Poor in Earthly Things, but Rich in Grace and Virtue

Imitation of Christ, by Thomas á Kempis: Book 1, Chapter 18
On the examples of the Holy Fathers.

Look upon the lively examples of the holy Fathers in whom shone real perfection and the religious life, and you will see how little it is, and almost nothing that we do. Alas, what is our life when we compare it with theirs? Saints and friends of Christ, they served our Lord in hunger and in thirst, in cold, in nakedness, in labor and in weariness, in watching, in fasting, prayers and holy meditations, and in frequent persecutions and reproaches. Oh, how many grievous tribulations did the Apostles suffer and the Martyrs and Confessors and Virgins, and all the rest who resolved to follow the steps of Christ! For they hated their lives in this world, that they might keep them in life everlasting. Oh what a strict and self-renouncing life the holy Fathers of the desert led! What long and grievous temptations did they bear! How often were they harassed by the enemy, what frequent and fervent prayers did they offer up to God, what rigorous abstinence did they practice!

What a valiant contest waged they to subdue their imperfections! What purity and straightforwardness of purpose kept they towards God! By day they labored, and much of the night they spent in prayer; though while they labored, they were far from leaving off mental prayer. They spent all their time profitably. Every hour seemed short to spend with God; and even their necessary bodily refreshment was forgotten in the great sweetness of contemplation. They renounced all riches, dignities, honors and kindred; they hardly took what was necessary for life. It grieved them to serve the body even in its necessity. Accordingly, they were poor in earthly things, but very rich in grace and virtues.

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Of Resisting Temptations

From the “Imitation of Christ”, by Thomas á Kempis: Book 1, Chapter 13

Of Resisting Temptations

As long as we live in this world, we cannot be without temptations and tribulations. Hence it is written in Job “Man’s life on earth is a temptation.” Everyone therefore should be solicitous about his temptations and watch in prayer lest the devil find an opportunity to catch him: who never sleeps, but goes about, seeking whom he can devour. No one is so perfect and holy as sometimes not to have temptations and we can never be wholly free from them. Nevertheless, temptations are very profitable to 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 were purified by them. And they that could not support temptations, became reprobate, and fell away.

Many seek to flee temptations, and fall worse into them. We cannot conquer by flight alone, but by patience and true humility we become stronger than all our enemies. He who only declines them outwardly, and does not pluck out their root, will profit little; nay, temptations will sooner return and he will find himself in a worse condition. By degrees and by patience you will, by God’s grace, better overcome them than by harshness and your own importunity. Take council the oftener in temptation, and do not deal harshly with one who is tempted; but pour in consolation, as thou wouldst wish to be done unto yourself. Inconstancy of mind and little confidence in God, is the beginning of all temptations. For as a ship without a helm is driven to and fro by the waves, so the man who neglects and gives up his resolutions is tempted in many ways.

As Though God Were Not There

A New Year’s Resolution suggestion:  Fight like a Crusader to help your Priest bring more tradition to your parish mostly by convincing him to have courage to stand up to the Bishop and begin a Traditional Latin Mass on Sunday morning.  Save the Liturgy and Save the World!

Please read the outstanding article by Father Heilman (posted on the brilliant One Peter Five blog) below on the importance of waking up every morning and fully understanding that we are locked in combat with the dark one every single minute of our existence.  Only the Catholic Church provides the tools and the armor to win the battle.  Iron sharpens iron!

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http://www.onepeterfive.com/spiritual-warfare-losing/

Spiritual Warfare: Why We Are Losing

Father Richard Heilman

rosarybook

In recent decades, we have seen Satan engage the world as never before. In all of human history we have never witnessed evil promoted so effectively, while virtue, character, and morals are roundly mocked and rejected. Meanwhile, it could be said that the Mystical Body — the Church — has never been so unprepared for and unengaged in the challenging mission of spiritual warfare. It is obvious that Satan’s forces are well trained and well organized, while ours clearly are not. At the very beginnings of our great nation, Sir Edmund Burke warned, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

Recognizing the widespread spiritual lethargy of our times – the emergent detachment from the Divine Life – Pope John Paul II’s master plan for the new millennium was one that asked us to set aside our disconnected busyness, and to start fresh by contemplating the face of Christ. It is clear that the Holy Father was encouraging us to place our emphasis on reconnecting to the Divine Life of God, which is classically referred to as the unum necessarium, the one thing necessary.

The one thing necessary constitutes the essential foundation for the interior life and stems from the story of Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42), where we first see that, amazingly, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity was sitting right in their living room. Even so, Martha remains busy with the good and noble protocol of hospitality, while Mary sits at the feet of Jesus, her eyes locked on His Holy Face, peering into His soul, hanging on His every word. Mary is actually in adoration, soaking in everything our Lord wants to give her. I like to say that she is “Mary-nating” — soaking in the gusher of God’s graces. Mary had come to understand what St. Augustine once said: “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.” Remarkable!

When Martha objects to Mary’s lack of activity, Jesus tells Martha that she remains anxious and upset about many things while Mary has chosen the better portion, the one thing necessary. Mary was the one who was making the guest truly feel welcomed, while Martha remained detached, going through the motions of the demands of protocol. God is light and love and truth Who brings order and meaning and serenity to our lives. While we remain disconnected from our Source, we remain easily agitated, frustrated, and feeble in our disordered and chaotic existence as we continue to walk in darkness.

The disconnection is seen, first and foremost, in the Martha-like indifference to the presence of the Divine in so many of our present-day liturgies, compared with a more Mary-like contemplative way of worshiping. Contemplative awe and veneration have always been the distinctive way Catholics worshiped, until recent decades. In awe and wonder, we would worship Him and soak in the supernatural graces necessary to stand firm against the tactics of the devil (Eph. 6:11) and to grow in the way of sanctity.

The consequence of the modern initiative to push for a very busy and more insouciant way of worshiping that is performance-oriented and man-centered has led to an epidemic of detachment from the Divine, facilitating the modern prevalence of spiritual sloth (indifference toward the Divine Life). Like Martha, God is “right there in our midst,” but we act as though He is not — or if He is, what’s the big deal? We have become the spiritually impotent.

This is why Pope Benedict XVI (then Cardinal Ratzinger) stated that any real effort at renewal in the Church must begin with a new liturgical movement:

“I am convinced that the crisis in the Church that we are experiencing today is to a large extent due to the disintegration of the liturgy, which at times has even come to be conceived of etsi Deus non daretur (as though God were not there): in that it is a matter of indifference whether or not God exists and whether or not He speaks to us and hears us.”

 

In this ubiquitous spiritual warfare, we are being overpowered as we allow ourselves to become detached from our True Power Source, the only way to combat the supernatural powers of evil and grow in holiness. “With man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matt. 19:26) Spiritually speaking, the devil is doing all that he can to catch us isolated and unarmed on the battlefield — no spiritual armor, no spiritual weapons, and no comrades in the heavenly realm to fight alongside of us. In other words, the reason evil is promoted so effectively today is because we’re ignoring God’s offer of supernatural strength and power. We are, in essence, bringing a knife to a gunfight, and we are getting slaughtered!

The time is now to prepare an elite fighting force, surrendering to God and then allowing His grace to invade every aspect of our lives. “Grace,” wrote Thomas à Kempis, “is the mistress of truth, the light of the heart, the comforter of affliction, the banisher of sorrow, the expeller of fears, the matrix of devotion, the producer of tears. What am I without it but a piece of dry wood and an unprofitable stock, fit for nothing but to be cast away.”

Here are the three essential approaches for receiving the abundance of God’s grace, the unum necessarium:

1) Go to Confession (frequently): St. Augustine tells us: “The whole power of the Sacrament of Penance consists in restoring us to God’s grace and joining us with Him in an intimate friendship. This very moment I may, if I desire, become the friend of God.” Go to Confession at least once a month, and immediately after any grave sin. Never receive Holy Communion with serious sin on your soul.
2) Go to Mass (frequently): St. Peter Julian Eymard tells us to “hear Mass daily; it will prosper the whole day. All your duties will be performed the better for it, and your soul will be stronger to bear its daily cross. The Mass is the most holy act of religion; you can do nothing that can give greater glory to God or be more profitable for your soul than to hear Mass both frequently and devoutly. It is the favorite devotion of the saints.” Do your best to find a parish that is working to offer due reverence to God in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, especially if you have the responsibility of the salvation of family members.
3) Consecrate yourself to Jesus through Mary: Once St. Maximilian Kolbe learned about St. Louis de Montfort’s consecration to Mary, called the “surest, easiest, shortest, and the most perfect means” to becoming a saint, he called it a “secret weapon for the world,” a “shortcut to holiness.” Mary crushes the head of the serpent. Always keep Mary at your six (your back)!

The Gospels stories show how Jesus touched people in ways that made them question the direction of their lives. Some turned away because His challenge seemed to be too hard. But many others were so moved by His mission and ministry that they were compelled to search for a more perfect way of living and being. Where do you stand? Are you ready to put it all on the line? This means nothing less than to do what God is calling you, from the depths of your being, to do — to rouse yourself to action on behalf of the kingdom. Are you ready to say “yes” to the call to become His champion?

Originally published on August 11, 2014.

Suffer Everything for My Sake

http://www.traditionalcatholicpriest.com/2015/12/16/more-from-the-imitation-of-christ/

December 16, 2015

More from The Imitation of Christ

MY CHILD, in this life you are never safe, and as long as you live, the weapons of the spirit will ever be necessary to you. You dwell among enemies. You are subject to attack from the right and the left. If, therefore, you do not guard yourself from every quarter with the shield of patience, you will not remain long unscathed.

Moreover, if you do not steadily set your heart on Me, with a firm will to suffer everything for My sake, you will not be able to bear the heat of this battle or to win the crown of the blessed. You ought, therefore, to pass through all these things bravely and to oppose a strong hand to whatever stands in your way. For to him who triumphs heavenly bread is given, while for him who is too lazy to fight there remains much misery.

If you look for rest in this life, how will you attain to everlasting rest? Dispose yourself, then, not for much rest but for great patience. Seek true peace, not on earth but in heaven; not in men or in other creatures but in God alone. For love of God you should undergo all things cheerfully, all labors and sorrows, temptations and trials, anxieties, weaknesses, necessities, injuries, slanders, rebukes, humiliations, confusions, corrections, and contempt. For these are helps to virtue. These are the trials of Christ’s recruit. These form the heavenly crown. For a little brief labor I will give an everlasting crown, and for passing confusion, glory that is eternal.

Do you think that you will always have spiritual consolations as you desire? My saints did not always have them. Instead, they had many afflictions, temptations of various kinds, and great desolation. Yet they bore them all patiently. They placed their confidence in God rather than in themselves, knowing that the sufferings of this life are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to come. And you—do you wish to have at once that which others have scarcely obtained after many tears and great labors?

Wait for the Lord, act bravely, and have courage. Do not lose trust. Do not turn back but devote your body and soul constantly to God’s glory. I will reward you most plentifully. I will be with you in every tribulation.

Why Satan Hates the Brown Scapular – by Philip Kosloski

Please read the great article by Philip Kosloski below on the power of the Brown Scapular, which should be one of your weapons you use in your daily spiritual combat.

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http://www.philipkosloski.com/why-satan-hates-the-brown-scapular/?utm_content=bufferf6060&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Why Satan Hates the Brown Scapular

July 16th is the feast day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, so it is fitting to examine a mighty spiritual weapon connected with this devotion to the Blessed Mother: the Brown Scapular. There are many “promises” to the wearers of this scapular, but we must always keep in mind that the Brown Scapular is NOT a lucky “charm” that grants someone access to eternal life no matter what kind of life they live.

scapular

First of all, here is a quick history of the Brown Scapular:

[K]nown as the Brown Scapular, this is the best known, most celebrated, and most widespread of the small scapulars. It is spoken of as “the Scapular”, and the “feast of the Scapular” is that of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on 16 July. It is probably the oldest scapular and served as the prototype of the others. According to a pious tradition the Blessed Virgin appeared to St. Simon Stock at Cambridge, England, on Sunday, 16 July, 1251. In answer to his appeal for help for his oppressed order, she appeared to him with a scapular in her hand and said: “Take, beloved son this scapular of thy order as a badge of my confraternity and for thee and all Carmelites a special sign of grace; whoever dies in this garment, will not suffer everlasting fire. It is the sign of salvation, a safeguard in dangers, a pledge of peace and of the covenant“….And, even though there is here no direct reference to the members of the scapular confraternity, indirectly the promise is extended to all who from devotion to the Mother of God should wear her habit or badge, like true Christians, until death, and be thus as it were affiliated to the Carmelite Order. (Catholic Encyclopedia, emphasis added)

Our Lady grants to the wearers of this scapular particular “privileges:”

For this privilege declares nothing else than that all those who out of true veneration and love for the Blessed Virgin constantly wear the scapular in a spirit of fidelity and confiding faith, after they have been placed by the Church itself with this habit or badge under the special protection of the Mother of God, shall enjoy this special protection in the matter and crisis which most concerns them for time and eternity. Whoever, therefore, even though he be now a sinner, wears the badge of the Mother of God throughout life as her faithful servant, not presumptuously relying on the scapular as on a miraculous amulet, but trustfully confiding in the power and goodness of Mary, may securely hope that Mary will through her powerful and motherly intercession procure for him all the necessary graces for true conversion and for perseverance in good. Such is the meaning and importance of the first privilege of the Carmelite Scapular, which is wont to be expressed in the words: “whoever wears the scapular until death, will be preserved from hell”. (Catholic Encyclopedia, emphasis added)

A “habit” in more ways than one

St. John Paul II exhorted those who wear the Brown Scapular to take part in the special graces involved with wearing it:

Therefore two truths are evoked by the sign of the Scapular: on the one hand, the constant protection of the Blessed Virgin, not only on life’s journey, but also at the moment of passing into the fullness of eternal glory; on the other, the awareness that devotion to her cannot be limited to prayers and tributes in her honour on certain occasions, but must become a “habit”, that is, a permanent orientation of one’s own Christian conduct, woven of prayer and interior life, through frequent reception of the sacraments and the concrete practice of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. In this way the Scapular becomes a sign of the “covenant” and reciprocal communion between Mary and the faithful: indeed, it concretely translates the gift of his Mother, which Jesus gave on the Cross to John and, through him, to all of us, and the entrustment of the beloved Apostle and of us to her, who became our spiritual Mother. (Message to Carmelite Community)

Suffice to say, the Brown Scapular is a powerful aid to those who devoutly wear it and call upon Our Lady’s help in time of need. There are numerous stories that attest to the miraculous nature of the Brown Scapular. In particular, there is one story that show how much Satan hates the Brown Scapular:

You will understand why the devil works against those who promote the Scapular when you hear the story of Venerable Francis Ypes. One day his Scapular fell off. As he replaced it, the devil howled, “Take off the habit which snatches so many souls from us!” Then and there Francis made the devil admit that there are three things which the demons are most afraid of: the Holy Name of Jesus, the Holy Name of Mary, and the Holy Scapular of Carmel. To that list we could add: the Holy Rosary.

The great St. Peter Claver was another of God‟s heroes who used the Scapular to good advantage. Every month a shipment of 1000 slaves would arrive at Cartegena, Colombia, South America. St. Peter used to insure the salvation of his converts. First, he organized catechists to give them instructions. Then, he saw to it that they were baptized and clothed with the Scapular. Some ecclesiastics accused the Saint of indiscreet zeal, but St. Peter was confident that Mary would watch over each of his more than 300,000 converts! (Garment of Grace, emphasis added)

However, we must not believe that simply wearing the Brown Scapular without a strong commitment to following God will someone protect us from all harm and the eternal fires of Hell. Here is a short story that shows how if we wear the Brown Scapular and are refuse to lead a holy life, we will not be found wearing it when we die:

During the Spanish civil war in the 1930‟s, seven Communists were sentenced to death because of their crimes. A Carmelite priest tried to prepare the men for death; they refused. As a last resort, he brought the men cigarettes, food and wine, assuring them that he would not talk religion. In a short while, they were all friendly, so he asked them for one small favor: “Will you permit me to place a Scapular on each of you?” Six agreed; one refused. Soon all Scapular wearers went to confession. The seventh continued to refuse. Only to please them, he put on a Scapular, he would do nothing more. Morning came, and as the moment of execution drew near, the seventh man made it clear that he was not going to ask for the priest. Although wearing the Scapular, he was determined to go to his death an enemy of God. Finally, the command was given, the firing squad did its deadly work, and seven lifeless bodies lay sprawled in the dust. Mysteriously, a Scapular was found approximately 50 paces from the bodies. Six men died WITH Mary‟s Scapular; the seventh died WITHOUT the Scapular. Blessed Claude gives us the solution to the mystery of the missing Scapular: “You ask, ‘What if I desire to die in my sins?’ I answer, ‘Then you will die in your sins, BUT YOU WILL NOT DIE IN YOUR SCAPULAR.’” Blessed Claude tells the story of a man who tried to drown himself three times. He was rescued against his will. At last he realized that he was wearing his Scapular. Determined to take his life, he tore the Scapular from his neck and leaped into the water. Without Mary‟s protective garment he accomplished his wish, and died in his sins. (Garment of Grace, emphasis added)

So yes, the Brown Scapular is a powerful weapon against Satan and can help us along the road to holiness, but it is not “magic” and if we refuse to lead a life divorced from sin, the Scapular will not be found on us when we die.

We must devoutly wear it, and choose to serve God and the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Brown Scapular can amplify our spiritual life and help us in our time of greatest need.

[As a practical note, the Brown Scapular must be 100% brown (or black) wool. There is no particular requirement in terms of the image or words on the scapular, just that the fabric be wool. If you are looking to buy a scapular, try out these handmade scapulars, made by Carmelite nuns. If you need to be enrolled into the Brown Scapular, any priest has the authority to do it. Here are the enrollment prayers. After enrollment, there is no need for additional blessings for future replacement scapulars.]

Use the Weapons of Spiritual Warfare

For those of you struggling with internet pornography or on-line sexually based relationships spawned through the internet, we cannot recommend enough weekly confession as well as the sacramentals below to help you detach from these sins of the flesh that are destroying your life and your family. Ask for the grace to overcome these addictions and God will provide.

The Devil is Real

We are all in mortal combat whether we like to believe it or not.  If you aren’t fighting then you have already lost.  We are so lucky to be Catholics that have access to all the knowledge and the tools to defeat the devil and his empty promises.  Please read the article below by Russell Shaw on the importance of believing in the devil and then going on the offensive against him.

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http://www.aleteia.org/en/religion/aggregated-content/the-devil-is-real-5792457912483840

The Devil is Real

You’ll need this “Manual for Spiritual Warfare”

Russell Shaw (40)

Is the devil real? Here is Msgr. Ronald Knox on that: “It is stupid of modern civilization to have given up believing in the devil, when he is the only explanation of it.”

Monsignor Knox, eminent British convert, author, retreat master and translator of the Bible, may have been indulging in irony. But irony doesn’t change the fact that the devil and his demonic associates exist.

I came across the Knox quote in Manual for Spiritual Warfare, newly published by Tan Books and edited by Paul Thigpen. “Like it or not,” Thigpen begins his thoughtful introduction, “You are at war. No matter who you are—whether or not you know it—you have a mortal enemy who wants to destroy you, not just in this life, but in the next.” That enemy is of course the devil.

As chance would have it, a copy of the manual reached me shortly before last Christmas, when the news was all about the murder by fanatics of 150 children and teachers in a school in Pakistan. As this is being written, the world is stunned by the action of a German pilot who deliberately flew his airliner into an Alpine mountainside, killing 149 others along with himself.

Human agency obviously was operative in these events, as in other recent horrors, but it’s easy to glimpse a devilish hand in them too—and also in the multitude of less ostentatious but hardly less destructive acts of cruelty, dishonesty and lust that darken everyday life.

The standard response to this kind of thinking is to laugh it off. The devil has become a joke. Nothing may have done more to kill belief in Satan than all those cartoons in which demons trade one-liners amid unthreatening flames with balding gents fresh off the links of a country club.

It figures. Getting people not to believe in him is one of the devil’s favorite tricks. The cartoons help.

But there’s too much evidence of his existence for disbelief to be a viable option. The testimony is abundant in Scripture, the magisterium, writings by and about the saints, and contemporary accounts of demonic manifestations and exorcisms.

“It is a mark of the Evil Spirit to take on the appearance of an angel of light,” St. Ignatius Loyola reported from experience. St. John Vianney was tormented by a demon for 35 years and gave him a nickname—grappin, the wrestler. St. Teresa of Avila and Padre Pio, among many others, knew the devil well.

Years back a comedian got laughs by saying, “The devil made me do it.” The devil can’t make us sin, though—that takes an act of human will. But the devil is ceaselessly at work offering inducements—temptations —to our propensity to choose evil.

“The devil exists and we must fight against him,” Pope Francis says. Manual for Spiritual Warfare is a handbook for the fight. It contains magisterial and scriptural texts, testimony from saints, prayers, devotions and hymns. Bound in sober black like traditional manuals of prayer, it’s meant to be used.

There are two extremes to be avoided in this matter—fearful obsession with the devil and ignoring the fact that we live on a battlefield, with Satan and his forces drawn up against us. The letter to the Ephesians puts it best: “We are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness” (Eph 6.12).

The devil is real.

Russell Shaw is the author or coauthor of 21 books and numerous articles, columns, and reviews. He is a member of the faculty of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, and former Secretary for Public Affairs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.