18. DISPOSITIONS TO DO THE SPIRITUAL EXERCISES WELL: HUMILITY AND CONFIDENCE (Introduction)*
I am sure that the Sacred Heart of Jesus is pleased to see you gathered here around the altar this eveninig, to begin the holy Spiritual Exercises and shall not fail to address you a word of invi-tation: Here is the Heart that has greatly loved men...1 love me..! and what's more:...make me love!
Listen to this sad invitation of the Divine Heart addressed to you on the wane of the Solemnity of Corpus Domini and pray thus: O Jesus, may your kingdom come, which is the kingdom of love.2
You are now gathered here after your Institution had made an important step for the good of your entire religious Family. First of all, you will think of your soul in these days, then the way to develop yourselves, the means to obtain vocations, better vocations, how to organize, promote the spirit of union and how to correspond to God's designs for your religious Congregation.
The Lord called you to this sacred solitude where you will be out of your ordinary occupations for some days. He wants to talk to you, he wants to manifest himself to you. How many things to tell you, how much he desires your confidence. Perhaps in these days, you would make great progress in the love of God and your Institute would make great progress as well. It depends upon your dispositions which are reduced to two: humility and confidence.
It is necessary to humbly present ourselves to Jesus, acknowledging our own weaknesses and needs. The parable of the prodigal son teaches us the way. Presenting himself to the father, he says: Father, I no longer deserve to be called your son. It was his fault, his very fault that he became so!, but with great humility, he threw himself at his father's feet: I no longer deserve...treat me like one of your hired servants. The father welcomes, embraces, clothes and presents him to the household not as a ragged, miser-able person, but as a beloved son. The eldest son, returning from the farmland, protests, gets angry. For years now I have slaved for you, I never disobeyed one of your orders, yet you never gave me so much as a kid goat to celebrate with my friends... But the father answers him: My son, you are with me always and everything I have is yours; but we have to celebrate and rejoice! This brother of yours was dead and has come back to life, he was lost and is found.1
Let us present ourselves to Jesus like the prodigal son. We have wasted many graces in life, we have also offended Jesus, this Jesus who called us to his intimacy, to his love! And we refused to follow him.
The father of the prodigal son did not reproach the son for his faults, but he just ordered a feast; he thought to clean and to clothe him up, to present him to the servants as his beloved son.
Let us humble ourselves, let us acknowledge our faults and we will not be reprimanded, but be part of the intimacy of Jesus' Heart. Humility makes up for all.
There is also the example of Mary Magdalene. She silently enters the banquet hall and throws herself at Jesus' feet. She kisses those holy feet, washes them with her tears and wipes them dry with her hair. She does not speak, but cries. Jesus understands everything. The sorrow of Mary Magdalene, her tears say much more than many words.
The Divine Master sees the doubt that arises in the Pharisee and says to him: Simon, I have something to propose to you. And he says: Teacher, speak. Two men owed money to a certain money-lender; one owed a total of five hundred coins, the other fifty. Since neither was able to repay, he wrote off both debts. Which of them was more grateful to him? Simon answered, He, I presume, to whom he remitted the larger sum, Jesus said to him, You are right. Turning to the woman, he said to Simon: You see this woman? I came to your home and you provided me with no water for my feet, she had washed my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but she had not ceased kissing my feet since I entered. You did not annoint my head with oil, but she had annointed my feet with perfume. I tell you, that is why her many sins are forgiven, because of her great love.1
Let us throw ourselves at Jesus' feet. Let us cry over our sins with much humility. Can a soul say before God: I do not have serious sins? Thank the Lord if you have conserved your baptismal stole, but you cannot boast for this. How many imperfections, how much lack of correspondence should we not blame ourselves, inspite of the many graces that God had given us! Since God loved you with a particular love, he gave you a vocation so beautiful, so great; he worked on your soul in a special way and called you to a greater intimacy with him. Someone among you especially, is called to a life of great intimacy with the Divine Master. Do you not think then, that ungratefulness, lack of correspondence are grave? How grave is veniality, in a soul so loved by Jesus!
I do not exactly know up to what point God will lead your souls, but I know that your vocation is a vocation of intimacy, of special perfection. Vocation to love, similar to that of the Most Blessed Virgin. Who shall succeed in it? Up to what point should you correspond? With what generosity will you pronounce your fiat? 1 Will you give to Jesus that which he expects from you? To the Church, all that you should? To the priest, all the charity that is expected? It depends upon your humility and trust, upon your being humble and confident. Called to a special intimacy, every thing venial, every hesitation, every doubt is a great thing.
Your vocation is related to, resembles, participates much in the vocation of the Most Blessed Virgin. Up to what point did Mary reach? She was always with Jesus. You too, should always be with Jesus. You are invited to follow Mary, to walk on the most intimate way of communication with the Divine Master. Detest every delay, doubt, negligence and throw yourselves with humility at Jesus' feet, that he may make you understand how sublime is your vocation and may enable you to fully correspond to the designs he has for you.
Have confidence. Yes, exactly because you are called to work in the Church with the most intimate and efficacious apostolate, have much trust. Trust that the Lord may take away from you every remnant, coldness, relic of sin, debt, everything that displeases him, so that he would be much pleased with your soul.
God did not permit in the Most Holy Virgin, even the stain of the original sin. Do you like that in these days, he may also give you the gifts of being immaculate, of full innocence? Do you like that he may take away even the smallest stain in you? What are you waiting for? Have much trust. The Lord shall take away all and shall give you all. Are you capable to make an extraordinary confession that would make you get into the depths of your being? I do not believe that you should think of a general confession.....Do not have scruples, but find out, remove everything which displeases Jesus. Get rid of the spirit of curiosity, attachment to one's self-esteem, one's own will, whims, of seeking more the consolations of God than the God of consolations; then, the lack of docility to grace, to divine inspirations, envy, words that do not edify, etc. Do you know that the whole future of your Institute depends on you? Get rid of all which is too human, too natural, because they weigh heavily on the Institute. Tell Jesus: Lord, I hate and detest every thing that displeases you, as you hate it. If I am slow in being intimate with you, forgive me! Lord, a pact: that my soul may return to a state of innocence which pleases you. Heavenly Father, grant that at the end of the Exercises, you may say with pleasure: this is my beloved daughter, in whom I am pleased;1 grant that I may begin a new life, a holy life.
Accepting you among her children, the Church expects much from you: do not disappoint her. Trust that the Lord will give you such sorrow for sins; if you should die in these days, you are ready to go immediately to Paradise. It is not because you should die indeed, but for the fact that the effusion of the Holy Spirit is so great to sanctify all the powers of your being.
The Blessed Mother shall lead you and make you progress in her way.
The Divine Master shall make up for every deficiency and bring your Institute to such a development to accomplish in it all his designs. He shall give you many vocations and do great things for you.
What shall the Lord not do for you? Have humility and trust. Even the thief on the cross, the one who became good later on, first had insulted the Lord; then, he asked for mercy and obtained it. A total forgiveness, without purgatory: Hodie mecum eris in Paradiso1 (This day you will be with me in paradise). He was a saint, the first saint canonized by Jesus himself. Therefore, have confidence.
The Exercises are a continuous prayer. Oration is prayer, singing is prayer, listening to the preaching is prayer, as well as the work, the rest. In this prayer, you have to remember: it is God who grants. On his part, he grants everything that is asked for, so long as there are the needed dispositions: Quidquid orantes petitis...1 (Everything you ask and pray for...). Prayer is all powerful.
All those who pray are heard. Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find. Knock and it will be opened to you.2 If you will not doubt and if you will have faith. Two conditions: if you will not doubt and if you will have faith.
Jesus offers prayers and supplications to his Father, cum clamore magno,3 (aloud), uniting them to his Most Precious Blood. When you go to rest, Jesus continues to pray; Semper vivens ad interpellandum pro nobis4 (He is living forever to intercede for all).
Examine yourselves if you have these two dispositions: humility and confidence. With these two virtues, you will have a quick progress in holiness and then, the vocations will also multiply. Humilibus dat gratiam1 (The humble will always be favoured).
May Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament bless you.
Ask for holiness, the true holiness and take Mary Most Holy as model.
* Spiritual Exercises (June 12-21, 1947) of the Mothers and elderly Sisters of the Pious Disciples of the Divine Master. The whole course (meditations nn. 18-38) was held in the Pauline House in Albano Laziale (Rome), the ex-Villa De Gregorio, Via Castro Partico, 12.
1 Jesus' words to St. Margaret M. Alacoque (1647-1690).
2 Cf. Mt. 6,10.
1 Cf. Lk. 15, 11-32.
1 Cf. Lk. 7, 36-50.
1 Cf. Lk. 1, 38.
1 Cf. Mt. 3, 17 (adaptation).
1 Lk. 23, 43.
1 Cf. Mk. 11, 24: omnia quaecumque orantes petitis...
2 CF. MT. 7, 7.
3 CF. HEB. 5, 7.
4 HEB. 7, 25.
1 1PT. 5, 5.