MEANS OF GRACE
1. They are perceptible signs, instituted by Our Lord Jesus Christ, that signify and confer grace. They are divided according to their effects, the need, their character, etc.
2. Among the means of sanctification, they occupy the first place.
They are for the generation, growth, reparation, nourishment of the supernatural life; they are as well for the preparation of natural and supernatural parents.
Then, each one has its own particular excellence and its own particular effects.
3. Conditions: some are external, others internal; some for the sacraments of the living, others for the sacraments of the dead, etc.
Maximum frequency is needed for some; maximum of respect for all.
They are born on Calvary, they work through the Holy Spirit.
1. Confession: it is the great means of perfection. In the spiritual life: the Spiritual Exercises establish the general resolution; the monthly retreat, the particular resolution; the weekly confession is the week's review and the amendment. Confession has the purpose of the absolution and sanctification of the week.
2. Confession is the channel of special sanctifying grace; it is the restoration of lost energies; it is the light for the new journey; it is the motion of the heart for the resolutions; it is the blessing and divine approval on daily work in the great undertaking of going up to God.
3. a) Choose well and make clear the weekly resolutions; b) make them object of examination, sorrow, accusation, resolution, weekly reparation; c) be constant in the progressive accounting and in the constant journeying.
[DFin 24. 50. 114. 146. 191] Holy Communion
1. The Holy Communion: is union with Jesus Christ God and man, an uncommon union, but sacramental. It produces adherence to
Jesus Christ with the mind, heart, will.
2. Jesus Christ is truth: it is therefore useful to choose to absorb and nourish ourselves of the truths that are the bread of the soul: in such a way that we substitute our mind with that of Jesus Christ. - Jesus Christ is way: he is himself the perfection of every moment and step and virtue: decide then to acquire his heart for the Father, his heart for human beings, his hatred for sin, his interior humility, his poverty, purity. - Jesus Christ is life: that is, every grace of medicine, of work, of elevation, of holiness, common and heroic; hence, choose to be sanctified, co-penetrated by this divine reality.
3. Preparation concerns the mind that abhors every doctrine not in conformity with Jesus Christ and makes acts of faith and desires of faith; it concerns the will that detests every evil, imperfection, bad habit and makes acts of desires and resolutions of virtue; it concerns the heart that wants healing and sanctification and resolutions. - Hence, it is a complete preparation. Let thanksgiving be the same.
[DFin 24. 38. 47. 50. 114. 160. 191] The Holy Mass
1) It is the renewal of the Sacrifice of the cross, in a bloodless manner, on our Altars: in order to adore, thank, make amends, pray, in Jesus Christ, through Jesus Christ, to God, our Father.
2) It has general, particular, most special fruits.
It is the center and the principal act of worship.
It is the center and principal practice of piety.
It is holy and salutary: hear it, hear it often, participate in it entirely by receiving Holy Communion in it.
3) Many are the methods for attending the Mass: the liturgical, that of the four ends, prayers in common, meditation on the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
We suggest: a) from the start to the Gospel, honor Jesus Truth, by meditating and applying the sacred doctrine, especially the Epistle and the Gospel. b) From the Gospel to the Pater, by honoring Jesus, Way to the Father, especially in the Passion and prayer. c) From the Pater to the end, honor Jesus Life of the soul, with the Communion and with the sanctifying and medicinal grace.
[DFin 24. 38. 84. 144. 152. 153. 154. 160. 191] Visit* * *
1. The Visit to the Most Blessed Sacrament is to honor the Eucharist as the throne of grace other than the Mass and Communion. It is the antechamber of heaven; it is the breath and the preparation for the heavenly Vision. It is grace, it is light, it is comfort.
2. It has the four ends of the Mass: the Adoration of Our Lord Jesus Christ, God and man: and, in Him and through Him, the Father; it is a worthy thanksgiving; it is propitiation for sins; it is petition for all our needs.
3. Manner: a) do it really and constantly; b) in doing it gradually and with simplicity, approach the method of the four ends; c) consider it as our refuge inasmuch as it is here that Jesus Christ especially manifested himself as Way, Truth and Life.
[DFin 50. 81] 1. Many are the methods taught, among which most often is that of the four ends, of prayers in common, etc. Among them: that which honors Jesus Master Truth, Way, Life, is particularly indicated. The hour is divided into three spaces.
2. It is important because it is pleasing to the Divine Master who seems to have taught it by telling us: I am the truth, way, life.1 It conforms with nature inasmuch as we have intelligence will, heart. It little by little brings to reality in the soul the love of the Lord with one's whole mind, with all of one's strength, with the heart.2 It helps so much the scholar to be complete; it utilizes all: study, means of grace, natural gifts. It is especially good for the Pauline.
3. a) I am the truth:3 all that is known through study, religious instruction, Bible, is summarized and it refers in praise and thanksgiving to the Divine Master. b) I am the way:4 all the evangelical virtues are meditated upon: theological, moral, etc., practiced by Jesus Christ and our life is compared to the life of Jesus Christ by means of a long examination of conscience, to conclude with sorrow and praise to Jesus Christ. c) I am the life:5 Jesus Christ is grace; and hence one prays for spiritual, natural needs, for his neighbor, for the whole world, without forgetting the intercession of the Most Holy Virgin, of the Angels, of the Saints.
[DFin 82. 114. 115-121. 160] Prayer
1. Is: elevatio mentis in Deum; or petitio decentium a Deo.6 The first definition
refers especially to mental prayer; the second, to vocal prayer. it is divided into: mental, where the mind predominates; vocal, where the word predominates; vital, where deeds predominate; habitual, where there is the state or spirit of prayer.
2. It is necessary: for one to be saved. He who prays is saved.7 Of absolute necessity; inasmuch as for adults grace is granted only when one prays (Theology).
In fact, each one who prayed was saved and is saved. Then, prayer is infallible as regards the effect through spiritual graces; for the material, insofar as it is useful. It is founded on divine omnipotence, on the merits of Jesus Christ, on the Lord's promises.
3. a) It requires three conditions: humility, perseverance, trust. b) Let mental prayer be of every day and the method of St. Ignatius is best; vocal prayer is best, if it is according to the rule; vital prayer matters much because every good deed, aside from its amending and meritorious value, also has petitionary value. Best is the habitual state of prayer. c) Let one try to guess from here: will I be saved? If I pray. Will I be a saint? If I pray much.
[DFin 27. 40. 42. 44] Spiritual Director
1. He is the visible angel who guides the soul in the journey to perfection. Often, he is identified with the habitual confessor. He has the tasks of the Angel for Tobit: he enlightens, watches over, supports the docile soul until the paternal house in heaven.
2. Natural reasons: to find a friend is to find a treasure: inasmuch as we find another intelligence, an experience, a strong support.
Supernatural reasons: God makes use of secondary causes also in the governance of souls. God blesses humility and docility. The example of Saints: Blessed Cottolengo, Blessed Bosco,8 St. Ignatius, all the major founders and formators of souls.
3. Choice: [a)] si doctus, si sanctus, si prudens regat nos.9 b) Open one's conscience: making him know: the past, the present, the resolutions for the future. Furthermore, it is good that he knows: inclinations, circumstances of life, dangers, habits. c) Docility as that of Paul to Ananias, especially in the most delicate points, in making choices and orientation in life.
[DFin 32] Virtue
1. The perfection of the will that ends in the inclination for what is good through a long repetition of acts is a virtue. Four are the natural virtues: prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance; three are the theological virtues: faith, hope, charity; twelve are the moral virtues.
2. The perfection of the will is just as important as the perfection of the intelligence. Virtues are acquired through supernatural way with prayer, the Sacraments, the gifts of the Holy Spirit; through natural means, through exercise (ex repetitis actibus) till one reaches the point of acting prompte, faciliter, delectabiliter.10
3. How to acquire them: a) generally, one at a time; b) with great heart, using all the means.
Flight from occasions
1. What is called an occasion is that which presents a danger for sinning: a person, a thing, an act, reading, a bad habit, etc. It can therefore be internal or external. Then it is proximate, if the fall is most probable, although it may be uncertain; remote, if the fall is less probable. What is proximate and what is remote are often relative to persons and circumstances.
2. To willingly place oneself or to spontaneously remain in the proximate danger of sin is never licit: it becomes dual sin, that is, against charity towards ourselves and against the virtue that can be violated. It shall be grave or light according to the gravity of the danger or the gravity of evil to which one exposes himself to commit.
For just reason, it is licit to willingly expose oneself to near danger of sin and stay there for the time needed: for as long as caution is used so that the danger becomes remote. If the danger of falling, however, constitutes a moral certainty, it is to be avoided absolute.
3. Each has serious or light dangers: let all the voluntary ones be avoided; let the necessary ones be made always remote through vigilance and prayer.
[DFin 18. 124-131. 199] The lay state* * *
1. Each one has a mission on earth: let him study it, accept it. It is a great failure to do nothing, the more serious, after the path of sin: it would be because of laziness, or pride, or dishonesty.
2. In the lay state there are many degrees and duties: work, however, is for everyone; to give children to God is a great sacrament: or apostolate, or suffering, or the substances.
1. The ways on which men journey towards heaven are three: that of the commandments, the religious state, the priestly state.
The state of the commandments is the lay state. It is necessary for all: inasmuch as two are the means of salvation: faith and works.
2. The way of the commandments obliges and presses on all. Jesus Christ said: serva mandata.11 The natural law itself contains the commandments, if the positive part of the third is excepted. Hence, the commandments oblige all, immediately, always, precisely
because they have been promulgated with the creation of man, and written in the heart. Also the Gentiles are guilty for their transgression (St. Paul).
3. a) Every person who wants to be a Christian, or a religious, or pious, has, above all, to observe the commandments. The positive law is based on the natural law. Jesus Christ reproves the Pharisees who, faithful to their traditions, violate the natural law; b) examination of conscience brought in the first place on the commandments: no virtue is firm without them; c) the Code of Canon Law and every law or evangelical counsel already suppose the observance of the natural law.
[DFin 12. 18. 21. 35. 87. 199] The priestly state
1. The Priestly State is the second way that lifts up from the first, which is supposed to have been already surpassed. The Priest is a man, raised to represent Jesus Christ, dispenser of the gifts of God. Quis in natura? quis in dignitate? quis in officiis?12
2. His greatness emerges by considering: that before God he is a minister, not servant; before Jesus Christ he has the power over his Real Body; before men, the divine faculties on the Mystical Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
3. Duties: a) there must be vocation, studiousness, holiness, zeal to ascend to it; b) to the Priest are due, help, cooperation, prayer, trust, veneration.
[DFin 18. 34. 35. 37. 57. 60. 70. 83. 86. 107. 124-131. 148. 159. 161. 199. 200. 211. 212. 213] The religious state
1. The Religious State is a state in life where one tends to perfection through the observance of the three vows in the life in common. State: that is, it has stability; of perfection: hence all the religious families are the same in substance for their primary end, that is achieved through the vows; they are distinguished only for their secondary end (education, the sick, press, etc.). Life in common, this being an obligation.
2. Importance. For the Religious: more graces, more ease for holiness, more certain salvation, more peaceful death. For society: they perform great works; they are an external manifestation of the holiness of the Church, they are a holy example, are more firm as to doctrine.
3. Practice. Esteem for their state; consider its privileges and the graces; remain humble and holily desirous.
[DFin 60. 66. 70. 105. 106. 161. 199] Obedience
1. As a virtue it obliges everyone to subject himself to legitimate Superiors in the respective
matters; as a vow it obliges the religious through a new commitment to listen in those things that directly and indirectly refer to the life of the Institute, that is, to the observance of the vows and constitutions. At times obedience obliges only the external act, often it obliges the internal act; it is best if judgment also leans to it.
2. It is the best virtue because it gives to God the choicest part of man.
It is a virtue continually practiced by the Divine Master, by the Most Holy Virgin, by the Saints.
It is a virtue that in heaven shall raise above all the obedient.
3. It must be: blind, that is to obey on the authority, not only according to reason; ready, that is to immediately act, with simplicity; total to all the superiors, in all the prescriptions, in all the circumstances of times, of places, of persons.
[DFin 60. 66. 70. 106. 161. 199] Chastity
1. It is a virtue and a vow for the religious: which forbids every act of impurity; both external and internal. Hence, it obliges one to use all means. It is a difficult virtue inasmuch as it has many enemies; it is a delicate virtue, since grave sins can easily take place; it is an exceptional virtue for the earth.
2. Importance: respect for God, for Jesus Christ, for the Most Blessed Virgin and the saints. Effects: on earth, in heaven. Fruits: in us, in our neighbor.
Meditate before the Holy Family and the Crucified.
3. Requires two means: a) prayer, especially pious frequency at the Sacraments and devotion to Mary Most Holy; b) vigilance over internal dangers (imagination, heart, thoughts), on external senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste), on dispositions for inclinations (pride, sloth), on occasions (clothing, entertainments, companions, readings, etc.).
[DFin 60. 66. 70. 82. 106. 161. 199] Poverty
1. It is a virtue and a vow for the religious. Virtue, inasmuch as it involves interior as well as exterior detachment if willed by God: as a simple and public vow it is important that what the religious acquires through his work, or intuitu religionis,13 or because of his being a religious; and for everything, he abdicates the right to dispose of it and use it without due permission.
2. It is the first beatitude and almost a step to all the others; it is the first virtue that Jesus Christ embraced on earth, as soon as he appeared among men; it is the bringer of
much peace and freedom; the fountain of very great merits; it frees from a thousand cares and dangers.
3. [a)] Everyone needs a certain degree of it b) We need to love and prefer it and not examine it as to what it strictly obliges. c) It is practiced as to clothing, food, lodging, life, death, alms, care for time and things, preference for poor things and persons.
[DFin 23. 37. 59. 60. 66. 70. 132-136. 161. 199. 209] The vocation of the religious
1. The vocation of the religious is of special nature: si vis perfectus esse;14 hence it includes an essential will to become a saint: and it is true for man, for woman, for the Priest; even the special conditions for the married person and for the secular are possible, for as long as they are in the position to fulfill their duties.
2. Hence it supposes: a) a greater infusion of graces from the Lord; b) a special attraction to the pious life with the intimate and strong desire for perfection; c) responsibility and a greater accounting.
3. Practice: a) some hear the divine voice and they do not correspond; b) others begin and they get tired; c) he who begins and perseveres shall have a great reward.
[DFin 60. 161. 165. 199] Duties of the religious
1. To assume the means of sanctification, that are: the common ones: ordinary virtues, frequency to the Most Holy Sacraments, assiduousness in prayer; the general ones: observance of poverty, chastity, obedience, that are the vows of every religious family; the special ones: that is, observance of the rule and the particular commitments, directions, orders, assignments, of one's own religious affiliation.
2. The religious is obliged sub gravi to attend to perfection. All are invited to it: he has the obligation: a) by virtue of his profession; b) because here lies the whole of the religious state and this therefore becomes a duty of state in life (as for the father, the education of children); c) for all the reasons that ought to solicit the priest and the lay person and to greater effort.
3. a) The religious who neglects all the means sins seriously; b) Superiors are held sub gravi to warn, to let the Spiritual Exercises be held, to take care of confessions, etc.; c) blessed is he who, embracing the occupation or the profession of perfection, now has no other thought but this: I want to become a saint. He is like a sculptor who wants to be at the top of his art.
[DFin 39. 60. 161. 199] Means of sanctification of the religious
1. The general means of sanctification for the religious are: the observance of the vows and life in common. The vows are a private law imposed on one's self that assumes meaning and obligation from the canonical law and from the rules. They transform and raise all the actions of the religious into a special status and merit.
2. What matters? To the solemn vow of poverty, what matters is the abdication to the roots, that is, at the very possibility of possessing; while for the simple vow one keeps the right or the possibility of possessing: but renounces the right to dispose of and to use without permission. For the vow of chastity, the religious renounces every internal or external act against chastity, also as to what is licit in marriage. For the vow of obedience, one assumes the obligation to obey superiors in what directe vel indirecte15 concerns the life of the Institute, that is the vows and the constitutions.
3. All this: a) has to be done willingly; b) it is easy because the rules assure the observance, being themselves sufficient means.
[DFin 39. 60. 105. 107. 161. 165. 199] Life in common
1. It is by now a constitutive part of religious life. It is the external and living expression of society: a multitude which has in common the means in view of an end, under the guidance of an authority that represents God.
2. a) It spares us from infinite dangers: that are individual caprice, solitude, inconstancy, pulverization, worldliness, etc., etc.
b) Gives infinite means: instruction, vigilance, correction, comfort, support, the strength in view of an eternal and particular end, prayers, example, etc., etc.
3. a) Bear it with patience: since it has its own burdens and sacrifices in intelligence, requiring humility of mind; sacrifices of will, requiring obedience; sacrifices of the heart, requiring mutual love. b) Loving it, with generosity and enthusiasm: it is there that one earns heaven; one receives comfort in death, suffrage for eternity. Charitas numquam excidit.16
[DFin . 60. 105. 162. 163. 166. 199] Particular rules
1. They are the rules of life in particular, since every community has its own
special mark. They are necessary for existence; they are useful for the achievement of goals; they are the comfort in death as it was for St. John Berchmans.
2. A few times it is a serious sin to transgress them: except when it has to do or touches the matter of the vows as a principle or in despise, with grave scandal, with the danger of serious spiritual harm to one's self and to the community. These rules, however, are not a simple counsel, hence rarely are the various transgressions without sin. Then, the habitual transgression is a sinful state and has serious consequences. Habitual fidelity renders them sweet, meritorious, and raises life to a superior level.
3. They ought to be observed: a) blindly; b) promptly; c) constantly. Odisse ut pestem dispensationem in regulis.17
1 Jn 14:6.
2 Cf. Mk 12:30 and parallel.
3 Cf. Jn 14:6.
4 Cf. Ibid.
5 Cf. Ibid.
6 Cf. notes 69 and 70 to the chapter The means of Grace (DFst 58).
7 Cf. ST. ALPHONSUS DE' LIGUORI, Del gran mezzo della preghiera, heading 1, last paragraph: “He who prays, certainly is saved; he who does not pray, certainly is damned.”
8 Now St. Joseph Benedict Cottolengo and St. John Bosco.
9 “If he is holy, if he is learned, if he is prudent, let him govern us.” The complete sentence, attributed to St. Teresa of Avila, is: “Si doctus doceat, si sanctus oret, si prudens regat nos - If he is learned, let him teach; if he is holy, let him pray; if he is prudent, let him govern us.”
10 “Promptly, easily, pleasantly.” This is an expression that is not easily traceable to a single author. Haering says: “Scholasticism underlines, in virtue, especially the firmness of disposition, the readiness and the ease in acting, all qualities that are acquired first of all through exercise and they characterize habit. However, there is nothing more absurd, than giving excessive importance to mechanical exercise and material habit” (B. HAERING, La legge di Cristo, Trattato di Teologia Morale, Libro I, Morcelliana, Brescia, 1961
2 , p. 602).
11 Mt 19:17: “Keep the commandments.”
12 “Who is so by nature, is so in dignity, or so in duties?”
13 “In view of religion or of the institute.” See Code of Canon Law, promulgated by Benedict XV, in 1917, can. 580.2.
14 Mt 19:21: “If you wish to be perfect.”
15 “Directe vel indirecte”: directly or indirectly.
16 1Cor 13:8: “Love never fails.”
17 “Hate as a plague that of excusing yourself from the rules.” - The statement is attributed to St. John Berchmans and it is found in the small book of Testore: La perfezione della virtù (The perfection of virtue).