Thursday, 31 July 2014

Little Things - Cardinal Bacci

Little Things

1. Very few people are destined to great things by Almighty God. Most of us must offer ourselves in the relatively unimportant walks of life in which we have been placed by Providence. Only some of the Saints were endowed with exceptional virtues and miraculous powers which attracted the attention and admiration of the world. In the normal course of events Christian perfection must be acquired little by little through the practice of ordinary virtues and unspectacular good actions. There is always scope for these. An upsurge of anger can be suppressed from the motive of the love of God and of our neighbour. We can behave courteously towards people who are unsympathetic towards us or who offend us by their unmannerly conduct. We can combat pride by acts of humility and egoism by acts of charity. We can mortify ourselves in speech, in behaviour, and at table, and we can give alms to the poor, good advice to the ignorant, and comfort to the afflicted.

All these virtuous actions are insignificant in the eyes of men, but they are great in the sight of God. The blades of grass and the flowers in the meadow are tiny things, but joined together they constitute the pasture which provides nourishment for the herds and flocks. Let us perform these small actions every day and so cultivate the ordinary virtues. We shall attract the attention and favour of God, Who will help us to advance step by step towards the peak of Christian perfection.

2. Just as there are very ordinary acts of virtue, so there are very ordinary sins. But it would be rash to regard acts of deception, vanity and impatience as insignificant. Every deliberate sin is an offence against God, our highest good and our Redeemer.

How can God be indifferent to these ungrateful violations of His law? After all, even as He has assured us that a cup of cold water given in His name to a thirsty man will have its reward (Cf. Mt. 10:42), so He has assured us that not even the slightest trace of sin can enter into eternal glory. We shall not be condemned to Hell for venial sins alone, but we shall suffer a decline in grace and shall be obliged to expiate our sins either in this life or in Purgatory.

3. Our eternal salvation will probably be determined by these ordinary acts of virtue and these ordinary sins. Jesus compared the kingdom of Heaven to a mustard-seed which grows into a tree. Similarly, many Saints began their spiritual ascent by following up one simple inspiration, and many souls, perhaps, have found themselves condemned as a result of having neglected the commonplace virtues and inspirations.

Ordinary virtue may develop into heroic virtue, but if a man has neglected to train himself to act well in small matters, how will he behave in a time of great spiritual trial? Experience also teaches us that smaller vices can develop into great vices. “He who wastes the little he has will be stripped bare.” (Ecclus. 19:1) A man who is not faithful to God in little things will not be faithful in greater things. We are either going up or down in the way of perfection; it is almost impossible to stand still. If we sincerely wish to make progress, let us resolve to avoid the least suggestion of sin and to enrich ourselves daily by tiny acts of virtue.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Other Ways of Resisting Temptation - Cardinal Bacci

Other Ways of Resisting Temptation

1. After prayer, humility is the best weapon in our struggle against temptation.

God wishes us to realise that we are incapable of a single good thought or action without His assistance. “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything, as from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.” (2 Cor. 3:5) “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5) We cannot conquer temptation without the grace of God, and God only gives His grace to the humble. He allows us to be troubled by temptation in order to humble us, and if He perceives that we are still proud He allows us to fall by denying us His grace. Many of our falls, especially sins of impurity, are the result of pride.

Let us be humble, therefore, and recognise our own nothingness. At the same time, let us have complete confidence in God. “I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13) We must be humble not only in the sight of God, but also in the presence of men. “What hast thou that thou hast not received? And if thou hast received, why dost thou boast as if thou hadst not received it?” (1 Cor. 4:7) Pride and ambition are links in a chain which secures us in the bondage of sin.

2. The third method is to avoid the occasions of sin. Anyone who places himself without grave reasons in the proximate occasion of sin is certain to fall. “He who loves danger,” the Holy Spirit warns us, “will perish in it.” (Ecclus. 3:27) It is useless for a man to pray when he is exposing himself needlessly and voluntarily to the danger of sinning. He cannot expect God to hear his prayers, for this is presumption, not confidence in God.

On the other hand a man may be obliged to expose himself to the risk of temptation in the course of his job or for some other strong reason. In this case, he can be sure of God's assistance, but he should fortify himself by fervent prayer and by taking all the precautions necessary to minimise the danger. Where temptations against holy purity are involved, it is especially necessary to avoid even the slightest occasion of sin when that is possible. As St. Francis de Sales was accustomed to say, there are certain battles which can only be won by soldiers who are prepared to retreat.

3. Very often it is impossible to flee from temptation, and there is no alternative but to face up to it.

We cannot face up to every kind of temptation in precisely the same manner. Pride, for example, may be assailed not merely by thinking about our own weakness, but also by performing acts of humility. We can counter irritability by remaining silent and by behaving gently and patiently. We can quench the desire for revenge by doing good to our enemies. In short, we can combat each temptation by performing good actions opposed to the vice towards which we are being drawn.

There are certain temptations, however, which it is wiser not to confront directly. If we allow ourselves to come face to face with impure thoughts and suggestions, for example, our senses are further aroused and the battle becomes harder than ever. God's grace should be implored from the outset and our good resolutions should be renewed. Then we should direct our attention to other thoughts and pursuits which are capable of holding our interest. If the temptations are particularly violent, voluntary mortification may be helpful and even necessary.

Once we have triumphed, we shall be rewarded with spiritual peace.

The Main Way to Conquer Temptation - Cardinal Bacci

The Main Way to Conquer Temptation

1. God never allows us to be tempted beyond our strength, but will always give us the grace which we need in order to resist. “God is faithful,” St. Paul writes, “and will not permit you to be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will always give you a way out that you may be able to bear it.” (Cor. 10:13)

The man who is so discouraged by frequent falls that he surrenders to temptation and resigns himself to the slavery of sin as if there were no other way out, is making a fatal mistake. God is infinitely good and merciful and loves us all, even those who are sinners. Remember the parable of the Prodigal Son and of the lost sheep. How could our heavenly Father abandon us and not give us the strength to resist evil?

If we are discouraged, let us ask God's help, for He loves us and knows how weak we are. “He knows how we are formed.” (Ps. 102:14) It is a favourite trick of the devil to persuade us that nothing can help us. Let us cast aside all thoughts of discouragement, therefore, and arm ourselves with the necessary spiritual weapons. With humility, perseverance, and the grace of God, we are sure to triumph.

2. The masters of the spiritual life suggest various ways of combating temptation. As St. Alphonsus de' Liguori points out, however, “the first way is absolutely essential, and that is to pray to God for the light and strength to conquer. Without prayer it is impossible to overcome temptation, whereas with prayer we are sure of victory.” (Al Servizio Divino, p. 11, c. 6)

The reason is obvious. Prayer is not simply a verbal address to Almighty God, but is an elevation of the mind and heart, a conversation with God. Let us pray, therefore, with confidence and with love.

3. Jesus Himself commands us to do this. “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (Mt. 26:41) Temptation against chastity in particular can only be conquered by prayer. There must be no hesitation, but an immediate recourse to God as soon as the temptation is experienced.

“Slay the enemy while it is small,”' recommends St. Jerome. When a lion is small, it is easily killed, but if we wait for it to grow up, it will be more likely to kill us instead. It is the same with temptation. St. Francis de Sales tells us that we should imitate the little children who fly to the arms of their father and mother as soon as they spy a wolf. We should fly to Jesus and Mary for protection.

As long as temptation lasts we should persevere in prayer.

Temptations - Cardinal Bacci


1. When a man fears and loves God, temptation is the greatest trial which he can endure.

“No one is so perfect and holy,” says the Imitation of Christ, "as not sometimes to have temptations; and we never can be wholly free from them. Nevertheless, temptations are often very profitable to a man, troublesome and grievous though they may be; for in them a man is humbled, purified and instructed. All the Saints passed through many tribulations and temptations, and profited by them. And they that could not support temptations became reprobate, and fell away ...

“A man is never wholly secure from temptation as long as he liveth; for there is within us the source of temptation, since we were born in concupiscence ...

“Inconstancy of mind, and little confidence in God, is the beginning of all evil temptations. For as a ship without a helm is driven to and fro by the waves, so the man who is negligent, and giveth up his resolution, is tempted in various ways. Fire trieth iron, and temptation a just man.” (Imitation of Christ, Bk I, c. 13)

These words from “The Imitation of Christ” should encourage us. God sends us temptations in order to test our virtue and to make us understand that we are in continual need of Him. The important thing is to overcome them with the help of His grace, for a thousand temptations do not constitute a single sin. When we are prepared to make sacrifices and to rely upon God's assistance, temptations can be a source of merit for us.

“Blessed is the man who endures temptations,” writes St. James, “for when he has been tried, he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:12)

We should not fear temptations nor be discouraged by them. Instead, we should watch and pray, and love God.

2. “Still we must watch,” The Imitation of Christ continues, “especially in the beginning of temptation, for then the enemy is more easily overcome, if he be not suffered to enter the door of the mind, but is withstood upon the threshold the very moment that he knocketh. Whence a certain one hath said: ‘Resist beginning; all too late the cure, when ills have gathered strength by long delay.’ (Ovid. Remed. Amor., 5:91) For first there cometh into the mind a simple thought; then a strong imagination; afterwards delight, and the evil motion and consent.” (Imitation of Christ, Bk. 1, c. 13)

It is worth meditating on this vivid description of the psychology of temptation and of the simplest remedy by which it can be combated. Every temptation is first presented to the mind as a simple thought. If a man is determined enough it is quite easy to reject it immediately. If there is any delay, however, the concept is clothed by the imagination and projected in vivid colours until it arouses the evil inclinations of the senses. In this way the idea takes possession of the mind, so that it is almost impossible to set it free.

We must be ready to face up to such an idea before it takes possession of us. We should treat it as we would a serpent, not pausing to examine it, but taking to flight at once. If we are resolute, the grace of God will ensure our safety.

3. Why does God allow us to endure temptations? According to spiritual writers, there are two main reasons.

(1) Because God wishes us to be humble and not to depend too much on ourselves. Before he was tempted, St. Peter boasted that he would never deny his Master. When he was tempted, he fell, and recognised his weakness.

(2) Because by resisting temptation we can show our love for Jesus and our readiness to sacrifice everything for Him.

Temptations, therefore, can teach us humility and can help us to store up merit for our souls.

Progress in the Love of God - Cardinal Bacci

Progress in the Love of God

1. The entire Christian system is based on the love of God. This is “the greatest and first commandment” (Mt. 22:38) of Jesus, from which the second commandment to love our neighbour naturally flows. A man who does not observe this first commandment is not a Christian, whereas a man who endeavours to increase every day his love for God is a saint. There are many grades of ascent in this love, but the basic step is indicated in the words of our Divine Master: “He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me.” (John 14:15, 21)

The love of God should not consist of an empty and ineffective sentimentality, but should comprise a sincere determination to please God by carrying out His will without reserve and by becoming more closely united to Him by the help of His holy grace. Progress in the love of God is divided by the masters of the spiritual life into three stages: - (1) the period of purification; (2) the period of illumination; and (3) the period of union with God. We may have advanced no farther than the first stage because there is still so much to be purified in our souls. Nevertheless, let us ask God's grace to help us to begin this work immediately.

2. They are in the first grade of perfection in the love of God who desire to love Him but still feel an attachment to sin. How is it possible to love God and at the same time to offend Him by yielding to unlawful desires and to the attractions of the world? This is a mystery of the human heart, which can experience simultaneously the desire to love God and the disturbances of the flesh.

People like this must humbly persevere in praying for the grace which they need. They must eradicate their major vices one by one so that they may be free to love God. Since their course will be difficult and full of obstacles, they will need the courage of mountaineers, but, far above, the white and sun-kissed summit awaits them. Only toil and sacrifice can bring them there, but when they arrive they will know real happiness, for they will see God. “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God.” (Mt. 5:8)

3. The second stage is one of illumination and increase in perfection. When the soul has been set free from sin, it must be enriched by all the virtues.

The love of God demands that we should never stand still. If we sincerely love God, we must please Him in every way. Under the influence of His grace, therefore, we must ascend step by step towards the perfection which Jesus requires of us, (Mt. 5:48) until we reach the third stage, which is union with God. We shall be blessed with happiness if we can reach this peak, for we shall look upon the joys and sorrows of this world with a tranquil gaze. Our whole being will go out to God in an act of complete surrender. Like St. Paul, we shall no longer be ourselves, but shall belong wholly to God. Let us be fervent and energetic in striving to reach this summit of perfection, which is a foretaste of Heaven itself.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Knowledge and Sanctity - Cardinal Bacci

Knowledge and Sanctity

1. If there had been equal progress throughout the ages in sanctity and in science, men would now be very wise and very holy.

It is a well-known fact that science has made great strides, but it must be admitted, unfortunately, that it has often forgotten its beginning and final end, which is God alone. The object of knowledge is truth, and all truth comes from God, but it dwells in created things like a reflection of divine light. We must trace this reflected light back to its original source. If students had always done this, they could have become wise as well as learned. They would have gained from their studies and research a deeper knowledge of God, the author of all the marvels in the universe, and they would have discovered how to worship and obey Him.

When science goes astray or becomes an end in itself, it ceases to be of real service and can become an instrument of evil. When the history of philosophy was described as the history of human aberrations, this was not altogether an exaggeration. Moreover, the technical and practical sciences which are flourishing in this era have often become the means of human destruction. This is what happens when science turns away from God, who is its origin.

There is a great deal of learning in the modern world, but very little holiness. As a result of their absorption in intellectual labour and scientific research, men have forgotten the most important thing in life, which is goodness.

It would seem that the intellect has stifled the impulses of the heart and the dictates of conscience. Do not let this happen in your own case. By all means, have and promote learning, but more than anything else cultivate in your soul that sanctity which will be your greatest treasure in life.

2. We have no right to speak evil of human learning and industry, which are always a gift from God. But we must recognise that goodness is more important than knowledge. The devil's intellect is superior to ours, but he has lost God and in losing God has lost everything which is good.

“Knowledge puffs up,” (1 Cor. 8:1) writes St. Paul. Pride and presumption can easily spring from a little learning, whereas the fruits of holiness are always beneficial to ourselves and to others.

Let us be humble in our scientific studies and use the results which we obtain for our own progress in sanctity.

3. Padre Cordovans has described the proper progress of the intellect in the following way.

(1) First of all, it studies the things which it knows and mysteriously enriches itself.

(2) It rises from this abundance of knowledge to a keener sense of responsibility in life, until it achieves a Christian harmony. At this stage we have faith, meditation and Christian formation.

(3) Meditation cannot afford to become enclosed within itself, but goes on to become inflamed with love until it develops into contemplation. Now we have the contemplative, who can be a monk, a scientist, or a politician.

(4) If everything goes well, the contemplative abandons his state of solitude and goes in search of souls in the manner of the Saints and of our Divine Master. Otherwise, the contemplative can become a quietist. (Breviario Spirituale, p. 129)

We should try and follow this course in our studies, whether they are sacred or profane. If we do so, we shall achieve personal sanctity and shall engage ourselves in apostolic work for others.

Holiness - Cardinal Bacci


1. In a radio message which he broadcast on the occasion of the Beatification of Pope Innocent XI, the Supreme Pontiff, Pius XII, defined holiness as “the intimate awareness of loyal subjection to God, Who is adored and loved as the beginning, end, and norm of every thought, affection, word, and action.”

Let us meditate on this definition, which helps to shed some light on the true nature of sanctity. A holy man must always have a keen awareness of his own dependence upon God, his Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier, and his hoped for reward and happiness in the next life. This awareness must be vivid, for it should not be possible for it to be obscured by worldly distractions or obliterated by sensual allurements. It should be active, so that it may not be a merely theoretical acknowledgment of our dependence which leads to nothing more than lip-worship; on the contrary, it must be capable of transforming our lives into an act of obedience and of love. Finally, it should be a faithful awareness, a complete and voluntary subjection to God which is the driving force behind all our words and actions, and which inspires us alike in joy and in sorrow, in victory and in defeat. If we wish to be perfect Christians, we must cultivate this kind of consciousness of our dependence upon God.

2. It is not true to say that holiness can be attained only by a few select souls, so that ordinary goodness is sufficient for people like ourselves who have so many other things to think about and to do. Such an attitude leads to tepidity, from which it is a short and easy step to sin itself. Anyway, there is no such thing as mediocre virtue, for if virtue is not aiming at perfection it is not genuine. A sincere Christian cannot be satisfied with mediocrity, for he is obliged to be holy, or at least to fight hard with the help of God's grace to become holy.

Even in the Old Testament we read: “I, the Lord, am your God; and you shall make and keep yourselves holy, because I am holy.” (Lev. 11:44; 19:2) This exhortation is repeated by St. Peter in his first Epistle, (1 Peter 1:15-16) and in the Gospel Jesus Himself commands us to be perfect even as our heavenly Father is perfect. (Mt. 5:48) Holiness, then, is a goal towards which all sincere Christians must strive.

3. We need Saints to recall our wayward and corrupt society to the paths of truth, justice and charity. We should pray to God to send us Saints who will reform the world by living the Gospel and making it live for others. Above all, we should endeavour to become holy ourselves. To achieve this we do not have to put on sack-cloth, go into the desert, or shut ourselves up in a monastery. Each of us can become a saint in his own home and in whatever position God has allotted him. All we have to do is obey God's Will in everything, love Him above everything, love our neighbour as ourselves, avoid sin and aim at what is good. We can and should do all this with the help of God.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Nature and Grace - Cardinal Bacci

Nature and Grace

1. “Observe diligently the motions of nature and grace,” says the Imitation of Christ, “for they move with great contrariety and subtlety, and can hardly be distinguished but by a spiritual man, and one that is inwardly enlightened.” (Imit. of Christ, Bk. III, c. 54.)

The struggle between fallen nature and grace is due to original sin, which extinguished in us the supernatural life and gave rise to the disharmony which exists between our lower faculties and reason, and between reason and God. Even the Saints experienced this fearful internal battle between good and evil. “I see another law in my members,” says St. Paul, “warring against the law of my mind.” (Rom. 7:23) Elsewhere he complains that “the flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh,” (Gal. 5:17) and that the temptations of the flesh assailed him so strongly that he pleaded with God to save him. But God's reply to his entreaties was: “My grace is sufficient for thee, for strength is made perfect in weakness.” (Cf. 2 Cor. 12:7-9)

This does not mean that human nature is substantially corrupt and incapable of doing good as a result of sin. The inclination towards goodness and towards God remains and is very strong in our better moments. Nevertheless, we need the helping hand of God so that this inclination may express itself in good actions worthy of an everlasting reward. For this reason we should pray humbly and constantly for the precious gift of divine grace.

2. Two extremes must be avoided in the relationship between nature and grace. The first is that of the rigorists who see in human nature nothing but confusion and the propensity towards evil, and therefore advocate an iron domination completely lacking in any understanding of human frailty. They believe that perfection must be achieved swiftly by means of the most ferocious privations and penances. This excessively severe approach to the spiritual life can lead to discouragement and eventual collapse. The way of perfection is an ascending ladder which must be climbed step by step. Falls must be expected, but it is necessary to rise again at once with renewed courage, knowing that when we reach the top we shall find rest and peace.

The other extreme is an attitude of superficial ease. There is no emphasis on the necessity of grace, nor on the need for prayer and faithful co-operation with God's grace in order to perform good works. Instead there is a kind of natural decency and luke¬warm virtue which ignores the necessity for mortification and the spirit of sacrifice. Anyone who sets out on this path can never be a fervent and active Christian.

3. Even though there is a contrast between grace and nature there is also a certain harmony, because God made us for Himself, as St. Augustine says, and our hearts will never be at rest until they rest in Him. Grace is a supernatural graft which elevates our nature and makes it capable of attaining everlasting life. It is necessary to take away all the shoots of the old tree-stump and to care for the new branches. Only then shall we begin to approach Christian perfection.

“Therefore, O Lord, let Thy grace always go before and follow me, and make me ever intent upon good works, through Jesus Christ Thy Son, Amen.” (Imit. of Christ, Bk. III, c. 55)

Our Dominant Passion - Cardinal Bacci

Our Dominant Passion

1. Among the passions which disturb us, there is one predominant tendency which is our particular weakness. Perhaps we are not aware what it is, but those who have to live with us know it well. It is essential for us to know it also in order to make it a special objective in our spiritual combat.

This information may be obtained by praying earnestly to the Holy Spirit to enlighten us to know ourselves, by making a daily examination of conscience, and by seeking the advice of our confessor, of our spiritual director, and of any sincere friend. It is our predominant passion which most often leads us into sin. It recurs in all our confessions and we have great difficulty in overcoming it. The predominant passion of Cain was envy, which he failed to combat in time, so that eventually it caused him to commit fratricide. Lust was the predominant passion of Mary Magdalen and of St. Augustine and until they managed to control it, it led them into many grave errors. It was because the Apostle Judas neglected to struggle against his own avarice that he became a traitor. There are others who are inordinately proud and ambitious, and still others who are governed by a craving for pleasure.

What is your predominant passion? You must know what it is in order to combat it determinedly, for otherwise it will lead you into one sin after another until you are eternally ruined.

2. Holy and God-fearing people know their own particular weakness. They accept it as a cross and will not rest until they have conquered it with God's help. The battle cannot be won in a day, but in most cases takes a great many years. Often the ultimate victory is not gained until the hour of death.

It has been said that self-love dies three days after ourselves. We are enormously attached to our own ego, and humility is a very difficult virtue to acquire. Sometimes we have struggled for years to gain it and, quite suddenly, we meet with another disastrous fall. It would be easy to be overcome by discouragement at this stage, but this should not be allowed to happen. When we fall we should say to God in our repentance: “It is good for me to be humbled.” To ourselves we should say immediately: “Let us begin all over again!”

St. Francis de Sales was endowed by nature with a sharp and hasty temperament, against which he fought for many years with great determination and reliance on God's help. Finally, he conquered and came to be regarded as an angel of peace. Nevertheless, even in the later years of his life, he still experienced inward tendencies towards anger, so that his exterior gentleness was really a supreme act of virtue.

3. We can conquer our predominant passion by the following means:

(a) Fervent prayer.

(b) A daily examination of conscience, in the course of which we shall discover whether we have made any progress in the way of perfection, and shall renew our good resolutions.

(c) Weekly or at least fortnightly confession.

(d) Daily or at least frequent communion.

(e) Avoidance of the occasions of sin and employment of the necessary means to overcome sin.

(f) The performance of good actions which are opposed to our predominant passion.

(g) Determination to fight and to conquer, because we are convinced that it is absolutely necessary to do so.

There can be no half-measures, for the only alternative to victory is defeat. If we are conquered, we shall be slaves of passion in this life and shall be everlastingly unhappy in the next.

Singularity - St Philip Neri

"Avoid every kind of singularity, for it is generally the hot-bed of pride, especially spiritual pride."

Friday, 18 July 2014

Our Passions - Cardinal Bacci

Our Passions

1. Our passions are not essentially sinful. They can open the way to evil, but they can also lead us towards perfection. Everything depends on how we control and direct them. They are impulses which are at the same time valuable and dangerous.

Human nature was wounded as a result of original sin. The soul was disobedient to God, and the lower faculties rebelled against right reason. Hence the disturbance of our passions. What should our attitude be in regard to this problem? Should we suppress or obliterate our passions, as some of the Stoics would have done? It is, in fact, impossible to do this, for our passions are innate natural forces which cannot be destroyed. What we should do is guide and control them. If the dykes are burst, a strongly flowing river can cause havoc, but if its course is wisely directed it irrigates the soil and makes it fertile. It is the same with our natural inclinations, which “can be used to form a saint, but can also make a brigand.” (Cordovani, Breviario Spirituale, p. 66)

A man with a fiery and aggressive temperament can use his natural impulses under God's guidance to combat vice in himself and in others. One who is haughty and ambitious by nature can convert his ambition into a quest for the true and lasting glory of Heaven. Finally, a passionate man who feels the need to love and to be loved can find a partial remedy in Christian friendship. Most of all, however, he can find repose in the love of God.

2. It is a hard thing to control and to direct our natural inclinations. It requires perseverance, sacrifice, and the grace of God, for which we should always pray.

Often this struggle will last a lifetime, and we can still fall even after many years of combat. It is important, however, never to give up. If a man accepts defeat and quietly submits to the tyranny of sinful passion, he is lost forever. It is a poor outlook also for a Christian who ends up by being satisfied with a life of worthless mediocrity. We must fight hard, pray fervently, and value nothing higher than the love of Christ. When we are finally victorious, our joy will be greater than any happiness which the world can give.

3. Let us be vigilant in the control of our passions. As soon as they tempt us to do anything contrary to right reason and the divine law, let us renew our resolutions and implore the help of God. “O God,” let us pray, “I wish to love You above all things. I wish neither to contemplate nor intend nor do anything which could offend You in any way.” This is the only way in which we shall find peace and an easy conscience for, as “The Imitation of Christ” says, “whenever a man desireth any thing inordinately, straightaway he is disquieted within himself.” (Imit. of Christ, Bk. 1, c. 6) “It is by resisting the passions,” it continues, “and not by serving them, that true peace of heart is to be found.” (Ibid.)

A Life of Fervour - Cardinal Bacci

A Life of Fervour

1. " To pray is to love," wrote St. Augustine. The man who loves God prays continually and with fervour, whereas the man who has little love for his Creator prays rarely and apathetically. Prayer does not consist primarily in verbal expression, but in the elevation of the mind to God in adoration, thanksgiving, propitiation, and supplication. Love should be the inspiration of our communication with God, for where there is no love there can be no prayer.

Jesus tells us that we “must always pray and not lose heart.” (Luke 18:1) We may be working, walking, talking, eating or sleeping, but whatever we are doing, the love of God can transform it into a prayer. This is so if we are engaged in our work, but have offered it to God in advance. If we are in trouble, our sufferings will be pleasing to God. If we are walking about, everything will speak to us of God and cause us to make acts of gratitude and of love. We shall have dealings with men of the world, but they will perceive and appreciate that we are spiritually united to God. We shall sleep because sleep is necessary, but what appear to be hours of fruitless inactivity will be dedicated to our Creator. Fervour in prayer and in action should be the constant ideal of the good Christian, because it makes his entire life pleasing to God.

2. God is our Creator and absolute Master, Whom the Angels adore and irrational creatures obey. His greatness demands that we should offer all our activity to Him in a spirit of fervent and loving dedication. Since we have received everything from Him, we have many reasons for loving Him. By the work of redemption God became our friend and brother, and the victim of expiation for our sins. How could we remain indifferent and ungrateful when we remember the favours which we have received? Love desires love in return, and God loved us so much that He became man and shed His blood for us. Moreover, He immolates Himself continually on our behalf in the Sacrifice of the Eucharist. Finally, our fervour should be increased by the reflection that God has reserved for us as an everlasting reward His own Beatific Vision.

All these considerations should help to increase the fervour of our love. Then our actions will form a ladder of ascent to God by means of which we shall become intimately united to Him.

3. The fervent Christian will never miss an opportunity of advancing in perfection. When he feels that he is growing negligent, he combats the signs of spiritual retrogression and makes a new beginning by telling God that he wishes to belong entirely to Him. It is his motto that no day must ever pass without a further step towards perfection. To decide to stand still is fatal, for it leads inevitably to a decline. It is true that the constant effort to advance costs great sacrifices, but sanctity cannot be achieved without sacrifice and everlasting happiness cannot be gained without perseverance in virtue. Moreover, difficult though the ascent towards perfection may be, it eases the heaviness of our hearts and brings us that fundamental peace which God alone can give.

The Grace of God - Cardinal Bacci

The Grace of God

1. God has endowed us with wonderful corporal and spiritual gifts, creating us after His own image with powers of intellect and of will. More than this, He has raised us to the supernatural order by communicating to us His grace, which enables us to live His own life and to share in His divine nature as His adopted sons.

Grace is the greatest gift which God has given us. It enlightens our minds and moves our will to obey His commands and to perform actions which merit an everlasting reward. It is an entirely supernatural and gratuitous gift. For this reason we cannot merit it, but we should continually pray for it because it is absolutely necessary if we are to do good and to merit Heaven. Our first ancestor, Adam, was endowed with this gift by our Creator. Unfortunately, by original sin he lost it for himself and for his descendants.

We cannot complain to God about this loss, since grace is an entirely supernatural gift which is in no way due to our human nature. For the same reason we cannot merit it on our own. But God, being infinitely good as well as infinitely just, sent His only begotten Son to redeem us from sin and to grant us His friendship once more.

We should be very grateful to God for this extraordinary favour and should unite our efforts to the divine action of grace in the performance of good works which will enable us to merit everlasting life.

2. It is astonishing to consider how much St. Paul accomplished when he had been transformed by the grace of God. Formerly a persecutor of Christians, he became the Apostle of the Gentiles. Enlightened by faith and inspired by charity, he travelled the globe spreading everywhere the religion of Jesus Christ.

He feared neither the anger of the hostile Jews nor the tribunals of the Roman judges, neither long and difficult journeys nor scourging, shipwreck and imprisonment. “The love of Christ impels us,” (2 Cor. 5:14) he said. It was the love of God which drove him on and on until he met his martyrdom. But what about ourselves? We also have received grace from God. Often we hear His voice appealing to us to abandon our sinful ways, to practise virtue, to love Him more ardently and to prove our love by deeds. If we co-operate, we shall be able to say with St. Paul: “by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace in me has not been fruitless,” (1 Cor. 15:10) and “I have labored . . . yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” (Ibid.)

It is wise to recall, however, that Judas also received special graces from God. He did not correspond with them and was probably damned for eternity. If we fail to correspond with God's graces, the result will be tragic for ourselves.

3. “Be not silent; Lord, be not far from me.” (Ps. 34:22)

It is never really God Who is silent. He is forever appealing to us to lead good lives. He is never really far from us, but is always ready to bestow His gifts on us. Even when we have sinned, we hear His voice prompting us to thoughts of remorse. Even when we stray away from Him, He follows and asks us to return to Him. It is we who must ensure that the noise of the world will not prevent us from hearing His fatherly appeal, and that sinful temptations will not destroy His influence over us.

Let us continually implore His graces because we are always in need of them. Let us use them well so that they will enable us to gain everlasting life.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Litany of Humility

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved...
From the desire of being extolled...
From the desire of being honored...
From the desire of being praised...
From the desire of being preferred to others...
From the desire of being consulted...
From the desire of being approved ...
From the fear of being humiliated...
From the fear of being despised...
From the fear of suffering rebukes ...
From the fear of being calumniated ...
From the fear of being forgotten ...
From the fear of being ridiculed ...
From the fear of being wronged ...
From the fear of being suspected ...

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.That others may be esteemed more than I ...
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease ...
That others may be chosen and I set aside ...
That others may be praised and I unnoticed ...
That others may be preferred to me in everything...
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

(Cardinal Merry del Val)

The Enemies of the Soul - Cardinal Bacci

The Enemies of the Soul

1. It is Christian teaching that we have three enemies which are a constant threat to our salvation. The first is the devil, an invisible but very powerful foe.

The devil was once an angel of beauty. He had gifts superior to those of men and was in a state of happiness. But God required from him a proof of his fidelity before he could merit the everlasting reward for which he had been destined.

Lucifer was proud of his beauty and power. Believing that he was equal to the Most High God, he rebelled against his Creator and drew with him into eternal ruin innumerable bands of disloyal angels. Their sin was greater than ours because they had been endowed with a superior intellect and their will was not subject to the pull of the sensitive appetites of a material body. This is why God did not give them time to repent but condemned them immediately to the everlasting torments of Hell. It is false to imagine, however, that they are confined as it were, in one place. Being pure spirits, they can with God's permission wander throughout the world, carrying their hell within themselves. Moreover, they can endanger in a thousand ways our eternal salvation. The Gospel often speaks of diabolical temptations and obsessions, and St. Peter warns us to be continually on our guard against the onslaughts of the enemy. “Be sober,” he says, “be watchful! For your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goes about seeking someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same suffering befalls your brethren all over the world.” (1 Peter 5:8)

It is the same now as it was in the time of Jesus and His Apostles.

We do not see this infernal spirit, but we feel his presence. Let us remember what St. Augustine wrote about him. “The devil,” he said, “is a mastiff in chains. He can bark, but he cannot bite unless we yield to his evil suggestions and approach him. Watch and pray.”

2. The second enemy is the world. There are so many beautiful things around us, reflecting the power and the goodness of God. These should be an invitation to us to love their Creator, and a spiritual ladder which leads us towards Him. Unfortunately, we often go astray in the midst of the passing beauty of this world. Often we set our hearts upon this beauty, our hearts which should belong wholly to God and which can find peace and happiness in Him alone. Sometimes worldly objects deceive the senses and ensnare the will. Riches, pleasures, and honours attract us and we fail to remember that everything on earth passes like a shadow and that when we shall stand before the judgment seat of God, only our good works will accompany us.

3. Our most terrible enemy, however, is in ourselves - our body, which by sinning can rebel against the soul and against God. “The flesh lusts against the spirit,” says St. Paul, “and the spirit against the flesh.” (Gal. 5:17) Although he had reached the highest peak of sanctity, Paul still complained of the temptations of the flesh, which continued to buffet his soul like messengers of Satan. (2 Cor. 12:7)

We experience carnal urges far more strongly than he did. We should resist them by faith and by prayer, keeping close to Almighty God. It is fatal to lay down our arms, for the flesh with its evil designs will seize its advantage and become the relentless tyrant of the soul. Then, under the guise of satisfying our desires, it will make us unhappy in this life and will condemn us forever in the next.

The Good Odour of Christ - Cardinal Bacci

The Good Odour of Christ

1. Everyone has an attractive side to his personality which can draw others towards good or towards evil, for a man's behaviour, countenance, and conversation reflect his inner spirit. Charm is very often a mysterious and undefinable quality. Sometimes you may meet a man of the world who has forgotten that he has an immortal soul and lives purely for pleasure. Even before he speaks to you, you can read on his lips and in his eyes the kind of man he is. If you fail to resist and to do your best to remain on a higher plane, you will be overwhelmed by the charm of his personality.

You can also encounter charm, however, in a privileged soul who is in constant contact with God. You can find it in the monk who has left the world in order to meditate on God and to pray for his own salvation and for the salvation of his brothers in Christ. You can meet it in a Saint, one of those rare men who lives in the world but thinks all the time of God. When you encounter this supernatural charm, you experience a longing to be good and holy also.

You can see a reflection of Heaven in the eyes of a Saint. When he speaks to you, words which if uttered by somebody else would have no force, stir you and urge you towards all that is good. What exactly is this quality of attractiveness? It is "the sweet odour of Christ," the spiritual fragrance of virtue. Anyone who met St. Aloysius Gonzaga felt a yearning to be pure. Anyone who heard the unadorned sermons of the Cure d'Ars wept for his sins and was set on fire with the love of God and the desire of everlasting happiness. It was the same with all the Saints. Do we influence others in this way?

2. What quality of attraction do I possess? My behaviour is the mirror of my spiritual life. If I love God and am detached from the world, especially from sin, and if I practise mortification and strive to advance in the way of Christian perfection, my personality will influence others to do good. My good example rather than my words will have a spiritual appeal for others, so that I shall be a living sermon.

Words are heard, but example attracts. It is a great misfortune for me if my sins, tepidity or vices are the true reflection of my spiritual state and lead others into evil also.

3. I ought to examine the way in which I behave in the church, in my family, and in society. When I am in the church, my whole being should be absorbed in prayer. My mind should be occupied with God, my heart should love Him, and my lips should praise and thank Him. Anyone who sees me praying should wish to do the same.

When I am in my own home, I should promote peace and harmony by my good example. The family is like a miniature church in which everyone should exercise some priestly function in keeping with his position.

Finally, I should carry about in society ‘the good odour of Christ,’ the fragrance of my interior holiness. I can do this if I am not ashamed of my Christian faith and if I act constantly in perfect accordance with the evangelical precepts.

When I have examined myself on these points, I should form resolutions which will help me to improve my behaviour.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Vanity - Cardinal Bacci


1. God was perfectly happy in Himself from all eternity and did not need any creature to add to His glory. Nevertheless, in order to diffuse His Power and goodness He created our world in which is reflected the harmony of His Divine Essence. Even as all things have their origin in Him, they have Him as their final end. He is the eternal harbour towards which all created things flow, even as the rivers roll continually onwards until they reach the peace of the sea. In this vast world of solar systems rotating in the firmament, of mineral and vegetable wealth and of animal creation, you are only a very tiny being who has received everything from God. Nevertheless, you are often convinced that you are important. You glory in your talents as if they belonged to you and were not a gift which God has given to you.

Vanity is a form of theft. God has given us everything, including life itself, and we act as if His gifts were our rightful possession. We boast about them, show them off in the company of others, and are delighted when we receive praise or respect. Let us imagine that we are dying and shall soon be alone in the presence of God. At that supreme moment what will earthly glory matter to us? Of what account will be human flattery and transitory success? When we are alone before God, nothing will matter except humility and the merits which we have gained. These will make us worthy of God's friendship and of a heavenly reward.

2. Vanity destroys whatever is good in our actions and makes them useless in the sight of God. It robs our good actions of all merit because they should be done only for the glory of God, whereas we are performing them for our own glory. We want them to be seen by others so that we shall be honoured by men as noble and holy.

If our actions have been motivated by self-interest rather than by the desire for the glory of God, we shall hear at the judgment seat of God the terrible condemnation: “You have received your reward.” (Cf. Mt. 6:2) If we have sought our own satisfaction instead of God's glory during our lifetime, we shall not receive an everlasting reward.

3. “What hast thou,” asks St. Paul, “that thou hast not received? And if thou hast received it, why dost thou boast as if thou hadst not received it?” (1 Cor. 4:7) Whenever we are tempted to be proud or boastful, let us reflect on these words of the Apostle of the Gentiles. In spite of the miracles which he had worked and the sacrifices which he had endured for the love of Jesus, he said: “I am nothing.” (2 Cor. 12:11)

If we model our lives on this outstanding example we shall have peace on earth and an everlasting reward in Heaven.

Falling into Sin - Cardinal Bacci

Falling into Sin

1. “The just man falls seven times,” (Prov. 24:16) says the Book of Proverbs. Unfortunately, we have all experienced how true this is. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.” (Cf. 1 John 1:8)

We fall often in many ways - in thought, in speech, in action, and by omission. Sometimes we fall in a moment of weakness or of impatience; at other times we sin by an act of premeditated malice. “Watch and pray,” Our Lord warns us, “that you may not enter into temptation.” (Mt. 26:41)

Our Lord also said that we “must always pray and not lose heart.” (Luke 18:1) In other words, we should have a spirit of prayer which is based on the love of God and keeps us close to Him. It is only when we are united to God that temptations cannot hurt us and we are protected by His grace from falling into deliberate sin.

It is idle to protest that this would require the virtue of an anchorite, and that we are entangled in all kinds of other business. Virtue is necessary for everybody, not only for anchorites. “The kingdom of heaven has been enduring violent assault, and the violent have been seizing it by force.” (Mt. 11:12) In order to attain to the kingdom of God, therefore, we have to do violence to our corrupted nature. A life of solitude is not essential for prayer, however. One can be busy from morning till night and pray continuously, so that his work is offered to God and done for the love of God. In this way work becomes prayer and will save us from falling into sin.

2. When we realise that we have fallen, what should we do about it? We must avoid two extreme and opposing kinds of reaction - hardness of heart, and an excessive anxiety which might lead to discouragement and loss of confidence in God's infinite mercy. Above all, we must avoid hardness of heart, and that accompanying state of indifference which causes us to become immersed in sin. Let us hope that we shall never foolishly boast: “I have sinned, yet what has befallen me? for the Lord bides his time. Of forgiveness be not over-confident, adding sin upon sin.” (Ecclus. 5:4-5) When we see that we have fallen into sin, let us cry out at once like the prodigal son: “I will get up and go to my Father.” (Luke 15:18) How unfortunate I am if I have lost the friendship of God! But God is an infinitely merciful father and I must throw myself into His arms and implore His forgiveness. When we have sinned, a good confession will give us God's forgiveness and peace of soul.

3. The second extreme to be avoided is discouragement, which can lead us to despair as Judas did. We know that God is entirely good and merciful. We know that Jesus died on the Cross for our salvation. How can we doubt that He will welcome us if we repent and return to Him?

No matter how grave and how numerous our sins may be, let us remember that the mercy of God is infinite. Let us remember that He is waiting for us, as his father waited for the prodigal son, and that He is following us like a shepherd who is searching for his lost sheep. He allowed us to fall in order to humble us and help us to realise that we are incapable of doing anything good by ourselves. Let us go to Him humbly and penitently, trusting He will give us the kiss of peace and forgiveness.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Uncharitableness - Cardinal Bacci


1. It is easy, unfortunately, to abuse the gift of speech which God has given us. “If anyone does not offend in word,” says St. James, “he is a perfect man.” (James 3:2) "As often as I have been amongst men," says the Imitation of Christ, "I have returned less a man." (Bk. I, c. 20:2) Why is this so? It is because it is easy when we are in the company of men to enter into useless and even harmful discussions. As a result we lose the purity of intention which we ought to observe in all our thoughts, words and actions. We lose the spirit of recollection which keeps us in contact with God, and when we return home we are less perfect Christians because we are dissipated in mind and in heart.

It is true that if we were really holy and were accustomed to speak with people holier than ourselves, our conversations would be spiritually beneficial to us. We should go away more perfect men and closer to God than we were before. But what kind of conversations do we normally have with others? What kind of relations have we with our friends, with our superiors and inferiors, and with everyone whom we meet? Are our conversations inspired by a love for truth and charity and by a desire for the spiritual welfare of ourselves and of our neighbour?

Let us examine ourselves in this important matter and resolve that our conversations will be a means of sanctification for ourselves and others.

2. The tendency to complain about others is a most insidious cancer which can corrode all that is good in our conversation, making it harmful and even gravely sinful. Grumbling is always more or less sinful according to the circumstances. It may be a sin against charity, which demands that we love our neighbour as ourselves and help him as much as possible by word and by deed. It may be a sin of scandal, because the person to whom we are complaining may be provoked to throw stones in his turn at the subject of our detraction. It may be a sin of theft because it takes away the reputation of the person whom we are criticising. This could carry with it the obligation to make restitution by withdrawing what we have said if it is false or doubtful or by speaking charitably of the person whom we have wronged in order to restore his good name. Uncharitableness in speech is also a sin of injustice when it involves calumny, in which case there is an obligation to repair the damage done in the best way possible.

Since criticism of others can be such an evil thing, we should take care not to form the habit of employing it as a means of making our conversations more lively and acceptable. The life of a Christian should be governed by charity, and grumbling about others is always an offence against charity.

3. It is no excuse to claim that we only speak of matters which are true and known to all. They may be true, but God alone can judge the human conscience. They may be known to all, but by our maliciousness we are spreading evil about our neighbour, whereas we ought to try and spread only what is good. Besides being opposed to Christian charity, unkind conversation ruins whatever opportunities we may have of practising the apostolate, in which everyone is obliged to play his part. If we are apostolic, we promote our neighbour's spiritual welfare, whereas uncharitable criticism spreads evil about him and gives bad example to others.

The Gift of Speech - Cardinal Bacci

The Gift of Speech

1. One of God's greatest gifts, the spoken word, is the reflection of our thought and the expression of our will. In God the Word is something infinitely greater, for it is the substantial image of God, the Eternal Word of the Father through Whom He knows and therefore loves Himself. It is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. Because we have been created in the likeness of God, our Creator has endowed us also with a limited power to express our thoughts and sentiments.

It is hard to imagine how unhappy we should be if we could not express ourselves and were unable to communicate our ideas and feelings to others. We should feel as isolated as rocks separated from one another by vast expanses of sea, for we could neither give anything of ourselves to other men nor receive anything in return. We could not even praise God and tell Him how we love Him. God could have created us without the gift of speech. Since He has given it to us, we should show our gratitude by using it for His glory, for our welfare, and for the salvation of our neighbour.

2. Above all, the gift of speech is intended to be used in prayer. The tongue should express externally the interior language of the mind and heart, which should be principally concerned with the adoration of our Creator. Since we have received everything which we have from God, all our gifts should be used in His service. Speech was given to us not only to enable us to speak with men, but more particularly to enable us to speak with God. Let us sanctify this gift by means of prayer. Let us take care, however, that our prayers do not remain meaningless and superficial while our minds are absorbed with other matters.

Everything in us should pray. The intellect should bow in adoration of God's majesty; the will should conform itself entirely to His law; the heart should find its true and only happiness in God; and the tongue should praise Him, implore His favour and forgiveness, and offer our whole being to Him from Whom we have received everything. This should be the primary function of speech. If this gift is employed in this way, it will gain for us many other graces and favours from God.

3. Speech was never intended to be used in lying and in deceiving our neighbour, nor in giving scandal by unkind or blasphemous conversation. It was given to us so that we might help others by conversation which would reflect our own interior goodness and so lead them towards sanctity. It was intended to express sympathy and understanding, to give good advice, and to encourage others.

The tongue can do a great deal of good or a great deal of damage.

Let us examine our consciences now. If we have failed to employ the gift of speech for our own welfare and that of our neighbour, let us begin to correct this neglect. Let us resolve to use this gift in the service of God and in the work of the Christian Apostolate.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Seeking counsel - St Philip Neri

"In seeking for counsel it is necessary sometimes to hear what our inferiors think, and to recommend ourselves to their prayers."

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Litany of the Most Precious Blood

Litany of the Most Precious Blood

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Jesus, hear us. Jesus, graciously hear us.

God, the Father of Heaven, Have mercy on us.
God, the Son, Redeemer of the world,
God, the Holy Spirit,
Holy Trinity, One God,

Blood of Christ, only-begotten Son of the Eternal Father, Save us.
Blood of Christ, Incarnate Word of God,
Blood of Christ, of the New and Eternal Testament,
Blood of Christ, falling upon the earth in the Agony,
Blood of Christ, shed profusely in the Scourging,
Blood of Christ, flowing forth in the Crowning with Thorns,
Blood of Christ, poured out on the Cross,
Blood of Christ, price of our salvation,
Blood of Christ, without which there is no forgiveness.
Blood of Christ, Eucharistic drink and refreshment of souls,
Blood of Christ, stream of mercy,
Blood of Christ, victor over demons,
Blood of Christ, courage of Martyrs,
Blood of Christ, strength of Confessors,
Blood of Christ, bringing forth Virgins,
Blood of Christ, help of those in peril,
Blood of Christ, relief of the burdened,
Blood of Christ, solace in sorrow,
Blood of Christ, hope of the penitent,
Blood of Christ, consolation of the dying,
Blood of Christ, peace and tenderness of hearts,
Blood of Christ, pledge of eternal life,
Blood of Christ, freeing souls from purgatory,
Blood of Christ, most worthy of all glory and honor,

Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world. Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.

You have redeemed us, O Lord, in your Blood. And made us, for our God, a kingdom.

Let us pray, ---  Almighty and eternal God, you have appointed your only-begotten Son the Redeemer of the world, and willed to be appeased by his Blood. Grant we beg of you, that we may worthily adore this price of our salvation, and through its power be safeguarded from the evils of the present life, so that we may rejoice in its fruits forever in heaven. Through the same Christ our Lord.