ye perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect" -- Matthew
Louis de Montfort--that renowned Apostle of Mary--says to us:
"Chosen soul, living image of God and redeemed by the Precious
Blood of Jesus Christ, God wants you to become holy like Him in
this life, and glorious like Him in the next.
is certain that growth in the holiness of God is your vocation.
All your thoughts, words, actions, everything you suffer or undertake,
must lead you towards that end. Otherwise you are resisting God,
in not doing the work for which He created you and for which He
is even now keeping you in being. What a marvelous transformation
is possible! Dust into light, uncleanness into purity, sinfulness
into holiness, creature into Creator, man into God! A marvelous
work, I repeat, so difficult in itself, and even impossible for
a mere creature to bring about, for only God can accomplish it
by giving His grace abundantly and in an extraordinary manner.
The very creation of the universe is not as great an achievement
soul, how will you bring this about? What steps will you take
to reach the high level to which God is calling you? The means
of holiness and salvation are known to everybody, since they are
found in the Gospel; the masters of the spiritual life have explained
them; the saints have practiced them and shown how essential they
are for those who wish to be saved and attain perfection. These
means are: sincere humility, unceasing prayer, complete self-denial,
abandonment to divine Providence, and obedience to the will of
God. The grace and help of God are absolutely necessary for us
to practice all these, but we are sure that grace will be given
to all, though not in the same measure. I say "not in the same
measure," because God does not give His graces in equal measure
to everyone, although in His infinite goodness He always gives
sufficient grace to each. A person who corresponds to great graces
performs great works, and one who corresponds to lesser graces
performs lesser works. The value and high standard of our actions
corresponds to the value and perfection of the grace given by
God and responded to by the faithful soul. No one can contest
these principles. It all comes to this, then. We must discover
a simple means to obtain from God the grace needed to become holy.
It is precisely this I wish to teach you. My contention is that
you must first discover Mary if you would obtain this grace from
Mary Mediatrix of Grace
graces come to us through Mary--Christ has earned them, but she
distributes them. She cooperates with God in our sanctification
and salvation. Like a father comes home and gives the contents
of his hard-earned wage-packet to his wife and tells her buy and
distribute to everyone in family what is needed, so too Mary distributes
to us the graces of God. We ignore Mary at our peril.
Our Lady's apparition at the Rue de Bac, in Paris, France, we
see rays of light pouring forth from the rings on Our Lady's outstretched
hands. When St. Catherine Labouré asked what these rays
of light were, Our Lady replied that they were graces. Some were
bright, others dull. Catherine asked what they signified. Our
Lady told that the bright rays were graces that God gave to us
through the hands of the Blessed Mother and the dull rays were
those graces that God did not give. When asked why they were not
given, Our Lady replied that the reason was that WE DIDN'T ASK.
Blessed Mother holds such a place in the economy of our redemption
that some do not hesitate to state that devotion to Her is a necessary
condition of salvation.
Albert the Great says: "They who are not thy servants, O Mary.
Bonaventure repeats the same thought when he says: "They who
neglect the service of Mary shall die in their sins." And
again: "For them from whom Mary turns away her face there
is not even a hope of salvation."
Ignatius of Antioch, a martyr of the second century, writes: "A
sinner can be saved only through the holy Virgin who, by her merciful
prayers, obtains salvation for so many who, according to strict
justice, would be lost."
Alphonsus Liguori says: "It is impossible that a servant of
Mary be damned, provided he serves Her faithfully and commends
himself to her maternal protection."
Anselm writes: "He who turns to Thee and is regarded by Thee
cannot be lost."
Antonine is of the same opinion. He says: "As it is impossible
for them from whom Mary turns away her eyes of mercy to be saved,
so it is necessary that they to whom She turns her eyes of mercy
and for whom She intercedes to be saved and glorified."
might apply here what St. Alphonsus says about devotion to Mary
in general: "When we declare that it is impossible for a servant
of Mary to be lost... we do not mean those who by their
devotion to Mary think themselves warranted to sin freely. We
state that these reckless people, because of their presumption,
deserve to be treated with rigor and not with kindness. We speak
here of the servants of Mary who, to the fidelity with which they
honor and invoke Her, join the desire to amend their lives. I
hold it morally impossible that these be lost."
is clear from the above quotes that a certain measure of fidelity
is required on the part of those who wish to gain the graces and
special love, intercession and protection of Our Lady.
Only Saints Go To Heaven
the heart of every right-thinking Catholic, God has implanted
the desire to become a Saint. Yet few make a serious attempt to
realize the ambition. The cause for this is, to a large extent,
discouragement, due to the misunderstanding of what a Saint really
is. What is a Saint? The answer usually returned to this question
is: one who does extraordinary penances and works miracles.
this is an incorrect description, for neither miracles nor great
penances are essential. The man who works a miracle does not raise
himself in God's eyes by it; and, while penance in some shape
is necessary, still the teaching of the Saints on this difficult
question is encouraging. What they direct is not bodily penances
of a terrifying kind, but rather the strict avoidance of delicacies,
softness, comfort. We are told to beware of injuring our health,
and to eat enough plain food to enable us to work and pray without
hindrance. There is ample opportunity for the severest mortification
in the restraint of eyes and tongue, and in a warfare against
the Seven Deadly Sins.
there is another definition of what a Saint is. It is this: One
who, with the object of pleasing God, does his ordinary duties
extraordinarily well. Such a life may be lived out without
a single wonder in it, arouse little notice, be soon forgotten,
and yet be the life of one of God's dearest friends. It is obviously
an encouragement to look on sanctity in this way. When we see
that those things which so terrified us in the lives of the Saints,
because we felt we could not do them ourselves, are not the important
part of their sanctity at all, we should feel heartened to begin
today and make a serious effort for great holiness. Believe this:
it is only the first few wrenches given to the will that really
the following words of Cardinal Newman will tempt us to take a
step forward on the road: "If you ask me what your are to
do in order to be perfect, I say, first do not lie in bed beyond
the time of rising; give your first thoughts to God; make a good
visit to the Blessed Sacrament; say the Angelus devoutly; eat
and drink to God's glory; say the Rosary well; be recollected;
keep out bad thoughts; make your evening mediation well; examine
yourself daily; go to bed in good time, and your are already perfect."
Who are Called to be Saints?
person that is born is called to be a Saint. Take it as most certain
that you--no matter how unfitted your life may seem for holiness--are
being given graces sufficient, if corresponded with, to bring
you to sanctity. We have already seen that nothing beyond our
strength is expected; neither is sanctity the exclusive property
of any grade or manner of life. Among the Saints canonized by
the Church are kings and beggars, and representatives of every
trade, slaves, hermits, city people, mothers of families, invalids,
soldiers, and persons of every race and color. Since a canonized
Saint is a pattern provided by God, it is evident that an invitation
to become Saints is extended to men and women of every type. It
is equally a fact that to those who seriously try to respond to
His invitation, He gives help sufficient to carry them to the
how the thought of fame or gold moves men. What sufferings they
will endure for a mere chance of earthly gain. And in the end,
though disappointed themselves, they will fill the minds of their
children with the same longings for worldly success, so that each
generation sees the same weary beat of the pendulum--ambitious
youth to soured age. Is it really worth the trouble? So many are
handicapped by lack of health, or knowledge, or brains, that it
never is a fair fight. Except for a few, striving is pure waste
of time. How differently God deals with anyone striving after
holiness. Here all is certain. Every effort gets its reward. Everything
is made to favor us; for alike out of health and sickness, poverty
and wealth, what looks good and what looks evil--can the man of
good-will extract spiritual gain. Every reasonable request granted;
obstacles removed for the asking; no trial beyond our strength
permitted. In the ears of the world, this would sound like a fairy-tale,
but it is, in sober truth, God's way of dealing with the earnest
seeker after Heavenly riches. Surely, to announce calmly, as so
many good people do, that they have no ambition to be Saints,
is very ungenerous treatment of One so kind. As He has so plainly
set His Heart upon our doing great things, let us resolve to please
Him and return generosity for generosity.
I Am a Bundle of Weakness
am appalled at the thought of a life of constant effort to crush
my nature into a new form. I have no strength of will, and such
a life is beyond my powers." With such reasonings, we harden
ourselves against the call which rings so often in our ears. We
forget that the same holy lips which say, "Come follow Me,"
say also to all, "My yoke is sweet and My burden light,"
What, then, is wrong with us that we fear the yoke of Christ?
It is this…our point of view. Unimportant ideas occupy the strongholds
of our minds and shape our thoughts; while He, the owner of Eternity,
is left only as one of the hundred interests in our lives, so
that it is not surprising that the zeal, the courage, the ardor,
that do big things, are spent on gains, or pleasure, which give
a visible and rapid return, In a word, we undervalue holiness.
Once we alter this--and little is required to do it--once we accept
the fact that holiness is the most important thing in the world
for us, and it will become the most natural thing in the world
for us to strive after it. There lies the whole secret of effort.
Make the goal attractive and reasonable, and we pursue it in spite
of hardships and almost in spite of ourselves. The human mind
works in that way.
all the past as nothing, and say, like David: "Now I begin
to love my God." It was in this manner that the one-time
Christian persecutor, the Apostle St. Paul, acted; though, after
his conversion, he had become a vessel of election, filled with
the spirit of Jesus Christ, yet, to persevere and advance in the
heavenly way, he made use of this means, for he said in his Epistle
to the Philippians: "Brethren, I do not count myself to have
apprehended. But one thing I do: forgetting the things that are
behind, and stretching forth myself to those that are before,
I press towards the mark, to the prize of the supernal vocation
of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:13-14).
the glorious St. Anthony went from day to day, stimulating himself
to virtue. St. Anastasius said of him that he always looked upon
himself as a beginner, as if every day were the first in which
he was serving God, and as if in the past he had done nothing
good and were but just setting foot in the way of the Lord and
taking the first steps on the road to Heaven. And this was the
very last admonition he left to his monks at his death: "My
sons," he said to them, "if you wish to advance in virtue
and perfection, never give up the practice of considering each
day that you are then beginning, and of conducting yourselves
always as you did on the day you began."
we find that St. Gregory, St. Bernard and St. Charles acted and
advised others to act. To make clear to all the necessity and
utility of this method, they made use of two beautiful comparisons,
saying that we must act in this like travelers who do not regard
the road they have gone over, but, rather, what remains for them
to traverse and this they keep always before their eyes, even
to their journey's end; or, like merchants eager for riches who
make no account of what they have hitherto acquired, nor of the
fatigue they have borne, but put all their thought and care upon
new acquisitions, and upon daily multiplying their possessions,
as if in the past they had made no profit at all.
Constant Renewal of Resolutions
Francis de Sales tells us that "We must begin with a strong
and constant resolution to give ourselves wholly to God, professing
to Him, in a tender, loving manner, from the bottom of our hearts,
that we intend to be His without any reserve, and then we must
often go back and renew this same resolution."
of the means for the acquisition of perfection which was chiefly
inculcated and much practiced by St. Philip Neri was a frequent
renewal of good resolutions. St. Francis de Sales made from time
to time a spiritual renovation, and always conceived in it new
desires to serve God better. St. John Berchmans, at his very entrance
into religion, planted in his heart a strong resolution to become
a Saint, and then he not only remained constant in all the practices
and resolutions which he took up for this end, but he went on
daily gaining new vigor to his spiritual advantage.
Humility and Obedience in face of the Will of God
perfection is founded upon only two principles, by means of which,
with due attention to the daily actions suited to our state, we
shall certainly arrive at the summit and fullness of it. The first
principle is a very low esteem for all created things, but, above
all, for ourselves. This low esteem should show itself, in practice,
by renouncing ourselves and all creatures; in our hearts, by a
firm resolution; and in our lives, in such ways as may be suitable,
especially by manifesting contentment and cheerfulness when the
Lord takes from us any good. The second principle is a very high
esteem of God, which may be easily acquired by the light of faith,
as He is Omnipotent, the Supreme Good and our End; as also because
He has loved us so much, and is ever present with us, and guides
us in all things, both as to nature and grace, and, in particular,
has called us and leads us by a special vocation to a lofty perfection.
From this esteem there must certainly arise in us a great submission
of will, and of every power and faculty, to His greater glory,
without any mingling of our own interest, though it be ever so
holy. At the same time, there will be great conformity with the
Divine Will, which will be the actual measure of all our designs,
affections, and works. Of this, all are capable; and all, with
certainty, though not without crosses, can arrive at it"
(Fr. Achille Gagliardi).
servant of God signifies one who has a great charity towards his
neighbor, and an inviolable resolution to follow in everything
the Divine Will; who bears with his own deficiencies, and patiently
supports the imperfections of others." (St. Francis de Sales).
whole life of this Saint, as well as of St. Vincent de Paul, was
but a faithful and continual exercise of these virtues, on the
occasions which every day presented themselves. In this way they
both became great servants of God. In the Lives of the Fathers
of the West, it is told of St. Fintan that he was daily visited
by an angel, but that once the visit was omitted for several days.
When the Saint had the happiness of seeing him again, he asked
the angel why he had been so long deprived of his most sweet companionship.
"Because," replied the angel, "I had to be present
at the death of Motua, who was a great servant of God, and better
than yourself, for he did what you have not done. This man never
spoke a harsh word to anyone present, nor an unkind word of anyone
absent. He never complained of heat or cold, nor of anything else,
whatever it might be, or however it might happen; but always conformed
himself to the will of God, in whose hands are all things."
Sin of Pride and Disobedience
sin of Adam and Eve was one of pride and disobedience. The way
back must be one of humility and obedience. As Eve showed pride
and disobedience in her conversation with the evil angel, Our
Lady, the new Eve, showed humility and obedience in her conversation
with the good angel.
do the will of another, requires great humility. It was always
the principal study of St. Vincent de Paul to establish and perfect
himself in these two principles. Therefore, as his profound humility
made him believe himself incapable of great things, he thought
only of fulfilling faithfully towards God the obligations of a
true and perfect Christian. And since he knew, by heavenly illuminations,
that all Christian perfection depends upon a good use of these
two principles, he aimed at them alone and sought above all to
penetrate them well and to fix them in his soul, that they might
serve as an unerring rule and guide for all his actions.
consists in one thing alone, which is doing the will of God. For,
according to Our Lord's words, it suffices for perfection to deny
self, to take up the cross and to follow Him. Now, who denies
himself and takes up his cross and follows Christ better than
he who seeks not to do his own will, but always that of God? Behold,
now, how little is needed to become a Saint! Nothing more than
to acquire the habit of willing, on every occasion, what God wills"
(St. Vincent de Paul).
the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to thy word."
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