August 19 The Feast of St John Eudes
Two wings by which we can fly to God and become saints: the habit of little tiny acts of self-denial and the habit of making a definite fixed number of aspirations every day.
COMMENT: The use of aspirations was an important part of Fr Doyle’s spiritual life. Those under a certain age may be unfamiliar with aspirations and may even be unaware of what they mean. Aspirations are simple, short prayers of just a sentence or even a few words. They can be repeated in times of trial or temptation, or like many of the saints, on a regular or indeed constant basis in order to deepen our constant contact with Christ.
In his diary Fr Doyle writes that constantly repeating aspirations was the penance of his life. That’s a big claim when you’re dealing with somebody whose entire life was one of hardship and penance.
Amazingly his diary records him saying tens of thousands of aspirations each day. It’s not quite clear how he managed this; in practice it probably means that his mind was always continually focussed on God and that he lived St Paul’s recommendation that we pray without ceasing. Certainly he also records how saying some aspirations helped him in moments of temptation and weakness; he also used to pray aspirations to give him the strength to get out of bed on time. Perhaps we can all learn from that!
Certainly we hear much less about the use of aspirations than in previous generations, but the practice was very important to the saints.
St Josemaria Escriva writes:
There will be other occasions on which all we’ll need will be two or three words, said with the quickness of a dart — ejaculatory prayers, aspirations that we learn from a careful reading of Christ’s life: “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” ”Lord, you know all things, you know that I love you.” ”Lord, I do believe, but help my unbelief,” strengthen my faith. “Lord, I am not worthy.” ”My Lord and my God!”… or other short phrases, full of affection, that spring from the soul’s intimate fervour and correspond to the different circumstances of each day.
Today’s saint, John Eudes, was also much devoted to the use of aspirations. Writing about himself in the third person, he says that he knows a person
…who by the frequent use of (aspirations) has arrived at such a stage that it is easy for him, even when taking his meals, to make actually almost as many acts of love for Jesus as he places morsels in his mouth. This he does not only without strain or trouble of inconvenience, but he is not thereby prevented from talking and taking recreation. I say this, not that you should do the same, for there would immediately be an outcry that I was asking things too difficult, but that you may know how much power there is in a holy habit, and how wrong the world is in imagining so much difficulty and bitterness where there is merely every kind of sweetness and delight.