MONTHLY DAY OF RECOLLECTION
“As for him, he would often withdraw to solitary places and pray.”
“And having sent the people away, he went up the mountain by himself to pray.
At nightfall, he was there alone.”
Directions to Render the Exercises of the Monthly Retreat
of One Day Profitable
Choose one day in the month on which you will have most leisure, on which you will be less occupied or distracted. On the eve of the retreat say most devoutly the hymn, "Come, Holy Ghost” to implore the light of the Holy Spirit, and one Hail Mary to commend your retreat to the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Then make the following meditation, which may serve as a preparation for the retreat:
Meditation for the Eve of the Retreat
On the Virtues which are Necessary as a Preparation for Retreat
I. PRELIMINARY PRELUDE. Represent to yourself the healing of the blind man of Jericho. He casts himself on his knees before Jesus. The Saviour asks him: What wilt thou that I should do to thee?" "Lord, that I may see," answered the blind man. And Jesus said to him: "Go thy way, thy faith hath made thee whole” (Mk. 10:49-52). Imagine Jesus putting the same question to you. Answer Him with the blind man: "Lord that I may see! That in this retreat I may see what is wanting to me and what Thou requirest of me."
II. PRELUDE. My God! Do Thou Thyself infuse into my soul the disposition in which I should be, to derive great profit from my retreat.
FIRST POINT: FIRST VIRTUE. The Sincere Desire to know One’s Self thoroughly
Have I this desire? Is it not a secret fear of seeing myself in the true light that alarms me, lest I should have to reproach myself? If I really and honestly desire self-knowledge, I shall have to ask myself seriously: What progress have I until now made in perfection? What profit have I derived from the reception of the holy Sacraments? What victories have I gained over myself, the devil, and the world? What virtues have I practiced? What merits have I accumulated? What zeal have I displayed for my eternal welfare? Could I now appear before the judgment-seat of God without fear?
SECOND POINT: SECOND VIRTUE. Great Confidence in God and Mistrust of Self
Without God I can do nothing, but with Him all things! His grace is more powerful than all hell and this grace is already prepared for me. I need only ask for it. God loves me, notwithstanding my past infidelity; and through love He again grants me this retreat as a means of salvation. "Come into solitude," He says to me, "and there I will speak to thy heart" (Hos. 2:14). What goodness! And shall I not have confidence in Him? My God! I can do nothing, but Thou art all-powerful. Assist me with Thy grace.
THIRD POINT: THIRD VIRTUE. Generosity
The Lord will during this retreat speak to your heart. Excite in yourself the same dispositions in which St. Paul was when he was struck down on his way to Damascus: "Lord, what wilt Thou have me do?" (Acts 9:6) or say with Samuel: "Speak, Lord; Thy servant heareth;" (1 Kg. 3:9) or with David: “My heart is ready, Lord; my heart is ready" (Ps. 41:8). What offering dost Thou expect of me? I shall bring it to Thee without delay. Speak, Lord! My heart is ready.
Conclude the meditation as you began it, with the prayer: Lord that I may see, that I may see my soul as it is, with its weaknesses, its imperfections, its sins! Blessed Virgin Mary, obtain for me the grace to know myself thoroughly, and truly to amend! Our Father, Hail Mary.
Before retiring to rest, read the points of meditation for the next morning. For this purpose choose some good book, and in it a serious subject; for example, the end of man, the necessity of salvation, the heinousness of sin, the abuse of grace, an eternity of happiness or misery, etc. But if you have no book, ask yourself the following questions:
(1) What has God done for my salvation? Baptism, Christian education, graces, Sacraments, good example, retreats. With fewer graces I should already have become a saint.
(2) What does God require of me? That I should faith fully follow His inspirations, avoid sin, do violence to my passions, particularly to the predominant one; that I should be modest, retiring, humble, fervent, Have I in all this complied with what God requires?
(3) What have I to expect from God? He blesses those that are faithful to Him. But the unfruitful fig-tree He caused to be hewn down, the unfruitful vine uprooted and consigned to the flames. My God! Avert from me this misfortune! I will love and serve Thee. Do Thou strengthen me, and grant me the grace to be faithful to all the resolutions I shall take in this retreat. Our Father, Hail Mary.
Exercises for the Day of Retreat
On rising, offer the day to God and beg His grace to spend it holily.
After the ordinary morning prayers, spend half an hour in meditation, for which you prepared the evening before in the manner above mentioned. Then assist at Holy Mass, at which communicate.
During the whole day observe silence and interior recollection, in so far as your condition, occupations, and surroundings permit. It is well that those of our household should not know that we are in retreat, unless in the case that it would occasion no unpleasant consequence.
In the course of the morning, read attentively the regulations of the day, and the resolutions taken in former retreats; or if you have not written any, recall the advice of your confessor, particularly that which he has most impressed upon you. See how you stand with God, and resolve firmly to banish from your heart all that displeases Him, in order to live henceforth according to His good pleasure. You may make one of the following reflections on the present state of your soul, devoting to this an hour or a half-hour, as circumstances may allow.
If you have time in the afternoon visit the Blessed Sacrament and a chapel of the Mother of God, where you may with great benefit make use of the truly excellent book compiled for this purpose by St. Alphonsus Liguori. Then read some good book of devotion for half an hour, and toward evening prepare yourself for death.
Reflections on the Present State of the Soul
After imploring the light of the Holy Ghost, consider in the presence of God how you perform your most important actions, and how you are affected toward God, your neighbor, and the most essential virtues. In this observe the order here given.
I. DEVOTIONS. – Do I value them more highly than any thing else? Do I perform them faithfully and punctually? Is my exterior deportment reverential? Am I recollected, retired, modest, keeping exact custody of the eyes? Do I neglect to prepare carefully for my devotional exercises by recollecting myself some moments before, quieting my imagination and senses, recalling the presence of God, and reflecting on what I am about to do? Do I, without anxiety or disturbance, banish distractions when perceived? Or, at least, do I deny them deliberate consent, when I can not at once rid myself of them? In spiritual dryness, am I not vexed, instead of enduring it humbly and patiently in punishment of past negligence? Do I not give way at once to discouragement?
Now go through your essential devotions separately. See how you have performed them, and what profit you have drawn from them:
Meditation – Preparation for it; the ordinary cause of its not being successful, or of its trifling results; distractions, too great attachment to creatures.
General and Particular Examinations of Conscience – Do I make them seriously? Are they accompanied with an earnest desire of amendment, or do I go through the work carelessly, or with a cowardly, superficial oversight? For every trivial fault that I commit do I impose upon myself a corresponding penance?
Spiritual Reading – In this do I indulge my curiosity or satisfy the wants of my soul? Do I read regularly and perseveringly, or am I inconstant, changing at every moment my subject or my book? Do I read with a prayerful spirit? Do I honestly desire to derive profit from my reading? Do I pray to God for this grace? Do I pause to reflect when I come upon something particularly applicable to my state? When the reading is finished, do I think over it, and call again the most striking points, to impress them more deeply on my mind ?
Holy Mass, Vocal Prayers, Public Services, Church Devotions – With what attention, reverence, and devotion do I assist at them? In what sentiments do I hear the Word of God?
Confession – Do I confess through custom, without purpose, or desire of amendment? Without careful contrition? Is my accusation open, generous, clear, and void of a thousand useless narrations that serve but to perplex? Do I in every confession make a particular resolution?
Communion – Do I abstain from it through fear? Do I desire to receive often through vanity? Do I prepare my self carefully, especially by offering some small sacrifice every time? How do I make my thanksgiving? What advantage do I derive from Holy Communion? Am I not negligent in making spiritual communions?
II. DEPORTMENT TOWARD GOD. – Do I evince toward Him due reverence, love, resignation, confidence, and gratitude? Do I try to please Him as my Lord, Father, Friend, and Spouse? Do I perform my actions all for God, and do I often renew this intention? Do I recall that I am always under the eyes of God? What care do I bestow on the purity of my conscience? Do I not lightly commit many faults, under the pretext that they are but venial? What is the nature of my love for Jesus? My devotion to the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar? To Mary? To the saints? To my patron saint? My guardian angel?
III. TOWARD THE NEIGHBOR. – Do I wish him well? Am I indulgent in my judgments, gentle and patient? Or do I not sin by bitterness, jealousy, aversion, and censoriousness? Whence spring so many other faults against charity detraction, slanders, rash judgments, slight injuries, desire of revenge, ridicule, little secret rancor, outbursts of ill-humor, emotions of violence? Do I in a spirit of faith regard my neighbor as the representative of Him who said: “As long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to Me" (Mt. 25:40). How easily we would bear with one another if guided by this principle of faith!
IV. Do I care for my salvation and perfection? Do I consider this care as my most important, my only affair? What progress do I make in virtue, in self-denial, in the spirit of penance? Do I love the cross? Or do I at least embrace every opportunity to bear my own with resignation and without murmur? What sacrifices do I impose upon myself to please God and to atone for my sins and faults?
How far have I advanced in the most necessary virtues in faith, whose spirit should penetrate my whole life; in hope and in confidence; in that interior peace whose foundation rests on confidence, and excludes all anxiety, faint heartedness, and discouragement; in obedience according to my state of life, the renunciation of my own will, and divestment of all earthly goods ; in purity, and careful avoidance of dangerous occasions, of curiosity, levity, and a too natural love; in humility and mistrust of my own strength? Do I love or do I at least peaceably endure humiliations, contempt, being forgotten, having others preferred to myself? How do I stand in regard to vanity, self-complacency, the desire to shine and rule? Do I ever despise my neighbor?
V. How do I correspond with the grace of divine inspiration? What victories have I gained over my predominant passion? What pains have I taken to govern my temper, to detach my heart from creatures? Does not some inordinate inclination, some impediment to my perfection, reign in my heart, which I will not sacrifice, although God has long demanded it of me? What is this inclination? What must I do to remove it; for what am I waiting, in order to be able to sacrifice it to God?
In what do I employ my time in useful things or in trifles; in idle talk, vain fancies, airy castle-building, in dreams that are so often dangerous? Every moment of time can purchase eternity. What would not a damned soul give for a single moment?
VI. Reflect, also, how you comply with the special duties of your state and office, for general duties too often lead us to forget particular ones. And yet these require attention, fervor, assiduity, punctuality, and perseverance, to over come one s self when at times one experiences such disgust for them as to be tempted to leave them undone.
In a word, do I live by faith, like the just man who considers all earthly things in the light of eternity? Or do I live according to my self-love, according to the spirit of the world, which regards all things only in relation to this earthly life?
Upon all these matters examine yourself seriously before God. Then with sincere sorrow blot out the faults you have committed. Think of the occasions in which you may be, likely to relapse, renew your resolutions with humility and confidence, and start on the way again with fresh courage, placing all your hope in the Lord, being neither discouraged nor cast down at the sight of your own misery.
Preparation for Death
Kneel down before a Crucifix, and represent to yourself that your last hour has come; that an angel says to you as once to Ezechias: "Give charge concerning thy house, for thou shalt die, and not live" (4 Kg. 20:1). Implore of God the grace of a happy death.
What does it Mean to Die?
I shall die, that is: (1) I shall leave all... parents, family, friends, house, goods, and furniture, everything.... To what persons or things do I most cling? These as well as all the rest I shall leave. Terror seizes me at the thought of this all-embracing separation and yet death is nothing else. And should I attach my heart to earthly things? Should I weary and torment myself in the pursuit of perishable goods? No a thousand times no!
I shall die, that is: (2) My soul shall separate from my body. This body, a ghastly corpse, will then lie without life or motion, an object of horror or compassion for all; finally, it will be buried, and become the food of worms. Yes, this head, these eyes, this tongue, these feet, these hands, will be consigned to rottenness.... And through love of this body of clay, shall I risk my soul, my eternity? No a thousand times no!
When and How shall I Die?
I know not. One may die at any age, at all times, and in all places, of any kind of disease. Shall I have time to prepare for death? Shall I be able to receive the holy Sacraments? I hope so, but I do not know. Many have been suddenly surprised by death, and the same may happen to me. When one is ill, and particularly when he is in the last agony, he cannot easily prepare well for death. At that moment he possesses but little memory, but little knowledge, and perhaps but little strength of will; and yet our eternity depends upon that moment!
Am I Ready to Die Now?
Does nothing hold me to the earth? Am I ready to appear before the judgment-seat of God? Does no sin cause me anxiety? Have I nothing to fear for my confessions, for my Communions, for so many graces received? Frightful moment! To be judged... by an all- just... all-wise... all-powerful God... who hates sin above all things! After a serious meditation of these truths, make your resolutions, and recite, kneeling, the following prayers:
Prayer of Absolute Submission to the Law of Death
God Almighty, Lord of life and of death, who for the punishment of sin hath in Thy unchangeable decrees appointed for all men once to die, behold me humbly prostrate at Thy feet, prepared to submit to this law of Thy justice! In the bitterness of my heart I bewail my transgressions. As an obstinate sinner, I have deserved death a thousand times; therefore I accept it in obedience to Thy holy will. I accept it as atonement for my innumerable sins. I accept it in union with the death of my Redeemer... I wish to die, my God! when it pleases Thee, where it pleases Thee, and how it pleases Thee The time Thy divine mercy still grants me shall be employed in divesting myself of a world in which I have only some moments to stay; in loosening the bonds that enchain me to this place of banishment; and in preparing my soul for the hour of Thy fearful judgment... I remit myself without reserve to Thy ever fatherly providence. Thy holy will be done in all things forever! Amen.
Prayer to Obtain the Grace of a Happy Death
O my God, prostrate before the throne of Thy adorable Majesty, I beg of Thee the final grace of a happy death. I have indeed often made a bad use of the life Thou gavest me; but grant that I may end it well, and die in Thy love!
Let me die like the holy patriarchs, leaving without regret this valley of tears, to go and enjoy eternal rest in my true country!
Let me die like blessed St. Joseph, in the arms of Jesus and Mary, calling upon those sweet names, which I hope to love and praise for all eternity!
Let me die like the ever-Blessed Virgin Mary, inflamed with the most pure love, and ardently desiring to be united with the only Object of all my affections!
Let me die like Jesus on the cross, in the liveliest sentiments of hatred for sin, love for my Heavenly Father, and resignation in the midst of sufferings!
Heavenly Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit: have mercy on me!
Jesus, who didst die for love of me, grant me grace to die in Thy love!
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for me now and at the hour of my death!
Angel of God, faithful guardian of my soul, and you, great saints, whom God gave me for protectors, do not forsake me at the hour of my death!
St. Joseph, obtain for me, by thy powerful intercession that I MAY DIE THE DEATH OF THE JUST! Amen.
Soul of Christ, sanctify me:
Body of Christ, save me:
Blood of Christ, inebriate me:
Water from the side of Christ, wash me:
Passion of Christ, strengthen me:
O good Jesus, hear me!
Within Thy wounds hide me:
Permit me not to be separated from Thee!
From the malignant enemy defend me:
In the hour of my death call me,
And bid me come to Thee,
That with Thy saints I may praise Thee
Forever and ever! Amen.
A Partial indulgence is granted to those who take part in a monthly retreat. (Enchiridion Indulgentiarum)
From the book "The Way of Interior Peace" by Fr. de Lehen, SJ, Benziger Brothers, 1888.
From the book "The Way of Interior Peace" by Fr. de Lehen, SJ, Benziger Brothers, 1888.