Today's contemplation


13th Mar

Ember-Wednesday, first week in Lent
On a further examnaton of the soul
Consider first, that we must also examine the state of our souls as to hidden sins, as to such sins as we may be guilty of in others; for in these kinds, many are guilty of great disorders, while they flatter themselves that all goes well with them. Few indeed are ignorant of their carnal sins; though even in these sometimes persons deceive themselves, but very many take little or no notice of their spiritual sins, which are more interior; and though less infamous in the eyes of men, are more heinous in the sight of God; see then thou examine thyself thoroughly upon these heads; for spiritual sins are commonly very subtle, and not easily discerned, without a diligent search. Nay sometimes such as are the most guilty, will not believe themselves guilty of them. These spiritual sins are of one of these five kinds, viz,, pride, covetousness, envy, secret malice, and spiritual sloth. Look into them one by one, and if thy self love will suffer thee to be impartial in thy search, in all probability thou wilt find thyself more guilty than thou art aware of.

Consider 2ndly, in particular, how full thou art of thyself; how fond of every thing that flatters thee; how presumptuous of thy own sufficiency; how apt to compare thyself with others in thy thoughts, and to give thyself the preference; how apt to despise others; how unwilling to suffer any reproof or contradiction; how ready to swell with indignation upon every trifling opposition or contempt; how apt to break out into a storm upon every supposed affront; how much concerned at what the world will think or say of thy performances; how much more solicitous for thy worldly honour than for the glory of God. And what is all this but an unhappy pride, which is laying waste thy soul, and corrupting its very vitals, whilst thou art not sensible of it. See also, as to covetousness, whether the love of the mammon of the world does not reign in thy heart. Alas! the greatest miser does nor think himself covetous; but the tree is to be known by its fruit - such as an anxious care and a perpetual solicitude about the things of the world; and upon this account neglecting prayer and other spiritual duties, or being continually distracted in them; thinking more of thy money than of thy God; locking up thy heart in thy chest; losing thy peace upon every loss or disappointment; and a strange unwillingness to part with thy money, even when the honour of God, or thy neighbour's necessities call for it. See if nothing of this be thy case. See if thou art not more afraid of losing thy worldly substance than thy God. If so, thou art not in the way to heaven.

Consider 3rdly, as to the other spiritual sins, whether there be no person for whom thou hast a secret envy? No one whose praises, whose endowments, corporal or spiritual, whose virtues or performances, make thee uneasy, and gnaw thy soul, as if their advantages were a lessening to the honour, praise, and esteem which thou affectest. O how common is this mortal crime, and how many detractions and other evils does it produce! and yet how many take very little notice of it! Is it not thy case? Then as to secret malice, rancour, and hatred how dost thou stand affected? Look well into thyself; for here again we are too apt to deceive ourselves; but we must judge of the tree by its fruits, that is, by our way of thinking, speaking, and acting with relation to our supposed enemies. Now, there is so very wide a difference between the fruits of charity and those of malice, between love and hatred, that if we are sincere in our examination we cannot well be deceived therein. And as to spiritual sloth, which is a clog upon the soul, infinitely opposite to the love of God, to the spirit of prayer, to a due care in frequenting the sacraments and other duties; is not this also a most common evil, which frequently amounts to a mortal sin and yet how seldom do lukewarm souls take notice of it.

Conclude upon declaring an eternal war against all these vices, and particularly against that which thou hast reason to apprehend is thy predominant passion, that is to say, the chiefest and most dangerous of all thy enemies.



14th Mar

Thursday, First week in Lent
On the sins which we are to inquire into
Consider first, that in order to know the true state of our souls, we must also examine how we discharge ourselves of all our duties and not only of all such duties as are common to all Christians, but also of all such as are particularly incumbent on us in our station of life. Alas! how many take notice of their sins of commission, but not of their sins of omission! How many make some account of such duties as relate to the regulating themselves, but are not concerned to see that others under their charge serve the Lord! How many examine themselves upon the commandments of God, and the precepts of the Church, as far as they appertain to all Christians in general; but pass over the particular duties and obligations annexed to their calling or state of life, to which, nevertheless, they are strictly bound either by law, or by covenant, or by oath, or by the very nature of the calling. Reflect thou my soul, on all these things. The grand duty of man, the great end for which he came into the world, his whole business in life, is to dedicate and consecrate his very being and his whole life to the love and service of his Maker. All thy days, O man, are given thee for this end. The omission of this great duty is highly criminal; it is usually the first sin that man falls into. And yet how few sufficiently reflect on it! Alas, how many millions of souls are lost by this omission, who, though they are neither guilty of blasphemy, nor murder, nor adultery, nor theft, &c., are justly condemned for the omission of dedicating themselves in earnest to the love and service of God!

Consider 2ndly, Christian soul, what care thou takest of thy children, of thy servants, and of all under thy charge. The regularity of thy own life will never bring thee to heaven, if through thy negligence of them their lives be irregular. Reflect ever on this, and see if thou art not guilty of many criminal omissions in this kind. Again, reflect on the particular obligations annexed to thy calling, and how far thou performest what the law of God or man requires of thee in thy station; for example, that of a pastor, a teacher, a lawyer, a physician, a tradesman, a servant, &c. See whether thou makest good thy covenants. And if an oath were required at thy first admission, or afterwards, see what care thou hast taken to discharge thyself of the obligations of it. Alas! how many, in entering upon their respective callings, take certain oaths, and afterwards perhaps think no more of them! And can this be the way to heaven! See then how necessary it is that a Christian, who has a mind to secure his soul, should look well into himself.

Consider 3rdly, whether thou hast nothing to apprehend with regard to thy salvation, from the sins of other men. And this not only from thy omissions or thy neglect of restraining those under thy charge from sin, or of keeping away from them the occasions of sin; but because of thy commissions too, in promoting or encouraging sin by word or work; in enticing or provoking to sin; in flattering or applauding people in their sins; and in contributing to keep up the pernicious maxims of the world, in point of honour, interest, and pleasure, by which numbers of poor souls are enslaved to sin, and dragged into hell. Reflect withal how little guard thou generally hast upon thy words in thy ordinary conversation, and whether thy carelessness therein may not frequently be attended with very bad consequences to the souls of thy neighbours, by giving them some occasion or other of sin, either in thought, word, or deed? Alas! how many sins will be brought to light in the great day, which careless souls, in the time of this life, but little apprehend, and so continue till death in the guilt of them.

Conclude to make such good use of the spiritual exercises of this time; and especially to study so well what passes within thee, as to be no longer blind to thy own sins. O my God! do thou give me grace now at least, perfectly to know myself. O grant that I may renounce, and do penance for all my past sins, and henceforward settle my soul upon a foundation that may stand for eternity.



15th Mar

Friday, First week in Lent
On exercising works of mercy

Consider first, that in order to find mercy we must show mercy. 'Blessed are the merciful,' said our Lord, 'for they shall obtain mercy,' Matt. v. 7. And on the other hand 'judgment without mercy,' saith St. James, 'to him that hath not done mercy,' ch. ii. 13. God expressly rejects the fast of them that refuse to show mercy to their neighbour, Isai. lviii. He declares he will neither give ear to their prayers, nor accept of their sacrifices. Prov. xxi. 13. Isai. i. 11, 15, 16, 17, 18. If then, my soul, thou desirest at this time effectually to sue for the divine mercy in the forgiveness of thy sins, see that thy fasting and prayer be accompanied with alms-deeds, 'If thou have much, give abundantly; if thou have little, take care even so to be willing to bestow a little,' Tob. iv: 9. This mercy and charity exercised by thee, will recommend thy fasting and prayer to that God who is all charity, and whose tender mercies are above all his works.

Consider 2ndly, how many ways, and upon how many occasions, the word of God recommends almsdeeds to us. It promises an eternal kingdom in heaven to all those who are diligent in this exercise, and threatens with eternal damnation all those who are negligent, Matt. xxv. It shows that the definite sentence which is to decide our eternal doom, is to pass upon each one of us according to his behaviour in this respect. Ibid. It encourages even the greatest sinners 'to redeem their sins by alms, and their iniquities with works of mercy to the poor.' Dan. iv. 24. It assures them that by the means of alms 'all things shall be made clean to them,' Luke xi. 41; that 'alms deliver from all sin and from death, and will not suffer the soul to go into darkness,' Tob. iv. 11; that Christ considers what is done for the poor, as done for himself; and will reward it accordingly, Matt. xxv.; that 'he that hath mercy on the poor, lendeth to the Lord, and he will repay him,' Prov. xix. 17. We pass over many other texts, promising all kind of good, both for this world and the next, to works of mercy; and threatening the hard-hearted and unmerciful, with the worst of God's judgments. O! my soul, attend to these heavenly oracles; embrace with all the affection of the heart this lovely virtue of mercy, the favourite daughter of the great King. It was mercy brought him down from heaven to thee; and mercy must carry thee up to him thither.

Consider 3rdly, the conditions that must accompany our alms, that they may be capable of producing these great effects. 1st. They must be liberal, and proportionable to our ability; 'He that soweth sparely shall reap but sparingly.' What then can the worldling expect, who for every penny he gives to God, in the person of the poor, gives a pound to the devil, and to his own passions and lusts? 2ndly. Our alms must be given with a pure intention; that is, not out of ostentation or vain-glory, or for an other human motive, but for God's sake; otherwise they will have no reward from God. 3rdly. Our alms can never effectually procure for us the remission of our sins except we join with them a sincere repentance for our sins, together with an effectual resolution of loving and serving God for the future. Christians, take good notice of these three articles; and particularly remember, that neither alms nor any thing else can give any manner of security to any man that wilfully persists in mortal sin.

Conclude to esteem, love, and practise, upon every occasion, this blessed virtue of mercy. But see that thy intention be pure, and beware of losing the benefit of it by an impenitent heart.



16th Mar

Saturday, First week in Lent
On the spiritual works of mercy

Consider first, that the spiritual works of mercy, by which we relieve our neighbours in the necessities of their souls, are of far greater value in the sight of God, than such as merely relate to their bodies. If, then, he is pleased to promise such ample rewards to the feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and such like good works, which relate only to those corruptible carcasses, and to the short time of our mortal pilgrimage; how much more will he esteem and reward those works of mercy and charity, by which immortal souls, made after God's own image, and redeemed by the blood of Christ, are drawn out of darkness and sin, rescued from Satan and hell, and brought to God and a happy eternity 'He that causeth a sinner to be converted from the error of his way,' saith the Scripture, 'shall save his soul from death, and shall cover a multitude of sins,’ James v. 20. 'And they that instruct many to justice, shall shine as stars for all eternity.' Dan. xii. 3.

Consider 2ndly, that the spiritual works of mercy are principally exercised by reclaiming sinners from their evil ways, even the ways of death and hell, by admonitions, remonstrances, fraternal corrections, &c.; by enlightening and instructing such as, through ignorance, are in danger of losing their precious souls, or by procuring them this light and instruction from other proper persons; by comforting the afflicted, encouraging the pusillanimous, upholding and assisting them that are under temptations, reconciling such as are at variance, bearing with all, forgiving all, overcoming evil with good, and praying for all. O how happy, how precious in the sight of God, is a life spent in such works of mercy and charity as these are! And how happy will that death be that shall conclude such a life! O my soul, that we may lead such a life! O that we may die such a death!

Consider 3rdly, that these spiritual works of mercy, are not only the most acceptable of all, and the most meritorious in the sight of God, but also are of strict obligation, and this not only to pastors, but to all other Christians, according to their circumstances and abilities. Charity is a virtue of universal obligation, and the principal object of that love, which charity obliges us to have for our neighbours, is the eternal welfare of their immortal souls. If then we can unconcernedly see numbers of souls crowding into hell, without affording them all the help that lies in our power, in order to rescue them from that extremity of endless misery, is it not evident that we have no charity for them; and if not, may not our case be one day as bad as theirs? What then must we do? We must gladly lay hold of every opportunity of contributing what lies in us to the conversion and salvation of any one of these poor unhappy souls, and we shall quickly find that opportunities of this nature will not be wanting, if we take the matter to heart. At least there are two ways, and those the most effectual of all, of reclaiming sinners and bringing them to God, which are certainly in the power of every one, and from which no one can be excused, and these are the example of a holy life, and the efficacy of fervent prayer poured out to God in behalf of poor sinners.

Conclude ever to make use of these two, the most effectual ways of bringing sinners to God; yet, so as not to neglect any other means that lie in thy power. What a comfort will it be to thee; what an honour, what a happiness, to be the instrument of God in the salvation of souls in that same great work, which brought the Son of God from heaven. But what dreadful punishments mayest thou not justly apprehend if for want of this charity, any of these souls should perish, because thou wouldst not lend them a helping hand to withdraw them from the precipice to which they were running! Ah! will not their blood one day cry to heaven for vengeance against thee.



17th Mar

Second Sunday in Lent
On Prayer

Consider first, that the time of Lent is not only a time for fasting and giving alms, but is also in a particular manner a time of devotion and prayer. Fasting, alms, and prayer, are three sisters, which ought to go hand in hand, and with united forces, to offer a holy violence to heaven, which is not to be taken but by violence. If, then, prayer be at all times necessary, if it be the very life of a Christian soul, it is certainly a most indispensable fact of our duty at this holy time. But what is prayer? It is a conversation with God; it is a raising up of the mind and of the heart to God; it is an address of the soul to God, in which we present him with our homage, our adoration, praise, and thanksgiving: we exercise ourselves in his presence in acts of faith, hope, and love, and we lay before him all our necessities, and those of the whole world, begging mercy, grace, and salvation at his hands. O my soul, how happy it is! how glorious, how pleasant to entertain oneself thus with thy God! Is it not in some measure anticipating the joys of heaven? For what is heaven but to be with God?

Consider 2ndly, more in particular the most excellent advantages the soul enjoys by the means of prayer. It gives her a free access whensoever she pleases to come before the throne of his divine majesty, and to make her addresses to him - any hour of the day or night - with a positive assurance from him of meeting with a favourable audience; it admits her as often as she pleases into his private closet, where she may find him all alone, and treat with him with all freedom as long as she will; and she may be assured he will never be wearied with her importunity, nor shut the door against her. Will any prince of the earth allow any thing like this even to his greatest favourite? O Christian soul, what an honour is this! And why art not thou more ambitious of it?

Consider 3rdly, how delightful prayer is to the soul that truly loveth God. The true lover finds the greatest pleasure in thinking of and speaking with the object of his love. If then, the soul truly love God, nothing will be more sweet to her than this heavenly intercourse and conversation with her sovereign good. The Saints have found it so when they have passed whole nights in prayer, and thought the time very short through the delight they found in the company of their beloved. O my soul, if thou find no such delight in prayer, see if it be not for want of love.

Conclude to embrace this heavenly exercise of prayer at all opportunities. Here is to be found thy greatest honour, interest, and pleasure, and, in a word, thy whole happiness both for time and eternity.



On St. Patrick, Apostle of Ireland

Consider first, how much we owe to God for having called this nation, by the ministry of St. Patrick, from darkness and the shadow of death that is, from infidelity, idolatry, and vice, into his admirable light; and from being the seat of the reign of Satan, where he for so many ages had exercised his tyranny without control, to become an island of Saints! O! what ought to be then the devotion of this day! how ought we to glorify God for this inestimable benefit of our vocation, and for all those other unspeakable gifts and graces which have been derived from this source! What veneration do we not owe to this our blessed Apostle, whom our Lord has chosen to be his instrument in this great work; who by his labours, by his preaching, and by his prayers, first brought Christ amongst us, and who first opened to us, through Christ, the fountains of mercy, grace, and salvation, which flow to this day! O! let us praise the Lord in his Saints.

Consider 2ndly, in what manner God prepared St. Patrick for this admirable work, and by what steps he brought him on from virtue to virtue, till he was perfectly qualified for the Apostleship. His Providence ordained that in his tender years he should be carried captive into that very land which he was afterwards to deliver from the slavery of Satan. Here he not only became acquainted with the language and manners of the people, but what was of infinitely more advantage to him, learned to spend his whole time, night and day, whilst he tended his master’s cattle, in the exercises of prayer and penance; by which he laid a solid foundation for an apostolic life. After he was released from his slavery, and received amongst the clergy, he employed many years abroad, under the discipline of the most eminent servants of God, in order to dispose and qualify himself to answer that divine call, by which he had been invited to the conversion of the Irish, which he then took in hand, when after this long preparation, he received both his episcopal consecration and mission from the Vicar of Jesus Christ, St. Celestine, Bishop of Rome. Thus the Spirit of God, by a long course of spiritual exercises, fitted our Saint for the great work for which he designed him; thus he gradually took full possession of that soul, by which he was to bring so many thousand souls to be his eternal temples. See, Christians, by what kind of exercises, of retirement, penance, and long-continued prayer, you ought also to be prepared, if you hope the Spirit of God should do great things by you or for you.

Consider 3rdly, the admirable ways and means by which St. Patrick was enabled to bring over a whole nation from their errors and vices to the faith and light of the Gospel, in spite of all the opposition of the world, the flesh, and the devil. These were, principally, his ardent zeal for the glory of God, and the salvation of souls; his profound humility; his prayer which was most fervent and continual; and the Spirit with which he delivered the word of God. This word of God in his mouth was like a fire, which breaking forth from the great furnace of divine love which possessed his own breast, communicated its bright flames to the hearts of all that heard him, and won them over to Christ; his word was mighty to break in pieces even the hardest rocks, and to bring into captivity every understanding, and every will, to the obedience of Christ. See, ye ministers of God, by this example, by what kind of arms you are to bring souls to God; see by what kind of arms you are to overcome all opposition of the enemy, and effectually to establish the reign of Christ in those souls he has committed to our charge. True zeal, profound humility, a spirit of prayer, and a heart burning with ardent charity, will more effectually enable you to convert sinners, than if you were even to raise the dead to life. See, all ye Christians in general, in this great example of our Saint, what are the principal ingredients of true sanctity, and what are the virtues and exercises that will bring you also to be Saints. The zeal, or desire of pleasing God in all things, a sincere humility, fervent prayer, and true charity in both its branches, are necessary for all: these will surely make us Saints, and nothing less than these can secure the salvation of any one.

Conclude to offer up to God, on this day, a heart full of love and gratitude for the innumerable graces and blessings bestowed upon this island through the ministry of St. Patrick, and of that long train of Saints who have descended from him. Let us never degenerate from these our parents in Christ, or forget the glorious examples of their heroic virtues. O! who shall give us to see Ireland once more an island of Saints!

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18th Mar


Monday, second week in Lent
On the necessity of prayer

Consider first, that all Christians are indispensably obliged to pray, because it is an homage and worship we owe to God. He is our first beginning and our last end; he is the inexhaustible source of all our good; therefore he justly expects we should daily worship him, and daily acknowledge our total dependence on him, by a diligent application to him by prayer. We are all bound by our creation and redemption frequently to present ourselves before the throne of God with acts of adoration, praise, and thanksgiving; we are all bound to honour him by frequent acts of faith, hope, and love; and it is in prayer, and by prayer, we perform these duties: they are all neglected if prayer be neglected. It was appointed in the divine law that twice every day, viz., morning and evening, an unspotted lamb should be offered in sacrifice, in the temple of God, as a daily worship he expected from his people; and shall not the children of the new law be equally obliged, twice a day at least, to offer up their homage of prayer in the temple of their hearts? Daniel chose rather to be cast into the den of the lions than not worship his God by prayer three times a-day. And shall not this convince Christians of the strict necessity of this exercise?

Consider 2ndly, the necessity of prayer, inasmuch as it is by divine appointment the channel through which the graces and blessings of God are to flow into our souls. We can do nothing towards our salvation without the grace of God; but with his grace we can do all things. Now, prayer is the great means of procuring and obtaining this all-necessary grace; 'Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you.' O how often is this repeated and inculcated in holy writ! How much are we there pressed to be earnest and fervent in prayer! Does our God then stand in need of us or our prayers? No, certainly. He stands not in need of us, but we continually stand in need of him; and therefore out of love to us, he is so often pressing us to pray, because he sees that without frequent and fervent prayer we must be for ever miserable. Blessed be his name for this his infinite charity.

Consider 3rdly, the necessity of prayer, from the warfare in which we are engaged the whole time of our mortal pilgrimage, with three most desperate enemies, the world, the flesh, and the devil. We are surrounded with dangers on all sides, and with dangers that threaten us with nothing less than the loss of God, and a miserable eternity. We walk in the midst of snares; our way is beset with robbers and murderers; we breathe a pestilential air; we live in a world that is very wicked; in the midst of worldlings, a deluded people who are strangers to the Gospel, who by word and work encourage sin, and seek to drag us along with them into the broad road of perdition. We carry about with us a load of flesh, which weighs down the poor soul, and tyrannizes over her with its passions and lusts; these hold a correspondence with the third enemy the devil, and are ever ready to betray us to him, to make us his companions in never-ending woe. We have whole legions of his wicked angels to fight against, crafty and malicious spirits, bent upon sparing no pains to destroy us. And what shall we do? Or what can we do to escape all these dangers, and overcome all these enemies? We must watch arid pray; and God will watch over us, and give us the victory over them all. Prayer will engage God on our side, and all our enemies shall fall before us; for if God is with us, it is no matter who is against us.

Conclude to have recourse to prayer in all dangers and temptations; and since our whole life is full of dangers and temptations, let us make our whole life, as much as possible, a life of prayer.



19th Mar
St. Joseph, Defender of Holy Church - Pray for us

On St. Joseph

Consider first, the testimony that the Holy Ghost has given to the virtue and sanctity of St. Joseph, in telling us in the gospel that he was a just man. And doubtless the Almighty would never have made choice of any man to be the chaste bridegroom of the purest of virgins, and the foster-father and guardian of his own divine Son, that was not consummate in purity and sanctity. Learn from hence, Christian Souls, what kind of qualifications will make you also agreeable to Jesus and Mary. You will certainly drive them far away from you by criminal impurity. Admire the command St. Joseph had of his passions, in his joining perfect continency with the state of marriage; and in the evenness of soul, which he preserved under all events, how adverse soever; and learn of him to keep thy passions under subjection, and cheerfully to submit thy will on all occasions, to the appointments of heaven.

Consider 2ndly, the great examples St. Joseph has given us of all other virtues; his lively faith in a ready submission of his soul to the belief of the most difficult mysteries, relating to the incarnation of the Son of God; his ardent love of his dearest Jesus; his concern and tender care for him in his infancy and childhood; and his wonderful diligence in all that belonged to his charge; his meekness and charity to the blessed Virgin, when to his unspeakable surprise, he found her with child; his ready obedience, without demur or reply, to every intimation of the will of heaven, whatsoever hardships or labours it might put him to, as in the case of his flight into Egypt; his patience under afflictions and persecutions; his humble submission, notwithstanding his royal extraction, to the toil and labour of a handicraft, to gain a poor livelihood for himself and for Jesus and Mary, by the sweat of his brow; together with amiable simplicity in his whole comportment, and perpetual attention to God, by divine contemplation. Christians, let us imitate his virtues, whatsoever our station of life may be; we see by his example, that perfect sanctity may be found even in the midst of the distractions of a worldly calling, and that if we are not Saints, it is not the fault of our calling, but of our not corresponding with divine grace. St. Joseph found a great advantage to his soul from his having Jesus always in his company, and working with him. O let us also take care to have Jesus always with us, (wherever we are, or whatever we are doing,) by a spirit of recollection, and a constant attention to him, and never to drive him away by any sinful conversation, by entertaining his enemies in our interior, and we shall quickly be sensible of the fruits his presence will bring to our souls.

Consider 3rdly, and learn from the example of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, how great an error the world lies under, when it flies with so much eagerness from poverty and labour, as conceiving them to be great evils, which the wisdom of God made choice of for himself, for his blessed Mother, and his reputed father, and which they have consecrated by their life and practice. And for thy part, my soul, have another way of thinking; and if thy condition be that of the rich, be not puffed up with it, but rather humble thyself to see thou art so unlike to that blessed family, and fear the many dangers that riches are exposed to; despise not the poor, but ever honour and succour them, as the relations of Christ, or as Christ himself: thou hast his authority for doing so. If thou art poor, remember thou wearest the livery of Christ, and of his family; comfort thyself in the resemblance thou bearest to them; and take care lest, by thy murmuring or impatience, thou lose any of the advantages which thy state entitles thee to. If thou followest any trade or handicraft take St. Joseph for thy patron and for thy pattern. Thou seest, by his example, that sanctity is not inconsistent with thy business. But then take heed, lest by any fraud or injustice, or by any excessive solicitude for the things of this world, to the neglect of thy soul, thou banish Jesus from thy shop or house. Be sure to make him the companion of all thy labours, offer up all thou dost to him, and often entertain thyself with him. If God has blessed thee with children, take care, by an early diligence, to form Christ in them, by constantly instilling into their minds the fear and love of God, and the horror of sin; thus thou mayest, like St. Joseph, bring up Jesus in these little ones.

Conclude to honour St. Joseph, by an imitation of his virtues, and in order to this, implore the assistance of his prayers. His interest is great with our Lord, as St. Teresa declares she frequently experienced. Beg in particular his intercession for the obtaining of a happy death - St. Joseph was happy in death, by having our Lord and the blessed Virgin to attend and assist him. Let us, like him, keep ever close to them in life, and they will be with us in death.



19th Mar (ii)

Tuesday, Second week in Lent
On attention in prayer

Consider first, that the most essential condition to make our prayer either acceptable to God, or beneficial to ourselves, is a serious attention; it deserves not the name of prayer without it. To pray with wilful distraction is a mockery; it is affronting the divine majesty.'This people,' saith he, 'honoureth me with their lips but their hearts are far from me,' Isais. xxix. 13. See, my soul, if this he not too often thy case? And if so, seek a speedy remedy for so great an evil. There needs no greater to sink thee into the very depth of all misery for time and eternity. For as he cannot fail to live well, who has found the way to pray well; so he that prays ill must not expect to live well, or die well.

Consider 2ndly, that in order to pray well, our heart and mind must go always along with what we are about, or, which is the best attention of all, and most conducing to bring us to the love of God, our thoughts must then he fixed in God; not considered as abroad, but as within our own souls; not as represented by corporeal images, but as the being of all beings, the eternal, incomprehensible, infinite truth. But that we may be better able to keep this attention in the time of prayer, we must hearken to the admonition of the wise man. 'Before prayer prepare thy soul, and be not like a man that tempteth God.' This preparing the soul for prayer consists in discharging beforehand, as much as possible, all foreign thoughts; restraining even at other times all the rovings of the imagination, and vain amusements; untying the heart from its disorderly affections, and beginning by a serious recollection of the soul in the presence of God, and an earnest address to him, to teach us and help us to pray as we ought.

Consider 3rdly, that if, after taking these precautions, we still find ourselves hurried away with a multitude of distractions in the time of prayer, we must not be discouraged. For as long as our will has no share in these distractions, they will not be imputed to us; nor hinder the fruit of our prayers. ‘Tis the heart, ‘tis the will that God regards; our care must be to keep this right; to set out at first with a good heart, and a will to seek our heavenly Father, and not to retract this by any wilful turning aside from him, and we may be assured that he that seeks and sees the heart, will not be offended at the involuntary wanderings of the imagination, which can never separate the soul from him.

Conclude upon ever keeping a close guard upon thy mind and upon thy heart, if thou desire to pray well, and this not only at the time of prayer, but at all times. For if thou live in a constant dissipation of thought at other times, and with a heart set upon irregular affections and cheating vanities, how canst thou expect but that both thy mind and heart, in the time of prayer, will be still running after those things they are accustomed to, and which they have unhappily made their treasure instead of God.



20th Mar

Wednesday, second seek in lent
On other conditions of prayer
Consider first, those words of St. James iv. 3. 'You ask and you receive not because you ask amiss.' Great promises are made in holy writ in favour of prayer; but these are to be understood, provided we ask for what we ought, and in the manner we ought. But if we are more concerned for the temporal goods of this transitory life than for the eternal welfare of our souls, and make such things as those the principal subjects of our prayers, we must not be surprised if God does not hear us. For in these cases we often know not what we ask, or we know not at least what is expedient for us, and it is a mercy of God not to grant us those things, which, if he were to grant them, might be the occasion of the loss of our souls. In our prayers we must seek first the kingdom of God and his justice, and as to those other things, God will give us them as far as he sees expedient for us. And if at any time we pray for such things, or pray to be delivered from sufferings and crosses, we must ever pray with submission and conformity to the will of God; if it be his will, and if he sees it expedient, and not otherwise. 'Not my will, but thy will be done.'

Consider 2ndly, that we must not only pray for such things as are truly good, as being agreeable to God’s holy will, and conducing to our true and everlasting welfare, but we must also pray in a proper manner, that is, with a pure intention, and with a lively faith and confidence in God. Great promises are made in Scripture to prayer, but it is to prayer made with faith and confidence in God. The honour of his divine majesty is engaged to stand by those that pray with a strong belief; and trust in him. But as for him that prayeth 'wavering in faith, let him not think that he shall receive anything from the Lord,' James i. 6. If, then, we would pray to the purpose, we must come before God with a lively sense of his boundless power, goodness, and mercy; with a conviction of his being ever faithful to his promises, and that his divine truth cannot fail. And we must not trust in the least in ourselves, nor ground ourselves upon any merits of our own, but put an entire confidence in God, who is more desirous to give us his grace than we are to ask it, and we shall quickly experience how ready he will be to show us mercy, and to hear our prayers. So true it is that no one ever trusted in him and was confounded.

Consider 3rdly, that in order to obtain our requests, we must take care to present them in the name of Jesus Christ, and through the merit of his death and passion. What we ask of God is mercy, grace, and salvation; now, our faith assures us there is no means of coming at mercy, grace, or salvation, but through Jesus Christ. 'No one can come to the Father but by him,' St. John xiv. 6. 'Whatsoever we shall ask the Father in his name, shall be given to us,' chap. xvi. 23, 24. But 'there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved.' Acts iv. 12. Here then is the great ground of that faith and confidence with which we draw near to God, and address our prayers to him. The Son of God has died for us; he has made over to us the merits of his death and passion; he has purchased for us those graces which we pray for; his blood continually pleads in our behalf. Through him, then, 'let us go with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace in seasonable aid.' Heb. iv. 16.

Conclude to take the blood of Christ along with you, as often as you desire to go by prayer within the veil, into the sanctuary of God; this will open to you the way to all mercy, grace, and salvation.



21st day of Mar

Thursday, second week in Lent
On fervour in prayer

Consider first, the necessity of fervour in prayer, that is to say, that we should be quite in earnest in our addresses to God. For how can we expect that God should hear or regard our supplications when we present them with so much indolence and indifference, as if we told the Almighty we did not care whether he heard us or not? Such lukewarm prayer as this, instead of drawing down his blessing upon us, will rather move him to indignation. It is doing the work of God negligently, which is a thing of the worst consequences to a Christian soul. Fervour and eagerness in prayer is recommended to us by the great example of the Son of God, 'who in the days of his flesh, with a strong cry and tears, offered up his prayers and supplications;' Heb. v. 7. It is recommended by the doctrine and example of all the Saints. Not a fervour of the imagination, but of the will; not expressed by the motion of the head, or any outward gestures of the body, but consisting in the strong desires of the soul, suing with all her power for the mercy and grace of God.

Consider 2ndly,
how our Lord recommends to us, St: Luke xviii. 1, 'That we should always pray, and not faint;' that is, not to be discouraged, or to give over, if we don’t immediately find the effect of our prayers; but by the example of the poor widow, whose importunity prevailed even upon a wicked judge, still continue to knock at the gate of heaven, till God is pleased to open to us, according to his merciful promise. Perseverance in prayer, and a holy importunity, were the means by which the Saints obtained such great things of God. It is well if the want of these be not the true reason why we are not favoured in the like manner. The hand of God is certainly not shortened. But alas we have not that faith, that fervour, that perseverance, which they had, who, like their Lord, sometimes passed even whole nights in prayer.

Consider 3rdly,
that nothing contributes more to render our prayers effectual with God than a profound humility. A contrite and humble heart God never despises. ‘The prayer of him that humbles himself,’ saith the wise man, Ecclus. xxxv. 21, 'shall pierce the clouds - and not depart till the Most High behold.' Humility always finds admittance with God, who ever resists the proud, and gives his grace to the humble. If then, my soul, thou desire that thy prayers should find admittance, see they be ever accompanied with humility. 'I will speak to my Lord,' said holy Abraham, Gen. xviii. 27, 'whereas I am but dust and ashes.' Alas! poor soul of mine, thy whole being is a mere nothing in the sight of that great God, before whom thou presentest thyself in prayer. His majesty fills heaven and earth and both heaven and earth dwindle away just to nothing at all in his presence. But what a figure, then, do thy crimes and abominations make in his eyes and how wretched an object do they make of thee! See, then, what pressing motives thou hast to humble thyself in prayer, in consideration of thy sins, and of what thou hast deserved by them. Nothing but humble prayer can remedy all thy evils, and this will effectually do it.

ever to pray with fervour and humility, and, in order thereto, begin always thy prayer by placing thyself in the presence of God, and humbly imploring the assistance of his divine Spirit. None but he can teach thee to pray well.