St. Alphonsus Liguori: Daily Meditations for the Third Week of Lent
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Monday -- Third Week of Lent

Morning Mediation

THE DELUSIONS OF SINNERS


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"God is merciful." Who denies this? Yet, nevertheless how many does not God daily send to hell! God shows mercy; but to whom? His mercy is towards them that fear him.

I.

The sinner says, "God is merciful." Behold the third very common delusion of sinners, by which great numbers are lost. A learned author declares that the mercy of God sends more souls to hell than His justice; because these unhappy ones, confiding rashly in God's mercy, continue in sin, and are thus lost. God is merciful. Who denies it? Nevertheless how many does He daily send to hell! He is merciful; but He is also just, and He is therefore obliged to punish those who offend Him. He shows mercy; but to whom? To him that fears Him: His mercy is towards them that fear him. The Lord hath compassion on them that fear him. (Ps. cii. 11, 18). But as for those who despise Him, and abuse His mercy only to despise Him the more, He exercises justice in their regard. And with reason. God pardons the sin, but He cannot pardon the determination to sin. St. Augustine says that he who sins with the intention of repenting afterwards, is not a penitent but a mocker of God. On the other hand, the Apostle tells us that God will not be mocked: Be not deceived: God is not mocked. (Gal. vi. 7). It would be mocking God to offend Him as we please and when we please, and then to expect Heaven.

My crucified Jesus, my Redeemer and my God, behold a traitor at Thy feet! I am ashamed to appear before Thee. How often have I mocked Thee, how often have I promised never more to offend Thee! But my promises have all been treacherous; since, when the occasion presented itself, I forgot Thee, and again turned my back on Thee. I thank Thee that my abode at this moment is not in hell; but that Thou permittest me to be at Thy feet instead, and enlightenest me, and callest me to Thy love. Yes, I am resolved to love Thee, my Saviour and my God, and never more to despise Thee. Thou hast borne with me long enough. I perceive that Thou canst bear with me no longer. Unhappy me, if after so many graces I should offend Thee again!


II.

"But as God has hitherto shown me so many mercies, and has not punished me, so I hope He will show me mercy in future." Behold another delusion. Because, then, God has had compassion on you, therefore is He always to show compassion to you, and never to chastise you? On the contrary, the greater the mercies He has shown you have been, so much the more ought you to tremble lest He should pardon you no more, and chastise you if you offend Him again. Say not, I have sinned, and what harm hath befallen me? For the Most High is a patient rewarder (Ecclus. v. 4); I have sinned, and have not been punished; for God is patient, but He does not endure for ever. When the limit fixed by Him for the mercies He intends to show a sinner is attained, He then punishes all his sins together. And the longer He has waited for his repentance, so much the more severe will be his punishment; as says St. Gregory: "Those whom He waits for the longest, He punishes the most severely."

If, then, you perceive that you have often offended God, and God has not cast you into hell, you must say: The mercies of the Lord that we are not consumed. (Lam. iii. 22). Lord, I thank Thee that Thou hast not sent me to hell, as I deserved. Consider how many have been condemned for less sins than you have committed; and remembering this, endeavour to atone for your offences against God by penance and other good works. The patience that God has had with you ought to animate you not to displease Him still more; but to love and serve Him better than you have done; considering that He has shown you so many mercies, which He has not shown to others.

Lord, I resolutely determine to change my life, and to love Thee as much as I have offended Thee. I rejoice that I have to deal with infinite goodness such as Thine. I repent above all things of having despised Thee as I have done, and I promise Thee all my love in future. Pardon me through the merits of Thy Passion; forget the injuries I have done Thee; and give me strength to be faithful to Thee during the remainder of my life. I love Thee, O my Sovereign Good; and I hope to love Thee always. My dear Lord, I will leave Thee no more. O Mary, Mother of God, bind me to Jesus Christ; and obtain for me the grace never again to depart from His feet. In thee I confide.


Spiritual Reading

HEROES AND HEROINES OF THE FAITH

ST. BASIL OF ANCYRA, PRIEST AND MARTYR (March 22)


St. Basil was a priest of Ancyra, in Galatia, who, during the reign of Constantius, bravely defended the Divinity of the Son of God against the Arians, and converted many from that heresy. Upon the death of Constantius, Julian the Apostate succeeded to the empire, and used all his energies for the re-establishment of idolatry, which at this time had been almost annihilated. St. Basil, on the other hand, struggled with all his might against the impious project, and went through the entire city of Ancyra, exhorting the Christians to preserve themselves from apostasy, and to despise the promises of Julian, whom, he said, God would quickly remove. By this conduct he brought upon himself the hatred of the idolaters, who united with the Arians in persecuting him; but the Saint was not to be deterred from defending the Faith of Jesus Christ.

One day while some of the Gentiles were sacrificing to the gods, he prayed aloud that the Lord might confound them, in order that no Christian might be seduced by their example. The idolaters, upon hearing this prayer, became infuriated, and one of them, named Macarius, laying violent hands upon him, said: "Who art thou that darest to disturb the people, and to preach against the worship of the gods?" Basil replied: "Not I, but the God of Heaven, with His invincible power, will destroy your false religion." The heathens, more infuriated than ever, dragged him before Saturninus, the governor of the province, saying: "This man has been guilty of sedition, and threatens to overturn the altars of the gods."

Saturninus, turning to him, said: "Who art thou that showest so much rashness?" Basil answered: "I am a Christian, and glory in being so." "If then thou art a Christian," said Saturninus, "why dost thou not act like a Christian?" Basil: "Thou art right; a Christian ought to appear such in all his actions." Saturninus: "Why hast thou raised the people and blasphemed the emperor as the follower of a false religion?" Basil: "I blaspheme not the emperor nor his religion; but I say that in Heaven there is a Ruler Whom the Christians adore as the only true God, and Who can in one moment destroy your false worship." Saturninus: "What canst thou say against the religion of the emperor?" Basil was about to reply, but Saturninus interrupted him, saying: "All reply is useless; thou must obey the emperor." Basil: "I never yet failed to obey the Emperor of Heaven." Saturninus: "Who is this Emperor of Heaven?" Basil: "He that dwelleth in Heaven and beholdeth all things; while your emperor commands only upon earth, and is a man like the rest, and will shortly fall into the hands of the Great King."

The governor, irritated at this answer, ordered that the Saint should be suspended, and torn with iron hooks; but while Basil was returning thanks to God, he asked him whether he would sacrifice. The Saint replied: "I have placed all my confidence in the King of kings; nor is it in the power of man to change me." The tyrant, perceiving that the executioners had fatigued themselves, sent him to prison; and one Felix, a bad Christian, who met him by the way, advised him to obey the emperor, but our Saint answered: "Depart from me, O impious wretch! Enveloped as thou art in the darkness of sin, how canst thou see the light?"

The Emperor Julian was at this time at Pessinunte, celebrating the festival of the goddess Cybele, who was said to be the mother of the gods. Here Saturninus informed him of what had taken place regarding Basil. The apostate, hearing that he possessed great influence, sent two other apostates, Elpidius and Pegasus, to gain him over. When the latter went to the prison to speak to him, the Saint said: "Traitor! why hast thou renounced Jesus Christ and thy hopes of salvation? After having been cleansed in the waters of Baptism, how couldst thou stain thyself with idolatry? After having been fed with the Flesh of Jesus Christ, how canst thou sit at a feast of demons? Thou wert the disciple of truth, and art now become a master of perdition, to the eternal loss of thy own soul. What wilt thou do when the Lord shall come to judge thee?" Then raising his eyes to Heaven, he exclaimed: "Vouchsafe, O Lord, to deliver me from the snares of the devil." Pegasus, covered with confusion, related the affair to Elpidius, and they both proceeded to inform the governor, who again caused Basil to be put to torture. When the Saint was placed upon the rack, he said: "Impious tyrant, thou mayest exercise all thy cruelty, but so long as Jesus Christ is with me, I never will change."


Evening Meditation

REFLECTIONS AND AFFECTIONS ON THE PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST

I.

As St. Laurence Justinian says, with St. Peter Damian, the thorns were so long that they penetrated even to the brain: "The thorns perforating the brain." While the gentle Lamb let Himself be tormented according to their will, without speaking a word, without crying out, but closely compressing His eyes through the anguish, He frequently breathed forth, at that time, bitter sighs, as is the wont of one undergoing a torture which has brought him to the point of death, according as was revealed to the Blessed Agatha of the Cross: "He very often closed His eyes, and uttered piercing sighs, like those of one about to die." So great was the quantity of the Blood which flowed from the Wounds upon His Sacred Head, that upon His Face there was no appearance of any other colour save that of blood, according to the revelation of St. Bridget: "So many streams of Blood rushing down over His Face, and filling His hair, and eyes, and beard, He seemed to be nothing but one mass of Blood." And St. Bonaventure adds that the beautiful Face of the Lord was no longer seen, but it appeared rather the face of a man who had been scarified: "Then might be seen no longer the Face of the Lord Jesus, but that of a man who had undergone excoriation."

Ah, cruel Thorns, ungrateful creatures, wherefore do ye torment your Creator thus? But to what purpose, asks St. Augustine, dost thou find fault with the thorns? They were but innocent instruments--our sins, our evil thoughts, were the wicked thorns which afflicted the head of Jesus Christ: "What are the thorns but sinners?" Jesus having one day appeared to St. Teresa crowned with thorns, the Saint began to compassionate Him; but the Lord made answer to her: "Teresa, compassionate Me not on account of the Wounds which the thorns of the Jews have produced; but commiserate Me on account of the wounds which the sins of Christians occasion Me."

Therefore, O my soul, thou also didst then inflict torture upon the venerable Head of thy Redeemer by thy many consentings to evil: Know thou and behold how grievous and bitter it is for thee to have left the Lord thy God. (Jer. ii. 19). Open now thine eyes, and see, and bitterly bewail all thy life long the great evil thou hast done in so ungratefully turning thy back upon thy Lord and God. Ah, my Jesus! no, Thou hast not deserved that I should have treated Thee as I have done. I have done evil; I have been in the wrong: I am sorry for it with all my heart. Oh, pardon me, and give me a sorrow which may make me bewail all my life long the wrongs that I have done Thee. My Jesus, my Jesus, pardon me, wishing, as I do, to love Thee for ever.


II.

And bowing the knee before him, they derided him, saying: Hail, King of the Jews! And spitting upon him, they took the reed, and struck his head. (Matt. xxvii. 29. 30). St. John adds: And they gave him blows. (John xix. 3). When those barbarians had placed upon the head of Jesus that crown of torture, it was not enough for them to press it down as forcibly as they could with their hands, but they took a reed to answer the purpose of a hammer, that so they might make the thorns penetrate the more deeply. They then began to turn Him into derision, as if He were a mock king; first of all saluting Him on their bended knee as King of the Jews; and then, rising up, they spit into His Face, and buffet Him with shouts and jests of scorn. Ah, my Jesus, to what art Thou reduced! Had anyone happened by chance to pass that place and seen Jesus Christ so drained of Blood, clad in that ragged purple garment, with that sceptre in His hand, with that crown upon His head, and so derided and ill-treated by the low rabble, what would he ever have taken Him to be but the vilest and most wicked man in the world! Behold the Son of God become at that time the disgrace of Jerusalem! O men, hereupon exclaims Blessed Denis the Carthusian, if we will not love Jesus Christ because He is good, because He is God, let us love Him at least for the many pains which He has suffered for us: "If we love Him not because He is good, because He is God, let us at least love Him because He has suffered so many things for our salvation."

Ah, my dear Redeemer, take back a rebellious servant who has run away from Thee, but who now returns to Thee in penitence. While I was fleeing from Thee and despising Thy love, Thou didst not cease from following after me to draw me back to Thyself; and therefore I cannot fear that Thou wilt drive me away now that I seek Thee, value Thee, and love Thee above everything. Make known to me what I have to do to please Thee; wishing, as I do, to do it all. O my most lovely God, I wish to love Thee in earnest; and I desire to give Thee no more displeasure. Aid me with Thy grace. Let me not leave Thee more. Mary, my hope, pray to Jesus for me. Amen.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
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Tuesday -- Third Week of Lent

Morning Meditation

DELUSIONS OF SINNERS

"But I am young," you say, "and later on I will give myself to God." Do you not know that God counts not years but the sins of each? You are young; but into how many sins have you fallen? Evil-doers shall be cut off.

I.

"But I am young; God compassionates my youth: later on I will give myself to God." We now come to another delusion. You are young. But do you not know that God counts not years, but the sins of each one? You are young. But how many sins have you fallen into? There may be many old people who have not been guilty even of the tenth part of the sins you have committed. And do you not know that God has fixed the number and the measure of the sins which He will pardon in each one? The Lord waiteth patiently that when the day of judgment shall come, he may punish them (the nations) in the fulness of their sins. (2 Mach. vi. 14). That is to say, God has patience, and waits up to a certain point; but when the measure of the sins which He has determined to pardon is full, He no longer pardons, but chastises the sinner, either by a sudden death in the state of damnation in which he then is, or by abandoning him to his sin--a punishment worse than death: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be wasted. (Is. v. 5). If you have a piece of land which you have encompassed with a hedge of thorns, cultivated for many years, and expended much money upon, and you see that after all it yields no fruit, what do you do? You take away the hedge and leave it to desolation. Tremble lest God should do the same to you. If you continue to sin, gradually you will cease to feel remorse of conscience; you will think no more of eternity nor of your soul; you will lose almost all light; you will lose all fear. Behold the hedge is taken away, behold God has already abandoned you.

My dear Redeemer, prostrate at Thy feet I thank Thee for not having abandoned me after so many sins. What numbers, who have offended Thee less than I have, will never receive the light Thou now givest me. I perceive that truly Thou desirest my salvation; and I desire to be saved chiefly to please Thee. I desire to sing the many mercies Thou hast shown me for all eternity in Heaven. I hope that now, at this hour, Thou hast already pardoned me; but even should I be in disfavour with Thee, because I have not known how to repent of my offences against Thee as I ought, I now repent of them with all my soul, and grieve for them above all other evils. Pardon me in Thy mercy, and increase in me more and more sorrow for having offended Thee, my God, Who art so good.


II.

Let us now come to the last delusion I will mention. You say: "It is true that by sin I lose the grace of God, and I have condemned myself to hell; it may be that for this sin I shall be damned; but it may also be that I shall afterwards confess it, and be saved." True, I admit that you may yet be saved; for, after all, I am not a prophet, and cannot say for certain that after this sin God will no longer show mercy to you. But you cannot deny that, after so many graces which the Lord has bestowed on you, you will very likely be lost if you now return to offend Him. It is said in the Scriptures: A hard heart shall fare evil at the last. (Ecclus. iii. 27); Evil-doers shall be cut off (Ps. xxxvi. 9): evil-doers shall at last be cut off by Divine justice. What things a man shall sow, those also shall he reap (Gal. vi. 8): he that sows in sins, in the end shall reap only pains and torments. I have called and you refused ... I also will laugh in your destruction and will mock. (Prov. i. 24, 26): I have called thee, says God, and thou hast mocked Me; but I will mock thee at the hour of death. Revenge is mine, and I will repay in due time (Deut. xxxii. 35): vengeance is Mine, and I will repay when the time is come. Thus, then, do the Scriptures speak of obstinate sinners; such is what reason and justice require. You say to me: "But perhaps after all, I shall be saved." And I repeat, Yes, perhaps; but what folly, I also say, to rest your eternal salvation upon a perhaps, and upon a perhaps so uncertain! Is this an affair to be placed in such peril?

O my Jesus, give me sorrow! I will give up sin. I wish to save my soul. O Jesus, give me love. I love Thee above all things, but I still love Thee too little; I wish to love Thee much; and I ask this love of Thee, and hope for it from Thee. Hear me, my Jesus; for Thou hast promised to hear those who call upon Thee. O Mary, Mother of God, all assure me that thou never sendest away disconsolate those who recommend themselves to thee. O my hope after Jesus, I fly to thee, and in thee I trust; recommend me to thy Son and save me.


Spiritual Reading

HEROES AND HEROINES OF THE FAITH

ST. BASIL OF ANCYRA (continued)

The emperor, having arrived at Ancyra, summoned the Martyr before him, and inquired his name. The Saint replied: "I am a Christian. This is my principal name; but I am generally called Basil. Now, if I shall have preserved the name of a Christian without blemish, Jesus Christ will reward me on the Day of Judgment with eternal glory." Julian: "Do not thus miserably deceive thyself, continuing to believe in Him Who was put to death under Pontius Pilate." Basil: "No, emperor, I am not deceived, but thou hast deceived thyself, Who by thy apostasy hast forfeited thy right to Heaven. I continue to believe in Jesus Christ Whom thou hast renounced, although He placed thee upon a throne. He will, however, quickly hurl thee thence, that thou mayest know the power of the God Whom thou hast despised." Julian: "Madman, thou art raving; it shall not befall me as thou wouldst." Basil: "Thou hast forgotten Jesus Christ, and He shall never again remember Thee in His mercy. He that is the Emperor of all shall despoil thee of the authority thou hast, and cause thee to expire in agony; nor shall thy body find burial." (This prediction was shortly afterwards fulfilled).

Julian, infuriated at the Martyr's speech, said: "I had designed to discharge thee unmolested; but, since thy temerity hath gone so far as to reproach me, I now command that there be torn, every day, from off thy body, seven pieces of flesh." This barbarous command was quickly put into execution by the Count Frumentinus to whom the charge was given. Our Saint endured it with great fortitude; and, when he had been entirely lacerated, he desired to speak with the emperor. The Count, believing that he was induced by the torture to sacrifice to the gods, made known his desire to Julian, who commanded him to be brought to the temple of Esculapius. Upon being presented to the emperor in the temple, the Saint said: "Where, sir, are the persons who are wont to accompany thee? Have they not foretold to thee the motive of this my visit?" Julian: "I suppose thou hast returned to thy senses, and art willing to adore the majesty of the gods." Basil: "Not so; I am come to make thee know that thy gods are but blind and deaf statues, the worshipping of which is punished in hell." Then taking a piece of his torn flesh, he cast it in the emperor's face, saying: "Take this, O Julian, since such food pleaseth thee. To me death is a gain, and Jesus is my life and my strength; in Him I believe, and for His sake I am willing to suffer."

The Christians looked with satisfaction upon the constancy of Basil, and the glorious testimony he had given to the Faith; but equal to their joy was the fury of Frumentinus at his disappointment. He therefore ordered the executioners to tear the Saint with irons until his bones and bowels should be laid bare. During the infliction of this sentence the holy Martyr prayed thus: "Be Thou forever blessed, O Lord, Who giveth strength unto the weak that put their trust in Thee. Mercifully vouchsafe to look upon me, and grant me the grace faithfully to consummate my sacrifice, that I may be made worthy of Thy eternal kingdom."

On the following day the emperor departed from Ancyra without granting an order to Frumentinus, who, having summoned Basil before him, exclaimed: "O, thou most rash and obdurate of mortals! Wilt thou at last yield to the emperor, or terminate thy days amid the most excruciating torture?" Basil replied: "Dost thou not recollect to what state thou didst reduce my body yesterday, when its mangled appearance drew tears from all who beheld it? Now it hath pleased Jesus Christ to heal me, as thou seest. Make this known to thy emperor, in order that he may understand the power of that God Whom he hath abandoned to become the slave of the devil; but God will also abandon him, and he shall die in his sins." Frumentinus replied: "Thou art mad; but if thou wilt not sacrifice, I shall cause thy entire body to be pierced with red-hot spikes." The Saint answered: "I have not been afraid, as thou knowest, of the threats of the emperor; think now whether thy words can strike me with terror."

Although Frumentinus was aware that the constancy of Basil was not to be overcome, he nevertheless caused the irons to be heated, and the Saint's shoulders to be pierced through. During this most agonising torture, the Saint prayed thus: "I thank Thee, O Lord, my God, Who hast delivered my soul from hell. Preserve Thy blessed spirit within me, in order that, having overcome these torments, I may offer to Thee the sacrifice of my life, and become an heir to everlasting bliss, through the promises of Our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whose merits I beseech Thee to receive my soul in peace, since I have continued to the end to confess Thy Name, Who livest and reignest, world without end. Amen." Having finished this prayer, the Saint, as though falling into a sweet sleep, in the midst of his tortures, placidly rendered his soul to God, on the 28th of June, in the year 362.


Evening Meditation

REFLECTIONS AND AFFECTIONS ON THE PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST

I.

Pilate, seeing the Redeemer reduced to that condition, so moving, as it was, to compassion, thought that the mere sight of Him would have softened the Jews. He therefore led Him forth into the balcony; he raised up the purple garment, and, exhibiting to the people the body of Jesus all covered with wounds and gashes, he said to them, Behold the Man: Pilate therefore went forth again and saith to them: Behold, I bring him forth unto you, that you may know that I find no cause in him. Jesus, therefore, came forth, bearing the crown of thorns and the purple garment; and he saith to them: Behold the man. (John xix. 4, 5). Behold the man!--as though he would have said: Behold the man against whom you have laid an accusation before me, and who wanted to make Himself a King. I, to please you, have sentenced Him, innocent though He be, to be scourged-- 'Behold the Man, not honoured as a king, but covered with disgrace.' Behold Him now, reduced to such a state that He wears the appearance of a man that has been flayed alive; and He can have but little life left in Him. If, with all this, you want me to condemn Him to death, I tell you that I cannot do so, as I find not any reason for condemning Him. But the Jews, on beholding Jesus thus ill-treated, waxed more fierce: When, therefore, the chief priests and servants saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him! Crucify him! (John xix. 6). Pilate seeing that they could not be pacified, washed his hands in the presence of the people, saying: I am innocent of the blood of this just man; look you to it. And they made answer, His blood be upon us, and upon our children. (Matt. xxvii. 24, 25).

O my beloved Saviour, Thou art the greatest of all kings; yet now I behold Thee the most reviled of all mankind. If this ungrateful people knows Thee not, I know Thee; and I adore Thee as my true King and Lord. I thank Thee, O my Redeemer, for all the outrages Thou hast suffered for me; and I pray Thee to give me a love for contempt and pains, since Thou hast so lovingly embraced them. I blush at having in time past loved honours and pleasures so much, that for their sake I have often gone so far as to renounce Thy grace and Thy love. I repent of this above every other evil. I embrace, O Lord, all the pains and ignominies which will come to me from Thy hands. Do Thou bestow upon me that resignation which I need. I love Thee, my Jesus, my Love, my All.


II.

But while Pilate from the balcony was exhibiting Jesus to that populace, at the self-same time the Eternal Father from Heaven was presenting to us His beloved Son, saying, in like manner: Behold the man. Behold this Man, Who is My only-begotten Son, Whom I love with the same love wherewith I love Myself: This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased. Behold the Man, your Saviour, Him Whom I promised, and for Whom you were anxiously waiting. Behold the Man Who is nobler than all other men, become the Man of sorrows. Behold Him, and see to what a pitiable condition He has reduced Himself through the love which He has borne towards you, and in order to be, at least out of compassion, beloved by you again. Oh, look at Him, and love Him; and if His great worth move you not, at least let these sorrows and ignominies which He suffers for you move you to love Him.

Ah, my God and Father of my Redeemer, I love Thy Son, Who suffers for love of me; and I love Thee Who with so much love hast abandoned Him to so many pains for me. Oh, look not on my sins, by which I have so often offended Thee and Thy Son: Look upon the face of thy Christ. Behold Thine Only-begotten, all covered with wounds and shame in satisfaction for my faults and for His merits pardon me, and never let me again offend Thee. His blood be upon us. The Blood of this Man, so dear unto Thee, Who prays to Thee for us, and impetrates Thy mercy, let this descend upon our souls, and obtain for us Thy grace. O my Lord, I hate and abhor all that I have done to displease Thee; and I love Thee, O infinite Goodness, more than I love myself. For love of this Thy Son give me Thy love, to enable me to conquer every passion, and to undergo every suffering in order to please Thee.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
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#3
Wednesday--Third Sunday after Lent

Morning Meditation

NOTHING MORE PRECIOUS THAN TIME

There is nothing more precious than time; but by many there is nothing less valued. At the hour of death, to obtain even one short hour men would give all they possess--wealth, honours, pleasures,--but this hour shall not be given them. They will weep and say: O fools that we have been! O time for ever lost!


I.

There is nothing more precious than time; but there is nothing less valued and more despised by men in the world. Lamenting over this, St. Bernard goes on to say: "The days of salvation pass, and no one reflects that for him that day vanishes and returns no more." You will see that gambler, who night and day loses his time in play. If you ask him: What art thou doing? he replies: We are passing the time. You will see that other vagabond loitering for whole hours at the corner of a street, looking at the passers-by, or speaking immodestly or on idle things. If you ask him: What art thou doing? he will reply: I am passing the time. Poor blind creatures who lose so many days, but days that return no more!

O despised time, thou wilt be desired above all things by worldlings at the hour of death. Then will they desire another year, another month, another day; but they will not obtain it. They will then be told there is no more time. How much would each of these then give for another week, another day, to put in better order the affairs of his conscience! "To obtain even one little hour," says St. Laurence Justinian, "they would give all they possess--wealth, honours, pleasures." But this hour shall not be given to them. Quickly, the priest who assists them will say, quickly depart from this world; there is no more time. "Depart, O Christian soul, from this world."

Ah, my Jesus, Thou hast devoted Thy whole life to the salvation of my soul. There was not a moment of it in which Thou didst not offer Thyself for me to the Eternal Father, to obtain my pardon and my eternal salvation; and of the many years I have been in the world, how many have I spent in Thy service? Alas, all that I can remember having done, all fills me with remorse of conscience. The evil has been great; the good has been too little and full of imperfections, of lukewarmness, of self-love, and of distractions. Ah, my Redeemer, all has been thus because I have forgotten how much Thou hast done for me. I have forgotten Thee, but Thou didst not forget me; Thou hast pursued me while I fled from Thee, and hast so often called me to Thy love.


II.

Therefore does the Prophet exhort us to remember God and to obtain His grace before the light fails us: Remember thy Creator...before the sun and the light be darkened. (Eccles. xii. 23). How great is the distress of a traveller who perceives that he has lost his way, when night has already set in, and it is too late to repair his mistake! Such at the hour of death will be his distress who has lived many years in the world, but has not lived for God: The night cometh, when no man can work. (John ix. 4). Death will then be for him that night in which he can no longer do anything: He hath called against me the time. (Lam. i. 15). Conscience will then recall to him how much time he has had, and he has spent it to the destruction of his soul; how many calls, how many graces he has received from God for his sanctification, and he has not chosen to profit by them; and then he will find the way of doing any good closed against him. Upon which he will weep and say: Oh, fool that I have been! Oh, time for ever lost! Oh, my lost life! Oh, lost years, in which I might have become a Saint, but have not; and now there is no more time! But of what avail will tears and lamentations be when the scene closes, the lamp is on the point of being extinguished, and the dying man is approaching that awful moment on which eternity depends?

Behold me here, my Jesus; I will no longer resist Thee. Shall I wait till Thou entirely forsakest me? No. I repent, my Sovereign Good, of having separated myself from Thee by sin. I love Thee, O Infinite Goodness, worthy of infinite love. Ah, do not permit me any more to lose the time Thou givest me in Thy mercy. Ah, remind me always, my beloved Saviour, of the love Thou hast borne me, and the pains Thou hast suffered for me. Make me forget all things, that during the remainder of my life I may only think of loving and pleasing Thee. I love Thee, my Jesus, my Love, my All. I promise Thee, whenever I shall call it to mind, to make acts of love of Thee. Give me holy perseverance. I confide wholly in the merits of Thy Blood. And I confide in thy intercession, O my dear Mother Mary.


Spiritual Reading

HEROES AND HEROINES OF THE FAITH

ST. IRENAEUS, BISHOP OF SIRMIUM (March 25)


It is believed that St. Irenaeus was born in the city of which he afterwards became bishop; and, although it is probable that his parents were pagans, he professed the Faith of Christ from his childhood. He married at an early age, and had many children, whom he left young behind him at the time of his Martyrdom. This Saint gave such extraordinary examples of virtue, that he deserved to be made Bishop of Sirmium.* From the time he received that charge, he ceased not to combat the enemies of the Faith, and to defend his flock from their artifices, until he terminated a great career in the glory of Martyrdom.

*In the primitive times the Church was composed only of converts. It was not unusual to see married men raised to the dignity of the priesthood and even to that of the episcopate; but these were obliged to live afterwards in perpetual continence. The ministers of the altar are consecrated to God, and can no longer belong to anyone save God alone.--Ed.

The edicts of the Emperor Diocletian against the Christians were published in Sirmium in the year 304, and Probus, the governor of Lower Pannonia, was most indefatigable in putting them into execution. The ecclesiastics, and particularly the bishops, were the first objects of his unholy zeal; for he thought that by striking the pastors he could the more easily disperse the flock of Jesus Christ.

Irenaeus was accordingly arrested, and brought before Probus, who said to him: "Obey the imperial edicts, and sacrifice to the gods." The Saint replied "The Scripture saith that whosoever sacrifices to false gods shall be exterminated" (Deut. xiii.). Probus: "The princes have commanded that all Christians shall sacrifice to the gods, or be tortured." Irenaeus: "But I have been commanded to suffer all tortures rather than deny my God, and sacrifice to demons." Probus: "Either sacrifice, or I will put thee to the torture." Irenaeus: "In doing so, thou wilt please me; for thus I shall be made a sharer in the Passion of my Saviour."

Hereupon the governor commanded that he should be tortured; and, seeing that he suffered much, said: "What dost thou say now, Irenaeus? Wilt thou now sacrifice?" The Saint replied: "I sacrifice, by my confession, to my God, to whom I have always sacrificed."

During the torments of St. Irenaeus, his father, his wife and children, his domestics and friends came to implore of him to obey the emperors. His children embraced his feet, crying out: "Father, if thou hast no pity for thyself, have pity, at least, on us." The wife, with many tears, besought him not to leave her disconsolate, while his friends exhorted him not to throw away his life in the vigour of manhood. But the Saint, like an immovable rock upon which the waves lose their strength, armed himself against their assaults with the words of the Saviour: But he that shall deny me before men, I will also deny him before my father who is in heaven. (Matt. x. 33). To their importunities he returned not a single word of reply, but sighed only for the consummation of his Martyrdom. Probus then said to him: "Irenaeus, abandon this thy folly; sacrifice to the gods, and destroy not thyself in the prime of life." The Saint answered: "It is that I may not destroy myself for all eternity that I refuse to sacrifice." He was then taken down and sent to prison, where he had to endure various tortures for several days.

After some time, Probus, seated upon his tribunal, ordered that the holy bishop should be again brought before him, and, upon his appearance, said: "Irenaeus, now at length sacrifice, and free thyself from the torments which otherwise await thee." The Saint replied: "Do that which thou art commanded to do, and do not at all imagine that I am likely to obey thee." Probus, enraged at this answer, caused him to be scourged in his presence, during which infliction the Saint said: "From my childhood I have adored the one only God Who has always assisted and comforted me, and I cannot adore gods made by the hands of men." Probus: "Let the torments which thou hast already suffered satisfy thee; free thyself from death." Irenaeus: "I do free myself from death, when, by the pains which I suffer, I gain eternal life."

The governor then asked him, whether he had a wife, children or parents alive; but Irenaeus answered that he had not, adding: "I say I have not, because Jesus Christ hath declared that whosoever loveth father or mother, wife or children, more than Him, is not worthy of Him." (Matt. x. 37). Probus: "Sacrifice at least for thy children's sake," Irenaeus: "My children have God to provide for them." Probus: "Do not oblige me to put thee again to the torture." Irenaeus: "Do thy pleasure; but thou shalt see what constancy my Lord Jesus Christ will give me to overcome all thy arts."

Probus then ordered Irenaeus to be cast into the river; but the Saint, hearing the sentence, exclaimed: "I thought, that, after so many threats, thou wouldst have caused me to suffer many tortures, and to be cut to pieces; I beseech thee to do so, that thou mayest perceive how Christians, who have Faith in God, despise death."

Probus, enraged at these words, ordered that the Saint should be beheaded, and then cast into the river. The holy bishop, perceiving that his end was approaching, returned thanks to Jesus Christ for having given him the necessary fortitude, and for calling him, by such a death, to the participation of His glory. When he arrived at the bridge of Diana, which was the place selected for the execution, he threw off his garments and prayed thus: "O Lord Jesus Christ, Who didst vouchsafe to die for the salvation of the world, I beseech Thee that Thy Angels may receive my soul; since I most willingly suffer death for the honour of Thy Name, and the edification of Thy Church. Receive me into Thy glory for Thy mercy's sake, and strengthen my flock in Thy holy Faith." His head was then struck off, and his body thrown into the river Save.


Evening Meditation

REFLECTIONS AND AFFECTIONS ON THE PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST

I.

Go forth, ye daughters of Sion, and behold King Solomon in his diadem, wherewith his mother crowned him on the day of his espousals, and on the day of the joy of his heart. (Cant. iii. 11). Go forth, ye souls redeemed, ye daughters of grace, go forth and see your gentle King, on the day of His death (the day of His joy, for thereon He made you His spouses, giving up His life upon the Cross), crowned by the ungrateful synagogue, His mother, with a crown; not indeed one of honour, but one of suffering and shame: "Go forth," says St. Bernard, "and behold your King in a crown of poverty and misery." O most beautiful of all mankind! O greatest of all monarchs! O most lovely of all spouses! to what a state do I see Thee reduced, covered with wounds and contempt! Thou art a Spouse, but a Spouse of Blood: "To me Thou art a Spouse of Blood"; it being by means of Thy Blood that Thou hast willed to espouse Thyself to our souls. Thou art a King, but a King of suffering and a King of love; it being by sufferings that Thou hast willed to gain our affections.

O most beloved Spouse of my soul, would that I were continually calling to mind how much Thou hast suffered for me, that so I might never cease from loving and pleasing Thee! Have compassion upon me, who have cost Thee so much. In requital for so many sufferings endured by Thee, Thou art content if I love Thee. Yes, I do love Thee, Infinite Loveliness, I love Thee above every thing; yet it is but little that I love Thee. O my beloved Jesus, give me more love, if Thou wouldst that I should love Thee more. I desire to have a very great love for Thee. Such a wretched sinner as I am, ought to have been burning in hell ever since the moment in which I first grievously offended Thee; but Thou hast borne with me even until this hour, because Thou dost not wish me to burn with that miserable fire, but with the blessed fire of Thy love. This thought, O God of my soul, sets me all on fire with the desire of doing all that I can to please Thee. Help me, O my Jesus; and since Thou hast done so much, complete the work, and make me wholly Thine.


II.

But the Jews going on to insult the governor, crying out, Away with him! away with him! crucify him! Pilate said to them, Shall I crucify your king? And they made answer, We have no king but Caesar. (John xix. 15). The worldly-minded, who love the riches, the honours, and the pleasures of earth, refuse to have Jesus Christ for their King; because, as far as this earth is concerned, Jesus was but a King of poverty, shame, and sufferings. But if such as these refuse Thee, O my Jesus, we choose Thee for our only King, and we make our protestations that "we have no King but Jesus." Yes, most lovely Saviour, "Thou art my King"; Thou art and hast for ever to be my only Lord.

True King, indeed, art Thou of our souls; for Thou hast created them, and redeemed them from the slavery of Satan: Thy kingdom come. Exercise, then, Thy dominion, and reign for ever in our poor hearts; may they ever serve and obey Thee! Be it for others to serve the monarchs of earth, in hope of the good things of this world. Our desire is to serve only Thee, our afflicted and despised King, in hope only of pleasing Thee, without any earthly consolations. Dear to us, from this day forth, shall shame and sufferings be, since Thou hast been willing to endure so much of them for love of us. Oh, grant us the grace to be faithful to Thee; and to this end bestow upon us the great gift of Thy love. If we love Thee, we shall also love the contempt and the sufferings which were so much beloved by Thee; and we shall ask Thee for nothing but that which Thy faithful and loving servant St. John of the Cross asked of Thee: "Lord, to suffer and be despised for Thee; Lord, to suffer and be despised for Thee!" O Mary, my Mother, intercede for me. Amen.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Reply
#4
Thursday--Third Week of Lent

Morning Meditation

"WALK WHILE YOU HAVE THE LIGHT."

Death is not the time for making our preparation, but the time to find ourselves already prepared. Be ye ready! At the hour of death we can do nothing. What is done is done. And what are we doing? We know for certain that ere long, and maybe at any hour, our most important affair, the affair of our eternal salvation, will have to be decided, and we lose time.


I.

Walk whilst you have the light. (John xii. 35). We must walk in the way of the Lord during life, whilst we have light, because in death we lose that light. Death is not the time for preparation, but to find ourselves already prepared: Be ye ready. At the hour of death we can do nothing; what then is done is done. O God, if a person were told that ere long a trial would take place on which his life or all his property depended, what haste would he make to procure an able counsel to plead his cause, and to find means for obtaining favour! And what do we do? We know for certain that ere long, and maybe at any hour, our most important affair, that is to say the affair of our eternal salvation, will have to be decided, and we lose time.

Some will say: I am young; later I will give myself to God. But remember, I reply, that the Lord cursed the fig-tree that He found without fruit, although it was not the season for fruit, as the Gospel remarks: It was not the time for figs. (Mark xi. 13). By this Jesus wished to signify that men should at all times, even in youth, bring forth the fruit of good works, otherwise they will be cursed, and bring forth no more fruit in future. May no man hereafter eat fruit of thee any more for ever. Thus did our Redeemer say to that tree, and thus does He curse whoever is called by Him and resists. The devil considers the whole of our life as short, and he therefore loses not a moment in tempting us: The devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, knowing that he hath but a short time. (Apoc. xii. 12). Our enemy, then, loses no time in trying to destroy us; and shall we delay to save our souls?

Another will say: But what harm do I do? O God, and is there, then, no harm in losing time in play, in useless conversations, that are of no profit to the soul? Has God, then, given you this time merely that you should waste it? No, says the Holy Ghost: Defraud not thyself of the good day. (Ecclus. xiv. 14). The labourers mentioned by St. Matthew did no evil; they only lost time; and for this they were rebuked by the master of the vineyard: Why stand you here all the day idle? (Matt. xx. 6).

No, my God, I will no longer lose the time which Thou givest me in Thy mercy. I deserve now to be weeping fruitless tears in hell. I thank Thee for having preserved my life; I will live only for Thee during the remainder of my days. If I were now in hell, I should weep, but in despair and unavailingly. I will weep over my offences against Thee; and in weeping I am certain of Thy pardon, as the Prophet assures me: Weeping thou shalt not weep; he will surely have pity on thee. (Is. xxx. 19). If I were in hell, I could never more love Thee; and now I love Thee, and hope always to love Thee. If I were in hell, I could not ask of Thee more graces; but now I hear Thee say: Ask, and you shall receive. Since, then, I still have time to beg for Thy graces, I ask of Thee two. O God of my soul, give me perseverance in Thy grace, and give me Thy love; and then do with me what Thou wilt.


II.

On the Day of Judgment, Jesus Christ will demand an account of every idle word. All time that is not spent for God is lost time. Therefore the Lord thus exhorts us: Whatsoever thy hand is able to do, do it earnestly: for neither work, nor reason...shall be in hell, whither thou art hastening. (Eccles. ix. 10). The venerable Sister Jane of the Most Holy Trinity, a Teresian nun, said that there is no tomorrow in the life of Saints; tomorrow is only in the life of sinners, who always say, By-and-by, by-and-by; and thus they go on till death arrives. Behold, now is the acceptable time. (2 Cor. vi. 2). Today if you shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts. (Ps. xciv. 8). Today God calls on you to do good; do it today, because tomorrow either there may be no more time, or God may no longer call on you.

If in the past you have unfortunately spent your time in offending God, endeavour, like King Ezechias, to weep over it during the remainder of your life: I will recount to thee all my years in the bitterness of my soul.(Is. xxxviii. 15). God gives you life in order that you may repair lost time: Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. (Ephes. v. 16). Commenting upon this, St. Anselm says: "Thou wilt redeem the time, if thou dost what thou hast neglected to do." St. Jerome says of St. Paul, that although he was the last of the Apostles, yet he was the first in merit, on account of what he did after he was called. Let us reflect, were there nothing else, that in each moment we can increase our store of eternal goods. If you were allowed to acquire as much land as you could walk round in a day, or as much money as you could count in a day, what haste would you not make! And you can acquire in a moment eternal treasures, and yet you lose time. Say not that you can do tomorrow that which you can do today, because this day will be lost to you and will return no more. St. Francis Borgia turned to God with holy affections when others spoke of worldly affairs; so that when his opinion was asked, he knew not what to reply; being admonished of this, he said: "I prefer being thought dull of intellect to losing my time."

O my God, grant that in every remaining moment of my life I may always recommend myself to Thee, my Jesus, and say: Lord, help me; Lord have mercy on me; grant that I may never more offend Thee; grant that I may love Thee. Mary, my most holy Mother, obtain for me the grace to recommend myself always to God, and to ask of Him perseverance and His holy love.


Spiritual Reading

HEROES AND HEROINES OF THE FAITH

ST. APIAN AND ST. AEDESIUS, BROTHERS (April 2 and 8)

St. Apian was born in Lycia, of rich and noble parents who sent him to Berytus, to study the humanities; and, notwithstanding that the youths of that city were exceedingly corrupt, Apian preserved himself from contamination. At the age of eighteen years, he returned to his father's house; but finding that the family had continued idolaters, he retired to Caesarea, in Palestine, where he was most hospitably received into the house of the celebrated Eusebius, who afterwards became bishop of that city. Under this great master he studied the Sacred Scriptures, and practised those austerities that prepared him for the glorious end which he made.

At this time, in the year 306, the Emperor Galerius Maximian was not only persecuting the Christians, but searching for them with the closest scrutiny. He caused the families to be enrolled, and each individual to be summoned, that he might either sacrifice or be put to death. Apian prepared himself for this trial, and having understood that the governor was about to offer a solemn sacrifice to the gods, he went, on the appointed day, to the temple. Finding himself influenced by a special inspiration from Heaven, he passed the guards, approached the impious altar, and, while the governor was raising his hand to pour out a libation of wine before the idol, he seized his arm, and earnestly exhorted him to desist from the impiety of offending the true God by sacrificing to demons and images.

The soldiers rushed upon Apian, as though they would tear him to pieces; and, having beaten him most cruelly, brought him to prison, where they put him to the torture of the stocks for twenty-four hours. Upon the following day he was brought before the governor, who, having in vain sought to gain him over by promises and threats, ordered that his sides should be torn with iron hooks, until the bones and bowels should be laid bare. He was then buffeted upon the face until he became so deformed that he could not be recognised by those who had formerly known him. The tyrant, perceiving that these torments made no impression upon the Saint, caused linen, steeped in oil, to be rolled round his legs, and then to be set on fire. It is easy to conceive that the Saint suffered most excruciating torture from the new infliction, yet he endured it with undiminished fortitude. The governor, after three days, finding him armed with the same constancy, ordered him to be thrown into the sea.

Eusebius, an eye-witness, relates that upon the execution of this sentence the city was shaken with an earthquake, and the sea became violently agitated, and cast the body back upon the shore before the gates of Caesarea. St. Apian was not quite twenty-nine years of age at the time of his Martyrdom, which took place in the year 306.

St. Aedesius, who was the brother of St. Apian, not only according to the flesh, but equally so in Faith and Piety, also applied himself to the study of philosophy, which served to separate him still more from the world, and unite him to Jesus Christ. In this same persecution he frequently confessed His Adorable Name, and suffered long imprisonment and various punishments, which he endured with Christian fortitude. He was sent to labour in the mines of Palestine, from which he was subsequently released; but finally, one day, in Alexandria, perceiving a judge pronouncing cruel sentences against the Christians, and delivering over holy virgins to the lusts of abandoned young men, he went forward and spoke with such force against these acts of injustice, that, as Eusebius says, he covered the persecutors with confusion, and received from them the crown of Martyrdom. Like his brother, he was horribly tortured and afterwards cast into the sea.


Evening Meditation

REFLECTIONS AND AFFECTIONS ON THE PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST

I.

Pilate was going on making excuses to the Jews to the effect that he could not condemn that innocent One to death, when they worked upon his fears by telling him: If thou release this man, thou art not Caesar's friend. (John xix. 12). And hence the miserable judge, blinded by his fear of losing Caesar's favour, after having so often recognised and declared the innocence of Jesus Christ, at last condemned Him to die by crucifixion: Then, therefore, he delivered him to them to be crucified. (John xix. 16). O my beloved Redeemer, St. Bernard hereupon bewails, what crime hast Thou committed that Thou shouldst have to be condemned to death, and that death the death of the Cross? "What hast Thou done, O most innocent Saviour, that the judgment upon Thee should be such? Of what crime hast Thou been guilty?" Ah, I well understand, replies the Saint, the reason for Thy death; I understand what has been Thy crime: "Thy crime is Thy love." Thy crime is the too great love which Thou hast borne to men; it is this, Pilate, that condemns Thee to die. No, adds St. Bonaventure, I see no just reason for Thy death, O my Jesus, save the excess of the affection which Thou bearest to us: "I see no cause for death but the superabundance of love." Ah, so great an excess of love, goes on St. Bernard, how strongly does it constrain us, O loving Saviour, to consecrate all the affections of our hearts unto Thee! "Such love wholly claims for itself our love." O my dear Saviour, the mere knowledge that Thou dost love me should be sufficient to make me live detached from everything, in order to study only how to love Thee and please Thee in all things: "Love is strong as death." If love is as strong as death, oh, by Thy merits, my Saviour, grant me such a love for Thee as shall make me hold all earthly affections in abhorrence. Give me thoroughly to understand that all my good consists in pleasing Thee, O God, all Goodness and all Love! I curse that time in which I loved Thee not. I thank Thee for that Thou dost give me time in which to love Thee. I love Thee, O my Jesus, infinite in loveliness, and infinitely loving. With my whole soul do I love Thee, and I assure Thee that I would wish to die a thousand deaths rather than ever again cease from loving Thee.


II.

The unjust sentence of death is read over to Jesus, Who stands condemned; He listens to it, and humbly accepts it. No complaint does He make of the injustice of the judge; no appeal does He make to Caesar, as did St. Paul, but, all gentle and resigned, He submits Himself to the decree of the Eternal Father, Who condemns Him to the Cross for our sins: He humbled himself, being made obedient even unto death, and that the death of the cross. (Philipp. ii. 8). And, for the love which He bears to man, He is content to die for us: He loved me, and delivered himself for me. (Gal. ii. 20).

O my merciful Saviour, how much do I thank Thee! How deeply am I obliged to Thee! I desire, O my Jesus, to die for Thee, since Thou hast so lovingly accepted of death for me. But if it is not granted me to give Thee my blood and life at the hands of the executioner, as the Martyrs have done, I, at least, accept with resignation the death which awaits me; and I accept of it in the manner, and at the time, which shall please Thee. Henceforth do I offer it up to Thee in honour of Thy Majesty, and in satisfaction for my sins. I pray Thee, by the merits of Thy death, to grant me the happiness to die in Thy grace and love.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Reply
#5
Friday--Third Week of Lent

Morning Meditation

"MY LIFE IS CUT OFF AS BY A WEAVER."


Oh, how many whilst they are busy weaving, that is, preparing and executing the worldly projects they have devised with so much care, are surprised and cut off by death! O God, of what use are riches, possessions, or kingdoms in death when nothing is needed but a coffin and a simple garment to cover the body! My life is cut off as by a weaver; whilst I was yet beginning, he cut me off.

I.

King Ezechias said, with tears, My life is cut off as by a weaver; whilst I was yet but beginning, he cut me off. (Is. xxxviii. 12). Oh, how many, whilst they are busy weaving--that is, preparing and executing the worldly projects which they have devised with such care--are surprised by death, which cuts all short! By the light of that last candle,* all things of this world vanish; applause, amusements, pomps, and grandeurs. Great secret of death, which makes us see that which the lovers of this world do not see! The most enviable fortunes, the most exalted dignities, the proudest triumphs, lose all their splendour when they are viewed from the bed of death. The ideas of certain false happiness, which we have formed to ourselves, are then changed into indignation against our own madness. The dark and gloomy shades of death cover and obscure all, even royal dignities.

*A blessed candle is usually lighted and placed in the hand or by the bed of the dying.--Ed

At present our passions make the things of this earth appear different from what they really are; death tears away the veil, and shows them in their true light, to be nothing but smoke, dirt, vanity and misery. O God, of what use are riches, possessions, or kingdoms, in death, when nothing is needed but a coffin, and a simple garment to cover the body? Of what use are honours, when nothing remains of them but a funeral procession, and pompous obsequies, which will not avail the soul if it be lost? Of what use is beauty, if nothing remains after it but worms, stench, horror, even before death, and after it a little fetid dust?

O God of my soul, O Infinite Goodness, have pity on me who have so greatly offended Thee. I already knew that in sinning I should lose Thy grace, and I chose to lose it. Oh, tell me what I must do to regain it. If Thou desirest that I repent of my sins, I do indeed repent with my whole heart, and I wish I could die of grief. If Thou wilt that I hope for pardon, behold, I hope for it through the merits of Thy Blood.


II.

He hath made me as it were a by-word of the people, and I am an example before them. (Job xvii. 6). That rich man, that minister, that general dies, and he will then everywhere be spoken of: but if he has led a bad life, he will become a by-word of the people; and, as a warning to others, he will be held up as an instance of the vanity of the world, and also of Divine Justice. In the grave his body will be mingled with the corpses of the poor: The small and the great are there. (Job iii. 19). What has the beautiful formation of his body availed him, since now it is but a heap of worms? What has the authority he possessed availed him, since now his body is thrown into a grave to rot, and his soul has been cast into hell to burn? Oh, what a misfortune, to serve for others as a subject for these reflections, and not to have made them to his own profit! Let us, then, be persuaded that the proper time for repairing a disordered conscience is not the hour of death, but during life. Let us hasten to do now that which we cannot do then. All passes quickly and ends. The time is short. Therefore let us so act that everything may serve towards attaining eternal life.

I leave all, I renounce all the pleasures and riches that the world can give me, and I love Thee above every other good, O my most amiable Saviour. If, O Lord, Thou desirest that I demand graces of Thee, I ask for two: permit me not to offend Thee any more, and grant that I may love Thee; and then do with me as Thou wilt. Mary, my hope, obtain for me these two graces; I hope for them through thee.


Spiritual Reading

HEROES AND HEROINES OF THE FAITH

ST. JUSTIN, PHILOSOPHER (April 13)


St. Justin was one of those glorious Saints that have rendered the Church illustrious by their extraordinary learning, as well as by their eminent virtues. He wrote in defence of Catholic truth against pagans, Jews, and heretics, and presented to the Emperors and Roman Senate two famous "Apologies," wherein he vindicates the innocence of the Christians, and proves that the crimes imputed to them were mere calumnies of the pagans. By the sanctity of his life, and the zeal and energy of his preaching, he converted many infidels, and finally terminated his brilliant career by a glorious Martyrdom.

St. Justin was born about the beginning of the second century at Neapolis,* the capital of Samaria, of Greek parents, who were idolaters. Having gone through the usual elementary course of studies, he found himself inspired with a great desire to know something about the Great Cause, or Creator of all. Having in vain sought for truth among the Stoics, Peripatetics, Pythagoreans, and those of the Platonic school, God was pleased to satisfy his yearnings after a wonderful manner. Having wandered one day into a solitary place in order that he might with more tranquillity enjoy his meditations, he met with an old man of very venerable appearance, who told him that if he wished to arrive at a knowledge of the true God, he should leave the study of philosophy, and begin to read the Prophets, who in their writings had manifested to man the Mysteries of God, and announced Jesus Christ, His Son, through Whom alone we can arrive at the knowledge of the true God, "But," continued this venerable personage, "above all things, pray to the Lord to illuminate thy mind, because these things are not to be understood except by those unto whom God hath given the knowledge of them." Having pronounced these words, he disappeared.

*The ancient Sichem, now called Napleus

After this interview, Justin applied himself continually to the reading of the Holy Scriptures, from which he derived that blessed knowledge which made him embrace the Faith and receive the Sacrament of regeneration about the year 133, being then about thirty years of age. The constancy and fortitude of the Martyrs in suffering tortures and laying down their lives for Jesus Christ, as he himself confesses, contributed much to his conversion, from which time he dedicated himself entirely to the love of Jesus Christ, and the advancement of His Religion. To this end he received the Holy Order of Priesthood,* and exerted himself continually in the conversion of infidels and heretics, considering himself called by God to the defence of His Church. Hence he used to say: "Since I have obtained from God the grace to understand the Scriptures, I labour to make them understood by others also, lest my neglect should be punished at the tribunal of God." And again: "I am determined to manifest the truth, although I should be cut to pieces."

*The clerical character of St. Justin is by no means an incontrovertible point. The silence of the ancient authors with regard to his ordination has induced some to consider him a layman, as they think that so important a circumstance, had it taken place, could not have been omitted by early writers. His preaching, teaching, catechizing, etc., would proclaim him a deacon, at least; and it is hard to believe that if such a person at all entered the clerical state, the Church would have failed to promote him to the priesthood.--Ed.

Having proceeded to Rome, he instructed many in the doctrines of the Christian Faith; and there, about the year 150, composed and presented to the Emperor Antoninus Pius, and to the Roman Senate, his first "Apology," wherein he demonstrates the truth of the doctrines, and the sanctity of life, which the Christians professed. He adds that many of them had lived in a state of inviolate purity for sixty or seventy years; and that Christians were so enamoured of this angelic virtue, that they either live in perpetual continency, or embrace the marriage state for the holy purpose of bringing up children in the love and service of God; their desires being placed in the joys of eternal life, which they expect through the death of Jesus Christ.

In testimony of the truth of the Christian Faith, he brings forward the fulfilment of the Prophecies, which had been preserved by the Jews, the avowed enemies of the Christians. "We have seen," says the Saint, "those Prophecies fulfilled in our own days, by the Birth of Jesus Christ from a Virgin; in His preaching and miracles; in His Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension into Heaven; in the reprobation of the Jews and the destruction of Jerusalem; in the conversion of the Gentiles, and the establishment of the Church throughout the entire world. These Prophecies, so perfectly fulfilled, must convince us that Jesus Christ is truly the Son of God, Who will come one day to judge mankind, as hath been foretold, and as we believe."

The Church in those days kept concealed from the uninitiated the celebration of the most Holy Mysteries; but St. Justin thought it necessary to explain them, in order to contradict the infamous calumnies of secret lewdness and infanticide, which were being circulated against the Christians. Wherefore, having explained the sacred ceremonies of Baptism, he proceeds to speak of the Eucharist in the following terms: "He that presides in the assembly is presented with bread and a chalice of wine, with water; whereupon, in the Name of the Son and the Holy Ghost, he renders glory to the Father. And by these gifts doth he make thanksgiving, which all the faithful confirm by the word 'Amen'. The prayers, praises, and thanksgiving being terminated, the Deacons take of the bread and the wine, mixed with water, over which all these holy prayers have been recited, and having distributed them among those present, they carry some to the absent also. This food is by us called Eucharist; of which no one can partake who believeth not our doctrines, and who hath not been cleansed from sin in the laver of regeneration. This is not common food or drink; but as Jesus Christ, our Saviour, was, for our Redemption, by virtue of the Divine Word, composed of flesh and blood; so we are aware that, by virtue of the prayer containing His Divine words, the food by which we are nourished is the Flesh and Blood of the Word Incarnate." Thus we see that the present doctrine of the Catholic Church is that which was believed and practised in the Apostolic times, in which our Saint lived. It is believed that although this "Apology" of St. Justin did not cause the persecution to cease, it made a favourable impression on the Emperor Antoninus Pius, as is inferred from his letter, written to the cities of Asia Minor in favour of the Christians, and recorded by Eusebius.


Evening Meditation

REFLECTIONS AND AFFECTIONS ON THE PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST

I.


Pilate delivers over the innocent Lamb into the hands of those wolves, to do with Him what they will. But he delivered Jesus up to their will. (Luke xxiii. 25). These ministers of Satan seize hold of Him fiercely; they strip Him of the purple garment, as is suggested to them by the Jews, and put His own raiment again upon Him: They stripped him of the purple garment, and clothed him in his own raiment, and led him away to crucify him. (Matt. xxvii. 31). And this they did, says St. Ambrose, in order that Jesus might be recognised, at least, by His apparel; His beautiful Face being so much disfigured with Blood and Wounds, that in other apparel it would have been difficult for Him to have been recognised as the person He was: "They put on Him His own raiment, that He might the better be recognised by all; since, as His Face was all bloody and disfigured, it would not have been an easy matter for all to have recognised Him." They then take two rough beams, and of them they quickly construct the Cross, the length of which was fifteen feet, as St. Bonaventure says, with St. Anselm, and they lay it upon the shoulders of the Redeemer.

But Jesus did not wait, says St. Thomas of Villanova, for the executioner to lay the Cross upon Him; of His own accord He stretched forth His hands, and eagerly laid hold of it, and placed it upon His own wounded shoulders: "He waited not till the soldier should lay it upon Him, but He laid hold of it joyfully." Come, He then said, come, My beloved Cross; it is now three-and-thirty years that I am sighing and searching for thee. I embrace thee, I clasp thee to My Heart, for thou art the altar upon which it is My will to sacrifice My Life out of love for My flock.

Ah, my Lord, how couldst Thou do so much good to one who has done Thee so much evil? O God, when I think of Thy having gone so far as to die under torments to obtain for me the Divine friendship, and that I have so often voluntarily lost it afterwards through my own fault, I would that I could die of grief! How often hast Thou forgiven me, and I have gone back and offended Thee again! How could I ever have hoped for pardon, were it not that I knew that Thou didst die in order to pardon me? By this Thy death, then, I hope for pardon, and for perseverance in loving Thee. I repent, O my Redeemer, of having offended Thee. By Thy merits, pardon me, who promise never to displease Thee more. I prize and love Thy friendship more than all the good things of this world. Oh, let it not be my lot to go back and lose it! Inflict on me, O Lord, any punishment rather than this. O my Jesus, I am not willing to lose Thee any more; no, I would sooner be willing to lose my life: I wish to love Thee always.


II.

The officers of justice come forth with the prisoners condemned; and in the midst of these also moves forward unto death the King of Heaven, the only-begotten Son of God, laden with His Cross: And bearing his own cross, he went forth to that place which is called Calvary. (Jo. xix. 17). Do ye, too, O Blessed Seraphim, sally forth from Heaven, and come and accompany your Lord, Who is going to Calvary, there to be executed, together with the malefactors, upon a gibbet of infamy.

O horrifying sight! A God executed! Behold that Messias Who but a few days before had been proclaimed the Saviour of the world, and received with acclamations and benedictions by the people, who cried out: Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord. (Matt. xxi. 9); and, after all, to see Him as, bound, ridiculed, and execrated by all, He moves along, laden with a Cross, to die the death of a villain! A God executed for men! And shall we find any man who loves not this God? O my Eternal Lover, late is it that I begin to love Thee: grant that during the remainder of my life I may make amends for the time that I have lost. I know, indeed, that all I can do is but little in comparison of the love which Thou hast borne me; but it is at least my wish to love Thee with my whole heart. Too great a wrong should I be doing Thee if, after so many kindnesses, I were to divide my heart in twain, and give part of it to some object other than Thyself. From this day forth I consecrate unto Thee all my life, my will, my liberty: dispose of me as Thou pleasest. I beg Paradise of Thee, that there I may love Thee with all my strength. I wish to love Thee exceedingly in this life, that I may love Thee exceedingly for all eternity. Aid me by Thy grace: this I beg of Thee, and hope for, through Thy merits.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
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Saturday--Third Week of Lent

Morning Meditation

THE GREATER MARY'S LOVE, THE GREATER HER SORROWS.

In other Martyrs, says Richard of St. Victor, the greatness of their love soothed the pains of their Martyrdom, but in the case of the Blessed Virgin, the greater her love was, the greater were her sufferings, and the more cruel was her Martyrdom. Where there is the greatest love there also is the greatest grief.

I.

As other Martyrs, as Diez remarks, are all represented with the instrument of their sufferings--a St. Paul with a sword, a St. Andrew with a cross, a St. Laurence with a gridiron--Mary is represented with her dead Son in her arms; for Jesus Himself, and He alone, was the instrument of her Martyrdom, by reason of the love she bore Him. Richard of St. Victor confirms in a few words all that I have now said: "In other Martyrs, the greatness of their love soothed the pains of their Martyrdom; but in the Blessed Virgin, the greater was her love, the greater were her sufferings, the more cruel was her Martyrdom."

It is certain that the more we love a thing, the greater is the pain we feel in losing it. We are more afflicted at the loss of a brother than at the loss of a beast of burden; one is more grieved at the loss of a son than at the loss of a friend. Now, Cornelius a Lapide says that "to understand the greatness of Mary's grief at the death of her Son, we must understand the greatness of the love she bore Him." But who can ever measure that love? Blessed Amadeus says that "in the heart of Mary were united two kinds of love for Jesus--supernatural love, by which she loved Him as her God, and natural love by which she loved Him as her Son." So that these two loves became one; but so immense a love, that William of Paris even says that the Blessed Virgin "loved Him as much as it was possible for a pure creature to love Him." Hence Richard of St. Victor affirms that "as there was no love like her love, so there was no sorrow like her sorrow." And if the love of Mary towards her Son was immense, immense also must have been her grief in losing Him by death. "Where there is the greatest love," says Blessed Albert the Great, "there also is the greatest grief."


II.

Let us now imagine to ourselves the Divine Mother standing near her Son expiring on the Cross, and justly applying to herself the words of Jeremias, thus addressing us: O all ye that pass by the way, attend and see if there be any sorrow like to my sorrow. (Lam. i. 12). O you who spend your lives upon earth, and pity me not, stop a while to look upon me, now that I behold my beloved Son dying before my eyes; and then see if, amongst all those who are afflicted and tormented, a sorrow is to be found like unto my sorrow. "No, O most suffering of all mothers," replies St. Bonaventure, "no more bitter grief than thine can be found; for no son more dear than thine can be found." Ah, "there never was a more amiable son in the world than Jesus," says Richard of St. Laurence; nor has has there ever been a mother who more tenderly loved her son than Mary! But since there never has been in the world a love like unto Mary's love, how can any sorrow be found like unto Mary's sorrow?"

Therefore, St. Ildephonsus did not hesitate to assert, "to say that Mary's sorrows were greater than all the torments of the Martyrs united, was to say too little." And St. Anselm adds, that "the most cruel tortures inflicted on the holy Martyrs were trifling, or as nothing in comparison with the Martyrdom of Mary." St. Basil of Seleucia also writes, "that as the sun exceeds all the other planets in splendour, so did Mary's sufferings exceed those of all the other Martyrs." The learned Father Pinamonti concludes with a beautiful sentiment. He says that so great was the sorrow of this tender Mother in the Passion of Jesus, that she alone could compassionate adequately the death of a God made Man.


Spiritual Reading

HEROES AND HEROINES OF THE FAITH

ST. JUSTIN, PHILOSOPHER (continued)


St. Justin composed other works in defence of Catholic doctrine, against the Marcionites and Valentinians; and also his Dialogue with Trypho, against the obduracy of the Jews. Marcus Aurelius having succeeded Antoninus Pius in the empire, the persecution was renewed; and one, Crescens, who, although styling himself a Cynic philosopher, was in reality a very shallow fellow, took occasion to exclaim loudly against the Christians. St. Justin, in public dispute, frequently convicted him of the most violent malice and the greatest possible ignorance of the doctrine and practices of the Christians, and was induced to publish, and present to the emperor, his second "Apology," in which he defends his religion against the calumnies of Crescens and others.

In showing that Christians had been unjustly put to death, he relates that a married couple had both been guilty of incontinency; the woman, having been converted to the Christian Religion, used all her endeavours to withdraw her husband from his shameful practices; but he, instead of amending, accused her and one Ptolemy, who had been the means of her conversion, of being Christians. The Prefect, Urbicus, sentenced them to death; whereupon a certain Christian, named Lucius, exclaimed: "With what conscience, O Urbicus, dost thou condemn a man who hath been guilty of no crime?" Lucius, together with another Christian, received a similar sentence.

A very short time after the publication of this discourse, St. Justin was apprehended, together with six other Christians of his acquaintance, and brought before Rusticus, the Prefect of Rome, who exhorted him to obey the imperial edicts. The Saint replied: "No one can be reproved or condemned for obeying the precepts of our Saviour, Jesus Christ."

The Prefect asked him what kind of learning he professed. Justin answered that he had learned the doctrines of various sects, and had finally embraced Christianity, although it was despised by those who were led away by errors and false opinions. "Unhappy wretch!" exclaimed the prefect, "dost thou then delight in this discipline?" Justin answered: "Yes, because it teaches me the true doctrine." Rusticus: "Which is this doctrine?" Justin: "The true doctrine which we profess is to believe in one only God, the Creator of all things, visible and invisible, and to confess Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Who was foretold by the Prophets, the Preacher of salvation unto men, and the Master of those who happily observe the Divine precepts. But neither have I a tongue to express nor a mind to conceive anything worthy of His infinite dignity; for to do so should need the mind and the Spirit of the Prophets, who, inspired by God, foretold His coming."

The Prefect asked him where the Christians were in the habit of assembling. Justin replied: "Where they please and where they can. Dost thou imagine, perchance, that we all assemble in the same place? The God of the Christians is not confined to a place; He is invisible, and fills both Heaven and earth; and is everywhere adored and praised by the faithful." "But I wish to know," rejoined Rusticus, "where thou and thy disciples assemble." The Saint answered: "As for myself, I dwell at the Timothean baths: this is the second time I have come to Rome, and I am scarcely acquainted with any other place in the city; and if any one should wish to seek me, I am ready to communicate to him the doctrines of truth." Rusticus: "Thou art then, a Christian?" Justin: "Yes; I am a Christian."

The Prefect then turned to St. Justin's companions, and interrogated them, one after another, concerning their Faith. They all confessed themselves Christians, and manifested a desire to die for Jesus Christ. Rusticus then said to Justin: "Tell me, thou who dost believe that thou hast the true wisdom, whether thou art persuaded that thou shalt ascend into Heaven, after I shall have caused thee to be scourged and beheaded." The Saint replied: "If I shall suffer these punishments, I hope to receive the reward which is prepared for those who observe the commandments of Christ." The Prefect asked: "Dost thou, then, really imagine that thou shalt ascend into Heaven?" "This I do not only imagine, but I know it," replied the Saint, "and am so fully assured of it that I entertain no doubt whatever."

Finally the Prefect, turning to all those Confessors of Jesus Christ, said to them: "Go ye together, and all sacrifice to the gods." Justin, answering for all, replied: "No man in his senses could abandon Religion to become a participator in impiety." The prefect hereupon threatened that their non-compliance would be followed by the most unrelenting tortures. Justin said: "There is nothing which we more earnestly desire than to endure torments for the love of our Lord Jesus Christ, and thus attain unto salvation; for this it is that will enable us to present ourselves with confidence at the tribunal of that Judge before Whom all the world must necessarily appear." To this the other Martyrs assented, adding: "Do quickly what thou art about. We are Christians, and will never sacrifice to idols."

The Prefect then announced against them the following sentence: "Those who have not wished to sacrifice to the gods, or obey the edict of the Emperor, shall first be scourged, and afterwards beheaded, in pursuance of the law." The Martyrs were forthwith led to the place of execution, where, the sentence being carried into effect, they received the glorious crown of Martyrdom, in 167, or the following year. Their bodies were privately carried away by the Christians, who gave them honourable interment.


Evening Meditation

REFLECTIONS AND AFFECTIONS ON THE PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST


I.

Imagine to yourself, O my soul, that you meet Jesus as He passes along in this sorrowful journey. As a lamb borne along to the slaughter-house, so is the loving Redeemer unto death: He shall be led as a sheep to the slaughter. (Is. liii. 7). So drained of Blood is He and wearied out with His torments, that for very weakness He can scarcely stand. Behold Him, all torn with wounds, with that bundle of thorns upon His head, with that heavy Cross upon His shoulders, and with one of those soldiers dragging Him along by a rope. Look at Him as He goes along, with Body bent double, with knees all a-tremble, dripping with His Blood; and so painful is it to Him to walk, that at every step He seems ready to die.

Put the question to Him: O Divine Lamb, hast Thou not yet had Thy fill of sufferings? If it is by them that Thou dost aim at gaining my love, oh, let Thy sufferings end here, for I wish to love Thee as Thou dost desire. No, He replies, I am not yet content: then only shall I be content when I see Myself die for love of you. And whither, O my Jesus, art Thou going now? I am going, He replies, to die for you. Hinder Me not: this only do I ask of, and recommend to you, that, when you shall see Me actually dead upon the cross for you, you will keep in mind the great love I have borne you; bear it in mind, and love Me.

O my afflicted Lord, how dear did it cost Thee to make me comprehend the love which Thou hast had for me! But what benefit could ever have resulted to Thee from my love, that Thou hast been willing to expend Thy Blood and Thy life to gain it? And how could I, after having been bound by so great love, have been able so long to live without loving Thee, and unmindful of Thy affection? I thank Thee, O God, that now Thou dost give me light to make me know how much Thou hast loved me. O infinite Goodness, I love Thee above every good. Would, too, that I had the power of offering a thousand lives in sacrifice unto Thee, willing as Thou hast been to sacrifice Thine own Divine life for me. O grant me those aids to love Thee which Thou hast merited for me by so many sufferings! Bestow upon me that sacred fire which Thou didst come to enkindle upon earth by dying for us. Be ever reminding me of Thy death, that I may never forget to love Thee.


II.

The government is upon his shoulders. (Is. ix. 6). The Cross, says Tertullian, was precisely the noble instrument whereby Jesus Christ made acquisition of so many souls; since, by dying thereon, He paid the penalty due to our sins, and thus rescued from hell, and made us His own. Who his own self bore our sins in his body upon the tree. (1 Peter ii. 24). If God, then, O my Jesus, burdened Thee with all the sins of men,--The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all (Is. lii. 6),--I, with my own sins, added to the weight of the Cross that Thou didst bear to Calvary.

Ah, my sweetest Saviour, Thou didst even then foresee all the wrongs that I should do Thee; yet, notwithstanding, Thou didst not cease from loving me, or from preparing for me all the mercies which Thou hast since employed towards me. If, then, to Thee I have been dear, most vile and ungrateful sinner as I am, who have so much offended Thee, good reason is there why Thou shouldst be dear to me, Thou, my God, infinite in beauty and goodness, Who hast loved me so much. Ah, would that I had never displeased Thee. Now, my Jesus, do I know the wrong that I have done Thee. O ye accursed sins of mine, what have you done? You have caused me to sadden the loving Heart of my Redeemer, that Heart Which has loved me so much. O my Jesus, forgive me, repenting, as I do, of having done injury unto Thee. From henceforth it is Thou Who art to be the only object of my love. I love Thee, O Infinite Loveliness, with all my heart; and I resolve to love none else but Thee. Pardon me, O Lord, and give me Thy love; I ask Thee for nothing more: "Give me only Thy love, together with Thy grace," I say unto Thee with St. Ignatius, "and I am rich enough."
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
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