Saint Alphonsus Liguori on how to pray and grow in virtue in times of strife October 13, 2015Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Basics, catachesis, General Catholic, Glory, Grace, Holy suffering, Interior Life, manhood, mortification, reading, sanctity, SOD, Spiritual Warfare, Tradition, Virtue.
If I had to recommend one Saint to read, if I had to be limited to one, I would probably choose the great Moral Doctor Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori as the one. Many of his writings have been translated into English (and translated very well by Rev. Eugene Grimm) and they are a constant treasure of guidance in the interior life and the practice of virtue.
With all the strife in the Church and world today, and growing portents of persecution, I found the exhortation below to be timely and helpful. Hopefully you will, too:
Wherefore the Apostle says, By all prayer and supplication, praying at all times in the spirit; and in the same watching with all instance and supplication for all the Saints (Eph vi:18). Thus, prayer is the most powerful of the arms with which the Lord gives us victory over our evil passions and the temptations of hell; but this prayer must be made in the spirit; that is, not with the mouth only, but with the heart. Moreover, it must last through our life – “at all times;” for as the struggle endures, so must our prayers. It must be urgent and repeated; if the temptation does not yield at the first prayer, we must repeat it a second, third, or fourth time; and if it continues still, we must add sighs, tears, importunity, vehemence, as if we would do violence to God, that he may give us the grace of victory. This is what the Apostle’s words, “with allo instance and supplication” mean. The Apostle adds, “for all Saints,” which means that we are not to pray for ourselves alone; but for the perseverance of all the faithful who are in the grace of God, and especially of priests, that they may labor for the conversion of unbelievers and all sinners, repeating in our prayers the words of Zacharias: “To give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death” (Lk i:79).
It is of great use for resisting our enemies in spiritual combats, to anticipate them in our meditations, by preparing ourselves to do violence to them to our utmost power, on all occasions when they may suddenly come upon us. Thus the Saints have been able to preserve the greatest mildness, or at least not to reply by a single word, and not to be disturbed when they have received a great injury, a violent persecution, a severe pang in body or in mind, the loss of property of great value, the death of a much loved relative. Such victories are ordinarily not acquired by the aid of a life of long discipline, without frequenting Sacraments, and a continual exercise of meditation, spiritual reading, and prayer. Therefore, these victories are with difficulty obtained by those who have not taken great heed to avoid dangerous occasions, or who are attached to the vanities or pleasures of the world, and practice very little the mortification of the senses; by those, in a word, who lead a soft and easy life. [In our present age and location, even those of modest means have easy access to levels of comfort that would have exceeded even the very richest mere decades ago. Air conditioning? Indoor plumbing? Refrigeration? Instant light/heat/power? Practically instant global communications? Soft mattresses and comfy chairs? Automotive transportation? No dealing with smelly animals or doing back-breaking labor 12-14 hours a day? It is exceedingly difficult to build up virtue when comfort and ease are so widespread, and, even more, expected. How I grumble when we have to set the temp inside high in the summer to save some money! How much have I whined that it is still 94 in October? Which reminds me…….DON’T MOVE TO TEXAS, YA’LL ‘LL HATE IT!] St. Augustine says that in the spiritual life, “first, pleasures are to be conquered, then pains,” meaning that a person who is given to seek the pleasures of the senses will scarcely resist a great passion or temptation which assaults him; a man who loves too much the esteem of the world will scarcely endure a grave affront without losing the Grace of God.
It is true that we must look for all our strength to live without sin, and to do good works, not from ourselves, but from the Grace of Jesus Christ; but we must take great care not to make ourselves weaker than we are by nature through our own fault. The defects of which we take no account will cause the divine light to fail, and the devil will become stronger against us. For example, a desire to display to the world our learning, rank, or vanity in dress, or the seeking of superfluous pleasure, or resentment at every inattentive word or action, or a wish to please every one, though at the loss of our spiritual profit, or neglect of works of piety through the fear of man………trifling but cherished aversions, trivial falsehoods, slight attacks upon our neighbor, loss of time in gossip or at work, or the indulgence of curiosity – in a word, every attachment to earthly things, and every act of inordinate self-love, can serve as a help to our enemy to drag us over some precipice; or, at least, this defect deliberately consented to will deprive us of that abundance of divine help without which we may find ourselves fallen into ruin.
We grieve to find ourselves so dry in spirit and desolate in prayer, in Communions, and in all our devout exercises; but how can God make us enjoy His presence and loving visits while we are thus niggardly and inattentive to Him? If we cause so much displeasure, how can we expect to enjoy His heavenly consolations? If we do not detach ourselves in everything from earth, we shall never wholly belong to Jesus Christ, and where shall we go to protect ourselves?……….[I]f we are cold in the love of Jesus Christ, and neglect to pray continually to Him to help us, and nourish in our hearts any earthly affection, with difficulty shall we persevere in a good life. Let us pray, let us pray always. With prayer we shall obtain every thing.
We want to be active. We want to do something. We want to make a difference. If you are like me, you want to fight, even physically, against the evil we see all around us. And all those things are good and at times necessary. But all of that must first be built upon a solid interior life, the foundation of which is prayer, prayer, and more prayer, really focused, intense prayer, not half-hearted prayer. In addition to prayer, penance, meditation, spiritual reading, and then beginning a program of self-denial. I’m in one now. I am offering it up for the Synod. If I make any progress, it is all due to the Grace of Jesus Christ, as the great Liguori says, but I know he is also right that I can help myself by trying to break my attachment to earthly things, especially all the little pleasures I think I merit so much.
I don’t see how I can pretend I could stand up to a real persecution – loss of job, loss of family, imprisonment, physical threats, even direct violence – if I cannot do without my many woobies for a day or 10. Yes certainly we could only stand up if we cooperate with Grace, but will God grant extraordinary graces to those who lead ordinary worldly lives? On rare occasions, maybe. But should we not prepare ourselves as well as we possibly can, not only for our earthly fate, but far more importantly, for our eternal one?