SUMMARY: The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ - by St. Alphonsus Liguouri
- ABSTRACT OF VIRTUES TREATED IN THIS WORK, TO BE PRACTISED BY HIM WHO LOVES JESUS CHRIST
I. We must patiently endure the tribulations of this life-----ill-health, sorrows, poverty, losses, bereavement of kindred, affronts, persecutions, and all that is disagreeable. Let us invariably look on the trials of this world as signs of God's love towards us, and of His desire to save us in the world to come. And let us, moreover, be fully persuaded that the involuntary mortifications which God Himself sends us are far more pleasing to Him than those which are the fruit of our own choice.
In sickness let us endeavour to resign ourselves entirely to the will of God; no devout exercise is more acceptable to Him than this. If at such times we are unable to meditate, let us fix our eyes on our crucified Lord, and offer Him our sufferings in union with all that He endured for us upon the Cross. And when we are told that we are about to die, let us accept the tidings with tranquillity and in the spirit of sacrifice; that
is, with the desire to die, in order to give pleasure to Jesus Christ: it was the like desire that gave all the merit to the death of the Martyrs. We should then say: O Lord, behold me here with no other will but Thine Own blessed will; I am willing to suffer as much as Thou pleasest; I wish to die whenever Thou wilt. Nor should we then wish to have our life prolonged, in order to do penance for our sins: to accept death with perfect resignation outweighs all other penance.
We must likewise practice conformity to the will of God in bearing poverty and the various inconveniences which accompany it: cold, hunger, fatigue, contempt, and scorn.
Nor should we be less resigned to losses, whether of property or of relatives and friends, on whom our ease and happiness depended. Let us acquire the good habit of saying in every adversity: God hath so willed it, and so I will it likewise. And at the death of our relatives, instead of wasting time in fruitless tears, let us employ it in praying for their souls; and offer to Jesus Christ, in their behalf, the pain of our bereavement.
Let us, moreover, force ourselves to endure scorn and insult with patience and tranquillity. Let us answer terms of outrage and injury with words of gentleness; but as long as we feel ourselves disturbed, the best plan is to keep silence, till the mind grows tranquil. Meanwhile let us not be fretfully speaking to others of the affront we have received, but in silence offer it to Jesus Christ, Who endured so much for us.
II. Behave kindly to all, to Superiors and inferiors, to the high-born and peasant, to relatives and strangers; but more especially to the poor and infirm, and, above all, to those who regard us with an evil eye.
Gentleness in the correction of faults is more efficacious than any other means or reasons that may be employed. Be therefore on your guard against correcting in a fit of passion; for then harshness is sure to be mingled with it, either in word or action. Beware likewise of correcting the person in fault while he is excited; for in like cases the result is exasperation instead of improvement.
III. Envy not the great ones of this world their riches, honours, dignities, or applause, given them by men; but envy rather those who most love Jesus Christ, who undoubtedly enjoy greater happiness than the first monarchs of the earth. Return thanks to the Lord for enlightening you to discover the vanity of all worldly things, for the sake of which so many unhappily perish.
IV. In all our actions and thoughts let us seek only the pleasure of Almighty God, and not our private satisfaction; and let us therefore lay aside all disquietude when our efforts are attended with failure. And when we succeed, let us be no less cautious against seeking the thanks and approbation of men; should they murmur against us, let us pay no attention to this; our consolation will be to have striven to please God, and not men.
V. The chief means of perfection are:
1. To avoid all deliberate sin, however small. Should we, however, happen unfortunately to commit a fault, let us refrain from becoming angry and impatient with ourselves: we must, on such occasions, quietly repent of it; and while we make an act of love to Jesus Christ, and beg His help, we must promise Him not to repeat the fault.
2. To have an earnest desire to acquire the perfection of the Saints, and to suffer all things to please Jesus Christ; and if we have not this desire, to beseech Jesus Christ, through His bounty, to grant it us; since, as long as we do not feel a sincere desire of becoming Saints, we shall never make one step forward in the way of perfection.
3. To have a firm resolution of arriving at perfection: whoever is wanting in this resolution, works but languidly, and in the occasion does not overcome his repugnance; whereas a resolute soul, by the Divine aid, which never fails her, surmounts every obstacle.
4. To make daily two hours' or at least one hour's mental prayer; and, except in case of urgent necessity, never to relinquish it for the sake of any weariness, dryness, or trouble that we may experience.
5. To frequent Holy Communion several times a week, it is well to seek the counsel of our director, "in order that the practice may be carried out with greater prudence and more abundant merit." The same rule holds good with regard to external mortifications, such as fasting, wearing the cilice, taking the discipline, and the rest; mortifications of this kind, when practiced without obedience to our spiritual director, will either destroy health or produce vainglory. Hence it is necessary for each one to have his own director, so that all may be regulated in obedience to him.
6. To pray continually, by having recourse to Jesus Christ in all our necessities, by invoking likewise the intercession of our Angel Guardian, of our Holy Patrons, and most particularly of the Mother of God through whose hands Almighty God bestows all graces upon us. It has already been shown, at the end of Chapter IV that our welfare entirely depends on prayer. We must especially not pass a day without
begging God to grant us the gift of perseverance in His grace; whosoever asks for this perseverance obtains it, but he that does not ask for it obtains it not, and is damned: we must pray, too, that Jesus Christ may grant us His holy love and perfect conformity with His Divine will. Neither should we forget to pray for every grace through the merits of Jesus Christ. We must first make these prayers when we rise in the morning, and afterwards repeat them in our meditation, at Holy Communion, at the visit to the Blessed Sacrament, and again in the evening at the examination of conscience. We must particularly cry to God for help in the time of temptation, and more especially in temptations against purity, when we should not cease to call for succour on the holy names of Jesus and Mary. He that prays, conquers; he that prays not, is conquered.
VI. With respect to humility, not to pride ourselves on riches, honours, high birth, talents, or any other natural advantage, and still less on any spiritual gift, reflecting that all are the gifts of God. To consider ourselves the worst of all, and consequently to delight in being despised by others; and not to act as some do, who declare themselves the worst of men, and at the same time wish to be treated as the best. Moreover, to receive corrections humbly, and without attempts to excuse ourselves, and this even though blamed wrongfully; except when to defend ourselves would be necessary in order to prevent others being scandalized.
Much more ought we to banish all desire of appearing in public, and of being honoured by the world. The maxim of St. Francis should never be out of our sight: "We are just what we are before God." It would be still worse for a religious to covet posts of honour and superiority in his community. The true honour of a religious is to be the most humble of all; and he is the humblest of all who most joyfully embraces
VII. Detach your heart from all creatures. Whoever continues bound by the slightest fondness to things of earth can never rise to a perfect union with God.
To detach ourselves especially from an undue affection for our relatives, it was said by St. Philip Neri, that "whatever affection we bestow on creatures is so much taken from God." In deciding on a state of life we must be quite unbiased by the advice of parents, who generally keep their own interests in view, rather than our real welfare.
Cast away all considerations of human respect and of the vain esteem of men; and, above all, be detached from self-will. We must leave all, in order to gain all. "All for all," writes Thomas à Kempis..
VIII. Not to give way to anger, whatever happens; but if perchance the sparks of passion are suddenly lighted in our breasts, let us call on God, and refrain from acting or speaking till we are sure that our anger is appeased. We shall find it of great service to arm ourselves in prayer against every chance of irritation that may befall us, in order not then to give way to culpable resentment; we should always remember that saying of St. Francis de Sales: "I never remember to have been angry without afterwards regretting it."
IX. All sanctity consists in loving God, and all love of God consists in doing His blessed will. We must, therefore, bow with resignation to all the dispositions of Divine Providence without reserve; and so cheerfully submit to the adversity as well as prosperity which God sends, to the state of life in which God places us, to the sort of health which God bestows on us: and this should be the grand aim of all our prayers, namely, that God would enable us to fulfil His holy will in all things. And in order to be certain of the Divine will, the religious must depend on obedience to his Superior, and those who are in the world to their confessor; for nothing is more certain than that saying of St. Philip Neri: "We shall have no account to render to God of what is done through obedience." which is to be understood, of course, as long as there is no evident sin in the command.
X. There are two remedies against temptations: resignation and prayer. Resignation, for though temptations do not come from God, yet He permits them for our good.
Wherefore beware of yielding to vexation, however annoying the temptations may be; be resigned to the will of God, Who allows them; and take up the arms of prayer, which are the most powerful and the most certain to overcome our enemies. Bad thoughts, however filthy and abominable, are not sins; it is only the consenting to them which makes the sin. We shall never be overcome as long as we call on the holy names of Jesus and Mary. During the assaults of temptation, it is of service to renew our resolution to suffer death rather than to offend God; it is also a good practice repeatedly to sign ourselves with the Sign of the Cross, and with holy water; it is of great help, too, to discover the temptation to the confessor. But prayer is the most necessary remedy, and continual cries for help to Jesus and Mary.
XI. Then as to spiritual desolations, there are two acts in which we ought principally to exercise ourselves: 1st, to humble ourselves, with the sincere avowal that we deserve no better treatment; 2nd, to resign ourselves to the will of God, and to abandon ourselves into the arms of His Divine goodness. When God favours us with consolations, let us prepare ourselves for coming trials, which generally follow consolations. If it pleases God to leave us in desolation, let us be humble and fully resigned to His Divine will, and we shall thus reap far greater advantage from desolations than from consolations.
XII. In order to live always well, we must store up deeply in our minds certain general maxims of eternal life, such as the following:
All passes away in this life, whether it be joy or sorrow; but in eternity nothing passes away.
What good is all the greatness of this world at the hour of death?
All that comes from God, whether it be adverse or prosperous, all is good, and is for our welfare.
We must leave all, to gain all.
There is no peace to be found without God.
To love God and save one's soul is the one thing needful.
We need only be afraid of sin.
If God be lost, all is lost.
He that desires nothing in this world is master of the whole world.
He that prays is saved, and he that prays not is damned.
Let me die, and give God pleasure.
God is cheap at any cost.
Every pain is slight to him who has deserved Hell.
He bears all who looks on Jesus crucified.
Everything becomes a pain that is not done for God.
Whoever wishes for God alone is rich in every good.
Happy the man who can say: "My Jesus, I desire Thee alone and nothing more!"
He that loves God finds pleasure in everything; he that loves not God, finds no true pleasure in anything.