The Mystery of Reality

JMJ

This is part of a series of posts on the invocations of the Jesus Psalter. There is a menu of these posts at the bottom. The invocations will be considered thematically.

Jesu, Jesu, Jesu,
grant me grace to remember my death
Jesu, Jesu, Jesu,
send me here my purgatory

BE CAREFUL what you pray for, the old saying/joke goes, for you may get it. I’m calling these two invocations the mystery of reality because we often live in denial of both of them. The reality is we will die and most of us will do some time in purgatory. But we also die daily, and purgatory can be here instead of later, so I think it’s helpful to understand both death and purgatory.

“Indeed for your faithful, Lord, life is changed not ended…”

When a Christian contemplates death it is with a three-fold realization: on the one hand, we do so in the hope for to fall asleep here is to wake with Christ. On the other hand we do so in fear and awe or we will come face-to-face with the judge who knows everything and judges justly. Also, “Media vita in morte sumus quem quaerimus adjutorem nisi te, Domine, qui pro peccatis nostris juste irasceris?” This Antiphon, from Advent in medaeival usage, reminds us In the midst of life we are in death of whom may we seek for succour, but of thee, O Lord, who for our sins art justly displeased? Even in our daily life we are surrounded by death. Death is the part of this world that was not intended (as far as we can understand). It is the result of sin. We allowed death into the world and, like kudzu in the south, it’s everywhere now. We don’t see it: we think it’s part of the natural order. It’s so common, but it’s literally the only thing that is not natural. It’s so common that sometimes when we indulge in things and feel like “really alive” we’re actually only dealing in death and more death.

All such cases are sin: disordered use of God’s creation. We are offended by that idea of “disorder” but all sin is disorder. All sin is a misuse of God’s creation. We are in the midst of death. This is the reality we refuse to see. This is the reality we pray to have grace to remember.

With death comes judgement, the final moment. This happens outside of time in God’s eternity and therefore it is a mystery. For us on Earth and inside time it is a sadness to see Soul separated from Body as was never intended. But in eternity where things do not change I’m not sure it’s quite like that. Seems to me there cannot be two moments of time in eternity – one of death and one of judgement. Do we needlessly complicate things when we insist on seeing them both? In the sense that the final judgment place out in eternity there is some wibbly wobbly timey wimey way where I must even now be standing before the judgement seat watching my life play out. Holy Angels and Saints praying for mercy and all the prayers, including mine, ascending and affecting my life now. This present moment is in some way the shockwave of the Eschaton – flowing forward to that final climax.

In being mindful of Death, we pray to be mindful of judgement. It’s also around us, each moment of death is also a moment of judgement. As the moment passes it is judged. It can never be redone and it can never be undone. We feel this passing as pain and, markedly, we don’t like pain. We run from pain. We dodge it at every turn. While pain (as it I hit my thumb with a hammer and it hurts) is not something to be sought, it is also a part of life. In our process of avoiding pain, we often just run to things that make us feel good: and so often, that’s a disordered misuse of God’s creation. A sin. We become addicted to sin – it makes us feel good. We even craft “identities” around sin. And so, we need purgatory to pull us away. We need to pain to purge us.

David the King asks God to “purge me with hyssop” in Psalm 51. Hyssop is a laxative. David’s asking to be cleansed inside and out. Our sins need that level of cleansing – they have that sort of hold on our lives: constipation can be a spiritual reality as it is a physical one. Purgatory which we pray for here, is this spiritual laxative.

We are asking God to purge us: to remove our blockages or hangups around sin. But more: the same Psalm speaks of healing bones which God has broken. If you’ve studied anything around the human body you know that sometimes you have to break bones again to allow them to heal. Yes, this can happen if the bones have healed poorly, but it’s a process used in other parts of medicine like orthotics. If a child’s feet have matured in the wrong shapes, they may be broken so as to give them a chance to heal in the correct way. Or in physical therapy: if muscles have formed in the wrong way, it is a painful process to reform them by constantly re-training them to move correctly. Any discomfort, any pain in a doctor’s office could be cause for a lawsuit. Even Therapists are mindful of causing emotional discomfort. This is how far we are from reality: I had a dentist apologize repeatedly for cleaning my teeth. Being mindful of death and accepting pain – even asking for both – puts us face to face with a reality that most people in the world today not only avoid, but take active steps to deny.

When we ask for purgatory here, we are asking God to take the time we have devoted to sin, and turn it into a time of healing. It’s a brave step: one that asks God to take over now and begin a process that in our theology requires fire. But that fire is God. It is his love purging us. And, while we know this in eternity, asking for it now means also asking for the faith to accept it as part of the reality of a Christian. We are asking for pain: it may be spiritual or physical, it could be mental or emotional. It could be all of the above. But it will be real.

Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, esto mihi, Jesu.

Jesus Psalter Menu
Introduction
The Mystery of Mercy
The Mystery of Relationship
The Mystery of Reality

The Mystery of Relationship

JMJ

This is part of a series of posts on the invocations of the Jesus Psalter. There is a menu of these posts at the bottom. The invocations will be considered thematically.

Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, grant me grace to fear thee
Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, grant me grace to love thee

THERE ARE SEVERAL Of the invocations that ask for the “grace” to do something. As a Protestant I learned that grace stands for “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense”. You can cringe for a few moments now, I’ll wait. That constant idea that God beat up Jesus for Us comes to haunt us though – even Catholic cannot get away from it. The image of the old school teacher Nun telling St Bernadette how stupid she is, or the idea that telling a lie is pushing one of the thorns deeper in Our Lord’s head on the Cross… we fail to understand what “because of our sins” means here. We fail to understand Grace, Fear, and Love as well.

Grace is God: Grace is God’s divine presence acting in our life. Because God is infinitely simple, two possible to separate God’s grace from God. This is divine simplicity: we cannot separate God’s actions from God’s person, from God’s very self. God acting in your life is not an abstract but his presence. When we ask for the grace to do something we are not asking for some sort of superpower like x-ray vision or being able to leap over tall buildings in a single bound. By asking for Grace we are opening our self to participation in the Divine action in the world. So what then is this grace to fear? And why do we contrast it with this grace to love? Do we contrast these?

One wants to call to mind 1 John 4:8, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” So how can we pray for the grace to fear and then as part of the same prayer, ask for the grace to love? Would they not cancel each other out?

If you are married or in a relationship at this time, think back. If you’ve ever been married or dating someone, you can think back as well: to your first date. In fact, if we’re honest, the first five or six dates will probably fit this pattern. How long did you date before you were comfortable with, pardon me, farting in front of them? I mean we all do so – we’re humans, we eat food, gas happens. But there’s a fear of doing so in public, in front of strangers. Some scientists think that in terms of social evolution, these released body scents were a way of saying “we’re all safe here” and so the fear may not be humorous so much as an unwillingness to include strangers in a cloud of knowing and being known. But, silliness aside, we hate to do so on dates. Even though, at some point, it happens.

A less silly thing: how long did you date before you stopped cleaning your apartment when they came over?

This is fear.

I don’t mean that you were afraid they’d find out you farted or had a messy apartment. Rather you were afraid to hurt the new relationship by being too – what? – too human? too normal? too natural? too “me”?

As stilted as that part of the relationship seems, it’s also the part that gets turned into Romance Novels and RomComs, into comedy routines and famous country music duets. We know that we all grow out of this stage, but there’s something real and endearing about it. And, when we’ve been married for 50 years and have long ago stopped worrying about farting in front of each other, we still clean the house for a romantic dinner.

This balance of love and fear is the mystery of relationship not just with our lover or our friends, not just with other humans, but also with God.

Jesus is our Creator, our King, and our Judge. Jesus is also our Brother, our Saviour, and our Friend. We enter into relationship with him only aware of all of these aspects. One dursn’t fart in front of King. One cares not if one farts in front of a friend. (Carsn’t should be a thing…) One holds on to both of these aspects in all of life. Fear and love balance out, in a way. Our sins should horrify us, as the Act of Contrition say, not only because we are afraid of the pains of Hell, but “because they offend Thee, my God, who art all good and deserving of all my love.” And each of these can be real, fear and love, God our Judge, and our Friend is the same person.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10), but wisdom doesn’t stop there. She draws us closer and closer to God until his perfect love drives out our fear entirely. As in any healthy relationship, we cannot skip over the awareness that we can break it – but as the love grows more closely to wrap us ever deeper, we also find that we become like our beloved. Until we are like the two elders sitting on a park bench in June, quietly holding hands.

But if one farts, they will still giggle.

Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, esto mihi, Jesu.

Jesus Psalter Menu
Introduction
The Mystery of Mercy
The Mystery of Relationship
The Mystery of Reality

The Mystery of Mercy

JMJ

This is part of a series of posts on the invocations of the Jesus Psalter. There is a menu of these posts at the bottom. The invocations will be considered thematically.

Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, have mercy on me
Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, help me
Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, strengthen me
Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, comfort me

THE OPENING Invocations on the Jesus Psalter each are begging God for Mercy. If we fail to understand the meaning of “mercy” the whole thing will be lost. When we hear “have mercy” me may imagine a victim being beaten and crying out for mercy. We may imagine a prisoner on death row begging for mercy. Or perhaps we imagine a heroine in a classic drama begging for mercy on behalf of her parents or village. This idea of mercy is rather late though. The idea that we would need God to stop beating us up is not what is implied in these invocations as we can see if we take them together.

In Latin, mercy is misericordiae. In Greek, ἐλέησόν, eleison. In Hebrew, חַסְדֶּ, chesed. The Latin carries the poetic resonance of “let your heart beat with mine”. The Hebrew is such a strong word that traditional English translations like the Authorized Version render it as its own word: lovingkindness. The Greek is even more poetic, for it comes from the word for olive oil. It implies soothing, healing, and luxurious touch. It’s a warm massage after a hard workout. When we pray at Mass, “Lord, have mercy” we should hear these overtones instead. When we pray for peace or healing, an end to violence or injustice, we are not asking God to stop whipping us with these scourges. Rather we are asking for the loving, soothing oil of God’s presence to heal us, struggling through a world of sin.

When we ask for Jesus to have mercy on us, we mean – literally – in his blood, the sacramental and real presence of his mercy in our lives.

When we ask Jesus to help us this is part of the same mystery, is it not? Jesus, soothe our wounded muscles and help us to heal, to get strong again. Strengthen us and comfort us! Do you see how all of these are just deeper unfoldings of the prayer for mercy?

Help me is the plaintive cry of a child, but we need help even in praying the prayer. Without Christ we can do nothing. When we know that, then any action, any prayer, any motion becomes for us either a participation in or a rejection of God’s mercy. Strengthen me is the next logical request! We are moving forward in our skills, we need not only help to do… but to get better at doing. We ask God to add more weight to the bar, to help us bend just a little further, to break us a little more so that we may heal in a better posture.

It’s possible to hear the prayer of “comfort me” as some sort of hand-holding, huggy-squeezy moment. But if you’ve ever had deep tissue massage, physical therapy, or even surgery you know that not all things comforting are comfortable. And, if you’ve ever sat on a soft sofa, lain on the wrong mattress, or had too much chocolate, you know that comfortable is not always the right thing.

But the comfort of God’s mercy may not be the comfort we’re looking for, for it comes in the unshielded openness of Confession, it arises in the middle of a hard day’s work in the vineyard. The comfort of God’s mercy is like the muscle memory where you make the motions because it is easy to do so – where you’ve schooled everything in your life to bend to God’s will. Only in doing God’s will, then, is there any sense of rightness, of comfort.

These four intercessions are not at all what they seem. As you meditate on each in turn, your prayer for mercy may go from “I’m a sinner, forgive me” to “I am lazy, draw me forward” to “I’m tired, kick my backside” to “I’m ready to go again, charge!” As you open to God’s mercy, you may discover that even the cross you bear is, itself, God’s mercy acting on you. And you will be crucified daily because of love.

Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, esto mihi, Jesu.

Jesus Psalter Menu
Introduction
The Mystery of Mercy
The Mystery of Relationship
The Mystery of Reality

The Jesus Psalter: Intro

JMJ

ENGLAND’S PERSECUTION OF the Catholic Faith began with what is euphemistically called the Herician Reform. Henry VIII had no intention of “reforming the Church” but rather of creating a new Church with himself as the head. He wished to replace an infallible Pope with an omnipotent King. To this end, much like politicians today, he catered to certain parties in the Church without actually believing any of it. He sought, successfully, to rip the British Isles away from the bosom of their Mother, the Church. He did so by a combination of political, economic, legal, and corporal means, stripping away the Church’s position, lands, and temporal authority. What was left, though, was refined like gold in the fire. The Catholic faith, even when illegal within the Empire, spread like vines of morning glories, seemingly overnight popping up in places and opening to the sun’s light, bearing seeds and dying before night, only to sprout again in the next golden day.

The faith of this Church was fed by men who, on fire with zeal, left England to train as priests on the Continent, and then returned secretly to say illegal Masses in homes. The faith was whispered in the ear and passed by word of mouth. The prayers and devotions were hidden in pocket sized books, or pasted behind covers of other titles. And in the end, the blood of the martyrs watered the growing Church as monarch after monarch tried – and failed – to slay the Bride of Christ. This Church increased her strength using the Mass when she could get a priest, a devotion to the Blessed Mother – the Rosary, and a devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus.

This last had been growing in the English Church for a while before the Reformation. In fact, the reverence for the Holy Name is common in Orthodoxy and Protestantism as well. Before the “reform” began, in the very early 16th Century, a Brigittine monk, Richard Whitford, began a pious practice called the Jesus Psalter. Consisting of a series of pious ejaculations to the Holy Name, it was a core devotion supporting the faithful in the troubled times of Henry, Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth. Your host heard of this reading a book by Msgr Robert Hugh Benson called Come Rack Come Rope, a fictionalized account of the persecution under Queen Elizabeth. One character offhandedly says to another, “You must pay more attention to your Jesus Psalter.” Google quickly found a copy on a trusted website and a rabbit warren opened of comparative texts, and research.

Each prayer was on the same format: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, [something]. Said ten times, like the ten Aves of a Rosary, there was then a long oration (like the meditation on the Mysteries) and some concluding prayers. Then the next cycle began. There are 15 in total:

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus have mercy on me.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus help me.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus strengthen me.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus comfort me.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus make me constant.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus enlighten me with spiritual wisdom.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus grant me grace to fear you.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus grant me grace to love you.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus grant me grace to remember my death.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus send me here my Purgatory.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus grant me grace to fly evil company.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus grant me grace to call for help to thee.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus grant me grace to persevere in virtue.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus grant me grace to fix my mind on thee.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus grant me grace to order my life to thee.

There are many copies online at various websites and historical scans. Some scans going back to the 1590s. While the petitions have remained the same, the orations or meditations have varied. I think they are intended to teach us general ideas, but with the devotion intended to spring up in the heart: so the orations will become personalized. The opening and closing verses have remained the same. The prayers after each “decade” have varied a little, but have always like this:

Have mercy on all sinners, O Jesus, I beseech Thee; turn their vices into virtues and, making them true observers of Thy law and sincere lovers of Thee, bring them to bliss in everlasting glory. Have mercy also on the souls in Purgatory, for Thy bitter passion, I beseech Thee, and for Thy glorious name, Jesus.

O Blessed Trinity, one very God, have mercy on me.

Then an Our Father and a Hail Mary.

This will serve as the introduction to a new series of posts on this devotion. Each post will focus on one or more petitions. Although the petitions will be covered in order, sometimes there are themes. For example, the first three petitions – have mercy on me, help me, and strengthen me – seem to go together. Then “strengthen me” and “comfort me” seem to be of a piece while “make me constant” seems to me its own thing. Although there is no set schedule, there will be a growing menu of linked posts.

The banner image that leads this post contains the prayer, Iesu, Iesu, Iesu, esto mihi Iesu. Since “Jesus” means “Savior” or “one who saves” the prayer is, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, be to me Jesus” that is be to me my savior. Let this be our prayer as we move forward.

Jesus Psalter Menu
Introduction
The Mystery of Mercy
The Mystery of Relationship
The Mystery of Reality

Memento Mori


Today’s readings:

Quoniam ipse Dominus in jussu, et in voce archangeli, et in tuba Dei descendet de cælo: et mortui, qui in Christo sunt, resurgent primi. Deinde nos, qui vivimus, qui relinquimur, simul rapiemur cum illis in nubibus obviam Christo in aëra, et sic semper cum Domino erimus.
For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
How’s your bucket list doing? Got a lot checked off? North Korea just exploded a bomb that world media turned into a veritable Fright Night of clicks and ad revenue.  Al Jazeera literally made it into clickbait with this tweet:
Since I grew up in the Cold War, I’m pretty much over all this stuff: but fear is real. I think some part of the tensions in this country are the venting of the fears we’re experiencing just now, although granted our Glorious Leader Don al Trump also scares a lot of folks.
My twitter response to A-J’s tweet was three points long. The first is, “Everyone dies”.
Literally, everyone dies. Today, tomorrow, sometime in 2050, whatever. Everyone Dies. Personally 18 mins warning as we prepare for Nuclear Evaporation is way better than I don’t know, a sudden gunshot, or a car accident, or an earthquake. All of these are likely. Yet I don’t walk around afraid of them. But, nukular bomb, thuggee, ninja, gangsta, old lady driver,  or the mother of all San Andreas shatterings, none matters. We’re all going to die and share one thing:
There is nothing pretty about death at all.
The breathing becomes labored. The edges of the body, if you will, start to crisp up and die first. The light in the eyes full on and there is terror. Then out. And there is nothing. If you’ve ever had anything die in your arms… or watch someone pass… it’s nothing like a movie at all. How’s your bucket list doing?
There is nothing pretty about death.
But God has done it.
There is nothing pretty about death on a cross. Nothing at all.
One of the things that makes me ready to accept the Shroud of Turin as really the burial shroud of Christ is because it’s been around through a part of the Church’s history when we did not prefer to think of Jesus as a maimed and bloody mess. The shroud shows a man covered in blood; not just blood prettily staining his hands and feet (or even garishly flowing from those wounds) but literally covered in blood. This makes sense if you know anything about the process of being scourged… but I’ll stop there.
There is nothing pretty about death on a cross. Nothing at all.

But God has done it.
There’s this invocation from the Ninth Petition of The Jesus Psalter: Let the remembrance of Thy death teach me how to esteem my life; and the memory of Thy resurrection encourage me cheerfully to descend into the grave.
That is the Christian Mystery right there: We walk this road neither unscathed nor unchanged, and yet for all eternity though it lead to death and darkness, now it leads to life and light because God walked it himself. The map is the same, the path is unraveled and rewoven. The tapestry undone and repaired.
I heard a sermon yesterday about (among other things) the Satanic appeal to human pride that is this concept of “Death with Dignity” and legalized mercy killings. I will post it when I can. But for now, let’s just note: God walked the path, we can’t turn aside from the path and say we’re following him. We have to walk it through to the end, all the way, without chickening out.
This is dignity because God has done it: this path leads to a known ending now. Let the remembrance of Thy death teach me how to esteem my life; and the memory of Thy resurrection encourage me cheerfully to descend into the grave.
But we all want to Run Away. This fear of death is just more of the usual Fear of Missing Out: what will we miss when we’re not here? How’s your bucket list doing? 
I’m afraid we are all haunted by our bucket list into thinking that seeing the Pyrenees or riding the Orient Express, making love in the Grand Canyon, or making a pilgrimage to Mall of America are all as equally as important and as valid a goal as getting right with God and persevering until the end to Salvation.
I had a bucket list when I was 29. Oddly enough I’ve done a lot of the item on it. I feel nothing at all of the sense of accomplishment I imagined I would feel when I was 29. Quite the opposite in fact, I’m aware now of how shallow they were, how pointless, how totally irrelevant all the petty and prideful sins on that list were and are. And they are sins exactly because petty and prideful. Yes, I can say I’ve done something… that was on that list… but did that something save anyone? Make the world better? Heal the sin-sick soul of myself or anyone else? No.
How’s your bucket list doing? We walk this road neither unscathed nor unchanged, and yet for all eternity though it lead to death and darkness, now it leads to life and light because God walked it himself. The map is the same, the path is unraveled and rewoven. The tapestry undone and repaired.
St Paul says hat those of us who are alive will be changed. That those who have gone before will rise first. And that all of us together will rejoice in the presence of the One Who went before us. He is the only Dignity we have – any of us. Even those who reject him are only measured by him, by how much they (unknowingly) reflect his light.
I have climbed Everest, I have seen the moon by standing on it, I have ruled the world, I’ve cause chaos on three continents by my internet communication skills in an era when those were few and far between. But if I can’t meet Christ in the air on that last day, I have failed.
I may have “made the world better”, I may have helped a lot of people be “happier” or “more free”, I may have done anything and everything that would make someone think “he was a good person.”  But if I can’t meet Christ in the air on that last day, I have failed.
The rest of the Ninth Petition of the Jesus Psalter:

Jesus, grant me grace always to remember my death and the great account I then must render; that so being kept continually disposed, my soul may depart out of this world rightly in Thy grace. Then by the gracious intercession of Thy blessed Mother and the assistance of the glorious St. Michael, deliver me from the danger of my soul’s enemies; and do thou, my good angel, I beseech thee, help me at the hour of death. The, dear Jesus, remember Thy mercy; and turn not, for my offenses, Thy face away from me. Secure me against the terrors of that day, by causing me now to die daily to all earthly things and to have my continual conversation in heaven. Let the remembrance of Thy death teach me how to esteem my life; and the memory of Thy resurrection encourage me cheerfully to descend into the grave.

Throw away the bucket list.
Learn to feed the poor at your doorstep without worrying about those on the next block.
Pray.
I’ll see you there, but only if you pray for me to meet you. I totally need your prayers to make this.

Fourth Petition – Jesus Psalter


To see all the other notes in this series, click on “Jesus Psalter” or in the labels below. To see the first post click here.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus comfort me. (x10)

Jesus comfort me and give me grace place my chief, my only joy in thee.
Send me heavenly meditations, spiritual sweetness, and fervent desires of thy glory; ravish my soul with the contemplation of heaven where I may dwell everlastingly with Thee.
Grant me, sweet savior Jesus, contempt of all damnable pleasures full of sin and misery.
Bring often to my remembrance Thy kindnesses, Thy great gifts, Thy unspeakable goodness often shown me. When Thou bringest to mind the sad remembrance of my man sins whereby I have so ungratefully offended Thee, comfort me with the assurance of obtaining Thy grace with the spirit of perfect repentance, which may purge away my guilt and prepare me for thy kingdom.

Have mercy on all sinners, O Jesus, I beseech Thee; turn their vices into virtues and, making them true observers of Thy law and lovers of Thee, bring them to bliss in everlasting glory.

Have mercy also on the souls in Purgatory, for Thy bitter passion, I beseech Thee, and for Thy glorious name, Jesus.
O blessed Trinity, one true God, have mercy on me.
Our Father (or Pater Noster). Hail Mary (or Ave Maria)
This petition asks that we realize and live as though all joy is in God – and so in pleasing him.  A friend of mind throwing away his past sins told me he chanted, “It’s not a loss because it was never a gain.” If Aquinas is right and all sin is either a lack of love or a misdirection of love, then throw away the former and fix the latter. The first was never really important, and the second is not gone. As Kansas sings in, The Wall, “There is no loss.”  What we give up or sacrifice in our God-ward journey is not us and what really is us (as God created us to be) can never go away.

Third Petition – Jesus Psalter


To see all the other notes in this series, click on “Jesus Psalter” or in the labels below. To see the first post click here.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus strengthen me. (x10)

Jesus strengthen me in soul and body to the performance of all virtue for thy pleasure, whereby I may attain to thy everlasting joy and felicity.
Mercifully grant me firm purpose to amend my life, doing penance for all the years I have misspent to thy displeasure in the practices of impious thoughts, enjoyments, words, deeds, and evil customs; in breaking thy commandments for which I deserve damnation and thine enmity.
Make my heart obedient to thy will and ready, for love of thee, to perform all the works of mercy.
Grant me the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the eight Beatitudes, the four Cardinal virtues; and, by the frequent and pious reception of thy Holy Sacraments, dispose me to thy devotion.
Have mercy on all sinners, O Jesus, I beseech Thee; turn their vices into virtues and, making them true observers of Thy law and lovers of Thee, bring them to bliss in everlasting glory.
Have mercy also on the souls in Purgatory, for Thy bitter passion, I beseech Thee, and for Thy glorious name, Jesus.
O blessed Trinity, one true God, have mercy on me.
Our Father (or Pater Noster). Hail Mary (or Ave Maria)
These petitions engage in one of the best pious customs of the period: making lists. This one is actually a meta-list, a list of lists! Contra the “impious thoughts, enjoyments, words, deeds, and evil customs; in breaking thy commandments” the writer posits the 14 Works of Mercy (7 corporeal, 7 spiritual),  the seven fruit of the Holy Spirit, the Eight Beatitudes, and the 4 Cardinal Virtues. Then the prayer invokes the Seven Sacraments. This pray asks for a lot! Again there is the realization that what went before Grace was sinful, take away my stoney heart and give me a heart of flesh set on fire for love of you.

The Second Petition – The Jesus Psalter

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, help me. (x10)

Jesus help me to overcome all temptation to sin and the malice of my ghostly enemies.
Help me to spend my time in virtue and in labors acceptable to thee, to repress in my flesh the motions of sloth, gluttony, and lust.
Help me to have a heart fully in love with virtue and the holy desire of Thy glorious presence.
Help me through pious and peaceful living with my neighbors to have and to keep a good name, to Thy honor, and to my consolation.

Have mercy on all sinners, O Jesus, I beseech Thee; turn their vices into virtues and, making them true observers of Thy law and lovers of Thee, bring them to bliss in everlasting glory.
Have mercy also on the souls in Purgatory, for Thy bitter passion, I beseech Thee, and for Thy glorious name, Jesus.
O blessed Trinity, one true God, have mercy on me.
Our Father (or Pater Noster). Hail Mary (or Ave Maria)

Here (and in the first petition) we see the general themes laid out, of taking things one has – sloth, gluttony, lust – and exchanging them for things one should have: a love of virtue and a desire for God’s presence. In this prayer “a good name” assumes that all one’s neighbors are more-pious, holier Christians than oneself and that to have their good judgement is to have become more like them. This is very orthodox thinking in the Christian East as well as the West: I am the only sinner I know. Yes, we have all sinned and fallen short, but I am the only sinner I know. The state of your soul is not for me to judge, but rather something for which I should intercede and always assume the best.

The prayer to “haue my hart enamored of vertue, & the glorious prefence of thee” as it is printed in the 1599 text, is one of a sort that will be seen often: my heart is drawn away from you, God, but give me a heart, rather, that is drawn to you that I can become more like you.

The First Petition – Jesus Psalter

This whole series can be found under Jesus Psalter Series in the sidebar. The reader is referred there for “how to” and any historical notes. To the latter I will add more as I find them. Each petition will be posted in the same format: the petition itself, which is to be said ten times, followed by a collection of prayers compiled from my available sources, including in bold, the ones that see to be “the original” prayers, to differentiate them. (It will be noted that the first prayer is always the Petition plus an embolism which clarifies the intention. Then the closing prayer, Pater Noster, and Ave. 

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, have mercy on me. (x10)

Jesus, have mercy on me, O God of compassion, and forgive the many and great offenses I have committed in Thy sight. 
Many have been the follies of my life, and great are the miseries I have deserved for my ingratitude.
Have mercy on me, dear Jesus, for I am weak; O Lord, heal me, who am unable to help myself.
Deliver me from setting my heart upon any of Thy creatures, which may divert my eyes from continually looking up to Thee.
Grant me grace henceforth, for the love of Thee, to hate sin: and out of a just esteem of Thee, to despise worldly vanities.

Have mercy on all sinners, O Jesus, I beseech Thee; turn their vices into virtues and, making them true observers of Thy law and lovers of Thee, bring them to bliss in everlasting glory.
Have mercy also on the souls in Purgatory, for Thy bitter passion, I beseech Thee, and for Thy glorious name, Jesus.

O blessed Trinity, one true God, have mercy on me.

Our Father (or Pater Noster). Hail Mary (or Ave Maria)

A comment on the common concluding prayer, of course, “All Sinners” includes the person praying. The subtext of “change their vices into virtues” is that all vices are only misdirected virtues. There is no positive evil: only a deficiency of good in some area. One fails to love God enough and loves other things instead. But it is still love.

Jesus Psalter – Notes and Practice

Each section of the Psalter (a Section is Five Decades) opens with the recitation of two verses of Scripture, Philippians 2:10-11.

In nomine Jesu omne genu flectatur caelestium, terrestrium et infernorum, Et omnis lingua confiteatur, quia Dominus Jesus Christus in gloria est Dei Patris.
In the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth: And that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father. 

The Psalter of 1599 (above, left) only has two petitions in the first decade while the later edition has many more. The online edition has several petitions of the same sort as the later one.

Jesus, have mercy on me, O God of compassion, and forgive the many and great offenses I have committed in Thy sight. Many have been the follies of my life, and great are the miseries I have deserved for my ingratitude. Have mercy on me, dear Jesus, for I am weak; O Lord, heal me, who am unable to help myself. Deliver me from setting my heart upon any of Thy creatures, which may divert my eyes from continually looking up to Thee.  Grant me grace henceforth, for the love of Thee, to hate sin: and out of a just esteem of Thee, to despise worldly vanities. 

Because of this (and other differences between the editions) it seems that the earlier texts of the devotion might have had only one or two petitions – plus the prayer “Have mercy on all sinners” &c., ending in the Pater Noster and the Ave. The whole point was to set up a meditation on the thirty-fold invocation. “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus…” a couple of petitions and the meditation (ad hoc by the devotee, or prompted by other materials).  It helps if we think of this like a Rosary. We know an Rosary is supposed to be more than just quickly saying the ten Aves and one Pater Noster, one Gloria, and one O, my Jesus. But most of the time – especially in public recitation – the Rosary gets turned into just that.

When you read a text on how to pary the Rosary there is a complex “Contemplation” included for each decade.  You’ll not get it memorized! You’re not supposed to: it’s intended as a bridge or springboard to your own inner world. I hear advice that people should “say the Rosary while driving” and I think “OMG No!  It’s hella more dangerous than cellphones!”  It’s a bit more involved: it can take minutes to read, but an hour to pray. I see some advising doing only a decade of the rosary in 15 mins: thus, a properly done one would take almost an hour and a half. That’s advanced – very advanced – but not a bad target. Nor is it, in time, a bad target for the Psalter.


Same principle applies here: you can zip through the whole thing, but if you’re not engaged in a sort of Lectio Divina you’re not really doing it. The Contemplation of it should take a bit longer than the recitation, I think; but I’m not there yet.

As you begin to memorise the Psalter of Jesus, as a first step, only memorise the 15 invocations, together with the opening and closing prayers:

Opening Scripture:

Ut in nomine Jesu omne genu flectatur caelestium, terrestrium et infernorum, Et omnis lingua confiteatur, quia Dominus Jesus Christus in gloria est Dei Patris.
That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth: And that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father. 

Make ten repetitions of the first invocation in a section, saying the Divine Name with slow deliberations:

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, have mercy on me. (x10)

End with the prayers:Have mercy on all sinners, O Jesus, I beseech Thee; turn their vices into virtues and, making them true observers of Thy law and lovers of Thee, bring them to bliss in everlasting glory.
Have mercy also on the souls in Purgatory, for Thy bitter passion, I beseech Thee, and for Thy glorious name, Jesus.

O blessed Trinity, one true God, have mercy on me. 

Our Father (or Pater Noster)Hail Mary (or Ave Maria)

Then go on to the second invocation followed by the same prayers.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, help me. (x10)

End with the prayers:Have mercy on all sinners, O Jesus, I beseech Thee; turn their vices into virtues and, making them true observers of Thy law and lovers of Thee, bring them to bliss in everlasting glory.
Have mercy also on the souls in Purgatory, for Thy bitter passion, I beseech Thee, and for Thy glorious name, Jesus.  

O blessed Trinity, one true God, have mercy on me. 

Our Father (or Pater Noster)Hail Mary (or Ave Maria)

Proceed through the other invocations of the section in the same way.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, strengthen me.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, comfort me.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, make me constant.

At the end of the fifth “O blessed Trinity” prayer close this way:

Dominus Noster Jesus Christus humiliavit semetipsum factus obediens usque ad mortem, mortem autem crucis.
Our Lord Jesus Christ humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross.Philippians 2:8 (modif. – This is actually the closing antiphon of the Tenebrae service in Holy Week.) 

Hear these my petitions, O most merciful Savior, and grant me Thy grace so frequently to repeat and consider them, that they may prove easy steps, whereby my soul may climb up to the knowledge, love, and performance of my duty to Thee and to my neighbor through the whole course of my life. Amen.

Our Father (or Pater Noster)Hail Mary (or Ave Maria)
Apostles’ Creed (or
Credo)  

After you’ve memorized the basic prayers (I’m still working on this) then I would suggest adding two or three petitions to each decade and contemplation. We’ll get to that in the following posts.