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"And I beheld, and heard the voice of one eagle flying through the midst of heaven,
saying with a loud voice: Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth....
[Apocalypse (Revelation) 8:13]

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

On the Means we all have to become Saints (by Bishop Richard Challoner, 1815)

On the Means we all have to become Saints
(by Bishop Richard Challoner, 1815)

Consider first, that if our Lord calls upon us all to be Saints, and even commands us all to be Saints; he that never commands impossibilites, furnishes us also with the means, which, if we make good use of, will make us Saints. Witness, those manifold graces, and spiritual helps, which He continually favours us with; which if we duly corresponded with, we should all be Saints. Witness that early knowledge He has given us of His heavenly truths; and those repeated invitations with which He sweetly presses us to turn from our sins, and to come to Him. 

O if we did but welcome these first divine calls, how quickly would they produce in our souls strong desires of dedicating ourselves in good earnest to divine love! Now such strong desires as these are the beginning of true wisdom, and the very foundation of all sanctity. For since God desires we should be Saints, if we also sincerely desire it, the work will be done. Strong desires will make us earnest in prayer; they will make us diligent and fervent in all spiritual exercises. Strong desires will make us labour in earnest: we shall spare no pains in the acquisition of virtues, if our desires are strong indeed. Such desires as these are that hunger and thirst after justice, recommended by our Lord, which never fails of being filled, Matt. v. 6. O who can complain of wanting the means to become a Saint, when strong desires may do the work!

Consider secondly, the many particular helps for sanctity which we meet with every where in the church of God: which, as they have already made many great Saints, in every state and condition of life ; are capable of doing as much for us; and will not fail of doing it, if we are not wanting to God, and to ourselves, by the abuse or neglect of them. Such are the sacraments, those conduits of divine grace, instituted by Jesus Christ on purpose to make us Saints. Such, in particular, is that most holy sacrament, and divine sacrifice, of the body and blood of Christ; in which we have always amongst us, and may daily approach to, the very fountain of all sanctity. Oh! my soul, one good and perfect communion may suffice to make thee a Saint. Such again is the word of God, which is so often preached to us, or read by us: the truths of eternity, so often set before us: the gospel of Jesus Christ: the lives of the Saints: the great examples of the living servants of God: the mysteries relating to our redemption, which we so often celebrale in the public worship of the church, in such manner, as to make them as it were present to the eyes of our souls: with abundance of other spiritual advantages which are continually found in the communion of the true church of Christ. O, Christians, let us never complain of our wanting the means to become Saints, when we have so many powerful graces and helps always at hand! If we are not aints, it must be entirely our own fault. And, what an account shall we have one day to give for all these graces and helps, if we do not make good use of them!

Consider thirdly, that in order to be Saints, nothing is required on our parts, but what God on His part will make sweet and easy to us : for His yoke is sweet, and His burthen is light. We may apply to His commandment of our being Saints, what is written Deut. xxx. 11, &c. This commandment that I command thee this day, is not above thee, nor far off from thee: nor is it in heaven, that thou shouldst say, which of us can go up to heaven, to bring it to us: . . . nor is it beyond the sea, that thou mayest excuse thyself, and say, which of us can cross the sea, and bring it . . . . But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it. Yes, Christians, our God is very near us: He is in the very centre of our souls. With Him are all the treasures of grace and sanctity; with Him is the law of love, He is all love: He is a consuming fire, the property of which is to destroy all our vices, and to transform our souls into Himself. He is the inexhaustible source of all our good. We have no need then to go far to find divine love, which makes Saints; since we have the very source of it within us: it is but turning into our own interior, by the diligent practice of recollection and mental prayer, and there we shall quickly meet with our God, and with His love; which will make all duties, and all labours sweet and easy to us. This is the shortest way to all good, and the most effectual means to make us Saints.

Conclude to embrace, and put in practice all these means of sanctity, which divine providence continually present thee with. Open the door of thy heart to every grace with which God visits thee; and cooperate with it to the full extent of thy power. Nourish in thy soul a great desire, a perfect hunger and thirst after the love of God, and all Christian perfection. Meditate often; read good books; be fervent in prayer, and in frequenting the sacraments. But particularly aim at a spirit of recollection, and a continual attention to God, in thy own interior; and frequent aspirations of love; and thou shalt quickly become a Saint.
On the Perfection of our Ordinary Actions
Consider first, the error of a great many Christians, in placing sanctity in such things as indeed are no part of it. Thus some suppose that in order to be a Saint, one must work miracles; now St. John Baptist was one of the greatest of Saints, and yet wrought no miracle, St. John x. 41. And indeed one single act of humility, or selfdenial, or of the love of God, goes farther towards the making a Saint, than even the raising of the dead to life. Others again vainly imagine, that sanctity consists in having visions, revelations, and extasies; or in the gifts of prophecy, of tongues, or of an eminent knowledge of the most sublime and divine truths: because they often meet with such things as these in the lives of Saints: but none of these things made them Saints; and they have been even found in such as were no Saints: whilst on the other hand many eminent Saints have had none of them: neither ought any humble Christian to desire, or to seek for such things as these; though every Christian ought to desire, and to endeavour to be a Saint. Nor does sanctity consist in much fasting, or in wearing hair shirts, or in taking disciplines, or in giving large alms, or in reciting long prayers, or in any which, however good in themselves, have been found in hypocrites; or in such as have been all the while slaves to pride, self-love and passion. But true sanctity consists in unfeigned charity, in both its branches; that is, both as it regards the love of God, and of our neighbours: it consists in conformity with the will of God in all things, and adhering close to Him: it consists in being humble of heart, and sincerely despising ourselves: it consists in denying ourselves, and taking up our cross and following Christ. Such as do these things are Saints: where any of these is wanting, there is no sanctity.

Consider secondly, that sanctity does not so much depend upon doing extraordinary actions, as upon doing our ordinary actions extraordinarily well. Our life passes away in the daily ordinary actions, which take up our time from morning till night: such as our rising, our morning exercise, our daily labours, or the business of our calling, our regular devotions and spiritual lectures, our meals, our conversation, the employment of our thoughts, when our hands are at work, our examination of conscience at night, and our evening exercise, &c. Now if all these daily performances are done extraordinarily well, our whole time will be spent extraordinary well; and nothing more will be required to make us Saints. Neither will it cost us more to do them well than to do them ill: on the contrary, the better we perform them, and the more diligent and fervent we are in them, the more easy and delightful they will be to us; and the grace of God, and His blessing, will go along with all we do. O how inexcusable then are we, O! my soul, if we do not strive to be saints, when we may attain to this happiness, even by our daily ordinary actions, provided we perform them with due perfection!

Consider thirdly, that the perfection of our ordinary actions depends upon the purity of intention with which we perform them; on our attention to God in all that we do; and our seasoning all our labours and employments with frequent aspirations and ejaculations of divine love; and frequent oblations of ourselves, and of all that we do, to God. By thy ordinance the day goeth on, saith the royal Prophet, (Ps. cxviii. 91.) for all things serve thee. Yes, my soul, all things continually serve the Lord, but the rebel angels, and the rebellious will of man. Now this rebellious will of ours we bring to serve Him by beginning the day with an oblation of our whole selves to Him; by directing all our thoughts, words, and actions, by a pure intention, to His glory; by making His holy will the rule of all we do; by beginning every work with an offering of what we are going to do, together with an offering of our hearts to Him; and by often, renewing this offering in the midst of our works; by, doing all our actions, as much as we can, in His presence; and by intermingling acts of divine love with all we do. Thus shall our days be found to be full days; thus shall they all go on by God's ordinance; thus shall they all serve Him.

Conclude to take great care to give to all thy ordinary actions their due perfection, by following these rules. And as to thy daily employments, and all the business and labours of thy lawful calling; ever consider them as appointed by the holy will of God; and ever perform them in compliance with, and in obedience to His heavenly will; thus thou mayest make them all acts of virtue, and even acts of divine love. And if these thy daily employments be laborious, or otherwise mortifying or disagreeable to thy self-love, thou mayest also make them acts of penance; by accepting of them, as imposed upon thee by God, for thy sins; and offering them up to God, in union with the labours and sufferings of Jesus Christ, for thy sins. 

Litaniae Sanctorum (Litany of the Saints)