Voice of Jesus 15: One Defect At A Time
Attack, first, that vice or defect which may be a
stumbling-block, or a just cause of offense,
to thy neighbor; afterwards, the one
which seems to be thy chief fault.
1. The Voice of Jesus. My Child, to obtain perfect purity of heart, it is not enough to cherish a good will, to meditate and pray frequently, to confess often and devoutly. These means are very efficient and necessary, and therefore never to be omitted, nor neglected. But, alone, they do not suffice; since they are not wont to pluck up completely the roots of vices and defects.
It is necessary then, to use besides, another means, whereby thou mayst, so to speak, exterminate the noxious roots, and thus render thy heart perfectly clean.
These sweet and wholesome effects are produced, in a marvelous manner, by self-examination, an exercise apparently trifling indeed, and a small matter, but in itself very efficient, and more deeply penetrating than any two-edged instrument, reaching even to the dividing of the soul and the discerning of spirits, and searching into the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Nor does it serve merely to root out evil habits and defects; but, what is more wonderful, to acquire solid virtues, and even to attain to perfection.
2. This self-examination is threefold. The first, which is used to collect oneself, consists in this: that, when an opportunity offers, thou turn to thy heart, and inspect it for a short time, observing whence it is moved, with what things it busies itself; or what it has done, and in what manner; what it should do in future, and how.
Opportunities of performing a very short self-examination of this sort are wont to present themselves frequently. When, for example, thou beginnest any of the more important actions of the day; and when thou hast performed them.
When something is presented to thy senses, or to thy mind, by which thou mayst be allured, or tempted; also, when thou hast fallen into some defect.
When thou meetest with any difficulty which may occasion trouble, or disturb thee: lastly, as often as, during some length of time, thou hast not looked into thy heart.
Now, this can easily be done, at any time, and in any place, even whilst others are present, and without attracting their attention.
In the exercise itself, there is no difficulty whatever. At first, indeed, some attention should be used, but no straining of the mind; and, in a short time, thou shalt begin to acquire a holy and consoling habit, and gather from it the sweetest and most wholesome fruits.
3. The second is a general examination, by which, twice, or at least once, every day, thou devotest a short time, some minutes, exclusively to asking of thyself an account of thy way of living.
Having briefly returned thanks to God, and begged for divine light, inspect and scrutinize, how, since thou didst last examine thyself, thou hast deported thyself, in thy exterior and interior.
Examine thy thoughts, words, and deeds: see wherein thou hast sinned, or failed: then, carefully mark each sin, or defect, at least mentally.
If thou hast already practically learnt something of the interior life, place thy heart near to Mine, compare, and notice the difference between the thoughts, sensations, and actions of both.
After thou hast, in this manner, discovered thy faults and failings, then see and acknowledge thy unthankfulness for My Divine favors; form an act of sorrow, as perfect as possible, beg for grace to amend thyself, and to make better progress.
4. Lastly, the particular examination is that, by means of which thou exertest thyself, to root out, separately, only one vice or defect at a time.
Most wonderful is the power, and incredible is the efficacy, of this exercise. Would that thou didst understand it well, My Child, and that thou didst perform it in a proper manner!
There is no habit so deep-rooted, no vice so great, which, by this means, cannot be overcome and subdued.
For, with God’s grace, it can, in some manner, do all things. How many sinners have, by its means, been freed from vices, which had grown on them like a second nature! How many souls has it enabled to cleanse themselves thoroughly! How many has it helped to reach perfection!
Whatever defects, then, thou mayst have, be of good cheer, My Child: sure art thou of victory; sure of future freedom, if thou use this means diligently and perseveringly.
Attack, first, that vice or defect which may be a stumbling-block, or a just cause of offense, to thy neighbor; afterwards, the one which seems to be thy chief fault. When the leader is overthrown, the rest are easily overcome.
5. Now, thy method of proceeding shall be this: In the morning, resolve firmly and considerately, that during the day, thou wilt shun what thou mayst have chosen to be avoided in a particular manner; at the same time, beg for grace, that thou mayst be faithful to thy resolution.
Then, twice, or only once a day, according as thou makest the general self-examination, thou shalt also search thyself and see how often, since the last scrutiny, thou hast failed in thy special resolve; and mark the number of times.
Afterwards, grieve not only for thy faults in general, but also for these defects in particular; and resolve again to be specially on thy guard against them, and for this end implore also special grace.
Meanwhile, My Child, it will help thee very much, if, when thou perceivest thyself growing, in some way, indifferent or careless, thou inflict upon thyself some small punishment; and this as often as thou offendest against thy particular examination.
6. But that thou mayst use rightly and constantly these and other means, thou needest a guide to direct, to teach, to fashion thee; to keep thee in, or stir thee up, and cheer thee on at all times.
No one, when left to himself, can walk with safety in the path of the spiritual and interior life; for, oftentimes, he will be exposed to the danger of going astray, of losing heart, of falling into the snares of the foe; nay more, of perishing.
Wert thou a Saint, or a chosen Apostle, thou yet wouldst need some guide. Was not Paul, although a Vessel of election to carry My name among the nations, at My command, instructed and directed by Ananias? Were not the Saints trained to holiness by others that led a holy life?
Pray, therefore, My Child, that thou mayst be worthy to find a guide according to My Heart, either in thy Confessor, thy Superior, or some other person, who possesses authority, skill and experience in spiritual matters, and a practical knowledge of the interior life.
To such a one, My Child, do thou occasionally make known thy heart: at certain times give some account of thyself, that thou mayst know whether thou advancest rightly; what thou must correct, and how it is to be done; on what thou oughtest to insist, and in what manner it is to be accomplished.
The subjects, concerning which this interior manifestation should be made, are usually: the disclosing of the soul’s state or habitual feeling, whether it be peaceful or agitated; what longings for a more perfect life thou feelest within thyself; what obstacles embarrass thee; to what practices of devotion and mortification thou art wont to apply thyself.
What method thou hast in prayer and meditation; with what relish and fruit thou advancest by this method; what spiritual books thou readest, and whether they agree with the present degree of thy interior life: whether thou readest in a manner proper and profitable.
In what manner thou approachest the Sacraments; with what preparation, with what feelings of piety, with what thanksgiving, with what results.
How thou makest thy self-examinations; with what painstaking, and with what fruit.
How thou performest the duties of thy state of life, the obligations of thy office, thy ordinary actions – by what motive or principle, whether of nature or of grace, with what object, what end thou hast in view.
In what manner thou deportest thyself towards others, with what disposition of heart, with what profit or loss to thyself and to them.
With what fidelity thou obeyest God s inspirations; how thou feelest disposed towards Me; finally, in what degree thou relishest the sentiments of My Heart.
Do thou, My Child, modestly and religiously, with humble candor and docile charity, make known such and similar matters, sometimes one, then another, according as spiritual necessity or usefulness may require.
All this, if thou perform it after this manner, thou shalt find easy, most useful, and full of consolation.*
7. The Voice of the Disciple. Lord Jesus, to execute all those things, greatly, indeed, do I need light from above, wherewith to discover my defects, and divine assistance, to remove them.
For many of them lie hidden from human eyes, nor can I see them myself, neither can any one point them out to me, unless aided by a supernatural light.
But if, with the brightness of this light, Thou deignest to illumine my inmost soul, behold! all things therein, great and small, shall be unveiled. For even as the sun shining into a chamber reveals the very atoms that fill its every space, so Thy grace gleaming on my heart, shall bring to view numberless defects, the existence of which I did nowise suspect.
But what shall it avail me to know my defects, if I cannot uproot them? Thy help, therefore, is also necessary to me, who, without it, can effect nothing conducive to salvation.
Lord Jesus, by Thy most Sacred Heart, I beg and beseech Thee, grant me uninterruptedly the plentifulness of this two-fold grace, that thereby I may be enlightened and assisted.
Without this grace, no assiduity of mine, no care of a director, however much he may toil, whatever zeal he may exercise, can aught avail.
Thou, therefore, Jesus, the eternal Wisdom, the infinite Goodness, Thou art the supreme Director: do Thou, I pray, guide me, through him whom Thou mayst will to hold Thy place, and with whom I am willing to act in all things as with Thyself.
*Purity of heart, being of the greatest importance, it is thought proper to bring together, in this place, the means to attain it, although they have been given separately.
The first is a settled and constant determination of always trying to improve. The second, stated and repeated mental and vocal prayer. The third, the pious and frequent use of the Sacraments. The fourth, the faithful practice of the three-fold self-examination, especially of the particular examination. The fifth, the candid disclosing of our interior life; and, on the other hand, a holy guidance. Whoever makes a right use of these means, will doubtless attain to as great a purity of heart, as the Lord is ordinarily wont to require.
But, if He require something extraordinary, He Himself will provide the means, for no one is able to make provision under such circumstances. Yet, as things are wont to be preserved by the same means that produced them, you shall preserve interior purity, by the same means that have been pointed out to attain it.
These then are, “the five loaves of the show-bread, which must be ever new and fresh before the Lord.” Wherefore, these means are always to be used with the same care. And, lest you grow lukewarm by degrees, either through frailty or carelessness, examine yourself from time to time, and make known, how you use them and, if you have in any wise fallen off, do as quickly as possible strive to regain your former fervor. As long as you shall employ these means, even with ordinary diligence, you shall have within yourself the consoling sign, that you are on the right road, which leads to perfection.
“Voice of Jesus” is taken from Arnoudt’s “Imitation of the Sacred Heart”, translated from the Latin of J.M. Fastre; Benziger Bros. Copyright 1866
DAILY QUOTE for August 2, 2021
SAINT OF THE DAY
St. Eusebius of Vercelli
In the days of yore, when travel must be had on foot or by horse, many were the dangers to be found along the roadways.