from the annals of history unto our current day
Meditations by Rev. John Wyse
from the book 'Devout Exercises: Compromising Meditations and Visits to the Sanctuaries of the Blessed Virgin for Every Day in the Month of May'
On the End of Man
In order to obtain a real fruit from the series of meditations upon which we are now going to enter, it is necessary to commence with what is truly called the foundation of the whole spiritual life. The strength and endurance of a material house depend much, almost entirely, upon the plan of the foundations, and the manner in which they are laid. And not less so is it requisite to build upon a secure basis, and to set to work in earnest from the first, if we wish to raise surely and solidly the spiritual edifice of our souls.
To-day, therefore, let us begin by considering the end for which we were created. In the first place we must recall to our memory, that "man was created to praise, reverence, and serve his God, and by this means to save his soul." (1) And, we may ask ourselves, who was it that created us but God, Whose majesty and goodness are infinite? He need not have created us: for He was perfect without us. We are therefore the work of His pure mercy; and hence, as His bondsmen and slaves, we are obliged, whether we like it or not, to love and serve Him, and obey Him in this life. But Almighty God, in His endless love for man, has added besides a supreme reward in the next world, to be gained by those who obey Him in this. Thus, not only is it our duty to serve God here; but, having served Him, it is our privilege to be happy with Him for ever hereafter. Oh, how much has He loved us, to have drawn us out of nothing with so high an object in view as the eternal glory of Heaven! Where were we, any of us - the greatest, the best, but a few years ago! And to what great things does not God call us, but some few years hence - the least, the poorest, the very worst amongst us! Truly life is a dream, and nothing is great but God alone. Let us reflect earnestly how we have lived up to this great end. Have we spent our life in hunting after honours and riches - in seeking whatever pleasure this world may afford us - not thinking whether it was lawful or not, but caring only for our own indulgence? If so, we have gone blindly astray from the path marked out to us; we have been ungrateful to God, for the priceless blessings we hold from Him. To remember that God, the Great and the Good, is the sole object worth seeking or gaining; and to think of the little, perchance, we may hitherto have done towards so high an end, is in very deed a startling reminder for a Christian soul.
Again, we must think how much we shall lose, by not keeping always before us the end for which we were created. Our Blessed Lord has said, "What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (2) And, in truth, supposing we do gain everything we desire here on earth, which yet never happens, what is all this compared to the loss of God, or the value of but one soul amongst us? Yet, he who seeks but the enjoyment of this life - who loves to be honoured and praised - to live at ease and in luxury, will most certainly lose his soul and his God. Oh, how ought we not even to fear the pleasures and allurements of the world, if they so easily take us from our true end, which is God! "No man can serve two masters - God and the world:" (3) but have we not tried to do so hitherto? Have we not been of those, who imagine they can give a small part of their hearts to God, whilst with the rest they serve the devil? And is this enough? Oh, no. God is our only end. For, let a man become rich or powerful: let him obtain influence over others; let him be honoured and exalted above his fellow - creatures, with many advantages of body and mind - when he comes to die, what will all this profit him, if he has not served God alone? "Remember thy last end and thou shalt never sin," (4) say the Holy Scriptures, and "Remember man, that thou art dust, and unto dust shalt thou return," repeats Holy Church - and truly. For, there may be those who remain impassible to all argument, whose heart cannot be touched by the most moving points of the Christian religion: but let such persons recollect the goal to which they are tending, let them but constantly bear in mind that they are to die, and as experience tells us, the fruit of such a thought is greater than the listening to many sermons, the reading good books, or even than a deep knowledge of Holy Scripture itself. And why? For the simplest reason. Because death is an inexorable master, who allows nothing to follow us beyond the grave. There is it that the rich man is stripped of his wealth, the eloquent become dumb, the noble is crushed in the dust, the proud man humbled. And what find we in death? Not earthly pleasures, not worldly honours, not power, nor influence over others, for this earth has faded from our eyes; all that was enjoyable, all that contributed to temporal happiness, all is left behind, - and what find we but God? God, therefore, and He alone, is the true end of our life.
How plainly this appears, if we only take the opposite course, and try to serve creatures or make them serve us! After a first pleasure is gone, we are never but miserably deceived and disappointed. A holy writer has said, - "Dispose and order all things as thou desirest, and as it seemeth right to thee, and thou wilt find nought but suffering;" (5) but "to serve God is to possess a kingdom," which means that he who serves God as his last end, and looks to Him for all, shall obtain all things even in this life.
Let us remember the end for which we were created - namely, "to praise, reverence, and to serve God, and by this means to save our souls." God alone has a right to our service: for it is written, "Him only shalt thou serve." (6) Therefore, every creature that stands between us and God, or that takes us from Him in any manner whatever, is to be shunned and detested as an agent of the devil. By a little reflection, we can discover how far we may have been guilty in this respect. Has anything been keeping us from God? and if so, what is it? Is it a bad companion, or an unlawful connexion, or some employment that is causing us to neglect our religion, or that places us in the dangerous occasions of sin? Is it pride, vanity, or ambition, or avarice, or any unbridled attachment to any person or thing, or a sinful habit? If these, or any others, be the chains that bind us, let us tear ourselves away from them without delay. But what sin is it that has stood us in the place of serving God, and saving our souls? It matters little what it is, if by committing it, we are thus diverted from the real end of our life: what colour soever it may assume, of a certainty it is the enemy of God, and therefore to be cut off, or we must lose our souls, and "what doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul ?" (7) Oh, let us think of this: and when we have thought of it, let us resolve that nothing shall ever separate us from the only object in life worth contending for, the love and service of God.
Those who lack courage in this warfare, may find an effective help by contemplating the glorious example of Our Blessed Lady. The assistance of so great an advocate as the Mother of God is very valuable, and as potent with us as it is valuable in itself, if we but strive to imitate her virtues. We determine to-day to look more closely into the state of our souls, and examine thoroughly how far we have strayed from our last end - how much we have been blinded by pleasures, and the creatures of this world. But it is hard to do so; for this life is a warfare, and, as St. Paul assures us, one in which we shall not conquer without much labour. To animate us in the struggle, look up to Mary, the Mother of God, the Gate of Heaven, the Morning Star. Well may she be our model; for, beautiful and fair though she be, the most perfect of God's creatures, she was yet ever a creature, a journeyer like us in this vale of tears. And did she not keep her end - the true end of her existence, always before her? Who is comparable to her in this? And to what glory has she not been raised, because of her simple fidelity to this great truth? Let us ask Our Lady, therefore, continually to help us in keeping before our minds that we have come into this world for no other object, than to serve God here and to be happy with Him hereafter.
VISIT TO A SANCTUARY OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN
We may now, in spirit, pay a devout visit to the celebrated sanctuary of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, where, from the earliest times of Christianity down to the present day, a pious remembrance and veneration for the Mother of God has ever been retained. The sanctuary is situated upon ground once hallowed by the Prophet Elias and his disciples, who dwelt there. A magnificent church and a monastery of Carmelite friars, now stand in the holy spot. Doubtless the beautiful Month of May is well spent in that place, where the presiding recollections suggest at every step respect and love for Mary. The monks who inhabit it, take the name of their order from the mountain itself. They are known as the " Friars of Our Lady of Mount Carmel," and the order is noted for its devotion to the Blessed Virgin. The Brown Scapular, which is worn by so many pious Christians, forms a part of their religious habit. Let us go to-day at least in spirit, where we cannot go in fact, and join the good brethren in the prayers and praises they offer to Mary.
PRAYER OF FATHER CHRISTOPHER MAYER
O Mother most merciful, do thou supply for me whatever is imperfect in the offering which I am making to thy beloved Son. May I thus learn to know thee as my Mother. O most clement Jesus, receive Thou this prayer from the hands of Thy Blessed Mother: and when Thou hast united it to Thy merits, to her merits, and to those of all the Saints, do Thou present it to the Eternal Father for every pious, holy, and useful end. O Father, look Thou upon the Face of Thy well-beloved Son, and have mercy upon us, according to Thy good pleasure, to Thy greater and eternal glory. Amen.
(1) St. Ignatius's Exercises: "The Foundation."
(2) St. Matthew, xvi. 26
(3) St. Matthew, vi. 24
(4) Eccles. vii.
(5) Imitation of Christ, Book 2. chap. xii.
(6) St. Matthew, iv. 10.
(7) St. Matthew, xvi. 26
Return to the First Meditation . . . Proceed to the Third Meditation. . .