Prayer, Its Necessity, Its Power, Its Conditions, Chapter VIII – Some Practical Lessons On Prayer in the Gospel Narrative

cover of the ebook 'Prayer, Its Necessity, Its Power, Its Conditions, by Father Ferreol Girardey'We have seen in the foregoing Chapters, first, that prayer is absolutely necessary for salvation; secondly, that, if made with the proper dispositions and in the proper manner, prayer is all-powerful and efficacious; thirdly, that prayer in itself is so easy as to be in the power of every man, wherever he may be, and whenever he wishes. It follows from all this that we can offer no valid excuse for not praying, and that, if we do not save our soul and reach our place in heaven, it will be entirely our fault, for it will be owing to our willful neglect of prayer. God wills our salvation, for Saint Paul says: “God wills all men to be saved” (I Timothy 2:4). He is, as we have seen, ever willing and ready to help us to do all that is necessary for our salvation, if we only ask Him for His assistance; and with His assistance we become all-powerful and can perform all that is required for salvation. Without His help, however, we can do nothing for our salvation. And if we do not obtain His help, it is because we do not want it, for, if we did, we would surely ask it of Him.

Some persons have a kind of wish to be saved, but they want God to do it all for them, without their having to do their share; they are like that pagan who expected Jupiter to extricate his wagon from the rut, without his being obliged to put his shoulder to the wheel. He who earnestly desires to save his soul, willingly does all in his power to succeed, and by frequent and fervent prayer asks God to help him with His all-powerful grace, and he will surely succeed. God in His goodness has His hand always stretched out to us to help us along the precipices in our road to heaven; to keep ourselves from a fatal fall into the abyss below, we have only to take hold of God’s hand and be saved; if we will not take hold of His hand, and therefore fall to destruction, it is our own fault. We can take hold of God’s almighty hand by prayer; if we pray, our salvation is assured; but woe to us, if we neglect praying to Him.

The following narratives from the Gospel will plainly manifest to us the dispositions with which our prayers should be accompanied, in order to deserve that God should grant us what we pray for. To derive real profit therefrom, the reader should read them slowly and attentively; and should, more over, reflect on them, if he earnestly desires to profit by the lessons they convey.

The Pharisee and The Publican

“Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a pharisee, the other a publican. The pharisee, standing, prayed thus within himself: O God, I give Thee thanks that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, as also is this publican. I fast twice in a week; I give tithes of all I possess to the poor. And the publican, standing afar off, would not so much as lift up his eyes towards heaven, but struck his breast, saying: O God, be merciful to me, a sinner. I say to you, this man went down into his house justified, rather than the other; because every one that exalts himself, shall be humbled; and he that humbles himself shall be exalted.” – Luke 18:10-14

Here are two persons performing the same action, praying to God. But how different before God are these acts! How good, pious and zealous does the pharisee appear! And does not every one consider the publican as “a hard case”? But how different is the judgment of God!

The pharisee aims at publicity, at being considered holy by his fellow-men; he is all puffed up by his sham holiness, and prefers himself to every one, and despises and condemns his neighbor. His prayer is no prayer at all; though he pretends to thank God for being better than his fellow-men, yet it is not out of sincere gratitude, for sincere gratitude is humble and is not swelled with pride on account of acknowledged benefits received. Moreover, his pretended prayer is no prayer at all. All genuine prayer renders humble homage and gratitude to God for His benefits, expresses or implies sorrow for shortcomings, and implores divine benefits; but there is none of these things in the pharisee’s prayer. He makes himself the object of his own admiration, boasts of his being sinless and pious and charitable and shows utter contempt for all men.

Let us now turn our attention to the publican. He is a model of a penitential humility. The humility of his posture, attitude, bearing and words attest his sincerity. His words are few but evince the deep earnestness and emotion of a truly contrite heart. He thinks not of others, but only of his own failings, in order to bewail them and implore their forgiveness. His is a prayer full of humility, confidence and of the spirit of penance. He is sure to obtain forgiveness, for “God does not despise a contrite and humble heart” (Psalm 50), and “the prayer of him that humbles himself shall pierce the clouds . . . and he will not depart till the Most High behold” (Eccli. 35:21)

Let us always be mindful that God does not judge from appearances, but from our interior dispositions, for He sees our heart, our inmost thoughts, and can never be deceived. “He is therefore moved to show mercy only by a heart full of compunction,” says Saint Bernard. “He resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble” (I Peter 5:5). Hence, in heaven only the humble are found. Let us, then, take to heart the admonition of Saint Peter: “Be you humbled therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in the time of visitation” (I Peter 5:6); and “let us humble our souls before God, and continue in humble spirit in His service” (Judith 8:16).

Cure of the Servant of the Centurion

“The servant of a centurion who was dear to him, being sick, was about to die. When the centurion had heard of Jesus, he sent unto Him the ancients of the Jews, desiring Him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they besought Him earnestly, saying to Him: He is worthy that Thou should do this to him, for he loves our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue. And Jesus said: I will come and heal him. And Jesus went with them. And when He was not far from the house, the centurion sent his friends to say to Him in his name: Lord, trouble not Thyself, for I am not worthy that Thou should enter under my roof. For which cause neither did I think myself worthy to come to Thee; but only say the word, and my servant shall be healed; for I also am a man subject to authority, having under me soldiers; and I say to this one, Go, and he goes, and to an other, Come, and he comes; and to my servant, Do this, and he does it. And Jesus, hearing this, marveled, and said to them that followed Him: Amen, I say to you, I have not found so great a faith in Israel; and to the centurion’s messengers, Go, and say to him (the centurion), as thou hast believed, be it done to thee. And they who were sent, having returned to the house, found the servant whole (well) who had been sick.” – Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 7:2-10

1. The centurion, whose servant was sick, was a pagan officer of the Roman garrison of the city. He seems to have been a very worthy man, kind and generous to the Jews, a conquered people, and to their religion, as well as a model officer and master full of a kind charity towards his soldiers and subordinates and servant. His first request to Jesus through the ancients of the Jews and his second through special messengers prove him to have possessed faith and confidence in Jesus in a very high degree joined to a humility until then unparalleled. He did not consider himself, a pagan, to be worthy to approach and speak to Jesus or to have Him enter his house and be honored with His presence therein. He showed his extraordinary faith in the power of Jesus, in expressing his belief that Jesus could cure his servant with a single word or act of His will, without either seeing or approaching the servant. This faith caused Jesus to express His admiration for it by declaring that He had not found so wonderful a faith among the whole Jewish nation.

2. In the next place, his great confidence in the power and goodness of Jesus is clearly apparent from his request to Jesus to heal his servant who, being at the point of death was beyond all hope of cure, and his implied comparison between his subordinate authority over his soldiers and servant, and the unlimited power his very request implied and attributed to Jesus over sickness and health, over life and death.

3. His petition for the cure of his servant should serve as a model for our petitions to God. As he considered his prayer for the cure of his servant a matter of great importance to both himself and his servant, he strengthened it by availing himself of the intercession of the chief Jews of the city, whom he believed to possess some influence over Jesus. In like manner, whenever we have some important petition or favor to ask of God, let us call in the saints, who are God’s friends and favorites, or the Blessed Virgin Mary, “the Mother of our Lord,” to intercede for us by their prayers in our favor. In the second place, let us always pray with a great faith in God’s power, a firm confidence in Him who is goodness itself and our most loving Father and Benefactor, and especially with a deep and sincere humility like that of the centurion, which our holy Mother the Church admires so much, that she requires the humble assertion of the centurion to be thrice repeated with the striking of the breast before receiving holy Communion: “Lord, I am not worthy that Thou should enter under my roof; but say only the word and my soul shall be healed.” If all our prayers are enlivened with similar faith, confidence and humility and strengthened by the intercession of the Mother of God or of His saints, they will have the same success as that of the centurion.

The Storm

“When evening was come, Jesus said to His disciples: Let us pass over to the other side (of the sea). And sending away the multitude, they take Him even as He was in the ship; and there were other ships with Him. And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that the ship was filled. And He was in the hinder part of the ship, sleeping upon a pillow, and they awake Him, and say to Him: Master, doth it not concern Thee that we perish? And rising up, He rebuked the wind, and said to the sea: Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was made a great calm. And He said to them: Why are you fearful? Have you not faith yet? And they feared exceedingly; and they said to one another: Who is this (think thou) that both wind and sea obey Him?” – Mark 4:35-40; Matthew 8:23-27; Luke 8:22-25

1. The stormy sea represents the world with its temptations and trials. The voyage on the sea is a figure of our life through the world on the way to our home, heaven. Being placed in the frail bark of our body exposed to the stormy elements of dangers both corporal and spiritual, we are sailing towards our destined harbor, heaven. Happy we, if Jesus is with us in our hearts. He is our Captain, His Providence is our Pilot, His words, His teaching, our compass, faith is our sail, its profession, our flag, hope and confidence in Jesus Christ, our anchor, prayer, holy Communion, our provision, the cross, our mast, heaven, which we should ever keep in view, our destiny and harbor of rest and enjoyment.

2. Why did our divine Saviour, who well knew beforehand that a great storm would overtake the boats, wish to start on that voyage? A good and favorable wind does not try the pilot’s skill or merit, but a storm does. Jesus wished to show His apostles how greatly they were dependent on Him and should rely upon Him and have recourse to Him with confidence in all their wants, in all their dangers, in every distress. Although Jesus was asleep, He nevertheless was watching over them, but He wished to teach them to have recourse to Him with confidence in their dangers, in their needs. And when they did so, He at once calmed the storm by His almighty power. Then He reproached them for the want of confidence and the fear that they displayed, though they knew He was with them. The inquiry as to who Jesus was, on account of His power over the elements in fury, proceeded, not from the apostles, but from the inmates of the boats that accompanied them.

3. All physical evils, storms, diseases, sufferings, as well as dangerous temptations are the result of the entrance of sin into the world. And ever since then man has to struggle, combat and suffer to reach his destined place in heaven. Moreover, we are of ourselves weak and helpless amid these storms more or less furious, and we cannot expect to reach heaven by a smooth road devoid of obstacles. Hence our path is beset by crosses and trials, by combats more or less severe with the devil, the world and even our own selves, our inordinate inclinations. Without divine grace or help we can effect nothing. Hence when the storms of temptation and trials become violent, we must at once have recourse to Jesus for His necessary assistance. Sometimes these storms become violent and protracted and threaten us with destruction, and Jesus seems to be asleep and have no care of us; but not so, for if we show our faith and confidence by fervent and persistent recourse to Him to save us, to keep us from sin, He will at once come to our assistance and help us to weather the storm and even often He will instantly quell the storm and enable us to gain a complete victory. If we sincerely endeavor faithfully to serve Him and carry Him in our hearts, we need have no fear, but we should place all our confidence in immediate prayer, for He says to us: “Cry to Me, and I will hear thee” (Jeremiah 33:3); “Call on Me, and I will deliver thee.” (Psalm 49:15) The more we have to combat and suffer, the greater will be our merit and our reward. Let us remember the saying of Saint Paul, that “no one is crowned, unless he strive lawfully.” (II Timothy 2-5)

The Paralytic

“When it was heard that Jesus was in the house, many came together, so that there was no room; no, not even at the door; and He spoke to them the word. And they came to Him, bringing one sick of the palsy, who was carried in a bed by four men. And they sought means to bring him and to lay him before Jesus. And they could not find by what way they might bring him in, on account of the multitude. They went upon the roof, uncovered it, and let him down through the tiles with his bed into the midst before Jesus. And when Jesus had seen their faith (and that of the sick man), He said to him: Man, thy sins are forgiven thee. There were some scribes and pharisees sitting there; they began to think in their hearts: Who is this that speaks blasphemies? who, but God alone, can forgive sins? And Jesus, knowing their thoughts, saith to them: Why do you think evil in your hearts? Which is easier to say to this man sick of the palsy: Thy sins are forgiven thee, or to say: Arise, take up thy bed and go into thy house? But that you may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, He saith to the sick of the palsy: I say to thee: Arise, take up thy bed and go into thy house. And immediately he arose before them, took up his bed on which he lay, and went away in the sight of all to his own house, glorifying God. And all were astonished; and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying: We have this day seen wonderful things.” – Matthew 9:2-8; Mark 2:2-12; Luke 5:18-26

1. In the first place, let us admire the charity of these four men towards their suffering, helpless fellow-man, and leaving their own work and giving their time to the hard and laborious task of bringing him and placing him before Jesus, as well as their ingenuity and great faith and confidence in the power and goodness of our Saviour.

2. The evangelists tell us that it was their great faith as well as that of the paralytic which moved Jesus to cure the helpless sufferer. But before curing his body, Jesus wished to cure his soul, which was probably in a more deplorable condition than his body. It frequently happens that sin is the cause of men’s diseases; physicians testify that the gratification of the passions causes a large percent age of the diseases that afflict mankind. Hence many commentators on the Gospel hold that this paralytic was suffering on account of his sins. Jesus seeing his faith and his hearty sorrow for his sins which had brought on his disease, said to him: “Thy sins are forgiven thee;” thus He first re moved the cause of his disease, that is, his sins, before removing their effect. Let us never complain of sickness or any other suffering, for how often are they not the effect or a punishment of our sins; and even were they not, our resignation and patience will enable us to atone for our sins and also to gain merit for heaven.

3. But the principal object our divine Saviour had in view in curing the paralytic was to prove that He could as truly forgive sins as He could cure corporal diseases by a mere word, for He expressly said so: “That you may know that the Son of man (that is, Jesus Christ as man, in His human nature), hath power on earth to forgive sins,” turning to the paralytic, helplessly lying down before Him, He said: “I say to thee: Arise, take up thy bed, and go into thy house.” And the paralytic at once arose, and took up his bed without assistance and, glorifying God for his cure, carried it home. Thus He proved beyond all doubt that He actually possessed the divine power He claimed and exercised of forgiving men’s sins, and thus proved and glorified His mission as the Son of God and the promised Redeemer and Saviour of mankind. Hence, when He first appeared to His apostles after His resurrection, He breathed on them, saying: “Receive ye the Holy Ghost, whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them, and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained” (John 20:22,23), He thereby actually transmitted to them His power of forgiving men’s sins.

4. Let us learn from the paralytic to thank and glorify God every time He answers our prayers. He who is ungrateful, shows he is unworthy of further favors. Let us bear in mind that we can never sufficiently thank God for even the slightest grace or benefit which He bestows upon us, were we even to show ourselves grateful for it every day of our life. He who fails to thank God for His benefits clearly proves that the love of God has no place in his heart.

The Ruler’s Son

“Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee where He made the water wine. And there was a certain ruler whose son was sick at Capharnaum. Having heard that Jesus was come from Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and prayed Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Jesus therefore said to him: Unless you see signs and wonders, you believe not. The ruler saith to Him: Lord, come down before that my son die. Jesus saith to him: Go thy way, thy son lives. The man believed the word that Jesus said to him, and went his way. And as he was going down, his servants met him; and they brought word, saying that his son lived. He asked therefore of them the hour wherein he grew better. And they said to him: Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. The father therefore knew that it was at that same hour that Jesus said to him: Thy son lives, and himself believed and his whole house.” – John 4:46-53

1. From the above narrative we see that the ruler’s power and wealth could not avert sickness or death from his son, and that youth is not secure and possesses no privilege against disease and death. Had it not been for his son’s illness, that ruler would probably never have come near Jesus, nor have ever cared for our Saviour. But it was misfortune that brought him to Jesus, as it does so many who would otherwise have forfeited their salvation. Hence for him and for so many even among us, an apparent serious misfortune is a true benefit, a real blessing. Let us bear in mind that the only real evil in itself is sin. All physical evils may, in God’s providence, become real blessings and promote and even be necessary for our salvation.

2. The sickness and approaching death of his beloved son, perhaps his only son, was a painful trial for the ruler. He had spared no pains, no expense for his son’s cure, but all in vain. Hearing of the wonders wrought by Jesus and of His goodness, he regained hope and confidence, and set out to beseech Him to come at once and cure his son; he first met with a rebuke from our Lord on account of his very imperfect faith, and probably also of his wavering confidence in Jesus, for he thought that Jesus, like physicians, could cure only the sick they had seen and diagnosed. But Jesus said to him: Unless you see signs and wonders, you believe not.” But the ruler, dreading lest even a few moments of delay might prove fatal to his dying son, insisted on Jesus going at once to cure his son, and said to Him: ” Lord, come down before that my son die.” He, like many Christians of our times, believed that Jesus could help him, but only in his own way, by going with him to his sick son. But Jesus soon made him aware that he was mistaken, for He said to him: “Go thy way, for thy son lives,” that is, thy son is now cured. The ruler believed Jesus, and at once set out for his home. Whenever we ask some favor, some benefit, some grace, some one’s conversion from God, we usually expect God to grant it to us in a certain way, within a certain time, and we feel great disappointment, if He does not; we do not consider that God is able to grant the favor to us in many other ways, and that He is the best judge of the way most appropriate, most beneficial to us. Let us imitate the ruler, who having heard the declaration of Jesus that his son was cured, believed Him and at once returned home. On his way he met his servants who had gone out to meet him; they confirmed his belief in the words of Jesus, and the result was the conversion of himself and his whole household. Hence the dangerous illness of his son proved a real blessing for himself and family.

As a further practical lesson let us consider a somewhat analogous fact related in the Old Testament. Naaman, the prime minister of the king of Syria, was struck with leprosy, and as he could find no physician or remedy to cure him, the king informed him that in the kingdom of Israel there was a prophet of God who wrought wonderful cures and other miracles, and therefore advised Naaman to go to that prophet. So Naaman, at tended, in accordance with his rank, by a large and splendid retinue of soldiers and officials, went from Damascus to Samaria to request the prophet Eliseus to cure him of his leprosy. “So Naaman,” we read, “came with his horses and chariots, and stood at the door of the house of Eliseus; and Eliseus sent a messenger to him, saying: Go and wash seven times in the Jordan, and thy flesh shall recover health, and thou shalt be clean. Naaman was angry, and went away saying: I thought the prophet would come out to me, and standing, would have invoked the name of the Lord his God, and touched with his hand the place of the leprosy, and healed me. Are not the Abana and the Pharphar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel, that I may wash in them, and be made clean? So, as he turned and was going away with indignation, his servants came to him, and said to him: Father, if the prophet had bid thee to do some great (difficult) thing, surely thou wouldst have done it; how much rather (should thou do) what he hath said to thee: Wash, and thou shalt be clean” (IV Kings 5:9-13). Naaman followed this very sensible advice of seeking a cure in the prophet’s way, and was at once perfectly cured. As for us, let us be satisfied with God’s way in preference to our own.

The Woman of Canaan

“Jesus retired into the coast of Tyre and Sidon, and entering into a house, He would that no man should know it, and He could not be hid. For a woman, as soon as she heard of Him, whose daughter had an unclean spirit, came in and fell down at His feet. For the woman was a Gentile, a Syro-phenician by birth, and she besought Him that He would cast forth the devil out of her daughter, saying: Have mercy on me, O Lord, Thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously troubled by a devil. But Jesus answered her not a word. And His disciples came and besought Him, saying: Send her away, for she cries after us. And He, answering, said: I was not sent but to the sheep that are lost of the house of Israel. But she came and adored Him, saying: Lord, help me. But Jesus said: Suffer first the children to be filled, for it is not good to take the bread of the children and to cast it to the dogs. But she said: Yea, Lord; for the whelps also eat of the crumbs that fall from the table of their masters. Then Jesus, answering, said to her: O woman, great is thy faith; be it done to thee as thou wilt, for this saying (of thine); go thy way, the devil is gone out of thy daughter. And when she was come into her house, she found the girl lying upon the bed, and that the devil was gone out.” – Matthew 15:22-28; Mark 7:24-30

1. Our Lord Jesus Christ came on earth to redeem mankind, with the mission from His heavenly Father to preach the Gospel to the Jews, and to prepare His apostles to found His Church and preach the Gospel to all nations. That is why. He did not Himself undertake to preach and perform miracles among the Gentiles. His converting the Samaritan woman and preaching a few days among her fellow-countrymen, His cure of the servant of the Roman centurion and the events related in the above extract from the Gospel, are, if I mistake not, the only cases in which He came in contact with the Gentiles. Hence, when He went to the coast of Tyre and Sidon, He wished to remain unknown, and the only event the Gospel relates of His stay there is that mentioned above, just as if it was the only reason for His going there, and thereby teach us a useful lesson concerning prayer.

2. Admirable, indeed, is the conduct of the woman of Canaan! Like the centurion, she is a model of faith and humility in prayer. First, she prostrates herself, and beseeches Jesus to have mercy on her. Jesus, ever so good, so kind to the meek and humble, seems to ignore her presence, for He pays no attention to her. But she persists, for she wishes to be heard, to have Him show her mercy, by curing her daughter. She persists so much that the apostles can no longer bear to hear her piteous entreaties, and since Jesus pays no at tention to her, they beg Him to send her away. But now she continues her plea for mercy, for help with renewed fervor. And Jesus objects that He is not sent to do anything for the Gentiles. She, however, again prostrates herself and adores Him, imploring His help. Then Jesus deeply humbles her by a comparison which would have completely discouraged and even angered any one else. But instead of this she with wonderful faith, confidence and humility, draws therefrom the conclusion that Jesus must not refuse her the crumbs falling from the table of the chosen Jewish nation. Such faith, such humility are victorious over the Saviour Who is all goodness; He openly admires her humble faith and at once grants her request. Indeed, we may now say, “God gives grace to the humble” (I Peter 5:5). Let us, therefore, always humble ourselves and persevere in prayer and we shall surely obtain all that we ask.

The Ten Lepers

“As Jesus entered a certain town, there met Him ten men that were lepers, and they stood afar off, and lifted up their voice, saying: Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. When He saw them, He said: Go, show yourselves to the priests. And it came to pass, as they went, they were made clean. And one of them, when he saw that he was made clean, went back, with a loud voice glorifying God. And he fell on his face before His feet, giving thanks. And this man was a Samaritan. And Jesus, answering, said: Were not ten made clean? And where are the nine? There is no one found to return and give glory to God, but this stranger. And He said to him: Arise, go thy way, for thy faith hath made thee whole.” – Luke 17:12-19

1. Wretched, indeed, was the lot of these lepers. Because of the highly disgusting, usually incurable and very contagious nature of their disease, they were excluded from society, never permitted to enter a dwelling or to approach their fellow-men; they had to warn all who would approach them of the nature of their disease. All who out of compassion wished to offer them food or other articles, had to put it in some open place and then retire, so that the lepers could come and take them. If any of them happened to get cured of the disease, they were not allowed to return among their fellow-men, till they had shown themselves to the priests for examination and been declared by them to be cured of every appearance of the disease and perfectly sound; and they had then to offer to God and to them the prescribed gift.

2. Ten of these poor wretches seem to have clung together in their misery, which they keenly felt. They came all together in the neighborhood of the place where Jesus was, and standing at the prescribed distance from Him, they in a loud voice besought Him to have mercy on them. It was indeed a great blessing for them to have been able thus to pray to Him, for to pray well is a real and valuable science. These lepers prayed well. Their prayer was humble, for they stood far off, as being unworthy to approach Jesus; it was earnest and fervent, for they felt their misery and prayed with a loud voice; it was full of confidence, for they did not rely on their merits, but on the Saviour’s goodness, saying: “Have mercy on us.” It was efficacious in kind, for they prayed in common, and God blesses such prayer (Matthew 18:20), and our divine Saviour has taught us to make use of it, when teaching us the Our Father.

3. Jesus answered their prayer, making no distinction of persons, nationality or of gratitude or ingratitude, for He said to them: “Go, show yourselves to the priests,” requiring them to show obedience and submission to the Mosaic Law, and reverence to the priests. Their cure was also partly owing to their faith, for they believed in being cured by Jesus and at once set themselves on their way to show themselves to the priests, although they were not yet cured, for, says the Gospel, “as they went, they were made clean.” This shows that their cure was gradually effected as they proceeded on their way to the priests. After they had gone some distance, they found out that their cure was complete. How happy they must have felt, and how great should have been their gratitude to Jesus! The thought naturally entered the minds of all ten to go back and show their gratitude to Jesus. But only one of them gave effect to this thought, to his feelings of gratitude, and returned. And this one was a stranger, a Samaritan, a member of that nation so much hated and despised by the Jews. He returned all the way to show his gratitude, and he did so most humbly, publicly prostrating himself before Jesus, without human respect. His conduct delighted the tender Heart of Jesus. But, at the same time, His Heart was deeply pained at the ingratitude of the nine who would not take the trouble of returning to express to Him their gratitude for the wonderful favor He had done them! The pain He felt was so great that He could not forbear complaining of the almost universal ingratitude, nine out of ten!

4. Among Christians ingratitude to God for His benefits is almost universal. How many ever thank God for the numerous temporal favors they daily receive from Him! How few even show their gratitude for the spiritual favors and graces God so plentifully bestows upon them; help in temptation, forgiveness of sins. How many sinners cured of the most horrid leprosy of mortal sin, relapse into the same sins again and fall even into still more grievous sins after Lent, after Easter, after a mission or a jubilee! Let us study well this parable with its comments and endeavor in future to derive profit therefrom.

Cure of the Woman Twelve Years Ill, and the Raising to Life of the Daughter of Jairus

“There came one of the rulers of the synagogue, named Jairus, and seeing Jesus, he fell down at His feet, and besought Him much, saying: My daughter is at the point of death; come, lay Thy hand upon her, that she may be safe and may live. And Jesus went with him, and a great multitude followed Him, and they thronged Him. And a woman who was under an issue of blood twelve years, and had suffered many things from many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing the better, but rather worse. When she had heard of Jesus, she came in the crowd behind Him and touched His garment, for she said: If I shall touch but His garment, I shall be whole (cured). And forthwith the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the evil. And immediately Jesus, knowing in Himself the virtue that had proceeded from Him, turning to the multitude, said: Who hath touched My garments? And His disciples said to Him: Thou see the multitude thronging Thee, and say Thou, Who hath touched Me? And He looked about to see her who had done this. But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before Him, and told Him all the truth. And He said to her: Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be thou whole (healed) of thy disease. While He was yet speaking, some came from the house of the ruler of the synagogue, saying: Thy daughter is dead; why dost thou trouble the Master any further? But Jesus, having heard the word that was spoken, saith to the ruler of the synagogue: Fear not, believe only, and she shall be safe. And when He was come to the house, He suffered no one to go in with Him but Peter, James and John, and the father and mother of the maid (girl); and He sees a tumult and people weeping and wailing much. And going in, He saith to them: Why make you this ado (fuss) and weep? The damsel is not dead, but sleeps. And they laughed Him to scorn. But He, having put them all out, takes the father and mother of the damsel and them that were with Him, and enters in where the damsel was lying. And taking the damsel by the hand, He said to her: Talitha cum, which means: damsel, (I say to thee) arise. And immediately the damsel rose up and walked; she was twelve years old; and they were greatly astonished. And He charged strictly that no man should know it; and commanded that something should be given her to eat.” – Matthew 9:18-25; Mark 5:22-43; Luke 8:41-56

1. Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, probably, like the majority of such officials, was not friendly to our divine Saviour; he must, therefore, have waited till all hope of cure for his daughter had disappeared, before coming to Jesus to ask Him to cure her, as He had cured so many sick. His daughter, probably his only child, was his dearest object on earth, and her death he would have considered as his greatest possible misfortune. The dread of her approaching death was in reality the greatest blessing for him, for it humbled and brought him to the feet of Jesus, and caused him to place all confidence in Jesus, as his only hope. In like manner, how often are not the things we call misfortunes real blessings, which remove us from the occasions of sin, show us the vanity of all that is earthly and induce us to seek real happiness in the service of God? How did Jesus receive Jairus? With the greatest kindness and He at once betook Himself on the way with Jairus to his house. In like manner, Jesus is ever ready to receive with the greatest kindness and love every sinner that comes to Him with confidence and humble repentance praying for forgiveness.

2. On the way to the house of Jairus Jesus performed another miracle, which tended to confirm the confidence of Jairus in His almighty power and, at the same time, rewarded the confidence and humility of a poor suffering heathen woman. She had been suffering constantly for twelve years from loss of blood, and had gone to the most skillful and high-priced physicians and used the most expensive remedies and thereby spent her whole fortune, without obtaining either cure or relief. Having heard of the wonderful cures of our Saviour, she came to Him from a great distance. Jesus was surrounded on all sides by an immense crowd pressing around Him. She, full of faith and confidence in His power, and anxious to be cured, pushed her way through the throngs behind Him, with the intention of coming near enough to Him to be able to touch His garment with her hand, firmly convinced that by so doing she would be cured. Her faith and confidence were at once rewarded. But Jesus demanded of her something more, something that would cost her much and give glory to God and edification to the neighbor. Hence He asked, who had touched Him. The apostles, who had been jostled in every direction by the eager crowds pressing around them, expressed their astonishment at such a question, for Jesus had been touched by many as they themselves had been. But Jesus turned around to those behind Him, and repeated His question, adding that the touch of a certain person had caused a certain virtue or power to proceed from Him. The poor woman trembling and ashamed prostrated herself before Him, and humbly acknowledged her disease, a disease held in abhorrence by the Jews, and her cure. Hers was an act of great and even heroic humility and edifying gratitude. Tradition tells us that this woman, a Syro-phenician, was a pagan; that to show her gratitude to Jesus and commemorate her miraculous cure, she had a group of statues made representing the miracle of her cure and that this group was set up in a public place in Damascus, and remained there until Julian the Apostate, out of hatred to Jesus Christ, destroyed the statues (about the year 363) and replaced them by a statue of himself which was soon destroyed by lightning. The humility, confidence and gratitude of this woman are well worthy of our imitation.

3. As Jesus, after this episode, this brief interruption, continued on the way to the house of Jairus, a messenger came to tell Jairus that his daughter had just died, and that it was of no use to bring Jesus to his house. But Jesus encouraged him to keep up his hope of her cure and proceeded to the ruler’s house. There the preparations for bringing the girl’s dead body to the grave, in accordance with the Jewish custom at that time, were already on the way; Jesus put a stop to them, saying the girl was not dead, but only sleeping, which was true, considering He was about to raise her to life. He entered the house taking with Him only the girl’s father and mother and His three favorite apostles, and there taking the girl by the hand, He at once raised her to life, made her walk, and ordered food to be given her and forbade the parents to publish or make the miracle known. Why did He forbid this? First, because He did not wish the girl’s parents to boast of the miracle performed in their favor or of their influence with Jesus; secondly, to prevent the numberless visits they would receive of curious persons coming to inquire and see all about the miracle, and the consequent gossip, dissipation and feasting and spiritual dangers connected therewith for the girl and her parents. In the case of the woman cured of an issue of blood, Jesus demanded publicity as we have seen above, because such publicity would redound to the glory of God and promote a spirit of faith, humility, confidence and gratitude.

The Lunatic Child

“On the day following when they came down from the mountain to His disciples, He saw a great multitude about them, and the scribes disputing with them. And presently all the people, seeing Jesus, were astonished and struck with fear; and running to Him, they saluted Him, and He asked them, What do you question among you? And one of the multitude, answering, said: Master, I have brought my son, my only son to Thee. He hath a dumb spirit, who, wheresoever he takes him, dashes him, and throws him down, and tears him, so that he foams, and gnashes the teeth and pines away; and he bruises him and hardly departs from him. And I spoke to Thy disciples to cast him out, and they could not. And Jesus, answering, said: O incredulous generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? Bring him unto Me. And they brought him. And when he had seen Jesus, immediately the spirit troubled him; and, being thrown down upon the ground, he rolled about foaming. And Jesus asked his father: How long is it since this (first) happened to him? But he said: From his infancy; and oftentimes hath he cast him into the fire and into waters to destroy him. But if Thou canst do any thing, help us, having compassion on us. And Jesus saith to him: If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believes. And immediately the father of the boy, crying out with tears, said: I do believe; Lord, help my unbelief. And when Jesus saw the multitude running together, He threatened the unclean spirit, saying to him: Deaf and dumb spirit, I command thee, go out of him; and enter not any more into him. (The unclean spirit) crying out and greatly tearing him, went out of him, and he (the boy) became as dead, so that many said: He is dead. But Jesus, taking him by the hand, lifted him up, and he arose and Jesus restored him to his father. And when Jesus was come into the house, His disciples secretly asked Him: Why could not we cast him out? And He said to them: This kind can go out by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.” – Mark 9:13-28; Luke 9:37-43

1. Our divine Saviour had spent the night on Mount Thabor with His three favorite disciples, Saints Peter, James and John, and, as the evangelists tell us, was transfigured before them; whilst He prayed, the shape of His countenance was altered, His face was shining as the sun, and His raiment became white and glittering. And Moses and Elias appeared in majesty and spoke with Him of His approaching passion and death in Jerusalem; and there came a cloud, and a voice, the voice of the heavenly Father, came out of the cloud, saying: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him.” In the morning Jesus came down the mountain with His three disciples, and beheld a large crowd around the other nine disciples. These, in the absence of Jesus had in vain endeavored to cast the devil out of a possessed boy; their failure brought them into a warm discussion with a number of Jewish legal lawyers, called scribes, who were bitter opponents of our divine Saviour. Jesus inquired about the subject of the dispute and the father of the possessed boy replied by stating the sad state to which his only son was reduced by the evil spirit, and that the apostles had not been able to cast out the evil spirit. Jesus then exclaimed: “O incredulous generation, how long shall I be with you, how long shall I suffer you!” These words were addressed, not so much to the boy’s father, as to the scribes and other scoffers who, out of sheer malice, rejected and denied His miracles and His mission. Jesus ordered the boy to be brought to Him. When the boy caught sight of Jesus, the evil spirit fearfully tormented the poor child. Jesus then inquired of his father, how long the evil spirit had possessed his boy. “From his infancy,” said the poor father, and then added imploringly, “if Thou canst do anything, help us and have compassion on us.” This was not said in a spirit of doubt or denial, but rather of a weak faith, hence our divine Saviour sought to confirm and strengthen his faith, by reminding him of the necessity of a lively and confiding faith, saying: “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believes.” As soon as he heard this, the boy’s father weeping replied with humility and energy: “I do believe, help my unbelief.” This earnest prayer obtained for him the necessary strong and confiding faith, and Jesus cast the evil spirit out of the boy. This shows us what kind of faith will cause our prayers to be heard.

2. The apostles, who had previously been empowered by Jesus to cast out devils, when He sent them all over the country two by two to preach and work miracles, could not explain how it was that they had been unable to cast the devil out of the boy. Hence when they had returned with Jesus to the house, they asked Him the reason thereof. Jesus by His answer taught them that for certain great and important favors a simple prayer alone does not suffice, but that persistent prayer must be joined to acts of self-denial, corporal penances and austerities. This is a practical lesson for those Christians, who pray very little and never deny themselves any enjoyment, but indulge their appetite and sensuality, hardly ever keep the precepts of abstinence and fasting, and frequent all sorts of amusements, and nevertheless expect God to grant their every little wish and prayer. Let them remember that “the kingdom of heaven suffers violence,” and that only those who deny themselves and follow Jesus Christ, can expect to reign with Jesus Christ in heaven.

The Resurrection of Lazarus

“There was a certain man sick, named Lazarus, of Bethania, of the town of Mary and Martha, her sister. (And Mary was she that anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.) His sisters therefore sent to Him, saying: Lord, behold, he whom thou loves is sick. And Jesus, hearing it, said to them: This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified by it. Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister Mary, and Lazarus. When He had heard, therefore, that he was sick, He still remained in the same place two days. Then after that, He said to His disciples: Let us go into Judea again. The disciples say to Him: The Jews but now sought to stone Thee; and goes Thou thither again? Jesus answered: Are there not twelve hours of the day? If a man walk in the day, he stumbles not, because he sees the light of this world; but if he walk in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him. These things He said; and after that He said to them: Lazarus our friend sleeps; but I go that I may awake him out of sleep. His disciples there fore said: Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. But Jesus spoke of his death, and they thought that He spoke of the repose of sleep. Then therefore Jesus said to them plainly: Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes, that I was not there, that you may believe: but let us go to him. Thomas there fore, who is called Didimus, said to his fellow-disciples: Let us also go, that we may die with Him. Jesus therefore came and found that he (Lazarus) had been four days already in the grave. (Now Bethania was near Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off.) And many of the Jews were come to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. Martha therefore, as soon as she heard that Jesus was come, went to meet Him; but Mary sat at home. Martha therefore said to Jesus: Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But now also I know that whatsoever Thou wilt ask of God, God will give it to Thee. Jesus saith to her: Thy brother shall live again. Martha saith to Him: I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said to her: I am the resurrection and the life; he that believes in Me, although he be dead, shall live. And every one that lives and believes in Me, shall not die forever. Believe thou this? She saith to Him: Yea, Lord, I have believed that Thou art Christ the Son of the living God, who art come into this world. And when she had said these things, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying: The Master is come and calls for thee. She (Mary), as soon as she heard this, rises quickly and comes to Him, for Jesus was not yet come into the town; but He was still in that place where Martha had met Him. The Jews therefore, who were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary that she rose up speedily and went out, followed her, saying: She goes to the grave to weep there. When Mary therefore was come where Jesus was, seeing Him, she fell down at His feet and saith to Him: Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. Jesus, therefore, when He saw her weeping, and the Jews that were come with her (also) weeping, groaned in the spirit and troubled Himself, and said: Where have you laid him? They say to Him: Lord, come and see. And Jesus wept. The Jews therefore said: Behold how He loved him. But some of them said: Could not He that opened the eyes of the man born blind, have caused that this man should not die? Jesus therefore again groaning in Himself, comes to the sepulchre. Now it was a cave, and a stone was laid over it. Jesus said: Take away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith to Him: Lord, by this time he stinks, for he is now of four days. Jesus said to her: Did I not say to thee, that if thou believe, thou shalt see the glory of God? They therefore took the stone away. And Jesus lifting up His eyes said: Father, I give Thee thanks that Thou hast heard Me. And I knew that Thou near est Me always; but because of the people who stand about Me, I have said it, that they may believe that Thou hast sent Me. When He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice: Lazarus, come forth. And presently he that had been dead, came forth bound feet and hands with winding bands; and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus said to them: Loose him, and let him go. Many, therefore of the Jews, who were come to Mary and Martha, and had seen the things that Jesus did, believed in Him.” – John 2:1-45

1. Lazarus was greatly beloved by our divine Saviour on account of his many virtues and his strong and simple faith. Jesus, whenever He went to Jerusalem always availed Himself of the generous hospitality of Lazarus. Martha and Mary, his two sisters, are mentioned in the Gospel among the pious women who were wont to minister to the wants of Jesus and His disciples during His public ministry. Mary, the sister of Lazarus is the same as Mary Magdalen whose conversion and public penance, reparation and forgiveness of her scandals, to the great indignation of the pharisees are related by Saint Luke, and whom Jesus, on a later occasion, declared to “have chosen the best part, which should not be taken away from her” (Luke 7:36-50; 10:42). Wherefore, when Lazarus became dangerously ill, his two sisters sent to Jesus the mes sage: “He whom Thou loves is sick.” At that time Jesus was beyond the Jordan, whither He had retired shortly before, when the Jews in Jerusalem had sought to stone Him to death.

2. Martha and Mary in their message did not expressly ask Jesus to come and cure His beloved friend Lazarus, their brother, but they naturally expected, that Jesus would hasten to come and cure him. The very wording of the message implies this; and yet we may assume that in this matter they were resigned to whatever course Jesus would take. Thus also should we in our prayers for matters temporal strive to be resigned to God’s holy will, even if not in accordance with our desires. God’s ways are not our ways, and His ways are better than ours, for they are the only ways that will benefit us.

3. After receiving the message of the illness of Lazarus, Jesus Christ seemed to be in no hurry, although He knew that Lazarus was on the point of death, for He remained two days longer in that place, and when He told His apostles that Lazarus was already dead, He proceeded to Bethany only by slow stages, so that when He reached that town, Lazarus had been dead four days. By so deferring His arrival Jesus did far more for the sisters of Lazarus than merely to cure him, for He gave them the occasion of gaining great merit, not only by accepting their brother’s death with resignation, but also by not losing, as most of us would have done, their firm faith and loving confidence in Jesus; and besides this He raised Lazarus to life by a most striking miracle in their favor, by a miracle which furnished a palpable proof of His being the Son of God and the promised Saviour of mankind and, as He Himself declared, would give great glory to God.

4. Let us admire the conduct of Martha and Mary. When they met Jesus before their brother’s resurrection, neither of them uttered a word of complaint, dissatisfaction or disappointment that Jesus had so long deferred His coming: all they said was: “Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” Let us learn from their example not to complain or despond, when God does not hear our prayers when and as we wish.

The Penitent Thief

“One of these robbers who were hanged (crucified) blasphemed Jesus, saying: If Thou be Christ, save Thyself and us. But the other answering, rebuked him, saying: Neither dost thou fear God, seeing that thou art in the same condemnation. And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this man hath done no evil. And he said to Jesus: Lord, remember me when Thou shalt come into Thy kingdom. And Jesus said to him: Amen I say to thee: This day thou shalt be with Me in paradise.” – Luke 23:39-43

1. The rule is that “as life is, so is death.” Wherefore we would naturally expect that both of the robbers condemned to be crucified alongside of Jesus, who had until then led a life of sin and crime, would both equally die in sin and be eternally lost. And, nevertheless, this was not the case, for one of them was promised salvation by our divine Saviour and died truly penitent, and the other died impenitent, mocking and scoffing at Jesus, and was lost. Saint Alphonsus explains this, saying: “One of them prayed, and was therefore pardoned and saved, and the other did hot pray, and therefore died in sin and was lost.” This shows the power of prayer, and the fearful doom resulting from the neglect of prayer. The prayer of the penitent thief was humble, sincere, contrite and also full of confidence. It was humble, for he had upbraided his companion for his insults to Jesus, reminding him that both of them were criminals deserving of their disgraceful death. It was sincere, for he sought not to excuse or diminish his wickedness; it was contrite, for he was manifestly sorry for his crimes, especially because he contrasted his wickedness with the innocence of Jesus; and it was full of confidence, for he proclaimed Jesus as his Lord, and as having all power and being full of mercy, and besought Him to remember him when He would enter His kingdom. All these necessary dispositions entitled him to the full benefit of divine mercy. Let us not for get that the power of making such a prayer with such dispositions was a great grace God bestowed on him, and the fact that he profited by this grace is due to his having profited by previous graces given him by God whilst he was already hanging on the cross, as we shall now see.

2. The evangelists tell us of the insults, mockery and blasphemies leveled at Jesus raised on the cross between heaven and earth. Both thieves heard them. They also heard the admirable prayer of Jesus praying for His enemies, for those who were mocking and outraging Him so frightfully and shamefully; they witnessed His patience and meekness amid such terrible sufferings and insults. The penitent thief was at first moved to pity, then to admiration, then to consider Him as more than a mere man, as the Saviour promised to mankind; every moment new light dawned upon his mind concerning Jesus, as it were, step by step; with these graces, for graces they really were, he gradually and faith fully co-operated, and the result was his prayer to Jesus, which secured his forgiveness and salvation. But the other thief heard and saw all that was passing, as well as his companion, but obdurately refused to see and be moved, and joined the Jews in the abuse, the insult and mockery of Jesus, and far from praying, he died in sin as he had lived, and was lost. Noble and admirable indeed was the conduct of the penitent thief, when almost everybody considered, declared and insulted Jesus as an impostor deserving of the most disgraceful of deaths.

3. Let us imitate the penitent thief in his repentance, in his prayer, and however great and deeply rooted our sins are, let us contemplate Jesus on the cross, the image of the crucifix and pray to Jesus as he did, and Jesus will forgive us and fulfill in our regard His prophecy: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all things (hearts) to Myself.” (John 12:32)

Two Parables

1. “Jesus spoke also a parable to them, that we ought always to pray, and not to faint, saying: There was a judge in a certain city who feared not God, nor regarded man. And there was a certain widow in that city, and she came to him, saying: Avenge me of my adversary. And he would not for a long time. But afterwards he said within himself: Although I fear not God, nor regard man, yet because this widow is troublesome to me, I will avenge her, lest continually coming, she worry me.” (Luke 18:1-5)

The lesson our divine Saviour wished to teach by this parable was that we should persevere in praying for the divine benefits, of which we stand in need, until we obtain them; that we should so weary God by our prayers that He would seem to be compelled by our importunity, by our persistency, to grant us all we ask, apparently as if it were only in order to get rid of us, and not out of kindness and mercy towards us, although He loves to be importuned, as it were, by our prayers, in order to render us more worthy of being heard, and of receiving even more than we actually pray for.

2. “Which of you,” said Jesus to His disciples, who had besought Him to teach them how to pray, ” shall have a friend, and shall go to him at midnight, and shall say to him: Friend, lend me three loaves, because a friend of mine is come off his journey to me, and I have not what to set before him. And he from within should answer and say: Trouble me not, the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I can not rise and give thee. Yet if he shall continue knocking, I say to you, 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 needs. And I say to you: Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. For every one that asks, receives; and he that seeks, finds; and to him that knocks it shall be opened.” (Luke 11:5-10)

In this parable also our divine Saviour insists on our persevering in prayer until it is granted, for God wishes to be, as it were, importuned and compelled by us to grant us what we pray for; unless we do this, He will not consider us as deserving or sufficiently appreciative of what we pray for. He who ceases praying after praying a few times for a favor without obtaining it, shows that he is not very anxious to get it, or that he does not consider it worth being much prayed for. Moreover, he shows also a great want of humility, since he will not act as a beggar who is in great need, and therefore insists and urges his request again and again; he acts practically, as if he were so great a person age as to require to be treated by God with great condescension. Moreover, he lacks faith and confidence in God as the best of fathers, infinitely good and merciful, who constantly bestows His gifts upon us, who has given even His own beloved Son to the death of the cross in order to save us. Hence Jesus insists on the necessity of faith and confidence in our prayers, saying: “If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father from heaven give the good Spirit to them that ask Him?” (Luke 11:13)

Moreover, God defers granting our prayer for our own advantage, because the longer He defers granting us what we pray for, the greater will be the benefits He will add to what we pray for, provided only we persevere faithfully in prayer. The example of Saint Monica will serve as a beautiful and convincing illustration of this matter. Monica was a very pious woman and when she found out that her son Augustine, at the age of seventeen years, had been led by bad companions into leading a sinful life, had lost the faith and embraced Manicheism, a most absurd heresy, set herself at once to do all in her power to reclaim him, and to pray earnestly to God for his conversion. But all her efforts and prayers seemed to be in vain. She redoubled her prayers, denied herself all amusements, all delicacies, and performed many penances and austerities, many good works that required great sacrifices on her part; followed him to Milan, and left nothing undone to bring about his conversion. The more she prayed, the more she underwent and suffered, the more holy she became, so that all who came in contact with her, revered her as a saint. For sixteen years she persevered in her efforts and prayers and, at last, Augustine was thoroughly converted, and her prayers were fully granted, and more than this by her efforts and prayers for Augustine, she sanctified herself so that the Church has declared and honors her as one of her great saints and a model of all Christians.

If we examine the lives of the saints, we shall discover that it was through persevering prayer that they became saints. Some saints, seeing the necessity of humility for salvation, exerted themselves for twenty, thirty, forty or more years by prayer and their corresponding efforts to acquire humility; and, as the Christian virtues are so intimately connected together that we cannot become perfect in one without, at the same time, becoming perfect in all the others, when they became perfect in humility, they had already become saints. What enabled Francis de Sales, Saint Alphonsus to become saints? Saint Francis de Sales for over twenty years strove by persistent prayer and his own corresponding efforts, to overcome his natural irascibility, and succeeded in becoming a very model of meekness and a great saint. For forty years Saint Alphonsus acted in like manner to acquire the virtue of patience, and became thereby a great saint. If we henceforth set out earnestly to overcome our greatest defect by dint of persistent prayer, accompanied by our own efforts of “putting our own shoulder to the wheel,” we shall in the end succeed in saving our soul and attaining “our place in heaven.”

Do Not Despond, But Persevere in Prayer

Herman Cohen, known as “Herman the Pianist,” because of his wonderful skill in piano playing, was a Jew who was suddenly converted, when taking the place of the absent organist at Benediction in one of the churches in Paris. He later on entered the Order of Carmelites, receiving the name of Augustine Mary of the Blessed Sacrament, and labored in the ministry with extraordinary zeal and success in many places, and led a life of great austerities. He had the consolation of seeing nearly all the members of the Cohen family become members of the Catholic Church. But his mother, notwithstanding his persistent and fervent prayers to God, his numerous penances and austerities and appeals to her, and appeals to his hearers to obtain her conversion, remained obstinate. She died on 13 December 1855. At that time he was engaged in preaching the Advent course of sermons in Lyons. In a letter to a friend he announced the sad event of his mother’s death as follows: “The good God has just struck my heart a terrible blow . . . and I am still uncertain (as to how she died). We have, however, prayed so much for her, that we may hope that something unknown to us has passed between her soul and God in her last moments.”

We can easily imagine Father Herman’s (as we shall call him) grief on hearing of his mother’s death. He had prayed so much and so fervently, and had got so many prayers offered for her conversion, and all seemed in vain, for she had appeared before the divine tribunal without having received baptism. Having one day in a sermon alluded to Saint Monica’s conversation with her son Augustine on the eve of her death, he exclaimed: “I also have a mother; I have left her to follow Jesus Christ, and she no longer calls me her good son. Her hair is already silvery and her brow is becoming furrowed by age, and I dread to see her die. Oh, no! I do not wish her to die before she loves Jesus Christ. These many years I have been expecting for my mother, what Monica expected for her son Augustine. And who knows, if God has not attached the grace of her conversion to the fruit that you will draw from my words?”

Among his prayers for her conversion was the following addressed to the Blessed Virgin: “Mary, my heavenly Mother, since, for the love of thee, I have left all who were dear to me in this world, for pity’s sake, deign to have compassion on them. Forget not that, for thy sake, I have left my mother also; like thee, she is a daughter of Jacob, and is, therefore, one of thy family. Deign to give her back to me, for thou canst not forsake her. Already her head is bending down towards the grave, that poor mother of mine. O Mary, I implore thee, deign to touch her eye-lid lightly with thy luminous garment, and she shall see, and shall rise up and follow thee; and she shall love Jesus and then come with us to heaven.”

But God seemed to have paid no heed to his prayers, to have refused all his pious and lawful desires. His faith and his love were put to a painful trial. Nevertheless, notwithstanding his deep sorrow, his confidence in the divine goodness was not cast down. On the evening of the very day on which he received the very painful news of her death he was to preach. Many a one, in his place, would have been unable, under similar circumstances, to appear in the pulpit; but after praying and weeping much, he preached as usual. His subject was death, and, according to the testimony of those who heard him preach, his words penetrated deeply into their minds and hearts and produced salutary emotions; and when, in concluding his sermon, he poured out his grief into the bosom of his audience, his words drew forth a universal and deeply felt sympathy.

Not long after he confided to the Blessed Cure d’Ars his uneasiness concerning his poor mother who had died without the grace of baptism. “Be hopeful,” replied the man of God, “be hopeful; you shall one day on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (8 December) receive a letter which will greatly console you.” He had almost forgotten that promise, when on 8 December 1861, six years after his mother’s death, a Jesuit Father handed him the following letter written by a well known writer of very pious works on the Blessed Eucharist, who some time later died with the reputation of being a saint.

“On the 18th of October, after receiving holy Communion, I was enjoying one of those moments of intimate union with our Lord, when He causes me to feel His presence in the Sacrament of His love in so vivid and delightful a manner, that faith no longer seems necessary to me to believe in the Real Presence. After some moments He spoke to me, and deigned to explain to me certain points concerning a conversation in which I had taken part on the preceding evening. I then recalled how, in said conversation, one of my friends had manifested her astonishment that Jesus Christ, who promised to grant everything to prayer, had, nevertheless, shown a deaf ear to the prayers which Father Her man had so often offered to obtain his mother’s conversion; her surprise at this almost filled her with discontent, and I had great difficulty in making her understand that it behooves us to adore God’s justice without seeking to penetrate His secret designs. I was bold enough to ask my Jesus to tell me, how it happened that His infinite Goodness had been able to resist Father Herman’s prayers and refuse to grant him his mother’s conversion. Here is His reply: Why does Anna always seek to fathom the secrets of My justice, and endeavor to penetrate mysteries which she cannot under stand? Tell her I do not owe My grace to any one, that I give it to those I please, and that, in so doing, I cease not to be just, to be Justice itself. But let her know also that, rather than fail in the promises I made to prayer, I would subvert heaven and earth, and that every prayer which has for its object My glory and the salvation of souls, is always heard, if it possesses the requisite conditions. Then He added: And to prove to you the truth of this, I will now make known to you what happened at the moment of the death of Father Her man’s mother. My Jesus then enlightened me with a ray of His divine light and made known to me, or rather He enabled me to see in Him what I will now endeavor to describe. At the moment when Father Herman’s mother was about to breathe her last, while she seemed unconscious and nearly life less, Mary, our good Mother, presented herself before her divine Son, and prostrating herself before Him, she said to Him: Forgiveness, mercy, O my Son, for that soul about to perish. Yet another moment, she shall be lost, lost forever! Deign then, I beseech Thee, to do for the mother of my servant Herman, what Thou wouldst wish him to do for Thine own, if I were in her place, and Thou in his! His mother’s soul he holds as his dearest object; he has a thousand times consecrated it to me; he has entrusted it to my heart’s tenderest solicitude. Can I allow it to perish? No, no! This soul belongs to me! I want it; I claim it as my inheritance, as the price of Thy blood and of my sorrows at the foot of the cross.

“Scarcely had the divine Mother ceased her supplication, when a strong, powerful grace flowed from the Source of all graces, the adorable Heart of our Jesus, and went to enlighten the soul of the poor dying Jew and instantaneously triumphed over her obstinacy and resistance. That soul then immediately turned with a loving confidence to Him, whose mercy pursued her even in the arms of death, and she said to Him: O Jesus, God of the Christians, the God whom my son adores, have mercy on me.

“In this cry, which God only heard, which proceeded from the inmost depths of the heart of the dying woman, were contained sincere sorrow for her obstinacy and her sins, the desire of baptism, the express will to receive baptism and to live according to the laws and precepts of our holy religion, if she would return to life. This sudden outburst of faith and hope in Jesus was that soul’s interior act. At the very moment in which she elicited it, it darted forth to the throne of divine mercy, and the feeble bonds that retained her soul in its mortal envelope, were burst asunder, and she fell at the feet of Him who had been her Saviour before becoming her Judge. Having shown all this to me, our Lord added: Make this known to Father Herman; it is a consolation I wish to grant to his long-borne sorrows, in order that he may bless and cause everywhere to be blessed My Mother’s goodness of heart and her power over Mine.

“Being a complete stranger to Father Herman, the poor sick person, whose hand has just traced these lines, is happy in the thought that they may be able to spread a little consolation and balsam on the ever-bleeding wound of his priestly heart. She ventures to solicit the alms of his fervent prayers, and she is happy in the thought that he will not refuse them to her who, though unknown to him, is united to him by the sacred bonds of the same faith, of the same hope.”

NOTE. The above facts and letter, on which the Church has passed no judgment, and which are credible on reliable human testimony only, are taken from the Life of Father Herman entitled: Vie du P. Hermann par 1 Abbe Charles Sylvain, G. Oudin et Cie. Editeurs, Paris, 1909.

The foregoing narrative shows us, among other truths, that God always grants the prayers of those who pray well and with perseverance, although not always in the manner wished for and expected, but in His own way. No prayer that fulfills the necessary conditions of a good and worthy prayer, is ever lost.