Lesson #32 – Making resolutions and dealing with scruples

                    Mary’s School of Sanctity                   

Lesson #32 The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius – VARIOUS TOPICS: MAKING RESOLUTIONS, AND ST. IGNATIUS’ TREATMENT OF SCRUPLES

Due to limited space, we have decided to defer giving St. Ignatius’s additional meditation points until our next lesson.  This current lesson may be considered as really a combination of instructions that we decided to put at the end of our course on the Spiritual Exercises because we did not want to break up the of flow of the progression of the Exercises especially our study of Our Lord’s Life and Death.

Making resolutions —

After concluding the Spiritual Exercises, it is very profitable for us to make some concrete resolutions to help ourselves to amend our lives in earnest.  The following are some practical resolutions we can all make:

1) Have the spirit of penance as Our Lord admonishes us to do to help us refrain from sin and to make reparation for our past sins.[1]  We must practice penance, both passive penance and active penance.

Passive penance is simply patiently accepting circumstances as they occur in our daily lives, whether we experience some illness or some calamity, etc.  There are plenty of crosses in our daily lives that the Good Lord lovingly sends us in order to teach us virtue.  These crosses are more meritorious than self-imposed penances.

Active penance is a self-imposed penance.  Examples of these are almsgiving and additional fasting.  Practicing mortification of our eyes, our ears, our tongues, (in fact, all of our senses) is an excellent form of active penance.  The saints did many different kinds of penances, including wearing hair-shirts and chains, or flagellations called the “discipline”.  However, there are more ordinary penances that, often, we should embrace, e.g., taking cold showers, refraining from condiments on our food, etc.

By practicing active penances we can help curb our flesh, our self-love, and our fallen human nature, all of which are easily attracted to worldly pleasures.  We must fight against these enemies of our salvation by being constantly vigilant and mortifying ourselves because we are prone to selfishness.

Fr. Hurter has some practical advice on how to be cautious about our souls.  He says we must have a “newness” of heart, tongue, and action. [2]

The newness of our hearts is obtained by focusing on purity, avoiding, of course, mortal sin and also voluntary venial sin, and bridling our passions.  To obtain this newness of heart, the heart “must be new by its right direction to God, by purifying our intentions and motives.”  This newness of heart also entails that we have an increase in fervor, and in this way have a greater zeal in our service of God.  This includes a dedication to “repairing the losses caused by our past negligence.”[3]

When speaking about the newness of tongue, Fr. Hurter recommends that we put five bridles on our tongue, a fivefold silence, and by doing so avoid many faults.

1. The silence of charity. By the use of our tongue we so easily offend against the love of our neighbor.  We scarcely open our mouth without committing sins of the tongue.  We criticize people, make their faults known, or attribute ignoble motives to them; we often begin well by praising a brother: soon, however, the praise turns to blame.  Even pious souls easily forget themselves.  We wish to amuse ourselves, spread news, make ourselves important and interesting, and before we are fully aware of it, we have sinned.  Let us hold on to two golden rules which will be of great use to us.  First rule: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Matt. 19:19) What I do not wish another to say about me, that I ought not to say about him.  Second rule: What I would not say in his presence because it might offend, mortify, or humiliate him, that I ought not to say in his absence.” [4]

2. The silence of patience.”[5] In this type of silence Fr. Hurter explains how we are apt to complain about whatever suffering we experience.  In this complaining, we offend God, our superiors, and our neighbor.   We offend God because we show that we are not resigned to His will.  We offend our superiors because we readily blame them as being severe and unjust.  We offend our neighbor by blaming him for his lack of consideration of us.[6]

We offend by exaggeration, spiteful expressions, rash judgments, and frequently condemning the most innocent doings of others; urging our friends to make similar complaints, and thus cause dissension and discord.  In order to learn this silence of patience, let us often think of Our Divine Savior, Who was accused, calumniated, mocked, and ridiculed before the tribunals, but even in the most agonizing pain did not open His mouth to complain.[7]

3. The silence of humility.  This we practice when we keep silent about our real or supposed advantages, when we do not willingly speak about ourselves, and do not, except for grave reasons, talk about our good works, mindful of the words of Our Lord: “When thou dost an almsdeed, sound not a trumpet before thee, as hypocrites do in the synagogues….Amen I say to you, they have received their reward.” (Matt. 6:2)[8]

4. The silence of purity.” Here Fr. Hurter addresses how our speech must be free from all uncleanness.  In general, as members of society it is appropriate to have proper decorum and decency, but all the more so for those who intend to be true followers of Our Lord Jesus Christ.[9]

5. The silence of prudence.  If we wish to escape vexation, we must be prudent in our speech.  How often is not something said without consideration, then told to others; and then depression, misunderstanding, discord, and enmity spring up.  It often takes weeks and months before the tension is broken and friendly relations are again restored.  We should be careful when giving our opinion about others, and not be too trustful, for even “walls have ears,” as the significant proverb says.  What we believe has been said in private will soon be heralded from the housetops.  Therefore we should always speak so that we need not be afraid of publicity.  Be not hasty in speaking, but deliberate and careful, if you wish to live in peace.  Let us diligently observe this fivefold silence.  We shall never regret having been silent; but we are often sorry for having spoken carelessly.[10]

In his discussion of a newness of action, Fr. Hurter makes three main points:

1. Our actions should all proceed from faith; and as its fruit, they should be ennobled by the motives of faith.  Only what proceeds from faith is pleasing to God: “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”(Heb. 11:6)

2. We must strive to make our actions faultless and our works perfect: “In all thy works keep the preeminence.” (Eccl. 33:23)  We do not offer decayed fruit to an honored guest; much less should we offer as an homage to the Most High works that are defective.  Rather should we endeavor to deserve the praise which the good people gave to Our Lord: “He hath done all things well.” (Mark 7:27)

3. We must be generous towards God.  We must not be satisfied with doing that to which we are bound under pain of mortal, or at least venial sin.  We must do more than strict duty calls for out of pure love.  A heartfelt love among men often performs great deeds; surely then our love of God should not be niggardly and narrow-minded.  Self-interest ought to urge us to be generous towards God, for God will not be outdone in generosity; that would be unworthy of His infinite goodness.[11]

One consoling aspect to keep in our minds at the end of doing all the Spiritual Exercises and in setting about making resolutions to strengthen our desire to serve God well is that the Exercises and our resolutions should engender peace in our souls.

Fr. Hurter gives many considerations about St. Augustine’s explanation concerning true interior peace.  St. Augustine says that four things are required: (1) serenity of mind; (2) tranquility of soul; (3) simplicity of heart and (4) a bond of peace based on brotherly love. 

SERENITY OF MIND

A serene mind results from seeing by faith that God is our loving Father Who provides for us, and knowing that “for those who love God, all things work for the good.” (Rom.8:28)  Therefore, in whatever state of life we have, we can serve God and become perfect and holy.[12] 

The devil tries to get us to distort reality and imagine that we are in a storm, that is, in some calamity.  He would have us blow a situation way out of proportion so we will lose our confidence and peace.  Then, our imagination urges us on to be suspicious of the motives of others, and our emotions follow suit and bad consequences follow.[13]

At other times, he clouds our perspective by blinding us to our own failings or minimizing them, and instead exaggerating faults of others.  When we are like this we do not take corrections well and we see the one correcting us as harsh and severe.  Our soul becomes dark.[14]

Indeed, our imagination often leads us off course.  If we want to retain cheerfulness of spirit, we must not give our imagination too much play, but rather let the Holy Ghost waft over our interior.[15]

TRANQUILITY OF SOUL[16]

 There are three ways that our tranquility of soul may be disturbed.  Dwelling on the past, dwelling on the present, and being anxious about the future.

Many people fret about the past.  They are scrupulous about their past contrition.  They second guess everything.  We must remember that uneasiness without a good reason comes from the devil.  (See St. Ignatius’s notes concerning scruples below.) As long as we can say, “I honestly examined my conscience”, we can be at peace.  We must trust in the Good Lord because we know that He lovingly cares for us.

Present events can also be alarming to us.  Our predominant passions and unregulated inclinations readily cause a storm to rise in the soul.  Hence, self-control must be acquired by a vigilant examination of conscience.

We must also acquire indifference in regards to our inclinations.  If we are not mortified then there will be excitement and disturbances as soon as we meet with something which is opposed to our inclinations.  Furthermore, if we act in a stormy and hasty manner, we can scarcely maintain our interior peace.  We must remember, too, that there is a very close connection between the interior and exterior man.

Another source of undue alarm is when we meddle in other people’s business which does not concern us at all. We must be concerned with our present duty and not concerned about things that we cannot control.

We sometimes allow ourselves to be disturbed by too much anxiety about the future.  The first step in counteracting this is to be childlike in our confidence in the providence of God.

If we picture to ourselves future difficulties, we become sad and discouraged.  We soon find out that when the time comes, the difficulties have vanished.  The things we dread do not come to pass.  If there is a question of something that may concern us in the distant future, we should quiet ourselves with the thought: “God will provide!”

We must be on guard when the imagination pictures improbable events and thus disturbs us with useless anxiety.  If God permits something extraordinary to happen, He will also us give the necessary graces in due time.  For fictitious cases, He need not give grace.  No wonder that we do not know how we should act in such cases.  Let us be calm and satisfied in submitting to the Sacred Heart.[17]

SIMPLICITY OF HEART

This means that one is direct in his meaning and not a hypocrite.

Whoever has such a contradiction between the dictates of his conscience and his external conduct cannot enjoy true peace because true peace consists in perfect harmony.  Simplicity of heart therefore seeks only to please God, and has no other motives.  It is not guided by the principles of this world, or by the wisdom of the flesh, does not lend a willing ear to sensuality, but strives to bring all into unison with the enlightened principles of Our Divine Savior.  Also, He gives us a beautiful example by His mode of life, which is so pure, so noble, so enlightened, so simple, so captivating, and so capable of winning the hearts of men.[18]

THE BOND OF PEACE[19]

This mark of true peace is cordial agreement with one’s brethren and neighbors. Just as Our Lord said, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”  Our Lord is compelling us to love with an unconditional love.  He does not want us to count the cost. 

The mutual love that He wanted His apostles to have towards each other He wanted to be an outward sign, a mark. “By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love one for another.”  (John 13:35)  Likewise, we should earnestly ask ourselves if we have this mark on us, and appreciate it highly.

We can show our love for Our Lord by showing love to our neighbor.  Our Lord tells us that what we do for the least of our brethren, He considers done unto Him. 

This love strengthens our prayers.  Indeed, Our Lord tells us that, “For where there are two or three gathered together in My Name, there I am in the midst of them.” (Matt 18:20) Therefore, we should appreciate prayers said in the company of others.

We should then endeavor to make every effort to acquire this heavenly peace simply because this peace is a foretaste of heaven.


St. Ignatius’ Notes concerning Scruples

The following notes will be of help in discerning and understanding scruples and the snares of our enemy:

1. The name “scruple” is ordinarily given to that which proceeds from our judgment and free will; for example, when I freely judge something to be a sin which is not a sin.  This might happen when someone, after having accidentally stepped on a cross formed by two straws, of his own accord judges that he has sinned.  This is in reality an erroneous judgment and not a real scruple.

2. After I have stepped upon that cross, or after I have thought, said, or done some other thing, the thought comes to me from without that I have sinned. On the other hand, it seems to me that I have not sinned.  Nevertheless, I am disturbed in this matter, doubting and not doubting that I have sinned.  This is truly a scruple and a temptation from the enemy.

3. The first scruple, mentioned in the first note should be much abhorred because it is completely erroneous.  But the second type of scruple mentioned in the second note, is for a certain period of time of no little advantage to the soul that devotes itself to spiritual exercises.  It may even greatly purify and cleanse such a soul, separating it far from all appearance of sin, according to that saying of St. Gregory: “It is a mark of good souls there to recognize a fault when there is none.”

4. The enemy observes very carefully whether one has a delicate or lax conscience.  If the conscience is delicate he strives to make it excessively so in order to disturb and ruin it more easily.  For example, if the enemy sees that a soul consents to no sin, since he cannot make the soul fall into what has the appearance of sin, he strives to make it judge that there is sin where there is none, as in some insignificant word or thought.

If the conscience is lax, the enemy strives to make it still more lax.  Thus, if before it took no account of venial sins, he will strive to have it take no account of mortal sins.  If before, it did take some account of them, now he will strive that it cares much less or not at all about them.

5.  The soul that desires to advance in the spiritual life must always take a course contrary to that of the enemy.  If the enemy seeks to make the conscience lax, he must strive to make it delicate “to excess”; the soul must strive to establish itself solidly in moderation so that it may better maintain its tranquility.

6.  When such a good soul wishes to say or do something that is acceptable to the Church and to the mind of our superiors, something that may be for the glory of God Our Lord, there may come to it from without, a thought or temptation not to say or do it because it is motivated by vainglory or some other specious reason.  On such occasions one must raise his mind to his Creator and Lord, and if he sees that the action is for God’s service, or at least not contrary to it, he ought to act in a manner diametrically opposed to the temptation, as St. Bernard answered a like temptation: “I did not begin this because of you, nor because of you will I desist.”

In our next lesson, we will give St. Ignatius’ additional meditation points on the life of Our Lord.



[1]           St. Augustine says, “Sin must not remain unpunished; it is not becoming, it is not good, it is not right.  Then, as sin must be punished, punish it yourself, that you may not be punished for it.”  As quoted in Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat, by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, p. 92.

[2]           Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, p. 244.

 

[3]           Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, pp. 244-245.

 

[4]              Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, pp. 245-246.

 

[5]           Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, p. 246.

 

[6]              Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, p. 246.

 

[7]           Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, p. 246.

 

[8]           Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, p. 247.

 

[9]              Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, p. 247.

[10]         Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, pp. 247-248.

 

One note about never regretting silence is that one should keep in mind that when one finds himself confused or not sure about a crucial matter in order to be able to take reasonable action, one is obliged in prudence to seek advice of one’s superior or of a virtuous and wise person.  Remember also how St. Ignatius describes in his Rules for the Discernment of Spirits that when one is tempted, one should reveal his temptation to an appropriate person in order to thwart the evil one’s plan to harm the soul.

[11]         Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, pp. 248-249.

 

[12]         Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, p. 250.

 

[13]             Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, pp. 250-251.

[14]            Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, p. 251.

 

[15]         Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, p. 252.

 

[16]         The following section is paraphrased from Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, pp. 252-253.

[17]         Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, pp. 252-254.

[18]         Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, pp. 255-256.

 

[19]         This section is a paraphrase of Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, pp. 256-257.

Lesson #31 – Method of making choices and Examination

                    Mary’s School of Sanctity                   

Lesson #31  The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius — EXPLANATION ON A METHOD FOR MAKING CHOICES AND ON HOW TO DO A SPECIAL EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE AND HIS NOTES ON PENANCE

Having finished the last meditation set out by St. Ignatius, we would now like to share some of his additional gems, namely, his words of advice concerning how one should make choices; his method on how one can make a special examination of one’s conscience geared to the exercitant during a thirty-day retreat; and likewise on the penance he recommends during the retreat.

First let us address St. Ignatius’s advice concerning making choices.  He says:

INTRODUCTION TO MAKING A CHOICE OF A WAY OF LIFE

In every good choice, in so far as it depends upon us, the direction of our intention should be simple.  I must look only to the end for which I am created, that is, for the praise of God Our Lord and for the salvation of my soul.  Therefore, whatever I choose must have as its purpose to help me to this end.  I must not shape or draw the end to the means, but the means to the end.  Many, for example, first choose marriage, which is a means, and secondarily to serve God Our Lord in the married state, which service of God is the end.  Likewise, there are others who first desire to have benefices [an ecclesiastical office], and afterward to serve God in them.  These individuals do not go straight to God, but want God to come straight to their inordinate attachments.  Acting thus, they make a means of the end, and an end of the means, so that what they ought to seek first, they seek last.  My first aim, then, should be my desire to serve God, which is the end, and after this, to seek a benefice or to marry if it is more fitting for me, for these things are but means to an end.  Thus, nothing should move me to use such means or to deprive myself of them except it be only the service and praise of God Our Lord and the eternal salvation of my soul.

Next, St. Ignatius gives:

A CONSIDERATION TO OBTAIN INFORMATION ON THE MATTERS IN WHICH A CHOICE SHOULD BE MADE

This contains four points and a note:

First point: All matters in which we wish to make a choice must be either indifferent or good in themselves.  They must meet with the approbation of our Holy Mother, the hierarchical Church, and not be bad or repugnant to her.

Second point: There are some things that are the objects of an immutable choice, such as the priesthood, matrimony, etc.  There are others in which the choice is not immutable, as for example, accepting or relinquishing a benefice, accepting or renouncing temporal goods.

Third point: Once an immutable choice has been made there is no further choice, for it cannot be dissolved, as is true with marriage, the priesthood, etc.  It should be noted only that if one has not made this choice properly, with due consideration, and without inordinate attachments, he should repent and try to lead a good life in the choice that he has made.  Since this choice was ill-considered and improperly made, it does not seem to be a vocation from God as many err in believing, wishing to interpret an ill-considered or bad choice as a divine call.  For every divine call is always pure and clean without any admixture of flesh or other inordinate attachments.

Fourth point: If one has made a proper and well-considered choice that is mutable, and has not been influenced either by the flesh or the world, there is no reason why he should make a new choice.  But he should perfect himself as much as possible in the choice he has made.

NOTE

It is to be noted that if this mutable choice is not well-considered and sincerely made, then it will be profitable to make the choice anew in the proper manner if one wishes to bring forth fruits that are worthwhile and pleasing to God Our Lord.

Then St. Ignatius sets forth when a wise choice can be made by the following:

THREE OCCASIONS WHEN A WISE AND GOOD CHOICE CAN BE MADE

THE FIRST OCCASION is when God Our Lord moves and attracts the will so that the devout soul, without question and without desire to question, follows what has been manifested to it.  St. Paul and St. Matthew did this when they followed Christ Our Lord.

THE SECOND OCCASION is present when one has developed a clear understanding and knowledge through the experience of consolations and desolations and the discernment of diverse spirits.

THE THIRD OCCASION is in a time of tranquility.  Here one considers first for what purpose man is born, which is to praise God Our Lord and to save his soul.  Since he desires to attain this end, he chooses some life or state within the bounds of the Church that will help him in the service of God Our Lord and the salvation of his soul.  I said “a time of tranquility,” when the soul is not agitated by diverse spirits, and is freely and calmly making use of its natural powers.

IF A CHOICE HAS NOT BEEN MADE ON THE FIRST OR SECOND OCCASION, BELOW ARE GIVEN TWO METHODS OF MAKING IT DURING THE THIRD OCCASION

The first method of making a wise and good choice contains six POINTS:

THE FIRST POINT: To place before my mind’s eye the thing about which I wish to make a choice.  It may be an office or a benefice to be accepted or refused, or anything else that is the object of a mutable choice.

THE SECOND POINT: I must have as my aim the end for which I am created, which is the praise of God Our Lord and the salvation of my soul.  At the same time I must remain indifferent and free from any inordinate attachments so that I am not more inclined or disposed to take the thing proposed than to reject it, nor to relinquish it rather than to accept it.  I must rather be like the equalized scales of balance, ready to follow the course which I feel is more for the glory and praise of God Our Lord and the salvation of my soul.

THE THIRD POINT: I must ask God Our Lord to deign to move my will and to reveal to my spirit what I should do to best promote His praise and glory in the matter of choice.  After examining the matter thoroughly and faithfully with my understanding, I should make my choice in conformity with His good pleasure and His most holy will.

THE FOURTH POINT: I will use my reason to weigh the many advantages and benefits that would accrue to me if I held the proposed office or benefice solely for the praise of God Our Lord and the salvation of my soul.  I will likewise consider and weigh the disadvantages and dangers that there are in holding it.  I will proceed in like manner with the other alternative, that is, examine and consider the advantages and benefits as well as the disadvantages and dangers in not holding the proposed office or benefice.

THE FIFTH POINT:  After having thus weighed the matter and carefully examined it from every side, I will consider which alternative appears more reasonable.  Acting upon the stronger judgment of reason and not on any inclination of the senses, I must come to a decision in the matter that I am considering.

THE SIXTH POINT: After such a choice or decision has been reached I should turn with great diligence to prayer in the presence of God Our Lord and offer Him this choice that His Divine Majesty may deign to accept and confirm it, if it be to His greater service and praise.

The second method of making a wise and good choice contains four RULES and a note:

THE FIRST RULE is that the love which moves me and causes me to make this choice should come from above, that is from the love of God, so that before I make my choice I will feel that the greater or lesser love that I have for the thing chosen is solely for the sake of my Creator and Lord.

THE SECOND RULE is to consider some man that I have never seen or known, and in whom I wish to see complete perfection.  Now I should consider what I would tell him to do and choose for the greater glory of God Our Lord and the greater perfection of his soul.  I will act in like manner myself, keeping the rule that I proposed for another.

THE THIRD RULE is to consider that if I were at the point of death, what form and procedure I would wish to have observed in making this present choice.  Guiding myself by this consideration, I will make my decision on the whole matter.

THE FOURTH RULE is to examine and consider how I shall be on the Day of Judgment, to think how I shall then wish to have made my decision in the present matter.  The rule which I should then wish to have followed, I will now follow, that I may on that day be filled with joy and delight.

NOTE

Taking the above-mentioned rules as my guide for eternal salvation and peace, I will make my choice and offer myself to God Our Lord, following the sixth point of the first method for making a choice (above).

Here is a method St. Ignatius explains as to how the exercitant can make a special examination of conscience while making his thirty-day retreat.

PARTICULAR EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE TO BE MADE EVERY DAY [geared to be done during a thirty-day retreat, but this can be adapted for outside of retreat]

This Exercise is performed at three different times, and there are two examinations to be made.

THE FIRST TIME: As soon as he arises in the morning the exercitant should resolve to guard himself carefully against the particular sin or defect which he wishes to correct or amend.

THE SECOND TIME: After the noon meal he should ask God Our Lord for what he desires, namely, the grace to remember how many times he has fallen into the particular sin or defect, and to correct himself in the future. Following this he should make the first examination demanding an account of his soul regarding that particular matter which he proposed for himself and which he desires to correct and amend.  He should review each hour of the time elapsed from the moment of rising to the moment of this examination.  He should make note on the first line (of a chart that he keeps for himself) and make a mark for each time that he has fallen into the particular sin or defect.  He should then renew his resolution to improve himself until the time of the second examination that he will make.

THE THIRD TIME: After the evening meal he will make a second examination, reviewing each hour from the first examination to this second one, and on the second line (of his chart), he will again make a mark for each time that he has fallen into the particular fault or defect.

          FOUR ADDITIONAL DIRECTIONS

The following directions will help to remove more quickly the particular sin or defect.

1) Each time that one falls into the particular sin or defect, he should place his hand on his breast, repenting that he has fallen.  This can be done even in the presence of many people without their noticing it.

2) Since the first line of the chart represents the first examination, the second line, the second examination, at night the exercitant should observe whether there is an improvement from the first line to the second, that is, from the first examination to the second.

3) He should compare the second day with the first, that is to say , the two examinations of the present day with the two examinations of the preceding day, and see if there is a daily improvement.

4) He should also compare one week with another and see if there is a greater improvement during the present week than in the past week. 

Fr. Hurter gives a more extensive explanation of the purpose of this particular examen:

Everyone has a more or less characteristic fault into which he falls more frequently than into others; it is more noticed by his companions than his other faults; it is the root of many other faults, and if it be eradicated, the faults which sprang from it will cease.  A man’s capital fault may be compared to the capital of an enemy’s country, which is the key entry point that an experienced general would use to enter into the entire region in time of war.  Thus, a person will make great progress in perfection if he attacks and overcomes his capital faults.  He digs out the fertile roots of many other faults.  If we have succeeded in doing away with our more noticeable faults, we can change our particular examen and aim at cultivating the more necessary virtues.[1]

Fr. Hurter explains the importance of being strict with oneself when fighting his particular fault.  St. Ignatius suggests one good way to do this is to strike one’s breast and say an ejaculation such as, “My Jesus, mercy,” when one becomes aware of having fallen into the fault.  He says that we have to make a firm resolution to combat the particular fault and direct our daily meditations and other prayers to this actual battle in order to strengthen our efforts.  He says, “By the attentive use of the means we shall gradually mend our ways with regard to the more radical faults, and plant the most beautiful virtues in the garden of our heart, thereby reaching the basic virtues and great purity of soul.”[2]

The above advice is designed to be used while the exercitant is on retreat; however, one can use these methods to conquer his predominant fault at any time.  It is a great blessing to discover one’s predominant fault and if one has not found it, he should earnestly entreat God to enlighten him so he may find it.  Once one has found his predominant fault, he should try with all of his might to conquer it, of course, with God’s all-powerful aid.

Now let us turn to what St. Ignatius says about penances done during retreat.

ST. IGNATIUS’S DIRECTIONS ON PENANCES

He first addresses the importance of keeping silence. In general, he speaks about keeping exterior and interior silence when making the Spiritual Exercises.  These Exercises were designed to be done for the period of a month.  The exercitant keeps exterior silence including restraining his eyes and keeping a guard of himself, remaining in a serious frame of mind.  For example, he can even go so far as to deprive himself of light in his room when he is trying to excite feelings of pain, sorrow, and tears for his sins.  The exercitant refrains from speaking to anyone besides the retreat master.

The interior silence is kept by the exercitant focusing on the subjects of the meditations and not allowing his mind to wander from the topic at hand.  This interior silence is intended to help the exercitant stay recollected so he can make the Exercises better and they can assist him in finding what he desires for his soul.   

In addition to his instructions on silence, St. Ignatius speaks of interior penance as follows:

The interior penance is sorrow for one’s sins and a firm resolution to not commit them.  Exterior penance is a fruit of interior penance, and is the punishment we inflict upon ourselves for the sins we have committed. We perform these penances in three ways:

a. Regarding food.  It will be noted that when we deny ourselves what is superfluous, it is not penance but temperance.  It is penance when we deny ourselves what it is proper for us to have, and the more we deny ourselves, the greater and better is the penance, provided we do not harm ourselves or cause ourselves serious illness.

b. Regarding sleeping.  Here again it is not penance when we deny ourselves the superfluity of delicate and soft things.  But it is penance when we deny ourselves what is suitable for us.  Again, the more we deny ourselves, the greater is the penance, provided we cause ourselves no injury or serious illness.  Nor should we deny ourselves our due amount of sleep unless we have the bad habit of sleeping too much.  It may then be done to arrive at a proper mean.

c. By chastising the flesh, thereby causing sensible pain.  [Here St. Ignatius mentions particular austerities.]

What seems the most suitable and safest thing in doing penance is for the pain to be felt in the flesh, without penetration to the bones, thus causing pain but not illness.

OBSERVATIONS ON PENANCE

1. Exterior penances are performed principally to produce three effects:

          a. To satisfy for past sins.

          b. To overcome ourselves, so that sensuality will be obedient to reason and our lower inclinations be subject to higher ones.

          c. To seek and find some grace or gift that we obtain, as for instance, a deep sorrow for our sins and to grieve for them for the pains and sufferings that Our Lord endured in His passion, or for the solution of some doubt that is troubling us.

When St. Ignatius discusses the types of exterior penances, he stresses doing the penance that obtains for the exercitant the desired goal, whether it be tears of compunction or the curbing of one’s passions, etc., and that the exercitant should alternate penances as needed in order to obtain the desired goal.  It should be noted, though, that he advises that the penances which refer to the chastising of the body are not to be done in public.

RULES TO BE OBSERVED IN THE FUTURE IN THE MATTER OF FOOD

1. There is less need to abstain from bread for it is not the kind of food over which the appetite is usually inclined to be uncontrolled, or over which temptation is so insistent as with other kinds.

2. Abstinence is more appropriate with regard to drink than in eating bread.  Therefore, one must consider carefully what would be beneficial to him and therefore permissible, and also what would be harmful, and so to be avoided.

3. With regard to foods, greater and more complete abstinence must be practiced because here temptation is likely to be more insistent and the appetite inclined to be excessive.  In order to avoid overindulgence, abstinence may be observed in two ways: by accustoming oneself to eat coarse foods, or if delicacies are taken, to eat them sparingly.

4. While taking care not to become sick, the more one abstains in the quantity of food suited to him, the sooner he will arrive at the mean he should observe in eating and drinking. There are two reasons for this: first, by thus helping and disposing himself he will more frequently feel the interior directions, consolations, and divine inspirations that will show him the mean that is proper for him.  Secondly, if he finds that with such abstinence he lacks sufficient health and strength for the Spiritual Exercises, he will easily be able to judge what is more suitable for sustaining his body.

5. While one is eating, he may consider that he sees Christ Our Lord at table with His Apostles, how He eats and drinks; how He looks and how He speaks, and he will strive to imitate Him.  He will thus keep his understanding occupied principally with Our Lord, and less with the sustenance of his own body.  Thus, he may adopt a better method and order in the manner in which he should govern himself.   

6. At other times, while eating, he may consider the lives of the saints or some other pious contemplation, or he may consider some spiritual work that he has to perform.  If he is occupied with such matters, he will take less delight and sensual pleasure in the nourishment of his body.

7. Above all, he must take care that his mind is not entirely occupied in what he is eating, and that he is not carried away by his appetite into eating hurriedly.  Let him rather master himself both in the way that he eats and the amount that he takes.

8. To avoid excess, it is very useful after dinner or after supper, or at another time when one feels no desire to eat, to make a determination for the next dinner or supper, and so for the subsequent days, on the amount of food that is proper for him to eat.  Let him not exceed this amount, no matter how strong his appetite or the temptation.  Rather, it is the better to overcome every disorderly appetite and temptation of the enemy.  If he is tempted to eat more, he should less.

Although these eight rules are meant for the duration of a retreat, they can be adapted for outside of a retreat.

In our next lesson we will complete our treatment of St. Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises, which include his advice concerning scruples and his additional meditation points on the life of Our Lord.  We will also include some thoughts about resolutions we can take based on the Spiritual Exercises.



[1]           Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, Pages 89-91.

 

[2]            Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, Pages 90-91.

Lesson #30 – Contemplation on the Attainment of Divine Love

Mary’s School of Sanctity

Lesson #30 The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius –—FOURTH WEEK –CONTEMPLATION ON THE ATTAINMENT OF DIVINE LOVE

This meditation is the final one that St. Ignatius gives in his Spiritual Exercises.  One could almost see this meditation as the grand finale.  So much could be said about the concepts that he gave us for this meditation.  We will give some considerations after sharing what St. Ignatius set forth.

Initially, St. Ignatius gives two points to be noted.  The first point is that love ought to be manifested in deeds rather than in words.

The second point is that love consists in a mutual interchange by the two parties, that is to say, that the lover give to and share with the beloved all that he has or can attain, and that the beloved act toward the lover in like manner.  Thus, if he has knowledge, he shares it with the one who does not have it.  In like manner they share honors, riches, and all things.

The preparatory prayer is the same as usual, I ask God Our Lord the grace that all my intentions, actions, and works may be directed purely to the service and praise of the Divine Majesty.

The FIRST PRELUDE is the mental representation of the place.  Here it is to see how I stand in the presence of God Our Lord and of the angels and saints, who intercede for me.            

The SECOND PRELUDE is to ask for what I desire.  Here it will be to ask for a deep knowledge of the many blessings I have received, that I may be filled with gratitude for them, and in all things love and serve the Divine Majesty.

The FIRST POINT is to call to mind the benefits that I have received from creation, redemption, and the particular gifts I have received.  I will ponder with great affection how much God Our Lord has done for me, and how many of His graces He has given me.  I will likewise consider how much the same Lord wishes to give Himself to me in so far as He can, according to His divine decrees.  I will then reflect within myself, and consider that I, for my part, with great reason and justice, should offer and give to His Divine Majesty, all that I possess, and myself with it, as one who makes an offering with deep affection, saying:

Take, O Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will.  All that I have and possess Thou hast given me.  To Thee, O Lord, I return it.  All is Thine; dispose of it according to Thy Will.  Give me Thy love and Thy grace, for this is enough for me.

The SECOND POINT is to consider how God dwells in His creatures: in the elements, giving them being; in the plants, giving them life; in the animals, giving them sensation; in men giving them understanding.  So, He dwells in me, giving me being, life, sensation, and intelligence, and making a temple of me, since He created me to the likeness and image of His Divine Majesty.  Then I will reflect upon myself in the manner stated in the first point, or in any other way that may seem more beneficial.

The same procedure should be observed in each of the points that follow.

The THIRD POINT is to consider how God works and labors for me in all created things on the face of the earth, that is, He conducts  Himself as one Who labors; in the heavens, the elements, plants, fruits, flocks, etc.  He gives them being, preserves them, grants them growth, sensation, etc.  Then I will reflect on myself.

The FOURTH POINT is to consider how all blessings and gifts descend from above.  My limited power, for example, comes from the supreme and infinite power from above.  In like manner justice, goodness, pity, mercy, etc. descend from above just as the rays from the sun, the waters from the spring, etc.  Then I will reflect upon myself, as explained above, and conclude with a colloquy and the “Our Father.”  

We now will share what Fr. Hurter gives to us about the above four points in what he calls four motives, or reasons for loving God, and then we’ll add a brief note for each one.

The First Motive for Loving God

God is our greatest benefactor.  Love shows itself by benefactions.  God simply overwhelmed us with benefits.  Think but of the gifts of nature: body and soul, health and the use of the senses, food and clothing, beloved parents and benefactors, general and special benefits.  All this we owe to God, and these benefits He has conferred on us daily and hourly for many years.  We are but a composition of benefits.  “What hast thou that thou hast not received?” (I Corinthians., 4:7)

We come now to the still more precious gifts of the supernatural order, the order of graces: our redemption by the sufferings and death of the Son of God, our creation into this world after the coming of Our Lord.  Recall all the gifts of faith, of the true Church, of the sacraments; that the Lord, by sanctifying grace, has made us His adopted children, that He is so near to us by His Sacred Body in Holy Communion, the repeated remission of our sins, the many means of graces which accompanied us from the day of our birth to this day:[1] so that in gratitude we must acknowledge: “He hath not done in like manner to every nation, and His judgments He hath not made manifest to them.” (Ps. 147:20)  To thousands and thousands he has not been as generous as He has been to us.

Let us cast a glance into the hereafter, on the blessings of heaven.  What is the Lord in His goodness not willing to give?  Himself in all His glory. “I am thy reward exceeding great.” (Gen. 15:5)

If giving presents is a proof of love, and the Lord has showered benefits down upon us poor human beings, how He must love us!  “What shall I render to the Lord, for all the things that He hath rendered to me?” (Ps. 115: 12) If beggars for a few cents love their benefactors, how shall we requite God’s love for us?  What love then do we owe to God?  But love must show itself in deeds.  What can we give to the Lord?  All that we have belongs to Him.  But the Lord is so good that He takes His own benefits as presents if we but offer them as a sacrifice.  Therefore, we shall confirm our love for the Lord by an act of consecration.  We must say with a grateful, willing and cheerful heart: “Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my whole will. All that I am and have Thou hast given me, and I give it back again to Thee, to be disposed of according to Thy good pleasure.  Give me only Thy love and Thy grace; with these I am rich enough and ask no more.”[2]

 

 

Additional note about the First Motive

Yes, indeed, we need nothing more than God.  He must be for us our all and everything.  From the very first meditation in the Spiritual Exercises, we have been taught by St. Ignatius that God must be our number one priority and our highest love.  In this first motive for loving God, we are really addressing the most important reasons that we owe God gratitude and love.  What could be more important than the gift of the Catholic Faith and all that comes with the Faith?  We cannot thank God enough for it.  Seeing how precious the gift of Faith is, and how vulnerable we are in that we are incapable of keeping the Faith without God’s help, helps us to be more grateful to God.  With gratitude comes humility and love.

Fr. Hurter continues:


The Second Motive for Loving God

God in His love for us wants to be near us always.  Love shows itself in this: that it is fond of being with the person it loves.  Lovers like to see each other.  How does God answer this demand?   He is everywhere near us, distributing favors in the whole of nature.  In this eagerness to be still nearer to us, the son of God came down from heaven to visit us in our homes: “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14)  To perpetuate this visit, He instituted the most holy Sacrament of the Altar, to be wherever even a few Christians assemble.  There He is day and night in the midst of them; and He rather waits for us there, that we should have to wait for His coming and visit.  If we cannot come to Him, He has Himself brought to us, even if our dwelling be ever so poor, a mere hut, a stable, a prison.  The Holy Ghost makes us His temple, in which He desires to dwell.  “Know you not,” writes St. Paul, “that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (I Cor. 3:16)  Furthermore, Our Divine Savior in His love for us wants us to be with Him forever. “Father, I will that where I am, they also whom Thou hast given Me may be with Me.” (John 17:14)  To Him, therefore, the words apply: “My delights were to be with the children of men.” (Prov. 8:31)

Such love, such condescension, calls for a return, and since a lover is fond of being near the person he loves, we will show our love of God by being with Him in thought, as a child away from home often thinks of its dear parents, and by visits which we can easily make to the Blessed Sacrament.[3]  We should be glad to converse with Him all the more because it is an honor that God deigns to associate with us poor creatures, and because these visits are always so rich in graces.[4]

Additional note about the Second Motive

Our Lord referred to Himself as the heavenly Bridegroom.  This is the most intimate friendship He could give to humans.  How loving of Him to want to be so close to us!  St. Thomas Aquinas explains to us that Goodness is self-diffusive.  We see this is so true especially when we consider the plan of God to dwell physically among us.  He gives Himself to us in a beautiful divine friendship.  Even when the Mystical Body has suffered persecutions in history, Our Lord always sustained His Flock.  For He said, “I will not leave you orphans, I will come to you…In that day you shall know, that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” (John 14:18 & 20) What a wonderful truth to know that the Trinity wills to dwell in us!

Fr. Hurter continues:

The Third Motive for Loving God

Love is strengthened not only by presents and visits but especially by deeds when it is active and generous in favor of the one beloved.  Thus, a mother’s love for her child shows itself not so much when she gives it fine clothes as when she works and stints herself for it, spends many a sleepless night at its bedside to nurse it in its sickness, and denies herself in many ways that she may take care of her child; when from early morning to late at night she suffers and makes sacrifices for its welfare.  So, too, does God show His love for us by being active for, in and about us.  He is everywhere active in nature for our benefit.  He gives growth and ripening to plants for our sustenance.  He lights the sun to give us light and heat.  He preserves, governs, and directs the universe, that it may be at our service.  Yes, the Son of God went still further for our sake.  He worked for us, bore painful sacrifices for us, even suffered to save us.

St. Bernard writes:

My reparation after the fall was not as my creation.  He spoke and the universe was created. (Ps. 148:5)  But He Who by a single word created me, has said much, done wonderful things, suffered severely, not only severely, but even what humiliated Him, to bring about my reparation.  ‘What shall I render to the Lord for all the things that He hath rendered to me?’ (Ps. 115:12)   In creation He made a present of me to myself, in redemption He gave Himself up for me, and thereby gave me back to myself.  Hence by creation and redemption I owe myself for myself.  What then shall I give to God for Himself?  Were I to make a sacrifice of myself a thousand times, what am I compared with God?

I must therefore show and confirm my love by working, making sacrifices, and suffering for God.  “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (I Cor. 10:31)[5]

Additional note about the Third Motive

What more could Our Lord have done for us than He did?  He suffered and died for us.  Even more importantly, He showed us by the cruel suffering and insults He endured how much He loved His heavenly Father.  At the same time, He showed how malicious sin is and how we should rather die than to offend God.  In very fact, He showed us how to love the Father.  We ought to imitate Him for He is always Our Model of perfect love.

Fr. Hurter continues:

The Fourth Motive for Loving God

The amiability of God.  That this glorious and exalted motive may enkindle in us a fervent love, let us consider how often a mere shadow of beauty, a drop of perfection found in creatures, draws our heart, charms and enraptures us.  What love, then, will the infinite beauty of God, the fountain of all perfection, enkindle in us?  If, therefore, creatures approach you with their beauty and loveableness to draw you to themselves, to fetter and imprison you, cry out to them: “I would be a fool were I to run after a drop and give myself to a shadow, when I can have the sum-total of all beauty and glory.  No, I will give my heart to the Infinite Being, Who alone can make me perfectly happy.”

Creatures with their beauty shall be to me as a guide directing me and telling me to “Love God!”  To Him my whole heart shall belong.  And therefore, creatures are so beautiful that they may remind me “how much the Lord to them is more beautiful than they, for the first author of beauty made all those things.” (Wis. 13:3)

Rightly does St. Augustine say: “Heaven and earth and all that is in the universe cry out to me from all directions that I, O God, must love Thee.  And they do not cease to cry out to all, so that they have no excuse.”

And if I furthermore consider that this infinitely beautiful, exalted, and perfect Being is mindful of me, and watches over me, and loves me, although He has no need of me whatever;  that He wants my love and longs for it, and rejoices when I love Him—how we must consider ourselves pressed to comply with His wish, and dazzled with His beauty and loveableness, be entirely consumed in His love, love Him with our whole heart, and with our whole soul, and with our whole mind, and with our whole strength, as He commanded us to do.  (Mark 12:30)                                     

Let us ask Our Lord by His precious Blood for such a love; and let it be the most beautiful fruit of these spiritual exercises.  Let us willingly repeat the beautiful petition of St. Augustine: “That I may know myself and know Thee, that I may love Thee and despise myself.”[6]

Additional note about the Fourth Motive

There is nothing higher than God.  We learn in our Catechism that He is the Supreme Being.  He has all perfections.  If we ponder His attributes, which we humans can only do one at a time, we soon grow in admiration of Him.  We are overawed by His immense qualities.  We were naturally made to love God.  If we follow our nature as we ought, our hearts desire God and are attracted to Him.  As St. Augustine said, “Our hearts were made for Thee O Lord and are restless until they rest in Thee.”  Since He is our final end, we can never be truly satisfied until we possess God completely.  Our natural inclination is to soar up to God.  These thoughts lead us to our colloquy.

Colloquy:  O Infinite and Divine Majesty, how can I, a poor creature, ever thank Thee enough for all the many blessings Thou hast showered upon me?  Thou hast created me rational and with an immortal soul.  Would that I could even appreciate these two aspects alone!  But in addition to these priceless gifts, Thou hast given me Thy Divine Son to be my soul’s Spouse and intimate Friend.  This is the utmost treasure that any human could want!  But alas, I am such a poor wretch who has not been grateful as I ought.  I beg Thee, Dear Trinity, to help me study Thee and all Thy truths so I can learn to appreciate Thee and grow in an ever-deeper love of Thee.  Help me to remain ever faithful to Thee so my soul can be Thy bride in time and in eternity. (I will end my colloquy with an Our Father.)

 

In our next lesson we will address St. Ignatius’s method for making a choice and his recommendations on penance.

 



[1]           In this time of the great apostasy when the majority of uncompromising Catholics have no priests and sacraments, we must not think that God is not still taking care of our spiritual needs.  He has made our prayers more efficacious including our spiritual communions and rosaries, precisely because we are refraining from participating in compromise Masses and Sacraments. 

 

We should also keep in mind that even if we do not have the sacramental confession available without compromise that we must practice perfect acts of contrition.  Furthermore, by using indulgenced prayers and sacramentals such as our rosary beads, and Signs of the Cross, we can remit our venial sins.  Our Lord indeed does not leave us orphans, especially when we are sacrificing and avoiding compromise out of love for Him!

 

[2]              Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat, by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, Page 269-271.

[3]               Again, because the majority of uncompromising Catholics living in these times of the great apostasy do not have access to the Tridentine Mass and sacraments and the Blessed Sacrament, we should endeavor to make many spiritual communions and meditate on the Trinity dwelling in our souls, especially through His Divine grace.  We should speak to God in our souls and pour out our hearts to Him with love and gratitude.

[4]              Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat, by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, Page 269-271.

[5]              Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat, by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, Page 272-273.

[6]              Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat, by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, Page 274-275.

Lesson #29 – Apparition to the Two Disciples At Emmaus

Catholic Candle note: Below is the 29th part of this guide to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

                    Mary’s School of Sanctity                   

Lesson #29  The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius – Apparition to the Two Disciples At Emmaus

In our last lesson, we considered the suitability of Our Lord appearing to His Mother first to console her who is the Mother of Sorrows.  Since she was so closely united to her Son all during His life on earth and especially while He hung on the Cross, she should be the first to join with Him in the triumph of His Resurrection.

We turn our thoughts to the other apparitions of Our Lord after His Resurrection.   In our last lesson we listed several of these apparitions and we encourage the exercitant to meditate on as many of these apparitions as his time permits.  In our current lesson, we wish to give an example of how one of these apparitions can be put into the framework that St. Ignatius gave us for Our Lord’s apparition to Our Lady.  The other apparitions can be done in a similar manner.  The apparition we are now considering is Our Lord’s apparition to the two disciples on their way to Emmaus.

The preparatory prayer is the same as usual: I ask God Our Lord for the grace that all my intentions, actions, and works may be directed purely to the service and praise of the Divine Majesty.

The FIRST PRELUDE: the history.  Recall to mind Our Lord upon His Resurrection appeared in Body and Soul to His Blessed Mother.  Subsequently He appeared to various others.

The SECOND PRELUDE: the mental representation of the place.  Here it will be to see the two disciples travelling to Emmaus, discussing the events, and Our Lord meeting up with them and continuing the journey with them.

The THIRD PRELUDE: to ask for what I desire.  Here it will be to request the grace that I may feel intense joy and gladness for the great glory and joy of Christ Our Lord.

The first, second, and third points are the same that we have had in the contemplation on the Last Supper of Christ Our Lord.

The FIRST POINT is to visualize the persons at the supper, {here Our Lord with the two disciples} and reflecting within myself, to strive to gain some profit from them.

The SECOND POINT is to listen to what they say, and likewise to draw some profit from it.

The THIRD POINT is to observe what they are doing and to draw some fruit from it.

The FOURTH POINT is to consider that the Divinity which seemed to hide Itself during the Passion, now appears and manifests Itself so miraculously in the most holy Resurrection by its true and most holy effects.

The FIFTH POINT is to consider the office of consoler that Christ Our Lord exercises, comparing it with the way that friends are wont to console one another.

The COLLOQUY:  Conclude with one or more colloquies according to the subject matter and then with “Our Father.”

Before giving the considerations for this meditation we give the Scriptural account: [The following are verses from St. Luke 24:13-46]

And behold, two of them went, the same day, to a town which was sixty furlongs[1] from Jerusalem, named Emmaus.  And they talked together of all these things which had happened.  And it came to pass that while they talked and reasoned with themselves, Jesus Himself also, drawing near, went with them.  But their eyes were held, that they should not know Him.  And He said to them: What are these discourses that you hold one with another as you walk and are sad?  And the one of them, whose name was Cleophas, answering, said to Him: Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things that have been done there in these days?  To whom He said: What things? And they said: Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet, mighty in work and word before God and all the people.  And how our chief priests and princes delivered Him to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we hoped that it was He that should have redeemed Israel.  And now besides all this, to-day is the third day since these things were done.  Yea and certain women also of our company affrighted us who, before it was light, were at the sepulcher.   And not finding his body, came, saying that they had all seen a vision of angels, who say that he is alive.  And some of our people went to the sepulcher and found it so as the women had said: but Him they found not.

Then He said to them: O foolish and slow of heart to believe in all things, which the prophets have spoken.  Ought not Christ to have suffered these things and so, to enter into his glory?

And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded to them in all the scriptures the things that were concerning him.   And they drew nigh to the town whither they were going: and He made as though He would go farther.  But they constrained Him, saying: Stay with us, because it is towards evening and the day is now far spent.  And He went in with them.

And it came to pass, whilst He was at table with them, He took bread and blessed and brake and gave to them.  And their eyes were opened: and they knew Him.   And He vanished out of their sight.

 And they said one to the other: Was not our heart burning within us, whilst He spoke in the way and opened to us the scriptures?

And rising up, the same hour, they went back to Jerusalem: and they found the eleven gathered together, and those that were with them, saying: The Lord is risen indeed and hath appeared to Simon.  And they told what things were done in the way: and how they knew Him in the breaking of bread.

Now, whilst they were speaking these things, Jesus stood in the midst of them and saith to them: Peace be to you. It is I: Fear not.  But they being troubled and frightened, supposed that they saw a spirit.  And he said to them: Why are you troubled, and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?  See my hands and feet, that it is I Myself.  Handle, and see: for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as you see Me to have.

And when He had said this, He shewed them His hands and feet.  But while they yet believed not and wondered for joy, He said: Have you here anything to eat?  And they offered Him a piece of a broiled fish and a honeycomb.

And when He had eaten before them, taking the remains, He gave to them.

And He said to them: These are the words which I spoke to you  while I was yet with you, that all things must needs be fulfilled which are written in the law of Moses and in the prophets and in the psalms, concerning Me.

Then He opened their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures.

And He said to them: Thus, it is written, and thus, it behoved Christ to suffer and to rise again from the dead, the third day.

Painting the Scene and Giving Considerations for the Points Above.

Imagine the scene.  Consider the frame of mind of the two disciples.  They were still recovering from the grief of Our Lord’s death, when they heard seemingly bizarre tales.  They had never really expected that Our Lord was truly God.  To them everything seemed hopeless on Good Friday and to be told on Sunday that Jesus of Nazareth was not in His tomb and was alive, was not believable.

Our Lord comes along almost out of nowhere and joins them in their journey.  He surprises them with His question about the Christ.    

Then Our Lord gave them instruction of all the Scriptures which were fulfilled in Him.  He showed them how the Redeemer would have to die to make satisfaction to the Father.  They began to see how God’s providence ties all things together beautifully. 

Finally, when they reached their destination they longed to have Him stay with them because they respected His wisdom.  They were eager to hear more instructions from Him.  When He blessed the bread at their meal and broke it, they recognized what He had done at the multiplication of the loaves.  He allowed their eyes to be opened and then He disappeared.

They were so excited that they went all the way back to the Cenacle in Jerusalem.  They related to the Apostles what had occurred.  Then Our Lord surprises them a second time by appearing to them all.  Again, all present could not believe their eyes and thought they saw a ghost.  Our Lord ate some fish in front of them to prove that He was indeed not a ghost.  He had compassion on them and instructed them how the Scriptures were fulfilled perfectly.

Father Hurter tells us that Our Lord hearing the disciples in their discourses on their journey to Emmaus, shows us that when we are feeling most bewildered, Our Lord is always nigh.  He desires to help us unravel whatever problem or difficulty we may have.  Our Lord has compassion on us.   He instructs and encourages us.  He doesn’t want us to be in the dark.[2]  This also teaches us that we have to be careful to keep our conversations edifying.[3]

Another aspect that Fr. Hurter points out is that despondency and excessive sadness dimmed the vision of the disciples, “their eyes were held that they should not know Him.”  In addition to this, their despondency and dejection caused them to forget the many consoling promises of God.[4]

Our Lord rebuked them for being “foolish and slow of heart to believe.”  He lovingly consoles them by opening their eyes to the way the Holy Scriptures have been fulfilled in Him.  He was patient with them and set us a good example of being patient with the weak of mind or body.[5]

The two disciples are eager to listen to what Our Lord explained to them.  This is an edifying example for us.  Furthermore, in this apparition, when Our Lord suddenly disappears shows us that when consolations come, they are not long lasting.  Thus, we must prepare for a coming storm when we are in consolation.   In the same vein, we must not fret when we are in desolation, because this too will pass and we must humble ourselves and wait for the next consolation.   In short, we must be humble and submit to whatever Our Lord sends our way.[6]

The disciples hurrying back to Jerusalem showed their eagerness to spread the good news to others.  They wanted to share their joy of having seen the Risen Lord.

When the disciples saw Our Lord again that night, after their return to Jerusalem, they were among the others who thought that they saw a ghost.  Our Lord showed that He is very patient with us indeed and that He is willing to satisfy our intellects; thus, He proved to them that what they saw was really He.

COLLOQUY: [7]

To Our Lord: I, too, O Lord am slow of heart, and need to be rebuked by Thee.  I thank Thee for Thy patience with me and Thy loving mercy that you have always shown me.  I beg Thee to continue to be merciful with me, a wretched sinner.  Make my heart desire to have Thee near always.  Help me to serve Thee with a generous heart.

Please teach me O Lord, for I am eager to learn Thy ways and Thy Truth.

To God the Father: I thank Thee, O heavenly Father for the Resurrection of Thy Son.  May my heart ever yearn to learn more about Thee and Thy Son and Thy wondrous ways.  Please help me spread the truths of the Holy Catholic Church.

In our next lesson we will study St. Ignatius’s Contemplation to Attain Divine Love.



[1]           Sixty furlongs = 7.5 miles.

[2]           Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J. PH.D. D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, page 240.

 

[3]           Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J. PH.D. D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, page 239-240.

 

[4]           Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J. PH.D. D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, page 240.

 

[5]           Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J. PH.D. D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, page 240.

 

[6]           Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J. PH.D. D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, page 238.

 

[7]           Of course, this is only a suggestion of a possible colloquy.  The exercitant can compose his own colloquy.

Lesson #28 – The Resurrection of Our Lord

Mary’s School of Sanctity                   

Lesson #28  The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius –—EXPLANATION OF THE FOURTH  WEEK OF THE EXERCISES – THE RESURRECTION AND APPARITIONS OF OUR LORD

St. Ignatius devotes his fourth week of the Spiritual Exercises to the joy of the Resurrection and apparitions of Our Lord.

In this lesson we will concentrate on the first apparition of Our Lord after His Resurrection.  Tradition tells us that Our Lord appeared first to His Mother.

St. Ignatius gives us the following for this first contemplation of the fourth week.

The preparatory prayer is the same as usual, I ask God Our Lord the grace that all my intentions, actions, and works may be directed purely to the service and praise of the Divine Majesty.

The FIRST PRELUDE is the history.  Here, it is how after Christ expired on the cross, and His Body remained separated from the soul, yet always united with the Divinity.  His soul, likewise united with the Divinity, descended into hell.  There He released the souls of the just, then returning to the sepulcher, and rising again, He appeared in Body and Soul to His Blessed Mother.

The SECOND PRELUDE is the mental representation of the place.  Here, it will be to see the arrangement of the Holy Sepulcher and the place or house of Our Lady, noting its different rooms: her room, her oratory, etc.

The THIRD PRELUDE is to ask for what I desire.  Here, it will be to request the grace that I may feel intense joy and gladness for the great glory and joy of Christ Our Lord.

The first, second, and third points are the same that we have had in the contemplation on the Last Supper of Christ Our Lord.

The FIRST POINT is to visualize the persons at the supper, (here, Our Lord with His Mother) and reflecting within myself, to strive to gain some profit from them.

The SECOND POINT is to listen to what they say, and likewise to draw some profit from it.

The THIRD POINT is to observe what they are doing and to draw some fruit from it.

The FOURTH POINT is to consider that the Divinity which seemed to hide Itself during the Passion, now appears and manifests Itself so miraculously in the most holy Resurrection by its true and most holy effects.

The FIFTH POINT is to consider the office of consoler that Christ Our Lord exercises, comparing it with the way that friends are wont to console one another.

The COLLOQUY:  Conclude with one or more colloquies according to the subject matter and then end with an “Our Father.”

Painting the Scene and Giving Considerations for the Points Above.

Our Lord was buried before the first three stars appeared in the sky on Good Friday.  Our Lady came away from the Holy Sepulchre with St. John.  She knew by Faith that Our Lord would rise again.  Yet, her Sorrowful Heart was torn asunder with grief and she pondered deeply all that had occurred.  She knew what fallen human nature was and she understood better than all other humans what the price of redemption was.  She spent the next thirty-six hours in prayer and reflection. 

Yes, the thirty-six hours that Our Lord’s Body lay in the tomb mark a crucial pivot point in the course of all human history because of His Resurrection which followed.  He proved what He prophesied about Himself – that He would rise after three days.  Our Lord died and was buried on Friday; was in the tomb all of Saturday; and for also part of Sunday, the first day of the week.

From the moment of His conception, Our Lord had all of the powers of a glorified body.  Previously, He hid these powers.  But now, having risen from the dead, He uses those powers.  For example, this means that His Body could pass through material substances.  Thus, it was that He passed through the Holy Winding Sheet and passed through the large stone that was blocking the entrance of the Sepulchre.  Also, He had agility which means that He could move quickly to wherever He wanted to go.  He certainly could go past the guards without them noticing Him.

What happened on Easter morning?  Holy Scripture tells us that there was an earthquake and that an angel came and rolled back the stone and sat upon it.  The angel’s countenance was as lightning, and his raiment was as snow.  “And for fear of him, the guards were struck with terror, and became as dead men.”  (Matt. 28:4)

Now let us go to the chamber of Our Lady.  She suffered greatly at the foot of the Cross.  Her sweet soul had been pierced by the sword of sorrows as Simeon predicted.  The Church refers to this as her transfixion.  No one could guess what anguish was hers as she watched her Divine Son die on the Cross.

We can imagine that she has spent her time in prayer and reflection.  She meditated upon the entire life of Our Lord.  She considered the Old Testament and saw how all things written about her Son were fulfilled most perfectly.  She thanked God the Father for the Incarnation and the Redemption.  Her heart was full of gratitude and love for the Holy Trinity.  She relived the Passion and Death of her Son while she offered her sufferings in reparation for the sins of mankind.  She was the only one who did not lose the Faith.  Even though she longed to see the triumph of the Resurrection, she knew there was no purpose to go to the sepulcher.  She could anticipate that her Dear Son would come to see her.

How fitting it was that Our Lord should go and console His Mother on Easter morning!

He showed her His triumph.  He greeted His Mother and embraced her—she who by her Fiat became the cause of our joy.  The visit was a long one.  St. Teresa of Avila related in her autobiography that Our Lord revealed to her that Our Lady was so overwhelmed with grief that she would soon have died; and so He remained a long time with her in order to console her.  Because of her great grief, it was not until several moments after He came that she was able to realize, to her immense joy, that He had come.[1]

Can we imagine what beautiful things they said to each other?  Or do we simply imagine that because Mary is the masterpiece of God and her heart already had a mystical union with her Son that they simply spent their time together without any spoken words?  We are free to ponder the scene in different ways and we want to be receptive to the inspirations of the Holy Ghost.  

Certainly, Mary’s heart was full of joy and gladness!  Her soul was enriched more than ever before. 

Maybe Our Lord told her about her future mission among the apostles and the faithful.  Her role as the Mother of the flock is an extremely crucial one.  She would be the one to dispense the graces that He had won through His Passion and Death.  Of course, she would be delighted to serve Him in such a beautiful motherly task.  She would be so happy to nourish her spiritual children and help them as much as possible.   

COLLOQUY:[2]

To Our Lady: Oh, my Mother Mary, you were the first to see Our Lord at His Nativity so it is fitting that you should be the first to see Him in His glorified Body.  I rejoice with you O Mary! 

You were the one who suffered with Him more than anyone, and died a veritable death along with your Son, and you were the only one who kept the Faith, so it is fitting that the greatest joy should be yours.  You suffered so much at the horrifying death of thy Son and now your heart is filled with tremendous joy.  Please help me be ever grateful to thy Son for His Passion, Death, and Resurrection.  Keep me always united to thy Divine Son.

To Our Lord: Oh Dearest Lord, how can I thank Thee enough for Thine Incarnation, Passion, Death, and Resurrection!  Thou hast made our Faith so rich with all of these truths.  Thou art so good to us poor creatures!  I thank Thee for giving Thy holy Mother Mary to be our dear Mother who always watches over us.  Please help me be a faithful child of Mary. 

To God the Father: I thank Thee, Dearest Heavenly Father, for the Incarnation, Passion, Death and Resurrection of Thy Divine Son.  I beg Thee to help me always be grateful for my Faith and Thy mercies.  I thank Thee for giving me Mary as my Mother.  Thou knowest how much we need her.

Other apparitions of Our Lord that the exercitant can meditate on are:

·         The apparition to Mary Magdalene

·         The apparition to the two disciples on the way to Emmaus

·         The apparition to Simon Peter

·         The apparition to the apostles in the cenacle without Thomas (Didymus)

·         The apparition to the apostles including Thomas (Didymus)

·         The apparition to the apostles who were fishing

 

In our next Lesson we will meditate on Our Lord’s apparition to the two disciples on their way to Emmaus.



[1]               This is paraphrased from the Liturgical Year by Dom Gueranger vol. VII Paschal Time Book I citing the Life of St. Teresa; in the Additions see p. 402 in the translation by David Lewis, 1870.

 

[2]           Of course, this is only a suggestion of a possible colloquy.  The exercitant can compose his own colloquy.

Lesson #27 – The Passion and Death of Our Lord, Part 2

Mary’s School of Sanctity

Lesson #27  The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius –— EXPLANATION OF THE THIRD WEEK OF THE EXERCISES – THE PASSION AND DEATH OF OUR LORD, PART TWO

In this lesson we continue our consideration of the Passion and Death of Our Lord.  We will take the two meditation suggestions of St. Ignatius and focus mainly on the nailing of Our Lord on the Cross and His death on the Cross.  We will use as our framework the one St. Ignatius gave for our first contemplation of the third week and then give considerations on our topic.[1]

The Crucifixion and Death of Our Lord  

The preparatory prayer is the same as usual: I ask God Our Lord the grace that all my intentions, actions, and works may be directed purely to the service and praise of the Divine Majesty.

The FIRST PRELUDE is to call to mind the history, which here is how Christ Our Lord was nailed to the Cross, and the time He spent on the Cross.

The SECOND PRELUDE is a mental representation of the place.  Here it will be to consider Calvary, its location outside the city walls of Jerusalem and to consider who is standing at the Foot of the Cross.

The THIRD PRELUDE is to ask for what I desire.  Here it will be to ask for sorrow, grief, and a greater understanding of the tremendous price of sin – to see how the malice of sin is shown in Our Lord’s every suffering.  I ask that in pondering His infinite Love for His Father and His infinite humility, I may increase my love for God.

The FIRST POINT is to visualize the persons at Calvary, and reflecting within myself, to strive to gain some profit from it.

The SECOND POINT is to listen to what they say, and likewise to draw some profit from it.

The THIRD POINT is to observe what they are doing and to draw some fruit from it.

The FOURTH POINT is to consider what Christ Our Lord suffers in His Humanity or wills to suffer, according to the passage that is being contemplated.  Here I will begin with serious effort to strive to grieve, to be sad, and to lament. I will strive in like manner through the following points.

The FIFTH POINT is to consider how the Divinity hides Itself.  That is to say, how It could destroy Its enemies and does not do so, how It leaves the most Sacred Humanity to suffer so cruelly.  There is no pain that He did not take upon Himself because He wants to appease the Wrath of His Father and restore to His Heavenly Father the honor and glory which sin, in its very malice and hatred, hurls at the Father.

The SIXTH POINT is to consider that all the suffering is for my sins which are included in the vast number of all sins, and to consider what I ought to do and suffer for Him.  I must try with all the powers of my soul to throw myself at His Merciful Feet and weep for having offended so Majestic and Beloved a Father.  I must beg for an increase of sorrow so I can obtain an increase in the love of God.

The COLLOQUY: Conclude with a colloquy to Christ Our Lord, and at the end say the “Our Father.”  There are countless things to say to Our Lord.  With so many considerations for this central topic of our Faith, one can easily open his heart and pour forth fervent prayers and tears.  In this meditation, it is important to remember that when the exercitant’s heart is drawn to speak to Our Crucified Lord, considering should stop and the heart should be allowed to speak freely. Below, we will give some samples of sentiments which the exercitant can use if he wishes.

Painting the Scene and Giving Some Considerations.

Our Lord has suffered so many humiliations so far in His Passion, from the ignominious treatment in the Garden and being arrested like a common criminal, to having His garments torn off His Body on Calvary.  We can recall that He has already suffered the bloody scourging of His tender skin which had been prepared for His strikers by His bloody sweat.  His Sacred Head has been crowned with thorns.  “I have given My Body to the strikers, and My cheeks to them that plucked them: I have not turned away My Face from them that rebuked Me, and spit upon Me.” (Isaias 50:6)

He was crowned with a cap of thorns with a rim of reeds to help keep it on His Head.  The Roman soldiers mocked Him as a king and struck His Head and this likewise forced the thorns (which were up to 1 and a 1/2 inches long) to press deep into His skull. [2]  

We naturally recall to our minds the other humiliations that Our Lord suffered  which include His condemnation and His being presented with the Cross (the cross-beam, called the Patibulum)[3] which He had to carry through the narrow streets to Calvary with a hostile crowd jeering at Him all the way.

He fell under the weight of His Cross, showing the heavy weight of all of the malice of our sins.  He met His loving and Sorrowful Mother along the way, yet this meeting only added to His broken Heart.  He also met some pious women of Jerusalem who tried to console Him and He spoke briefly to them and forewarned them about the Fall of Jerusalem.

Simon of Cyrene was forced to help Him carry His Cross because Our Lord showed He was exhausted.

Yes, He willed to suffer these humiliations to repair for the dishonor shown to His Father by all of the sins of the entire human race.  Think about how He foresaw all of this beginning from the moment of His conception in His dear Mother’s womb.  He spent His whole earthly sojourn anticipating all He would suffer and now His hour had come, thus, all was being fulfilled.  “He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross.” (Phil.2:8)

After reaching the top of Calvary, they stripped Him of His garments.  What an awful scene of humiliation and pain for Him.  All His wounds from the bloody scourging have been torn open.  Think again of the tenderness of His skin, which was caused by His having sweat blood.

The vertical part of the entire cross, the stipes, is fixed in the ground.[4]  The executioners lay Our Lord down with His arms outstretched on the patibulum.  “Because of thy anger and indignation: for having lifted me up thou hast thrown me down.” (Psalm 101:11) He is appeasing the anger of His Father which has been provoked by all the sins of mankind.

Our Lord was, of course, exalted.  His many miracles alone would be sufficient reason to exalt Him and now He is cast down degradingly to the ground.  Look how patiently He obeys His executioners and spreads His arms out to show His great love for His Father.  Remember His Infinite Love in His Divine nature is only for His Father as is fitting because His Father is the only One Who is worthy of this love.  His Human nature, joined to His Divine nature, loves in the maximum degree that any human could ever be capable of, but we must not forget that His Human love is primarily directed to His heavenly Father.  So, the love He directs to His Father is primary and the love that Our Lord has for us is only secondary.  His primary purpose for suffering was to please His Father, and repair the injustice done to His Father.  As a consequence of this reparation, we reap the benefits and are redeemed.  How wonderful are the many results of the work of God’s Providence especially because He works on many levels.

If we could only ponder all of His sufferings, both moral and physical, with these truths just mentioned in mind, our hearts would be struck with awe and gratitude.  Hence, from dwelling on these sufferings, our love of Our Lord would naturally increase.  How beautiful it is that He wanted to show us His Infinite Love for His Father.  He clearly wanted us to understand His relationship with His Father and the love that He and His Father have for each other.  How often He expressed His desire that everyone know that He was sent by His Father, “Now this is eternal life: That they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom Thou hast sent.” (John 17:3)

The Crucifixion    

Our Lord extended His arms.  An assistant held out one of the arms, with the palm uppermost.  The executioner took hold of the nail which was pointed at its end and had a square head which was 1/3 of an inch thick.  He gave Our Lord’s wrist a prick at the fold at the bottom of the palm.  He gave one single blow with his great hammer and this was enough to fix the nail in the wood.  All he needed to do was to give a few more taps and the nail was fixed firmly.[5]

Think how this nail penetrated the skin, the wrist muscle, and grazed the bones of the wrists, and pierced the Median nerve.  This nerve was not cut in half but pierced through its center which caused Our Lord intense pain.  His furrowed forehead tells of His indescribable pain.  His face contracted in a way which was terrible to behold because of the fiery pain which darted through His fingers like lightning and then shot up His arm like a trail of fire to His shoulder, and then burst into His brain.[6]  He did not cry out. “He opened not His mouth.” (Isaias 53:7) 

He did not faint despite this unfathomable pain.  He willed to be conscious and bear it all because He loves His Father infinitely.  He willed to have His human nature suffer in the extreme. “From the sole of the foot unto the top of the head, there is no soundness therein: wounds and bruises and swelling sores: they are not bound up, nor dressed, nor fomented with oil.” (Isaias 1:6)

In addition, we should note that the laceration of this particular nerve trunk caused His thumb to immediately retract violently into the palm of His Hand and remain fixed there.  (Even when rigor mortis set in, His thumbs were still stuck in this position.)[7]

The raw place on the nerve center remained in contact with the nail and was stretched like a violin string across the nail acting like the bridge.  With every movement, the initial pain which the nail caused when penetrating the nerve was renewed.[8] 

The other wrist was nailed in the same manner as the first, except this time, He knew experientially what to expect.

Because of the angle in which Our Lord’s arms were stretched while He hung on the Cross, the weight that each nail had to bear was about 240 pounds.[9]  We can see what a tremendous burden the weight of all sins is for Him and we can see the horrific malice of every sin!!

Now Our Lord was gotten to His Feet.  The executioner and his assistant move Him backwards and place Him against the stake.  They quickly lift the patibulum on top of the stipes.  With two nails they attached the title of Our Lord’s crime of being the King of the Jews.[10] 

On the Cross, His Body naturally sagged a bit.  Think of the torture of the nerves of His poor wrists being pulled and stretched at every movement.  Then the executioners attached His Sacred Feet to the wood of our salvation.  They bent Our Lord’s knees and placed His left Foot against the Cross and drove a nail through the middle of It.  Then they brought His left Foot in front of His right Foot and by pounding the same nail again, they pierced through the middle of the right Foot and into the wood.  The executioners were very quick in their work.[11]  They then dealt with the two thieves that were killed alongside of Our Lord. “…He was reputed among the wicked…” (Isaias 53:12)  Picture now the three gibbets, side by side, facing the city which killed its God.

With Our Lord’s Body now completely attached to the Cross, we can further study the immensity of His sufferings.  In crucifixion, the victim usually dies of asphyxiation.  How did this happen?  The weight of the body pulled the crucified arms to a position for inspiration which caused the sides to be relatively immobile. This made breathing out very difficult and caused a progressive sense of suffocation.  Since the lungs were in a condition of forced inspiration and unable to empty, normal oxygenation of the circulating blood could not take place and asphyxiation began.  When one is suffering asphyxia, there is in the blood both a major lack of oxygen and too much carbon dioxide.

In order to breathe, the victim used his nailed feet as support, as he straightened his bent knees, lifted the body and brought his arms back to a horizontal position.  The dragging on the hands was reduced and asphyxia temporarily disappeared as respiration was renewed.  Then, because of fatigue, the body would drop and asphyxia would begin again.  With repeated episodes of asphyxiation, the crucified victim soon developed symptoms of tetanus.  Muscle spasms would begin in the forearms, then in the whole arm and then the lower limbs and the trunk.  The muscles would contract and would not relax, namely, they would cramp.  This type of general cramping is also known as tetanus (tetanization).  Hence, this cramping would get so extensive that the person could no longer have the strength to lift himself to get any relief and suffocation would eventually finish him off.  This type of death could take up to two days.[12]

Now let us study Our Lord’s case where He directed His own Passion and Death. “…I lay down My life, that I may take it again.  No man taketh it away from Me: but I lay it down of Myself, and I have power to lay it down: and I have the power take it up again…” (John 10:17-18)

Our Lord’s death didn’t take two days.  It was the great Parasceve and the Lamb of God willed to die that day.  In fact, He had the whole earth put on mourning for Him.  “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over the whole earth, until the ninth hour.” (Matt. 27:45) (Mark 15:33) (Luke 23:44)

We can imagine Our Dear Lord suffering this general cramping of all His muscles, which were bulging.  He breathed shallowly and the air entered with a whistling sound, but scarcely came out any longer.  His Face became flushed and turned a violet purple, and then blue.  His Forehead was covered with sweat.  His Eyes were prominent and rolling.  His Head must have been pounding.  Our Lord lifted Himself as we just described above in order to breathe and in order to relieve the pressure on His Hands.  Remember that the pressure on each crucified wrist was about 240 pounds.  Each time He wanted to breathe or speak He had to lift Himself and pivot on those poor wrist nerves.

The Sacred Arms had two deep furrows in the cramped muscles of the forearms   and in these were two flows of blood.  These indicate this process of lifting to breathe and the dropping with fatigue which occurred all the while Our Lord was on the Cross.  (His fatigue was even greater because of His having been scourged after having an extensive hemorrhage from His bloody sweat.)  His entire chest region was one massive cramp.[13] 

What a price of suffering to pay for the sins of all mankind!  Yet, He willed to speak while on the Cross and suffered more in order to do so.  What did He want to say which He knew would be recorded in the gospels for us to read again and again? When a man is dying, he talks about what is important to him and/or what he wants to be remembered as saying.  Our Lord is God and He shows His compassion for us by leaving us His precious words, His final will and testament, as it were.

“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to Myself. (Now this He said, signifying what death He should die.)” (John 12:31-32)

Yes, Our wonderful Savior, like a Magnet of Love, will draw us to Him by His words.  

Examination of Our Lord’s last words:

Imagine the scene of the Crucifixion with the Pharisees, Scribes, and the people standing around the crosses. 

“And the people stood beholding Him, and the rulers with them derided Him, saying: He saved others; let Him save Himself, if he be Christ, the elect of God.

“And the soldiers also mocked Him, coming to Him and offering Him vinegar.  And saying: If thou be the King of the Jews, save thyself.” (Luke 23:35-37)

“And they that passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads, and saying: Vah, Thou that destroyest the temple of God, and in three days buildest it up again; save thyself, coming down from the cross.

“In like manner also the chief priests mocking, said with the scribes one to another: He saved others; Himself he cannot save.  Let Christ the king of Israel come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.  And they that were crucified with Him reviled Him.” (Mark 15:29-32)

“In like manner also the chief priests, with the scribes and ancients, mocking, said: He saved others: Himself He cannot save.  If He be the king of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him.  He trusted in God; let Him now deliver Him if He will have Him; for He said: I am the Son of God.

And the selfsame thing the thieves also, that were crucified with Him, reproached Him with.” (Matt. 27:41-44)

What horrifying blasphemies hurled against the Son of God and thereby hurled against God the Father and these gravely insulted the divine love that they have for each other!  What ignorance they show that they have of things spiritual!  What proud blindness they have!  Our Lord knows this and so what does His mercy respond?

 “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

Imagine the effect this has on the crowd.  Of course, the Pharisees did not understand forgiveness.  They wouldn’t humble themselves.  Their lives were surrounded with revenge and “an eye for an eye” mentality.  Furthermore, they had envied and hated Our Lord for so long that they could only think of insulting Him.  This was their way of taking revenge.  They were inspired by their father, the devil.

Our Lord was setting an example that we ought to pray for our enemies when He prayed for His.  “Therefore, will I distribute to Him very many, and He shall divide the spoils of the strong, because He hath delivered His soul unto death, and was reputed with the wicked: and He hath borne the sins of many, and hath prayed for the transgressors.” (Isaias 53:12)

We must forgive, pity, and pray for our enemies.  We must give our enemies the benefit of the doubt that they are ignorant of the truth.  We must count our blessings and understand that the Faith and truth are undeserved gifts of God.  Furthermore, we must remind ourselves that these gifts are God’s mercy shown to us.  We must be grateful for what we have and not take things for granted.  What God has given, He could certainly take away.  We must beg Him to continue to have mercy on us.  

Unlike the Jews, Dismas showed he was receptive to Our Lord’s words of forgiveness.  The good thief repented and was sorry for his mockery of Christ. “And one of those robbers, who were hanged, blasphemed Him, saying: If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.  And the other answering, rebuked him, saying:  Neither dost thou fear God, seeing thou art under the same condemnation?  And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this man hath done no evil.  And he said to Jesus: Lord, remember me when Thou shalt come into thy kingdom.” (Luke 23:39-41)

Our Lord is so compassionate to one who humbles himself and admits the truth.  He immediately responds to this repentant thief.

And Jesus said to him: “Amen, I say to you: this day thou shalt be with Me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43) 

Yes, when Our Lord dies, He descends into hell, the Limbo of the Fathers.  He announces their deliverance to the souls awaiting there.  He knows that soon Dismas will have his legs broken, die, and join Him in Limbo.

Thus, Dismas will be with Christ in Paradise.  As described in St. Matthew’s Gospel the moment of Our Lord’s death, “The graves were opened: and many bodies of the saints that had slept arose, and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection, came into the city and appeared to many.” (Matt. 27:52-53)

And as Tradition teaches, when Our Lord ascended into heaven, the souls of the just went with Him into heaven.[14]

We know that Our Dear Mother Mary stood at the foot of the Cross with St. John the Apostle and Mary Magdalene.  What anguish it was for her to see her Son suffer so!  She had been infused with so much knowledge and she is the Virgin of virgins, most pure.  Because of her infused knowledge and the prerogatives God had blessed her with, she understood the tremendous deed her Son was accomplishing and the justice He was fulfilling in order to open the gates of heaven.  She understood, as much as a human could, His love for His Father.  She knew the Scriptures well and was perhaps even reciting in her mind Psalm 21, which prophesied His Passion.  The Pharisees’ “Vah” still rang in her ears as she pondered how this Scripture was being fulfilled before her very eyes.

Her Immaculate Heart ached at the blasphemies and evil around her.  She shared her Son’s ignominy with Him.  No doubt the Pharisees and crowd mocked His Mother as well.  She suffered to see Him suffer physically and she could surmise what mental anguish must have been His.  Tradition calls her the Queen of Martyrs because she suffered a veritable martyr’s death alongside of her Son.  Their Hearts were so united in their mission of redemption.  From the moment of her “Fiat,” she was most likely anticipating what would happen to Him as the Savior Who would become the Paschal Lamb.  She was pleased to suffer with Him.

Our Lord looked down from the Cross.

“When Jesus therefore, saw His Mother and the disciple standing by, whom He loved, He saith to His Mother, “Woman, behold thy son.””(John 19:26)

Why did He call her Woman?  This refers back to the promise of the Redeemer that God gave when He spoke to Satan after Adam’s Fall.  “I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.”

Mary is that Woman that crushes Satan with the death of her Divine Son on the Cross.  Mary is God’s Masterpiece Who He created without original sin so she could be the fitting Mother of His Son.  He chose her to supply the human matter for the Incarnation.  On the Cross Our Lord bequeathed her to us by giving her to St. John who represents baptized Catholics.  Thus, she is the Mother of the members of the Mystical Body of Christ as she was the Mother of the Sacred Humanity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Those who are not baptized Catholics are in the family of the serpent.  Those who are baptized are in the Mystical Body and hence children of Mary.  God made her the Mediatrix of all graces and allowed her, in her finite nature, to join in the redemptive suffering of His Divine Son.  So it is that we call her the Co-Redemptrix, certainly not making her equal to her Divine Son, but recognizing her sorrows, anguish, and pain at the Foot of the Cross.  She willingly accepted St. John and us as well, as her children.  Her tender Immaculate Heart united with the Holy Will of the Trinity and wants to accomplish the work of the Redemption of the Elect.

Then Our Lord completed the bequest.

“After that, He saith to the disciple, ‘Behold thy Mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own.” (John 19:27)

Antiquity tells us that St. John was the youngest apostle, about 17 years old at the beginning of Our Lord’s public life.  He was innocent and a virgin.  He refers to himself, modestly, as the beloved disciple.  Our Lord allowed him to lay his head on His Bosom at the Last Supper.  He followed Our Lord into the houses of Annas and Caiphas, and so, it does not surprise us that we find him at the Foot of the Cross.  Although he, like the other apostles, lost the Faith, he was the first to recover it on Easter morning.  “Then the other disciple also went in, who came first to the sepulchre:  and he saw, and believed.  For as yet they knew not the scripture that He must rise again from the dead.” (John 20:8-9)

He took care of Mary throughout the remainder of her life on earth.  He obeyed her as if she were his mother.  He was privileged to witness the death of Our Lord and write the last account of the Gospel[15] as well as three epistles and the Apocalypse. 

Imagine the scene in which this interchange took place.  Let us not forget the intense darkness that was upon the whole world.[16]  God allowed nature to be affected by the Deicide which was occurring.

“And when the sixth hour was come there was darkness over the whole earth until the ninth hour.[17]  And at the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lamma sabacthani?, which is being interpreted, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? (Mark 15:34)  In Latin, Deus meus, Deus meus, quare me dereliquisti?

It is remarkable to note that these very words are the beginning of Psalm 21.  One cannot help wondering what Our Blessed Mother must have thought and felt at hearing that urgent cry of her Dear heart-stricken Son.  The words of the entire Psalm probably went through her mind and oh, what heart-rending thrusts must have been plunged into her heart especially where this psalm refers to His Mother!

This psalm and others speak of the exquisite moral suffering Our Lord endured on the Cross.  He felt with keen awareness the gravity of sin.  He felt the immense wrath His Father has towards sin.  His Father hates sin.  Our Lord “became sin” to repair the injustice caused by sin.[18]  How can the Divine Father hate the Divine Son?  It is true that it is impossible for the Divine Father to hate the Divine Son and yet in some mysterious way Our Lord allowed His Human Soul to feel completely abandoned by the Father and to block the Beatific Vision that His Human Soul always saw and enjoyed.

Thus, the following words from the depths of the Word Incarnate as He suffered this moral pain on the Cross.

“There is no health in My Flesh, because of Thy wrath: there is no peace for My bones, because of My sins.  For My iniquities are gone over My Head: and as a heavy burden are become heavy upon Me.” (Ps. 37: 4-5)

“My Heart is troubled, My strength hath left Me, and the Light of My Eyes itself is not with Me.” (Ps. 37:11)

The light of My eyes itself is not with Me could be taken as His vision of His Father seems gone or He did not allow Himself to feel any joy or consolation from It.  He willed to suffer the absolute most that one could suffer both physically and spiritually.

“Save me, O God: for the waters are come in even unto My soul.  I stick fast in the mire of the deep: and there is no sure standing.  I am come into the depth of the sea: and a tempest hath overwhelmed Me.” (Ps. 68:2-3)

“For My soul is filled with evils: and My life hath drawn nigh to hell.  I am counted among them that go down to the pit: I am become as a man without help, free among the dead…  They have laid Me in the lower pit: in the dark places, and in the shadow of death.  Thy wrath has come strong over Me: and all thy waves Thou hast brought in upon Me.  Thou hast put away My acquaintances far from Me: they have set Me an abomination to themselves.  I was delivered up, and came not forth: My Eyes languished through poverty.  All the day I cried to Thee, O Lord: I stretched out My Hands to Thee.”  (Ps. 87: 4-10)

“Thy wrath hath come upon Me: and Thy terrors have troubled Me.  They have come round about Me like water all the day: they have compassed Me about together.” (Ps. 87:18-19)

“I am a worm and no man: a reproach of men and the outcast of the people.” (Ps. 21:7)

“For tribulation is very near: for there is none to help Me.” (Ps.21:12)

We can see from these quotes how He felt so abandoned by God and so very alone.  He did not despair, but felt the horrors of the soul close to despair.  Yet, He set the example that one should never give up begging God for help, through humble prayer.

His next words and the quotes which follow shed more light on His physical suffering.   

“I thirst.” (John 19:28)

Again this harkens back to Ps. 21. 

“I am poured out like water and all My bones are scattered.” (Ps. 21:15)

“My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and My tongue cleaveth to My jaws: and Thou hast brought Me into the dust of Death.” (Ps.21:16)

“They have pierced My Hands and My Feet: they have numbered all My bones.” (Ps.21:17)

“My Heart is like melting wax in the midst of My bowels.” (Ps. 21:15)

These quotes bespeak of Our Lord’s great thirst and physical torment.  His bloody sweat, His scourging which was so severe, especially in the region of His Heart, and the tetanization of His muscles all were causes of great thirst.

Furthermore, Our Lord thirsted for souls.  He saw how the majority of souls do not care about Him.  His Sacred Heart is truly a furnace of Charity.  As St. John saw when they pierced Our Lord’s side that blood and water came out.  This water was really pericardial water from the sac that envelops the Heart.  The heart muscle was inflamed and swollen and the sac had extra fluid in it because this is the way in which the body protects the heart.  Having this extra fluid in the pericardial sac held the heart in a manner similar to a vise.

Remember He willed to suffer to the maximum intensity that a perfect human being could suffer.  Why? Because He wanted to prove to us how much He loved His Father!

But what is His thirst like?

For a parent to see wayward and confused children; and/or for one to see confused and worldly relatives and friends; to see so many souls being corrupted daily in the world around us, and to understand what they all are missing, namely, a sweet tender friendship with Our compassionate Lord and Savior— what spiritual torture this is for that soul!   Now think how Our Lord saw all souls and every aspect about them from the beginning of time to the end of time.  Oh what extreme agony for Him to bear!!!  Where is their salvation?  Why do they not love Him?  Why do they not see what He is lovingly suffering?  Why are they throwing away the happiness He was so willing to give them?  Those who love Him and ponder this aspect ought to shudder with fear and grateful humility lest they, too, become callous to His pain and His friendship.  We must cling to Him and constantly thank Him and beg Him for His continued mercies and the sight to see Him and appreciate Him.   

“It is consummated.” (John 19:30)

“I have glorified Thee on earth; I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do. And now glorify Thou Me, O Father, with Thyself, with the glory which I had before the world was, with Thee.”  (John 17: 4-5)  Our Lord is basically announcing that the Chalice of suffering which His heavenly Father gave Him to drink is now fully drunk.  All sin has been atoned for and His Father is now appeased.  His honor has been regained.  The elect have been paid for.  The Father gave the Elect to His Son and now the Son has done what was required of Him to save the Elect and give them back to the Father.

“Father, into Thy Hands I commend My spirit.”  (Luke 23:46)

“And Jesus crying with a loud voice, said, Father, into Thy Hands I commend My spirit.  And saying this, He gave up the ghost.” (Luke 23:46)

Note that Our Lord went back to calling His Father by His name.  Before the sacrifice of reparation was complete, He felt the Wrath of His heavenly Father and now that the reparation was finished, He no longer feels the wrath.  He is ready to give up His Human Soul.  Note too, that He decides the moment when His sacrifice is complete and He will die. “…I lay down My life, that I may take it again.  No man taketh it away from Me: but I lay it down of Myself, and I have power to lay it down: and I have the power take it up again…” (John 10:17-18)

As we said above, the one crucified ultimately dies of suffocation because when he is so fatigued as to not be able to hold himself up anymore, asphyxia overtakes him. 

Our Lord called out with a loud voice yielding up His Soul which means He was not dying of suffocation.  This is one of the things that impressed the Centurion who said, “Indeed this man was the Son of God.” (Mark 15:39)

This is a profound scene because of all the things which occurred… “The veil of the temple was rent in two from the top even to the bottom, and the earth quaked, and the rocks were rent.” (Matt. 27:51)

“And all the multitude of them that were come together to that sight, and saw the things that were done, returned striking their breasts.” (Luke 23:48)

With this we now turn to our colloquy suggestions. 

Colloquy Suggestions: to Our Lord and to Our Lady

To Our Lord:

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Oh, my Dear Merciful Lord, I admire Thy readiness to forgive.  Please help me imitate Thine example.  Because I am so quick to criticize and judge others, I need to stop and reflect how merciful Thou hast been to my poor soul.  Help me consider the difficulties that others have and show patience to them.  Help me to forgive those who misjudge me especially when I try to follow the principles that Thou hast shown me.

“Amen, I say to you: this day thou shalt be with Me in paradise.”

My dearest Jesus, how I long for Thee to say this to me, yet I am so unworthy.  How many times have I been ungenerous in my service of Thee?  I desire to amend my ways and from hence forward follow Thee more faithfully.  Thy words to Dismas give me hope and courage that I can change and build proper habits of virtue.  I thank Thee for Thine example of Mercy to him.

“Woman, behold thy son.”      “Behold thy Mother.”

Oh, most compassionate Savior, how can I thank Thee for giving me such a loving and tender Mother?  I know that she will take good care of all my needs.  She will teach me her ways.  I am so unworthy of such a holy Mother.  Please help me be a docile child of her who is the Mediatrix of all graces.

 To Our Lady: Dearest Mother, bequeathed to me at the Foot of the Cross of thy Divine Son, I admire thy strength and faithfulness.  Help me dear Mother to be faithful to thy Son.  Help me ponder His sufferings both moral and physical.

Eli, Eli, lamma sabacthani?, which is being interpreted, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?

Oh my suffering Jesus, when I ponder Thy sorrowful plea to Thy Father, my heart aches with love for Thee.  Thou wast poured out like water.  Poured, not trickled out.  Thou gave everything to prove to me Thy Infinite Love for Thy Father.  What more could Thou have done?  All Thy sufferings were in the most extreme measure that a man could bear and Thou are The Perfect Man!  I am amazed when I think of how Thou didst plan every detail of how Thou could be humiliated the most and how every aspect of Thy physical pain could be the maximum.  I cannot thank Thee enough for Thy examples which make Thy Cross a special school of sanctity.

“I thirst.”

When I ponder the many aspects of Thy thirst, O Lord, I cannot help loving Thee more and more.  Thy physical thirst was horrific, of course, but when I think deeply about Thy moral thirst for souls, I am caught up in the torrent of Thy beautiful thirst.  I can understand how Thou hast great desire to save souls.  Thou hast inspired this thirst in me and I thank Thee for it with my whole heart.  Please help me share Thy thirst with Thee.

“It is consummated.”    “Father, into Thy Hands I commend My spirit.”  Oh, my dying Jesus, how noble Thou art!  I can see the Majesty of Thy Holy Face.[19] How can I thank Thee for all Thou hast done for me?  I beg Thee to help me die worthily to be able to say to Thee, “into Thy Hands I commend my soul.”   

Our next lesson will be an explanation of St. Ignatius’s Fourth Week which includes the contemplation on Our Lord’s Resurrection.



[1]           The Scriptural texts that pertain to this meditation are Matt. 27:35-39; Mark 15:24-38; Luke 23:34-46; John 19:23-37.

[2]           This information is based on the researched and reported information about the Holy Shroud of Turin found both in Dr. Pierre Barbet’s book, A Doctor at Calvary and an article entitled the Testimony of the Holy Shroud published by POPE (Parents for Orthodoxy in Parochial Education), May, 1971.

[3]           This information is based on the researched and reported information about the Holy Shroud of Turin found both in Dr. Pierre Barbet’s book, A Doctor at Calvary and an article entitled the Testimony of the Holy Shroud published by POPE (Parents for Orthodoxy in Parochial Education), May, 1971.

[4]           This information is based on the researched and reported information about the Holy Shroud of Turin found both in Dr. Pierre Barbet’s book, A Doctor at Calvary and an article entitled the Testimony of the Holy Shroud published by POPE (Parents for Orthodoxy in Parochial Education), May, 1971.

[5]           This information is based on the researched and reported information about the Holy Shroud of Turin found both in Dr. Pierre Barbet’s book, A Doctor at Calvary and an article entitled the Testimony of the Holy Shroud published by POPE (Parents for Orthodoxy in Parochial Education), May, 1971.

 

[6]           This information is based on the researched and reported information about the Holy Shroud of Turin found both in Dr. Pierre Barbet’s book, A Doctor at Calvary and an article entitled the Testimony of the Holy Shroud published by POPE (Parents for Orthodoxy in Parochial Education), May, 1971.

[7]           This information is based on the researched and reported information about the Holy Shroud of Turin found both in Dr. Pierre Barbet’s book, A Doctor at Calvary and an article entitled the Testimony of the Holy Shroud published by POPE (Parents for Orthodoxy in Parochial Education), May, 1971.

[8]           This information is based on the researched and reported information about the Holy Shroud of Turin found both in Dr. Pierre Barbet’s book, A Doctor at Calvary and an article entitled the Testimony of the Holy Shroud published by POPE (Parents for Orthodoxy in Parochial Education), May, 1971.

[9]           This information is based on the researched and reported information about the Holy Shroud of Turin found both in Dr. Pierre Barbet’s book, A Doctor at Calvary and an article entitled the Testimony of the Holy Shroud published by POPE (Parents for Orthodoxy in Parochial Education), May, 1971.

[10]         This information is based on the researched and reported information about the Holy Shroud of Turin found both in Dr. Pierre Barbet’s book, A Doctor at Calvary and an article entitled the Testimony of the Holy Shroud published by POPE (Parents for Orthodoxy in Parochial Education), May, 1971.

[11]         This information is based on the researched and reported information about the Holy Shroud of Turin found both in Dr. Pierre Barbet’s book, A Doctor at Calvary and an article entitled the Testimony of the Holy Shroud published by POPE (Parents for Orthodoxy in Parochial Education), May, 1971.

[12]         This information is based on the researched and reported information about the Holy Shroud of Turin found both in Dr. Pierre Barbet’s book, A Doctor at Calvary and an article entitled the Testimony of the Holy Shroud published by POPE (Parents for Orthodoxy in Parochial Education), May, 1971.

[13]         This information is based on the researched and reported information about the Holy Shroud of Turin found both in Dr. Pierre Barbet’s book, A Doctor at Calvary and an article entitled the Testimony of the Holy Shroud published by POPE (Parents for Orthodoxy in Parochial Education), May, 1971. One can notice on the full figure of the Holy Shroud how the entire body seemed to be one cramp.  The breast cavity looks enlarged and the breast muscles are rigid in a convulsive cramp.

[14]         Of course, we know from our catechism that Limbo still exists and will exist forever for all those souls not in the state of grace, who died before they could use their reason or who were never capable of using their reason.  Of course, this includes the unborn.  Limbo is a state of natural happiness where the souls are deprived of ever having the beatific Vision.  Although limbo is in hell, it is not in the hell of the damned.  The Church has consistently taught that parents have a grave moral responsibility to have their infants baptized as soon as possible so as to not deprive them of sanctifying grace which is essential for salvation.

[15]         It is interesting to note that St. John’s Gospel focuses on the Divinity of Christ and is the only account which gives us Our Lord’s precious words at His final discourse and prayer for the Church.

[16]         Here is the eye-witness account that St. Dionysius the Areopagite wrote about this event to his fellow eye-witness, St. Polycarp:

When we were together at Heliopolis [ancient city, in Egypt, 6 miles northeast of Cairo] we both observed such an interference of the moon with the sun quite unexpectedly, for it was not the season of their conjunction; and then from the ninth hour until evening, beyond the power of nature, continuing in a direct line between us and the sun.  And this obscuration we saw begin from the east, and so pass to the extreme of the sun’s orb, and again return back the same way, being thus the very reverse of an ordinary eclipse.

Epistle of St. Dionysius the Areopagite to St. Polycarp, quoted in the Catena Aurea on St. Matthew’s Gospel, ch.27, v.45, by St. Thomas Aquinas.

This eye-witness account is one example of the historical documentation of this extraordinary darkness which covered the whole earth.

[17]         These are the Jewish hours of the day and correspond to sext (i.e., twelve noon) and none (i.e., three o’clock in the afternoon).

[18]         “For God indeed was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing to them their sins; and He hast placed in us the word of reconciliation.  For Christ therefore we are ambassadors, God as it were exhorting by us.  For Christ, we beseech you, be reconciled to God.  Him, Who knew no sin, He hath made sin for us, that we might be made the justice of God in Him.” (2nd Corinthians 5:19-21)  Of course, St. Paul is speaking about Our Lord being a sin offering because Our Lord is the true Paschal Lamb.

[19]         It is wonderful to note that the Face on the Holy Shroud has the citation “EX 314” at Our Lord’s upper right-hand corner of His Mouth. (EX 3:14 –“I am Who am.”)

And by turning the Face upside down one can see the Chalice with the Precious Blood in It in His beard.

Lesson #26 – The Passion and Death of Our Lord, Part 1

                    Mary’s School of Sanctity                   

Lesson #26  The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius –—THIRD WEEK – EXPLANATION OF THE THIRD WEEK OF THE EXERCISES – THE PASSION AND DEATH OF OUR LORD, PART ONE

As we explained earlier in Lesson #5, the Spiritual Exercises were designed to be done over a month’s time.  In St. Ignatius’s 2nd week, he mentions that the exercitant can add more meditations as time allows, e.g., Our Lord’s calling of His Apostles, the Sermon on the Mount, Our Lord walking on the sea, Our Lord preaching in the Temple, and the resurrection of Lazarus.[1]

Because our purpose here in this series of Lessons is to give a shortened version of the Spiritual Exercises which the laity can use to “do a retreat,” we have limited our treatment of the Second Week.

Consequently, we now proceed to St. Ignatius’s Third Week, which focuses on the Passion and Death of Our Lord.  He breaks this week into 13 meditations as follows:

1.    Our Lord going from Bethany to Jerusalem, including the Last Supper;

2.    The Last Supper to the Garden, inclusive;

 

3.    From the Garden to the house of Annas, inclusive;

 

4.    From the house of Annas to the house of Caiphas, inclusive;

5.    From the house of Caiphas to that of Pilate, inclusive;

6.    From the house of Pilate to the house of Herod;

7.    From the house of Herod back to Pilate;

8.    On the 1st part of what happened at Pilate’s house;

9.    On the 2nd part of what happened at Pilate’s house;

10. From Pilate’s house to the nailing to the Cross;

11. From the raising of the Cross to Our Lord’s death;

12. From the taking down from the Cross to the Burial in the Sepulcher, exclusive; and

13. From the burial in the Sepulcher, inclusive, to the house where Our Lady stayed after the burial of her Son.

 

By devoting one whole week to the reflection on Our Lord’s Passion and Death, St. Ignatius shows us that this work is of great importance to our salvation.  Indeed, Our Lord Himself has revealed to the saints throughout the centuries that He desires for us to spend our lives learning more about His Passion.  He wants us to unite our sufferings to His and learn from His examples.

 

St. Ignatius gives us a framework for the first two topics listed.  He then expects the exercitant to use this basic framework when doing as many of the remaining 11 meditations as the exercitant’s time allows.

In this Lesson we will give two separate meditations.  The first meditation is on Our Lord going from Bethany to Jerusalem which includes the Last Supper.  The second will be from the Last Supper to and including the Agony in the Garden.  We will present St. Ignatius’s framework for each one including special notes from St. Ignatius.  Then we give specific considerations to aid the exercitant in applying his senses to the Gospel accounts of these events.

St. Ignatius labels his first framework, “FIRST DAY AND FIRST CONTEMPLATION”.

The first contemplation at midnight[2] is how Christ Our Lord went from Bethany to Jerusalem, including the Last Supper.  It contains the preparatory prayer, three preludes, six points, and a colloquy.

The preparatory prayer is the same as usual: I ask God Our Lord the grace that all my intentions, actions, and works may be directed purely to the service and praise of the Divine Majesty.

The FIRST PRELUDE  is to call to mind the history, which here is how Christ Our Lord, while at Bethany, sent two disciples to Jerusalem to prepare the supper and afterwards He Himself went there with the other disciples.   How after they had eaten the Pascal Lamb and supped, He washed their feet and gave His Most Holy Body and His Most Precious Blood to His disciples.  How He gave His last discourse after Judas had gone to sell his Lord.

The SECOND PRELUDE is a mental representation of the place.  Here it will be to consider the road from Bethany to Jerusalem, whether it is broad or narrow, whether it is level, etc.  Consider likewise the room of the supper, whether it is large or small, its general appearance.

The THIRD PRELUDE is to ask for what I desire.  Here it will be to ask for sorrow, affliction, and confusion because the Lord is going to His Passion on account of MY sins.

The FIRST POINT is to visualize the persons at the supper, and reflecting within myself, to strive to gain some profit from them.

The SECOND POINT is to listen to what they say, and likewise to draw some profit from it.

The THIRD POINT is to observe what they are doing and to draw some fruit from it.

The FOURTH POINT is to consider what Christ Our Lord suffers in His Humanity or wills to suffer, according to the passage that is being contemplated.  Here I will begin with serious effort to strive to grieve, to be sad, and lament. I will strive in like manner through the following points.

The FIFTH POINT is to consider how the Divinity hides Itself.  That is to say, how It could destroy Its enemies and does not do so, how It leaves the most Sacred Humanity to suffer so cruelly.

The SIXTH POINT is to consider that all the suffering is for my sins, and what I ought to do and suffer for Him.

The COLLOQUY: Conclude with a colloquy to Christ Our Lord, and at the end say the “Our Father.”[3]

These particular meditations on Our Lord’s Passion and Death require some extra time to prepare the mind to consider the points and the heart to be inflamed to speak lovingly to Our Lord.  One should read the Gospel(s) in the section he is about to meditate on.  In this way he can set the scene in his imagination and apply his senses in order to draw some profit as St. Ignatius instructs us to do.  One can re-read verses of the Gospels as needed while he is pondering.

In this particular meditation we will focus on the Last Supper and Our Lord’s discourse at the Cenacle.[4]   We will attempt to combine some of the factual account from the Gospels with the application of our senses in order to paint the scene for the exercitant and we will give some considerations.  The exercitant is welcome to make some additional considerations and images for himself.  Indeed, these will naturally come to his mind.

Painting the Scene and Giving Some Considerations

Think about this most special evening.  It is the last evening Our Lord will spend with His Apostles—His dear ones.  He has lived with them for three and a half years.  He has instructed them by His words and examples.  They have grown to love Him and depend on Him.

Picture the furnished room with a table and couches.  The apostles take their places.  St. John, Our Lord’s beloved, leans lovingly on the bosom of Our Lord. 

He shows His tender love for them and certainly all the faithful when He says, “With desire I have desired to eat this Pasch with you.” [St. Luke 22:15]  He knows that He is the Paschal Lamb which will be sacrificed on the Cross on the morrow.  He knows that this same sacrifice is their Sacramental Food this evening.  He wants to give Himself to them to be their spiritual food and so He has instituted the Most Blessed Sacrament.

He, their Master, washed their feet as a loving slave and father.  Our Lord told Peter that He had prayed especially for him because Satan wanted to destroy Peter. He predicted that Peter will deny Him thrice; nevertheless, Peter insisted that he wouldn’t. 

Our Lord also predicted that one of them was about to betray Him.  Each one anxiously asked if he was the culprit.  Of course, Judas asks too, not surprisingly last, because it would look bad if he didn’t.  Our Lord confirms that Judas indeed is the son of perdition and then dismisses him to set about his evil task.

Then imagine the sigh of relief which must have gone around the room.  No doubt, the apostles had an inner uncomfortable feeling whenever Judas was present.  There was something very unwholesome about the man who was always worried about the money purse.

Now Our Lord opened His Heart to His apostles in a most beautiful way.  He explained how He would not leave them orphans but would send The Holy Ghost, the Paraclete.  He explained to them that if they kept His Commandments, they would prove their love for Him and He and His Father would abide in them.  They then said the customary hymn and departed the room.

 COLLOQUY:[5]

(As St. Ignatius advises us, we make our colloquy to Our Lord.)

O my Sweetest Jesus, how can I thank Thee enough for all Thy edifying examples of Thy virtues?  I have not appreciated Thee enough because I have not penetrated the depths of Thine examples.  I have not pondered Thy Hidden life and Thy Public life enough.  Help me to start a new course now where I can delve into the lessons Thou dost intend for me to learn.  Help me to appreciate Thy explanation of Thy Father and how I am supposed to dwell in Thee and Thy Father.   Help me to study Thy every action and word so I can understand how to imitate Thee.  Help me embrace Thy Sacred Heart and discover Its riches.  I want to follow Thee unto death.  I need Thee, O my Beloved.  Help me to be a docile student.  (I will close with an Our Father.)


St. Ignatius labels his second framework, “SECOND CONTEMPLATION”.

The second contemplation in the morning will be on the mysteries from the Last Supper to the Garden inclusive. [This includes the Agony]

The preparatory prayer is the same as usual: I ask God Our Lord the grace that all my intentions, actions, and works may be directed purely to the service and praise of the Divine Majesty.

The FIRST PRELUDE is the history.  Here it will be how Our Lord descended with His eleven disciples from Mount Sion, where the Supper was held, to the Valley of Josaphat.  Leaving the eight in one part of the valley, He took the other three apart into the Garden.  He then began to pray and His sweat became as drops of blood.  Three times He prayed to His Father, and three times He aroused His disciples from sleep.  After His enemies fell to the ground at the sound of His voice, and Judas gave Him the kiss of peace, after He restored the ear of Malchus which Peter had cut off, He was seized like a malefactor and He was led through the valley and back up the slope to the house of Annas.

The SECOND PRELUDE is a visualization of the place.  Here it will be to consider the road from Mount Sion to the Valley of Josaphat, and likewise the Garden: its width, its length, and its general appearance.

The THIRD PRELUDE is to ask for what I desire.  In the Passion the proper thing to ask for is grief with Christ suffering, a broken heart with Christ heartbroken, tears, and deep suffering because of the great suffering that Christ endured for me.

Notes: in this second contemplation, after the preparatory prayer and the three preludes already mentioned, the same procedure is to be followed for the points and the colloquies as is found in the first contemplation on the Last Supper. [St. Ignatius explains the times of the day when these are to be done.] Then at a separate time period the application of the senses will be made on the matter of these two contemplations, always beginning with the preparatory prayer and the three preludes, according to the subject matter.  The form is the same as that prescribed and explained for the second week.

In this second meditation lesson we focus from the end of the Last Supper to the Agony of Our Lord and His arrest.

Painting the scene and giving some considerations.

Our Lord and His apostles left the Cenacle.  They walked along and made their way to the Garden of Olives.

Our Lord continued His heart-rending discourse.  He tells His apostles how His Father is the husbandman of the vineyard Who takes care of them as the branches.  Indeed, He tells them that He is the vine and they are the branches and in this way they are united to His Heavenly Father.  Thus, He shows God makes a bond of perfection between God and men.  Furthermore, He relates that His Heavenly Father purges them by the means of trials so they can bring forth more fruit. 

He told them that they would have to suffer persecution for His sake, and in this persecution they would be imitating Him Who was persecuted first.   

The apostles surely could sense a certain special solemnity and finality in His words, especially when He told them that He would be leaving them to return to His Father.  They were disturbed and worried about what was going to happen.  Our Lord continued to console them, “In the world you shall have distress: but have confidence, I have overcome the world.” (St. John 16:33)

Next, Our Lord prayed to His Father aloud.[6]  He wanted them to hear the wording of His prayer.  This prayer is like a love letter of the Divine Son to His Heavenly Father because it clearly shows His Divine Sonship and His Infinite Love for His Father.  Oh, such an especially consoling prayer which shows Our Lord’s tender Sacred Heart!  He prayed for His Apostles and for us, too, “And not for them only do I pray, but for them also who through their word shall believe in Me; that they may be one in Us; that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me.”  (St. John 17:20-21)  Think about how Our Lord willed for this prayer to be recorded in the Gospel so we could benefit by reading it and pondering it.  What tremendous Providential care He manifests to His Mystical Body!

The apostles sensed a change in Our Lord.  His demeanor became even more somber.  His heart began to be afraid and heavy.  He said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even unto death.”(St. Mark 14:31)  They must have wondered about this.  What kind of burden was He carrying?  They did not realize that He was feeling the weight of all sin overtaking His soul.  This innocent Lamb of God was taking onto Himself the guilt and shame of every sin of every rational human being from the beginning of time to the end of time.  “For My iniquities are gone over My Head: and as a heavy burden are become heavy upon Me.”(Ps. 37:5)

He told His apostles to sit and pray, and He took Peter, James, and John with Him.  He went forward a little and fell flat on the ground.  He prayed earnestly that His Heavenly Father would take the chalice of suffering from Him.  Of course, He wants to do the Will of His Father and adds, “But not what I will, but what Thou wilt.”

He went to the three and found them sleeping “for sorrow”.   They were overcome with the tension of the night.  Our Lord woke Peter up and said to him, “Simon, sleepest thou?  Couldst thou not watch one hour?  Watch ye, and pray that you enter not into temptation.” (St. Mark 14:37)

“And being in an agony, He prayed the longer” (St. Luke 22:43).  Our Lord persevered in prayer, especially when in great need.  This is mentioned for us in the Gospel because Our Lord wants us to follow His example.

What did Our Lord see that brings upon Him so much grief?  He saw so many souls going to hell in spite of the Passion and Death He was about to undergo.  Yes, even the majority of Catholics go to hell!  He died for the sins of all mankind yet so many sinners never repent.  He saw the ingratitude of so many Catholics and saw them being lukewarm.  He saw the Church militant being persecuted.  He saw His clerics, religious, and prelates, including Popes, trying to destroy His Mystical Body.  What mental anguish for Our Dear Lord! 

He began to sweat blood.  Beads of blood formed on all of His skin, clotted, and were borne to the ground by His profuse sweat.  “I am poured out like water.” (Ps. 21:15)  His skin, which was perfect, became extremely tender and sensitive to any touch.  Remember, He willed to suffer everything because He loves His Father.  Everything that touched His skin caused Him intense pain.  He will suffer so many blows, scourges, and then the additional suffering of having His clothes torn off of His tender body.  Oh what exquisite pain!  Remember, He saw all this in advance and even though He had not yet experienced all of it, the mere anticipation of it must have added to His anguish.

He not only felt the weight of guilt for all sins, He also felt all their malice to His Heavenly Father.  He felt the insult which sin inflicts on His Father’s honor and the displeasure which sin causes His Father.  “Thy wrath is strong over me: and all thy waves thou hast brought in upon Me.” (Ps.87:8) and again, “Thy wrath hath come upon Me: and Thy terrors have troubled Me.” (Ps. 87:17) Yes, sin is ugly and He was taking every wretched stain and the guilt of sin upon Himself.  This is the price of the Honor and Majesty of God!

He has suffered the bitter scorn of His nation.  He was the outcast of the people and He felt their hatred, even after He had shown them so much love and goodness in His miracles and doctrine.  They had already despised Him in His public life so far and then with their unjust demands for His death on the Cross, they will show their hatred all the more.  “They are multiplied above the hairs of My head, who hate without cause.” (Ps. 68:5)  He sees all of this in advance and this adds to the extreme sorrow of His Heart. “O all ye that pass by the way, attend, and see if there be any sorrow like to My sorrow: for he hath vintage of Me, as the Lord spoke in the day of His fierce anger.” (Lamentations of Jeremias, 1:12)

God the Father gave the Elect to the Son, and in order to give the Elect back to His Father, He must pay the price of salvation.  Few are chosen, because God wants quality not quantity.  Our Lord is preparing His Body for the strikers by undergoing this bloody sweat so His Body would be extra sensitive to the pain that would come.  See how much He loves His Heavenly Father and wants to pay for sin.  It is as if He chose to suffer in the most horrific ways to show His Infinite Love for His Father.  Certainly, He proves that He can pay the Infinite price for the malice of sin and restore the Honor of His Father.

How heart-breaking it must have been for Him to see Judas, one of His own apostles, coming with the soldiers and the multitude to arrest Him.  How is it that this traitor will betray Our Lord with a sign of affection?  The touch of that kiss on Our Lord’s cheek must have burned because of the great hypocrisy of this son of perdition.  “Judas, dost thou betray the Son of Man with a kiss?”

Our Lord asked whom they seek.  They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” What power Our Lord showed to them all, including Judas who was standing among the enemy, when Our Lord answered, “Ego sum”, that is, “I am.”  How fitting it was that upon declaring His Divinity in these words, that His assailants all fell backwards onto the ground.  They did not do as men usually do when falling—try to break their fall by putting their arms behind themselves; they simply fell backwards with no control over the results.  Yet, they were so blind with pride they continued in their folly of attempting to arrest the Messiah.  Our Lord allowed them to arrest Him.  Peter, so much in love with Our Lord, put up a fight and cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest, Malchus.  Our Lord healed the ear immediately and told Peter to put his sword away.

How blind Judas and the enemy are with pride that they do not recognize these wonderful works of Our Lord, namely, His throwing them all backwards to the ground!  The apostles did not fall backwards, but only the enemy, and yet the enemy said nothing about what had just happened.   Then Our Lord healed the ear of Malchus in front of them all and they did not make one comment upon this.

 Our Lord then told them, “When I was daily with you in the temple, you did not stretch forth your hands against Me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”  Yes, this is their hour of evil.  Thus, He humbly submits to His arresters.  The apostles all fled.

How alone and rejected Our Lord must have felt.  “And they that were near Me, stood afar off.” And again, “I looked for one that would grieve together with Me, but there was none:  and for one that would comfort Me, and I found none.” (Ps. 68:21)

We must remember that Our Lord was the master of His own passion and death.  He could foresee all that would happen and He willed it to be this way for the greater honor and glory of His Heavenly Father.

COLLOQUY:[7] (As St. Ignatius advises us, we make our colloquy to Our Lord.)

O Lord, how often have I been ashamed of my wrongs and have tried to hide my shame or deny my wrong-doings!  Help me to embrace the shame and confusion that I deserve.  Help me to be ever-grateful to Thee for having suffered so much for me. Thou hast been so merciful to me.  Thou hast been so patient with me.  Help me to be ever-grateful to Thee for Thy tender mercies.  I thank Thee for Thy forgiveness.  I am in great need of Thy further mercy.  Help me to penetrate the profound depth of all Thy suffering.  Help me to put myself in thy shoes and thereby get a glimpse of Thy sorrow and grief.  Help me weep for my sins which caused Thee so much torment and pain, both mental and physical.  By this means I will find the courage to do the penance of reparation I need to make to Thee.  Oh, my dearest Lord and Messiah, Thou art my Savior if I am faithful to Thee unto death.  Please help me to be faithful to Thee.  Oh, and I thank Thee for Thy loving prayer that Thou hast left to prove Thy love for Thy Heavenly Father and Thy love for my poor soul.    Please teach me to love Thee with a greater love so I can belong entirely to Thee in time and in eternity. (I will close with an Our Father.)

In our next lesson we will set out a meditation on the Crucifixion and Death of Our Lord.   We will concentrate on Our Lord’s Humility and Infinite Love for His Father.



[1]           A list of the other suggested meditations and their points that St. Ignatius gave will be given at the end of our entire treatment of St. Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises and included in the book form we intend to make available.

[2]           St. Ignatius sets his Exercises up in the thirty-day retreat in such a way that the exercitant rises at night to do some of the meditations. Likewise in the 2nd contemplation when he mentions the suggested time of doing the meditation to be in the morning, this is based on the thirty-day retreat instructions.

[3]           St. Ignatius adds this note: It is to be observed, as has already been stated in part, that in the colloquies I must exercise my reason and make supplication according to the present circumstances.  That is to say, whether I am being tempted or experiencing consolation, whether I wish to have one virtue or another, whether I try to dispose myself in one direction or another, whether I desire to lament or rejoice in the matter of my contemplation.  Finally, I shall ask for what I most earnestly desire regarding the particular things that I am considering.  In this way I may have just one colloquy with Christ Our Lord, or if the subject matter or devotion prompts me to do one with the Son, and one with the Father, in the manner that was prescribed in the second week, in the meditation on two standards, together with the note following the meditation on the three classes of men.

 

[4]           The Scriptural texts that pertain to this meditation are Matt. 26:17-46; Mark 14:26-42; Luke 22:1-39; John 13 &14

[5]           Of course, this is only a suggestion of a possible colloquy.  The exercitant can compose his own.

[6]           This prayer is the entire chapter 17 of St. John.   Our Lord wants this prayer to be heard by His apostles and to be recorded for our benefit too.

[7]           Of course, this is only a suggestion of a possible colloquy.  The exercitant can compose his own.

Lesson #25 – Explanation on the Three Modes of Humility

                    Mary’s School of Sanctity                   

Lesson #25 – The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius – SECOND WEEK – EXPLANATION ON THE THREE MODES OF HUMILITY

This part of the Spiritual Exercises is not, strictly speaking, set up in the form of a meditation.  But one could certainly adapt this information into a meditation.  One would take the information given by St. Ignatius and ponder these points and make the suggested colloquies.   One could structure the information like St. Ignatius does.  Below we will first set out the explanation as St. Ignatius gives it and then we will set forth a structure which one could use if he were going to meditate on the information.

THE THREE MODES OF HUMILITY

The first mode of humility is necessary for eternal salvation. This requires that I humble and abase myself as much as is possible for me, in order that I may obey in all things the law of God Our Lord.  Accordingly, I would not give consideration to the thought of breaking any commandment, divine or human, that binds me under pain of mortal sin, even though this offense would make me master of all creation or would preserve my life on earth.

The second mode of humility is more perfect than the first. I am in possession of it if my state of mind is such that I neither desire nor even prefer to have riches rather than poverty, to seek honor rather than dishonor, to have a long life rather than a short one, provided that here be the same opportunity to serve God Our Lord, and to save my soul.  Nor would I, for the sake of all creation or the purpose of saving my life, consider committing a single venial sin.

The third mode of humility is the most perfect.  This exists when the first and second forms are already possessed, and the praise and glory of the Divine Majesty being equally served, I desire and choose poverty with Christ poor[1] rather than riches, in order to be more like Christ Our Lord; [and] when I choose reproaches with Christ,[2] thus, [choosing] suffering rather than honor, and when I am willing to be considered as worthless and a fool for Christ Who suffered such treatment before me, rather than to be esteemed as wise and prudent in this world.

If one desires to attain this third form of humility, it will be very profitable for him to make the three colloquies on the three classes of men (mentioned earlier).  He should implore Our Lord to be pleased to choose him for this third form of humility, which is greater and more perfect, so that he may better imitate and serve Him, provided it be for the equal or greater service and praise of His Divine Majesty.


Now We Set Up this Information as a Meditation.

The preparatory prayer is the same as usual: I ask God Our Lord for the grace that all my intentions, actions, and works may be directed purely to the service and praise of the Divine Majesty.

The FIRST PRELUDE: is to think of the three degrees of humility that St. Ignatius sets out for us.

The SECOND PRELUDE: to ask for the grace that I desire.  Here it will be to ask of Our Lord the grace that I may attain to the third degree of humility.

The FIRST POINT: THE 1ST MODE OF HUMILITY requires that one stay out of mortal sin.

The SECOND POINT: THE 2ND MODE OF HUMILITY requires one to stay out of venial sin.

The THIRD POINT: THE 3RD MODE OF HUMILITY requires one to imitate Our Lord by choosing poverty and to suffer reproaches like Our Lord did.

The COLLOQUY: We make the same type of colloquies that we made to Our Lady, Our Lord, and Our Heavenly Father in the meditation on the Two Standards.  Here I will beg for the third mode of humility which I am so unworthy of and which I need in order to have the most intimate friendship with the Holy Trinity.

Do we really desire humility?

We can well remember Our Lord’s words, “Amen I say to you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, he is the greater in the kingdom of heaven.” [St. Matthew’s Gospel, 18:3-4]

How humble is humble enough?  If we find ourselves asking this question, then we might well wonder if we lack magnanimity of soul.  For magnanimity requires that we want to do the most we can to serve God Our Creator and Heavenly Father.

Our Lord is telling us that no one gets to heaven without having humility.  St. Ignatius explains to us three modes of humility and that if we possess at least one of these modes of humility we can indeed save our souls.  Yet, we must keep in mind that his explanation is given to us in order that we can examine ourselves and see how important humility is to us, and furthermore, to truly examine how much we love Christ.  Are we truly willing to imitate Christ, especially His humility?   St. Ignatius would invite us to ponder these three modes of humility so closely as to turn our pondering into a meditation bearing the fruit of begging Christ to increase our humility and our love for Him.  Indeed, St. Ignatius would have us learn so much about our own lack of humility and subsequent lack of ardor for Christ, that we will then greatly yearn for the third mode of humility and we will earnestly beg Our Lord to give us the third mode.  Now let us study the three modes of humility in order to increase our desiring the best for our souls and to foster the deepest and most beautiful friendship with Christ we can have. 

Considerations for the FIRST POINT: Those who possess the first mode of humility never want to commit a mortal sin.

St. Ignatius tells us that the souls who fall into this first mode are those souls who do not want to offend God by mortal sin.  They truly have a fear of committing mortal sin.  Yet this is the lowest degree of humility and we cannot save our souls without at least this grade of humility.  In order to preserve this degree, we must follow Our Lord’s precept to pray and be vigilant, “Watch ye, and pray that ye enter not into temptation.” [St. Matthew’s Gospel, 26:41]

It is so important to consider that to shoot for such a minimum of humility is not very generous.  What friend would we be to someone if we said to him, “We love you enough to not want to kill you”?  Surely, our love should be far greater than this!

True friends do not want to hurt each other in any way.  Therefore, we should not want to hurt Our Lord by anything that would displease Him.

The practical reality of someone being content to attain only this mode of humility is that he most likely will not be able to maintain this and will likely fall into mortal sin.  If we keep in mind how fragile our fallen human nature is, we can clearly see how easily one can fall into sin and lose his soul.  Think of the angels who were created with high intellects and fell.  Think of our first parents, who were dwelling in Paradise and fell.  Add to this the fact that King David, a man according to the heart of God, fell.  Further remember Solomon, who was endowed by God with extraordinary wisdom but fell.  Finally think of how even St. Peter, especially chosen by Our Lord to lead His apostles and His Church, yet he fell when he denied Our Lord three times.  Should we not have a great fear of becoming lukewarm and settling for mediocrity in our souls?  We should want to stay far away from any thing and any occasion which would not be Christ-like or that He would see as a danger to our souls.  May this be strong enough evidence to convince us not to be satisfied with having this mode of humility!

Considerations for the SECOND POINT: Those who possess the second mode of humility never want to commit a venial sin.

St. Ignatius tells us that the soul in this mode has reached a degree of detachment from creatures.  This soul has attained such holy indifference to temporal things, such as honor and dishonor, wealth and poverty, health and sickness, a long life or a short life.  This soul wants to avoid venial sin and all occasions of sin.

Although this soul is noble in its aspirations, where exactly does this soul stand?  Fr. Hurter gives us these self-examination questions regarding this mode of humility:

Have we attained this degree?  How easily we are deceived if we look at our good resolution and trust our frequent confessions.  But whence the many relapses into venial sin?  Why our many complaints when adversity strikes us, when the Lord is in earnest and takes us at our word, when He sends us humiliations, privations and sufferings?  Whence that craving within us, which rules us completely, for honors, comforts, and worldly joys?  Whence this dread of sacrifice, mortification, and self-abnegation?  Are we striving with all our strength to submit to the will of God?  For it is self-evident, on attentive consideration, that this is necessary if we would remain in the second degree.  “He that contemneth small things shall fall little by little.” [Eccl. 19:1]  However, we must strive for a still higher perfection.[3]

Yes, we must be on our guard constantly to work with all our efforts to despise all venial sin, especially deliberate venial sin.  We must work tirelessly to avoid those venial sins committed through weakness by recognizing our human frailty and begging heaven’s assistance in striving to please God in all things and accepting all crosses and inconveniences.

As edifying as this mode of humility is described here, we must climb ever higher.  For the tenderest friendship with Christ demands still more of us.  The holy union with Christ which He expects us to seek requires everything from us.  Remember, our God is a jealous God and wants us to love Him with our whole heart, and with our whole soul, and with our whole mind.[4] He insists on us giving Him everything.  He must be all in all to us.  This is what true charity and Divine Friendship requires.  Thus, St. Ignatius explains to us the highest level of humility to which we will now turn our attention.

Considerations for the THIRD POINT:  Those who possess the third mode of humility seek to imitate Christ in all things, even accepting poverty and reproaches for the praise and glory of the Divine Majesty.

This mode of humility is the highest.  Let us reflect on Fr. Hurter’s inspiring words to help us desire this mode of humility which leads to perfection.

This degree does not stop at indifference to poverty or riches, honor or dishonor, but provided the honor of God claims nothing else, this degree of humility actually decides in favor of that which the Savior chose as His portion, that is, poverty, shame, and suffering. What a grand, noble, and exalted disposition of the soul!  To come to such a conclusion the following motives should persuade us:

1) The love of our dear Divine Redeemer.  Indeed, we promised Him, “I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.”

2) The conviction that whatever the Lord, Who is wisdom itself, chooses, is the best, the most perfect, and will be the most useful for us.

3) The example of the saints, who were encouraged and drawn by the example of Our Divine Savior, and entered upon this road, seeking, loving, and choosing poverty, contempt, and suffering.

4) Even the example of the children of this world, who in their love of a human being, as of a child or a bride, or in their hopes of temporal gain or passing reward, even for carrying out their evil intentions, make great sacrifices, lead a very troublesome life, and take upon themselves great hardships.  Think of the soldier, the miner, the railroad-man.  Their lives are often harder than the mortified life of the penitent in the desert or the members of the strictest religious orders.

5) Glance at the reward given, not only in the hereafter, but already in this life.  There ensues even here below, as a result of a such a disposition of mind, a peace which the world does not and cannot give, and a joy of the kind which the Apostles experienced when they had been scourged. “And they indeed went from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were accounted worthy to suffer reproach for the name of Jesus.” [Acts 5:41] “I am,” declares St. Paul, “filled with comfort; I exceedingly abound with joy in all our tribulation.” No wonder that such souls have a taste of joy, in fact, are filled with joy; they are even now elevated above the things of earth, and can say with the Apostle of the gentiles: “But the things that were a gain to me, the same have I counted loss for Christ.  Furthermore, I count all things to be but loss for the excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord.” [Phil. 3:7]

6) The blessing which rests on them for such a disposition of mind, and on the labors for the salvation of the souls of others.  Truly Apostolic men are indeed apt instruments in the hands of Christ.  They prefer sacrifices, self-denial, and suffering.  They do not seek themselves, but the greater honor of God.  Hence, we see the real followers of Our Divine Savior on the way to the cross rendering great service in the conversion of sinners.[5]

This third mode of humility is so perfecting and beautiful we should desire with all our hearts to have it!  We should strive after this exalted degree of humility with the help of Our Lady and her Divine Son.  Let us implore God to elect and elevate us to it. Let us prepare ourselves by degrees for this grade of humility.

But exactly what is necessary to reach this mode of humility?

·         Let us resolve not only to avoid all mortal sin but to despise all venial sin, indeed to despise the very shadow of sin!

 

·         Let us resolve to make good use of the daily opportunities for mortification and self-denial, to become accustomed to patiently bear rebukes, slights, and humiliations.

 

·         Let us strive to be masters of ourselves and endeavor to be faithful followers and imitators of Christ Himself.

 

·         Let us purify our intentions, and please Our Lord as the Mystical Spouse of our souls.[6]

There is nothing higher for the soul to aspire to than the Mystical Marriage with Our Lord, the heavenly Bridegroom.[7]  Our Lord refers to Himself as the Bridegroom many times in the Gospels, for indeed, He intends that every elect soul be His spouse.  Hence, St. Ignatius tells us to implore Our Lord to choose us for this mode of humility so we can better imitate Him and serve Him in our lives.  What better result can be gotten from our cooperation in what we set out to accomplish from the first meditations on the Principle and Foundation?  What noble friendship with Our Dear Lord Jesus Christ!!

Concluding thoughts:

Now we find that we can turn our thoughts to our begging colloquies that St. Ignatius recommended to those who desire to attain this third form of humility—for only this third form should satisfy our soul’s hunger for Christ!

COLLOQUY:[8]

[Addressing Our Lady as St. Ignatius advised us to do.] O, my mother Mary, I desire with all my heart to have this third degree of humility.  Thou, tender Mother and excellent model of humility, were uniquely fashioned by God to help me, thy poor child to learn humility.  I place myself in thy maternal hands.  Please assist me to despise all sin and all things which are displeasing to Thy Son.  Please aid me, dearest, tenderest, Mother, to embrace all suffering, both moral and physical, so I can better learn to imitate thy Divine Son.  The Divine Bridegroom is attractive to me and I need thy help, O Mary, to properly dispose my soul for Him.  I beg thee, dearest Mother Mary, to guide me and teach me all I need to know in order to please thy Son. I will say a Hail Mary.

[Then St. Ignatius has us address Our Lord with a similar colloquy.] O my dearest Lord Jesus Christ, I love Thee and I need Thee.  I beg Thee to help me by giving me this third mode of humility.  I know I am so unworthy of having this tremendous gift, and yet, I beg Thee from the bottom of my heart to grant me this deep humility.  O my sweet Jesus, Thy humility is so attractive and charming to me!  O how I long to imitate Thy humility!  Alas, I am so weak and inexperienced in imitating Thee that I have no real idea how to begin.  But I know that Thou will not despise my petition because Thou hast Thyself invited me when Thou said, “Learn from Me for I am meek and humble of heart,” and “Ask and you shall receive.”  I throw myself at Thy Feet and beg Thee to keep Thy countless examples of humility ever before my mind so I can ponder them and endeavor to imitate them. Close with an Anima Christi.

[Then I will address the Father with a similar colloquy.] O almighty Father, Thou hast given Thy Dear Son to us to be our Model of virtue. I beg Thee to help me follow Thy Son’s examples and imitate Him in all things.  Help me to faithfully use every circumstance as a golden opportunity to imitate Thy Divine Son.  Help me to have the strength to suffer whatever Thou art pleased to send me, both moral and physical suffering, even poverty and bearing the reproaches others inflict upon me. 

Help me to always see that nothing is more important than faithful service to Thee.  Likewise, help me to ever remember that whatever Thou hast chosen for my life and its circumstances, is because of Thy Providential care.  Thou hast loved me from all eternity and thus, all things are for my good and for Thy Divine Honor and Glory.  Let me delight in seeing Thee glorified in all things.  Also, I beg Thee to help me be ever grateful to Thee for all Thou dost in time and in eternity. Close with an Our Father.    

We have studied the Three Modes of Humility and have hopefully acquired a great desire to be of the third mode.  In our next two lessons we will study intimately Our Dear Lord’s Passion which will further help us pour out our hearts to beg Him to help us imitate His profound humility.  By our faithful imitation of Him we hope to better dispose our souls to receive the wonderful gift of the third mode of humility.   We hope to grow this noble heart-felt desire in these upcoming lessons/contemplations on the Passion of Our Lord.



[1]           i.e., in His Poverty.

[2]           i.e.,  suffering what He suffered.

[3]           Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat, by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, Page 188.

 

We should also keep in mind that even if we do not have the sacramental confession available without compromise that we must practice perfect acts of contrition.  Furthermore, by using indulgenced prayers and sacramentals such as our rosary beads, and Signs of the Cross, we can remit our venial sins.  Our Lord indeed does not leave us orphans, especially when we are sacrificing and avoiding compromise out of love for Him.

 

[4]            “Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment.” [St. Matthew 22:37-38]

[5]           Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, Page 188-190.

 

[6]           These points are a paraphrase from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, Page 191.

[8]           Of course, this is only a suggestion of a possible colloquy.  The exercitant can compose his own.

Lesson #24 – Meditation of the Three Classes of Men

                    Mary’s School of Sanctity                   

Lesson #24 – The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius – SECOND WEEK – MEDITATION ON THE THREE CLASSES OF MEN

In this lesson we study St. Ignatius’s famous meditation called the Three Classes of Men.  This meditation is a more subtle one and we must strive to understand the key message that St. Ignatius is giving us in this meditation.

His message harkens back to the proper use of creatures from our meditation on the Principle and Foundation Part II which was Lesson #11.[1]  There we discussed how creatures are supposed to be used solely for the service of God and to help us save our souls.  When one discovers there is a creature that is not useful for his salvation and the service of God, then he must rid himself of it. 

In this current meditation, St. Ignatius wants us to make a close examination of our own particular use of creatures.  We, no doubt, have some attachment to a creature which is an obstacle to our perfect service of God and to our salvation.  We must be convinced, like the third class of men (discussed below) that we must be completely detached from any obstacle which is between us and God.  When we are actually doing this meditation, it is often the case that we see more directly to which creature we are inordinately attached and we fortify our resolve to give up that attachment because we want to love God completely. 

This meditation helps us discover the demonic tricks which hinder us from ridding ourselves of inordinate attachments to creatures.  In this meditation we will consider the various inordinate attachments men typically have.  We will consider the consequences of delaying to get rid of bad attachments.  We will then discuss what happens if we try to retain our bad attachments by rationalizing that our attachment is not a problem after all.  Lastly, we will discuss the peace and harmony a person has within his soul when he truly renounces all inordinate attachments so he can serve God as He wills us to serve Him.

Before setting out our intended considerations, let us first see the material St. Ignatius gives for this meditation.

The preparatory prayer is the same as usual, I ask God Our Lord the grace that all my intentions, actions, and works may be directed purely to the service and praise of the Divine Majesty.

The FIRST PRELUDE: is the history.  Here it is to consider three classes of men.  Each of them has acquired ten thousand ducats, but not purely, as they should have, for the love of God.  These men all wish to save their souls and find peace in God Our Lord by freeing themselves of the serious impediment arising from their attachment to this acquired money.

The SECOND PRELUDE: is the mental representation of the place.  Here I will behold myself standing in the presence of God Our Lord and all His saints, that I may desire and know what is most pleasing to His Divine Goodness.

The THIRD PRELUDE: I will ask for the grace that I desire.  Here it will be to beg for the grace to choose what is for the greater glory of His Divine Majesty and the salvation of my soul.

The FIRST class: They would like free themselves of the attachment they have for the money they acquired, in order to find peace in God Our Lord, and to be able to save their souls, but up to the hour of death they do not take the means.

The SECOND class: They want to free themselves of the attachment, but they wish to do so in such a way as to retain what they have acquired.  They want God to come to what they desire, and they do not resolve to give up the money in order to go to God, even though this would be the better state for them.

The THIRD class: They wish to free themselves of the attachment, but in such a way that their inclination will be neither to retain the thing acquired nor not to retain it, desiring to act only as God Our Lord shall inspire them and as it shall seem better to them for the service and praise of His Divine Majesty.  Meanwhile they wish to consider that they have in their hearts broken all the attachments, striving not to desire that thing nor anything else, unless it be only the service of God Our Lord that prompts their action.  Thus, the desire of being able to serve God Our Lord better will move them either to accept things or to give them up.   

The COLLOQUY:  we can make the same colloquies that were made in the previous contemplation or the Two Standards.

This meditation focuses on what to do when we discover that we have inordinate attachments to creatures.  Let us realize that as humans it is a given fact that we all have some inordinate attachment to one or more creatures.  This is a consequence of our fallen human nature.

What sort of things are we inordinately attached to?  Some typical examples are given below.

What are we supposed to do with inordinate attachments?  We get rid of them.

We all have things/creatures in our lives that are not good for our salvation.  We must discover what they are and be completely determined to rid ourselves of them without compromise or reservation.

Not only does our salvation depend on our complete detachment from creatures, but the mystical union which Our Lord intends to have with each Catholic is hindered by the obstacles we place between ourselves and the Bridegroom of our souls.[2]

Therefore, it is crucial that we be truly detached from creatures and only use them according to the will of God.

Yet, when we come to the point of getting rid of them, humans often do one of three things and these three things correspond to the three classes of men. 

1.    The first class men are those who delay giving up the inordinate attachment(s).

2.    The second class men are those who try to rationalize that the inordinate attachment(s) is (are) somehow not really inordinate.
   

3.    The third class men are those who when they realize that the inordinate attachment(s) is (are) a danger to their salvation, they simply rid themselves of it (them). 

Let us firstly examine the typical attachments that we humans have and then analyze the way we humans commonly react to these types of attachments.   In this way we will be considering the substance of St. Ignatius’s meditation and then see how we can increase our desire to be truly like the third class of men and acquire holy indifference.

Typical obstacles in our human condition:

False human respect:

We humans often worry too much about what others think of us and our actions.  We do not want to stand out and look different.  There are strong temptations to go along with the world in its fashions, and worldly activities. 

We often worry that if we have Mary-like modesty or moral standards that please Our Lord and King, then we will be considered weird or prudish.  We worry what our extended families or friends will think of us when we should really be concerned about what Our Lord and Our Lady will think about us.

What does Our Lord say about our being too concerned about what our relatives think about us? “He that loveth father or mother more than Me, is not worthy of Me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me, is not worthy of Me.” (St. Matthew’s Gospel, 10:37). 

Our Lord does not want us to have inordinate attachments to people, especially if they are bad companions for us.

Further, when our worldly friends and acquaintances are hostile to us because we put Christ first, He consoles us in these words: “If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.”  (St. John’s Gospel, 15:20). 

If we are worried about people not liking our principled stand on Catholic Faith and Morals, we do well to remember these precious words of Our Lord and take courage and strength from them. 

Some additional consoling words are: “If the world hate you, know ye that it hath hated Me before you.”  (St. John’s Gospel, 15:18).  “In the world you will have distress: but have confidence, I have overcome the world.”  (St. John’s Gospel, 16:33).

The Book of Wisdom teaches that worldlings despise the just.  Therefore, we must expect reproach and scorn from those who are worldly.  They will never agree with us and if we are trying to please Our Lord and Our Lady, we will necessarily be a thorn in the side of the worldly.  Our Dear Lord and His Mother suffered greatly from the worldly of their time, so we must not be surprised if we are misunderstood and held in contempt if we are imitating Our Lord and His Mother.


Comforts
:

Here we must examine how we view our comforts both physical and spiritual.  Do we squawk when we encounter physical discomfort, e.g., it’s too warm or it’s too cold?  What do we do when we have some physical ailment or pain?  What do we do when we don’t feel like delving into intellectual work?   Are we prone to want to relax and take it easy?  Am I attached to some favorite clothes, shoes, or accessories?  


Gadgets:

Here we must examine our use of technology.  Do we have to have the latest electronic equipment?   How much time do we spent focused on our modern equipment?  


Pleasures:

Here we examine what delights us.  How do we spend our time?  Do we occupy our time with things that are wholesome and pleasing to God?  Are we attached to shallow and worldly amusements, travel, dining out, etc.?  Are we attached to some particular food(s) or beverage(s)?


Conveniences
:

Here we examine how we use the things which make our life easier.  How do we handle circumstances when one of these useful things is not available to us at a given time?  Do we get upset?  Do we think the situation is a horrible cross?  Do we tell ourselves that we cannot manage without this object?  Now is a good time to examine how we handle circumstances, in general, that do not go favorably for us.  Are we so attached to having our own way that we do not readily accept things that come to us?  (Are we too attached to our selfish will?)


Property:

Here we examine how we view our property.  Do we have the spirit of poverty when it comes to our belongings?  If something were to happen to our property, what would our reaction be?  Is there something we own that would be considered by Our Lord or Our Lady as a worldly luxury?  Is there something we own which we use only to pamper ourselves?

People:

Here we examine our friendships and acquaintances.  Do they help us save our souls?  Do they help us increase in virtue?  By contrast, do they “drag us down”?


A sign to help us identify inordinate attachments:

One clear indication that we have a dangerous attachment to a person, place, or thing is to ask ourselves if something were to happen to [fill-in-the-blank], what would my reaction be?  Our reaction should be, “Whatever God wants is what I want”.

Like Job, we should say:

The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away: as it hath pleased the Lord so is it done: blessed be the name of the Lord.

 Job, 1:21.

If this is not our reaction, then we have an inordinate attachment.


Having found an inordinate attachment, how do humans react?

The first class of men delays getting rid of the inordinate attachment.

Men who fall into the first class do want to save their souls and yet they do not actually do what they know they should in order to save their souls.

We can truly consider how men in this class neglect to think about, let alone ponder, the Principle and Foundation.  They are considered by St. Ignatius to be procrastinators for they always tell themselves that they will take the means to save their souls later.  They put off until tomorrow what ought to be done today. They do not worry about the fact that man is created to praise, revere, and serve God and that he is to use creatures only insofar as they help him to obtain his end.  They do not weigh all of their actions in light of eternity.  Therefore, they do not have an eternal perspective.  

If they are not fulfilling the principle and foundation, what are they doing?   Fr. Hurter describes the focus of men who delay ridding themselves of their inordinate attachments:

The principles of the world rule and guide their judgment; they are not penetrated by the sentiments of Our Divine Savior.  They strive for comfort, honors, dignities, prestige and praise, not for the greater honor of God and the salvation of souls.  They have a passion for entertainments and amusements, but dread self-denial and mortification.  Spiritual exercises not binding under pain of mortal sin they neglect.  If, for some reason or other, they do attend spiritual exercises, they may indeed make some good resolutions, but without permanent results.  There is no earnest endeavor to reduce them to practice, for old customs and long-established habits choke the sprouting seeds (or correct desire to be rid of inordinate attachments).[3]

These are sufficient considerations to warn us about the danger of falling into this class.  Now let consider the second class of men.


The second class of men rationalizes and tries to make it look like the inordinate attachment is not a danger to salvation.

When a second-class man realizes that he has an inordinate attachment, he rationalizes so that he can keep the object to which he is inordinately attached.  The devil seeks to trick people to keep their inordinate attachment under the appearance of good.  The person tells himself that he could do so much good by keeping the thing he is inordinately attached to.

For example,

Ø  “I should keep associating the those (bad) companions (that are still a danger to my soul) because I can be a good example for them.”

Ø  “I should stay in that (compromise) group because I can influence them for the good from within.”

Ø  “I should receive those (compromise) sacraments because I need to get my children in the habit of receiving the sacraments.”

Ø  “I should keep my (worldly) media-streaming device because it will help me save my soul by watching (so-called) ‘holy’ movies.”

Ø  “I should not do extra penance because it will ruin my good health.” 

The devil also tempts us to think that we have a real need for something and that we cannot function without it.  When we find an attachment and we suspect it is an inordinate one, if we find ourselves coming up with a string of apparent reasons why we need the object, this is a very big clue that we have an inordinate attachment to the object.  Then it is important that we use Ignatian discernment to weigh whether at our deathbed we will have wished that we had rid ourselves of that object.  If we can see that we would regret at our particular judgment that we kept the object in our life, then we know that we have an inordinate attachment to the object.  We know what to do – detach ourselves from it!

God does not try to trick us.  Our reason must be used to weigh how we use creatures.  God expects us to use our reason to make a proper choice on how to use objects and which objects are dangerous to our salvation.  In other words, God expects us to be able to figure out whether something is an obstacle to our salvation or not.

We, therefore, have to be on our guard to not rationalize about things that we desire.   We must make our hearts docile to the Holy Ghost and to be willing to give up whatever diminishes our love of God.  We must be willing to give ourselves unconditionally to God.

Now that we have probed the subtle snares of the devil which draw men to be in the second class, let us turn our thoughts to the third class of men.


The third class of men gets rid of the inordinate attachment because he loves God and does not want to perish for all eternity.

This class of men includes those who truly want to be friends of Christ and please Him in all things.  The saints in heaven were in this class of men.  These souls did not count the cost of their sacrifices to God.  They gave Him all.  They wanted to love God above all things and would never want to offend Him in any way.  They did not want to place any obstacles between God and themselves.

This leads us back to the Ignatian holy indifference which we discussed in detail in Lesson #11.   We must be indifferent to our own wants and desires if these be opposed to God in any way.  In other words, we must be detached from ourselves.  With self-knowledge, we can easily detect if our own will is emerging and we are beginning to veer from trying to seek God’s Will.  We must pray hard to keep the will of God first and foremost in our minds.  We must watch carefully to see the circumstances and discern what God’s will actually is.  One rule of thumb to remember is that if something is out of our control, then we know that it is God’s will for us.  Then we strive to lovingly accept it and persevere in doing God’s will.


COLLOQUY:  

[Addressing Our Lady as St. Ignatius advised us to do.] O, my mother Mary, help me to root out anything in me that is displeasing to Thy Son.  Assist me to immediately cast out any inordinate attachment I have.   Please do not let the folly of procrastination enter into my soul, for I will surely perish eternally if this spirit is in me.  Help me, dear Mother, to want to focus entirely on thy Divine Son and never let any obstacle obscure my gaze on Him Who is most worthy of my love.

[Then St. Ignatius has us address Our Lord with a similar colloquy.] O my dearest Lord Jesus Christ, I love Thee and I need Thee.  I beg Thee to help me to have no attachment to things of this earth.  I want Thee to ever be my first priority in my life and for all eternity.  The sly fox, the devil, will ever try to distract me from the love of Thee.  He will tempt me with countless things to obscure my mind from thinking of my eternal end.  I need Thee, O my Savior, to guide me and keep me faithful to thee.  I never want anything to be an obstacle to my union with Thee.

[Then I will address the Father with a similar colloquy.]  O most almighty Father, I beg Thine assistance to help me see the proper use of Thy creatures.  Help me to not let any obstacle get in the way of the service and praise that I owe to Thee.  I want Thee with my whole heart.  Please grant me the grace to ever see if I am becoming attached to any creature.  Please give me the fortitude to ruthlessly detach myself immediately from such a creature.  Suffer me not to love any creature more than Thee and not to delay ridding myself from such a dangerous attachment.  Let me give myself entirely to Thee without compromise or reservation.  O be Thou King and Center of my poor heart forever in time and in eternity.

This meditation nicely complements the next lesson which is an explanation of the Three Modes of Humility.  This next lesson will also help us probe ourselves to find out how willing we truly are to suffer for Christ.



[1]           Lesson #11 The Principle and Foundation – Part 2 can be found here: https://catholiccandle.org/2022/06/27/lesson-11-the-principle-and-foundation-part-ii/

[2]           The Mystical Doctor of the Church, St. John of the Cross, explains the importance of detachment this way:

 

It is well, then, for us to journey to Him by denying ourselves everything.  For otherwise, even if the soul be so wise, humble, and strong that the devil cannot deceive it by visions or cause it to fall into some sin of presumption, as he is wont to do, he will not allow it to make progress; for he sets obstacles in the way of spiritual detachment, poverty of spirit, and emptiness in faith, which are the essential conditions for union of the soul with God.

 

St. John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel, Book III, ch.24, #9.

 

By emptiness of faith, he means that we must be willing to be detached even from spiritual consolations and sentimental comforts if God so wills to withdraw them from us.  In other words, we completely abandon our wills to the dear Lord.

 

[3]           Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, Page 192.

Lesson #23 – Meditation of Two Standards

                    Mary’s School of Sanctity                   

Lesson #23 – The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius – SECOND WEEK – THE MEDITATION ON THE TWO STANDARDS

In the last several lessons we have been using St. Ignatius’ method for a special way of meditating which is to focus on the sights, sounds, and actions of those we are considering.  This method is very profitable and helps us draw many conclusions with which to subsequently gain spiritual strength. This meditation which we now undertake will use this same method in a more in-depth manner.

This is the famous meditation on the Two Standards and it is especially beneficial for our spiritual life.  We will use our imagination to become familiar with this most momentous battle that takes place here on earth, namely, the battle between Christ and Satan.  Ever since the Fall of Adam this battle has been intense and will continue until the end of time.  If we truly want to be happy for all eternity, then it is crucial for us to study all the aspects of this battle.

Let us go forward, then, and take a detailed and careful look at the two sides engaged in this battle.  We cannot withstand our enemy if we do not know him and his tactics.  Also, we cannot be faithful Soldiers of Christ if we do not have an intimate knowledge of Him.  So let us study what we need to know to be valiant warriors in the Church Militant.

St. Ignatius first shows us the leader of each camp, then he elaborates the plan of each one, and lastly, he describes how each implements his plan. 

First, we set out what St. Ignatius gives us for this meditation, and then as usual we will give some possible considerations on those points that he lays out for us.

A Meditation on Two Standards

The preparatory prayer is the same as usual: I ask God Our Lord for the grace that all my intentions, actions, and works may be directed purely to the service and praise of the Divine Majesty.

The FIRST PRELUDE is the history of the subject matter.  Here it will be how Christ Our Lord calls and wants all men beneath His standard, and how Lucifer, on the contrary, wants all men under his.

The SECOND PRELUDE is the mental representation of the place. Here it will be to see a vast plain covering all the region about Jerusalem, where the supreme Leader of the good is Christ Our Lord; and another plain in the region of Babylon, where the evil chieftain of the enemy is Lucifer.

The THIRD PRELUDE: I will ask for the grace that I desire.  Here it will be to ask for a knowledge of the deceits of the evil chieftain and help to guard myself against them, and a knowledge of the true life which the supreme and true Leader reveals, and for the grace to imitate Him.

The FIRST POINT is to imagine how the evil chieftain of all the enemy is seated in the center of the vast plain of Babylon, on a great throne of fire and smoke—a horrible and terrible sight to behold.

The SECOND POINT is to consider how he calls together countless demons, and how he scatters them, some to one city, some to another, throughout the whole world, missing no province, no place, no state of life, nor even any single person.

The THIRD POINT is to listen to the harangue which he delivers to them, how he spurs them on to ensnare men and to bind them in chains.  He bids them first to tempt men with the lust of riches (as he is most accustomed to do), that they may thereby more easily gain the empty honor of the world, and then come to unbounded pride.  The first step in his snare is that of riches, the second honor, and the third pride.  From these three steps Satan leads on to all other vices.

In like manner, we are to imagine on the other hand, the supreme and true Leader, Who is Christ the Lord.

The FIRST POINT is to consider how Christ Our Lord takes His stand in a lowly place, in that great plain about Jerusalem, and He is beautiful and gracious to behold.

The SECOND POINT is to see how the Lord of the entire world chooses so many persons, apostles, disciples, etc., and sends them throughout the world to spread His sacred doctrine among men of every state and condition.

The THIRD POINT is to listen to the discourse which Christ Our Lord makes to all His servants and friends whom He sends on this mission, charging them that they should seek to help all men; first, by encouraging them to embrace the most perfect spiritual poverty, and if it should please His Divine Majesty, to choose them for it, also to embrace actual poverty. Secondly, by encouraging them to desire insults and contempt, for from these two things come humility.  So then there are three steps: the first, poverty opposed to riches; the second, scorn and contempt, opposed to worldly honor; the third, humility, opposed to pride.  From these three steps, let them lead men to all virtues.  

The COLLOQUY: I will now address a colloquy to Our Lady and I will ask her to obtain for me from her Son and Lord the grace that I may be received under His standard, first, in the most perfect spiritual poverty, and should it so please His Divine Majesty to choose me, also in actual poverty; secondly in bearing reproaches and offenses, thus imitate Him more perfectly, provided only I can suffer them without sin on the part of any other person or displeasure to His Divine Majesty.  Afterwards, I will say the “Hail Mary.”  I will ask the Son to obtain for me the same graces from the Father, and I will then recite the “Anima Christi.”

I will also ask the Father to grant me the same graces, and I will then say the “Our Father.”

The Two Leaders and Their Corresponding Standards

The Standard of Satan

Considerations for the FIRST POINT: we make a mental representation of the plain of Babylon with the devil on his fiery throne.

Once again, we can find help from Fr. Hurter’s setting forth the meat of the meditation.

a. Holy Writ depicts the evil spirit as the prince of darkness (Eph. 6:12; Col. 1:13) and the father of lies. (John 8:44).  As such he deceives and confuses, stirs up dust so that one cannot see, awakens doubt, leads to unbelief, and brings on fickleness of character.   Wherever we notice these traits, there is the smoke of hell and the evil spirit is at work.

b. According to Holy Writ he is a peace-disturber, who sows cockle (Matt 13:25) and the seeds of discord.   As such a turbulent being he causes unrest, excitement, tears hearts asunder, and shows a restless and violent demeanor.  Where that is to be found, there the smoke of hell is rising and the evil spirit is in the background.

c. He is the prince of hell, where despair is prevalent.  Hell is “a land of misery and darkness, where the shadow of death, and not order, but everlasting horror dwelleth.” (Job 10:22)   As prince of hell he causes sadness, disappointment, despondency, makes the heart to ache, and then to despair.  Where this frame of mind is prevalent, there is the smoke of hell, and there breathes the evil spirit.

d. He is the rebel, who from the beginning of the world rose up against God and through whom the spirit of revolt invaded paradise and now pervades the whole world.  As such, he naturally urges men on to stubbornness and obstinacy, awakens in them pride, and drives them to insubordination and rebellion against authority.  Where such fruits ripen, the smoke of hell is noticeable; there the evil spirit has already gained a considerable influence.[1]

Yes, let us see this horrific scene.  Look at Babylon – the place where the people conceitedly thought that they could build a tower to reach heaven.  But God confounded them by having them speak in different tongues.  How fitting for the proud evil one to pick this place to have his pompous fiery throne.

See how the devil with his unbounded pride pretends to be so very powerful.  He presumes that he has more knowledge than he really has.  He makes a big “show of strength” and pretends to be in charge of the world—as if he has control of everything!  In this way he tries to entice us to discouragement and despair.

He displays smoke, which represents the darkness of hell.  This smoke causes confusion everywhere.  This smoke also causes fear—that age old satanic tactic used as an attempt to overcome souls!! 

Remember to consider how the devil uses this same smoke as a means to hide his deceptions and his sowing of half-truths.

Look at the fire, too!  That fires dazzles brilliantly and plays on the senses.  It excites the senses not only to pleasures but also to fear as well.  It causes noise and movement in order to agitate the soul and make the soul extremely restless.

Indeed, the devil’s attack is a subtle one.  He hates God with all his might and attacks maliciously, ferociously, and unceasingly.  Furthermore, we must never forget that he cannot force us to sin and cannot do anything to us unless God permits it.  Remember, too, that we have powerful weapons against Satan.  In fact, St. Vincent de Paul tells us that, “the most powerful weapon with which to overcome the devil is humility; because not knowing how to use it, he does not even know how to defend himself from it.”[2]

Now that the scene is set in our imagination, let us study the wretched plan of action the devil has.

Considerations for the SECOND POINT: the devil expounds his plans

We will allow Fr. Hurter’s words to paint the vivid scene for us:  

In the council of war, which he holds with his partisans, Lucifer unfolds the following plea:

Awaken in the hearts of men a love, an attachment, and a passion for earthly goods.  When they are once engrossed by worldly riches they will run, work and strive for them, forget heaven and things eternal, and neglect the salvation of their souls.  Having met with some success, they become conceited, look down upon others, seek for flimsy honors and esteem, and then become ambitious.  When they have compassed distinction, they are captured by pride: and no sooner has pride obtained the mastery of the heart of men then they will take no advice, submit to no authority, however sacred, and they will make light of every commandment.  Thus, the way is cleared to self-deification, and the evil spirit is implicated in our rebellion against God.  The way to it, therefore, is avarice, ambition, and pride.[3]

Considerations for the THIRD POINT: the devil puts his plans into action

We see in the following quotes how Fr. Hurter describes how the devil puts his plans into action:

1. The prince of darkness, to carry his cunningly devised plan into effect, sends his spirits into every land and into all places.  No one can escape their promptings and temptation.  They are bent on carrying out the orders given them so eagerly that St. Peter warns the faithful: “Be sober, and watch, because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour.” {1 Peter 5:8}

It is sad, indeed, to see that thousands and thousands of men give themselves up to the devil as his assistants and tools to found and spread his kingdom upon earth, to plant his standard everywhere, and to entice their brethren into his net.  These aiders and abettors are more dangerous than the evil spirit himself.  They make use of every imaginable weapon, science, power, astuteness, deduction, threats and enticements.  They are always on the alert and work indefatigably for the ruin of souls, sparing no effort or sacrifice.  And of the terrible results the history of the world is an evident attestation.  How successful the craftiness of the evil spirit is!  What a scramble, what a striving and chasing after things of this earth!  Avarice and greed dominate the ways and doings of men.  What plans of ambition do they not pursue in all things!  How pride, emancipation from God, and self-deification of human society has increased![4]

It is obvious that the devil doesn’t miss anyone in his plan to devour souls.  He goes after both laity and religious. 

Fr. Hurter also relates how the devil attacks priests and religious in a more subtle way than he attacks the laity.  Firstly, the devil will divert religious from striving for perfection to the seeking of something for themselves in the way of bodily comforts and attachment to creatures.  In this manner the religious will become a less useful instrument in the hands of God and will not work for the salvation of souls.  The religious is then easily led to want the esteem of others, to think highly of himself and desire promotions.  Fr. Hurter gives us more insights about the cunning traps the devil lays for those consecrated to God:

He [the devil] will induce us [priests and religious] to have a high opinion of our talents and ability, to be prepossessed in our own favor, and consequently to seek preferments and places of honor, to feel easily slighted and offended, and to become jealous of others.  If he succeeds in this, our zeal for souls shall have been spoiled and we shall belong to those of whom the Apostle says: “For all seek the things that are their own, not the things that are Jesus Christ’s.” {Phil. 2:21}  He will tempt us to take any liberties by which we withdraw ourselves from the restraint of obedience, emancipate ourselves and become willful.  And thus, pride is nourished and the striving after real virtue and the following of Christ are undermined.[5]

St. Teresa of Avila gives us a similar warning about these dangers by saying, “It seems to me that honors and riches always go together: he who loves honor never hates riches, while he who hates riches seeks no honors.”[6]  

We see plainly how we must abhor riches because they are so dangerous to our salvation.  Listen to how St. Teresa of Avila is very frank when she gives a strong warning to her spiritual daughters in religion:

If poverty is real, it guards purity and all other virtues better than do fine buildings.  Keep to this, I beg of you by the love of God and His Blood.  If, with a good conscience, I could wish that the day you build a costly dwelling it may fall and kill you all – I say, if I could do so with good conscience – I would wish it and beg God to grant it.  It looks very ill, my daughters, to build fine houses with needy men’s alms!  God forbid it!  Ours should be poor and mean in every way.  Let us to this extent at least resemble our King.  He had no home except the stable of Bethlehem where He was born, and the Cross where He died.  Within these houses few luxuries could be found![7]

Because riches lead one to seek the praise of others, riches directly lead to the deadly sin of pride.  People tend to praise the rich because, in the weakness of fallen human nature, they seek to acquire benefits from the rich.  They pretend to be ‘friends’ of the rich person.  Indeed, how often is the case that if a rich person should happen to lose his riches, he is abandoned by everyone in a heartbeat! 

Rich people are impelled to feel empowered by their wealth because so many throng after them.  They commonly lord their wealth over others and soon become despotic.  This is indeed Satan’s plan.

The wealthy are incited to do anything to keep their wealth and Satan wants this aspect, too.  So obsessed does one become with money and material goods that he completely forgets and abandons God.  Satan would have every man, woman, and child on earth entrapped in this scheme if he could.

He sends his minions to capture as many souls as possible.  The lesser devils only obey Lucifer because they are afraid of him.  They hate him and they hate souls.  We must not think that the devils are perfectly united; they argue and fight among themselves as they work hard at dragging souls in their miserable direction.

As we shudder to imagine such a horrific scene, and as we acknowledge our constant danger, let us now turn to look at Our dear Lord Who will never abandon us poor exiles of this earth.

The Standard of Christ

Considerations for the FIRST POINT: we make a mental representation of the plain about Jerusalem.

The following inspiring text from Fr. Hurter shows us indeed the stark contrast between Satan and Christ:

How different is the physiognomy of Our Divine Savior, how lovely He appears in the light of the Gospel![8]

a. He is the true Light.  “I am the light of the world.” {John 8:12} As the light, He enlightens and transfigures everything, broadens the view, clears the sky, and produces serenity.  In that soul in which the sky is serene, which looks at all things in supernatural light, which is entirely filled with the light of faith, there breaks the spirit of Jesus Christ. [9]

b. Jesus by preference calls Himself the Son of man, and as such he comes forward most unassumingly, most condescendingly, and most mildly.  He is cordiality itself.  Condescension, mildness, cordiality are manifestations of the spirit of Jesus Christ.  Where we find these, we can easily conclude that it is His spirit.

c. Christ is our Savior.  “Thou shalt call His name Jesus,” said the angel to Mary in announcing His birth.  As Savior He expands the heart, sets men free from the bonds of sin, from the chains of passion and from the snares of the world; and inspires them with courage and confidence.  When one, even after mortal sin, rises quickly, does not lose courage, and confidently betakes himself to the feet of the Savior to seek forgiveness and reconciliation, there moves the spirit of Christ; there one can exclaim with Martha: “The Master is here, He calls you.” {John 11:28}

d. Jesus is the Prince of Peace.  Among the names of the future Emmanuel, the Prophet Isaias also mentions this one.  And indeed, He came to bring peace with God, with your neighbor, and with yourself.  As Prince of Peace He calms, comforts, pacifies.  If therefore, we feel within ourselves a true peace, elevated above the storms of passion, and if a friendly disposition suffuses our exterior, then we may conclude from this that the spirit of Christ dwells within us.[10]

Fr. Hurter enlightens us further on the amazing contrast between the followers of Satan and the followers of Christ:

The spirit of Jesus Christ is stamped upon the lives of the saints, whereas the spirit of the evil one marks the wicked.  The satellites of Satan are proud and full of conceit in appearance; arrogant and bold in speech; vehement and boisterous in manners; dark in expression of countenance and repulsive toward others, especially hard and heartless towards the poor.  They are real types of the hellish spirit! The saints are in appearance modest and unassuming; in their intercourse with others friendly and loving!  A heavenly peace suffuses their exterior; innocence and purity of heart beam forth from their eyes; cheerfulness transfigures their whole being.  Here it will be well for us to test our exterior and our manners, to see whether we are entirely penetrated by the spirit of Jesus Christ, or whether there is not something of the breath of the evil one upon us.[11]

Considerations for the SECOND POINT: Our Lord expounds His plan.

Fr. Hurter explains Our Lord’s beautiful plans:

What plan does our Divine Savior unfold?

He teaches His disciples and friends to warn people not to become attached to earthly things, but to be ever mindful of the fact that “we have not here a lasting city, but seek one that is to come.” {Heb. 13:14}

We are wanderers and pilgrims, and it is foolish to become altogether absorbed in earthly things which death will surely snatch away, and to forget things eternal.  They should instruct us how dangerous it is to pursue creatures that lead us away from God and our eternal destiny, and should always insist that “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” {Matt 5:3} This poverty in spirit is the first step in the following of Christ on the road to perfection.  When this is attained, it will be easier to renounce worldly honors, and to be indifferent to abuse and contempt.  When one has come thus far, the fear of God will gain the upper hand, and with it, real humility.  Where humility rules, all the other virtues thrive.  The way then to Christian perfection is poverty in spirit, contempt of the world, and humility.[12]

The quote we gave above from St. Teresa of Avila encourages us to hate honors and thereby hate riches.  She continues this theme saying:

I think that a thirst for honor always carries with it some regard for property and money; it is strange to see a poor man honored by the world, for however much he may deserve it he generally remains unnoticed. True poverty, undertaken for the sake of God, bears with it a certain dignity in that he who professes it need seek to please no one but Him, and there is no doubt that the man who asks no help has many friends, as events have taught me. [13]

 She exhorted her spiritual daughters with this sobering truth regarding the physical building(s) of their convent,

Remember, they must all fall down at the Day of Judgment, and who knows how soon that may be?  It would not look well if the house of thirteen poor women made much noise when it tumbled, for the real poor make no commotion – they must be silent or none will pity them. [14]

Considerations for the THIRD POINT: Our Lord puts His plans into action.

Once again, we find fruitful instruction regarding this point from Fr. Hurter:

2. Let us, on the other hand, cast a glance at Christ.  He sends His disciples into all the world to spread and carry out His program.  During the course of centuries, a countless number of noble souls have attached themselves to Him, and by word and example they invite us to become animated by the spirit of the Lord and follow Him.  Their virtues, their activity, their burning zeal, will edify us, and we too shall enlist under the standard of the Lord.  The zeal of His enemies will spur us on to remain true to Him and to carry out His directions courageously.

Since we have become acquainted with the spirit and strategy of the evil spirit, and on the other hand with the spirit of Our Divine Savior, His plans and views, we should, with the help of Mary, appeal to Jesus to shield us from the spirit and protect us from the snares of the evil one, to fill us with His own spirit and make us partakers of His sentiments.[15]

The Good Lord gives us the edifying examples of the saints to further hearten us.  For example, St. Teresa of Avila encouraged her spiritual daughters to embrace poverty with ripe good will, she told them:

“Life lasts but two hours: their reward is immense, but, even without that, by following the counsels of Our Lord the very imitating His Majesty in any way would be an ample recompense.[16]

We must not forget that Our Lord wants us so much!  He lived His life in poverty. Even in His Public Life, He lived in perfect poverty.  He wants us to follow His examples.  He gives us countless inspirations daily.   He wants us to have a divine friendship with Him so He may become the Spouse of our souls.

He wants us to be apostles of love who spread the knowledge of Him and His Standard.  He was thirsty for souls; He wants us to also be thirsty for souls.  He was held in contempt, “the reproach of men and the outcast of the people”, and He wants us to be willing to accept being held in scorn by others for the love of Him.  For this is the only way to learn to be meek and humble of heart as Our Lord was and is always.  Thus, He reminds us, “If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” [St. John 15:20].   Truly, one can find all three marks of His Standard, that is, poverty as opposed to riches; being ready to be scorned as opposed to honors, and humility to oppose pride.  What are these three but the imitation of Christ!   
 

Concluding thoughts:

This meditation contains the guidelines for imitating Christ.  Let us study Him and see how His Life was a supreme example of His Standard.  If we imitate Him faithfully then we will be completely on His side in the battle.  Of course, Our Lord is completely attractive and draws us to want to be under His Standard. 

COLLOQUY:[17]  [Addressing Our Lady as St. Ignatius advised us to do.] Our Lady, my Queen, I will gladly fight under Thy Son’s Standard.  Oh, but strengthen me, especially because you know, sweet Queen, the evil one has overwhelming tricks.  I need you O Mary to help me be ever watchful and on my guard against anything that would displease Thy Son!  Help me to despise riches, material goods, and worldliness.  Help me to disregard being held in esteem by others.  Let me bear the scoffs and scorn of the worldlings who think I am crazy to try to imitate Thy Son.  Do help me remember that to love and please Him is all that matters!  Increase my love of Thy Divine Son.  I will say a Hail Mary.  

[Then St. Ignatius has us address Our Lord with a similar colloquy.]  O dearest Jesus, my Lord and Redeemer, I love Thee.  I beg Thee to help me serve Thee faithfully.  Keep me safe from the evil influences of the world with all its pomps and empty honors.  Help me to embrace Thee, O Lord, and be completely satisfied with nothing else but Thee.  Help me, O Divine Master, to spread the truth and bring souls to Thee.   Close with an Anima Christi.

[Then I will address the Father with a similar colloquy.]  O tender heavenly Father, I thank Thee for preserving me and teaching me the noble standard of Thy Divine Son.  Help me by Thy grace to be loyal and loving to Thy Son.  Help me not to be afraid of persecution but to lean on Thy paternal support.  Close with an Our Father.

 With our understanding of the crucial life-long battle now improved, and armed with the tools of this meditation, we are in a better position to go on to our next lesson.  Our next lesson is St. Ignatius’ well-known meditation called the Three Classes of Men.



[1]           Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, page 173.

 

[2]               This quote is taken from Spiritual Diary, Selected Sayings and Examples of Saints, Daughters of St. Paul Press, Boston, © 1962, page 37.

[3]              Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, page 175.

 

 

[4]              Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, page 177-178.

 

[5]              Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, page 178.

 

[6]           This quote is taken from St. Teresa of Avila’s The Way of Perfection, chapter 2, #4.

[7]               This quote is taken from St. Teresa of Avila’s The Way of Perfection, chapter 2, #6.

[8]           Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, page 173.

 

[9]              Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, pages 173-174.

 

[10]             Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, pages 174-175.

 

[11]             Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, page 175.

[12]         Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, page 176.

 

[13]             This quote is taken from St. Teresa of Avila’s The Way of Perfection, chapter 2, #5.

 

[14]             This quote is taken from St. Teresa of Avila’s The Way of Perfection, chapter 2, #7.

[15]         Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, page 179.

[16]            This quote is taken from St. Teresa of Avila’s The Way of Perfection, chapter 2, #6.

[17]          Of course, this is only a suggestion of a possible colloquy.  The exercitant can compose his own.

Lesson #22 – The Trials of the Holy Family

                    Mary’s School of Sanctity                   

Lesson #22 – The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius – SECOND WEEK – THE 3rd, 4th, and 5th CONTEMPLATIONS – THE TRIALS OF THE HOLY FAMILY

St. Ignatius has the exercitant study Our Lord’s life in detail.  

St. Ignatius tells us to repeat the first and second contemplation and use these as our third and fourth contemplation.  However, in his fifth contemplation/meditation, he wants the exercitant to put as much of his five senses into the imagining of the circumstances and scenes as possible.  St. Ignatius tells us that just as we use our imagination to see and hear the subjects of our contemplation, we should now try to use our sense of smell, taste and touch as well.  How do we do this in our imagination?  He tells us to smell the infinite fragrance and taste the sweetness of the Divinity, and the virtues of the persons of whom we are contemplating.  Also, he suggests to us to use our sense of touch by ‘walking’ in the places of the persons we are contemplating about and likewise to embrace and kiss the venerable places we are visiting in our imagination during these contemplations.   In this way, St. Ignatius wants us to draw more and more fruit out of each meditation.  He wants us to make many considerations from pondering Our Lord’s Life so we can come to conclusions and thereby imitate Our Lord better.

For our purposes here, we will endeavor to set up the contemplations in the similar manner that we used in the first two contemplations of the Incarnation and the Nativity.  We encourage the reader to include his other senses by applying his imagination as St. Ignatius suggests above.  Then the Spiritual Exercises become our personal pilgrimage into the Life of Our Lord as we follow in His Footsteps and make our study of His Virtues in His Hidden Life and then later on in these Exercises for His Public Life.

We must keep in mind that St. Ignatius has set out the Spiritual Exercises to be done over a period of a month with the different meditations to be done in various times during the day and some of them to be actually done during the night.  However, for our treatment of the Exercises here, we intend to give the substance of the various meditations and the reader, being the exercitant, can plan his schedule to do the Exercises when he sees fit.

So, in the second week of the Spiritual Exercises we can see how St. Ignatius has us go through several scenes of Our Lord’s Life.  We can take topics from the Gospel of Our Lord’s Life before He began His Public Life.  For this particular lesson we will set out the contemplation/meditation of the Trials of the Holy Family.  Of course, a separate meditation could be done on each of the Trials.  We will consider the Flight into Egypt, the Return from Egypt and the Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple.  First, we will set out the topics in the same manner St. Ignatius gave us for the Incarnation and Nativity.  Then we will give the actual Scriptural accounts of these three trials and lastly, we will give some possible considerations one could use when meditating on these trials.  Thus, this lesson will be basically the substance of three separate meditations given one after another.


The Flight into Egypt

The preparatory prayer is the same as usual, I ask God Our Lord the grace that all my intentions, actions, and works may be directed purely to the service and praise of the Divine Majesty.

The FIRST PRELUDE: I will to recall to mind the history of the subject I am about to contemplate.  Here it will be how the Holy Family had to flee to Egypt in order to save the Life of Our Lord who was threatened at the hands of Herod.  

The SECOND PRELUDE: I will ask for the grace that I desire.  Here I will ask for an intimate knowledge of Our Lord, Who wants me to imitate Him, that I may love and follow Him better.  I also will ask for the grace that I may follow the holy examples of Our Infant Lord, Our Blessed Mother, and St. Joseph, the foster father of Our Lord.

The FIRST POINT: First, I will SEE the three kings making inquiries about the birth of Our Lord, the King of the Jews.  I will likewise SEE Herod’s reaction and the events surrounding the visit of the three kings to the King of kings.  Then I will SEE how, after being warned in sleep, the kings took a different route back to their native lands.  I will SEE the angel warning St. Joseph in his sleep to flee.  Immediately following this, I will SEE St. Joseph awaking Mary and the Holy Family fleeing immediately.  I will SEE how Herod is incensed with anger when he perceived that he was fooled by the holy kings.  Further I will SEE the results of Herod’s rage.  I will SEE the Holy Family all during their exile in Egypt, their journey there being sorrowful while they know many innocent little ones will be murdered as substitutes for the Infant King, etc.

The SECOND POINT: I will HEAR the excited and troubled crowds witnessing the coming of the foreign kings.  I will HEAR the hurried confusion of the people as the soldiers hunt down the infant boys two years old and younger.  Especially I will LISTEN to the wailing and lamenting as Herod’s soldiers butcher all of the Holy Innocents.   

The THIRD POINT: I will CONSIDER the actions of St. Joseph and Our Lady.  I will consider the angel telling St. Joseph in his sleep what God’s will is for him and the Holy Family.  

The COLLOQUY: I will now think of what I should say to the Infant Jesus, St. Joseph, and Our Lady.   I will ask help according to the need that I feel within myself, so that I may more closely follow and imitate Our Lord Who as an Infant is already suffering the malice of His creatures and has just fled into Egypt as an exile from His homeland.  I will close with the “Our Father” 

Let us begin by reviewing the Scriptural Text regarding this event.  [These verses are from St. Matthew 2:1-18]

When Jesus therefore was born in Bethlehem of Judah, in the days of king Herod, behold, there came wise men from the East to Jerusalem, saying: Where is he that is born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and are come to adore him.

And king Herod hearing this, was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And assembling together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where Christ should be born.  But they said to him: In Bethlehem of Judah. For so it is written by the prophet:  And thou Bethlehem the land of Judah art not the least among the princes of Judah: for out of thee shall come forth the captain that shall rule my people Israel.

Then Herod, privately calling the wise men learned diligently of them the time of the star which appeared to them; And sending them into Bethlehem, said: Go and diligently inquire after the child, and when you have found him, bring me word again, that I also may come and adore him.

Who having heard the king, went their way; and behold the star which they had seen in the East, went before them, until it came and stood over where the child was.  And seeing the star they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.  And entering into the house, they found the child with Mary his mother, and falling down they adored him: and opening their treasures, they offered him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

And having received an answer in sleep that they should not return to Herod, they went back another way into their country.  And after they were departed, behold an angel of the Lord appeared in sleep to Joseph, saying: Arise, and take the child and his mother, and fly into Egypt: and be there until I shall tell thee. For it will come to pass that Herod will seek the child to destroy him.

Who arose, and took the child and his mother by night, and retired into Egypt: and he was there until the death of Herod:  That it might be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by the prophet, saying: Out of Egypt have I called my son.

Then Herod perceiving that he was deluded by the wise men, was exceeding angry: and sending, killed all the men children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the borders thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.

Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremias the prophet, saying:  A voice in Rama was heard, lamentation and great mourning; Rachel bewailing her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

Considerations for the FIRST POINT: to use the sense of sight:

·          SEE all of Jerusalem being disturbed because of the entourage of the three kings.  They do not know what to do about these kings.

·         SEE how upset Herod is.  He cannot rest until he has removed all perceived ‘threats’ to his throne.

Let us set out some background facts and briefly see the events.  Then we will add more details as we describe what we would hear and the actions we should consider.

We must keep in mind that Herod is not a Jew and he was the first foreigner to be appointed king of the Jewish nation.[1]  With fallen human nature it is easy to see why Herod was anxious not to lose his position which was given him by the Romans. 

Also, it is sad to consider that the people were not enthused to have their Savior born.  Scripture says that all Jerusalem was troubled along with Herod.  We must not forget that these poor people were not informed properly by their leaders and were not given good examples of piously awaiting the Messiah.

The three kings came with their train of servants and camels.  They had been studying the heavens and had been following a very unusual star.  Providence had the circumstances be such that the kings who had been following this star for such a long distance, now lost the star and therefore believed that they needed to make inquiries of the local king.  Providence knew that Herod would get upset by their news of what they had seen and were now seeking.  Indeed, God wanted Herod to know this information because God knew that Herod would become enraged in his jealousy and ruthlessly seek to kill the first Martyrs in the New Testament – the Holy Innocents.

The star then appeared again and pointed the kings to the house where the Infant King was.  Of course, the three kings did not hesitate to pay homage to the Messiah of mankind.

We can imagine the kings adoring Our Infant Lord and giving His parents gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  The Blessed Mother and St. Joseph know the significance of three precious gifts: Gold to honor the Divine Royalty of Our Lord; frankincense to adore Him as their God made Man; and myrrh to prepare Him for His redemptive Sacrifice.  

Upon leaving to return to their respective native countries the three kings were warned in a dream not to return to give Herod any information regarding this Holy Infant.  Also, St. Joseph was awakened by an angel and told to flee at once in order to rescue Jesus from the hands of a jealous earthly king, namely, Herod.

We watch in our imagination as St. Joseph meekly awakens Mary to tell her they must depart at once.  We can observe them gathering what few possessions they have and leaving quickly.

Imagine the scene as the Holy Innocents are butchered.  See the bloody swords of Herod’s henchmen, his soldiers, carrying out his attempted Deicide.

Considerations for the SECOND POINT: HEAR the people conversing in excitement about the kings being in town.  They are disturbed about the rumor that these kings are seeking the King of the Jews who has now been born.  These people are not interested in the King of kings.  Hear also what the angel is telling St. Joseph.  Then try to imagine what St. Joseph is telling Mary.

Imagine the hubbub and noise in the small town where gossip spreads quickly.  The crowds were naturally curious about the foreign kings that arrived.  When they heard the three kings were seeking a new king of the Jews, they were bewildered as to what this could mean.

Contrast in your imagination this confusion with the sweet and respectful visit the three kings made to Our Infant King.  Perhaps there was not much conversation but surely devout reverence was paid to Our Dear Lord, for Scripture tells us that they fell down and adored Him.    

Imagine the angel giving St. Joseph the urgent warning about the threat to the life of the Divine Infant.  

Imagine St. Joseph gently waking Mary and telling her of the warning of the angel.  They do not speak much but make all haste to get away.

As the Scripture tells us, after the three kings were informed by the angel to not revisit Herod, they decided to return to their native lands by a different way.  Herod, because he was a vicious man, began to suspect that the three kings deceived him.  He was in a fury!

Imagine his angry outburst to his court and soldiers as he ordered that all the male children two years old and younger should be killed in Bethlehem and in all the surrounding areas.  He wanted to take precautions because he wanted absolutely no rivals for his throne.

We can also imagine the great lamentations that occurred in all those homes where this massacre of the Holy Innocents occurred.  The soldiers grabbed the little ones out of the arms of their wailing mothers.  What must it have been like for all those women when they heard what was happening all over town and the countryside and then knowing and anticipating what awaited their own infant sons?  Imagine all those grieving mothers and fathers witnessing the horrifying death of their little ones.  Imagine their grief was made so much worse because they didn’t understand why Herod had commanded this dastardly thing to be done.

Considerations for the THIRD POINT: Consider of the Holy Family’s flight into a foreign land full of pagans.   Consider the Holy Family imagining the fury of Herod and murdering so many male infants in his blood-thirsty attempt to kill the Babe he perceived to be the rival to his throne.

Now we must put our scene together and consider all the actions of all of those involved.  Since we have painted the sights and sounds about Herod and the townsfolk so graphically above, we leave it to the exercitant to fill in the details in his imagination.  We now turn our thoughts more particularly to the Holy Family.

First, let us think about the terrifying escape in the night.  Then we will reflect upon some other aspects of the sufferings of the Holy Family.

While he was sleeping, St. Joseph received the command to leave.  He arose at once and was prompt in his obedience to the angel.  As Fr. Hurter puts it, “Yet in that very night St. Joseph rises at once and with a heavy heart wakes Mary who needed sleep.  God calls; that was enough for him to obey at once.”[2]

Fr. Hurter points out four basic, poignant aspects. 

But what consoled them, what comforted them?

a. The thought—it is the will of God; and that will they esteemed above everything.

b. The thought—our heavenly Father watches over us, guides and directs us.

c. The thought—it is done for Jesus to save His life; and for doing that no sacrifice was too great for them, no effort too much, no suffering too severe.

d. The thought – Jesus is with us.  The consciousness of this sweetened everything for them.  One look at the dear little infant Jesus and fatigue vanished and hardships were forgotten.  With this fourfold thought we also should try to console ourselves in our sufferings and little crosses.[3]

Yes, the danger was real and great.  If they tarry the Infant would be destroyed by Herod’s command.

This hasty departure into exile leads us to ponder another aspect in the fact that God wanted the Holy Family to suffer privations.  We can consider why Our Lord wanted to suffer still more and to practice poverty more strictly—to have to go to a foreign land and suffer still greater wants.  Oh, how Our Lord loves poverty! 

We must remember that St. Joseph left his carpentry work in Nazareth in order to obey the decree to go back to the city of David.  Hence, Our Lord was forced to be born in dire poverty in a stable.  And now the command comes for the Holy Family to leave their homeland and go into exile.  What an additional bitter cross!

Yet, Our Lord chose this cross for Himself and His parents so they could be an example for us of being completely detached from things of this world.  Plus, the Holy Family’s suffering is meant to teach us to trust in God’s loving Paternal care of us.  We must not complain but accept God’s Will no matter what comes.  We must work and do what we can but must also know that God will provide for us when we do His Will.

Therefore, St. Joseph did not murmur but accepted this cross which was a heavier one due to the fact that the future was unknown.  How should he get to Egypt?  He had never been there before.  It was the dark of night and very dangerous to be travelling to an unknown place and over dark, potentially thief-infested, roads.

Also, St. Joseph was a prudent planner for the future needs of his family.  He must have pondered what kind of carpentry prospects he would have in Egypt, as they hastily left Bethlehem to go there. 

We must bear in mind, too, that Egypt is a pagan country.  No doubt Our Lady and St. Joseph were considering the spiritual heartache that awaited them where Satan was worshipped in the form of idols.  This land of Egypt was full of foolish superstition and massive confusion.  Indeed, it is a land and people hostile to the descendants of the Israelites. 

Although St. Joseph and Mary must have wondered what they will do in such a pagan land, they humbly submit to God’s Will.  What heroic obedience!  What humble trust in God!

One additional heartache both Mary and St. Joseph must have suffered was the thought that Herod, being such a wicked man, would stop at nothing to get what he desired.  The angel did say, “For it will come to pass that Herod will seek the child to destroy him.”  In fact, Herod was truly capable of any sort of malice.  Most likely they knew Scripture predicted that there would be a mass murder of children in Rama.  Hence, Mary and St. Joseph would feel such compassion on all those families who would be afflicted by Herod’s malice.  They knew that those children were killed in the place of Christ.  They prayed for those families.

Concluding thoughts:

So, carrying their precious Bundle, Our Infant Savior, they flee as quickly as they can on the dark obscure road which leads to the foreign pagan land.  They are ready to accept whatever God has in store for them.  They cling to Jesus, knowing that they are rescuing Him, but also that He, as God, is holding them safely in His Hands.

The COLLOQUY:  Dearest Infant being swept away from Herod’s danger by Thy dear Parents, I thank Thee for such marvelous examples of charity, humility, and long-suffering.  Please assist me to imitate Thy virtues for I am so weak.

Dear St. Joseph, I thank thee for thine example of calmly doing thy duties.  Thou art such a model of leadership.  I want to follow thy example of complete resignation to the will of God.  Please intercede for me and guide me.

Oh, tender Mother Mary, I thank thee for thine example of complete submission to God through thy humble submission to St. Joseph.  I admire your patience in all the hardships that thou hast endured.  Please teach me patience in suffering.

Oh, Holy Family, help me work out my salvation.  Guide and protect me.

Oh, dear sweet innocent victims of Herod’s jealousy, you have spilled your blood as victims in substitution for Him Who in thirty-three years will shed His innocent blood for your Redemption.  How precious it is to me to ponder all of you waiting in the Limbo of the Fathers until the day when Our Savior brings you into heaven with Him.  Your precious martyrdoms are a hope for me.  Pray for me, oh Holy Innocents, for I am still a sojourner in this confusing world.


The Return from Egypt

The preparatory prayer is the same as usual, I ask God Our Lord the grace that all my intentions, actions, and works may be directed purely to the service and praise of the Divine Majesty.

The FIRST PRELUDE: I will recall to mind the history of the subject I am about to contemplate.  Here it will be how the Holy Family finding out that Herod was dead and St. Joseph being informed in a dream to settle in Nazareth.

The SECOND PRELUDE: I will ask for the grace that I desire.  Here I will ask for an intimate knowledge of Our Lord, Who wants me to imitate Him, that I may love and follow Him better.  I also will ask for the grace that I may follow the holy examples of Our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph, the foster father of Our Lord.

The FIRST POINT: First, I will SEE the Holy Family returning to their native country after having been in exile for some considerable length of time.

The SECOND POINT: I will HEAR what St. Joseph and Our Lady may be saying to one another.

The THIRD POINT: I will CONSIDER all of the hardships of this move back to Israel and settling anew in their native country. 

The COLLOQUY: I will now think of what I should say to the Child Jesus, St. Joseph, and Our Lady.   I will ask help according to the need that I feel within myself, so that I may more closely follow and imitate Our Lord Who has just returned from the sad exile in Egypt. I will close with the “Our Father”

Let us review the Scriptural Text for this next trial of the Holy Family.  [These verses are from St. Matthew 2:19-23]

But when Herod was dead, behold an angel of the Lord appeared in sleep to Joseph in Egypt, saying: Arise, and take the child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel. For they are dead that sought the life of the child.  Who arose, and took the child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. 

But hearing that Archelaus reigned in Judea in the room of Herod his father, he was afraid to go thither: and being warned in sleep retired into the quarters of Galilee.  And coming he dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was said by the prophets: That he shall be called a Nazarene.

Considerations for the FIRST POINT: to use the sense of sight

SEE St. Joseph being informed in a dream again to return back to his homeland.

Fr. Hurter informs us that, “Despite all precaution, death soon put an end to the reign of Herod. He promised himself decades of years, but the vengeance of God soon overtook him.”[4]

The Church historian Bishop Eusebius tells us how Herod was struck by a sickness which consumed him.  He had a mild fever which corrupted his innards and gave him an overpowering desire for food, ulcers in his intestines and gangrene to his male organs which produced worms.  He eventually stabbed himself and, as he lay dying, he ordered the death of his third son, Antipater.  Upon giving this dreadful command he died instantly in agonizing pains.[5]  Truly a fitting end for such a vicious man!

St. Joseph was then informed again by the angel to make a journey – this time, back to Israel.  Imagine St. Joseph once again obeying the command of God, without murmuring and with promptitude.  He and Mary and the young Child Jesus gathered their few belongings and began their track back.  This meant that once more, despite any home they were able to make or carpentry business that Joseph had established, they leave all of that behind and start back to Israel.

They trusted in God when they left Israel, trusted Him the whole time they were in exile, and now they do not hesitate to trust in Him as they return.

St. Joseph being always cautious and prudent deliberated about where he should take his family to live.  He had heard that Archelaus, the son of Herod, was now ruling.  This made him wonder if living in Bethlehem would be safe.  The angel now instructed St. Joseph to settle in Galilee.

Now that we have painted the rough sketch of events, let us try to reflect on what was said.

Considerations for the SECOND POINT: HEAR what St. Joseph and Mary might say during their journey back with the young Child Jesus.

 St. Joseph tells Mary what he has learned from the angel of God.  She does not doubt St. Joseph and docilely prepares for their departure back to Israel.  They no-doubt would say prayers of thanksgiving that the danger from Herod is past.  So, they make their journey back in much quiet prayer and reflection.

Fr. Hurter gives us these words to reflect upon:

Mary and Joseph waited with patience and resignation in a strange land, until the angel came with the glad tidings: “Arise and take the child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel.”

Let us persevere in patience and resignation under the crosses which the Lord sends us, because he wills it, as long as He will it, and as he wills it. May the dear little infant Jesus breathe His spirit into us that after His example we must submit to trials, practice patience, and persevere for as long as He wishes.[6]

Considerations for the THIRD POINT: CONSIDER THE ACTIONS of the Holy Family as they fulfill God’s Will in returning to Israel, namely, settling in Nazareth in order to fulfill Scripture.

Let us now penetrate deeper into the hardship of having to move again.  St. Joseph, as the head of a family, knew how difficult it would be to basically have to start his business afresh.  It has been a long period of time since he and Mary departed Nazareth to travel to the town of David.  What would the people back in Nazareth think of the Holy Family?  Would they wonder why this couple never returned after the census?  This couple abandoned their tiny house and no one has heard anything about them.  The carpentry shop was abandoned too.  This was indeed very strange.

Then, suddenly, this couple returns with a young Child.  What would the townspeople think of this event?

And yet, St. Joseph and Mary accept all of the perhaps cruel gossip that had been told about them. They do not try to explain what has happened.  They would quietly set about picking up their former life in Nazareth.


Concluding thoughts:

What great admiration do we not owe to the Holy Family, for their fortitude and patience in all that God had sent to them!  We frail humans are so far from such resignation and virtue!  Instead, we wretched humans complain, so often, at least internally when inconveniences come our way.   So many lessons we can learn from the dear Holy Family!  They were extremely blest and also extremely tried.  God wanted them to grow in virtue and be a model for all of us.  How truly edifying they are!

They lived in want and poverty and strict obedience to the commandments of God.  It is as if we cannot have enough esteem for them!

COLLOQUY: With what an overflowing heart do I now address Thee, O Holy Child!  I see with what Providence Thy Heavenly Father has cared for Thee!  Help me O Divine Child to trust in God always.

Dear Holy Parents, teach me how to imitate thy trust in God and thy fortitude. When my life is full of trials, I will reflect how mine are nothing in comparison with yours. Guide me and teach me in all things.


The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple

The preparatory prayer is the same as usual, I ask God Our Lord the grace that all my intentions, actions, and works may be directed purely to the service and praise of the Divine Majesty.

The FIRST PRELUDE: I will recall to mind the history of the subject I am about to contemplate.  Here it will be how Our Lord’s Parents found Him in the Temple when He was twelve years old.

The SECOND PRELUDE:  I will ask for the grace that I desire.  Here I will ask for an intimate knowledge of Our Lord, Who wants me to imitate Him, that I may love and follow Him better.  I also will ask for the grace that I may follow the holy examples of Our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph, the foster father of Our Lord.

The FIRST POINT: First, I will SEE St. Joseph and the Blessed Mother bewildered when they discover that the Boy Jesus had stayed behind in Jerusalem.  I will accompany them as they return in their anguish to look for Him.

The SECOND POINT: I will HEAR what they may be saying and what the doctors in the Temple are possibly discussing with the Boy Jesus in the Temple.

The THIRD POINT: I will OBSERVE and CONSIDER what the Holy Parents are doing, suffering and their joy in finding their Divine Son in the midst of the Doctors. 

The COLLOQUY: I will now think of what I should say to each to the members of the Holy Family, starting with Our Lord, the boy Jesus, St. Joseph, the head of the Holy Family, and Our Dear Blessed Mother, the refuge of sorrowing parents who seek the salvation of their children.  I will ask help according to the need that I feel within myself, so that I may more closely follow and imitate Our Lord.  I will close with the “Our Father”

Let us review the Scriptural Text for this third trial of the Holy Family that we are studying in this lesson.  [These verses are from St. Luke 2:41-52]

St. Luke ch.2: 41-52

And the child grew and waxed strong, full of wisdom: and the grace of God was in him.  And his parents went every year to Jerusalem, at the solemn day of the Pasch. And when he was twelve years old, they going up into Jerusalem, according to the custom of the feast, and having fulfilled the days, when they returned, the child Jesus remained in Jerusalem. And his parents knew it not.

And thinking that he was in the company, they came a day’s journey and sought him among their kinsfolks and acquaintance. And not finding him, they returned into Jerusalem, seeking him.

And it came to pass, that, after three days, they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing them and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his wisdom and his answers.

And seeing him, they wondered. And his mother said to him: Son, why hast thou done so to us? Behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said to them: How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be about my father’s business?

And they understood not the word that he spoke unto them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was subject to them. And his mother kept all these words in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and grace with God and men.

 Considerations for the FIRST POINT: I will SEE St. Joseph and Blessed Mary on their journey home and discovering that the Child Jesus is not among their kinfolk.  Also SEE them returning back to Jerusalem in haste to look for the Child Jesus.  SEE them entering the Temple and witnessing their dear Son discoursing with the wise ancients. SEE Our Lord meekly returning home with His parents. 

Before delving into the details of this trial of the Holy Family, there is some important background information to understand. We will allow Fr. Hurter to help us paint the scene.  Fr. Hurter tells us, “The hidden life of Our Lord was simple and uniform.  He passed His time in prayer and work.”[7]

The only change to their routine was the yearly visit to Jerusalem for the great holy days.  In fact, this yearly journey was a big sacrifice for the Holy Family.  We must be mindful that St. Joseph was faithful in keeping the law.  It should make a deep impression on us to remember how Our Lord did not exempt Himself from the law. Furthermore, we see how Mary also was zealous for the honor of God.  

Fr. Hurter has the following moving description of the Holy Family:

[This was] a real pilgrimage of prayer, silence and many privations.  Observe with what reverence they enter the temple, with what fervor they pray, with what heartfelt devotion they make the prescribed offerings.  Consider the sentiments which filled our Divine Savior, Mary and Joseph at their appearance before the Most High, and how long they persevered there in prayer until finally the time came for them to return.  Let us dwell on this touching sight for our edification.[8] 

An interesting comment that Fr. Hurter makes is that when the feast days were over, Blessed Mary and St. Joseph returned home with heavy hearts because they did not have the temple in Nazareth, and they loved this holy place so much.  This was how intensely they loved the service to God!

And so this heartache was with them yet another time.  However, this time they depart from Jerusalem, and without knowing it, they leave the source of all their love, the Child Jesus Himself, behind.

We see them travel “a day’s journey” (as Sacred Scripture says) and only then do they come to realize that the Child Jesus is not in the travelling group.  Of course, they hurry back to Jerusalem.

Then three days of anguish are their portion as they hunt for Him everywhere.  It is only after these days pass that they find Him in the Temple amidst the doctors. Imagine their delight at seeing Him and their amazement in hearing Him discoursing with these wise men.

His Mother speaks with Him briefly.  Then we see the Holy Family quietly withdraw and leave Jerusalem to head for home.  The Holy Son is subservient to His Mother and Foster Father.  We see Him ever meek and humble of heart.

Considerations for the SECOND POINT: HEAR what St. Joseph and Blessed Mary might say as they inquire everywhere concerning their dear Son.  HEAR the fascinating questions and answers that the ancients are discussing with the Divine Child.

Having set the scenes of this great trial of St. Joseph and Our Lady, let us spend some moments pondering the words spoken. What did the holy parents say to each other when at the end of the first day’s journey they met and realized that the Holy Child was neither of them?  They did not rebuke each other or blame each other for this mishap.  They soberly resolved to go back to Jerusalem.

They spend three days looking longingly for Our Lord.  We can well imagine them asking many people if they had seen a boy of Our Lord’s description.  Their sorrow grew with each answer in the negative.

Finally, they search one last time at the Temple, and this time they hear a Voice that they recognize—it is the Lord!  Imagine their surprise when they heard the doctors of the Law asking questions of Someone and the response of their young Son is heard in the room.  They look in the direction of the Voice and see the Child Jesus speaking in succinct answers explaining the Law and Scriptures to the group of learned men.  Imagine their delight at finding Our Lord safe.  They knew the Scriptures that the Son of Man must be put to death and yet they did not know when this would happen.  Recalling the horrific malice of Herod, perhaps they thought while they searched, that now might be the time that someone would try to kill the Child Jesus.  How very relieved they are that they found Him!

Listen to Our Blessed Mother as she asks, “Son, why hast Thou done so to us? Behold thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing?”

This is not to be thought of as a complaint, but merely the anguish of her Immaculate Heart.  The words of Simeon have been echoing in her heart these three days, “And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.”[9] Yes, God wanted her to feel this intense sorrow of having lost her Son so that parents who lament the loss of a wayward child would be all the more willing to fly to Holy Mary’s heart, begging the assistance of one who knew well this exquisite spiritual suffering. 

Then His reply to her question was not meant as a disrespectful rebuke to His Mother, but a statement of a fact about Providence. “How is it that you sought Me; did you not know I must be about My Father’s business?”

This mysterious answer shows that God’s Providence is often hidden from us but the faithful Mother will keep and treasure His Words in her heart, pondering them again and again.  She is not angry.  He is Divine and she is not.  His Father’s business must have been urgent and she humbly submits to the Divine Will.

Considerations for the THIRD POINT: CONSIDER THE ACTIONS of the Holy Family as they fulfill God’s Will in returning to Jerusalem to do their part to look for the Child Jesus.  Consider the surprise of St. Joseph and Blessed Mary when they find Our Lord in the Temple.  Consider their relief to find Him alive and unharmed. Consider the humility in which they heard the solemn words of the Child Jesus stating that He was doing His Father’s business.

At this point we will strive to appreciate the depths of Providence’s mysterious Plans.  By reviewing the events of this momentous trial, we can get a better view of this most distinguished couple of all human history.  Let us look at their actions and the actions of Our Lord to get a better understanding of the virtues possessed and which were augmented in this trial.  Not only did Providence send this suffering to St. Joseph and Blessed Mary, but He wanted us to study them and learn how to suffer the most grievous crosses humbly and virtuously.

Now is a fitting time to share some piquant points from Fr. Hurter.

In investigating why God manifested His Will in this way, we see clearly that God wanted St. Joseph and Blessed Mary to have these sufferings to teach us the following lessons as Fr. Hurter says:

But our Divine Savior, at the bidding of His Heavenly Father, remained in the temple without letting His mother and foster father know, although He foresaw their sorrow.  But when God calls, human consideration must be set aside, and we must not consult flesh and blood; we must make sacrifices.[10]

We can also believe that Our Lord did not concern Himself with either food or shelter on these three days.

 And yet another lesson about how Providence sometimes acts:

Consider furthermore how our Divine Savior withdraws even from good and pious souls without a fault of theirs, to their great sorrow.  He withdraws sometimes in punishment for venial sins, because of sloth that has crept in, because of too great attachment to creatures, with whom He does not wish to divide His rule.  And sometimes He withdraws, but for no fault whatever, as in the present case.  Neither Mary nor Joseph was to blame that the Child remained behind.  Why does the Lord withdraw even from holy souls so that they do not perceive His presence and feel entirely abandoned and disconsolate?  It is to try them; to give them opportunities for many good works, and to ground them more and more in virtue.[11]

Another lesson which applies to how we poor sinners should react to Providence:

When Mary and Joseph realize that Our Lord is not with them, “they search for Him among relatives and acquaintances, but they do not find Him.” So too, if the Lord withdraws from us and takes away His consolation, we shall not find Him among creatures, among flesh and blood, and in entertainments.  We must go back to Jerusalem, to the temple, have recourse to the tabernacle; there in prayer we shall find Jesus the Lord, our lost consolation.[12]

A further lesson showing Our Lord’s humility:

“What modesty does not our Divine Savior manifest?  He could have put the Scribes to confusion and made His superiority felt, but He did not step out of the role of a boy and only asked and answered questions.  Let us take to heart the significant words He spoke to Mary: “Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”  That should be the program of the priest.  He should be intent on the honor of God, which he should try to promote everywhere.[13]

After Our Lord had complied with the extraordinary command of His Heavenly Father, He returned to the quite-hidden life of Nazareth. 

We too must do Our Heavenly Father’s business.  Let us ask our Divine Savior for light, grace, and the strength to follow God’s Will faithfully and to make it effective in our lives.[14]

Concluding thoughts:

Yes, indeed, God chastises those He loves.  We see that He loved St. Joseph and Blessed Mary intensely because He gave them the unspeakable dignity of being the parents of the Incarnate Word, and still, He gave them most painful crosses.  He wanted to not only give us valuable examples and models of Catholic marriage and parenting, but He also wanted St. Joseph and Blessed Mary to have more merits.  Therefore, He gave them the choicest crosses! 

COLLOQUY: Sweet Child Jesus, I thank Thee for Thy wonderful examples of humility and obedience to Thy Heavenly Father and to Thy earthly parents.  Help me to lovingly obey Thy commandments. 

O St. Joseph, model of husbands and fathers, I thank God for giving you to me.  Help guide us all, especially in imitating thy complete surrender to God’s holy will and trust in His Paternal solicitude for His children.

O my Mother Mary, thy heart pierced with the sword of sorrow lies open for me to see, and I cannot help being overwhelmed with thy tender mercy for thy children.  Keep filling our hearts with confidence in thy gentle care for us and God’s never-failing love for us.  Keep us faithful to Him and never allow us to abandon Him.

With the contemplations we have set forth above, there is plenty of material for the exercitant to do three separate Ignatian contemplations/meditations on these trials of the Holy Family.  In this important manner we can increase our knowledge of Our Lord and His virtues.  In our next lesson we will apply what we have learned about Our Lord when we set out to do the well-known Spiritual Exercise called the Meditation on the Two Standards.

 

 

 

 



[1]  This information is taken from The History of the Church, Book I written in 324 A.D. by the Church historian Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea.

[2]               Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, Page 153.

[3]               Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, Page 154.

[4]              Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, Page 155.

 

[5]               This information is taken from The History of the Church, Book I written in 324 A.D. by the Church historian Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea.

[6]              Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, Page 155

 

[7]              Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, Page 166.

 

[8]               Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, Page 166.

[9]    St. Luke 1:35

[10]            Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, Page 168.

 

[11]            Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, Page 168.

 

 

[12]         Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, Page169.

 

[13]            Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, Page169.

 

[14]            Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, Page170.

Lesson #21 – On the Nativity, Second Contemplation

                    Mary’s School of Sanctity                   

Lesson #21  The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius –—SECOND WEEK –THE SECOND CONTEMPLATION—THE NATIVITY

At this time St. Ignatius brings us to our Second Contemplation for his plan of the second week.  This contemplation will be about the Nativity.

As usual we will give the text of St. Ignatius and then give some further considerations.

Besides the Contemplation on the Nativity, we are including an additional Contemplation about the Doubts of St. Joseph.  This Contemplation, in an abridged format, will be set out first because St. Joseph’s doubts occurred prior to the Nativity.  Further, this allows the exercitant to combine some of these ideas with his contemplation about the Nativity if he so wishes.  The doubts of St. Joseph are not mentioned in St. Ignatius’s plan for the second week.  Still, knowing that we can draw great profit from studying the virtue of the Universal Patron of the Church, we thought it fitting to include this separate contemplation of St. Joseph’s doubts in the same Lesson as the Contemplation of the Nativity.  Indeed, this additional Contemplation may help us increase our appreciation of St. Joseph, the foster father of Our Lord.

*** THE EXTRA CONTEMPLATIONè THE DOUBTS OF ST. JOSEPH ***

The preparatory prayer is the same as usual, I ask God Our Lord the grace that all my intentions, actions, and works may be directed purely to the service and praise of the Divine Majesty.

The FIRST PRELUDE: I will review the history concerning St. Joseph’s doubts once he found that Mary was with Child.  He is a just man and we see how God informed him in his sleep what he ought to do.              

The SECOND PRELUDE: I will also form a mental image of St. Joseph bewildered when Mary returns from visiting St. Elizabeth in Judea and is clearly with child.  I will imagine St. Joseph sleeping and him seeing in his dream an Angel to guide him.

The THIRD PRELUDE: It will be the same and in the same form as it was in the preceding contemplation.  [In the preceding contemplations –This was to ask for what I desire.  Here I will ask for an intimate knowledge of Our Lord, Who has become man for me, that I may love and follow Him better.  And in particular how Providence ordained that good St. Joseph was specially chosen from all eternity to be the foster father of the Incarnate Word.]

The FIRST POINT: We will SEE St. Joseph noticing a physical change in the sweet Virgin maid.   

The SECOND POINT: I will also consider the THOUGHTS that St. Joseph is having concerning his intended spouse with whom he has an understanding since they both have made vows of consecrated virginity.

The THIRD POINT: I will also OBSERVE and CONSIDER how St. Joseph is sleeping and being enlightened about what to do with Mary.  I see him waking from slumber and obeying the Holy Ghost by taking her into his own home.  

The COLLOQUY: Conclude with a colloquy with St. Joseph, and as in the preceding contemplation, end with the “Our Father.”   

Considerations for the FIRST POINT: TO USE THE SENSE OF SIGHT

·         SEE the situation before Mary and St. Joseph came together as man and wife.  St. Joseph was reassured by an angel in a dream that he should take Mary as his wife.  [The following verses are from St. Matthew 1:18-24:]

When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child, of the Holy Ghost.

Whereupon Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing publicly to expose her, was minded to put her away privately.  But while he thought on these things, behold the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in his sleep, saying: Joseph, son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her, is of the Holy Ghost.  And she shall bring forth a son: and thou shalt call his name Jesus.  For he shall save his people from their sins.

Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by the prophet, saying:  Behold a virgin shall be with child, and bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.  And Joseph rising up from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him, and took unto him his wife.

Considerations for the SECOND AND THIRD POINTS: OBSERVE and HEAR what was spoken and the actions done.

We must remember that St. Joseph was espoused to Mary.  This was rather like a time of engagement.  Although, for the Jews, this really meant that the couple technically belonged to each other and could join together whenever they wished.

St. Thomas Aquinas explains several reasons why Our Lady was espoused and had a husband.  One reason was that she would not have the shame of being with child without a husband.  Another reason was because she would need a man’s protection when fleeing for the life of the Child.  Yet another reason was so the devil would not know about the Divinity of Our Lord, because God did not want the devil to know this truth and thereby prevent the crucifixion.[1]

St. Joseph was a just man and therefore he feared God and he feared sin.  He did not want to offend God.  He had vowed perpetual chastity, thus he feared that taking Mary in her condition would be a grave scandal.  He feared that he would be consenting to a sin by taking her within his home because there could be no other explanation for her condition other than adultery.  Nevertheless, St. Joseph had such a great opinion of Mary’s purity that he could not doubt her.  He could not understand the enigma.  Scripture says he “thought on these things”.  What turmoil this must have been for poor St. Joseph!  Truly a spiritual cross!  This was God’s will for St. Joseph to suffer this mental anguish for his higher sanctification and for our edification.  Mary must have likewise suffered greatly because it was not her place to tell St. Joseph the plan of God.   She would certainly have known that St. Joseph would wonder what was going on.  What suffering for both of them!   How faithful they were to God to simply trust that His Providence would take care of everything![2]

St. Joseph surely knew the scripture from Isaiah 7:14: “Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and His Name shall be called Emmanuel.”  Did he think within himself, “Is Mary this virgin?”

St. Thomas says, “So also the Lord permitted Joseph to doubt concerning the chastity of Mary, that doubting he might receive the Angelic revelation, and by receiving might believe more firmly.”[3]    

St. Joseph did not make any rash decision about what to do with Mary’s situation.  He was prudent and waited for the Lord to instruct him.  Also St. Joseph wanted to take care of the situation showing Mary the most mercy, thus he considered putting her away quietly. 

St. Thomas explains that St. Joseph was a faithful believer in God’s plan and so it was fitting that an Angel should reveal to him what he needed to know.  “However, because a corporeal apparition is miraculous, such type of apparition was not becoming to him, since he believed and was faithful.”  It was fitting for Our Lady to receive a visible apparition because the message conveyed to her was more difficult to believe because it was at the beginning of the Incarnation, whereas St. Joseph could readily notice a physical sign of the revelation being true.[4]

The angel Gabriel addressed St. Joseph as the son of David because he was of the house of David.  We must notice, too, that the angel told St. Joseph, “Fear not”, just as St. Gabriel had also told St. Zachary and Our Lady.  This angel was sent from God and was a true messenger and so there was no reason to fear.  As soon as St. Joseph found out that her conception of Our Lord was from the Holy Ghost, he had no fears.  What a wonderful consolation for him!!  With what fervor and dedication he would embrace all the trials that would come concerning Him Who Mary was to bear!

Another very edifying example to note about St. Joseph is that he immediately obeyed the angel’s command and rose up to take Mary for his wife.

The COLLOQUY: Oh dear St. Joseph, you are such an edifying example for us of trust in God and His Plan for us.  Even though you were beset with unanswerable questions and doubts, you remembered that God’s Will is for our good.  You simply prayed for guidance and had confidence that God would answer your prayers and not leave you in uncertainty.  Please intercede for us, St. Joseph and beg God’s assistance for us in our present needs and tribulations.  

Now having finished our brief look at the Doubts of St. Joseph let us turn to the main part of our Lesson, namely, the study of the Nativity of Our Lord.

CONTEMPLATION ON THE NATIVITY

The preparatory prayer is the same as usual, I ask God Our Lord the grace that all my intentions, actions, and works may be directed purely to the service and praise of the Divine Majesty.

The FIRST PRELUDE: I will review the history of the Nativity.  How Our Lady, almost nine months with child, set out from Nazareth, seated on an ass, as may piously be believed, together with Joseph and a servant girl leading an ox.  They are going to Bethlehem to pay the tribute that Caesar has imposed on the whole land.

The SECOND PRELUDE: I will form a mental image of the scene and see in my imagination the road from Nazareth to Bethlehem.  I will consider its length and breadth, and whether it is large or small, whether high or low, and what it contains.

The THIRD PRELUDE: It will be the same and in the same form as it was in the preceding contemplation.  [The preceding contemplations were to ask for what I desire.  Here I will ask for an intimate knowledge of Our Lord, Who has become man for me, that I may love and follow Him better.]

The FIRST POINT: I will SEE the persons: our Lady and St. Joseph, the servant girl, and the Child Jesus after His birth.  I will become a poor, miserable, and unworthy slave looking upon them, contemplating them, and ministering to their needs, as though I were present there.  I will then reflect within myself in order that I may derive some fruit.

The SECOND POINT: I will OBSERVE, consider what they are SAYING and to reflect within myself that I may derive some profit.

The THIRD POINT: I will OBSERVE and CONSIDER what they are doing: the journey and suffering which they undergo in order that Our Lord might be born in extreme poverty, and after so many labors; after hunger and thirst, heat and cold, insults and injuries, He might die on the cross, and all this for me.  I will then reflect in order to gain some spiritual profit.

The COLLOQUY: Conclude with a colloquy as in the preceding contemplation and with the “Our Father.”  {Note: the preceding contemplation had the following colloquy suggestion from St. Ignatius—I will now think of what I should say to the Three Divine Persons, or the eternal Word Incarnate, or to His Mother and Our Lady.   I will ask help according to the need that I feel within myself, so that I may more closely follow and imitate Our Lord Who has just become Incarnate.  Close with the “Our Father”.} 

Now let us take some time to review the events surrounding the Nativity. Here is the Scriptural account: [The following are verses from St. Luke 2:1-20]

And it came to pass that in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled.  This enrolling was first made by Cyrinus, the governor of Syria.  And all went to be enrolled, every one into his own city.

 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem: because he was of the house and family of David. To be enrolled with Mary his espoused wife, who was with child.  And it came to pass that when they were there, her days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her first born son and wrapped him up in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger: because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds watching and keeping the night watches over their flock.  And behold an angel of the Lord stood by them and the brightness of God shone round about them: and they feared with a great fear. And the angel said to them: Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy that shall be to all the people: For, this day is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David.  And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest: and on earth peace to men of good will. And it came to pass, after the angels departed from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another: Let us go over to Bethlehem and let us see this word that is come to pass, which the Lord hath shewed to us.

And they came with haste: and they found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger.  And seeing, they understood of the word that had been spoken to them concerning this child.  And all that heard wondered: and at those things that were told them by the shepherds.  But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart.  And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Considerations for the FIRST POINT: TO USE THE SENSE OF SIGHT

·          SEE the journey to Bethlehem

What a trial it must have been for St. Joseph and Our Lady who was with Child, the Incarnate Wisdom!  The journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem took several days.   Certainly it would be slower with Mary’s condition.  Dear reader, you can imagine they have a donkey as St. Ignatius suggests or if you wish, you could imagine them walking because they were very poor.  To travel from Galilee, they would have to pass through Samaria and this course was known to be dangerous because of thieves which were prevalent on this route. 

The weather was cold and damp— bone-chilling cold.  Poor St. Joseph must give up his work in order to fulfill the command of Caesar and go to the town of David.  This foreign ruler did not care about the Jewish people.  He only cared to know the count of his people so he could get more revenue out of them.

If Our Lord had been born at their home in Nazareth, it would not have been a rich palace by any means, but it would have been easier for the Holy Family.  Even though the Holy Family was poor at Nazareth, they were in far poorer conditions in Bethlehem.  Let us not forget that these circumstances were exactly as God willed them to be.

·         SEE their arrival at Bethlehem

Imagine their arrival at Bethlehem.  St. Joseph looks for lodging for Mary and the Child soon to be born.  The town is packed with people also coming to be enrolled in the Census.  The cobblestone streets are narrow and crowded.  All the inns are full and the only place that the Holy Family can find to get out of the wind is a cave used as a stable.  “He came unto His own and His own received Him not.”

They descend the steep steps to find a cloverleaf shape set of rooms—three symbolizing the Trinity. Watch how St. Joseph cleans the place the best he can without having cleaning tools.  Mary takes the handmade swaddling clothes she has brought out of her small bundle of belongings.  She prays in holy expectation of the moment of the sublime birth of her God made Man.

·         SEE  the moment of the Nativity

Let us see this wondrous Birth which is the pivot point of all human history.  This is the miraculous Birth of Our Lord shining forth as light through a glass.  Our Lady suffers nothing and remains ever-virgin. We shall consider more of the details below under the point of considering actions.   

Considerations for the SECOND POINT: HEAR what Mary and St. Joseph might say on their way to Bethlehem and during the time that St. Joseph was looking for lodging for himself and his expectant wife.  

 Can we hear what St. Joseph and Mary might say to each other?  They mostly walk in prayerful silence.  When they do speak, they have words of mutual edification and resignation.  They are determined to do God’s Will no matter what is involved.

It has been a long and tiring journey and now that they have arrived in Bethlehem, they meet with noisy crowds of complaining travelers.  St. Joseph stops at inn after inn and is refused entrance, sometimes with harsh words and other times with flimsy excuses.  He sorrowfully tells Mary the results.  They neither complain nor murmur but thank God for doing His Will through them. 

Consider how God treats His chosen ones—especially this holy couple.  He gives them the choicest crosses and sanctifies them still further.  They win abundant merits.

We can compare our wretched sinfulness to this holy pair.  Fr. Hurter, S.J., has some moving words on this point.  He says,

How often did Our Savior wish to come to you, and you did not receive Him.  You closed your heart and turned your back on Him.  Many a time, especially at Christmas, you think: Had I been living in Bethlehem at the time, how willingly I should have received Our Divine Savior in my house and waited upon Him.[5] 

Fr. Hurter exhorts us further saying,

What was not possible for you then, you can do now.  For what you do to one of your brethren the Savior considers as done to Himself.  How consoling the thought that by works of Christian charity you can make up for the cold-heartedness of the inhabitants of Bethlehem![6]

Considerations for the THIRD POINT: TO CONSIDER ACTIONS

Consider the actions of the people in Bethlehem at the time of Our Lord’s Nativity.  Consider also the actions of St. Joseph, Our Lady, and Our Dear Savior after His Birth.

What did the people of Bethlehem care about on such a momentous night?  They only cared about being as comfortable as possible in the inns.  Little did they know that the King of kings and Lord of lords had now been born physically into the world.  Fr.  Hurter has these edifying words, to say about Our Lord’s birth:

Adore the newborn Savior in the manger.  Affectionately participate in the ineffable joy of the Virgin Mother and of St. Joseph, who now forgot all hardships, privations and humiliations, since for them the stable has become a paradise.  Search into the mystery here consummated before your eyes.   All the divine perfections of goodness, mercy, love, and omnipotence shine forth from it, more than from the creation of the universe.  Already in the manger the Infant Jesus, by His example, teaches us a lesson of all virtues in a heroic degree, which later as the dying Savior He wished to recommend as a compendium from the cross.  The manger and the cross—what effective pulpits!  Learn especially one virtue from the Infant Jesus in the manger.  As humility shines from the Incarnation, so the love of poverty from His birth.  Humility and poverty are the pillars of the following of Christ.[7]

Fr. Hurter instructs us about Our Lord’s poverty.  He tells us that His poverty was perfect. Our Lord lacked necessaries and a child could not come into the world under poorer conditions.[8]

He tells us that Our Lord’s poverty was His own choice. “And this is to be wondered at since He could have redeemed us if He had been rich.”[9]

Lastly, he informs us that Our Lord’s “poverty was intended and sought.  He permitted the decree of Augustus to be issued at this time that He might come into the world among strangers and very poor.  At Nazareth the maternal solicitude of Mary would have made it too comfortable for Him.”[10] 

Yes, the actions of the Holy Parents are so inspiring for us—their willingness to suffer all things for Christ their Son and King.  They knew that they were so blest to be the guardians of their Savior.

Let us now briefly consider the message of the Holy Angels who appear to the shepherds in the fields.  These simple and poor shepherds are found worthy to hear the tremendous news that the Christ, the Messiah, has been born.  They are told that He can be found in swaddling clothes, the prefigurement of the Holy Winding Sheet and that He is lying in a manger.  Well do these shepherds know about mangers and so they know which cave to find the Infant Savior.  They go with haste to see Him.  They report to the holy couple what they have seen and heard.

Mary, His Mother, files all of what they say deep in her heart to ponder again and again.  The shepherds can see that St. Joseph is a tender protector of the Holy Family.  They can also see that this tiny Infant is indeed special. 

Our Infant King, we must keep in mind has perfect use of His reason being both God and Man.  And yet, He acts and appears like a helpless Infant.  What humility! The very one Who created heaven, earth, and all creation is allowing Himself to exist in such a lowly state.

Concluding thoughts: we will let Fr. Hurter supply our closing comments:

We shall close this meditation with a fervent prayer to the dear Infant Jesus to communicate to us that love of poverty which in the manger He so much recommended; and we shall resolve, in case we are not in duty bound to it by vow, to practice it at least in spirit by detaching our hearts from earthly goods, by bridling  our too strong inclinations towards them, by being content with the means we possess, and by reducing our superfluous expenses, so that we may dispose of the money thus saved for the greater honor of God!

COLLOQUY: Dearest Babe in the manger, oh Incarnate Word, how can I thank Thee enough for becoming Man.  Oh glorious Hypostatic Union, so mysterious to us that one Person can have two Natures.  How happy I am that Thou hast accomplished this Union and will remain so for all eternity.  Thou teacheth us so many lessons by being born so.  Such humility!  Such poverty! Such detachment from things of this world!  Clearly Thy birth in a stable shows us that the things of this world should be as nothing to us.  Unite me to Thee, O Infant King, and never let me separate myself from Thee.  I thank Thee also for giving us such holy examples in St. Joseph and our tender Mother Mary. 

Oh Mary, dear Mother of God, intercede for me.  Instruct me in the ways of poverty and detachment.  Teach me, too, how to accept all God has planned for me.  Thank you, Mary, for being such a model of virtue for your children.

Dear St. Joseph, help me to lean on thee for protection and strength.  Help me to follow your edifying examples of trust and confidence in God.  Help me to pray for guidance like you did and humbly submit to God’s plan for me.

We have done the meditations on the Incarnation and the Nativity.  St. Ignatius has us go through several scenes of Our Lord’s Life in the second week of the Spiritual Exercises. We can take topics from the Gospel of Our Lord’s Life before He began His Public Life.  For our next lesson we will set out the contemplation/meditation of the Trials of the Holy Family.  Of course, a separate meditation could be done on each of the Trials. We will consider the Flight into Egypt, the Return from Egypt and the Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple.

 



[1]               This information is taken from St. Thomas Aquinas’s Lectures on St. Matthew’s Gospel.

 

[2]            Some of this information is taken from St. Thomas Aquinas’s Lectures on St. Matthew’s Gospel.

 

[3]           This quote is taken from St. Thomas Aquinas’s Lectures on St. Matthew’s Gospel.

[4]               This quote is taken from St. Thomas Aquinas’s Lectures on St. Matthew’s Gospel.

[5]               Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, Page 149.

 

[6]               Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, Page 148.

 

[7]           Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, Page 149.

 

[8]               Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, Page 150.

 

[9]           Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, Page 150.

 

[10]         Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, Page 150.

 

Lesson #20 – On the Incarnation, First Contemplation

                    Mary’s School of Sanctity                   

Lesson #20 – The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius – SECOND WEEK – FIRST DAY AND FIRST CONTEMPLATION – THE INCARNATION

Now at this point of the Spiritual Exercises St. Ignatius changes the method in which he sets up his meditations because he wants us to do our meditations in a slightly different manner.  Because St. Ignatius wants to encourage us to imitate Our Lord, he sets forth a series of meditations which will be an in-depth study of Our Lord’s Life and virtues.  He will take us through the key mysteries of the life of Christ and have us spend some time in pondering each of them.  However, in these meditations he wants us to paint a scene with our imagination and focus on what we see, hear, and observe actions in the given particular scene.  He has us do this so we can draw lessons for our souls which will bring with them many fruits.  One of these fruits is a greater dedication to Our Lord in our service of Him.

First, we will give the text of what St. Ignatius calls the First Contemplation of the Second Week which is on the Incarnation.  Then we will give some further ideas for the present considerations we are making.  Here we are going to study the circumstances surrounding this very important aspect of Our Catholic Faith, the Incarnation— Our Lord becoming Man through the Hypostatic Union, namely, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity uniting to human nature in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The preparatory prayer is the same as usual, I ask God Our Lord the grace that all my intentions, actions, and works may be directed purely to the service and praise of the Divine Majesty.

The FIRST PRELUDE: is to recall to mind the history of the subject I am about to contemplate.  Here it is how the Three Divine Persons were looking upon the whole extent and space of the earth, filled with human beings.  They see that all were going down into hell, and They decreed, in Their eternity, that the Second Person should become man to save the human race.  When the fullness of time had come, They sent the Angel Gabriel to Our Lady.

The SECOND PRELUDE: is a mental representation of the place.  I will see, in imagination the great extent and space of the world, where dwell so many different nations and peoples.  I will then see particularly the city of Nazareth in the province of Galilee, and the house and room where Our Lady dwells.

The THIRD PRELUDE: is to ask for what I desire.  Here I will ask for an intimate knowledge of Our Lord, Who has become man for me, that I may love and follow Him better.

The FIRST POINT: First, I will SEE all the different people on the face of the earth, so varied in dress and in behavior.  Some are white and others black; some at peace and others at war; some weeping and others laughing; some well and others sick; some being born and others dying, etc.

Second, I will SEE and CONSIDER the Three Divine Persons seated on the royal throne of the Divine Majesty.  They behold the entire face and extent of the earth and They behold all nations in such great blindness, dying, and going down into hell.

Third, I will SEE Our Lady and the angel who greets her.  I will reflect that I may draw profit from this scene.

The SECOND POINT: I will HEAR what the people throughout the world are saying, how they converse with one another, how they swear and blaspheme, etc.  I will also listen to what the Three Divine Persons are saying, that is, “Let us work the redemption of mankind,” etc.  I shall then listen to what the angel and Our Lady are saying.  I will then reflect upon what I hear to draw profit from these words.

The THIRD POINT: I will CONSIDER what the people throughout the world ARE DOING; how they are wounding, killing, and going to hell, etc.  I will also consider what the Three Divine Persons are doing, namely, accomplishing the most Holy Incarnation, etc., also what the angel and Our Lady are doing, as the angel fulfills his office of ambassador, and Our Lady humbles herself and gives thanks to the Divine Majesty.  I will then reflect to derive some profit from each of these things. 

The COLLOQUY: I will now think of what I should say to the Three Divine Persons, or the eternal Word Incarnate, or to His Mother, Our Lady.   I will ask help according to the need that I feel within myself, so that I may more closely follow and imitate Our Lord Who has just become Incarnate.  Close with the “Our Father”.


Considerations for the
FIRST POINT: TO USE THE SENSE OF SIGHT

·         SEE the world before and at the time of the Incarnation;

Let us bring to our minds, dear reader, what the world was like before the Incarnation.  Paganism was everywhere.  The Israelites were sorely tempted by idolatry and often fell into the worship of false gods.  Very few of the Israelites were faithful to the Commandments of God and the belief in the Redeemer to come, both of which were required for salvation in the Old Testament.  We can think about the few just people waiting in anticipation for the promised Redeemer.   Mary and St. Joseph were among them.

The Roman Empire had conquered most of the known world at that time.  The Romans occupied all of the land around the Mediterranean Sea including the entire coastline of northern Africa.  They owned all of Spain, France, the Netherlands and all along the English Channel in the north.  In fact, they owned most of the island we now know as Britain.  Also, in the northeast, they owned up to the Black Sea and of course they occupied the Holy Land in the east.  In this we can see God’s Providence because when Our Redeemer would set up the one true Church, He could establish His Church on the foundation of the Roman civil order.  Yet, consider how the majority of people were living in the darkness of Paganism.  On the other continents of the world where people migrated, there was the even greater emptiness of ignorance and sin.  Worldwide unhappiness prevailed.

·          SEE the Trinity overseeing the world before the Incarnation;


Behold in your mind’s eye, dear reader, how God, in His infinite mercy pitied mankind.  Try to picture the great Council of the Trinity looking down on the entire world.  Remember, Jesus is called the Angel of the Great Council.[1]

·         SEE the scene of the Annunciation:

Picture Our Lady praying in her small home in Nazareth.  The Angel Gabriel appeared to her.  Scripture tells us that she was troubled by his voice and his message.  Does this mean that she was not looking at the vision of the angel?  She, no doubt, had perfect custody of her eyes, so we can imagine that she wasn’t looking at the angel.  Or was it that she already had such a life of contemplation that the visitation of angels was a common occurrence and that it was not the vision of an angel which troubled her soul?

Considerations for the SECOND POINT: TO USE THE SENSE OF HEARING

·         HEAR the world in the period before Christ.

Picture the pagan and confused world as St. Ignatius speaks of it in his words given above; let us hear the tumult of the world.  Let us listen to the crowds of the entire world.  The people are going through life completely ignorant regarding the purpose for which they were created. 

As St. Ignatius describes for us in his text above, we can imagine the people as they scream and shout.  They laugh at all types of crude and banal things.  They chatter unceasingly about worthless things.  What a mass of confusing babble!

·         HEAR the Trinity conversing about working out the Incarnation;

As in Genesis God promised to send a Redeemer saying, “I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel” [Gen. 3:15].   God is about to fulfill His promise.  The Trinity, in our imagination, is setting out that now is the time to work the crushing of the head of Satan.  Imagine God the Father saying, “Now let us work the redemption of mankind.  Thou, My Only Begotten Son, Oh Word, shalt take flesh.   Behold Thy Mother, Our Masterpiece, will be told of Our Divine Plan.  We know that she will humbly accept the Plan and will be the Cause of Joy to Our adopted sons and daughters.”

·          HEAR what is occurring between Gabriel and Mary.

The actual Scriptural text is given here: St. Luke 1: 26-56

And in the sixth month, [of St. Elizabeth’s expectancy] the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David: and the virgin’s name was Mary.  And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

Who having heard, was troubled at his saying and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be.

 And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God.  Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb and shalt bring forth a son: and thou shalt call his name Jesus.  He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father: and He shall reign in the house of Jacob forever.  And of his kingdom there shall be no end.

 And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man?

And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee.  And therefore, also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.  And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren.  Because no word shall be impossible with God.

And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

 And Mary rising up in those days, went into the hill country with haste into a city of Juda. 

And she entered into the house of Zachary and saluted Elizabeth.  And it came to pass that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost.  And she cried out with a loud voice and said: Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.  And whence is this to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.  And blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord.

And Mary said: My soul doth magnify the Lord.  And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.  Because He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid: for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed, because He that is mighty hath done great things to me: and holy is His name.  And His mercy is from generation unto generations, to them that fear Him. He hath shewed might in his arm: He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.  He hath put down the mighty from their seat and hath exalted the humble.  He hath filled the hungry with good things: and the rich he hath sent empty away.  He hath received Israel His servant, being mindful of His mercy.  As He spoke to our fathers: to Abraham and to his seed forever.  

And Mary abode with her about three months. And she returned to her own house.

Considerations for the THIRD POINT: to consider actions

CONSIDER THE ACTIONS of the people in the world before and at the time of the Incarnation:

In the above sections, we have brought out the sights and sounds of the pagan world before Christ and at the time of the Incarnation; we need now to consider the actions of the people more.

They are living a banal existence.  They do not have any eternal perspective and therefore have no goal or purpose for living.  The people war against each other and the victor enslaves the defeated.  What poor people!  Think of the overall fear that the majority of people are feeling!  They have to fight for survival every day.  Not only do they have to provide for themselves from day to day, but they live in constant fear of being invaded by thieves or some foreign army.  What a terrifying existence for those who do not know God!  The people of most of the nations have no Mosaic Law for guidance and likewise they have no God-given orders about the sacrifices that God wants.  These peoples live for sensual pleasures, riches, pursuit of power.  What an empty existence they must have!  Most of them were working out their damnation and live without any hope of happiness!

They try to tell themselves that they are happy; yet, they know in their hearts that they are not convinced of this.  They commit murders and steal.  They cheat each other and gossip.  They do not trust one another. The Roman soldiers are patrolling the towns and villages.  These soldiers are watching to keep some kind of order. 

CONSIDER THE ACTIONS of the Holy Trinity– the loving providence and compassion that God has for mankind:

As we heard the Council of the Trinity above, we now consider the fulfillment of God’s promise.  Even though the human race was living unmindful of God, He is ever mindful of the human race.   As He said in Jeremiah, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love”.  [Jeremias, 31:3]  God shows that He wants the redemption of the world. “God so loved the world that He sent His Only Begotten Son.” [St. John’s Gospel, 3:16]

From all eternity God knew that He would work the Redemption by sending His Son.  He also knew when He would accomplish this task.  God now sends St. Gabriel with the joyful task of conveying to Our Lady the special mission God has for her, namely, to be the Mother of God.

Let us consider how we have not appreciated His loving care of us as we ought.  We could never be thankful enough for the gifts that God has given us.  The Incarnation alone is a wonderful gift to mankind and we must not forget that the purpose of the Incarnation was in order to atone for the sins of man and to open the gates of heaven which had been closed to man ever since the fall of Adam.  Indeed, where would we be without this Great Act of Love? 

The beautiful reality of the Hypostatic Union of God the Son to human flesh is awe-inspiring in Itself.  God the Son became man and will remain so for all eternity.  What condescension!  What a humiliation!  He wanted to give us a chance to save our souls and He wants to be our friend.    He also wanted to be a model for us to follow.


CONSIDER THE ACTIONS: of St. Gabriel and Our Lady

Let us now take some time to consider this beautiful scene of the messenger of God announcing to the Blessed Virgin, God’s Plan for her, and asking for her consent.

The entire text of this scene is given above as well as the wondrous scene of the Visitation and the Sanctification of St. John the Baptist in his mother’s womb.  We include the entire interchange between Mary and St. Elizabeth because we want to get an intimate understanding of Mary, as well as Our Lord.  Mary’s response to St. Elizabeth, which is known as her Magnifcat, shows her very profound humility.

So, the Angel Gabriel comes to Mary and tells her she is found special in the Eyes of God.  Why is she special?  It is precisely because she is full of grace.  She was full of grace ever since the moment she was conceived because the merits of the Redemption were applied to her long before Our Lord suffered His Passion and Death.  God can make an exception to His decree that all humans contract original sin.  Since He is not limited by the bounds of time, He chose to prevent original sin from ever sullying the soul of the Virgin Mary.

Thus, Mary is a pure vessel of honor and God willed her to be the place where the Hypostatic Union would occur.  Mary has ever been God’s willing handmaid.  Her parents presented her in the Temple when she was three years old.  She was taught in the Temple.  Therefore, she knew the Scriptures very well. 

What did she think when Gabriel announced that she would conceive a son and He would be called Jesus and He would be the Son of the Most High?  And of His kingdom there would be no end?  Her humility was being tested.  She would have known the passage from Isaiah, “Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign.  Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and His name shall be called Emmanuel.”

She wondered if Isaiah’s prophesy applied to her.  She was cautious lest the Angel Gabriel’s words were a trap of the devil in order to tempt her to pride.  Her response shows that she did not trust the praise she had been given.  She tests the apparition to see if it is indeed from God.  She knows that she made a vow of perpetual virginity and this vow was done purely out of love for God.  God had showed her that He accepted her vow.   So now, how can this be that she could conceive since she is a virgin and not at all interested in breaking that vow?   So, she inquires of the angel how this conception can take place and indicates to him that she is a consecrated virgin. 

The angel tells her that the Holy Ghost will cause the Conception and therefore the Child so conceived will be called the Son of God.  He also reveals to her the remarkable news that her elderly cousin Elizabeth had conceived a son even though she had been considered barren.  The angel tells her this as his way of proving to her that nothing is impossible with God.

When Mary hears of this extraordinary expectancy of her aged cousin, she is convinced that this apparition is from God.  Therefore, she readily submits her will to God saying, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word.”  She only wants to do the Will of God.  For her His Will is the only thing that matters.  Then, at that moment, the “Word became Flesh.”  Wisdom became incarnate; hence Wisdom became man.

We must remember that Mary was well-schooled in the Scriptures.  She knew that the Messiah was to be the Savior and Redeemer.   She knew that He would suffer a miserable death and be the “Man of Sorrows and the outcast of His people.”

As a mother she would suffer from this future suffering of her Son, and yet, she does not worry about her own future suffering, she only is concerned about doing what God wants.  Again, for her, His Will is the only thing that matters.

She humbles herself and immediately goes to be of assistance to her cousin Elizabeth who must be in need being so old and with child.  Mary’s generosity is “with haste.”

Then we see and hear Mary’s humility again when she sees her cousin and her cousin praises her.  She recites her beautiful canticle giving God all the glory of making her the Mother of God.

We have few words of Mary in the Gospels.  The Magnificat is a masterpiece of eloquent praise of God and giving Him all the credit for the glory and fame which is and will be associated with her.  “He that is mighty hath done great things to me.” 

Concluding thoughts:

Let us be astonished about how God is so loving and merciful to men as to become like unto them.  Ponder the humiliation of the Son of God at His Incarnation.  As St. Paul says, “Who being in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal to God; emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man.  He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross.” [Phil. 2:6-8]

Think about how Our Lord wanted to become our model so we could imitate His virtues and His love.  “No greater love hath a man than to lay down his life for his friend.”  What priceless love to not only become man, but to die for the sake of the salvation of men!  When Adam rejected the goodness of God in favor of Eve, Our Lord, the new Adam, reverses this dastardly act by embracing a life of suffering and the most shameful death on the Cross.  He wants us to learn humility, for His whole life was one continuous act of humility.

Think also with wonder about how Mary, the new Eve, rejected anything to do with the serpent – the evil one.  Instead, she exclaims that she owes everything to God.   She proclaims that she wants only to serve God and not act like Eve who wanted to become as a god.

COLLOQUY: How do I begin to thank Thee, O my Supreme Good for Thy mercies in becoming man to save us from hell fire?  O Holy Trinity, how sweet and how loving of Thee to give us an opportunity to share Thy divinity with us!  O, God the Father, how Thou dost provide in the extreme for us by sending Thy beloved Son to be butchered for us wretched sinners!  O, Thou Incarnate Wisdom, our words cannot praise Thee enough for Thine example of a most holy life!  Thou didst become man to be our Model, our Hope, our Savior, our Redeemer, our Friend, and our Beloved Spouse.  What more could we ask for?  Thou hast given all!  O, Holy Ghost, can our lips utter sufficient words to thank Thee for overshadowing Our dear precious Mother Mary and making her the true singular vessel of honor?  Help us, O most Holy Trinity, to love Thee with an ardent love and serve Thee ever more faithfully.  We do not deserve all Thy tender mercies shown towards us.  Help us to humble ourselves ever more and more in Thy Presence and pour forth our hearts in tearful gratitude of love. 

O dear tender Mother Mary, guide us in our homage and love of God.  Help us to imitate Thy virtues, o sweet Virgin Mary.  We, like thee, want to be generous to God and give ourselves completely in His service.  Teach us, O Mary, the countless ways we can sacrifice ourselves for God.

The possibilities for our colloquy are numerous.  The above is only a sample of what could be said.

Now that we have begun our intimate study of Our Lord, we hunger to increase our knowledge of Our Beloved Lord and Redeemer.  We have laid a foundation of desire to imitate the virtues and love of Our Lord.  Hence, in our next lesson we will continue our study of Christ by doing what St. Ignatius refers to as the Contemplation on the Nativity. 



[1]           Taken from the Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus

Lesson #19 The Call of Christ the King

Catholic Candle note:  Lesson 19 (below) is the latest lesson in this series.  Prior articles in this series can be found here: https://catholiccandle.org/category/resources-for-faith-and-practice/on-working-for-holiness/marys-school-of-sanctity/

 

                    Mary’s School of Sanctity                   

Lesson #19  The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius – ON THE CALL OF CHRIST THE KING [also called The Kingdom of Christ]

At this time, we bring our attention back to the content of the actual Spiritual Exercises.  As we mentioned in the introduction to the structure of the Spiritual Exercises in Lesson#5, St. Ignatius sets out his exercises to be done over a month’s time.  We now enter into the Second Week of St. Ignatius’s plan. We are going to be undertaking the meditation entitled The Call of Christ the King, one of the most famous meditations of St. Ignatius.  As we stated earlier in these lessons, under normal circumstances, we would have at this point of the retreat made a general confession.[1]

Thus, by this means, we have girded our loins and taken the breastplate of justice.[2]  St. Ignatius, having been a soldier once himself, has us consider Our Lord as on His throne inviting us to join the ranks of soldiers in His Divine army.  He is the head of the Catholic army of souls in the Church Militant.  Also, we can consider this meditation as a way to bring The Principle and Foundation back to our minds giving us greater zeal in our service of God.[3]  With this meditation to strengthen us, we can intensify our resolve to follow Christ in whatever He wills for us.

First, we will give the text of St. Ignatius’s meditation The Call of Christ the King and then expound on the various points one can use for his consideration in doing this present exercise.

St. Ignatius says:

The call of the earthly king helps us to contemplate the life of the Eternal King.

The preparatory prayer is the same as usual, I ask God Our Lord the grace that all my intentions, actions, and works may be directed purely to the service and praise of the Divine Majesty.

The FIRST PRELUDE: St. Ignatius calls this prelude “a mental picture of the place”.  Here we will see in our imagination the synagogues, villages, and towns where Jesus preached.

The SECOND PRELUDE: I will ask for the grace that I desire.  Here it will be to ask of Our Lord the grace that I may not be deaf to His call, but prompt and diligent to accomplish His most holy will.

PART ONE

The FIRST POINT: I will see in my mind a human king, chosen by God Our Lord Himself, to whom all princes and all Christians pay reverence and obedience.

The SECOND POINT: I will consider how this king speaks to all his subjects, saying, “It is my will to conquer all infidel lands.  Therefore, whoever wishes to come with me must be content to eat as I eat, drink as I drink, dress as I dress, etc.  He must also be willing to work with me by day, and watch with me by night.  He will then share with me in victory as he has shared in the toils.”

The THIRD POINT: I will consider what the answer of good subjects ought to be to such a generous and noble king, and consequently, if anyone would refuse the request of such a king, how he would deserve to be despised by everyone, and considered an unworthy knight.  

PART TWO

The second part of this Exercise consists in applying the example of this earthly king to Christ Our Lord, in these three points:

The FIRST POINT: If we heed such a call of an earthly king to his subjects, how much more worthy of consideration is it to see Christ Our Lord, the Eternal King, and before Him, all of mankind, to whom, and to each man in particular, He calls and says: “It is My will to conquer the whole world and all My enemies, and thus to enter into the glory of My Father.  Whoever wishes to come with Me must labor with Me, following Me in suffering, he also will follow Me in glory.”

The SECOND POINT: I will consider that all persons who have judgment and reason will offer themselves completely for this work.

The THIRD POINT: Those who wish to show the greatest affection and to distinguish themselves in every service of their Eternal King and Universal Lord, will not only offer themselves entirely for the work, but by working against their own sensuality and carnal and worldly love, will make offerings of greater value and importance saying:

Eternal Lord of all things, I make this offering with Thy grace and help, in the presence of Thy infinite goodness and in the presence of Thy glorious Mother and of all the Saints  of Thy heavenly court, that it is my wish and desire, and my deliberate choice, provided only that it be for Thy greater service and praise, to imitate Thee in bearing all injuries, all evils, and all poverty both physical and spiritual, if Thy most Sacred Majesty should will to choose me for such a life and state.

The COLLOQUY: St. Ignatius does not specify any particular colloquy for this meditation.  However, the above offering could be made and it is desirable to make it or something similar to it.  We should certainly speak to Our Lord and give ourselves completely to Him. 


PART I

Considerations for the FIRST POINT: a model earthly king.

St. Ignatius wants us to imagine what it would be like if an earthly king who was very noble and virtuous called everyone to help him conquer the Muslims.  If this king proposed to conquer the world for Christ and convert the entire world to Christianity, how wonderful it would be if the world truly acknowledged Christ as King!

This type of king is very much like King St. Ferdinand III who lived from 1199 A.D. to 1252 A.D.  He was a very pious king who was devoted to Our Lady and was a Third Order Franciscan.  He devoted his life to purging Castile and Leon of the Moors.  According to Butler’s Lives of the Saints, St. Ferdinand’s body is incorrupt, which is a great reminder to us that God is pleased with those who spend their lives extending the reign of Christ.

Considerations for the SECOND POINT: how the earthly king leads.

In this point, St. Ignatius has us continue to imagine our earthly king who leads us in battle against the enemy.  Here again, King St. Ferdinand fits the description that St. Ignatius sets forth above.  Here is how Alban Butler describes King St. Ferdinand in the Lives of the Saints:

His whole conduct bore testimony to the truth of his solemn protestation, “Thou, O Lord, Who searchest the secrets of hearts, knowest that I desire Thy glory, not mine; and the increase of Thy faith, and holy religion, not of transitory kingdoms.”  He set his soldiers the most perfect example of devotion.  He fasted rigorously, prayed much, and wore a rough hair-shirt made in the shape of the cross; often spent whole nights in tears and prayers, especially before battles, and gave to God the glory of all his victories. In his army he caused an image of the Blessed Virgin to be carried, and wore another small one on his breast, or sometimes when on horseback placed it on the pommel of his saddle before him.[4]

King St. Ferdinand III led his knights into battle.  He fought fearlessly at the head of his army.  His men felt drawn on by zeal and were willing to follow him into the direst circumstances.  He won victory after victory, even when he was greatly outnumbered by the Moors. There was an occasion in which it was testified by his men that St. James the Apostle, appeared at the head of the troops in the armor of a knight.  In this particular battle only eleven lost their lives—one a knight who had refused to forgive an injury, and ten additional soldiers.

King St. Ferdinand won back lands which had been in the hands of the Moors for five hundred and twenty years.

He gave the spoils of war to the Church.  For example, he rebuilt the cathedral of Toledo.  He purified the churches and places which had been desecrated by the Moors and established bishoprics in many places.

What is clear from the account of King St. Ferdinand III was that he fought valiantly with his whole heart for God, and God was with him. This king never once was wounded in battle.  God gave him victory upon victory.[5]   

Considerations for the THIRD POINT: who would not follow such a leader?

With a heart throbbing for the conversion of the heathen and the restoration of the Church’s properties, who would not burn inside to attach himself to such a noble king?  This earthly king, by his example of dedicated love of the Faith and Holy Mother Church, would and should spur us on to die for Christ and His Church.  His zeal would almost seem contagious and irresistible in its intensity.  Would we not long to follow him with confidence in his strength and power?  When we saw his tremendous victories, we would not doubt that he was a man to follow. What remarkable leadership!  What remarkable virtue!  And oh how ashamed we would feel if we did not take up arms and follow such a man!  We would have the deep guilt of having shirked our duty and our life-long vocation of the salvation of our souls.  Who could bear such shame and ignominy of deserting such an upright king and mission?

Now let us turn to the second part of this meditation where St. Ignatius wants us to apply what we considered about the worthy earthly king to the Divine King of kings, Our Lord Himself.

 

Part II

Considerations for the FIRST POINT: Our Lord Himself calls us to His service.

In this meditation, St. Ignatius is telling us that we must follow Christ for He is truly calling all of us into His ranks.  This meditation may be seen as a call to the religious life, but, in fact, it is a call to be entirely in God’s service.  It harkens back to the Principle and Foundation because this meditation reminds us that we were created to be in God’s service and use this wonderful service to save our immortal souls.

So, in this first point, we consider how, indeed, Our Lord Himself calls us to follow Him.  He says plainly to us in St. Matthew’s Gospel, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” [Matt. 16:24]

See in the following quotes how He beckons us to follow Him lovingly!

He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them; he it is that loveth Me. [John 14:21]

Come to Me, all you that labor, and are burdened, and I will refresh you. Take up My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is sweet and My burden light.  [Matt 11: 28-30]

He truly wants us to follow Him in everything.  He wills to be Our Shepherd and to lay down His Life for us.  He not only wants to show us how He willed to honor His Heavenly Father by His death, but He also wants us to realize that He is setting us an example of sacrificing Himself completely for love of God. 

Thus, He wants us to know that we must be willing to follow Him in this way too, namely, unto death.  Listen to what He tells us in the following quotes:

If the world hates you, know ye, that it hath hated Me before you.  [John 15:18]

Remember My word that I said to you: the servant is not greater than his master.  If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you: if they have kept My word, they will keep yours also.  But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake: because they know not Him that sent Me.  [John 15: 20-21]

They will put you out of the synagogues: yea, the hour cometh, that whosoever killeth you, will think that he doth a service to God.  [John 16:2]  

By these weighty words Our Lord is telling us that we must be willing to follow Him in every aspect of our lives.  He will take care of us and we must not feel overwhelmed because the Paraclete will be with us to guide us.

He wants us to be apostles of the truth and spread His Kingdom.  We must be able and willing to teach Catholic Faith and Morals.  We must teach this primarily by our examples – to truly live a Catholic life during the neo-pagan times in which we live.

Are we the Catholics He desires us to be?  Are we willing to undertake the work of being true apostles of Christ?  Do we have apostolic zeal for the spread of His Kingdom and the salvation of souls?  Are we willing to be an outcast for love of Him?  Are we willing to stand up for Him and Truth?

This brings us to the consideration in the next point— who exactly is called? Is this point for those with a religious vocation only?

Considerations for the SECOND POINT: Every Catholic is expected to heed Christ’s call.

Since the Principle and Foundation applies to us all, it makes sense that Our Lord is indeed calling all of us into His service.  He is Our Creator, Our Father and Provider, Our Redeemer, Our Beloved, and Our Judge.  We owe Him everything.  Our Lord says, “I am the way, and the truth and the life.  No man cometh to the Father, but by Me.” [John 14:6]   

However, we must keep in mind that He lovingly invites us.  Here is how Fr. Hurter, S.J. in his Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat explains this invitation:

What is the form of the invitation? Our Divine Redeemer does not stand on His well-grounded rights, He does not force, He does not threaten with thunder and lightning those who hang back.  He appeals to the heart: He appeals to our generosity; He invites us. To what does He invite us?  To the grandest undertaking we can think of: To spread the kingdom of God upon earth; to glorify His Holy Name, to build up the Church of God, which shall stand invincible against all the attacks of hell: “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against her”[6]   

Both religious and laity are called to be apostles of Christ and His Church.  Fr. Hurter brings forth another noteworthy point for our apostolate. We give his point as follows:

And what are the conditions which He lays down?  He asks of us no more than He Himself has done; no greater privations than those He took up Himself; no obedience more difficult, no humility more profound, no cross more painful than He Himself submitted to.  He was the Son of God, the Lord of the world, the Innocent, and all that He did was for us.  When we come down to reality, He is satisfied with much less, with the tenth part of what He Himself has done, even with a mere shadow of it.  For such humility, such poverty, such obedience as He practiced, He does not ask us for.[7]

We cannot be indifferent to His Kingdom and the spread of the Kingship of Christ. If we are truly the friends of Christ, we must love to bring souls to Him.  However, if we hunger to bring souls to Him, we sense the real need of beginning with the perfection of our own souls.  So St. Ignatius impels us to dig deeper and to work harder on the perfecting of ourselves.  In his third point, he raises the bar of what we should expect from ourselves.  We must desire our own sanctification.  Let us consider this higher calling alluded to in the third point.

Considerations for the THIRD POINT: Our Lord wants everyone to follow Him, if not in actual poverty in the religious life, then in at least spiritual poverty.

In this third point, St. Ignatius seems to be tying the first two points together for the sole purpose of urging us to strive for high perfection.  We know that the religious life is the best means to achieve the highest perfection; however, St. Ignatius wants us to realize that the laymen are also called to perfection.  He is encouraging the laity to live a life of mortification because this is necessary even for laymen in order to come to the perfection which Christ wants for each of us.   In order to have the deepest friendship and mystical marriage with Christ, which is Our Lord’s plan for every member of the Elect, we must not put any obstacle in His way.

“I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one cometh to the Father but by Me.”  [John 14:6].  By these words, Our Lord shows us that we must wage an interior battle with our own flesh in order to master our lower nature and to be His devoted friend and fellow laborer in the field, winning souls for Heaven.

This is why St. Ignatius tells us that we must be willing to distinguish ourselves in a special service of Our Lord.  We must be willing to literally give everything up for Him and be detached from everything in order to give ourselves interiorly and exteriorly to Him.  Thus, we must fight the battle against ourselves and bring our passions into subjection.  Bearing this complete detachment in mind, we then lovingly root out our disorderly self-love which so often manifests itself in our passions.

Because we cannot help others to come to the Faith if we are not properly disposed ourselves, St. Ignatius reminds us to work hard on our own perfection.

Fr. Hurter explains this concept of properly disposing ourselves when he says:

In saving souls, we are but instruments in the hands of God.  But the force of the master enters sooner and more perfectly into the instrument, the better it is adapted to the artist and, as it were, coalesces with him.  We shall be more useful, docile, and pliable as instruments in the hands of Our Divine Savior if there be less in us that resists Him.  That is, we must mortify and deaden within us all that is opposed to God, viz., our evil passions and disorderly self-love.[8]

Concluding thoughts:

In the light of all these considerations of how Our Lord is inviting our souls to Him in true friendship, we should be very willing to repeat the prayer that St. Ignatius gives us above (in his third point, in the introduction of this meditation).  We should give Our Lord our entire selves to use as He sees fit.  If He wants us to have actual poverty, then we embrace His will.  If He is not causing us actual poverty, then we tell Him that we will heartily embrace the spirit of poverty.  With this resolution we can imitate Him as He desires us to do.  

COLLOQUY:  Oh, dear Lord how can I thank Thee for such a loving invitation to follow Thee in all things, yes, even to death for love of Thee?  Oh, allow me to have the strength to conquer my inordinate self-love so I can give myself entirely to Thee without reserving anything for myself!!  I repeat the words that St. Ignatius gave above.  Indeed, it is my desire to give myself to Thee, to embrace actual poverty if Thou dost wish, and to have a true spirit of poverty so as to imitate Thee my Lord and Master.  I want no extravagant life, nothing that would distract me from abandoning myself completely to Thy holy service.  Please give me strength to die to myself and not to fear to stand up for Thee and Thy Truth.  Be Thou the King of my soul, and this means I will try to show my neighbor that he, too, must have Thee reign in him and in society.

We are now resolved to begin a more earnest and in-depth study of Our Lord and His virtues.  Hence, in our next lesson, we will begin our study by doing what St. Ignatius refers to as the Contemplation on the Incarnation



[1]           Since we are living in the time of the Great Apostasy, there are no uncompromising priests, at least in most places.  Thus, a general confession is not possible.  But we should go through the steps which would have led up to making a general confession, if we had been able to make one. 

 

We should make a very thorough examination and preparation for a general confession which would include making a sin list and telling God that if/when an uncompromising priest should become available, we are most willing to go to confession.  We should take these steps with sincere and humble hearts. 

 

We should humbly trust in God and beg His Mercy by trying to make a perfect act of contrition after having performed that thorough examination of conscience for confession.

 

We must trust in God and practice the virtue of hope.  We should be striving with all our hearts to make many acts of contrition as often as we can and make these acts as perfect as we can.

 

We must have a repentant disposition of mind.  We need heartfelt contrition for our sins.  The Council of Trent (session 14, chapters 1 and 4) explains that heartfelt sorrow for sins has at all times been necessary to obtain forgiveness of sins. 

 

There are two kinds of contrition: perfect and imperfect.  We should always endeavor to make perfect acts of contrition and get in the habit of making them.  We have always known that no one is guaranteed the chance to go to confession, but especially now in these times of apostasy; most of us do not have the opportunity.

 

Perfect contrition consists in being sorry because we have offended God the Supreme Being and Our dear loving Father, and the Sacred Heart of Jesus Who is most worthy of our love. We have been so ungrateful to Him, and we must be determined never to commit sin again.  We want our love to be as perfect as possible.  Of course, we must beg God and our heavenly helpers to help us have a pure motive in our contrition.  Our contrition cannot simply be because we are afraid of punishment, for then, our contrition would be imperfect.  Perfect contrition involves filial fear and filial love, whereas, imperfect contrition involves servile fear which is simply the fear of punishment.

 

The effect of perfect contrition is wonderful because it blots out all of the guilt (but not necessarily all of the punishment) due to sins.

 

[2]           Reference to St. Paul, “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth and

having on the breastplate of justice: And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.  In all things taking the shield of faith, wherewith you may be

able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked one.”  Ephesians, 6:14-16.

[4]            This quote is taken from Alban Butler’s Lives of the Saints under May 30th.

[5]           The information about King St. Ferdinand III is taken from Alban Butler’s Lives of the Saints under May 30th. and Saint Fernando III, James Fitzhenry, Arz, ©2009.

[6]           Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, Page 111.

 

[7]           Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918, third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, Page 112. 

 

Of course, we must realize that Our Lord, being a perfect human being suffered more than we could ever suffer.  Nevertheless, He wants us to give Him our absolute best and be as perfect as we can be.  One further point we must realize is that the primary reason Our Lord suffered was for the greater honor and glory of His Father. 

[8]           Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918, third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, Page 118.