Taken from “Introduction to the Devout Life” by St. Francis de Sales: Chapter XII, Fourth Meditation.
1. PLACE yourself in the Presence of God. 2. Ask Him to inspire your heart.
1. Consider how long it is since you first began to commit sin, and how since that first beginning sin has multiplied in your heart; how every day has added to the number of your sins against God, against yourself and against your neighbour, by deed, word, thought and desire.
2. Consider your evil tendencies, and how far you have followed them. These two points will show you that your sins are more in number than the hairs of your head, or the sand on the seashore.
3. Apart from sin, consider your ingratitude towards God, which is in itself a sin enfolding all the others, and adding to their enormity: consider the gifts which God has given you, and which you have turned against the Giver; especially the inspirations you have neglected, and the promptings to good which you have frustrated. Review the many Sacraments you have received, and see where are their fruits. Where are the precious jewels wherewith your Heavenly Bridegroom decked you? with what preparation have you received them? Reflect upon the ingratitude with which, while God sought to save you, you have fled from Him and rushed upon destruction.
Affections and Resolutions.
1. Humble yourself in your wretchedness. O my God, how dare I come before Thine Eyes? I am but a corrupt being, a very sink of ingratitude and wickedness. Can it be that I have been so disloyal, that not one sense, not one faculty but has been sullied and stained;—not one day has passed but I have sinned before Thee? Was this a fitting return for all my Creator’s gifts, for my Redeemer’s Blood?
2. Ask pardon;—throw yourself at the Lord’s Feet as the prodigal son, as the Magdalene, as the woman convicted of adultery. Have mercy, Lord, on me a sinner! O Living Fountain of Mercy, have pity on me, unworthy as I am.
3. Resolve to do better. Lord, with the help of Thy Grace I will never again give myself up to sin. I have loved it too well;—henceforth I would abhor it and cleave to Thee. Father of Mercy, I would live and die to Thee.
4. In order to put away past sin, accuse yourself bravely of it, let there not be one sinful act which you do not bring to light.
5. Resolve to make every effort to tear up the roots of sin from your heart, especially this and that individual sin which troubles you most.
6. In order to do this, resolve stedfastly to follow the advice given you, and never think that you have done enough to atone for your past sin.
1. Thank God for having waited till now for you, and for rousing these good intentions in your heart. 2. Offer Him all your heart to carry them to good effect. 3. Pray that He would strengthen you.
“2. Consider your evil tendencies, and how far you have followed them. These two points will show you that your sins are more in number than the hairs of your head, or the sand on the seashore.”
We must presume the kindly old saint is exaggerating here for dramatic effect.