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But, if the end of Man renders this indifference on his part necessary, the end of the religious man demands it still more imperatively; and we expect to find it in a religious in a far more perfect degree. So it is, O my Lord Jesus Christ, author and exemplar of the apostolic life! The excellence, the utility, and the happiness of my end (which consists in my own perfection and salvation, and in procuring the perfection and salvation of others), will avail me nothing, if I do not follow it out in that manner which you have appointed: that is to say, by those special means, and in that precise measure, by which, and in which, it is your will that I should attain it.*
Moreover, aided by your divine light, I know clearly that in the religious state every place, every office, every degree, and all conditions of health are means, and suitable means, to attain this end.'' Nay more, since in the infinite wisdom of your providence, you always select those means which are .best proportioned to the attainment of the end, I am firmly, persuaded that the place, the office, the degree, and the condition of health in which I may happen to be placed, are the most suitable to attain my end. Therefore, I see as clearly as it is possible, that I am bound to hold myself indifferent in regard of all these things.*
And, nevertheless, O Lord! I do not discover in myself this heavenly virtue, nor even the faintest traces of it. The love of ease, of honours, and of pleasures, and the horror of labours, of slights, and of afflictions hold a tyrannical sway over my heart, and lead me on blindly to think and act merely as they dictate.
But, how long, my soul, wilt thou bear this yoke? And when wilt thou cast it off at once, and for ever? Didst thou renounce worldly dignities, in order, afterwards, in the school of humility, to grasp with avidity at the smoke of honours? Didst thou renounce wealth, worldly prospects, and the comforts of your father's house, that you might afterwards, when in the abode of penance, sigh after a life of ignoble indolence? Didst thou sever the ties of flesh that, afterwards, when dead to the world, your life should be given up to pampering your body, and you should become the slave of silly fears regarding your health 1
O Lord, illumine my eyes, that they may see that vanity which blinds my soul, with such thick, and such fatal darkness. Grant me, O Lord, a firm faith in the truth that Thy providence governs all things: that this place and this office have been allotted to me by Thy command; that this illness comes to me from Thy hand.' Grant, moreover, that I may accept all these things from Thee in the spirit of indifference, as being of all others the most suitable for the attainment of my end.
After this, repeat with all the fervour of your soul the same affections which I have already proposed to you in the Second Meditation.
I. O Lord! I acknowledge that, as a man, I am bound to serve You, and that this is my sole, my essential, my last, and my greatest end. But it is extremely difficult, O Lord, to be obliged to do this precisely in that manner which you wish, that is, with a perfect indifference to riches or to poverty, to pleasure or to sorrow, to honours or to insults, to every state of life, and to every degree of perfection! And yet, justice, my own interests, and my own happiness demand this of me. To this I am prompted by the very voices of the damned souls, who unceasingly give utterance to this terrible exclamation— What doth it profit us to have made our end of what was merely the means to its attainment? What doth it profit us 1
But, of myself I am powerless : do Thou assist me with Thy grace, while, on my part, I am firmly resolved henceforward to accomplish my end.
II. O my Lord and Creator! as a religious, my end is to labour for my own perfection and salvation, and for that of others, by means of the various degrees, offices, places, &c. But I am convinced that the excellence, the utility, and the happiness of this end will avail me nothing unless I am indifferent to these means! Do Thou enlighten me; make me understand how, in themselves, all these means are suitable to the attainment of my end, and that those only among them are more and most suitable, which Thou, through means of my superiors, may prescribe for my use.
To The Reader.
Since those who have not as yet derived muchspiritual profit from the Retreat, ought to occupy themselves, yet awhile, with the Exercises assigned to the first week, both to excite themselves to greater sorrow for their sins, and to realise the more thoroughly their baseness and deformity (a), the Exercises of the following day are purposely lengthened; so that, being divided into two parts, they may furnish matter for two days' meditation to those who have resolved to occupy themselves during four days in Exercises of this week. Let such persons, therefore, take for the subject of their reflections to-day half of each of the meditations on Sin and Hell, reserving the other halves for to-morrow. In this manner we shall observe the rule laid down in the Directory, which says: "On the third day shall be proposed for consideration the matter already meditated on the second, but with the addition of some new points; for thus we penetrate into it more deeply" (b). Those persons, however, who will not occupy themselves beyond three days with the Exercises of the first week, may (if the meditation should seem to them too long) meditate upon one or two points only, and read the remainder, either after prayer, or at whatever other time may be found most convenient.
On Sin punished in the rebel Angels and in Adam. First Point.
Consider the punishment of the sin committed by the angels, who, through the absence of that spirit of indifference already mentioned, turned away in rebellious pride from the end for which they had been created, refused to serve their Creator in the manner which He wished, and were, in consequence, hurled headlong, with the lightning's speed, into Hell Here, reflect on the following points.
1. Who it is that condemns them to such terrible punishment. Who f It is God, whose justice cannot permit Him to punish beyond what is deserved; whose mercy always inclines Him to punish less than is deserved; whose wisdom can appoint nothing without prudence and design; whose sanctity can do nothing through passion, or imperfectly. And yet, this God, so just, so holy, so wise, and so merciful, exacted this severe punishment from the heavenly spirits who, by a single sin, departed from their last end .
2. Reflect who they were whom He so severely punished. Alas! they were beings of the most sublime intelligence, the princes of the heavenly court, the masterpieces of Divine Omnipotence, distill