An Act of Love
An electronic reprint of a pamphlet
by Rev. Teresio di Mingo (deceased) of Portland, Maine.
Make it a habit to tell God that you love Him. For this purpose you need not say any long or special prayer. Simply tell Jesus and Mary in your own words that you love them. Tell them so when you are in the church, in the street, while you work, while you rest, while you ride in a car or bus or train, and even while you eat. Your last thought at night, your first words in the morning, let them be: "O my God, I Love you."
When you feel happy and when you feel sad, when you are in perfect health and when you are sick or indisposed, when things around you are well and when they go wrong, when you want to pray for the living or for the dead, when at peace and when beset by temptations, when your heart is warm with the love of God and when it is cold as ice, simply keep on saying: "Jesus, Mary, I Love you! Save souls!"
Any place is a good place, and any time of the day or night is a good time to talk to Jesus and His Holy Mother. As you know, we can even talk to them only mentally, without saying a word, and they will always understand us. You do not need to knock at their door and wait for them to open to you, because they are always near you, keeping you company during all your life, always ready to listen to you, and always anxious that you talk to them. So tell them often: "Jesus, Mary, I believe you are always near me, I believe in your love for me, and I also love you with my whole heart and soul."
And teach this act of love for God to your children early in their life. Kneeling or standing or sitting before a holy picture in your kitchen or parlor or bedroom, teach the baby in the family to say "Jesus, Mary, I love you" as soon as he or she begins to learn how to talk. Moreover do some missionary work, and talk about this way of praying to your friends, so that they also may use it and tell others about it.
Sometimes you may forget to say such prayers for a while, or even for a few days at a time. That is natural: we always forget things. But do not get discouraged. Take it up again with a good will, till in time it will have become a habit for you to pray almost continually. As a reminder you may keep this leaflet in view, pinned somewhere in your kitchen. If you work in an office or factory, you can keep on your desk or table a small slip of paper on which you have written J.M.I.L.Y., or you can invent your own trick reminder, one that, while it is not conspicuous enough for indiscreet eyes to notice it, it will have a world of meaning for you. Do not discount such helps considering them as childish. They aim at producing acts of love the effects of which will last for an eternity, and nothing that will last forever is a trifle.
At times you may feel a fine devotion, and even have tears in your eyes as you make these acts of love for God. When this happens, thank Jesus and Mary for these spiritual consolations, which are meant to encourage you to go ahead. But remember that we must love them especially with our will, and that fine feelings and tears are not essential to our acts of love. On the contrary, the acts of love we make when our heart is dry require a more generous effort of our will, and therefore are more meritorious before God.
An act of love for God is spiritual dynamite that with one stroke eliminates all barriers; pierces Heaven and puts us immediately in intimate contact with the Heart of God. Jesus values so much this direct, spontaneous way of loving Him, that once He told a pious soul, Sister Consolata (Italy, 1946): "For a single act of love I would create Paradise. For a single act of true love, I am ready to forgive and forget a whole life of sins and crimes, as I did in the case of the Good Thief who died by Me on the cross."
Listen to St. John of the Cross: "The least act of pure love has more importance in the eyes of God, and is more useful for the Church in general and for the soul in particular, than all the other good works put together." In perfect accordance with the above, Blessed Peter Julian Eymard maintained that "one single act of love that remains hidden in the soul gives more glory to Jesus, than all the apostolic works in the world." The same we hear from Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, the stigmatized Franciscan who lived at San Giovanni Rotondo in southern Italy: "One single act of love on the part of man, one single act of charity, is so great in God's eyes, that He could not repay it even with the immense gift of the entire creation." He has no alternative but to give Himself in exchange for the act of love we offer.
You certainly understand by now that what is recommended here is not the adoption of just another ejaculatory prayer, to be repeated with more or less attention and simply as a pious exclamation; but rather the holy practice of dedicating ourselves to Jesus and Mary by acts of actual love, acts in which our wills and hearts are focused directly toward Jesus and Mary, with an intensely preferential affection and devotion. The prayer and petition "Jesus, Mary, I love you; Save souls" suggested here is intended to be only a help, and it was proposed (it is piously believed) by Our Lord Himself to Sister Consolata, for that purpose. But, as everybody knows, an act of love can be made also without using any words at all, in a flash, with an intimate surging of our heart toward God and his Mother.
All those who are in Heaven reached there because they loved God. Love is the only passport to Our Father's house; and the various degrees of glory in Heaven are established by the intensity of the love one has had for God while on earth. Only after death will we be able fully to understand the miraculous power of a single act of love for God; but then it will be too late to love God with merit. It is now, while you are still living and your love can be a free offer, that you must love your God with all your strength. All the years of your past life that were not dedicated to love God were time lost; but note, not altogether nor irretrievably lost, if the thought of having shortchanged God in the past will spur you to intensify your love for Him from now on. It is therefore now, before death steals on you and puts an end to your ability to love with merit, that you must endeavor to satisfy the mysterious thirst God has for your love. Here it is given to us to assist at the spectacle of a God who is infinitely happy, and nevertheless thirsts to be thirsted, and keeps asking insistently for the love of His creatures. In His incomprehensible goodness and condescension he turns beggar. What we owe Him in strict justice, he begs of us as a favor, saying: "Son, give me your heart," (Prov. 23, 26), and He promises to reward exuberantly the least of our pains, as if our love supplied Him with something He cannot go without, with something that is vital to his happiness.
He endeavors to attract us, by assuring us that He Himself personally will be our greatest reward, and, lest we might think that to be an insignificant guerdon, He hastens to explain and amplify His own statement by adding that no eye has ever seen, and no human heart and mind, even by making all possible efforts, can ever guess or even faintly imagine the wonderful, astonishing things he has in store, for all those who will love Him! (1 Corinthians 2, 9).
But what will be the immediate effects of all your acts of love?
1. You will gladden the loving Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary every time you tell them that you love them, because they are always near you, they love you as if you were their only friend in the world, they love you as nobody on earth or in Heaven ever will, and they like that you acknowledge their friendship by your acts of love.
2. The essence of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is love and reparation; and the repetition of "Jesus, Mary, I love you; Save Souls" is nothing but an act of love and reparation, which will earn for you the fulfillment of the precious Twelve Promises made by Jesus to the devotees of his Sacred Heart.
3. You will receive from Jesus and Mary a thousand blessings for yourself and for those who are dear to you, blessings that otherwise you would never get. So it does not pay to be indifferent and throw away these spiritual riches, and thus neglect to store up in time of peace the stamina and power of resistance to evil God may have meant to be your mainstay and support in your future trials and temptations.
4. Many unpleasant things that, for the lack of prayer on your part, may naturally be bound to happen to you, through these acts of love, will be averted, and you will thus be spared many troubles and worries.
5. You will be granted more courage and strength to carry your daily cross, to accept unpleasant things in a spirit of penance for your sins, thereby increasing your merits and hence also your power of intercession. You will therefore be enabled to free more souls from Purgatory and contribute to the salvation of many more other souls, all the world over, that otherwise would perhaps go lost.
6. The Holy Ghost, the Spirit of Love, will gradually take possession of your heart, guide you in all things, and you will thus avoid many pitfalls that would slow your spiritual progress or that would eventually spell your spiritual ruin. Under the subtle influence of the Holy Ghost, you will, sooner or later and almost unconsciously, develop a greater love for Confession and Communion, and the more frequent reception of these Sacraments will enrich your soul beyond all human understanding. The action of the Holy Spirit will not only encourage you to pray more and better, but it will lend you a broader outlook of the spiritual field. Hence you will almost instinctively include in your prayers the needs of the Church at large, making acts of love in behalf of the Pope, Bishops, priests, nuns and missionaries; for the sick who are suffering in hundreds and hundreds of hospitals all the world over; for your unfortunate brothers and sisters who are in jail; for the conversion of sinners, infidels and heretics; for those who for any reason do not like you and with their hostility, derision and contempt are the cause of suffering to you, and for the many men, women and children who are dying every moment of the day and night. Even as you read these words, many people are coming to the end of their lives in every section of the globe, and they need our prayers to die well. An act of love of God, offered for the dying, may prove the deciding factor for the salvation of many a soul.
7. And the final, logical outcome of all this constant spiritual activity will be that, when your hour will come, you will go home to your Father, to Jesus and Mary, loaded with merits that will make you inexpressibly happy for all eternity.
So start right now, this very minute and say repeatedly: "Jesus, Mary, I love you! Save souls!" And make up your mind, with the help of God, to keep it up all through the rest of your life. Note however, that these acts of love for God are not a substitute for your morning and night prayers nor for your daily recitation of the Holy Rosary.
Of course the devil will pull out all he has in his bag of tricks to prevent you from making these frequent acts of love for Jesus and Mary, because he knows that there is no more profitable practice and no stronger weapon in our possession against his temptations and maneuvers. His hostile interference is one of the heaviest crosses we have to bear during all our lifetime. But there is no alternative left us but to fight against his sabotaging tactics and, confiding in God, go stubbornly ahead doing what is so glorifying for God and so profitable for our souls.
Therefore, if you should have the misfortune of offending God grievously, do not lose heart,as many do who will throw up their hands and say: "Oh! It is useless for me to try to avoid sin. I am too weak, and the temptations are too strong." Try to recognize in such thoughts and words the direct work of your spiritual enemy. Do not listen to him, because that would be playing into his hands. On the contrary, after every fall, react promptly against evil and say, not once but many times, "Jesus, be not my judge but my salvation. Jesus, Mary, I love you, and I am sorry for my sins."
It is useless to deceive ourselves: we are constantly in need of God's mercy, because this life is a life of transgressions and shortcomings, and our performance is never up to specifications. Fr. William Doyle, the saintly chaplain of World War I, has summed our situation in this respect by saying: "I am convinced that generally we reach sanctity of life only through a long series of falls, from which we get up."
After you have committed a sin, the devil will try artfully to instill into your mind that God now is seriously angry with you; that, after all, this time you went altogether too far; that it will be hard now to straighten things with Jesus, and similar thoughts which are, all of them, arrant lies. Do not listen to him. He was always a liar, and he will always be. On the contrary, accept the words of St. Augustine who wrote: "If after a fall you promptly get up and throw yourself headlong into the arms of Jesus, do you think that He will, just as promptly, step aside and let you fall flat on the ground? Such action on the part of that Jesus, who brought to earth from Heaven the Parable of the Prodigal Son, is utterly inconceivable."
After one of your falls you must believe rather that Jesus is right near you, with His arms wide open, eager for a reconciliation, ready to embrace you and press you to His Heart, at the first hint of repentance on your part. And if you delay to run to Him, He will leave you no peace. He will hover about you, inviting you to come back. He will make you uncomfortable by His persistence. He will arouse in you a feeling of regret for having traded all the merits of all your past good works for a handful of mud. He will have His Church all over the world and beyond pray for you. He will put His Angels to work and scan all through the treasures of the Communion of the Saints, to find the lever that will effectively lift you up from your lethargy, inoculate into you the vim and vigor necessary to break the shackles that tie you down, and set you humbly a-marching back toward your Father's House, the only place where you can regain true peace of mind and heart by being reinstated in His grace, by reestablishing your friendship with Him, by recapturing your lost sonship of God, and the precious heredity that such sonship gives you title to.
God in His infinite wisdom and resourcefulness can draw good from evil, and so also our sins have a mission of mercy to accomplish. St. Paul says: "For those who love God, everything that happens to them will somehow become a source of some good;" (Rom. 8, 28), and St. Augustine, commenting the above words, adds: "Yes, everything, even their sins." And it is true, because our sins will contribute to make us more humble and more prudent in the future, and in this way they may ultimately prove to be but blessings in disguise. We will thus shun more easily certain dangers, if we know where they are to be found, and our sad experiences will also be a means to know how to divert others away from the pits into which we have fallen.
St. Jerome, explaining those paradoxical words of the Proverbs (24, 16): "Even the just (saintly man) will fall seven times a day," proposes to himself these queries: "If he is a saint, how does he fall seven times a day? And, if he falls so often, how can he be still called a saint"? And he solves the problem by saying: "A man is always entitled to be called a saint, provided he repents and gets up after every one of his falls." And so we arrive at the logical conclusion that there are two genuine ways of being saintly and of pleasing God: the first is not to sin, and the second is always to get up after each fall. Look at your hands right now. They are clean, not because they never got soiled, but because you wash them every time they get dirty. It is the same with your soul.
In conclusion, every time you fall into sin, go and wash it away in Holy Confession as soon as possible, making a strong resolution not to sin any more, and keep on repeating: "Jesus, Mary, I love You: Save souls," without letting past falls discourage you on your path to an ever more intimate love for Jesus and His Mother.
Everyone has his own life to live, his own peculiar makeup, his difficulties, good and bad inclinations. Fundamentally, as human beings, we share with others all that is essential to the human race; but, individually, we are, each one of us, a world apart, with special idiosyncrasies, preferences and repugnances, that are continually at work and in conflict with one another in that deep twilight we call our heart. It is in that twilight we really live the life that counts before God. It is there we love, merit, fall down, get up and work out our salvation. And it is also there, in that twilight, that Jesus and Mary want to live with us, ever at work to put things in order by stimulating our good qualities, to overcome and defeat our evil inclinations, and forever acting beneficently on our will, without violating its liberty of choice.
Therefore put your trust in Jesus and Mary, and cooperate with such good Friends. Never question the goodness and mercy of Mary, and never doubt the will and ability of Jesus to save you from this wicked world. Jesus is your bosom friend. He died for you personally on the Cross. His love is constantly encircling you on all sides, as the air you breathe. Mary is your Mother, and she will make it ever easier for you to keep the solemn promises you made in your Baptism, to love your God continually, with all your mind, with all your heart, the best way you can; thereby fulfilling the chief aim He had in view, when He created you and destined you to pass these few, short years of trial on this earth.
JESUS, MARY, I LOVE YOU: SAVE SOULS!
(300 Days Ind.)
Written by Rt. Rev. Msgr. Teresio di Mingo, Portland, Maine, U.S.A.