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The Soul Of The Apostolate

I want to use my Mass, Breviary, and other liturgical functions to unite myself more and more, both as MEMBER and AMBASSADOR, to the life of the Church, and thus more fully to put on Christ, and Christ crucified, especially if I am His MINISTER.

It is You, Jesus, that I adore as Center of the Liturgy. It is You Who give unity to this Liturgy, which I may define as the public, social, official worship given by the Church of God, or, the whole complex of means which the Church uses especially in the Missal, Ritual, and Breviary, and by which she expresses her religion to the adorable Trinity, as well as instructs and sanctifies souls.

O my soul, you must go into the very heart of the Adorable Trinity and contemplate there the eternal Liturgy in which the three Persons chant, one to another, their divine Life and infinite Sanctity, in their ineffable hymn of the generation of the Word and the procession of the Holy Spirit. Sicut erat in principio . . .

God desires to be praised outside of Himself. He created the angels, and heaven resounded with their joyous cries of Sanc-tus, Sanctus, Sanctus. He created the visible world and it magnifies His power: “The heavens announce the glory of God.”

Adam comes to life and begins to sing, in the name of creation, a hymn of praise in echo of the everlasting Liturgy. Adam, Noah, Melchisedech, Abraham, Moses, the people of God, David, and all the saints of the Old Law vied in chanting it. The Jewish Pasch, their sacrifices and holocausts, the solemn worship of Jehovah in His Temple, gave this praise, especially since the fall. “Praise is not seemly in the mouth of a sinner.”

Non est speciosa laus in ore peccatoris (Eccli. 15:9).

You, Jesus, You alone are the perfect hymn of praise, because You are the true glory of the Father. No one can worthily glorify Your Father, except through You. Per Ipsum, et cum Ipso et in Ipso est tibi Deo Patr . . . omnis honor et Gloria.

By Him and with Him and in Him, all honor and glory are given to Thee, O God the Father (Canon of the Mass).

You are the link between the Liturgy of earth and the Liturgy of heaven, in which You give Your elect a more direct participation. Your Incarnation came and united, in a living and substantial union, mankind and all creation, with the Liturgy of God Himself. Thus it is God Who praises God, in our Liturgy. And this is full and perfect praise, which finds its apogee in the sacrifice of Calvary.

Divine Savior, before You left the earth, You instituted the Sacrifice of the New Law, in order to renew Your immolation. You also instituted Your Sacraments, in order to communicate Your life to souls.

But You left Your Church the care of surrounding this Sacrifice and these Sacraments with symbols, ceremonies, exhortations, prayers, etc., in order that she might thus pay greater honor to the Mystery of the Redemption, and make it more understandable to her children, and help them to gain more profit from it while exciting in their souls a respect full of awe.

You also gave Your Church the mission of continuing until the end of time the prayer and praise which Your Heart never ceased to send up to Your Father during Your mortal life and which It still goes on offering to Him, in the Tabernacle and in the splendor of Your glory in heaven.

The Church, who loves You as a Spouse, and who is full of a Mother’s love for us, which comes to her from Your own Heart, has carried out this twofold task. That is how those wonderful collections were formed, which include all the riches of the Liturgy.

Ever since, the Church has been uniting her praises to those which the angels and her own elect children have been giving to God in heaven. In this way, she already begins to do, here below, what is destined to occupy her for all eternity.

United to the praises of the man-God, this praise, the prayer of the Church, becomes divine and the Liturgy of the earth becomes one with that of the celestial hierarchies in the Court of Christ, echoing that everlasting praise which springs forth from the furnace of infinite love which is the Most Holy Trinity.

Lord, the laws of Your Church do not bind me strictly to anything but the faithful observance of the rubrics and the correct pronunciation of words.

But is there any doubt that You want my good will to give You more than this? You want my mind and heart to profit by the riches hidden in the Liturgy and thus be more united to Your Church and come thereby to a closer union with Yourself.

Good Master, the example of Your most faithful servants makes me eager to come and sit down at the splendid feast to which the Church invites me, certain that I will find, in the Divine Office, in the forms, ceremonies, collects, epistles, gospels, and so on which accompany the holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the administration of the Sacraments, healthful and abundant food to nourish my interior life.

Let us dwell on the basic idea that ties all the elements of the Liturgy together, and the fruits by which progress may be recognized will preserve us from illusion.

Each one of the sacred rites may be compared to a precious stone. Yet how much greater will be the value and brilliance of those that belong to the Mass and Office, when I know how to enshrine them all together in that marvelous setting: the liturgical cycle.

The Church, inspired by God and instructed by the Holy Apostles, has disposed the year in such a way that we may find in it, together with the life, the mysteries, the preaching and doctrine of Jesus Christ, the true fruit of all these in the admirable virtues of His servants and in the examples of His saints, and, finally, a mysterious compendium of the Old and New Testaments and of the whole of Ecclesiastical History. And thus, all the seasons are full of rich fruits for a Christian; all are full of Jesus Christ. In this variety, which all together leads up to that single unity recommended by Christ, the clean and pious soul will find, together with celestial pleasures, solid nourishment and an everlasting renewal of fervor. (Bossuet: Funeral Sermon on Maria Theresia of Austria).

When my soul lives, throughout a certain period of time, under the influence of a mystery, and is nourished by all that Scripture and tradition offer that is most instructive in this subject, and is constantly directed and made attentive to the same order of ideas, it must necessarily be influenced by this concentration, and find in the thoughts suggested by the Church a food as nourishing as it is delightful, and which will prepare it to receive that special grace which God reserves for each period, each Feast of the Cycle.

The Mystery comes to fill me not only as an abstract truth, absorbed in meditation, but gripping my whole being, bringing into play even my sense faculties, to stir up my heart and direct my will. It is more than a mere commemoration of some past event, or an ordinary anniversary: it is living actuality with all the character of a present event to which the Church gives an application here and now, and in which she really and truly takes part.

For instance, in the Christmas Season, rejoicing before the altar at the coming of the Holy Child, my soul can repeat: “Today Christ is born, today the Savior has appeared, today the angels sing on earth . . .

Hodie Christus natus est, hodie Salvator apparuit, hodie in terra canunt angeli . . . (Office of Christmas).

At each period in the liturgical Cycle, my Missal and Breviary disclose to me new rays of the love of Him Who is for us at the same time Teacher, Doctor, Consoler, Savior, and Friend. On the Altar, just as at Bethlehem or Nazareth, or on the shore of the Lake of Tiberias, Jesus reveals Himself as Light, Love, Kindness, and Mercy. He reveals Himself above all as Love personified, because He is Suffering personified, in agony at Gethsemani, atoning on Calvary.

And so the liturgical life gives the Eucharistic life its full development. And Your Incarnation, O Jesus, that brought God close to us, making Him visible to us in You, continues to do the very same thing for us all, in each of the mysteries that we celebrate.

So it is, dear Lord, that thanks to the Liturgy, I can share in the Church’s life and in Your own. With her, every year, I witness the mysteries of Your Hidden life, Your Public life, Life of Suffering, and Life in Glory; and with her, I cull the fruits of them all. Besides, the periodic feasts of Our Lady and the Saints who have best imitated Your interior Life bring me, also, an increase of light and strength by placing their example before my eyes, helping me to reproduce Your virtues in myself and to inspire the faithful with the spirit of Your Gospel.

How am I to carry out, in my apostolate, the desire of Pius X? How are the faithful going to be helped, by me, to enter into an active participation in the Holy Mysteries and in the public and solemn prayer of the Church

In the very first year of his pontificate, on November 22, 1903, Pius X issued his celebrated motu proprio on Sacred Music, here quoted by Dom Chautard. The passage, in full, runs:

“We believe it our first duty to raise our voice, without further delay, to reprove and condemn everything, which in the functions of the cult and the celebration of the offices of the Church, departs from the right rule which has been laid down. For it is, in fact, our keen desire that the true Christian spirit may once more flourish, cost what it may, and be maintained among all the faithful: and to that end it is necessary to provide, above all, that everything be holy and dignified in the church where the faithful gather together to draw this spirit from its prime and indispensable source: the active participation in the sacrosanct mysteries and the public and solemn prayer of the Church. For it is vain for us to hope to bring down upon ourselves, to this end, the abundance of the blessings of heaven if our homage to the Most High, instead of rising in an odor of sweetness, on the contrary places in the hand of the Lord the scourge with which our Divine Redeemer once chased the vile profaners from the Temple.”

which that Pope called the PRIME AND INDISPENSABLE SOURCE of the true Christian spirit, if I myself pass by the treasures of the Liturgy without even suspecting what wonders are to be found therein?

If I am going to put more unity into my spiritual life, and unite myself still more to the life of the Church, I will aim at tying up all my other pious exercises with the Liturgy, as far as I possibly can. For instance, I will give preference to a subject for meditation which has a connection with the liturgical period, or feast, or cycle. In my visits to the Blessed Sacrament, I will converse more readily, according to the season, with the Child Jesus, Jesus suffering, Jesus glorified, Jesus living in His Church, and so on. Private reading on the Mystery or on the life of the Saint being honored at the time will also contribute much to this plan for a liturgical spirituality.

My adorable Master, deliver me from all fake liturgical life. It is ruinous to the interior life, above all because it weakens the spiritual combat.

Preserve me from a piety which would have the liturgical life consist in a lot of poetic thrills, or in an intriguing study of religious archaeology, or else which leads to quietism and its awful consequences; for quietism strikes at the very roots of the interior life: fear, hope, the desire of salvation, and of perfection, the fight against faults and labor to acquire virtue.

Make me really convinced that in this age of absorbing and dangerous occupations, the liturgical life, no matter how perfect it may be, can never dispense anyone from morning mental prayer.

Keep far from me all sentimentality and fake piety which make the liturgical life consist in impressions and emotions, and leave the will the slave of the imagination and feelings.

Not that You want me to remain cold to all the beauty and poetry which the Liturgy contains. Far from it! The Church uses her chant and her ceremonies to appeal to the sense faculties, and to reach, through them, the souls of her children more fully, and to give to their wills a more effective presentation of the true goods, and raise them up more surely, more easily, and more completely to God.

I can therefore enjoy all the changeless, wholesome refreshment of dogma thrown into relief by Liturgy, and let myself be moved by the majestic spectacle of a solemn High Mass, and esteem the prayers of absolution of the touching rites of Baptism, Extreme Unction, the Burial Service, and so on.

But I must never lose sight of the fact that all the resources offered by the holy Liturgy are nothing but means to arrive at the sole end of all interior life: to put to death the old manthat You, Jesus, may reign in his place.

I will, therefore, be leading a genuine liturgical life if I am so penetrated with the spirit of the Liturgy that I use my Mass, Prayers, and Official Rites to intensify my union with the Church, and thus to progress in my participation in the interior Life of Jesus Christ, and hence in His virtues, so that I will give a truer reflection of Him in the eyes of the faithful.

Jesus, this liturgical life means a special attraction for all that pertains to worship.

To some people, You have freely given this attraction. Others are less privileged. But if they ask You for it, and aid themselves by studying and reflecting, they too will obtain it.

The meditation I shall make, later on, upon the advantages of the liturgical life, is going to increase my thirst to acquire it at any price. At present I pause to consider the distinctive characteristics of this life, which give it such an important place in spirituality.

Union, even remote, together with the Church, to Your Sacrifice, by thought and intention, O Jesus: this is already a great thing. So is it to find one’s prayer fused with the official and unceasing prayer of Your Church. The heart of the ordinary baptized Christian thus takes flight with more certainty towards God, carried up to Him by Your praises, adoration, thanksgiving, reparation, and petition.

Union with somebody else’s prayer can lead one to a high degree of prayer! Take the case of the peasant who offered to carry the baggage of St. Ignatius and his companions. When he noticed that, as soon as they arrived at some inn, the Fathers hastened to find some quiet spot and recollect themselves before God, he did as they did, and fell on his knees too. One day they asked him what he did when he thus recollected himself, and he answered: “All I do is say: ‘Lord, these men are saints, and I am their packhorse. Whatever they do, I want to be doing too’; and so that is what I offer up to God.” (Cf. Rodriguez, Christian Perf. Pt. I, Tr. 5, ch. xix).

If this man came, by means of the continuous practice of this exercise, to a high degree of prayer and spirituality, how much more can even a man without education advance in union with the liturgical life of the Church.

A Cistercian lay-brother of Clairvaux was watching the sheep during the night of the Assumption. He did his best, chiefly by reciting the Angelic Salutation, to unite himself to the Matins which the monks were singing in choir, the distant bells for which had reached him, out in the hills. God revealed to St. Bernard that the simple and humble devotion of this Brother had been so pleasing to Our Lady that she had preferred it to that of the monks, fervent as they were. (Exordium Magnum Ord. Cisterciensis, D. 4, c. xiii. Migne: Patr. Lat., Vol. 185).

An active participation (Pope Pius X’s own words) in the sacro-sanct mysteries and in the public and solemn prayer: that means assisting at this worship with piety and understanding; it means an avid desire to profit by the feasts and ceremonies; better still, it means serving Mass, and answering the prayers, or joining in the recitation and chanting of the Office. Is not all this a way to enter more directly into the thoughts of Your Church, and to draw from the prime and indispensable source of the Christian spirit?

Pius X, Mot. Prop. Nov. 22, 1903, on Sacred Music.

But then, O Holy Church, what a noble mission it is to present oneself each day, by virtue of ordination or religious profession, united to the angels and the elect, as your ambassador before the throne of God, there to utter your official prayer!

Incomparably more sublime, and beyond all power of expression, is the dignity of a sacred minister who becomes Your other self, O my Divine Redeemer, by administering the Sacraments, and above all by celebrating the Holy Sacrifice.

First Principle

As a member of the Church, I must have the conviction that when I take part, even as a plain Christian,

The priest, and even the bishop, is present, like any ordinary member of the faithful, only in his capacity as a plain Christian when he assists at a ceremony, when exercising no special function in it, profiting from it in the ordinary way.

in a liturgical ceremony, I am united to the whole Church not only through the Communion of Saints, but by virtue of a real and active co-operation in an act of religion which the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, offers as a society to God. And by this notion the Church like a true Mother helps dispose my soul to receive the Christian virtues.

We can better understand the efficacy of the Liturgy in making us live the life of grace and in making the whole interior life more easily accessible to us, when we recall that all official prayer, every ceremony instituted by the Church, possesses an impetratory power which is, in itself, irresistible, per se efficacissima. In this case the prayer that is put into operation to obtain a particular grace is more than just an individual gesture, the isolated prayer of a soul, however excellently disposed; it is also the act of the whole Church who becomes a suppliant with us. It is the voice of the dearly beloved Spouse, which always gives joy to the Heart of God, and which He always hears and answers in some way.

To sum it all up in a word: the impetratory power of the Liturgy is made up of two elements: the opus operantis of the soul making use of the Great Sacramental of the Liturgy, and the opus operantis of the Church. The two actions, that of the soul and that of the Church, are like two forces that combine and leap up, in a single momentum, to God.

Your Church, Lord Jesus, forms a perfect society, whose members, closely united one to another, are destined to form an even more perfect and more holy society, that of the Elect.

As a Christian I am a member of that Body of which You are the Head and the Life. And that is the point of view from which You look at me, Divine Savior. So I give You a special joy when, in presenting myself before You, I speak to You as my Head, and consider myself as one of the sheep of that Fold of which You are the only Shepherd, and which includes in its unity all my brothers in the Church militant, suffering and triumphant.

Your Apostle taught me this doctrine which expands my soul and broadens the horizons of my spirituality. And thus it is, he says, that “As in one body we have many members, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.”

Sicut enim in uno corpore multa membra habemus . . . ita multi unum sumus in Christo, singuli autem alter alterius membra (Rom. 12:4–5).

And elsewhere: “For as the body is one and hath many members: and all the members of the body, whereas they are many, yet are one body, so also is Christ.”

Sicut enim corpus unum est, et membra habet multa, omnia autem membra corporis cum sint multa, unum tamen corpus sunt; ita et Christus (1 Cor. 12:12).

There, then, is the unity of Your Church, indivisible in the parts and in the whole, all entirely present in the whole Body, and all in each one of the parts,

Unusquisque fidelium quasi quaedam minor videtur esse Ecclesia dum salvo unitatis arcanae mysterio, etiam cuncta Redemptionis humanae unus homo suscipit Sacramenta (St. Peter Damian, Opusc. xi. c. 10. Migne, Patr. Lat., Vol. 145, col. 239).

“Each one of the faithful may be called a little Church in himself, since, with the mystery of this hidden unity, one man receives all the Sacraments of man’s Redemption (which were given by Our Lord to the whole Church).” This passage is taken from St. Peter Damian’s beautiful treatise on the Mystical Body which is also a treatise on the Liturgy, the “Liber qui Dicitur Dominus Vobiscum,” or the tract on the “Dominus Vobiscum.” The present words occur in his discussion of the way each one of the faithful can say “miserere MEI Deus,” and “Deus in adjutorium MEUM intende” (as it is in the psalm and at the beginning of each hour in the monastic Breviary), both in his own name and in that of the whole Church.

united in the Holy Spirit, united in You, Jesus, and brought by this union into the unique and eternal society of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

St. Peter Damian, quoted by D. Gréa, La Sainte Liturgie, p. 51.

The Church is the assembly of the faithful who, under the government of the same authority, are united by the same faith and the same charity, and tend to the same end, that is, incorporation in Christ by the same means, which are summed up in grace, of which the ordinary channels are prayer and the Sacraments.

The great prayer, and the favorite channel of grace is liturgical prayer, the prayer of the Church herself, more powerful than the prayer of single individuals and even of pious associations, no matter how powerful private and non-liturgical forms of social prayer may be, and no matter how much they are recommended in the Gospel.

St. Ignatius Martyr writes, in his Epistle to the Ephesians, c. v: “Make no mistake: unless one come to the altar he is deprived of the Bread of God. Now if the prayer of one or the other of you has such great power, how much greater is the power of that prayer which is of the bishop and of the whole Church? Therefore, he who does not come to the assembly of the faithful, is puffed up with pride, and has already excommunicated and judged himself ” (Migne, Patr. Graeca, Vol. III, 647).

St. Alphonsus Liguori preferred one prayer of the Breviary to a hundred private prayers.

Incorporated in the true Church, a child of God and a member of Christ by the Sacraments of Baptism, I have acquired the right to participate in the other Sacraments, in the Divine Office, in the fruits of the Mass, and in the indulgences and prayers of the Church. I can benefit by all the graces and all the merits of my brethren.

I bear, from Baptism, an indelible mark which commissions me to worship God according to the rite of the Christian religion.

Charactere sacramentali insignitur homo ut ad cultum Dei deputatus secundum ritum Christianae religionis (Card. Billot, De Ecclesiae Sacram., t. 1, thes. 2).

My Baptismal consecration makes me a member of the Kingdom of God, and I form part of that “chosen generation, the kingly priesthood, the holy nation.”

Vos autem genus electum, regale sacerdotium, gens sancta, populus acquisitionis (1 Ptr. 2:9).

And so, I participate as a Christian in the sacred ministry, although in a remote and indirect manner, by my prayers, by my share in the offering, by my active participation in the Sacrifice of the Mass and in the liturgical offices, and in multiplying my spiritual sacrifices, as St. Peter recommends, by the practice of virtues, by accomplishing all things with a view to pleasing God and uniting myself to Him, and by making of my body a living victim, holy and agreeable to God.

Sacerdotium sanctum, offerre spirituales, hostias, acceptabiles Dco per Jesum Christum (1 Ptr. 2:5). It is in this sense that St. Ambrose says: “Omnes filii Ecclesiae sacerdotes sunt; ungimur enim in Sacerdotium sanctum, offerentes nosmetipsos Deo, hostias spirituales” (In Lucam, lib. iv. n. 33. Migne, Patr. Lat., vol. 15, 676). “All the children of the Church are priests, for we are anointed in a holy priesthood, offering ourselves to God as spiritual victims.”

Sicut omnes Christianos dicimus propter mysticum Chrisma; sic omnes Sacerdotes, quoniam membra sunt unius Sacerdotis. (St. Augustine, De Civit. Dei, xx :10. Migne, P. L., vol. 41, col. 676).

“Just as we call all ‘Christians’ because of the mystical Chrism, so we call all ‘priests’ because all are members of one Priest.”

And that is what you teach me, Holy Mother Church when, by the priest, You say to the faithful: Orate frates . . .”Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable,” and where the priest says also, in the Canon: Memento Domine . . . et omnium circumstantium pro quibus tibi offerimus vel qui tibi offerunt hoc Sacrificium laudis, “Remember Lord . . . (N. and N.) and all those who are here present, for whom we offer to Thee, or who offer to Thee this sacrifice of Praise.” And, further on: “Receive, Lord, with Kindness, we beg of Thee, this offering which we make to Thee, I Thy servant, and Thy family.”

Hanc igitur oblationem servitutis nostrae sed et cunctae familiae tuae quaesumus, Domine, ut placatus accipias (Canon of the Mass).

“We all make this offering together with the priest, our consent is given to all that he does, all that he says. And what is it that he says? ‘Pray, my brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may be agreeable to the Lord our God.’ And what is your answer? ‘May the Lord receive from your hands: . . . What? . . . my sacrifice and yours!’ And then, again, what does the priest say? ‘Remember Thy servants for whom we offer . . . ’ Is that all? He adds . . . ‘or who offer Thee this sacrifice.’ Let us, then, offer with him. Let us offer Jesus Christ, and offer up our own selves, together with the whole Catholic Church, spread over the whole earth” (Bossuet, Medit. on the Gospel. Last Supper, Pt. 1, 83rd day).

Indeed, the holy Liturgy is so truly the common work of the entire Church, that is of the priests and people, that the mystery of this unity is ever really present in the Church by the indestructible power of the Communion of Saints, which is proposed to our belief in the Apostles’ Creed. The Divine Office and Holy Mass, which is the most important part of the Liturgy, cannot be celebrated without the whole Church being involved, and being mysteriously present.

Peter Damian (also speaking of the Hanc igitur . . . ): “By these words it is quite clearly evident that the Sacrifice which is placed upon the altar by the hands of the priest is offered by the entire family of God as a whole” (Lib. qui Dic. Dominus Vobiscum, cap. viii. Also see D. Grea. La Sainte Liturgic., p. 51).

And so, in the Liturgy, everything is done in common in the name of all, for the benefit of all. All the prayers are said in the plural.

This close union between all the members, by the same faith and by participation in the same Sacraments, produces fraternal love in their souls, and this is the distinctive sign of those who wish to imitate Christ and walk in His footsteps.

By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.”

Joan. 13:35.

This bond among the members of the Church draws them all the closer together in proportion as they participate more fully, through the Communion of Saints, in the grace and charity of the Head who communicates to them supernatural and divine life.

These truths are the foundation of the liturgical life which, in its turn, brings me constantly back to them.

O Holy Church of God, what great love for you this thought enkindles in my heart! I am one of your members. I am a member of Christ! What love for all Christians this gives me, since I realize that they are my brothers, and that we are all one in Christ! And what love for my divine Head, Jesus Christ!

It is not possible for me to remain indifferent to anything that concerns you. Sad, if I behold you persecuted, I rejoice at the news of your conquests, your triumphs.

What a joy to think that, while I am sanctifying myself, I am also contributing to the increase of your beauty and working for the sanctification of all the children of the Church, my brothers, and even for the salvation of the whole human family!

O Holy Church of God, I wish, as far as in me lies, to make you more lovely and more holy and more full. And the splendor of your whole unity will come forth from the perfection of each one of your children, built on the foundation that dominated solidarity which was the thought that dominated Christ’s prayer after the Last Supper and was the true testament of His Heart: “That they may be one . . . That they may be made perfect in one.”

“Ut sint unum, ut sint consummati in unum” (Joan. 17:21, 23).

O Mother, Holy Church, how moved I am with love and admiration for your liturgical prayer! Since I am one of your members, it is my prayer too, especially when I am present or take an active part in it. All that you have is mine; and everything I have belongs to you.

A drop of water is nothing. But united with the ocean, it shares in all that power and immensity. And that is the way it is when my prayer is united with yours. To God all things are present. He takes in, at one glance, the past, the present, and the future; and in His eyes, my prayer is all one with that universal chorus of praises which you have been sending up to Him ever since you began, and which will continue to rise up to the throne of His Eternal Majesty even to the end of time.

Jesus, You want my piety to take, in certain respects, a utilitarian, practical, and petitioning character.

But the order of petitions in the Our Father shows me how much You want my piety to be first of all devoted to the praise of God,

Creatus est homo ad hunc finem, ut Dominum Deum suum laudet ac revereatur eique serviens tandem salvus fiat: “Man was created to this end; that he should praise God and give Him reverence, and, by serving Him, be saved” (St. Ignatius, Spiritual Exercises).

“Our end is the service of Our Lord, and it is only in order to serve Him better that we must correct our faults and acquire virtues; sanctity is only a means to better service.” Bl. P. J. Eymard.

and that far from being egotistical, narrow, and isolated, it should make my supplications embrace all the needs of my brothers.

Help me, by the liturgical life, to arrive at this generous and exalted piety which, without detriment to the spiritual combat, gives to God, and generously, great praise; this charitable, fraternal, and universal (i.e. Catholic) piety, which takes in all souls and has all the interests of the Church at heart.

Holy Church, it is your mission to beget, without ceasing, new children to your Divine Spouse and to bring them up “into the measure of the age of the fullness of Christ.”

In mensuram aetatis plenitudinis Christi (Eph. 4:13).

And that means that you have received all the means, in abundance, to achieve this end. And the importance you attach to the Liturgy proves how efficacious it must be to teach me how to begin to praise God and to make spiritual progress.

During His public life Our Lord spoke “as one having power.”

Sicut potestatem habens (Matt. 7:29).

And that is the way you talk too, O Holy Church, my Mother. Guardian of the treasure of truth, you realize the importance of your mission. Dispenser of the Precious Blood, you well know all the means of sanctification which the Lord has put into your hands.

You do not call upon my reason, and tell me, “Examine these things, study them.” But you do address yourself to my faith, saying, “Trust in me. Am I not your Mother? And is there anything I desire more than to see you grow, from day to day, in likeness to your divine Model? Now who is there that knows Jesus better than I do, who am His Spouse? Where, then, will you better find the Spirit of your Redeemer than in the Liturgy, which is the genuine expression of what I think and what I feel?”

Oh yes, dear holy Mother, I will allow myself to be led and formed by you with the simplicity and confidence of a child, reminding myself that I am praying with my Mother. These are her very own words, which she puts in my mouth in order that I may be filled with her spirit, and that her thoughts may pass into my heart.

With you, then, will I rejoice; yes, with you, Holy Church. Gaudeamus exultemus! With you will I lament: ploremus! With you will I praise Him: confitemini Domino! With you will I beg for mercy: miserere! With you I shall hope: speravi, sperabo! With you I shall love: diligam! I will ardently unite myself with all your demands, formulated in the wonderful prayers, in order that the life-giving movements of the mind and will that you wish to elicit by these words and sacred rites may enter more deeply into my heart, and make it more pliant to the touch of the Holy Ghost, so that my will may at last be totally absorbed into the Will of God.

Second Principle

Whenever I take part as a REPRESENTATIVE OF THE CHURCH

Those who are thus delegated by the Church are: clerics, religious obliged to recite the office, even though they only do so in private. So, too, are all those who are bound to sing office in choir in churches canonically erected, and to attend chapter of conventual masses. The same also applies to those who, without having received Orders, fulfill such functions by the tolerance of the Church, such as servers of Mass.

in any liturgical function, it is God’s desire that I give expression to my virtue of religion by being fully conscious of the OFFICIAL MANDATE with which I am honored, and that, thus united more and more perfectly to the life of the Church, I may progress in all the virtues.

I am the representative of Your Church for the purpose of offering incessantly to God, through You, Lord Jesus, in His Name and in the name of all His children, the sacrifice of praise and supplication. Consequently, I am what St. Bernardine of Siena so beautifully called: persona publica, totius Ecclesiae os, a public person, the mouth of the whole Church.

Sermon xx.

And therefore, at every liturgical function, there must be in me a kind of dual personality, such as exists, for instance, in an ambassador. In his private life, such a one is nothing but a private citizen. But once he has put on the insignia of his office and speaks and acts in the name of his king, he becomes, at that very moment, the representative and, in a certain sense, the very person of his sovereign.

The same is true in my own case when I am carrying out my liturgical “functions.” My individual being receives the addition of a dignity which invests me with a public mandate. I can and must consider myself, then, as the official deputy of the entire Church.

If I pray, or recite my office, even privately, I do so no longer merely in my own name. The words I use were not chosen by me. It is the Church that places them upon my lips.

Sacerdos personam induit Ecclesiae, verba illius gerit, vocem assumit (Gulielm. Paris., De Sacramento Ordinis). The priest puts on the person of the Church, he utters her words, he takes on her voice.

That very fact means that it is the Church that prays with my lips, and speaks and acts through me, just as a king speaks and acts through his ambassador. And then I am truly THE WHOLE CHURCH, as St. Peter Damian so beautifully puts it.

Per unitatem fidei, sacerdos Ecclesia tota est et ejus vices gerit. “Through the unity of faith, the priest is the whole Church, and acts in her behalf.”

Quid mirum si sacerdos quilibet . . . vicem Ecclesiae solus expleat . . cum per unitatis intimae Sacramentum, tota spiritualiter sit Ecclesiae? “What wonder is it, then, if any priest . . . stands in the place of the whole Church, since by the Sacrament of intimate union, he is, spiritually speaking, the whole Church” (St. Peter Damian, Lib. qui dic. Dominus Vobiscum, c. x. Migne, P.L. vol. 145, col. 239).

By me, the Church is united in the divine religion of Jesus Christ and addresses to the Most Holy Trinity adoration, thanksgiving, reparation, and supplication.

Hence, if I have any appreciation of my dignity, how will I be able to begin my office, for instance, without there taking place within me a mysterious activity which elevates me above myself, above the natural course of my thoughts, to fill me and penetrate me completely with the conviction that I am, as it were, a mediator between heaven and earth.

Medius stat sacerdos inter Deum et humanam naturam; illinc venientia beneficia an nos deferens, et nostras petitiones illinc perferens (St. John Chrysostom, Hom. V, n. 1, in illud, Vidi Dominum).

“The priest stands midway between God and human nature: he passes on to us the good things that come down from God, and lifts up to Him our petitions.

What a disaster if I were to forget these truths! The saints were filled with them.

Why is it that the priest, when he says the office, says, even when alone, Dominus vobiscum? And why does he reply, Et cum spiritu tuo? and not Et cum spiritu meo? The thing is, says St. Peter Damian, that the priest is not alone. When he says Mass, or prays, he has before him the entire Church, mysteriously present, and it is to the Church that he addresses the salutation, Dominus Vobiscum. And then, since he represents the Church, the Church replies through his own mouth, Et cum spiritu tuo. (Cf. St. Peter Damian, in the Lib. Dominus Vobiscum, 6, 10, etc.) His thoughts on this subject are followed throughout this whole section.

These truths were their life. God expects me to be mindful of them whenever I exercise any function. By the liturgical life, the Church helps me, unceasingly, to keep in mind the fact that I am her representative, and God demands that I live up to this dignity, in practice, by leading an exemplary life.

Laudate Dominum, sed laudate de vobis, id est, ut non sola lingua et vox vestra laudet Dominum, sed et conscientia vestra, vita vestra, facta vestra (St. Augustine, Enarratio in Ps. 148, n. 2).

“Praise the Lord, but praise Him from the very roots of your being, that is, let not only your tongues and voices praise the Lord, but also your consciences, your lives, and all that you do.”

“Just as men expect you to be a saint when you present yourself among them as God’s delegate, so God demands it of you when you appear before Him to intercede for mankind. An intercessor is one sent from the misery of this earth to parley with the justice of God. Now, St. Thomas says, two things are necessary, in an envoy if he is to be favorably received. The first is that he be a worthy representative of the people who send him, and the second that he be a friend of the prince to whom he is sent. You priest, who have no esteem for your sanctity, can you call yourself a worthy representative of the Christian people when you do not show forth the completeness of the Christian virtues? Can you call yourself the friend of God, when you do not serve Him faithfully?

“If this is true of the indifferent mediator, how much more so of one who is in sin ! How can words be found to express the anomalies of his appalling situation? Good souls come to you and say: “Pray for me, Father, you have credit in the sight of God.” But would you like to know what efficacy there is in the protection thus piously invoked? “God is more pleased with the barking of dogs, than with the prayer of such clerics” (St. Augustine, Serm. 37: Fr. Caussette, Manrèze du Pretre, 1e jour, 2e discours)

Oh my God, fill me with a profound esteem for this mission which the Church has entrusted to me. What a spur it will be, to me, against cowardly sloth in the spiritual combat! But grant me, also a true sense of my greatness as a Christian, and give me a childlike attitude before Your holy Church, so that I may profit abundantly by the treasures of interior life laid up in the holy Liturgy.

Third Principle

As a PRIEST, when I consecrate the Blessed Eucharist or administer the Sacraments, I must stir up the conviction that I am a MINISTER OF JESUS CHRIST, and therefore an alter Christus. And I must hold it as certain that if I am to find, in the exercise of my functions, the special graces necessary to acquire the virtues demanded by my priesthood, everything depends on me.

What is said here regarding priests also applies, in due proportion, to deacons and subdeacons.

O Jesus, Your faithful children form a single Body, but in that Body “all the members have not the same office.”

Omnia autem membra non eundem actum habent (Rom. 12:4).

“There are diversities of graces.”

Divisiones gratiarum sunt (1 Cor. 12:4).

Since You willed to leave to the Church a visible Sacrifice, You endowed her with a priesthood whose principal end is to continue Your immolation on the altar, and then to distribute Your Precious Blood by the Sacraments and to sanctify Your Mystical Body by communicating to it Your divine Life.

Sovereign Priest, You decided from all eternity to choose and consecrate me as Your minister in order to exercise Your Priesthood through me.

Ipse est principalis Sacerdos, qui, in omnibus et per omnes Sacerdotes novi Testamenti, offert. Ideo enim quia erat Sacerdos in aeternum instituit Apostolos Sacerdotes, up per ipsos suum Sacerdotium exsequeretur (De Lugo, De Euchar., Disp. xix, Sec. VI, n. 86).

You communicated to me Your powers in order to accomplish by my co-operation,

Dei adjutores sumus (1 Cor. 3:9).

a work greater than the creation of the universe, the miracle of Transubstantiation, and in order to remain, by this miraculous means, the Host and the Religion of Your Church.

What meaning I find, now, in the exuberant terms with which the Fathers of the Church seek to express the magnitude of the priestly dignity.

The Holy Fathers seem to have exhausted their eloquence in speaking of the dignity of the priest. Their thoughts may be summed up in a word, if we say that this dignity outstrips everything else in creation: God alone is greater.

Sublimitas sacerdotis nullis comparationibus potest adaequari. “The sublimity of the priest can be expressed by no comparison” (St. Ambrose, De Dign. Sacerd., c. ii).

Qui sacerdotem dicit, prorsus divinum insinuat virum. When you say “priest,” you are speaking of a man who is altogether divine (St. Dionysius, the “Areopagite”).

Praetulit vos regibus et imperatoribus, praetulit vestrum ordinem ordinibus omnibus, imo ut altius loquar, praetulit vos Angelis et Archangelis, Thronis et Dominationibus. “He has placed you above kings and emperors, he has placed your order above all other orders, indeed, to go higher still. he has placed you above the angels and archangels, Thrones and Dominations” ( St. Bernard, Serm. ad Past. in Syn., an apocryphal work, Migne, P.L., vol. 184. col. 1086).

Perspicuum est illam esse illorum sacerdotum functionem qua nulla major excogitari possit. Quare merito non solum angeli, sed dii etiam, quia Dei immortalis vim et numen apud nos teneant, appellantur.

“It is evident that this is that function of priests, than which no greater can be conceived. Wherefore they are rightly called not only angels, but even gods, because they hold, among us, the power and might of the undying God” (Cat. Rom. de Ord., 1).

Indeed, their words logically compel me to consider myself by virtue of Your priesthood, communicated to me, as Your other self, Sacerdos alter Christus.

Is there not, in fact, an identification between You and me? After all, Your Person and mine are so truly one that when I pronounce the words: Hoc est Corpus meum, Hic est calix Sanguinis mei, You make them Your own?

Reliqua omnia quae dicuntur in superioribus a sacerdote dicuntur. . . .

Ubi venitur ut conficiatur venerabile Sacramentum jam non suis sermonibus utitur sacerdos, sed utitur sermonibus Christi. Ergo sermo Christi conficit hoc Sacramentum. Quis est sermo Christi? Nempe is quo facta sunt omnia.

“All the other words, uttered in the prayers up to this point in the Mass, are spoken by the priest in his own person. . . . But when the time comes to confect the adorable Sacrament, the priest now no longer uses his own words, but utters the words of Christ. And therefore this Sacrament is confected by the word of Christ. What is the Word of Christ? It is that Word by which all things were created” (St. Ambrose, De Sacramentis, Lib. iv, c. 4, n. 14).

Ecce Ambrosius no solum vult sacerdotem loqui in persona Christi sed etiam non loqui in propria persona, neque illa esse verba sacerdotis. Quia, cum sacerdos assumatur a Christo ut eum repraesentet, et ut Christus per os sacerdotis loquatur, non decuit sacerdotem adhuc retinere in his verbis propriam personam.

“See how Ambrose would have the priest not only speak in the person of Christ, but also not to speak in his own person: nor would he have these words be the priest’s at all. For, since the priest is assumed by Christ, to represent Him, and in order that Christ may speak through the mouth of the priest, it is not fitting that the priest should, when uttering these words, retain his own person” (De Lugo, De Euch., disp. xi, sec. v, n. 103).

I lend You my lips, since I can say, without lying: My Body, My Blood.

Ipse est, (Christus) qui sanctificat et immolat. . . . Cum videris sacerdotem offerentem, ne ut sacerdotem esse putes, sed Christi manum invisibiliter extentam. . . . Sacerdos linguam suam commodat

“It is Christ Himself who sanctifies and immolates . . . When you see the priest offering the Holy Sacrifice, do not think that it is as a priest that he does so, but as the hand of Christ, invisibly extended. . . . The priest lends his tongue” (St. Chrysostom, Hom. 86, in Joan. n. 4).

All that is necessary is for me to will to make this consecration, and You will it also. Your will is fused with mine. In the greatest act which You can perform here below, Your soul is tightly bound together with mine. I lend You what is most mine, my will. And at once Your will and mine are fused.

So true is it that You act through me, that if I dared to say, over the matter of the Sacrifice, “This is the Body of Jesus Christ,” instead of “this is My Body,” the Consecration would not be valid.

The Blessed Eucharist is Your very Self, Jesus, hidden under the appearances of bread. And does not every Mass make it more strikingly clear to me that You yourself are the Priest;

“Nihil aliud Sacrifex quam Christi simulacrum”: “The sacrificer is simply an image of Christ” (Petr. Bles., Trac. Ryth de Euch. c. viii).

for You are the only Priest; and it is You that are concealed under the appearances of the one You have chosen as Your minister.

Alter Christus! I re-live that phrase every time I confer one of the other Sacraments. You alone are able to say, in Your quality of Redeemer, “Ego te baptizo,” “Ego te absolvo,” thus exercising a power no less divine than that of creation itself. I too utter these same words. And the angels are more attentive to them than to the fiat which made worlds spring forth where there was nothingness,

Majus opus est ex impio justum facere quam creare coelum et terram: “It is a greater work to make a just man out of a sinner, than to create heaven and earth” (St. Augustine).

since (and what a miracle it is, too!) they are capable of forming God in a soul, and producing a Child of God who participates in the intimate life of the Divinity.

At every priestly function, I can almost hear You saying to me: “My son, how is it possible for you to imagine that after I have made you, by these divine powers, another Christ, I should tolerate that in your practical routine of living you should be WITHOUT CHRIST or even AGAINST CHRIST?

“What! In the exercise of these priestly functions, you have just acted as one whose being has been melted into My very own Being. And a few minutes later, Satan comes and takes My place and makes you, by sin, a sort of Antichrist, or hypnotizes you to such a degree of torpor that you deliberately forget the obligation to imitate Me, and to strive, as My Apostle says, to “put Me on”?

Absit! You can count on My mercy when human weakness alone is the cause of your daily faults, which you right away regret and for which you quickly make reparation. But if you cooly adopt a program of systematic infidelities, and return from these to your sublime functions without any remorse, you will only arouse My anger!

“What an abyss there is between your functions and those of the priests of the Old Law. And yet, if My prophets uttered dire threats against Sion, because of the sins of the people or the rulers, listen to what came of the prevarication of the priests: ‘The Lord hath accomplished His wrath. He hath poured out His fierce anger; and He hath kindled a fire in Sion and it hath devoured the foundations thereof . . . for the iniquities of her priests.’

Lam. Jerem. 4:11–13.

“With what severity, too, does my Church forbid the priest to approach the altar or to confer the Sacraments if there remain one single mortal sin upon his conscience!

“Inspired by Me, she goes still further. Her very rites compel you to be either truly holy or an impostor. Either you will have to make up your mind to live an interior life, or else resign yourself to say to Me from the beginning of Mass to the end, things that you do not really think, and ask of Me things that you do not desire. The sacred words and ceremonies necessarily imply, in the priest, a spirit of compunction and a desire to purify his soul of his slightest faults; therefore, custody of the heart. They imply a spirit of adoration, and, therefore, of recollection. They imply a spirit of faith, hope, and love, and, therefore, a supernatural trend in everything that you say or do during the day, and in all your works!”

O Jesus, I fully realize that to put on the sacred vestments without being firmly resolved to strive to acquire the virtues which they symbolize, is only a kind of hypocrisy. It is my will that henceforth bows and genuflections, signs of the Cross and other ceremonies, and all the formulas of prayer may never be a hollow fraud hiding emptiness, coldness, indifference for the interior life, and adding to my faults that of a lying mummery under the very eyes of the Eternal God.

Let me then tremble with a holy fear every time I draw near to Your dread mysteries, every time I put on the liturgical vestments. Let the prayers with which I accompany this act, the formulas of the Missal and Ritual, so full of unction and strength, move me to scrutinize my own heart and find out whether it is truly in harmony with Yours, O Jesus; that is to say, whether I have a loyal and practical desire to imitate You by leading an interior life.

O my soul, get rid of all those compromises which might lead me to consider it enough to be an “alter Christus” only during my sacred functions, and to believe that after them, provided I am not actually against Christ, I can dispense myself from working to put on Jesus Christ.

Here I am, not merely an ambassador of Jesus Crucified, but actually His other Self. Can I attempt to get away with an easy-going piety, and content myself with commonplace virtues?

Useless for me to try and persuade myself that the cloistered monk is bound, more than I am, to strive after the imitation of Christ and to acquire an interior life. It is a grave error, based upon a misunderstanding.

The religious is obliged to tend to sanctity by the use of certain special means; that is, vows of obedience and poverty, and keeping his rule. As a priest, I am not restricted to these means; but I am obliged to pursue and to realize the same end, and I am so obliged by many more considerations than the consecrated soul who does not have the responsibility of distributing the Precious Blood.

Vos estis lux mundi, vos estis sal terrae. Quod si sal evanuerit in quo salietur? “You are the light of the world . . . You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its savor, wherewith shall it be salted?” (Matt. 5:13).

Exemplum esto fidelium in verbo, in conversatione, in caritate, in fide, in castitate. “Be thou an example of the faithful in word, in conversation, in charity, in faith, in chastity” (1 Tim. 4:12).

In divino omni quis audeat aliis fieri nisi secundum omnem habitum suum factus sit Deo formissimus et Deo simillimus. “In all divine things, who is there that would dare to show the way to others unless in all his habits he himself first be most closely patterned on God, and most like to God ?” (S. Dionysius. De Eccles. Hier.).

Sacerdos debet vitam habere immaculatam, ut omnes in illum, veluti in aliquod exemplum excellens, intueantur. “The priest should lead a life that is without blemish, in order that everyone may look to him for a perfect example” (St. John Chrysostom, Hom. x, in Tim.).

Nihil in sacerdote commune cum multitudine. Vita sacerdotis praeponderare debet, sicut praeponderat gratia. “The priest has nothing in common with the multitude. The life of the priest should excel as grace excels” (St. Ambrose, Epist. 82).

Aut caeteris honestiores, aut fabula omnibus sunt sacerdotes. “Priests are either better than everybody else, or else a scandal to everybody else” (St. Bernard, De Consideratione, Lib. iv, c. 6).

Sicut illi qui Ordinem suscipiunt, super plebem constituuntur qradu Ordinis, ita et superiores sint menito sanctitatis. “Just as they who receive Holy Orders are constituted above the crowd by the degree of their Order, so too they ought to stand out by virtue of their holiness” (St. Thomas, Suppl., q. 35).

Sic decet omnes clericos in sortem Domini vocatos, vitam moresque suos omnes componere, ut habitu, gestu, incessu, sermone, aliisque omnibus rebus nihil nisi grave, moderate ac religione plenum prae se ferant. “Thus it is fitting that all clerics called to the service of the Lord should order their life and manners in such wise that in their dress, their gestures, their gait, their speech, and in all other things they should display nothing but what is grave and proper and full of religion” (Council of Trent, sess. 22, c. 1, de reform.).

Si religiosus careat Ordine, manifestum est excellere praeeminentiam Ordinis quantum ad dignitatem, quia per sacrum Ordinem aliquis deputatur ad dignissima ministeria, quibus ipsi Christo servitur in Sacramento altaris; ad quod requiritur major sanctitas interior quam requirat etiam religionis status. “In the case of a religious who has not received Holy Orders, it is clear that the Holy Orders have a far superior dignity (to the vows of religion) since by Orders a man is deputed to the most noble of all ministries; namely, that by which Christ Himself is served in the Sacrament of the Altar; and this demands a greater interior sanctity than is required even by the religious state” (St. Thomas, 2a 2ae. q. 184).

Vix bonus monachus facit bonum clericum. “A good monk will not necessarily be a good cleric” (St. Augustine. ad Val.).

Nullam ascensus et deificationis mensuram agnoscant. “Let them know no limit to spiritual progress, nor to likeness to God” (St. Greg. Naz.).

Pares Deo conentur esse sanctitate, ut qui viderit ministrum altaris Dominum veneretur. “Let them attempt to be equal to God in sanctity, in order that whosoever sees the minister of the altar may revere God in him” (St. Ambrose. de Offic., c. 5).

Woe to me, then, if I lull myself to sleep with an illusion that is beyond doubt culpable since it could have easily been dispelled by a glance at the teaching of the Church and of her saints: an illusion whose falsity will be brought home to me on the threshold of eternity.

Woe to me if I do not know how to take advantage of my liturgical functions to discover what You demand of me, or if I remain deaf to the voices of all the holy objects that surround me: the altar, the confessional, the baptismal font, the vessels, linen and vestments. Imitamini quod tractatis—“imitate what you handle.”

Roman Pontifical: Rites of Ordination.

“Be ye clean you that carry the vessels of the Lord.”

Mundamini qui fertis vasa Domini (Is. 52:12).

“For they offer the burnt-offering of the Lord and the bread of their God and therefore they shall be holy.”

lncensum et panes offerunt Deo, et ideo sancti erunt (Levit. 21:6).

I would be all the less excusable, Jesus, for turning a deaf ear to these appeals, inasmuch as each one of my functions is the occasion of an actual grace which You offer me to form my soul to Your image and likeness.

It is the Church that solicits this grace. It is her heart full of jealous eagerness to fulfill Your expectations, that cares for me like the apple of her eye. It is She who, before my ordination, tried to make me see what immensely important consequences were involved in this identification of me with You.

Impone, Domine, capiti meo galeam salutis . . . praecinge mecingulo puritatis . . . Ut indulgeris omnia peccata mea. Fac me tuis semper inhaerere mandatis et a te numquam separari permittas, etc.,

From the prayers said by the Priest while vesting, and also just before Communion in the Mass.

it is no longer I that make these petitions for myself. They are being made by all the true faithful, all the fervent souls consecrated to You, all the members of the Ecclesiastical heirarchy who made my poor prayer their prayer. Their cry rises to Your throne. It is the voice of Your Spouse that You hear. And when Your priests are resolved to lead an interior life, and therefore bring their hearts into harmony with their liturgical functions, You always grant these entreaties made for them by the Church.

Instead, then, of excluding myself by my voluntary negligence from these suffrages which I address to Your Father for the faithful at large, when saying Mass or administering the Sacraments, I want to profit by these graces, Jesus. At each one of my priestly acts I will open my heart wide to Your action. Then You will fill it with light consolation and power which, in spite of all the obstacles, will enable me to identify my judgments with Yours, my affections and desires with Yours, just as my Priesthood identifies me with You, Eternal Priest, when, through me, make Yourself a Victim upon the altar, or Redeemer of souls.

A few words to sum up the three principles of the liturgical life.

Cum ecclesia

When I unite with the Church as a simple Christian, this very union impels me to fill myself with her thoughts and her aspirations.

Ecclesia

When the Church herself is represented in my person, so that I, so to speak, am the Church, and so act as her ambassador before the throne of God, I am all the more powerfully drawn to make her aspirations my own, in order to be less unworthy to address myself to His Thrice Holy Majesty, and, by means of official prayers, to exercise a more efficacious apostolate.

Christus

But when, by virtue of my participation in the Priesthood of Christ, I am an alter Christus, what terms can express the insistence with which You call me, Jesus, to take on more and more of Your divine likeness, and that I may thus manifest You to the faithful and move them, by the apostolate of good example to follow You?

a. It Helps Me to Be Permanently Supernatural in All My Acts

How hard it is for me, O my God, to base the ordinary run of my actions upon a supernatural motive! Satan and creatures conspire with my self-love to lure my soul and faculties away from their dependence upon Jesus living within me.

How many times, in the course of the day, this purity of intention which so greatly affects the merit of my actions and the efficacy of my apostolate is ruined through lack of vigilance or of fidelity! Only continual effort will obtain for me, with God’s help the power to ensure that most of my actions may have grace as their vivifying principle, and be directed by grace, towards God, as their end.

I cannot make these efforts without mental prayer. Yet what a difference it makes, when this striving for purity of intention has, for its background, the liturgical life! Mental prayer and the liturgical life are two sisters who help each other. Mental prayer, before my Mass and Office, puts me in a supernatural atmosphere. The liturgical life makes it possible to transmit the fruits of my mental prayer to all the actions of the day.

“I make a good meditation in order to be able to say Mass well and I say Mass and my Office with devotion in order that I may make a good meditation the following morning” (Fr. Olivaint).

O Holy Church, when you are teaching me, how easy it is for me to acquire the habit of giving to my Creator and Father at all times the worship that is His due! You are the Spouse of Him Who is Adoration, Thanksgiving, Reparation, and Meditation in the highest degree, and, by your Liturgy, you give me that thirst, which Jesus had, to glorify His Father; and this is the first end you had in view when you established the Liturgy.

Is it not obvious that if I live the liturgical life I will become steeped in the virtue of religion, since the whole Liturgy is nothing but the continuous and public exercise of that virtue, which is the most excellent of all virtues after Faith, Hope, and Charity?

If I make use of the light of faith, it is quite true hat I can manifest the dependence of all my faculties upon God, as well as piety, vigilance, and valor in the spiritual combat. But what great need there is for this human being of mine, composed of body and soul, to receive the assistance of its every faculty in order to fix the mind upon eternal values, and fill the heart with an eager enthusiasm to profit by them, and excite the will to ask for them repeatedly and to strive, without respite, to possess them!

The Liturgy grips my entire being. The whole complex of ceremonies, genuflections, bows, symbols, chants, texts, appealing to the eye, the ear, the feelings, the imagination, the intellect, and the heart—by means of all these, the Church reminds me that everything that is in me: os, lingua, mens, sensus, vigor,

The mouth, the tongue, the mind, the senses, and all our strength (from the Hymn sung daily at Terce).

all must be directed to God.

All the means used by the Church to show me what are God’s rights and His claims to the worship of my filial homage and to the total ownership of my being develop in me the virtue of religion, and, by that very fact, the supernatural spirit.

Everything in the Liturgy speaks to me of God, of His perfections, His mercies. Everything takes me back to God. Everything tells me how His Providence is ever holding out to my soul means of sanctification in every trial, every assistance from on high, every warning, encouragement, promise, light, yes, even in His threats.

Also, the Liturgy keeps me ceaselessly talking to God and expressing my religion under the most varied forms.

If, with an earnest desire to profit by it, I submit to this liturgical formation, how is it possible that the virtue of religion should not strike deeper and deeper roots into my being, after all the manifold exercises that follow, each day, from my functions as a minister of the Church? I am bound to form a habit, a mental state, and that means a genuine inner life.

The Liturgy is a school of the presence of God; and teaches us to stay in the presence of our God as He was manifested to us in the Incarnation! Call it rather a school of the presence of Jesus, and of love!

Love is fed by the knowledge of the attractions of the One loved, by the proofs He has given us of His love, but above all, says St. Thomas, by His presence.

Now the Liturgy reproduces, explains, and applies these various manifestations of the life of Jesus among us. It keeps us permanently in a supernatural and divine atmosphere, by prolonging, so to speak, the life of Our Lord, and by displaying to us, in all His mysteries, how kind and lovable is His Heart.

Dear Lord, it is You Yourself Who continue to teach us, through the Liturgy, Your great lesson, and to show us the great revelation of Your love. I see you clearer and clearer: not through the eyes of a historian, that is, behind the veil of centuries, nor in the way You are so often known by the theologian, as the object of laborious speculations. You are right close to me. You are ever Emmanuel, God with us, with Your Church, and so, with me. You are someone that every member of Your Church lives with, and Whom the Liturgy shows me at all times in the forefront of my life, as the model and object of my love.

By the cycle of Your Feasts, by the lessons chosen from Your Gospel and from the writings of Your Apostles, and by the splendor with which she causes Your Sacraments to shine forth especially the Blessed Eucharist, the Church makes You live among us, and lets us hear the beating of Your Heart.

To believe that Jesus lives in me; that He wants to work in me if only I do not stand in His way! When prayer has filled me with the conviction of this truth, what a mighty source of strength I possess, in my supernatural life! But when frequently throughout the course of the day, using all the varied and sensible means offered by the Liturgy, I nourish my mind and heart with the dogma of grace, of Christ praying and acting with every one of the members whose life He is supplying for their deficiencies, and, hence, for mine; then I am really maintaining myself under the permanent influence of the supernatural, I am getting to live in union with Jesus, and to find an established place in His love.

Love of complacency, of benevolence, of preference, of hope—all these forms of love shine forth in the wonderful collects, in the psalms, the ceremonies, the prayers. And they penetrate my soul.

How strong and generous the interior life becomes, with this method of contemplating Jesus as living and ever present! And when some act of detachment or of abnegation may be required to keep my life supernatural when some difficult task is to be performed, some pain or insult to be endured, how quickly the spiritual battle, the virtue, the trial will lose their painful and repugnant aspect of instead of looking at the bare Cross, I look at You nailed there, O my Savior; and if I hear You ask me, as You show me Your wounds, for this sacrifice as a proof of love.

Then, too, the Liturgy gives me strong support in another way by repeatedly reminding me that my love is not acting in isolation. I am not alone in the fight against these natural impulses that are ever threatening to engulf me. The Church is alive to the fact of my incorporation in Christ and follows me like a mother, giving me a share in all the merits of the millions of souls with whom I am in communion, and who speak the same official language of love as I do; and she renews my powers of endurance by assuring me that Heaven and Purgatory are here with me, for my encouragement and assistance.

Nothing is so effective as the mindfulness of eternity in keeping the soul directed to God in all its acts.

Now everything in the Liturgy reminds me of my last end. The expressions vita aeterna, coelum, infernum, mors, saeculum saeculi, and others like them are of frequent recurrence.

Prayers and offices for the dead, funerals bring before my mind death, judgment, rewards and unending punishments, the value of time and the purifications that have to be gone through, willynilly, either here below or in Purgatory, if I am going to get in to Heaven.

The feasts of the saints speak to me of the glory of those who were before me here on earth, and show me the crown which is in store for me if I follow in their footsteps and conform to their example.

By these lessons the Church is ceaselessly crying out to me: “Beloved soul, consider the eternal years, and you will remain faithful to your motto, ‘God in all things, all the time, everywhere!’”

O divine Liturgy: if I want to acknowledge all the benefits you bring us, I must enumerate all the virtues! Thanks to the chosen Scripture texts which you place before me at all times, thanks to the rites and symbols which express the divine Mysteries to me, my soul is constantly raised above this earth and directed now towards the theological virtues, now towards the fear of God, the horror for sin and for the spirit of this world, with detachment, compunction, confidence, or spiritual joy.

b. It Is a Most Powerful Aid in Conforming My Interior Life to That of Jesus Christ

O my adorable Master, there are three sentiments which hold sway in Your Sacred Heart: complete dependence upon Your Father, and therefore perfect humility; then secondly a burning and universal love for men; and finally the spirit of sacrifice.

Perfect Humility

When You came into the world, You said, “Father, behold, I come to do Thy will.”

Ingrediens mundum dicit: Hostiam et oblationem noluisti . . . Tunc dixi: Ecce venio . . . ut faciam, Deus, voluntatem tuam (Heb. 10:5–7).

You often remind us that Your whole inner life may be summed up as a continual desire to do always the things that please Your Father.

Ego quae placita sunt ei, facio semper (Joan. 8:29). Meus cibus est ut faciam voluntatem ejus qui misit me (Joan. 4:34). Descendi de coelo non ut faciam voluntatem meam, sed voluntatem ejus qui misit me (Joan. 6:38).

O Jesus, You are obedience itself, “obedient unto death, even to the death of the Cross.”

Factus obediens usque ad mortem, mortem autem crucis (Philipp. 2:8).

Even now, You obey Your priests. At the sound of their voice, You come back to the earth: “The Lord obeying the voice of a man.”

Obediente Domino voci hominis (Jos. 10:14).

What a school the Liturgy is, in which to learn to imitate Your subjection, if my heart will only become supple and responsive to the smallest rites with a desire of forming a spirit of dependence upon God, and of unflinchingly taming this “ego” of mine, so thirsty for liberty, and of bending my judgment and my will, so quick to refuse allegiance, Lord, to the fundamental spirit which You came to teach by Your example: the Worship of the Will of God!

Every time I thrust my own personality into the background in order that I may obey the Church as I would obey You Yourself, and act in her name, and unite myself with her, hence unite myself to You, I am receiving a priceless training that shapes my soul. This fidelity to the smallest prescriptions and rubrics will bear fruit in an immensely increased self-mastery when it comes to putting down my pride on more difficult occasions!

Qui fidelis est in minimo in majori fidelis est (Luc. 16:10). He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in that which is greater.

What is more, since the Liturgy constantly reminds me of the infallible truth that You are living within me, and of the necessity of Your grace if I am to draw fruit from even the simplest thought, it is at war with all presumption and with that self-satisfaction which, between them, would be enough to ravage every vestige of interior life. The Per Dominum Nostrum that comes at the end of almost every prayer in the Liturgy, would be enough to recall to my mind, were I able to forget it, that by myself I can do nothing, absolutely nothing, except sin or perform acts that have no merit. Everything convinces me of the necessity to run to You for help at all times. Everything keeps telling me that You demand this suppliant dependence, that my life may not wander off the track in pursuit of a lying mirage.

Through her Liturgy, the Church insists with great solicitude on this question of supplication, in order to convince her children of its necessity. She makes this Liturgy a true school of prayer, and therefore of humility. By her formulas, by the Sacraments and Sacramentals, she teaches me that everything comes to me through Your Precious Blood, and that the great means of reaping Its fruit is to unite myself, by humble prayer, to Your desire to apply them to us.

Let me profit, then, O Jesus, by these continual lessons, in order to increase the vivid awareness of my own littleness and to convince myself that I am nothing but a tiny particle in the Host which is Your Mystical Body, and that in the immense chorus of praise conducted by You, I am nothing but a thin and feeble voice.

Let me, thanks to the Liturgy, see more and more clearly that humility can make that voice more and more pure and clear, and that particle whiter and ever whiter.

Your Heart, Lord Jesus, embraced all men in Its mission of Redemption.

At Your death, You cried out upon the world, “I thirst,” and You do still, upon our altars and in the Tabernacle and in the very depths of Your glory. In all our souls, yes, even that of the plain Christian, that cry must be answered by a similar thirst: the strong desire to spend ourselves for our brothers; the burning thirst for the salvation of all men, and for the diffusion of the Gospel; a mighty zeal for the encouragement of priestly and religious vocations; and finally, tireless prayers that the faithful may come to comprehend the extent of their duties, and that souls consecrated to God may realize how necessary, for them, is the interior life.

How much more powerful an effect these desires should have, then, upon Your priests, constantly reminded, by their rites, that You have given them a special place in Your Mystical Body in order that they may incorporate as many souls as possible into You, and that they are co-redeemers, mediators, whose function it is to weep, “inter vestibulum et altare.”

Joel 2:17.

for the sins of the world, and sanctify themselves, not only for their own sake, but in order to be able to sanctify others, to form, and instruct and guide souls and make Your life course through their veins. “And for them do I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.”

Ego sanctifico meipsum ut sint et ipsi sanctificati (Joan. 17:19).

Holy Church of the Redeemer, Mother of all my brethren, your children, how can I live your Liturgy without sharing the strong desire in the Heart of your Divine Spouse for the salvation of His creatures and for the deliverance of the souls that groan in Purgatory?

Of course, I share in the fruits of my Mass, my Office. But it is your intent that the first share should go, before all else, to the whole group of souls which are in your care: in primus quae tibi offerimus pro Ecclesia sancta tua Catholica.

Which we offer Thee first of all for Thy Holy Catholic Church (Canon of the Mass).

You take a thousand means to insure that my heart will expand with love and my interior life will grow like to that of Jesus.

O my beloved liturgical life, increase in me the filial love for Holy Church and for the common Father of all the faithful. Make me more devoted, more submissive to my superiors in the hierarchy, and more united to them in all their cares and desires. Help me never to forget that Jesus lives in every person with whom I come in daily contact, and that He carries them all in His heart. Make me radiate, among them, a spirit of indulgence, of support, of patience, and of service, that I may thus reflect the meekness of the sweet Savior.

Keep me firmly rooted in the conviction that the only way I can get to Heaven is by the Cross, and that my praises, adoration, sacrifices, and all my other acts have no value, for heaven, except through the Blood of Christ, and it is in union with all the other Christians that I must gain Heaven, since it is with all the elect that I am to enjoy it, and to continue, with them, through Christ, for all eternity, the chorus of praises in which I have part here on earth.

Lord Jesus, You knew that mankind could only be saved by sacrifice, and You made Your whole life on earth a perpetual immolation.

Identified with You, acting as Priest with You, when I celebrate Mass, O my Crucified God, I desire to be a victim with You. Everything in You revolves around Your Cross. Everything in me has to revolve around my Mass. It will be the center, the sun of my days, just as Your Sacrifice is the central act of the Liturgy.

And the Liturgy will become, to me, a school of the spirit of sacrifice, because the altar and the Tabernacle will ever be taking me back to Calvary. By making me share in the thoughts and aspirations of Your Church, the Liturgy will communicate Your own sentiments to me, O Jesus, and thus will the words of St. Paul be fulfilled in me: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,”

Hoc sentite in vobis quod et in Christo Jesu (Philipp. 2:5).

along with those other words that were spoken to me at my ordination: Imitamini quod tractatis.

Imitate what you perform (Roman Pontifical.).

The Missal, Ritual, and Breviary constantly recall to me in many different ways, were it only by the countless Signs of the Cross, that sacrifice has become, since the fall, the law of the human race, and that it has no value except insofar as it is united with Your Sacrifice. Hence, I shall render unto You victim for victim, O my divine Redeemer. I will offer up to You a total immolation of my whole self, an immolation that shall MERGE with the Sacrifice once consummated by You on Golgotha and renewed many times, every second by the Masses which are said in unending succession all around the world.

The Liturgy will render this obligation of myself much easier and will enable me to make a greater contribution towards filling up those things that are wanting of Your sufferings for Your Body, which is the Church.

Adimpleo quae desunt passionum Christi pro corpore ejus, quod est Ecclesia (Coloss. 1:24).

I will thus bring my share and join it to that great Host made up of the sacrifices of all Christians.

Tota ipsa redempta Civitas, hoc est congregatio societasque sanctorum, universale Sacrificium offertur Deo per Sacerdotem magnum, qui etiam obtulit in Passione pro nobis, ut tanti capitis corpus essemus . . . Cum itaque nos hortatus esset Apostolus ut exhibeamus corpora nostra hostiam viventem . . . Hoc es Sacrificium Christianorum: multi unum corpus in Christo. Quod etiam Sacramento altaris, fidelibus noto, frequentat Ecclesia, ubi et demonstretur quod in ea re, quam offert, ipsa offeratur (St. Augustine, City of God, Bk. ix, c. vi).

“All the whole redeemed city, that is the congregation and society of the saints is offered to God as a universal Sacrifice by that High Priest, Who even offered it in His Passion, for us, that we might become the body of so noble a Head . . . Now therefore the Apostle, having exhorted us to give up our bodies as a living sacrifice. . . . This is the Christian Sacrifice: we are one Body with Christ, as the Church celebrates in the Sacrament of the Altar, so well known to the faithful, wherein it is shown to the Church that she herself is offered in the Victim which she offers.”

And this Host will rise up to Heaven to expiate the sins of the world and bring down upon the Church militant and suffering the fruits of Your Redemption.

In this way, I will lead a true liturgical life. For when I “put You on,” O my crucified Jesus, and unite myself in a practical way with Your Sacrifice by carrying out Your counsel to deny myself, thus making of myself a holocaust; is not that, O my Savior, the end to which Your Church would lead me in filling me with Your thoughts by her prayers and holy ceremonies, and bringing into my heart that which in You dominated everything: the Spirit of Sacrifice?

Tunc demum sacerdoti hostia proderit si, seipsum hostiam faciens, velit humiliter et efficaciter imitari quod agit (Petr. Blesens. Epist. cxxiii).

Then alone will the Mass be of profit to the priest if, making of himself a host, he is willing to imitate in a most humble and practical manner the Sacrifice he performs.

Qui Passionis Dominicae mysteria celebramus, debemus imitari quod agimus. Tunc ergo vere pro nobis Hostia erit Deo, cum nosmetipsos hostiam fecerimus (St. Gregory the Great, Dialogues, iv, c. 59).

We who celebrate the mysteries of the Lord’s Passion ought to imitate what we perform. And then will it truly be an offering to God that will make us pleasing to Him, if we make of ourselves victims also.

Thus will I become one of those carefully chosen living stones, polished by tribulations, “by the blows of the life-giving chisel, by ceaseless, relentless work of the mason’s hammer.”

Scalpri salubris ictibus

Et tunsione plurima

Fabri polita malleo.

(Roman Brev. Hymn at Vespers, from the Common of the Dedication of a Church).

and destined to enter into the construction of the heavenly Jerusalem.

c. The Liturgical Life Makes Me Live the Life of the Saints and Blessed in Heaven

Conversatio nostra in coelis est,

Philipp. 3:20.

said St. Paul. And where will I find a better way to carry out what he here expresses, than in the Liturgy? This Liturgy we have here on earth is simply an imitation of the celestial Liturgy which the Beloved Disciple, John, describes for us in his Apocalypse. When I sing or recite my Office, what else am I doing but carrying out the same function upon which the angels pride themselves, before the Throne of the Almighty?

More than that, does not the doxology of every Psalm and hymn, the conclusion of every prayer cast me down prostrate in adoration before the Most Holy Trinity?

The countless feasts of the Saints make me live, as it were, intimate companionship with my brothers in Paradise who are my protectors and who pray for me. The Feasts of Our Blessed Lady remind me that I possess, in Heaven above, a most loving and powerful Mother who will never rest until she beholds me safe at her feet in the Kingdom of Her Son. Is it possible that all these feasts, that all the mysteries of my sweet Savior—Christmas, Easter, and especially the Ascension—should not make me HOMESICK FOR HEAVEN, which St. Gregory considered as a token of predestination?

Good Master, You have deigned to give me some understanding of what the liturgical life is. Am I going to try and offer the duties of my ministry as a pretext for avoiding the effort which You demand, in order that I may put all this into practice? Surely You would answer that it will take no more time to fulfill my liturgical functions in the way You desire me to, than it does already to get through them mechanically. You would tell me to consider the example of so many of Your servants, like Bl. Fr. Perboyre, among others

Cf. his “Life,” Bk. iii, ch. 8 and 9 (Paris, 1890).

who charged by You with unceasing and deeply absorbing occupations to a degree of the highest intensity, was nevertheless a most perfect example of a “liturgical soul.”

a. Remote Preparation

Dear Savior, turn my desire for a liturgical life into a powerful SPIRIT OF FAITH with respects to everything that has to do with divine worship.

Your angels and saints see You face to face. Nothing can distract their minds from the august functions which go to make up one of the elements of their incomparable bliss. But I, on the other hand, still a prey to all the weaknesses of human nature, simply cannot keep myself in Your presence, when I unite with the Church in addressing You, unless You develop in me the gift of Faith which I received at Baptism.

May I never come to regard my liturgical functions as a burdensome duty, to get over and done with as soon as possible or something to be put up with for the sake of the fee! Never, I hope, will I dare to speak of the Thrice Holy God or carry out His rites with careless familiarity and insulting negligence which I would be ashamed to manifest to His most humble servant. May I never give scandal in those things which were expressly designed to edify! And yet, can I forsee how far I will fall if I once cease to watch myself in this matter of the spirit of Faith?

O my God, if I am already sliding down this perilous incline, have mercy, pull me back! Or rather, give me so lively a Faith that I will be gripped by the importance that all liturgical acts really possess in Your sight, and will rejoice to feel their sublime wonders flood my will with an ever-growing enthusiasm.

Can it be said that I have the slightest spirit of Faith if I take no trouble to know the RUBRICS and to observe them? This is a neglect for which not even the most lofty and appreciative intuitions about the Liturgy can compensate in Your sight, O my God! What difference does it make if I feel no natural attraction for this task? It is enough for me to know that my obedience is pleasing to You, and that it will gain me great merit.

On my retreats, I must never fail to examine myself on this point, with regard to the Missal, Ritual, and Breviary.

Your Church, O Jesus, has chiefly drawn upon the treasures of the PSALMS for her cult. If I have any liturgical spirit, my soul will be able to see You, in passages from the Psalter, especially in Your life of suffering. And I will be able to realize that the words, the deep thoughts which came forth from the secret depths of Your Heart and rose to up God during Your mortal life, are to be found written down in very many of the prophetic verses with which You inspired Your Psalmist.

And there I will be able to discern gathered together in a most marvelous synthesis, a forecast of the chief teachings of Your Gospel.

Under these same veils, I will detect the voice of the Church as she carries on Your life of trials and expresses to God, in the midst of all her sufferings and triumphs, sentiments that echo those of her Divine Spouse; sentiments which may also be appropriated in all temptations, reverses, combats, sorrows, discouragement, deceptions, as well as in victory and consolation, by every soul in whom Your life can be manifested.

If I set aside part of my reading time for Holy Scripture exclusively, I shall develop my taste for the Liturgy and make it easier to keep my mind on its words.

Plus lucratur qui orat et intelligit quam qui tantum lingua orat. Nam qui intelligit reficitur quantum ad intellectum et quantum ad affectum (St. Thomas, in. 1 Cor. 14:14).

One who prays with understanding profits more than one who prays with the tongue alone. For he who understands receives nourishment as to the intellect and the will.

Reflective observation will show that every liturgical composition has a central idea about which the various teachings are grouped.

Oh what weapons, my soul, will you thus forge, against thy ever roving imagination, especially if you know how to learn from SYMBOLS.

The Church makes use of symbols to speak to the senses a language which captivates them, making the truths that are represented sensible. Agnoscite quod agitis (realize what you are doing) , she told me at my ordination. Ceremonies, sacred linen, holy objects, vestments, all speak with a meaningful voice, given them by the Church, my Mother. How am I ever going to enlighten the understandings and reach the hearts of the faithful that the Church wants to capture by her naive and grandiose speech if I myself do not possess the key to such instruction?

b. Immediate Preparation

“Before prayer, prepare thy soul.”

Ante orationem praepara animam tuam (Eccli. xviii 23).

Just before Mass, and every time I take up the Breviary, I should make a firm, calm act of recollection, in order to free myself from all that has no connection with God, and to fix my attention upon Him. The One I am about to talk to is God.

But He is also my Father. Therefore, I shall unite that reverence and awe which even the Queen of Angels herself retains, when she speaks to her Divine Son, with the ingenuous candor which gives even an old man, when he talks to God’s infinite Majesty, the soul of a little child.

This simple and childlike attitude before my Father will artlessly reflect my conviction that I am united to Jesus Christ, that no matter how unworthy I may be, I represent the Church, and that I am certain beyond a doubt that the soldiers of the celestial army are standing at my side as I pray: “I will sing praise to Thee in the sight of the angels.”

In conspectu angelorum psallam tibi (Ps. 137).

As for you, my soul: this is no longer the time to be reasoning, meditating. Become, once again, the soul of a child. When you arrived at the age of reason, you accepted, as the expression of absolute truth everything that mother told you. So must you also with the same simplicity and artlessness receive from your Mother the Church all that she is about to give you to nourish your faith.

This renewal of youth is indispensable to the soul! The more I make myself the soul of a child the more I will profit by the riches of the Liturgy, and will allow myself to be possessed by the poetry that lives in it. And that will be the measure of my progress in the liturgical spirit.

Then it will be easy for my soul to enter into adoration, and stay there all through whatever function (ceremony, Office, Mass, Sacraments, etc.,) engages me, whether as member of the Church or as her ambassador, as the minister of God.

The way I enter into adoration will determine, to a great extent, not only the profit and merit of my liturgical act, but also the consolations which God makes contingent upon its perfect accomplishment and which will give me strength to carry on my apostolic labors.

And so I am going to adore. I desire, by an act of my will, to spring up even unto union with the adorations of the Man-God, that I may offer His prayer together with mine to God. This must be a swift upward flight of the heart: not an effort of the mind.

I will and desire this with Your grace, Lord Jesus! And I will ask this grace for instance, in my Office, by saying with purpose and recollection my Deus in adjutorium, or, in the same manner, the Introibo of my Mass.

I will it. It is this filial and loving will, strong and humble, united with an earnest desire for Your help, that You demand of me.

If it should happen that my intellect opens up some fine expansive vista to my faith, or if my sensibilities contribute some holy emotion, well and good; my will shall take advantage of them to make adoration easier. But I will always remember the principle that in the last analysis union with God dwells in the summit of the soul, in the will, and even though darkness and aridity fall to its lot, the will, though dry and cold, will take her flight on the wings of pure faith.

c. Doing My Liturgical Work

To do well my liturgical work is a gift of Your bounty, O my God! Omnipotens et misericors Deus, de cujus munere venit ut tibi a fidelibus tuis digne et laudabiliter serviatur.

Almighty and most merciful God, Whose gift it is that Thy faithful should pay Thee fit and laudable service (Collect for the 12th Sun. after Pent.).

O Lord, please grant me this gift. I want to remain in adoration all during my liturgical function. That sums up all the methods in one word.

My will casts down my heart at the feet of the Majesty of God, and keeps it there. All its work is now contained in the three words, digne, attente, devote . . . from the prayer Aperi, and they most aptly express what must be the attitude of my body, of my mind, and of my heart.

DIGNE. A respectful position and bearing, the precise pronunciation of the words, slowing down over the more important parts. Careful observance of the rubrics. My tone of voice, the way in which I make signs of the Cross, genuflections, etc.; my body itself: all will go to show not only that I know Whom I am addressing, and what I am saying, but also that my heart is in what I am doing. What an APOSTOLATE I can sometimes exercise.

Apostolate or Scandal. There are many souls who look at religion through a hazy intellectualism or ritualism, and to such persons, a whole sermon by a second-rate priest has far less meaning than the apostolate of a genuine priest whose great faith, piety, and compunction shine forth in his ministrations at a Baptism, Funeral, or, above all, at Mass. Words and rites are arrows that strike deep into such hearts. When the Liturgy is thus lived, they see in it the certitude of the mystery expressed. The invisible begins to exist for them, and they are prompted to invoke Jesus, Whom they hardly know at all, but with Whom they sense that the priest is in close communication. But only weakening or total loss of their faith follows when the spectacle before them merely turns their stomach, and moves them to cry out: “Why, you can’t tell me that priest believes in a God or fears Him! Look at the way he says Mass, administers Baptism, recites his prayers, and performs his ceremonies!” What responsibilities! Who would dare to maintain that such scandals will not be visited with the strictest of judgment?

How the faithful are influenced by the way a priest acts; whether it be that he displays deeply reverential fear, or an insolent nonchalance in his sacred functions!

Once when studying in a university graduate school, into which no clerical influence entered at all, I chanced to observe a priest reciting his Breviary, he being unaware that he was the object of my attention. His bearing, full of respect and religion, was a revelation to me, and produced in me an urgent need to pray from then on, and to pray in the way this priest was praying. The Church appeared to me, concretized, so to speak, in this worthy minister, in communion with his God.

But a faithful Catholic soul recently admitted to me: “When I saw the way my parish priest rushed through his Mass at high speed, I was completely upset, and found it hard to believe that he had any faith. Soon I lost all power to pray, even to believe, and a kind of disgust, caused by the fear that I would have to continue to see this priest say Mass, caused me, from then on, to avoid the parish church.”

In the courts of earthly kings, a simple servant considers the least function to be something great, and unconsciously takes on a majestic and solemn air in performing it. Cannot I acquire some of that distinctive bearing which will show itself by my state of mind and by the dignity of my bearing when I carry out my duties in my capacity as member of the guard of honor of the King of Kings and of the God of all Majesty?

ATTENTE. My mind will be eager to go foraging through the sacred words and rites in order to get everything that will nourish my heart.

Sometimes my attention will consider the literal sense of the texts, whether I follow every phase or whether, while going on with my recitation of the prayers, I take time to meditate on some word that has struck my attention, until such time as I feel the need to seek the honey of devotion in some other flower: in either case, I am fulfilling the precept Mens concordet voci.

Let mind and voice agree (Rule of St. Benedict).

At other times, my intellect may occupy itself with the mystery of the day or the principal idea of the liturgical season.

But the part played by the mind will remain in the background compared to the role of the will. The mind will serve only as the will’s source of supply, helping it to remain in adoration or to return to that state.

As soon as distractions arise it shall be my will to return to the act of adoration; but I shall make this movement of the will without irritation or harshness, without a sudden violent jerk, but peacefully (since everything that is done with Your aid, Lord Jesus, is peaceful and quiet), yet powerfully (since every genuine desire to co-operate with Your aid, Lord, is powerful and strong).

DEVOTE. This is the most important point. Everything comes back to the need of making our Office and all our liturgical functions acts of piety, and, consequently, acts that come from the heart.

“Haste kills all devotion.” Such is the principle laid down by St. Francis de Sales in talking of the Breviary, and it applies a fortiori to the Mass. Hence. I shall make it a hard and fast rule to devote around half an hour to my MASS in order to ensure a devout recitation not only of the Canon but of all the other parts as well. I shall reject without pity all PRETEXTS for getting through this, the principal act of my day, in a hurry. If I have the habit of mutilating certain words or ceremonies, I shall apply myself, and go over these faulty places very slowly and carefully, even exaggerating my exactitude for a while.

A certain author of the nineteenth century, as notorious for his impiety as he was famous for the realism of his descriptions, once found no better simile by which to give a caricature of a person speaking very volubly without knowing what he was saying, than to describe that person as talking “like a priest gabbling his Mass.”

With all due proportion, I shall also apply this resolution to all my other liturgical functions: administrations of the Sacraments, Benediction, Burials, and so on.

As far as the Breviary is concerned, I shall carefully decide in advance when I am to say my Office. When that time comes, I shall compel myself, cost what it may, to drop everything else. At any price, I want my recitation of the Office to be a real prayer from the heart. O my Divine Mediator! Fill my heart with detestation for all haste in those things where I stand in Your place, or act in the name of the Church! Fill me with the conviction that haste paralyzes that great Sacramental, the Liturgy, and makes impossible that spirit of prayer without which, no matter how zealous a priest I may appear to be on the outside, I would be lukewarm, or perhaps worse, in Your estimation. Burn into my inmost heart those words so full of terror: “Cursed be he that doth the work of God deceitfully.”

Maledictus qui facit opus Dei fraudulentur (Jer. 48:10).

Sometimes I will let my heart soar, and take in by a panoramic synthesis of Faith, the general meaning of the mystery which the liturgical Cycle calls to mind; and I will feed my soul with this broad view.

At other times, I will make my Office a long, lingering act of Faith or Hope, Desire or Regret, Oblation or Love.

Then again, just to remain, in simplicity, LOOKING at God will be enough. By this I mean a loving and continuous contemplation of a mystery, of a perfection of God, of one of Your titles, my Jesus, of Your Church, my own nothingness, my faults, my needs, or else my dignity as a Christian, as a priest, as a religious. Vastly different is this simple “looking” from an act of the intellect in the course of theological studies. This “look” will increase Faith, but will give even greater and more rapid growth to Love. It is a reflection, no doubt a pale one, but still a reflection of the beatific vision, this “looking” and it is the fulfillment of what You promised even here below to pure and fervent souls: “Blessed are the clean of heart for they shall see God.”

Beati mundo corde, quoniam ipsi Deum videbunt (Matt. 5:8).

And thus every ceremony will become a restful change because it will bring my soul a real breathing spell and relieve it from the stifling press of occupations.

Holy Liturgy, what sweet fragrance you will bring into my soul by your various “functions.” Far from being a slavish burden these functions will become one of the greatest consolations of my life.

How could it be otherwise when thanks to your constant reminders I am ever coming back to the fact of my dignity as a child and ambassador of the Church, as member and minister of Jesus Christ, and am ever being more and more closely united to Him Who is the “Joy of the elect.

By my union with Him I shall learn to get profit out of the crosses of this mortal life, and to sow the seeds of my eternal happiness and by my liturgical life, which is far more effective than any apostolate, I will see that other souls have been drawn to follow after me in the ways of salvation and sanctity.








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