A CHRISTIAN’S RULE OF LIFE
Means of Perseverance (continued)
III. — THE FREQUENTATION OF THE SACRAMENTS
The Third means is the frequenting of the Sacraments of Confession and Communion. By Confession the soul keeps itself purified; and by it not only obtains remission of sins, but also greater strength to resist temptations. For this purpose you should choose a spiritual director, and always confess to the same, consulting him on all more important matters, even in regard to your temporal affairs; and obey him in everything, especially if you are distressed by scruples. He who obeys his confessor need not fear he will go astray: He that heareth you, heareth me (Luke x. 16). The voice of the confessor is the voice of God.
Holy Communion is called Heavenly Bread, because as common bread preserves the life of the body, so Communion preserves the life of the soul: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of Man … you shall not have life in you (Jo. vi. 54). On the other hand, to those who often eat this Bread eternal life is promised: If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever. (Jo. vi. 52). Therefore the Council of Trent calls Holy Communion “the medicine which delivers us from daily faults and preserves us from mortal sin.” You should, then, resolve to go to Communion at least once a week, being determined not to give it up for anything in the world; as there is no affair of greater importance than that of your eternal salvation. Indeed, the longer you remain in the world, the greater need you have of assistance, because your temptations are greater. He who communicates most frequently will be freest from sin and will make greatest progress in Divine love. Only let him communicate with a good intention.
In order to derive more abundant fruits from Communion, he should spend half an hour after receiving in devout acts of thanksgiving.
IV. — TO HEAR MASS
The Fourth means is to hear Mass every day. When we attend Mass we give more honour to God than all the Angels and Saints in Heaven can give Him, because theirs is the honour of creatures; but in the Mass we offer to God Jesus Christ Who gives Him an infinite honour.
But what is of the greatest importance is that those who hear Mass should make a special application to their own souls of the merits of the Passion of Jesus Christ. Mass should be heard for the same ends for which it was instituted: namely, (1) To honour Almighty God, (2) To thank Him for His benefits, (3) To make atonement for the punishment due to our sins, (4) to obtain Divine grace.
V. — THE VISIT TO THE MOST HOLY SACRAMENT AND TO THE BLESSED VIRGIN
The Fifth means is to make a Visit every day to the Most Holy Sacrament in some church, and to the Divine Mother before some devout image. Jesus Christ dwells on the altars of so many churches in order to dispense graces to all who come to visit Him; and thus the souls of those who practise this beautiful devotion receive innumerable benefits from it. The graces you ought especially to ask for, both from Jesus and Mary, are, the love of God, and holy perseverance till death.*
*In connection with what St. Alphonsus here lays down in regard to Mass, Communion and Visit, we recommend the Saint’s own prayers for Mass and Communion and Visits to the Blessed Sacrament which have been recently published in one small volume (C.T.S., D.). — Ed.
VI. — VOCAL PRAYER
The Sixth means which I recommend you above all to practise is holy prayer. It is certain that without the Divine assistance we can do nothing good for our souls. But God has declared that graces are granted only to those who ask for them: Ask, and it shall be given you (Matt. vii. 7). Therefore, as St. Teresa says, he who asks not does not receive. It is a common opinion of the Holy Fathers of the Church, with St. Thomas, that without prayer it is impossible to persevere in the grace of God and to save one’s soul. But he who prays is sure of the help of God. We have His word for it which cannot fail, repeated so often in the Sacred Gospels: All things whatsoever you ask when ye pray, believe that you shall receive, and they shall come to you (Mark xi. 24). Every one that asketh receiveth (Luke xi. 10). Amen, amen, I say unto you, if you ask the Father anything in my name, he will give it you (Jo. xvi. 23). God grants everything that we ask Him for in the Name of Jesus Christ. If, then, we wish to be saved, we must pray, and pray with humility and confidence, and above all with perseverance. And this is the reason why Meditation is so useful, because then we are reminded to pray; otherwise we forget to do so, and so are lost. St. Teresa says, that out of her desire of seeing everyone saved, she would have wished to go to the top of a mountain and then to cry out, so as to be heard by all men: “Pray! pray! pray!” The ancient Fathers of the desert in their conferences decided that there was no better means of saving ourselves than by continually repeating the prayer of David: Incline unto my aid, O God! O Lord make haste to help me! (Ps. lxix. 2). Let this be our prayer also. Or else let us make use of the beautiful ejaculation of St. Leonard of Port-Maurice: “My Jesus, mercy!” And the two principal graces which we must always ask for are, the love of God and holy perseverance. We must always ask the same graces from the Most Holy Mary who is called the dispenser of all the Divine graces; and when we pray to her, she will certainly obtain them for us from God. Therefore St. Bernard thus exhorts us saying: “Let us seek grace, and let us seek it through Mary; for what she seeks she finds, and she cannot be disappointed.”*
*We most earnestly recommend to all St. Alphonsus’ book, Prayer, the Great Means of Salvation. An excellent edition recently published. Dublin, Talbot Press. Ltd.; America, Herder & Co. — Ed.