AS a result of the beautiful Encyclicals of Leo XIII, the month of October has been definitely consecrated to the salutary devotion of the Rosary.
Originating at the time of the Albigensian crisis—true social war preluding the terrible social war of to-day— the prayer of the Rosary, according to historians, was even more active for the defeat of Satan than were the valiant arms of the Crusaders.
"Guided by this thought," said Leo XIII in his first Encyclical on the Rosary, "and by the example of our predecessors, we have believed it opportune to establish for the same cause at this time solemn prayers, and to try, by means of supplications addressed to the Blessed Virgin in the recitation of the Rosary, to obtain from her Son Jesus Christ, like help against the dangers which menace us. You see," continues the Sovereign Pontiff, "the grave trials to which the Church is daily exposed: Christian piety, public morality, faith itself, which is the supreme good and the source of all other virtues, all that is each day exposed to greater peril. * * *
We have in our time as much need of divine aid as at the epoch when the great Saint Dominic raised the standard of the Rosary of Mary with the design of checking the evils of his age. This great Saint, enlightened by a celestial ray, clearly foresaw that to cure his century no remedy would be more efficacious than that which would bring men back to Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life, and urged them to address themselves to that Virgin, empowered to destroy all heresies, as to their patroness near God."
The Rosary appears then, to-day, as it did six centuries ago, the supreme resource of the Church and of society. It seems that it has come, with a more pressing need than ever, to replace ancient forms of social prayer which alas! are no longer to the taste of new nations. It has come at least to fill the void made larger each day by the lack of public intercession.
"If we could penetrate into the secrets of God and of history," says Donoso Cortez, "I believe that we would be filled with admiration at the amazing effects of prayer, even in human things. For the repose of society, a certain equilibrium, known only to God, must exist between prayer and action, between the contemplative and the active life. I believe, so strong is my conviction on this point, that if there were a day or an hour when earth would send up no prayer to Heaven, that day or that hour would be the last day or the last hour for humanity."
In many places the holy psalmody has ceased. Religious men and women have been banished; liturgical, official and social prayer is silenced;—at least it is constantly lessening. Now, the Holy Spirit does not wish the equilibrium to be compromised; He wishes likewise to protect for the isolated souls of our sad times, the essential of that life of prayer, of faith, of Christian virtues, formerly maintained among Christian nations by the public and repeated celebration of the great Office; and this is the part confided henceforth ' to the humble chaplet.
Undoubtedly, long before the thirteenth century popular piety made us of what has been called the “lay psalter,” namely, the Angelic Salutation repeated one hundred and fifty times, but it was the dividing of the Ave Marias into decades, ascribing the consideration of a particular mystery for each, which constituted the Rosary. Divine expedient, simple as the Eternal Wisdom which had conceived it, and of such great capacity; for at the same time as it drew to the Queen of Mercy misled humanity, it turned aside ignorance, fosterer of heresy, and taught anew the “paths consecrated by the Man-God and the tears of His Mother.” This is the language of the great Pontiff who, in deep anguish, pointed out salvation where already more than once our fathers had found it. *****
To the authorized voice of Leo XIII let us unite, in loving obedience, the teaching by word and action of him whom we have taken for Father and Master, St Francis de Sales.
From his youth, Francis de Sales had formed the habit of saying his chaplet daily. Later, he made a vow to do so "in order to obtain deliverance from a troublesome temptation which molested him," and it is the only vow of the kind found in his life. To recite it, he employed a considerable time which seemed to him brief,—an hour said St. de Chantal,—lingering in pious consideration on the mysteries of the Rosary; it was a familiar, childlike talk with his heavenly Mother, and he readily forgot himself near her. By his regulations, the chaplet was to be recited after Vespers; but this rule often yielded to the solicitudes of the episcopal charge. Fearful of being unfaithful to his vow, when affairs deprived him of leisure to say this prayer during the day, he detached a long chaplet laden with blessed medals brought from Rome and Loretto from his girdle, where it was habitually worn, and fastened it on his arm as a reminder to recite it before retiring. However great was his fatigue, he never shortened the prayer vowed to Mary.
On one occasion extraordinary occupations had not permitted him to say the chaplet at the hour appointed; the night being already advanced, he prepared, notwithstanding excessive fatigue, to fulfil this pious duty. His secretary, having perceived it, begged him to consider the extreme need he had of repose, and to defer his chaplet till the morrow. "My friend," answered the Saint, "we must never put off till tomorrow what can be done to-day."
He was exact, said the Annalist of the Visitation, in assisting every month, chaplet in hand, at the procession of the Confraternity of the Rosary, of which he was a member.
When sick and unable to speak, he had the pious prayer said by another, and accompanied it mentally. On his death-bed, at Lyons, after having received Extreme Unction he placed his chaplet on his arm, wishing to die thus and appear before God and the Blessed Virgin Mary with the arm of prayer in his hands.
****** The holy Doctor loved to recommend and propagate the daily use of the chaplet, a practice so dear to him.
"The chaplet," said he in the "Introduction to a Devout Life," "is a most useful manner of praying, provided that you know how to say it properly. For this purpose, procure one of those little books which teach the manner of saying it."
In tracing a rule of life for the Baroness de Chantal while in the world, he wrote: "I desire that the chaplet be said as devoutly as possible every day either at Mass or at some other time."
He loved the chaplet to be said at low Mass. Meditation on the mysteries of the Rosary unites the faithful as intimately as possible to the prayer and action of the celebrant. "At Mass," he wrote to the Abbess of Puy d'Orbe, "I advise you to recite your chaplet in preference to any other vocal prayer, and you may interrupt when necessary to observe the points I have marked for you at the Gospel, the Credo and the Elevation, then resume where you had stopped. Do not doubt that it will be better said through all these interruptions; and if you cannot finish it at Mass, do so later in the day, continuing where you had broken off."
The chaplet is not only for devout persons, it is suitable to all; it is the breviary of the simple, the ignorant and the poor. St. Francis de Sales recommended it to everybody. He readily preached on the Chaplet, the Rosary. Mention is made in the Journal of his Episcopacy of a sermon delivered at Annecy, October 1, 1608, on devotion to the Rosary which might serve as an introduction to the Encyclicals of Leo XIII. In the year 1606, during his pastoral visit to the mountains of Faucigny, his delight was to preach the chaplet to these poor people. On the fourteenth of August, visiting the parish church of Aulph, he taught an affected and charmed multitude a method of saying the chaplet. Some days later, at Ville-en-Salaz, he again spoke of Mary and the chaplet. On that occasion, an extraordinary fact occurred, related by Mere de Chaugy:
"The Octave day of the glorious Assumption of Our Lady, St. Francis de Sales preached in the parish of St. Sebastian and St. Pancratius in Salaz. His sermon was in a catechetical form on the honor due to the Mother of God, in order to instruct the people more familiarly on what they should believe and do to be true children of Mary, retrenching all the superstitious opinions of these good souls, to whom he distributed so large a number of chaplets that it could not be imagined where he had procured them. M. Favre, his valet, deposed that they multiplied miraculously, as it was impossible for the Saint to procure so many; and that he exclaimed with joy that the Sacred Virgin had favored his inclination, furnishing him wherewith to distribute chaplets to the multitude; because every one, poor and rich, great and little, desired to receive from his hands. He gratified all, and still possessed many chaplets."
He propagated Confraternities of the Most Holy Rosary. The verbal process, written and signed by himself, for the erection of the Confraternity in the church of Petit Bornand can yet be seen. ******
What was this method which he taught to the people of Faucigny, and to which he undoubtedly made allusion when he said: "The chaplet is a very useful manner of praying, providing you know how to say it properly."
One of his historians, Pere de la Riviere, gives us this method in detail, and in early editions of the "Introduction to a Devout Life" it was added at the end of Part Fifth. The following has been taken from one of the oldest editions:
"Kiss the cross of your chaplet after having signed yourself therewith, and place yourself in the presence of God, saying the Creed.
"On the first large bead, beg God to accept the service you wish to render Him, and to assist you by His grace to accomplish it worthily.
"On the first three small beads, implore the intercession of the Sacred Virgin, saluting her on the first as the most cherished daughter of God the Father; on the second, as Mother of God the Son, and on the third, as beloved Spouse of God the Holy Ghost.
"At each decade think of one of the mysteries of the Rosary according to your leisure, remembering it principally when pronouncing the holy names of Jesus and Mary, with great reverence of heart and body. If any other sentiment should animate you (sorrow for past sin or a purpose of amendment) meditate thereon throughout the chaplet as well as you can, recalling this sentiment or any other that God may inspire in a special manner when murmuring the sacred names of Jesus and Mary.
"On the large bead at the end of the last decade, thank God for having been permitted to recite your chaplet. Passing to the three following small beads, salute the most holy Virgin Mary, entreating her at the first to offer your understanding to the Eternal Father that you may continually consider His mercies; at the second, supplicate her to offer your memory to the Son that your thoughts may constantly turn to His Passion and Death; at the third, implore her to offer your will to the Holy Ghost that it may ever be inflamed with His holy love. On the large bead at the end, beg the divine Majesty to accept all for His glory and the good of His Church, asking Him to keep you ever in its pale and to bring back those who have wandered; pray for your friends, and conclude as you commenced by the profession of faith, the Creed and Sign of the Cross.
"Wear your chaplet at your girdle or in some other prominent place as a protestation of your desire to be a servant of God our Saviour, and of His most Blessed Virgin Spouse and Mother, and to live as a true child of the holy, apostolic, Roman Catholic Church." ******
Formerly it was a custom, even among seculars, to wear the chaplet at the girdle; now only religious Orders retain this practice. Let us at least be faithful to carry it about us, and above all to recite it exactly and devoutly, meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary as far as possible without interruption, for this is an essential condition to gain the magnificent indulgences of the Confraternity of the Rosary.
Without binding ourselves by vow,— for it is said that St. Francis de Sales, who had made this vow, did not readily advise souls under his direction to do the same,—let us attach ourselves unfailingly to this pious practice. It is the thermometer of our spiritual life.
When the entire day has been occupied, it is sweet at evening to recollect one's self close by the tabernacle, and at the feet of our heavenly Mother.
Nothing is more consoling than this devotion. The monotonous repetition of the Ave, like to the rocking of our mothers when we were little children, soothes our sorrows and is a balm for life's wounds; little by little, as the holy crown glides silently through our fingers, troubles are appeased, calm penetrates the soul, a sort of spiritual refreshment revives the fatigued body and ushers in a night of repose. Who has not experienced this, and how sweet it is to speak to God and to Mary after having long tarried with creatures? "Dieu soit beni!” (God be blessed - translation provided).
‘THE PURIFICATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN — THE PRESENTATION OF JESUS." AND presently the Lord, whom you seek, and the angel of the testament, whom you desire, shall come to the temple. Behold He cometh, saith the Lord of hosts " (Malachy iii.) The holy souls did truly desire His coming. They anxiously waited for that event and seriously desired it. And they filled the ages with their plaintive invocations. In the mystery now under our consideration these true Israelites are represented by an old man, just and fearing God, who looked for the consolation of Israel, for the Holy Spirit had promised him in sleep that he would not die before he saw the " Christ of the Lord " ; also by a venerable and holy widow who, although old, was less burdened with years than with austerities. Simeon, taking in his arms the Child of heavenly promise, chanted his canticle of eternal farewell to the world in the beautiful words recited every day in the offices of the Church : "Now Thou dost dismiss Thy servant in peace, O Lord ! for my eyes have seen Thy salvation " (St. Luke ii.) Anna, the prophetess, in an ecstasy of joy on seeing Him, whom she had invoked in her prayers day and night, "hastened to publish His glory everywhere and to tell of His coming to those who looked for the redemption of Israel."
These just souls are holding high festival, yet nothing extraordinary is seen in the temple ; to other eyes it is only a poor Infant that is brought to be presented to God according to the law of Moses. But this Infant accomplishes an admirable substitution that can only be comprehended by true Israelites. To all appearance He is redeemed before the law ; but in reality He immolates Himself instead of the insufficient victims of the law. "Holocausts for sin were not pleasing in Thy sight ; then said I : Behold I come."
Let us carefully consider this mystery. The labors, the fatigues, the sweat, the humiliations, the opprobrium, the sufferings and wounds, the blood and death of Jesus Christ are all laid at the feet of God in this presentation. All is offered and accepted ; it is a sacrifice of propitiation and salvation. Mary takes part in this sacrifice. The sword of sorrow which will one day consummate Her anguish has a prototype in the sad prophecy addressed to Her to-day : " Thy own soul a sword shall pierce." But will not all humanity, or at least the chosen people of God, profit by this offering of Jesus ? Alas, no ! The divine Child will meet with a thousand contradictions, and along with those who shall rise to glory by virtue of His sacrifice we shall see many, who shall despise it, eternally lost. " Behold this Child is set for the ruin and resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign that shall be contradicted."
Let us aspire to be of those included in the resurrection ; and, as Christ offers Himself for us, let us also offer ourselves through Him to His Father. It is only infinite perfection that can fill the void of our unworthiness and of our insufficiency. The victims of the old law, permeated with our intentions and our faults through the imposition of human and guilty hands, represented our guilty lives. Therefore God rejected them. He will reject us also if we dare present ourselves to him alone ; but in company with His well-beloved Son He can refuse us nothing.
Receive, then, O my God ! from our unworthy hands this unspotted Host that gives Himself to us ; this living religious worship which unites heaven with the earth in the union of the divine and human natures.
Thrice blessed Majesty of God ! I cannot offer anything proportionate to the greatness of Thy being out of my nothingness. The benedictions of all humanity, the universal canticle of praise taken up by all creatures, would be far too little for Thy glory ; but we adore Thee with Jesus, and through Him, and in Him.
Unbounded goodness of God ! neither our acts of thanksgiving nor the joyful transports of a world filled with Thy gifts can perfectly respond to Thy infinite benefits; but with whatever spiritual or temporal good there is in us we thank Thee with Jesus, through Jesus, and in Jesus.
Terrible justice of God ! Thou wilt not be appeased by the sacrifice of our poor, sin-stained life. A hecatomb of all nature could not restore Thee the honor that sin has taken from Thee ; but we implore pardon with Jesus, and through Him, and in Him.
Author of all good ! Thou hast anticipated us in the effusion of Thy gifts. But how can we hope to secure a continuance of these, except with Jesus, and through Him, and in Him ?
O heavenly Father ! we present to Thee Thy only-begotten and well-beloved Son, the object of Thy eternal complacency. We hide ourselves in His heart ; we present ourselves with Him in the arms of Mary to be immolated to Thy glory, if it is Thy good pleasure. Take all that we have — our mind, our heart, our body, our thoughts, affections, and desires, our life itself — and declare to us that our sacrifice is agreeable to Thee, so that we may joyfully sing with the holy old man, Simeon :
" Nunc dimittis servum tuum Domine"
Third Joyful Mystery by Bishop Monsabre, O.P.
Rules for proper observance of Novenas
Novena for the nine days preceding the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin to commence on January 24.
Day 1 Jan 24 Day 2 Jan 25 Day 3 Jan 26 Day 4 Jan 27 Day 5 Jan 28 Day 6 Jan 29 Day 7 Jan 30 Day 8 Jan 31 Day 9 Feb 1
INTENTION OF THE APOSTOLATE OF PRAYER FOR JANUARY.
A REFORMATION AMONG CATHOLICS AS AN ESSENTIAL CONDITION OF THE TRIUMPH OF THE CHURCH.THE sympathy of Christendom is still with suffering France, where the year opens darkly. The words which usher in the time of preparation for the birth of Christ rise to our lips and hearts, "Brethren, it is now the hour for us to rise from sleep."* There is one that works in the darkness to oversow the wheat with tares. "An enemy hath done this." There is one that goeth about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, but a saint has told us that the best and the only way to escape from his fury is to confront him boldly. If we turn and flee or try to hide ourselves, his ferocity knows no bounds; if we dare him to do his worst, he shrinks from the encounter. It is idle to think of making terms with Antichrist. Perhaps it would be true to say that never since the Church reached adolescence, having extorted from the Roman Empire the right to live—never since she left the catacombs, have the rulers of the world of this darkness assailed her prerogatives with such determination to effect her ruin. Not now, at least in France, is there question of doctrine or discipline, symbols of faith, or rules of conduct, or motives of belief, but there are two great armies encamped face to face. Satan calls his principalities and powers, and bids them lead their servants to destruction in a hopeless contest . Jesus, our Lord and Saviour, meek and humble, invites all in whose breast yet lingers one thought of Heaven to range themselves without delay beneath the banner of His Sacred Heart.
* Romans xiii. II.
The infidels of France have declared their purpose. Now will we declare ours. They mean to drive the faith of Christ from the hearts of children and we mean to prevent them. They fight with the arm of flesh. They make laws and significantly allude to their power of enforcing them. Can prayers avail against rifles and bayonets? That is a question for us to consider. Prayer is avowedly the strength of our Apostleship. Can we then, in this age of hard facts, pretend that words of prayer can parry a bayonet-thrust or break the force of a cannon ball?
We who have faith in the efficacy of prayer do in sober earnest believe that prayer of the right kind is far more powerful, even in external results, than all the artillery of modern warfare. It is not that prayer by its own operation directly interposes a material obstacle, by which bullets are checked in their flight and bayonets are turned aside, but that it can change the human will, and so arrest the impending blow. The hearts of men are in God's hands, and their lives are at His disposal. He can break the froward and put down the mighty when and how He chooses. He can remove every contumacious rebel from His war-path if He chooses when He moves to victory. He can protect us. But will He do so for the asking? Yes, if we ask Him properly. He will not work alone. He demands cooperation, and He is a jealous God, not willing to accept a blemished victim, or careless workmanship, or secondary service. According to the earnestness of the cooperation offered by His creatures will be the measure of the power which He will exert for their protection. We need no other knowledge than this to awake both fear and hope in our hearts as we contemplate the great array of battle.
For the existence of the Church there can never be a moment's misgiving in the mind of a Catholic, but he may doubt whether she is to be eclipsed totally or partially in this or that region of the earth, or is to rise in her beauty and strength, scattering her enemies in the power of the Holy Name. One thing we know, and it is this, that Catholics have their fate in their own hands. Victory or defeat depends upon them alone. Our only fear in the presence of the gathering hosts of Hell is that Catholics will not be true to themselves. Our only hope is that they will see and understand, and will turn and call upon the Lord in the sincerity of their hearts.
The prayer that is needed now is the cry that pierces the clouds, the war-cry of heroic souls, strengthened from afar by the united voice of a great multitude, imploring mercy with repentance in their hearts: Parce, Domine! "Spare, O Lord, spare Thy people: and give not Thy inheritance to reproach, that the heathens should rule over them. Why should they say among the nations, Where is their God ?"* There should be, both at once, a chosen band of "Invincibles" and a whole population ready to lend support; but, if we cannot have both, then it is more necessary and also more feasible to prepare a phalanx of picked warriors, devoted and loyal, serving God with undivided hearts. This will be granted to our prayers.
God helps those who help themselves. He does not need their service from any want of power to work without them, but He requires a practical proof of their fidelity, and if they do their little best, though it be but as the widow's mite, He will raise them above themselves and make them stronger than all their enemies, who are also His. It is not necessary to dwell upon the urgency of the danger and the necessity of action. Already Catholic France is strewn with ruins. Liberties achieved by long-continued efforts, at the price of many sufferings, have been subverted in a moment, for in this world, where all things tend to quick decay, it is a much more simple task to destroy than to construct. Even to retrieve what has been lost in the last few months will not seem easy to the wisdom of the flesh, but we ask for much more than that. We ask—let it be said without disguise—for a miracle of grace. We ask with hope, for our Lord is more anxious to grant than we to solicit.
* Joel ii. 17.
But miracles are not granted to the prayers of weak and irresolute Christians, and, pray as we may and exhort as we can, it is to be feared that the great mass of Catholics will not rise to the level of heroic virtue and all-conquering prayer. Therefore, if a miracle is to be wrought, our hopes must principally rest upon the prayers of those who in the cloister or in the busy world are serving God with all their hearts. Others may and must help the good cause, but as long as they are only half determined to be good, or as long as their highest ambition is to give to their Creator just so much service as they are commanded on their salvation to give, so long their prayers will not be very powerful. They are not idle words, for no honest prayer is ever wasted, but they can only indirectly conduce to the working of a miracle. Those who are too feeble to fight can, if they do not add treason to feebleness, lend help from a distance; but faint hearts in battlefield are worse than useless, for they only make disorder in the ranks. The Associates of the Apostleship of Prayer are by the very fact of their membership pledged to an unselfish service. The interests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus they have made their own. They do not belong to the temporizing and minimizing crowd. During this month let their prayers be offered for all Catholics, that they may lead lives more worthy of their profession of faith, but let their most fervent prayers be made for souls which can be roused to generosity in the service of God, and in particular let them strive to win from the tender mercy of the Sacred Heart, with the aid of the Virgin Mother, a special gift to France of valiant warriors like the three hundred who marched with Gideon to victory,—men not simply good, but ready to sacrifice time and wealth and labour and life, to keep the lamp of faith burning in the heart of a great nation. From self-denial the strength must come. Catholics worthy of the name, Catholics who prize the gift of faith for themselves and their children beyond all that earth could offer in exchange, must nerve themselves for a more active opposition than might be needed in peaceful times to false maxims and vicious fashions. They must set their faces against light literature of the wrong sort, and amusements fit for pagans, but not such as Jesus Christ can bless. They must declare open war against the follies of the time, the theatres where immorality is taught, the dances from which Christian modesty should shrink. They must teach their sons to be more manly, not holding themselves, as too often is the case, at the mercy of any little wretch who laughs at them for saying their prayers. They must teach their daughters that Christian virgins need not conform to the latest fashion, and that they also must be independent and refuse to compromise their principles or surrender their self-respect at the bidding of silly women of the world.
The hosts of Madian and Amalec are gathering in their strength, but we march against them in the name of God. When Gideon led his twenty-two thousand men to meet "all the eastern people whose army lay scattered in the valley, as a multitude of locusts," God, Whose ways are not as our ways, instead of declaring that the Israelites could not without madness venture to offer battle with numbers so inadequate, said on the contrary that they were too numerous: The people that are with thee are many, and Madian shall not be delivered into their hands. By Divine command announcement was made to all the soldiers of Gideon's army that whoso wished might depart home unmolested. More than two-thirds of the army at once disbanded, content in their shameful cowardice to leave others to fight for their protection. Ten thousand good and earnest men refused to desert their leader. But again God thinned the ranks by a sifting process. Only three hundred out of thirty thousand were left after the application of the second test, and to these brave men and true God gave the victory. That second test to which respectable soldiers succumbed while only heroes stood firm was an act of spontaneous self-denial. Gideon was ordered to observe with attention the behaviour of his men at the crossing of a stream. Those, who though tired and thirsty were so eager to meet the enemy that, instead of stopping as the rest to drink at their ease, they hastily raised the water to their lips as they marched forward, were the selected champions of Israel.
Such should be the men who are to win from God the miraculous victory for which we pray. It is no time for half-hearted Catholicity. Sadly numerous all the world over, and in France as elsewhere, are the esprits forts, as they call themselves, the cowardly defaulters, as we should prefer to call them, who follow the example of the twenty-two thousand in the Bible narrative, and leave others to do all the work and run all the risk. Even for these we must pray that they may find a little more courage, but our prayers must be chiefly for the men of high principle and loyalty and public spirit who correspond to Gideon's ten thousand, that in their ranks our Lord may find as many as are needed to drive from the field in scattered flight and final confusion the leagued revilers of all holy things, the enemies of the Cross, the destroyers of the faith of children, the conscious tools of the Wicked One.
May God grant in answer to the prayers of many friends of the Sacred Heart the royal gift of generous, uncompromising, unflinching Catholicity, first to those upon whom in the gracious Providence of God depends the liberation of France at the present moment, and from whom by community of interests and by the contagion of example much influence for good may spread to other lands; and secondly for Catholics in England and elsewhere, inasmuch as the same storm which has burst in its fury upon our neighbours is sure to visit our own shores before its force is spent.
Sacred Heart of Jesus! through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer to Thee the prayers, labours, and crosses of this day, in expiation of our offences, and for all Thy other intentions.
I offer them to Thee in particular to obtain for all Thy servants grace to render themselves worthy of the miraculous assistance which alone can save us. Make us understand, dear Lord, that we may with confidence expect all aid from Thee as soon as we have ceased to divide our hearts between Thee and Thy great enemy. Amen.
For the triumph of the Church and Holy See, and the Catholic regeneration of nations.
January - Apostleship of Prayer
INTENTION OF THE APOSTOLATE OF PRAYER FOR FEBRUARY.
THE HOLY FATHER AND THE EPISCOPATE.
The Church of God has fierce fighting before it in the immediate future, and the Holy Father and the members of the hierarchy are principally concerned, nor can they delegate to others their exalted duties and formidable anxieties. They cannot shift the growing burthen from their shoulders, but they can receive from the prayers of the faithful increase of strength to bear it. Men who bear high office in the State might feel their dignity alarmed if those beneath them in rank and power proffered their assistance unbidden, but in the Church of God the highest and the lowest are closely united in the bond of prayer. A child's prayers are worth a Pope's having, and if the Pope, from his throne, were to look down disdainfully upon simple souls in humble life as one who could not condescend to ask for help from those so far below him, he would not be worthy of his place in the house of God. St. Paul, in his Epistles,* asks the faithful to pray for him, and St. Peter, on a memorable occasion,-f received help from prayers which he had not enjoined. Therefore we need never wait to be asked, but we may pray at all times for our Holy Father and our Bishops, knowing well that they desire our prayers because it is a part of their duty to desire them.
It is not an exaggeration to say that the prayers of the faithful for their pastors were never at any time in the past more needed than they are now. There have been periods of greater apparent suffering for the children of the Church, but not of greater danger to souls. The truth seems to be that the enemy of man gains wisdom by experience. He has a greater number of willing slaves and conscious dupes now than in the days of pagan persecution or heretical violence, and his best servants have always been those who sin against light. The most uncompromising opponents of the Church are the unhappy men, counted by multitudes in France alone, who were once by their Baptism the children of God, but who, having lost first their goodness and then their hope of Heaven, have more or less successfully extinguished in their hearts the faith of early years, and envying those who still walk in its blessed radiance, devote their energies to bring to as many as possible the desolation of spirit which makes their own life unendurable. Such men are enthusiasts in the bad cause. They have chosen their part. They have said with their master: "Evil be thou my good!" Hate supplies to them a force and a singleness of purpose which charity too often fails to produce in the breasts of those who profess to belong to the standard of Jesus Christ. They are like the poor creature in the Greek fable, maddened by the sting of the gadfly which pursued her pitilessly. The torment of their apostasy is with them day and night, driving them to seek relief in perpetual motion. One object claims their whole attention. Not Carthage now, but Rome must be destroyed; for it is the memory of their lost heritage of sacramental grace within her sacred walls which constitutes that woe too great for words —the punishment in this world of a renegade. "Rome," they say, "must be destroyed." But there is One Who has said that the gates of Hell shall not prevail. Rome, in the sense in which modern pagans use the name, can never be destroyed. Every attempt in the past has recoiled, and every attempt in the future will recoil, upon the heads of those who make it. Yet the attempt is constantly renewed, and apparently with fresh hope of success each time. Herein is a wonderful thing.* The man who had been born blind opened his eyes at the bidding of Christ, but the Pharisees were only confirmed in their blindness by the evidence of the miracle. Men who do not choose to learn cannot be taught. Such, and so blind, are the men who in these our days lay sacrilegious hands on all that is consecrated to God. They are not open to conviction, they deny manifest facts, they undertake a war which can have only one result—defeat; but they cannot be turned aside from their foolish endeavour, for what they are doing they are doing in the wilful blindness of a hatred springing from despair of salvation. They serve their master well, for the very reason that they know who he is, and what he wants, for "every creature loves its like." He is the enemy of Christ, with a will fixed in impenitence. They day by day put repentance further from their thoughts. He does not delude himself with the hope of final victory, but he fights for the sake of slaying and wounding. They seek only the satisfaction of revenge, and if they cannot destroy the Church, will do her all the damage in their power. With docile agents, thus willing to concur to their own perdition, if only they may hope to drag others after them, it is no wonder that Satan can raise a "storm of darkness." And he is trying to raise such a storm as the world has not seen before. AntiChristian education laws are not so frightening to flesh and blood as the rack and the gallows, but they are far more pernicious to souls. If Satan, assisted by timeserving parents, gains his wicked will in primary education, he will banish the Crucified from the hearts of children as surely as the crucifix from the walls of their schoolroom, and anarchy and bloodshed and terrorism, soon to begin and long to continue, will reward his efforts.
* Ephes. vi. 19; Colos. iv. 3; 2 Thess. iii. I. t Acts xii. 5. * St. John ix. 30.
What then shall we say to these things? If God be for us, who is against us?* The battle has still to be fought. It is no time for sitting down to weep by the rivers of Babylon. Not only can our enemies gain no final triumph, but they cannot even do us much mischief, unless we ourselves give them an indolent permission. Why have the Gentiles raged and the people devised vain things? The kings of the earth have stood up, and the princes met together against the Lord, and against His Christ. . . . He that dwelleth in Heaven shall laugh at them, and the Lord shall deride them.*The rulers of the Church of God, while they see the danger and the necessity of vigorous action, have shown no sign of timidity, have uttered no word of compromise. They stand prepared, each at his post. The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? ... If armies encamped should stand against me, my heart shall not fear.* They are not afraid, and they will not allow us to fear, but it is grace alone which can give them light amid the gathering gloom, and courage to confront the hosts of Hell. Now grace comes as the answer to prayer.
We must pray for ourselves that each one among us may do his duty in the battlefield; but, in addition to these more selfish prayers, there must be once again, as when Herod cast St . Peter into prison, prayer without ceasing unto God for the Head of the Church on earth, and with him for all in every land who bear their part in the cares of spiritual government. And once more let it be most urgently declared that those who desire in the sincerity of their hearts to lend efficient aid in the tremendous struggle now so near at hand must begin by self-correction. If they have faith so as to be able to move mountains, if they give their goods to the poor and their bodies to be burned, it profits nothing, St. Paul assures them,§ unless they keep their souls in charity. Prayer is the weapon with which the victory must be won, but prayer does not consist in pronouncing forms of words. It is true that even the cry of alarm, or the expression of a vague desire of better life, is not useless, because it may help to bring repentance to one sinner's soul, but, before his prayers can be of much service to others, he must set his own house in order. Therefore, to say the least, every Catholic who lives in sin deducts a fighting man from the army of the Lord, and this at a moment of decisive action. Dull must his conscience be, and impervious to shame, who can rest undisturbed under the reproach of being a deserter from the very battlefield. We must pray for ourselves and our brethren, that as many as possible m.ay be made worthy to unite their voices with effect in the great prayer which the Church still makes without ceasing for her pastors through Mary to Jesus.
* Rom. viii. 31. t Psalm ii. 1—4. X Psalm xxvi. I, 3. § I Cor. xiii. 2, 3.
PRAYER.Sacred Heart of Jesus! through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer to Thee the prayers, labours, and crosses of this day, in expiation of our offences, and for all Thy other intentions.
I offer them to Thee in particular for the prelates of Thy Church, which is assailed by numerous and powerful enemies in these days. Assist them, dear Lord, with Thy light and Thy strength, and after Thou hast given them the merit of valiant fighting, make them know the joy of victory. Amen.
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