An electronic reproduction of the Guide for Victim Souls of the Sacred Heart of Jesus compiled from various sources by the Very Rev. Joseph Kreuter, OSB.

Nihil Obstat: Arthur J. Scanlan, S.T.D., Censor Librorum. Imprimatur + Stephen J. Donahue, S.T.D., Administrator of New York; 1939.

According to the United States Copyright Office the copyright has expired on this book.

In your charity, please pray that the Sacred Heart draws many souls here to read, contemplate and be enkindled.

Soli+Deo!

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From the Biography of Mo. Marie Deluil-Martiny: Immolation
by Abbe L. Laplace.
Nihil Obstat. Authur J. Scanlan, S.T.D.
Imprimatur +Patrick Cardinal Hays
New York, July 14, 1926.

Part II: The Third Degree of the Spirit of Sacrifice – Love of the Cross and Oblation of Self .5


A Means of Acquiring the Spirit of Sacrifice: Living in the Presence of God

The spirit of sacrifice which we have de­scribed is indeed something admirable, and it is surely desirable to have some means of ren­dering its acquisition easier. Fortunately there is such a means, and it consists in maintaining an unremitting struggle against distractions, in the faithful exercise of recollection of spirit, in living in the presence of God.

Those who strive to preserve constant recol­lection will frequently during the day feel in­spired to make some small sacrifice for the Sacred Heart of Jesus. If they act on these inspirations and actually make the suggested sacrifice, they are wont to experience a great interior happiness; Our Savior manifests al­most sensibly the pleasure which their sacrifice has given Him. If, however, they resist these inspirations and refuse to make the sacrifice, their conscience frequently reproves them; our Savior causes them somehow to feel that He is displeased with them. This interior experience has the effect of lessening their cowardice and of infusing in them an ever-growing courage to make sacrifices.

One can almost assert that the degree of their spirit of sacrifice corresponds to the de­gree of recollection which they preserve. Those who never practice recollection, who are com­pletely immersed in earthly pursuits, seldom make any sacrifice for God, while the saints, who have mastered the art of living in the pres­ence of God, readily practice even the third degree of this spirit of sacrifice, and that in a heroic manner.

“The practice of maintaining close union with God,” says Father Grou, “and constantly living in His presence, gives its strength to practice self-denial, just as the practice of self­denial enables us to live in the constant pres­ence of God.” In the following pages we shall therefore briefly dwell on this powerful means of acquiring the spirit of sacrifice.

The masters of spiritual life are unanimous in insisting on the practice of living in the presence of God as one of the most necessary means of .advancing in virtue and perfection. Thus Father Rodriguez, S.J., writes: “If you would have a means which contains within it­self (lie power and efficacy of all other means of arriving at perfection, hold fast to that which God Himself gave to Abraham when He said to him. ‘Walk before Me and be perfect.’ "

Nay, this means not only contains within it­self the power and efficacy of all the other means, but causes all of them to be efficient for without continual recollection they will never be productive of any perfect result, as voluntary neglect of recollection will, in the course of the day, cause the loss of many a precious fruit that our spiritual exercises had in the morning yielded to us.

On the necessity of walking before God, a series of treatises have appeared that may be consulted. We confine ourselves to expound­ing for the benefit of Victim Souls a concise, practical method of acquiring the knowledge and art of walking before God.

First of all, lest anybody may attempt too high a flight, we call attention to a warning given by St. Alphonsus Liguori: it is this “Only the saints in heaven are privileged to continually enjoy the presence of Almighty God and he permanently absorbed in Hire. Here on earth, however, it is, humanly speak­ing, impossible to remember without interrup­tion that we are in the presence of God.”

Be it remarked at the very outset that the actual uninterrupted thought of God is simply impossible here below without a miracle of grace; one call at best dispose oneself for such a miracle, but can never merit it or attain to it forcibly by striving with all his might to hold fast to the thought of God. Such an attempt would have a tendency to break down the nervous system, or to make one the play­thing of fancy and delusion, especially if one were to represent God to oneself under some image.

St. Alphonsus Liguori proposes three means to enable one to live constantly in the presence of God. These three means have been used by all the saints, and are so simple that they can readily be employed by all truly earnest souls, whether in the world or in the cloister.

(A) The Means Proposed by St. Alphonsus

1. The first means consists in frequently raising our heart to God by short, fervent, ejaculatory prayers, which can he done every­where and at all times: at work, at table, or at recreation. These prayers may be of the most varied character: acts of desire, of con­formity to the will of God, of love, of thanks­giving, of confidence, etc.

Victim Souls will particularly make frequent acts of self-surrender, for example: “My Jesus, act Thine, do with me what Thou wilt.” “My Jesus, I will not seek myself, but only Thy honor and reparation to Thy Sacred Heart.” “My Jesus, I will not complain of this trial, but will silently hear it for love of Thee.”

Such brief ejaculations should be repeated frequently during the day, but not in a thought­less, routine manner. They should, therefore, not always be the same as have been learned by heart, and should be uttered with greater fervor and love, in accordance with the state of one's soul at the moment.

Let us listen to the words of that great master of the spiritual life, St. Francis of Sales, on this first means of preserving the presence of God: “Be careful, Philothea, to sigh fre­quently for God by means of brief but ardent elevations of the heart. Admire His beauty, pray to Him for help, throw yourself in spirit at the foot of the Cross, adore His goodness, consult frequently with Him concerning your salvation, and offer Him your heart a thousand times a day.”

These practices will not be found difficult; they can be performed without interrupting our work; for they require but a few brief elevations of the heart, which, far from inter­fering with our occupations, will rather enable its to perform them more fervently.

The traveler who stops a moment to refresh himself with a draught of wine does indeed delay a bit, but in reality he loses no time, for the refreshment he has taken has increased his strength and he is able to proceed all the faster.

There are indeed various collections of such ejaculatory prayers, which are doubtless very useful; but in my opinion it will be better if you do not restrict yourself to them, but rather utter such as love provides at the moment, and be convinced that words will not fail you.

The Saint goes on to say: “The use of these spontaneous ejaculations is not only an impor­tant means of fostering devotion, but in case of necessity they can even replace all other pray­ers, while their omission can hardly he sup­plied by anything else. Wherefore,” he says, “I entreat you, Philothea, to devote yourself with your whole heart to this pious practice.”

2. “The second means,” says St. Alphonsus, “consists in renewing frequently our good in­tention, when engaged in distracting occupa­tions. For this purpose it will be well at the beginning of each action to protest that we seek therein not our pleasure but solely the will of God. In the course of our work we ought to renew our good intention repeatedly; for ex­ample, by some such words as: 'All for Thy honor, O my God.' 'My Jesus, all in repara­tion to Thy Sacred Heart.' "

Once we have formed this habit, we shall soon arrive at the point where it will he im­possible for us to be without the consciousness that we are laboring and living only for God, out of love for Him, and to make reparation to His Sacred Heart. If we further accustom ourselves to represent Our Lord as present, not indeed as an image of our imagination, but by am act of pure faith, we shall soon be able in all our actions to preserve the consciousness that God is really with us, that He sees us, that we are working in His intimate presence. This con­sciousness is not a perpetually active one, that being impossible here on earth as explained above, but a habitual one, just as we may be perpetually conscious of Christ’s presence in the tabernacle when in church we are listening to a sermon. Though our whole attention may be concentrated on the preacher, we still do not lose sight of the fact that Christ is present, that He sees us. This habitual consciousness of God's presence is being continually kept alive by the above mentioned ejaculatory prayers and the frequent renewal of our good intention; whereby we can, be it only for a moment, ac­tively remember the presence of Almighty God.

In his work entitled “Walking Before God,” Löcherer, a well-known ascetic writer, ex­presses himself in a similar way. He says, “The daily works thus performed before and for God are, as it were, an unbroken prayer, a hymn of praise sung to the Lord with soul and body, a reality-not a pretense as vocal prayers often are-a steadfast bent of mind on God and His holy will, a continuous desire to do that only which is most pleasing to God, an ever­-repeated elevation and concentration of the spirit towards Him, a frequent inward beseech­ing of Him. This we hold to be that ceaseless prayer which Holy Writ demands of us, as any other kind here on earth is impossible and therefore unattainable."

3. “The third means.” St. Alphonsus con­tinues, “consists in this: that after being en­gaged in some distracting occupation, we with­draw for a short time to recollect ourselves in God.” Father Alvaren, S.J., says that a soul without prayer is like a fish out of the water; she feels thoroughly uneasy. One who has, therefore, been engaged in distracting occupa­tions must see to it that he regains his com­posure by recollected prayer.

This is particularly the case with those who are engaged in intellectual pursuits. During their unoccupied moments, when the attention of the mind is not actually taken up by their work, they must make an effort to recall the presence of God. According to St. Ignatius they should be able at the end of a mental task to turn their thoughts spontaneously to God and rest in God until they are again drawn away from Him by some new task.

Even when actually engaged in some dis­tracting occupation we ought from time to time to direct our thoughts at least for a moment to God. This is the advice of St, Francis of Sales. “Even when the body is engaged in work,” he says; we ought, as far as possible, to retire into the solitude of our heart. This spiritual solitude need not he disturbed by others around us, because they do not surround our heart but only our body; our heart remains apart before God and in God alone.”

St. Teresa, too, advises us to practice recol­lection while engaged in exterior occupations. “In the midst of our work,” she says, “we must occasionally collect ourselves, if only for a moment. The mere thinking of God will benefit us much.”

In our daily occupations we must carefully guard against impetuosity. “Non in commotione Dominus” – “The Lord is not in the wind,” says Holy Scripture. An impetuous na­ture gives evidence of an unsteady and dis­tracted soul.

“Impetuosity,” says Father Tillmann, “pro­duces the disastrous effect of causing the soul to lose all fervor in devotion and all interior recollection, not only in such occupations as naturally tend to draw the heart away from God, but also when engaged in the holiest oc­cupations, in words of charity, or such as are imposed by obedience. Impetuosity enslaves the soul so that it can no longer act freely and raise itself to God.

“It is often more disastrous to allow oneself to be governed by impetuosity in good and holy. works, because it is easy to deceive oneself into thinking that good and useful occupations can­not be other than meritorious, and that one need not be concerned about any harm result­ing therefrom to interior recollection. One who is therefore desirous of living uninterruptedly in the presence of God must continuously prac­tice restraint, lest he perform his duties impetuously."

We shall do well, therefore to collect our thoughts at the beginning of each task and to proceed therein with calmness. As soon as we notice any traces of impetuosity, let us interrupt our work and collect ourselves anew before continuing. Without the observance of this rule we shall never arrive at continuous recol­lection.

In the employment of the three means we have just explained, perseverance is of great importance. As in all things, practice makes perfect.

“I know that in the beginning,” writes the devout Carmelite Brother Lawrence, “you mill find great difficulty in acquiring this habit, but all things are possible with the help of God's grace, which He will never refuse to one who earnestly asks for it. Be therefore instant in asking, and I am sure that God will grant you in time what He has perhaps long withheld from you.”

On the other hand, we must not be over­anxious, seeking by force to acquire the prac­tice of living constantly in the presence of God. “I do not mean to say that we must torment ourselves in this matter,” continues the same Brother, “we should simply do our work faithfully, without becoming excited or uneasy, and calmly but firmly collect ourselves when we find the mind wandering. In the beginning we may perhaps think it simply loss of time, but if we persevere resolutely, we shall at length he able to surmount all difficulties."

“This persevering knocking at the door of divine mercy,” says Father Tillmann, “cannot possibly prove ineffectual, for the Lord Him­self has said: ‘Knock and it shall be opened to you.’ The Lord may indeed permit our knocking to go unheeded for a time, but if we persevere we shall without fail gain admission. We must, however, not presume to set a time for the Lord, but be willing to continue our efforts untiringly even unto death.”

Finally, St. Francis of Sales maintains that to live continually in the presence of God, no more is required than to guard against volun­tarily withdrawing ourselves from God, and that we need not be concerned about distrac­tions which are merely the result o£ human weakness. “It is my conviction,” he says, “that when we complain of not being able to find God and that He has seemingly withdrawn Himself from us, we mean merely that we do not sensibly experience His presence. I have often remarked that many cannot distinguish between God and His sensible presence. They imagine that they are not in God's presence because they do not feel His Presence. But this is a great mistake. It is simply an avowal of ignor­ance. There is a great difference between liv­ing in God's presence and sensibly experiencing it. The latter state can be attained solely by a special grace of God, and it is entirely impos­sible for us to indicate any means whereby this grace can he acquired.”

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