Filtering by Tag: Spiritual Life
“The tongue of the scandalmonger is like the worm which gnaws at the good fruit, that is, the best actions that people do, and tries to turn them all to bad account. The tongue of the scandalmonger is a grub which taints the most beautiful of the flowers and upon them leaves behind it the disgusting trace of its own slime.”
This quote is from St. John Marie Vianney when he was speaking about those who spread rumors and gossip about their neighbor. Such gossip can be defined by two words, calumny and detraction. The sins of calumny and detraction are very harmful to the soul, and are so easily committed in our modern world. But what are the exact definitions of calumny and detraction?
In the Catholic Encyclopedia, calumny is defined as: “Any form of ruse or fraud employed to deceive another, particularly in judicial proceedings. In its more commonly accepted signification it means the unjust damaging of the good name of another by imputing to him a crime or fault of which he is not guilty.”
And detraction is defined as, “The unjust damaging of another's good name by the revelation of some fault or crime of which that other is really guilty or at any rate is seriously believed to be guilty by the defamer.”
In other words, calumny is when you tell others lies about your neighbor's reputation, and detraction is when you use something the person is guilty of to harm their reputation.
St. John Marie Vianney compares such sins to when worms gnaw at fruit. The reason for this is because when we gossip, we are harming the part of our neighbor that can be very difficult to heal – their name. Every person has a right to their reputation and good name, and as Catholics we should always be aware of what we say of others and how we treat them. Each soul we come across is a reflection of God, and an opportunity to either offer up an act of love to Him or betray Him. Let us then focus on what we can do to fight these vices and grow in holiness.
Charity as a Beautiful Virtue
Though charity can be difficult at times, especially if our neighbor is testing our patience, it is a beautiful virtue that will help us grow in sanctity. St. Albert the Great says: "It is by the path of love, which is charity, that God draws near to man, and man to God. But where charity is not found, God cannot dwell. If, then, we possess charity, we possess God, for ‘God is Charity’.” (1 John 4:8)
Because God is love, and created us all out of infinite love, He desires us to also love one another and help each other reach eternal happiness in Heaven. Our neighbors do have their faults, but so do we. And every time we are charitable to them, and offer up the times when it is difficult, God will take our acts of love and use them to draw us closer to His Sacred Heart as well as help us grow in virtue.
Charity towards our neighbor helps us with patience, humility, and many other virtue. In times of difficulty let us pray for the grace of charity and humility, so that no matter who we come into contact with we will be able to see a beautiful creation of God and treat them as God’s wills us to treat them.
When we are trying to do our best to grow in charity, it is important to be watchful in what we say, how we act, and the way we associate with others. It is one thing to be careful with speaking negatively against someone, but another thing when those around us are speaking uncharitably. St. Francis de Sales says: “When you hear ill of anyone, refute the accusation if you can in justice do so; if not, apologize for the accused on account of his intentions … and thus gently check the conversation, and if you can, mention something else favorable to the accused.”
St. Francis de Sales has a great perspective on when we hear someone being spoken of poorly. Mentioning a kind remark, or even managing to change the conversation is extremely helpful, and will always help in protecting someone’s name. If we love our neighbor as ourselves, we should burn with the desire to protect their reputation just as we would with our own. It may not be easy at times, especially if we do not get along with someone, but the more difficult the act is, the greater God will help us.
When It Happens to Us
Even if we try our best to be kind and generous, a time may come when someone will desire to tarnish our reputation. They may bring up the past or make up a false story entirely, but let this not dishearten us. We should pray that God gives us a perfect balance of being able to defend our reputation, as well as being humble if we have been given this cross.
Our Lord Himself, who was perfect in every way was spat upon and crucified! If others are putting us down and we feel the weight of our crosses on our shoulders, Jesus will be waiting to strengthen and support us in our pursuit for sanctity. When God gives us a particular cross to carry, He never makes us carry our crosses alone. In fact if we did not have God helping us, we would not be able to walk even the shortest distance.
St. Ignatius of Loyola once said: “If God gives you an abundant harvest of trials, it is a sign of great holiness which He desires you to attain. Do you want to become a great saint? Ask God to send you many sufferings. The flame of Divine Love never rises higher than when fed with the wood of the Cross, which the infinite charity of the Savior used to finish His sacrifice. All the pleasures of the world are nothing compared with the sweetness found in the gall and vinegar offered to Jesus Christ. That is, hard and painful things endured for Jesus Christ and with Jesus Christ.”
Every moment of suffering in our lives is an opportunity for holiness, merit, and offering of love to the Most High. Our time on earth is short, and if we are going through hard times it is simply a sign that God wants us to be great saints.
So when people attack our name and reputation, let us defend ourselves tactfully, offer up all that we can, as well as always keep in mind to surround ourselves with people who will lift us up rather than pull us down. If we place ourselves in the hands of those who do not care for us and our well-being, it will be much more difficult to live a life of peace in the presence of God. On the contrary, time well spent in Catholic company, with those who are walking the narrow path with us, will be much more beneficial to our well-being and spiritual lives.
Let us always pray for the grace of humility and discernment when situations are difficult. God will give us all the inspiration we need if we pray for the grace and depend on His infinite and eternal love.
Recently I heard a talk from Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen about the devil, and all the ways he hurts and deceives us. We can get so caught up in life and the distractions around us, that the presence of the devil begins to fall behind shadows.
Archbishop Sheen begins his talk by first explaining how the devil tries to convince us that he does not exist:
“Very few people believe in the devil these days, which suits the devil very well. He is always helping to circulate the news of his own death. The essence of God is existence, and He defines Himself as: 'I am Who am.' The essence of the devil is the lie, and he defines himself as: 'I am who am not.' Satan has very little trouble with those who do not believe in him; they are already on his side.”
He will first try to convince us that he does not exist. He first whispers in the ears of modern thinkers: "The spiritual cannot possibly exist! Never mind some evil being who is plotting your destruction. Think logically, believe what you see alone and all shall be well." He convinces them that the only beliefs they should have are in things visible, and to eliminate the spiritual. This may be fine for a time to the modern mind, but the human soul cannot live off of material things forever. The reason for this is because the soul and mind are not material and need more sustenance than what the material world offers. Once these people realize there is more to live than materialism, the devil will return and whisper, "Well if I do exist, I'm not that bad at all! If there is a guy with horns and a pitch fork tail, it's a pretty funny concept that should not be taken seriously."
Fulton Sheen goes on to give three characteristics of the demonic, to help us understand what to look for: "Our Blessed Lord one time went into the land of the Gerasens… and He found in this land a young man possessed of the devil. (Luke 8: 26-40). The Gospel mentions three characteristics of this young man. First, he was nude. Secondly, he was violent and aggressive. They could not even keep him in chains. And thirdly, his mind was split, schizophrenic. Our Lord said to him, 'What is your name?' He said, ‘My name is Legion.’” Archbishop Sheen explained that impurity, violence, and a destruction of inner peace are all characteristics of the devil.
We can see all of these traits in our modern world today. Firstly, we have impurity all around us these days – whether it be in advertisements, in the way people dress, in popular music, etc. Then, there is the trait of violence, which can also be found all around us, especially in entertainment for the young. Finally, we have the absence of peace. Without peace, we cannot function. It helps keeps us motivated and focused, it keeps our eyes raised to Heaven. If the devil can take away our peace, fill our minds with violent and upsetting thoughts, as well as corrupt our flesh with sins of lust, it will be easier to drag us down to hell.
These things may appeal to our fallen human nature at the beginning, but our soul in grace turns away from the things of the devil. Pray always for the grace of modesty, humility, and peace of soul. The devil may have the power to tempt us, but he will never have enough power to drag us to hell without our consent. A soul goes to hell, always because a decision has been made, not because they were tricked or broke innocently under pressure. God allows temptation from the devil mainly to strengthen and test our souls. After all, if we were never put to the test and have opportunities to prove our love for God, the love we have for Him would grow dull and weak. We must choose to use temptations for His greater glory and the salvation of our souls.
If we begin fighting against the devil and become aware of his temptations, he will try especially at this time to prove he’s a nice guy. ‘It’s in your nature, you know you want to commit this sin,’ he whispers to us, reminding us of the sins we struggle with the most. He pretends that he’s your friend, that he wants you to obtain all that you desire on this earth.
If we do happen to commit a certain sin, he immediately turns on us and tries to convince us there is no hope. “How could you sin again, after God has forgiven you so many times? Surely there is no way He can forgive you again.” The devil may seem to be your friend while he tempts you, but will show his true colors – of his wish for you to burn in hell – after you’ve fallen from the state of grace. Our Lord, on the other hand, has the opposite approach. When we are being tempted, He encourages us with His grace, to stay faithful in order to gain strength and prove our love and fidelity to Him. After we fall, He calls us back to His side, opening His arms in mercy to us. If we have true contrition, He assures us that His mercy can cure all injury and weakness.
Therefore, we must be very aware of the reality in which we live. We do not just live in a material world, but rather live on a spiritual battlefield, fighting for eternal life. This may be easy to forget at times, especially when we are young, but if we are confident in God and His Providence, He will protect us even when we forget. Follow the Commandments, receive the Sacraments, fulfill your daily duty, and all shall be well. Winning this spiritual battle does not necessarily mean we have to be praying at all times, or being constantly aware of the devil’s presence, but simply following our beloved Shepherd on the narrow path.
Let us then pray for the grace to be aware of the spiritual, and have that balance between worldly duties in this world, and spiritual duties. The devil may be smarter than us, and hate us to our very core, but we have God, Our Lady, and all the Angels and Saints on our side to defend us. What is satan, compared to the infinite power and goodness of God? The devil’s power is but a drop of water compared to the oceans of God’s love. We need not fear, or watch in anxiety, but fight bravely with the sword of St. Michael, all throughout our lives in order to defeat the enemy. We were put on this earth to fight for Christ in peace and joy, because it is fighting and proving our love for the Heavenly Father that will make us truly happy.
If we find ourselves being attacked from all angles when we defend modesty and purity with our actions and principles, there is a reason for this. Our modern world has been so plagued with immodesty that any remnant of tradition and good morals needs to be snuffed out according to the modern man. Especially for the young, these new ideas of “body positivity” and “self-expression” are meant to destroy their appreciation of modesty and grow their desire to dress improperly. How then should we defend our rights and duty to dress modestly when these arguments come up?
We should first be clearly confident in our mind that modesty is the right thing to do. If we are doubting, for example, wearing skirts all the time, and deep down have a desire to wear skinny jeans, how are we ever going to properly defend the virtue of modesty? Modesty is a beautiful virtue where we set guidelines concerning proper dress, action, and speech, in order to be respectful to God, ourselves, and our neighbour. Once this beauty is established in our minds, it will be much easier to defend when we are being questioned about our choices. Below are a few common arguments that can be easily worked out if we have the confidence and knowledge we need.
“It’s my choice, and if people don’t like it they don’t have to look.”
This argument has become stronger and stronger as feminist ideas poison our world more every day. They argue that it is their choice to dress however they want, and if men have a problem with it, they simply need to stop looking and objectifying women. What feminists don’t realize is that they are the ones who are objectifying themselves. Immodesty takes away the beauty and sacredness of the human body, and makes it into an object for lust. If this is the “empowering” choice they want to make, how are they doing a service to women?
If we ever come across this argument, we should use the beauty of modesty as a counter. When we dress modestly it is far more empowering because we are not only showing a respect towards ourselves, but to those around us. We are choosing not to show our bodies, because as humans with eternal souls, we are so much more than that!
Also, the idea that people can look away is a very uncharitable argument. Do we also ask people to look away when we are committing other sins, like theft or murder? We should take into consideration the effect we have on others, especially if we are a young girl around men. They are not objectifying us if they feel tempted towards us, it is simply a natural trait that humans follow. And because it is natural and can be a temptation, we should be considerate of this and show our beauty through modesty rather than by showing too much. Modesty does not mean not beautiful, it simply means dressing properly and appropriately in order bring out natural beauty in the best of ways. Those who are against such principles should be distant from us in order for us not to be influenced in a poor way.
St. Francis de Sales once said: “Frequent not the company of immodest persons, especially if they be also impudent, as is generally the case; . . . these corrupted souls and infected hearts scarcely speak to any, either of the same or a different sex, without causing them to fall in some degree from purity; they have poison in their eyes and in their breath, like basilisks. On the contrary, keep company with the chaste and virtuous; often meditate upon and read holy things; for the word of God is chaste, and makes those also chaste that delight in it.” Let us then not be deceived by arguments that try to blanket the things that harm us as liberty, for it will only lead us to unhappiness and emptiness in our heart.
“I need to follow fashion trends, and modesty takes away from my style.”
If we think that modesty will take away from our style, we need to rethink what modesty is. Modesty is not defined by overly long skirts and baggy sweaters that hide our figure completely. It is not the absence of color or expression, but really the true definition of beauty and style.
Coleen Hammond, in her book Dressing with Dignity, speaks of the effect of modesty and how it brings out the best in ourselves and others:
“In the past, I have found that when I am dressed in a neat, modest and feminine manner, men will hold doors for me, help me find things in the store, and offer to carry the items to the car for me. However, if I run to the store dressed in my ‘work clothes’, I am treated as ‘just another one of the guys’. No one holds the door for me. No one helps me find what I need. No one offers to carry the wood to the car for me. So, before going to get the saw blade, I put on a nicer dress, a quick coat of mascara, and fixed my hair. Guess what? The guy at the hardware store helped me find the saw blade. Not that I was fishing for his help or was trying to manipulate him, but more that it feels good to be able to help bring out the best in someone else. Isn’t it nice to see men who still have a sense of chivalry and treat women with respect.”
The idea that modesty takes away from your fashion or style is then simply ridiculous. Is it easier to be fashionable with short shorts rather than a skirt? Let us then defend our ability to be creative and fashionable when people argue that we can have no sense of style with modesty. Through modesty we return the value of beauty to ourselves, and this form of beauty can easily be built around our fashion style and preferences of color, material of fabric, etc. Nothing is stopping us from being fashionable; all we must do is set guidelines for ourselves and all will fall into place.
“I will wear a skirt for church, but the rest of the time does not matter.”
Many traditional Catholics can fall into this error of modesty. They believe that they should be modest in church and around their fellow Traditional Catholics, but as soon as they go back into the real world they no longer need to dress the same way. If we begin thinking this way, perseverance in the Faith will be extremely hard, if not impossible. Because as we grow older and begin making decisions on our own, modesty will begin to become farther and farther away, until one day it disappears completely.
As Catholics we need to decide what side we are on: the side of modesty, or the side of immodesty. There is no middle ground where God says it is ok to dress in revealing clothes in this circumstance, but not in that one. When we begin thinking this way, other aspects of our Faith fall into the danger of being compromised as well. Perhaps impurity will be okay sometimes, or drunkenness occasionally is permissible – we will begin finding ourselves in a variety of pitfalls that will compromise our Faith. As Catholics we must be firm in our beliefs in principles, or there is no point at all.
These few arguments are just the beginning to what we will hear by worldly people when we decide to be modest. Yet we should not be afraid of such questions, but see them as opportunities to stand up for the Faith and deepen our confidence in our principles and standards. Asking questions is part of life, and should not be something we run away from. If we ask ourselves these tough questions, it will deepen our confidence and prepare us for when others wonder about our way of life. If we pray for this confidence, modesty will turn into a life-changing virtue, rather than a burden.
With St. Padre Pio, let us pray for this confidence in God’s holy ways:
“O Lord, we ask for a boundless confidence and trust in Thy Divine Mercy, and the courage to accept the crosses and sufferings which bring immense goodness to our souls and that of Thy Church. Help us to love Thee with a pure and contrite heart, and to humble ourselves beneath Thy Cross, as we climb the mountain of holiness, carrying our crosses that lead to heavenly glory. May we receive Thee with great faith and love in Holy Communion, and allow Thee to act in us as Thou desirest for Thy greater glory. O Jesus, most adorable Heart and eternal fountain of Divine Love, may our prayer find favor before the Divine Majesty of Thy heavenly Father. Amen.”
We have all heard the saying, “Patience is a virtue.” It is either said in a moment of spiritual discussion or at the worst time when we feel impatience building in our souls. Patience can be extremely hard to master, since it involves a mix of many of the other virtues. Patience involves humility, conformity to God’s will, charity if involving others, and many other virtues depending on the circumstance. What we must realize is that to master patience we must trust completely in God and the strength He can give us, as well as have an understanding with ourselves. We may fall, or become impatient unnecessarily, but the best way to build up a virtue is to be humble and always learn from our mistakes. Our Lord will be there for us no matter what, and is eagerly waiting for us to start our journey to virtue.
Patience is especially difficult now in our modern world because we are so used to being satisfied right away with our smart phones, Internet, and "likes" on social media. But patience always comes with time, and if we trust in God and have confidence in His grace, we will be able to grow in every virtue we need to become saints.
Frequent prayer as well as taking time to visit Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament will especially help. St. John Bosco once said: “Do you want our Lord to give you many graces? Visit Him often. Do you want Him to give you few graces? Visit Him seldom. Visits to the Blessed Sacrament are powerful and indispensable means of overcoming the attacks of the devil. Make frequent visits to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and the devil will be powerless against you.” If we put our trust in God, He will return the favor.
The first point to work on when trying to master patience is humility. Just like pride is the source of all vice, humility is at the heart of every virtue. St. Thomas of Villanova speaks of this: “Humility is the mother of many virtues because from it obedience, fear, reverence, patience, modesty, meekness and peace are born. He who is humble easily obeys everyone, fears to offend anyone, is at peace with everyone, is kind with all.”
Firstly, we need to turn to God with humility if we are ever going to be patient. In the moment, a situation that can stir up impatience can be extremely difficult to deal with, but if we turn our eyes to God, we are brought out of the world and into His heavenly arms. The restrictions of our life on earth will then seem insignificant to the eternal love our eyes are now fixed upon. Such situations will be easier to offer up, and with time such acts of love will bring us great joy. Saying this, it makes more sense when we hear the saying from St. Francis de Sales: “The highest point of humility consists in not merely acknowledging one's abjection, but in taking pleasure therein, not from any want of breadth or courage, but to give the more glory to God's Divine Majesty, and to esteem one's neighbour more highly than one's self.”
When we hear the saints talking about things like abjection, it can often be discouraging to us. But growth in humility will show that through looking down on ourselves, we are really looking down on our fallen human nature and the faults that come along with it. Humility frees us from the faults we obtained through Adam and Eve, and lifts us up to Divine perfection.
The second part of this patient humility is having a perfect understanding of our faults and failings. A remembrance of our faults should neither discourage nor worry us, but be an opportunity to offer up everything we have gone through to Our Lord, as a plea for help and prayer for His assistance. In moments where we have been impatient, we should simply be aware of what we should improve on, and move on. Being impatient with ourselves to be patient will not help in the least! By this humility, we will grow in patience with ourselves constantly, even when we are struggling.
Another point to take into consideration is that the moments we are struggling to be patient will be part of the past before we know it. Keeping Heaven forever before our eyes will help with this, as well as the hope that God will not give us any suffering that is too great for us.
St. Ignatius says: “If God gives you an abundant harvest of trials, it is a sign of great holiness which He desires you to attain. Do you want to become a great saint? Ask God to send you many sufferings. The flame of Divine Love never rises higher than when fed with the wood of the Cross, which the infinite charity of the Savior used to finish His sacrifice. All the pleasures of the world are nothing compared with the sweetness found in the gall and vinegar offered to Jesus Christ. That is, hard and painful things endured for Jesus Christ and with Jesus Christ.”
When we die and hopefully go to Heaven, all the merit we have gained while on earth will determine on which level in Heaven we will be (of course, all those in Heaven enjoy the Beatific Vision, but those who were especially close to God will receive even greater rewards). Are we not then willing to go through any kind of suffering here on earth in order to store up greater treasures in Heaven? We only have a limited time on earth, so if we feel impatient or are struggling with a situation, we must remember it is a perfect opportunity to sanctify ourselves and merit infinite and eternal rewards in Heaven.
Finally, in times of impatience we should find ways, especially if it involves impatience with our neighbor, to improve the situation. For example, if someone annoys us on a regular basis, instead of feeling uncharitable and impatient towards them, we should take the time to see Our Blessed Lord in their eyes and care for Him through them. Every person who crosses our path in our lifetime is an opportunity to comfort Our Lord in His Passion, and offer up acts of love for His glory and honor.
St. John of Avila knew of such charity and spoke of the merit we will receive if we live patiently for Christ: “Dear brothers and sisters, I pray God may open your eyes and let you see what hidden treasures He bestows on us in the trials from which the world thinks only to flee. Shame turns into honor when we seek God's glory. Present affliction becomes the source of heavenly glory. To those who suffer wounds in fighting His battles God opens His arms in loving, tender friendship. That is why He (Christ) tells us that if we want to join Him, we shall travel the way He took. It is surely not right that the Son of God should go His way on the path of shame while the sons of men walk the way of worldly honor: ‘The disciple is not above his teacher, nor the servant greater than his master’.”
If we knew the consolations and glory we will receive in Heaven for taking care of our neighbor in the Name of Christ, nothing would be too much for us. One reason why things can be so difficult on earth, is impatient longing for Heaven.
We can also subconsciously place all our hopes and dreams in the hands of the world. No wonder we hate to suffer if we think this is all we have! And yet this is only the beginning. If we choose to see Our Lord in the eyes of those around us, and use every opportunity as a stepping stone to our real home, acts of patience will be consoling rather than difficult.
“Do not grieve over the temptations you suffer. When the Lord intends to bestow a particular virtue on us, He often permits us first to be tempted by the opposite vice. Therefore, look upon every temptation as an invitation to grow in a particular virtue and a promise by God that you will be successful, if only you stand fast,” St. Philip Neri tells us.
Temptations can be extremely difficult at times and disheartening, especially if we are trying to better ourselves and become holier. But there is no need to ever feel anxious about temptations, we simply need to remember their purpose and how to treat them. God gives us temptations in order to test us and help strengthen and perfect our souls in virtue and goodness. We should then pray for the grace to see the greater good that comes from temptations, trust always in the love and power of God, learn to run away from temptations in the moment, and lean on the power of the Angels and Saints to assist us.
God’s Loving Plan
God never intended us to have to go through temptation; yet since Adam and Eve chose to eat the apple in the Garden of Eden, we have to build ourselves back up in order to reach perfection. God knows very well of our weaknesses, and is very careful to only allow temptations that we can handle and fight. If it seems at times that the temptations we are experiencing are unbearable and undefeatable, it is usually because we have put ourselves in the occasion of sin.
Occasion of sin is when we put ourselves in a dangerous position where sin is usually the outcome. If we continue to place ourselves in these situations and ask God why He is not giving us the strength to fight, it is because we have already gone halfway ourselves. We should then be careful not to place ourselves in the occasion of sin, and will soon realize the loving care that God gives to us when we choose Him over sin. Our God waits in anticipation for us to enter a church to visit Him, after He has waited days, weeks, or even years to see us. Would He not also listen to our pleas when we cry out for help?
Temptation is precisely the opportunity for us to turn our eyes to God and grow our love for Him. In order to prove this, let us imagine our lives without any temptations at all. We live our lives and go through our days without once being tested by a temptation. We may think of God from time to time, but this would be very easy for us. Our souls would never have the opportunity to grow because we proved our love to God; rather, we would simply be stuck in a state of indifference. Therefore, when we are being tempted, let us not dwell on our weaknesses or become saddened that God would allow such a thing, but look to God immediately and offer a prayer of love to let Him know we are still thinking of Him.
Temptations Consuming Us
Oftentimes, especially if we are scrupulous, temptations can turn into an obsession we are terrified about. At every turn we worry there is going to be a temptation, and when the temptation comes we dwell on it in fear and feel we have no way to get over it. What we do not realize is that the devil is tempting us in a very different manner than we think.
For example, we have an improper image in our heads. We have worried all day that an image would pop into our heads, and here it is. Now that it is here, we become paralyzed and panicked. You may think the devil wants you to fall into impurity, when really he wants you to become anxious and not turn to God. Anxiety is such a peril for the soul, because it robs us of all hope and trust in Christ. In these moments, do not acknowledge the temptation or the strength you may or may not have to fight it. Simply refuse and move on. If a temptation is simplified in the moment and is refused in calmness, temptations will no longer control our lives.
There is a fantastic quote from St. Francis de Sales about this: “The beginning of all temptation lies in a wavering mind and little trust in God, for as a rudderless ship is driven hither and yon by waves, so a careless and irresolute man is tempted in many ways. Fire tempers iron and temptation steels the just. Often we do not know what we can stand, but temptation shows us what we are. Above all, we must be especially alert against the beginnings of temptation, for the enemy is more easily conquered if he is refused admittance to the mind and is met beyond the threshold when he knocks.”
Temptations are best fought in simplicity and at a fast pace. Let us always trust in God and turn to Him immediately when we feel in danger. This way we will grow in perfection and gain great merit for fighting bravely for Christ.
The Saints and Angels Wait
St. Alphonsus tells us: “Our prayers are so dear to God, that He has appointed the Angels to present them to Him as soon as they come forth from our mouths. 'The Angels,' says St. Hilary, 'preside over the prayers of the faithful, and offer them daily to God.' This is that smoke of the incense, which are the prayers of Saints, which St. John saw ascending to God from the hands of the Angels (Apoc. 8:3); and which he saw in another place represented by golden phials full of sweet odors, very acceptable to God.”
The Saints and Angels are our dearest friends and know very well of the trials of temptations. The more we trust the Angels and Saints, the more they will give to us. Does a close friend give us all of their love when we are constantly doubting them and their love for us? If we find this confidence difficult, prayer for the grace of confidence can mend this. The saints struggled greatly with temptations, even Our Blessed Lord allowed the devil to tempt Him. And why did He do this? To set an example for us and merit all the strength we will ever need to defeat temptations. The devil may be very powerful, but what is his power to legions of angels and myriads of saints?
He is completely powerless over us if we place our trust in the saints and angels, and ask for their protection.
Let us then always trust in God and not be paralyzed by anxiety because of temptations, and especially always remember Our Blessed Mother. St. Bernard of Clairvaux once said when speaking of difficulties: “In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties, think of Mary, call upon Mary. Let not Her name depart from your lips, never suffer it to leave your heart. And that you may obtain the assistance of Her prayer, neglect not to walk in Her footsteps. With Her for guide, you shall never go astray; while invoking Her, you shall never lose heart; so long as She is in your mind, you are safe from deception; while She holds your hand, you cannot fall; under Her protection you have nothing to fear; if She walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if She shows you favor, you shall reach the goal."
Mary crushes the head of the devil, and protects us more lovingly than any mother on earth. She knows too well of our struggles and sufferings, and will be there at all times to help us.
Prayer in Times of Temptation
Behold me, O my God, at Thy feet! I do not deserve mercy, but O my Redeemer, the Blood which Thou didst shed for me encourages me and obliges me to hope for it. How often I have offended Thee, repented, and yet have I again fallen into the same sin. O my God, I wish to amend, and in order to be faithful to Thee, I will place all my confidence in Thee. I will, whenever I am tempted, instantly have recourse to Thee. Until now, I have trusted in my own promises and resolutions and have neglected to recommend myself to Thee in my temptations. This has been the cause of my repeated failures. From this day forward, be Thou, O Lord, my Strength, and thus shall I be able to do all things, for “I can do all these things in Him Who strengtheneth me.” Amen.
In Treasury of Catechism Stories by Fr. Lawrence G. Lovasik, SVD, we read a very inspiring story of St. Charles Borromeo:
“Engaged in a game of billiards one day with two clerics, Charles Borromeo was asked by one of the priests, ‘What would you do, Your Eminence, if you were told that in five minutes you would drop dead? Would you get on your knees and pray, or would you run off to confession?’ The saint smiled and answered, "I would quietly continue this game of billiards. I began it with the intention of offering it all up to God’s honour. And if my action is for God, why should I stop even if that action happens to be recreation?"
This story can teach us many things in the spiritual life, especially concerning our daily duty and the sacredness of doing all for God. We may not feel in the moment that we are doing great things for God’s glory, but if we offer everything to Him as an act of love and adoration, our everyday tasks will become sanctified. This is why so many of the saints recommended, that as soon as we wake up in the morning we should fall on our knees and offer up our day to God.
St. Anselm of Canterbury once said: “Awake, my soul, awake! Show thy spirit, arouse thy senses, shake off the sluggishness of that deadly heaviness that is upon thee, begin to take care for thy salvation. Let the idleness of vain imaginations be put to flight, let go of sloth, hold fast to diligence. Be instant in holy meditations, cleave to the good things which are of God: leaving that which is temporal, give heed to that which is eternal. Now in this godly employment of thy mind, to what canst thou turn thy thoughts more wholesomely and profitably, than to the sweet contemplations of thy Creator’s immeasurable benefits toward thee?”
Because we are human, it can be very difficult to stay focused on the presence of God throughout the day. If we forget Him at its very beginning, the rest of our day will be a struggle as we try to focus on God once more. But, if we direct our attention to God straight away, He will give us the graces necessary to purify our day and become more perfect as the day goes on. St. Charles Borromeo did just this. He sanctified every action, whether it be prayer, work, or relaxation, and used everything as a step to Heaven. So also should we not fear the end of our lives, but live the Catholic Truth faithfully in order to perfect our souls and give glory to our heavenly Father.
Another lesson we can draw from this story is the attitude that St. Charles had about death. Many traditional Catholics are convinced that they are far too sinful to have such a calm disposition towards death, yet if we look at the saints and how they treated the topic of death, it should be thought of with hope and peace!
St. Basil the Great gives us an example of this kind of confidence, “As the Lord thought good, so it came to pass. Let us adopt those marvelous words. At the hands of the righteous Judge, they who show like good deeds shall receive a like reward… he whom we love is not hidden in the ground; he is received into Heaven. Let us wait a little while, and we shall be once more with him. The time of our separation is not long, for in this life we are all like travelers on a journey, hastening on to the same shelter. While one has reached his rest another arrives, another hurries on but one and the same end awaits them all.”
Because St. Basil lived according to the Catholic Faith, he did not fear the idea of death, but looked forward to the day when he would rest and be perfectly happy for all eternity. So too should we live, persevering in the grace of God, and meriting Paradise after a good and holy life. God will provide us with everything necessary for spiritual perfection; we must cooperate by putting away the distractions of the world and opening our hearts to Divine grace. What are the pleasures of this earth compared to the glory of Heaven? We were never made for this world, but a world of continuous bliss with God. Death should be a gateway to this bliss, and hell should never be an option.
Finally, St. Charles shows us the importance of having good entertainment. Prayer and work are very important, it is true, but again – since we are humans – we need time to relax in order to do our work well. It may seem more meritorious to pray all day, but what are hours of prayer if we become over-tired and our minds drift elsewhere? Is it not better for our souls to pray to God, work for God, and rest for God wholeheartedly? There is great humility in accepting our weaknesses and giving ourselves time to put down our crosses, for a breather. God expects this of us, since He knows we are limited and live in a struggling world. If we truly live as Catholics, all things will give glory to God – including a billiards game – and we will get the relaxation we need to recuperate and continue working out our salvation.
Let us, then, always have confidence in God and make the most of life in His presence; because the Catholic Faith is meant to improve our lives, rather than be a burden to us. The world tells us that religion keeps us from fun and excitement, when in reality, it is the pathway to eternal bliss in Heaven.
Nature of Prayer
Prayer is incredibly essential in the spiritual life, as it helps perfect the soul and give God the honor and glory He deserves. St. Ignatius of Loyola had a burning love for prayer, and says, “We must speak to God as a friend speaks to his friend, servant to his master; now asking some favor, now acknowledging our faults, and communicating to Him all that concerns us, our thoughts, our fears, our projects, our desires, and in all things seeking His counsel.” Prayer reminds us why we were put on this earth, and makes God seem closer to our hearts, rather than a distant Creator. But because we are human and are so weak, it can often feel like our prayers are not strong enough to obtain from God what we seek.
We pray Rosary after Rosary, worrying that everything we do will never be enough. But if God is our heavenly Father, would He not help us even with prayer? “Our Lord loves you and loves you tenderly; and if He does not let you feel the sweetness of His love, it is to make you more humble and abject in your own eyes," St. Padre Pio reminds us. God understands the hardships of life that we are going through far more than even we do! If He understands all this, would He not understand our want for perfection in our prayers? God fully knows all our desires, and if we desire perfection, He will give us all the means we need to attain it. He has set up ways of intercession for us when we pray, through His angels, His saints, and even Himself.
Remember the Holy Angels
Firstly, prayer can be purified and perfected if we call upon the Holy Angels to help us. We can entrust our intentions to them, who have never sinned, and be confident of their power when they lovingly present them to God. Their tender eyes can implore the Almighty to help us in all the ways we need. The Angels are incredibly eager to help us, so it is a shame we often forget about them in our busy world!
St. John Bosco was very devoted to the Angels and told us, “When tempted, invoke your Angel. He is more eager to help you than you are to be helped! Ignore the devil and do not be afraid of him: he trembles and flees at the sight of your Guardian Angel.” How much more will God, Who already burns with the desire to assist us, have compassion for our souls when He sees them being carried in the arms of the angels to Him?
Call Upon the Saints
We can then call upon the intercession of the Saints. They know very well our struggles since they lived with them, as well. They desire just as much as the Angels to take our prayers to the heavenly throne of Christ. How many friends we have in Heaven that can help purify our prayers! We can also grow in our devotion towards them, depending on what we are asking for. For example, we can strengthen our devotion to St. Joseph if we ask him to help us with our courtship, or St. Philomena with purity. God gives us so many ways to help us perfect our souls. All we need to do is ask, seek, and knock! Oftentimes we feel alone on this earth, unable to attain the perfection we seek. Yet we have so many friends constantly waiting for us to lift up our eyes to them so that they may help us. Let us also never forget the greatest of saints, Our Blessed Mother, Who also waits lovingly for us to call upon Her.
The means of perfecting our prayers is endless, there is no need to ever worry that our prayers are not enough.
Our Supreme Advocate
Finally, Our Lord Jesus Christ came down from Heaven to be our supreme Advocate with His heavenly Father. He shed His Blood, suffered through the worst torments, and emotionally drained Himself to the point where on the Cross He asked God the Father why He had abandoned Him. He did all this to save us, but also because He never wanted us to say that He didn’t know what it felt like to suffer. And in stepping into our shoes in the most loving and self-sacrificing of ways, He merited all we need to be perfect.
Let us then do all we can to place our intentions in the hands of our loving Savior, through the intercession of His Blessed Mother and the angels and saints, and stop worrying so much about the impossibility of being perfect. Perfection is not attained in a day, but by God’s grace can be attained in a lifetime on earth for an eternity in Heaven.
Aids for Prayer
Below are two prayers that can help us begin asking for intercession from Heaven. It is as simple as a couple sentences to ask for great assistance from above:
“Almighty Father, I place the Precious Blood of Jesus before my lips before I pray, that my prayers may be purified before they ascend to Thy divine altar.”
“O Blessed Archangel Gabriel, we beseech thee, do thou intercede for us at the throne of Divine Mercy in our present necessities, that as thou didst announce to Mary the mystery of the Incarnation, so through thy prayers and patronage in Heaven we may obtain the benefits of the same, and sing the praise of God forever in the land of the living. Amen.”
God cares for us continuously, and never wants to make it impossible for us to reach sanctity. The devil often tries to persuade us that the will of God is too difficult to follow, since we are so weak. But what are temptations and weaknesses to an army of saints and angels, as well as Our Lady Herself standing in the front victoriously? All things are possible with God (see Matt. 19:26, Mark 10:27). He simply asks that we try.