Spiritual Reading for Saturday – Seventh Week After Pentecost

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Spiritual Reading



Our Prayers, then, must be humble and confident; but this is not enough to obtain final perseverance, and thereby eternal life. Individual prayers will obtain the individual graces which they ask of God; but unless they are persevering, they will not obtain final perseverance, which, as it is the accumulation of many graces, requires many Prayers that are not to cease till death. The grace of salvation is not a single grace, but a chain of graces, all of which are at last linked with the grace of final perseverance. Now, to this chain of graces there ought to correspond another chain (as it were) of our prayers; if we, by neglecting to pray, break the chain of our prayers, the chain of graces will be broken too; and as it is by this that we have to obtain salvation, we shall not be saved.

It is true that we cannot merit final Perseverance as the Council of Trent teaches: “It cannot be had from any other source but from Him Who is able to confirm the man who is standing, that he may stand with perseverance.” Nevertheless, says St. Augustine, this great gift of Perseverance can in a manner be merited by our prayers; that is, can be obtained by praying: “This gift, therefore, can be suppliantly merited (suppliciter emereri potest), that is, can be obtained by supplication.” And Father Suarez adds that the man who prays infallibly obtains it. But to obtain it, and to save ourselves, says St. Thomas, a persevering and continual Prayer is necessary: “After Baptism continual Prayer is necessary to a man in order that he may enter Heaven.” And before this our Saviour Himself had told us over and over again: We ought always to pray, and not to faint (Luke xviii. 1). Watch ye, therefore, praying at all times, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that are to come, and to stand before the Son of Man (Luke xxi. 36). The same had been previously said in the Old Testament: Let nothing hinder thee from praying always (Ecclus. xviii. 22). Bless God at all times, and desire him to direct thy ways (Tob. iv. 20). Hence the Apostle inculcated on his disciples never to neglect Prayer: Pray without ceasing (1 Thess. v. 17). Be instant in prayer, watching in it with thanksgiving (Col. iv. 2). I will, therefore, that men pray in every place (1 Tim. 8). God does indeed wish to give us Perseverance, says St. Nilus, but He will only give it to him who prays for it perseveringly: “He willeth to confer benefits on him who perseveres in prayer.” Many sinners by the help of God’s grace come to be converted, and to receive pardon. But then, because they neglect to ask for perseverance, they fall again, and lose all.

Nor is it enough, says Bellarmine, to ask the grace of Perseverance once, or a few times; we ought always to ask it, every day till our death, if we wish to obtain it: “It must be asked day by day, that it may be obtained day by day.” He who asks it one day, obtains it for that one day; but if he does not ask it the next day, the next day he will fall.

And this is the lesson which our Lord wished to teach us in the Parable of the man who would not give the loaves to his friend who asked him for them, until he had become importunate in his demand: Although he will not rise and give him because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity, he will rise and give him as many as he needeth (Luke xi. 8). Now if this man, solely to deliver himself from the troublesome importunity of his friend, gave him even against his own will the loaves for which he asked, “how much more,” says St. Augustine, “will the good God give, Who both commands us to ask, and is angry if we ask not!” God, then, does indeed wish to give us eternal life, and therein all graces; but He wishes also that we should never omit to ask Him for them, even to the extent of being troublesome. Cornelius a Lapide says on the text just quoted, “God wishes us to be persevering in Prayer to the extent of importunity.” Men of the world cannot bear the importunate; but God not only bears with them, but wishes us to be importunate in praying to Him for graces, and especially for Perseverance. St. Gregory says that ” God wills to be called upon, He wills to be forced, He wills to be conquered by importunity … Happy violence, by which God is not offended, but appeased!”

So that to obtain Perseverance we must always recommend ourselves to God morning and night, at Meditation, at Mass, at Communion, at all times; especially in time of temptation, when we must keep repeating: Lord, help me! Lord, assist me! Keep Thy hand upon me; leave me not; have pity upon me! Is there anything easier than to say: Lord, help me, assist me! The Psalmist says: With me is prayer to the God of my life (Ps. 9). On which the Gloss is as follows: “A man may say, I cannot fast, I cannot give alms; but if he is told to pray, he dare not say I cannot.” For there is nothing easier than to pray. But we must never cease praying; we must (so to speak) continually do violence to God, that He may assist us always–a violence which is delightful and dear to Him. This violence is agreeable to God,” says Tertullian; and St. Jerome says that the more persevering and importunate our Prayers are, so much the more are they acceptable to God: “Prayer, even though it is importunate, is more acceptable.”

Blesseth is the man that heareth me, and that watcheth daily at my gates (Prov. viii. 34). Happy is that man, says God, who listens to Me, and watches continually with holy prayers at the gates of My Mercy. And Isaias says: Blessed are all they that wait for him (Is. xxx. 18). Blessed are they who till the end wait (in Prayer) for their salvation from God. Therefore in the Gospel Jesus Christ exhorts us to pray; but how? Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you (Luke xi. 9). Would it not have been enough to have said, ask? Why add seek and knock? No, it was not superfluous to add them; for thereby our Saviour wished us to understand that we ought to do as the poor who go begging. If they do not receive the alms they ask, they do not cease asking; they return to ask again; and if the master of the house does not show himself any more, they set to work to knock at the door till they become troublesome. That is what God wishes us to do: to pray, and to pray again, and never leave off praying, that He would assist us and succour us, that He would enlighten us and strengthen us, and never allow us to forfeit His grace. The learned Lessius says that the man cannot be excused from mortal sin who does not pray when he is in sin, or in danger of death; or, again, if he neglects to pray for any notable time, as (he says) for one or two months, but this is not understood to refer to the time of temptations; because whoever finds himself assailed by any grievous temptation without doubt sins mortally if he does not have recourse to God at once, to ask for assistance to resist it; seeing that otherwise he places himself in a proximate, nay, in a certain occasion of sin.

But some one will say: Since God can give and wishes to give me the grace of Perseverance, why does He not give it to me all at once, when I ask Him?

The Holy Fathers assign many reasons. God does not grant it at once, but delays it:

(1) That He may prove our confidence.

(2) And, further, says St. Augustine, that we may long for it more vehemently. Great gifts, he says, should be greatly desired; for good things soon obtained are not held in the same estimation as those which have been long looked for: “God wills not to give quickly, that you may learn to have great desire for great things; for things long desired are all the more pleasant when obtained; but things soon given are cheapened.”

(3) Again, the Lord does so that we may not forget Him; if we were already secure of persevering and of being saved, and if we had not the continual need of God’s help to preserve us in His grace and to save us, we should soon forget God. Want makes the poor keep resorting to the houses of the rich; so God, to draw us to Himself, as St. Chrysostom says, and to see us often at His feet, in order that He may thus be able to do us greater good, delays giving us the complete grace of salvation till the hour of our death: “It is not because He rejects our prayers that He delays, but by this contrivance He wishes to make us careful, and to draw us to Himself.” Again, He does so in order that we, by persevering in Prayer, may unite ourselves closer to Him with the sweet bonds of love: “Prayer,” says the same St. Chrysostom, “which accustoms us to converse with God, is no slight bond of love with Him.” This continual recourse to God in Prayer, and this confident expectation of the graces we desire–oh, what a great incentive to inflame us with love, and what a firm chain to bind us more closely to God!

But how long have we to pray? Always, says the same Saint, till we receive favourable sentence of eternal life: that is to say, till our death: “Do not leave off till you receive.” And he adds: “If you say, I will not give up till I have received, you will assuredly receive.” The Apostle writes that many run for the prize, but that he only receives it who runs till he wins: Know you not that they who run in the race, all run indeed, but one receiveth the prize? So run that you may obtain (1 Cor. ix. 24). It is not, then, enough for salvation to simply pray; but we must pray always, that we may at last receive the crown which God promises, but promises only to those who are constant in Prayer till the end.

So that if we wish to be saved, we must do as David did, who always kept his eyes turned to God, to implore His aid against being overcome by his enemies: My eyes are ever towards the Lord, for he shall pluck my feet out of the snare (Ps. xxiv. 15). As the devil does not cease continually spreading snares to devour us, as St. Peter writes: Your adversary, the devil, as, a roaring lion, goeth about, seeking whom he may devour (1 Pet. v. 8); so ought we ever to stand with our arms in our hands to defend ourselves against such a foe, and to say, with the royal Prophet, I will pursue after my enemies; and I will not turn again till they are consumed (Ps. xvii. 38). I will never cease fighting till I see my enemies conquered. But how can we obtain this victory, so important for us and so difficult? “By most persevering prayers,” says St. Augustine–only by prayers, and those most persevering; and till when? As long as the fight shall last. “As the battle is never over,” says St. Bonaventure, “so let us never give over asking for Mercy.” As we must be always in the combat, so should we be always asking God for aid not to be overcome. Woe, says the Wise Man, to him who in this battle leaves off praying: Woe to them that have lost patience (Ecclus. 16). We may be saved, the Apostle tells us, but on this condition, if we hold fast the confidence and the glory of hope unto the end (Heb. iii. 6); if we are constant in praying with confidence until death.

Let us, then, take courage from the Mercy of God, and His promises, and say with the same Apostle: Who, then shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or danger, or persecution, or the sword? (Rom. viii. 35). Who shall succeed in estranging us from the love of Jesus Christ? Tribulation, perhaps or the danger of losing the goods of this world? The persecutions of devils or men? The torments inflicted by tyrants? In all these we overcome (it is St. Paul who encourages us), because of Him that hath loved us (Rom. viii. 37). No, he says, no tribulation, no misery, danger, persecution, or torture, shall ever be able to separate us from the love of Jesus Christ; because with God’s help we shall overcome all, if we fight for love of Him Who gave His life for us.

Father Hippolitus Durazzo, the day when he resolved to relinquish his dignity of prelate at Rome, and to give himself entirely to God by entering the Society of Jesus (which he afterwards did), was so afraid of being faithless by reason of his weakness that he said to God: “Forsake me not, Lord, now that I have given myself wholly to Thee! For pity’s sake do not forsake me!” But he heard the whisper of God in his heart: “Rather should I say to thee: Do not thou forsake Me!” And so at last the servant of God, trusting in His goodness and help, concluded, “Then, O my God, Thou wilt not leave me, and I will not leave Thee.”

Finally, if we wish not to be forsaken by God, we ought never cease praying to Him not to leave us. If we do this, He will certainly always assist us, and will never allow us to perish, or be separated from His love. And to this end let us not only take care always to ask for final Perseverance, and the graces necessary to obtain it, but let us, at the same time, always by anticipation, ask God for grace to go on praying; for this is precisely that great gift which He promised to His Elect by the mouth of the Prophet: And I will pour out upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of prayers (Zach. xii. 10). Oh, what a great grace is the spirit of Prayer; that is, the grace which God confers on a soul to enable it to pray always! Let us, then, never neglect to beg God to give us this grace, and this spirit of continual Prayer; because if we pray always, we shall certainly obtain from God Perseverance and every other gift which we desire, since His promise of hearing whoever prays to Him cannot fail. For we are saved by hope (Rom. viii. 24). With this hope of always praying we may reckon ourselves saved. “Confidence,” says the Venerable Bede, “will give us a broad entrance into this City.” This hope will give us a safe passage into the City of Paradise.

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