THE METHODS OF CONVERSING CONTINUALLY AND FAMILIARLY WITH GOD
Taken from the French, with additions by St. Alphonsus De Liguori.
When holy Job considered that God was so intent on promoting man's welfare that He desired nothing so much as to love man and to be loved by man, he wondered; and addressing himself to Him, exclaimed: "What is a man, that thou shouldst magnify him? or why dost thou set thy heart upon him?" (Job 7:17). From this it appears that it is wrong to suppose that to treat with God familiarly and with great confidence is to be wanting of that respect which is due to His Divine Majesty. You ought indeed, devout soul, to reverence Him with all humility, and to abase yourself before Him, particularly at the remembrance of your ingratitude, and the outrages which you have committed against Him; but this ought not to hinder you from treating with Him with the greatest possible love and confidence. He is Infinite Majesty; but, at the same time, He is Infinite Bounty and Infinite Love. You have in God the highest Lord; but you have in Him also the greatest lover. He does not look down upon you with disdain, but is pleased when you treat with Him with the same confidence, freedom, and love, as children treat with their mothers. Hear how He invites us to present ourselves at His feet, and the caresses which He promises us: "You shall be carried at the breasts; and upon the knees they shall caress you. As one whom the mother caresseth, so will I comfort you." (Is. 66:12-13). As a mother delights in taking her child upon her knees, in caressing and feeding him, so does our dear Lord delight in treating with equal love and tenderness those souls who give themselves entirely to Him, and place all their hopes in His goodness and bounty.
First. Reflect that you have neither friend, nor brother, nor father, nor mother, nor spouse, nor lover, who loves you more than God. Divine grace is the rich treasure by means of which we poor servants and most vile creatures become the dear friends of our Creator Himself: "An in- finite treasure to men! which they that use become the friends of God." (Wis. 7:14). For this end He sought to raise our confidence in Him; He, as the apostle expresses it, emptied Himself, humbling Himself so as to become man, in order to converse familiarly with us: "Afterwards he was seen upon earth, and conversed with men." (&rr. 3:38). He came to become an infant, to become poor, and even to be publicly executed on a cross; He came also to assume the appearances of bread and wine, in order to be our constant companion, and to be intimately united with us: "He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me and I in him." (John 6:57). In a word, He loves you as though He had no love but for you alone. And on this account you ought not to love any other but God. Hence you may and ought to say to Him: "My beloved to me, and I to him" (Cant. 2:16); my God has given Himself entirely to me, and I give myself entirely to Him; He has chosen me for his beloved, and I choose Him for my only love: "My beloved is white and ruddy, chosen out of thousands." (Cant. 58:10).
Second. Say to Him, therefore, frequently: O God, why dost Thou love me so much? What good canst Thou see in me? Hast Thou forgotten the injuries which I have committed against Thee? But since Thou hast dealt with me with such great love, as, instead of consigning me to Hell, to bestow upon me so many graces, whom shall I hence- forward love but Thee, who art my only good, my all? My most amiable God, if hitherto I have offended Thee, what most afflicts me now is not so much the punishment which I have deserved, as the displeasure which i have occasioned Thee, who art worthy of infinite love! But Thou knowest not how to despise a heart that repents and humbles itself: "A contrite and humbled heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." (Ps. 50:19). How do I now desire, in this life and for the next, no other but Thee! "For what have I in heaven? and besides thee what do I desire upon the earth?
Thou art the God of my heart, and the God that is my portion forever." (Ps. 72:25-26). Thou alone art and shalt be forever the only Lord of my heart, and of my will; Thou alone my Good, my Happiness, my Hope, my Love, my All. 'The God of my heart, and the God that is my portion forever.
Third. And the more to increase your confidence in God, often call to mind His loving conduct toward you, and the merciful means He has made use of to withdraw you from a disorderly life, from all earthly attachments, and to bring you to His holy love. On these accounts, if you have a determined will to love Him and to please Him as far as you are able, cease to fear Him so as to treat with Him but with little confidence. The mercies which He has shown you are the strongest pledges of His love for you. Diffidence in those who love Him, and whom He loves, is displeasing to Him; so that, if you would be pleasing to His loving heart, treat Him henceforward with the greatest possible confidence and love.
"I have graven thee in my hands; thy walls are always before my eyes." (Is. 49:16). My beloved soul, saith Our Lord, of whom art thou afraid and diffident? I hold thee written in My hands, that I may never forget to bestow My benefits upon thee. Art thou afraid of thy enemies? Know that the care of thy defense is always before Me, so that I cannot lose sight of it. For this reason did holy David rejoice, saying: "O Lord, thou hast crowned us as with a shield of thy good will." (Ps. 5:13). Who, O God, will be able to hurt us, if Thou defendest us with Thy bounty and love, and with them surroundest us on all sides? Above all, animate yourself to confidence, by considering the gift which God has given us of Jesus Christ. "God so loved the world as to give his only begotten Son." (John 3:16). How, exclaims the Apostle, can we ever fear that God will refuse us any good gift, after He has been pleased to bestow upon us even His own Son? "He delivered him up for us all: how hath he not also, with him, given us all things?" (Rom. 8:32).
Fourth. "My delights were to be with the children of men." (Prov. 8:31). The paradise of God, if so it may be said, is the heart of man. Does God love you? Love Him. His delight is to be with you, and it should be yours to be with Him and to spend the whole time of your life with Him, with whom you hope to spend a blessed eternity.
Fifth. Accustom yourself to speak to Him as though you were alone with Him, familiarly, with confidence and with love, as to your dearest friend, who, of all others, loves you the most. And if it is a great error, as has been said, to treat with God with diffidence, and to wish always to appear in His presence as a timid and bashful slave trembling with alarm before his prince, it would be a still greater error to think that to converse with God is tedious and bitter. No, it is not so: "Her conversation hath no bitterness, nor her company any tediousness." (Wis. 8:16). Ask those who really love Him, and they will tell you that in all the pains and trials of life they can nowhere find such true and solid consolation as in conversing lovingly with God.
Sixth. However, a continual application of the mind is not required of you, so as to neglect your employments and recreations. Nothing more is required than, without relinquishing your occupations, to do toward God what you do on occasions toward those who love you, and whom you love.
Seventh. Your God is always nigh to you, even within you: "In him we live, move, and are." (Acts 17:28). There is no screen through which He desires to be spoken to; on the contrary, He delights in your treating confidently with Him. Treat with Him of your affairs, of your designs, of your trials, of your fears, and of whatever concerns you. Do it above all, as I have said, with confidence, with an open heart, because God does not usually speak to the soul that does not speak to Him; since not being accustomed to treat with Him, she would hardly understand His voice were He to speak to her. And of this Our Lord complains: "Our sister is little ...what shall we do to our sister in the day when she is to be spoken to?" (Cant. 8:8). Our sister is a child in my love; what shall we do by speaking, if she does not understand me? God would have us regard Him as our Almighty and most terrible Lord when we despise His grace, but on the contrary, as our most·loving friend when we love Him: and hence He desires that we should then speak to Him frequently, in a familiar manner and without restraint.
Eighth. It is true that God ought always to be treated with the most sovereign respect; but when He so favors you as to make you sensible of His presence, and of His desire that you should speak to Him as to the one who above all others loves you, express to Him your sentiments freely, and with confidence. "She preventeth them that covet her, so that she first showeth herself unto them." (Wis. 6:14). He, without waiting for you to go to Him, when you desire His love, prevents you, and presents Himself to you, bringing with Him the graces and remedies which are necessary for you. He waits only for you to speak to Him, to show you that He is nigh to you, and ready to be united with you, and to console you. "The eyes of the Lord are upon the just; and his ears unto their prayers." (Ps. 33:16).
Ninth. Our God, by His immensity, is in all places; but there are two, principally, in which He more specially resides: One is the highest Heaven, where He is present by His glory, which He communicates to the blessed; the other is upon the earth, and is within the humble soul that loves Him: "He dwelleth in the high and holy place, and with a contrite and humble spirit." (Is. 57:15). Our God, then, dwelleth in the highest heavens, but disdains not to spend days and nights with His faithful servants in their cells and caves, where He imparts to them His Divine consolations, of which one alone far surpasses all worldly delights, and which He only does not desire who has not experienced them. "O taste, and see that the Lord is sweet." (Ps. 33:9)
Tenth. Other friends in this world can converse together only at times, and at others must be separated; but between God and you, if you will, there need never be any separation. "Thou shalt rest and thy sleep shall be sweet ... for the Lord is at thy side." (Prov. 3:24, 26). You may sleep, and God will place Himself at your side, and will watch continually by you. "I shall repose myself with her.., knowing that she will communicate to me of her good things." (Wis. 8:16, 18). When you repose, He departs not from your pillow, but is there ever thinking of you, in order that, when you awake in the night, He may speak to you by His holy inspirations, and receive from you some act of love, of oblation, or of gratitude, thus to keep up with you, even in the hours of rest, His lovely and sweet conversation. And sometimes, even while you sleep, He will speak to you, and will make His voice audible, in order that when you awake you may obey it: "I will speak to him in a dream." (Num. 12:6).
Eleventh. He is with you in the morning, to hear from you some word of love or confidence, to be the depository of your first thoughts, and of all the actions which you purpose to perform during the day in order to please Him, as also of all the trials which you offer willingly to under- go for His love and glory. But as He fails not to present Himself to you the moment you awake, do not you fail, on your part, immediately to turn yourself lovingly to Him, and to rejoice at hearing from Him that He is not at a distance from you, as when you were in sin, but that He loves you, and desires to be loved by you, intimating to you at the same moment the lovely precept: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart." (Deut. 6:5).
Twelfth. Never, therefore, be forgetful of His sweet presence, as are the greater part of men. Speak to Him as frequently as you can; He will not be wearied with you, nor will He, like the lords of the earth, disdain you. If you love Him, you will not be at a loss what to say to Him. Tell Him whatever occurs to you respecting yourself and your affairs, as you would do to a dear friend. Do not regard Him as a haughty prince, who will treat only with the great, and of great things; our God is pleased to abase Himself to treat with us, and is pleased with our communicating to Him our most minute and trivial affairs. He loves you as much, and has as much care of you, as though He had no others to think of but you. He is as much devoted to your interest, as though His providence were to succor only you, His omnipotence to help only you, His mercy and goodness to compassionate only you, to promote your welfare, and to gain, by His endearing ways, your confidence and your love. Freely, therefore, discover to Him the whole of your interior, and beseech Him so to guide you that you may perfectly follow His will, and that all your desires and intentions may be solely directed to please Him, and to gratify His Divine heart: "Bless God at all times; and desire of him to direct thy ways, and that all thy counsels may abide in him." (Tob. 4:20).
Thirteenth. Say not, of what use is it to discover all my wants to God? He knows and sees them better than I do myself. He knows them, but He will proceed with you as though He were ignorant of them, if you speak not to Him about them, and crave not His assistance. Our Blessed Saviour was well aware of the death of Lazarus, yet He seemed not to know of it until Mary told Him, when He consoled her by raising her brother to life again.
Fourteenth. Hence, whenever you are afflicted with infirmity, temptation, persecution, or any other trial, betake yourself immediately to Him, and implore His assistance. It will be sufficient for you to represent to Him what it is that afflicts you, saying, "Behold, O Lord, for I am in distress" (Lam. 1:20); and He will not delay to console you, or at least to give you strength to bear your trial with patience, which will be of more advantage to you than if He should deliver you from it. Make known to Him all the thoughts which torment you, whether of fear or of sadness, or of any other evil tendency, and say to Him: In Thee, O God, are placed all my hopes; I offer this tribulation to Thee, and I resign myself to Thy will: take pity on me; either deliver me from it, or give me strength to support it. And He will immediately be mindful of the' promise which He has recorded in His Gospel, of consoling and comforting all those who in tribulation have recourse to Him: "Come to me all you that labor, and are burdened, and I will refresh you." (Matt. 11:28).
Fifteenth. He is not offended when, laboring under afflictions, you seek comfort from your friends, but He would have you have recourse principally to Him. At least, therefore, when you have had recourse to creatures, and they have not been able to console your heart, go to your Creator, and say to Him: Lord, men have only words, they cannot afford me consolation, nor do I any more desire to be consoled by them; Thou alone art my only hope, Thou alone my only love; by Thee alone do i desire to be comforted; and may my consolation be to do, on this occasion, what will be most pleasing to Thee. Behold, I am ready to endure this trial for the whole of my life, and for all eternity, if such should be Thy will, but do Thou assist me.
Sixteenth. Do not be afraid lest He should be offended, if you should sometimes sweetly complain to Him, saying: "Why, O Lord, hast thou retired afar off?" (Ps. 9:1). Lord, Thou knowest that I·love Thee, and that I desire nothing but Thy love; have pity on me, and help me; do not abandon me. And when desolation continues for a long time, and grievously afflicts you, unite your voice with that of your afflicted and dying Jesus on the Cross, and imploring His pity, say to Him: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matt. 27:46). Let the thought that, having offended God, you do not deserve His consolation, serve only to humble you the more; and let the conviction that God does, or permits, all for your good, animate you to greater confidence in Him. When you are more than usually troubled and disconsolate, say to Him courageously: "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall i fear?" (Ps. 26:1). Thou, O Lord, will enlighten me and save me; in Thee do I confide: "in thee, O Lord, have I hoped; let me never be confounded." (A. 30:1). And thus be pacified, knowing that "no one has ever hoped in the Lord and hath been confounded." (Ecclus. 2:11). Reflect that your God loves you more than you can love yourself: Of what are you afraid? David consoled himself, saying: "The Lord is careful for me." (A. 39:18). Say to Him, then: I cast myself into Thine arms, O Lord, and I desire to think only of loving and pleasing Thee. Behold, I am ready to do whatever Thou requirest of me. Thou art not only desirous, but solicitous for my good; to Thee, therefore, do I commit my salvation. In Thee do I rest, and will ever rest, since Thou desirest that I should place, all my hopes in Thee: "In peace, in the selfsame, I will sleep and I will rest; for thou, O Lord, hast singularly settled me in hope." (A. 4:9-10).
Seventeenth. "Think of the Lord in goodness." (Wis. 1:1). With these words the wise man exhorts us to have more confidence in the Divine mercy, than fear of the Divine justice; since God is immensely more inclined to bestow favors upon us than to chastise us, as St. James says: "Mercy exalteth itself above judgment." (James 2:13). Hence the Apostle St. Peter admonishes us, in our fears for our temporal and eternal interests, to abandon ourselves entirely to the goodness of our God, who takes sovereign care of our salvation: "Casting all your care upon him, for he hath care of you." (1 Pet. 7:5). How very applicable to this is the title which David gives to God when he calls Him our God who is ready to save us: "Our God is the God of salvation." (A. 67:21). This signifies, as Bellarmin explains it, that it is the property of God not, indeed, to condemn, but to save all; for while He threatens those with His displeasure who despise Him, He promises, and hence cannot fail to show, mercy to those who fear Him, according to that of the Blessed Virgin in her Canticle: His mercy is from generation to generation to them that fear Him. I place before you, devout soul, all these passages of the Holy Scriptures, that when troubled with doubts whether or not you will be saved, whether or not you are of the number of the predestinate, you may take courage at the thought that you know from God's promises that He desires to save you, if you are resolved to serve and love Him as He requires you.
Eighteenth. When you receive any agreeable news, do not act like some unfaithful and ungrateful souls who, in time of tribulation, have recourse to God, but in time of prosperity forget and forsake Him. Be as faithful to Him as you would be to a loving friend who rejoices in your good; go and communicate to Him your gladness, and praise and thank Him, acknowledging all as coming from His hands; rejoice in your happiness, because it comes to you from His good pleasure, and thus rejoice and be glad solely in Him: "I will rejoice in the Lord, and I will joy in God my Jesus."(Hab. 3:18). Say to Him: My Jesus, I bless Thee, and will forever bless Thee for the many favors which Thou hast bestowed upon me, when I deserved from Thee not favors, but punishments, for the offenses which I have committed against Thee. Say to Him with the Sacred Spouse: "All fruits, the new and the old, my beloved, I have kept for Thee." I thank Thee, O Lord, and will ever remember Thy past and present benefits, to honor and glorify Thee for them for all eternity.
Nineteenth. But if you love your God, you ought to re- joice more in Him than in your own happiness. He who has a great love for his friend rejoices more on account of his friend's good than if it were his own. Rejoice, then, in knowing that your God is infinitely happy; frequently say to Him: O Lord, I rejoice more in Thy felicity than in all my own good, because I love Thee more than I love myself.
Twentieth. Another mark of confidence most pleasing to your most loving God is, when you commit any fault, not to be ashamed to go and cast yourself immediately at His feet, and beg His pardon for it. Think that God is so ready to pardon sinners, that He laments their loss when they depart from Him and die to His grace; and hence He lovingly calls them, saying: "Why will you die, O house of Israel? Return ye and live." (Etech. 18:32). He promises to receive the soul that has forsaken Him as soon as it shall return to His arms: "Turn ye to me.., and I will turn to you." (Zach. 1:3). Would that sinners knew with how much compassion Our Lord waits to pardon them! "The Lord waiteth, that he may have mercy on you." (Is. 30:18). Would that they were sensible of His desire, not indeed to chastise them, but to see them converted, to embrace and to press them to His heart! He declares: "As I live, saith the Lord God, I desire not the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live." (Eiech. 33:11). He adds: "And then come and accuse me, saith the Lord: if your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made white as show." (Is. 1:18). As though He had said: Sinners, repent for having offended Me, and then come to Me; if I do not pardon you, accuse Me, and treat Me as being unfaithful to My promises: but no, I shall not be wanting to My word; if you come, know that your consciences, though stained as crimson with your crimes, shall, by My grace, be made white as snow.
Twenty-first. In fine, He has said that when the sinner repents for having offended Him, He will forget all his sins: "I will not remember all his iniquities that he hath done." (Ezech. 18:22). As soon, then, as you fall into any fault, raise up your eyes to God, make an act of love, and humbly confessing your fault, firmly hope for pardon, say- ing to Him: "Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick" (John 11:3); the heart which Thou lovest is sick, is full of wounds: Heal my soul, for I have sinned against Thee. Thou seekest after penitent sinners; behold, one is at Thy feet, who seeks after Thee; the evil`·is committed; what must I do? Thou wilt not have me lose confidence; even after the sin which I have committed, Thou desirest my good, and I again love Thee: Yes, my God, I love Thee with all my heart, I am sorry for my sin, and will never more offend Thee; Thou, who art a God sweet and mild, and plenteous in mercy, pardon me; let me hear from Thee what Thou didst say to Magdalen: Thy sins are forgiven thee; and give me strength, for the future, to be faithful to Thee.
Twenty-second. Then cast your eyes upon Jesus Christ crucified, in order not to be discouraged; offer to the Eternal Father His merits, and confidently hope for pardon. Since to pardon you He spared not His own Son, say to Him with confidence: Look on the face of Thy Christ; my God, have regard to Thy Son who has died for me, and for His sake grant me pardon. Attend especially, devout soul, to what is commonly taught by masters of a spiritual life, who recommend you to have recourse immediately to God after you have fallen, although you should repeat this a hundred times in the day, and, having done this, not to be any longer disturbed; otherwise, if your soul remain discouraged and troubled on account of the fault which you have committed, it will be able to treat but little with God; it will lose confidence, its desires to love Him will be cooled, and you will be but little able to go forward in the way of the Lord. On the contrary, by having recourse immediately to God, and begging Him to pardon you, promising amendment for the future, your very falls will help you to advance in Divine love. Amongst friends who really love one another it not infrequently happens that, when one offends another and then humbles himself, and asks pardon, their friendship becomes stronger than ever. Do you in like manner, so that your defects may serve to unite you still more closely in love with your God.
Twenty-third. In whatever doubt may occur to you, either concerning yourself or others, as true friends would consult together, so do you never fail to consult God with confidence, and to beseech Him to enlighten you to determine upon what will be most pleasing to Him: "Put thou words in my mouth, and strengthen the resolution in my heart." (Jdt. 9:18). O Lord, make known to me what Thou wouldst have me to do or to answer, and I will obey Thy will: Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth.
Twenty-fourth. Confide in Him so as to recommend to Him not only your own necessities, but those also of others. How pleasing will it be to your God, if, sometimes forgetful of your own interests, you choose to speak to Him of His own glory, of the miseries of others, especially of those who mourn in tribulation, of the souls, His spouses, who are in Purgatory, who sigh to behold Him, and of poor sinners who are deprived of His grace! Say to Him, particularly for these: Lord, Thou art so amiable that Thou art worthy of infinite love; and how canst Thou, then, endure to behold so many souls in the world, upon whom Thou bestowest so many benefits, who desire not to know Thee, nor to love Thee, who even offend Thee and despise Thee! Ah, my most amiable God, cause Thyself to be known, cause Thyself to be loved: Hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come; may Thy name be adored and loved by all, and may Thy love reign in the hearts of all. Suffer me not to depart without granting me some grace for the unhappy souls for whom I pray.
Twenty-fifth. It is said that those who in this life have but little longing for Heaven, are punished in Purgatory with a particular suffering, called the pain of languor; and with reason: because to long but little for Heaven is to make but little account of the great happiness of that eternal Kingdom which our Blessed Redeemer purchased for us by His death. Forget not, therefore, devout soul, frequently to sigh after Heaven, saying to your God that your soul longeth and fainteth to see and to love Him face to face. Desire to be liberated from your exile, from this world of sin, and the danger of forfeiting Divine grace, that you may arrive in that land of love where you may love God with all your powers. Say to Him frequently: "So long, O Lord, as I remain upon the earth, I am ever in danger of forsaking Thee and of losing Thy love: When shall I quit this life, in which I so frequently offend Thee? When shall I love Thee with all my soul, and be united with Thee, without the fear of being ever again separated from Thee?" St. Teresa was always sighing in this manner after Heaven; and hence, when she heard the clock strike, she rejoiced at the thought that another hour of life, and of the danger of losing God, was past and gone. She had such a strong desire to die, that she might see God, that she was dying with the desire to die, as she expressed it in the beginning of one of her hymns.
Twenty-sixth. In a word, if you desire to delight the loving heart of your God, be careful, as much as possible, constantly to speak to Him, and with the greatest confidence that He will not disdain to answer you and converse with you. He will not indeed make His voice audible to your corporeal sense of hearing, but very intelligible to your heart, when you withdraw yourself from the conversation of creatures to entertain yourself only with Him: "I will lead her into solitude, and I will speak to her heart." (Osee 2:14). He will speak to you by those inspirations, those internal lights, those manifestations of His bounty, those sweet impressions in the heart, those marks of pardon, those feelings of peace, those hopes of Heaven, those interior rejoicings, that sweetness of His grace, those loving embraces in a word, by those expressions of love which are well understood by those who love, and who seek only Him.
Twenty-seventh. Finally, in order briefly to remind you here of what has been said above, I shall recommend to you a devout practice, by which you may render all your daily actions pleasing to God. When you awake in the morning, let your first thought be to raise up your mind to God, to offer to His honor whatever you may have to do or suffer during the day, and to beseech Him to assist you with His holy grace. Then perform your other morning devotions, making acts of love and of gratitude, and praying, and resolving to spend the day as if it were to be the last of your life.
Father Sanguire recommends making a covenant with God, that, as often as you make a certain sign, such as placing your hand upon your heart, or raising your eyes toward Heaven or to the crucifix and the like, you will thereby intend to make an act of love, of desire to see Him loved by all, of oblation of yourself to Him and the like. When, then, you have made the above-mentioned acts, having placed your soul in the side of Jesus, and under the mantle of Mary, and having besought the Eternal Father, for the love of Jesus and of Mary, to protect you through the day, proceed immediately, before you do anything else, to make your meditation, which should continue for at least half an hour; and let it be your delight principally to dwell on the sorrows, outrages, and sufferings which Jesus Christ endured in His Passion. This, of all subjects, is the most dear to devout souls, and excites them most to the love of God.
Three devotions, above all others, should be your constant practice, if you would improve in a spiritual life: devotion to the Passion of Jesus Christ, to the Blessed Sacrament, and to the ever blessed Virgin. In your meditation make frequent acts of contrition, of the love of God, and of oblation of your whole self to Him. The venerable Father Charles Caraffa said that a fervent act of the love of God, made in the morning meditation, was sufficient to maintain the soul in fervor throughout the whole day.
Twenty-eighth. Be exact in your other devout practices of going to Confession and Communion, reciting office, etc. When you are about to be employed in external duties, in study, of labor, or any other occupation belonging to your state, at the beginning of every action offer it up to God, beseeching Him to assist you to perform it well, and afterwards frequently retire into the cell of your own heart and unite yourself to God, as St. Catherine of Siena was accustomed to do. In a word, whatever you do, do it with God and for God. When you leave your room, or go out of the house, and when you return, say a "Hail Mary" to recommend yourself to the Blessed Virgin.
When you go to your meals offer to God whatever may be offensive or grateful to your appetite in your eating or drinking; and, after your meals, return Him thanks, saying: "How good indeed art Thou, O Lord, to one who has so much offended Thee!" During the day, give some time to spiritual reading, make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, and to the most holy Mary; in the evening, recite the Rosary, and make an examination of your conscience, with acts of faith, hope, love, contrition, resolution of amendment, and of receiving during your life, as well as at your death, the Holy Sacraments, with an intention of gaining all the indulgences attached to them. When you go to bed, think that you have deserved to lie in the fire of Hell, and compose yourself to rest in the embraces of the crucifix, saying: "In peace, in the selfsame, I will sleep and I will rest. "
Twenty-ninth. And here I would incidentally remind you, in a few words, of the many indulgences which are granted for the reciting of certain prayers, or the observance of other devout practices, and of which, in the morning, you should make an intention of gaining as many as you are able. To those who recite the acts of faith, hope, and charity, an indulgence of seven years is granted for each day, and for every month a plenary indulgence, which may also be applied to the souls in Purgatory, and to themselves at the hour of death. Thus, also, direct your attention to the gaining of the indulgences granted for the reciting of the Rosary, with blest rosaries, the Angelus three times a day, the Litany of the Blessed Virgin, the Salve Regina, the "Hail Mary," and the "Glory be to the Father," for saying: "Blessed be the holy and immaculate and most pure Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary"; as also for saying: "Praise be to the most Blessed Sacrament now and forever"; for the reciting of the prayer "Soul of Christ"; for the bowing of the head at the "Glory be to the Father" and the sacred names of Jesus and Mary; for hearing Mass; for making half an hour's meditation, for which, besides the partial indulgence, there is also a plenary indulgence when con- tinued for a month, with a Confession and Communion during that time; for genuflecting before the Blessed Sacrament, and for kissing the cross. Always have an intention of gaining whatever indulgences are attached to the pious practices which you usually observe.
Thirtieth. In order that you may be able to keep yourself recollected, and in union with God, as far as this life will permit, endeavor, by means of all things which you see or hear, to raise up your mind to God, and to direct your views to eternity. For example, when you see a bubble glide along, think that thus also your life is running on, and that you are approaching to your grave. When you see a lamp going out for want of oil, think that, one day, your life will end in like manner. When you behold tombs, or the bodies of the dead, think that you must become what they are. When you see the great ones of this world rejoicing in honors and riches, pity their folly, and say: "For me my God is my all; some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will call upon the name of the Lord our God." (Ps. 19:8). They may glory in such vain things, but let me glory only in the grace of God, and in His holy love. When you behold pompous funerals, or the magnificent monuments of the great, say: "If their souls be lost, what will all these pomps avail them?" When you look upon the tranquil or stormy sea, consider the difference which there is between a soul in grace and one in the state of mortal sin.
When you see a withered tree, consider a soul devoid of God, which is fit for nothing but to be cast into the fire. If you should ever see a criminal accused of some great crime trembling with shame and fear before his judge, father, or prelate, consider what will be the terror of the sinner before Christ as his Judge. When it thunders, and you are in fear, think of the dread which the damned will forever experience in continually hearing in affliction: "Is there, then, nothing that can prevent my death?" Consider what will be the despair of a soul when it shall be condemned to Hell, and shall exclaim: "Is there, then, nothing that can prevent my eternal ruin?"
Thirty-first. When you see the country, the seacoast, flowers, or fruits, which delight you with their scent or appearance, say: See how many beautiful things God has created for me in this world, in order that I may love Him; and what delights has He not prepared for me in Heaven! St. Teresa said that when she beheld beautiful hills or coasts, they reproached her for her ingratitude to God; and the Abbé de Rancé said that these beautiful works of creation reminded him, and obliged him to love God. St. Augustine said the same, exclaiming: "Heaven and earth, and all things in them, bid me love Thee." It is related of a holy man, that seeing flowers and herbs as he passed through the fields, he was accustomed to strike them with his staff, saying: Be silent: Do not any more reproach me with ingratitude to God; I have heard you, be silent no more. St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, when she held in her hand a fruit or a flower, felt herself excited by it to divine love, saying within herself: Behold, my God has thought from all eternity of creating this fruit, this flower, as a mark of His love toward me.
Thirty-second. When you see rivers or brooks, think that as their waters run toward the sea, and never stand still, so you ought ever to tend toward God, who is your only good. When you are conveyed anywhere by horses, say to yourself: See how these innocent animals fatigue themselves to serve me; and what exertion do I make to serve and to please my God? When you see a dog, for the sake of a miserable bit of bread, so faithful to his master, think how much more faithful you ought to be to God, who has created you, who preserves you, who provides for you, and who loads you with so many benefits. When you hear birds singing, say: My soul, hear how these little creatures praise God their Maker; and what dost thou do? And then praise Him yourself in acts of divine love.
On the contrary, when you hear the cock crow, recollect that you also, like Peter, have denied your God, and renew your sorrow and tears. Thus, also, when you see any house or place in which you have sinned, turn to God and say: "The sins of my youth and my ignorances do not remember, O Lord." (Ps. 24:7).
Thirty-third. When you see valleys, consider that as the waters descend into them from the mountains, and fertilize them, so graces from Heaven leave the proud, and descend into the humble and enrich them. When you see a church beautifully adorned, consider the beauty of a soul in grace, which is truly the Temple of God. When you look upon the sea, consider the greatness and immensity of God. When you see fire or candles lighted on the altar, say: For how many years ought I to have been burning in Hell? But since Thou, O Lord, hast not yet consigned me to that place of woe, grant that my heart may now burn with Thy holy love, even as this fuel or these candles. When you behold the heavens and the stars, say with St. Andrew of Avelino: My feet will one day tread upon those stars.
Thirty-fourth. In order frequently to remind yourself of the mysteries of our Saviour's love for us, when you see hay, a manger, or caves, think of your infant Jesus in the stable of Bethlehem. When you see a saw, or a plane, or a hatchet, remember how Jesus worked as an ordinary youth in the cottage of Nazareth. If you see cords, thorns, nails, or beams of wood, think on the sorrows and death of our Blessed Redeemer. St. Francis of Assisi, when he saw a lamb, was accustomed to shed tears, saying: My dear Lord was led as a lamb to the slaughter to die for me. When you see an altar, chalice, or bread, call to mind the great love which Jesus has shown us in bestowing upon us the most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist.
Thirty-fifth. Frequently offer yourself to God in the course of the day, as St. Teresa did, saying: Behold me, O Lord; do with me what Thou wilt; make known to me what I must do to please Thee; I desire to do all that Thou requirest of me. Make repeated acts of divine love. The same saint said that acts of love are the fuel which feed and maintain holy love in the soul. When you see any of the brute creation that know not how to love God, and are incapable of loving Him, excite yourself to make more acts of love, seeing that you are capable of loving Him. When you fall into any defect, immediately humble yourself, and with a most fervent act of love endeavor to rise again. When any untoward circumstance happens, immediately offer up the mortification which it occasions you to God, be conformed to His holy will, and accustom yourself on all such occasions to repeat: Thus does God will, thus also do I will. Acts of resignation are acts of love most dear and grateful to the heart of God.
Thirty-sixth. When you are about to resolve upon any undertaking, or to give important advice, recommend yourself to God before you resolve or answer. Repeat as often as you can in the day: Incline unto my aid, O God! O Lord, make haste to help me! as St. Rose of Lima was accustomed to do. And for this end turn yourself frequently to the crucifix, or image of the Blessed Virgin, and fail not frequently to invoke the names of Jesus and Mary, especially in time of temptation. God, being Infinite Bounty, has the greatest desire to communicate His graces to us. The venerable Father Alphonsus Alvarez, on one occasion, saw our Blessed Saviour with His hands loaded with graces, going about seeking to whom to dispense them; but He will have us ask Him for them: ark and you shall receive, otherwise He will withdraw His hands; on the contrary, He will voluntarily open them to those who invoke Him. And who, says Ecclesiasticus, has ever had recourse to God, and God has despised him and refused to hear him? "Who hath called upon him, and he despised him?" (Ecclus. 2:12). And David declares that God showeth not only mercy, but great mercy to those who invoke Him: "For thou, O Lord, art sweet and mild, and plenteous in mercy to all that call upon thee." (Ps. 85:5).
Thirty-seventh. Oh, how good and liberal is the Lord to them that lovingly seek Him! "The Lord is good ...to the soul that seeketh him." (Lam. 3:25). He is to be found even by those who do not seek Him. "I was found by them that did not seek me." (Rom. 10:20). How much more willingly will He be found by those who do seek Him, in order to love and serve Him?
In fine, St. Teresa says that the souls of the just in this life have to conform themselves by love to what the blessed do in Heaven. As the saints in Heaven treat only with God, and have no other thought or delight but His glory and love, so must you have no other thought or employment. In this world let God be your only happiness, the only object of your affections, the only end of your actions and wishes, until you arrive in the eternal Kingdom, where your love will be consummated and made perfect, and your desires completely fulfilled and satisfied.