San Damiano Cross  

Caritas Newsletter 

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. 

Do Penance

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." 

Overcoming Temptations

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 or form.  

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 of faith. 

    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."

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.  

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 parks. 

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 71: 
    "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 depend."

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.  

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