Friday, June 26, 2009

The Twenty-Sixth Day of June

Four Obstacles Which Prevent Our Obtaining Abundant Fruit from Devotion to the Sacred Heart.

I find four obstacles which stop our progress in true devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The first is tepidity, a truly deplorable state. The tepid soul does only what she cannot omit. Without charity, without fervor, she is a burden to herself; and so far from advancing in the way of virtue, she falls back. The danger to which persons engaged in daily practices of piety are exposed is that of growing familiar with these holy exercises. To guard against this they should be constantly afraid of going through them without reverence, attention, and fervor, and should make an effort to arouse and awaken themselves by meditating on the great truths of faith and by rekindling in themselves the vivid flames of divine love.

"The state of tepidity is so much the more to be dreaded as it appears the less dangerous: we avoid more obvious sins and think that by so doing we are safe, but we forget the words of our divine Lord in the Apocalypse: ‘Because you art neither cold nor hot, I will begin to vomit you out of my mouth,’ As if He would say: ‘You do not deserve to live within me. You shall have no entrance into my Heart since you repay my kindness only by the most guilty coldness.’ Confessions without amendment, communions without fruit, are the ordinary consequences of this deplorable tepidity. Imagine, then, that our divine Lord, in His desire to draw you out of this sad state says to you as He said to St. Gertrude: ‘You have been long enough attached to the earth in company with my enemies. You have gathered the honey of the consolations of this world from amidst its thorns long enough. Return at length to me and I will inebriate you with the torrent of my delights.’ Accept this invitation of our divine Lord. Embrace His hand, pierced with nails for the love of you, which He stretches forth to you in His mercy, and promise Him that you will follow Him from henceforth whithersoever He may lead you.

"The second obstacle is self-love. The practice of the Gospel is shortly summed up in that saying of Jesus Christ: ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.’ And yet how few there are who think seriously of this! They have no love or taste for any virtues but those which are agreeable to themselves and suit their humor. But how can a heart thus disposed be united to the Heart of Jesus? This divine Heart abandoned itself wholly to us. It reserved nothing for itself. It asks, then, for generous hearts who have no fear of going, too far, of engaging themselves, of placing themselves in the impossibility of drawing back, and to whom all reserve is unknown.

"The third obstacle is our predominant passion which we would fain humor and which we cannot bring ourselves to renounce. Even though we had sacrificed them nearly all, yet if there remain but one of this kind, there can be no union of hearts. Examine sincerely what it is that you still reserve to yourself and sacrifice it generously to the Heart of Jesus, and be assured, that it will cost you less to renounce it altogether than to gratify it by halves.

"The fourth obstacle is a secret pride. We overcome or weaken all other enemies by the practice of virtues, but it too often happens that this enemy gains strength even by means of certain virtues themselves. It may be said, that of all vices there is none which has arrested so many souls in the path of piety, none which has thrown back so many from the highest perfection into tepidity, or even into a disordered life.

"From this spirit of vanity comes the desire we have to bring ourselves into notice, to succeed in all we undertake, that sadness and discouragement which we feel when we have met with bad success, that expansion which is produced in us at the sight of the honors which are paid us, or on hearing the praises which are bestowed upon us. This same spirit insinuates itself into the practice of the highest virtues. We are mortified, it may be, obliging, charitable, filled with zeal for the salvation of souls. We are given to meditation, prayer, etc., but we are well pleased for the edification, as we say, of our neighbor, that we should be known to be so.

"From the same source spring that sensitiveness on the point of honor, those little coolnesses, those annoyances which approach so near to envy, that secret pain we feel at the success of others whom we are ever ready to find a means of lowering, that excess even of sorrow and discouragement upon falling again into some humiliating fault.

"In fine, we pass for spiritual men, we believe ourselves to be such, and yet our conduct is regulated only by maxims of worldly prudence. We wear but the appearance of piety while beneath the surface our passions are alive in all their strength. And, at the hour of death those who are looked upon as loaded with spiritual riches find their hands empty of good works, this self-love, this paltry ambition, this secret pride, have robbed or spoiled all. This is the leaven which sooner or later corrupts the whole mass, the worm which eats into the life of the loftiest oaks. This is the beginning of those stupendous falls which happen from time to time in different ages to afflict the Church and to give to the Faithful a sad but salutary lesson" (Croiset).

The following instruction, given by our divine Lord to the devout Armella, confirms what we have just said of the obstacles that oppose the reign of the Heart of Jesus within us. "On the eve of the Presentation, it seemed to me," she says, "that I was enclosed within the Heart of Jesus with so much glory and liberty that it surpassed all my comprehension. I found myself at large and at my ease. This divine Heart appeared of so vast an extent that a thousand worlds would not have sufficed to fill it. I saw, besides, how those who dwell therein by love enjoy true and entire liberty and a wondrous peace, but on the other hand, I saw that the gate to enter therein was so small and narrow that but very few found entrance. Surprised at this I said, O my love and my all, whence comes it that Your Heart is so large and spacious, that we are so much at large when we are once within, and yet the entrance is so small and narrow? Upon this our Lord gave me to understand that it was because He wished that none but the little, the naked, and the solitary, should find entrance. The little are those, who, with all their heart, abase and humble themselves for the lore of Him. Such as these can enter but others not, for how can anyone who is puffed up with vain glory pass through so small a gate? The naked are those who detach their hearts from all covetousness of the riches and comforts of this life. As for others who are burdened with heavy loads of gold and silver or other things it is impossible that they should be able to pass through so narrow a way unless they first discharge themselves of this burden. The solitary are those who detach their affections from all creatures, for the effect of love is to bind and attach the heart to the object beloved. But it is impossible for two persons, bound and attached to each other, to enter together by a way in which there is barely room for only one.

Practice: If you desire to obtain a true devotion to the Heart of Jesus it is important to ascertain whether you have still some one of these obstacles to overcome. The true means of succeeding in this enquiry is by the daily and constant use of the general examen, which St. Ignatius esteemed and recommended, in some sort, even more than prayer.

To make it well you should follow the method which he has himself traced out and observe these five points.

1. Thank God for the benefits which He has bestowed upon you.
2. Beg of Him to give you grace to know and detest your sins.
3. Examine the thoughts, words, and actions of the present day, going through each hour in succession.
4. Bog pardon for your faults.
5. Make a purpose of amendment and conclude with the Our Father, or any other prayer you may prefer.

Ejaculatory Prayer: O Heart of Jesus, give me grace to know Thee and to know myself.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.

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