Religion is to give due honour to God , honour is due to a certain excellence that a person has, God being the most excellent being has a special honour due to Him which is called Religion. It is a part of the virtue of Justice in so far as it is a rendering of something due to someone, and a virtue, for it both makes the possessor good and his actions good, by rendering a good to God the ultimate Good.
Does religion have an external act?
- God is a spirit, so we should worship Him in spirit only!
- God is our superior, so we should not use inferior actions of our body to worship Him
We pay God honour and reverence not for His sake because He is Himself full of glory to which no creature can add anything, but for our own sakes, because when we honour God we subject our minds to Him , and in this does our perfection consist.
For our minds to be united with God we need the sensible world, for we are not and never will be Angels. The divine worship then needs to make use of material things, to stir up man’s mind, as by signs, to spiritual acts, which are the means of uniting us to God. But these external acts are secondary to the internal ones, which belong essentially to the virtue of Religion.
To worship God perfectly we must try to be holy and pure. Purity is necessary that we apply our mind to God, for then the mind is not soiled with inferior and baser things, like when silver is mixed with lead. Thus without purity the mind can not be applied to God, this is why a priest must be, and remain pure and free from contact with inferior things.
Interior acts of Religion
Devotion comes from the word devote, thus people are said to be devout who, in a way, devote themselves to God, so as to be subject completely to Him. Hence in the old days among the pagans a devotee was one who vowed to his idols to suffer death for the safety of the army. Devotion then is nothing else than to will to give oneself readily to things concerning the service of God. Therefore it is essentially an act of the will not one of the emotions or feelings.
How does devotion come about?
Devotion like we said is an act of the will, but to make an act of the will we must have some end or object to aim at. The object of the will is the Good, if you think something is good then you want it, ice-cream = good = I want. To have devotion to God we must meditate upon God’s goodness, and upon our shortcomings on account of which we need to lean on God. Therefore we don’t presume on our own strength (presumption) but submit ourselves to God completely = devotion. Things concerning God himself are the strongest incentive to devotion, but due to our weak human nature we need a guiding hand and help by means of the sensible objects that we know.
The main object then of our devotion should be the humanity of Christ, that knowing God visibly we should come the love of things invisible. But girls and women are more devote than boys and men, why is this? The answers lies in the fact the men are more thinkers than women, by the very nature God gave them and this can be a cause for too much self-confidence. We say, “I don’t need all these devotions like the Rosary and the Mass, that’s for girls or little old ladies!” This attitude causes a hindrance to devotion because of a lack of humility. So if a man submits his knowledge and mind to God, then this will help his devotion to increase.
The effects of devotion
The direct effect of devotion is a spiritual joy of the mind, and yet there is also a sorrow.
How can we have joy and sorrow at the same time?
This happens in two ways:
- The reason is that by surrendering our wills to God we receive a spiritual joy, by thinking of His Goodness and Kindness in our regard, God made me, God loved me from all eternity and loved me knowing all the evil I would do, yet he still made me, and gave me life, and kept me alive till now, etc. But the sorrows comes from the consideration that we do not enjoy God fully that we can still lose Him by sin.
- When we consider our own failings and the pain caused to God by them, this causes sorrow, then when we hope in God for help to overcome these failing, we receive joy from confidence in his assistance
An example of this is when we think about the Passion of Christ, there is something that causes sorrow, namely the defect of original sin which needed Christ to suffer, and there is something that causes joy, God’s loving-kindness in giving us such a deliverance from eternal misery.
Prayer is a lifting of the mind and heart to God. It is an act of religion by showing due honour to God, by subjecting ourselves to Him , because when we pray we confess that we need Him as the source of all our goods.
But God knows everything, and all the things that I need, so I don’t need to pray. Also it is more generous to give to one who does not ask than to someone who does, but God is infinitely generous so I should not pray to Him.
Man when he prays does not change anything in God, as if God were lacking something, but when he prays he fulfils God’s plan of providence for us. So we pray that we may obtain that which God has disposed to be fulfilled by our prayers from all eternity.
When we pray we don’t make known to God our needs and desire as if He did not already know them, but in order that we may be reminded of the necessity of having recourse to God’s help with these requests.
God bestows on us many things from His generosity, even without us asking for them, but He wishes to bestow certain other things at our asking, so that we may obtain a good, that is, that we may acquire confidence in having recourse to God, and recognise Him as our author.
To whom should we pray?
Should we only pray to God, or to the Saints as well ?
All our prayers should be directed to the acquisition of grace and glory, this only come from God, but this can be fulfilled by Him through the intercession of the saints, the angels and men. It is not that God through them may know what we want, but that our prayers may be effective through their prayers and merits before God. Thus when we say the litanies we ask the Holy Trinity to have mercy on us, and the saints to pray for us.
Should we ask for something in particular?
We can ask God for temporal things and spiritual things that is, to be saved and make it to heaven. Temporal things, that is, things of this world, we can ask God for in so far as they shall help us save our souls. We should not desire these things so much that our minds become so immersed in them, then when we have them we are satisfied and want nothing else.
Should we pray for other people?
We should desire good things not only for ourselves but also for others, thus charity requires that we pray for others. But it is also a condition of prayer that one pray for oneself, not because it is necessary to do this so that it is meritorious for the one praying, but as being necessary in order that the prayer not fail in its effect of begging God’s grace. For it sometimes happens that we pray for another with piety and perseverance, and ask for thing relating to his salvation, and it is not granted because of some obstacle on their part. Yet the prayer will be meritorious for the one who prays out of charity.
We ought to pray even for sinners, that they may be converted, and for the just that they may persevere and advance in holiness. Yet the prayers for sinners are heard not for all but for some, those whom are predestined, but as we don’t know who is predestined and who not, we need to pray for all, so that no man be denied the help of prayer.
We ought to prayer for the just for three reasons:
- The prayers of many are more easily heard
- To thank God for the graces given to the just, which help the many also.
- That the more perfect may not become proud by finding how they need the prayers of the less perfect.
With the voice
- By praying in this way our inner devotion is more easily stirred, because we are men not Angels, so we need to use our senses to reach that which is beyond our physical capabilities, namely God. So by external signs like words or actions, the mind is moved to apprehend far easier, and our affections are then moved, these being in the will and the prime objective or result of prayer. By moving the affections we make acts of the love of God and submit our wills to Him, thus we render God the act of religion.
- By praying with our bodies, that is with the voice, we repay the debt to God. By serving Him with all we have, not only with our minds, but also with our bodies.
- The effect of prayer now must be considered, this is firstly merit, for those who pray with charity. In order to realise this it is not necessary that prayer be attentive the whole way through because the original intention is sufficient the whole way through.
- The other effect is impetration, that is, the begging from God His help and assistance, this is covered by the original intention, to which God looks chiefly.
- But if the original intention is not there, prayer lacks both merit and the help which we wish to obtain from God. Thus God hears not the prayer of those who pay no attention.
- Attention to the words in order that we don’t say them wrong.
- Attention to the sense of the words.
- Attention to the end of prayer, namely God, and to the thing we are praying for.
To purposely allow our minds to wander in prayer is sinful, and hinder the prayer from having fruit, but to have the mind wander unintentionally does not lose fruit, because God knows the weakness of our human nature, which at times weighs down our soul on its ascent to God in prayer. God looks at our efforts and our striving to overcome the distractions.
The length of prayer
We should prayer always, and especially in times of temptation, and do all for the glory of God. But prayer considered in itself can not be continual, for we need to be busy with other work. Now just as when we are hungry we eat enough to satisfy the hunger and no more, once we have our fill we stop, or at least we should try to. So too with prayer, we should pray until we arouse enough fervour of interior desire, then when we exceed this, so that we can not continue without weariness then we should cease. Like a bee taking pollen from a flower, he goes to one flower sucks out the pollen then when it is empty he moves on. He does not remain there sucking away till he is so exhausted that he can’t fly or do any more collecting of pollen.
So prayer should be short and sweet, and taken often so as not to be too wearying. We must avoid long drawn out prayers that are so wearying that we dread them or pay no attention to them at all.
This is why the Rosary, is so good when prayed properly. We use both our minds and bodies. Our minds by contemplating on the Mysteries of the life of Our Lord and His Blessed Mother, this helps our devotion, as I said above because we think about God’s love for us. Our bodies are used, especially when we pray vocally the Rosary in public with our family or at Church, and even more so by using our hands when we count out the decades. The prayers are not too long, for how long does it take to say 10 Hail Marys. Because of the repetition of the same prayer we are not completely taken up with the pronunciation allowing us to think about the mystery, or even the intention of each decade, or the intention of the whole Rosary.
Praying with song 4
Praising God with the voice is necessary to arouse our devotion to God. The human mind is moved in different ways according to the different melodies of sound. Thus the use of chant is good that the souls of the faint-hearted may be more inclined to devotion. As St. Augustine says, “That by the delight of the ears the faint-hearted may be raised to the feeling of devotion.” Even if you don’t understand what is sung, but understand why it is sung, that is, the glory of God, this should be enough to arouse your devotion.
1 Q 81
2 Q. 82
3 Q. 83
4 Q 91 Art 2.