General Means of Perfection |
It's the Little Things that Add Up to Great Things for God
Portions of the following are taken from the excellent work My Catholic Faith by Bishop Louis LaRavoire Morrow in 1949 which is one of the most succinct, simple and concise explanations of the doctrines and practices of Roman Catholicism that both Catholic and non-Catholic can easily understand without any ambiguity or relativism. Pure, unadulterated facts and absolutes. Bolded sections for added emphasis, comments to modern practices, etc. are by editor.
Jesus Christ is the source of all graces. His merits give effect to the means of perfectoin which we use. This is why frequent confession and communion are especially helpful. The serve to keep us humble. If we are continually accusing ourselves, we are likely to form a delicate conscience. God will give us abundant graces, for confession and communion are sacraments and sources of grace.
After the observance of the Commandments of God and of the Church, the general means of perfection are:
1. Faithfulness in small things. By this means of perfection, we obtain greater graces and avoid grave sins more easily. As in the natural order, so in the spiritual, great things come from apparently insignificant things. We should be careful to avoid venial sins in order to be saved from mortal sins.
We should avoid hurting anyone, telling little lies, fault-finding, complaining, etc. "He that contemneth small things shall fall by little and little" (Ecclus. 19: 1). How small is a seed, yet it may grow up into a great tree!
"He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in a very little thing is unjust also in much" (Luke 16: 10). Our Lord promises to reward those who are thus faithful, saying: "Well done, good and faithful servant, because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many" (Matthew 25: 21).
2. Self-control and Self-denial are acts of mortification; keeping down anger, and abstaining even from thing which are permitted, but above all avoiding even the least yielding to what is forbidden. Self-control is the mark of the true Christian. If we deny ourselves some things which are permitted, we shall find it easier to avoid what is forbidden. Self-control gives us a strong will. Self-denial is the mark of the human being made to the likeness of God; a beast does not say 'No' to himself.
Christ said: "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself" (Mark 8: 34). One may deny oneself by avoiding what is not necessary, such as splendid dress, rich food, costly houses and cars, excessive entertainments, curiosity, etc., and above all, by doing cheerfully whatever duties come, and accepting with resignation all trials.
3. Order and Regularity. We observe order and regularity by having a fixed time for everything: for rising, retiring, eating, work, recreation, etc. We should imitate the order that God has placed in the whole universe, regulating everything by law. Recreation is not against the practice of Christian perfection; it is a need that God wishes us to satisfy in the proper manner. It should however, not interfere with our duties, or take up too much time.
4. A Habit of Prayer. By prayer we shall avoid temptations and obtain blessings. We should especially make a habit of ejaculatory prayer. We should sanctify our every action by offering it to God. A good plan is to make a general offering each morning, with our morning prayers. In this way, all we do - work, prayer, and even sleep -becomes a prayer to God.
5. A Frequent Recourse to Solitude. Solitude helps us grow in virtue. The noise and bustle of the world are distractions. We should once in a while imitate Our Lord and withdraw into solitude, to see our faults better, and go closer to God.
Good Catholics spend a few days every year in a Mission or spiritual retreat, to resort to this valuable solitude.
6. Spiritual Reading and Meditation. We should have some regular spiritual reading and meditation, even if for only ten minutes every day, as food for our souls.
Meditation on the truths of faith, the life of Christ, and the lives of the saints, will inflame our hearts to great virtue.
7. Frequent Reception of the Sacraments. God instituted the sacraments as effective means of grace. We should have recourse to the sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion as often as we reasonably can. Can we get more grace than from God Himself, coming in Holy Communion?
If we could only see the effects of Confession and Holy Communion on the soul! But let us see with the eyes of faith, and exclaim with the Saints, "It is enough for me, O God, that Thou hast revealed it."
These seven means of perfection are called the General Means of Perfection because they are suited to everyone in every state and condition of life.
The Little Way
For the ordinary person living in the world, one of the most practical means of perfection is called the Little Way of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus.
This Little Way can be followed by ordinary mortals who cannot undergo heavy mortifications like fasting, flagellation, and hair shirts, by people who are not possessed of mystical graces, who cannot do great works.
The Little Way is the way of spiritual childhood. Its essence is simple: to consider God as a most tenderly loving Father. As His devoted children, we do all things exclusively for His love, to give Him pleasure.
Our Lord Himself taught us to call God "Our Father" (Matthew 6: 9-13). He urged, "Unless you turn and become little children, you will not enter into the kingdom of Heaven" (Matthew 18: 3). He declared, "Whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God, as a little child will not enter into it" (Mark 10: 15)
As God's children, we should have in our spirit the child's characteristics, which are:
- Littleness and weakness. This means meekness and humility. Making ourselves as humble as we can, let us be ever aware that without God we can do nothing. Whatever we do, however great, is only a gift that our loving Father in Heaven sees fit to grant us.
- Poverty and simplicity. Without God, we possess nothing. Doing His holy will, we can be sure that He will provide for us. Simplicity personified, an innocent child should be our model in our attitude, in all our actions, towards God.
- Absolute confidence in his Father. In full trust, let us abandon ourselves to God and His infinite mercy. By this Little Way ordinary people can attain holy lives. Its foundation is Love.
In the practice of the Little Way heavy bodily mortification may be substituted by mortifications of self-love, the use of self-denial. St. Therese of Lisieux, called the "Little Flower," said, "Not everybody can fast, or wear hair shirts, or spend hours in prayer. But everybody can love." It's the little things from the heart that count!
Next: Installment 286 - The Evangelical Counsels
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Time of Quadragesima
vol 14, no. 9
APPRECIATING THE PRECIOUS GIFT OF OUR FAITH