The Manna of the Soul: Meditations for Each Day of the Year (By Fr. Paolo Segneri)



September 10-26:,M1

Sept. 18th:,M1

“…and there are many similar texts, to
show that those whom God commends to thy care are not
only those miserable ones who have none of the means of
subsistence, " the needy ; " but those too who have little, " the
poor.” And if this is so, how will it be possible for those
to be saved, who spend their income on dogs and horses,
rather than on the poor, unless they see that they are actually
perishing for want ? Alas ! this is not " understanding concerning
the needy and the poor ; " but only " concerning the
needy." And yet Christ dwells alike under the persons of
both ; so that, in this sense also, He cries aloud, that all may
know it : “I am needy and poor.”,M1

“…and there are many similar texts, to
show that those whom God commends to thy care are not
only those miserable ones who have none of the means of
subsistence, " the needy ; " but those too who have little, " the
poor.” And if this is so, how will it be possible for those
to be saved, who spend their income on dogs and horses,
rather than on the poor, unless they see that they are actually
perishing for want ? Alas ! this is not " understanding concerning
the needy and the poor ; " but only " concerning the
needy." And yet Christ dwells alike under the persons of
both ; so that, in this sense also, He cries aloud, that all may
know it : “I am needy and poor.”,M1,M1

II. Consider secondly, what that death is with which he is
threatened who lives according to the flesh, that is, who daily
pampers and gratifies it in all things, and yields to it in everything
it desires. It is the most utter death that can be imagined :
a death of sin, a death of nature, and a death of damnation.
This is the death which God announces to each one of these
miserable men in the words : “And if you live according to
the flesh, you shall die.” The first death is that of sin, because
it is the first in order which they incur by their mode of life.
The second death is that of nature, which, as it had its origin
from the death of sin, so too is it nourished and accelerated by
it, especially in those who are given up to pleasure, amusements,
and gaiety, and thereby hasten their corruption. The
third death is that of damnation, which is the consequence of
the death of sin, and which follows immediately upon the death
of nature, and this death is everlasting.

The third disposition is a great desire of having an ardent love of Jesus Christ. It is impossible to have a lively faith and live in innocence without being at the same time inflamed with a most ardent love of Jesus Christ, or at least with an ardent desire of loving Him. This desire of having an ardent love of Jesus Christ is a disposition absolutely necessary for acquiring the devotion to the Sacred Heart, which is itself a continual exercise of this ardent love. Jesus Christ never gives this love but to those who earnestly desire it. The capacity of our heart is measured by the greatness of its desires. All the Saints agree that the best disposition for acquiring a tender love of Jesus Christ is to have a great desire to love Him. Blessed, says the Son of God, are they that hunger and thirst after justice, for they shall have their fill. A heart must necessarily be purified by this ardent desire to be in a condition to be enkindled by the pure flames of divine love. This ardent desire not only disposes our heart to be inflamed with love for Jesus Christ ; it also obliges our loving Saviour to enkindle in our hearts this sacred fire. Let us desire truly to love Him. Such a desire, we may say, is always efficacious. It is unheard of that Jesus Christ ever refused it His love.

Can we ask for anything more reasonable ? Is it possible for any easier condition to be required ? There is no Christian that does not pretend to have at least a wish to love Jesus Christ. But how then is it, if this desire be so suitable a disposition for acquiring an ardent love for Jesus Christ, that so few have an ardent love of Him, though all flatter themselves they possess this disposition, and Jesus Christ is always ready to give His love to those who are well disposed ? It is because our heart is filled with self-love, and what we call a desire of loving Jesus Christ is nothing but a mere speculation, a barren knowledge of the obligation we are under of loving Him. It is an act of the intellect, not of the will. This knowledge, which is common to all who have any sense of the benefits which they have received from Him, passes for a true desire in the minds of many who, provided they have some specious pretext for deceiving themselves, readily persuade themselves that they are in a good state of conscience. To convince ourselves that we have not a true desire of loving Jesus Christ, we have only to compare this pretended desire with any other desire which really influences us. How anxious we are, what efforts we make, when we love anything passionately ! We are wholly occupied by the desire, we think of it, we speak of it at all times, we are continually taking measures and seeking means, we even lose our sleep in order to ensure its accomplishment. And what similar effect has ever been produced in us by the desire we pretend to have of loving Jesus Christ ? Has the fear of not acquiring this love ever cost us much labour ? Does the thought of it occupy us much ? The truth is that we do not love Jesus Christ, and we are deceived when we flatter ourselves that we have a great desire of loving Him. The true desire of loving our divine Saviour approaches too nearly to true love, not to produce the same effects. It is in vain that we make use of all the artifices of self-love. It will never be true that we have a great desire to love Jesus Christ, as long as we love Him so little. There is great danger that these sort of fruitless desires, which we sometimes feel, of loving Jesus Christ, may be little sparks of an almost extinguished fire, and real signs of the tepidity in which we live. If we have not this ardent love for Jesus Christ, let us make, at least once in our life, some serious reflection on the obligation we are under of loving Him, and it is certain, that it will at least give rise to a true desire of being inflamed with this ardent love.

Sept. 27th-Oct. 10th,M1,M1

When, therefore, by a special vocation
sent to thee by God, thou hast resolved on something for His
service, set about it immediately. Do not delay, do not procrastinate,
do not turn back to hear what is said about it by
worldly persons, by thy companions and friends ; for by so
doing thou wilt incur a grave risk of not fulfilling thy vocation
by reason of the obstacles which come in the way of all great
works. And, on the other side, who can tell that thy very
salvation may not be associated by God with the fulfilment of
this vocation, in the providential order of events which He
decreed for thee when He predestinated thee in His love ?

St. Jerome:

II. Consider secondly, the effect which this fear produced
in the Prophet ; it was to make him retire from. the company
of men : " I sat alone, because Thou hast filled me with
threats." And the same fear produced the same effects in
St. Jerome, for it was the terror of Judgment which made him
flee into the wilderness. The Prophet fled thither from pure
fear; the Saint both from fear and for safety, because he
thought that he could refrain more easily, at a distance from
men, from those sins of which he would have to give an
account on that terrible day. Dost thou think that if thou
hadst a right fear of the Last Judgment thou wouldst indulge
so freely in intercourse with men ? What is the fruit of such
intercourse but falls, and spiritual infirmities, and diseases,
even such as are mortal ? This was the experience of one
who said, though late : " Lo, I have gone far off, flying away ;
and I abode in the wilderness.“2 How is it that thou dost
not apply to thyself so profitable an example? At times,
indeed, thou dost retire into solitude — " Going far off, flying
away” — but thou dost not “abide” there, for scarcely canst
thou bring thyself to continue half a day without being tired.
Not so with the Prophet: for he said, “I sat alone;” and
not so St. Jerome. He too " sat " in his wilderness ; not that
he remained in idleness there, for, on the contrary, he attained
a very advanced age while occupied in speculating, writing,
singing the Divine praises, and giving admirable replies to all
those who consulted him as a living, universal oracle from all
parts of Christendom ; but that he made the wilderness his
continual dwelling-place, refusing all the invitations he received
from the most distinguished personages, even of Rome, because
he was wholly absorbed in one single occupation, that of preparing
for Judgment.,M1,M1

But there is another reason why the Scriptures are called “
a lamp,” namely, to show us that they ought always to be
ready in our hand wherever we go, to give us light at every
step : " Thy word is a lamp to my feet.“6 And again, they
are called a lamp, to show us that if we would have them give
us a good light, we must follow them with very great reverence
by keeping to their true sense, and never making them follow
us by forced or distorted interpretations : " No prophecy of Scripture is made by private interpretation.“1 Do thou, on
thy part, dispose thyself so as to value the inestimable benefit
bestowed on thee by God, in enlightening thy darkness by
this beautiful lamp to direct thee in all thy ways ; and take
shame to thyself if thou art foolish enough to seek for light
from profane writers, from politicians and poets, like a child
who has lost its way, and follows a glow-worm, instead of
seeking it from this sacred lamp, this infallible and unfailing
lamp, the only one which God has placed upon the candlestick : “
The lamp shining upon the holy candlestick.” -
III. Consider thirdly, that the early Christians hardly ever
took their eyes from this blessed lamp, so attentively did they
meditate on the Sacred Scriptures, reading them again and
again, comparing different passages, and applying them. And
so thou seest that the Apostle did not here deem it necessary
to exhort them to this noble study, but only took occasion to
praise them for so diligently practising it : " We have the
more firm prophetical word, whereunto you do well to attend,
as to a light that shineth in a dark place.” If, then, the
Apostle here says to his disciples " you do well,” is it possible
that there can be directors so opposed to him as rather to say
to them " you do ill "? Observe, therefore, what attention
ought to be paid to the Sacred Scriptures — just that which
would be given to a lamp which was our only guide in a dark
cavern: as to “a light that shineth in a dark place.” Oh,
how intently does every one keep his eyes fixed on such
a lamp, when going through dark and dangerous places, at the
risk of losing his way at every step.

Oct. 2nd: Feast of the Guardian Angels,M1

the angels to
whom is committed the general charge of nations, kingdoms,
cities, and of all important communities subject to God, in
which it is just that God should have His own servants, as
great sovereigns have theirs : " Upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, I
have appointed watchmen."1 What, then, dost thou think of
this excess of condescension in these exalted personages, who
act as thy servants at the very time when thou acknowledgest
them so little, and showest them so little obedience and
honour ? Art thou not covered with confusion at the sight ?

What, then, would become of thee,
but for thy good Angel Guardian, who is continually either
repelling or restraining them, or enabling thee to escape from
their attacks by means unknown to thyself. This command, “
to keep thee,” is not therefore restricted to one kind of
danger only, but includes numberless kinds, which concern
both the body and the soul. For which reason is added, " in
all thy ways." The word “way” in the Scriptures sometimes
means the law of God : " I have run the way of Thy
commandments, when Thou didst enlarge my heart."1 Sometimes
it means the actions of men : " Direct my way in Thy
sight;"2 and it also means this mortal life itself, which is like
a way leading us to the end of our journey, that is, to our
future home : " Envy not the man who prospereth in his
way."3 Now, in all these ways the angels are charged to keep
us, according to the peculiar needs of every one of them,
although indeed each of these ways branches into several
others. The law has many commandments ; operation has
many acts ; life has many periods, many occupations, many
cares, many states, all differing in kind. Who, then, can say
how great is the assistance, always opportune and ready in
every season, which thy Angel Guardian renders thee in all
these ways ? And yet thou art not even mindful to give him
thanks at the end of the day for all the countless favours he
has done thee ! Thou wilt say that thou dost not know them.
But why so ? Because he does them without revealing them
to thee ? Is this a reason for esteeming his favours less highly,
that they are done without ostentation ? Nay, but this is the
best way of doing favours : " After thou hast given, upbraid

The Kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away (St. Matt. xi. 12).

Strive vigorously, and
thou shalt be saved : " The Kingdom of Heaven suffereth
violence." How often hast thou been told that Heaven is
made for the poor ! " Amen, I say to you, that a rich man
shall hardly enter into the Kingdom of Heaven." And yet
consider the great Saint whom we celebrate to-day, St. Francis
Borgia. He was not only richly and nobly born, but a chief
dignitary, a prince of exalted rank : and yet to what a high
degree of sanctity did he attain ! Well, then, may it be said of
him according to this first senae, not that he had Paradise, but
that he took it by violence. Do thou learn to do likewise and it shall be thine : " For that which every one had taken in the
booty was his own."1

not be afraid, even if thou art far advanced in years. In that
case, thou hast to do all the more energetic violence both to
God and to thyself: to the latter by self-abnegation, to the
former by continual prayer. So shalt thou too attain in a
short time to so high a place in Paradise that it will hardly
be gained by another after many years. This was done by
St. Francis Borgia, who did not bear the yoke of religion from
his youth, but was advanced in years when he took it upon
himself. And yet he is a greater Saint than many who have
borne it from childhood.

All these are so many figures of those who do not steal
Heaven, but take it by violence, and of this number was the Saint of to-day.
He did indeed set himself for a time to play
the thief, when he concealed his intention of becoming a Saint
beneath a rich and courtly dress. But after a while he took
courage, threw off the mask, and played the part of a violent
assailant, spurning all worldly pomp ; and in order to trample
it under his feet, dressing not only soberly but shabbily, and
not shrinking even from sometimes appearing in public with
one of the vilest of animals on his shoulders. What then can
be said of thee, who not only lackest the courage to take it
by violence, but even the prudence to steal it as a thief?

For dost thou not know that the majority
of those that are saved are the poor, the suffering, the afflicted,
the persecuted, and many others whom God drives into
Heaven by means of various tribulations ? These are they of
whom it is written that they are "compelled to come in.“
For although it is true that they suffer all these ills against
their will, yet if they bear them submissively, not only is it
just as possible for them to reach Heaven, as for those who
steal it or take it by violence, but even to gain a higher place
there. If then thou art at least among these, thou shalt be
saved. Observe what happens in a dense throng, trying to
enter a church : those who are borne along by the force of
the crowd get in as well as those who obtain entrance by
violence ; nay, very often they work their way higher up. And
the same thing happens in the case we are considering. If,
therefore, thou art of feeble courage, take care to let poverty,
troubles, afflictions, sickness, and, above all, the severe persecutions
which, so to speak, are heaped upon thy shoulders,
make up for that vigour of voluntary action in which thou art
deficient : " Through many tribulations we must enter the
Kingdom of God.”

The Manna of the Soul: Meditations for Each Day of the Year By Paolo Segneri



























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