THOUGHT FOR TODAY BY
ST. ANTHONY ZACCARIA
If through perfect humility you will be able to know objec tively yourself, only then will you be.
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Bethlehem, PA 18020
INTRODUCTION TO THE FAMOUS SAYINGS
From over 30 types of Famous Sayiyng we have selected 12 themes to complete a cycle of 12 months. What was the quarteria The themes of the Famhave been salected of the .
1. Contemplation is a sublime knowledge of truth, devoid of illusion or rationalization.
2. Contemplation goes from one truth to another. At the beginning, it is similar to imagination, but at the end it is quite different.
3. Just as chastity is an ornament for the body, so the virtue of contemplation is an adornment for the mind.
4. Contemplation is for man a noble activity. There is no truer and more perfect exercise than contemplation.
5. The inspiration needed to be ready for contemplation is rare. It is not given to those who are sluggish or immature.
6. Philosophical contemplation is imperfect since it comes along with inordinate passions, while Christian contemplation is perfect because it excludes such.
7. True contemplation eludes a person who looks for it with curiosity, but dwells in and adheres to him who seeks it out with humility.
8. A brief moment of contemplation on holy things is more satisfying, more sublime, and more comprehensible than the greatest philosophy.
9. Most Christians contemplate like pure philosophers; only a few contemplate as true contemplatives. This is so because many contemplate without overcoming their passions.
10. A true Christian contemplative always abides in the intimacy with God.
11. True Christian contemplation comes very close to ecstasy or the freedom of the mind.
12. Sometimes a contemplative wishes to stop and contemplate over some matters, but contrary to his will the Spirit leads him to contemplate on something else.
13. A contemplative person gains more in one act of contemplation than in many methods of prayer.
14. A contemplative person of diverse interests gains both from active life and contemplative life.
15. A true contemplative person sees more in a glimpse than a person of meditation does in a longer period of time.
16. Sometimes in contemplation what is united is divided, as when from God one descends to creatures.
17. Only a contemplative knows and senses the interior harmony formed by the Holy Spirit and obeys His promptings and actions within his soul.
18. Everything becomes dark with the greatness of light, and only a contemplative person sees things clearly even though they may be dark.
19. The more profound a contemplative person is, the more he sees God dwelling in the unfathomable.
20. The desire of a contemplative person grows more when he sees everything around him and when he is confident that he will not forever cross darkness.
21. A contemplative person is always on fire and is overwhelmed without experiencing any trouble and pain. His mind is gently drawn by God’s love.
22. Relaxation and rest are sweet to the contemplative, but the embrace of God is even sweeter.
23. A contemplative person looks with his left eye at Divine Providence, at the angelic choirs, the order of creatures, the divine bounty, and the other attributes that can be naturally known.
24. This eye is enlightened either through meditation, or through the knowledge acquired from human studies, or through divine inspiration.
25. Contemplation is sweet to the soul even though it is itself imperfect, that is, it is finite and can be totally described.
26. The right eye, not happy with this light, goes higher and looks into the secret of the divinity and of the divine substance. This eye contemplates many of the divine attributes and the secrets of creatures, which human knowledge cannot fathom.
27. The right eye does not remember what it has seen in the vision nor can it tell anything after. In short, it acts in such a way that it is no longer man who is at work, but God in him.
28. If your mind wishes to rise to the vision of God beyond what is worldly, remember what the Scripture says, “While living, man cannot see me; therefore, may that soul die the death of the just so it will be able to see God in the newness of life.”
29. The soul which does not see God lives in misery and one which does not long to see God with fervent desire and purity of heart will be much unhappy.
30. The most desirable of all treasures is to reach the state of contemplation, which cannot be achieved in any other way but through mortification.
31. It is necessary to unite ourselves with God by lifting up our hearts, praying and even contemplating. Actually, if you do not strive for this goal, I will not be surprised if you do not understand what prayer is, let alone contemplation. (Sermon III)
2. For a person who is distracted, every thought leads to distraction. For a truly meditative person, every imagining becomes meditation.
3. Meditation enables one to discern the valuable from the despicable, leading him closer to truth.
4. Meditation is more familiar to man than prayer, contemplation, and ecstasy.
5. Meditation on the virtues is the means to reach prayer and contemplation. Contemplation is the means to reach the moment of ecstasy.
6. A person who meditates but seeks favorable situations and avoids undesirable things, problems and loss will eventually bring upon himself these things with great misery.
7. Meditation is the beginning of interior fondness and a change of life. It is the opening of the road to knowledge and victory over oneself. Meditation enlightens the mind to discern one’s inner thoughts.
8. Sometimes, when distracted, it is better to stop meditating and come back to it later with greater consciousness.
9. Many things lead us to meditate, such as, our intention to love God, the memory of Christ's life and of the Saints, our awareness of the Divine Presence, the thoughts of death and the afterlife.
10. Meditation on death keeps us from vice and spurs us to virtue. This kind of meditation is an encouragement to the wayward and a hope to the repentant.
11. Meditating upon the reality of death will make us renounce any sensuality and bodily satisfaction and the use of our faculties. It is a constant lament that changes our souls for the better. Meditation of this kind also makes us forget the worries of the world, and leads us to victory over our passions.
12. Our profound meditation on the reality of death eliminates our fear of death itself and takes away our sorrows in this world. It also leads us to self-realization.
13. He who knows the significance of death knows the difference between fear of death as a natural inclination and fear of death as a spiritually motivated feeling.
14. He, who in any place, at any time or in any occasion waits patiently for death, is a good person. He who desires death with humility is a saint.
15. As the body dies when it is deprived of nourishment for a long time, so the soul dies when it is deprived of the moment of meditation on death and the life beyond it.
16. Meditating on death in the beginning is burdensome. But then one reaches the point when he begins to contempt himself and the world. This indeed becomes a moment of joy when finally one aspires for freedom and the vision of God.
17. He who decides intently not to die is completely outside the realm of charity, because charity wants to be at the presence of God.
18. He who desires death to avoid problems or because he is afraid to be punished has not meditated well on the reality of death, and would even willingly run away from this meditation.
19. Many seem to be servants of God, but as they approach death, they would like to postpone it. These people clearly did not meditate on what death means.
20. Although awareness of the certainty of death is useful, knowledge of the Last Day may be fearsome for some because it anticipates a future punishment of their sins.
21. You would be negligent if, in your meditation, you do not make an effort to understand that every day might be your last one.
22. In your meditation, prayers, and thoughts, strive to pinpoint your principal defects, most of all, the chief one, the Captain-General, as it were, which dominates all the others. (Letter III)
23. Continuous meditation and the spirit of prayer will teach you after a while to begin to do something so as to lead others where you are going. (Constitutions XVIII)
24. You have to be always absorbed in God through meditation and prayer. (Constitutions XVIII)
25. Since prayer and meditation enlighten the soul, how can one presume to lead others if he fails to pray and meditate? (Constitutions XVIII)
26. Prayer and meditation keep one steady before the throne of God; that is why one knows what is profitable to do or to leave aside. Let no one think he can lead someone else if he himself is blind; otherwise, both will fall into a pit. (Constitutions XVIII)
27. Take delight in affective prayer and meditation… (You) will never make any progress if (you) do not arrive at taking the utmost delight in (them). (Constitutions XII)
28. Just as meditating is not enough, it is necessary to unite ourselves with God by lifting up our hearts, praying and even contemplating. Actually, if you do not strive for this goal, I will not be surprised if you do not understand what prayer is, let alone contemplation. (Sermon III)
29. If you want to acquire the habit of praying mentally, read pious subjects, think of them, and find delight in meditating continuously over holy matters. (Constitutions X)
30. True spiritual life consists in this: that man keep his eyes on God all the time, long for nothing but for God, keep nothing in mind but God, begin every single action in God’s name and direct it to Him. (Sermon II)
We talk here of love only as the natural inclination of man.
Love is a passion, that is one’ of the “natural inclinations,” one of the “primary impulses” present in the human soul (Sr V, 122). This is why “it is natural for (man) to love” (Sr I, 70). Love is the profound law, written in the heart of man, a law which requires nothing out of proportion to his strength (ibid).
In Sermon II, Zaccaria distinguishes between the natural love (for example of a mother for her children), the dishonest love (which looks only for physical pleasure), and spiritual love (the act of the will wanting the good of the other). In the same sermon he affirms an important principle: “love comes from knowledge. Therefore, you can love the things you have never seen, but not those which are totally unknown” (Sr II, 86). We find it in the Famous Sayings: “The first principle of love is knowledge” (1, 1), which is taken from the Summa Th, I II 27 2.
In Sermon IV instead another truth is recalled: “it is love to carry the burden.” Which means: “Who could go through so many dangers, difficulties, troubles, afflictions, without being sustained by love?… Who could be that enraptured lover who would leave his loved one without taking another one? Could we, then, enraptured by the things which are visible and always present, and even necessary, stop from loving them, if we are not pressed by a greater love?” And concludes: “Hate for something comes from love of something else” (Sr IV, 108). It is like to say: it is impossible for man not to love; he can stop loving one thing only when he falls in love with a bigger one. Already Cassian had said: “the desires for the present things cannot be suppressed or eliminated if at their place... we do not put others which bring health... Therefore, if we want to take away from our heart the concupiscences of the flesh we have to put in their place the joys of the spirit” (Collationes, 11, 5). Not differently had been the affirmation of Isaac of Niniveh, another author very familiar to Zaccaria: no one “can despise his previous love, until a better desire... is opposed to those things which are considered joyful and have a hold on man” (Discorsi ascetici, 35).
Love characterizes the economy of our covenant: the Jews “were guided by fear, we by love” (Sr I, 71). In a special way it must characterize the children of Paul: their rules are “not a law of fear, but one of love” (Cs XIV, 185); for them “Regular Observance does not have in mind to weigh down but to lighten and to lead above the Law, not by force, but by love” (Cs XVII, 192). Love allows actions which otherwise should even be disapproved: “The Saints cause sedition, but with love” (Gregory the Great, Homiliae in Evangelia, 2 34, 2). The Famous Sayings dedicate to Love the first chapter.
LOVE, SELF “(The roots of all vices) are self love and other passions.” (Cs XVII, 195).
“The root of all evils is love for oneself,” St. Thomas affirms (In 2 Tim 3:2; 3:1), and he explains in the Summa Th (I II 77 5) how the triplex concupiscence described in the First Letter of John (2:16), derives from self love.
Zaccaria follows the traditional doctrine, which sees in the disorderly love for oneself the result of a turnover, which happened for man with original sin, therefore in self-love, finds expression the rupture and betrayal of the love of God. ‘The one who allows himself to be conditioned by it falls into spiritual adultery, as the novices are reminded (Cs XII).
Consequently, if man wants to go back to God’s love, it would be “necessary for man to head towards God’s love hating ail creatures and everything else” (Sr VI, 134) and even “the hate of your own self’ (Sr IV, 109; cf Lt 9). Obviously Zaccaria does nothing else but repeat the teaching of the Gospel about renunciation, when he explains to his audience what kind of hate it is: “the hate of fathers and mothers, the hate of husbands and wives, of sons and daughters, of brothers and sisters, the hate of possessions, of money, of what can be seen, indeed the hate of your own self” (Sr IV, 108-109). But while in the Famous Sayings it is affirmed that “Self-love cannot be removed except through its opposite, that is hate of oneself” (1, 26), Anthony Mary holds, with a more positive and “humanistic” view, that “hate for something comes from love of something else” (Sr IV, 108). That is, the best way to “hate ourselves,” or, in other words, to “break one’s will” consists in cultivating love for God. “Oh, true love of God,” Fra Battista exclaims, “how powerful and useful you are to mortify totally-one’s love and vivify man in the hate for himself’ (Cognitione de vittoria di se stesso, 60r). And just as love for oneself inevitably leads to the contempt of God, so love for God will lead to contempt for oneself. This was the teaching of St. Augustine in the origin of the two cities: the earthly and the heavenly (De Civitate Dei, 14, 28).
On the hate for oneself, as an antidote for self love and as condition to develop love for God, Fra Battista deals at length in Via de aperta verità (98v, 106r, 108r, 109r, 110r), where he defines it as “holy,” “perfect,” “true,” “great.” It follows that “true love for oneself (consists) in hating oneself” (Filosofia divina, 19r).
The paradoxical character of this kind of language is quite evident, as it is clear from a famous page of St. Bernard when he writes about the “duplex leprosy of the heart: our own will and our own counsel” (Sermo 3 in tempore Resurrectionis, 3).
1. Love’s first principle is knowledge.
2. Love is a unifying virtue between the lover and the beloved, which transforms one to the other.
3. Love is the foundation of every good and of every evil, of every peace and of every war, of every fear and every concern, of every fervor and enthusiasm, and of every other passion.
4. Earthly love has eyes closed and does not see; therefore, any love such as this must be suspicious.
5. He who is perfectly capable of controlling love could in every way be victorious over all passions put together.
6. He who does not restrain love through the use of reason will surely fall into the pit of sin.
7. One who is not deceived by love is divine rather than human.
8. He who has not governed love with much prayer and other spiritual exercises, and says he does not sin against it, is not worthy to be believed in.
9. We manifest our love for God in our observance of his commandments and in our readiness to obey even his smallest decree.
10. One who is victorious over love is victorious over all other passions.
11. True love is the source of all perfection; false love is the source of all imperfection.
12. Sometimes the beloved does not reciprocate with the same intensity of love. But as it is, mutual love can only exist between those who possess the same virtue of love.
13. Even though sometimes it seems to diminish, love always grows, since it tends toward the infinite. It is like fire that always grows stronger and becomes bigger.
14. Since every person is an image of God, His love cannot dwell in those who do not love their neighbor.
15. Worldly love aims at pleasing everyone and saddening no one. Many call this politeness, but it is simply self-praise and flattery.
16. Worldly love may seem to perceive many things, but it is actually blind because it is rooted in vanity and not in truth. Therefore, it delights in plays, recreation, and shows.
17. Worldly love is nothing more than loving oneself.
18. Self-love has no interest in leaving the comforts of this life.
19. It is difficult to free oneself from self-love; however, this should encourage us, since the more difficult it becomes, the more praiseworthy it would be.
20. If you wish to get rid of self-love, purify your intentions, and in every action, seek what is pure and what alone will give honor to God.
21. In heaven, self-love shall have no more blemish or misery. It shall be transformed into fullness of joy in God.
22. The power of Divine love exceeds all other love. As it increases, it consumes the soul, which finds its rest in God.
23. Many profess their desire to love God merely with lip service. Few, however, are those who truly want to love Him.
24. One's love for God should be limitless. Honoring God with conditions is dishonoring Him.
25. God's love for His people is the source of all their goodness. His love spurs them to reciprocate and give Him honor.
26. The reason for acquiring, preserving, and increasing Divine love lies in one's deep desire to imitate Christ and to put into practice every virtuous act.
27. Only God's love makes a person noble. Without God’s love, he is ignoble, even if he were to be lord of the world.
28. The more immersed one is in God's love, the more he grows toward perfection.
29. A holy person by despising himself truly loves himself.
30. True love of God knows no pain and fears nothing. It does not seek any reward. The lesser it seeks, the greater it receives.
31. God's love does not diminish in the midst of torment, calamity, or infamy. Instead, it increases to an even-greater degree.
- Prayer is the elevation of one’s mind to God.
Anyone who keeps on thinking of himself and of other things during prayer is distracted, and does not obtain any fruit, and has not yet tasted the value of prayer.
Prayer is a bond [of love] which unites the soul to Christ.
If you want to pray well, first detach yourself from things of the world and purify yourself from your passions which deprive your soul of trust in prayer. Then, prepare yourself for prayer through meditation.
A prayer in which we honor God is good, but a prayer in which God prays within us through the Breath of Life is better.
Any short prayer that we say spontaneously is effective and is as praiseworthy as all kinds of long prayer.
A truly prayerful person will often approach Christ to ascertain whether he is pleasing or displeasing to Him.
Usually, the lover does not withhold anything from the beloved, unless this allows him more abundant graces. Therefore, let us put our petitions into the hands of Christ; in this way, our petitions will have much better effect than they were done according to our own will.
Our petition is true and discreet when it is entrusted totally into the hands of Christ.
If one were to be honest, would he ask God for any reward in this life or in the next?
What good thing could God deny us when He is the one who invites us to ask?
If you want to obtain what you pray for, adapt yourself to it, that is, if you want humility, do not avoid humiliations.
Prayer is not knowledge and human understanding but the spirit present within your heart. So, do not use lack of understanding written prayer as an excuse for not praying.
Supplication takes place when the soul appears malevolent, like Moses, towards God.
When God moves the soul to supplication, He first lowers it through perfect humility, and then raises it with a promise of an answered prayer.
When a person is not granted his prayer, he complains against God, even if it may be to his detriment that his prayer be granted.
Some say in their petitions: “Lord, grant me what you would grant to yourself if you were in my place and I in yours.” They should be aware that this is dangerously presumptuous and self-centered.
Some people think to pray, saying: “I absolutely want this, and I want it now.” This is very displeasing to God.
A person who receives more than he asks is afraid of suffocating by the abundance of God’s gifts, just as the body chokes on the abundance of food.
It can be assumed then that a person must go beyond the various ways of prayer and dwell in continuous thanksgiving.
It is not a surprise that St. Dominic always had his prayers heard, because he always thanked God.
Older and more experienced people sometimes move away from petition and supplication to pass to a more profound and noble exercise. It is said that when the soul feels its prayers are always granted, the petition diminishes but the experience of heavenly graces increases.
A person who has reached this level of prayer recognizes the anticipated divine favors, yet he does not thank God less in his abundance than in his want, or less when God grants them than when He denies them.
A thanksgiving that is most pleasing to God is when one acknowledges that his prayer has been answered, regardless of whether he actually received the favor or not.
God usually grants graces to those who acknowledge that they have been more blessed by a denied favor than by an answered prayer. Those who have reached this level of prayer truly appreciate God’s goodness and providence.
When bad things happen, the soul gains more by thanking God than by making constant recourse to good petitions.
A person who complains for not having received what he asked, or who wants to tell God how to grant, or who is disturbed by some doubts, or who feels that his petitions are not always answered, does not deserve to reach the perfect level of prayer.
If you desire to reach the perfect level of prayer, you must be willing to break your will and abandon yourself completely and joyfully to the will of God, respectfully trusting His great generosity.
If you want to reach this level of prayer, you must have perfect victory over your passions and over yourself.
- If through perfect humility you will be able to know objectively yourself, only then will you be able to obtain the perfect level of prayer.
2. Discretion is the eye of the mind, which in no way will make us err.
3. Discretion, which is the same as prudence, restrains us from licentiousness, and motivates us to goodness.
4. Discretion keeps us from falling into vices; it rather purifies all vices and transforms them into virtues.
5. It is its nature that discretion weighs up both external and inner virtues.
6. The most sublime and perfect discretion is more of heavenly things than of earthly things.
7. The eye of discretion is so clear that it sees even the minutest thing; he who does not see it is not discreet.
8. A discreet person has eyes, front and back, top and bottom, right and left. It is because of discretion that man is a lot similar to God.
9. A person who grows in discretion grows also in other virtues.
10. To a discreet person, failure is beneficial, for through it he learns to be more careful. Discretion by itself teaches that one can receive healing from wounds, and he can gain both from failures as well as from successes.
11. When the devil sees our discretion to be truly firm, he does not dare to assail it.
12. A person who is truly discreet is far from falling. If he falls, it is because he is indiscreet.
13. A person who is discreet is hated by those who may seem to have virtues, but who do not actually have. These are the lukewarm and the imperfect. They are like a thorn in his side.
14. A discreet person is hated by the malicious. However, one can never lightly determine which is worse, the persecution of the malicious or the persecution of the lukewarm.
15. The persecution of the lukewarm against persons who are discreet is varied and continuous, but the persecution of the malicious is done all at once and is persistent.
16. As salt is needed for food, so discretion is needed for any action. As food becomes tasteless without salt, so virtue becomes meaningless without discretion.
17. Discretion can be acquired through careful examination of one’s work and diligence in putting it to completion.
18. Discretion often leads us to what is best and towards the highest virtue. A person can never be discreet unless he strives to reach the highest peak of virtue.
19. You will be able to reach perfect discretion only if you desire harm and insult.
20. Only a discreet person can hide or show his virtues, or yet extol them, without shame.
21. He who practices virtue without discretion is like throwing dust to the winds.
22. These are signs of a discreet person: he knows what steps to make when in doubt; he accepts everything from the hands of God with great tranquility; and he is able to give great and wholesome advice to others.
23. Many look discreet in certain situations, but when they are in another, they appear to be what they really are, stupid and imprudent.
24. A discreet person knows how to be in want and in abundance. When he does not, he is indiscreet.
25. A discreet person knows how to give reasons to everything, even the most impossible ones.
26. A person who is perfectly discreet already overcomes his bad inclinations. He who is still tied up with some passion is not yet perfectly discreet.
27. Discretion is not too much or too little. It avoids extreme prudence as well as excessive stupidity.
28. Extreme prudence does not recognize one’s defects and at the same time does not excuse the defects of others.
29. Extreme prudence goes beyond what is expected of it. It belittles the deeds of others and criticizes them without diplomacy.
30. Extreme prudence speaks with pretense and makes new laws that hinder the weak.