CH. XXXV. OF THE MEANS WHEREBY VIRTUES ARE ACQUIRED, AND HOW WE SHOULD USE THEN SO AS TO ATTEND FOR SOME CONSIDERABLE TIME TO ONE VIRTUE ONLY.
For the attainment of holiness we need, besides all that has been already described, a great and generous heart, a will that is neither slack nor remiss, but firm and resolute, and withal a certain expectation of having to pass through many bitter and adverse trials.
And further, there are particular inclinations and affections which we may acquire by frequently considering how pleasing they are to God, how excellent and noble in themselves, and how useful and necessary to us, inasmuch as from them and in them all perfection has its origin and end.
Let us, then, make a steadfast resolution every morning to exercise ourselves therein according to the occasions which may arise in the course of the day; during which we should often examine ourselves, to see whether or not we have fulfilled them, renewing them afterwards more earnestly. And all this with especial reference to that virtue which we have in hand.
So also, let the examples of the saints, and our prayers and meditations on the life and passion of Christ, which are so needful in every spiritual exercise, be applied principally to the particular virtue in which we are for the time exercising ourselves.
Let us do the same on all occasions which may arise, however various in kind, as we shall presently explain more particularly. Let us so inure ourselves to acts of virtue, both interior and exterior, that we may come at last to perform them with the same promptness and facility with which in times past we performed others agreeable to our natural will. And, as we said before, the more opposed such acts are to these natural wishes, the more speedily will the good habit be introduced into our soul.
The sacred words of Holy Scripture, either uttered with the lips or pondered in the heart, as may best suit our case, have a marvelous power to aid us in this exercise. We should therefore have many such in readiness to bear upon the virtue we wish to practice; and these we should repeat continually throughout the day, and especially at each rising of the rebellious passion. For instance, if we are striving to attain the virtue of patience, we may repeat the following words, or others like them:
"My children, suffer patiently the wrath which is come upon you." Baruch iv. 25.
"The patience of the poor shall not perish for ever." Ps. ix. 18.
"The patient man is better than the valiant; and he that ruleth his spirit, than he that taketh cities." Prov. xvi. 32.
"In your patience you shall possess your souls." St. Luke xxi. 19.
"Let us run by patience to the fight proposed to us." Heb. xii. 1.
To the same end we may, in like manner, use such prayers as the following:
"When, O my God, shall this heart of mine be armed with the buckler of patience?"
"When shall I learn to bear every trouble with a quiet mind, that so I may please my Lord?"
"O most dear sufferings, which liken me unto my Lord Jesus, crucified for me!"
"Only life of my soul I shall ever, for Your glory, live contented amid a thousand torments!"
"How blessed shall I be, if, in the midst of the fire of tribulation, I burn with the desire of even greater sufferings!"
Let us use these short prayers, and others suitable to our advancement in holiness, that we may acquire the spirit of devotion.
These short prayers are called ejaculations, because they are darted like javelins towards heaven. They have great power to excite us to virtue; and will penetrate even to the heart of God, if only they have these two accompaniments for their wings:
The one a full certainty that our exercise of virtue is wellpleasing to our God.
The other - a true and fervent desire for the attainment of virtue, for the sole end of pleasing His Divine Majesty.
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