Second Sunday in Lent

Station Church: Santa Maria in Domnica

This is quite a long post, but it is the sermon from Saint Alphonsus Ligouri on Heaven for today. In the Gospel account of the Transfiguration, we see Our Lord in a glimpse of His Glory. This glimpse was a gift meant to strengthen the Holy Apostles, who would then see the same Christ suffering in His Agony in the Garden unto a bloody sweat. We have the remaining weeks of Lent left, if you need to begin again in your resolve, do so and be merciful with yourself, for Christ only wishes that you grow more in love, in union with His, Love Crucified. Reflect on the Gospel for this Sunday and look at Christ’s beautiful countenance. Let it be your strength as you make sacrifices and unite yourself to Christ through His Passion.

Matt. 17:1-9At that time, Jesus took Peter, James and his brother John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves, and was transfigured before them. And His face shone as the sun, and His garments became white as snow. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elias talking together with Him. Then Peter addressed Jesus, saying, Lord, it is good for us to be here. If You will, let us set up three tents here, one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elias. As he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased; hear Him. And on hearing it the disciplines fell on their faces and were exceedingly afraid. And Jesus came near and touched them, and said to them, Arise, and do not be afraid. But lifting up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. And as they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus cautioned them, saying, Tell the vision to no one, till the Son of Man has risen from the dead.


Sermon of Saint Alphonsus Ligouri for the Second Sunday in Lent: On Heaven

“Lord, it is good for us to be here.” MATT. xvii. 4.

In this day’s gospel we read, that wishing to give his disciples a glimpse of the glory of Paradise, in order to animate them to labour for the divine honour, the Redeemer was transfigured, and allowed them to behold the splendour of his countenance. Ravished with joy and delight, St. Peter exclaimed: ”Lord, it is good for us to be here.” Lord, let us remain here; let us never more depart from this place; for, the sight of thy beauty consoles us more than all the delights of the earth. Brethren, let us labour during the remainder of our lives to gain heaven. Heaven is so great a good, that, to purchase it for us, Jesus Christ has sacrificed his life on the cross. Be assured, that the greatest of all the torments of the damned in hell, arise from the thought of having lost heaven through their own fault. The blessings, the delights, the joys, the sweetness of Paradise may be acquired; but they can be described and understood only by those blessed souls that enjoy them. But let us, with the aid of the holy Scripture, explain the little that can be said of them here below.

1. According to the Apostle, no man on this earth, can comprehend the infinite blessings which God has prepared for the souls that love him. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Cor. ii. 9.) In this life we cannot have an idea of any other pleasures than those which we enjoy by means of the senses. Perhaps we imagine that the beauty of heaven resembles that of a wide extended plain covered with the verdure of spring, interspersed with trees in full bloom, and abounding in birds fluttering about and singing on every side; or, that it is like the beauty of a garden full of fruits and flowers, and surrounded by fountains in continual play. ”Oh! what a Paradise,” to behold such a plain, or such a garden! But, oh! how much greater are the beauties of heaven! Speaking of Paradise, St. Bernard says: O man, if you wish to understand the blessings of heaven, know that in that happy country there is nothing which can be disagreeable, and everything that you can desire. “Nihil est quod nolis, totum est quod velis.” Although there are some things here below which are agreeable to the senses, how many more are there which only torment us? If the light of day is pleasant, the darkness of night is disagreeable: if the spring and the autumn are cheering, the cold of winter and the heat of summer are painful. In addition, we have to endure the pains of sickness, the persecution of men, and the inconveniences of poverty; we must submit to interior troubles, to fears, to temptations of the devil, doubts of conscience, and to the uncertainty of eternal salvation.

2. But, after entering into Paradise, the blest shall have no more sorrows. “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” The Lord shall dry up the tears which they have shed in this life. “And death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow, shall be any more, for the former things are passed away. And he that sat on the throne, said: ‘Behold, I make all things new.’” (Apoc. xxi. 4, 5.) In Paradise, death and the fear of death are no more: in that place of bliss there are no sorrows, no infirmities, no poverty, no inconveniencies, no vicissitudes of day or night, of cold or of heat. In that kingdom there is a continual day, always serene, a continual spring, always blooming. In Paradise there are no persecutions, no envy; for all love each other with tenderness, and each rejoices at the happiness of the others, as if it were his own. There is no more fear of eternal perdition; for the soul confirmed in grace can neither sin nor lose God.

3. “Totum est quod velis.” In heaven you have all you can desire. ”Behold, I make all things new.” There everything is new; new beauties, new delights, new joys. There all our desires shall be satisfied. The sight shall be satiated with beholding the beauty of that city. How delightful to behold a city in which the streets should be of crystal, the houses of silver, the windows of gold, and all adorned with the most beautiful flowers. But, oh! how much more beautiful shall be the city of Paradise! the beauty of the place shall be heightened by the beauty of the inhabitants, who are all clothed in royal robes; for, according to St. Augustine, they are all kings. “Quot cives, tot reges.” How delighted to behold Mary, the queen of heaven, who shall appear more beautiful than all the other citizens of Paradise! But, what it must be to behold the beauty of Jesus Christ! St. Teresa once saw one of the hands of Jesus Christ, and was struck with astonishment at the sight of such beauty. The smell shall be satiated with odours, but with the odours of Paradise. The hearing shall be satiated with the harmony of the celestial choirs. St. Francis once heard for a moment an angel playing on a violin, and he almost died through joy. How delightful must it be to hear the saints and angels singing the divine praises! “They shall praise thee for ever and ever.” (Ps. lxxxiii. 5.) What must it be to hear Mary praising God! St. Francis de Sales says, that, as the singing of the nightingale in the wood surpasses that of all other birds, so the voice of Mary is far superior to that of all the other saints. In a word, there are in Paradise all the delights which man can desire.

4. But the delights of which we have spoken are the least of the blessings of Paradise. The glory of heaven consists in seeing and loving God face to face. “Totum quod expectamus,” says St. Augustine, “duæ syllabæ sunt, Deus.” (All that we await is two syllables: Deus [God]). The reward which God promises to us does not consist altogether in the beauty, the harmony, and other advantages of the city of Paradise. God himself, whom the saints are allowed to behold, is, according to the promises made to Abraham, the principal reward of the just in heaven. ”I am thy reward exceeding great.” (Gen. xv. 1.) St. Augustine asserts, that, were God to show his face to the damned, “Hell would be instantly changed into a Paradise of delights.” (Lib. de trip, habit., torn. 9.) And he adds that, were a departed soul allowed the choice of seeing God and suffering the pains of hell, or of being freed from these pains and deprived of the sight of God, “she would prefer to see God, and to endure these torments.”

5. The delights of the soul infinitely surpass all the pleasures of the senses. Even in this life divine love infuses such sweetness into the soul when God communicates himself to her, that the body is raised from the earth. St. Peter of Alcantara once fell into such an ecstasy of love, that, taking hold of a tree, he drew it up from the roots, and raised it with him on high. So great is the sweetness of divine love, that the holy martyrs, in the midst of their torments, felt no pain, but were on the contrary filled with joy. Hence, St. Augustine says that, when St. Lawrence was laid on a red-hot gridiron, the fervour of divine love made him insensible to the burning heat of the fire. “Hoc igne incensus non sentit incendium.” Even on sinners who weep for their sins, God bestows consolations which exceed all earthly pleasures. Hence St. Bernard says: “If it be so sweet to weep for thee, what must it be to rejoice in thee!”


6. How great is the sweetness which a soul experiences, when, in the time of prayer, God, by a ray of his own light, shows to her his goodness and his mercies towards her, and particularly the love which Jesus Christ has borne to her in his passion! She feels her heart melting, and as it were dissolved through love. But in this life we do not see God as he really is: we see him as it were in the dark. “We see now through a glass in a dark manner, but then face to face.” (1 Cor. xiii. 12.) Here below God is hidden from, our view; we can see him only with the eyes of faith: how great shall be our happiness when the veil shall be raised, and we shall be permitted to behold God face to face! We shall then see his beauty, his greatness, his perfection, his amiableness, and his immense love for our souls.

7. “Man knoweth not whether he be worthy of love or hatred.” (Eccl. ix. 1.) The fear of not loving God, and of not being loved by him, is the greatest affliction which souls that love God endure on the earth; but, in heaven, the soul is certain that she loves God, and that he loves her; she sees that the Lord embraces her with infinite love, and that this love shall not be dissolved for all eternity. The knowledge of the love which Jesus Christ has shown her in offering himself in sacrifice for her on the cross, and in making himself her food in the sacrament of the altar, shall increase the ardour of her love. She shall also see clearly all the graces which God has bestowed upon her, all the helps which he has given her, to preserve her from falling into sin, and to draw her to his love. She shall see that all the tribulations, the poverty, infirmities, and persecutions which she regards as misfortunes, have all proceeded from love, and have been the means employed by Divine Providence to bring her to glory. She shall see all the lights, loving calls, and mercies which God had granted to her, after she had insulted him by her sins. From the blessed mountain of Paradise she shall see so many souls damned for fewer sins than she had committed, and shall see that she herself is saved and secured against the possibility of ever losing God.


8. The goods of this earth do not satisfy our desires: at first they gratify the senses; but when we become accustomed to them they cease to delight. But the joys of Paradise constantly satiate and content the heart. “I shall be satisfied when thy glory shall appear.” (Ps. xvi. 15.) And though they satiate they always appear to be as new as the first time when they were experienced; they are always enjoyed and always desired, always desired and always possessed. “Satiety,” says St. Gregory, “accompanies desire.” (Lib. 13, Mor., c. xviii.) Thus, the desires of the saints in Paradise do not beget pain, because they are always satisfied; and satiety does not produce disgust, because it is always accompanied with desire. Hence the soul shall be always satiated and always thirsty: she shall be for ever thirsty, and always satiated with delights. The damned are, according to the Apostle, vessels full of wrath and of torments, “vessels of wrath, fitted for destruction.” (Rom. ix. 22.) But the just are vessels full of mercy and of joy, so that they have nothing to desire. “They shall be inebriated with the plenty of thy house.” (Ps. xxxv. 9.) In beholding the beauty of God, the soul shall be so inflamed and so inebriated with divine love, that she shall remain happily lost in God; for she shall entirely forget herself, and for all eternity shall think only of loving and praising the immense good which she shall possess for ever, without the fear of having it in her power ever to lose it. In this life, holy souls love God; but they cannot love him with all their strength, nor can they always actually love him. St. Thomas teaches, that this perfect love is only given to the citizens of heaven, who love God with their whole heart, and never cease to love him actually. “Ut totum cor hominis semper actualiter in Deum feratur ista est perfectio patriæ.” (2, 2 quæst. 44, art. 4, ad. 2.)

9. Justly, then, has St. Augustine said, that to gain the eternal glory of Paradise, we should cheerfully embrace eternal labour. “Pro æterna requie æternus labor subeundus esset.””For nothing,” says David, ”shalt thou save them.” (Ps. Iv. 8.) The saints have done but little to acquire Heaven. So many kings, who have abdicated their thrones and shut themselves up in a cloister; so many holy anchorites, who have confined themselves in a cave; so many martyrs, who have cheerfully submitted to torments to the rack, and to red-hot plates have done but little. “The sufferings of this life are not worthy to be compared to the glory to come.” (Rom. viii. 18.) To gain heaven, it would be but little to endure all the pains of this life.

10. Let us, then, brethren, courageously resolve to bear patiently with all the sufferings which shall come upon us during the remaining days of our lives: to secure heaven they are all little and nothing. Rejoice then; for all these pains, sorrows, and persecutions shall, if we are saved, be to us a source of never-ending joys and delights. “Your sorrows shall be turned into joy.” (John xvi. 20.) When, then, the crosses of this life afflict us, let us raise our eyes to heaven, and console ourselves with the hope of Paradise. At the end of her life, St. Mary of Egypt was asked, by the Abbot St. Zozimus, how she had been able to live for forty-seven years in the desert where he found her dying. She answered: “With the hope of Paradise.” If we be animated with the same hope, we shall not feel the tribulations of this life. Have courage! Let us love God and labour for heaven. There the saints expects us, Mary expects us, Jesus Christ expects us; he holds in his hand a crown to make each of us a king in that eternal kingdom.


Saturday after the First Sunday in Lent

Stational Church: Saint Peter’s

When our Lord was saying to His Apostles: “Rise, let us go,” He added these painful words: “He who will betray me is at hand.” (Mk. 14:42) St. John gives us a few more details for he writes: “Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, since Jesus had often met there together with his disciples. Judas, then, taking the cohort, and the attendants from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns, and torches, and weapons.” (Jn. 18: 2-4)

The story of Judas is perhaps the saddest in all of the Bible. The Evangelists seem fascinated with that name Judas and when they have occasion to pen it, they call him either “Judas, one of the twelve” or “the traitor” or as we have just seen St. John do, in the quote above, “Judas, who betrayed Him.” The thought that one of their number could stoop to such a villainous act inflicts them with a personal shame.

Any way you look at it, the story of the betrayal shows new evil each time you read it. Going out from the supper table, Judas had hastened to the priests and was quickly on his way with the band of soldiers. He probably hurried back to the upper room, where he had left Jesus: not finding Him there, he knew well where the Master had gone, and hastened to the sacred place of prayer – Gethsemani – where Jesus had so often retired for prayer.

Then the manner in which he let the officers know which of the company was Jesus shows the deepest blackness of all. Under the guise of close friendship – Judas kissed Christ – with feigned warmth and affection.

Kiss of Judas

It would be salutary for each of us to remember always how treason in the heart of Judas grew. In the beginning, it was greed for money, then followed theft and falseness of life, ending, at least, in the blackest grim this world has ever seen. The fact that such a fall as that of Judas begin with small infidelities which grew and grew into a heinous crime, should teach us the danger of committing venial sins. The Holy Ghost warns us that “he that contemneth little things, shall fall by little and little.” (Eccles. 19:1)

A picture in the royal gallery of Brussels represents Judas wandering about in the night after the betrayal. He comes by chance upon the workmen who have been making the cross upon which Christ shall be crucified the next day. A fire nearby throws its full light on the faces of the workmen, who are sleeping peacefully, while resting from their labors. Judas’ face is somewhat in the shade, but it is wonderfully expressive of awful remorse and agony as he catches sight of the cross and the tools used to make it – the cross which his treachery had made possible. Judas did not fall into one great sin, he began with lesser sins, and they paved the way to his great disaster.

St. John Chrysostom said this of venial sins: “I maintain that small sins require to be avoided with more care than the more grievous ones, for the grievous ones of their very nature stir up our attention against them; whereas, the lesser sins, from the fact of their being insignificant in comparison, are not noticed.” The devil is so cunning. He knows he could not induce a virtuous person to fall into a great sin because of the horror it inspires. What does he do? He proposes a venial offense; now one, now another until he gets the soul into an evil habit, for he knows the end result. Satan knows Scripture too, and can prove it from what he has been able to accomplish by making persons desire, at first, venially sinful things. Scripture says: “He that is unjust in that which is little will be unjust in that which is great.” (Eccles. 19:1)

Pray earnestly today for grace to avoid venial sins. Examine your conscience daily on your commission of venial sins and resolve to do your utmost to avoid them.

wp-1472464433376.jpg

Friday after the First Sunday in Lent

Stational Church: Santi Apostoli

The ordeal of Gethsemani now over, our Blessed Lord walks with a sort of triumph toward His sleeping Apostles. Three times He had counseled them to pray, three times He had asked them to watch with Him and three times the Apostles had failed Him.

Just anger had surged through Christ when He took a rope and drove the money-changers from the temple, because they had dishonored His Father’s house. His closest friends who, a few short hours earlier, had received their first Holy Communion, had failed Him, and failed Him badly in His hour of need – surely He would have been justified had He upbraided them. But no. The gentle Christ walked over to where they took their rest, and simply said: “Rise, let us go.” (Mk. 14:42) Oh, the hope that springs up from those words!

The disciples had failed sadly in one great duty – they had slept when the Master wanted them to watch with Him. They slept at their post. He had just told them that they might as well sleep on, so far as that service was concerned, for the time to render it was gone forever. Yet there were other duties before them, and Jesus calls them to arise and meet these. Because they had failed in one hour’s responsibility they must not sink down in despair. They must arouse themselves to meet the responsibilities that lay ahead of them.

Brooklyn_Museum_-_Fin_du_travail_(The_End_of_the_Working_Day)_-_Jules_Breton

What a consoling lesson for all of us. Because we have failed in one duty, or many duties, we must not give up in despair. Because a young man or woman has wasted youth, he or she must not therefore lose heart and think all is lost. There are other opportunities just ahead. The loss of youth is irreparable. The golden years can never be recalled – the innocence, the beauty, the power may have slipped through our fingers – but why should we squander all because we have squandered some? Because the morning has been thrown away, why should all the day be lost?

The lesson Christ taught at the end of His agony in Gethsemani is for all who have failed in any way. Christ ever calls to hope. He bids us rise again from the worst defeats. With Christ there is always margin enough to start again and to build a noble life. Right down to the doorway of death there is time. Paul persecuted the Church, but died for it. The door of opportunity opened to the penitent thief on the cross in his dying hour.

good thief

So it is always. In this world, blessed by divine love and grace, there is never need to despair. The call after every defeat or failure still is, and always will be, “Rise, let us go.”

Strive every day to make acts of faith, hope, and charity. Today let us beg for an increase of the virtue of hope.

faith hope

See how you can spread devotion to the Passion by assisting in the campaign to provide my publication of meditations on the Passion written by a Passionist priest for novices. May this little effort of ours bear much fruit in the reform of the Church, starting with our own souls and the souls of as many future priests we can reach! Find more information out at the BOOKS4SEMS campaign.

*Reflections on the Passion by Fr. Doyle

Thursday after the First Sunday in Lent

Stational Church: S. Lorenzo in Panisperna

In the Transfiguration on Mount Thabor, our Blessed Lord’s body was bathed in light and His divinity burst through the frail human bonds that were united to it. In the Garden of Gethsemani, the human body of the Son of God was bathed in a bloody sweat that rushed from every pore. Once the angel had strengthened our Lord, the transformation was amazing. From that moment on to the end of the Passion, we shall never see Him falter, for even one moment. He had strength for Himself and strength for all those who came to Him or crossed His path.

The moment the third prayer was ended, Holy Scripture notes that Christ went to His disciples and said: “Sleep on now, and take your rest! It is enough; the hour has come.” (Mk. 14:41) The time for watching was past. Christ had passed through His agony, and on His adorable face was the radiance of peace and the fire of zeal. No longer did He need the help or the sympathy which in vain He had sought in the darkness. He looked toward the city gate, and there was the traitor coming. There was neither need nor use now for the disciples’ waking and watching, and they might as well sleep on. The lesson is plain. Whatever we do for our friends, we must do when they are in need of our help. If one is sick, the time to show sympathy is while the sickness continues. If we allow him to pass through his illness without showing him any attention, there is little use, when he is well again, for us to offer kindness.

When one of our friends is passing through some sore struggle with temptation, then is the time for us to come close to him and put the strength of our love under his weakness. Of what use is our help when the battle has been fought through to the end and won without us? Or suppose the friend was not victorious; that he failed – failed because no one came to help him, is there any use in our hurrying up to him then to offer assistance?

It was Ruskin who once wrote these words: “Such help as we can give to each other in this world is a debt we owe to each other; and the man who perceives a superiority or a capacity in a subordinate, and neither confesses nor assists it, is not merely the withholder of kindness, but the committer of evil.”

lenten-practices-etching

If we are inclined to criticize the weakness of the Apostles in sleeping rather than comforting their Lord and their God in His hour of agony, do we not do a similar deed when we withhold help and consolation from our neighbor. “As long as you did not do it for one of these least ones, you did not do it for me.”  (Mt. 25:44)

The Last Judgment

Let us always see Christ in our neighbor and this very day make a real effort to be a support, comfort, and defense of someone who needs our help – spiritual or temporal. Never let the sun set any day without having done one charitable act for a neighbor. Remember always these words of Holy Scripture: “that one’s neighbor should be loved as oneself is a greater thing than all holocausts and sacrifices.” (Mk 12:33)

See how you can spread devotion to the Passion by assisting in the campaign to provide my publication of meditations on the Passion written by a Passionist priest for novices. May this little effort of ours bear much fruit in the reform of the Church, starting with our own souls and the souls of as many future priests we can reach! Find more information out at the BOOKS4SEMS campaign.

*Reflections on the Passion by Fr. Doyle

Wednesday after the First Sunday in Lent

Stational Church: S. Maria Maggiore

As Christ ended His third prayer in the Garden of Gethsemani, He lay prostrate on the ground horribly shaken by the whole ordeal. The one thing He prayed for was not granted Him, but Holy Scripture relates that, “there appeared to him an angel from heaven to strengthen him.” (Lk 22:43)

It was an angel from heaven who announced to His mother Mary that she had been chosen to fulfill a creature’s greatest service to her God. When men refused the Son of God recognition on this earth, angels filled the skies to announce Him and sing His glories. When cruel men sought His life in infancy, an angel directed the Holy Family to the safety of Egypt. When He was tempted in the desert: “Behold angels came and ministered to him.” (Mt. 4:11) Little wonder then that when He was in agony in the Garden of Olives an angel should succor Him.

It is well to note that Christ’s prayer was not answered in the way He had desired. He had prayed the first time that the chalice might pass from Him. It did not pass but His strength was increased. He prayed the second time for relief from His burden, but while the burden was increased, His strength was augmented to match it. Christ prayed the third time, saying the selfsame words He had spoken on the two previous occasions. His agony did not cease but He found the courage “to pray more earnestly.” (Lk 22:43) Learn from this that when God seems most deaf to our pleadings in prayer, He may prefer to make heroes of us. Be assured that in time of temptation, and trial, God’s angels will ever be at our side to comfort, encourage, and succor us.

saint-michael-sepia

Seize this occasion to bolster your devotion to the angels, and in a special way, to St. Michael. St. Alphonsus Liguori says: “Devotion to St. Michael is a sign of predestination.” In the year 1751, St. Michael appeared to an illustrious servant of God, Antonia d’Astonae, a Carmelite in Portugal. He expressed the wish that she should publish for his honor nine salutations corresponding to the nine choirs of angels. It was to consist in the recitations of a Pater Noster and three Aves in honor of each of the angelic hierarchies, then four Pater Nosters, the first in his honor, the second in honor of St. Gabriel, the third for St. Raphael, and the last for the Guardian Angel. As a reward the glorious prince of the celestial court promised:

“Whoever would practice this devotion in his honor would have, when approaching the Holy Table, an escort of nine angels chosen from each one of the nine choirs.” In addition, for the daily recital of these nine salutations he promised his “continual assistance and that of all the holy angels during life, and after death deliverance from purgatory for themselves and their relations.”

In time of temptation call upon the holy angels and archangels to defend and protect you. Never let a day go by without a special petitions to the heavenly choirs – especially your guardian angel.

lucagiordano_stmichael

Salutations given by Saint Michael (known also as the Chaplet of Saint Michael):

O God, come to my assistance. O Lord, make haste to help me. Glory be…Amen

[One Our Father and three Hail Mary after each salutation]

  1. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Seraphim, may the Lord make us worthy to burn with the fire of perfect charity. Amen.
  2. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Cherubim, may the Lord grant us the grace to leave the ways of sin and run in the paths of Christian perfection. Amen.
  3. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Thrones, may the Lord infuse into our hearts a true and sincere spirit of humility. Amen.
  4. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Dominations, may the Lord give us grace to govern our senses and overcome any unruly passions. Amen.
  5. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Virtues, may the Lord preserve us from evil and falling into temptation. Amen.
  6. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Powers, may the Lord protect our souls against the snares and temptations of the devil. Amen.
  7. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Principalities, may God fill our souls with a true spirit of obedience. Amen.
  8. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Archangels, may the Lord give us perseverance in faith and in all good works in order that we may attain the glory of Heaven. Amen.
  9. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Angels, may the Lord grant us to be protected by them in this mortal life and conducted in the life to come to Heaven. Amen.

Say one Our Father in honor of each: St. Michael, St. Gabriel, St. Raphael, and your Guardian Angel.

Final prayer:

O glorious prince St. Michael, chief and commander of heavenly hosts, guardian of souls, vanquisher of rebel spirits, servant in the house of the Divine King and our admirable conductor, you who shine with excellence and superhuman virtue deliver us from all evil, who turn to you with confidence and enable us by your gracious protection to serve God more and more faithfully every day.

Pray for us, O glorious St. Michael, Prince of the Church of Jesus Christ, that we may be made worthy of His promises.

Almighty and Everlasting God, Who, by a prodigy of goodness and a merciful desire for the salvation of all men, has appointed the most glorious Archangel St. Michael Prince of Your Church, make us worthy, we ask You, to be delivered from all our enemies, that none of them may harass us at the hour of death, but that we may be conducted by him into Your Presence. This we ask through the merits of Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.

See how you can spread devotion to the Passion by assisting in the campaign to provide my publication of meditations on the Passion written by a Passionist priest for novices. May this little effort of ours bear much fruit in the reform of the Church, starting with our own souls and the souls of as many future priests we can reach! Find more information out at the BOOKS4SEMS campaign.

*From Reflections on the Passion

Tuesday after the First Sunday in Lent

Stational Church: S. Anastasia al Palatino

Christ prayed three times in the Garden of Olives. After each prayer was finished, and the words of this three prayers, by the way, were nearly identical, the Master went back to His Apostles, and in each instance He found them asleep.

Between the first and second sessions of prayer, our Lord uttered a powerful warning, for he said to the drowsy disciples: “Watch and pray, that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mt. 26:41)

watch-and-pray

“Watch and pray, that you may not enter into temptation” is a powerful warning that no man should disregard. In wartime it is not unusual to find a soldier court-martialed and summarily executed for falling asleep at his post. Life is a constant warfare agains the legions of hell, and we must be ever watchful against sudden attacks from the enemy. But to watch alone is not enough. A sentinel posted on the walls, when he perceives the enemy gathering for an attack, would be foolhardy indeed, to presume to engage the enemy singlehanded. The wise soldier would send word to his commanding officer of the enemy’s approach. Watchfulness lies in observing the imminent approach of the enemy and prayer is the telling of it to God. Watchfulness without prayer is presumption, and prayer without watchfulness is a mockery.

The great Abbot John remarked that a man who is asleep at the foot of a tree and sees a wild animal coming toward him to devour him, will most certainly climb up the tree to save himself. “So we,” says the Abbot, “when we perceive ourselves beset with temptations, ought to climb up to heaven and by the help of prayer, retire safely into the bosom of God.”

The saints have taught that short prayers are most effective in time of temptation. St. Athanasius, for instance, taught that the opening phrase of the sixty-seventh psalm produced miraculous effects for those who use it in time of temptation. Here are the words: “Let God arise, and let His enemies be scattered, and let those that hate Him fly before His face.”

Note well, that our Lord did not tell His disciples to pray to be relieved of temptations altogether, but rather, that they “enter not into temptation.” God tempts no man, but He permits us to be tempted so to prove ourselves. “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been tried, he will receive the crown of life.” (James 1:12) St. Bernard, explaining these inspired words of St. James, says: “it is necessary that temptations should happen, for who shall be crowned but he that shall lawfully have fought, and how shall a man fight, if there be none to attack him?”

Be undeceived – position, piety, or experience will not spare you temptations. Adam fell when he was in the state of grace and Peter fell soon after his first Holy Communion.

Resolve today to make use of the holy names of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in the very outset of any temptation. Try to commit the first sentence of Psalm 67 to heart, and promise yourself to make use of it as soon as you discern the approach of any temptation.

*****

See how you can spread devotion to the Passion by assisting in the campaign to provide my publication of meditations on the Passion written by a Passionist priest for novices. May this little effort of ours bear much fruit in the reform of the Church, starting with our own souls and the souls of as many future priests we can reach! Find more information out at the BOOKS4SEMS campaign.

*From Reflections on the Passion

Monday after the First Sunday in Lent

Stational Church: S. Pietro in Vincoli

Our consideration of the triple prayer of our Blessed Lord in the Garden of Olives should have convinced us of the merit and necessity of continued prayer when we are afraid, downcast, depressed, tempted, or forsaken.

christ-raising-st-lazarus

There were numerous other occasions when Christ addressed petitions to His eternal Father and the response was immediate. The raising of Lazarus is a case in point. In the Garden of Olives, however, the Master prayed three times and His prayer was unanswered. We have seen that had God the Father answered Christ’s prayer and “let the cup pass away” from Him, the world might not yet be redeemed. When God does not answer prayer it is for a greater good.

raising-of-lazarus-lazarus

In the Old Testament we read that the prophet Elias, when he asked God to confound the pagan prophets of Baal by a miracle, hardly had spoken his prayer when a miraculous fire came down from heaven and consumed a holocaust set on the altar, and even burned water in the trench. When the same prophet Elias prayed for rain for God’s people, he had to repeat his prayer not once, twice, or three times, but seven times. (3 Kings 18:44)

03-03-2008

When God refuses to answer prayer it is for a greater good. When He delays the answer it is to put the endurance of the suppliant to a severe test.

The Jews in Bethulia prayed all night, desiring the help of the God of Israel when Holofernes besieged their city, but the more they prayed, the more desperate the situation appeared. Yet they persevered, and God sent them a delivery in Judith.

judith-michaelangelo

Another important lesson which we can learn from Our Lord’s prayer in Gethsemani is this, that all our petitions to God should close in acquiescence to the divine will. Hear our Lord say in the depths of His agony – “Not my will but thine be done.” (Lk. 22:42)

It is right for us to plead earnestly for what we want – earnestly, perseveringly, but never insubmissively. We should recognize that God will not give us what will do more harm than good. Many of us have lived long enough to thank God that He did not give us what we asked in prayer in every instance.

The best thing possible for us is always what God wills for us. Sometimes it may be pain, worldly loss, or some bereavement; yet His will is always love, and in simple acquiescence to God’s will, we shall always find our highest good. No prayer, therefore, is pleasing to God which does not end with the refrain of Gethsemani: “Not my will but Thine be done.”

This is the way to peace, for as we yield with love and joy, and merge our will with God’s His peace will flow like a river into our souls.

Resolve that each time today you hear a clock strike the hour, you will say reverently, “Not my will but Thine be done.”

fullsizeoutput_7

See how you can spread devotion to the Passion by assisting in the campaign to provide my publication of meditations on the Passion written by a Passionist priest for novices. May this little effort of ours bear much fruit in the reform of the Church, starting with our own souls and the souls of as many future priests we can reach! Find more information out at the BOOKS4SEMS campaign.

*From Reflections on the Passion, p. 21-23