January 8, 1997
by Fr. Lucian Pulvermacher, OFM Cap.
Our Resolve to Avoid Evil
and to Grow in Virtue
Our Resolve To Do Better
As long as we live we can always
make two general resolves of New Year's resolutions. We can and should
resolve to avoid all the evils that we can avoid, and we can always resolve
to do better - no matter in what state we find ourselves. In the spiritual
life there is no vacation, and there is no retirement.
In the above paragraph I mentioned "generic resolves
of resolutions." If we are content with lukewarm and generic resolutions
we generally get nowhere. We must make very specific resolutions as to
what evils we are going to eradicate and what virtues we are going to practice.
Let us take a few examples.
A person who is inclined to anger must resolve not
to give way to the passion of anger. In his daily prayers and attendance
at Holy Mass he is to ask God and seek the intercession of the angels and
the saints that he may recognize the onset of anger and have the power
to overcome it. If he falls, he is to give himself some penance, as for
example, the saying of three Hail Marys. As a further assistance he should
pick up a "pet" phrase as for example: "Jesus, meek and humble of heart
make my heart like unto Thine."
We have the power from God in ourselves (from Him)
to overcome all temptations to all mortal sins, or we in our weakness we
can get that power (again from God) through humble prayer. Please note,
I said "all mortal sins," for unless we received a special grace from God
we cannot avoid all venial sins. They do not strip us of sanctifying grace,
but they cool our friendship with God and bring to us temporal punishments
in this life or in purgatory. To avoid that, we are to repent of them and
seek forgiveness in the sacrament of penance or outside of the sacrament
of penance by penitential practices of mortification and prayer.
The Practice of Virtue
Let us also turn to the practice of virtues. Just
wanting to be good will not advance us very much. For the love of God we
should practice the spiritual and corporal works of mercy - in some shape
An example would be "instructing the ignorant."
I remember as a school child that I saw the priest ask a neighbor girl
to make the sign of the cross. She could not do it, and I snickered, for
I did not believe that any person her age did not know that. Her parents
did not practice "instructing the ignorant." Once the older children know
their catechism they should help their younger brothers and sister learn
their catechism. Do not be as Cane, a son of Adam and Eve, who after killing
his brother, Able, asked, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Knowing the spiritual
and corporal works of mercy and our economy of salvation the answer is,
"yes!" In a loving way we are "our brothers' keepers."
The Essence of Perfection
I shall quote a favorite author of mine - since I
read him for the first time in the seminary some sixty years ago. He is
Father Edward Leen, C.S.Sp. His book that I quote from is PROGRESS THROUGH
MENTAL PRAYER, published by Sheed and Ward, 1935, Imprimatur dated
July 27, 1935. I quote from pages 144 and 145:
"Intimacy with out Creator is based
upon knowledge. By this is not meant the mere acquisition by our intelligence
of a number of truths concerning God or Divine things. The acquisition
of theological science, no matter how profound that science may be, has
no power of itself to make us better acquainted with God or to put us on
terms of close relationship with Him. But when the activities of the intelligence
exercised on these truths is animated, directed and informed by the infused
virtue of Faith, then this intellectual activity serves to make us grow
in knowledge of God, and, through knowledge, in love. Our natural activity
of knowing must be elevated and enlivened by the infused intellectual habit
You will have to read a long time before you come
upon a more succinct explanation of the holiness of God and the possible
holiness in ourselves.
Our knowledge of God must be supernatural
knowledge if it is to promote and perfect our spirituality. The divinity
stands revealed only to the divine gaze; it is only the piercing intuition
of that glance that can comprehend the Godhead as it is in Itself and for
what it is in Itself. It is such a vision that alone can originate a love
which pours itself out on the Divine Beauty in its full reality - as opposed
to any participated or reflected forms of that Beauty. It is only the vision
of God as He is in Himself. That vision and that love belongs by nature
to God alone, and is for that reason called supernatural.
God in His mercy deigns to call
us to share the contemplation which belongs to Himself. By infusing the
divine gift of Faith into the him an intellect He elevates that faculty
and, giving it a participation of His own Divine intuition, He enables
it to contemplate - in a veiled manner in this world, clearly in the next
when faith give way to vision - the same Divine Beauty which He Himself
eternally sees and loves. It is only this vision of God, seen by nothing
else than the surrender of the will to the charms of the Divine Beauty.
No philosophical knowledge, no matter
how great, can cause the very smallest degree of this love. It is knowing
God as a child knows its own parent, not knowing a great deal about God,
that sanctifies the soul. The vision of God that alone can make us holy
is God's Vision of Himself; it is by the love in which that vision issues
that we are perfected."
God As a Magnet
Let us imagine God as a giant magnet and we being
non-magnetized iron. We have no magnetic function until we are absorbed
into God, and while we are in Him we too can perform as a magnet. Upon
departure from God (the great magnet) we can no longer function as a magnet.
Our functioning as a magnet while we are in this life is imperfect, but
in the next life it will perfect in proportion as we perfected ourselves
for that function in this life.
What we want is that our intellect and will be
absorbed into the divine intellect and divine will. We, the created being,
will forever remain created, but our functioning will have the divine.
Here we see the absurdity of those Catholics who
believe that they can be of one mind and of one will with a person in marriage
who is without the theological virtue of Faith. This applies to all our
dealings with those who are devoid of Divine and Catholic Faith. We have
no level plane on which we can function, that is, have human relations.
As an example, it is ridiculous for a normal person to believe he can have
normal relations with an idiot. They are playing ball in different ball
The One and Only Deceive Grace
From "God the Teacher of Mankind ? Grace and the
Sacraments," by Father Michael Muller, C.SS.R, Imprimatur, Herter 1890,
we have a sobering treatment of how God deals with men. From pages 70 and
"I have heard brash young men say
that they are going to plant their wild oats. They will do as they please
no matter what others think or say. Be it remembered that wild oats seeded
will bring a wild oats harvest ? now and likely forever."
For all eternity, God has a plan for each one of
us. He gives sufficient graces to each one to get to heaven. Furthermore,
as Father Michael Muller points out:
"No grace stands alone. Every grace
is a link in the great chain of graces, whose beginning and end are known
to God alone ? Though the grace that is offered to us this moment, urges
us to do, perhaps, only a trifling act of virtue, nevertheless we do not
know what relation it has to the other graces God has in store for us.
We do not know what part it forms in the great chain of graces upon which
depends our salvation. If this chain of graces is once broken, we shall
find it hard to unite it again: "Take Heed, lest any of you abuse the grace
of God." (Heb. XII, 15). Take heed lest any of you become reprobate like
Esau, who sold his birthright for a mess of pottage, and afterward, though
he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected. He found no room for
repentance, even though he sought it with tears. "We cannot," says St.
Alphonsus, "shed tears enough to obtain a second grace, if we have willfully
neglected the first."
"Let us bear this truth in mind,
especially in the time of temptation. Let us think of the inestimable value
of even the least grace; let us think of the love of God, who has from
all eternity, destined for us the grace to overcome just this temptation;
let us bear in mind the reward of unalterable glory that waits us if we
conquer. Perhaps this grace is the beginning of innumerable graces; perhaps
it is a decisive grace ? one on which our perseverance and eternal happiness
One Will Be Taken, and The Other Will Be Left
Let us not imagine that there is question of only
rare and extraordinary occasions. Nobody loses the grace of God suddenly.
This loss is always preceded by slight, continued infidelities. "There
will be two in the same field," says our Lord Jesus Christ, and "one of
them will be taken and the other will be left. Two women shall be grinding
at the mill, and one shall be left." (Matt. 24: 40-41). Two persons enter
the same state of life, receive the same spiritual training, the very same
means of sanctification; and yet one only will remain faithful to the end
of his vocation, and the other will not remain: one will be taken, and
the other will be left.
Considering perfection by itself, in the spiritual
life, we have seen that it consists in our supernatural knowledge and supernatural
love of God. Then the degree of our perfection depends on the degree of
our supernatural knowledge and supernatural love of God. Our intellect
and will, like pieces of metal, are absorbed into God (as the above magnet
example shows), as distinct from God, but working together with God.
Our great concern is to cooperate with each and
every grace that God gives to us. God?s plan for us is one continuous production.
Any break (sin or indifference) that breaks that continuum can be fatal.
The general mind-set of the sinner is that he cannot change his mind. Sinful
habits, bad marriages and the like, just go on and on without a stop. They
do not want to abandon their evil ways. Finally, they die just as they
live. Then in hell forever and ever they continue to defy God, and God
forever and ever continues to punish them.
From Proverbs 24: 16, 17, 19: "For
a just man shall fall seven times (Note: it does not say "seven times a
day" as most people give this quote) and shall rise again: but the wicked
shall fall down into evil. When thy enemy shall fall, be not glad, and
in his ruin let not thy heart rejoice. Contend not with the wicked; nor
seek to be like the ungodly." A word to the wise is sufficient. Amen.