Watching over our Heart
The Imitation of The Sacred Heart of Jesus
Observe carefully, with what objects thy heart busies itself; by what it is moved, towards what it tends
It is never at rest: when it escapes from one object, it is entangled in another. It is excited by curiosity, it is allured by cupidity, it is misled by vanity, it is defiled by pleasure, it is wasted by sadness, it is tortured by envy, it is disturbed by love and hatred, it is worried by its own misery, and by worrying itself it is broken down.
1. The Voice of Jesus
My Child, with all watchfulness, keep thy heart safe for Me: for from it proceeds either life or death.
The greatest and most pleasing gift thou canst offer, is to present thy whole heart irrevocably to Me; and thou canst have no better, nor more wholesome employment, than to preserve thy heart faithfully for Me.
In vain dost thou devote thy heart to Me, if thou do not guard it sedulously: for the enemy, even without thy being fully aware of it, will corrupt it and tear it away.
2. A heart not watched over
A man, loose in heart, and given up to outward things, may, indeed, on occasion of some swift passing fervor, devote his feelings to Me; but soon, when this warmth of devotion disappears, he will fall into a worse than his wonted low estate.
A heart not watched over, is rarely self-present, and more rarely still, mindful of Me: hence, in a short time, it becomes unfeeling, and grows hardened against things spiritual.
It lies open to everyone, like a public thoroughfare, through which thoughts, temptations, errors of every sort may freely pass.
All its enemies come and go through it; and, in various ways, disturb, defile, and corrupt it.
A man, given to outward things, never seriously gives heed to this; and, shrinking from the very thought of dwelling within himself, or of busying himself with what goes on in his heart, he endeavors to flee from himself, or to turn away his mind.
And thus the evil grows worse; and, from day to day, the condition of his heart becomes more dangerous.
3. Recourse to My Heart
If thou art unwilling to be the victim of miseries so great, remove their causes, and the effects will cease.
By calling to mind the divine Presence, by frequent recourse to Me, check thou all levity, and take heed, lest thou be too indulgent to thy ever-changing nature; which always seeks to go abroad, which is prone to vanity, which seeks to show itself everywhere, which studies continually how it may gratify the senses.
Shun things trifling and useless, shut out all outer things, with which it is not needful to busy thyself; accustom thyself to dwell within thyself, and to live interiorly in such a manner, as if thou wast alone with Me in the world.
Study, always and everywhere, to possess thyself and to be self-collected: to this thou mayst attain by grace, by effort, and by practice, so that it will become, as it were, natural to thee.
And, when thou hast acquired it, this self-presence of the mind will bring its own reward; for it is a boundless treasure to man.
4. Turn thyself wholly to Me
The self-collected man keeps watch over all the avenues of the heart; Me, his God and Savior, he entertains within himself; with Me he deals generously, with Me he converses familiarly.
Everywhere self-possessed, he peacefully enjoys the Beloved of his soul, and is ever saved from weariness, and from numberless faults.
Whilst inwardly recollected, he makes progress in virtue; and, in spite of every obstacle, he hastens on to perfection.
Wherefore, allow not thy spirit to grow dissipated, My Child; neither on account of the appearance of external objects, nor on account of the varied throng of circumstances, nor on account of the urgency of labor, nor on account of the comfortless inward state of thy soul.
Observe carefully, with what objects thy heart busies itself; by what it is moved, towards what it tends.
Turn thyself wholly to interior things; and, intent on these, preserve inward peace, and rejoice in My presence.
5. The Voice of the Disciple
Grant me, I beseech Thee, Lord Jesus, an inward spirit, that I may keep my heart for Thee, that I may watch over its employments.
For I find it ever busy: but, by reason of my neglectfulness, it heeds neither place, nor time, nor objects.
Behold! Frequently have I surprised it in strange places, pouring out its feelings, whether of love or of aversion, distracted with emotions, becoming stained by the objects which engaged it.
Frequently have I found it to steal away and give itself up to dissipation, at the hours, yea at the very moments, which were specially consecrated to Thee; and when it ought to have been praying to Thee, praising Thee, loving Thee, and enjoying Thee.
How often have I seen it engaged with objects vain, or even forbidden, when it should have occupied itself with things good or useful!
When unguarded, it slips forthwith away, it runs to and fro, it is carried towards different objects, according as it is swayed by different impulses of nature.
It is never at rest: when it escapes from one object, it is entangled in another. It is excited by curiosity, it is allured by cupidity, it is misled by vanity, it is defiled by pleasure, it is wasted by sadness, it is tortured by envy, it is disturbed by love
and hatred, it is worried by its own misery, and by worrying itself it is broken down.
Thus is my heart busied, thus is it defiled, when I watch not over it, or when I am careless about it.
6. Jesus, replenish my heart with Thy Love
O Lord! How great the need of being vigilant! How great the need of guarding my heart! It must not only be made to stay at home in recollection, but it must also be kept busy, yet only with Thee or for Thee.
I must examine, then, by what it is impelled, whether by nature or by grace: how it acts, whether according to Thy good pleasure, or according to its own natural likings: what it has ultimately in view, Thee or itself.
And I must watch constantly, until my heart, in some manner, has grown accustomed, sweetly and courageously to follow, for love of Thee, the motion of grace.
O Jesus! Of how great an importance is this work! Whatever efforts be needed to accomplish it, behold! I will not cease to pursue the same, until I see it perfected.
If I loved Thee, if I were all captivated with Thy love, how easily, and how speedily should this work be completed! For, if my heart were filled with love for Thee, it would repose in Thee, it would not stray from Thee: in Thee it would find its happiness; all else it would, of its own accord, drive off or cast away.
O, sweetest Jesus! How wonderful is Thy love! Replenish Thou my heart with Thy love and Thy grace, and my heart will gladly stand watch over itself, will zealously reserve itself for Thee.
“Voice of Jesus” is taken from Arnoudt’s “Imitation of the Sacred Heart”, translated from the Latin of J.M. Fastre; Benziger Bros. Copyright 1866