The Precedence of Kind Thoughts

The remaining three chapters of Father Faber’s essay Kindness discuss our thoughts, our words, and our actions. He shows how kind thoughts precede kind words and kind actions, and how our acts of kindness manifest the goodness of God.

He explains: “Everywhere in creation there is a charm, the fountain of which is invisible. In the natural, the moral, and the spiritual world it is the same. We are constantly referring it to causes which are only effects. Faith alone reveals to us its true origin. God is behind everything. His sweetness transpires through the thick shades which hide Him. It comes to the surface, and with gentle mastery overwhelms the whole world. The sweetness of the hidden God is the delight of the life. It is the pleasantness of nature, and the consolation which is omnipresent is all-suffering. We touch Him, we lean on Him, we feel Him, we see Him, always and everywhere. Yet He makes Himself so natural to us that we almost overlook Him. Indeed, if it were not for faith we should overlook Him altogether. His presence is like light when we do not see the face of the sun. It is like light on the stony folds of the mountain-top coming through rents in the waving clouds; or in the close forest, where the wind weaves and unweaves the canopy of foliage; or like the silver arrows of under-water light in the deep blue sea, with coloured stones and bright weeds glancing there. Still, God does not shine equally through all things. Some things are more transparent, other things more opaque. Some have a greater capacity for disclosing God than others.”

“In the moral world, with which alone we are concerned at present, kind thoughts have a special power to let in upon us the light of the hidden God.”

“The thoughts of men are a world by themselves, vast and populous. Each man’s thoughts are a world to himself. There is an astonishing breadth in the thoughts of even the most narrow-minded man. Thus, we all of us have an interior world to govern. . . . There is no doubt that we are very much influenced by external things, and that our natural dispositions are in no slight degree dependent upon education. Nevertheless, our character is formed within. It is manufactured in the world of our thoughts, and there we must go to influence it. . . . The fountains of word and action have their untrodden springs in the caverns of the world of thought.”

Quotations from Frederick William Faber, Kindness (London: R. & T. Washbourne, 1901).

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Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day

Father Girardey reminds us that virtues, which are good habits, normally take time and effort to develop and increase.

He writes: “Let us bear well in mind that, although God can work miracles without number, He, nevertheless, works them only exceptionally, when they contribute in a special manner to His glory. . . . Let us also remember that when the Saviour promised to grant us all we would pray for, He restricted His promise to all we would ask in His name, that is, to all that may be conducive to our salvation.”

“As to the Christian virtues which we are obliged to practice, such as humility and patience, we can depend on our prayers being heard by God for the help, the graces necessary to practice them. But we cannot expect God to grant them in their full perfection at once, for in the ordinary course of things, this would be a miracle. And why? Because the virtues are habits regulating our conduct. Naturally no habit can be acquired without oft-repeated acts during a longer or shorter period of time, which is usually many years; and a habit, even when already acquired, is still perfectible, that is, it can become always more and more perfect.”

“Let us, for instance, take the virtue of patience. . . . All trades and sciences and arts, like all habits, are naturally acquired by repeated acts performed for years, and so are all the virtues. It takes years to learn a trade, a science, an art perfectly, and even after years there is also plenty of room to become more and more perfect therein. We must say the same of the virtues. The saints made every exertion and prayed very much for the virtue of patience, and it took saints, like St. Francis de Sales, St. Alphonsus and others, twenty, thirty, forty or more years to acquire this virtue.”

“As you pray God every day to give you your ‘daily bread,’ and you nevertheless labor to earn it yourselves, so you should also pray daily to God to give you patience and, at the same time, exert yourselves in all earnestness to watch over yourselves to overcome yourselves to practice patience, and God will surely help you gradually to make daily some progress in practicing patience and acquiring that necessary virtue. Whilst praying for what is necessary for your salvation, be sure to do your share and in due course of time success will crown your efforts and your prayers.”

Quotations from Ferreol Girardey, Prayer: Its Necessity, Its Power, Its Conditions (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1916).

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Conditions for Successful Prayer – Part 3 of 3

Father Girardey concludes his discussion of five conditions or qualities of prayer that are pleasing to God. Here he mentions the qualities of praying with confidence and perseverance.

Confidence is an essential condition of a good prayer. . . . God is our most loving Father; He delights to confer favors upon us. . . . We should, therefore, pray to Him with a true and simple, childlike confidence. Is He not the best and most loving and liberal of fathers; is He not almighty, infinitely good, Truth itself, and most faithful to His promise? . . . Should not our confidence in God be, therefore, boundless and firm, in God who loves us as His favorite children, who is all-powerful and perfectly able and willing to grant all that we ask properly? He, therefore, who, when praying to Him, wavers in his confidence, ‘should not think,’ says St. James (1:6), ‘that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.’ We need not, then, be astonished if, when we pray to God without due confidence, our prayers are not granted.”

Perseverance is absolutely necessary to the success of our prayer. To show us the necessity of persevering in prayer our divine Saviour related several parables, such as: the man who went to borrow three loaves of bread from his neighbor, the poor widow claiming justice from an unjust judge, and we have also the fact of the Canaanite woman’s persistent pleading with Jesus for the cure of her daughter. . . . . ‘God,’ says Pope St. Gregory, ‘wishes to be asked, to be, as it were compelled and overcome by our importunity.’ . . . Moreover, God defers and even seems to refuse to grant our prayers, in order to test our earnestness, our sincerity; if we ask once or twice only, and then cease to pray, it is a proof we do not deserve to be heard, for then we are not in real earnest or very anxious to be heard; he who feels great need of a thing wants it by all means, and will persevere in asking for it and trying to get it, until his efforts are crowned with success. . . . Hence St. Augustine says to us: ‘Do not despond and give up praying, for God will surely keep His promise; if He defers granting your prayer, He does not thereby refuse to hear it.’ Let us persevere in prayer, and our perseverance will in due time be crowned.”

Quotations from Ferreol Girardey, Prayer: Its Necessity, Its Power, Its Conditions (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1916).

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Conditions for Successful Prayer – Part 2 of 3

Father Girardey continues his discussion of five conditions or qualities of prayer that are pleasing to God. Here he mentions two more qualities: praying with humility and with sincerity.

Concerning humility, he writes: “Whose prayer will God surely hear? The humble man’s. Whose prayer will He refuse to hear? The proud man’s. This our Lord Himself tells us in His parable of the Pharisee and the publican praying in the temple. God heard not the proud Pharisee’s prayer, for in the very presence of God he gloried in himself and his alleged good works, and preferred himself to everyone else. But the poor publican, laden with many sins, indeed, humbled himself and implored God for mercy, and his prayer was heard. Hence St. Peter says: ‘God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble’ (1 Pet 5:5).”

“Let us remember, when we pray, that we are poor, wretched sinners craving mercy from God, poor beggars asking for an alms without any merit or claim of our own. Therefore, let us, whenever we pray, most humbly beseech God to supply our great need, to strengthen our great weakness, and this, not because of any merit or claim of our own, but through the infinite merits and mercy of our Saviour Jesus Christ. The more we humble ourselves, the more we feel convinced of our misery and helplessness and of our total dependence on the mercy and bounty of God, the more surely we shall obtain the object of our prayers.”

Concerning sincerity, he writes: “Our prayer should be sincere, we should mean what we ask of God; we should really wish for, desire it, and should, therefore, do our share to obtain what we pray for. For instance, we pray God to forgive our sins; if we really mean this, we shall not fail to do, on our part, all that is necessary to obtain their forgiveness, for he who wishes the end, must also wish the means of attaining that end. We must, therefore, be sincerely sorry for our sins, firmly resolved to amend our life and avoid all proximate occasions of grievous sins, and make a sincere confession. . . . In like manner, he who sincerely prays God to grant him the virtue of patience, will also do his share and, therefore, will watch over himself, especially on those occasions in which he is apt to yield to impatience or anger.”

“We must not expect to go to heaven by merely praying to God, without doing our share, without making the necessary efforts to fulfil our whole duty. We must, on our part, do all in our power to keep the commandments, and if we do this manfully, we can be sure that God will do His share and will answer our prayers by giving us the help of His all-powerful grace. In like manner, when we ask God: ‘Give us this day our daily bread,’ we must not imagine that He will dispense us from earning our own living, and supply all our wants without our doing our share, our duty in working for it.”

Quotations from Ferreol Girardey, Prayer: Its Necessity, Its Power, Its Conditions (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1916).

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Conditions for Successful Prayer – Part 1 of 3

To some who complain that their prayers go unanswered, St. James says: “You ask and you receive not, because you ask amiss” (Jas 4:3).

Father Girardey notes: “It is not enough for us to pray, but we should pray well. . . . When we pray, we speak to God and ask favors of Him; and therefore our prayers should be such as to be pleasing to Him. . . . . If our prayers and the dispositions of our heart are such as to be displeasing to Him, we need not be astonished, if they fail to obtain anything from Him.” Father Girardey discusses five conditions or qualities of prayer that are pleasing to God: praying with attention, humility, sincerity, confidence, and perseverance.

Concerning attention, he writes: “To please God our prayer should, in the first place, be said with attention. How many pray and pray much and often, but say their prayers hurriedly, to get soon through with them, or to be able to say many prayers in a short time, and whilst praying they think of everything except of God and the meaning of their words. . . . It is not the number of our prayers that avail us with God, but the manner in which we say them. . . . He who prays without attention does not pray as a rational being, but more like a parrot. . . . Attention is, as it were, the soul of prayer; just as the body without the soul is a worthless corpse, so also prayer with out attention is meaningless and worthless. Hence the prayers said whilst wilfully allowing our imagination, our mind to run about in every direction, to dwell on everything except on God and on what we are saying to Him, are not pleasing to God, are unfit to be heard, for such prayers are wanting in due respect to God. Suppose a person, whilst speaking to you, looked around in every direction, turned his back to you, paid no attention to you, or to what he was saying to you, you would consider him very disrespectful to you.”

Quotations from Ferreol Girardey, Prayer: Its Necessity, Its Power, Its Conditions (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1916).

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The Blind Apostle

Father Girardey writes: “When in our temporal wants or trials we have recourse to God, let us pray earnestly and fervently, indeed, but, at the same time, with a holy resignation, saying to Him as our divine Saviour did in His agony, ‘not as I will, but as Thou wiliest’ (Matt 26:39).”

To drive home the point, Father Girardey relates a wonderful story taken from the Life of Monsignor Louis-Gaston de Segur. It is about a blind boy who, on account of his saintly life and zeal was nicknamed “the blind apostle.”

“In the year 1865, on the occasion of the celebration at Annecy in Savoy of the two hundredth anniversary of the canonization of the meek and gentle St. Francis de Sales, thousands of pilgrims from every direction came to venerate his relics, and many of them also implored of God favors, spiritual and temporal, through the saint’s intercession. Monsignor de Segur undertook daily to preach to the pilgrims. Among other things he said that in all our prayers for divine assistance, we should always pray especially that the will of God be done in our regard. One day there was in the audience a poor woman who had brought her little son blind from his birth. After the sermon she brought her little boy near the altar on which the saint’s relics were exposed, and said to him: ‘My child, ask of God through the intercession of St. Francis to give you your sight.’ ‘But, dear Ma,’ said the little boy, ‘did not Monsignor de Segur just now tell us that we should have no other will than the will of God? I will not ask God for eyes, but for the will of God.'”

Quotations from Ferreol Girardey, Prayer: Its Necessity, Its Power, Its Conditions (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1916).

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Praying For Temporal Things

Father Girardey writes: “As to temporal matters, we have a kind of claim to be heard when we pray for the necessaries of life, for our divine Saviour Himself has taught us to do so in His admirable prayer, the Our Father, in which He wishes us to say to our heavenly Father: ‘Give us this day our daily bread,’ that is, necessary food, clothing and shelter.”

“Whenever we ask for temporal blessings, such as success in our undertakings, the cure of disease, deliverance from crosses and trials, we should ask God for them conditionally, that is, pray for it in this manner: ‘O my God, grant me . . . if this is good for me, if it does not prove injurious to my salvation.’ Let us, whenever we pray to God, observe the admonitions of our divine Saviour: ‘Seek first the kingdom of God and His justice, and all the rest shall be added unto you’ (Matt 6:33). If you act otherwise, Jesus will say to you as He did to the sons of Zebedee, who had asked to sit one at His right hand the other at His left, when He would come into His kingdom, that is, for the two highest positions, or offices: ‘You know not what you are asking’ (Matt 20:22).”

Father Girardey observes that temporal misfortunes, corporal sufferings, physical evils, and loss of goods are often “great blessings and sometimes indispensable means of salvation, so that very frequently were God to free us from them, it would be rather a punishment than a blessing. Loss of health, of goods, sufferings, contradictions, disappointments, adversity and other so-called misfortunes cause many a sinner to be converted, to return to God, to amend his ways and lead a holy and virtuous life, who would, without them, have continued to live in sin and end in losing his soul. When fortune smiles on a man, he will naturally be more and more attached to worldly goods and may be easily estranged from God and from God’s service. Moreover, just as God has destined for every man his place in heaven, so also He has destined for each man the crosses that will bring him to heaven.”

“It is not wrong, however, to pray for temporal goods and favors. . . . But to neglect to pray for spiritual favors, for what is necessary for salvation, for what greatly promotes it, and to pray only for temporal benefits is to pray, at most, only for trifles, for useless things. . . . ‘God,’ says St. Basil, ‘ is almighty, and most liberal in His favors; we should, therefore, ask Him for great things, and not for mere trifles.’ All temporal goods, however great and precious, are but trifles, when compared with even the slightest spiritual favor.”

Quotations from Ferreol Girardey, Prayer: Its Necessity, Its Power, Its Conditions (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1916).

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