Saturday, 28 February 2009

Meditation on Heaven

Today's excerpt from the Devout Life:

Jesus Christ, from heaven above, looks down upon you in his loving-kindness and invites you sweetly: Come, O my dear soul, to the eternal repose in the arms of my goodness, which has prepared immortal delights for thee in the abundance of it love. Behold with the eyes of your spirit the holy Virgin who constrains you with a mother's love: Courage, do not despise the desires of my Son, nor so many sighs which I breathe for thee, since together with him I ardently long for thy eternal salvation. Behold the saints who exort you, and a million holy souls who constrain you gently, only desiring one day to see your heart united to theirs, to praise God forever, and assuring you that the road to Heaven is not so difficult as the world declares it to be...

Friday, 27 February 2009

Meditation on death

Our reading in the Devout Life today and yesterday has been a series of meditations composed by St Francis de Sales to prepare the reader for his or her growth in virtue. Today they were all on rather bleak topics (sin, death, judgement and hell), but important topics for us to consider nonetheless! So read on if you dare...

Consider the uncertainty of the day of your death. O my soul, thou must one day quit this body. When will it be? Will it be in winter or in summer? In a town or in the country? In the day or in the night? Will it be without any warning, or with warning? Will it be the result of disease or of some accident? Wilt thou have time to confess or not? Wilt thou be assisted by thy confessor and spiritual director? Alas! we know nothing at all about any of these things. We only know that we shall die, and always sooner than we expect.

Consider that the world will then come to an end, as far as you are concerned, and that there will be no more of it for you; it will turn upside down before your eyes. Yes, for then pleasures, vanities, worldly joys, vain affections will appear as phantoms and shadows. Ah! wretch that I am, for the sake of what trifles and unrealities have I offended my God? You will see that you have forsaken God for the sake of nothing. On the contrary, devotion and good works will seem to you then so desirable and sweet: and why have I not followed this beautiful and pleasant path? Then the sins which used to seem very little will appear as big as mountains, and your devotion very small.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Today's morsel - just!

Well it's still the 26th, so here's the extract from the Devout Life:

Now the first motive for affecting [the purgation of sin] is a strong and lively apprehension of the great harm that sin does to us, and by this means we conceive a deep and vehement contrition; for just as contrition, provided that it be true even though it be but weak, especially when joined to the virtue of the sacraments, purges us sufficiently from sin, so when it is strong and vehement, it purges us from all the affections which are connected with sin. A feeble and weak hatred or rancour makes us dislike him whom we hate, and causes us to avoid him; but it it be a deadly and violent hatred, not only do we avoid and dislike him whom we hate, but we loathe him, and cannot endure the society of his friends and relations, yea we abhor even his picture and everything that belongs to him. So when the penitent only hates his sin with a weak, though true, contrition, he resolves indeed not to sin anymore; but when he loathes the sin with a powerful and vigorous contrition, not only does he detest the sin, but also all affection to the sin and all that springs from it or leads to it. Therefore, Philothea, we must enlarge our contrition as much as possible, so that it may embrace everything that is connected with sin. [...] in this point consists the rejuvenation of the soul which [the prophet David] compares to the renewal of the eagle (Ps 103: 5).

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Lenten Resolution

I don't know where the time has gone. It was Christmas just the other day, and now we've arrived at Ash Wednesday! There's something about an institutional life that makes the weeks tread fast upon one another's heels. Nevertheless, I am thoroughly looking forward to Lent. As our spiritual director said in a house talk, it is a time of 'spring cleaning', and the injunction to pray, fast and give alms allows us - borrowing an image from St Augustine - to empty ourselves of the vinegar within us, that we can be filled with honey. I read the Pope's Lenten message the other day, and was struck by the parallel he draws between Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit, and Jesus in the wilderness refusing to eat at Satan's invitation. By Christ's fast, the greed and disobedience of our first parents is reversed. By uniting ourselves to Christ through our Lenten resolutions, we can address the bad habits we have accumulated over the last year.

This year at Oscott we are doing something slightly different. We are undergoing a communal reading of St Francis de Sales' spiritual classic, 'Introduction to the Devout Life'. Each of us has been given a copy of the book, and individually we will read the same amount of chapters a day, so that we all finish a week before Holy Week. Hopefully our reading of the book will influence our conversations with one another, and provide a common reflection for us all during Lent.

Now, with this in mind, I'm determined to blog more during Lent, and decided that as we're reading the 'Introduction to the Devout Life' day by day, I will post a small selection from each day's reading (or as close as I can manage) on our blog. That way you can share a little bit in the spiritual journey that we ourselves will be making here in the seminary. (I got the idea from the Oxford Dominican blog 'Godzdogz', who are posting a short meditation on the weekday Mass readings each day during Lent.) I hope this will prove a worthwhile venture!

Here is the selection for today:

In the creation God commanded the plants to bring forth their fruit, each after its kind: even so he commands Christians, who are the living plants of his Church, to bring forth fruits of devotion, each one according to his kind and vocation. Devotion ought to be practised differently by the gentleman, by the artisan, by the servant, by the prince, by the widow, by the daughter, by the wife; and not only so, but the practice of devotion must be accommodated to the strength, to the affairs, and to the duties of each one individually. I ask you, Philothea, would it be proper for a bishop to wish to be solitary like the Carthusians? And if the married were to have no wish to lay by more than the Capuchins, and the artisan were to be in church all day like the religious, and the religious were to be always exposed to all sorts of interruptions for the service of his neighbour like the bishop, would not such devotions be ridiculous, disorderly and intolerable?...

...Precious stones of all kinds when steeped in honey become more brilliant thereby, each one according to its colour, so eeryone becomes more agreeable in his vocation by joining it with devotion. The care of a family is rendered peaceable thereby, the love of the husband and of the wife more sincere, the service of the prince more faithful, and every kind of occupation more pleasant and agreeable.