"Let no one wear a mask, otherwise he will do ill; and if he has one, let him burn it."

St Philip Neri

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"Shun too great a desire for knowledge, for in it there is much fretting and delusion. Intellectuals like to appear learned and to be called wise. Yet there are many things the knowledge of which does little or no good to the soul, and he who concerns himself about other things than those which lead to salvation is very unwise. "

Thomas á Kempis

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"Whoever wants to stand alone without the support of a master and guide will be like the tree that stands alone in a field without a proprietor. No matter how much the tree bears, passers-by will pick the fruit before it ripens. "

St John of the Cross, OCD - Doctor of the Church

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Venerable Louis of Granada, OP  (1504-1588)

 
 

THE SINNER'S GUIDE

   

By Venerable Louis of Granada, OP

 

Motives for Practising Virtue

 

Ch 20. The Ninth Privilege of Virtue: The Manner in which God hears the Prayers of the Just


To comprehend what we are about to say upon this subject, you must remember that there have been two universal deluges, one material, the other moral. The former took place in the time of Noe and destroyed everything in the world but the ark and what it contained. The moral deluge, much greater and more fatal than the material, arose from the sin of our first parents. Unlike the flood in the days of Noe, it affected not only Adam and Eve, its guilty cause, but every human being. It affected the soul even more than the body. It robbed us of all the spiritual riches and supernatural treasures which were bestowed upon us in the person of our first parent.

From this first deluge came all the miseries and necessities under which we groan. So great and so numerous are these that a celebrated doctor, who was also an illustrious pontiff, has devoted to them an entire work. (Innocent III, De Vilitate Conditionis Humanae). Eminent philosophers; considering on the one hand man's superiority to all other creatures, and on the other the miseries and vices to which he is subject, have greatly wondered at such contradictions in so noble a creature. Unenlightened by revelation, they knew not the cause of this discord. They saw that of all animals man had most infirmities of body; that he alone was tormented by ambition, by avarice, by a desire to prolong his life, by a strange anxiety concerning his burial, and, as it appeared to them, by a still stranger anxiety concerning his condition after death. In fine, they saw that he was subject to innumerable accidents and miseries of body and soul, and condemned to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow.

His wretchedness was briefly but forcibly described by Job when he said that "the life of man upon earth is a warfare; and his days are like the days of a hireling." (Job 7:1). Many of the ancient philosophers were so impressed with this truth that they doubted whether nature should not be called a stepmother rather than a mother, so great are the miseries to which she subjects us. Others argued that it would be better never to be born, or to die immediately after birth. And some have said that few would accept life could they have any experience of it before it was offered them.

Reduced to this miserable condition, and deprived of our possessions by the first deluge, what resource, what remedy, has been left us by the Master who has punished us so severely? There is but one remedy for us, and that is to have recourse to Him, crying out with the holy king Josaphat, "We know not what to do; we can only turn our eyes to thee." (2Par. 20:12). Ezechias, powerful monarch though he was, knew that this was his only refuge, and therefore declared that he would cry to God like a swallow and would moan before Him as a dove. (Cf. Is. 38:14).

And David, though a still greater monarch, placed all his confidence in this heavenly succor. Inspired with the same sentiment, he exclaimed, "I cried to the Lord with my voice; to God with my voice, and he gave ear to me. In the day of my trouble I sought God, with my hands lifted up to him in the night, and I was not deceived." (Ps. 76:2-3). Thus when all other avenues of hope were closed against him, when all other resources failed him, he had recourse to prayer, the sovereign remedy for every evil.

You will ask, perhaps, whether this is truly the sovereign remedy for every evil. As this depends solely upon the will of God, they alone can answer it who have been instructed in the secrets of His will the Apostles and prophets. "There is no other nation so great, that hath gods so nigh them, as our God is present to all our petitions." (Deut. 4:7).

These are the words of God Himself, though expressed by His servant. They assure us with absolute certainty that our prayers are not addressed in vain, that God is invisibly present with us to receive every sigh of our soul, to compassionate our miseries, and to grant us what we ask, if it be for our welfare. What is there more consoling in prayer than this guarantee of God's assistance? But still more reassuring are the promises of God Himself in the New Testament where He tells us, "Ask, and you shall receive; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you." (Matt. 7:7). What stronger, what fuller pledge could we find to allay our doubts?

Is it not evident that this is one of the greatest privileges enjoyed by the just, to whom these consoling words are in a special manner addressed? "The eyes of the Lord are upon the just, and his ears unto their prayers." (Ps. 33:16). "Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall hear; thou shalt cry, and he shall say: Here I am." (Is. 58:9). By the same prophet God promises more to grant the prayers of the just even before they are addressed to Him. And yet none of these promises equal those of Our Saviour in the New Testament. "If you abide in me, " He says, "and my words abide in you, you shall ask whatever you will, and it shall be done unto you." (Jn. 15:7).

"Amen, amen I say to you: if you ask the Father any thing in my name, he will give it you." (Jn. 16:23). Oh! Promise truly worthy of Him who utters it! What other power could offer such a pledge? Who but God could fulfill it? Does not this favor make man, in a measure, the lord of all things? Is he not thereby entrusted with the keys of Heaven? "Whatsoever you shall ask" provided it lead to your salvation shall be given to you." There is no limitation, no special blessing all the treasures of grace are offered to us.

Ah! If men knew how to appreciate things at their true value, with what confidence would these words inspire them! If men glory in possessing the favor of an earthly monarch who places his royal power at their disposal, how much more reason have we to rejoice in the favor and protection of the King of kings!

If you would learn how such promises are fulfilled, study the lives of the saints and see what marvels they effected by prayer. What did not Moses accomplish by prayer in Egypt and throughout the journey of the Israelites in the desert? How wonderful were the works of Elias and his disciple Eliseus! Behold the miracles which the Apostles wrought! Prayer was the source of their power. It is, moreover, the weapon with which the saints have fought and overcome the world. By prayer they ruled the elements, and converted even the fierce flames into refreshing dew. By prayer they disarmed the wrath of God and opened the fountains of His mercy. By prayer, in fine, they obtained all their desires.

It is related that our holy Father, St. Dominic, once told a friend that he never failed to obtain a favor which he asked from God. Whereupon his friend desired him to pray that a celebrated doctor named Reginald might become a member of his order. The saint spent the night in prayer for this disciple, and early in the morning, as he was beginning the first hymn of the morning office, Reginald suddenly came into the choir, and, prostrating himself at the feet of the saint, begged for the habit of his order. Behold the recompense with which God rewards the obedience of the just. They are docile to the voice of His commandments, and He is equally attentive to the voice of their supplications. Hence Solomon tells us that "an obedient man shall speak of victory." (Prov. 21:28).

How differently are the prayers of the wicked answered! "When you stretch forth your hands," the Almighty tells them, "I will turn away my eyes from you; and when you multiply prayer I will not hear." (Is. 1:15). "In the time of their affliction," says the prophet, "they will say to the " Lord, Arise, and deliver us." But God will ask, Where are the gods whom thou hast made thee? Let them arise and deliver thee." (Jer. 2:27-28).

"What is the hope of the hypocrite, if through covetousness he takes by violence? Will God hear his cry when distress shall come upon him?" (Job 27:8).

"Dearly beloved," says St. John, "if our heart do not reprehend us, we have confidence towards God; and whatsoever we shall ask, we shall receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things which are pleasing in his sight." (1Jn. 3:21-22).

"If I have looked at iniquity in my heart," the royal prophet tells us; "the Lord will not hear me"; but I have not committed iniquity, and "therefore God hath heard me, and attended to the voice of my supplication." (Ps. 65:18-19).

It would be easy to find in Holy Scripture many similar passages, but these will suffice to manifest the difference between the prayers of the just and those of the wicked, and, by consequence, the incomparable privileges which the former enjoy. The just are heard and treated as the children of God; the wicked are rejected as His enemies. This should not astonish us, for a prayer unsupported by good works, devoid of fervor, charity, or humility, cannot be pleasing to God.

Nevertheless, the sinner who reads these lines must not give way to discouragement. It is only the obstinately wicked who are rejected. It is only those who wish to continue in their disorders who are thus cut off. Though your sins are as numerous as the sands on the shore, though your life has been wasted in crime, never forget that God is your Father, that He awaits you with open arms and open heart, that He is continually calling upon you to return and be reconciled to Him. Have the desire to change your life; be resolved to walk in the path of virtue, and turn to God in humble prayer, with unshaken confidence that you will be heard. "Ask, and you shall receive; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you."