THE PRACTICE OF THE LOVE OF JESUS CHRIST
VIII.-THE MEANS OF AVOIDING LUKEWARMNESS AND ATTAINING PERFECTION
He that leaves off prayer, will leave off loving Jesus Christ. Prayer is the blessed furnace where the fire of holy love is enkindled and kept alive: And in my meditation a fire shall flame out-(Ps. xxxviii. 4). It was said by St. Catherine of Bologna: “The person that foregoes the practice of prayer breaks the chain which binds the soul to God.” It follows that the devil, finding the soul cold in Divine love, will have little difficulty in inducing her to partake of some poisonous fruit or other, St. Teresa said, on the contrary: “Whosoever perseveres in prayer, let him hold for a certainty, that with however many sins the devil may surround him, the Lord will eventually bring him into the haven of salvation.” In another place the Saint says: “Whoever halts not in the way of prayer arrives sooner or later.” And elsewhere she writes that it is on this account the devil labours so hard to withdraw souls from prayer, because he well knows that he has missed gaining those who faithfully persevere in prayer.
Oh, how great are the benefits that flow from prayer! In prayer we conceive holy thoughts, we practise devout affections, we excite great desires, and form efficacious resolutions to give ourselves wholly to God; and thus the soul is led for His sake to sacrifice earthly pleasures and all disorderly appetites. It was said by St. Aloysius Gonzaga: “There will never be much perfection without much prayer.” Let him who longs for perfection mark well this notable saying of the Saint.
We should not go to prayer in order to taste the sweetness of Divine love; whoever prays from such a motive will lose his time, or at least derive little advantage from it. A person should go to prayer solely to please God, that is, solely to learn what the will of God is in, his regard, and to beg of Him the help to put it in practice. The Venerable Father Antony Torres said: “To carry the cross without consolaion makes souls fly to perfection. Prayer unattended with sensible consolations confers greater fruit on the soul. But pitiable is the poor soul that leaves off prayer because she finds no relish in it.” St. Teresa said: “When a soul leaves off prayer, it is as if she cast herself into hell without any need of devils.”