Prayer, Its Necessity, Its Power, Its Conditions, Chapter XII – Selections from Father Bronchain’s Meditations

cover of the ebook 'Prayer, Its Necessity, Its Power, Its Conditions, by Father Ferreol Girardey'The Presence of God

“I set the Lord always in my sight.” (Psalm 15:8)

Motives and Means of Remembering God

There is not a moment in which God does not think of us and confer benefits on us. As He Himself declares, He loves and guards our soul as the apple of His eye (Deuteronomy 32:10). Without ceasing He imparts to us existence and life, preserves our reason and our faith, and surrounds us with means of salvation. Desiring to be always with us, He establishes His abode within us, and always cares for us with fatherly solicitude. How can we ever for get God who so greatly loves us? We ought to think of Him every time we draw breath. “I set the Lord always in my sight.”

This remembrance of Him will easily become habitual with us, if we endeavor to impress it on our mind, for it will attach to God not only our mind and our will, but also our imagination, our feelings, our affections, and we shall then find no difficulty in thinking of God, in speaking to Him from our very heart. Let us, then, through prayer, seek to obtain this tender devotion of being mindful of Him, and lovingly communing with Him, and we shall “taste and see that the Lord is sweet.” (Psalm 33:9)

We should, moreover, endeavor to render this exercise of the divine presence practical and efficacious. God is in our heart as He is in heaven with His infinite power, wisdom, goodness, justice, veracity and holiness. What a powerful motive to adore Him within us, to fear Him with a truly childlike fear, to love Him, to confide in His mercy, to ask His blessing and help in our wants! Let us, some times, say with Saint Augustine: “O my God, I will not remove my eyes from Thee, since Thou never removes Thine from me.” Grant me the grace to think unceasingly on Thy goodness, to pray to Thee, and to perform, under Thy guidance all the duties Thy holy will imposes on me.

Fruits of the Exercise of the Presence of God

Respect should be the first effect of the thought that the Divine Majesty dwells in us and is present at all our thoughts and actions. All earthly monarchs with their brilliant courts, all the Pontiffs of the Church amid the most solemn and grand Ceremonial of the Church, and even the immense multitude of the angelic choirs, can hardly give us a faint idea of the grandeurs of God. And it is the Divine Creator Himself, who permanently abides within us, and we live under His very eyes. How capable is such a thought of inspiring us with a childlike fear, and of making us assiduous adorers of the infinite Holiness dwelling in our soul! “Be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long.” (Proverbs 23:17)

Since God is in us, with all the riches of His goodness, especially in favor of those who invoke Him, we should join confidence to respect in the worship we owe Him. Being present in us to impart His favors to us, He bestows them preferably on those who pray to Him and trust in His mercy. Let us, then, say to Him with David: “It is good to place my hope in the Lord.” (Psalm 72:28)

Let us especially strive to love Him. Since, on account of His infinite perfections, He is infinitely lovable in Himself, He loves us with unspeakable tenderness and proves it by His constant benefits. Being, as it were, immersed in Him as in a furnace of love, we are constantly the object of His care, even in the details of our life, for, as Jesus Himself tells us, not a hair falls from our head without His permission. Not content with having created, redeemed and sanctified us, and nourished us with the flesh of His Divine Son, He cares for us, from the cradle to the grave, with an ever-watchful and invincibly constant love. How then can we remain cold and indifferent towards such flames of divine love?

O my God, Sovereign Majesty, I adore Thee present in my heart. I surrender myself wholly to Thy infinite wisdom, which disposes everything for my greatest good. Through the merits of Jesus and Mary, give me the grace, first, of a lively faith in Thy divine presence and in the workings of Thy Providence in me, and secondly, that of a special care to adore Thee, to pray to Thee, to love Thee always, and to direct towards Thee all my intentions and all my desires.

The Gift of God

“If thou knew the gift of God.” (John 4:10)

The Gift of God of Which Jesus Spoke

“Oh, if you only knew the gift of God,” says our divine Saviour to us as He did to the Samaritan woman. “If, O redeemed soul, thou knew how much beauty, grandeur and nobility there is in the gift I bring thee from My Father, in the gift that restores the life lost by sin, and is called sanctifying grace! This gift effaces original sin in thee, and likewise the shameful stains of thy iniquities, were they even as numerous as the grains of sand on the sea-shore, and as horrible as the crimes of the great est criminals! It restores to thee the original beauty of the human soul before the fall. It sanctifies thee as it did Adam, makes thee as pleasing as he was to the heavenly court and to the thrice Holy God. It makes thee an adopted child of the heavenly Father, as I am His Son by nature.”

“And what follows from this? Thou sharest with Me rights that are ever sacred; My riches, My merits are thine; My doctrine, My spirit, My sentiments, My Heart, My very life are imparted to thee, so that thou mayst say with Saint Paul: I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 3:20) Moreover, the Holy Ghost who hovered over Me from My very Incarnation, as over the flower of Jesse, deigns to come in thee, notwithstanding thy past defilement, so as really to dwell in thee with God the Father and God the Son.”

“Thus thou art enriched with virtues and gifts more precious than the universe; thou art formed after My image and likeness by the Divine Paraclete Himself, that thou mayst one day be admitted to participate in My glory. O redeemed soul, if thou knew the value of this gift of grace, which so transforms thee, thou wouldst not cease to increase it by thy fervor and fidelity.”

O Jesus, Thy words move me. Hitherto I have not sufficiently appreciated the value and happiness of Thy grace. Just as mortal sin is an immense evil, so is Thy friendship an excellent good surpassing all others. In me it is the source of peace, the principle of virtue, and the condition of merit. I will, therefore, preserve it at every cost by fleeing danger, by frequent prayer and the reception of the sacraments.

Who Is Jesus, and What Does He Thirst After

Oh, “if thou knew,” said Jesus to the Samaritan woman, “who is He that saith to thee, give Me to drink.” “O soul redeemed by My blood, if thou knew what I am in thy regard, I who am asking thee without ceasing: give Me thy heart, thy will, thy love! To gain thy love, what have I not done? Before time began, when the earth had not yet sprung into existence, when even the heavenly spirits were not yet created, I already loved thee; and I loved thee disinterestedly, out of mere goodness, favoring thee through all generations among the millions I intended to create.”

“I saw thee beforehand guilty of so many sins, forgetful of My benefits, so ungratefully resisting My graces, and going so far as even to renew all the torments of My passion! And notwithstanding all this, I loved, I tenderly cherished thee as a poor stray sheep which I wished to bring back to the fold of My grace. And how much has not this cost Me? I descended from the throne of My greatness, so far as to take the form of a slave, and to become, as it were, a worm, the reproach of men and the outcast of the people (Psalm 21:7). Dost thou now understand how much I have loved thee?”

O Jesus, only too well do I understand my in gratitude and perfidy in Thy regard. Thou gave me existence without any merit on my part, and I have so often abused it to offend Thee. In baptism I received such precious gifts from Thy bounty; but, alas! what use did I make of them? Hardly had I attained the age of reason, than like the prodigal son, I spent all these gifts to gratify my corrupt inclinations. And yet, O Lord, Thy love for me was not discouraged; Thou didst always thirst for my love. After coming down from heaven, Thou didst labor, endure hardships and fatigue, and now, as from Jacob’s well, Thou speak to me without ceasing from the adorable Eucharist, saying: “Oh, if thou only knew who it is that says to thee, give Me to drink, give Me thy heart, thy will, thy love!” O my Creator and Saviour, the most tender friend of my soul, how can I offer Thee further resistance? I consecrate to Thee my mind, which shall henceforth always think on Thee; I give Thee my whole heart, its desires and its affections. Strengthen my resolution to be unreservedly Thine under the protection of Thy Mother, who is also mine.

Jesus Suffering

“Think diligently upon Him, . . . that you be not wearied, fainting in your minds.” (Hebrews 12:3)

Motives for Meditating on the Passion

From the beginning of the world God seems to invite and urge mankind never to forget their Redeemer. He promised Him to our first parents as the Repairer of their ruin. From age to age He recalls His remembrance by means of sacrifices, figures and prophecies. The prophet Isaias so clearly described the torments of His Passion, that he might be taken for an evangelist. Wherefore, if already before the Redeemer’s birth the sufferings of the future Messias were the object of the consideration of the Jews, how much more should not we Christians, after the Redemption, lovingly occupy ourselves with the sufferings that have regenerated us!

The Church every year devotes Lent, and especially the last fortnight of that holy season, to reminding us of the moving scenes of the Passion. With what touching accents from Septuagesima Sunday to Easter she speaks to us in her Offices of the Saviour’s prayer in the garden of olives, of His crowning with thorns, of His adorable wounds and His infinitely precious blood! Even the burial of her divine Spouse is not forgotten. Each day renews their reality in the Sacrifice of our altars, in which the Victim of Calvary immolates Himself mystically for us.

The crosses we behold in our churches, on their spires, and on the graves in the cemeteries, seem to say to us: “Think on your Saviour.” We so often sign ourselves with this august sign of our Redemption; do we always do it with respect, attention and profit? Whenever at home or elsewhere our eyes meet the image of the crucifix, do we then say to ourselves: “Behold how much my God has loved me?”

O Jesus, Jesus suffering and dying for my soul, how can I ever forget Thee? Thou hast preserved me from hell and permitted me to aspire to heaven; Thou art my secure refuge against my enemies. Thy wounds are balsam to my sores, and Thy blood, a restoring and comforting beverage. Grant me the grace often devoutly to make the Way of the Cross, to recite the sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary, and to draw therefrom the most lively sentiments of repentance for my sins, of confidence in Thy merits and of resignation in all the trials of life.

The Lessons of the Passion

The mystery of Jesus suffering facilitates our belief in all the other mysteries. What can impart to us better than a crucified God a higher idea of the ineffable perfections of the three Divine Persons; of the Father, whose justice, greatness and holiness required such a reparation for our sins; of the Son, whose wisdom and goodness so wonderfully shines forth in the work of our reparation, of the Holy Ghost, who so lovingly and generously applies to our souls the inexhaustible riches of Christ’s Passion? The eternity of hell and the eternity of heaven are most evident consequences of the Saviour’s sufferings and death. For, as Saint Bernard says, the eternal, infinite Divine Word would never have assumed such cruel torments, had there not been question of either an irremediable misfortune or an endless happiness for us.

And how well does the crucifixion of a God-Man set forth the importance of salvation, the inestimable value of divine grace, the nobility of our soul and the sublimity of our destiny! The malice of sin is proclaimed by each of the Saviour’s wounds, and there is not a single truth or mystery in religion to which the death of Jesus does not impart new vigor and more vivid brightness.

O dolorous Passion, luminous beacon! What a splendor thou shed amid the darkness of our exile! Through thee we know our Saviour and His teaching. His most austere maxims, the pardon of injuries, the love of contempt, self-denial, are all written in bloody characters by the thorns and nails which cause Him so much suffering. Where else are more clearly taught the eight beatitudes of the sermon on the mount? Here our Saviour puts them into practice, so as to add the alluring impulse of His example to His divinely infallible word.

Moreover, what sublime virtues does He not practise amid so much anguish! At Gethsemane He prays, He is resigned, He confides in His heavenly Father, notwithstanding the sadness and weariness that overwhelm Him. Before His judges He re mains silent, or gives testimony to the truth, according to the designs of the divine Wisdom; He practises humility, meekness, patience and charity amid the most cruel torments. Even on the cross He prays, forgives His enemies and dies in obedience to God, out of love for men.

O Jesus, teach me to imitate the virtues Thou practisest in Thy sufferings, first, humility which induced Thee to accept in silence contempt, mockery and insults; secondly, the spirit of prayer, which caused Thee to pray in spite of Thy repugnance and sorrow; and thirdly, patience and charity which enabled Thee to embrace the cross with courage and with the intention of glorifying Thy heavenly Father and saving our souls.

Jesus Praying in the Garden of Olives

Jesus praying in the garden of olives teaches us how we should pray.

Jesus Prays with Attention and Humility

When they had come to the garden of olives, Jesus said to His disciples: “Sit you here, till I go yonder and pray.” (Matthew 26:36) He then retired further in order to converse with His heavenly Father. By this He teaches us to recollect ourselves when we are about to converse with God, for it is not becoming that we should mingle profane thoughts with those of God and the salvation of our soul. With out recollection our mind is wanting in the respect the creature owes to its Creator, and our heart is deprived of the ardent desires requisite for a good meditation and an efficacious prayer. Wherefore, before addressing our Lord let us banish from our imagination, our memory and our mind all images foreign to holy things, all remembrance of the world, all profane thoughts; let us keep our soul perfectly calm, as is required by the important matters we are to treat about with the Sovereign Lord of heaven and earth.

Having retired apart, Jesus “fell upon His face praying” (Matthew 26:39), thereby giving us the example of the profound humility that ought to accompany all our prayers. What are we in comparison to our Creator? We are as grains of sand and imperceptible atoms that came out of nothing; we are even more vile still, for we are sinners deserving of endless punishment. How then should we implore the Almighty’s favor? Jesus humbles Himself under the weight of our iniquities, although He is infinitely great in Himself. What, then, should be our confusion, we who are mere abject creatures, when, laden with our own sins, we crave mercy from the divine Majesty outraged by our malice!

If we have the same dispositions as Jesus, our prayers will be cries of our repentant heart which God will not despise. David cried out to the Lord out of the depths of his misery, in all humility, and found therein a motive of confidence, saying: “Lord, hear my voice” (Psalm 129:1), my prayer, which is so capable of moving Thee, for it proceeds from a heart intimately persuaded of its unworthiness.

O my God, inspire me with similar sentiments of humility, so that they may keep me recollected in Thy presence, and banish from my heart all self-esteem, all vain complacency in my deeds and in the affections of others, these fertile sources of pride and distractions. Give me the grace to begin all my meditations with acts of self-abasement before Thee, so that I may draw to myself Thy light and Thy favors, and especially the gift of a profound recollection and an humble devotion.

Jesus Prays with Confidence and Perseverance

Being prostrate on the ground, Jesus begins His prayer: “My Father” (Matthew 26:39). This expression of love shows the filial confidence which overflowed the Saviour’s heart. Humility is no hindrance to confidence, but purifies it of all imperfection and perfects it by teaching us to place our hope in God alone. It is, in fact, in order to trust in God only, that we cease to rely on ourselves. To Him we acknowledge, in all truth, our ignorance, our weakness, our misery, our poverty, so as to compel Him by virtue of His very promises to open to us the treasures of His wisdom, power and goodness. The more we humble ourselves, the greater also is our claim and right to hope in His mercy, which is the asylum of all who own their misery and helplessness. And yet how often do we hesitate to place our trust in God, especially when we ask benefits of Him!

Notwithstanding the anguish, the repugnance and sadness that so strongly assail Him, Jesus continues His prayer and even prolongs it during His agony, repeating always the same words (Luke 22:43). O Jesus, how greatly does Thy example condemn our sloth! We pray only when we feel like it, when consolation abounds, but so soon as we find prayer difficult and our heart feels indisposed, we get disheartened and cease praying. Our devotion does not proceed from the devotedness of our will seeking solely God’s pleasure, but is merely a selfishness preferring its own satisfaction to real virtue.

O my most amiable Redeemer, I am resolved to correct my ways and henceforth to pray, first, be cause it is my duty, with the intention of offering due homage to God, of thanking Him for all His benefits, and of drawing down His mercies and graces upon my soul and upon all for whom I am bound to pray; and secondly, I will pray at all times, in all places, on all occasions, and always with the requisite dispositions. Mary, my loving Mother, help me to understand that prayer is as necessary for my spiritual life as breathing for my physical life. Obtain for me the grace to pray without ceasing, to pray as Jesus prayed, that is, with attention, humility, confidence and perseverance. “Being in an agony, He prayed the longer.” (Luke 22:43)

Effects of the Passion

“Being justified in His blood, we shall be saved.” (Romans 5-9)

The Passion of Jesus Christ Closes Hell and Opens Heaven to Us

To appreciate the immense favor our divine Redeemer has done us by preserving us from hell, we should know in what the eternal punishments consist. Saint Teresa, to whom they were revealed, assures us that all that is said about them by preachers and writers is as nothing. The most terrible fire in this world, she says, is as a mere painting of fire compared to the furnace in which the reprobates are punished. They feel as if they were hacked to pieces, and devoid of hope and alleviation. In that frightful place a pestilential atmosphere causes continual suffocation; both the body and the soul are a prey to intolerable pains, and what completes the misery, is that they are endless and without relief. “Ten years have now passed since this vision,” she writes, “and I am still so terrified at its remembrance that I shudder with fright.” O Jesus, if Thy sorrowful passion had obtained no other favor for me than to preserve me from such dreadful evils and pains, I should owe Thee an everlasting gratitude.

But our loving Saviour has done us a still greater favor, by opening to us the heavenly Jerusalem, which consists not only in exemption from all pain whatsoever, but also in the assured possession for all eternity of all the joys and delights of which the human heart is capable. So great a happiness is beyond description; it was merited for us by the blood of the Son of God; it is the very happiness of God Himself. How grateful we should be to Jesus for having acquired it for us!

But was it only at a small sacrifice that our generous Redeemer accomplished all this? Did our salvation cost Him only a prayer, a word, a tear shed over us? No; and we should herein admire His incomprehensible devotedness to us, poor sinners. Having no need of us and in spite of our offenses, perfidy, malice and ingratitude, He snatched us from the jaws of hell and opened heaven to us, at the price of thirty-three years of poverty, labor, hardships and sufferings, which ended in the most cruel and humiliating death that ever was. O prodigy of the Almighty’s goodness! O perfectly pure and disinterested charity! To save us, vile slaves, the King of glory “emptied Himself” and took our place on the gibbet of ignominy.

O Lord, what return shall I make to Thee for all these benefits? Merely to thank Thee is too little; to love Thee is not yet sufficient; hence the least I should do is to consecrate myself, body and soul, and forever to Thy service. To Thee alone will I direct all my intentions and affections, all my activity at every moment of my life until my last breath.

The Passion of Jesus Christ Gave Us the Church

Not content with having closed hell and opened heaven to us by His sufferings, our divine Saviour wished to secure to us the enjoyment of the goods He had deserved for our salvation. Where fore, He founded His Church, that Church that was figured by the blood and water which flowed out of His side, when .pierced by the soldier’s lance. Brought forth by the life-giving death of her Author, this Spouse of Christ will subsist until the end of ages, imparting to every human generation the abundant graces of the Redemption. The infallibility of her visible Head, the Pope, in matters of faith and morals, the truth of her doctrines preached over the whole earth, the wonderful efficacy of her sacraments, which, like mysterious channels, spreads to the ends of the earth in docile hearts light, hope and life; all these precious means render salvation easy to men of good will, especially if they join thereto the reading of pious books, the meditation of the revealed truths, and together with earnest and persevering prayer, which our Saviour has made all-powerful, by endowing it with His merits and promises.

Who can fail to admire, how the Church by the blood of Jesus, her Spouse, begets her children by baptism, strengthens them in faith by confirmation, heals them of their spiritual diseases by penance, feeds and fortifies them in the Sacrament of our altars? How great her solicitude to preserve for men sound doctrine, to keep them from danger, to support them on the way to eternal life, to comfort them at their last hour and to introduce them into the eternal Kingdom! Everywhere and to everyone she offers divine grace; to the sinner she opens the way of returning to God, and there is no sinner so hopeless that does not find in her a truly maternal love ever ready to receive kindly a repentant heart.

How often are we not the objects of her maternal kindness! Sharing her goods with us, she enables us to participate in her adorable Sacrifice, absolves us from sin in the sacred tribunal, refreshes us in the Eucharistic Banquet, wherein we receive the spotless Lamb immolated for us on the cross. O Jesus, my Redeemer, it will not be Thy fault, nor that of Thy Church, if I am lost in spite of Thy infinite merits. Preserve me henceforth from negligence and routine in my exercises of piety, lest, being rendered inefficacious by my lukewarmness, they no longer impart to me the vivifying sap of grace, which gives me life, and keeps up in me the requisite zeal for my salvation. Under the protection of Thy holy Mother Mary, I resolve, first, to arouse my fervor by the consideration of my spiritual indigence and the value of the goods acquired by Thy Passion, and secondly, to derive profit from the sacraments by preparing carefully for their reception by means of habitual recollection, frequent prayer and interior acts of faith, confidence and love.

The Fruits of the Redemption

“When Jesus had taken the vinegar, He said: It is consummated.” (John 19:30)

Jesus Suffering Makes Satisfaction for Us

Our Divine Saviour in His Passion opened to us an abundant source of satisfaction, which enables us to appease God’s infinite justice. “To make satisfaction for an offense,” says Saint Thomas, “is to restore to the offended person as much or more honor than was taken away from him, and excite in him as much or more love than the offense provoked hatred or repulsion in him.” But it was utterly impossible for any creature, however exalted, to pay the debt of sin and perform the office of reconciliation with God. Because there was question of making reparation to God for the glory of which sin robbed Him by transgressing His commandments, rejecting His benefits, outraging His goodness and shamefully despising His wisdom, power and justice. And who but a God-Man could have accomplished this?

Jesus Christ not only effected this, but even gave His heavenly Father a compensation far exceeding our offenses. This He fulfilled by the immensity of His love, the dignity of His Person, the universality of His Passion and the greatness of His sufferings. First, as to His love; who can comprehend it? It imparted to the least of His prayers, of His tears and aspirations infinite excellence. Secondly, the dignity of His Person and of His self-sacrifice is not less admirable, for it rendered to God infinitely more glory than original sin had despoiled Him of. Thirdly, His sufferings, so manifold, so intense, so efficacious, in their turn, super-abundantly repaired the injury done to the Creator by His ungrateful creatures.

Adam sinned through pride and we together in him, for wishing, like Lucifer, to equal the Most High. What does Jesus do to heal us? He abases Himself to the lowest rank and suffers Himself to be treated as the most abject of criminals. Adam rebels, refusing to obey God; and, alas! how often have not we imitated him? But in His Passion He gives us the example of the most perfect submission, by making obedience His food, as it were (John 4:34), His breathing, His very life. The first man, and we with him, sinned through sensuality, preferring sensual gratification to the divine will. But our Blessed Redeemer expiates our fault by a life of poverty and hardship, and finally by a cruel death, more painful than that of the martyrs.

O Jesus, I unite myself to the complete satisfaction Thou offerest for me on Calvary and on our altars, and, in order the more fully to participate therein, I implore from Thee the following graces: first, an intense sorrow for my sins and the strength to combat their cause in my perverse inclinations; and secondly, courage to bear my daily cross and the trials connected with the duties of my state. Such, O Jesus, is the best penance I can offer to the eternal Father in union with Thine in Thy dolorous Passion.

Jesus Suffering Merits for Us

Our Divine Saviour, by His death, merited not only for Himself but also for the whole Church, of which He is the Head and we are the members, because His infinite dignity, His boundless charity imparted to all He did and suffered such a merit of divine grace and incomprehensible glory, which would suffice to save an infinity of worlds far more vast than ours, Such is the magnificent patrimony He left us after His death, from which we may, at every moment, draw enough to amass a treasure, a capital of divine grace which will enable us one day to merit the eternal heritage.

But how shall we secure a share in these noble and desirable riches? Can we do so by merely expecting them from the divine bounty without making any efforts on our part? Far from this; the Redemption is a remedy which we must apply to our selves; it is a work begun in us by the Incarnate Word, which it behooves us to complete with Him, for Saint Paul says that we “must fill up those things which are wanting to the sufferings of Christ.” (Colossians 1:21)

As a remedy, the Saviour’s cross opens to us the vivifying fountains of the sacraments, especially those of Penance and the Holy Eucharist. Through their worthy reception we can close our wounds, heal our diseases, refresh and impart perfect health to our souls. By means of prayer, which derives its power and efficacy from the Saviour’s merits and promises, we can at every moment preserve divine grace and fortify ourselves for the combats and trials of this life.

But the Redemption requires also our own labor joined to that of our Redeemer. From the day on which Jesus shed His blood He continues to dispense its merits to us through the unceasing action of the Holy Ghost, who, ever present in our soul, urges us to shake off our sloth, to surmount our torpor and cowardice. “How long, yet,” asks the Sanctifier of souls, “will your heart be weighed down by vanity, sensuality and lying? Do you not see how God glorified His Son, who sacrificed Himself for your sake?”

O Jesus, Thy merits opened to us the treasures of grace and the Kingdom of glory. Deign to purify all my intentions and affections, and to impart to me the courage, first, to labor with Thee in healing the wounds of my soul by means of interior mortification, and secondly, to draw from Thee without ceasing, by means of prayer and the sacraments, all the assistance I need for my salvation.

The Foot of the Cross

“Think diligently on Him that endured such opposition from sinners to Himself.” (Hebrews 12:3)

At the Foot of the Cross We Learn How to Pray

When we place ourselves in spirit on Calvary near the Cross, what do we see thereon? The Son of God dying for the love of us and, not withstanding His anguish and excessive pains, continuing to pray for us. This is truly a touching sight, a sight fully capable of captivating our minds and hearts and of inducing us to pray with attention and fervor. Do not, indeed, the torments, privations and insults undergone by our Saviour excite our compassion, gratitude and repentance, all of which are so favorable to true devotion?

Our confidence also is greatly increased, when we pray at the foot of the Cross. For, in the first place, He who died on that instrument of our salvation, sanctioned by His sufferings all the promises He made concerning prayer. How well adapted to encourage us to pray! Secondly, in prayer we implore our heavenly Father in union with the August Victim, who, by His tears and supplications, says Saint Paul, draws the divine blessings upon us; and in union also with the Mother of sorrows and mercy, who dispenses to us the graces of the Redemption. Thence our petitions ascend to the throne of the Most High, in concert with the most sublime of sacrifices, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which imparts fresh efficacy to our prayers. “When thou pray at the foot of My Cross,” said Jesus to Saint Margaret of Cortona, “grace falls as abundantly on thy soul as My blood flowed from My wounds during My agony on Calvary. The oftener thou devote thyself to contemplate Me in these torments, the more will My favors be multiplied in thee.”

Wherefore let us often place ourselves at the feet of Jesus crucified, especially when preparing for confession. Let us then beseech our Redeemer to fill us with an intense sorrow for our sins at the thought that they have contributed to His sufferings and death. Let us act in like manner when we examine our conscience, or recite the rosary and other vocal prayers. The foot of the Cross can serve us as a kneeling-bench, and Calvary as an oratory in which we shall easily learn to be recollected and pray with attention, confidence, fervor and perseverance.

O Jesus, O Mary, I unite myself to your sentiments on Good Friday. Impart to me a lively compassion for your sufferings, and with the sincere desire to suffer patiently with you. For this object I purpose often to watch and pray in spirit on Calvary, so as to obtain from you, in mental prayer, the courage to imitate you, according to the example you have given me in the midst of your sufferings.

At the Foot of the Cross We Learn How to Practise Excellent Virtues

Saint Francis de Sales preferred the less prominent virtues born at the foot of the Cross, to those that are more striking and are placed, as he says, on the top of the Cross to be admired. Among the former are humility, meekness, hearty forbearance of our neighbor, condescension to the wishes of others, modesty and simplicity. “These virtues are the most odoriferous and the most bedewed with the Saviour’s blood,” he remarks, “for they mortify and sanctify the heart more efficaciously than instruments of penance and exterior mortifications which cause those who practise them to be considered as saints.”

Wherefore, when we meditate and pray in spirit on Calvary, let us begin by humbling ourselves with Him who, being God, “emptied Himself,” says Saint Paul, “taking the form of a servant . . . and humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the Cross.” (Philippians 2:7,8) Let us implore Him for the grace of practising this virtue, whenever the occasion offers, by meekly bearing contradictions, affronts, want of due regard, and dissembling the faults of our neighbor and yielding to him through a spirit of submission and condescension. These dispositions are, moreover, conformable to those of our Saviour on the cross, suffering in silence insults and ill-treatment, pardoning His executioners, and even excusing them and praying for them.

Jesus practised the modesty and simplicity mentioned by Saint Francis de Sales, when dying as a criminal, although He was Innocence itself and infinitely holy, and offering Himself in sacrifice solely for the glory of God and the salvation of man kind lost by sin. He thereby teaches us to conceal our merit from men, that we may have God alone as our witness. He gives us the example of the upright intention which should accompany our actions, our words, our conduct and procure the honor and glory of God and our sanctification. Let us examine at the foot of the Cross, whether we imitate our crucified Saviour in His spirit of abasement; whether we are, like Him, willing to subject ourselves to our superiors, to be condescending to wards our equals, and to treat kindly our inferiors, and even those who are opposed to us.

O my God, give me a love for the humble and hidden life, that may induce me to seek no other witness than Thee of all my actions. I am firmly resolved, first, to combat every desire of putting myself forward and of being esteemed; secondly, often to purify my intentions during the day, so that I may seek solely to glorify and please Thee in all things; and thirdly, to unite myself to Jesus and Mary on Calvary, so that with them I may practise the virtues that grow at the foot of the Cross, and especially humility, freedom from all selfish motives, quiet forbearance of my neighbor and uprightness in all my conduct.

The Passion of Jesus

“Christ having suffered in the flesh, be you also armed with the same thought.” (1 Peter 4:l)

The Passion, A Motive for Loving Jesus

According to Saint Francis de Sales, Mount Calvary is the true school of sacred love. There faithful souls come to draw from the wounds of the Lion of Juda the honey of charity. And, in fact, what is more capable of inspiring us with the love of the Man-God? When I am told that He is infinitely perfect and infinitely lovable in Himself, I believe it, but my belief does not so speak to my heart, as does the sight of Jesus crucified, a sight which is a tangible proof of the Saviour’s excessive love for me, and of my obligation to love Him in return. How wonderful it is, indeed, that, almighty and in finite as He is, He has so abased Himself as to become man, and assume the appearance of a sinner, and to take upon Himself our sins and the punishment they deserve! And then should I, after all this, fail to love Him!

Had the meanest beggar done the thousandth part of all this for me, I would, were it in my power, receive him into my house and provide for all his wants and satisfy all his desires, as a grateful acknowledgment of his devotedness to me. And behold the very Son of God, the Lord of lords, comes down from His throne of bliss and glory to take my place on the gibbet of infamy, and I would fail to give Him the first place in my heart! And I would hesitate to consecrate to Him all my thoughts, all my desires, all my affections! Where fore, as Saint Paul truly declares, “if anyone love not our Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema.” (I Corinthians 16:22)

According to Saint Francis de Sales, the death of our Divine Saviour will be, even in heaven, one of the most powerful motives to enkindle the heart of the elect with the tenderest love. How much more should not we on earth, in this vale of tears, think on the Saviour’s sufferings, first, by often casting our eyes on the crucifix, and, secondly, by meditating on His grandeur and abasement, on the happiness He could have enjoyed here below, and on the voluntary torments He deigned to undergo for our salvation. “Having joy set before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame.” (Hebrew 12:2)

O my divine Benefactor, what shall I give Thee in return for the boundless love which induced Thee to die in my stead, in order to impart to me the life of my soul? Being infinitely amiable in Thyself, on account of Thy infinite perfections, Thou hast willed to win my heart by Thy benefits also, and especially by manifesting so tender a love for me, as to render me unable to resist it. Grant me the grace to love Thee with a strong and constant love which will cause me to remain faithful to Thee amid all the sufferings and trials of this life.

Resolutions at the Feet of the Crucifix

“The love,” says Saint Francis de Sales, “which has not its origin in the Saviour’s passion is frivolous and dangerous.” And why? Because without the remembrance of Jesus crucified, we are easily deceived as to the essence of real virtue, and are led to place it in our favorite exercises of piety, rather than in humility, self-denial and death to all that is not God. Such an illusion would not be possible, if we were to take Jesus crucified as our Model. “He who earnestly takes Jesus crucified as his Model,” says Saint Alphonsus, “feels as if compelled to make great progress in the virtues that inflict death on our vicious and corrupt nature, and enable us to penetrate to the inmost depths of our self-love, in order fully to extirpate our selfishness and make room for divine love.”

The holy bishop of Geneva was, therefore, wont to advise all to wear a crucifix and often lovingly to kiss it and inflame themselves with the desire of imitating Jesus, and at times thus tenderly to address Him: “O Jesus, the Beloved of my soul, allow me to press Thee to my bosom as a bundle of myrrh; I promise Thee that my mouth, which is happy to kiss Thy sacred wounds, shall henceforth abstain from backbiting, complaints and all that displeases Thee; that my eyes which behold Thy blood and Thy tears flowing for my sins, shall no longer look upon the vanities of the world or on anything that may expose me to offend Thee; that my ears, which listen with so much consolation to the seven words Thou didst pronounce on the cross, shall no longer take pleasure in vain praises, idle conversations or words that wound charity; that my mind, after studying with delight the mystery of the cross, shall no longer give an opening to vain or evil thoughts and imaginations; and, in fine, that nothing shall enter or leave my heart, except with the permission of the holy cross, in the sacred sign of which I will glory.”

O my Redeemer, enable me to approach the sacred tribunal of penance with greater humility and contrition, so that I may be perfectly purified therein by Thy precious blood. Help me to receive Thee with an ardent love in holy Communion and recall to me then Thy sorrowful passion, so that it may inspire me with sincere gratitude and with a reassuring hope and a burning and sanctifying love. Amen.