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Thursday, 16 August 2007

Let him who despises admonition fear prayer

In his conference "The priest must be a man of prayer", St Joseph Cafasso admonishes the clergy on their duty not only to pray constantly but also to be masters of prayer. He then considers the efficacy of the prayer of one who prays constantly and perseveringly, citing the example of Moses. Following that, he quotes St Bernard who told Pope Eugenius III (a fellow Cistercian) that in the face of the "monsters of iniquity" with whom he had to deal, he should be "more than a man" in using the power of prayer. He quotes a pithy phrase of the saint, "Timeat orationem qui admonitionem contempsit." (Let him who despises admonition fear prayer.)

Cafasso then gives this striking example of what he means:
A certain person could not make up his mind to break off a sinful relation. The confessor after trying all means finally decided to have recourse to prayer. He said to the penitent: “If you do not consent to promise me to amend, at least permit me to pray for you; do you agree?” “Oh! yes, I will be even grateful to you.” “But remember that I will pray with all earnestness, and when a confessor sets himself to pray, it is a serious matter because God will not say no to him.” “All the better,” replied the penitent, “for if so I am sure you will be heard.” “Very well,” replied the confessor, “be prepared therefore for anything that God may dispose.” “And what do you mean by that , “ asked the penitent immediately, a little alarmed. “Up to this I might as well be speaking to the wind as to you, you would not listen to me or give up your life of sin, now I am going to have recourse to God and he will finish you.” “Finish me in what way,” asked the penitent. “It is easy to know,” said the confessor, “what God will do. Since you are determined not to give up that sin but continue committing it if you life, the Lord will take you, and then it will be finished.” “Oh!” replied the penitent, “if that is so, for heaven’s sake do not pray.” “There is no middle course,” concluded the confessor; “either amend your life or I pray; I do not need to have your permission.”
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