DIRECTORY FOR THE THIRD BOOK
1. THE aim of the Third Book is to teach us how to tend to that holiness which is called perfection. This holiness is acquired by virtues which are, in some manner, heroic; such as are usually practiced by them that bear their sufferings with the proper disposition of heart. Certain it is, as is proved by the example of all the Saints, that no one ever attained to true sanctity if he did not practice solid, and in some manner heroic, virtues in suffering. And this is not to be understood of those Saints only whom the Church has canonized, but of all those as well, who, although not canonized, strove to acquire that sanctity which Christ Our Lord taught to all by His word and example; and which each one's mode of life may enable him to reach. Of all these noble virtues, whereby sanctity is acquired, Jesus, in His suffering life, furnishes us the most beautiful living examples, full of encouragement and consolation. In His active life the virtues of His Heart do, indeed, shine forth clearly and constantly; and, gently and powerfully at the same time, persuade and allure him, who meditates thereon, to a proper imitation of them: but, in His suffering life, they glitter with all their perfection and splendor, and do not merely attract the person who meditates, but they also forcibly stimulate and urge him onward. Therefore, it is useful that we should first have meditated on His active life, and become initiated in the virtues of His Heart, when acting; and that we should even have made some progress therein, lest the grandeur and sublimity of the virtues of His suffering Heart might frighten or discourage us.
Now, this sanctity has two degrees: and each degree contains three methods.
In the first degree, all those things which cannot be avoided are religiously endured: according to the first method, they are endured with patience; according to the second, with agreement of our will with that of God; according to the third, with a certain supernatural joy.
In the second degree, all those things are endured which may, in some manner, be avoided; but which, when offered, are accepted with a free will, or are voluntarily sought after and assumed. And, by conformity of our will to the Divine Will, all these things are borne; first, through love of Jesus, for some supernatural end; for example, to make amends for the insults offered to Him, for the conversion of sinners, for the perseverance of the just, for the obtaining of this or that good; secondly, through a desire of conformity with Jesus, and of the fruits to be gathered from this conformity so holy and so full of love; thirdly, through the purest love, so that, laying aside, as far as we may, every private consideration, we become uniform with Jesus, and thus well-pleasing to Him.
2. Be persuaded that, in whatsoever state or condition of life you may be, you will really become a Saint if you suffer rightly those things which the Lord will give you to suffer. For, if you merit and make progress by every single act of a common or ordinary virtue, how much more will you gain and advance by acts of heroic virtue;-----such as are frequently wont to be performed in times of misfortune!
Remember what it is you merit by every act of an ordinary virtue, when rightly performed in the state of grace: first, a new degree, or increase of sanctifying grace,-----which you receive immediately, and whereby you become more perfect in yourself, and dearer to the Lord: again, at the same time, a new and corresponding degree of glory or everlasting bliss,-----which you shall receive in Heaven, where it is treasured up and awaiting you. And these two you gain condignly, that is, according to merit; so that they are justly due to you, according to that promise, by which God has, freely indeed, but truly, obligated Himself. This kind of merit which is strictly called merit, is personal, and not communicated with others.
Moreover, you can merit a certain degree or special help of actual, even efficacious grace,-----whereby the understanding is enlightened and directed, and the will encouraged and strengthened to avoid evil, and to do good: and over and above as it were, a part of the great gift of final perseverance. But these two you can only merit congruously, or according to propriety,-----so that they are never due to you by justice, but simply by a suitableness or becomingness, and by the Divine liberality. For to these God has not bound Himself by any promise. As, however, He is supremely liberal, it is befitting in Him, that even so He reward our supernatural acts: neither has He given us any reason for fearing that we shall be disappointed. In this wise you cannot only merit these two for yourself, but also for others.
Now, these degrees, which you merit through virtue, may be greater or smaller,-----according as the meritorious acts are more or less perfect. For it may happen, that one heroic act, whereby, with a noble and generous heart, you sacrifice or endure something perfectly, merits more for you than a hundred, a thousand or even more ordinary acts. And, indeed, St. Chrysostom asserts that holy Job, by the one act whereby, amid his misfortunes, he conformed himself to the Will of God, merited more than by all the acts which he performed throughout the whole of his previous life, in the days of his prosperity.
We should be mindful of these things, during our short-lived existence, which has been granted us, that we may gather merits for all eternity. For they will help us to avoid those delusions which are peculiar to this part of the interior life. Of which this one is wont to be the more common: To hearken too much to the feelings or repugnances of nature, thus fixing our attention on the secondary causes of our afflictions, and to decline, under some pretext or other, the sufferings presented to us by Our Lord, or at least bear them with an ill-disposed heart; or even to seek another way than the one through which Jesus Himself walked,-----which He smoothed for us, by which He calls us, that with all His Saints we may follow Him with the same disposition of heart with which He has gone before us.
3. Wherefore, when you are occupied with the things treated in this Book, you should assiduously look and aim at this, that you understand, as perfectly as you can, not only the unspeakable afflictions and sorrows of the Son of God; but, especially, the affections and dispositions of His Heart. For here a measureless treasure lies concealed, which a diligent and fervent searcher alone can find and explore. The more attentively and devotedly you shall meditate on the Heart of your suffering Lord, the more perfect things you shall find, and the more possessions you shall acquire.
4. The method of using this Book,-----beside the two given before the First Book, and which may also be employed here,-----is of two kinds: both of which are placed before the Second Book, and which are here adapted to the meditation or contemplation of the Passion of Jesus Christ.
In meditating, therefore, let the memory propose some virtue, according to the particular period of the Passion of our Lord: and let it remember the same after the meditation, so that you may be able suitably to practice it.
Let the understanding meditate on the virtue,-----examining its causes and ends, its modes and its circumstances: considering with what dispositions of Heart Jesus practiced that virtue: then compare the state of your heart in its regard: afterward, look back and examine your past life concerning the same; return thanks, and ask for perseverance, if hitherto you have duly practiced it: if the contrary, make an act of contrition, and, through the suffering Heart of Jesus, ask for pardon: finally, look to the future and see when, and how, you may practice this same virtue.
Let the will embrace the virtue, perform interior acts of it, and resolve to practice it, both inwardly and outwardly, at the proper time; frequently insisting, meanwhile, on pious affections and petitions.
But in contemplating, see what Jesus suffers, and under what circumstances, in this mystery, or particular subject: Who He is that thus suffers, from whom, and for whom.
Afterwards, give ear to the words which Jesus there utters; or observe how He is silent, and interiorly pours forth the prayers of His Heart to God the Father.
Lastly, look devoutly and attentively into the Heart of Jesus; see how that Heart is disposed, from which things so heroic proceed. And throughout the contemplation, as much as you can, give yourself up to pious effusions of heart, both by acts and petitions.
The acts in which you employ yourself, during meditation or contemplation, may be various or different; according as you feel affected, or according as you may need, or even according as you may be moved interiorly by the Spirit of God.
You may usefully exercise your faith, and frequently excite lively acts of it, by acknowledging in every mystery Jesus as God, and by adoring Him in His humiliations and sufferings, by which the Divinity, in some manner, hides itself for love of us.
It will also help, often and sweetly, to indulge in hope, being persuaded that if, by a gratuitous love, the Lord did and endured so much in order to save you when every way undeserving; now, that you are willing to co-operate, He will not refuse you what is beyond comparison less, namely, the means of salvation and perfection.
Your heart will, in some manner, spontaneously, be enkindled with love for Jesus, your God and Saviour, when you see how He suffers for love of you. For, since He suffered and died for all and every one, each one can and must truly say: "Jesus loved me, and delivered Himself up for me." (Gal. ii. 20.)
Frequently occupy your heart with abhorrence and detestation of sin; seeing what torments the Son of God endured for it in His most sacred Humanity.
Hatred for the wicked world will spring up in your heart, if you attend to what, and how immensely, Jesus suffered from the same world.
Compassion for Jesus suffering will take wholly possession of you, if you look at Him with a devoted and sympathizing heart.
You will feel a fervent zeal to compensate for the affronts so unworthily offered to Him; for which end you will frequently offer up your own pious desires, good works, and sufferings.
You should, above all, study attentively in each mystery the dispositions and sentiments of the Heart of Jesus suffering, and make the same your own. For, unless you do this, you may indeed meditate on the Passion of Jesus, but you cannot imitate His Heart: you may indeed suffer, but you cannot suffer profitably: you may be burdened with the cross, but you cannot follow Jesus.
The petitions, which it is proper to make, may be various, as well as different. Yea, the objects of the petitions have so wide a scope, that it is not easy to find a limit for them. For you may ask for the gift, or for an increase, of faith, hope, charity; of horror of sin and detestation of the world; of compassion for Jesus and zeal for His honor; lastly, of all virtues and graces; and this not for yourself alone, but also for every one of your neighbors-----as was said before the Second Book, and is here repeated, in order to impress deeply on the mind that which cannot be too much inculcated, that the affections or acts of virtues and petitions are of the utmost importance; since from them, after grace, the unction of prayer and its chief fruit are wont to be derived.
5. As regards the discernment of spirits, the following rules, which are here peculiarly appropriate, are given by the Saints.
The first. That is properly called spiritual consolation, when interiorly there is excited some emotion, whereby the soul is enkindled with Divine love; whether directly,-----as when she is inflamed with the love of God on account of the Divine goodness; or whether indirectly, as when she is moved to the Divine love by considering the Passion of Jesus Christ, or by sorrow for sins committed against the Lord, or by any other cause whatsoever,-----rightly ordered to the service of God. Again, every increase of faith, of hope, of charity, is also a spiritual consolation. Lastly, every inward joy, which stirs up the soul to supernal things, to salvation and perfection, and renders her tranquil in the Lord, is likewise a spiritual consolation.
The second. Whatever is contrary to the things pointed out in the preceding rule, is called spiritual desolateness: as a darkening of the soul, disturbance, or a certain sluggishness; an agitation which moves her to diffidence, which opposes hope or charity; finally, any instigation to the low things of nature, interior sadness,-----which makes the mind dejected or restless.
The third. To God alone it belongs to give consolation to the soul, without any preceding cause: since it is peculiar to the Creator to enter His creature, to draw, to turn, to change it wholly to the love of Himself. And then do we say, that no cause precedes, when the consolation is imparted without any previous feeling or thought of any object, whence such a consolation might come to the soul by the acts of her own understanding or will.
The fourth. When a cause of consolation did precede, then the evil as well as the good Spirit can, in some manner, give consolation to the soul, but for contrary ends: the good one, for the advancement of the soul, that she may act rightly, and ascend from good to better; but the evil one, for the opposite, that she may be perverted and ruined.
The fifth. In time of desolateness, no change should ever be made: but we must stand, firmly and manfully, in the intentions and resolves in which we were during the time that preceded this kind of desolateness. Because, as, during spiritual consolation, the good Spirit is more wont to move us, and we also use more readily our natural powers; so, in time of desolateness, the evil spirit does rather stir us up, at whose instigation,-----whilst our faculties are more or less impeded,-----we can hardly take safe counsels to act rightly.
The sixth. Although, in time of desolateness, we ought not to change our former resolutions, yet it is very useful to change our manner of acting, so that we may fight against the desolateness itself; first, by giving ourselves more to prayer; secondly, by examining ourselves the more, in order to humble and throw ourselves into the divine mercy of the Heart of Jesus; thirdly, by exercising ourselves more in performing works of penance or charity in a prudent manner.
The seventh. He who suffers from desolateness should remember that he is being tried by our Lord, left to his own natural powers with an ordinary grace, and also a special one, although not sensible; that thus, by resisting the various instigations of the enemy, he may display the fidelity of his love. For he is able to resist, with the Divine grace, which remains with him,-----although he does not sensibly experience the same.
And let him who enjoys consolation consider how he will conduct himself in the desolateness which is about to come upon him: let him gather new strength to bear up against future desolateness: let him strive to humble himself at the thought of how little he is able to do, when not specially and sensibly assisted by our Lord.
Finally, let him who is in desolateness, as well as the one who is in consolation, take care to apply himself to acquire, or to strengthen, solid virtues, and thus sanctify himself.
-----ST. IGNAT., ST. BONAVENTURE., ST. MARY MAGD. OF PAZZI.