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you indulge in frivolous, silly, or absurd stories? Whether you weigh your words well before giving utterance to them 1 thus following the wise counsel of S. Bernard: "When you speak let your words be few, true, and solid ". Place a curb upon your mouth, and beg of the Holy Ghost the grace never to speak except when and as the occasion requires.
The second help to acquire and preserve the spirit of recollection is the frequent use of the presence of God, which consists in eliciting oftentimes during the day acts of faith, by which we believe that God is always intimately present with us; and acts of love, by which, in His presence, we love Him with the most tender affection. This we do by means of frequent ejaculatory prayers. And, with regard to such prayers, we should bear in mind (1.) that they ought to be short, and ought to proceed not so much from the intellect as from the heart. (2.) Let them also not be too numerous, nor jumbled together, so that they may not confuse or distract the mind. (3.) Let them be addressed to God, not as dwelling far away from us in heaven, but as actually present before us, and within us. Wherefore examine yourself, and see whether you practise this holy custom of ejaculatory prayer: be extremely careful not to neglect it, because it is an excellent means to keep you recollected with God, and fervent in His love.
As regards prayer both mental and vocal, which is the principal means of keeping alive and nourishing Divine love in the soul, examine: (1.) whether you make due preparation before engaging in mental prayer; (2.) whether you continue in meditation during the entire time allotted for that exercise, and whether you do so in a respectful posture, and with fervour of soul; (3.) whether you spend more time in the exercise of the intellect than of the will; (4.) whether your resolutions are always practical and directed to some particular point; (5.) whether at the conclusion of the meditation you always make a short examen as to the manner in which you have gone through it. Look carefully into all these points, and where necessary correct any past defects which you may discover.
Regarding vocal prayers, and especially the canonical hours, examine diligently—(1.) whether you recite them in a becoming place; (2.) at the proper time; (3.) in a modest posture; (4.) with distinct utterance; (5.) with attention of mind; (6.) in accordance with the directions of the rubrics; (h) and in the prescribed order. Should your examination lead to the discovery of past faults under any of these heads, correct them; for God has declared "cursed be he that doth the work of the Lord deceitfully" (a).
The perfect observance of these matters will lead you to an intimate union with God, and to a tender love of Him. This Divine love will be stirred up within you still more in the next meditation, wherein we reflect on the following points. "That God deserves to be loved by us"—(1.) because of the love He bears towards us; (2.) because of the manner in which He loves us; and (3.) because of His infinite perfections.
(a) Jer. xlviii. 10.
On the Love of God.
God desires our love, because of the love which He bears to us. The charity of God towards us comprises in an eminent degree those three qualities by which S. Ignatius distinguishes true from false love. For, (1.) it manifests itself by great works; (2.) it liberally lavishes its goods upon the person loved; (3.) it is always present with us.
First. The love of God performs great things in your behalf. It drew you out of nothing, forming you to God's own likeness, in preference to an infinite number of other possible beings. It gave you a soul with its noble powers, a body with its delicate organs of sense, and complete in all its members, and furnished with many splendid natural endowments. It is through love of you that He preserves the world, causes the beasts of the earth to multiply, makes the plants bud forth, clothes the fields with verdure, and enriches the plains with crops. He has made the sun to give you light; He nourishes you with the productions of the earth; and He has created the air, fire, water, and earth to comfort and sustain your life. Add to all this the great work of human Redemption y the mission of the Holy Ghost; your adoption to be a child of God, a brother of Jesus Christ, an heir to the kingdom of heaven; finally, the grace of baptism, of a good education, and of a vocation to the faith, to the priesthood, and to the religious state. See, then, whether God's love has not done great things for you!
Secondly. Morever, God has given you without reserve all His gifts—nay He has given you Himself. He has placed at your disposal worldly goods [here enumerate them one by one]; He has given you the angels to guard you, grace to merit, and heaven as your future reward. He has given you Jesus Christ to be your Master, His life for your example, His soul and body as the price of your redemption, His flesh for your food, and His blood as your drink, when He poured out the infinite treasures of His love in the most august sacrament of the Eucharist; so that though He is most wise and omnipotent, He neither knew how, nor was He able, to give you anything greater or better. Add to all this that He has promised you many other most precious gifts; namely, the assistance of His grace, the habits of faith, hope, and charity, together with sanctifying grace, "that by these you may be made partakers of the Divine nature" (a). Has He not then given you Himself, and all that was His?
Thirdly. Finally, God proves His love for you by being always intimately present with you—(1.) By His essence, according to that saying of the apostle, "in him we live, and move, and be" (b). We are surrounded and penetrated by God, more than by the very air we breathe. (2.) He is present with you by His power. It is through God you live, grow, feel, see, hear, think, reason, and remember, because He co-operates in all those actions of yours.
(a) 2 Pet. i. 4. (6) Acts xvii. 28.
(3.) He is present by His Providence, for as His child He carries you in His bosom, He defends you, He fondles you, warding off dangers, and showering blessings on you, even "making with temptation issue, that you may be able to bear it " (a). In one word, God is ever dwelling in your body, and in your soul, as in a temple, in order to prove the love He bears you; because the lover can never endure to be separated from the object of His affections.
Now since reason itself teaches that we should return love for love, it follows—(1.) that you should also do something great for God, by carrying out with firmness and constancy the resolutions which you formed during the course of these Exercises. (2.) You ought also make an offering to Him of yourself, and of all that belongs to you; more particularly of your honour, your conveniences, your health, and your life, thus remaining constant in the third degree of humility. (3.) You ought also keep yourself ever present with, and united to, your Creator, by means of interior recollection, of attentive and fervent prayer, and of the practice of the presence of God. O seraphim! kindle in my breast afspark of that heavenly love, which rendered the practice of these three points so sweet and so easy to the saints.
God deserves to be loved, because of the manner in which He loves you. For (1.) He loves you with an eternal love, having commenced to love you ever since
(a) 1 Cor. x. 13.