire love of man, "wished therefore to be," as says a pious author, "both our Creator and Redeemer Himself."

And not only has Jesus Christ given Himself to all men in general, but He has wished, moreover, to give Himself to each one in particular. This it was caused St. Paul to say: He loved me and delivered Himself for me (Gal. ii. 20). So that, dear child of God, if there had been no others in the world beside yourself, the Redeemer would have come for the sake of you alone, and would have given His Blood and His life for you.

My God, my Beloved, has given Himself all to me; it is but reasonable for me to give myself all to my God. Let others strive after and enjoy, if enjoyment can ever be found apart from Thee, the goods and fortunes of this world. Thee alone do I desire, Who art my fortune, my riches, my peace, my hope in this life and in eternity. Behold, then, my heart, I give it wholly to Thee. It is no longer mine own, but Thine.

O happy thou, most holy Virgin Mary; thou wert wholly and always God's own -- all fair, all pure and without spot. I have not belonged to God in the past, but now I wish to be His, and to be His entirely. O my hope, obtain me strength to be grateful and faithful to Him till death! Amen. This is my hope. So may it be.

Spiritual Reading



O God, with what interior light, with what spiritual delights and sweetness of love does not Jesus refresh the good Religious at prayer or Communion, or in presence of the Blessed Sacrament, or in the cell before the Crucifix! Christians in the world are like plants in a barren land, on which little of the dew of Heaven falls, and from that little the soil, for want of proper cultivation, seldom derives fertility. Poor seculars! they desire to devote more time to prayer, to receive the Holy Eucharist, and to hear the word of God more frequently; they long for a little solitude, to be more recollected and more closely united to God. But temporal affairs, human ties, visits of friends, the restraints of the world, place these means of sanctification almost beyond their reach. Religious are, on the contrary, like trees planted in a fruitful soil, which is continually and abundantly watered by the dews of Heaven. In the cloister the Lord continually comforts and animates His faithful servants by infusing interior lights and consolations during the time of meditation, sermons, and spiritual reading, and by means of the good example of their companions. Well, then, might Mother Catherine of Jesus, of the Holy Order of St. Teresa, say, when reminded of the labours she had endured in the foundation of a convent: "God has rewarded me abundantly by permitting me to spend one hour as a Religious in the house of His holy Mother."


Worldly goods can never satisfy the cravings of the human soul. The brute creation, being destined only for this world, is content with the goods of the earth; but, being made for God, man can never enjoy happiness except in the possession of God. The experience of ages proves this truth; for if the goods of this life could content the heart of man, kings and princes who abound in riches, honours, and pleasures of the senses, would have days of perfect bliss. But history and experience attest that they are the most unhappy and discontented of men, and that riches and dignities are always the fertile source of fears, of troubles, and of bitterness. The Emperor Theodosius entered one day, unknown, into the cell of a solitary, and after some conversation, said: "Father, do you know who I am? I am the Emperor Theodosius." He then added: "Oh, how happy are you, who lead here on earth a life of contentment, free from the cares and woes of the world. I am a sovereign of the earth, but, be assured, Father, that I never dine in peace."

But how can the world, a place of treachery, of jealousies, of fears and tumult, give peace to man? In the world, indeed, there are certain wretched pleasures which afflict rather than content the soul; which delight the senses for a moment, but leave lasting anguish and remorse behind. Hence the more exalted and honourable the rank and station a man holds in the world, the greater is his uneasiness and discontent; for earthly dignities, in proportion to their greatness, are accompanied with cares and contradictions. We may, then, conclude that the world, in which the heart-rending passions of ambition, avarice, and the love of pleasure, exercise a cruel tyranny over the heart, must be a place, not of ease and happiness, but of inquietude and torture. Its goods can never be possessed to the full extent of our wishes; and when enjoyed, instead of bringing peace to the soul, they fill it with bitterness. Hence, whosoever is satisfied with earthly goods, is saturated with wormwood and poison.

Happy, then, the Religious who loves God, and recognises the favour bestowed on him in being called from the world and being placed in Religion, where, conquering by holy mortification his rebellious passions, and practising continued self-denial, he enjoys that peace, which, according to the Apostle, exceeds all the delights of sensual gratification. The peace of God, which surpasseth all understanding (Phil. iv. 7). Find me, if you can, among those seculars on whom fortune has lavished her Choicest gifts, or even among the first princes or kings of the earth, a soul more happy or content than a Religious divested of every worldly affection, and intent only on pleasing God. He is not rendered unhappy by poverty, for he preferred it to all the riches of the earth -- he has voluntarily chosen it, and rejoices in its privations; nor by the mortification of the senses, for he entered Religion to die to the world and to himself; nor by the restraints of obedience, for he knows that the renunciation of self-will is the most acceptable sacrifice he could offer to God. He is not afflicted at his humiliation, because it was to be despised that he came into the house of God. I have chosen to be an abject in the house of my God, rather than dwell in the tabernacle of sinners (Ps. lxxxiii. 11). Retirement is to him rather a source of consolation than of sorrow; because it frees him from the cares and dangers of the world. To serve the Community, to be treated with contempt, or, to be afflicted with infirmities, does not trouble the tranquility of his soul, because he knows that all this makes him more dear to Jesus Christ. Finally, the observance of his Rule does not trouble a Religious, because the labours and burdens which it imposes, if heavy, are only the weight of wings which are necessary to fly to and be united with his God. Oh! how happy and delightful is the state of a Religious, whose heart is not divided, and who can say with St. Francis: "My God and my All!"

Evening Meditation



As soon as Jesus was swathed, He looked for and took milk from the breast of Mary. The Spouse in the Canticles desired to see her little brother taking milk from his mother: Who shall give thee to me for my brother, sucking the breasts of my mother (Cant. vii. 1). This Spouse desired, but did not see Him; but we are they who have had the happiness of seeing the Son of God made Man, and become our Brother, taking milk at the breast of Mary. Oh, what a spectacle must it not have been to Paradise to see the Divine Word become an Infant, sucking milk from a Virgin who was His own creature! He, then, Who feeds all men and all animals upon the earth, is become so weak and so poor, that He requires a little milk to sustain His life! Sister Paula, the Camaldolese, in contemplating a little image of Jesus taking milk, felt herself at once inflamed with a tender love for God. Jesus took but little of this milk, and took it but seldom in the day. It was revealed to Sister Mary Anne, a Franciscan, that Mary only gave Him milk three times in the day. O milk most precious to us, to be changed into blood in the veins of Jesus Christ, and afterwards to be made by Him a bath of salvation in which to cleanse our souls!

O my sweet and most amiable Infant, Thou art the Bread of Heaven which sustains the Angels; Thou dost provide all creatures with food; and yet how art Thou reduced to the necessity of begging a little milk to preserve Thy life! O Divine Love, how hast Thou been able to make a God so poor as to be in want of a little food? But I now understand Thee, O my Jesus; Thou didst take milk from Mary in this Cave, to offer it afterwards to God changed into blood, as a sacrifice on the Cross, and in satisfaction for our sins. Give, O Mary, give all the milk thou canst to this Son, because every drop has to serve to wash away the sins from my soul, and to nourish it afterwards in Holy Communion.


Let us consider also that Jesus took milk in order to nourish the Body which He wished to leave us as food in the Holy Communion. Therefore, my little Redeemer, whilst Thou dost take milk, Thou art thinking of me; Thou art thinking of changing this milk into blood, to be shed afterwards at Thy death, and with that price ransom my soul, and feed it in the Most Holy Sacrament which is the saving milk with which Thou preservest our souls in the life of grace: "Christ is your milk," says St. Augustine. O beloved Infant, O my Jesus, let me also exclaim with the woman in the Gospel: Blessed is the womb that bore thee, and the paps that gave thee suck (Luke xi. 27). Blessed art thou, O Mother of God, who hadst the happiness to give milk to the Incarnate Word! Oh, permit me, in company with thy divine Son, to take from thee the milk of a tender and loving devotion to the infancy of Jesus and to thyself, my dearest Mother. And I thank Thee, O Divine Infant, Who didst allow Thyself to be in need of milk, in order to prove to me the great love Thou bearest me. It is precisely this that our Lord gave St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi to understand-that He had reduced Himself to the necessity of taking milk, in order to make us comprehend the love that He has for redeemed souls.

O my Redeemer, how can anyone who believes what Thou hast done and suffered to save us, refuse to love Thee? And I, how could I know this, and yet be so ungrateful to Thee? But Thy goodness is my hope; and this makes me know that if I wish for Thy grace, it is mine. I repent, O sovereign Good, of having offended Thee, and I love Thee above everything. Or rather, I love nothing; I love and will love Thee alone; Thou art, and shalt always be, my only Good, my only Love. My dear Redeemer, give me, I pray Thee, a tender devotion to Thy holy Infancy, such as Thou hast given to so many souls, who, meditating on Thee as an Infant, and forgetting all else, seem unable to think of anything but of loving Thee. It is true that they are innocent, and I am a sinner; but Thou didst become a Child to make Thyself loved even by sinners. I have been such; but now I love Thee with my whole heart, and I desire nothing but Thy love. O Mary, give me a little of that tender love with which thou didst give milk to the Infant Jesus.
December the Twenty-Ninth

Morning Meditation


He hath made me a chosen arrow; in his quiver he hath hidden me (Is. xlix. 2).

Cardinal Hugo remarks that as the hunter keeps in reserve the best arrow for the last shot in order to make sure of his prey, "so was Jesus Christ reserved in the bosom of His Father until the fulness of time should come, and He was sent to wound the hearts of the faithful."


St. Augustine says that God, in order to captivate the love of men, has cast several darts of love into their hearts. "God knows how to discharge His arrows at love: He sends the arrow that He may make a lover." What are these arrows? They are all the creatures that we see around us; for God has created them all for man, that man may love Him; hence the same Saint says: "Heaven and earth and all things tell me to love Thee." It seemed to the Saint that the sun, the moon, the stars, the mountains, the plains, the seas and the rivers, spoke to him and said: Augustine, love God, because God has created us for thee that thou mightest love Him. When St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi held in her hand a beautiful fruit or flower, she declared that the fruit or flower was a dart to her heart which wounded her with the love of God. St. Teresa said that all the fair things we see, the lakes, the rivers, the flowers, the fruits, the birds -- all upbraid us with our ingratitude to God, for all are tokens of the love He bears us. It is related of a pious hermit that, walking in the country, he fancied the herbs and flowers reproached him with his ingratitude; so that as he went along he struck them gently with his staff, saying to them: "Be silent! I understand you! No more! You upbraid me with my ingratitude, for God has created you in such beauty for my sake, that I may love Him, and I love Him not! Oh, be silent, I understand! Enough! Enough!"

Thus then, all these creatures were so many darts of love to the hearts of men. But God was not satisfied with these darts only; they were not enough to gain Him the love of men. He hath made me a chosen arrow; in his quiver he hath hidden me. So, among all His gifts, did God keep Jesus in reserve till the fulness of time should come, and then He sent Him as a last Arrow to wound with love the hearts of men. Thy arrows are sharp; under thee people shall fall (Ps. xliv. 6). Ah, how many wounded hearts do I behold burning with love before the manger of Bethlehem! How many at the foot of the Cross of Calvary! How many before the Holy Presence of the Blessed Sacrament on our altars!

Ah, my Lord, tell me, is there anything else left for Thee to devise in order to make Thyself loved? Make His inventions known among the people, as Isaias cried out. O Redeemed souls, go and publish everywhere the loving devices of this loving God which He has thought out and executed to make Himself loved, by men!


St. Peter Chrysologus says our Redeemer took many various forms to attract the love of men. "For our sake He showed Himself under different forms Who remains in the form of His majesty." The unchangeable God would appear now as a Child in a stable, now as a Boy in the workshop, now as Criminal on a scaffold, and now as Bread on the Altar! In these varying figures Jesus chose to exhibit Himself to us; but whatever the character He assumed, it was always the character of a Lover.

Oh, how God longs to see, and how dearly He loves, a heart that is wholly His! Ah, what delicate and loving caresses does He not bestow; what good things, what delights, what glory does God not prepare in Paradise for a heart that is wholly His! The Venerable Father John Leonard de Lettera, a Dominican, one day beheld Jesus Christ under the appearance of a hunter traversing the forest of this earth with an arrow in His hand. The servant of God asked Him wherefore He was thus engaged. Jesus answered that He was seeking after hearts. Who knows whether now in these days the Infant Redeemer will have the success to hit and make a prize of some hearts after which He has been pursuing for a long time, and hitherto has been unable to wound and capture!

Devout souls, if Jesus gains us, we shall also gain Jesus. The advantage of such an exchange is all on our side. "Teresa!" said the Lord one day to this Saint, "up to this time, you have not been all Mine. Now that you are all Mine, be assured that I am all yours." Love is the bond which binds the Lover with the loved one, says St. Augustine. God has every wish to embrace us and unite us to Himself, but it is also necessary for us to strive and unite ourselves to God.

My dear Jesus, inflame me with Thy holy love, since for this end Thou didst come upon the earth. Lord, I have hitherto been ungrateful and blind. Now that I see Thee trembling with cold on the straw, crying and weeping for me - O my Infant God, how can I live without loving Thee! O Mary, great Mother of this great Son, and most beloved by Him, pray to Him for me.

Spiritual Reading



It is true that, even in the cloister, there are some discontented souls; and why, I ask? Because they do not live as Religious ought to live. To be a good Religious, and to be content, are one and the same thing. Of necessity, therefore, does the happiness of a Religious consist in a constant and perfect union of his will with the will of God. Whosoever is not thus united with Him cannot be happy; for God will not infuse His consolations into a soul that resists His holy will. Hence, I am accustomed to say, that a Religious in the cloister enjoys a foretaste of Paradise, or suffers an anticipation of hell. For what is hell? It is to be separated from God, to be forced against the inclinations of nature, to do the will of others, to be distrusted, despised, reproved, chastised, to be in a place out of which there is no escape -- in a word, it is to be in continual torture without a single moment's peace. Such is the miserable condition of a bad Religious; and therefore he suffers on earth an anticipation of the torments of hell. On the other hand, what is Paradise? The happiness of Paradise consists in freedom from the cares and afflictions of the world; in conversation with the Saints; in a perfect union with God, and in the enjoyment of continual peace. A perfect Religious possesses all these blessings, and therefore receives in this life a foretaste of Paradise.

It is, indeed, true that fervent Religious have their crosses to carry here below, for this life is a state of merit, and consequently of suffering. The inconveniences of common life are burdensome; the reproofs of superiors, and the refusal of permissions galling; the mortification of the senses painful; self-love complains at the contradiction and contempt one meets with. But to a Religious who desires to belong entirely to God, all these occasions of suffering are so many sources of consolation and delight; for he knows that by embracing pain, he offers a sweet odour to God. St. Bonaventure says that the love of God is like honey, which sweetens every bitter. The Venerable Caesar de Bustis addressed a nephew who had entered Religion in the following words: "My dear nephew, when you look up at the heavens think of Paradise; when you see the world, reflect on hell, where the damned endure eternal torments without a moment's enjoyment; when you behold your monastery, remember purgatory, where many just souls suffer in peace and with a certainty of eternal life." And what more delightful than to suffer -- if suffering it can be called -- with a tranquil conscience, to suffer for Jesus, and with an assurance that one day every pain will become a gem in an everlasting crown? Ah! the brightest jewels in the diadems of the Saints are the sufferings which they endured in this life with patience and resignation.

God is faithful to His promises, and bountiful beyond measure. He knows how to remunerate His servants, even in this life, by interior sweetness, for the pains which they patiently suffer for His sake. Experience shows that Religious who seek consolation and happiness from creatures are always discontented, whilst they who practise the greatest mortifications enjoy continual peace. Let us, then, be persuaded that neither pleasures of sense, nor honours, nor riches, nor the world with all its goods, can make us happy. God alone can content the heart of man. Whoever finds Him, possesses all things. Hence St. Scholastica says, that if men knew the peace, which Religious enjoy in retirement, the entire world would become one great convent; and St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi used to say that men would abandon the delight of the world, and force their way into Religion. Hence St. Laurence Justinian says that "God has designedly concealed the happiness of the Religious state, because if it were known, all would relinquish the world and fly into Religion."

The very solitude, silence and tranquility of the cloister gives to the soul that loves God a foretaste of Paradise. Father Charles of Lorrain, a Jesuit of royal extraction, used to say that the peace which he enjoyed during a single moment in his cell repaid him well for the sacrifice he had made in quitting the world. Such was the happiness which he sometimes experienced in his cell, that he would dance for very joy. Arnolf, a Cistercian, comparing the riches and honours of the court which he had left, with the consolations which he found in Religion, exclaimed: "O Jesus, true indeed is Thy promise, offering a hundred-fold to him who leaves all things for Thy sake!" St. Bernard's monks, who led lives of great penance and austerities, received in their solitude such spirtual delights, that they were afraid they should obtain in this life the reward of their labours. Let it be your care to unite yourself closely to God; to embrace with peace the crosses He sends you; to love what is most perfect; and, when necessary, to do violence to yourself. But to have the necessary strength you must pray continually; pray in your meditations, in your Communions, in your Visits to the Blessed Sacrament, and especially when you are tempted by the devil; thus you will be amongst those fervent souls who are more happy and content than all the princes and kings and emperors of the earth.

Beg of God to give you the spirit of a perfect Religious; that spirit which impels the soul to act, not according to the dictates of nature, but according to the inspirations of grace, or from the sole motive of pleasing God. This is to be a true Religious. What use is it to wear the habit of a Religious if in heart and soul you be a secular, and live according to the maxims of the world? Whosoever profanes the garb of Religion by a worldly spirit and a worldly life, has an apostate heart. "To maintain," says St. Bernard, "a secular spirit under the habit of Religion is apostacy of heart." The spirit of a Religious requires an exact obedience to the Rules, and to the orders of the superiors, together with great zeal for the interests of Religion. There are some who wish to become Saints, but only according to their own caprice; that is, by long silence, prayer, and spiritual reading, without taking part in any of the offices of the Community. Hence, if they are appointed porters, or given any occupations that keep them from their devotions, they become impatient, complain, and sometimes obstinately refuse to obey, saying that such offices are to them occasions of sin. Oh! such is not the spirit of a Religious; surely what is conformable to the will of God cannot hurt the soul. The Religious spirit requires a total detachment from the world, great love of prayer, silence, and recollection, an ardent zeal for exact observance, a deep abhorrence of sensual indulgence, intense charity towards all men, and finally, a love of God capable of subduing and ruling all the passions. Such is the spirit of a perfect Religious. Whosoever does not possess this spirit, should, at least desire it and earnestly beg God's assistance to obtain it. In a word, the spirit of a Religious supposes a total disengagement of the heart from everything which is not God, and a perfect consecration of the soul to Him, and to Him alone.

Evening Meditation



Jesus is born in the stable of Bethlehem. His poor Mother has neither wool nor down to make a bed for the tender Infant. What does she do, then? She gathers together a handful of straw into the manger, and puts Him to lie upon it: And she laid him in the manger (Luke ii. 7). But, O my God, how hard and painful is this bed for an infant just born; the limbs of a babe are so delicate, and especially the limbs of Jesus, which were formed by the Holy Spirit with a special delicacy, in order that they might be the more sensible to suffering. A body thou hast fitted to me (Heb. x., 5).

Wherefore the hardness of such a bed must have caused Him excessive pain-pain and shame; for what child, even of the lowest of the people, is ever laid on straw as soon as he is born? Straw is a bed fit only for beasts; and yet the Son of God had none other on earth than a bed of miserable straw! St. Francis of Assisi, one day, as he sat at table, heard these words of the Gospel: And laid him in a manger; and he exclaimed : "What? My Lord was laid on the straw, and shall I continue to sit?" And so he arose from his seat, threw himself on the ground, and there finished his scanty meal, mingling with it tears of tenderness as he contemplated the sufferings that the Infant Jesus endured whilst He lay on the straw.

O Lover of souls, O my loving Redeemer! is not, then, the sorrowful Passion that awaits Thee, and the bitter death that is prepared for Thee on the Cross, sufficient, but that Thou must, even from the commencement of Thy life, even from Thy Infancy, begin to suffer? Yes, because even as an Infant Thou wouldst begin to be my Redeemer, and to satisfy the divine justice for my sins. Thou didst choose a bed of straw to deliver me from the fire of hell, into which I have so many times deserved to be cast. Thou didst cry and mourn on this bed of straw to obtain for me pardon from Thy Father. Oh, how these Thy tears afflict me, and yet console me! They afflict me from compassion at seeing Thee, an innocent Babe, suffering so much for sins not Thy own; they console me, because Thy sufferings assure me of my salvation, and of Thy immense love for me.


But why did Mary, who had so earnestly desired the birth of this Son -- why did she, who loved Him so much, allow Him to lie and suffer on this hard bed, instead of keeping Him in her arms? This is a mystery, says St. Thomas of Villanova: "Nor would she have laid Him in such a place, unless there had been some great mystery in it." This great mystery has been explained by many in different ways, but the explanation most pleasing to me is that of St. Peter Damian: Jesus wished as soon as He was born to be placed on the straw, in order to teach us the mortification of our senses: "He laid down the law of martyrdom." The world had been lost by sensual pleasures. From the time of Adam multitudes of his descendants had thus been lost. The Eternal Word came from Heaven to teach us the love of suffering; and He began as a Child to teach it by choosing for Himself the most acute sufferings that an infant could endure. It was, therefore, He Himself Who inspired His Mother to cease from holding Him in her tender arms, and to place Him on the hard bed, that He might the more feel the cold of the cave and the pricking of the rough straw.

But, my Jesus, I will not leave Thee alone to cry and to suffer. I also will weep; for I alone deserve to shed tears on account of the offences I have committed against Thee. I, who have deserved hell, will not refuse any suffering whatever, so that I may regain Thy favour, O my Saviour. Forgive me, I beseech Thee; receive me once more into Thy friendship, make me love Thee, and then chastise me as Thou wilt. Deliver me from eternal punishment, and then treat me as it shall please Thee. I do not seek the pleasures of this life; he does not deserve pleasure who has had the temerity to offend Thee, O infinite Goodness. I am content to suffer all the crosses Thou shalt send me; but, my Jesus, I will love Thee still. O Mary, who didst sympathise by thy sufferings with the sufferings of Jesus, obtain for me the grace to suffer all my trials with patience. Woe to me, if, after so many sins, I do not suffer something in this life! And blessed shall I be if I have the happiness to accompany thee in thy sufferings, O my sorrowful Mother, and Thee, O my Jesus, always afflicted and crucified for love of me.
December the Thirtieth

Morning Meditation


All flesh is grass. The life of man is like the life of a blade of grass. Death comes, the grass is dried up. Behold, life ends, and the flower of all greatness and of all worldly goods falls off! The grass is withered and the flower is fallen!


What is your life? It is a vapour which appeareth for a little while (James iv. 15).

What is your life? It is a vapour, which is dissipated by a blast of wind, and is seen no more. All know that they must die; but the delusion of many is, that they imagine death to be so far off as if it were never to arrive. But Job tells us that the life of man is short. Man born of woman, living for a short time, ... who cometh forth like a flower, and is destroyed (Job xiv. 12). The Lord commanded Isaias to preach this truth to the people. Cry ... All flesh is grass. ... Indeed, the people is grass. The grass is withered and the flower is fallen (Is. xl. 6 sqq.). The life of man may be likened to that of a blade of grass; death comes, the grass is dried up: behold, life ends, and the flower of all greatness and of all worldly goods falls off.

My days, says Job, have been swifter than a post (Job ix. 25). Death runs to meet us most swiftly and we at every moment run as swiftly towards death. Every step, every breath brings us nearer to our end. "What I write," says St. Jerome, "is so much taken away from life." During the time I write, I draw nearer to death. We all die, and, like the waters that return no more, we fall into the earth (2 Kings xiv. 14). Behold how the stream flows to the sea, and the passing waters never return! Thus, my brother, your days go by, and you approach death. Pleasures, amusements, pomps, praises and acclamations pass away; and only the grave remaineth for me (Job xvii. 1). At the hour of death the remembrance of the delights enjoyed, and of all the honours acquired in this life, will serve only to increase our pain and our diffidence of obtaining eternal salvation. Then the miserable worldling will say: "My house, my gardens, my fashionable furniture, my pictures, my garments, will in a little time be no longer mine, and only the grave remaineth for me."

Ah, my God and Lord of infinite majesty! I am ashamed to appear before Thee. How often have I dishonoured Thee by preferring a sordid pleasure, the indulgence of anger, caprice, or vanity, to Thy grace? O my Redeemer, I adore and kiss Thy holy Wounds, which I have inflicted by my sins; but through which I hope for pardon and salvation. O my Jesus, make me understand the great injury I have done Thee in leaving Thee, the Fountain of every good, to drink putrid and poisoned waters. Nothing now remains but pain, remorse of conscience, and fruits for hell. Father, I am not worthy to be called thy child (Luke xv. 21). My Father! do not cast me off. It is true that I no longer merit the grace which would make Me Thy child; but Thou hast said: Turn ye to me, ... and I will turn to you (Zach. i. 3). I wish to love Thee during the remainder of my life, and I wish to love nothing but Thee. Assist me; give me holy perseverance, and Thy holy love. Mary, my refuge, plead with Jesus Christ for me.


How great is the folly of those who, for the miserable and transitory delights of this short life, expose themselves to the danger of an unhappy death, and afterwards of an unhappy eternity. Oh! how important is that last moment, that last gasp, that last closing scene! On it depends an eternity either of all delights or of all torments -- a life of eternal happiness or of everlasting woe. Let us consider that Jesus Christ submitted to a cruel and ignominious death in order to obtain for us the grace of a good death. That we may at that last moment die in the grace of God is the reason why He gives us so many calls, so many lights, and admonishes us by so many threats.

If there were two tickets in a lottery, on one of which was written Hell and on the other Heaven, what care would you not take to draw that which would give you a right to Paradise, and to avoid the other, by which you would be condemned to a place in hell! O God! how the hands of those unhappy men tremble who are condemned to throw the die on which life or death depends! How great will be your terror at the approach of that last hour, when you will say: On this moment depends my life or death for eternity; on this depends whether I shall be forever happy or forever in despair! St. Berardine of Sienna relates, that at death a certain prince exclaimed, with trembling and dismay: Behold, I have so many kingdoms and palaces in this world; but if I die this night I know not what apartment shall be assigned to me in the next.

Brother, if you believe that you must die, that there is an eternity, that you can die only once, and that if you then err, your error will be forever irreparable, why do you not resolve to begin at this moment to do all in your power to secure a good death? St. Andrew Avellino said with trembling: "Who knows what will be my lot in the next life? Shall I be saved or damned?" Oh! hasten to apply a remedy in time; resolve to give yourself sincerely to God, and begin from this moment a life which, at the hour of death, will be to you a source, not of affliction, but of consolation. Give yourself up to prayer, frequent the Sacraments, avoid all dangerous occasions, and, if necessary, leave the world, secure to yourself eternal salvation, and be persuaded that to secure eternal life no precaution can be too great.

O my dear Saviour, how great are my obligations to Thee! How hast Thou been able to bestow so many graces on so ungrateful a traitor as I have been? Thou didst create me; and in creating me Thou didst see the injuries which I would commit against Thee. Thou didst redeem me by dying for me: and then, too, Thou didst see the ingratitude which I would be guilty of towards Thee. Being placed in the world I turned my back upon Thee by my sins. My soul was dead and Thou didst restore me to life. I was blind, and Thou didst enlighten me. I had lost Thee, and Thou didst enable me to find Thee. I was Thy enemy, and Thou didst make me Thy friend. O God of mercy, make me feel the obligations which I owe Thee, and make me weep over the offences which I have committed against Thee. O Eternal Father, I abhor and detest, above all evils, the injuries I have done Thee. Have mercy on me for the sake of Jesus Christ. Look at Thy Son dead on the Cross. Sanguis ejus super me. May His Blood flow upon me and wash my soul! Mary, my Queen and Mother, assist me by thy intercession. Mother of God, pray for me.

Spiritual Reading



Some are deterred from entering Religion by the apprehension that their abandonment of the world may be afterwards to them a source of regret. In making choice of a state of life, I would advise such persons to reflect, not on the time given to us to live, but on the hour of death, which will determine their happiness or misery for all eternity. And I would ask if in the world, surrounded by seculars, disturbed by the fondness of children, from whom they are about to be separated, perplexed with the care of their worldly affairs, and troubled by a thousand scruples of conscience, they can expect to die more content than in the House of God, assisted by their holy companions, who continually speak to them of God, pray for them, console and encourage them in their passage to eternity? Imagine you see, on the one hand, a prince dying in a splendid palace, attended by a retinue of servants, surrounded by his wife, his children, and relations, and represent to yourself, on the other, a Religious expiring in his monastery, in a poor cell, mortified, humble, far from his relatives, stripped of property and self-will; and tell me, which of the two dies more contented -- that sick prince or that poor Religious? Ah! the enjoyment of riches, honours and pleasures of this life does not afford consolation at the hour of death, but rather begets grief and diffidence of salvation; while poverty, humiliations, penitential austerities, and detachment from the world, render death sweet, and give to a Christian increased hopes of attaining that true felicity which shall never terminate.

Jesus Christ has promised that whosoever leaves his home and relatives for His love shall enjoy eternal life. And every one that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive a hundred-fold and possess life everlasting (Matt. xix. 29). A certain Religious of the Society of Jesus, being observed to smile on his death-bed, some of his brethren began to apprehend that he was not aware of his danger, and asked him why he smiled; he answered: "Why should I not smile, since I am sure of Paradise? Has not the Lord Himself promised to give eternal life to those who leave the world for His sake? I have long since abandoned all things for the love of Him; His promise cannot fail. I smile, then, because I confidently expect eternal glory." The same sentiment was expressed long before by St. John Chrysostom, writing to a certain Religious: "God cannot tell a lie; and He has promised eternal life to those who leave the goods of this world. You have left all these things; why, then, should you doubt the fulfilment of His promise?"

St. Bernard says that "it is very easy to pass from the cell to Heaven; because a person who dies in a cell scarcely ever descends into hell, since it seldom happens that a Religious perseveres in his cell till death unless he be predestined to eternal happiness." St. Laurence Justinian says that Religion is the gate of Paradise; because, living in Religion, and partaking of its advantages, is a great mark of election to glory. No wonder, then, that Gerard, the brother of St. Bernard, when dying in his monastery, died singing. God Himself says: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord (Apoc. xiv. 13). And surely Religious, who, by the holy vows, and especially by the vow of obedience, or total renunciation of self-will, die to the world and to themselves, must be amongst those who die in the Lord. Father Suarez, remembering at the hour of death that all his actions in Religion were performed through obedience, was filled with spiritual joy, and exclaimed that he could not have imagined death could be so sweet and so full of consolation.


St. Thomas teaches that the perfect consecration which a Religious makes of himself to God, by his solemn Profession remits the guilt and punishment of all his past sins. The Saint writes: "It may be reasonably said that a person by entering Religion, obtains the remission of all his sins. For, to make satisfaction for all sins, it is sufficient to dedicate oneself entirely to the service of God by entering Religion, which dedication exceeds all manner of satisfaction." "Hence," he concludes, "we read in the Lives of the Fathers, that they who enter Religion obtain the same very grace as those who receive Baptism." The defects committed after Profession by a good Religious, are expiated in this world by his daily exercises of piety, meditations, Communions, and mortifications. But, should a Religious not have made full atonement in this life for all his sins, his Purgatory will not be of long duration. The many sacrifices which are offered for him after death, and the prayers of the Community, will soon release him from suffering.

Evening Meditation



Very short and painful were the slumbers of the Infant Jesus. A manger was His cradle, straw was His bed, and straw His pillow; so that the sleep of Jesus was often interrupted by the hardness of this rough and painful little bed, and by the severe cold of the cave. Notwithstanding this, overcome by nature, the sweet Babe from time to time slept amidst His sufferings. But the sleep of Jesus differed much from that of other children; the slumbers of other children are useful for the preservation of life, but not for the operations of the soul, because the soul being buried with the senses in sleep, does not then work; but such was not the sleep of Jesus Christ: I sleep, and my heart watcheth (Cant. v. 2). His body was asleep, but His soul was watching, because it was united to the Person of the Word, Who could not slumber, nor be lulled to sleep by the senses. The Holy Infant, therefore, slept; but while He slept He thought of all the sufferings He was to endure for our love during His life and at His death. He thought of the fatigues He was to undergo in Egypt and in Nazareth during His poor and despised life. He thought then, in particular, of the scourges, of the thorns, of the ignominies, of the agonies, and of that desolate death that He was at last to suffer upon the Cross; and whilst He was sleeping He offered all this to His Eternal Father to obtain for us pardon and salvation. So that our Saviour, even while sleeping, was meriting for us and appeasing His Father, and obtaining graces for us.

My beloved and holy Infant, Thou sleepest, and oh, how much do not Thy slumbers enamour me! With others, sleep is the emblem of death; but in Thee it is the sign of eternal life, because whilst Thou art reposing, Thou are meriting for me eternal salvation. Thou sleepest; but Thy Heart sleeps not, it is thinking of Thy suffering and dying for me. Whilst Thou art sleeping Thou art praying for me, and obtaining for me from God the eternal rest of Paradise. But before Thou dost take me to repose with Thee, as I hope, in Heaven, I desire that Thou shouldst repose for ever in my soul.


Let us now beseech the Divine Child, by the merit of His blessed slumbers, to deliver us from the deadly slumber of sinners who unhappily sleep in the death of sin, forgetful of God and of His love; and to give us the blessed sleep of the Sacred Spouse, of which He said: Stir not up, nor make the beloved to awake, till she please (Cant. ii. 7). This is the sleep that God gives to His beloved souls, which is none other, as St. Basil says, "but the most profound oblivion of all things"; and this is when the soul forgets all earthly things, to attend only to God and to the things that concern His glory.

There was a time, O my God, when I drove Thee away from me; but I trust that, by knocking so often at the door of my heart -- at one time by making it afraid, at another by enlightening it, then by words of love -- Thou hast already obtained an entrance there. This, I say, is my hope; because I feel a great confidence that I have already been forgiven by Thee; I feel a great hatred and repentance for the offences I have committed against Thee -- a repentance that gives me a great sorrow; but a sorrow that brings peace, a sorrow that comforts me and makes me hope assuredly for pardon from Thy goodness. I thank Thee, my Jesus, and I pray Thee never again to depart from my soul. I know indeed that Thou wilt not leave me, if I do not drive Thee away; and this is the grace I ask of Thee (and I pray Thee to give me Thy assistance that I may always seek it of Thee), that Thou wouldst not permit me ever to drive Thee from me. Make me forget everything, to think only of Thee Who hast always thought of me and of my welfare. Make me always love Thee in this life, so that, breathing forth my soul in Thy arms, united to Thee, it may repose eternally in Thee without fear of losing Thee again. O Mary, assist me in life and assist me in death, so that Jesus may always repose in me, and that I may always repose in Jesus.
Last Day of the Year

Morning Meditation


He hath called against me the time (Lament. i. 15).

All the time that is not spent for God is time lost. At the hour of death worldlings will wish for another year, another month, another day -- but they will not obtain it. They shall then be told that for them time shall be no more. Ah, my Jesus, I have been so many years in the world, and how many have I spent for Thee?


There is nothing more precious than time, but there is nothing less esteemed and more despised by men of the world. This is what St. Bernard deplores when he says: "Nothing is more precious than time, but nothing is regarded more cheaply." The Saint adds: "The days of salvation pass away, and no one reflects that the day which has passed away from him can never return." You will see a gambler spend nights and days in play. If you ask him what he is doing, his answer is: "I am passing the time." You will see others standing several hours in the street, looking at those who go by, and speaking on obscene or on useless subjects. If you ask them what they are doing they will say: "We are passing the time." Poor blind sinners who lose so many days! Days that never return!

O time despised during life! you will be ardently desired by worldlings at the hour of death. They will then wish for another year, another month, another day; but they will not obtain it: they will then be told that time shall be no longer. How much would they then pay for another week, or another day, to settle the accounts of their conscience? To obtain a single hour, they would, says St. Laurence Justinian, give all their wealth and worldly possessions. But this hour shall not be given.

Ah, my Jesus, Thou hast spent Thy whole life for the salvation of my soul. There has not been a single moment of Thy life in which Thou hast not offered Thyself to the Eternal Father to obtain for me pardon and eternal glory. I have been so many years in the world, and how many of them have I spent for Thee? Ah! all that I remember to have done produces remorse of conscience. The evil has been great, the good very little, and all full of imperfections and tepidity, of self-love and distractions. Ah, my Redeemer! all this has arisen from my forgetfulness of what Thou hast done for me. I have forgotten Thee, but Thou hast not forgotten me; when I fled from Thee, Thou didst follow me, and call me so often to Thy love.


The Prophet exhorts us to remember God and to procure His friendship, before the light fails. Remember thy Creator ... before the sun and the light be darkened (Eccles. xii. 1). How great the distress and misery of a traveller who, when the night has come, perceives that he has missed his way, and that there is no time to correct his mistake. Such at death will be the anguish of the sinner who has lived many years in the world, and has not spent them for God. The night cometh, when no man can work (Jo. ix. 4). For him death shall be the night in which he will be able to do nothing. He hath called against me the time. Conscience will then remind the worldling of all the time that God has given him, which he has spent in the destruction of his soul; of all the calls and graces that he has received from God for his sanctification, and these he has voluntarily abused. The sinner will then see that the way of salvation is forever closed. Hence he will weep and say: O fool that I have been! O time lost! O life misspent! O lost years, in which I could have become a Saint, but have not! And now the time of salvation is gone forever. But of what use are these sighs and lamentations, when the scene is about to close -- the lamp on the point of being extinguished -- and when the dying sinner has reached that awful moment on which eternity depends?

Behold me, O Jesus! I will resist no longer. Shall I wait till Thou abandon me? I am sorry, O Sovereign Good! for having separated myself from Thee by sin. I love Thee, O infinite Goodness, worthy of infinite love. Ah! do not permit me ever again to lose the time which Thou in Thy mercy givest me. Ah! remind me always, O my beloved Saviour, of the love Thou hast borne me and of the pains Thou hast endured for me. Make me forget all things, that, during the remainder of my life, I may think only of loving and pleasing Thee. I love Thee, my Jesus, my Love, my All! I promise to make acts of love whenever Thou remindest me. Give me holy perseverance. I place all my confidence in the merits of Thy Blood. I also trust in thy intercession, O my dear Mother Mary!

Spiritual Reading



Worldlings are blind to the things of God; they do not comprehend the greatness of eternal life, in comparison with which the present life is but a moment, almost nothing. If they were truly enlightened they would assuredly abandon their possessions -- even kings would abdicate their crowns -- and quitting the world, would retire into the cloister to attend to their eternal salvation -- an exceeding difficult affair for persons living in the world. Bless, then, O Religious soul, and continually thank God, Who, by his lights and graces, has delivered you from the bondage of Egypt and brought you to His own house; prove your gratitude by fidelity to His service, and by a faithful correspondence with so great a grace. Compare the goods of this world with the eternal felicity which God has prepared for those who leave all things for His sake, and you will find that there is a greater disparity between the transitory joys of this life and the eternal beatitude of the Saints, than there is between a grain of sand and the entire creation.

Jesus Christ has promised that whosoever shall leave all things for His sake, shall receive a hundred-fold in this life, and eternal glory in the next. Who can ever doubt His words? Can you imagine that He will not be faithful to His promise? Is He not more liberal in rewarding virtue than severe in punishing vice? If they who give a cup of cold water in His Name shall not be left without reward, how great, how incomprehensible must be the reward which a Religious, who aspires to perfection, shall receive for the numberless works of piety which he performs every day! Reward for so many acts of charity, for abstinence, for so many Meditations, Offices, and Communions, for so many acts of mortification, for Spiritual Reading -- all of which a Religious who tends to perfection performs every day! Do you not know that these good works performed through obedience, and the other vows of Religious, merit a far greater reward than the good works of seculars? Brother Lacci, of the Society of Jesus, appeared after death to a certain person, and said that he and King Phillip the Second were crowned with bliss, but his own glory as far surpassed that of Philip, as the exalted dignity of a sovereign on earth is raised above the lowly station of a humble Religious.

The dignity of martyrdom is sublime; but the Religious state appears to possess something still more excellent. The Martyr suffers that he may not lose his soul; the Religious suffers to render himself more acceptable to God. A Martyr dies for the Faith; a Religious, for perfection. Although the Religious state has lost much of its primitive splendour, we may still say, with truth, that the souls most dear to God, who have attained the greatest perfection, and who edify the Church by the odour of their sanctity, are, for the most part, to be found in Religion. How many shall we find in the world, even amongst the most fervent, who rise at midnight to pray and sing the praises of God? How many who spend five or six hours each day in these or similar works of piety? Who practise fasting, abstinence, and mortification? How many who observe silence, or accustom themselves to do the will of others rather than their own? And, surely, all these are performed by the Religious of every Order. Even in convents where discipline is relaxed, many are found who aspire to perfection, observe the Rule, and perform, in private, many works of supererogation. It is evident that the conduct of the generality of pious Christians in the world cannot be compared with that of a good Religious. No wonder, then, that St. Cyrian called virgins consecrated to God, the flower of the garden of the Church, and the noblest portion of the flock of Jesus Christ. St. Gregory Nazianzen says Religious "are the first fruits of the flock of the Lord, the pillars and crown of Faith, and the pearls of the Church." I hold as certain that the greater number of the seraphic thrones, which were left vacant by the fall of the unhappy associates of Lucifer, will be filled by Religious. Out of the sixty, who, during the last Century were enrolled in the Catalogue of Saints, or honoured with the appellation of "Blessed," all, with the exception of five or six belonged to Religious Orders. Jesus Christ once said to St. Teresa: "Woe to the world but for Religious." Ruffinus says: "It cannot be doubted that the world is preserved from ruin by the merits of Religious." When, therefore, the devil affrights you by representing the difficulty of observing your Rule, and practising self-denial and the austerities necessary for salvation, raise your eyes to Heaven, and the hope of eternal beatitude will give you strength and courage to suffer all things. The trials, mortifications, and the miseries of this life will end one day, and to them will succeed the ineffable delights of Paradise, which shall be enjoyed for eternity without fear of failure or of diminution.

Evening Meditation



The tears of the Infant Jesus were very different from those of other newborn babes: these weep through pain; Jesus did not weep from pain, but through compassion for us and through love: "They weep on account of suffering, Christ out of compassion," says St. Bernard. Tears are a great sign of love. Therefore did the Jews say when they saw the Saviour weeping for the death of Lazarus: Behold how he loved him (Jo. xi. 36). Thus also might the Angels have said on beholding the tears of the Infant Jesus: "Behold how He loves them." Behold how our God loves men; since for the love of them we see Him made Man, become an Infant, and weeping. Jesus wept, and offered to His Father His tears to obtain for us the pardon of our sins. "These tears," says St. Ambrose, "washed away my sins." By His cries and tears He implored mercy for us who were condemned to eternal death, and thus He appeased the indignation of His Father.

My beloved Infant, whilst Thou wert weeping in the stable of Bethlehem, Thou wert thinking of me, beholding even my sins, which were the cause of Thy tears. And have I, O my Jesus, instead of consoling Thee by my love and gratitude at the thought of what Thou hast suffered to save me -- have I increased Thy grief and the cause of Thy tears? If I had sinned less Thou wouldst have wept less. Weep, yes, weep, for Thou hast cause to weep in seeing such great ingratitude of men for Thy so great love. But since Thou weepest, weep also for me; Thy tears are my hope. I also weep for the offences I have offered Thee, O my Redeemer; I hate them, I detest them, I repent of them with my whole heart. I weep for all those wretched days and nights of mine in which I lived Thy enemy and deprived of Thy beautiful grace; but what would my tears avail, O my Jesus, without Thine?


Oh, how eloquently did the tears of this Divine little One plead in our behalf! Oh, how dear they were to God! It was then that the Father caused the Angels to proclaim that He made peace with men, and received them into His favour: And on earth peace to men of good will (Luke ii. 14). Jesus wept through love, but He also wept through grief in seeing that so many sinners, even after all His tears and so much blood shed for their salvation, would yet continue to despise His grace. But who would be so hard-hearted, on seeing an Infant God weeping for our sins, as not to weep also, and detest those sins that have made this loving Saviour shed so many tears? Oh, let us not increase the sorrows of this Innocent Babe; but let us console Him by uniting our tears to His! Let us offer to God the tears of His Son, and let us beseech Him for their sake to forgive us!

Eternal Father, I offer Thee the tears of the Infant Jesus; for their sake forgive me. And Thou, my dear Saviour, offer to Him all the tears which Thou didst shed for me during Thy life, and with them appease Him for me. I beseech Thee also, O my Love, to soften my heart by these tears, and to inflame it with Thy holy love. Oh, that I could from this day forth console Thee by my love as much as I have pained Thee by offending Thee. Grant therefore, O Lord, that the days which remain to me of life may no more be spent in offending Thee, but only in weeping for the offences I have offered Thee, and in loving Thee with all the affections of my soul. O Mary, I beseech thee by that tender compassion which thou didst so often feel at seeing the Infant Jesus in tears, obtain for me a constant sorrow for the offences which I have ungratefully committed against Him.
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A reminder ...