It takes a Pro to teach others the tricks of his trade, and when it comes to holiness no one better than the saints could be called upon. St. Peter Chrysologus is not the first person who comes to mind when we think of saints, but he certainly stands among the best. In one of his sermons, he tells the faithful “there are three things, my brethren, by which faith stands firm, devotion remains constant, and virtue endures. They are prayer, fasting, and mercy.”
Prayer, fasting, and mercy are three peas in the pod of perfection. You cannot separate them and you will never grow if one is lacking. Prayer is an everyday battle where we unite ourselves to God and turn away all other distractions. Yet, if we want our petitions to be heard by God, we must hear the petitions of others. Prayer is not something you do on Sundays or for 10 minutes each morning. Prayer is an all-day activity. It means living out your day in God’s presence and viewing everything as a fruit of God’s will. Hardships are then seen as opportunities to love, triumphs are transformed into reasons for praising God.
Fasting is what fuels prayer. It’s the fastest way to gain graces for you and for others. We can fast from meals or sweets, from curiosities or from vanities. We can fast in our words by not speaking negatively about others or spreading rumors behind someone’s back. When we do fast, we should look at others who are fasting and not get tripped up by pride thoughts. When you feel the pangs of hunger, remember that others are forced to live with the same pangs each day. Fasting, then, is putting our prayer into action. It purifies the soul and makes our offering to God even better.
If we hope for mercy, we must show mercy. “Mercy is to fasting as rain is to the earth. However much you may cultivate your heart, clear the soil of your nature, root out vices, sow virtues, if you do not release the springs of mercy, your fasting will bear no fruit.” Give to others and we will gain more. We must “gather in by scattering”. We can never say we love God if we do not love our neighbor.
What was valid for St. Peter in his time remains the same for us today. Prayer, fasting, and mercy, these are the three tricks to perfection.
Fr. Thomas A. Flynn, LC studies theology at the Pontifical University Regina Apostolorum in Rome.
Question or comment? Please, write to Fr. Nathan Miller, LC at [email protected]
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