Prayer, Its Necessity, Its Power, Its Conditions, Epilogue

cover of the ebook 'Prayer, Its Necessity, Its Power, Its Conditions, by Father Ferreol Girardey'Before concluding this book on the all-important subject of Prayer, the author wishes to recommend to the reader the frequent, and even daily, reading and study of a book, which is undoubtedly the most useful and eloquent of books; a book which every Christian, even the most illiterate can read and understand; a book which contains an inexhaustible fund of knowledge; a book which imparts fresh and solid knowledge every time it is read with attention; a book which is relished always more and more the oftener it is read; a book which is the consolation and delight of holy souls; a book which is capable of moving the heart of the most hardened sinner to repentance and to a holy life, of inspiring hope and courage to the despondent and despairing, of enabling the afflicted to bear cheerfully and even joyfully the heaviest trials, to experience even sweetness in the midst of even the bitterest sufferings; a book which those who practise its teachings, are able to overcome the most inveterate evil habits and even to attain the very summit of holiness! This book is the CRUCIFIX! It is to its study that saints like Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas, Saint Bonaventure, Saint Bernard, Saint Alphonsus owed their great sanctity. Saint Paul, the great apostle of the Gentiles, boasted of possessing no other science than that of the Crucifix: “I judged not myself to know anything but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (I Corinthians 2:2)

I. Many and great are the lessons we can learn when we study the Crucifix. Among them are the following:

1. The Crucifix tells us of the infinite love of the Son of God for us, sinners: ” He loved me and delivered Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

2. The Crucifix tells us also how ardently we should love Jesus Christ: “The (infinite) charity of Christ urges us” (to love Him in return) (II Corinthians 5:14); “If anyone love not our Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema.” (I Corinthians 16:22)

3. The Crucifix teaches us the inestimable value of our soul, and consequently our duty to save it at any cost: “You have been bought at a great price” (I Corinthians 6:20); ” You were not redeemed with corruptible things as gold or silver . . . but with the (infinitely) precious blood of Christ.” (I Peter 1:18,19)

4. The Crucifix gives us a more powerful proof than even hell itself, of the malice of mortal sin, for God punishes the guilty sinner, a mere creature, in hell forever, but on the cross He punished His own divine Son, infinitely good and holy, whom He loves with infinite love, with the most disgraceful of deaths, because He took upon Himself to satisfy for the sins of mankind. Hence Jesus says to us: “If this is done in the green wood (in the innocent), what shall be done in the dry?” (Luke 23-32) that is, how fearfully shall the impenitent sinner be punished! “It is a horrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31)

5. The Crucifix teaches us the love of our neighbor, which demands sacrifices on our part: Because the Son of God “hath laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (I John 3:16)

6. The Crucifix teaches us the pardon of enemies. The very first words our divine Saviour uttered on the cross was a prayer for His enemies: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

7. The Crucifix teaches us humility, that most necessary fundamental virtue: “Christ Jesus, being God, emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant; He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, unto the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:7,8)

8. The Crucifix teaches us to bear with patience sufferings and humiliations: “Jesus, having joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame” (Hebrews 12:2). He was, says the Prophet Isaias, “like a lamb led to the slaughter, uttering no complaint whatever.” “Christ suffered for us, leaving you an example that you should follow in His footsteps . . . when He was reviled, He did not revile, when He suffered, He threatened not.” (I Peter 2:21-23)

9. The Crucifix teaches us the value of sufferings patiently borne: “Think diligently upon Him that endured such opposition from sinners against Him self, that you be not wearied, fainting in your minds, for you have not yet resisted unto blood (and Jesus shed it all for us), striving against sin.” (Hebrews 12:3) “Yet so, if we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified (in heaven) with Him.” (Romans 8:17)

10. The Crucifix teaches us also self-denial: Whilst hanging on the cross in an agony of pain, Jesus suffered terribly from a burning thirst, and cried out: “I thirst” (John 19:28), and was given not even a drop of water, but only a sponge dipped in vinegar.

11. The Crucifix teaches us also the necessity and power of prayer, for Jesus prayed on the cross as He had done in the garden of olives; he prayed for sinners, and first of all for His very murderers and scoffers. And to inspire us with confidence, He promised paradise to the penitent thief who recommended himself to His remembrance.

12. The Crucifix also teaches us to love and place all our confidence in the Mother of Jesus, for His last will made on the Cross gave us to her as her children, and gave her to us as our Mother, Jesus said to Mary: “Behold thy Son,” and to each of us: “Behold thy Mother” (John 19:26,27).

II: One day our divine Saviour, when preaching in the temple, said to the Jews: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to Myself” (John 12:32). How improbable did these words then seem! Much more improbable did they appear a few days later, when Jesus was actually raised up on the cross between two thieves to die in infamy, accursed in Himself and in His memory! But, as is customary with God, He always chooses the most inadequate and totally unsuitable means, viewed from a natural standpoint, to achieve the most astounding and unexpected results, and therefore “Christ’s infamy” thence forth because the powerful instrument to “draw all things to Himself.” A man’s power does not survive him, for it is wholly extinguished in his tomb. But with Jesus Christ His power becomes manifest only in death. Whilst hanging on the instrument of death and infamy, He drew to Himself the penitent thief and the soldiers on guard. After His resurrection and ascension He began to draw all men to Himself, beginning with the poor and the lowly and the illiterate, and continuing later on with the learned, the great and the powerful, until pagan idolatry was extirpated and the world believed in Him. When the barbarians had destroyed the Roman power and its civilisation, He enabled His Church to humanize and christianize the barbarians and to impart to them a more noble civilisation, the Christian civilisation, the fruits and benefits of which the world even now still enjoys. Ever since Jesus was lifted up on the cross He has drawn to Himself

1. First, MAN’S THOUGHT. All who embrace the faith taught by Him, submit their reason to the infallible guidance of His Church and, on her authority, firmly believe mysteries incomprehensible to reason. No one else has ever been able thus to draw, subjugate and govern man’s thought.

2. Secondly, Jesus lifted up on the cross, that is Jesus crucified, has drawn to Himself MAN’S WILL. For nineteen centuries hundreds of millions of free men, cherishing liberty above every other natural possession, have had no other will than that of Jesus Christ, and have, therefore, cheerfully submitted their will to His laws, commands and restraints. With Him they become meek and humble of heart, practise self-denial, joyfully take up His yoke, crucify their flesh and its lusts, chastise and subdue their bodies, lest they rebel against the will of Jesus Christ. Many, in order to be wholly His, to devote themselves entirely to His service, heroically forsake all that is dear to them, parents, relatives, possessions, bright prospects and their fatherland, and embrace a life of poverty, chastity, obedience and labor and hardships among the poor, the heathen, the sick, and even among the very outcasts of society, for the love of Him who, from His cross, draws to Him self their hearts, their chaste love and unreserved devotedness. With Saint Paul these heroic souls can exclaim: “With Christ I am nailed to the cross, and I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:19,20)

3. Thirdly, Jesus Christ crucified has drawn to Himself MAN’S HEART, for He has conquered man’s love. Ever since His ascension to heaven number less pilgrims in all ages visit and venerate in the Holy Land every spot hallowed by His presence, especially His sepulchre. The Crusades in the Middle Ages fulfilled this prophecy of Isaias (11:10): “His sepulchre shall be glorious.” Among the many great men the world has produced, not one has gained the love of mankind. But Jesus Christ “lifted up,” crucified, has won the hearts of the best portion of mankind. The best, the purest, the most virtuous of men have loved and love Jesus Christ crucified with the tenderest and most devoted love, more than their parents, or their children, more than their dearest friends and companions, more than their own selves, and they have ever been ready to sacrifice, for His sake, all their goods and their very life, as is evident from history itself. And even more, for they considered it the greatest honor and happiness to be accounted worthy of suffering and dying for the love of Jesus crucified! The very sight of the image, picture or representation of “Jesus lifted up on the cross,” THE CRUCIFIX, excites their tenderest love, for with how great ardor, fervor and devoted love do they not impress kisses on His sacred wounds! In fact, there is no love comparable in intensity, constancy, heroism, and fruitful effects to the love of Jesus crucified “in the hearts He has drawn to Himself. That love draws sweet tears of contrition and amendment from the sinner, imparts peace, consolation and cheerfulness to the suffering, to the sorely tried, and superhuman strength and constancy to the martyrs, to the penitents. The martyrs consider it an honor, a happiness surpassing all earthly honors and enjoyments, to suffer the most exquisite torments, the most cruel death for the love of Jesus crucified. Both the innocent and the penitent experience a heavenly sweetness in meditating, even for hours at a time, on the love of Jesus, who for their sake, endured so many insults and pains and was “lifted up” and died so ignominious a death.

And where is the dying Catholic who does not most willingly endure his great pains and accept his approaching death calmly and cheerfully in union with the sufferings and death of Jesus crucified, and depart this life with love and confidence, whilst pressing to his lips the image of the crucified Saviour? The calm and consoling deaths of Catholics, sweetened by the love of Jesus crucified, are the admiration of non-Catholics, who know not how to account for them. They are, however, a clear proof of the fulfillment of our divine Saviour’s prophecy: “And I, when I shall be lifted up, will draw all things to Myself.”

4. Finally, Jesus Christ crucified has drawn to Himself MAN’S BODY. Man has a natural aversion to bodily sufferings and mortifications. And, nevertheless, the love of “Jesus lifted up,” after “drawing men’s hearts to Himself,” induces them to become enemies and tormentors of their flesh by fasting, abstinence, coarse food, numerous austerities and penances, and even by making and keeping faithfully the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. For the love of Jesus crucified multitudes give up what is dearest to them; and all renounce manifold comforts and pleasures of life, and devote themselves to works of charity and zeal with self-sacrificing love. The sight of this made so deep an impression on the great Napoleon, that he did not hesitate to say: “Unlike human conquerors, Jesus Christ conquers, not for a time or merely a few nations, but the whole human race, and He will conquer it to the end of time. Jesus conquers in every one that believes in Him, that which is most difficult to subjugate, his heart, his love! For His sake millions have joyfully undergone martyrdom, and still undergo the most painful hardships. He will live forever in millions of hearts.” And this, in the hearts of the best, the purest, the noblest and the most enlightened of mankind!

Let us daily raise our eyes to Jesus “lifted up” on the cross out of love for us, and allow Him to draw to Himself our minds by practically adopting, through serious reflection and prayer, His teaching concerning the vanity of earthly goods, honors and pleasures; our wills, our hearts, our love, our bodies by cheerfully denying ourselves, for His sake, all that is displeasing to Him, and by willingly making every sacrifice, however great, long and painful, that may be necessary to serve Him faithfully, to return to Him love for love, and thereby secure for our souls the benefits of the Redemption both in this life and in the next. Amen.