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Rise With Joyful Expectation of the Blessing You Hope For

 

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On Sunday we will chat about receiving the Eucharist.
We continue our series with Part II, Chapter 21: “How to Communicate” from An Introduction to the Devout Life. Here Saint Francis teaches us how to be properly prepared for receiving Holy Communion.

Begin your preparation over-night, by sundry aspirations and spontaneous prayer. Go to bed somewhat earlier than usual, so that you may get up earlier the next morning; and if you should wake during the night, fill your heart and lips at once with sacred words wherewith to make your soul ready to receive the Bridegroom, Who watches while you sleep, and Who intends to give you countless gifts and graces, if you on your part are prepared to accept them. In the morning rise with joyful expectation of the Blessing you hope for, and (having made your Confession) go with the fullest trust, but at the same time with the fullest humility, to receive that Heavenly Food which will sustain your immortal life. And after having said the sacred words, “Lord, I am not worthy,” do not make any further movement whatever, either in prayer or otherwise, but gently opening your mouth, in the fulness of faith, hope, and love, receive Him in Whom, by Whom, and through Whom, you believe, hope, and love. O my child, bethink you that just as the bee, having gathered heaven’s dew and earth’s sweetest juices from amid the flowers, carries it to her hive; so the Priest, having taken the Saviour, God’s Own Son, Who came down from Heaven, the Son of Mary, Who sprang up as earth’s choicest flower, from the Altar, feeds you with that Bread of Sweetness and of all delight. When you have received it kindle your heart to adore the King of our Salvation, tell Him of all your own personal matters, and realise that He is within you, seeking your best happiness. In short, give Him the very best reception you possibly can, and act so that in all you do it may be evident that God is with you. When you cannot have the blessing of actual Communion, at least communicate in heart and mind, uniting yourself by ardent desire to the Life-giving Body of the Saviour.
Your main intention in Communion should be to grow, strengthen, and abound in the Love of God; for Love’s Sake receive that which Love Alone gives you. Of a truth there is no more loving or tender aspect in which to gaze upon the Saviour than this act, in which He, so to say, annihilates Himself, and gives Himself to us as food, in order to fill our souls, and to unite Himself more closely to the heart and flesh of His faithful ones.
If men of the world ask why you communicate so often, tell them that it is that you may learn to love God; that you may be cleansed from imperfections, set free from trouble, comforted in affliction, strengthened in weakness. Tell them that there are two manner of men who need frequent Communion–those who are perfect, since being ready they were much to blame did they not come to the Source and Fountain of all perfection; and the imperfect, that they may learn how to become perfect; the strong, lest they become weak, and the weak, that they may become strong; the sick that they may be healed, and the sound lest they sicken. Tell them that you, imperfect, weak and ailing, need frequently to communicate with your Perfection, your Strength, your Physician. Tell them that those who are but little engaged in worldly affairs should communicate often, because they have leisure; and those who are heavily pressed with business, because they stand so much in need of help; and he who is hard worked needs frequent and substantial food. Tell them that you receive the Blessed Sacrament that you may learn to receive it better; one rarely does that well which one seldom does. Therefore, my child, communicate frequently,–as often as you can, subject to the advice of your spiritual Father. Our mountain hares turn white in winter, because they live in, and feed upon, the snow, and by dint of adoring and feeding upon Beauty, Goodness, and Purity itself in this most Divine Sacrament you too will become lovely, holy, pure.

Questions to Ponder:

  1. Saint Francis tell us that we should “give Him the best reception you can.” How can we liken this to when one receives a distinguished guest? (If a president or king were coming to our house, would we not do everything to make sure our house well enough to receive them?) How might this shed light on the importance of being prepared to receive communion?
  2. Saint Francis tells us that the imperfect man can learn perfection from receiving Communion. How do you think this is so?
  3. Going back to the first question, why does Saint Francis instruct us to receive communion well? Shouldn’t it simply matter that we are receiving Jesus? Is there some magic formula for “doing it right”? Isn’t the whole point of receiving Jesus that we need him because we’re not well? Then why this emphasis on doing it well?

Daughters of Charity, Vincentians and Visitandines

200px-vincent_de_paulAs our final post in preparation for the Feast of St. Vincent De Paul on September 27th, we’d like to highlight the immense regard St. Vincent de Paul had for the Visitation Order, its rules and its founders and how he used them as an example for his own new congregations, in particular the Daughters of Charity.

As a good friend of Bishop Francis de Sales and a spiritual director of St. Jane de Chantal, Founders of the Visitation Monasteries, he remembered their work and referred to it as he taught his own members of his blossoming communities.

For example, the bond of unity among the Visitandines was set as an ideal for his Daughters of Charity.

“When the Blessed Bishop of Geneva instituted his Order, he gave instructions that this practice should be observed, and told Mme de Chantal that nuns in one city were to watch over those in another. And if anything happened that might be out of order, he directed them to let her know about it in Annecy. So, dear Sisters, I present you with a very efficacious means, which is that you look out for one another, for when Sisters in one parish are concerned in this way for those in another, this Rule will be well observed.”Someone may say, ‘Quoi! Do I have to be concerned about persons who profess to serve God! Quoi! Sisters who should have God always before their eyes!’ Most of them shouldn’t need this concern,Sisters, but you’ll take this care in order to help to preserve the Company in the purity of its spirit; for, I can’t imagine that the Daughters of Charity can preserve that purity if they don’t keep this Rule. Therefore, Sisters, give yourselves to God to be faithful to the observance of your Rules and to keep on increasing this fidelity-as by the mercy of God you’ve done until now-and, above all, to observe this Rule well.”

Source:

NOT INVITING OUTSIDERS TO MEALS WITHOUT PERMISSION(Common Rules, Art. 11)September 8, 1657

Even table manners was a matter of example and admonition!

img_03905“One day when I was with the Blessed Bishop of Geneva,’ he said to me, ‘M. Vincent, one time I asked our Mother if our Sisters practiced moderation at table; “Excellency.” she replied, “you have to see them.” , When he learned that this was possible, he placed himself in a position where he could easily note their behavior, and he saw those Sisters observing great reserve, like persons who were in the presence of God and His angels. How that consoled him!”Dear Sisters, take care that all the works you’ll do are accompanied by those three virtues so that, at the same time you do the exterior action, your mind may be occupied interiorly with God, which may be done as follows: When you go to visit the sick, say to yourselves,’Wretched creature that I am, how dare I go to this poor person,I who am, before God, sicker than he is! If so many holy souls could do this, they’d do it far better than I!’ Afterward, revive your courage with this thought: ‘I’m going there for the love of God.How fortunate I am to have been chosen for such a holy ministry!’

Source:THE PURPOSE OF THE COMPANY(Common Rules, Arts. 1-3 October 18.1655

http://via.library.depaul.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1035&context=vincentian_ebooks

Finally he taught love of one’s own congregation:

One day the Blessed Bishop of Geneva said to me, ‘Monsieur, I tell our Sisters that they should esteem other religious Orders more highly than their own and consider the Carmelites more perfect–than themselves; but, even though they’re supposed to look up to others, I want them to love their own Rules more than all the rest.’He also said to me, ‘I even want them to believe that their Rule is better and more perfect for them. I want them to think that the Dominican Nuns, and even all the Sisters in the world, are more perfectthan they are and that their lifestyle is better than theirs; nevertheless,I want them to love their own better.'”I say the same to you, dear Sisters; consider the Rules and practices of all other Orders better and more perfect than yours-for them but not for you. Hold fast to your own and that will bring about uniformity>

16•• UNIFORMITY(Common Rules, Art. 17)November 15, 1657

http://via.library.depaul.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1035&context=vincentian_ebooks

St. Vincent de Paul and St. Jane de Chantal

200px-vincent_de_paulAlthough few letters are extant from St. Vincent de Paul to St. Jane de Chantal, he was her spiritual director after St. Francis de Sales entered eternity. The following letter shows the confidence St. Vincent placed in St. Jane as he shared much about his new congregation. St. Vincent de Paul remains very honored in the Order of the Visitation. We will remember his Feast this coming September 27th in a special way in our Monasteries.

TO SAINT JANE FRANCES, IN ANNECY

Troyes, July 14, 1639

Most dear and most worthy Mother,

The grace of Our Lord be with you forever!

Having come to this city of Troyes with the Commander de Sillery to visit the little family we have here in this diocese, I saw,in the letter he received from you, the answer you gave him concerning his proposal for an endowment fund for two men from our Little Company to work among the poor country people in your diocese.  Now, I shall tell you, most worthy Mother, that I received with inexpressible consolation the Commander’s proposal to me concerning that foundation. It will give us the means of working in the diocese of the saints and it is under the protection and direction of our worthy Mother. Therefore, we have reason to hope that Our Lord will bless the holy intentions of the good Commander and the humble labors of His Missionaries.

And because you wish to know what constitutes our humble way of life, I shall tell you then, most worthy Mother, that our Little Company is established to go from village to village at its own expense, preaching, catechizing, and having the poor people make general confessions of their entire past life. We try to settle the disagreements we find among them and do all we can to see that the sick poor are assisted corporally and spiritually by the Confraternity of the Charity, composed of women, which we setup in the places where we give the mission and which desire it.

To this work, which is our principal one, and in order to perform it better, the Providence of God has added that of taking into our houses ten days before ordination those who are to take orders.We feed and support them and during that time teach the practical Theology, the ceremonies of the Church, and how to make and practice mental prayer according to the method of our blessed Father, the Bishop of Geneva. We do this for those who belong to the diocese in which we are established.

We live in the spirit of the servants of the Gospel with regard to the bishops. When they tell us: “Go there,” we go; “Come here,” we come; “Do that,” we do it; and that is how we act in what concerns the functions mentioned above. As for the internal discipline of the Company, that depends on a superior general.Most of us have made the three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and a fourth to devote ourselves all our life to the assistance of the poor common people. We are seeking to have them approved by His Holiness3 and are asking permission to make a fifth vow, that of obedience to the bishops in whose dioceses we are established, in what concerns the aforesaid functions.

We practice poverty and obedience and try to live in a religious manner, even though we are not religious. We get up at fouro’clock in the morning and take half an hour to get dressed and make our bed. We make an hour of mental prayer together in the church and recite Prime, Terce, Sext, and None together. We then celebrate our Masses, each in his own place. When that is done,everyone retires to his room to study. At ten-thirty, we make a particular examen on the virtue we are trying to acquire. We then go to the refectory where we have dinner with individual portions and reading at table. After that, we go to adore the Blessed Sacrament together and say the Angelus Domini Nuntiavit Mariae, etc.Next we have an hour of recreation together, after which everyone returns to his room until two o’clock when we recite Vespers and Compline together. We then return to our rooms to study until fiveo’clock, at which time Matins and Lauds are recited together.Another particular examen is made at that time. We have supper next and then spend an hour in recreation. When that is over, we go to the church to make the general examen, say evening prayers,and read the points for the next morning’s prayer. After that, we retire to our rooms and go to bed at nine o’clock.

When we are on mission in the country, we do the same, except that we go to the church at six o’clock in the morning to celebrate Holy Mass and to hear confessions after the sermon which a man f rom the Company has just given following the Holy Mass he has said beforehand. We hear confessions until eleven o’clock, then go to eat dinner and return to the church at two o’clock to hear confessions there until five o’clock. Following that, one man teaches catechism and the others go off to say Matins and Lauds so as to have supper at six o’clock.

It is our maxim not to preach, catechize, or hear confessions in cities where there is a bishopric and not to leave a village until all the people have been instructed in the matters necessary for salvation and until everyone has made his general confession. We go to few places where there is anyone left who fails to do so. When we have finished in one village, we go to another where we do the same thing. We work from around the feast of All Saints until that of Saint John; we leave the months of July, August, September,and a part of October to the people so that they can take care of the harvest and the vintage. And when we have worked twenty days or thereabouts, we rest for a week or so and then go back to work.It is not possible to continue such labor for a longer time without that respite and without a day off each week.We have our days of solitude every year. We hold chapter every Friday morning, during which each one accuses himself of his failings, receives a penance from the Superior, and is obliged to carry it out. Two priests and two brothers ask the Company for the charity of being warned of their failings and, after them others doso, each in turn. In the evening of the same day we have a conference on our rules and the practice of the virtues. Everyone there shares the thoughts Our Lord gave him in prayer on the topic being discussed.

We never go out without permission and always two by two.Upon returning, everyone goes to see the Superior and gives him an account of what he has done. We neither write nor receive letters unless the Superior has seen and approved them. Everyone is obliged to agree to having his faults charitably reported to his Superior and to try to accept from and give to others the admonitions needed. Silence is observed from evening until the end of dinner the next day and from after the morning recreation until the one in the evening.We spend two years in the seminary, that is, in the novitiate.The training there is rather strict, by the mercy of God, so that fora number of reasons the seminarians do not communicate with the priests without permission.

The said Congregation is approved by His Holiness and established in the city and in the Faubourg of Saint-Denis in Paris, and in the dioceses of Poitiers, Lugon, Toul, Agen, and Troyes.

There you have our humble way of life, most dear and most worthy Mother. Please do us the charity, for the love of Our Lord,of telling us your reactions to it. You may be assured, dear Mother, that I shall accept them as coming from God, from Whose love I request this charity of you. . . . I shall not say anything to you about your dear daughters in Paris except that I think they are advancing more and more in the love of their Divine Savior. I have a great pardon to ask of you because I have not visited them for a long time. The Sisters here also have a good reputation and live fervently, and certainly with good reason. You could not believe, dear Mother, how greatly the spirit of Our Lord is evident in both the Mother and the deposee,or how well the rest of the house is doing, considering the difficulties it has had in the past.

Well now, dear Mother, permit me to ask if your unparalleled goodness still reserves for me the happiness of enjoying the place it gave me in your dear and most lovable heart? Certainly, I choose to hope so, even though my miseries render me most unworthy o f In the name of God, dear [Mother],please continue to grant me that favor. Trusting that you will, I am your most humble and most obedient servant.

Vincent De Paul

Source: http://via.library.depaul.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1025&context=vincentian_ebooks