On the Fall of St. Peter.
St. Peter denied his divine Master, who had preferred him to the other Apostles, and appointed him chief bishop of his Church. He denied him, after having made the most solemn protestations of love and fidelity. He denied him, as his God and Master, in these words: " I know not the man." He denied him thrice. He denied him with curses and imprecations. Behold the progress of evil! Behold how from slight faults one may fall into great and dreadful sins! Be compassionate towards this Apostle, while you are astonished at his fall, and seek the causes thereof.
St. Peter fell because the love that he bore our Lord was lukewarm, and he followed him afar off. A soul that is lukewarm does not take long to fall into great sins, for lukewarmness is a mixture of charity and concupiscence, grace and nature, devotion and coldness, which, like tepid water, partly cold and partly warm, cannot remain together without one or the other of its contrary qualities being destroyed. Concupiscence, in a measure, increases, and charity diminishes. That which does not advance goes backwards. Besides which, the soul must have consolation, and cannot live without it. And that which is lukewarm, not being of heaven, it is compelled to seek it on earth and of earthly things, and having no fervor, its venial sins lead quickly to those that are mortal. Added to this, these infidelities cause God to withdraw many of his graces, and the devil overcomes with ease an opponent so feeble and languishing. Is not this your state? Is this not the origin of your fall?
St. Peter fell because he depended too much on his own strength. He did not know how necessary was the assistance of divine grace to him. He did not understand his own weakness. He was filled with pride and presumption. He said in his fervor that nothing could move him, and even seemed to exalt himself over the other Apostles when he declared that if all of them should abandon Jesus, yet he would never be wanting in fidelity to him. He was so possessed with a good opinion of himself that when his divine Master told him that he would deny him thrice he did not believe him. He declared that he would not, as if the Son of God could deceive himself. Oh! it is truly a dangerous thing to presume on our own strength and trust only to our good resolutions. Is not this the cause of your fall? Do you not trust too much your heart and mind, your passions and weaknesses? Do you have frequent recourse to God? Do you pray to him continually to guide and defend you?
St. Peter fell because he threw himself rashly into the occasions of sin. He went into the house of Caiphas, not to defend his Master, but to see all that should happen, and hear all that was said. He fought among the soldiers, and was arrayed against them. He was, apparently, intrepid, until the voice of one servant frightened him, that of another made him tremble, that of a soldier overthrew him and made him deny his Master with curses and imprecations.
Fly from the companionship of the wicked, unless you desire to become like them. What safeguard have you to preserve your chastity among the lewd and immodest? How can you remain sober in the society of drunkards, or humble with those who are haughty? You must surely resemble those with whom you associate; if not, you will soon become like them. You have grace to withdraw from them, but no promise of its continuing with you if you remain with companions who are evil.
Resolution: Knowing that I cannot overcome temptation and sin on my own, I will pray every morning and night for the grace to overcome them. I will also call on the Blessed Virgin whenever I am tempted and whenever I am about to enter an occasion of sin.
Prayer: O my God, without thy help and thy grace I cannot overcome sin and temptation. Relying on my own strength I am lost to the eternal torments of hell. Grant me the grace never again to rely on my own abilities, but only on that grace and strength that comes from thee. Mary, Refuge of Sinners and Mediatrix of grace, obtain for me from thy Son the grace to ever be mindful of thy help, especially when tempted to sin.
By a Member of the Society of Jesus, edited and amended by J. Scott Bailey, C.Ss.R.