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The first Chapter treats of the means of continuing in the grace of God; the second contains acts of the pious practices to be observed; and the third explains the practice of the principal Christian virtues.

Chapter First.

On the means of continuing in the grace of God.

IT is necessary to be fully convinced that, in order to obtain salvation, we must not only desire to be saved, but also adopt the means of being saved left us by Jesus Christ. If we fall into sin, it will be of no avail for us to attempt an excuse at the day of judgment, by saying that our temptations were very strong and ourselves very weak: because God gives us the means of overcoming by his grace all the assaults of our enemies; if, therefore, we will not avail ourselves of them and are overcome, the fault is our own. All persons desire to be saved, but the greater part, because they will not adopt the means of being saved, fall into sins and are lost.

The first means is to avoid and fly from the occasions of sin. He who is not careful to avoid and fly from the occasions of sin, particularly such as allure him to sensual gratifications, cannot possibly avoid falling into sin. St. Philip Neri said: "In the war of the senses, those cowards who fly "become the conquerors." The occasion, when not fled from, becomes as a bandage bound over our eyes, which will not allow us to see anything, neither God, nor hell, nor our former good resolutions. The scripture tells us that it is impossible to walk upon burning coals and not be burnt: Can a man walk upon hot coals and his feet not be burnt? Prov. vi. 28. In like manner it is morally impossible to expose ourselves voluntarily to the danger of alluring occasions and not fall, although we may have made a thousand resolutions and a thousand promises to God. The truth of this is proved by the misfortune of so many poor souls who are daily carried headlong into vice, because they will not fly from dangerous occasions. And he who is addicted to any habit of impurity, let him know that to restrain himself, it will not be sufficient to avoid merely the immediate occasions of temptations; if he will not avoid those also which are not altogether immediate occasions he will be very easily overcome and will fall. Let us not suffer ourselves to be deceived by the devil, who tells us that we are safe, because the person who is the subject of temptation to us is holy; it often happens that, the more devout such a person is, the more violent is the temptation. St. Thomas of Aquinas says that the most holy persons have the greatest attractions. The temptation begins in the spirit and ends in the flesh. A great servant of God, Father Sertorius Caputo of the Society of Jesus, observes that the devil first endeavours to induce us to love virtue in certain pious persons, and then to love the persons

themselves, when he blinds us and hurries us into sin. It is necessary also to avoid wicked companions: we are very weak, the devil is continually tempting us, and the senses alluring us to evil, yet the influence of one wicked companion will more easily overcome us than all these. The first thing therefore that we must do to be saved, is to keep ourselves at a distance from dangerous occasions and wicked companions. And in this it is necessary to use violence with ourselves, and overcome all human respect. He who does not use violence with himself, will not be saved. It is true we are not to confide in our own strength, but only in the divine assistance; but God requires of us on our part to do violence to ourselves in order to obtain heaven. The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away. St Matt. xi. 12.

never sin.

The second means is mental prayer. Without this it will be difficult for the soul to continue long in the grace of God. In all thy works, says the Holy Spirit, remember thy last end, and thou shalt Eccl. vii. 40. He who frequently meditates on his last end, upon death, judgment, hell and heaven, will not fall into sin: but these truths are not to be discerned by the eyes, but only by the mind; if they be not dwelt upon, they vanish from the mind; and the pleasures of sense presenting themselves, easily gain admittance into the hearts of those who do not keep in mind the eternal truths; and hence it is that so many abandon themselves to vice and are lost. All Christians know and believe that they must die, and must be judged after death; but because they do not think of these things, they live at a distance from God. Without mental prayer we can have no light, but must walk in the dark, and walking in the dark we cannot perceive dangers, we cannot take precautions; we ask not God for his assistance, and thus

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we must be lost. Without prayer there is neither light nor strength for us to walk forward in the way of God; because without prayer we ask not God to give us his help; and hence not praying we must certainly fall. Hence Cardinal Bellarmin says that it is morally impossible for a Christian who does not meditate upon eternal truths to continue in the grace of God. On the contrary, he who meditates every day, will not easily fall into sin; and if by some misfortune he should fall, he will, by a continuance in prayer, soon arise and return again to God. A servant of God once said: "Mental prayer and mortal sin can never exist together." Resolve, therefore, to make every day, either in the morning or in the evening, but better in the morning, half an hour's meditation. Refer to Sect. II. of the following chapter, and you will there find briefly explained the method of performing this kind of prayer. For the rest, it is sufficient to read during the half hour some book of meditations, either this or one of the many others, and excite within you from time to time some pious affection, and make some prayer to God. Above all I beseech you never to relinquish this kind of prayer, but to make it at least once in the day, although you should be in great dryness of spirit, and should find it very irksome. If you continue faithful to it, you will assuredly be saved.

Together with prayer it is of great use to be diligent in spiritual reading, out of some book that treats of the holy lives of the saints, or of the christian virtues; and this for half an hour or at least a quarter of an hour every day. How many by reading some devout book have changed their lives and become saints! St. John Colombinus, St. Ignatius, and so many others. It would also very useful every year to make a retreat in some


religious house. But at least never fail to make your meditation every morning.

The third means is the frequenting of the Sacraments of Penance and the Holy Communion. By confession the soul is kept purified, and by it not only are our faults forgiven us, but additional helps are obtained for us for resisting temptations. And for this end you have your director; always confess to him and not to another, and consult him on all affairs of importance, even though they be of a temporal nature; and obey him in everything, particularly if you are troubled with scruples. He who obeys his director never need be afraid of doing wrong. He who hears you, hears me. St. Luke, x. 16. The voice of your director is the voice of God.

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The Holy Communion is called heavenly bread; because as earthly bread maintains the life of the body, so does the Holy Communion maintain the life of the soul: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man you shall not have life in you. St. John, vi. 54. On the contrary, to him who frequently eats of this bread, is promised eternal life: If any man eat of this bread he shall live for ever. Ibid. 52. Hence the Council of Trent (Sess. 13, c. 2.) calls the Holy Communion a "Medicine which frees us from venial sins and preserves us from mortal " ones." Resolve, therefore, to communicate at least every eight days, with a determination not to allow any worldly affair to prevent you from so doing; there is no affair of greater importance than eternal salvation. Besides, the more you are in the world, the greater need have you of spiritual help, because you are exposed to greater temptations. How to make a good confession and communion, is explained in Sect. III. of the following chapter, where you will find acts to be used

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