(By St. Alphonsus de Ligouri)
Consideration 1: How the Salvation of the Soul is secured by entering the Religious State.
To know how important is the eternal salvation of our soul, it suffices to have faith, andto consider that we have but one soul, and when that is lost, all is lost. “What doth it profit aman, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul?” (Matthew 16:26) Thisgreat maxim of the Gospel has induced many youths either to shut themselves up in cloisters, orto live in deserts, or by martyrdom to give up their lives for Jesus Christ. For, said they, whatdoes it profit us to possess the whole world, and all the goods of this world, in this present life,which must soon finish, and then be damned and be miserable in that life to come, which willnever end? All those rich men, all those princes and emperors, who are now in hell, what havethey now of all that they enjoyed in this life, but a greater torment and a greater despair?Miserable beings, they lament now and say: “All those things are passed away like a shadow”(Wisdom 5:9). For them all is passed like a shadow, like a dream, and that lamentation which istheir lot has lasted already many years, and shall last throughout eternity. “The fashion of thisworld passeth away.” (1 Corinthians 7:31). This world is a scene that lasts but a short time;happy he that plays on this scene the part that will afterwards make him happy in the life thatshall never end! When he shall then be contented, honored, and a prince in paradise, so long asGod shall be God, little will he care for having been in this world poor, despised, and intribulation. For this end only has God placed us on this earth, and keeps us here in life, not toacquire transitory but eternal goods: “The end is life everlasting” (Romans 6:22).This is the sole end which all men that live in the world should have in view. But themisfortune is, that in the world one thinks little or nothing of everlasting life. In the midst of thedarkness of this Egypt the greatest number of men bestow all their care on acquiring honor andpleasures; and this is the reason why so many perish. “With desolation is all the land madedesolate, because there is none that considereth in the heart” (Jeremias 12:11). How few are theywho reflect on death, by which for us the scene is closed, on the eternity which awaits us, onwhat God has done for our sake! And thence it comes that these miserable beings live inblindness and at random, far from God, having their eyes, like the beasts, intent only on earthlythings, without remembering God, without desiring His love, and without a thought of eternity.Therefore they die afterwards an unhappy death, which will be the beginning of an eternal deathand an endless misery. Having at last arrived there, they will finally open their eyes, but it will beonly to lament for their own foolishness.This is the great means of salvation, which is found in religion, to wit, the continualmeditation on the eternal truths. “Remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin”(Ecclesiasticus 7:40). In all well regulated religious houses this is done every day, and evenseveral times a day. And therefore in this light of divine things, which there shines continually, itis morally impossible to live, at least for a long time, far from God, and without keeping one'saccount ready for eternity.
O my God! How have I ever deserved this great mercy, that, having left so many othersto live in the midst of the world, Thou hast willed to call me, who have offended Thee more thanothers, and deserved, more than they, to be deprived of Thy divine light, to enjoy the honor of living as a friend in Thy own house! O Lord! Grant that I may understand this exceeding gracewhich Thou hast bestowed on me, that I may always thank Thee for it, as I purpose and hope todo always during my life and throughout eternity, and do not permit me to be ungrateful for it.Since Thou hast been so liberal towards me, and hast in Thy love preferred me to others, it is butust that more than others I should serve and love Thee. O my Jesus! Thou wouldst have me to bewholly Thine, and to Thee I give myself wholly. Accept me, and henceforward keep me as Thyown, since I am no more mine. Finish Thou the work which Thou hast begun. Thou hast calledme to Thy house, because Thou wilt have me become a saint. Make me, then, what Thou wilthave me. Do this, O eternal Father! For the love of Jesus Christ, in whom is all my confidence. Ilove Thee, my sovereign good, I love Thee. O infinite goodness. I love Thee only, and will loveThee forever. O Mary. my hope, come to my assistance, and obtain for me to be always faithfuland thankful to my Lord.