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.

4301 Hecktown Rd
Bethlehem, PA 18020

Famous Sayings

INTRODUCTION TO THE FAMOUS  SAYINGS

 
In 1583, a collection of Famous Sayings, listed in alphabetical order by key terms, was published in Venice under St. Anthony M. Zaccaria’s name. This collection is attributed by the scholars to his spiritual director, Fra Battista da Crema. Without excluding the role of Zaccaria in the least, its editor not only gives a glimpse of his doctrine, but has constituted the source from which the disciples of Anthony Mary have absorbed his spirit until the beginning of the last century, when the Zaccarian writings became available.
 
We can classify these sayings into two categories: those with an ascetical flavor, and those with a mystical flavor. The ascetical part offers an excellent and profound psychological analysis, and many theologians have admired the sublimity of the concepts expressed in so few phrases.
 
The author has powerful insights into the mystery of the human heart. In a few strokes of his pen, he offers us a vivid and fearful picture of the condition of some religious communities of his time.
 
This allows us an easier understanding of the deplorable condition of decadent religious congregations. Especially in the chapters on lukewarmness, discretion, and the Religious, the author reminds, and warns, the reader about numerous false Religious animated by diabolic hate for followers of the Rule. The language is careful but energetic and truthful.
 
St. Anthony does not want the religious to be satisfied with meditation, instead before the end of prayer he wants the religious to petition and obtain the effects in the heart. No one could fault him for this, since St. Anthony Zaccaria is not satisfied with affective prayer, but demands mystical prayer for one’s own satisfaction.

 

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 . 

 

 

 

Introduction to  CONTEMPLATION  -  AUGUST 
 
"I am not surprised if you do not yet understand the meaning of... contemplation (Sermon III, 100). 
 
Anthony Mary speaks ex professo of contemplation only in Sermon III dedicated to the sanctification of the feast day, and when he affirms that anger "separates ... from the contemplation of God" (Sermon V, 124). 
 
In regard to this, Zaccaria recalls the classic scheme of the 1.ectio Divina: "Meditation, my friend, is not enough. It is necessary ... to pray, and, moreover, to contemplate" (Sermon III, 100). In Constitutions XII he refers specifically to the "Reading of Sacred Scriptures," where Lectio Divina, as the idiom itself indicates, starts with the reading of the Bible, which Anthony Mary considers, together with the Eucharist, as one of the "extrinsic" expressions of the conversion to God, which take place especially on holidays. Extrinsic refers to "external" practices, against the interior ones. Meditation, prayer, and contemplation belong to this setting. 
 
A similar distinction is found also in the chapter Anthony Mary dedicates to prayer (Constitutions X), where he speaks of "exterior or vocal prayer" and of "interior prayer," which is expressed in the three grades mentioned above. Zaccaria declares not to be disturbed if his hearers ignore what prayer is and so much more contemplation, since it is easier to limit oneself to meditation only or to mental reflection, "meditation is more familiar to man than prayer and contemplation," (Famous Sayings, 17, 4). On the other hand especially prayer and contemplation are much more tied to affection and intuition, and, more than object of theoretic learning, they are the fruit of direct experience, if they are not practiced - the Saint seems to affirm - they will always be ignored. 
 
It is superfluous, finally, to remember that Zaccaria follows the great model of monastic prayer, although he seems to feel the danger of spiritual practice, still true today, we may say, of reducing Lectio Divina and, more in general, interior prayer only to the meditative moment. This is due also to the existence of a growing difficulty in passing from "exterior" prayer to the meditative and contemplative one. The first is food for the beginners, the second for the advanced (Constitutions X), the third for the perfect. Nor should we forget that "mental meditation" (Constitutions XII) and "the loving prayer" lead by their very nature to contemplation, which is "knowledge of love." Anthony Mary could have taken this directly from Gregory the Great, where he affirms: "Amor ipse notitia" (Homiliae in Evangelia, 27, 4). 
 
The Famous Sayings have a voice dedicated to contemplation. 
 

CONTEMPLATION  

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)

 

 

Introduction to MEDITATION
 
"Due to long periods of Meditation and Prayer, you should always be recollected" (Constitutions [Cs] XVIII, 198). 
 
It is not easy to reconstruct the Zaccarian conception of meditation, since Anthony Mary never treats it in an explicit way in his writings. We find only some references; often he speaks of meditation together with prayer. But using the tradition of the time, to which Zaccaria makes reference, and especially the Famous Sayings it is possible to have an idea of what he meant by meditation. 
 
Nature 
According to the tradition (cf. Guigo Certosino, Scala claustralium; Ugo of San Vittore, Allegoriae in Novum Testamentum), meditation is one of the four grades of prayer preceded by reading, it prepares for prayer and contemplation. On this the Famous Sayings are very explicit: "The meditation on virtues means to reach prayer and contemplation (17, 5). 
Meditation is fundamentally a kind of reflection: to apply the mind on a specific point proposed (eventually through reading) to our attention. St. Thomas considers it a "reasoning beginning from some principles leading to the contemplation of a truth" (Summa Th, II II 180 3 1), a study through which man reaches the knowledge of truth (ibid, 4). Zaccaria, following the tradition, describes the meditative exercise in terms of ruminatio: ''Read about devout things, think about them, and always delight in pondering over some good things" (Cs X, 171). 
 
With meditation man still remains closed in himself; this is why it is necessary to move from meditation to prayer and to contemplation: "Meditation, my friend, is not enough. It is necessary to be in union with God, to elevate the mind, to pray and, moreover, to contemplate" (Sermon [Sr] III, 100). Meditation is an indispensable assumption to reach prayer and contemplation: "If you do not do this (meditation), I am not surprised if you do not yet understand the meaning of prayer or contemplation" (ibid, 100). The Famous Sayings too indicate meditation as one of the conditions for prayer: "If you want to pray well, first you have to get away from the cares of the world, purify yourself from your passions ... then you will prepare yourself for it through meditation" (19, 4). 
 
Requirements  
The practice of meditation, according to Zaccaria, does not require from man particular qualities. 
Everybody can exercise it: "(The sick) should practice those virtues which do not require bodily strength, like: humility, mercy, meditation, teaching, etc., because not many corporal energies are needed to fulfill them" (Cs VI, 162). 
 
Object 
According to the Famous Sayings, the object of meditation are the virtues (17, 5) and "the intention to love God; the memory of the life of Christ and of the Saints; the memory of the divine presence ... the memory of death and of those things coming after death" (17, 9). The remaining sentences of the chapter are dedicated to the meditation of the Last Things, especially death (10, 21). 
 
According to Anthony Mary, the object of one's meditation could be one's own sins, and the benefits of God (Sr III; cf Letter [Lt] 3, where he speaks of a meditation aiming to the search of one's own defects: examen of conscience); the passion and death of Christ, and the sorrows of Our Lady (Cs X); "the marvelous distinction of creation"; the "different beauty" of the creatures; the great providence of God; the "sweet passion of Christ" (ibid). 
 
Effects 
They are the same as in prayer, which must accompany meditation. To this we can add what it is said in the Famous Sayings: ''Meditation is the beginning of the interior taste, and of transforming life in something better, and opens the road to knowledge and victory over oneself, and renders the mind enlightened to discern one's own thoughts" (17, 7)
 

 MEDITATION 

 1. Meditation is the power of the mind that gathers the thoughts and controls any distraction. At the beginning, meditation may be burdensome, but at the end it produces abundant fruits. 

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)

 

Introduction to LOVE
             “It is natural for you to love.”  (Sr I, 70).

             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).

 Disorderly self-love

“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).

Legitimate love
 Finally, there is a legitimate love for oneself, implied, in the commandment which prescribes to love our neighbor as ourselves.  The Saint refers to this love when he invites man to defend himself from whatever could keep him from “going to God,” starting from oneself, because no one - as Crysostom says - “laeditur nisi a seipso - no one is hurt if not by himself” (Sr VI, 135; here a famous homily is quoted entitled Quod nemo laeditur nisi a seipso, PG 52/3, 459-80). This warning returns in the rules for the novices, where he recommends “to fear the major enemy, which is inside themselves, that is, themselves, because, who hurts me and you more than ourselves?” (Cs XII, 180).
 

    LOVE 

   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 

PRAYER in St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria’s Writings by Anthony M. Gentili, CRSP and John M. Scalese, CRSP 
Translated by Frank M. Papa, CRSP  
 
I. Vocal Prayer 
Vocal prayer, known also as exterior prayer, “has been devised in order that we, who are inspired by its taste and meaning, may at last begin to learn interior prayer. If it is done right, that is, if one captures its taste (affective dimension) and its meaning (intellectual dimension), vocal prayer is not an end in itself but is subordinated to the interior one. Vocal prayer alone, especially if it does not lead us to mental prayer, or it does not partake of the latter, only makes us feel good superficially and is only a counterfeit of true prayer and true spiritual food” (Constitutions X). On the relationship between vocal prayer and mental prayer, one and the other go together. “For anyone seriously concerned about becoming proficient in the spiritual life, mental prayer is a must. You can, in fact, affirm without any doubt that no one will ever make any progress [in the spiritual life] if he does not dedicate himself to and delight in [mental prayer], no matter how many psalms and other prayers he may mechanically recite all day long” (Constitutions X). Vocal prayer is “imperfect”; mental prayer is “perfect”. They are two “means” which must be “seasoned by one another” and their aim is to lead us to a full communion with God (Dialogo, 66). 
 
II. Mental Prayer
 Mental prayer is called “interior prayer and true prayer”. St. Anthony Mary affirms that “mental prayer is the food and nourishment of the proficient” (Constitutions X), assuming in this way that meditation is the food of the beginners, and contemplation of the perfect. If prayer is food, it means that it is needed for one to make progress in spiritual life: “Mental prayer is so necessary that... one could undoubtedly conclude that he who does not dedicate himself to it and does not find delight in it—I say—will inevitably make no progress.... Therefore, if you do not nourish yourselves with it, without doubt you would feel losing your strength” (Constitutions X). 
 
Kinds of Prayer
There are “four kinds of prayer and of spiritual nourishment of the mind” (Constitutions X): prayer in its sense, petition, intercession, and thanksgiving. 
 
a. Prayer 
Prayer is simply a dialogue with God: “Let each one strive, though with closed lips, to pray to God and reveal to Him all his thoughts, as a friend is accustomed to do with another friend” (Constitutions X).  St. Anthony Mary recommends this exercise: “[I wish for you] that you talk with Christ about all your present experiences, even about your doubts and difficulties, especially tough ones, exposing to Him all possible reasons.... Talk and chat in a familiar way with Christ Crucified, as you would with me, and ask Him for advice” (Letter III). 
 
b. Petition 
One of the traditional definitions of prayer sounds like: petitio decentium a Deo – “ask from God for useful things” (John Damascene, De fide orthodoxa, 3, 24; cf Summa Th, II. II, 83, 1.5.17). In prayer, the asking is essential: “Therefore, show and ask God in your words what you need and what you would like to have in abundance, what He judges to be more useful to your dear friends and to the universal Church” (Constitutions X).
 
c. Intercession 
Intercession corresponds to the obsecratio in Vulgata. It “takes place when the praying soul appears malevolent towards God, like Moses was” (Famous Sayings, 19). St. Anthony Mary says: “ In order that God may easily hear your prayer, offer to Him the precious Blood of Christ and the merits of the saints and the very love He has for mankind” (Constitutions X).
 
d. Thanksgiving 
Thanksgiving is the highest or “perfect level of prayer.” “It can be assumed then that a person must go beyond the various ways of prayer and dwell in continuous thanksgiving” (Constitutions XIX). These words indicate that thanksgiving, more than an act, is a “state.” As St. Anthony Mary says, “By doing so, you will finally be able to reach the state of prayer which has its origin in intention, devotion, and experience. And this is the state of prayer which consists in always giving thanks to God” (Constitutions X).
 
Conditions of Prayer 
“If you want to pray well, first detach yourself from things of the world, purify yourself from your passions which deprive your soul of your trust in God, then prepare yourself for prayer through meditation” (Famous Sayings, 19). 
Among the conditions of prayer, St. Anthony Mary puts silence in the first place. “Do you want to learn how to pray? Restrain your tongue from superfluous or even necessary talk, and in this way you will begin to talk with God as you would talk with a friend” (Constitutions X). The second condition is reading and meditation of devout things: “Take care to nourish your mind with thoughts of compunction, for example, thoughts of the Passion of Christ, of the sorrows of the Blessed Mother, and the like.... If you want to acquire easily the habit of praying mentally, read pious subjects, think of them, and find delight in pondering continuously over holy things. Examples of these devout things are: ‘the marvelous variety of created things,’ the ‘different beauty’ of creatures, ‘God’s infinite Providence,’ ‘Christ moving Passion’” (Constitutions X).
 
The Fruits of Prayer 
The fundamental effect of prayer is the interior enlightenment of the one who practices it: “Prayer and meditation enlighten the soul” (Constitutions XVIII). Being enlightened is the essential condition for one who wants to become a master and guide of others. “The one who lacks it should not presume to lead others! … Let no one thinks that he can lead someone else if he himself is blind; otherwise, both of them will fall into a pit.” 
 
First of all, prayer indicates to man what to do: “Prayer and meditation keep one steady before the presence of God; that is why one knows what is more profitable to do or leave aside.” Secondly, “prayer teaches man how to carry out what he was originally told to do: 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. Prayer does not permit anyone who wants to walk to fall into error, and successfully leads anyone who wishes to make progress” (Ibid.). In his sermon, St. Anthony Mary indicates another effect of prayer: the divinization of man. “You talk and converse with God; and, without lying, you can call yourself a god on earth” (Sermon II). 
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*Antonio M. Gentili, Giovanni M. Scalese, Prontuario per lo Spirito: Insegnamenti ascetico-mistici di sant’Antonio Maria Zaccaria. Milano: Editrice Àncora, 1994, p. 224-231.
  

PRAYER  

  1. Prayer is the elevation of one’s mind to God. 
  2. 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. 

  3. Prayer is a bond [of love] which unites the soul to Christ.

  4. 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. 

  5. 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.

  6. Any short prayer that we say spontaneously is effective and is as praiseworthy as all kinds of long prayer. 

  7. A truly prayerful person will often approach Christ to ascertain whether he is pleasing or displeasing to Him. 

  8. 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. 

  9. Our petition is true and discreet when it is entrusted totally into the hands of Christ. 

  10. If one were to be honest, would he ask God for any reward in this life or in the next?

  11. What good thing could God deny us when He is the one who invites us to ask?

  12. If you want to obtain what you pray for, adapt yourself to it, that is, if you want humility, do not avoid humiliations.

  13. 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.

  14. Supplication takes place when the soul appears malevolent, like Moses, towards God.

  15. 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.

  16. 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. 

  17. 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.

  18. Some people think to pray, saying: “I absolutely want this, and I want it now.” This is very displeasing to God. 

  19. 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.

  20. It can be assumed then that a person must go beyond the various ways of prayer and dwell in continuous thanksgiving.

  21. It is not a surprise that St. Dominic always had his prayers heard, because he always thanked God.

  22. 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.

  23. 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. 

  24. 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.

  25. 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. 

  26. When bad things happen, the soul gains more by thanking God than by making constant recourse to good petitions.

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. If you want to reach this level of prayer, you must have perfect victory over your passions and over yourself.

  30. 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.

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DISCRETION

1. Discretion is discernment over the real attribute of things, and over which things are to be kept and which are to be laid aside.

 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.

 

 

 

 

 

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