Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread
from St. Teresa of Avila
Our good Jesus understood how difficult a thing He had promised on our behalf, for we are frail by nature and often succeed in persuading ourselves that we do not know what is the will of God. We are weak and He is merciful; thus He saw that some remedy was needed, for by no means ought we to desist from giving what He offered for us, since in this consists our highest good although it is a most difficult task for us to fulfil. For instance, if a rich man is told that he ought to moderate his table so that those who are dying of hunger may have bread to eat, he will find a thousand excuses for not understanding this better than he chooses. If you say to a scandalmonger that he is bound to love his neighbor as himself, he will lose all patience and nothing will convince him of the truth.
Declare to a religious who is accustomed to liberty and self-indulgence that he ought to give a good example; that when he says, ‘Thy will be done,’ it is his duty to observe these words not only by tongue but by deed; that he has sworn and promised to do the will of God, and God’s will is that he should perform his vows: represent to such a person that if he gives scandal, although he may not absolutely break his vows yet he infringes on them greatly — that he has taken a vow of poverty which he must in no way evade, for this is the will of God — yet you will never be able to bring such a man even to wish to do what is right. What, then, would have happened if our Lord had not done the principal part of our work for us by means of the remedy He has given us? Surely there would have been very few who would have fulfilled the promise He made in our name when He said to the Father, ‘Thy will be done.’ May He vouchsafe to grant that many do so, even now!
Seeing our needs, the good Jesus found a most wonderful way by which to prove His excessive love for us — in His own and in His brehren’s name He made this petition: ‘Give us this day our daily bread, O Lord!’ For the love of God, daughters, let us realize the meaning of these words: our spiritual life depends on our not disregarding them.
Reckon as of little value whatever you may have given to God in comparison with this rich reward. It appears to me, although I submit my opinion to a higher judgment, that though the good Jesus knew what an advantage it would be for us to yield to His Father what He had offered on our behalf, yet He recognized the obstacles to our keeping our promise that come from our human nature, its tendency to degradation, and our want of love and courage. He saw that there was need to aid and encourage us, and this, not once for all, but day by day, therefore He determined to remain among us.
This being immense grace, He wished it to come from the hand of His eternal Father, although, They both being One, He knew that whatever He did on earth God would hold good and ratify in heaven since His will and His Father’s are identical. Yet, such is the humility of the good Jesus as man, that He appeared to ask leave for this favour although He realized how His Father loved and delighted in Him. Our Lord understood that we ask far more in this petition than in the rest, because He foresaw the death to which men would put Him and the shame and insults He would suffer.
O my God! what father could be found who, having given us his son, and such a son, would, after we had so ill-used him, have allowed him to remain among us to endure fresh wrongs? No such father could be found, save Thy Father, O Lord! Well didst Thou know of Whom Thou wast asking this boon. Ah! what excess of love in both the Father and the Son! I am not so amazed at the good Jesus; having already said: ‘Thy will be done,’ for the sake of His word He was bound to accomplish it. I know that He is not like us, but as He recognized that He fulfilled His Father’s will by loving us as Himself, He sought how, although at His own cost, He might do this most perfectly. But why, O eternal Father! didst Thou consent to this? How couldst Thou see Thy Son daily in such wicked hands, after Thou hadst already permitted it once? Thou didst witness how they treated Him: how couldst Thou have the heart to see Him thus affronted day by day? How many insults are being offered Him this very day in this most holy Sacrament! How often must His Father watch Him in the hands of His foes! What profanations are committed by the heretics!
O eternal Sovereign! How canst Thou then consent to such a request? How canst Thou permit such a thing? Yield not to His love which for the sake of fulfilling Thy will and of succouring us would lead Him to endure being hacked into a thousand pieces every day. It is for Thee to look to it, my God, since Thy Son is reckless what He suffers. Why must every good thing come to us only at His cost? How is it that He is mute and knows not how to speak for Himself, but only pleads for us? Shall no one intercede for this most meek and loving Lamb? Give me the right, Lord, to be His advocate, since Thou hast deigned to leave Him in our power and He submits His will to Thee thus utterly and gives Himself so lovingly to us.
In this petition alone does Christ repeat His own words: first He prays: ‘Give us our daily bread,’ and then He says: ‘Give us it this day, O Lord.’ He puts us in the first place when appealing to His Father, as much as to say that now, having once for all given us this gift, it is our own and He will not take it away from us until the end of the world, but will leave it for our succour every day. Let this win your hearts, my daughters, to love your Bridegroom, for though no slave in the world willingly acknowledges his bondage, yet the good Jesus seems to consider it an honour.
O eternal Father, how unspeakable is this humility! What treasure will suffice to purchase Thy Son for us? How to sell Him we know — that was done for thirty pieces of silver, but no riches will enable us to buy Him. Being made one with us by that portion of His nature which He had assumed, and being Master of His own will, He reminds His Father that, since His manhood is His own, He has the right to bestow it upon us. Therefore He says: ‘Our bread’; making no distinction between Himself and us, but ranking us with Himself, so that as He daily joins His prayer with ours we may obtain from God that for which we ask.
The good Jesus, having resolved to give Himself to us, asks His Father to allow Him to remain with us ‘daily,’ which appears to mean ‘for ever.’ Yet, while writing this, I have been wondering why, having said ‘daily,’ He should add, ‘this day.’ I tell you of my foolish thoughts so that, if they really are absurd, you may see what a simpleton I am — as indeed I must be, to dare to discuss such matters. Yet, as we are to think over what we are praying for, let us consider what this petition means, so that we may fulfill its obligations reasonably and may thank our Lord for taking so much trouble to teach us. I believe that ‘daily’ means that we may enjoy His presence while we dwell in this world, where He remains with us and we receive Him as our Food, and in heaven also, if we profit by His company here. His sole object in abiding with us is to aid, to incite, to strengthen us to do the will of God which we have asked may be ‘done’ in us.
The term ‘this day,’ seems to mean the one day, and no more, during which this mortal life lasts — and indeed it is but a single day for unfortunate wretches who condemn themselves to forfeit our Lord’s presence in the next world. He has done all that He could to aid them, as His own children, while they lived on earth, dwelling with them and strengthening them, and if they are overcome He will not be to blame, for He never ceased to encourage them until the end of the fray. Lost souls will have no excuse to make for themselves, nor will they be able to accuse Christ’s Father of depriving them of this Bread in their direst need. Therefore Jesus covenants with His Father that, since the world only lasts ‘one day,’ He may be allowed to spend it in our service. As God has given Him to us and has sent Him on earth of His own free-will, it is incredible that He would deprive us of His Son when most we want Him, for the insults men offer Him will endure but for a single day. Our Lord respects the obligation He has contracted by offering our will in conjunction with His own, which binds Him to aid us to fulfil this promise by every means in His power; He is not willing to desert us, but desires to remain with us for the greater glory of His friends and the confusion of His enemies. He prays for nothing new when He says ‘this day,’ for since His Majesty has given this food and manna for the children of men once for all, we can obtain it whenever we please: we shall never die of famine except by our own fault, for the soul that receives the Blessed Sacrament will find in it whatever solace and help it requires. There is neither need, nor cross, nor persecution that cannot easily be borne when we once begin to share and to love those our Lord bore and to keep them ever in our hearts.
As regards to the other bread — I mean bodily nourishment and wants — I neither wish you to remind God of them nor to remember them yourselves. Keep your thoughts as guarded as if you were raised to the heights of contemplation where one no more thinks of food than if one had already quitted this world. Would our Lord have laid such stress on our asking for our meals? It would not seem to me becoming either for Him or for us. He is here teaching us ‘to fix our affections on things above’ and to pray that we may enjoy the first-fruits of them here: would He, then, bid us concern ourselves about anything so base as asking God for our sustenance? He knows perfectly well that, if we once began to concern ourselves about the needs of our bodies, we should soon forget the needs of our souls. Besides, who would carry prudence to such an excess? We are satisfied with little and we do not beg for much; the more men give the more the heavenly water appears to fail us. Let those of you, daughters, who are the most anxious about our necessities, ask for this.
Join our Lord, then, in praying to His Father to let you have your Bridegroom ‘this day’, that you may never be without Him in this world — your joy will be tempered by His remaining hidden beneath the accidents of bread and wine, which is a torture to those who can find no love or consolation elsewhere. Beg Him not to fail you but to give you grace to receive Him worthily. Since you have completely abandoned yourselves into the hands of God, have no care for any other bread but this: I mean while you are at prayer and are asking Him for other things of far greater importance, for there are times when you ought to work to gain your living, although without feeling undue anxiety about it. Never trouble your minds about such matters, but while your body labours (for you ought to support yourselves) let your soul be at peace. As I have fully explained to you, these cares should be left to your Bridegroom Who will always provide for you. Never fear that He will fail you, if you do not fail to keep your promise of resigning yourselves to the will of God. As for me, daughters, I assure you that if I deliberately broke this pledge, as I have often done before, I would neither ask Him to give me bread nor any other food: let Him leave me to die of hunger! For why should I seek to live, if every day I am making eternal death more inevitable?
A comparison. If then you have truly surrendered yourselves to God, as you say, abandon all cares of yourselves, for He cares for you and will always do so. We may be compared to a servant who enters into service with a householder: the domestic is obliged to do all he can to please his master and the master is bound to maintain the servant while employing him in his house, unless prevented by poverty from feeding either himself or his dependents. Here the case differs, for our Master is and always will be rich and powerful. It would seem very strange if the servant went to his employer every day to ask for his meals, knowing perfectly well that without this he would be fed and cared for. It would be waste of time, and his master might tell him to look after his own work, for if he worried himself about other people’s business he would do his own badly.
Then, sisters, let who will demand this earthly bread. Let us speak to the purpose and beseech the Father to give us grace so to prepare ourselves for the reception of this sacred and heavenly food that, although our bodily eyes cannot rejoice in looking on Jesus, hidden as He is beneath the sacramental veils, yet He may reveal Himself to the sight of our soul and may teach us that this Bread is a special kind of nutriment, which contains in itself sweetness and joy, and sustains our life. Inadvertently, we shall often desire and pray for earthly things, but we need not purposely recall such matters to our minds. Our miserable tendency to whatever is base and low may often excite these thoughts against our will, but let us not deliberately ask for any gifts except those I have recommended to you, for if we obtain these we obtain all the rest.
Do you not know that this most holy Sacrament is a most beneficial food even for our body and a powerful remedy for its diseases? I am sure that it is. I am acquainted with a person subject to severe illness which often cause her acute pain; she was freed from them instantaneously b this Bread, and remained in perfect health. This often occurs, and people are cured of visible maladies which I do not think could be counterfeit. The miracles worked by this most holy Bread on those who receive it worthily are so well recognized that I will not say much about those which happened to the person I mentioned, although I know all about them and am sure of their truth. But our Lord had given her so lively a faith and devotion that when she heard people say that they wished they had lived while Christ, our only Good, dwelt in the world, she used to smile to herself, thinking that, while He so undoubtedly remains among us in the Blessed Sacrament, we have nothing left to desire.
Although she was far from perfect, yet I know that for many years my friend endeavored so to strengthen her faith that whenever she received Holy Communion, at which time, as she believed, our Lord entered her poor little dwelling, she might as far as possible withdraw her mind from all earthly things and enter into herself with Him. She strove to control her senses in order that they might comprehend the grace she was enjoying, or rather, that they might not prevent her soul from enjoying it. She imagined herself at the feet of our Lord and wept with Magdalen as if she had really seen Him in the house of the Pharisee. Even if she felt no devotion, faith told her that it was well for her to be there, and she continued conversing with Him. For unless we choose to be obtuse and to blind ourselves to the fact, we cannot suppose that Christ’s presence here is only an image of our imagination, as when we think of Him on the cross or in any other phases of His Passion. These happened in the past, but He is here with us at the present moment in very truth: we need not go far to seek Him, for we know that our good Jesus remains with us until the accidents of bread have been consumed by our natural heat. Let us not lose this golden opportunity but let us stay in His company.
If, while Jesus lived in the world, the mere touch of His garments healed the sick, who can doubt that when He is dwelling in the very centre of our being He will work miracles on us if we have a living faith in Him? And will He not grant our petitions while He is our guest? His Majesty is not a bad Paymaster for a good inn. Are you grieved at not seeing Him with your bodily eyes? That would not be expedient for us here. It would be a different matter, now that He is glorified, from what it was when He lived in the world. Human nature would be too weak to bear it. The world would exist no longer and no one would remain in it, for when men had once seen eternal Truth they would perceive that all we value on earth is but a lie and a mockery. And if His sublime glory could be seen, how could such a sinful wretch as I am dare to draw thus near to Him after my many offenses? Beneath the accidents of bread, He is accessible — if the King disguises Himself, there does not seem to be the same need for ceremonies and court etiquette; indeed He appears to have waived His claim to them by appearing incognito. Who otherwise would venture to approach Him thus tepidly, unworthily, and laden with imperfections? Indeed, we know not what we ask; but He in His wisdom understands far better than we do. When He sees that it would profit a soul, He reveals Himself to it; although unseen by the bodily eyes, He manifests Himself to it by vivid interior intuitions and by other means.
Take pleasure remaining in His society; do not lose this most precious time, for this honor is of the utmost value to the soul, and the good Jesus desires you to spend it with Him; take great care, daughters, not to waste it. If obedience calls you, try to leave your soul with our Lord, Who is your Master; although you may not understand how, He will continue to teach you. But if you allow your thoughts to wander at once to other matters and you show no more care or reverence for Him Who dwells within you than if you had not received Holy Communion, how can He make Himself known to you? You have no one to blame for this but yourself. This is the time for our Master to instruct, and for us to listen. I do not assert that you must use no vocal prayers, for you would say I was speaking of contemplation. If our Lord does not raise you to this, recite the Pater Noster, but take care to remember how truly you are in the company of Him Who taught it you: kiss His feet for having done so and beseech Him not to leave you. If you are accustomed to ask for graces from Christ while looking at His picture, would it not be foolish, at this time, to turn away from Him Who is now with you in person, and to look at His image? It would be the same thing as if, when a friend we dearly loved came to visit us, we refused to talk to him and would only speak to his portrait. Do you know when the gazing on a representation of Christ is a good and holy practice in which I take great pleasure? It is when our Lord is absent and makes us feel His loss by aridities. It is a great joy to look at an image of our Lady or of any Saint for whom we have a devotion. How much more so when the likeness is that of Christ, Who has given us such cause to love Him? To gaze on His picture rouses the soul to fervour. And I should like to see His image wherever I turned my eyes. What can we look on that is better or more delightful than Him Who loves us so tenderly and Who comprises in Himself all good things? Unhappy heretics who have forfeited this consolation and support, as well as many others!
When you have received our Lord, since He really dwells within you, try to shut the eyes of your body and to open those of your soul; look into your heart. I have told you, and shall tell you, again and again: if you do this whenever you go to Holy Communion — I do not mean once or twice, but every time you communicate — and if you strive to keep your conscience clear so that you may frequently enjoy this grace, His coming will not be so hidden but that, in many a way, He will reveal Himself to you in proportion to the desire you have of seeing Him. Indeed, if your longing for Him is very vehement, He may disclose Himself entirely to you. But if we care nothing for Him Whom we have received in such intimate union, but either go to seek Him elsewhere or busy ourselves about other and lower matters, what would we have Him do? Must He drag us by force to look at Him and to stay with Him because He wishes to manifest Himself to us? No! for men did not treat Him too well when He showed Himself visibly among them and told them Who He was — few indeed of them believed Him. He had done us a great grace by teaching us that He is present in the Blessed Sacrament. But He will not show Himself openly or reveal His glories or bestow His treasure, save on souls which prove that they ardently desire Him, for these are His real friends. But let not the soul which is not of their number, which offends Him and approaches to receive Him without having prepared itself to the best of its ability — let not that soul importune Him to reveal Himself to it. Scarcely is the hour over which has been spent in fulfilling the precepts of the Church, when such a person leaves her own home and tries to drive Christ out of it, or if she does enter into herself it is only to engage in worldly thoughts in the very presence of Jesus. Indeed, what with other interests, business, and the cares of this life, she seems to make all possible haste to prevent our Lord from taking possession of her house!
Although I had already written about it while explaining the prayer of recollection, yet because of its great importance I have spoken here at length of the need of our retiring into our own souls to be alone with God. When you hear Mass, but do not go to Holy Communion, you may make an act of Spiritual Communion, which is exceedingly profitable. Recollect yourselves in the same manner: this impresses a deep love for our Lord on our minds; for if we prepare our souls to receive Him, He never fails, in many ways unknown to us, to give us His grace. It is as if we approached a large fire– if we kept a distance from it and covered our hands, we should hardly feel its heat although we should be warmer than without it. But if we approach this fire (which is our Lord), with the intention of expelling the cold, the case is quite different, for if the soul is thus well-disposed and perseveres for some time, it retains its warmth for several hours and any small spark which flew out would at once ignite it.
It is of such immense advantage for us to cultivate the habit of recollection that you must not be surprised at my mentioning it very frequently. Do not be disturbed if you cannot succeed at first; perhaps the devil may be filling your hearts with repugnance and trouble because he sees what loss he would suffer by your acquiring this habit. Though he may try to make you believe that you could practice greater devotion in other ways, do not be dissuaded from this: our Lord thus tests your love for Him. Remember, there are few souls that keep beside Him or follow Him in His trials. Let us suffer something for Him — He will repay us. Only think! there are people who not only do not like us to be with Him, but who drive Him from their houses with rudeness and insults; therefore we ought to endure some discomfort in order to show that we wish to see Him. Although, in many places, men leave Him by Himself, or treat Him badly, yet He endures all this, and will continue to endure it for the sake of finding but one single soul that will receive Him with affection and bear Him loving company. Let this soul be yours, for if none were to be found, the eternal Father would justly refuse to allow Him to remain with us. Yet He loves Christ’s friends so well, and is so kind a Master that, knowing it is the will of His holy Son, He will not dissuade Him from this praiseworthy deed in which He so generously proves His love for His Father by finding this wonderful way of testifying His affection for us and of aiding us to bear our trials.
Since, O our Father Who art in heaven! Thou dost will and ratify this act (for by no means wouldst Thou deny us so great a boon,) there must be some one to plead the cause of Thy Son, as He will never defend Himself. Let that part be ours; daring as the task may be for us unworthy creatures, yet let us rely on our Lord’s command that we should pray. In obedience to this decree I beg of you, daughters, to join me in asking of our holy Father, in the name of the good Jesus, that, seeing how He has done all that could be done in granting this great gift to sinners, He would mercifully prevent our Lord’s being so ill-treated. Since His blessed Son has left us so powerful a means as the sacrifice of the Mass, by which we can repeatedly offer Him up, let us implore God that this precious oblation may prevent the spread of the terrible wickedness and sacrileges committed among the Lutherans against the most Blessed Sacrament. It seems as if the end of the world must have come, for they demolish the churches, massacre numbers of priests, and abolish the Sacraments. Even many Christians behave so irreverently in church that they seem sometimes to have gone there more for the purpose of offending our Lord than of worshiping Him. Why do such things happen, O Lord God? Either let the world come to an end, or stop these dreadful crimes, for, wicked as we are, they are more than our hearts can bear. I beseech Thee, O eternal Father! to extinguish this conflagration, since it is in Thy power to do so.
Behold, Thy Son remains on earth with us: in deference to Him, stop these foul and abominable outrages, for one so pure and beautiful as He ought not to dwell amid such pollution. We do not ask this for ourselves, O God! we do not deserve it — grant it for the sake of Thy Son. We dare not beg that He should stay with us no longer, for Thou hast consented to His prayer that for ‘to-day,’ that is, as long as the world lasts, Thou wouldst leave Him with us. Without His presence, what would become of us? Everything would go to wrack and ruin, for if aught can propitiate Thee it is this Hostage which we hold. As some redress must be found for these wrongs, may it please Thee to supply it, for Thou canst do so if Thou wilt.
O my God! would that my fervent importunity and the signal services rendered Thee gave me the right to beg of Thee so great a favour in return, for never dost Thou leave a just claim unrewarded. But I have done nothing of the kind. Indeed, perchance it is I who have provoked Thee and brought about these evils in punishment for my sins. What then can I do, O my Creator! but offer Thee this most holy Bread, thus rendering Thee back Thine own gift, beseeching Thee, by the merits of Thy Son, to grant this boon which, in so many ways, He has earned from Thee? Do Thou, O God! calm the sea and no longer permit the ship of the Church to be tossed in this tempest. Save us, O lord, for we perish! (St.Matt. viii,25: ‘Domine, salva nos, perimus’)
(The wording of the Lord’s Prayer in Spanish is: ‘El pan nuestro de cada dia dánosle hoy’ — literally ‘Our daily bread, give us it to-day.’)
Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread
from St. Louis De Montfort
Our Lord taught us to ask God for everything that we need, whether in the spiritual or temporal order. By asking for our daily bread, we humbly admit our own poverty and insufficiency and pay tribute to our God, knowing that all temporal goods come from His Divine Providence.
When we say bread, we ask for that which is just necessary to live; and, of course, this does not include luxuries.
We ask for this bread today this day, which means that we are concerned only for the present, leaving the morrow in the hands of Providence.
And when we ask for our daily bread, we recognize that we need God’s help every day and that we are entirely dependent upon Him for His help and protection.