Exercises for a soul

Cristoforo Facciardi da Verucchio

Translated by Father Patrick Colbourne O.F.M.Cap.

Translator’s note:

This translation is based on the introduction, text and footnotes which were published by P. Costanzo Cargnoni O.F.M. Cap. In I Frati Cappuccini: Documenti e testimonianze dell primo secolo, Edizioni Frate Indovino, Perugia, vol III/1, pp.1085-1190. The only additions to the notes made by the translator are references to Francis of Assisi: The Early Documents, edited by Regis Armstrong, O.F.M. Cap., J. A. Wayne Hellmann, O.F.M. and William J. Short O.F.M. Conv., New York City Press, New York, London, Manila, for an English version of quotations from the Writings or Biographies of St Francis.

Table of Contents

Introduction by Castanzo Cargnoni O.F.M. Cap.

Cristoforo da Verucchio, who was known as a man from Verucchino (+ 1630) was a Conventual Friar Minor who became a Capuchin in the Province of Bologna while he was still a young priest. He was one of the most popular preachers at the end of the Sixteenth century and the beginning of the Seventeenth century. His preaching, which lasted for many years, was characterised by simplicity and the power of persuasion. It was also rich in advocacy for poor orphan children who were begging and it inspired many works of compassionate charity and devotion.

His mild method of preaching was very acceptable to simple people and they took notice of it. However, those who were well educated often begged and almost forced him “to provide several hand- written copies” of his sermons. At times these manuscript copies were printed without him knowing it as happened in Reggio Emilia in 1582 with a sermon on the ceremonies of the Mass, and in 1591 in Milan with another sermon on a method of crying over sin. An eyewitness tells of how dozens of scribes often sat under the pulpit in which the friar from Verucchio was preaching and that “from below they were writing what he was proclaiming above.” In Milan the Archbishop and the Canons wanted him to publish his Lenten sermons and they begged him to write an “omnibus” concerning the Gospels for the Ambrosian rite.

It was only because of a mishap that occurred while he was preaching (at the beginning of 1592 he suffered from losing his voice) that he turned to becoming a spiritual writer to the point of rising to being in great demand in the field of devotional literature. One of his publishers, Father Battista Rossa, Parish Prest of St Agnes and canon of the Patriarchal Church in Venice, who edited The Exercises for a Soul, Taken from the saintly Fathers, as Preached by Reverend Father Cristoforo Verrucchino in Various Churches in Italy, tells us about this. He asserts that in Lent of 1592 Cristoforo was supposed to preach in the Church of the Incurables in Venice. However he had to stop this right at the beginning because of the loss of his voice. Then, out of apostolic zeal, in order not to remain unoccupied, he put together the twenty five sermons which he would have preached to the people during the afternoons of the festivity, following Vespers. He completed the first edition in the space of two months and it was as if “by him not preaching in one city, God wished him to preach to the whole of Italy on paper”. He did not have the courage to print them, as he considered them to be only “a first draft, a simple proposition, a rough sketch”. Such concern and modesty was overcome by the intervention and funds of the learned Canon who found a way to have them published in Venice in 1596, dedicating them to the Patriarch Lorenzo Priuli.

Speculative or scholastic subtlety is not to be found in these “exercises’. Rather they contain “the practice of holy meditation based on love”. It is here that Cristoforo shows himself to be a very capable teacher of spirituality having instructed the people for many years simply and without oratory on the way to pray and to profitably carry out the practices of piety in the Christian life, insisting particularly on the aspect of interior prayer that comes from the heart.

The various exercises of prayer are developed and set out in a precise progression or journey towards the practice of perfection involving daily progress. They begin with the vocal prayers in common use: the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Creed, the Penitential Psalms, the Rosary and Liturgy of the Hours. Cristofero explains and paraphrases these prayers, explaining them by means of illustrations, together with numerous references to the Fathers, Doctors and spiritual writers, He does this in simple language, dwelling on the meaning of the words and phrases and their inner connotation. Following this he journeys with the subject towards an understanding of the Holy Mass and the Sacraments in their liturgical and spiritual aspects by means of a “worthy preparation” and “very ardent thanksgiving”. The reasons that induce the soul to make a perfect act of contrition, to weep for his personal sins and those of others are significant. Then he adds “a very good way” of celebrating feasts, a “very worthy rule” for invoking saints and a “helpful rule” for the faithful practice of prayer in the morning and in the evening, indeed “of remaining recollected and united to holy God by day and by night” by using ejaculatory prayers and by making an examination of conscience before retiring at night.

After he has instructed the people in the illuminating and devout practice of prayer and devotion, Cristoforo goes on to initiating them into meditation teaching the various moments and stages on the way to the heights of “Christian contemplation” where the Holy Spirit becomes the sole guide and where the mysteries of the life and passion of Jesus Christ take on the fundamental role. In the end all is aimed at steeping a person in adoration in spirit and truth and in glorifying the Holy Trinity.

It is impossible just now to express the magnificence of this comprehensive teaching that embraces the whole gambit of the spiritual journey of the Christian life. Even though it might appear to be somewhat eclectic and lacking in originality because of the abundance of Patristic and Scholastic quotations it comes together in the spiritual theology of St Bonaventure and in the ease with which this is communicated in a lively manner and in the suggestively moving way in which this is conveyed by various suggestions, and in the practical and deep reasoning that is evident in the individual spiritual exercises.

To provide the reader with a taste for his method we have reproduced the introductory instruction that explains how to make use of these exercises (n. 1). We have also provided the explanation and paraphrases of some vocal prayers such as the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Creed (nn. 2-4), and a chapter that deals with ejaculatory prayer in “the practice of holy charity” (n. 5). Finally, we have selected the final three exercises that deal with mental prayer and contemplation (nn. 6-8), that contain a further masterly example of the affective method and practice of Franciscan and Capuchin prayer.

“Exercises for a Soul” by Cristoforo Facciardi da Verucchio

1. Necessary Instructions for Performing the Following Exercises Properly

{…} 3-5. Three conditions which are useful for performing these exercises. – 6. A Method of setting out affective points when praying. – 7-9. Devotional manner of representing God in the imagination when praying with ardour. – 10. Exhortation to embrace and carry out these exercises. – 11. One should not easily omit the exercises nor change them. – 13-14. Therefore implore divine assistance so that the work will come to a successful conclusion.

4855 {…} 3. O valiant champions of the Holy Cross, who in order to preserve the Lord’s friends from all the snares and obstacles that usually occur in exercises of the soul, give your disciples the three beneficial directions which St Ambrose laid down for them to observe in his book On the Offices of Ministers[1], that is that they be diligent in observing, time, place and method: proper method, suitable place and appropriate time. If those who are wise according to the world usually consider these three conditions very carefully, how much more useful and important are they for spiritual practices?

4856 4. With regard to method, St John Damascene [2] wrote that, seeing that man is composed of soul and flesh, having a spiritual and corporal substance, it is marvellously valuable that, to raise himself up to God, who is a spirit, without trouble, he is able to make use of various appropriate material images in his imagination, similar to the images that are also used in Scripture.

With regard to time, St Bonaventure says[3] that he ought to select the time when he is free of worldly concerns. However this should happen every day and never be omitted. If this is interrupted because of an emergency it should be diligently restored when this becomes possible. How could anyone not find a suitable time in the morning or at night if they followed what the Prophet Isaiah says? Anima mea desideravi te in nocte, sed et spiritu meo in praecordiis meis de mane vigilabo ad te. [4] My soul desired you in the night, and with my spirit within me in the morning early I will watch for you.

4857 5. What place could serve better for this important activity than a room that is slightly darkened, but not frightening, which is conducive to silence, far removed from all pandemonium, where a person cannot see or be seen by anyone but the living God and his angels? This is because, according to St John Chrysostom,[5] it is inappropriate to do anything extraordinary in someone’s presence, or to breathe too heavily or to say a word both in order not to draw attention to yourself and not to interrupt those who are passing-by.

4858 6. Therefore let us become fervent, and in order to carry out these spiritual exercises properly, let us commit to memory the specific points which we subsequently intend to put into practice and become familiar with them, not word for word, but simply in substance and by coming to know what they involve and by gaining an appreciation of them, be able to proceed with some kind of order while not floundering in the exercise because we have forgotten what the words implied. Indeed once he has become quite familiar with the points, the friend of God should try to carry out the whole of the exercise, from time to time, breathing intimate sighs, uttering fervent words, voicing sentiments of pious lament and affection, sometimes bowing the head to the ground, at other times raising the eyes to heaven, at times placing the hands in from of the chest, sometimes in the sign of a cross and sometimes striking the cheek or the breast, sometimes kissing the floor and the benches and holding the hands in front of the face for a while. By using similar gestures which are carried out with affection and with pauses at the proper place and at the proper time one can cultivate marvellous strength to banish fatigue and our laziness and arouse and move the whole of the inner person.[6]

This occurs particularly when these actions are accompanied by silence and words. By keeping silent at some time one gives his devout mind the opportunity to ponder. At other times words stir and inflame. This is like when a breeze makes a fire blaze.[7] It is true that one should not wander off into words forgetting what he is doing. The words ought to serve only as a support to a fervent heart. How well does St Bonaventure state this fact! It is from him that we have taken these profitable reminders and advise which suggest that each touch of a file removes any grain or mark of rust from iron, so all of such words, deeds or actions remove the unseen remains of our sins, if not the sin at least the punishment. Sicut lima operatir in ferro, ut qoudlibet ductu aliquid de ipsius ferri rubigine expellat, sic quodlibet suspirium vel gemitus non nihil de nostroum peccatorum reliquis eliminate. (As a file works on iron so that with each stroke some rust is removed, so too every sigh or groan removes a little piece of what remains of our sins).[8]

4859 7. This is even truer when we place the Eternal God before our mind’s eye by means of an image which is very stimulating and touching. For example, it will make an impression if we see an image of a very powerful king, seated on a high throne, wearing a crown and holding a sceptre and having a globe in his hand, bathed in rays and light and surrounded by angels and saints of all kinds, and depicting a person at prayer who looks like a poor, unfaithful, disgraceful and untidy creature who is frightened and overcome at undertaking what he has to do, not even knowing how to open his mouth in the presence of such regal majesty and who feels ashamed in the presence of all the barons and nobles at court, who looks like he is a fool because he is dejected, unfortunate and very wretched. Nevertheless he sighs and weeps in their presence saying with confusion and shame: “O my Lords, I beg pardon, indulgence and support.”

8. This is enough by way of an introduction to the following exercises that have been collected and put into order over a short period of time in this little book. In comparison to other spiritual books I think (if I have not been infected by pride) that I might say the same as St Gregory the Great said with great humility about his writings when he compared them with what St Augustine had written. He generally referred to his own works as rotten Gregorian bran when compared to beautiful Augustinian flower.[9] After that he studiously tried to hide his works at all cost for the rest of his life.

4860  9. Much more I, who am a wretch, ought to conduct myself like this, because as I bring this work to its fulfilment I intend to present it as having a particular appearance which I do not wish to become too embellished at times simply to entice pleasure by making it subtle and flow effortlessly and thus gain an advantage by doing so. However because I have been persuaded by the desires of many people I have decided to produce it thinking that I am acting like the poor widow in the Gospel[10] by casting my two mites into the great treasury of the holy Church, and in doing so to imitate the poor Jews of old who could only bring purple cloth, goat’s hair, rather than silk, silver, gold for the construction of the Temple. They did not offer jewels but the despicable goat skins, which still served for the purpose.[11]

10. Therefore from the bottom of me heart I strongly exhort each person, who does not possess a better introduction to the journey to God, to embrace and follow these exercises which by the grace of God’s grace will open the road to an active, contemplative and mystical life. Let them not be frightened if at the beginning it may appear to be arduous and difficult to carry them out. Let them make up their mind about such a good desire so that the will may then produce and carry out the actions, the acts become habits, the habits make it easy, the simplicity make it become a custom, the custom develop into a taste for them, and crown them with perseverance until they are rewarded in the company of the angels in heaven.

4861 11. Whoever wishes to gain this crown should not think too lightly of grace or easily change the way he acts because, just as a plant which is transplanted too frequently will never abound in fruit, or a person who changes medicines will not be cured, but will become more disturbed and pail, so too whoever makes daily changes in the conduct and order of the spiritual life will also never make much progress. The Apostle Paul says: Omnia probate, quod bonum est tenete. Et hoc, ut caritas vretra magis ac nagis abubdet in scientia et in omni sensu, ut probetis potiora. (Test all things, hold to what is good. And I pray that your charity may more and more abound in knowledge and in all understanding that you may approve the better things.)[12] The Apostle is suggesting that the usual practices and exercises in the spiritual life ought not to be changed without great consideration and only with the hope of improvement and growth.

12. Finally, now I wish to beg every Christian reader from the depths of the mercy of God and the loving wounds of the Holy Crucified, that while charitably excusing all my defects, and giving praise to the divine generosity for anything good that I have done, to ask assistance for me in their prayers, so that if my intentions are upright now and if I always toil only for the love of Christ, that he would come and remove any inadvertent subtle vainglory (I do not know how I do this except because of bad habits), that secretly attempts to rob and take my reward from me. This is like a person who goes to a meal out of necessity, and gluttony soon turns it into immoderation. In this way something that began as doing good and as acting in a proper manner suddenly because of arrogance changed completely into something bad. Often I do something that is good in a bad manner that leads to something worse with either a bad outcome or in the use of bad practices. Pope Gregory also complained about this. Therefore let us always pray for each other so that through the infinite merits of his Divine Son, of his heavenly Mother and all his dear chosen ones, the Lord may continually bless us all on earth and in heaven.

4862 13. May it be so! Through your immense mercy, O true and living God, O God of my heart, O only life of my life may it be always so! Do you not know that because of all my pride and wickedness I did not intentd to publish this collection of exercises, no matter how good it may have been, if I have not been strongly encouraged by those who had heard me speak? You also know that if you had inspired me to use subtle and unusual expressions that they might have found this abhorrent. However since you caused me to write these points for meditation in terms that are affectionate, I did not know how to deny these requests without offending or displeasing you. Oh, my dear and sweet Lord, oh my soul’s sole good. I do not know for certain that I am doing something that is beneficial for the common good. However I am certain and you know even better than I do that, if they do not bear fruit in pious souls to your glory, I wish that you would arrest my pen now, or prevent them being printed or take some other action.

14. However if in spite of my ignorance you are determined that this project should in some small way promote your name, honour and glory, then, love of my love and dear hope of my breast, remove any obstacles, clear every mind, explain the concepts, shape the writing, multiply the readers, unlock the presses, find workers and make them work as hard as possible to produce the work. Finally, O loving spouse of my precious soul, I wish to conclude with what the great legal expert Gamaliel said: Si ex homine tantum est consilium hoc, aut opus, dissolvatur, si vero ex te Deo est, nullus unquam dissolver possit. (For if this council or this work be of men, it will come to naught. But if it be of God, you cannot overthrow it).[13]

2. A plan for contemplation in order to recite the Our Father devoutly. Exercise I

1. The grandeur, praise and strength of the Our Father. – 2-4. How familiar the Saints were with the Our Father. – 5. The Our Father is a requirement for everyone. – 6. Relationship of the seven requests. -7-8. Four ways to explore the Our Father. – 9-24. Extensive and beautiful explanation of the first words “Our Father who art in heaven.” – 25 Affective manner in which St Francis prayed.

4863 1. Who could ever doubt the extraordinary truth that was spoken by the Angelic, (one might say) more than Angelic), Doctor, St Thomas when he said that throughout the entire world no one could find a more excellent or valuable prayer than the Lord’s Prayer which was acceptable and pleasing to holy God?[14] Dear souls do not be surprised because as St Augustine said[15] it was not composed by creatures, but by the Creator; not by servants, but the Master, not by human persons, but by Christ, the Redeemer of humanity. That is why it is called the Lord’s Prayer, that composed by the Lord. What is more, He composed it at the request of the holy Apostles when they asked Him what was the correct way to pray. Doce nos orare (teach us how to pray).[16] Please dear Master, teach us how to pray properly.

2. Therefore there was never any other vocal prayer to which the Apostles returned so often. We should not be surprised about this since as very obedient children of their Father and Lord they had heard him say to them: Cum orates, dicite; Pater noster (When you pray say: Our Father.)[17] All the chronicles, annals and church histories bear witness to this. It is also a fact that by saying the Our Father St Bernard restored a wild horse to its owner in a docile state.[18] St Hugo, Bishop of Grenoble in France, who was the first one to recognise the saintly founders of the Cistercian Order, that is St Bruno and his companions, with whom he lived in great humility and austerity of life, even though he was such a great Bishop, when he became so ill that he was dying because he knew the incredible value of this famous prayer, said it so often that in just one night he said it three hundred times. Some told him that in saying so many prayers he would do damage to his body and so he ought to rest. He replied immediately: “Indeed by doing this I derive much relief for my body, but even more for my soul”. [19]

4864 3. Thus the very devout and holy priest Brother Giordano, who was the first General after the Archimandrite St Dominic in the holy Order of Preachers, who had rays, brightness and sweet fragrance that reached the sky above his body after it was submerged during a terrible storm at sea, considered this prayer to be so significant and powerful, that if it was recited with devotion just once it could (he said) be more profitable to a religious or anyone else than all the alms and pledges, whether promised or given in reality, which charitable benefactors had given in their lifetimes. That saintly man added that just as something valuable gives the same amount of joy to a peasant or a prince who holds it in his hand, so an Our Father which is said with devotion, caeteris paribus (all things being equal), will benefit a simple person as much as a professor.

How marvellous it was that the most saintly mother Sister Colette, who, with much enthusiasm, made profession of the Rule of St Clare in the hands of Pope Benedict XIII, received grace from God not to be desired by any man even though she was so beautiful. She was an outstanding reformer of the two Orders of our Seraphic Patriarch St Francis that is the First and Second Orders of friars and sisters in all the regions beyond the Alps even though she was a woman and a virgin. Subsequently they were known as the Colettine Order. I say that this is marvellous because it appears that she prayed nothing but the Our Father often every day.[20].

4865 5. Therefore how much more willing ought we be to continue this exercise? All the more since it is so short and beneficial! Its phrases are brief but replete with mysteries. They are brief so that they do not become tedious, but beneficial in that they move the one reciting them towards love. There are few words, but abundant in petitions for all that is necessary for this life and in the next. They are not only brief, but beautiful and simple. They follow a sequence so that anyone who is not familiar with them or does not recite them in a proper manner does not deserve to be called a Christian, according to the Council of Frankfort which was celebrated by Charlemagne and his father Pepin.[21]

6. O what a unique and uncommon prayer concerning which St Cyprian aptly said: Quaenam oratio Christo magis placebit? Nonne illa quam ipsemet composuit? Which prayer did Christ like? The one the he himself composed.) [22] I know that many following the lead of St Giovanni Crisostomo, after they had set out the preamble or introduction, divided the prayer into seven petitions or requests and made them correspond to the seven works of mercy, the seven beatitudes, the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, seven virtues namely, the four cardinal virtues and the three theological virtues, the seven gifts of heavenly glory, namely, four pertaining to the body and three to the soul, the seven ages of the Church and, finally, they contended that tthey opposed the seven capital sins.[23]

4866 7. Some, following the path of St Bonaventure or certain contemplatives,[24] meditated on the whole of this popular prayer with great emotion while adding various spiritual phrases which indicated status, points to ponder, exclamations or the like. For example, they said, Pater, O most sweet Father, noster, most intimate; qui es, unchangeable; in coelis, admirable; and so on at length. They might say Pater the children of whom we are unworthy to be; noster, we could never achieve being worthy to be yours; qui es, you are everything, we are nothing; in coelis, you reign in heaven, we are prostrate on earth groaning. They describe the rest in words such as these. Finally they may say O father, when shall we ever be your beloved children by means of grace; noster, when will we ever be completely yours? Qui es, when will you enable us to be good and have some perseverance in doing good things? In coelis, when will we ever enjoy your glory in heaven? They continued like this.

8. Others[25] use observations and scholastic expressions proclaiming divine generosity in prayer under four headings. They begin Pater with reference to God’s love, noster, with reference to his essence; which is connected to his majesty, qui es, which connects this to his being in heaven.

4867 9. Pater, a title which in this case depicts a fundamental nature rather than a person. Thus it may more easily include and apply to all three Persons of the Trinity rather than just the First person of the Trinity. As a personal name it recalls the eternal generation of the Son, the Word, from the mind of His Father by an act of His intellect and nature, as the saintly theologians[26] state and also in the sacred pages proclaim. Numquid ego, alius parere facio, ipse non pariam? Si ego, qui generationem caeteris tribuo, sterilis ero? (Shall I who make others to bring forth children, not bring forth myself? Shall I who give generation to others, myself remain sterile?)[27] If I am able to generate creatures by means of what comes naturally, why can He not generate the divine Son, who is co- equal, co-eternal and consubstantial with him?

Through pronouncing the name of his nature we recall God’s great goodness, who existing in Himself, and completely perfect and holy in Himself, nevertheless in order to share the riches of his glory externally wished to place us in the world and by means of grace make us his adopted children. O blessed and glorious adoption, not to say fortunate and auspicious adoption concerning which the Apostle Paul said: Accepistis spiritum adoptionis filiorum Dei, in quo clamamus: Abba, Pater. Ipse enim Soiritus testimonium reddit spiritui nostro quod simus filii Dei. (You have received the spirit of adoption of sons, whereby we cry Abba, Father. For the Spirit himself gives testimony to our spirit that we are the sons of God).[28] O how much should we praise and thank God, who possesses such dignity, my brothers, since in the spirit we are recognised as his adopted children. Thus we ought to praise him confidently by invoking and calling him by that title that conveys joy, love and happiness: Pater, Pater, O Father, O Father!

4868 10. Who is there who does not know that God is given many different names in the Scriptures whether by appropriation, according to different concepts, as a substance, or from a mystical or allegorical perspective, and this is because his countless perfections cannot be described with one title and need to be outlined as best they can using various devout expressions. Sometimes he is called by the name Dominus, sometimes Deus, sometimes Sabaoth, and sometimes Adoni, but here he is called by the sweet name of Pater. There are five main reasons why this makes sense. Firstly to move us to experience reverence and filial fear because he created and redeemed us, he preserves and governs us and he makes us great and promises us a heavenly inheritance. Moses intended to remind us of this when he said: Numquid non ipse est Pater tuus, qui possedit, fecit et creavit te? (Is he not your father, who possessed you, made you and created you?)[29] Is he not rather your most merciful Father who did not (or to put it better) could not have done more for you than he has done? Quid enim debuit facere et non fecit? (What should I have done, that I have not done?)[30]

4869 11. O most loving and beloved Father whom I now beg to arouse us and make us love you. I wish that you make us love you rather than fear you and that is why we call you: Pater, a title that implies love rather than Dominus, a title that implies fear. We beseech and beg you, O Father. using the words of St Irenaeus: Saltem amodo voca me, Pater. (At least from now on call me father.)[31] Come to me my child for I love you so warmly and call me your father from your heart. O how the great God wishes us his ungrateful to call him father! The third reason is even stronger since it motivates us to have recourse to him more confidently for all of our needs, as troubled children usually have recourse to parents, since he loves us so tenderly that we always remain engraved on his heart and he will never forget us just like earthly parents do. Therefore holy Isaia said: Numquid potest mater oblivici infantis uteri sui? Eisi illa oblita fuerit, ego tamen non obliviscar tui. Ecci in manibus meis descripsi te, (Can a woman forget the child of her womb? If she should forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold I have engraved you on my hands.)[32] Can a good mother forget her dear child? If she should forget him it is impossible for me to forget you since I have not only struck the arrows of divine love into the depths of my being but have also in my exterior the wounds of the thorns and nails in an excess of pain, shedding my precious blood, writing with this on my skin instead of on paper and using blood instead of ink, O Christian soul! This is how I hold you engraved by means of my glorious wounds which are preserved in heaven as an eternal memorial of my extraordinary love for you who are disloyal and forgetful.

4870 12. O how matchless is God’s love because of which he allows us to call him Father! This is the fourth reason why we remember that in the Gospel he conferred a greater privilege on the Gentiles than he had on the Jews under the Law of Moses. At that time they called him Dominus (Lord) whereas now we call him Pater (Father). The Psalm says: “Non fecit taliter omni nationi, et iudicia sua non manifestavit eis. (He has not done in like manner to every nation: and has not made manifest his judgements to them.)[33] I humbly thank you. O eternal Father, that you have not given such a great privilege or revealed your mysterious secrets to any other nations as you have to us Christians. Finally by calling yourself Father you demonstrated the kind of father that you are who although your children are ungrateful, and evil, such as we your children are, you are a father who is so holy and good. O degenerate children how can you not blush at such decline and at being exposed as rabble even though you have been made sisters to the Angels by means of grace.

4871 13. What is to be said about the King’s child who could have remained in the royal court dealing with princes and wise people, but who preferred to live in the stable talking to farm hands and handling animals and beasts? This is what has become of you who prefer to brush aside, forget, never consider or attend to matters that pertain to the spirits in heaven, in order to occupy yourselves with passions and affairs relating to the vanities of the world. Therefore, O God, who is to be feared, we deserve that you reproach us so that we may lament and be inspired by what the holy profit said and wrote down on your behalf: Si ego sum Dominus, ubi est timor meus? Et si ego sum Pater, ubi est honor meus? (If I be a master, where is my fear? If I be a father, where is my honour?) [34] If I am your legitimate Lord, as indeed I am, whether you like it or not, when will you fear and honour me? Numquid filius non honorat patrem sum, nex servus dominum sum. (Whenever did a son not pay honour to his father or a servant to his master?)[35] In your whole life would you ever have seen such a perverse or wicked son or servant who had no respect for his father or lord? Yet you do not show me fear or love. Yet you dare to address me a father.

O servants who are not servants but enemies! If they are indeed servants then they are wicked servants and traitors! O my sons who are not sons but rather servants, or if they are son they are false sons who sneer. Do you not know that nemo potest dicere: Dominus Iesus, nisi in Spiritu Sancto? (No one can say that Jesus is Lord, except through the Holy Spirit.)[36] How can anyone who does not possess the grace of the Holy Spirit expect to be able to call to mind and invoke the name of Jesus and God the Father? On the one hand you should all be in awe and delight in seeing me lower myself to such an externt, in order to raise you up and make you great, that I did not shirk becoming your father. However, on the other hand, how could you not weep continuously and grieve over your ingratitude, blindness, wickedness and disrespect in nor recognising, indeed abusing and offending my ineffable leniency in allowing you who are sinners, very depraved and immoral to call me father?

4872 14. This, then, is how so many emotions arise in a person’s heart at the first word Pater, both because of love and because of fear, joy and sadness, and because of respect and trust. Therefore the word Pater is a very strong and meaningful expression, even stronger than what fell from the lips of Isaac when he addressed his father Abraham, and what fell from the lips of saintly Eliseus when he gazed on his saintly master Elias: My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and its driver.[37] O Pater, O most loving father, kind, merciful and sweet father!

Not only Pater, but also noster! Thus if the word Pater brings to mind the creation, the word noster brings to mind the terms incarnation and redemption. Is there anyone who believes in the redemption who does not place much more value on it than on creation? He created everything in the space of six days and became known as its father. However, in order to redeem us he committed himself, with sweat and toil, for more then thirty years, and by means of the incarnation became one of us and our brother. When he created us he endured no pain, but when he redeemed us he came to save us, to suffer and to die for us as in fact one of us and our brother. O what a marvellous thing! God is known as Pater and that is who he really is although he is human and the Creator of all. However, since he is also noster, I can therefore state that God is at the same time creator and redeemer at man’s command. This is perhaps what the saintly doctor meant when he said: In creatione Deus dat se sibi: in redemptione autem dat se tibi. (When creating God gave himself to himself: when redeeming he gave himself to you.)[38]

4875 15. O Lord, O Lord, allow me to speak the truth concerning grace. This is what makes me go beyond what is worldly. When I hear the word Pater I immediately think of your infinite power by means of which you created everything. However, when I hear noster it immediately makes me think of your immense love which at no cost has recreated this wicked person. Who are you, O our Father? Who are we, who are insignificant persons? Are we not dust, worms and fantasies, whereas you are a King, Emperor, Monarch and supreme Noble Person and the greatest Person in the universe? Who could be greater than you are O God? Deus est quo nihil maius, nec melius excogitari potest; (God is someone of whom no one is greater, and of whom no one could be conceived as being greater) as St Anselm said.[39] Who could be more poor and miserable than a human person, as the Psalm says? Verumtamen universa vanitas omnis homo vivens. (Indeed all things are vanity: every living man.)[40] Nevertheless you, O God, love me although I am wretched (I am referring now only to myself, ever though what I am saying about myself might also apply to others if they wish). You I say, call to me though I disregard you. You come after me and I flee from you. You show that you are very concerned about me and I act as if I do not care. You grant me favours and I offend you. You love me and I forget you. You give yourself to me, and I spurn you. I could go on like this, but it is enough if I finish with the loving words: O Pater, o noster, o Pater noster! You are “ours’ as a teacher, as an example, as our protector, through your love, your inspiration, through grace and in a hundred different ways.

4874 16. The text is correct when it says noster, et non meus (our not mine). Christ alone is the son of God and because he has the same nature as the father he can be called by this name in the strictest sense of the word. This is stated repeatedly in the Gospel: Pater meus. However we use the term noster more appropriately both because of the fraternal mutual love that exists between us, and in order to make our prayer have a more general and widespread application and, consequently, be more acceptable to the divine generosity because it expresses what St James said: Orate pro invicem ut salvimini, (pray for one another, that you may be saved), [41] and to humble those who are proud in the world and also to recognise those who are poor, who in the end belong to the same fallen race as Adam. This is what was proclaimed by the poet:

Quid genus et proavos strepitis, si primordia vestra

Auctoremque Deum species, nullus degerere extat. [42]

17. Now if in the end we are all members of the same tarnished stock who are damaged by sin, why did the prince in an act of pride not tread the poor simple man underfoot? The great God did not act like this. He was not just satisfied to remain in grandeur and majesty but humbled himself greatly in the Incarnation and was not ashamed to come down from being our Lord and Master to becoming our brother, indeed our servant, as is described in the word’s of the Prophet: Servus me fecisti in peccatis tuis. (With your sins you have made me a servant).[43] O how genuinely you are noster, ours! Not only ours, but to a certain degree, more ours that yours, if I can speak like this, because I am aware that by exposing your life to a despicable death to give life to us, your ungrateful creatures. O Pater noster!

4875 18. Qui es (who is). Who alone exists, who exists necessarily, who could not cease to exist No one could think that you are not who you are, o r that you could be anything else than who you are. O first being, the highest and supreme among all kinds of being! Who, once they recognised that your being was known of itself in the light of its nature, could doubt that you exist? It is very important to state that you cannot be defined in any words or images in the mind. O tu qui es, qui erat et qui venturus est! (O you who are, who were and is to come!)[44] O you who were not created or able to be created! Being that is without end and incapable of ending! Infinite being without end! Undefined and undefinable! O divine essence, that is most perfect, necessary, simple and unique! Eternal entity, independent, that exists and sustained by yourself! O unique source of being, root of being, completely simple, totally perfect, who alone contains the substance of all being in fact, in fullness and permanently! O, tu qiu es, o tu qui solus est! (O you who exist, who exist alone!)

4876 19 O existence that is beyond all praise and glory and which in comparison with which our existence amounts to nothing and is most insignificant. Our substance is like a fleeting mist or shadow. Tu autem idem ipse es et anni tui non deficient. (But you are always the same, and your years shall not fail.)[45] Such perfection, as is displayed by your essence, makes me rejoice and be happy because it is essence that is infinite, beyond measure, immortal, immovable, absolute, and simple, vital, subsistent and beyond what is subsistant. O infallible, imperishable, incomprehensible Being, you alone, when things did not exist, conferred being on all visible and invisible things, and if you were to withdraw your hand, everything would be reduced to nothing.

It is only right then that everything pertains to you and leads back to you as the final and ultimate being. Therefore, you could not have described your divine essence by means of a better expression that we could understand than the phrase by which you taught Moses who was your most meek yey strong captain: Ego sum qui sum. (I am who am.)[46] O best and greatest being, when will you ever, O God, confer your grace upon us? When shall we possess the genuine desire to live as the blessed live when they behold the vision of the glory of being? Quando videbimus te facie ad faciem, sicut es? Tunc similes tui erimus, (When shall we see you face to face as you really are? Then we shall be like you.).[47] WE shall be your children and most faithful servants, who belong to heaven more than earth, and be as the next phrase says: In coelis. (in heaven.)

4877 20. O Lord of immense majesty, we read concerning you: Magnus Dominus et laudabilis nimis, et magnitudinis eius non est finis? (Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised and of his greatness there is no end.)[48] As some one else said, O great and majestic God, you are everywhere and in every place. Ubique. (everywhere). You are everywhere since because your immensity fills all earth and heaven, the depths, and the whole of the world. Indeed you would fill a hundred thousand worlds if they existed. Nusquam es. (You are nowhere). You are nowhere, since you contain all places and are not contained or enclosed in any place. Tue es intra omnia, (you are within everything), since you are present and intimate to everything. Tu es extra omnia (you are outside everything) because are greater by far than anyone of all your creatures. Tu es super omnia (you are above everything) since you dominate all kings and rulers either directly by yourself, or by means of secondary causes, without using violence or suppressing the nature of contingent beings. Tu es infra omnia (you are within everything) since you sustain all that you have made in existence which would cease to exist innediately in the blink of aneye if it were not preserved by your hands.

21. O great God, who is there who does not know that before the world was created you were alone and complete in yourself, perfect and perfectly happy, so that you did not need anything for yourself or outside yourself.? Now you see yourself in everything under a certain aspect. Your nature is in all creatures, in those who are good by means of grace, in those who are in heaven by means of glory, in temples by means of veneration or special worship. Are you not in the world the way a king is in his kingdom? Are you not in the Roman Church like a father in the family? In the soul of a just person are you not like the bridegroom in the nuptial chamber? St Bernard, your most devoted and dedicated servant, put is well: O Deus, ubique regnas et ubiques imperas. Tu es in teipso incompraehensibilis, in creaturis mirabilis, in hominibus amabilis, in angelis desiderabilis et in reprobis intolerabilis. (O God, you reign everywhere and rule everywhere. In yourself you are incomprehensible, in creatures wonderful, in human beings lovable, in angels desirable, in lost souls intolerable)[49] O my God, O my love, O soul of my soul, Quando eris in me? Et quando ego ero in te? (When shall you be in me? When shall I be in you?)

4878 22. O God you bestow yourself on everything in three ways: by your power, by your presence and by your being and thus complete the word spoken by holy Jeremias: Coelum et terram ego impleo. (I fill the heaven and the earth.)[50] However I say that you are in heaven in a special way by means of your glory, even though you could glorify your servants in the depths of hell just as you found a sacred space in the soul of the good thief and made a promise to him: Hodie mecum eris in paradise. (This day you shall be with me in paradise.)[51] However, it pleases you to make heaven the dwelling place that is most suitable for the blessed.

Therefore I imagine seeing a glorious king, who is standing at the head of a room, rejoicing and reigning with the queen and their children. His power extends through the whole realm, but not his presence. He is present only in that room filled with barons and princes, but he is not in every part of that room in his being. His being is only on the throne on which he is sitting. No one can share his joy as much as the queen and his children. Lord, who does not know that you are powerful, present and intimate to everything as if each thing was your particular chair as it says in Holy Scripture: Coelum sedes mea, terra autem scabellum pedum mearum. (Heaven is my throne, and the earth my footstool.)[52] Just like that, by means of glory that is shared with others, you remain alone with those whom you have chosen since they are your most beloved children and are in heaven.

4879 23 In coelis (in the heavens), I say and not incoelo (in heaven) O sovereign Monarch, because you are not in just one heaven, but according to the best theologians and astrologers, you are in eleven heavens that are all made by your omnipotent right hand. But when shall we ever be like your mystical heavens, controlled by discretion, beautiful in innocence, sky-blue with conversation, peaceful with prudence, with unambiguous emotions, content in obedience, filled with delight, active with diligence, unmoved by passion, having incorruptible continence, exalted in contemplation, stable in patience, radiant with every virtue and adorned with all the stars of precious virtues so that we could say: Confitebuntur coeli mirabilia tua, Domine? (The heavens shall confess your wonders O Lord.?[53]

When, heavenly Lord, I ask, shall we be filled with your grace, as the heavens are filled by the moon’s generosity, as the heavens are filled with Mercury’s wisdom, the heavens with Venus’ affability, as the heavens with the Sun’s light, as the heavens with Mars’ strength, as the heavens with Jupiter’s contentment with what is good, as the heavens with Saturn’s sadness at what is wrong, as the heavens are steadfast and persevering, as the heavens are as clear as crystal, as the heavens of the First Mover are vigilant and finally, as the heavens overflow with radiating holiness? Then it could be truly said of us: Coeli coecelorum laudate Deum. (Praise God heavens of heavens.)[54]

4880 24. What is more, O highest king of heaven, when will you ever open the heavens as you did for saintly Ezechiel[55] to provide us with true understanding? When will you cast us into rapture as you did St Paul[56] into the first heaven of the active life, as beginners, into the second heaven of the contemplative life, as proficient, and as far as into the third heaven of the unitive and mystical life, and the elite? When, as with saintly Elias,[57] will you transport us on the chariot of enflamed charity into the atmosphere and abode of the angelic, seraphic and divine life? When like St John in the Apocalypse[58] when shall we ever see within ourselves the new heavens, by means of a complete renewal of spirit? When, like your most holy Mother, will we ever be assumed up to the supreme, royal heaven that is so happy, blessed and glorious? Therefore, tu qui habitas in coelis misere nobis (You, who live in heaven, have mercy on us.)[59]

O heavens, O heavens, visible heavens that give me joy, spiritual heavens that give me incomparable consolation! Visible heavens that fill me with wonder, spiritual heavens that fill me with more yearning! O God of the heavens, Lord of paradise, when shall I ever come to the spiritual heaven, if in the end I am made worthy to rise above all the visible heavens and dwell for eternity in that heaven that is beyond the world and as far above everything as you are in accord with the words of the Psalm: A summon coelo egression eius, O Deus, qui perambulas circa cardined coelu et excelsior es coelo et quem coeli coelorum capere non possunt, quando ascendam in coelum et super coelum corli ad Qrientem? (His going out is from the end of heaven. O God, who walk around the poles of heaven and the extremity of heaven, whom the heavens cannot contain when shall I ascend to heaven and beyond the heaven of heavens to the East)?[60] The Doctors we have quoted above use similar explanations for the word Pater.

4881 25. However I now intend to proceed in a much simpler manner, so that I can maintain an emotional sensitivity, and develop a feeling for prayer, I want to employ the affective approach that our Father St Francis used when he prayed. This was to imagine God by means of various images, sometimes as a king, sometimes as a judge, sometime as Father, sometimes as a healer, sometimes as a friend, or as something else as St Bonaventure says.[61] Thus he began to contemplate the prayer using the greeting by responding to it, being silent, mulling it over and contemplating it with deep emotion, sadness and tears. What an outstanding way and valuable manner ofcontemplating the Our Father. This method may be divided into nine parts, namely, two for the introduction and seven for the bulk of the prayer, which contains seven petitions, which we can hold in our minds by means of nine images and nine classifications. May God be blessed and may we too be blessed.

Nine points pertaining to the contemplation of the Pater noster

26. Pater noster. Here one meditates on God’s mercy. The sinner, following the example of the prodigal son, returns to God his Father. – 27. Qui es in coelis. Here one contemplates God’s justice. The sinner, as a person who has been banished, begs the eternal judge to allow him back into heaven. – 28. Santificetur nomen tuum. Here one proclaims God’s glory. Like a humble servant a person presents himself for the eternal Father’s blessing. – 29. Adveniat regnum tuum. This is our sanctification. A person who is in prison asks the assistance of the King of heaven. – 30. Fiat voluntas tua. Here God’s grace is present. In order to remain with her divine Bridegroom, the bride, who is the Christian soul, does not want to become repulsive. – 31. Panem nostrum quotidianum. Here we ask for everything that we need. A person who is a beggar asks alms from God who is the wealthy shepherd. – 32 Et dimitte nos. This is the remission of sin. As an insolvent debtor, the sinner comes begging to the supreme creditor. – 33. Et ne nos inducas. Here we seek strength during temptation. The Christian, like a knight who has been knocked off his horse by the enemy, calls for assistance from his heavenly Captain. – 34. Sed libera nos. Here we ask for strength against the residue of sin. Here the sinner, like someone who is recovering from illness, calls upon Christ who is the medical expert.

4882 26. By means of the short expression, Pater noster, we immediately contemplate God’s immense mercy as it has been won for us by our Lord who acted as Our Father. On the one hand, we think of ourselves as his prodigal children who by living dissolutely have squandered everything and have been reduced to extreme destitution, becoming like beggars who have died of hunger. On the other hand God resembles a most loving compassionate Father, who (notwithstanding our ungrateful and crude conduct) invites us, waits for us and comes to meet us and clasps us in his arms with great tenderness in a gesture of sweet love, making a solemn festival for the Angels because of our return and of our conversion to penance. O Pater noster! O most sweet and loving Father, Father of mercy and God of consolation, here I stand before you completely wicked, naked, famished and desolate, oppressed by calamity, buffeted by devils and like a son of perdition, I have no courage! O, most benevolent one, do not delay your ready mercy!

4883 27. Coming to the second phrase, Qui es in coelis, we contemplate the infinite justice of the Lord God and think about how desperate we are in having been banished on earth and with deep humility we ask to be able to be redeemed by a sever judge even though we are unworthy. O eternal, fearsome and terrifying judge, I am frightened of everything, and everything startles me when I only think about your infallible justice, because I see that it is filled with anger, and very fitting wrath against me who have been rebellious and a traitor, who deserves hell a thousand time because I am guilty before your divine and most worthy Majesty. I find myself in this worldly exile, in this vale of tears and misery, and yet I desire, long for and suffer because I wish to reach the joy of the eternal homeland. O judge of the living and of the dead, revive my anguished heart as I sigh and weep because of this and cry to you with burning tears: When, Lord, will you grant grace to someone who is one of your own, who used to be your enemy, and who now longs to be your friend? When will you pass the final irrevocable sentence in his favour?

28. At the third phrase, Santificetur nomen tuum, as the first petition asks that the glory of the living God be established throughout the whole world, so the all nations and people would know about it, serve and adore it. Try to picture God the Father dressed as the Pope, with his hand raised in blessing. Picture yourself as his subject and servant, who is disloyal and unworthy, yet who is approaching him with humble reverence to receive his fullest blessing. Santificetur nomen tuum. O supreme and eternal pontiff, do you not wish to confer upon your servants a general pardon for their faults and punishment, just as happens in the holy jubilee year, so that we too may become your saints who are able to honour, bless and praise you forever?

4884 29. For the fourth phrase, Adveniat regnum tuum, turn your mind to the second petition where you imagine seeing God as a great monarch or king or emperor seated on a high throne surrounded by all the heavenly host of angels. Here with the sincere heart of a most loyal vassal, who has been imprisoned by tyrants, beg that his kingdom come with the outpouring of his divine treasures to make you blessed and freed. Adveniat, O King of kings and prince of princes, may the kingdom of your grace and of your glory come, and destroy the kingdom of anger, sin and ignorance. Remove us (I say) from the thick darkness of this gloomy prison, so that we can say: Regnum Dei intra nos est. (The kingdom of God is within you.)[62] O what a glorious treasure! Stretch forth the hands of your emotions and he will grant this to you, O happy one!

30. For the following phrase, that includes the third petition concerning observing his holy law and always performing his divine will, think of yourself as being a beloved bride and of him as being a most beautiful bridegroom and say to him with intimate sweetness: Fiat voluntas tua. O my sweet life, my dear good, once I was an adulterer, a fornicator and treacherous; now, look at me, I only long, yearn and die for you. When can my soul ever enjoy you? Look at my heart, what else does it long for and desire other than to fulfil your holy will.

4885 31. Now we come to the sixth entreaty with its request: Panem nostrum quotidianum etc. What are we seeking if not all our needs, of both soul and body, for both life and clothing? This is as if to say: I am a poor beggar, dying of hunger, thirst and discomfort, what can I do, if not turn to you, O most watchful heavenly Pastor? O, you who feed the eagles of the sky and the wild beasts of the forests do not leave men whom you created in your image and likeness to perish in misery.

32. After this we go forward to another phrase, the fifth petition concerning pardon, where I consider myself to be an unhappy person who is in incalculable debt, but who derives great confidence already as he is dealing with a creditor who is unmeasurable wealthy. Thus he says to him: Et dimette nobis debita nostra etc. Have mercy on me in my misery and poverty, O God of all wealth, and only because of your grace grant me a favour, so that you would not only deign to cancel all my debts from your book but also pardon my serious sins. Also move my heart so that out of free love of you I would forgive my neighbour for any offences or injuries so that my wantonness might not make me deserve to be condemned as was the wicked servant who did not wish to forgive his fellow servant and thus discouraged the master from forgiving him.[63]

4886 33. So I add the eighth phrase with the additional request to be preserved from all faults. Supposing that I am a mystic, which in fact I am, but one who is a poor soldier, powerless, faint-hearted and defenceless, who is extraordinarily assaulted by his enemies, and thus has no other means of escape other than having recourse in that case to my powerful captain and famous champion asking him to approach with the army as I cry out as loudly as possible: “Help! Help, Lord, or I shall be assassinated by these traitors”.

Et ne nos inducas etc. O how I am surrounded by so many tribulations in this life! O how many most cruel demonic temptations attack me! O how many kinds of aggression assail me because of my feral flesh! Can you not see, O God of hosts, how when I see that I am so strongly besieged and entrapped, that I do not have sufficient strength to resist? Do you not see that my situation is desperate and that I am completely spineless? So when will you come to my help? Please do not delay any longer: Accelea ut curas me. (Hasten to help me.)[64] Hasten to help me and console me by saying: Tecum ego sum, ut salvem te, ne timeas neque paveas Israel. (I am with you to save you, do not fear or be frightened, Israel).[65] Now I shall save you and set you free, O my child, do not be so afraid, indeed I can say: Do not be afraid anymore.

4887 Finally consider the last phrase, with the final petition that is included in it, so that not only are sins that have already been mentioned are taken away, but also what remain after that and the occasions of sin. It is very important, (to tell the truth), for someone who is recovering but is destitute and lethargic to shun the occasion of falling again and to stick to what is prescribed by the doctor.

Sed libera igitur nos a malo. O most wise heavenly medical expert, how careless I am with regard to avoiding the occasions of evil, as if I was not aware that relapsing usually means something much worse than the original illness. I can easily say for certain: O Domine, ecce, quem amass infirmatur. (O Lord, behold he whom you love is sick.)[66] See in any case I fall and the one whom you have loved so much and cured just a short time before has become sick and unwell. Truly great is my shame and embarrassment, because I do not know how to break loose from these bonds, since I never truthfully resolve to flee from these difficulties. O merciful doctor, come not only to medicate me against past and present evils, but to take control of me and grant me perseverance for the future.

Sed libera nos, O most clement one, you, who alone have the power the knowledge and the will! Libera nos, who alone by means of your prompting and by means of your word are able to heal body and soul,! Libera me, Domine, et pone me iuxta te, et cuiusvis manus pugnet contra me. Libera nos a malo, (Deliver me, O Lord, and set me beside thee, and let any man’s hand fight against me. Deliver us from evil.), from the evil of sin, of the devil who is the cause of all evil. Libera nos a malo, Deliver us from evil so that we shall be good always, without ever relapsing into more evil, it that is possible. Amen. Fiat. Fiat.

3. A meditation on how to recite the Hail Mary with devotion. Exercise II

1. The excellence of the Angel’s greeting. 2-3.How often she was perhaps visited by the saints. 4.Exhortation to greet Mary. A method of visualising the Madonna in order to greet her. 5. Three conditions for greeting her worthily. 6. The word “Hail” implies three mysteries. 7-8. Explanation of the letters in the word Ave. 9. Comparisont of word Eve with the word Madonna. 10. Meaning of the words Eve and Ave. Nine woes that pertain to sin. Four verses pertaining to the word Ave. 11. How Mary was free from all the nine woes that pertain to sin. 12-13. Explanation of the name Maria. 14. Why did the angel not use this name, while the Church uses this name. 15. Ave: joy over the grandeur of the Madonna and gratitude to God. 16. Maria: think of being a slave, beaten on the helmet, looking for his bearings. 17 Gratia plena: ask for patience in humiliation. 18. Doninus tecum: strength against temptations. 18. Benedicta etc.: constancy against persecution and rivalries. 19. Et Benedictus ect.: the grace of acting well. 20. Jesus Holy Mary etc.: ask everything through the most holy name and merits of Jesus and Mary. 21. Ora pro nobis etc.: hope for continual protection from her for all of us.

4888 1. What soul who belongs to God and loves his holy Mother would not endeavour to frequently recite the Angel’s salutation, commonly known as the Hail Mary with devotion and feeling? St Gregory of Nanzianzus said that it is compendium mysteriorum et laudum B. Virginis Mariae,[67] that is a compendium of all the praises and of all the grandeur of the glorious Virgin Mary. Do we not know that after the Pater noster it is the most well-known prayer of all the others, and therefore it is often used by the Roman Church?

2. O how it is used over and over again by all the dearest servants of the Lord! This begun with St James the Apostle and came down then to St Basil and St John Chrysostom, who used it in their liturgies,[68] and when St Thomas Aquinas was a little boy he picked up a piece of paper from the dust on which the Hail Mary was written and, in spite of his nurse and his mother, swallowed it as a prelude to the great reverence that he was to have for this beautiful prayer.[69] When St Catherine of Siena was about five years of age, she learnt it by heart and knelt down as she frequently went up and down a staircase in her house, genuflecting and reciting it on every step.[70]

4889 3. What can be said about St Catherine the widow, who was the daughter of St Brigid,[71] who esteemed this pray so highly that before she went to ask advice of anyone first said this prayer with humble devotion? Because she did this on one occasion she merited to have a noble woman who had sinned because of the devil find peace by exhorting her to make a complete confession, telling her that people like her often fell under diabolical delusions because of the sins that they had not said or had concealed in confession. Finally, Blessed Margaret, the daughter of the King of Hungary, [72] who decided to promptly serve God among the nuns of St Domenic rather then to become the wife of three Kings who sought her hand, that is the King of Sicily, the King of Bohemia and the King of Poland. She was not satisfied to say this prayer a hundred times a day, but said it a thousand times particularly on feasts of the Madonna and for the whole octave that followed. O what great fervour of devotion!

4. If the courtesan who greets the Queen who is seated on her throne in solemn majesty many times a day in a proper manner, hopes to receive her patronage whatever happens; how much more should we hope for the same if we greet the Queen of the universe frequently with the same devotion? We ought to greet her with even more confidence since she is by nature and by her sex our sister in flesh and blood and loves us with such heartfelt love that she can but help us promptly and generously.

So imagine seeing her seated as she does on a throne of glory, at the right hand of her Son, above all the choirs of angels, seeing her giving off rays, splendour and perfume all around her and seeing her gazing and looking at us, and like the angels let us show her that our hearts are set on fire and filled with love by her superior beauty for this is a great way to greet the Virgin with dignity.

4890 So that our humble greeting might draw near to her in a dearer manner, indeed the dearest manner, let us take care to be like those who composed, set out or launched this prayer; that having a pure spirit, like the Angel Gabriel. Let us be chaste in the flesh and spotless as St Elizabeth, and faithful to the end and immaculate as the Church.

Have you not read what St Dionysius the Areopagite said about the angels: Angeli sunt specula naturae, gratiae et gloriae clarissima? (The Angels are the clearest mirror of nature, grace and glory.)[73] O what purest mirrors of nature, of grace and of glory the Angels are shown to be! What does the Gospel say about St Elizabeth? Elizabeth incedebat in omnibus Domini iustificationibus sine querela. (In everything Elizabeth walked according to God’s commandments without failure)[74] O what a great favour it is to observe the divine law and not to give people cause for complaint! Finally what does St Paul’s Epistle say about the holy Church? Christus dilexit Ecclesiam et tradidit seipsum pro ea, mundans eam lavacro aquae in verbo vitae, ut exhiberet eam sibi gloriosam, non habentem maculam neque rugam aut aliquid huiusmodi sed ut sit sancta et immaculate. (Christ loved the church and gave himself up for it, that he might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life: that he might present it to himself, a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle nor any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.)[75] O the excessive love of Christ in dying for establishing and cleansing the Roman Church and for rendering it immaculate, holy and glorious!

4891 6 What is there to say? If the angel’s greeting says this, how can we not become mystical angels, by repeating it in a proper manner? Let us begin now. Ave. What a very important word! St Peter Damien, who was a great Cardinal, said very fittingly rugitus altissimae vocis,[76] raise high your voice for here are three unheard of mysteries: the Incarnation of the Son of God, the Redemption of the human race and the renewal of the whole world. St Antoninus, the Archbishop of Florence,[77] by way of explanation says this in the follower way.

7. Ave, is a word composed of three letters that signifie the three divine Persons. A, stands for amor (love), which represents the Holy Spirit. V, stands for verbum (word), which represents the Son who is the Word of the Father. E, stands for aeternus (eternal), which represents the Father Himself. Eternity applies to him because he is the first cause, apart from which there is no other first cause. These are three words but the one in the middle, which denotes the Son, becomes one with the others in this case, when we say, Ave.

What then do we wish to say to the Madonna, indeed what did the Angel wish to say when he addressed her with the greeting, Ave? Listen and note carefully the mystery of grace. I come to greet you, O great noble young lady and Virgin who are unique and without equal, on behalf of the three divine Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit; and to inform you that the eternal Word, the Son, through the operation of the Holy Spirit wishes to come down into your virginal womb and make you one with him. I call him Word because he is coeternal and equal to the Father. This is the best way to describe him as being truly God and also being true man. The Angel wished to inform you of this, O Queen of heaven, and we address you like this from the bottom of our hearts, and as a clear sign of our joy we want to repeat it a thousand and a hundred thousand times. Ave, ave!

4892 8. Now we try to explain this mystery in another manner, but in the end return to the same thing when we say: A which is the first letter of the alphabet in all languages, and shows that the divinity is the first origin and cause of everything. The Apocalypse says: Ego sum A et ω, id est alpha et omega, principium et finis. (I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end). V, which is the last letter of the Latin alphabet, represents our created humanity which came to be after all the other creatures. This is why a woman was called virago a viro. (She was called woman, because she was taken out of man.)[78] The letter E, which is formed by the breath is a symbol, a mark and a sign of the Hebrew word which is as if St Gabriel had said: O great Hebrew mother, rejoice at the very happy news that I am bringing to you. The second Person in divinis (of the Godhead) wishes to come into your womb to clothe himself in the garment of humanity.” This is another expression that explains in an instant who is sending, who is being sent and to whom he is being sent as well as the reason for sending the ambassador so that the sweet memory of it might be recalled and impressed on us many times as we repeat Ave, ave, ave.

4893 9. Is there anyone who is not aware that the word Ave, is in contrast with word Eva? This is wonderful! Note that these words are made up of the same letters which are arranged in contrasting order. The letters in Ave and those in Eva are in reverse order when read from left to right. This symbolises how the Madonna did everything the opposite to out first mother, Eve as St Fulgentius and others have pointed out.[79] When Eve was seduced by the serpent she fell into sin and brought forth death. The Madonna, being filled with the Holy Spirit, was replenished with grace and brought forth life. Eve who was a virgin fell to the wicked angel and ruined the world; the Madonna, who was a virgin, believed the good Angel and the world was saved through her. Because she disobeyed Eve became the devil’s daughter; because she obeyed the Madonna became God’s Mother. Eve fountain of demerit and abyss of disgrace; Madonna fountain of merit, and abyss of grace! Eve ladder to hell and its door; Madonna ladder to heaven and its door! Accursed Eve; blessed Madonna! O Eve mother of weeping and unhappiness; O Madonna, the motive for smiling, joy and happiness!

4894 10. It was quite right for our first mother to be called Eve ab a, quod est sine, et ω, id est, eu, quod est bene, quasi sine bono; because Eve lacks all goodness and is only filled with every evil. However, our most worthy second mother is called Ave, non Eva, ab eo quod est, sine; et veh, quae est interiectio dolentis, (Ave not Eva, because eva means something is lacking; whereas veh is acry of woe) and this implies woe, because the blessed Virgin, as the cause of all our goodness, was free from all that is woeful. How is she free from woe and frailty if she endured such great sorrow during the passion of her Son? Listen to St Bonaventure who explains this so well.[80] It brings to mind the Angel in the Apocalypse who turned around three times in the air saying: veh. veh, veh habitantibus in terra. (Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the world).[81] Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, since because of sin mankind incurred three kinds of infirmity and woe. Firstly, with respect to the body, they incurred the illnesses of life, the distress of death and the return to dust and ashes following death. Then with respect to the soul, they incurred ignorance of intellect, the sorrow of fear in the emotions, shame and embarrassment in connection with certain things which they had to endure. Finally, with respect to both of these, they incured the sparks of concupiscence, the stain of sin and the debt of punishment.

4895 11. But you, O holy Empress, you were fortified by special grace which freed you from these nine woes, in addition you shared three special gifts with the entire human race. Fuisti enim sine corruptione faecunda, sine gravamine gravida, sine dolore puerperal. (You were fecund without corruption, pregnant without intercourse, gavie birth without pain). Rejoice that you were conceived without sin, carried without it being a burden and brought forth without pain and with great happiness. We do not hear that you suffered any illness. Whatever suffering you endured was to set us an example of happy patience. Your thousands of sufferings were out of compassion for your Son. You died without feeling the pains of death. You had no reason to suffer embarrassment during your life, nor did you return to dust following your death. Because you did everything with the enlightenment and counsel of the Holy Spirit, you never experienced real fear or regret. O most pure Virgin, because you lived without rebellion or concupiscence of the flesh, you were free of any actual, venial or mortal sin and so your life was spent in always doing penance for us. Therefore, O most loving Mother, how could any honest person not with to greet with humility?

Ave,ave, id est sine aliqua veh

(Ave, Ave, that is without any woe/veh)

Porta salutis, Ave, per quampatet exitus Evae

(Gate of salvation. Through whom Eve was replaced)

Venit Eva veh. Vey qui tollis, ave.

(Woe came through Eve. Woe to anyone who removes the ave).[82]

These are words of your devoted servant. There is more by way of exhortation.

Intactae Virginis, cum veneris ante figuram

Praetereundo cave, ne sileatur, Ave.[83]

4896 12. Ave Maria. O how much could I say about the name Mary as it is memorable, admirable and sacrosanct! I might say that the five letters of the word M. A. R. I. A. remind us of the three main women of the Old Testament. They represent Mihol through whom David was reconciled with Abner the leader of the army,[84] Abigail who appeased the King’s anger against her foolish husband Nabal,[85] Rachel who was the wife of the saintly patriarch Jacob and the mother of the lovable Joseph,[86] Judith who cut off the head of proud Holofernes,[87] and Abisag who was chosen to warm the frozen limbs of the old King.[88] You O Maria, like Mihol, make us friends with heaven; like Abigail, make peace for us with God; like Rachel you love us; like Judith you break Satan’s head; like Abisag you warm our frigidity.

I might also say that these five letters remind us of the five precious stones the mystical properties of which you possess, O divine Princess. Thus the property of the Margherita gem is that it reflects light like the stars do and you sparkle and cancel our faults. The alabandine gem symbolises reconciliation and you reconcile mankind with the angels. The ruby is said to create happiness, and you make the universe rejoice. The lapis gem symbolises comfort, and you comfort the afflicted and those in trouble. The agate gem symbolises the quality of being exalted, and you exalt those who have a humble heart. O precious margherita, O strong alabandine, O red ruby, O green lapis, O beautiful agate! O Virgin who shines with all the joy of virtue according to the phrase: Omni lapis, pretiosus operimentum tuum. (Every precious stone was your covering.)[89]

4897 13. It is sufficient for me to say briefly that those five letters signify five individual kinds of grandeur. M that she is God’s Mother; A that she is the advocate of mankind; R that she is the Regina (Queen) of heaven; I that she is the women who illuminates the earth; the second A that she gives powerful aiuto (help) to everyone. The three syllables Ma, ri, a infer that Mater Dei, (Mother of God) risum filiorum, the smile of the children, absolvens (confers absolution). She is God’s Mother who confers and completes the true joy of her Christian servants and children. It is fitting that the syllable with one letter A signifies absolution, since even the ancient Roman judges used the capital A to signify absolution. On the other hand, the letter C signified condemnation. Tullio said that A littera salutaris (was the letter of salvation), and C littera tristis (was the letter of sorrow).[90]

Now the mystery is this. In Mary’s name the letter C does not appear whereas there A, A occurs twice, because the Lady does not condemn, but absolves the body and soul of fault and punishment. O Maria, when the entire word is set out it means: illuminatrix (lady who enlightens), aut domina (or mistress), aut mare amarum or sea of love), aut maris setlla (star of the sea). O lady who emlightens mankind, O Lady of the Angels, O sea of love for the compassion of your Son, O star of the sea of this world!

4898 14. It was right that this name which was not mentioned by the Angel when he greeted you was added by the jubilant Church. Blessed Albert the Great [91] said that there was a good reason why the Angel did not use this name because when a person greets great and important people one does not use their own name, but addresses them according to their station, dignity and excellence. Ave rex. (Hail King.) Now who is greater that the Mother of God? Thus it was right that the Angel did not use her own name, but used the title that denoted her excellence and prominence, saying: Gratia plena. (Full of grace)! When high dignity is conferred it is customary to change a name as is the case when a Pope is crowned. This Virgin was to become the Mother of God. O what a sublime dignity! Thus the Angel was silent about her name in accord with what Isias had said: Vocabitur tibi nomen novum, quod os Domini nominavit. (You will be called a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name.)[92]

Because of all of this the Church inserted this name and put it in place both for our profit, as it is a very strong title, and because it arouses wonder in our devotion, as St Bernard said: O Virgo magna et pia! O multum amabilis Maria! Tu non potes nominari, quam statim accendas, nec cogitari, quin revres et accuurras: (O Virgin who is great and merciful! O most lovable Maria! Your name cannot be mentioned without it immediately enflaming us; not thought about without you renewing us and coming to us):[93] and, finally, to expose and present our misery to the Madonna, to remind her that she shares our blood and has a name which she shares with many other women.

Ave ergo, Maria! (Therefore, hail Mary!) It is certain that after the most holy name of Jesus there is no name that is stronger or holier than is your name. Amongst the other doctors Blesses Albert the Great explicates your name at length. O sweet name, O gentle name that makes the heart rejoice, is honey in the mouth, and music to the ears! O name that cheers the heavens makes the angels happy, consoles mankind and banishes the demons! Ave Maria!

Eight points for contemplating on the Hail Mary

4899 15. In order to cut things short, without going on for too long, I present eight very affectionate considerations regarding the Angel’s Salutation.

Ave. According to Andrew of Crete,[94] this is the first consideration and the best way to understand the words Salve, (hail), or gaude (rejoice), because we should congratulate you because of your many privileges, to thank God who gave them to you and to greet you most worthy Mother. Ave ergo. (Therefore hail!) Rejoice about your other favours, O Queen of heaven, because we too rejoice and praise the Creator.

16. Maria. This is the second consideration which takes into account that we are slaves in a galley, oppressed by tyrants who are pirates and ferocious pigs. Therefore unhappy people with ashen faces we raise our eyes to see the northern star, and to turn to the one who can provide assistance. O Maria, id est maris stella, seu mundi lux vera. O Mary, that is, the morning star, or the true light of the world, do not hesitate to help us because we are oppressed by a thousand breakers.

4900 17. Gratia plena. (Full of grace). This is the third consideration in which we think about asking for patience in the misfortunes of our mortal life. Gratia plena. You are full of grace, O heavenly princess, while we are misery in the midst of the calamities and misfortunes of this traitorous world. Please grant us patience!

18. Dominus tecum. (The Lord is with you). This is the fourth consideration where we wish to beg her to grant us strength against all the assaults of the devil that is tempting us and we say may the Lord be with us. You are with your Lord and spouse, O unique spouse in heaven. We are surrounded on every side by demons, who like deadly enemies attack and insult us more violently each hour, Please come and banish and conquer them, O you who can do this.

4901 19. Benedicta tu in mulieribus. (Blessed are you among women.) This is the fifth consideration, in which we seek to find firmness against the intrigues and persecution of rivals and enemies. Benedicta tu in mulieribus. O, Lady who is not only more blessed than any other woman, but also blessed since all other creatures are blessed in you. Everyone praises and honours you, whereas hundreds and thousands of people curse us, persecute us, injure us, rob us of our possessions, our family, and our honour and of our life in defiance of what should happen. Make us strong, constant and patient so that we do not fall over the cliff.

20. Et benedictus fructus ventris tui. (And blessed is the fruit of your womb.) This is the sixth consideration in which after having asked to be protected from the three kinds of storms we also ask to be granted the grace to always improve what we are doing. Et benedictus ergo fructus ventris tui. O most merciful Mother you have already given birth to the dignified fruit of your womb, Christ the Redeemer. However, up till now have we not brought forth quite different fruit, such as sin and faults, fruits of death? Please make us at least now bring forth good works, meritorious, holy and mystical works, the fruits of a life filled with grace.

4902 21. Ieus. Sancta Maria, Mater Dei. (Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God). This is the seventh consideration in which we wish to declare that we are not asking for this help on the grounds of our own merit, since we have no merits, but only demerit beyond counting. How, then, can we hope to procure such merits? This will take place through the infinite merits of the Incarnate Word; through the outstanding merits of his most holy Mother, and by the incredible strength and powerful names of Jesus and Maria. Thus, will not Iesu, which means Saviour, not bring about our salvation? Will not Maria, which can also imply to donna or lady, also be aware of the needs of her faithful servants? O Mother of God, mostra te esse matrem, (show yourself to be a mother), show yourself to even be a loving mother to us who wish to be your children, indeed your beloved children.

22. Ora pro nobis peccatoribus etc. (Pray for us sinners etc.). Finally here is the eighth and last consideration, in which we sigh, yearn and beg Our Lady to provide us with general and continual protection and to be our advocate in everything, at every time and in every place. Ors pro nibis igitur. O most beloved and holy Lady, ora, beg with deep emotion. Ora pro nobis, for us who have no other shelter or refuge but you, pray Pro nobis peccatoribus for us who are sinners. Deign, I say, to pray for us although we are unworthy, lacking merit, O Mother of mercy, not only now, but throughout life and especially at the hour of our death, when the demons will use all their might to have us condemned forever. Nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen. (Now and at the hour of our death. Amen.) May it be so, O sponsor of sinners, and may it always be like this, o clemente, o pia, o dulcis virgo Matria. Amen, Fiat, fiat. Amen.[95]

4. A method for fervently contemplating the Creed. Exercise III

1. How the Apostles composed the Creed. The Creed is the tower of faith, against the tower of Babel. – 2. Why the Creed is called the Symbol. The number of symbols that exist. – 3. The power and excellence of the Symbol. How necessary it is to know the Creed. – 4-5. The difference in believing Deum (His existence), in Deo (that His word is true) and in Deum (belief turning into action). – 6. Why are attributes assigned to the Divine Persons. – 7. Meditation on the three divine attributes. – 8. How we may form an image of God the Father. – 9. Mystical creation of earth and heaven in six days. – 10. How many are the articles of the Symbol. – 11. How should we think about the Son of God? – 12. Triumphant victories of Christ. – 13. How should we form an image of the Holy Spirit within us. – 14. Meditation that seeks help for the Church. – 15. What does the communion of saints mean?

4903 1. If, before they were scattered through the whole world, Noah’s proud sons brazenly attempted to build the tower of Bable that would stretch up to heaven,[96] as though they were ferocious giants, who dared to do battle with the omnipotent God, their languages were diversified so that they could not understand one another so that they were forced to stop; was it not fitting also that, before they dispersed across the universe to convert people, the Redeemer’s most humble Apostles ought to build a glorious tower against hell by receiving the gift of tongues on the feast of Pentecost? St Augustine[97] says that in order to demonstrate more clearly the unity of the holy dogmas, they did this precisely by putting together all the major articles of the Christian faith in a very brief summary which the Doctors called the Symbol of the faith and which popular tradition call the Creed.

4904 2. Now Simbolo means portio, seu collatio (abridgement or compendium) because it contains all the relevant items in a subject matter. It can also mean Symbolum, id est signum (that is a sign that identifies an object) as is the Credo since it clearly identifies the faithful as much as their military uniform or badge always identifies big-hearted warriors. In the Roman Church the most holy Symbol has always remained untouched,[98] even though at certain times it may have been explained more clearly with the circulation of the Nicean Creed, which is the Creed as the Creed that is recited at Mass.[99] This may have also been the case with the Creed of St Athanasius, which strictly speaking is not Symbol, because it was composed by an individual author as was the one approved by Pope Gregory, whereas the Creed of St Athanasius was simply a catalogue and compendium of the articles of faith. The Symbols by St Ambrose and by St Augustine are not Symbols strictly speaking since the do not explicate the articles of faith. As the opening words, Te Deum laudamus (Let us praise God) declare these are merely songs of praise.

3. What great praise does St Ambrose[100] lavishes on the Creed when he calls it a seal on our heart, the emblem of our militia and a very sharp sword to arm and safeguard a creature in every crisis! Thus St Fredrick who was Bishop of Utrecht could not find a better remedy for certain heresies that were raging in his Diocese than making people recite and take to heart a Symbol. The Sixth Sacred Council of Constantinople determined and concluded that a person who did not know the Creed by heart and who did not recite it frequently when praying, was not a good Catholic. Nisi credens Symbolum memorialiter tenuerit et in oratione saepissime frequentaverit, catholicos esse non poterit. (If a member of the faithful did not know the Symbol by heart and did not repeat it frequently when at prayer, he could not be a good Catholic). [101] What a remarkable declaration! How could this not move everyone to devotion and to the frequent repetition of this famous confession of faith?

4905 5. What is the way to recite it with devotion if not to think of yourself as being in the presence of the Most Holy Trinity, so that you concentrate on the divine Persons, and at times speak to the Father, at times speak to the Son of God and at times speak to the Holy Spirit? Credo in Deum Patrem, et in Filium et in Spiritum Sanctum. (I believe in God the Father, and in the Son and in the Holy Spirit). Who does not know that all three divine Persons are equal in strength, equal in magesty, equal in glory so that they are all one in essence, substance and will even though they are distinct in reality and in person? However, when we are praying it is most helpful to focus on imagining that we are dealing with one person and then with another, while always at heart honouring, and seeking to speak with all three at once. To achieve this more deliberately we need to remember that we are contemplating a mystery. Nevertheless, we should recognise that an exception to this rule is created by interior inspirations although these are not always properly understood by simple people.. What an arousing way of praying!

5. Credo ergo (thus I believe), not simply Deum, vel in Deo (in the existence of God) since this is not an article of faith, but a natural conclusion. Who can deny that God exists? According to the interpretations of the Gospel this is what credere Deum means. It is more than believing what words say. There is a difference between credere Deo, (believing the word of God) andCredere in Deo believing in God). I believe and always wish to believe so that in believing I may love, in loving I may respect, in respecting I may serve, in serving I may invoke, in invoking I may receive, in receiving I may possess and in possessing I may enjoy you alone, O God, O my God, O God of my heart. Credo in Deum!

4906 6. I speak to God the Father in a particular manner because power is attributed to Him when I say Patrem omnipotentem for He is the first person in the Trinity who had no beginning as none can doubt since, out of respect, He has always been known as Pater et antiquus dierum. (Father and the ancient of days). I speak with God the Son, to whom wisdom is attributed, since he proceeds by means of the intellect and the intellect speculates and contemplates wisdom. No one could ever convict Him of falsehood when they hear that He is called the Son for He is not just a foolish and inexperienced youth. I speak to God the Holy Spirit, to whom generosity is attributed, because he emanates by means of the will which deals with what is good as its object. The word Spirit implies that no one could ever suspect Him of anything that was sinister or dreadful. This is what the theologians[102] say. I conduct a unique meditation by considering these three attributes.

7 Credo in Deum Patrem (I believe in God the Father). In you, O eternal Father, who have already created me by means of your power! Credo in Deum Filium (I believe in God the Son)! In you O Only-begotten Son, who by means of your wisdom have already redeemed me and in the Saints given me an example to follow. Credo in Deum Spiritum Sanctum! (I believe in God the Holy Spirit). In you O spirit Paraclete who by your generosity have promised to justify me and bring me to glory. Most blessed Father, reinforce my frailty by means of your omnipotence! O blessed Son, enlighten my blindness by means of your all knowing wisdom! O blessed Holy Spirit, wash away my wicked arrogance by means of your complete generosity! Come, O most holy Father come to the aid of my memory by means of consoling hope. O Son who are equally holy, come to the aid of my intellect by means of enlightening faith. O Holy Spirit who are also holy, come to the aid of my will by means of burning charity so that I may speak and proclaim with more confidence. Credo in Deum.

Fourteen points to contemplate

4907 8. If you wish to recite the Symbol with even more enthusiastic ardour when you are contemplating the first article which pertains to the Father visualize seeing God the Father (as the holy Prophet Isaiah saw Him in spirit)[103] as if he were a majestic king, sitting on a high throne, covered with jewels and gold that filled the land and sky with splendour. Behold Him supporting the world with three fingers. Listen to the beautiful hymn which each of the winged seraphim sang in his presence: Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus. Doninus Deus Sabaoth! (Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabbath!) Beg him to surround you with his bright rays. Marvel at how he looks at you and sets your heart alight with his loving gaze. Ask him to take you in his arms and permit you to rest on his divine breast and absorb the delights of his heart as did St John the Evangelist on Christ’s breast at the Last Supper,[104] so that everyone could sing with joy: Credo in Deum Patrem omnipotentem, Creatorum coeli et terrae. (I believe in God the Father the omnipotent creator of heaven and earth).

4908 9. Thank him for creating heaven and earth and, like St Ambrose, humbly beg him to mystically produce in us the results of the first six days of the creation of the world.[105] Because in the beginning he created the heavens and the earth with a single word, let him now renew our body and soul with a wink. As he first created light that dispersed darkness and brought on the day, let him now, banish the darkness of sin by the light of his grace, and usher in the day of virtue. As he then, on the second day, created the firmament that separates the upper waters from the lower waters, let him confer on us the determination to do what is right which separates the works of life from the works of death.

Just as on the third day you gathered the waters together into one ocean out of which flowed the springs, the streams, the rivers, the ponds and the seas and the dry land appeared, which was a place of pleasure, so now you have brought together in a mystical ocean that held all good things, all that was strong, all that could be desired or longed for by our senses and established the paradise of the spirit where earthly desires of the flesh were held in subjection. Just as on the fourth day you adorned the heavens with the sun, the moon, and the stars and made the constellations shine like good works, the sun like a shining intellect, the moon like our will and the stars like our faculties.

Just as on the fifth day you created birds, fish so you established contemplative activity that flies like an angel to the heights, as well as works pertaining to the active life resembling fish that are born from below. Just as you created the animals on the on the sixth day you created human beings of both sexes, male and female, you aroused the mystical life, set up in human life with upright intentions as displayed in good individuals who dedicate themselves to the spiritual and corporal works of mercy whether they be men or women. This is how they deserve in the end to come to the seventh day of eternal rest in the glory of God Himself. O what a gift!

4909 10. Let us now pass to the next six points which apply to Christ our Redeemer. We say six so that when we consider them all at once the articles of faith come to twelve, which corresponds to the number of the twelve Apostles. If we wish to divide them according to the various subjects that they cover then they would come to fourteen. Et in Iesum Christum Filium eius unicum, Dominum nostrum. (And in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord). As God’s natural Son He is unicum (one) for we are only his adopted sons and Christ’s servants by reason of our creation, redemption and by being sent to work in the vineyard with the prospect of a great reward if we do well and of being severely punished if we do evil. Cum constitutus sit iudex vivorum et mortuorum, et ideo Dominus noster. (Since he was appointed to be the judge of the living and of the dead, and thus our Lord)[106]

11. Come; let us now imagine with great devotion that we can see Christ the Saviour and our Lord being conceived by means of an unprecedented miracle in the Madonna’s virginal womb with incredible sweetness and joy. Qui conceptus est de Spiritu Sancto. (Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit). He is now a newly born baby who is lying in the crib at Bethlehem amidst the songs of the Angels and the visit of shepherds and also two curious animals. Natus ex Maria Virgine. (Born of the Virgin Mary.) Imagine him now as he suffers cruelly under Pontius Pilate because of the hatred and anger of rascal Jews. Pasus sub PontioPilatus. (Suffered under Pontius Pilate). Imagine him now hanging on the cross in shame and scorn between two coarse thieves. Crucifixus. Now imagine him bleeding, pale and dead, his head bowed and his side pierced. Mortuus. Now imagine his Mother shedding sorrowful tears and his burial by Saints Joseph and Nicodemus. Et sepultus. (And he was buried.)

4910 12. Following the six mysteries that we have mentioned, let us recall another five, firstly by accompanying his soul to limbo with the good thief and going deeper let us see him chain Lucifer, amaze his followers, steal the damned, console those who had died before reaching the age of reason who had been punished, free those who had made satisfaction in Purgatory and set free all the holy fathers. Descendit ad inferos. (He descended into hell.) Now gaze on him as he comes out of there with great show taking his glorious body once more and rises with a pslam on the third day to real and immortal life and appears to his Mother and to the disciples endowed with glory. Tertia die resurrexit a mortuis. (On the third day he rose from the dead.) Here he is now triumphant among the clouds, blessing the apostles and moving about among those who were his own while the angels sing in heaven. Ascendit ad coelos. (He ascended into heaven.) Now he is seated at the right hand of the Father with power and majesty adorned with all the crowns and sceptres, all the jewels and light that you could ever wish for. Sedet ad dexteram Dei Patris omnipotentis. (He is seated at the right hand of the omnipotent Father.) Comtemplate him also on your own behalf, greet him, praise and adore him since he will come down from there with majestic pomp at the end of the world to judge the living and the dead and the whole world. Inde venturus est iudicare vivos et mortuas. (Then he will come to judge the living and the dead.) O what a powerful and wise eternal judge!

4913 13. However at last let us turn to the third divine Person, the Holy Spirit, and think of him as coming out of the door of heaven under the appearance of a shining white dove who is in flight to come down on our hearts and heads to make us holy and to fill us with his gifts, his divine fruits and his saintly love. Veni sancte Spiritus, reple tuorum corda fidelium et tui amoris in eis ignem accende. (Come Holy Spirit and fill the hearts of your faithful and set fire to them with the fire of your love.) Come, come, O Paraclete since they are unable to live without you. Is there any circumstance in which we do not need your love? However, at the moment we wish that you would grant us five signs of your favour.

14. Credo sanctam Ecclesiam catholicam. (I believe in the holy Catholic Church.) This is the first favour. We firmly believe that only the Roman Church is the true Church and your beloved spouse, and that your supreme Pontiff is the legitimate vicar of our Lord on earth. But what is this? Can you not see, Lord, how he is attacked on every side so that he is in continual danger? Do you not see the furious attacks of the Turks? Do you not see the damage inflicted by the heretics? Can you not hear the anger, the fury and the cunning of our other enemies? O, God look at the situation in France? Look at what is happening in Germany? Look at how they are living in Flanders? Look at what England has become today and other countries which only a short while ago were Christian? Then why do you not come to the aid of your Church? Why do you pretend not to see or to hear such ruin? Do you want us to walk along a cliff because of our sins? Do not do this, do not do this O God, O Father, O omnipotent God, O merciful Father, O God who is to be feared, Father who is to be adored! Do not leave us to perish so miserably! Ne forte dicani gentes: Ubi est Deus eorum? (Lest the nations say: where is their God?)[107]So the barbarians may not insult the Roman Church by saying that if it were the true Church its God would not abandon it so much. Rise up, rise up, O Lord, arouse yourself at least this time to show mercy because of the great calamities and take them from your spouse and put victory in her hand, O you who can and who have the strength to achieve it, do it.[108]

4912 12. Sanctorum communiorum. (The Communion of Saints.) This is the second favour. Since all of us Catholics share in the same sacraments and aspire to the same heaven, grant that we may all share in the efficacious suffrages of the Church militant and triumphant, not only in this life, but also in life after death. Sanctorum communionum. Inspire the rich to share what they have with the poor. O God of true peace, reconcile those who are in conflict and who are enemies. In a special way grant through your infinite mercy that princes and those in power in our disturbed Christian world remain always united in peace,[109] so that they may remain united and linked together and not at war, no longer fear the Turks, or the Moors, heretics, anyone who is schismatic nor anything else that is diabolical.

At this point I will not experience consolation unless I ask you to grant me another three gifts, namely, that, while living beside us, you would direct us towards the frequent reception of the sacraments so as to receive complete forgiveness of all our failings. Remissionem peccatorum. So the when we die we will be in your grace and hope to resurrect in body and soul on judgement day with your elect and not as relegated to misery and punishment with those who are damned. Carnis resurrectionem. (Resurrection of the body.) Then, following the last judgement, we will not be with the condemned sheep that are cast out by the demons that are in the deep, but shepherded into heaven by the angels together with your blessed sheep to eternal life, blessed life, dignified life, that is happy and glorious. Vitam eternam. Amen.

5. Helpful rules and maxims for ejaculatory prayer for preserving recollection and union with Holy God day and night. Exercise 21

50. Three prime perfections draw us to the love of god. – 51-52. Discussion concerning the goodness of God. – 53. The grandeur of God’s mercy. – 54-55. The vision of St Carpo concerning mercy. – 56 – Ten conditions of God’s love for mankind. – 57-61 – Explanation of these conditions. – 62-64 – Exhortation to love God. – 65-67 – Fifteen conditions for man to love God. – 68-69 – Exhortation to love one’s neighbour. – 70-72 – Six accompaniments or benefits from love of neighbour. – 73 – Always keep God close to your heart. – 74 – Do everything for the glory of the Lord.

The practice of holy charity

4913. 50. If Sacred Scripture testifies so clearly that ubi est humilitas, ibi est sapientia (where humility is, there also is wisdom),[110] how could it happen that when we are practicing the various glorious grades of humility so well, that we are not also practicing outstanding, loved charity? O my Lord, who is not aware that you are not most lovable for a thousand reasons, your essence, your omnipotence, wisdom, immensity, infinity, eternity, dignity, riches, gentleness, justice and for all of your indescribable perfections? However, there are three main grand qualities that incite, attract and urge bodies and souls to recognise your love and benevolence and these are your generosity, mercy and exceptional charity. You have written about your goodness: Nemo bono nisi solus Deus[111]videlicet per essentiam. (None is good but one, that is God, that is according to his essence.) We sing about your mercy: Et misericordia eius super omnia opera eius. (and his tender mercies are over all his works.)[112] With regard to charity: charitas ex Deo est, et Deus charitas est, (Charity comes from God, and God is charity)[113], as St John the Apostle and Evangelist says. O infinite goodness! O immense mercy! O supreme charity!

4914 51. Objects that are lovable and desirable have three properties, beauty, goodness and usefulness and provision of support. He who is the Good is all goodness and is even more than good. He is all merciful and more than beautiful. He is all charity and thus our unique support. Best and greatest God, your goodness touches me as if it were an imperishable treasure having six jewels surrounded by your priceless love which is drawing me.

It constitutes the primary goodness from which all that is good in the world is derived, total goodness that does not have parts, or sections, which cannot increase, nor diminish at all. It is pure goodness which does not possess, not could it possess, any mixture with anything evil. This is perfect goodness that contains all goodness so that it is able to fulfil all that could be desired, an eternal goodness that cannot fade. Finally it is goodness that can be shared and distributed by means of the many benefits that it produces in calling us, creating us, preserving us, controlling us, making us upright and glorifying us.

O unique goodness of my heart, how could it then ever be that you were not my goodness that is just, helpful, beautiful and enjoyable? O quam bonum et suavis est, Domine, spiritua tuus. Quam bonus Israel Deus his, qui recto sunt corde. Ecce tu pulcher es, dilecte. (O how good and sweet is your Spirit, O Lord. How good is God to Israel, to them that are of right heart. Behold you are fair, my beloved and comely.)[114]

4915 52. O good God, O beautiful God, goodness in itself, substantial beauty, original goodness of all that is good, beauty that is the source of all that is charming and graceful, highest and supreme goodness, highest and eternal goodness, goodness filled with sweetness, beauty filled with all grace, O God! O God who alone are good who cannot but be good, who cannot be thought of as anything but good! You are that good that you could not either consider or want to do anything but what is good. You are so beautiful that your beauty infinitely exceeds anything else that is charming. O, what can I say about this? You are so good that you can draw goodness not only from what is good, but also out of what is evil. You are so beautiful that you have the strength to even make your enemies love you.

O most good God! O most beautiful God! St Anselm said: Tu es tale bonum et pulcrum quo nil melius vel pulchrius excogitari potest, (You are so good and beautiful, that no one could be thought of who could be better or more beautiful.) [115] Thus all the languages of heaven and earth could not ever praise you sufficiently. What can I who am so miserable and blind do? Why do you not force me to love you with all my strength, for you are so good and beautiful?

4916 53. This is even truer of your incomparable mercy, which like a very worthy queen, seems to have had me invited to share in divine love by showing me three things of rare beauty and excellence. Eternal and immortal God, is your mercy not of the highest quality, when in paradise it crowns your friends with glory ultra condignum, (Beyond what they deserve), and, it would appear, beyond what they merit? Is it not very bountiful seeing that on earth it encourages your enemies so gently? Does it not penetrate to the very depths when the fallen are judged and tormented in the severe and sad punishments of hell, citra condignum? (as they deserve). Does it not intend to be very generous when it waits patiently for fifty years for wicked sinners to repent? Does it not appear to be super abundant when you not only cancel sins, and grant gifts, but appear indeed to continually shower sinners with benefits and raise them up? Finally does it not appear to be most generous when you appear to be more merciful than just, allowing that you are always infinitely merciful and infinitely just, while no invoking your justice against men, when they provoke you by sinning against you, against your will and you spontaneously show thousands of acts of mercy an hour, without asking for anything at all of them or that they should deserve this?

4917 54.O mercy without measure, which has no boundaries, no limits no terminus, no finishing point whatsoever and therefore tends towards completely forgiving sinners which, on the spur of the moment, at the drop of a single tear, cancels the most enormous sins that have gone on for hundreds and thousands of years. O Deus meus, misericordia. Miserere nostril, quaesimus, secundum magnam misericordiam tuam. (My God, mercy! Have mercy on us we beg you according to your great mercy). Merciful and sweet lord, it is you who grant us nature’s gifts and is this not great mercy? If you also grant us the gift of grace is this not indeed a greater mercy? If in the end you grant us the gift of glory how could this not be the greatest mercy? Indeed you are so motivated by your natural compassion to be merciful that when St Carpo, one of the seventy two disciples, prayed that those sinners whom he regarded as incorrigible would die you let him see (according to what St Dionysius the Areopagite says)[116] a vision of the belching den of the red dragon and a thousand snakes, the figure of Lucifer and his followers. The dragon was standing ready to devour the two unfortunate persons who were known for their depravity by munching them there on the edge of the abyss. See how the heavens opened suddenly and Christ, together with a large number of angels, got up from his throne and went to the aid of these miserable people and protected them from the dragon and the snakes, while saying:

55. Paratus sum, Carpe,iterum pro his peccatoribus salvandis oati, et tu vis ut illico demergam eos? Ora pro eis, et semper ora ei patienter expecta. (Am I not prepared, Carpo, to still suffer for these sinners, while you want to have them submerged? Pray for them, pray always and wait patiently).[117] Ah Carpo, ah Carpo, have you perhaps forgotten, or do you not realise the immensity of my mercy? Why do you then ask me to execute these two unfortunate sinners and cast them into the depths? Do you not realise that if it were necessary I would most willingly come back to die for their salvation? Then pray, pray for them ardently and for all the others, and then patiently await the wonderful effects of my clemency, compassion and my great mercy. O, Father of consolation and mercy when will you grant that once more we may go on singing this Psalm with one voice: Misericordas Donimi in eternum cantabo? (The mercies of the Lord I will sing forever.)[118]

4918 56. However if this is not enough to arouse me towards you O good Jesus, O merciful Jesus, allow me to feel and experience the burning flames of your divine love! Ah, my dear life, may your incomparable charity make me like a brightly shining sun that sheds rays of very consuming love all around into the marrow of the spirit but does not dry the spirit out or burn it. Such rays of yours and the main characteristics of your love are ten in number. Your love is eternal, infinite, given freely, beneficent, total, personal, beyond measure, real and permanent. Blessed am I if I realise that I ought to taste it and meditate on it! Let us begin from the beginning.

57. My soul, contemplate how the love of your God is eternal, without any beginning. He not only loved you when your were placed in swaddling clothes or when your were still in your mother’s womb, but prior to when you came into the world, before he created the earth and the sky he new that he would procreate you so that you would come to life at some time and thus he exclaimed: In charitate perpetua dilexi te, moserans tui. (I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you, taking pity on you.)[119]

Know that his love is also infinite and therefore greater than the love of a father or mother, of an angel or an archangel, of a cherub or of all the angels.

O fire of love that is beyond what is seraphic love which is that free that it does not love you because of the good your have done or because of your merits, nor for your comfort or wellbeing. Deus enim noster est, borum nostrorum non eget. (You are my God, for you have no need of my goods.)[120] What could the omnipotent Creator ever need to obtain from his creature? O most kind lover, you have loved and do love us only by means of your grace and out of your goodness. Diligamus ergo, Deum, quoniam ipse prioe dilexit nos, said St John. (Let us love God because God first loved us.)[121]

4919 58. O unique spouse of my soul, not only is your love given so freely, but it is also given generously and is beneficial, so that in loving us in such a way you influence us to do many good things and confer so many gifts on us that we would have nothing, including existence, life, feeling, purpose and holiness, beauty, strength and wealth and dignity or anything else were it not for God’s generosity. St Paul asked: Quid enim habes, o homo, quod non acceperis? (What do you have that you have not received?)[122]

O most generous love, which is also all-embracing, because you as the good God love all creatures at once. Diligit namque omnia quae fecit. (For you love everything that you made.)[123] However this does not lessen your love for us by one degree, because, O divine Lord, you love nothing else than what is yours. However, since you love everything in one most simple and undivided act of love, and possess them like plunder (let us put it this way for now), it would appear that you could not and would not do anything to them that was displeasing to them. Thus when you wished to punish the Five Cities, you said to the holy Patriarch Abraham: Num potero caelare Abraam quae gesturus sum? (Can I hide form Abraham what I am about to do?)[124] On another occasion when you wanted to punish the Hebrews you said to Moses who was their leader and captain: Dimitte me utirascatur furor meus contra eos. (Let me alone that my wrath may be kindled against them.)[125]

4920 59. O what an amazing thing then if this burning love by bringing us close to the living God produces all the strong responses that we usually experience when caugh up in strong love? O God, O my God, how burning is this love of yours which , in a certain way, intoxicates, destroys and makes our souls languish with desire! We wish to be united to you and accompany you as we have such feelings and you appear to be jealous. Caritas vulneratus sum. Vulnerasti autem me in uno oculorum tuorum, o soror mea sponsa. (Charity has wounded me. My sister, my spouse, you have wounded me with one of your eyes.)[126] Deeply wounded by love I have discovered you, O joy of my heart. Perhaps the wounds lie within and cannot be seen or appear to make a mark as did the many wounds inflicted by the thorns, the nails and the lashes that appeared in the open. Why is this? You underwent this for your enemies, as well as for me alone (I feel free to say this in the strict sense) since I share in so much, me and any faithful person, have a share in the great fruit of the Passion, of which I want for nothing as if all of it was suffered just for me. Commendat Deus charitatem suam in nobis, quia cum essemus inimici, Christus nortuus est pro nobis. (But God commends his charity towards us because when we were as yet enemies, Christ died for us.)[127]

4921 60. What other love could be higher than his love since in a certain sense he wished to commit everything for our salvation? To beautify the holy Church which was his beloved spouse did he not want to wash her in his sacred precious blood? So that such a flame might be always remembered he wished to preserve the wounds in his flesh alive and glorious. O love for us who are distorted, useless and ungrateful that is more than a father’s love, more than a mother’s love! O delights that last till death; delights that could not be overcome by the strongest mishaps, why were you not lost at the first wild blows, but remained unconquered until blood was shed, until the spirit breathed its last! Fortis est ut mors dilectio; dura sicut infernus aemulatio. (For love is strong as death, jealousy as hard as hell.)[128]

61. Your most pure love, O dear and heavenly Lover, is love that is real, for as you said to your famous handmaid St Bridget:[129] you love men as much now and with as much intensity as you did at the time of your Passion, and, if it was necessary, you would willingly die now and suffer more punishment for any soul, what you have already suffered for the redemption of the whole universe. You support us before the eternal Father with such a burning love as this so that, in a certain divine manner, you would at any minute relive, without the shedding of blood, the unique oblation that you have already offered for us when you were covered with blood and wounds. O highest love! O immense love! O inestimable charity! O indescribable charity! How delightful and unthinkable! Now who could not fall in love with such a love?

4922 62. Is there any one who would think that I would not go about like someone who was drunk or mad, as if insane or intoxicated crying: “Love, love! My dear and precious love! My sweet and good love! O supreme and highest love!!” Ah man! Ah man! Ah woman! Ah Christian! Ah soul! So you would love your friends who often when you have the greatest need leave you abandoned and betrayed! This popular verse is speaking about such as these:

Cum fueris felix, multo numerabis amicos:

Tempora si fuerint nubila, solus eris.[130]

How can you not love God who when you were under the most pressure came to free you! How can you love your parents who left you the little that they had and not love your Lord who died for you and promised you Paradise? If you love your father and your mother who only gave you your body and an earthly inheritance, why not love Christ who gave you your soul and saved it and will crown you with a heavenly inheritance? How ignorant and vulgar!

63. Diliges, ergo, Dominum tuum ex toto corde tuo, ex tuta mente tua, ex tuta anima tua, et ex omnibus viribus tuis.[131] (You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, and with your whole soul, and with all your strength.) You shall love since to carry the image presented in the Gospel, is nothing more than to live out the law of love. You shall love because the soul cannot live without love that bestows on it a certain type of life. Whoever does not love God, allows some other kind of love to overcome him. Diliges non solum Dominum (You should love the Lord). You shall not love only the God who created and redeemed you, who will give you grace and glory, sed diliges potissimun Deum (But love God the most). Love him mainly because he is God and most worthy of love.

I wish to insist that you are not to love him only out of self-interest, because he will give you the good things that he has promised you. You could also love a horse or a sword or the like because it has been useful. Love him with a more excellent love. Love him mainly for himself and his attributes which all deserve to be loved. Love him for himself and not for any benefit your might obtain at a later time. Love him more, but in a secondary manner, for the many gifts he has given you. Therefore start by saying” Diliges Dominum Deum (You shall love the Lord God.). This aims at the principal objective of love. Then add the word tuum (your) as a secondary objective.

4923 64. Love him then, since God wants nothing but love from you. Rouse yourself every hour to go on growing more in love of him, even though you could never reach the summit, nor understand completely, cum finite ad infinitum nula sit proportio seu comparatio.[132] (There is no proportion or comparison between the finite and the infinite). What should a person do to love with all the heart, mind and strength? What kind of an explanation can I give concerning this matter? One will be most sufficient for all, and this is it: O loving God, would that I might love you with all my heart, as much as my emotions could love; with my entire mind as much as my intellect could contemplate; with all my soul as far as my soul’s faculties could respond; and with all my strength as far as my bodily senses and members were capable, so that all that I possess would be dedicated to you eternally, and so that (as a gloss or solemn interpretation says) diligam te pro virili et quo magis diligere possum. (So that I would love you strongly and more than I am able.)

O most chaste heavenly love, when shall I ever love you? When shall I love with the fifteen characteristics of perfect love which are taken from St Bonaventure’s works[133] and which are symbolised by the fifteen steps that lead into the King’s temple that belongs to Solomon the mystic?

65. In the first place, O my life, I want to love you with wisdom so as to discover all the reasons that support true lovableness or benevolence. Next I want to love you powerfully so that nothing that is opposed to this could ever have the strength to take me away or to distract me from the kind of charity that is sincere and pure. I want to be ready for active love, so that I can be ready for anything and deal with you, listen to you, write about you and think about you as if you were my heart’s only love. As St Gregory said: cum probatio amoris sit exhibition operis. (the proof of love is shown by action).[134] I want to love fervently so that when internal sadness strikes with humdrum things I can be lifted up to what is exalted. In addition I want to have burning love so that I may always produce deep sighs over wanting to love you. Here are the five types of spirited love that I seek and long for.

4924 66. I shall now go forward to the other kinds of love. I say, O Christ, O Christ, most beloved, most lovable and most loving, I want to love with incomparable love so that I might set a higher value on your love than on all other loves put together. You uttered with your own lips: Qui amat patrem vel matrem plus quam me, non est me dignus. (Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.)[135] I want to love with tireless love that never stops increasing. As the very devout St Bernard said: cum modus diligendi te deum sit diligere te sine modo, (The way to love God is to love him without measure.)[136] I wish to love with insatiable love so that it could never be said that I was unhappy or unsatisfied when loving you even though I might be upset and tormented about not loving you in a lively manner. I wish to love you completely, so that I could dedicate whatever I have, do, desire or value to you. I want to do this with love that reaches into my inmost being. There are another ten types of love.

67. O most sweet and amiable Jesus, when shall I ever love you with love that melts me, which annihilates my inner self with tenderness? When can I become inebriated with love which is like the newly pressed juice of the divine grapes of the Holy Spirit so that I may not move away from you or your sacred wounds? When can I love with love that can never be hurt, so that by an intense wish to enjoy what you have, all bitterness will be changed into sweetness of spirit and I would be happy because of you to the extent of even desiring injuries and crosses? When shall I possess love that unites so that it may unite me to you and join you to me in an indissoluble manner so that I can proclaim with St Paul: Vivo ego iam non ego, vivit vero in me Christus? (I live now not I: but Christ lives in me.)[137] Finally when can I ever love you with a love that transforms me in the same way as iron becomes red-hot in the divine fire I would become red-hot in you, by your action and through your operation become deified to a certain degree on earth and become all yours and you possess me completely? St Bernard desired this when he said: Scias o anima, quod si Deum diligis, ut amoris in eius similitudinem transformanis. (Know this O soul, if you love God, such love will transform you into his likeness.)[138]

4925 68. O what ardent desire! O what burning words! O what ardour! O what sparks! O what flames! O what excess! O what sweetness! O what inebriation of languishing, seraphic and fertile love! How well the saintly father expressed this: O mortals, amate amorem vos aeternaliter amantem! (O mortal one, love the lover who loves you forever).[139] Love the lover, the lover who loves you eternally. Love God who is all love; love in essence and beyond essence because he loves you with such abundant love! However, are you not aware that St John said that whoever really loves God, also loves his neighbour for love of God? Qui enim non diligit fratrem sum quem videt, quomodo potest diligere Deum quem non Videt? (How can he who does not love his brother whom he can see, love God whom he cannot see?)[140] St Paul too says: Plenitudo legis est dilectio, sed qui diligit proximum legem adimplevit. (Love therefore is the fulfilling of the law.Whoever loves his neighbour fulfils the law.)[141]

69. Do you not perhaps know what to do in order to love your enemy? Christ himself says to love him as you love yourself: Diliges proximum tuum sicut te ipsum.[142] Why would you love yourself unless it was to gain strength and grace, and praise and glory? Do you not wish to be valued, honoured, provided for and praised by others? This is the very way that you ought to treat your neighbour, not only loving him with natural love, such as the love that passes between father and son, nor with carnal love, as that which passes between husband and wife, not only with societal love such as passes between mutual friends, not with human love such as passes between the love for someone who is pleasant and gifted. You ought to love more than that with Christian love, for the love of God. Therefore let your love be true not false, honest not fake, meritorious not worldly, sacred not profane.

4962 70. Happy will you be if the love you have for your neighbour is characterised by these five qualities. Firstly, if love be freely given benevolence, so that you are acting out of love even if the person seems to not be worthy of being loved because of his rude manner. When he does not act as you would expect him to act, recall what the Gospel says:Si enim diligitis eos qui vos diligent, et vobis benefaciunt , quam mercedem habebitis? Nonne et ethnici hoc faciunt? (If you love them that love you, and help you, what reward shall you have? Do not even the pagans do this?)[143] Secondly, your love should be prudent, so that you would not do anything that would offend God to please your neighbour. Scripture, which does not lie, says: Dilectio namque proximi malumnon operator. (The love of our neighbour works no evil.)[144] Are you not aware that if you do something that is evil even to please your parents, or superiors, fraternal love is changed into infernal love, and love of God into love of the Devil?

71. Thirdly, Let it be love that is really compassionate and meritorious so that when you meet any neighbour, be it your own relative, brother, sister, father, mother or anyone else (which would be more likely) raise your mind to God and within yourself offer at least a fleeting wish or prayer for pardon of their sins or that they obtain the gift of grace or some particular virtue or the gift of glory or all of these together. This is a truly an act of meritorious love which clearly has its origin in the words of our Saviour: Hoc est praeceptum meum, ut diligatis invicem sicut delixi vos. In hoc enim cognoscent vos, quod discipuli mei estis, si dilectionem habueritus ad invicem. (This is my commandment that you love one another, as I have loved you. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for oneanother.)[145] Thus blessed is he, a thousand times blessed, if he frequently performs such acts for Christ and for God!

4927 72. How can I state the fourth characteristic which is that such love should be outstandingly and excessively compassionate? This is verified when in order to save your brother’s soul you would be ready and prepared to spend your substance, even your own life because the salvation of a single soul is worth more than a hundred thousand mortal bodies.. O what a sublime thought! There are only a few who think like this in contrast to what St Paul wrote to the Corinthians: Ego libentissime impendam et superimpendar ipse pro animabus, licet plus vos diligens minus diligar. (But I most gladly will spend and be spent myself for your souls: although loving you more, I might be loved less.)[146] The last characteristic is joined to this as it implies that we should preserver to the end since only perseverance will be crowned in heaven.

73. So as not to prolong this exercise of charity any further I want to conclude with this thought, if I were to ever receive some degree of satisfaction or perfection from you it would be because you had engraved it on my heard and on my lips, O my Lord, as the bride is always interiorly mindful of her absent bridegroom even when occupied in external activities. In achieving this there is a remarkable exercise that would assist me and that is that anyone who is to be faithful has to continually practice becoming more deeply in love with God the heavenly lover. Ah how this is recommended by all the doctors and put into practice by all the saints! It involves always studying to keep the blessed God before one’s eyes, as he is, in effect, by his power, presence and essence, so that his servant and child would not dare to do anything unworthy, because they see themselves in the presence of their Lord and Father. O, then how many sins would this prevented in us if we always considered ourselves to be in God’s presence! As holy David said: Providebam in conspectus meo semper. (I shall always set God in my sight.) [147] Holy Elias said: Vivit Dominus, ante cuius in cospectu sto. (As the Lord lives in whose sight I stand.)[148]

4928 74. This is not to convince or fill the thoughts of the true servant of God that he also needs to direct everything he does to the glory of God. He is happy in his vocation and gives thanks to God even if he is only a farmhand. Whether he is working, eating, sleeping or occupied with anything else he intends to do it for the love of God, so that as his body and his family are strengthened by his wishes they become more prompt and occupied in the service of God. They are ready to obey what the Apostle Paul commands: Omnia quaecumque agitis in verbo aut in opera, in nomine Domini nostril Jesu Christi facite. (Whatever you do in word or in work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.)[149] There are also the other words spoken by St Bonaventure: Quidquid in rebus reperit dilectamenti, regerit in gloriam factoris. (Whatever joy he experienced in things he related to the glory of their creator)[150]. O true and beloved lover, who is in love solely with the great eternal God!

6. A most effective instrument for fostering mental prayer. Exercise 23

1. In praise of meditation. 2. The necessity of meditation. 3. Prayer gives great strength. 4-5. Pray as much as is required for religious people. 6. The deplorable state of religious people who do not pray. 7. The more often we pray, the more we love. 8. It is necessary to pay attention when at prayer. 9. What prayer should we say? 10. The difference between vocal and mental prayer. 11. The value of mixed prayer. 12 {Examples of various saints.} 13. The specific method used by St Francis when at prayer. 14. St Francis’ rules for prayer. 15 Three excuses that people give for not praying. 16. Bernard knew the excuses that they produced. 20. St Francis and others contradicted the opinions of those who were educated. 21-23. Criticism of those who are more dedicated to teaching than to prayer. 24-25. St Bonaventure removes all excuses put forward by those who are ignorant. 26. How does it come about that we do not like to pray? 27. A necessary and useful tool for prayer. 28. Three kinds of tools to promote devotion.

4929 1. Memor fui dierum antoquorum et mediataus sum in omnibus operibus tuis, et in factis manuum tuarum meditabor. (I remembered the days of old, I meditated on your works, I meditated on the works of your hands.)[151] What a beautiful reminiscence is this in the Psalms by David! Why did he declare that he had already meditated so much and that he wanted to go on meditating if not that he wanted to show how important is the angelic practice of meditating?

Have you not read the words which once again St Bernard says in praise of doing this? Nihil est iucundius in hac vita, nihil utilius coelestium contemplationis gratia, quam cor sanctificat et animum coelestium amorem inflamat. (In this life nothing gives more happiness, nothing more is beneficial than the grace of heavenly contemplation, which makes the heart holy and inflames the soul with heavenly love.)[152] You cannot find a sweeter practice, nor any that is more beneficial than divine contemplation, which makes a person’s heart holy and raises his mind to heaven.

4930 2. O extravagant and holy exercise! When a son could bring about something beneficial to his home by the sweat of his brow, and does not do so out of laziness or malice, he can only cause displeasure and disgust to his father. Is there anyone , consequently, who could convince me that any person who, because of a little bit of discomfort, is[153] unwilling to take on contemplation when he feels prompted to do so from within or feels inclined to do so, does not displease God? This may happen perhaps when contemplation does not posses the hidden necessity that the Saviour attributed to it. Porro unum est necessarium. Maria optimum partem elegit, quae non auferetur ab ea? (One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the best part, which shall not be aken away from her,)[154] Look, if this is necessary for someone who has the gift or who could easily acquire the gift, why would he neglect acquiring it, when the holy king David says that it was only this joy that enabled him to avoid sin and going into danger. Nisi quod lex tua meditation mea est, tunc forte perissem in humilitate mea. (Unless your law had been my meditation, I had then perhaps perished in my abjection)[155] However, he owed his proficiency, perfection and profit in his journey heavenward to God’s gift of joy: Veniant mihi miserationes tuae et vivam, quia lex tua meditation mea est. (Let thy tender mercies come to me, and I shall live for your law in my meditation).[156] A little further on he also said: Super omnes docents me intellexi, quia testimonia tua meditation mea est. (I have understood more than all my teachers, because your testimonies are my meditation.)[157]

4931 3. What St Augustine had concluded at one time was very true, that is, that no one could be saved without prayer. Nullum credimus nisi oratem posse sibi promerei salutem. (We believe that anyone who does not pray can expect to be saved.)[158] When dealing with the mind of our father and patriarch St Francis with regard to this matter, St Bonaventure wrote that unless a person gives himself willingly to the study of prayer he will be defeated in the battle against temptation. Non erit mirum si tentationibus frequenter ille succumbat, qui studum orationis non frequentat; frequens oratio vitiorum omnibus est expugnatio.[159] Not only does the true friend of prayer wipe out the squalor of all the vices, but by praying at every moment he is able to gain more than the whole universe is worth: Est tantae virtutis oratio devota, ut omni tempore et omni loco valeat ad omnia; immo quae cumque hora, sola oratione homo lucratur plus quam valeat mundus, cum per ipsam acquiratur etiam paradisus. [160]

4. O what simple words are contained in these sentences, but what a very strong message they convey to awaken those who are asleep and foolish! O what a very strong and valuable prayer, the strength of which is obvious to those who are in grave sin, who even though their soul has been damaged by sin, experience great consolation within themselves as though, as it were, God was speaking silently in their heart saying: “What relish you would experience when praying, if your were to serve me with purity of heart, since you experience it now while you are my enemies?” It is also clear that religious should pray more often that other people, because they are dedicated in a very special manner. Thus St Bonaventure said: Religiosus orationem assidue non frequentans, non solum est miser et inutilis, sed et in corpore vivo animam moretuum fert coram Deo.[161]

Elsewhere he said:

4932 5. Omnis religio arida et imperfecta est et ad ruinam promptior, quae stadium orationis non inquirit, et ad illud habendum non est proclivior. Ut cibus sine condimento, sic vita religiosi sine devotae orationis studio. [162] Ah, a religious who has little love of prayer is like dead person and everything that he does is tasteless food, for as St John Climacus says: prayer should always be in front of a monk just as a most beautiful mirror would be in front of the bride of the eternal God.[163].St Francis used to state and declare that no one, especially a religious, could ever prosper in the divine service without the continual study of prayer.[164] The Saviour also said; Oportet sempre orare et numquam deficere.[165] (We should always pray and not faint.) St Paul said: Sine intermissione orate: Videte ergo, vigilate et orate. (Pray without ceasing and be watchful.)[166]

6. Even today, what a disaster! It is not only seculars who cast aside holy prayer, but consecrated people, so that St Bonaventure’s great lament is made to be even more true: Plurimi religiosi istis temporibus non solum non sentient, sed noc quaerunt, nec desiderant, nec currant, imo nec credunt, sed invident et persequuntur in alii devotionis et orationis gratiam. [167] These are worse than the monk of whom St Gregory relates that he allowed himself to be dragged by the hair or the habit out of the oratory and from prayer by the devil who appeared as a deformed, black Ethiopian.[168] O St Benedict, where are you? Why do you not return to the world with the rod of correction, to correct so many transgressors and delinquents?

4933 7. You should not wonder that it is of the nature of prayer that the more we pray the more we come to love it and the more that we neglect it and fail to embrace it the more tedious it becomes. Therefore, in order to acquire it more deeply it is beneficial to start slowly, bit by bit, and increase it day by day. Learn to give your heart in prayer to the same degree that Elizabeth, Edwiga, Radegonde and others did.[169] They were women, who were married, and queens and yet they rose at midnight, even in the depth of winter from beside their husbands using the excuse of have to attend to some person necessity and spent an entire hour in prayer and meditation.

O what valiant warriors of the holy Cross! They are better than the famous Amazons! Orate igitur, orate, ne intretis in temtationem. (Therefore pray, pray so that you do not fall into temptation.)[170] Blessed are those who love to be engaged in contemplative prayer as often as they can.

8. What is more useful or dearer than prayer, O Christ, O God, since when a person prays his mind converses with heaven, he acts with the angels, works with the saints and holds court with your immense Majesty? However we need to pray attentively always mindful of the terrifying sentence pronounced by St Isidore: Quid prodest strepitus labiorum, ubi cor tuum est mutum? Vox sine cordis attentione est veluti mugitus boum, latratus canum, rugitusque leonum. (What is the value of the clamour of the lips, when your heart is silent? The inattentive voice is like an ox bellowing, dog barking or a lion roaring.)[171] What is of value or profit in moving the lips apart from the heart? The prayer of people who move their lips without paying proper attention is indeed like, the bellowing of an ox, the roaring of a lion or the barking of a dog. Also keep in mind the story about St Hilary, who, on one occasion, was praying without proper attention either because of being tired or distracted, and the devil jumped on his shoulder and began to kick him and whip his back, he ridiculed him and reproached him: Eya cur dormitas? O why are you asleep?[172]

4934 9. At present one cannot state a definite rule that would apply to everyone with respect to the kind of prayer that they ought to practice, because just like at a meal one participant will like one food or another according to their different tastes, so too one kind of prayer will suit one person and another type will suit another person. However, St Bonaventure lays down advice[173] which is general and accepted. He says that beginners should start by warming their cold spirits by using vocal prayer, and by means of this, as if it was a gate or staircase, gradually introduce themselves to mental prayer, as the type of prayer that has no equal, and secondly, when they have grown in mental prayer still do not neglect vocal prayer. We read that St Catherine of Sienna [174]and hundreds and thousands of other saints who did this at the outset of their conversion and until they became proficient[175] experienced greater sensitivity for vocal prayer.[176] With this as their basis they continued with mental prayer as being the best for them, using the other kind of prayer as they wished but not feeling obliged to do so.

10. What a great difference there is between mental and vocal prayer. This is the common opinion of the holy fathers and of St Bonaventure himself.[177] If vocal prayer provides initiation for beginners, mental prayer makes the proficient fervent. Vocal prayer appears to be more appropriate for the active life whereas mental prayer belongs to the contemplative life. Vocal prayer is like the puff of bellows that lights the fire, mental prayer is like the flame or charcoal that burns and heats. Excessive multiplication of vocal prayers is an impediment to devotion and robs freedom of spirit. Mental prayer always increases devotion and fills the spirit with peace and love. Vocal prayer leads us towards heaven by a path that is longer and more laborious. Mental prayer leads by way of a path that is almost pleasant and level, adorned with flowers and presents.

4933 11. What shall I then say about the mixture of both which in part turns things over in the mind and sometimes breaks forth in the tongue uttering inflamed words that come from a throbbing heart? Do we not know that, caeteris paribus,[178] such a mixture also shows the superiority of mental prayer? This is because it dedicates to God everything that goes towards the makeup of a person, namely body and soul. It is more fervent and free from impure thoughts. This is because vinculum duplex est fortius, (double binding is stronger,) as the holy Canon[179] says. This is supported by the witness of the worthy doctor St Thomas Aquinas as well as many others.[180] O worthy and holy vocal prayer! O holier and worthier mental prayer! O most worthy and most holy mixed prayer![181] Concerning you, O vocal prayer, let us often say: Domine, labia mea aperies, et os meum annumtiabit lauden tuam. (Thou, O Lord, will open my lips, and my mouth shall declare your praise.)[182] Concerning you, O mental prayer, let us say with St Paul, Cantantes et psallentes in cordibus vestris Domino (Singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord.)[183] St Jerome says: Corde, non voce cantandam. (We must sing from the heart not on the lips.)[184] The Gloss adds something that could be useful to us concerning mixed prayer:

Non vox, sed votum, non musica cordula, sed cor;

Non clamor, sed amor clamat in aure Dei.[185]

12. This is why the saints practiced all three kinds of prayer, particularly mental prayer and mixed prayer. Have you not read[186] how St James the Lesser genuflected a hundred times a day when he prayed and another hundred times at night? Have you not heard about St Arsenio who remained with his eyes raised towards heaven and his arms extended all Saturday night until Sunday? Have you not heard about Blessed Amadeus who remained motionless in mental prayer for sixteen to eighteen hours? Have you not heard about the holy Abbot Bisario or Belisario who remained continuously wrapped in prayer for sixteen days, standing upright on his feet, with arms extended? And so on.[187]

4916 13. I follow only the example of St Francis, who when he was praying in the company of others adopted the advice of St John Chrysostom [188] abstaining from sobs, sighs and heavy breathing of any kind and from extraordinary gestures so as not to interrupt those who were standing near and to avoid being noticed so as not to be tempted by vain glory. When he prayed alone who would ever know how much he cried, how he struck himself, how much he cried out or how he practiced a thousand acts of humility or penance? O how often did he remain with his body elevated in the air! How often was he observed radiating all around! O how often was he so absorbed in God that he did not notice if anyone touched him. This happened when he was passing through Borgo San Sepulcro riding on a donkey and was approached by all the townspeople who had come to see him out of devotion and who touched him and kissed his habit to the point that he was almost pushed off the donkey. He was conscious of nothing as if he were dead or off in another world.[189]

14. Be that as it may, by word and example he taught us not to abuse any visit from the Lord, but to rejoice in the action of grace, and acknowledge that it is he who sent it, and not to neglect it if there was not an urgent reason, so as not to be deprived of the delight by treating God shamefully. ”Ah blessed Lord, your have sent this sweetness and consolation to me a most unworthy sinner. I thank you for it and I praise you and I entrust myself into your care. Nam thesauri tui me sentia esse latronem.” (I feel that I am a thief of your treasures.)[190]

When this has been done when you rise from prayer you ought to regard yourself as poor and miserable as if you had not received a visit, and above all avoid all flickerings of vainglory no matter how subtle and tenuous they may be, because, sometimes cursed Satan tries to destroy and impede all that is really good, especially the beneficial fruits of the exercise of mental prayer since these destroy his tyrannical reign.

4937 15. Considering the fickle thoughts of worldly people, it does not take much for a person to turn away from this practice because he is afraid to leave evil habits aside which would be a great help. At first glance it appears to be impossible and more than difficult, for simple people to give themselves to this and to know how to become accustomed to this holy method of meditating, because they are frightened and never embark on the necessary effort. There are others who are wise in worldly ways and who as they are occupied with various serious matters, both public and private, never give it a thought and do not know how to find the time or the will. Finally very many people who are educated, even in the sacred sciences, who become so engrossed in subtleties or problems so that they do not care about this any more, or who by the way that they act appear not be interested in this because they think that considering speculative issues seriously outweighs this emotional practice.[191]

16. O how easy it is for me now to correct all such people! However, firstly I presume that what is very true is that if all the holy patriarchs, prophets and apostles were well versed in the practice of real mental prayer, we who have followed them should have learned it from their writings, especially from De mystica Thoologis by Dionysius the Areopagite who received adequate instructions[192] from the Apostle St Paul, who received this together with a thousand other secrets when the kind God took him up into the third heave.

I know that after St Dionysius many other fathers treated it at length, including St Augustine, St Gregory, St Bernard, St Richard, St Hugo and hundreds of others. Quite recently St Bonaventure, the “Seraphic Doctor”, in order to set the whole world on fire with love, collected what ever there was that had been done or said that was good and beautiful about this salutary and sweet practice in his works.[193]

From then on, just as his dear brother St Thomas Acquinas was undoubtedly the prince of sacred scholastic theology, St Bonaventure was the head and foundation of mystical theology. Thus down to our own times they are both considered to be the main doctors of the Church. This is how it is wherever I have been. There were four doctors in the early Latin Church. We can truly say today that there are six.[194]

4938 17. Thus to hammer and defeat the above-mentioned errors he began to stamp out and oppose the usual excuses that were produced by saying that they could[195] not become involved in the performance of mental prayer because they were engaged in the public conduct of temporal and spiritual affairs, involved with the family or involved with the state and a thousand other things. O indeed who are you? Be silent for a while and tell me:do you think that your concerns and undertakings are of more importance than those of the papacy? Nevertheless St Bernard wrote five books entitled De consideratione ad papam Eugenium (Concerning Pope Eugene) in which he attempted to instruct the Pope[196] who was weighed down by affairs, and who had been a monk with him and his disciple. He intended to instruct all other Popes by what he said to this Pope.

18. Among all the other pieces of advice that he gives concerning holiness this is one of the main ones that he emphasised to be something that he considered to be important. In spite of his heavy pontifical and pastoral responsibilities he set aside a period of time each day for quiet meditation. If a pontiff who was carrying the burden of years and work and who was entrusted with the government of the whole of Christianity could act like this, how could you rationally excuse yourself from mental prayer, even if you had to reign over a kingdom or empire? Otherwise if you omitted mental prayer I could only address you with the words that the same saint spoke to the pontiff. However, out of human respect I will address you in Latin and at length without translating it into the vernacular as I have done with some other important passages which I have added. Whoever cannot understand this words should have them explained at anther time.

4939 19. Ad beatissime Papa Eugeni, sic invitus a dilectae Rachelis amplexibus avelleris? Vereor, ne mediis occupationibus his (quoniam multae sunt) dum diffidis fient, frontem dures; et ita sensim quoddammodo teipsum sensu prives iusti utilisque doloris. Multo prudentius te illis subtrabas vel ad tempus, quam patiare trahi ab ipsis, vel duci quo tu non vis ad cor, videlicet, durum. Quamobrem cum omnes te habeant, esto etiam tu ex te habentibus unus. Quid solus fraudare munere tui? Alioquin quid tibi prodest, iuxta verbum Domini, si uiversos lucretis, te unum perdens? En quo trahere te habent hae occupationes malidictae, si tamen pregis, ut coepisti, ita totum te dare illis, nihil tui tibi relinquens. Perdis tempus, si quod vivis et sapis, totum das actioni, considerationi, nihil. Et si licet nunc alterum me tibi exhibere Ietro, tu quoque in his stulto labore consumeeris, quae non sunt, nisi afflictio spiritus, evisceratio mentis et evacuatio gratiae. Nam fructus horum quid , nisi aranearum telae?[197]

20. O what strong words! Therefore, when he prescribed an excellent model for how to go about working, St Francis said in the Rule[198] that the brothers should work in such a way that they do not extinguish the spirit of holy prayer and devotion to which all temporal things ought to be subservient. He said the same when he was questioned many times by the friars, especially by St Antony of Padua,[199] who asked if he wanted them to be occupied with the study of sacred theology and he always answered yes as long as the study of texts did not replace attention to holy prayer which is more important, for as St Isidore[200] said all our spiritual benefits come from spiritual reading and from holy prayer; reading gives instruction and prayer purifies us. During reading God speaks to us in a certain way and thus enlightens us, in prayer we speak to him and are formed by hm. Thus we ought to distribute our time between one and the other, and when we cannot read and pray at the same time, it is always preferable to pray rather than to read because meditation is better than study. Spiritual reading is good, but holy prayer is the best.

4940 21. It would seem that even today the study of lectures, which is misused by many, almost destroys and dissipates the practice of prayer as a certain Father said: “It would appear that Paris, which is such an ancient and famous city for study, has destroyed Assisi”.[201] Assisi was a city that was very devoted to loving St Francis and his followers who had come from there. Thus they heard long and very strong criticisms, not only by Dionysius the Areopagite, but also by St Bonaventure, against those who did not know, or wish to know, how to progress from the study of literature to the study of meditation and contemplation as they should have progressed and could have easily done so.[202] Listen to this:

22. Quaerendus est nobis Deus: at orando forte dignius auaeritue et facilius invenitur. Non enim disserendo,sed agendo percipitur ars amandi Deum, et melius dicitur gratia lachrymarum, quam acientia literarum. Licet enim viri quo scientiores sunt, eo etiam sint aptiores ad divina meditanda, et ad Deum amandum, quia tamen humiles non sunt, nec vere seipsos spernunt, ne cab aliis se sperni amant, ideo lumine et gustu vere virtutis semetipsos privant. Arbitror igitur ea, quae de gustando Deo per meditationis exercitium dicuntur. Non posse intelligi a mundi sapientibus, nec a philisophis magnis, nec a doctis theologis, ne cab istis quaestionaris, ne cab aliis in omni sciential summis, infinitis quaestionibus implicates, et in amore Christi inferioribus.

4941 23. Ipsam namque sapientiam nullus philosophus nullusque alius scholaris saecularisque magister, nulla humana intelligentia, quantumque studeat appraehendit. Et quod multo magis est dolendum, et cordis lachrymis reputabit, relicta hoc vera sapiential, diversis scientiis et fabricationibus multiplicium argumentorum inventitiis, quasi quibusdam idolis miserabiliter mentem impleverunt in quibus sic absorbentur, diabolo instigante, u tab hoc pessima occupatione totaliter possideantur et infeliciter captiventur, et non siy nullum penitus spiraculum, qua anima sum Creatorem per flammigeras amoris affections, ad quas create est, contingat. [203]

O what frightening words that are also important and marvellous which should certainly open the eyes of anyone who is studying and delighting in reading! All the more since the same saint, who has this so close to his heart, repeats it, at least in substance, elsewhere many times.

24. We do not wish to cause confusion concerning this third error when we quote the words of St Bonaventure when Brother Giles of Assisi, who was the third companion of our father Francis, asked him if those who are simple folk can readily fall in love with God and so learn to contemplate his divine grandeur. He not only responded, yes, but added: Potest hoc etiam homo simplex, imo et plus et forsitan facilius. [204] (A simple person may also do this, and perhaps more and with greater ease.) Thus he often demonstrates in his works that any lay or worldly person, however uneducated, if he wishes to make an effort, can with the help of grace, become familiar with the very noble practice of contemplation. The example of many saints from an agricultural background proves this, for example, among many others, St Simeon Stylites, Venerable Theodosius the Cenobiarch, St Gertrude of Ostane, Gentile da Ruscio, near Vavenna.[205] However this is sufficient for now concerning the words of this saintly doctor and author.

4942 25. Meditatio divinorum ac ipsius Dei contemplation per amoris desiderium. Quantum distat ortus ad ocidente, omnium creaturarum sceintiam incomparabiliter excedit. Hanc vero quilibet, quantumque laicus, in schola Dei existens, ab ipso immediate recipit, si se dispomit ad amoris affectum. Licet autem perfecta devotion haberi non posit sine lumine iltellectus, quia tamen magis se habet ad affectum, quam ad intellectum, iseo persaepe plus invenitue in simplicibus devotis quam in litteratis indevotis. Hinc librum meum de incendio amoris offero intuendum non philosophis, nec theologis magnis, sed rudibus et indoctis, magis Deum diligere quam multis sciere conantibus.[206]

26. Here then in the opinion of these very great doctors no one can be excused from being engaged in mental prayer at the proper fixed time. No one, whether he is a fool, an educated person, prince or prelate can tire[207] of practicing holy meditations of some kind.

As you are aware of this how is it that you avoid contemplation and consider it to be difficult? This comes about because we abandon ourselves too readily to sense pleasures. (St Bernard and St Bonaventure whom we have mentioned above say): Abiecta etenim vera sapiential omnis tam claricus quam populus mundanis deliciis vel inultilibus curiositatibus sese immergit.O quam pauci igitur hoddie vacant sanctis meditationibus, cum etiam ipsireligiosi, quorum stadium deberet esse devotione coelos penetrare, mente circuire supernas mansions, salutare apostolos et choros prophetarum martyrumque admirari triumphos, omnibus his postpositis, turpi se mancipant servituti corporis, ad obediemdum carni et ad satisfaciemdum gulae et ventri.

4943 27. Ah, what a tragedy! Ah what ruin! Ah what annihilation! O, for love of God, and of Christ’s Passion let us change our life by falling in love with mental prayer, practicing it during meditation and sensitising ourselves to contemplation.

However, once we apply ourselves to this divine activity, how could anyone not become aware of the need for good preparation in order to become recollected quickly and be free from the distractions and diversions of every day life? What singer sings in public without first practicing in private? What musician starts playing music without first tuning and preparing his instrument? Thus Sacred Scripture exhorts us: Praeparate corda vestra Domino, et servite illi soli; [208] prepare your hearts for the Lord and serve him alone. The famous Hugo the Victorine testifies that ordinarily speaking prayer that has not been prepared is neither proficient nor perfect.[209]

28. On the other hand the Psalm proclaims that the omnipotent God listens to the preparation made by those who pray even before they begin to pray and beg and this pleases him very much. Praeparationem cordis eorum audivit auris tua. (Your ears heard the preparation of their heats).[210] O what fruitful and necessary preparation!

Let us come to the method of preparing for such an exalted exercise and pay attention because I am about to propose three very exceptional methods so that you may put them into use as necessary. You may change them if that means better preparation. One speaks from the heart, another from Christ’s rib and the other from the marriage of the soul.

First method of preparation: From the depths of the soul

29. Be aware that God is knocking at the door of your soul. 30. Go there to meet him and to open it with tears of joy. 31. Invite him to be seated within you and ask him to help you. 32. Imagine that he gives you encouragement to pray. 33 – 34. Humbly rejoice, thank and begin.

4944 29. With respect to the first, when you want to pray after you have knelt down imagine in your mind that you are a very miserable and disgraceful courtesan who has incurred the King’s anger who is thinking about everything else except how to placate him. You are standing in the presence of God and of the Angels and are not embarrassed about thinking about study, possessions, pleasures and all kinds of projects except thinking about him Then out of his goodness he rises up and taps you while speaking to the ear of your heart: “Ah stupid one, foolish and insensitive, what are you doing so that you do not wake up! Adam, Adam, ubi es? (Adam, Adam, where are you?) [211] Where is your mind wandering and what are you planning, O wretched sinner? Why are you not embarrassed, afraid and shaking from head to foot at this first challenge? Rise up and be comforted and consoled that he only comes and knocks on your door now in order to bring you gifts. Can you not hear the loving invitation? Ego sto ad ostium et pulso ut quis mihi aperuerit, intrabo, et canelabo cum illa et ille mecum. (I stand at the door and knock. If any man shall hear my voice and open to me the door, I will come in to him and will sup with him and he with me.)[212]

Run, run my soul to open the door of your heart quickly to the one who loves you so much, invites you and awaits you.

30. What should the abject slave do in a case such as this except approach with tears in his eyes, and in the embarrassment of his misery let his master enter as he has deigned to visit him although he is unworthy? Do this, my soul. Greet your Lord and Spouse quickly for he has come from far away, from India in the East of the Imperial paradise,[213] to make you rejoice, endowed with jewels and gold to adorn you and make you glow with happiness. Tu quoque gaudens occurre Deo tuo. (And your God will also come to you as you are rejoicing) [214]

4945 31. Having opened your heart and imagined welcoming[215] him there with you prostrate before him, make at least six acts of humility: “Et nude hoc mihi? (How did this happen to me?)[216] How, how Lord did you deign to give me, one so miserable, so much? How, by means of such a special favour, did you invite me and draw me from within to undertake this prayer? This comes about through your justice, goodness and grace, O God. Therefore, it is necessary that I express gratitude for this and for all your other gifts”. This comes about as an act of obedience:how could I not pray when you have exhorted and commanded what we have quoted before? Videte, vigilate et orate; et sine intermissione orate. (Watch, keep awake and pray, and pray without ceasing.)[217] How could I not pray since my salvation depends on this as is shown by what you have said insistently: Oportet semper orare et numquam deficere? (We ought always to pray and never cease.)[218] As a necessity we ought to pray always if we wish to be saved. This comes about through an act of charity; since it is only by doing this that I am able to fall in love with you in a spirited manner, my beloved good. Finally, this comes about as an act of worship since I must adore you as my Creator, my Saviour, Redeemer, and Ruler, the one who justifies me and gives me glory.

32. So I do this and want to do it, with a humble heart and deep humility especially in order to do what it pleasing to you and so that I may beg of you to cancel my sins. However my blind ignorance does not permit me to discern or recognise the true way. However, I invoke, implore and call upon you to help me, O God of gods. To open my ears more and more I recite this verse very forcefully: Deus in adiutorium meum intende. Domine, ad adiutorium me fstina. (O Lore come to my aid and make haste to help me)[219] While reciting this I make the sign of the worthy holy cross. O Lore do not reject me so that once more from this I may turn to you, praise you and glorify you saying Gloris Patri et Filio etc. Amen. Thus I confidently equip myself with this alone in order to pray and meditate.

4946 33. Now consider that you are seeing God who is listening to your miserable prayers and who has a serene countenance. He is encouraging you to pray and is saying to you what he once said to the holy Patriaech Jacob: “Noli timere, fili, sed perge securus. Ego ero tecum et benedicam tibi. (Do not fear, for I am with you and I shall bless you.)[220] Do not fear, my beloved child, but pray with confidence and with a fervent spirit. See all the three divine persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are with you, who as they are dwelling in the three faculties of your contrite soul as in three secret rooms of our divine palace are accompanying you continually from beginning to end of the meditation. In the end, without departing from this noble mansion,[221] we shall leave our eternal blessing with you.”

34. Humble yourself completely in this state and thank them from the bottom of your heart, weep and beat your breast as being unworthy of such a grace, and begin your contemplation that is like a mystical banquet offered to the glorious God as did the holy patriarch Abraham to the three holy angels who represented God as he is Trinity and God. Quando tres vidit et unum adoravit. (He saw three, but adored one.)[222]

Second method of preparation: From Christ the Redeemer’s Holy Rib

35. Wish that by means of his open side Christ will show you his heart. 36. Lying in the valley climb the staircase of desires. 37. Hate the failing that makes you unworthy. 38. Humble yourself, weep and implore as much as you can. 39. See how the angels watch you and minister to you

4947 35. Now that we have come to the second method of preparation, imagine in the first place that you can see Christ with all the heavenly court calling you and waiting for you to come to mental prayer with Christ showing you his open side and wishing to give you his heart. O unhappy and sinful soul, consider well where you are and what your status is and to what you are being called. Are you not lying in this valley of tears, and in such deep misery, enclosed in the prison of the body, held by a thousand chains of vicious habits, by a thousand problems of everyday life and a hundred thousand snares of devils that wish to devour you, and are always waiting with open mouths? Come; for once arouse yourself from the depths!

36. Here is the ladder of burning desires by means of which you are to rise and reach the divine harbour of the bleeding side of the Lord. Now wish, seek and sigh to pray well, so that the more you multiply such desires the higher you will rise up. At least try to take these four steps. Protest that you wish to pray for the glory of God, for your salvation, for the edification of others and for the welfare of the dead. This is how you will reach the top of this beautiful ladder. Remain in front of the holy door and knock in order to enter the most beautiful palace of Christ’s heart, ubi sunt omnes thesauri sapientiae et scientiae absconditi, (where all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden)[223], where all the precious treasures of paradise are hidden, and exclaim: Aperite mihi, angeli Domini, portam iustitiae et ingressus in eam confitebor Domino (O Lore, open to me the gates of justice and I will go in to them, and give praise to the Lord).[224] Come, come quickly and open this holy door for me O angels of the Lord, so that by entering happily within I will become worthy to praise God.

4948 37. Listen to the reply the angels will give you: Haec porta, Domine, iusti intrabunt in eam (This is the gate of the Lord, the just shall enter into it.)[225] Ah black and ugly soul, how could you ever dare to enter to wish to enter this divine paradise? This is the door of humility. How could you who are so proud wish to enter it? This is the door to sanctity. How could you a wicked sinner presume to enter it? This is purity’s door. How do you who are so unclean in the flesh think that you could enter it? This is charity’s door. How do you who only love yourself and have no charity for your neighbour hope to enter it? O what can you who have a character that is so poor, repulsive and rejected, do?

38. Remain steady and firm, do not wish to go away but start immediately and weep over you misfortune of not being worthy to enter into the sanctuary. Strike your breast and like a little dog that has been thrown out of the door of his master’s house never go away from there[226] stand there and knock and see if they will let you in. or if someone else comes to go in and see if by chance you can get in with them. Then if the little beast remains outside barking the child will come and scold him for his stupidity and calm him down. You should weep as he dose and cry out so they can see that you are not going to go away and if they do not open the door your are prepared to die there.

4949 39. Ah happy are the angels when they see this for they are like the little children that belong to paradise. Remain constant and do not doubt that in the end they will open for you, applaud you, embrace you and let you enter. Indeed, you will hear the voice of the master, Christ the Saviour, himself who with many expressions of love will invite you to enter and enjoy the delights of heaven saying: Intra in gaudium Domini tui (Enter into the joy of your Lord).[227] Now think about entering with joy. Feeling humble thank him with emotion. Offer him your heart and ask him to help you to pray well and to meditate on his grandeur and to contemplate his mysteries, as he has already deigned to allow you to enter into his secret assembly and continue like this.

Third method of preparation: The mystical espousal of the soul

40. The soul wishes to go to the wedding or burial of her spouse. 41-42. She is an ugly, poorly dressed and ill-bread bride. 43. None the less the King of kings loves her. 44. The bride is comforted so as not to be afraid. 45. She presents herself to the spouse. 46. He calls her and leads her into the company of the saints.

4950 40. We now go on to the third method of preparation considering how the soul that proposes to contemplate is like a bride who is thirsting for her spouse. If she wishes to contemplate a mystery in the Lord’s life, the symbol of going to her wedding is appropriate. However if she wishes to contemplate a mystery concerning his passion and death it is preferable to think of going to his funeral.

Then humbly say what another bride said: Quis mihi det te fratrem meum, ut inveniam te foris et deosculer te, et iam nemo me despiciat? (Who shall give you to me for my brother that I may find you outside, and kiss you, and now no man may despise me?)[228]When can I ever, while contemplating, give you a single kiss of divine love, o spouse of my soul?

41. Gently, gently O my bride. Who are you that you presume so much? I observe three conditions or characteristics in you that are an embarrassment to you. By nature you are so ugly, so poorly dressed and of very poor breeding or social position. Can you not see that because you are so really disfigured and ugly that I also note that your soul is blind and as ignorant as an empty notice board and that you are a child of disgrace and anger and that with respect to your body you are nothing but food for worms and a bundle of filth? See also that you are naked, despoiled of all virtue and full of shame and confusion and even if you put on clothing it would consist of abominable rags soiled with vicious habits and sensual passions. I know well that you were very noble and excellent but that you fell into such misery because of sin becoming a slave not to just one devil but to as many devils as there were sins by which you transgressed.

Have you not read what was said about your shame: Homo cum in honore esset non intellexit; computatus ret iumentis insipientibus et simiis factus est illis? (And man when he was in honour did not understand; he had been compared to senseless beasts and made like to them.) [229] Ah, how the princess who has been deposed to the state of being a desperate beggar suffers! Why do you not complain and suffer confusion?

4951 42. What is worse is that you were created in great evil. Do you not know that your sensitivity is corrupt and that makes you weak? Thus worldly things that will hurt you give you pleasure and you cannot stand spiritual things that would be beneficial to you. You feel very miserable and presumptuous even though you are a sinner and God’s serious enemy while still pretending to be about to be his bride. How marvellous that all this leads you astray and makes you foolish even as you lament bitterly: Omnes videntes deriserunt me; me, locuti sunt labiis et moverunt caput. (All those that saw me have laughed me to scorn: they have spoken with the lips, and wagged the head.)[230] Ah, what a disaster, ah unfortunate creature! This is all the good that you possess!

43. When you were such an unhappy villain, indeed a shameless, uncouth, vice-ridden and deformed prostitute, who, because of his clemency, in spite of all this the Emperor of all still loved you and loved you so much that he came down to rescue you from hell and bring you up to heaven. Theis was greater than the love of Isaac for Rebecca, of Jacob for Rachael and of David for Beersheba because it is the love of the eternal God for you, you wicked soul. Can you not hear what he is saying to you: In charitate perpetua dilexi te, et ideo attraxi te, miserans tui. (I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you, taking pity on you.)[231] Ah, how greatly you ought to be consoled by this, rejoice and celebrate! Think of the joy a poor farm girl would have if she were offered a royal marriage.

4952 44. Just for a while, think about the situation of this bridegroom so that you may recognise the cause of your joy more clearly. Gaze at him clearly and recognise that he is a most beautiful bridegroom. Speciosus forma prae filiis hominum. (You are beautiful above the sons of men.)[232] In the whole world you will not find beauty like this. He is the most noble, Son of God. You could not go any higher. Vere Filius Dei erat iste. (Indeed this was the Son of God).[233] He is very rich, having every treasure that could be desired. Gloria et divitiae in domo eius. (Glory and wealth shall be in his house)[234] He is very powerful, who could annihilate everything with a simple nod. Omnipotens nomen eius. (Almighty is his name.)[235] He is most gracious even towards sinners who are his enemies. In me omnis gratia vitae et virtutis. (In me is all grace of life and of virtue).[236] Finally, he is most wise and cannot be deceived by anything. Et sapientiae namque eius non est numerus. (Of his wisdom there is no number.)[237] What other bride could ever find a spouse like this, like your spouse since the world was made? O spouse, O spouse, O spouse beyond all others, how I wish to embrace you, how shall I enjoy you in heaven. Then shall I be completely content and fulfilled as it is written: Satiabor cum apparuerit Gloria tua. (I shall be satisfied when your glory shall appear.)[238]

45. Take comfort, beloved bride, and do not be afraid. Do not blush at going forward. Do you not feel how gently he speaks to you and communicates with you in order to make you rethink about how indebted you are to him? Listen as he wants to ask you five questions or queries. Answer him with humble promptness.

Quid fecisti? (What have you been doing?) What are you going to do in future? You reply. I have been doing useless, vile, lazy, harmful things in thought, in words and actions. Hoyou be doing? Reply: something that procures your glory, my salvation and the salvation of others. Who should you be dealing with? Reply immediately: with you, O Lord, who is the Judge of the living and of the dead; who can see everything even what is most hidden? You are adored by angels, feared by devils and obeyed by all creatures except when I have sinned. I have shown that I do not fear your majesty as I can fall in the blink of an eye. Do you not want to change for the better? Reply: yes, O Lord, but by myself I do not know what to do or how to do it. O, help and sustain me so that I may walk the way of what is pleasing to you and not deserve because of my misdeeds to be condemned to death, the flames and hell. As soon as possible help me with grace; you, who wished to die for me and become a bridegroom covered with blood. Adiuta me, Domine, sponsus namque sanguinum tu mihi es. (Help me Lord; you are a husband of blood to me.)[239]

4953 46. Arise, O Christian soul, because things are like this the Redeemer says that you should resolve to make changes and in order to amend more effectively give yourself to meditation. Come and I shall be your guide. I shall accompany you. You shall follow. I shall assist and defend you and, in the end, I shall give you the crown in paradise. Veni, sposa mea; veni, Columba mea; veni, Formosa mea; veni de tabernacolo, et coronaberis. (Arise, my bride, arise. Arise my dove, my beautiful one, arise from the tabernacle and you shall be crowned.)[240]

Behold, behold I am coming, O Christ. O God, O my Jesus. Behold, I pray, I meditate, I contemplate on the Sacraments. Domine ecce ad te venio. (Behold Lord, I am coming to you). O angels. O saints, O servants of my spouse, come, come, hasten, fly all of you to the assistance of one who is miserable and in need. Are you so engrossed in contemplation with your many friends that you do not care about me following in your footsteps? Have you come to a point where you are not willing to assist me? The only thing that gives me confidence is that I approach in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

7. The most holy development of the whole mass of Christian contemplation. Exercise 24

1. The gift of contemplation is the greatest gain. 2. How St Elizabeth was dedicated to contemplation. The wonderful effects of contemplation in St Elizabeth. 3. Various divisions of the virtuous life. 4. What the active life consists of. What the ontemplative life consists of. 5. How perfect the mixed life is. David and the Apostles are examples of the mixed life. 6. Christ set us an example of both lives. 7. The example of the clean and unclean fish. 8. The excellence of the contemplative life over the active. 9. The contrast between the active and contemplative life. 10. Method of reaching contemplation. 11. The example of Jacob, the husband of Lea and Rachel. 12. The necessity of God’s grace for contemplation. 13. Degrees of contemplation.

4954 1. The life of contemplation is the greatest gain that a soul could have in this world. This is what the Seraphic Doctor St Bonaventure said so accurately in many of his works in which he treated of such things in various tracts, especially in De septem itineribus aeternitatis.[241] Following, in the opinion of a wise Greek, the etymological derivation of the word vita (life) is from the word vi (strength), which means strength, it implies that the maintenance of this earthly life and the gaining of the heavenly life requires much sweat and strength. Holy contemplation appears to be nothing more than a real help and deep peacefulness in the midst of such a struggle requiring strength, a bright light in darkness, sweet manna in hunger, a safe mountain beside dangerous valleys, a regal palace beside deep caves and the triumph of virtue beside mortal and deadly conflict.

Now if contemplation is a great benefit that can be enjoyed by a Christian soul, what would be surprising if we were to address all our activity towards it as our working objective hoping to follow the very happy conduct of those holy men who, having found themselves involved in the active life for many years, finally received the sublime gift of contemplation, and who, up to the present day, are producing material for us to study?

4955 2. For example, Saint Elzeario, who was the illustrious Baron and Count of Ariano and the Lord of many lands in Provence, a district in Narbonian Gaul, was so dedicated to divine contemplation that he was hardly ever able to take his heart away from God, or from meditating on the most holy mysteries, not even in the midst of affairs, marriage, battles and worldly matters. Thus for many years he lived and slept with his wife as a virgin. He maintained this miraculously until death.[242]

St Elizabeth,[243] who was the daughter of the king of Hungry, often fell into ecstasy during continuous contemplative exercises, spoke with angels, enjoyed Christ’s presence and was so profoundly transformed internally and made divine that her face glowed externally, like the face of holy Moses, post consotium sermonis Dei (after conversing with God)[244], indeed his face glowed as much as the sun.

4956 3. O what a life! O what a sublime, exceptional and exalted life this contemplative lady displayed! Now I ask your indulgence that as the Philosopher[245] divided human life into three divisions, that is voluptuous life, civic life and speculative life, and St Augustine[246] divided it into three kinds of life, calling one a life of leisure, but not vice, another a life of affairs, but not dissipation and the last the mixed life, but not mournful or somewhat sad, and St Ambrose[247] dived it into the life of beginners, the proficient and the perfect., and St Bonaventure,[248] divided it into ways, the purgative, illuminative and the unitive, we follow St Gregory[249], who is also the most brief, and who divides it into only two sections, the active and the contemplative and reduces all the other lives to these two as headings.

4.We will deal firstly with the active life which includes the civic life according to the Philosopher, the exhausting life of affairs according to St Augustine, the life of beginners and the proficient according to St Ambrose, the purgative and illuminative way according to St Bonaventure according to whom civic activities are regulated by human prudence, beginners regret misdeeds, the proficient practice virtue those in the purgative way restrain passions of the senses, and those in the illuminative way are on the open road to heaven. All these prescriptions apply also to the active life and are the only way to open it to the corporal and spiritual works of mercy as St Prosperus says: [250] that activus est, qui, suscipiendo peregrinum, vestiendo nundum, gubernando subiectum, redimendo captivum, tuendo violenter oppressum; iugiter se ab omnibus, iniquitatibus tuis emaculat, et vitam suam bonorum operum fructibus ditat. This means that whoever sees himself as a friend of the active life hosts pilgrims, clothes the naked, oversees subjects, ransoms slaves, defends the oppressed, repents of sin, and grows in virtue and merit.

4957 Now we come to the contemplative life which includes what the Philosopher calls the speculative life, what St Augustine calls the life of leisure, what St Ambrose calls the perfect life and St Bonaventure calls the unitive life, since contemplation reflects on the marvels of what is created with a peaceful eye and in reflecting on them meditates on the perfection of divine grandeur and meditating on them it comes to rest and when resting it becomes perfect, and in becoming perfect it discovers its identity and is completely transformed into God. Not only in his writings, especially the famous Contemplatio est deifica similitudo (Contemplation produces likeness to God)[251], Dionysius the Areopagate describes contemplation as an exceptional and angelic exercise. But also the head of the Peripatetic School, Aristotle, says that mankind’s greatest happiness consists in contemplating the first cause, the independent substances and abstract intelligences which are the angels, and he concludes that vita contemplative est vita divine. (Contemplative life is divine life.)[252]

5. For the moment let us put aside the voluptuous life in which, following sense pleasure is not appropriate for a human person in as much as he is rational, where this is more suitable to beasts and those creatures that are wild brutes. Also we are not dealing specifically with the mixed life since it virtually contains the other two as their one and only final good. Whoever takes up the happiest life that never departs from the living God must not neglect taking care of his neighbour who is in need becoming involved with the neighbour in a manner that never separates him from God.

4958 Saintly David lived like this. Being king and prophet at the same time he governed the kingdom with wisdom and in holiness composed the Psalms. The Acts of the Apostles tells us what the saintly Apostles, who were experts in the mixed life, did in response to murmuring between the Jews and the Greeks regarding the treatment of their women who were widows: Non est aequum nos derelinqure verbum Dei et ministrare mensis. Considerate ergo, fraters, viros ex vobis bonis testimonii septem, plenos Spirito Sancto et sapiential, quos constituamus super hoc opus. Nos vero orationi et ministerio verbi instantes erimus. (It is not reasonable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Wherefore, brothers, look among you for seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, which we may appoint over this business. We will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.)[253]

6. What follows this? Christ himself in order to set an example and produce an image of the exalted mixed life, in addition to enjoying the Word from the first instant of his conception in order to set us an example to think about often either ibat in desertum locum, (went to a deserted place), or ascendebat in montem solus prare, (went up into a mountain to pray), or erat pernoctans in oratione Dei, (spent the night in prayer to God), or sedens docebat in templo, (taught while seated in the temple), or erat eiiciens daemonia, (was casting out devils), or pertransibat benefaciendo et sananda omnes oppressos went about doing good and healing all those who were oppressed).[254] Having said this I do not wish to dwell on it any longer, because there are very few who pay attention to this, partly because they are occupied with the necessities of life, partly because of natural ineptitude and partly because most of the faithful undertake action.

However, who can deny that every Christian should at a certain time lift his mind up to God and raise it above the active life and enjoy the leisure of the contemplative life? Although adults may reach the realm of glory without living the contemplative life since what is implied in this kind of life is not essential for that, however it is necessary in the active life that a person undertake something like this so as to set aside a time and a place for prayer and for raising their mind to God, St Augustine[255] said: Neminem credimus, nisi orantem posse sibi promereri salutem, (We believe that only those who pray can reach salvation), as we quoted above.[256] Thus who could stop me from exclaiming? O contemplation that is a requirement, beneficial and works towards salvation!

4959 7. When the infinite wisdom of the eternal God wanted to separate the clean animals from the unclean animals for his faithful servant Moses to identify what was a mystery more than for anything else, he was not satisfied to simply distinguish the domestic animals from the beasts of the forest, or birds that fly from serpents, or from fish that creep like snakes, but he classified as unclean the fish that did not have fins or scales such as eels. On the other hand he indentified as clean only those animals that had wings and scales and shells like turtles. The clean animals could be eaten or offered whereas on the other hand the unclean animals could not be eaten alive or after they were dead.[257]

Let us put aside the literal meaning of these classifications. The great St Nicholas of Lyra[258] said that rejection of the unclean animals was intended to distance the Israelites from the customs of the idolatrous Egyptians, and to distance them even further from the idolatrous customs of the Ethnic Races, who offered them to idols and demons, and respected the clean animals because they had a less humid constitution and were warm blooded because of the natural properties of the shell and scales. We more likely agree with the spiritual meaning which is proposed in the Glossa Ordinaria in which the men of this world are like mystical fishes in the water as the words of the Prophet say: Et facies hominis, quasi pisces maris. (You will make men like the fishes of the sea.)[259] They, who making use of the wings of virtue which they have been given and the scales of patience, are truly clean and pure They sometimes raise themselves up by means of contemplation, like fish who can sometimes jump out of the water. At the same time they may be described as unclean because they have fins and scales, and since they do not possess the wings of prayer, nor the scales of the strength to rise and fly they remain immersed and floating beneath the waters of delights and lust. Therefore as they are unclean and filthy, they cannot be eaten while they are alive, as we should not follow the example which they provide, nor take up their customs. They cannot be touched when they have died, since they cannot be held in respect[260] or have their memory retained, except for being foolish and dishonourable[261] like detestable and disgusting relics.

4960 8. O example, O shadow, O figure, O sacred mystery! If we therefore want to become such cleansed fish, worthy of the high table, why do we not often study how to produce acts of contemplation, which is a much nobler activity, according to the Angelic Doctor St Thomas,[262] than anything that we have been given? The active life takes place first, like a flower or spray, and goes ahead along the road. Sometimes and under certain circumstances it may appear to be more fruitful. However, the contemplative life which est prior perfectione, est posterior generatione (first in the order of perfection, but which develops secondarily), (to use the language of philosophy), follows later as its objective and fruit. It arises per se simpliciter absolute (absolutely simply of itself), (as they say among Scholastics), as something more outstanding and perfect, not only as something which is more peaceful, sweet and which lasts longer, but as something that engages with a more noble subject, the intellectual appetite, bringing it to perfection. It tends towards a more sublime objective, raising it up to God and conferring merit and greater fruit from the living root of divine charity. Because the active life is in continual motion, disturbed by various events, it cannot last for long, as it is more concerned with our neighbour’s body and does not participate in much progress, since love of neighbour is much less than the love of God.

4961 9. Indeed it was not only Aristotle who wrote concerning the superiority of the contemplative life over the active (even though he had never experienced true Christian contemplation), that vita contemplativa melior est quam vita quae est secundum hominem; (the contemplative life is better than that which is embraced by the average person); St Gregory described the active life as servitus (servitude) and the contemplative life as libertas (freedom).[263] Concerning this matter the lips of Uncreated, Incarnate Truth himself said: Porro unum est necessarium.[264] Aaron lived the active life when he discussed things with the people. Moses lived the contemplatife when he spoke with God.[265] St Peter lived the active life where he was taking care of the Church; St John lived the contemplative life when he was taking care of the most Blessed Virgin Mary. Martha was living the active life when quae sollicita erat et turbabatur circa plurima, and St Mary Magdalene lived the contemplative life sedens secus pedes Donini, audiebat verbum illius; unde et optimam partem elegit, quae non auferetur ab ea in aeternum.[266] Because in the age that is to come in the future all the active life will cease, because there will be no need for it, and the contemplative life will be completely fulfilling where the elect will contemplate the divine grandeur more clearly than now.

4962 10. Therefore, to conclude, the active life is good, the contemplative life is more fruitful and meritorious, when it comes about by means of mortification, sacred reading and prayer. When this sacrosanct practice considers the working of God it arouses wonder. When it considers the judgement of God, it produces fear. When it considers God’s gifts it brings forth love. Who would not be overcome with wonder when considering the strength of the Sacraments? Who would not be afraid when considering the hour of death, the day of judgement, the punishment of hell? Who would not fall in love with the living God when meditating on infinite love, free gifts and heavenly glory? There is no better path to lead us to wonder, fear and love than meditation on Christ’s Passion which demonstrates clearly an excess of wonder, love and every precious virtue.

Thus in the Canticle we read a kind and merciful invitation: Surge, propera et veni, amica mia, colomba mea, in foraminibus petrae, (Arise my fair one and come, my friend and my dove in the clefts of the rock)[267]through Christ’s wounds, a mystical stone, in caverna maceriae (in the hollow pieces of the wall). His body looked like a wall that had been built without moisture, having not been conceived by man but by the Holy Spirit alone within the virginal womb, as if that wall consisted in a heap of rubble put together without cement.

4963 11. Do you not wonder at the Patriarch Jacob, who represents all faithful Christians who are practising the active life, and who at first married Lia[268], who was sterile but had beautiful features? In effect he shunned Esau and served Laban[269] when behaving in the active role. When behaving in the contemplative role he fought with the angel and saw a ladder which reached from the earth to heaven.[270] At times we act like this becoming involved in the active life and marrying Lia which leads us into being laboriosa vel fatigata (busy and tired). Let us rather practice the contemplative life and marry Rachael that will lead us to videns otium vel videns principium (finding rest and the first cause). By marrying Lia we conquer the senses and shun the world represented by Laban and Esau. By marrying Rachael we rise to heaven and converse with angels, which will make us holy.

12. However, O Christ, O God, O my Lord, quis dabit mihi pennas sicut columbae, et volebo et requiescam (who will give me wings like a dove, and I will fly and be at rest.)[271] Who could ever prescribe rules for acquiring such goodness for flying up to the mountain of sublime contemplation? Is this heavenly practice not rather an infused gift than an acquired virtue? When, O most sweet Jesus, are you ever going to make us worthy of this through grace? So it is with this vital hope of the special favour of continual assistance, after I have already explained certain divine preparation, that I now add something abut a method that will facilitate this and which will keep mental prayer progressing on course, always keeping in mind the adage that Spiritus Sancti unctio docebit nos omnis, (the unction of the Holy Spirit will teach you everything)[272] if we do not obstruct it, if we do not resist it and if our bitterness and wickedness does not impede it.

Since when we are meditating we have to try to arouse ourselves as much as possible with the love of God so that in the fervent experience that we know comes with this (as St Bonaventure said)[273] we allow ourselves to be guided by the supreme. inner master, who is the Holy Spirit, who enlightens us from within and makes us go ahead rejoicing and relishing his presence while it lasts. Then when it passes, or we cannot experience it, we can adopt other more effective means.

4964 13. Because of this I wish to recall now that Blessed Richard the Victorine proposed six steps or of types of contemplation, as there had been six wings on the Seraph that appeared to the prophet Isaiah and to St Francis: Gradus contemplationis primus in sensuum operatione, secundus in imaginatione, tertius in ratione, quartus in intellectu, quintus in intelligentia et sextus in sapiential (the first step of contemplation is in the operation of the senses , the second in the imagination, the third in the reason, the fourth in the intelligence, the fifth in the understanding, and the sixth in wisdom).[274] I also recall that in his Opusculi St Broanventure divided these steps into six which he called: fire, unction, ecstasy, speculation, experience, peace and glory.[275]

However since explaining the various qualities of contemplation would take a long time and raise difficulties which would not be of interest to everyone, I refer the reader who is interested to consult the doctors mentioned in the footnotes. In order to cater to the needs of everyone I propose to do three simple things: firstly to state certain general rules to facilitate good contemplation; then to propose certain ways of expanding our contemplation; and finally I will indicate certain objectives that should be the aim of contemplation.

General rules for contemplating well

14. The combination of silence and words, of sayings and facts. 15. Sacred history as the basis of meditation. 16. Turning our thought to various creatures. 17. Turning towards ourselves. 18. Points that expand contemplation. 19. Aims and emotions to be achieved while meditating. 20. Heroic virtues to be imitated.

4965 14. Since we are human beings made up of soul and body, the first rule for someone who wishes to meditate fruitfully is to alternate silence and words, maxims and facts, sometimes being silent in order to allow the devout mind more time to ponder and subsequently burst forth into spontaneous words that will stimulate meditation. What is more, during the meditation, the Lord’s friend should perform certain intimate acts such as deep sighs and kissing the ground, crossing arms, raising the eyes to heaven, beating the breast and the like provided that this is not seen or heard by anyone else who is doing so. So that when he is contemplating alone he will be freer to do this. When in company with others he should contemplate silently so as to be aroused within without acting visibly or sighing loudly so as not to draw attention to himself and distract those who are around him. This is what our father St Francis did: qui orans inter fraters, devitabat omnino etiam excreationes, et duros anbellitus; sed remanens solitarius pectoral tundebat et nemora repleat gemitibus [276]

4966 15. Now we come to the second rule which we join to the first, in accordance with what experience has taught us in various situations’ as this is the basis of meditation. To gain more sensitivity it is useful to break it up into sections that promote emotion. We should place the whole mystery before the eyes of our mind as if we were really present and it was in front of us.

O how much joy such a representation will give us so as to dispel our tepidity and negligence, especially when we try to enter into the hearts of the people in the scene, as when we wonder about Christ’s heart during His Passion that was filled with the greatest love and suffering: the Madonna’s heart full of charity and mercy: the hearts of the perfidious Jews full of envy, anger and rage. Ex corde enim mors et vita procedit. Ex cor hominis immutat faciem illius, sive in bona, sive in mala, as it says in Scripture (Life and death spring out of person’s heart. The heart of a person changes his counternance, whether is be for good or for bad.)[277]

16. In addition to this, as a third rule, in the course of our meditation we ought to turn our thoughts to various things as we feel the spirit is drawing us (this is what all the Fathers suggest). Thus sometimes we speak to God, sometime to angels, sometime to adversaries, sometime to creatures even those who are invisible or who we dream of, sometimes exclaiming something within our heart, sometimes asking a question. At times we may deplore our timidity or wonder about our lack of gratitude, or languish in love, or groan with desire, or admit that we have no merits and are unworthy, or beg God to grant us everything bestowing on us what he can, what he knows and what he wants, imploring him out of his infinite mercy, through the Passion of his Son, the sorrows of his Mother or the like.

4967 17. O what rules! O what Rules! I shall very briefly add to them one more that Richard of St Victor[278] taught us. It is to apply the situation to myself to discern whether with respect of the points of the meditation we are following the examples that they present. For example: when I am contemplating Christ lying on the straw of the manger why am I not lying still? If I see Christ crying how am I taking care of me eyes? When I am admiring Christ being so patient when confronted by so many sufferings and insults do I so easily become impatient? Thus we can derive so much counsel and example from the sufferings of Christ when the Holy Spirit moves us from within that will draw us towards the God of love as we sing the Canticle of Canticles: Ego dilecto meo et ad me conversion eius. (I (turn) to my beloved, and his turning is towards me).[279]

4968 18. For certain there are many things that can extend contemplation, however I shall reduce them to the seven main ones as there were proposed by St Augustine and also St Francis as they prayed saying: Domine, quis es tu, et quis sum ego (Lord, who are you and who amI?) Grant that I may noverim te, noverem me (I would know you, I would know myself).[280]

Now, my soul, consider firstly in every sacred mystery that you contemplate; who is acting or suffering there? For example, if it is Christ, the Son of God ruler of all. Then, because it is he who is operating there, is this not on accound of a human person who is so wretched and ungrateful? Thirdly, what is he doing? For example, with regard to honour, his life and everything is he being scorned, stripped and tormented? Fourth, why is he doing this? Out of his infinite mercy and only because of his excessive love. Fifth, how and in what manner is he enduring this? He does it with such promptness and vibrant desire that he offers himself freely on the cross for our salvation where an hour seems like a thousand years. How? I say with such meekness and patience and nothing more. Sixth, where is is acivg and suferng like this? In the presence of his enemies who embarrass him; in the presence of his holy Mother who rushed to him and, according to St Bernard, for whome he was more concerned that for himself.[281] Seventh, and last, when was this and in what circumstances? It happened in the flower of his life when he was 33, when he had preached so much and had performed so many miracles to his credit that everyone was following him.

O what dreadful circumstances there are for us to grasp when we are trying to undertake a spiritual conversation with Christ and his Mother speaking to his heart and he to our heart as the holy Prophet says: Ducam eam in solitudinem et ibi loquar as cor eius. (I will allure her and lead her into the wilderness, and I will speak to her heart.)[282]

4969 19. What objectives and strategies should you bring to the work of contemplation according to many places in the writings of the renoun Gerson? [283] Firstly join in the suffering of your distressed Lord and strive to be in sympathy with his afflicted Mother by gazing on his wounded flesh and the blood being shed. To increase sharing in this suffering even more, fix your gaze and repeate this over again while saying with St Paul: Si compatimur et conglorificarbimur (If we suffer with him, that we my be glorified with him).[284] If we join in the sufferings of Christ, in the end, we shall also be glorified with Christ and by Christ.

Next in order to be struck with wonder and amazed you should contemplate how he emptied himself being despised, insulted and confused which was something incredibly new. Third, in order to make ourselves happy and lift ourselves up, we note that our consolation is derived from his suffering, our merit comes from his pain and our life from his death. Fourth, in order to love him we need to transform ourselves into him, unite ourselves to him and become one with him to the same degree that he loves us so much. Finally, to offer him the praise that is due to him we should offer him devout thanks for these exceptional and outstanding benefits.

20. In the end to complete everything it remains for you to gather from the points of contemplation the four main emotions that are so fitting: namely, love of God, love of neighbour, love for virtue and for grace. You should hate sin, the world, and sensuality and yourself, be afraid of the last things, death, jusgement, hell and human fraility and be sorry for your failings, for your lack of gratitude to God and the little profit you have gained.

Perhaps you should also seek to always imitate the Saviour in the practice of the seven heroic virtues, to put it like this; contempt of the world, abnegation of the will, mortification of the senses, humility, obedience, patience, charity and the like? Indeed, you should not leave the exercise of mental prayer without gaining some specific fruit. Whoever behavies likfe this: ibis de virtute in virtutem, et videbis Doninus Deum in Syon. (Shall go from virtue to virtue, and shall be seen in Sion.)[285]

8. The way to end the meditation with affections. Exercise 25

1. Marriage of the Christian soul. 2. Ten kinds of elevation of the mind. 3. Various saints with various kinds of the stigmata. 4 – 5. Extraordinary facts concerning Blessed Chiara da Montefalco. 6. The difference between true and false visions. 7 – 10. How to behave during visions. 11. Prayer to acquire perfect virtues by means of contemplation. 12. Asking specifically for the gifts of the Spirit. 13 – 15. Making known the said gifts. 16. Seven points to be used at the end of the meditation. 19 – 21. Make a general offering of all that you possess to God. 22 – 24. The way to end meditation. 25. The way to perform adoration of worship.

4970 1. Inveni quem diligit anima mea. Tenui eum nec dimittam, donec introducam eum in domum matris meae et in cubiculum genetricis meas. (I found him whom my soul loves. I held him and I will not let him go, till I bring him into my mother’s house, and into the chamber of her who bore me.)[286] See how strongly I am already seeking my beloved (says the Bride in the Canticle) that in the end by praying and meditating I believe that I will find him. Then I will clasp him to my heart and never release him, until he leads me into the glorious eternal paradise. He is both our Father and the Father of his Mother. Indeed then I shall be united with him forever because I have contracted a spiritual marriage with him, which began by means of faith as per verba de futuro (as a pledge for the future) in Baptism, was confermed by means of acts of virtue, as per verba de praesenti (taking place in the present), progressed through adult life by means of receiving the most holy Eucharist, together with the other Sacraments, and was was totally consummated in glory through the embrace of perfect divine love.

2. These are the three good qualities of marriage: the mutual fidelity of the spouses, the beautiful offspring of meritorious works, and the sacrament of the indissoluble union of the lover with the loving God. O what wounderful consequences of contemplation!

Have you not read about these things in the ten or eleven famous works of St Bonaventure: namely, bliss of mind, melting of the heart, sweetnes in the senses, jubilation of heart, intoxication of spirit, lethargy, ecstasy, rapture, enlightenment and vision? O what consolation, when this is experienced, what almost inecplicable sensations, which are produced by the extraordinary grandeur of devotion, of admiration and of inner exultation over the divine mysteries and most hidden sacraments! O the severance, elevation and abstraction in our senses and faculties with respect to God! The more this developes and the stronger it is the more it strengthens the spirit, and makes the body weak according to what the Prophet Jacob discovered following his struggle with the angel when he became limp because the sinew in his thigh shrank.[287]

4971 3. There have been other more wonderful and extraordinary forces and marvels than these that have taken place in in the bodies and hearts of contemplatives which have been marked by incredible signs as we know happened to our great lord and father St Francis on his hands and side when by divine intervention the winged Seraph on a cross impressed the nails and bleeding wounds of our glorious Lord on him.[288]

Following his reception of the stigmata, have we not read of other saints who have received it in very different circumstances, but never in quite the same way as he did within himself and in his flesh? Have you not read about Elizabeth of Spalbeek[289] in Germany who was wrapped in ecstasy seven times a day and in whose flesh the Saviour’s five wounds which shed real blood and caused pain were impressed? This happened especially on Friday. Have you not heard of St Catherine of Siena [290] on whom they were impressed internally and to whom Christ gave his heart allowing her to enjoy the divine essence for the space of four hours?

4972 4. What shall I say concerning Blessed Clare of Montefalco[291] on whose heart when it was opened after her death there was found engraved the principle mysteries of Christ’s Passion and also a ladder, the whips and nails, crosses and Crucifixes as if in her bile there were three packets representing the Holy Trinity, with all three being of the same weight and one weighing the same as all of them together?

Have you not read about the other virgin Blessed Gertrude da Oestenne in Germany, [292] who was a country girl, a servant by profession and member of the Third Order[293] when she became an adult, I would say, and when she was in the service of a certain host took time for spiritual exceces after she had spent a lot of time waiting on him in spite of the revels and festivities that were going on within the house of her master? In the end she merited not only to receive the Lord’s stigmata but also to share virginal heavenly milk with the holy Baby Jesus at Christmas.

4973 5. O what amazing favours and incredible wonders! People like this can protest and proclaim with St Paul: De caetero nemo mihi molestus sit: ego enim stigmata Domini Iesu in corpore meo porto. (From henceforth let no man be troublesome to me: for I bear the marks of the Lord Jesus in my body.)[294] How many more wonders, including those that were visible, which occurred through the power of contemplation could we discover by searching through the lives of the saints and the blessed. However, I do not wish to go any further, because they are not as great a sign of divine grace in a creature as are dispising onself, humility, patience, charity and the like. Did not the Apostles write:[295] Nolite omni spiritui credere sed probate, utrum spiritus ex Deo sint. Nam et Satan trasfigurat se in angelum lucis? (Do not believe every spirit, but discern whether the spirits come from God. For Satan can appear as an ahgel of light.) Indeed by their nature wonders neither produce merit or demerit. Therefore the saintly fathers advise us in the first place to ask for, to procure and to desire other things which are more profitable and expressly beneficial.

6. Do you not know the differences between the holy God’s appearences and revelations and those of the cursed demon that St Boniventure described?[296] At first the Lord’s visits make us amazed and then consoled. The visits of the enemy fill us with joy at first and then with uncertainty. When the former end the mind is filled with peace, when the later end it is disturbed and confused. The former draw us closer to God, despoiling us of all that is sensual. By means of deceitful promises the later gradually lead us towards relaxation, taking liberties and false freedom. By means of ardent prayer and acts of deep humility the former lead us to self-knowledge. Because they are shallow and false, the later soon disappear.

4974 7. O my Lord, what an extraordinary safeguard this is against any trick or desire to seek such visions. Indeed this prepares us for when they present themselves to us not to think that they are productive when they are quite dangerous. This does not mean that we do not appreciate your visitations, O most generous Father. We only act like this soas to avoid the malice of Satan while knowing for certain that you have a thousand ways of making us know for ceratin when they come from you. This occurs by means of the gift of counsel and the grace of discernment and recognition of spirits and many more enlightening gifts for the recognision of spirits the same as you did this for the Patriarchs, the Prophets and many others.

8. O light of my heart, how do they come because of your generosity like relics, fragments or small crumbs of heavenly table? Indeed are they not like shadows, pledges, and sparks of heavenly glory that revive our senses and raise our spirits? As they are often bestowed on those who are perfect so as to make their inner sweetness of soul penetrate their bodies.[297] Does it not appear to you that they are conferred on those who are novices and beginners to nourish and lead them by means of three types of consolation of the senses to progress in spiritual exercises and to understanding them? This is attested by the wise words and reflections of the Cananite woman in her response to Christ the Redeemer: Ecce Domine. Nam et catelli edunt de mieis, quae cadunt de mensa dominorum suorum? (Yes, Lord; for the welps also eat of the crumbs that fall from the table of their masters.)[298]

4975 9. On account of all this, O loving Spouse, as we have had your sweet visitations, may we not fall into pride, but rather become more humble and admit that we are unworthy. Rather by thinking that you, in response to the small amount we have done, have allowed us to have such an experience as if it were a payment or because we deserved it, although we were unable to merit what is eternal. However this may be, how can you do this, how can you ever bend down and grant favours to someone so vile, O most merciful one? Oh, grant that this grace may not be the occasion for my greater ruin. Can you not see my extreme pride that makes me think that I deserve something, even more that others, and that I do not know how to be humble in these circumstances as many of the Saints did and say with holy Job and David: Domine, quid est homo, quia magnificas eum? Aut filius hominis quia reputas eum? (What is man that you reveal yourself to him? Who is the son of man that you are mindful of him?)[299]

10. O my most sweet beloved, this the way in which you always want me to bring my meditation and contemplation to an end so as to totally transform me into you alone. I do not want special visions, or particular spiritual sweetness, however, if you wish, because you are clement, deign to grant me your holy illumination that I can discern which are the works of the demon. Oh, eternal light, Father of all lights: illumine oculos meos, ne unquam obdormiam in morte, ne quando dicat inimicus meus praevalui adversus me. (Enlighten my eyes that I may never sleep in death, lest at any time my enemy say: I have prevailed against him.)[300]

4976 11. O, omnipotent love, grant that by meditating I may acquire every precious virtue, not only that of honourable moral prudence which anticipates, oversees and provides for everything in a proper way, but also virtues that clense and provide the heroic defennce which dismisses all worldly vanity to safeguard eternal happiness. Grant me the prudence of a soul that is prufied and is divine that always delights in reflecting what is above. Let this not be just moral fortitude, which endures and sustains everything, but fortitude which is heroic and courageously encounters death out of the desire for life. Let it be divine prudence which neither feels nor recognises insurgent passions so that it conquers them and acts in a mortified manner. Let it not be only moral self-control which observes due discretion in everything rather let it be heroic self-control that uses what is necessary and not what is superfluous. Let it be divine in that it forgets about doing what necessity demands and what goes beyony this even if this is tedious. Let is not be just moral justice that gives each what is due, but heroic justice in that it is concerned with the full extent of the virtues. Let it be divine in as much as it promotes inseparable union with God that will have no end.

4977 12. Ah, dear good and my most merciful Christ, are you still unwilling to grant me the seven most divine gifts of the Holy Paraclyte? Will you not grant me the gift of fear by means of which I would be a thousand times more afraid of offending you than of going to hell? Will you not grant me the gift of mercy by means of which my heart would melt within me to symapthise with and be of service to my neighbour? Will you not grant me the gift of knowledge so that I may discern what I should always believe and act upon so as not to dieviate at all? Will you not grant me the gift of fortitude by means I might persevere against all adversity until I could come to you? Will you not grant me the gift of counsel by means of which I would always seek to please you alone with purity of intention? Will you not grant me the gift of intelligence by means of which each hour will be more inspired by your sublime mysteries? Finally, will you not grant me the gift of wisdom so that I may enjoy you, flourish in you and rest in you alone?

13. Neither will this satisfy me because I also want to attain angelic, hierarchic and divine activities to the most perfect and sublime degree so that by means of your inspiration I might experience that indescribable joy of spirit to which St Paul referred: Gaudete in Domino sempre iterum dico, gaudete, (Rejoice in the Lord, again I say rejoice), so that filled with holy fervour I will hardly be able to contain myself because of my overwhelming happiness. My mind will then be raised to matters that are divine and eternal in accord with what has been said in the Psalm: Ego dixi in excessu mentis meae (I said in the excess of my mind).[301] O what delightful excess! O what peace of conscience would I then possess! O how my heart would melt within me! In the end only these three sweet things and the stimulus of contemplation would afford me gratification by curing my tirdness, and warming my fredigity a little, by means of spiritual joy, and the melting of my heart till I cannot think of anything that would take this away.

4978 14. However, I will not be concerned about receiving the other nine enhancements of mind that superabound and and make you know something beyond anything else. I am not concerned about delight of the senses which makes you smell odours, hear melodies, behold rays and brigh light as St Celilia and St Maddalena did. I will not be concerned about the guibilation of heart that takes hold of a person causing him to sigh or to or to cry or to smile, or to make other klinds of gestures or to experience other unusual acts of divine love. The Psalm says: Beatus populus qui fecit jubilationem. (Blessed is the people who know jubilation).[302] I will not be concerned if I do not feel intoxication of the spirit in which a person experiences feeling excited and appears not to be able to keep his balance, but, abounding in supernatural grace, longs to hold every creature in a holy embrace and to be united forever with them and with his Creator. I will not be concerned if I do not experience the drowsiness of having a great flame in my heart that banishes all the great obstacles along the path of the spirit, even if my limbs remain motionless and unable to perform their functions just as when one is asleep. This is the drowsiness and the dream that Adam experienced.[303] I will not be concerned if I do not experience the ecstacy by means of which a genuine contemplative, being estranged from his senses, is completely abstracted and centred on God and his mysteries. Dyonisius the Areopagite says: Est extasim faciens amor divinus. (This is rapture that produces love of God).[304] Finally I will not be concerned if I I lack ecstacy or rapture in the spirit, which is a much stronger uplift than ecstacy, when the body is denied the use of its limbs as if it were dead and it is miraculously raised up in the air. This is the kind of rapture which St Paul experienced when he was raised to the third heaven.[305]

4979 15. O what sweetness of sense! O what jubilation of heart! O what intoxication of spirit! O drowsiness! O rapture! Such experiences are dear, sweet, gentle, lovable, desirable, happy, joyful and delightful! I do not care about having other revelations such as counsels, discoveries of hidden mysteries and prophesies about things that are to come. In the end I do not sigh for visions that portray an important subject, a great secret to the senses or the imagination, or of anything else whatsoever. So what? By way of conclusion, being totally alight with divine love, and completely aroused with the ardour of seraphic fire during my meditation, I will conclude my meditation with fruitfulness during the time and at the place were I conduct it.

16. Now I will instruct you about the way to bring it to a good conclusion. I shall use the example of a bride who is burying her spouse.

How many things does she do? She does six main things. Firstly she protests that she cannot dispose of the body of her spouse. My soul, when you ralise that prayer is at an end, you too should sigh and groan that the time to conclude has come so fast. How miserable that you will now be passing from the work of angels to the occupation of brutes and turn from heavenly matters to those of the earth! Good God, how much I regret to have to leave what is good so quickly, and, I have to say, my real self. If I am not as upset as I ought to be, I want to be upset and I do not like leaving and interrupting meditation, just like a baby who is being forced to leave the maternal breast. O God! OGod! When may I return to prayer and say like your other beoved: “While at prayer I found him who my soul loves. So I wanted to hold him in my arms and did not want to let him go.”[306]

4980 17. After that the bride asks pardon of the spouse for any time that she offended him in not paying him proper respect and reverence or not having treated him as he deserved to be treated. What do you do? Do you accept the blame for your negligence and distractions while you were at contemplation? Think for a while about how many defects you have committed and ask for forgiveness and remission from God having the same kind of sorrow that your would express[307] if you had been irreverent to the Holy Father who was indignant with you. Forgive me, Lord, since among many other shortcomings I have often turned my mind to frivolous things and was not ashamed over just speaking to you with my lips or about being in your presence in body only. O how cor meum derelinquit me! (My heart has forsaken me!)[308] I regret this. I wish that you would not look at my unworthiness and what is more at my wretchedness, Tu qui cognoscis figmentum nostrum (You who are aware of our frame)[309], O most kind one.

18. Later on the poor bride thanks her spouse for the good things that he has done for her. Do you not know that when prayer is said without giving thanks it is always imperfect, spoilt and pruned? Listen to St Augustine: Adeo utilis est gratiarum action, ut sine ea nulla valere possit oratio. (Thanksgiving is so effective that if it is lacking prayer is of no value).[310]

O gentle King, O sweet King, what special treatment you have shown me in letting me pray! What a feeling and what an experience you have provided for me! I praise and thank you because I was not worthy. I recall now my Seraphic Father St Francis, who never wanted to let any visitation pass with neglect and who taught us to say after the experience had passed: “I bless you, O most clement one, for the consolation that you deigned to afford me, your unworthy servant. I place myself into your care for I admit and recognise that I am a thief of your treasure”[311] Therefore, when we are leaving prayer he wants us to consider ourselves such wretched sinners who have never received any grace and repeat like the Prophet: Secretum meum mihi, secretum meum mihi, (My secret to myself, my secret to myself.)[312]

4981 19. What is more the tearful bride attempts to make an oblation of her widowhood to her dead spouse by promosing that form now on she would remain a widow out of love for him. You too ought to make a general offering to Christ of yourself and all that you possess, proclaiming with holy David: Dico ego opera mea regi. (I speak my works to the Lord.)[313] O most high monarch, like the holy widow in the Gospel, I offer you and present to you two mites: my soul and my body, with all their faculties, their limbs, their senses, their desires and all that I have.

Now I consecrate to you all my thoughts, words and actions which I return to you for your praise and glory. Please do not reject this small oblation, you who are great, most good and supreme. O Lord, these offerings are certainly most vile, but consider and accept the thought which is profound. If it is not as much as you desire increases it out of your mercy as much as you like, and more.

20. The mournful bride prays for the soul of her deceased spouse to those who are praying devoutly. She commends his body to those who are concerned with his burial and who are seeing that it be treated respectfully with kindness. You should not forget[314] to pray for all the needs of your friends, your enemies, relativies and benefactors, those in trouble, the living and the dead and, most of all, pray for the needs and present sufferings of our Mother Church with greater affection for this is very urgent. Ah Christ! Ah, good Jesus, respice in nos et Miserere nobis, sed prius Miserere Ecclesiae tuae sanctae, quam acquisisti tua sanguine pretioso. (Behold us and have mercy on us, but first have mercy on your Holy Church, which you purchased with your precious blood.) [315] Why would you not come to our aid? Do you want to see us cast into the depths? Ah, do not take notice of our great demerits, but activate your most generous clemency for us and your immense mercy.

4982 21. Finally the sad bride prays to her deceased spouse and asks him not to forget her when he comes into Paradise and asks that he love her more after death than the kindness he showed her during life. You too, my soul, when imploring the help of God, of his Mother and of all the saints, should have no doubt that you will obtain it. If there are some princes who claim that they will not deny any request that it made of them, and they keep their promise; if St Francis never refused to grant anything that he was asked to do for the love of God;[316] what reason could there be for us to doubt or hesitate that God will be a thousand times more willing to grant us what we ask?

Also ask your Lord for a special grace and do not fear because a woman is not as ready to feed a baby with her milk from her breast as God is to respond to you. However, ask for the correct graces such as the forgiveness[317] of your sins, the acquiring of virtue, preservation from danger, freedom from what prevents doing what is good, patience, charity, humility and the like. If your request is not answered at first, persevere to the end always remerbering that a drop does not break a stone at first but repeats itself again and again.

4983 22. These are the well-known steps for bringing mental prayer to a conclusion; namely asking pardon, oblation, the operation of grace, asking for what is needed, displeasure at having arrived at the end of prayer.

Finally we may add a new resolution to undertake future meditations in a better manner, being better prepared, being more fervent and having profound humility. O most sweet spouse, I do not easily recognise the marks of mental prayer immediately, namely the set time, which I attend to without delay, shaking off and banishing all my laziness, or what would be even better, responding enthusiastically like a cavalry horse that beging to move and acratch the ground at the first sound of the trumpet, to use a military paradigm. To arouse me and give me courage I could repeat the words of the Magi to myself.

25. Hoc signum magni regis est. (This is the sign of a great king.).[318] This is the sign of the great King of heaven who is calling me to contemplation. Let us go, let us go, O my dear faculties, senses, strength and virtues! Let us go very devoutly to hastily offer the myrrh of a humble preparation, the gold of ardent contemplation and the incense of a merciful conclusion. As I enter the church, I say with St Bernard, and, indeed, with the Patriarch Abraham: All you worldly concerns who are handmaids and servants of the ass that is my body.remain here outside. Expectate hic cum asino. Ego et puer illuc properantes ibimus. (Stay you here with the ass. I and the boy will go with speed as far as yonder.)[319] I, who am the will and the queen of the kingdom of the body and mother of the family, will go with the intellect and the memory to offer the obligaroty sacrifice to the eternal God. Postquam autem adoraverimus, revertemur ad vos. (After we have worshipped we shall return to you.)[320] When divine worship is finished I shall return to you.

4984 24 Thus unburdened and purified, O most kind King of Paradise, thus recollected and recollected, humble and completely filled with fervour introibo in domum tuam. (I will come into your house).[321] I will enter your church as if it were the heavenly court where you abide crowned with the stars and with the angels doing you reverence. Et adorabo (And I shall adore), I the smallest and most vile little person worth little or nothing, Adorabo (I shall adore) in a most worthy and effective way that is completely beyond the imagination. Adorabo (I shall adore) with all my heart, my breast, my mind and my heart. Adorabo (I shall adore) with interior and exterior acts of homage, always hoping for your assistance. Adorabo, te, te, te (I shall adore you, you, you) O most lovable God, te (you) O most loving Jesus, te (you) who are the master of all, Lord of heaven and earth, autrhor of grace and glory, the eternal good of the angels, the supreme good of mankind and the only good of all.

25. Adorabo ad templum sanctum tuum et confitebor nonini tuo. (I shall worship towards your temple and confess your name.)[322] What kind of worship shall you use, O my life and joy of my heart? I shall use most excellent latria the worship due to God alone as I am bound to do. What does this mean and what is involved in this kind of worship and sublime adoration? It is made up of three acts. First we must praise his divine majesty because of its infinite perfection. There is no more perfect act than this. Then we must offer thanks for his immense generosity for many special benefits. There is no act that is more just than this. Finally, we must ask his infinite goodness for all that we need. There is no act that is more fruitful than this.

This is what I do and will continue doing because of your mercy, O Good God, O clement and merciful God. I adore you, O sweet Jesus, gentle and dear Jesus, I thank you. I praise you. I bless you. I glorify you with all the angels, the elect and your saints for all ages. Tibi laus, tibi Gloria, tibi gratiarum action, in sempitera saecula, o beata Trinitas. Te laudamus, et invocamus, te adoremus, et tibi gratias agimus, o vera et una Trinitas, una et summa Deitas, sancta et una Trinitas. Amen.[323] (To you be praise, to you be glory, to you be thanksgivine forever, O Blessed Trinity, one and supreme God, holy and one Trinity. Amen.)


Endnotes

  1. Cf. S Ambrosius, De offices ministrorum, lib. I, cap. 24 (PL 16, 59s).
  2. S. Johannes Damascenus, De fide orthodosa, lib. I, cap. 11 (PG 94, 842s).
  3. S. Bonaventura (attr.), Mystica Theologia, cap. 3, part. III. (S. Bonaventurae Operum VIII, Romae 1596, 719-720).
  4. Is 26:9.
  5. S. Joan Chrisostomus, In Math. hom 19, n. 3. (PG 57, 276s).
  6. Here Varucchion is maintaining that bodily prayer in general makes the whole experience very effectual and that it arouses spiritual sentiments since a person is a psycho-physical unit.
  7. The authors, for example Francesco da Jesi, often use this comparison. Cf. above n. 3818, note 135.
  8. Cf. S Bonaventura (attrib.), Mystica Theologia, cap. 1, part. II:15. (S. Bonaventurae operum VII, 701b)
  9. “Sed si delicioso cupitis pabulo saginari, beati Augustini patriotae vestri opuscula legite, et ad comparationem siliginis illius nostrum furfuem non quaetatus”. (S. Gregorius M. Epistolarum libri X: Ep. Ad Innocentium Africae praefectum (PL 77, 1095). (If you wish to taste delicious nourishment, read the works of St Augustine your countryman and if you compare that with us do not seek our bran.)
  10. Cf. Lk 21:2.
  11. Cf. Ex. 35:23-26.
  12. Phil 1:9-10; 1Thes 5:21.
  13. Acts 5:38-39.
  14. Cf. S. Th/ II-II, q. 83, art. 9 (Op. omnia IX. Romae 1879, 201).
  15. Cf. S. Augustinus, Ep. Ad Probam, n. 20-23 (PL 33, 502ss).
  16. Lk 11:1.
  17. Lk 11:2.
  18. Cf. S. Bernardi vita prima, lib. I, c. 13, n. 66 (PL, 185, 263).
  19. Cf. Vincentino Bellovacensis (Vincenti de Beauvaisi), Speculum historiale, lib. 27, c. 8 (Duaci 1624; ed. Anast. Graz 1965, 1099b).
  20. Cf. L. Surius, Historiae seu vitae sanctorum III, AugustaTaurinorum 1875, 35-73.
  21. Cf. Concil. Foroiuliense, in praefat. Ubi de Simbolo Mansi, Sacri, Conc. Nova et amplissima collection, XIII, Florentiae 1867, 845.
  22. Cf. S. Ciprianus, De dominica oratione, II (PL 4, 537; CCI, IIIA, 90).
  23. S. Joan. Chrisostomus, In Matt. Hom. 19, nn. 4-7 (PG 144, 811-15).
  24. S. Bonaventura (attrib. ma è Hugo da Balami), Opusc. De mystica Theol., cap. 2, part. II-III (S. Bonaventura, operum t. VII, Romae 1596, 704b-711a).
  25. Verucchio is referring to St Thomas Aquinas (In Math. c. 1); Alphonsus Tostado and Nicholas of Lyra.
  26. This is referring to Peter Lombard, St Thomas and St Bonaventure “et alii theologi praecipue in 1 Sententiarum” (to other theologians especially in the First Book of Sentences”).
  27. Is 66:9.
  28. Rom 8:15-16.
  29. Deut 32:6.
  30. Cf. Is 5:4.
  31. Jer 3:4.
  32. Is 49, 15-16.
  33. Ps 147:20 (Vulg.)
  34. Mal 1:6.
  35. Ibid.
  36. 1 Cor 12:3.
  37. 2 Kgs 2:12.
  38. Cf. in the works of St Augustine, Lib. Meditationum (PL 40, 920ss).
  39. Cf. S. Anselmus, Proslogion seu alloquium de Dei existential, cap. 3-5 (PL 158, 228s).
  40. Ps 38:6 (Vulg.)
  41. James 5, 16.
  42. This verse is taken from Satire di Giovenale (Latin poet Juvenal)
  43. Is 43, 34.
  44. Ap 1, 4.
  45. Ps 101:28 (Vulg.)
  46. Ex 3:14 
  47. Cf. 1 Jn 3:2.
  48. Ps 144:3 (Vulg.).
  49. These concepts are similar to what St Berard wrote. Sermo II de divinis, n. 3 (PL 183, 543); De consideratione lib. V, c. 6, 6-14 (PL 182, 796-808).
  50. Jer 23:24.
  51. Lk 23:43.
  52. Is 66:1.
  53. Ps 88:6. (Vulg.)
  54. Ps 148:4 (Vulg.). With respect to ancient cosmological concepts see E. Riondato, Cielo, Cieli, in Enc. Filosofica I, Fierenze, 1967, 1399-1403.
  55. Cf. Ez. 1.
  56. Cf. 2 Cor 12:4.
  57. Cf. 2 Kings 2 (Vulg 4 Kgs 2).
  58. Rev. 21:1.
  59. Ps 122:1, 3 (Vulg.)
  60. Ps 18:7; 67:34 (Vulg.); Job 22:12, 14.
  61. CF. Leg. Maior 10. FAED II, p . 607.
  62. Lk 17:21.
  63. Cf. Mt 18:23-35.
  64. Ps 30:3 (Vulg.)
  65. Jer 30:11.
  66. Jn 11:3.
  67. Cf. S. Gregorius Nazianzenus, Tragedia de Cristo patiente (PG 38, 134ss).
  68. For St Basil see Summa de laudibus beatissimae Virginis Mariae ed. J. P. Mogme. XI, Parisiis 1866, 374s.
  69. Cf. L. Surius, Historiae seu vitae sanctorum III, Augusta Taurinorum 1875, 74s.
  70. Cf. S. Caterina da Siena nel racconto del suo confessore il b. Raimondo da Capua, a cura di p. Giuseppe Tingli, Siena 1939, 10.
  71. Cf. I. Surius, Historiae cit. III, 438-54.
  72. Ibid., II, 589-98.
  73. Cf. Dionigi Areopagita, Gerarchia celeste, c. III. N. 2 (Tutte le opera, a cura di P. Scazzoso ed E. Bellini, Milano 1981, 90).
  74. LK 1:6.
  75. Eph. 5:25-27.
  76. Better altisonae vocis. CF. S. Petrus Damiani, Ser. I de nativitatae B. Virg, Mariae. (PL 144, 739a).
  77. Cf. De angelica salutatione, scilicet Ave, in S. Antoninus, Summa Theologiae, pars. IV, tit. 15, c. 13 (Veronae 1740, 991-98).
  78. Gen 2, 23.
  79. S. Fulgentius, Sermo II de duplici nativitate Christi, n. 7 (PL 65, 728).
  80. CF. Speculum B. Mariae Virg., cap. 2 (S. Bonaventurae operum t. VI, Romae 1596, 452a-453b). However this writing is by Corrado da Sassonia. Cf. B. Distelbrink, Bonaventuriae scripta authentica, dubia vel spuria critice recenda, Roma 1975, 191s.
  81. Rev. 8:13.
  82. This is a traditional play on words. Ave, ave signifies the absence of ve (that is woe). She is heaven’s gate who cancels Eve’s fall. Woe came about through Eve, Ave Mary you have taken this away.
  83. That is: When you happen to see the image of the Immaculate Virgin, do not pass it without saying: Ave.
  84. Cf. 2 Kgs 3:12-16.
  85. Cf. 1 Sam 25:1ss.
  86. Cf. Gen 29:18-20, 29-30; 30:22-24.
  87. Cf. Judith 13:6-10.
  88. Cf. 1 Kgs 1:1-4.
  89. Ezra 28:13.
  90. This is contained in M. Tullio Cicerone, Oratio pro Milone.
  91. Cf. S. Alberto Magno, Super missus est. Cf. Biblia Mariana: Ev. Secundum Lc., n. 11-16, in Discursus praedicabiles super Litanias Laurentanas, a cura di P. F. Iustini Miechoviensis, neapoli 1857, 540a-541a.
  92. Is. 62:2.
  93. S. Bernardus, Ad beatam Virg. Dei param sermo panegyricus, n. 6 (PL 184, 1013).
  94. S. Andrea Cretense, Oratio in Annuntiationem B. Marias (BG. 97, 890).
  95. This point is followed by a Latin text that we have omitted. It contains a “Meditation on the Hail Mary that in the spirit of what was very enlightened about the things of God, was taken from a work by the Seraphic Doctor, Cardinal St Bonaventure entitled Speculum B. Virginis. Mariae. (Cf. note 2, p. 22).
  96. Cf. Gen 11:1-9.
  97. Cf. S. Augustinus, Sermo de Symbolo (PL 40, 1189s).
  98. Cf. Conc. Trid. Sesio 111 (Conc.aecum. decreta, ed. Tertia, Bologna 1973, 662.
  99. Cf. Giovanni Diacono, Vitae S. Gregorio, lib. 2,k cap. 2 (PL 75, 870).
  100. Cf. S. Ambrosius, De virginibus ad Marcellimam sororem suam, lib. III, n. 20 (PL 16, 237).
  101. CF. Conc. Constantinopolitanum III (oecum VI), cap. 7. (Mansi XI, Florientiae 1765, 1008s).
  102. See the commentaries of theologians in the Book of the Sentences of Peter Lombard or especially of St Bonaventure, I Sent., dist. X, art. 1, q, 2, conclusion. (Op. Omnia I,, 197s).
  103. Is 6:1ff.
  104. Cf. Jn 13:23.
  105. Cf. S. Ambrosius, Exaemeron, lib. VI, n. 76. (PL 14, 288).
  106. Cf. Acts 10:42.
  107. Ps 113:2 (Vulg.)
  108. Note how Cristoforo da Verucchio reacts to the sad situation in Christianity in his day, the continual threasts that menace it, the progress of Protestantism, the continual tensions between the religious denominations in Germany, the religious squabbles in France, the divisions in the Low Countries and the suppression of Catholicism in England.
  109. Verucchino points out one of the more relevant “political” reasons why Christian Europe is sadly divided.
  110. Prov. 11:2. “Exercise 21” is one of the richest and longest exercises in the whole volume by Verucchino and it includes various “practices” which relate to the virtues of obedience, patience, mortification, humility and charity. The last practice is reproduced here.
  111. Mk 10:18.
  112. Ps 144:9 (Vulg.)
  113. Cf. 1 Jn 4:7-8.
  114. CF. Respectively Wis 12:1; Ps 72:1 (Vulg.); Cant, 1:15.
  115. Cf. Anselmus Cantuar., Proslogion cap. IV. (PL. 158, 229).
  116. Cf. Dionigi Areopagita, VIII al Monaco Demofilo, n. 6 (Tutte le opera, trad. P. Scazzoso, Milano 1981, 445=47).
  117. Ibid., 447.
  118. Ps 88:2 (Vulg.).
  119. Jer 31:3.
  120. Ps 15:2 (Vulg.).
  121. 1 Jn 4:19.
  122. 1 Cor 4:7.
  123. Cf. Wis 11:25.
  124. Gen 18:7.
  125. Ex 32:10.
  126. Cant. 4:9.
  127. Rom 7:8.
  128. Cant 8:6.
  129. Cf. L. Blosio, La collana di gioie. Trattato di diverse scritti ditto “Monile spirituale”. Versione di P. C. Bompiani, Modena [s.d.].
  130. In happy times you wil have many friends. In adversity you will be on your own.
  131. Mt 22:37.
  132. Cf. Aristotle, Metafica.
  133. The fifteen characteristics of perfect are scattered through the various mystical works of St Bonaventure.
  134. Cf. S. Gregorius M., Hom. 30 in Evang. N. 1. (PL 76, 1220.
  135. Mt. 10:37.
  136. Cf. S. Bernardus, De diligendo Deo, cap. 1 (PL 182, 974); see also Sermo XI in Gant., n. 4 (PL 183, 825s).
  137. Gal. 2:20.
  138. Cf. S. Bernardus: Meditationes ad humanae conditionem: as cited by the author.
  139. This epression is an echo of what St Francis said:”Love is not loved”.
  140. 1 Jn 4:20.
  141. Rom. 13:10b.
  142. Mt 22:39.
  143. Mt 5:46-47.
  144. Rom 13:10a.
  145. Jn 13:34-35; 15:12.
  146. 2 Cor. 12:15.
  147. Ps 15:6 (Vulg.); Act 2:25.
  148. 1 Kgs 17:1.
  149. Col 3:17.
  150. This expression is taken from Julian of Speyer, Vita S. Francisci, n. 44, 6. (AF X, 356).Memor fui dierum anti
  151. Ps 142:5 (Vulg.)
  152. S. Bernardus, De interiori domo, c. 41, n. 88. (PL 184, 552).
  153. In the text: che non si far (who does not do this).
  154. Lk 10:43.
  155. Ps 118:92 (Vulg.).
  156. Ps 118:77 )Vulg.)
  157. Ps 118:99 (Vulg.)
  158. Cf. De ecclesiasticis dogmatibus, c. 26. (In the works of St Augustine PL 42, 1218).
  159. S. Bonaventura, De perfect. Vitae ad sores. c. 5 (Op. omnia VIII, 117a) “It is no wonder that he who sets aside the assiduous study of prayer falls miserably into temptation, since frequent prayer extinguishes the ferocity of vice.”
  160. Ibid. “Devout prayer, then, is so efficacious that it is valuable at all times and in every place: indeed at every hour prayer alone gains a person more than the whole world is worth, because through prayer one can even acquire paradise.”
  161. Ibid., A religious who does pray frequently and assiduously, is not only wretched and useless, but in the sight of God possesses a dead soul in a living body.
  162. “Any religious who is not zealous in the study of prayer and is not concerned to acquire it, is imperfect and destined for ruin. A religious without the fervour of devout prayer is like food without condiments. See also S. Bonaventura, De sex alis Seraphim II, 10. (Op omnia VIII, 134b – 135a.
  163. Cf. S. Giovanni Climaco, Scala Paradisi, grad. 28 (CPS n. 282.)
  164. Cf. Leg. maior 10, 1. (FAED II, p. 605).
  165. LK 18:1.
  166. 1 Thes 5:17; cf. Mt 13:14-17; 26:41.
  167. “In these days many religious are not only insensitive to prayer, but do not even search for it or desire it or undertake it. Indeed do not believe those who have received the grace of devotion and prayer, but rather regard them with envy and persecute them.” Cf. S. Bonaventura (attrib.), De perfecta religiosorum, lib. II, c. 691) (S. Bonaventurae operum t. VII, Romae, 1596, 643a).
  168. Cf. S. Grgorio M., Vita s. Benedicti; in Dialoggorum lib. II. (PL 66, 147).
  169. The author makes reference to L. Surlus, Historiae seuvitae sanctorum.
  170. Mt 26:41.
  171. Cf. S. Isidorus, Lib. III Sententiarum de summon bono, c. 7. (PL 83, 676s).
  172. S. Hieronymus, Vita S. Hilarionis, n. 8. (PL 23, 33).
  173. Cf. S. Bonaventura (attrib.) De profectu religiosorum, lib. II, c. 14 (S.Bonav. operum T. VII, 619s).
  174. Cf. L. Surius, Historiae cit. IV, 30 aprilis, § 27, p. 713.
  175. An error in the text vocationi
  176. Tralasciavavo.i.
  177. Cf. S. Bonav. (attrib.) De prfectu religiosorum cit.., c. 14 e. c. 60, p. 637.
  178. “other things being equal”.
  179. Cf. Cecr. Greg. IX, lib. I, tit. 34, cap. 1: Detregua et paceCIC I, 203).
  180. S. Th. II, II, q. 83, art. 12; Utrum oratio debeat ese vocalis (Op. omnia IX, Romae 1892, 204s.
  181. Bernardino da Balvano and Francesco di Chambers also speak about “mixed” prayer. Cf. above, nn. 4163 and 1833.
  182. Ps 50:17 (Vulg.).
  183. Eph. 5:19.
  184. Cf. S. Hieronymus, Comment. In ep. Ad Ephes. Lib. III, c. 5. (PL. 26, 561s).
  185. Cf. Glos. In c. Cantantes: See also the Commentary on the Rule by Girolamo da Polizzi Generosa, in vol I, n. 993. “Not by voice, but by vow, not by the music of stringed instruments, but from the heart. Not noise, but love makes a sound in God’s ear.
  186. Cf. De vitis partum lib. V; Verba seniorum, libellus XII, n. 1 (PL 73, 941); De oratione et horis canonicis, cap. IV, n. 13.(Martini Azipilcueciae…. operum t. III, Lugduni 1597, 337as).
  187. E cosi gite di lungo – today we would say E cosí via.
  188. S. Joan. Chrisost., Hom. 19, In Math., n. 3. (PG 57, 275s).
  189. Cf. Leg. maior. 10, 2. (AFED II, p. 606)
  190. As above and also 2 Cel. 99; (AFED II, pp. 312-313.)
  191. Note the practical experience of the author with respect to souls including describing mental prayer as “involving the emotions” as he adopts the generally-accepted Franciscan meaning of mental prayer as “praying to God from the heart”.
  192. In the text istrutto should be istruito.
  193. The mystical works of St Bonaventure were among the works most loved by the early Capuchins, especially at the time of Mattia Bellintani. It is also credible that this was true of the works of Dionysius the Areopagite.
  194. Augustine, Ambrose, Jerome, Gregory the Great, Thomas and Bonaventure. The first four were proclaimed “Doctors of the Church’ by Boniface VIII in 1295. St Thomas was proclaimed by Pius V in 1567. St Bonaventure was proclaimed by Sixtus V in 1588.
  195. The text has ponia.
  196. Cf. this tract concerning the sanctity of the Pope and the reform of the Roman clergy. (PL 182, 727-808).
  197. Cf. S. Bernardo, De consideratione, cap. 1:2, n. 1, 3 (PL 182, 728, 730s)
  198. The Later rule cg. 5, 2 (AF:ED I p. 102.
  199. Cf. Major Life, 11, 1 (FA:ED II, p. 612) and A Letter to Brother Anthony of Padua (FA:ED I, p.107)
  200. S.isidorus, Sententiarum libri III, c. 8: De lectione, n. 2:3 (PL 83, 679)
  201. This statement which was pronounced by Blessed Giles of Assisi, was repeated in a poem by Jacopone da Todi.
  202. In the text dovrebbono ,,, e protrebbono. A note in the margin refers the reader to the following: S. Gregorius M., Monalium lib. XVIII, n. 66 (PL 16, 75s), S. Bernardinus, Tract, de interiori domo, c. 41, n. 85-88 (PL 184, 550-52)
  203. Cf. S. Bonaventura, Liber de perfectionis vitae ad sorores, c. 5 (Op. omnia VIII, 120b); Incendium amoris, in prologo; Mystica Theologia, in prologo (S.Bonav: operum t. VII, Romae 1597, 197a, 699a, 700a).
  204. Cf. Vita Fratris Aegidii, in Chron. XXIV Gen. (AF III, 101); Marco da Lisbona, Croniche de gli ordini institute dal padre san Francesco, lib. VII, cap. 14, trad. Oratio Diola, Venezia 1582, 156.
  205. Cf. L. Surius, “in vitis horum sanctorum”.
  206. Cf, above note 3, p. 48. However the quotation is not literal but paraphrased.
  207. Hassi in the text = ha.
  208. 1 Sam 7:3.
  209. Hugo de S. Vict., De modo orandi. (PL. 176, 977-88)
  210. Ps 9:38 (Vulg)
  211. Gen, 3:9.
  212. Rev. 3:20.
  213. This shows the extent of the mystery by the allusion to Oriental India which has been discivered recently as a place from which immense treasures come.
  214. Cf. Zac 9:9.
  215. In the text assentare = accomodare.
  216. Cf Lk 1:43
  217. Cf. Mk 14:38; Mt 26:41; 1 Titus 5:12.
  218. Lk 16:1
  219. Ps 70:2
  220. Gen 26:24.
  221. Reminiscent of Jn 14:23.
  222. Cf. Gen 18:2.
  223. Col. 2:3.
  224. Ps 117:19 (Vulg.)
  225. Ps 117:20 (Vulg.)
  226. In the text dindi + da lí
  227. Mt 25:21
  228. Ct 8:1.
  229. Ps 48:13, 21 (Vulg.)
  230. Ps 21:8.
  231. Jer 31:3.
  232. Ps 43:3 (Vulg.)
  233. Mt 27:34; Mk 15:39.
  234. Ps 111:3 (Vulg. )
  235. Ex 15:3.
  236. Sir 24:25.
  237. Ps 146:5 (Vulg.)
  238. Ps 16:15.
  239. Ex 4:25.
  240. Cant. 2:13-14; 4:8; 5:2.
  241. The author of this trace was Rodolfo da Biberach. Cf. B. Distelbrink, Bonaventurae scripta. 124s.
  242. Cf. E. Surius, Historias seu vitae sanctorum, vol. IX (September 28), Torino 1878, 637 (§ 7 and 9)
  243. Ibid., 17 Novembris.
  244. Ex 34:29.
  245. Aristotle, Etica a Nicomaco, cap. III (Grande antologia filosofica, vol. I. Milano 1954, 414s).
  246. S. Augustinus, De civitate Dei, lib. XIX, cap. 19 (PL 41, 647).
  247. S. Ambrosius, DE officiis ministrorum, lib. I, C. 9 (PL 16, 35). However the meaning has been changed and Verucchino probably copied it from other texts without cheching the text.
  248. S. Bonaventura (as it was attributed, but it is taken from Ugo de Balma) Mystica Theologia, in the prologue (S. Bona, operum t. VII, 700ab).
  249. S. Gregorius M. Hom. In Ezech., lib. 1, hom. 4, n. 56-61. (PL 75, 760-765).
  250. Cf. Julianus Promerius, DE vita con temperantia, lib. I, cap. 12 (PL 59, 427-29): This is not taken from St Prosperius who lived half a century later.
  251. Hugo de S. Vitore, Expositio in hierarch. Coel. S. Dionysii Aeropagatae, lib. VII (PL 175, 1055, 1069).
  252. Aristotle, Etica a Nicomaco, lib. 1, c. 10 (Grande antologia filosofica cit., 417s).
  253. Acts 6:2-4.
  254. Cf respectively, Mk 1:35; Mt. 14:23; Lk 6:12; Mt. 26:55; Lk 11:14; Acts 10:38.
  255. Cf. S. Augustinus, DE ecel. Dogmatibus, c. 26, (PL, 1218).
  256. Rifererissimo in the text = riferim.
  257. Cf. Lv 11:2-30; Deut 14:4-5 etc.
  258. Cf. Nicol de Lyra, in Lv 2 (Bibliorum Sacrorum Glossa ordinaria,; cum pstila Nicolai Lyrani, I Venetiis 1603, 999).
  259. Cf. Hab 1:14.
  260. In the text da rispetto here da rispettar.
  261. In the text e onore here e disonore.
  262. Cf. S. Th. II-II, q. 182, art. 1.
  263. Cf. S. Gregorius M., Homiliarum in Ezech., lib. 1, Hom. Iv, n. 10-12 (PL 76, 810).
  264. Cf. Lk 10:43.
  265. Cf. Ex 7:1-2.
  266. Cf. Lk 10:39-42.
  267. Cf Cant. 2, 10. 14 (Vulg.)
  268. Cf. Gen 29:17, 23
  269. Cf. Gen 29:17-30.
  270. Cf. Gen 31 and 32.
  271. Ps 54:7 (Vulg.)
  272. 1 Jn 2:27
  273. Cf. David ad Augustia, De profectu religiosorum. Lib. II, c. 72. (S. Bonav. Operum c. VII, 644 ss).
  274. Cf. Richardus a S. Victorire, Benismin Maior, lib. I, c.6 (PL 196, 70); the actual words are: “Sex autem sunt contemplatvorum genera a se et inter se omnium divisa. Primum itaque est in imaginatione et secundum solam imaginationem. Secundum est in imaginative secundum rationem. Tertius est in ratione secundum rationem. Quintum eest supra, sed non praeter rationem. Sextum supra rationem et videtur esse praeter rationem. Duo itaque sunt in imaginative, duo in ratione,duo in inteligentis”. Regarding the Seraph seen by Isaiah and St Francis cf. Is 6, 2-3; LM 13, 3; 3 Cel 4 .
  275. Cf. Thomas Gallus (Vercellensis); De septem grad. Contemplationis (S. Bonav. Operum t. VII, 104a-105b).
  276. LM 10, 4 (FAED II, p 607). “The man of God remaining more alone and at peace would fill the forest with groans, water the place with tears, strike his breast with his hand, and, as if finding a more secret hiding place, would converse with his Lord.”
  277. Prov 4:23: Sir 13:25
  278. Cf. Richardus a S. Victore, Beniamin Maior, lib. III, c. 3 (PL 196, 113).
  279. Cf. Cant 7:10 (Vulg.).
  280. Cf. S. August., Soliloquia 1 (PL 32, 869ss), see also the Third Consideration on the Stigmate Little Flowers.
  281. Le compativa in the text, here compativa a lei.
  282. Hosea 2:14.
  283. Ioan gerson, Liber de myst. Theologia et de monte contemplationis (cf. Ioannis Gersonii, Tertia pars operum, Parisia 1606, 292ss (De mistica Theologia practica), 492ss. (De monte contemplationis).
  284. Rom. 8:17.
  285. Ps 83:8 (Vulg).
  286. Cf. Cant 3:4 (Vulg.).
  287. Gen. 32:32—33.
  288. L M 13, 3 FAED II, pp. 631-633.
  289. Cf. L. Blosio, La collana di gioie. Trattato di divine virtu ditto “Monile spirituale”. Versione di P. C. Bompiani, Modena [s.d.].
  290. Cf. L. Surius cit. vol. I, 725, § 46.
  291. Cf. Marco da Lisbona. Croniche de Frati Minori, parte seconda, Venezia 1586, 505 (lib. V, cap. 42).
  292. The auther refers us to the usual source for the lives of the Saints by Surio.
  293. In the text Terevola, here terziaria.
  294. Gal 6:17.
  295. Cf. 1 Jn 4:1; 2 Cor 11:14.
  296. Cf. David ab Augusta, DE profectu religiosorum, lib. II, cap. 74 – 78 (S. Bonav. Operum t. VII, 647b – 651d).
  297. In the text estremo here esterno.
  298. Mt 15:27.
  299. Job 7:17: Ps 143:3 (Vulg.)
  300. Ps 12:4 – 5. (Vulg.)
  301. Ps 30:23 (Vulg.)
  302. Ps 88:16 (Vulg.).
  303. Cf. Gen. 2:21.
  304. Dionigi Areopagita, Nomi divini, cap. IV, 13 (Tutte le opera cit., 310, cf. anche PG 4, 265B).
  305. Cf. 2 Cor 12:3–4.
  306. Cf Cant. 3:4.
  307. In the text faressi that is faressi.
  308. Ps 39:13 (Vulg.)
  309. Ps 102:14 (Vulg.)
  310. This concept is like what St Augustine said: Ep, 217 ad Vitalem, n. 28 – 29 (PL 3, 988s).
  311. Cf. above, note 2, p. 62.
  312. Is 24:16. (King James version: I am ruined, I am ruined.)
  313. Ps 44, 2 (Vulg.).
  314. In the text = ricordati.
  315. Cf. Sir 36:1; Acts 20:28.
  316. Cf. LM, 1, 1. AFED II, p. 531.
  317. In the text lo scancello, here perdono.
  318. Cf Mt 2. However, this phrase is part of the liturgy of the Epiphany.
  319. Gen, 22:5a.
  320. Gen. 22:5b.
  321. Cf. Ps 5:8 (Vulg.)
  322. Ibid.
  323. Cf. Roman Breviary: Office of the Blessed Trinity.