AN ADMONITION ADDRESSED TO PERSONS OF ALL STATES WHO DESIRE TO BE SAVED
God wishes us all to be saved: Who will have all men to be saved (I Tim. ii. 4). He is ready to give to all the help necessary for salvation; but He grants it only to those who ask Him, as St. Augustine says: “He gives only to those who ask.” Hence it is the common opinion of Theologians, and of the Holy Fathers, that prayer is necessary for adults as a means of salvation; that is to say, a person who does not pray, but neglects to ask of God the help requisite for overcoming temptations, and for preserving grace already received, cannot be saved.
On the other hand, Our Lord cannot refuse to give grace to those who ask it, because He has promised to do so: Cry to me, and I will hear thee (Jer. xxxiii. 3). Have recourse to Me, and I will not fail to hear you. Ask of Me all you desire, and you shall obtain it: Ask, and it shall be given to you (Jo. xv. 7). These promises, however, are not to be understood with reference to temporal goods, because God gives these only when they are for the benefit of the soul; but He has promised absolutely to give spiritual graces to one who asks Him; and having made the promise God will keep it. “By His promise, He has made Himself our debtor,” says St. Augustine.
It should also be observed that if God binds Himself by a promise to hear us, He binds us by precept to ask. Ask, and it shall be given to you (Matt. vii. 7). We ought always to pray (Luke xviii. 1). These words “ask” and “we ought” convey, as St. Thomas teaches, a grave precept, which is binding for our whole life; but especially is it binding when a man is in danger of death or of falling into sin; because if he does not then have recourse to God, he will certainly be overcome. And he who has already fallen under God’s displeasure, commits a fresh sin when he neglects to turn to God for help to rise out of his miserable state. But will God hear him while he is yet His enemy? Yes, He will hear, if the sinner humbles himself, and from his heart prays for pardon; since it is written in the Gospel: For everyone that asketh, receiveth (Luke xi. 10). It says that God has promised to hear all who pray to Him, whether they are just or sinners. In another place God says: Call upon me … and I will deliver thee (Ps. xlix. 15). Call upon Me, and I will deliver thee from hell, to which thou dost stand condemned.
There will be no excuse on the Day of Judgment for one who dies in mortal sin. It will be of no use for him to say that he had not the strength to resist the temptation which troubled him, because Jesus Christ will answer: If you had not the strength, why did you not ask it of Me, and I should certainly have given it you? If you fell into sin, why did you not have recourse to Me, that I might deliver you from it?
You see, then, if you desire to be saved, and would keep yourself in the grace of God, you must often pray to Him, that He may keep His hand over you. The Council of Trent declares that for a man to persevere in the grace of God, it is not enough that he should have only that general aid which God gives to all, but he must also have that special assistance which can be obtained by holy Prayer. For this reason the Doctors of the Church say, that one is bound, under grievous sin, to recommend himself often to God, and to ask for the grace of holy perseverance at least once a month. And any one who finds himself in the midst of dangerous occasions is under the obligation of asking more frequently for the grace of perseverance.
It is besides most useful to keep up some particular devotion to the Mother of God, to obtain the grace of perseverance, for she is called the Mother of perseverance. A person who has not this special devotion to the Blessed Virgin will find it very difficult to persevere, for, as St.Bernard says, all divine graces, and especially this grace of perseverance, which is the greatest of all, come to us through the hands of Mary.
Would to God that preachers were more mindful in putting before their hearers this great means of prayer! They ought often to make it their chief subject, besides speaking of it in every discourse. If they omit to do so they will have to render a severe account to God. Many confessors, too, are particular about the resolution their penitents make not to offend God again, but few take the trouble to inculcate that they must pray when they are again tempted to fall. We must be well persuaded that, when a temptation is violent, if the penitent does not beg for God’s assistance, all his resolutions will avail him little. Prayer alone can save him. It is certain that he who prays is saved; he who prays not is damned.
Therefore, I repeat, if you wish to be saved, pray continually to the Lord that He may give you light and strength not to fall into sin. We must be importunate with God, in asking Him for His grace. “This importunity with God is our opportunity,” says St. Jerome. Every morning we must beseech Him to keep us from sin during that day. And when any bad thought presents itself to your mind or you are tempted by some dangerous occasion, immediately have recourse to Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin, saying: “My Jesus help me! Most Blessed Virgin, come to my aid!” It is enough at such a time to pronounce the Names of Jesus and Mary, and the temptation will vanish; but should the temptation continue, persevere in invoking the assistance of Jesus and Mary and you will be victorious.