' Dabo eis Cor, ut sciant me, et erunt mihi in populum, et ego ero eis in Deum: quia revertentur ad me in toto corde suo.'
' I will give them a Heart to know Me, and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, because they shall return to Me with their whole heart' (Jer. xxiv. 7).
Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen) The Valley of the Fallen is a Catholic basilica and a monumental memorial in the municipality of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, erected at Cuelgamuros Valley in the Sierra de Guadarrama, near Madrid.
Confraternity of Bona Mors(A good Death)
O most watchful Guardian of the Holy Family, defend the chosen children of Jesus Christ; O most loving father, ward off from us every contagion of error and corrupting influence; O our most mighty protector, be propitious to us and from heaven assist us in our struggle with the power of darkness; and, as once thou rescued the Child Jesus from deadly peril, so now protect God's Holy Church from the snares of the enemy and from all adversity; shield, too, each one of us by thy constant protection, so that, supported by thy example and thy aid, we may be able to live piously, to die holy, and to obtain eternal happiness in heaven. Amen.
Ad te beate Joseph, in tribulatione nostra confugimus, atque, implorato Sponsae tuae sanctissimae auxilio, patrocinium quoque tuum fidenter exposcimus. Per eam, quaesumus quae te cum immaculata Virgine Dei Genetrice conjunxit, caritatem, perque paternum, quo Puerum Jesum amplexus es, amorem, supplices deprecamur, ut ad hereditatem, quam Jesus Christus acquisivit Sanguine suo, benignus respicias, ac necessitatibus nostris tua virtute et ope succurras.
Tuere, o Custos providentissime divinae Familiae, Jesu Christi subolem electam; prohibe a nobis, amantissime Pater, omnem errorum ac corruptelarum luem; propitius nobis, sospitator noster fortissime, in hoc cum potestate tenebrarum certamine e caelo adesto; et sicut olim Puerum Jesum e summo eripuisti vitae discrimine, ita nunc Ecclesiam sanctam Dei ab hostilibus insidiis atque ab omni adversitate defende: nosque singulos perpetuo tege patrocinio, ut ad tui exemplar et ope tua suffulti, sancte vivere, pie emori, sempiternamque in caelis beatitudinem assequi possimus. Amen.
ST. EDMUND AND THE HOLY CHILDTHE illustration which accompanies these few lines is meant to represent an incident in the life of St. Edmund of Canterbury, which rests on the authority of. his own brother, Robert Rich. St. Edmund went to Oxford as a boy of the age of twelve years. His brother tells us that, one day "going out into the meadows in order to withdraw from the boisterous play of his companions, the Child Jesus appeared to him, and saluted him with the words, 'Hail, beloved one!' And he, wondering at the beauty of the Child, replied, 'Who are you, for to me you are certainly unknown?' Then said the Child, 'How comes it that I am unknown to thee, seeing that I sit by thy side in school, and wherever thou art, there do I accompany thee? Look in My face, and see what is there written.' Edmund looked, and saw the words, 'Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.' 'This is My name,' said the Child, 'write it on thy forehead every night, and it shall protect thee from sudden death.' Then He disappeared on Whom the angels desire to look, leaving the other with a sweetness in his heart passing that of honey." There are boys enough and young men enough in Oxford at the present time, and one of the modern developments of the place is that the softer sex, as it is called, throngs the lecture-rooms as well as the young men, and although the contemporaries of the Saint of Canterbury would probably stare at the games of cricket and lawn-tennis, and especially of the mixture of the two sexes in play, which makes the meadows and lawns about the old seat of holy learning ring with merriment, perhaps not always so boisterous as that of the schoolboys of St. Edmund's time, we fear that there are not many who think very much of the Holy Child Jesus as a possible companion. Education goes on as of old, or what passes for such, but it is not allied with devotion, but rather with that peculiarly disagreeable form of scepticism, the scepticism of the self-sufficient young, who think that they know everything. Let us hope that the English saints still watch over some at least of the students in the old haunts of religious monastic learning, and enable them to preserve that innocence which was the great characteristic of St. Edmund, and against which so many snares are set in the Oxford of modern days.<br /> <br /> Unfortunately, it is not easy to maintain innocence in the midst of false teaching. There are, we are happy to believe, hundreds of innocent souls among the youth of our country, for the English home is still, thanks to God, a nursery of many high virtues and examples. There are still men, also, in the national Universities, who are doing their best to maintain the faith in God of the young men committed to their care. But the tide has turned, for many years back, in the direction of that laxity in opinion which it was the great object of Cardinal Newman, in the days in which he was a power in the University of Oxford, to repress and banish. But too many who took a part in the great movement which is connected by name with Oxford, turned away from the natural and lawful issue of their own principles, and refused to submit to the Church. From that day the tendency in Oxford has been towards infidelity, and there has been far too little power to stem the stream in the men who were so conspicuously inconsistent in their own maintenance of religious truth. The Human Life of Jesus was marked throughout by the firm filial confidence with which He trusted Himself to the Eternal Father, and relied upon His love. To be then an imitator of Him, this boundless trust must become ours too, and must animate all we undertake.
In nothing perhaps do the lives of the Saints give us more attractive examples than in this quiet invincible trust in God's help. They took, it is true, more pains than we do to know the will of God, but when they were sure of that, they did not know what it was to hesitate. Difficulties only made them braver, apparent impossibilities never stopped them, a passing failure became in their eyes a pledge of coming success. Thus the great St. Teresa, whose third centenary is being celebrated now with such joy and devotion all over the Church, was preparing to found a new convent with only one Spanish "real," a single coin in her treasury; to those who represented the impossibility of such an undertaking, she replied, It is true that Teresa and one "real" are small things enough, but Teresa, one "real," and God, make a great deal! These are indeed words of a Saint, but the spirit which made her say them—a spirit of confidence founded on the conviction that God was with her—this spirit ought to animate us all.
The secret of this strong confidence is not hard to find. All that we do for the honour of Jesus Christ, all that we undertake in order to do His will, must have the sympathy, the help, and the love of His Father, must therefore in the long run succeed.
The point in which we fail, which makes us so soon fainthearted when things go wrong, is that we only see His honour by halves, and in the rest we seek our own. We can trust well enough when all is prosperous and we are happy, but that sort of trust has but small merit, gives Him but small glory; but when, as so often happens, we are kept a very long time waiting for success, and things even seem only to go from bad to worse, there are very few, and their intentions are very pure, who know how to go on trusting with a bright face an unshaken heart, but it is they who earn the secret praise which He gives to them alone: You are they who have persevered with Me in My temptations* Who will not wish and strive to be of them.
Sacred Heart of Jesus! through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer Thee the prayers, labours, and crosses of this day, in expiation of our offences, and for all Thy other intentions. I offer them especially to obtain for all our Associates a trust in Thee which no misfortunes may be able to shake. Free us, O Jesus, from all cowardice and discouragement, and from that unholy fear which makes us unworthy of Thy help.
* St. Luke xxii. 28.
For the triumph of the Church and Holy See, and the Catholic regeneration of nations.
NOTE TO THE ILLUSTRATION.
THE CRUCIFIX OF ST. FRANCIS XAVIER.
OUR illustration represents the well-known incident in the life of the Apostle of the Indies, when he advanced in front of a terrified population of Indians to meet a savage army of invaders, who fell into a sudden panic when he presented himself before them, holding up his Crucifix.
My Lord to my heart spake greeting,
In the watches of the night, He spake in a voice of music,
He looked and dark was light. But I was too blind to see Him,
And I was too deaf to hear, My heart was full of another,
And I turned me away in fear, In fear lest His gentle pleading
Should win me I knew not how, Lest His wounded hands should clasp me
And I feel His thorn clad brow. Not the Cross nor the pain I dreaded,
They were as my daily bread, And tears had been my portion,
And the dreary earth my bed. But a love I would not stifle
Kept my darkling soul in thrall, Though He came with His human pity,
And offered me all for all,
A heavenly love for an earthly,
His Heart in my poor heart's place,
But I turned to my dust and ashes,
And I fled from before His face. The years were more dreary after,
I lived them He knoweth how, Then I crept to His feet in silence,
And my heart is His heart now. My Lord to my soul speaks greeting,
In the watches of the night, He speaks in a voice of music,
He looks and the dark is light
GENERAL INTENTION OF THE APOSTOLATE OF PRAYER FOR DECEMBER.
UNION AMONGST ALL THE SERVANTS OF JESUS CHRIST,
Leo The Thirteenth's own voice suggests the intention for the month, as the most pressing and urgent of all the necessities of this necessitous time. As pilgrimage after pilgrimage gathers with swelling hearts around the dishonoured throne of Leo the Thirteenth, that voice is heard again and again repeating: Be united—if you would indeed aid God's cause—be united. Let nothing come between you to cause discord, if you would overcome the efforts of God's enemies. See how formidable is the league in which they are united in their attacks upon Christ and His Church. No matter how widely they differ amongst themselves, nor how they may privately hate one another, against the Church they are one. All differences are sunk that with one voice they may cry her down, all enmities forgotten that that may strike with united force at her. To repel such foes you too must be united, no variety of opinions must arise to make you quarrel, no mere human nor worldly interests must prevail against that one supreme desire which should bind you all to the Church and to God, and unite you all together in the strong bonds of cordial and brotherly love.Apostolate of Prayer - December Intention
And in this exhortation, the lips of the Vicar of Christ do but faithfully echo the voice from the Tabernacle. From its silent depths there never ceases to issue that fervent prayer That they all may be one.*
* St. John xvii. 21.
This perfect union for which Jesus Christ prays, to which His Vicar on earth now so pressingly exhorts us, should manifest itself not only in the union of hearts by true mutual affection and charity, but in the union of our action, in our zeal for God's glory, and in our union of minds , by the subjection of our personal views and opinions for the sake of a supreme good which we all supremely desire. It is devotion to the Heart of Jesus that above all makes this triple union grow amongst us, and it is by promoting devotion to the Heart of Jesus that we shall spread it.
Perfect devotion to the Sacred Heart is that which makes every impulse of our will an echo, as it were, of an impulse which is moving the Heart of Christ. It makes our sympathies like His sympathies, our desires identical with His — and the more perfect that devotion is the more promptly our hearts feel what He is feeling, the more purely and energetically we strive to do what we know He wills.
It is this perfect devotion which the Apostleship of Prayer teaches and gradually makes habitual to the members of the League of the Heart of Jesus. Those who use its one essential practice every morning, meaning thoroughly what they do, must, and do after a time, find themselves constantly face to face with a question which before perhaps they did not ask themselves: What does the Heart of Jesus feel about this, what is Its desire? They have learnt that to love is to seek the interests of those we love, and to let nothing stand in the way of those interests, and therefore they must in all things study and prefer the interests of Jesus Christ, because His Heart is what they love best of all.
But does the effect of this new-born solicitude for what concerns Him stop there? Assuredly not. Inevitably it pushes those who are affected by it to draw near to one another, and that union which was the happiness and the strength of the first Christians becomes their happiness, and a fountain of courage and strength to undertake for the sake of their common love what before they would not have dared.
In the midst of a world which forgets Him, a heart which loves Jesus Christ may well be lonely till it has found another whose love is like its own. How many in truth there are whose devoted dispositions are condemned to a painful sterility for lack of those whose sympathy and support might develop energies capable of great and lasting good. It is in such souls that devotion to the Sacred Heart, as here pictured, the very desire to spread its knowledge and its love, produces union.
And those works of zeal and charity, on which so much interest and labour are expended—how often are they not found to flag and become barren, with how much desolation are not those too often inundated who devote themselves with unreserved fervour to the toil and drudgery which these works entail. And if we ask why, it is because not only in the world of self-seeking, but even amongst the friends of Jesus Christ, Omnes quaerunt quae sua sunt, non quae Jesu Christi: * (For all seek the things that are their own, not the things that are Jesus Christ’s translation done by websmaster) All seek themselves, not His pure interests. St. Paul used the words of the labourers in the vineyard in his time, and the labourers in the vineyard of both sexes finds its truth bitter to-day.
Yes, we seek ourselves. Even in our work for God, we want to be noticed and spoken of, we are not willing that others should bear the name, and the result is discord and heart-burning and paralysis—paralysis, that is, of the work which God is looking for. It is from that same devotion to the Sacred Heart that we must expect the healing power which can cure this wound. For if indeed we all seek the good pleasure of Him who is hidden and forgotten there, then we shall all know how to subordinate the work we do to the common good.
Lastly there is the rebellion of the judgment to control, the opinions which each one loves to vaunt, or clings to, at least tenaciously, and considers infallible. In France, in Belgium,- in Italy, in Switzerland, and Spain the political differences which divide Catholics seem to have greater moment, for it is they who put men into power who are the open enemies of God. But in reality the root of the evil is just as strong amongst ourselves, though its fatal flowers display themselves less openly. Human opinions about all sorts of trivial things divide not only man from man, good work from good work, but brother from brother, and sister from sister. If then united prayer ever drew down great graces, greatest of all should those graces be when united prayer begs for united hearts, united minds, united action for the cause of Him who Himself prays for us that they may all be one.
0 Jesus, through the most pure Heart of Mary, I offer the prayers, work, and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of Thy Divine Heart.
1 offer them in particular that all Thy servants may work in perfect union. Help us, O Jesus, Who dost so desire that we should love one another, to sacrifice for Thee the worldly things which divide us. Amen.
* Phil. ii. 21.
For the triumph of the Church and Holy See, and the Catholic regeneration of nations. desire which should bind you all to the Church and to God, and unite you all together in the strong bonds of cordial and brotherly love.
THE MONTH OF NOVEMBER SACRED TO THE PIOUS
PRACTICE OF PRAYERS FOR THE DEAD.
A HOMILY ON THE TEXT:
"It is therefore a holy and salutary thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins."—2 Machabees, xii. 46.THE month of November is by a holy and excellent custom of the faithful in an especial manner sacred to the pious exercise of prayers for the dead, and the custom, of course, reposes first on the general truth conveyed in the words of the sacred Scripture above quoted: "It is a holy and salutary thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins;" and secondly, on the circumstance that on the second day of November, viz., on the day after the solemn celebration of the Feast of all Saints, the whole Church keeps a day of solemn commemoration of the Souls of all the Faithful departed, from whence the piety of the faithful has gradually built up the excellent practice of treating the whole month of November as in an especial manner sacred to the pious and holy exercise of prayer for the repose of the souls of the departed.
There is always a great and precious value in a good custom, and we can seldom do anything better than seek to introduce a good custom where it either does not exist or has fallen through, or endeavour to strengthen and invigorate by all means in our power what is already in existence. As returning November, then, brings round its annual memory of the departed, we cannot do better than seek to reinvigorate and refresh our minds with considering anew some of the principal reasons which render it a "holy and a salutary thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from their sins."
This thought we must consider is holy and salutary in two different respects; first, for the reason that it is by the mercy of God that it comes to be granted to these prayers greatly to benefit the dead, by their effect in loosing them from their sins ; and secondly, because the charity of offering such prayers is very greatly blessed to ourselves.
What the particular sufferings are which those of the departed suffer who are in the condition to be benefited by our prayers, it is not granted to us to know. It is sufficient for us to know that the suffering is real, and that it is caused by their sins, for the sacred text is particular in specifying the effect of the prayer that is to be piously and charitably hoped for on behalf of the departed, namely, that they may be loosed from their sins. What the precise happy effect to the departed of being loosed from their sins may be, is not a thing placed within our ken or knowledge. These things are the secrets of the unseen world, which we are not allowed to know; but taking the world which we do see and know as a mirror of the world which is veiled from our sight, we ought to be able, without difficulty, to come at least to such an understanding of the benefit that must accrue to the departed from being loosed from their sins, as should be quite sufficient to awaken and keep alive our charity in their behalf. The sins which are taken notice of and which are attended with penalties and suffering in our world, are not by any means either fully commensurate or precisely identical with the sins that carry with them penalties and sufferings in the world that is out of our sight. We must guard ourselves from falling into any such error as this; but notwithstanding in a general way the parallel is such that there is very much to be learned from it.
Sin in our world, then, is known to bring two kinds of penalties with it. Direct penal suffering such as is visited upon proved offences against human law, of which kind are imprisonments, hard labour, floggings, and the like; and secondly, disqualification from eligible social promotion, and exclusion from desirable society with others. To be loosed, then, from sin in our world, has the effect which we can quite understand, of opening the prison doors for restoration to personal liberty and freedom, and the removal of the social bars and disqualifications which cause the exclusion of the sufferer from much that is pleasant and eligible in this world. And in this manner we may very sufficiently understand what a great gain it cannot fail to be to the departed, if the being loosed from their sins has the analogous effect in the world where they now are, of putting an end to the positive suffering that they may be enduring, as also of removing the bar and disqualification under which they lie of being admitted to the heavenly society, the joy of which they so greatly long to share.
If, therefore, God in His great mercy has been pleased to grant to the prayers of those who are still on earth the gracious efficacy that they avail to loose the dead from their sins, it needs no further insisting to make it plain, at least as regards the departed, how holy and salutary a thought it is "to pray for-the dead that they may be loosed from their sins."
But the benefit of such prayers is by no means restricted to the departed. If they bring, as we are taught to believe, a great relief and advantage to the dead for whom they are offered, they bring also at least equal blessings and benefits of another kind to the living who have the faith and charity to offer them; and the thought to pray for the dead is not holy and salutary solely with respect to the dead, but also equally holy and salutary in its way for the living.
In the first place, prayer for the dead is pre-eminently an exercise of the virtue of faith. Many other good deeds, such as visiting the sick, and relieving the pressing necessities of the poor, bring with them a present reward of their own, in our being able to see with our eyes the happy results of our charitable efforts; and there is a certain reward also in the gratitude and thankfulness which we may frequently receive in return for our assistance. But in the case of prayer for the dead, we can receive nothing whatever of this kind that we can appreciate by sight, for all rests purely on faith. It is simply from faith in the assurances of the Church that we know that our prayers occasion any relief to the sufferers, and we can as little see the sufferings themselves which are relieved as we can either see the relief which our prayers have been the means of bringing, or receive any manifestations of gratitude from those to whose relief we have been instrumental. And yet such prayer is far from being without its reward in its own kind, namely, in the way of greatly strengthening the very faith which has prompted and sustained the prayer. "Lord strengthen our faith," was a prayer of our Lord's Apostles to Him. And nothing tends more solidly to strengthen and confirm faith than the pious practice of praying for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins.
Again, praying for the dead is holy and salutary for the living, because it puts them in mind of what is impending over themselves, in a way that cannot fail to make a salutary impression. "Remember thy latter end," says the sacred text, ''and thou wilt never sin." The charity of praying for the dead is rewarded by the fixing in our minds the salutary thought that we must die ourselves. And this thought is one that is fruitful in the best results. It is not only one of the best preservatives from sin, but it is also one of the most powerful stimulants to industry and the good employment of time. As the wise man says, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might, for there is neither knowledge, nor wisdom, nor understanding, in the grave whither thou hastenest."
And again, the object for which we pray in behalf of the dead is "that they may be loosed from their sins," and in doing this we confess that that which occasions suffering and distress to them in the world where they are is their sin. It cannot, therefore, but strike every one's mind how very contradictory it must be to have the charity for the dead to pray on their behalf, that they may be loosed from their sins, and to be without charity to ourselves, to beware how we may be binding ourselves in our own world with the chains of sinful practices in which we wrongly indulge ourselves, not attending to the truth that the sinner is equally bound by his sin as well in our visible world as in the world which we cannot see. If, therefore, we were to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins, at the same time that we are binding ourselves with sins of our own, we should be having charity which we confess to be for suffering brought upon others by their sins, and no concern for the sufferings which we could not but equally know that we are bringing on ourselves by our own sins. And this seems too palpable a contradiction to be possible, except through almost inconceivable blindness and perversity. It is, therefore, a most holy and salutary thought, as far as we are ourselves concerned, to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins, for in so doing we procure for ourselves the best possible admonition to keep out of the way of sins ourselves, and the charity which we show to the dead, by prayers for them, comes back to ourselves in the form of the best possible charity for ourselves, which dictates the most scrupulous abstinence from the ways of sin, and the most watchful vigilance against contact with anything that may be an occasion of temptation to sin.
And these considerations must now suffice to commend and encourage, to the utmost of our power, the pious and holy custom of making the month of November especially sacred to the charitable practice of praying and causing masses to be offered for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins.
The Brotherhood of Charity, the Caridad, as it is known, was one of Seville's major lay confraternities. It was founded in 1565 with the mission of providing a decent burial for paupers. From 1663 the charitable activities were expanded to provide care for the needy sick, and a hospital was built, simultaneously enlarging and renovating the already existing chapel.
The scheme for the decoration of the chapel is a tripartite exposition of Christian charity as the way of salvation. The first part comprises two memorable paintings by Valdés Leal, demonstrating the futility of earthly pursuits and honours. A life devoted to accumulating wealth, power, and even learning is shown to lead only to the grave. Charity, which constitutes the second part of the program, provides the way to salvation, as seen in the seven acts of mercy, six of which are depicted by Murillo; the seventh, burying the dead, the Caridad's foundation charity, is embodied in a sculptural group, the Entombment of Christ by Pedro Roldán, placed in the altarpiece. The third component consists of two paintings by Murillo for lateral altars, depicting St Elizabeth of Hungary and St John of God, both illustrating the efficacy of good works and the necessity of personal participation in charitable deeds.
Valdés Leal's relentlessly gruesome paintings are located just inside the entrance, so that visitors to the church must experience the agony of Valdés's Hell before entering the promised land of Murillo's acts of mercy. The first, entitled In Ictu Oculi (In the twinkling of an Eye), is a highly charged representation of the futility of worldly goals and pursuits. The path of glory lead but to the grave, which is unflinchingly rendered in the companion picture, Finis Gloriae Mundi (The End of Worldly Glory), where vile bugs feast on the rotting remnants of human flesh.
Of all the great painters of the school of Seville - alongside Zurbarán, Velázquez and Murillo - the distinctive style of Valdés Leal is the most difficult to place. Only these two major allegories on the transience of life and on death which he himself is said to have described as "hieroglyphs of our afterlife" have remained truly popular. His patron, Don Miguel de Mañara, was a Knight of the Order of Calatrava who became a benefactor of the brotherhood of the hospital and its church in penitence for his previous life of decadence. The epitaph on his grave succinctly describes the spirit that commissioned such a powerful vanitas still life: "Here lie the bones and ashes of the worst person who ever lived on earth". His last will and testament contains the most humble self accusation not only as a great sinner, but also as an adulterer, robber and servant of the devil.
The In Ictu Oculi (an allegory of death) presents the triumph of the grim reaper, who sweeps into the picture as an imposing figure. One skeletal foot stands on the globe, while the other stands on armaments, the trappings of office and insignia of power. Under his arm, he carries a coffin and in his hand a scythe. As his right hand snuffs out the life-light represented by the candle, he stares at the spectator from the very depths of his empty eye-sockets.
Sermon preached at Navarre to the Confraternity of the Rosary
Saviour. Looking down from His Cross upon Mary and the beloved Disciple, that is, upon all that was dearest to Him in this world, and desiring to leave them some last dying proof of His tenderness, He first gives St. John to His Mother, then His Mother to the beloved Disciple, and by this legacy He establishes on the firm basis of His own Divine authority the devotion to the Blessed Virgin. I hope to show you that by those Divine words, spoken in the darkening gloom of Calvary but destined to echo down through all the ages and illumine the deeper darkness of ignorance and unbelief, Mary, the Mother of an Incarnate God, is proclaimed to be our Mother too, the Mother of all the faithful.
Oh Mary, second Eve, sinless and beautiful, you are indeed our Mother, both by maternal love, and also by the anguish and pains that tore your soul on Calvary ! Let me proceed to show from the Sacred Scriptures how this mystery is to be explained.
There was nothing so near to the Sacred Heart of our Divine Redeemer as the union of Himself with our nature and the establishment of an intimate relationship with us. It was to effect this that He was born into the great human family, so that we by grace might become members of a divine and spiritual family. He united Himself to us by a double tie : by becoming a Child of Adam He at the same time made us children of God, and by this twofold alliance our common father became His and He desires that His own Eternal Father should become ours. This makes Him say in His Gospel : (I ascend to My Father and to your Father (John xx. 17) ; so that we may understand from these words that He wishes to have all things in common with us, not even grudging us the privilege of being the children of His Divine Father.
Now that same generous love which induces Him to give us His Heavenly Father makes Him also give us His most Holy Mother. He desires that she should be our Mother spiritually as she was His according to the flesh, so that He might be indeed our Brother. And now I am seeking to show you, from passages in the Holy Scriptures, in what manner Mary is united to the Eternal Father so as to be the Mother of all the faithful. As, however, this task is a weighty one, I will summon to my assistance St. Augustine, who puts this great truth very clearly before us. " Mary," he says, " is, according to the flesh, the Mother of Jesus Christ, and also, according to the spirit, the Mother of all His members, because by her love she co-operated in giving birth in the Church to the children of God." According to St. Augustine s words, then, Mary is the Mother of all the faithful because she begets them by charity. Let us follow along the lines marked out for us by St. Augustine, and explain from the Holy Scriptures this blessed fertility by which we are born of the charity of Mary.
In order to do this we must remember that there are two kinds of fruitfulness : the first in nature ; the second in charity. It is needless to explain to you what is that natural fecundity which goes on incessantly in the world, perpetuating the species by the blessing of the Creator. Taking this natural fecundity then for granted, let us pass on to show that not only nature but also charity is fertile. St. Paul teaches us this truth when he says : My little children, of whom I am in labour again until Christ be formed in you (Gal. iv. 19). The marvelous fruitfulness of St. Paul's charity is here very evident ; for who are those little children whom he acknowledges for his own, if not those given to him by charity, and what is meant by the birth-pangs of St. Paul, if not the anxious travail and strivings of his charity as he labours to bring forth the faithful in Jesus Christ ? Yes, this is sufficient proof of the fertility of love.
But more than this. We learn from the Bible that this maternal charity not only begets children, but that she also tends and nourishes them with all a mother’s unspeakable tenderness ; that she carries them in her bosom and is to them indeed all that the most loving mother can be to her little ones vigilant, fostering, sustaining, as none but such a mother knows how to be. That truth being established, it will be easy to show you how the Blessed Virgin is united to the Eternal Father in bringing forth the children of the New Covenant.
First, I would have you observe that those two different kinds of fruitfulness which, as we have seen, exist among creatures, also find their place in God, Who is their source. The nature of God is fruitful, so also are His love and charity. This fruitfulness inherent in His nature gives Him His Eternal Son, Who is the express image of His substance. But if His natural fertility gave birth to this Divine Son in eternity, His love continually through all time gives life to other sons whom He adopts into His family on earth. It is of this love that we ourselves are born, it is because of this love that we call Him our Father. Seeing and understanding that twofold fertility of God, as far as our poor human intellect can grasp such sublime truths, let us now try to discover how this twofold fertility (which has its source in God alone) was communicated to Mary.
Already it appears that she participates, in a manner, in that natural fertility which gave to the Eternal Father His only-begotten Son. How is this, O Blessed Virgin, how is it that thou art Mother of the Son of God Himself ? Is it thine own fruitfulness that gives thee this potency ? No, she answers, it is God that has done it, He that is mighty hath done to me great things (Luke i. 49). Mary then is not the mother of this Divine Son by her own fruitfulness. Listen to the words of the Angel : The power of the Most High shall overshadow thee (Luke i. 35). Let us try to grasp the full meaning of those words. Doubtless the Holy Ghost would have us understand from them that, the fruit- fulness of the Eternal Father communicating itself to Mary, she will be the Mother of the Son of God Himself ; and this is why the Angel, after having said that the power of the Most High will overshadow her, adds immediately the beautiful words : Therefore the Holy One that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
How great, how admirable, then, is this dignity of Mary ! Yet it is not enough that she should be associated with the Eternal Father as Mother of His only-begotten Son ; think you that He will refuse to share with her the children whom He adopts by His charity ? Think you that if He is willing to communicate to her His natural fruitfulness in order that she may be the Mother of Jesus Christ, He will not complete His work by bestowing on her liberally the fertility of His love so that she may be also the Mother of all His members ? It is for this that my Gospel calls me to Calvary ; for it is there, at the foot of the Cross, that I see the most blessed Virgin uniting herself, in the presence of her beloved Son, to the fertile love of the Eternal Father. Ah ! what a spectacle of love and sorrow, heart-stirring in its solemn beauty and divine pathos!
Can we ever be grateful enough for this boundless charity by which Almighty God condescended to choose us for His children ? Can we ever admire sufficiently this Divine condescension ? For (as St. Augustine reminds us) in the world men do not adopt children until they have given up the hope of having any of their own. The love that they give to those adopted members of their family, is a love which they thrust as it were into a place left vacant by nature, hoping thereby to supply that nature's deficiencies. Not so is it with our great, our all-merciful God. He indeed has through all eternity begotten a Son, Who is equal with Himself, Who is the delight of His heart, Who perfectly satisfies His love and therefore, so to speak, drains its fertility. Whence comes it then that He deigns to adopt us as His children ? It is not indigence, not want, that impels Him to do this, but rather the boundless riches of His charity. It is the infinite fecundity of a superabundant, overflowing love that makes Him give brethren to this first-born Son, companions to this only-begotten Son, and co-heirs to this Beloved of His heart. Oh, generous, untiring love ! Oh, infinite, incomprehensible mercy ! Yet He has done even more than this.
Not only does He in His love adopt us as His children, making us sharers in His Fatherhood with His only-begotten Son, but He delivers up to death that only and beloved Son, in order thereby to give life to His adopted children. Truly a strange and novel kind of fecundity ! In order to produce, it is necessary to destroy ; in order to bring into existence the adopted sons, the true Son must be sacrificed ! It is Jesus Christ Himself Who teaches me this marvellous truth : God so loved the world as to give His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him may not perish but may have life everlasting (John iii. 16). This is the charity of the Eternal Father ; He delivers up, He abandons, He sacrifices His only-begotten Son, that He may thereby adopt, vivify, regenerate us.
And now let us look upon Mary, and see what part she plays in this wonderful drama. Why, think you, has her Divine Son called her to the foot of the Cross to be an eye-witness of this appalling spectacle ? Is it in order to pierce her heart, to rend her very soul ? Must her maternal love be so wounded by His deep and cruel wounds ? Must she see that blood, which is so precious to her, flow slowly but unceasingly, drop by drop ? Was it any want of compassion, any severity or coldness, which, instead of sparing her such anguish, condemned her to endure it on Calvary ? No. Let us try to fathom this great mystery. It was necessary that Mary should unite herself with the love of the Eternal Father, and that, in order to save sinners, they should in common accord deliver up to death that Son Whom they owned in common. It even seems to me as if I could hear Mary speaking to that Eternal Father out of the fulness of a heart at once open and straitened; straitened by an intensity of grief, but open through the expansion of a charity which hungered for the salvation of men. Listen to her ; she seems to say : " O my God, since it is Thy Will, I consent to this shameful death to which Thou dost abandon the Saviour of the world. It is Thy Will to save sinners by the death of our innocent, our Divine Son ; let Him then die that men may live." Thus Mary unites herself to the fertile love of the Eternal Father ; but let us observe with wonder and admiration that at the very moment of this act she receives the gift of her own fecundity : Woman, says Jesus, behold thy son. Her love deprives her of one beloved Son, her love bestows on her another in His place ; and in the person of this one Disciple she becomes by charity the Eve of the New Covenant, the fruitful Mother of all the faithful. For who does not see in that act of renunciation a mother’s love ? Would she give up her most dear Son for us if she did not love us as her children ? What then remains for us to do but to give back love for love, so that in place of the Son Whom she loses she may find a son in each of us ? *
‘I am persuaded that the worship of the Madonna has been one of the noblest and most vital graces, and has never been otherwise than productive of true holiness of life and purity of character. . . . There has probably not been an innocent cottage throughout the length and breadth of Europe during the whole period of vital Christianity in which the imagined presence of the Madonna has not given sanctity to the humblest duties and comfort to the sorest trials of the lives of women ; and every brightest and loftiest achievement of the arts and strength of manhood has been the fulfillment of the assured prophecy of the poor Israelite maiden : He that is mighty hath magnified me, and holy is His name." JOHN RUSKIN.
" The world is governed by its ideals, and seldom or never has there been one which has exercised a more profound and, on the whole, a more salutary influence than the mediaeval conception of the Virgin. For the first time woman was elevated to her rightful position, and the sanctity of weakness was recognized as well as the sanctity of sorrow. No longer the slave or toy of man, no longer associated only with ideas of degradation and sensuality, woman rose, in the person of the Virgin Mother, into a new sphere, and became the object of a reverential homage of which antiquity had had no conception. Love was idealized. The moral charm and beauty of female excellence was, for the first time, felt. A new type of character was called into being, a new kind of admiration was fostered. Into a harsh and ignorant and benighted age this ideal type infused a conception of gentleness and of purity unknown to the proudest civilization of the past. In the pages of living tenderness, which many a monkish writer has left in honour of his celestial patron ; in the millions who in many lands and in many ages have.
But I seem to hear you say : What exchange is this you are advising us to make? what have we that we can give to Mary as a substitute for her stupendous loss ? would you have us offer her poor mortals in the place of a God, sinners in place of the all-holy Jesus ? What I desire that we should all do is this : it is Jesus Christ Whom she gives, let us give her back Jesus Christ in ourselves ; and let us bring to life again in our souls this Son Whom for love of us she has lost. I know indeed that God restored Him to her, risen from the dead, glorious, immortal ; but although she possesses Him thus in glory, she nevertheless seeks Him still in the hearts of all the faithful. Let us, then, be pure and modest, and Mary will recognize Jesus Christ in us. Let us be humble and obedient as Jesus was even unto death ; let our hearts be tender and pitiful, and our hands open to the poor and miserable ; let us forgive all injuries as Jesus forgave them. Think what Mary's joy will be when she sees Jesus Christ living in us ; in our souls by charity, in our bodies by chastity ; yes, even in our eyes and on our faces by self-restraint, modesty, and Christian simplicity ! Then indeed it is that, beholding in us so wonderful a conformity to her Beloved and such a living representation of His beauty, she will love Him in us and pour forth upon us all the wealth of a mother's love. And if that is not enough, if our hearts are not softened by sought with no barren desire to mould their characters into her image ; in those holy maidens who, for the love of Mary, have separated themselves from all the glories and pleasures of the world, to seek in fastings and vigils and humble charity to render themselves worthy of her benediction ; in the new sense of honour, in the chivalrous respect, in the softness of manners, in the refinement of tastes displayed in all the walks of society ; in those and in many other ways we detect its influence. All that was best in Europe clustered around it, and it is the origin of the purest elements of our civilization."
W. E. H. LECKY.
such tenderness, if their hardness needs the discipline of blood and tears to crush them, this is not wanting, as I am going to show you.
St. John, in the Apocalypse, represents the Blessed Virgin under a most striking and admirable figure. He says : A great sign appeared in heaven : a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars ; and being with child, she cried travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered (Apoc. xii.). St. Augustine assures us that this woman is Blessed Mary ; and several convincing reasons could be given for his assertion. There is, however, one portion of the sacred text which seems to oppose that theory. This mysterious woman is represented by St. John as crying out in the pangs of childbirth. How is this ? Shall we concede that Mary was subject to the curse common to all mothers who bring their children into the world with pain and anguish ? No ; we know that she brought forth her Divine Son without suffering, just as she conceived Him without concupiscence. Yet what can be the meaning of St. John when he attributes to her the pangs of childbirth ?
This is the mystery I am preaching to you ; this is the great truth which I am going to proclaim. We must understand that Mary is in a twofold sense a mother begetting children. She brought forth her Divine Son, the Sinless One, without travail, without prejudice to her virginity ; she brings forth the faithful, who are sinners, with pain and anguish, yes, at the foot of the Cross, with bitter tears and a broken heart. This is the mystery of which I spoke.
Since, as we have said, it was decreed that the faithful should be born again through the love of the Eternal Father and the sufferings of His Divine Son, it was necessary in order that Blessed Mary should be the Mother of this new family that she should be a sharer not only of the fecund love by which the Father has adopted us, but also of the agonies by which the Son gives us life. For must not the Eve of the New Covenant be associated with the New Adam ? Hence it is that you see her sorrowful and suffering at the foot of the Cross ; so that just as the first Eve beneath the tree once tasted with her disobedient husband the poisonous sweetness of the forbidden fruit, so the Eve of the Gospel might draw near to the Cross of Jesus to taste with Him the bitterness of that mysterious Tree. But let us put this reasoning in a stronger light, and lay it down as a first principle that it was the will of the Saviour of the world that all His fruitfulness should be in His sufferings. We know this from His own teach ing ; for, speaking by a figure of His death, He says : Unless the grain of wheat falling into the ground die, itself remaineth alone ; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit (John xii. 24).
In truth, all the mysteries concerning our Divine Saviour are but one continual fall. He fell from Heaven to Earth, from His Throne to a Crib ; from the lowliness of His Birth, by various downward steps, into all the miseries by which His mortal life was encomppassed, till they culminated in the ignominy of the Cross and Sepulchre then He could descend no lower. Yet no sooner had He reached this deepest depth of self-annihilation than He began to display His Divine power ; and that germ of immortality (which He kept hidden within Himself beneath the weakness of His flesh) being developed by His death, this grain of wheat was seen to multiply abundantly and to spring up into life and vigour as the children of God. Such was the blessed fertility generated by His sufferings and death, to which we owe our existence as the adopted sons of His Father. Come then, Mary, Mother of God, to the foot of that Cross on which your Son hangs, come that your maternal love may unite you to those sufferings by which He gives us the new life of regeneration.
And what words of ours can even faintly shadow forth Mary s share in the sufferings of her adorable Son ? She beheld Him, the Beloved of her soul, nailed to the shameful tree, His pierced and bleeding hands outstretched to an unbelieving, pitiless people ; His face so marred and disfigured that there was no beauty remaining in it ; the Precious Blood meanwhile falling drop by drop from that mangled, agonized Body ! As the Divine Jesus infinitely surpasses all other sons, so too the grief of ordinary mothers is but a most imperfect image of that which pierces the heart of Mary. Her affliction is truly boundless and measureless as an ocean. Thus we see how she shares the sufferings of her beloved Son wounded with His very wounds, transfixed with the nails that fastened Him to the Cross.
But now let us contemplate with admiring love the sequel to this mystery. It is in the midst of all this anguish and desolation of spirit, which unites her intimately with the Passion of Jesus, that He makes her a sharer in His fruitfulness. " Woman," He says, " behold thy son ; woman, who art suffering with Me, be also fruitful with Me, be the Mother of those who owe their life to My Passion." Like an earthly mother who dies in bringing her child into the world, Mary in this moment of supreme anguish begets the faithful.
Let us never then forget that we are the children of Mary, and that she gave birth to us at the foot of the Cross. Let us lay to heart the beautiful words of Ecclesiasticus : Forget not the groanings of thy mother (Ecclus. vii. 29). When the world attracts you by its deceitful allurements, let the thought of Mary's tears, and of the pangs of that loving mother, so occupy your imagination that it may have no room left for the poisonous delights of sin. When temptation assails you, when your strength almost fails you under its powerful assaults, when your steps are feeble and tottering in the way of righteousness, when bad example or the fierce fire of youthful passion almost gets the better of you, remember your mother's anguish, her bitter tears, the unspeakable pangs that rent her soul on Calvary. What ! would you by your weak yielding to sin set up again a cross that Jesus Christ may once more be nailed to it ? Would you, before the very eyes of Mary, thus crucify afresh her Divine Son, crown His Sacred Head with thorns, and trample under foot His Precious Blood, thus reopening every wound in that dear mother s heart ? Ah, no ! we will not act thus ; Mary has already suffered once in begetting us, do not let us renew her pangs. Rather let us expiate our faults by penance ; let us remember that we are the children of sorrows, and that sinful pleasures are not for us. O Mary, Mother of God and of us, intercede with your Divine Son for us that we may always love His Cross and that we may be indeed your children ; so that one day you may show us the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus.
Crypt of Saint Louis de Monfort
in the Basilica of Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre
Miraculous Medal Prayer O MARIA sine labe concepta, ora pro nobis, qui confugimus ad te; O Refugium peccatorum, Mater agonizantium, noli nos derelinquere in hora exitus nostri, sed impetra nobis dolorem perfectum, sinceram contritionem, remissionem peccatorum nostrorum, sanctissimi Viatici dignam receptionem, Extremae Unctionis Sacramenti corroborationem, ut magis securi praesentari valeamus ante thronum iusti sed et misericordis Iudicis, Dei et Redemptoris nostri. Amen. O MARY, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee; O refuge of sinners, Mother of the dying; forsake us not at the hour of our death; obtain for us the grace of perfect sorrow, sincere contrition, the pardon and remission of our sins, a worthy receiving of the holy Viaticum, and the comfort of the Sacrament of Extreme Unction, in order that we may appear with greater security before the throne of the just but merciful Judge, our God and Redeemer. Amen.
November 27: First Sunday of Advent
From the Raccolta #643, (Secretariat of Briefs, March 11, 1856; S. P. Ap., March 7, 1932).
Acts of Spiritual Communion By St. Alphonsus Maria de' Ligouri MY Jesus, I believe that Thou art present in the Blessed Sacrament. I love Thee above all things and I desire Thee in my soul. Since I cannot now receive Thee sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As though Thou wert already there, I embrace Thee and unite myself wholly to Thee; permit not that I should ever be separated from Thee. Amen. By Raphael Cardinal Merry del Val. AT Thy feet, O my Jesus, I prostrate myself and I offer Thee repentance of my contrite heart, which is humbled in its nothingness and in Thy holy presence. I adore Thee in the Sacrament of Thy love, the ineffable Eucharist. I desire to receive Thee into the poor dwelling that my heart offers Thee. While waiting for the happiness of sacramental communion, I wish to possess Thee in spirit. Come to me, O my Jesus, since I, for my part, am coming to Thee! May Thy love embrace my whole being in life and in death. I believe in Thee, I hope in Thee, I love Thee. Amen.
THE Rev. Father Ramiere, S.J., preached a sermon at Farm Street on Sunday, the 17th of October, inviting attention to that great apostolic work with which the readers of the MESSENGER are so familiarly acquainted. He took his very apposite text from the last chapter of the Second Book of Machabees.
So Nicanor being puffed up with exceeding great pride, thought to set up a public monument of his victory over Judas. But Machabeus ever trusted with all hope that God would help them. And he exhorted his people not to fear the coming of the nations, but to remember the help they had before received from Heaven, and now to hope for victory from the Almighty. And speaking to them out of the law, and the prophets, and withal putting them in mind of the battles they had fought before, he made them more cheerful. Then after he had encouraged them, he showed withal the falsehood of the Gentiles and their breach of oaths. So he armed every one of them, not with defence of shield and spear, but with very good speeches and exhortations, and told them a dream worthy to be believed, whereby he rejoiced them all. Now the vision was in this manner: Onias who had been high priest, a good and virtuous man, modest in his looks, gentle in his manner, and graceful in his speech, and who from a child was exercised in virtues, holding up his hands, prayed for all the people of the Jews. After this there appeared also another man, admirable for age and glory, and environed with great beauty and majesty. Then Onias answering said: This is a lover of his brethren and of the people of Israel: this is he that prayeth much for the people, and for all the holy city, Jeremias the Prophet of God. Whereupon Jeremias stretched forth his right hand, and gave to Judas a sword of gold, saying: Take this holy sword a gift from God, wherewith thou shalt overthrow the adversaries of my people Israel. Thus being exhorted with the words of Judas, which were very good and proper to stir up the courage and strengthen the hearts of the young men, they resolved to fight, and to set upon them manfully, that valour might decide the matter, because the holy city and the temple were in danger.
There we find, my dear brethren, an instance of the general truth which St. Paul expressed when he said: Omnia in figura contingebant illis. (All these things happened to them.) The history of the ancient people is a symbol of the destinies of the true people of God, of the new Israel. Who does not see in the present situation of the Church of God the realization of that which we have been reading just now—of the abandonment to which the Synagogue was reduced in the time of the Machabees? All the earthly glories with which the Church of God was once surrounded have faded away: the holy city is in the hands of her fiercest enemies, her streets are profaned with all kinds of abominations, her treasures are dispersed, her most devoted ministers expelled, her children torn violently from her bosom and delivered up to the worst of all captivities, to the impious education which enslaves the minds and souls of men under the shameful yoke of error and of vice.
And who in this extremity comes to the help of the Church of God? We look to the north and to the south, to the east and to the west, and nowhere appears any human hope of salvation. All the earthly powers that once supported the Church have now turned against her, all, all! Those which are not openly hostile, at least deny her Divine rights. An immense league, embracing all the civilized nations of the world, was formed more than a century ago, to distress the Kingdom of God upon earth, and after having expelled Jesus Christ from public institutions by the so-called Liberal system, they are preparing to expel Him from families and even from the conscience of individual men by godless education.
What remains to the Church? A handful of pious Christians who in all nations form a small minority, and who compared with the numbers of their enemies, and the multitude much greater still of the indifferent and the cowardly, are less capable of fighting successfully than the Machabees were to resist the armies of Demetrius. Shall we then despair of the victory? No, my dear brethren, we shall not despair. And why not? Because Almighty God shows to us as a living and certain reality a spectacle much more consoling than that which was shown to Judas Machabeus in a dream. Do you not see those thousands of pious souls who like Onias hold up their hands and pray for the people of Israel? And above them, do you not see that other intercessor infinitely more powerful than Jeremias, the Very Son of the Almighty, Who, continually present in the midst of us at the same time that He is sitting at the right hand of His Father, is occupied in making intercession for us: Semper vivens ad interpellandum pro nobis? (He always lives to intercede for us )This is He that prayeth much for the people and for all the holy city, and by His prayer, to which He invites us to join our prayers, He renders us invincible and assures our triumph.
I have, therefore, a right to present to you the Apostleship of Prayer, exercised first by our Saviour and practised by Christians in union with the Heart of Jesus, as the last but all-powerful resource of the Church in the extreme danger with which she is threatened.
The Apostleship of Prayer thus understood is not a special association. We must distinguish two aspects of one and the same idea. The Apostleship of Prayer as a power and a duty is as old as Christianity itself, a power conferred and a duty imposed on all Christians to contribute by their prayers and good works to the edification of the Body of Christ. Under this point of view it is as old as the Church. What is new in it is a peculiarity of organization belonging to these later times by which the faithful are induced to unite together in order to exercise that power and to fulfil that duty. In order to organize this Holy League in England, and enable it to produce there the great fruits which it has produced in the other parts of the world, we need the assistance of your pious pastors.
It is not precisely under that respect that I wish to present the Apostleship of Prayer to your consideration to-day. I propose to set before you the idea of the work, to prove the immensity of the power which it puts into your hands and the stringent nature of the duty which it imposes upon you. To attain this end we must examine the Apostleship, first as it is in the Heart of Jesus, and secondly as it is in the heart of Christians.
I. Considered as it is in the Heart of Jesus, the Apostleship of Prayer appears to us as the proper apostolate of the Sacred Heart, the first apostolate which our Saviour exercised, the one which He exercised without interruption, the one which He kept for Himself when He was obliged to divest Himself of all other apostolates. Before briefly developing these three considerations, it is well to determine what is meant by the words Apostleship of Prayer. Preaching and administering the sacraments are not the only apostolate. If they were, you would not be able to give to our Blessed Lady in her own right the title of Queen of Apostles. Mary never preached : she remained silent in the assemblies of the primitive Church, although she could have spoken with more eloquence and efficacy than St. Paul or any other preacher of the Word. And nevertheless she was an apostle, nay, the Queen of Apostles, because by her prayers, her actions, her sufferings, united with those of her Divine Son, she contributed more efficaciously than all the Apostles together to the work of the apostleship, the conversion of souls, the propagation of the Kingdom of Christ. The apostleship includes every work which tends efficaciously to promote the salvation of souls, to convert the sinner, to sanctify the just, to assist the triumph of the Church. Preaching and the administration of sacraments contribute to these results, but the only indispensable means is the grace of God. Every work, therefore, which helps to impart grace to souls is included in the idea of an apostolate.
This explains the mystery of the Life of our Saviour Himself. He had come down from Heaven for one purpose—the salvation of mankind, to enlighten minds immersed in darkness, and bring back into the path of justice souls which had been led astray into the tortuous ways of sin. Having thirty-three years to spend among men, how is it that He waited till the age of thirty to show Himself and to speak? Were those long years of His Hidden Life lost? No, they were as usefully spent as the years of His Public Life. From the very beginning of His Life He had begun to suffer and to pray. He had not yet exercised the apostolate of His preaching, but He had already exercised the apostolate of His Heart, the apostolate of prayer. The first palpitation of His Heart, the first aspiration of His Soul, was the first act of that apostolate, and by that first act He had already done enough for our salvation. Why so? Because He had already obtained the grace necessary and sufficient to save the souls of all men.
I am, therefore, right in saying that the Apostolate of Prayer is the proper apostolate of the Heart of Jesus. For all other apostolates the Heart of Jesus needs cooperation. The apostolate of the word will require the movement of His sacred lips, the apostolate of charity will employ His sacred feet to run after the lost sheep, His sacred hands to bind their wounds; but before the Sacred Heart can have this cooperation of lips and feet and hands, It has already undertaken Its own proper apostolate of prayer. That apostolate was the first which our Saviour exercised. It is true that long before He began to teach men by word of mouth He had taught them by His example: coepit Jesus facere et docere.(Jesus began to do and to teach) At Bethlehem He had preached, by the mute eloquence of His poverty, the same lesson which was to be the first subject of His public exhortation; but even that apostolate of example which began with His visible Life had been forestalled by the invisible apostolate of prayer.
And that apostolate begun at the first moment will thenceforward be continued without interruption. The apostolate of the Word, even when it is undertaken after thirty years, is not exercised without intermission. However indefatigable Jesus may be in announcing the doctrine of salvation, He will only be able to speak according as men shall be disposed to listen to Him. However assiduous He may be in hunting after souls, the night will necessarily interrupt that work of mercy. But the night itself will not interrupt His prayer. When He can no longer proclaim to men the merciful designs of His Heavenly Father, He will continue to treat with that Heavenly Father about the eternal interests of men: Erat pernoctans in oratione Dei.(he spent the night in prayer )
There is only one other apostolate which shares with the Apostolate of Prayer the privilege of being uninterrupted. It is the apostolate of suffering. As the Heart of Jesus never ceased to pray for our salvation during His whole earthly Life, so He never ceased to suffer physically or morally for the expiation of our sins: Tota vita Christi crux fuit et martyrium.(The whole life of Christ was a cross and a martyrdom) But a moment will come when it will be necessary to interrupt that apostolate of suffering as well as the others. The work of Christ is consummated, His earthly Life comes to an end, His Father recalls Him to Heaven, in order to reward Him by unmixed joy for all His bitter trials. He must therefore divest Himself of His apostolic functions, and bequeath them to His ministers. He will henceforward preach by their lips, administer the sacraments, and perform works of mercy by their hands; He will fulfill in the sufferings of His devoted servants what is wanting to His own. But there is an apostolate which He will keep to Himself —the Apostolate of Prayer: semper vivens ad interpellandum pro nobis.(He always lives to intercede for us) In order to exert it more suitably He will create to Himself a second existence upon earth parallel to His existence in Heaven, as humble and obscure as His heavenly Life is glorious—a life of sacrifice and prayer. We see the Lamb Whom in Heaven the angels and the saints adore, "standing as it were slain," in a state of perpetual immolation, and perpetually praying for us.
And how long will that intercession last? As long as the duration of the world. As long as the Bride of Christ is exposed to the attack of her enemies and apparently suffering defeat at their hands, so long will her Divine Spouse help her by His prayers to bear those assaults and to change, as He Himself did before, apparent defeat into glorious victory. As long as one soul on the road to Heaven is exposed to the danger of falling into Hell, so long He Who gave His life for all men without exception will strive by His prayers to apply to that soul the merits of His death. The Apostolate of Prayer is therefore the last apostolate of our Redeemer as it was the first: it is the last mystery of His Life on earth, the one which crowns and makes perfect all the rest, the one by which are applied to our souls the fruits which come from all His actions and sufferings.
Is it not becoming then that there should be an association specially dedicated to the manifestation, the meditation, the glorification of that mystery? Is it not just that sanctuaries should be erected to honour that last and permanent proof of the love of our Saviour, as there are so many dedicated to the transient mysteries of His earthly Life? There is as yet only one sanctuary erected for that purpose, close to the Seminary of Vals, where the Association of the Apostleship of Prayer had its birth. There forty lamps, burning night and day, symbolize the union of our prayer with that perpetual intercession of the Heart of Jesus. But now that sanctuary is closed by those who have undertaken to destroy Christianity in France. They have put their seals upon it as the murderers of Christ once put their seals upon His sepulchre. Let us hope the heirs of the Pharisees will not succeed better than their less guilty forefathers. In the meantime we will only honour the more diligently that mystery of the love of our Saviour the more it is outraged by His enemies.
We do not meditate sufficiently upon His life of prayer. What comfort we should find in our sorrows, what light in our anxieties, what strength in our struggles, what confidence after our falls, if we did but realize that truth? There is now One Who prays for me, Who interests Himself in my difficulties, Who ardently desires my happiness, Who is ready to give me His help; and He is not only the holiest man that ever lived upon earth, He is not only more powerful in His intercession than Moses and Elias, but He is the Almighty Himself, the Son of God, Who has atoned already long ago for the sins which discourage me, and Who has no other desire than to apply to me the immense merits of His atonement.
And again, what confidence should we feel in the destinies of the Church, how easy would it be.to despise her enemies and to laugh at the dangers which surround her, if we kept ever present to our minds the thought of the protection which is given to her by the uninterrupted intercession of the Son of God? Should we not say with St. John: Fortior est qui in nobis est quam qui in mundo est (This stronger man is who is in us , than he that is in the world). Our enemies are strong. They have at their disposal the powers of hell and of earth. But there is in the midst of us One, of Whom it has been said that every knee shall bend at the very sound of His Name, on earth and in hell as well as in Heaven. He is here offering for us those prayers which cannot but be heard by His Father: Ego autem sciebam quia semper me audis (And I knew that thou hearest me always). He is here fulfilling the only condition put by His Father for gaining the triumph over all the world: Postula a me et dabo tibi gentes hereditatem tuam;(Ask of me, and I will give thee the nations for thy inheritance) and the utmost parts of the earth for thy possession.
Not only will the meditation of this great mystery produce in us fruits of consolation and confidence, but it must moreover lead us to unite our prayers to the perpetual intercession of the Sacred Heart of Jesus for the salvation of souls in the exercise of that power imparted to us, of which I shall now briefly demonstrate the reality.
II. Few words are needed to place in the clearest light the second aspect of the Apostleship of Prayer, and when I have convinced your understanding I may leave it to your piety to feed your hearts with the practical consequences which follow from the principles explained. I am not afraid of being accused of exaggeration when I say that by exercising the Apostleship of Prayer in union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus we acquire an unlimited power in cooperating with Him to the success of His great work of saving and sanctifying souls and leading His Church to a triumphant victory:—yes an unlimited power, and unlimited in every way.
That power is unlimited, first as regards the graces which we may obtain for souls. Whatever limit there may be to the results obtained is put by us and not by the promise or the action of Christ, for He says: Whatsoever you shall ask the Father in My Name, that will I do. The same expression is repeated with the same universality in several passages, and as we cannot accuse our Lord of exaggeration or inaccuracy, we must believe that He has really set no bounds to the efficacy of prayer. The promise, therefore, does not apply to those prayers alone which are inspired by the legitimate desire of our own advantage. That is a kind of spiritual selfishness which, although it is not wrong, is less conformable to the example set before us. The promise of Christ applies still more, I will venture to say, to the prayers which are prompted by fraternal charity, for the prayer which most resembles the prayer of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is necessarily most acceptable to His Father. The prayers offered for our neighbour's good are more than any others made in the Name of Jesus. An evident proof that the promise of infallible efficacy applies by preference to them, is that our Lord, wishing to give us the pattern to which we must conform all our prayers that they may deserve to be heard, teaches us a form of words, according to which we are to put the interests of God and of all mankind before our own: Thus shall you pray: Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done. We must first think of His Divine interests, and after that we are allowed to think also of our own interests, but even then no one can be permitted to think of himself alone. What we ask for ourselves we must ask for others also. It is true that we can never be absolutely certain to obtain the conversion of the sinners for whom we pray, because the cooperation of each soul is free; but what is certain is that we shall obtain a grace proportioned to the fervour and confidence of our prayer, and as it depends upon us to enlarge more and more that measure, it depends upon us also to increase indefinitely the chances of salvation of those for whom we pray.
That power is unlimited also as regards the persons to whom it is imparted. The other apostolates require a special vocation and faculties of some particular kind. Not all men have a vocation to the priesthood, and among those who have received the vocation not all are fitted in mental acquirements and physical strength for the active ministry. But the Apostolate of Prayer can be exercised by every Christian. We all in fact have exercised it from the day in which our mother taught us to bend our knees, and join our hands, and say our prayers under the unconscious impulse of the Holy Spirit. And who is he who can exercise that apostolate with most success? Is it the most learned, the most exalted in society, the most influential, the most esteemed? No, it is the most humble, the most pious, the most united with our Lord, the most generous in fulfilling His commandments, and accepting with love all the dispositions of His Providence. A poor beggar like Benedict Joseph Labre, who says his beads at. the door of the church, while an eloquent preacher enraptures from the pulpit a distinguished audience, may contribute more efficaciously than the preacher himself to the serious results of the preaching.
That power is unlimited as to the persons in whose behalf it may be exercised. To convert a sinner by preaching, you must be heard by him; to sanctify souls by your good example, you must be seen; to extend by the press the influence of your spoken word, you must be read; but to contribute by your prayers to the conversion of sinners and to the sanctification of souls it is not necessary to be heard or seen, to know the persons whom you lead into the way of salvation, or to be known by them. By a prayer made here in union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus for the conversion of heathens, you may cause a grace to fall upon a dying Chinese or American savage, and open the gates of Heaven to him.
That power is unlimited finally as to the time and manner in which it may be exercised. We must not imagine that it belongs only to formal prayers, to particular words recited at stated times, or to lonely meditations made in the church or in some domestic sanctuary. No, we may exercise it as Jesus, Mary, and Joseph did at Nazareth, by intentions which change all our works into prayers. It is in that sense that our Lord has ordered us to pray always, and not to faint. The intention is the soul of our works, and whatever be their body, their outward shape, provided they are conformable to the law of God, the intention which animates them gives them merit according to its purity. But of all intentions the purest, the most perfect, the most meritorious, is certainly the intention of Divine charity which animates the Heart of Jesus. If therefore at the beginning of each day, and, if possible, sometimes during the day, we unite our intentions with the intentions of the Heart of Jesus, if we offer our prayers, our actions, our sufferings for the conversion of sinners, for the sanctification of the clergy and of pious souls, for the defence and triumph of the Church, that is enough to render all those actions apostolic, and to give them, together with a much greater merit for ourselves, a much greater efficacy in assisting the work of God.
Such is in its nature and in its essential practice the Apostleship of Prayer. There still remains much to be said about its necessity, its advantages, and the method of its practice, but time does not permit. I will conclude with the words of Jeremias to Judas Machabeus which I quoted at the beginning of my discourse. It is our Divine Lord Who addresses these words to every one of you, while He offers you that all-powerful weapon of prayer by which He Himself has wrought our salvation. "Take this holy sword a gift from God, wherewith thou shalt overthrow the adversaries of my people, Israel."
Yes, my dear brethren, it is my firm persuasion that by divesting His Church of all earthly advantages and depriving her of all human help our Lord wishes to show that He alone is her Saviour. And what He requires from us is to unite in an immense effort of prayer to obtain from Heaven the assistance which earth refuses. We must not remain idle. Every one of us must fight as did the Machabees, even though there is no human hope. But while we do on our part all that is in our power to move our fellow-men, we must display our energy in procuring help from on high. More than ever we must cry from the bottom of our hearts, Adveniat regnum tuum—“ Thy Kingdom come!" That is the war-cry which we must oppose to the cry of rebellion of the anti-Christian sect which has sworn to destroy the Kingdom of Christ upon earth. That is in fact the device of the Association of the Apostleship of Prayer; and in order to encourage us to repeat that motto, and to make it the rule of all our desires and ambitions, the Holy Father has granted an indulgence of one hundred days to all the Associates of the Apostleship who, wearing an image of the Sacred Heart upon their breasts make that aspiration either orally or mentally. Let us therefore repeat it often by the movement of our lips, and oftener still and more continually by the wishes of our heart, that the reign of the Sacred Heart of Jesus may be fully established in our hearts and in the hearts of all men. Nothing more is wanted to change earth into a paradise and the vestibule of the Heavenly Paradise. Amen.
******** - Latin Translations added by webmaster
Sermon on the Apostleship of Prayerby Rev. Father Ramiere, S.J.
Book on the Apostleship of Prayerby Rev. Father Ramiere, S.J.
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