Back in April I shared a post entitled “Memento Mori, or Don’t Get Comfortable.” It was inspired by the sense of urgency I saw in the saints highlighted in Fr. Gaitley’s guide to Marian consecration, 33 Days to Morning Glory. In my reading this summer—particularly Praying With Padre Pio and The Little Flowers of St. Francis (which I’m reading now )—I continue to see this urgency. No sooner is a sin perceived than repentance and penance are undertaken; no sooner does an opportunity arise to serve or suffer than it is pursued to the full; no sooner is a prayer answered than praise and thanksgiving erupt.
This urgency is particularly edifying to me. Not only do I have a marked tendency to overestimate what I can achieve in the time I have, but I am also tempted more to presumption than despair. In other words, I’m inclined to coast and hope for the best—which is fine for a thing with wheels, but on two legs, usually turns into a long tumble downhill.
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In addition to Little Flowers, I am also reading The Soul of the Apostolate by Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard. First published in 1946, this spiritual classic has been read and recommended by popes, bishops, cardinals, and saints—and Jason Evert’s Chastity Project site ranks reading this book second only to prayer if you hope to be a missionary to the masses.
The overall theme of the book is captured on the front cover of the edition I am reading: “The Interior Life of Grace as the Key to Saving Souls.” Pursuing great works that demonstrate your love of neighbor without first and always loving God corrupts the works—for how can you truly love if you are removed from the source of all love?
This, too, is a terrible temptation for me: the desire to pursue a so-called good now and pray later. In retrospect, I think my “Memento Mori” post from April tilted that direction.
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This morning’s reading from The Little Flowers of St. Francis told the story of Brother John della Pinna, who received his calling to the religious life at a very young age. As a child he had a vision of the Child Jesus saying, “John, go to Santo Stefano, where one of my Friars Minor is preaching; listen to his words, and believe the doctrines he teaches, for I have sent him to thee. After that, thou shalt make a great journey, and then come to me.”
Little John did as instructed, and in his childlike innocence, believed that each new trip or task he undertook for the order would be the “great journey” referenced in the vision and would lead him to heaven. He was ever obedient and ever prepared to set out to meet his Lord and God. Indeed, over time he wept out of longing for the end of his journey—for death!
For more than fifty years of religious life, he rose each day and hoped it would be his last, the fulfillment of his vision and his heart’s desire.
This is memento mori applied to the interior life: a soul prepared daily for death and longing to meet his or her Maker. Such a soul would accomplish great things in this world, not out of any earthly desire for achievement and glory, but out of love of God, which is the only path to heaven.
O Lord, give me the grace each day to prepare my soul to for death by loving you above all and seeking to share that love in every action and interaction. Amen.
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