Monday, May 19, 2008

Christian Friendship

1. Forget the series of useless and often academic questions which the philosophers asked concerning the nature of friendship. Cicero's definition, however, is worth recording, because it is not far from the Christian concept of friendship. Friends, he says, are those who are united by a bond of affection and of agreement in matters of spiritual and human importance. True friendship is the result of a mysterious and mutual attraction between two person, who grow to know, respect and love one another (De Amic., VI). This friendship would be fleeting and even dangerous if it were nourished by the body rather than by the soul. The soul is eternal. Therefore its love is lasting and passes on into eternity. The body, like the flowers in the fields, is pleasing for a while, then fades and dies. St. Augustine tells us in his Confessions that he was passionately attached to a young man of his own age, who was blooming with the flower of adolescence. But he adds immediately that this was not a genuine friendship, because it did not spring from the charity which the Spirit of God pours into our hearts (St. Augustine, Confessions IV, 4:7). These so-called particular friendships should be avoided as dangerous and contrary to Christian teaching.

2. Cicero also saw virtue as the basis of friendship (De. Amic., XXVII). He said rightly that sincere frienship can exist only between good people (De Amic. V). But the Christian concept of friendship is even deeper. It touches on the supernatural order. True friends love one another in God. Their love must be founded on divine charity (Confessions IV, 4:7).

There is something sacred about friendship in the Christian sense of the word. Mutual love is fostered and elevated by divine charity. Friends love one another not only in this life but also in eternal life. They give one another not only in this life but also in eternal life. They give one another advice. They help one another along the ascending path of virtue, and not merely towards human achievements. They know that their love will last for ever in Heaven.

We should be very grateful to God if we can find a real friend in the full Christian sense. He will be a great consolation and help to us in temporal matters, but above all in our spiritual needs.

3. We should always remember what The Imitation of Christ has to say about friendship. "In me the love of thy friend ought to stand," God is represented as saying, "and for me is he to be loved who ever he be, that appeareth to thee good and much to be loved in this life. Without me friendship can neither profit nor endure; nor is that love true and pure which I do not bind together." (Imit. of Christ, Bk. III, Chapter 42:1)

If we allow ourselves to be guided by these principles, a friend will be a real treasure. He will be a treasure which we shall not lose on earth and which will help us to gain Heaven. The words of St. Augustine are consoling. "We cannot lose a friend, if he is dear to us in God Who is never lost." (Confessions IV, 4:7)

Let us cultivate friendship, but let it be Christian friendship founded on these principles, which come from God and lead us back to Him.


1. Faith teaches us that the soul which is in the state of grace and has expiated all the temporal punishments due to its sins, goes immediately to Heaven when it is separated from the body. There the soul enjoys eternal happiness. It sees God face to face. It sees Him without any intervention of created things, but as He is in Himself in the Unity of Trinity of His infinite perfections.

In this beatific vision the intellect remains completely satisfied, because in God there is every truth, beauty and goodness. The will abandons itself entirely to the will of God, desiring nothing else and loving nothing else but God alone. There springs from this abandonment a love which satisfies every desire, an inexpressible joy and a boundless peace. The happy soul will see the Blessed Virgin, too, and she will smile upon it with maternal tenderness. It will see the Angels and Saints gathered around the King of Kings and the Queen of Heaven, singing their praises. St. Paul, who was taken up to the third Heaven, tells us that it is impossible to imagine or to describe the unknown joys which are experienced there. In comparison with the eternal happiness of Heaven, the poor pleasures of this world are empty shadows. We cannot imagine the happiness of those who have gained Heaven by their good lives upon earth. The concept of Heaven is so beautiful and immense that it caused the Saints to desire death as a means of going there. They welcomed suffering, too, because it brought them nearer to their goal.

2. Our souls have an innate desire to be ahppy. God Himself has placed this desire in our hearts. What else are we doing all our lives but trying by every possible means to be happy? Unfortunately, we seek happiness where it is not to be found. Some seek it in material gain, others in honours, others in pleasure. But our hearts are much wider than the riches and honours and pleasures of this world. In comparison with the riches of the human spirit, worldly wealth is a very insignificant thing. Worldly honours are shadows which pass. As the "Imitation of Christ" reminds us, we are what we are before God, not what we appear before men (Bk. III, Chapter 50:8). Pleasure also passes quickly, and when it is immoderate it leaves in our hearts a sense of emptiness and disgust. St. Augustine had a good deal of experience of the deceptiveness and complexity of human happiness. He had reason to exclaim: You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless except in You (Confessions, II, 2:4). We should follow the example of the Saints and aim at Heaven in everything we do. This should be the goal of our earthly journey. We should make sure that all our actions are in conformity with the will of God and directed towards this end.

3. God desires our salvation. God wishes all men to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4). We are all aspirants of Heaven. We shall not be denied the grace of God so long as we ask for it with confidence and perseverance. St. Augustine tells us that Paradise is ours if we wish: You are not called to embrace the earth, but to prepare yourselves for Heaven; not to be the successes of this world nor to a short-lived and transient prosperity, but to eternal life together with the Angels (Serm. 296, 6:7).

Contemplate this true and everlasting happiness. Let us direct towards it our intentions and desires and all our work. Then the day will come when we shall be really happy for all eternity.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


1. In whatever you do, remember your last days, and you will never sin (Ecclus. 7:36).

The meditation considered by the masters of the spiritual life to be the most useful for rousing the soul from sin, or from a state of torpor, is that on the last things, in other words, on what will happen to us at the end of life. Amongst these last things, hell is the most terrifying. Yet, if the mercy of God did not sustain us, we could fall into hell at any moment. St. John Chrysostom meditated on hell every day. All the Saints have found in this meditation the first steps on the way to perfection. Remember that a single mortal sin would merit hell for us. In that moment the sinner could have been already hurled into that abyss of torments. Let us imagine that we are there...and that the goodness and mercy of God has released us from those everlasting, all-devouring flames. If this should happen, all the sacrifices which virtue demands would seem so easy and pleasant. How ready we should be to do anything sooner than retrun to that chasm of eternal sorrow!

2. In that place of never-ending suffering there will be three punishments to torture us. There will be the worm of conscience which does not die: Their worm dies not (Mark 9:43). This is the awful realisation that we could have saved ourselves, but are lost for all eternity; that God gave us so many graces and we damned ourselves by abusing them. Now there is no longer any remedy, because the mercy of God has been succeeded once and for all by His justice.

In the second place, there is fire. This is a real fire, but altogether different from the material fire we know in this world, which was created by God for our benefit and service. The fire of hell, on the other hand, was created by Divine Justice purely to punish us. It is a special kind of fire which tortures body and soul, and the rebel angels as well as damned human beings. It could be called discerning in so far as it torments more or less mercilessly according to the gravity of the sin. These flames embrace every evil and exclude every good. They are flames which will never be exstinguished, flames which burn, but do not consume, flames without light, dark and accompanied by the shrieking of eternal despair. The very thought of this horrible dungeon of torments should spur us on to begin immediately a life of virtue and Christian perfection.

3. The greatest punishment, however, will be that of loss. This is the knowledge that we have lost for ever our one, true, and highest good, God Himself. The soul will now understand fully what it means to have lost God for ever. It will feel irresistibly the need to be united with Him, and to see, enjoy and love Him. But at the same time it will know that God has cast it away from Himself for all eternity. "Go, accursed soul, into everlasting fire!" Then the irresistible need for God will turn to hate and eternal malediction.

The terrifying reality of hell should not leave us amazed, as if it were an act of implacable severity. Rather should it be a warning to us. God should not seem to us to be a pitiless judge, but a judge who is infinitely just and infinitely good. Rather than send us to hell, God gave us His only-begotten Son, Who died on the cross for our sins. Just as the Redemption is a work of infinite love and goodness, so hell is a work of infinite justice.

If we reflect on the mystery of the Incarnation, on the Redemption and on the death of the Son of God, it will appear that, omnipotent though He is, He could not have done more to save us. The divine work of Redemption explains the mystery of the eternity of hell. It is not God Who is relentless. It is the damned soul which was relentlessly ungrateful towards the infinitely good and merciful God.

The Particular and General Judgments

1. It is appointed unto men to die once and after this comes the judgment (Heb. 9:27). To have to appear before the face of the Living God is terrifying for everybody. How much more terrifying will it be for the sinner? Weighed down by numberless sins, he will stand before the scrutinising gaze of God. He will be able to hide nothing. Everything will be evident and clear. The countenance of our Divine Redeemer, which was mild and merciful during life, will at that moment be that of a severe and just judge. After having scorned so many graces, after having spurned so many calls to conversion and so many secret inspirations to change his life, after dying unrepentant...behold the sinner in the presence of his Eternal Judge. At that moment he will hear the irrevocable sentence resounding in his ears: Depart from me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels (Mt. 25:41). This terrible condemnation will be publicly repeated, moreover, at the general judgment.

2. How consoling, on the other hand, the last judgment will be for those who have led good lives. They will see God looking upon them with love and mercy and will hear from Him the wonderful invitation: Come, blessed of my Father, take possession of the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world (Mt. 25:35).

On the day of the general judgment these words will be repeated for the confusion of the wicked and the consolation of the good.

Now that we have considered both sides of the picture, let us think deeply about it. We shall have to render an account for all the evil we have done, of all the good things we did badly or from distorted motives, of all the good actions we omitted to do, and of all the time we wasted. Let us examine our consciences carefully before God, our supreme Judge. Let us form whatever firm and worthwhile resolutions seems to be demanded by the circumstances of our lives. Remember that as we have lived, so shall we die, and we shall be judged accordingly.

3. St. Catherine of Siena believed that loyalty to the church and devotion to the Blessed Virgin were two pledges of salvation. In one of her letters she wrote that "he will not die forever who serves the church faithfully." Elsewhere she said that "out of reverence for the Word, the Divine Goodness has granted Our Lady the privilege that any man, good or sinful, who pays her due honour, will not be taken captive by the devil." Consequently, we need not be inordinately afraid of death or of the final judgment, if we love the Church, obey her commandments, and work generously for her triumph in the universe, and if we show a filial devotion to the Blessed Virgin, pray to her and imitate her in virtue as far as possible.

It will be profitable for us to think about death and the last judgment (Cf. Ecclus. 7:36). It will moderate our impatience in tribulations and our inordinate pleasure in consolations. It will be a stimulus to perseverance in good action.

The Death of the Sinner as opposed to that of the Just man

1. The sinner must die also. For him death is really terrible. Imagine him lying on his deathbed, instinctively aware that his life is over. The past will rise up to reproach him, a past full of sin and of ingratitude towards his Creator and Redeemer. The plans which he has centred around profit, ambition, and honour will have vanished like smoke. His friends will have either deserted him or will be at hand to utter useless words which will have no power to comfort him. Now he must stand alone, alone before God.

What will happen at that moment? Perhaps despair will overcome his soul, as it overcame the soul of Judas? Perhaps the innumerable graces which he has despised will tip the balance of Divine Justice towards the abyss of damnation? Or will a final ray of mercy pierce his tired mind, burning with remorse, so that with its last throb his poor heart will turn towards God and implore His pardon? Who can say? It is certain, however, that of the two thieves dying beside the Cross of our Redeemer, only one heard him say: "This day you will be with me in Paradise!" The other remained obdurate in his sin. It is the height of stupidity to wait to be converted at the hour of death.

2. Consider now the death of the just man. Through his dying tears he also will see the world slipping away from him. But one thing will remain to comfort him, namely, the memory of his good actions, of the virtues he acquired, of his fervent prayers, and of his voluntary mortifications. Above all, there will remain his great love for God, for Whom he has lived, worked and drawn breath. In that moment, this love will even increase the flaming desire consuming his poor, frail body to be united to God. He will be able to say, as some of the Saints have said: "I never thought it would be so sweet to die." With St. Louis, he will be able to say: I am going joyfully to meet my God. He will be able to exclaim with St. Charles: "I long for my body to be dissolved so that I may be with Christ!" (Phil. 1:23)

In the sight of God, the death of the good man is a very precious thing. Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His faithful ones (Ps. 115:6).

3. Now that we have witnessed these contrasting scenes, let us examine ourselves in the presence of God. Let each of us ask: What will be my fate? If we can rank ourselves amongst the just, let us thank God. We are not there on our own merits. By the grace of God I am what I am (I Cor. 15:10).

Perhaps we need only reproach ourselves with some deficiency or weakness, but have at the same time a strong desire to serve God and a great love for Him. In this case, we can take heart. We can cast ourselves into the merciful arms of God. But if, on the other hand, we are hardened and habitual sinners, then woe betide us! Perhaps this meditation is the last grace which God will bestow on us.


1. Death, like suffering, is the result of sin: Through sin death (Rom. 5:12). But it is more than a punishment for sin. It is also a liberation for the just who, like St. Francis of Assisi look upon death as the good sister who will come one day to set them free and unite them with Christ in everlasting happiness. Desiring to depart and to be with Christ.. (Phil. 1:23).

Death is certainly a fearful thing. It is the violent separation of the soul from the body. The mere thought makes us tremble, for our eternal happiness or misery depends on this moment. But if we lead good Christian lives, if we strive with the help of divine grace to avoid sin and to do what is good, death is no longer terrible. Death is now a reward. It is the paradise which awaits us. Even in the mystery of death, the justice of God is interwoven with His mercy. As He punishes us in order to correct us, so He makes us die in order to bestow on us the joys of Heaven.

2. In theory, everybody believes in death. In practice, many live as if they did not believe in it. So it is necessary and helpful for us to meditate on death. We began to die on the day we were born. People say: "I have lived twenty, thirty, or forty years." But if they said "I have used up my twenty or thirty or forty years of my life", how many would then be left? We do not know. We only know that death will come at the very moment when we least expect it. Let us always be prepared. You also must be ready, because at an hour that you do not expect, the Son of Man is coming (Luke 12:40).

We must always be ready. Let our faith be lively and active and our minds turned towards God Who is waiting for us. There is no need to be afraid. He is good and merciful. He desires our salvation. This is a wonderfully consoling thought. God desires my salvation! Let us surrender ourselves to Him, therefore, as if we had to die this very moment.

3. The greatest lesson in life springs from reflection on death. Whoever does not learn from death how to live will never learn anything from anybody. We must die, and we die only once. This is a test which we shall never have a chance to repeat. This thought should inspire in us a healthy fear of sin and an ardent desire to be more closely united with God and more faithful in the observance of His law.

As a special fruit of this meditation, let us form the resolution of asking for the last sacraments at the hour of death, instead of waiting until our relations are obliged to exhort us to receive them. It is not a sentence, but a gift for which we ask. It is the greatest gift which God's mercy could grant us in that final and decisive moment of our lives. There is another resolution which we ought to make. We should live every day as if it were our last, but we should work as tirelessly as if we never had to die.

The Apostolate of Suffering

1. In God's plan suffering has a special mission. One might even call it a kind of apostolate. Suffering reminds us continually that we have not been made for this world, but are on a journey towards eternity. Here we have no permanent city, but we seek for the city that is to come (Heb. 13:14).

Suffering is a spur which lifts our gaze towards Heaven, our real home, in which we shall find a happiness which will have no end. It would be disastrous if there were no suffering in this world. It is the salt which preserves from corruptioin our poor, fallen nature, tainted by sin. When everything is going well and the passing pleasures of this life hold us fascinated, it is too easy to set our hearts on things below and ot forget God. But when our bodies are racked with pain and our minds are troubled and lonely, then an inward turmoil seems to detach us from this earth and causes us to raise our tear-filled eyes towards Heaven. Purified and almost renovated, our hearts turn towards God, our one, true and supreme good.

2. This is why the Saints loved suffering. Not only did they accept it with complete resignation, but they desired and requested it from God. "Either to suffer or to die," was the plea of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus. St. Mary Magdalene del Pazzi even added: "To suffer and not to die." How well the Saints understood the mission which God has entrusted to suffering! If it is accepted with faith, resignation and love, it can make us loving images of Jesus, Who suffered beneath the weight of the Cross and died upon it, His hands and feet pierced with nails, His Head crowned with thorns, while He prayed for us and for all those who had crucified Him.

3. Suffering has a still further purpose. Besides learning the role of an apostolate in our own lives, it can also be an apostolate for others. We can offer our sufferings and sorrows to God, not only for our own spiritual advancement, but also for the expiation of the sins of the human rae, for our enemies, for the persecutors of the Church, and for all the other suffering members of the Mystical Body of Christ. In this way we can accomplish great good and can acquire great merit before God. As a result of our offering, who knows how many hearts hardened in sin, or how many souls forgetful of Heaven, may be touched by the grace of God? Let us suffer with Jesus. He alone can ease our pain and make it meritorious for ourselves and for others.

The Problem of Suffering

1. Christianity alone offers an adequate explanation of the mystery of suffering. Why is there such a thing as suffering? The problem is a profound one, and the explanations suggested by various schools of philosophy fail to satisfy the human heart and leave the mind in doubt. Christian doctrine tells us that God is infinitely good, but also infinitely just. Being infinitely good, He created man without suffering. He also gave man the wonderful gift of liberty, which man abused by committing sin. Once the sin had been committed, God in His infinite justice demanded expiation. Hence suffering and death...and through sin death, and thus death has passed unto all men because all have sinned (Rom. 5:12). Together with death came the never-ending series of misfortunes, of physical and moral sufferings, which beset humanity.

Suffering, then, does not come directly from God. It is a consequence of, and a punishment for, sin. But there is also the aspect of expiation and redemption. God in His infinite justice demands from man a penalty for his sin, but He does not cease to be infinitely good. Hence, to the mystery of suffering there is added the mystery of the Redemption. The Son of God Himself is made man and takes upon Himself all our sins. For the full expiation of our sins He, the "Man of Sorrows", offers to the Eternal Father His own sufferings of infinite value.

It would not be right, however, if we were to remain inactive in this work of redemption. Like Jesus, we must bow our heads before our Cross and embrace it with resignation and love. We must unite our sufferings with those of our Redeemer for the expiation for our sins.

2. There are some, unfortunately, who rebel under the lash of pain. "God is not good," they say. "If He were good, He would not permit suffering. God does not love me. If He loved me, He would not make me suffer."

This false, of course. God did not create suffering. It was man who brought it into being by his sins and excesses. God, Who always draws good from evil, knows how to draw great good even from suffering, in the way of expiation, redemption, and propitiation for our sins. Precisely because He loves us, God permits our sufferings. He knows well that they purify and refine us as fire purifies and refines gold. They raise our thoughts to heaven.

God permits suffering for our spiritual welfare. But because it has this elevating and propitiatory power, we ought to receive it with an act of resignation and love, as Jesus did in Gethsemane. We should unite our sufferings with those of our Redeemer, which have an infinite value before our Heavenly Father.

3. Jesus is the head of the Mystical Body of the Church and we are its members. We ought to suffer with submission and love as He did. Rebellion increases and aggravates the pain. Resignation and love, on the other hand, lighten it, making it meritorious and even welcome. It is a consolation to suffer with Jesus. St. Paul says: I rejoice now in the sufferings I bear for your sake; and what is lacking of the sufferings of Christ I fill up in my flesh for his body, which is the Church (Col. 1:24). In other words, the passion of Christ demands our submissive and joyful co-operation in suffering along with Jesus.

The Acts says of the Apostles: So they departed from the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been counted worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus (Acts 5:41).

"So great is the reward which awaits me," exclaimed St. Francis, "every suffering is pure joy to me!" He knew well that the sorrows of this world are very tiny compared with the wonderful recompense which awaits us in Heaven. The sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that will be revealed in us (Rom. 8:18).

Saturday, May 3, 2008


1. Let us consider the faith of the Magi, a faith which was willing, lively and active. They saw in the sky the star which heralded the Infant Jesus, and experienced the divine inspiration in their hearts. Immeditately, they went in search of Him. They were not even deterred by the long and hazardous journey which lay before them.

When they arrived at Jerusalem, they found Herod, who did not know what they were talking about. The star disappeared, and the priests replied coldly to the questions they asked. But all the time their trust in the divine call continued to grow. Eventually they reached a poor barn, where they found not an earthly King, but a little child who was crying on the straw bed of a manger. As a reward for their trouble and perseverance, a voice in their hearts told them that this was Jesus, the King of Kings and Saviour of the world.

Unfortunately, when we hear the divine call, no matter how clear and simple it is, we find a thousand excuses for delaying and perhaps for not responding to it at all. Let us humbly promise to be more generous in listening for it and more energetic in complying with it, regardless of the cost.

2. It was love which inspired the Magi. Love sustained them on their journey and made them fall prostrate in adoration before the Infant Jesus. Even before they offered Him material gifts they offered Him their hearts. As a reward for their faith and charity, God showered His graces upon them and an immense supernatural joy pervaded their souls. In that moment of adoration they received the highest possible reward for their hardships and perseverance. With deep interior joy they gave Jesus their hearts and never withdrew them. A pious tradition maintains that they became apostles and saints, and in fact the church venerates them as such. We should follow the example of the Magi and promise before the cradle of the Infant Saviour that we shall face any sacrifice, even death, rather than offend Him, and shall work in every way possible for His glory and our sanctification.

3. The Magi gave Jesus material gifts also as symbols of their complete dedication to Him. They gave Him gold because He was a King; incense because He was God; and myrrh because He was man. We often say that we love God and wish to serve and obey Him in all things. But when we see that this entails sacrifice, we forget our promises.

We must ask ourselves if we are prepared to offer Jesus gold, that is, to offer Him everything we possess for the promotion of His glory, for the spread of His Kingdom, and for the relief of His poor, in whom we ought always to see and love Christ Himself. We must examine ourselves thoroughly on this. It is easy to find excuses for not giving to God and to His poor in accordance with our means. We should offer also the incense of our adoration and unceasing prayer. There can be no sanctity without prayer. There can be no real Christians without sanctity. Finally, we must offer the myrrh of our mortification. Mortification, as St. Vincent de Paul has said, is the ABC of Christian perfection. St. Paul exhorts us to carry always in ourselves the mortification of Jesus. If we are not mortified we can never be holy and can never share the joy which the Magi experienced as they lay prostrate before the cradle of our Divine Redeemer.

Friday, May 2, 2008

* Venial Sin

1. Next to mortal sin, the greatest of all evils is venial sin. Sin is always an offence against the God of goodness. When we sin, we place our own will above His and put Him in a position secondary to ourselves. If mortal sin is spiritual suicide because it exstinguishes in us the divine life of grace, venial sin is an injury, more or less grave, to the soul. The former completely separates us from God; the latter moves us farther away from Him. Mortal sin means the death of the soul. Venial sin is a disease of the soul which reduces its supernatural powers and leaves it more open to the ever-increasing attractions of evil.

We cannot speak of small sins, as if sin could be a triviality. Sin is always something great and terrible, because it is an offence against our Creator and Redeemer, whom we should love, honour and serve with every impulse of our heart and with the whole strength of our will. It is the height of ingratitude, because in order to offend God we make use of the gifts He has given us --- our eyes, ears, speech and all our powers of soul and body.

Let us think seriously about this. We must firmly resolve to be more vigilant so that with the grace of God we may avoid ever committing a deliberate venial sin.

2. There is another motive which obliges us carefully to avoid ever committing a venial sin. The path of sin leads us down a smooth and slippery incline towards destruction. Once we begin to descend it is difficult to stop. Even to begin is a disaster:

He who wastes the little he has will be stripped bare. (Eccles. 19:1)
He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much;
and he who is unjust in a very little thing is unjust also in much. (Luke 16:10)

Whoever is faithful to God in little things, will receive from Him the grace to remain faithful also in greater things, but a man who despises the lesser falls rejects the divine assistance and so exposes himself to the danger of falling more seriously. If we reflect on such dangers, we shall have a real fear of venial sin and shall be always on our gurad against it.

3. The Gospel tells us that we must render an account of every idle word, and that nothing tarnished can be admitted into the splendour of Paradise. In the terrible torments of Purgatory we must pay the full price for all our faults, even the slightest. The thought of such fearful punishment should frighten us, but the love of God should keep us far from all shadow of sin. We read of some of the saints that throughout their lives they wept at the mere remembrance of their slightest negligence. If we loved God truly, we should shun the least suggestion of sin.


1. In that we prefer our own wayward whims to the law of God, sin is an abuse of liberty. It is a revolt against right reason, the dictates of which we refuse to obey. It is an offence against our Creator and Redeemer, whose commandments we despise and whose redeeming grace we reject by our actions. It is, moreover, an act of supreme folly, for it exstinguishes not only the supernatural splendour of grace, but also the natural light of reason. Through sin man is brutalised, and experiences in himself as his first punishment the confusion of his whole being.

In practice, the sinner denies God who has created and redeemed him. He upsets the natural order of things and is violently seperated from the source of all truth, beauty and goodness. As a result he experiences in himself the hell which he has constructed with his own hands --- a hell of emptiness, disgust and remorse. Unless the helping hand of God reaches out to rescue him from the abyss, all this is simply a bitter foretaste of eternal despair. God, as St. Augustine has written, has ordained from all eternity that every dissolute soul will be its own punishment. For the sinner hell begins on this earth. There can be no peace for the wicked.

When we realise the gravity, stupidity and dire consequences of sin, it seems impossible that a rational being, enlightened and enriched by divine grace, should continue to sin. Nevertheless sad experience teaches us that the lives of individuals, families and human society in general are often distorted by this evil, which is the root of all other evils.

2. In order to understand more clearly the gravity of sin, it is helpful at this stage to consider three things: ---

(a) The world with all its evils --- sorrows, diseases, wars, plagues and death. All these things do not come directly from the will of God, Who is the highest good, but happen with His permission. They are the effect of original sin and of the continuing transgressions of men.

(b) Hell, which is the handiwork of sin. God, infinitely good but also infinitely just, has ordained this terrible and everlasting punishment for the rebellious sinner.

(c) The Crucifix. To save us from sin the God-Man has suffered the cruellest of torments and death, but men go on offending Him with unbelievable ingratitude.

3. Now let us turn the spotlight on ourselves and think of our past lives. So many sins and abuses of God's grace! Such coldness and ingratitude! where has all this brought us? Spiritually, sin has deprived us of God and of the supernatural life which His grace gives us. Intellectually, it is an absurdity, a dishonour and a degradation. Physically, it is an inversion of the right order and often means total ruin. Let us humbly repent, therefore, and make resolutions so firm that we shall be read to face any sacrifice, even death, in order to put them into practice.

Making a Good Meditation

1. It is not enough simply to make a meditation. It ought to be made well. It is well made only when it results in an increase of solid virtue and sanctity. Meditation, moreover, should not be study, but mental prayer --- a raising of the mind to God, asking Him to illumine the darkness of our hearts, too often entangled with the things of the world, and to reinforce our wills, rescuing them from the violent attractions of evil and drawing them in the direction of virtue and sacrifice. To meditate is not to study, but to pray. Whoever loses himself in subtle investigations of Christian Doctrine in order to learn something or to be able to mystify others, is studying, not meditating. It would be even worse to let one's imagination wander off into a kind of pseudo-mystic daydream.

Let us be quite clear about this. Meditation is not a waste of time, but a very serious occupation. It consists in placing ourselves in the presence of God, in admitting to Him our misery and weakness, in thinking about the eternal truths so that our minds may be enlightened, and in aiming at a Christian self-renewal through the making and carrying out of good resolutions.

2. Some people claim that they cannot concentrate for any great length of time on meditation. In their case it is very helpful to combine mental and vocal prayer. Short ejaculations, and expressions of love for God and of an ardent desire for holiness, can restore the atmosphere of recollection, making the intellect more attentive, the heart more fervent, and the entire spiritual exercise more profitable.

When our minds wander or grow drowsy, we must pull ourselves together by placing ourselves once more in God's presence and beginning to converse with Him in a humble and loving fashion. We must remember how much we need Him and how anxious He is to inspire and help us. We are so poor and weak; He is infinitely powerful and strong. We are lost in darkness; He is the Light which illumines every man who is travelling through this world.

3. Alessandro Manzoni was once asked how he had managed to penetrate so deeply into the human mind. Newton was asked how he had succeeded in discovering the law of universal gravity. Manzoni's reply was: "By thinking about it." Newton's was: "By thinking intensely."

Now, in our meditations we must reveal ourselves to ourselves, which is a very difficult thing to do. It is nevertheless supremely important, because its purpose is not literary or scientific but is the eternal salvation of our souls. The attaining of such a purpose demands serious application on our part, as well as earnest prayer that God will guide us so that we may lead lives which will be in union with Him and directed towards their eternal goal, the enjoyment of the Beatific Vision of God. St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus always held that anybody who was careful to spend at least ten minutes every day in devout meditation was certain of salvation.

The Necessity of Meditation

1. "With desolation is all the land made desolate, because there is none that considereth in the heart." (Jer. 12:11)

Very often the world is plunged in the desolation of evil because there is nobody who will speak with God in the silence of his heart and try to regulate his life according to His holy commandments. It is in a particularly outstanding way today that the heresies of actionism and externalism dominate the great mass of mankind. To act, to rush, to arrive...above all, to arrive! But to arrive where? In this frantic, frenzied and tumultuous race, in which good people are often found competing, two very sure things are forgotten, namely, that we shall finally arrive at death, and that from death we shall pass on to eternity. The whole course of our lives, therefore, should be directed towards this end. But if we are to keep this end in view, prudent reflection is essential, especially meditation, made with the assistance of the Divine light, on the eternal truths.

Absorbed in the deafening din of the world around us, it is difficult to hear the voice of God. At least for a little while each day, we must create within ourselves a zone of silence in order to listen to His voice. Since God speaks readily in the silence of the heart, let us recollect ourselves before Him in this quiet oasis. At least a quarter of an hour of daily meditation is essential for the life of Christian. This should be the jumping-off board for all the actions of the day, if we wish these to be correct and productive of good.

2. The masters of the spiritual life assure us that without the practice of meditation it is almost impossible for the just man to persevere in virtue, or for the tepid to become fervent, or for the sinner to be converted. God, it is true, can work miracles. At times the grace of God can strike the sinner with the suddenness of a thunderbolt and convert him. But it is the ordinary rule of the spiritual life that meditation on the truths of eternity, especially on the last things, stirs up the soul and moves it, under the influence of Divine grace, to form good resolutions. Even though the first fervour diminishes, the daily repitition of this pious practice revives and strengthens such good resolutions, and causes them to be realised in activities which are in accordance with Christian teaching.

Sin and tepidity cannot co-exist with the practice of daily mental prayer, if this is carried out as it should be. If we keep our hearts united to God and listen willingly and attentively to His voice, we shall be able to effect in ourselves that total renovation of which St. Paul speaks: "But be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man, which has been created according to God, in justice and holiness of truth." (Eph. 4:23)

3. There are various ways of meditating. Each one should choose whichever suits his own character and dispositions. It will always be necessary for him at the outset, however, to place himself in the presence of God, asking for light and strength from Him; then to reflect on certain truths in an effort to apply them to his own particular circumstances and needs; and finally to make the necessary resolutions and beseech God to bless them and make them fruitful.

It is very useful, moreover, to recall to mind frequently during the day the resolutions which have been formed, and to accompany these reflections with short prayers, ejaculations, and acts of love for God.

The New Year (January 1)

1. This is a new gift which God in His infinite goodness gives to us. But every gift of God demands on our part a generous expression of gratitude, which should result in positive acts of virtue. Gratitude is an empty and short-lived sentiment unless it is accompanied by a sincere intention of performing good works.

Time is the price of eternity, because with time we can purchase an eternity of happiness or misery.

Consider this great truth. Every year is like a ladder in our lives. Now, it is necessary that this ladder should lead us, not perilously downwards towards evil, but upwards towards Heaven, even if with faltering footsteps.

The New Year opens today as a blank page in the diary of our lives. What do we intend to write there? The usual inanities and sins, perhaps? Let us reflect before God and in the light of the eternity which awaits us. This is the time for great decisions. It is necessary that we should offer our resolutions to God along with a humble and fervent prayer that He will strengthen us to comply faithfully with His grace.

2. During these days it is customary to exchange, verbally or in writing, good wishes for the New Year. But these poor greetings are often nothing more than conventional phrases. Men lack the power to transmute such good wishes into reality. God alone is the source of every material and spiritual good; therefore He alone can ensure that these benevolent expressions are translated into deeds of Christian renovation. Since today is the beginning of the New Year, it is especially important for us to ask God more fervently and insistently to bless the resolutions which we are making for ourselves and the good wishes which we are showering on our friends.

These wishes have no meaning, and these resolutions have no force, if they are not accompanied by fervent and persevering prayer.

3. It is suggested in The Imitation of Christ that if we were to get rid of at least one habit of sin every year, we should soon be holy. If we have not tried to do this in the past, let us propose to do it in the future. This year let us select the principal defect which we possess, the sin into which we are most accustomed to fall. Let us seek to eradicate it with all the strength of our soul, assisted by the grace of God which will certainly not be denied us. Let us request for this purpose the most powerful patronage of Mary Most Holy. Let us pass this day in close union with God and under the maternal mantle of our Heavenly Mother. Finally, let us promise earnestly that all the days of the New Year will follow the same pattern.


"Pray for me," the well-known spiritual writer, Father Cordovani, once wrote in a letter to a friend, "that I may not die without having led some soul to sanctity and without having written some book which will continue to preach the Gospel long after my voice has been silenced for ever."

In writing these pages I have desired likewise to do a little good, first of all for myself and secondly for those who may wish to read and reflect upon them. I hoped to accomplish something for myself in that I wrote down these short daily meditations in order to be able to remember them more easily and to be able to turn to them whenever the opportunity should arise. Then, on the advice of enlightened friends, I decided to publish them in the hope that they might prove useful to others.

It was my intention to produce an edifying rather than an erudite work. This explains the simple style and the repitition of certain ideas. I have found it convenient to return to these ideas at regular intervals in order to impress them more deeply on the mind and heart of the reader.

There are many well-written books of meditations, but they are either too long and therefore inaccessible to many classes of people who complain that they have not got time to read them, or they are written in an antiquated style which is not acceptable today. The result is that many persons, including some who are genuinely holy, never make a meditation at all, and this is a very great loss.

I have done my best to be concise and, at the same time, to offer an abundance of ideas, in the hope that the reader of these pages may derive from them material for useful reflections and for profitable resolutions.

May God and the Blessed Virgin bless my labour so that it may be the source of good for many souls.

- Antonio Cardinal Bacci


These meditations of Antonio Cardinal Bacci (1885-1971) were first published in Italian in 1959 by Casa Editrice Marietti, Turin, Italy and translated in 1964 by Desmond Williams and Brian Powers for The Newman Press.

If it is found that I am infringing on copyright laws I will delete this blog right away but this book seems to be out of print so perhaps the greater good would exonerate me from any offense against a man-made law (I am completely open to correction).

Throughout the posts I shall put my own emphasis on certain passages in bold. I shall also provide titles for some of the meditations which did not have one in the original text. These titles will be followed with a star. Ultimately, I am hoping that these meditations will help others to continue growing in their union with God which is the most important matter this side of eternity.

"Mental prayer is nothing else, in my opinion, but being on terms of friendship with God, frequently conversing in secret with Him who, we know, loves us."

- St. Teresa of Avila