" Jesus saith to His mother : Woman, behold thy son. Then He saith to His disciple : Behold thy mother " (John xix. 26, 27).
WE read in ancient history how a certain philosopher, dying without leaving wherewith to maintain his wife and children, resolved to make a will, by which he bequeathed the care of his wife and family to his most intimate friend. We are told that he did this, believing (so Lucian says) that he could not better do honour to his friend’s merits and show confidence in his generosity. Well, always supposing that this action was done in good faith and that the affection between the two men was mutual, it is well worthy of our admiration. Still we cannot forget that the object for which the sages and so-called great men of the pagan world lived, was rather ostentation and self-glorification than virtue, and that many of their famous sayings and doings were dictated and actuated by a love of display and an affectation of severe gravity. However, we need not dwell longer on that ; let us pass on and turn our thoughts to something more divine. What necessity suggested to that poor philosopher infinite love, we may venture to say, suggested to our Crucified 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.
1 Sermon preached at Navarre to the Confraternity of|the Rosary
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 marvellous 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 fruitfulness 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 ? 1 1 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 fulfilment 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 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.
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 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 teaching ; 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.
BLESSED MARY, MOTHER OF GOD AND OUR MOTHER
At first sight it may seem, no doubt, to most altogether incongruous to attribute such a quality as ambition to the Sacred Heart—that Heart which our Lord Himself tells us is meek and humble; and this arises from a natural habit of regarding ambition only as a human vice. Most of us, alas, know only one ambition—that infatuated thirst for the things of the world, which makes its blind children debase themselves in all sorts of ways to obtain a little vain honour or esteem, to throw away the peace of their conscience to gain the applause of fools.
Those who love God, in their fear of this bad passion, oppose it too commonly by one virtue, by modesty, and consider that in humbling themselves they fulfil all justice, and while they penetrate their own hearts with the sense of their own unworthiness, they contentedly see all others lift themselves above their heads.
Let us, however, see that our Lord has taught us another lesson than this. Humility assuredly He loves and praises, nor can we love it too much, but He would have us no less recognize our supernatural dignity, and by virtue of it despise as worthless the poor greatness which perishes so soon.
And, moreover, even this generous disdain of human honour ought to be nothing but a first step, but a sweeping away of the foolish delusions which might blind our eyes to that true greatness which is ours, and which He has done so much, and now longs so much, to invest us with. A crown, a throne is promised "to him who shall overcome" (Apoc. iii. 21). It is the ambition of the Heart of Jesus that we should win it. Surely that ambition should fill our hearts also.
And what is the immensity of that Divine ambition for us, Who but Himself can know? The proofs of it are in the Blood He has shed so prodigally, in the close and intimate union He has deigned to contract with us, making us in veriest truth members of His body, and our glory inseparable from His own. "And the glory which Thou has given to Me, I have given to them" (St. John xvii. 22).
Our share in this glory will be great in proportion to the greatness and strength of our ambition, and we never shall ambition for ourselves as greatly as the Heart which loves us desires. If then we reflect that each and every act of our heart with the intention, whether actual or habitual, of giving God glory, corresponds with a degree of glory gained in Heaven for all eternity, it becomes easy to understand how greatly this Divine ambition once fired in our hearts, will make those acts grow both in number and intensity. Jesus Christ has strewn the path we tread with eternal riches, but, alas, too often we are so indifferent to them that we will not take the trouble to stoop and make them our own. Those who have thought how the Heart of Jesus desires their glory, will, both for His sake and their own, aspire to respond with a nobler answer to His love.
PRAYER.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 Thy servants an ardent desire of eternal glory. Inspire us, O Jesus, with the determination not to lose the least of the infinite riches Thou hast purchased for us by Thy Precious Blood. Amen.
For the triumph of the Church and Holy See, and the Catholic regeneration of nations.
GENERAL INTENTION OF THE APOSTOLATE OF PRAYER FOR OCTOBER - THE DIVINE AMBITION OF THE HEART OF JESUS
WE have seen the Blessed Mary before Her glorious Assumption languish with love of Her Son and aspire to a union with Him in heaven with all the powers of Her soul. This union had already commenced. The absence of Her Dearly-Beloved had made no void in the heart of our holy Mother. With the eyes of the soul She still beheld Him who had ascended into heaven ; She conversed mysteriously with Him ; She poured forth Her heart upon His Sacred Heart : She was with Him/by Him, and in Him ; She was one with Him.
Union with God is the fruit of the virtues we have been gathering, especially of charity. This is the reason it is so profound, so intimate, so constant in holy souls ; so many and so great prodigies are seen in it that it can be ill-understood by the generality of men. Ecstasies, raptures, flights of the soul towards heaven, liquefactions, annihilations, mystical transformations — who is it that clearly understands all these ? Nevertheless the most humble and unaspiring souls are permitted to prepare themselves for at least timid and humble advances in this direction.
Why does not charity effect in the Christian life that which human love effects in the natural life ?
When absence or death takes away from us those whom we love affectionate memory keeps them near us still. Their image, the moment it is recalled, comes before us in immaterial light, although we cannot see them with the eyes of the body. They look upon us, and we upon them ; they speak to us, and we to them ; we believe that we enjoy their endearments, and we lavish upon them the marks of our affection. Love realizes their presence.
Is it true, O my God ! that the love of our hearts is more forcible in uniting us to creatures than in uniting us with Thee ? True indeed Thou art a "hidden God"; but the Christian soul, imbued with the great virtues of faith, hope, and charity, ought to rise to Thee and cling to Thee, not only sometimes, but always ; that is to say, it ought to live in Thy presence, pour forth its love to Thee, and be penetrated by Thee.
What a comfort, a joy, and a glory it would be to be able to say : The world is no longer anything to me ; I despise its goods and its caresses, its judgments and its persecutions ; I am united to God !
I am united to God ! Nothing now touches me, or pleases me, or troubles me, or affrights me. All the allurements of the world and all the furies of hell may conspire against me in vain. My pleasure and my trust is in God.
I am united to God ! I see Him in all things. Creatures adorned with a ray of beauty reveal to me His infinite perfections. The miseries of my brethren recall to me the sorrows of His Son. In all that is against me I recognize His justice and adore it ; in all that favors me I see and kiss His loving hand. I see Him everywhere, and He sees me. My thoughts, desires, and actions germinate and flourish under His benign and merciful care.
I am united to God ! He speaks to my soul by those whom He has charged with my instruction and direction, and especially by the holy grace which revives in me the echo of His words. I listen to Him ; He listens to me. I praise Him ; I bless Him ; I deliver myself up to His holy will. I give Him my joys, my sorrows, my consolations and trials, my glory and my humiliation, my leisure and my labors, my actions great and small, my spirit, my heart, my life. I am all His ; He is all mine. "I live now, not I, but God my Saviour liveth in me."
I am united to God ! He gives me an experimental knowledge of His goodness, His sweetness, His greatness, and the grandeur of His perfections. This knowledge has embraced my will ; that embrace has produced joy ; this joy has excited my desires ; these desires have been rewarded with satiety ; satiety has in turn caused gladness, and gladness unalterable sweetness ; this sweetness brings repose, according to the word of the Lord in the mouth of the prophet: " My people shall sit in the beauty of peace, and in the tabernacles of confidence, and in wealthy rest " (Isaias xxxii.)
I am united to God ! Behold what I ought to say ; but, alas ! my miserable life has scarcely more relation to God than the life of one estranged from Him. He does not withdraw Himself from me, but I withdraw myself from Him to wander among creatures. Pardon me, O my God ! and bring me back to Thee, and make me ever live by faith, hope, and charity in Thy blessed company until the striking of that happy hour in which I shall be so intimately united to Thee that nothing can separate us for ever.
Fourth Glorious Mystery - The Assumption of Our Lady
THE POPE AND HIS DEACON.
The illustration on the opposite page represents one of the most touching scenes in the annals of the early persecutions. It was at Rome in the reign of the Emperor Valerian. The aged Pope, St. Xystus, had been dragged to the Temple of Mars, and, on his refusal to offer sacrifice, was led out to execution. On his way he met his holy Deacon, St. Laurence, the Almoner of the Roman Church. St. Laurence knelt for his blessing, and tenderly reproached him for going to death alone. "Holy Priest, whither art thou hastening without thy deacon? It was never thy wont to celebrate the Sacrifice without a minister!" The aged Pontiff knew the true solid gold of the heart of St. Laurence, and he promised him that in a short time they should be together. "I leave thee not, nor desert thee, my son. Greater conflicts for Christ await thee. The Levite shall follow the Priest after three days. Meanwhile, if thou hast in the treasury anything, distribute it to the poor." The feast of St. Xystus is kept on August 6th, the feast of the glorious martyr St. Laurence on August 10th.
GENERAL INTENTION OF THE APOSTOLATE OF PRAYER FOR AUGUST.
HATRED OF ERROR.
An alarming feature of Catholic faith is the indifference, the indulgence with which error is regarded so commonly amongst us. If faith is the most essential of all the elements of all the soul's life, then indifference to that which kills faith—and such is error-—is a mortal malady.
The hatred of error and the love of truth are not two things but one, two forms of the same passion, and they are inseparable. They will inevitably have the same degree of intensity, they grow and diminish together; and as the vigour of the will and character depend wholly upon the energy of the convictions, unless error is hated, the moral life must languish, souls grow weak, wills become irresolute, characters degraded, and either delusive ambitions, or sordid objects, take the place of noble aspirations and high thoughts. This is not nearly understood, not nearly enough thought of by us. We live in the midst of a people who in the very riot of a false toleration realize to the letter what St. Leo once said of Pagan Rome: "But this city, forgetful of Him who had made her great, while surpassing all others in power, made herself subject to all others in error, and she conceived herself to have embraced all that is true, because she repudiated nothing that is false."* There is no god so filthy as to find here no worshippers, no creed so revolting or so noxious as to fail to find amongst both a preacher and a shrine. And we Catholics grow used to this, and with custom grows a certain spirit of toleration of which we do not see the harm—but the harm is great for all that. It is not, perhaps, the grosser forms of folly which more commonly bewitch us (though spiritism has worked sad havoc in many a Catholic conscience)—but errors more subtle and less repulsive in appearance, of which the name is legion—are these hated? How many are there who put away the journals and magazines in which they are advocated, with disgust? How many are there who prefer to feed their minds with pure Catholic teaching to the enjoyment of a lively sophism, a brilliant lie? How entirely, how systematically, is not daily journalism subordinated to the support of what is not only false, but often caluminous and cruel, to the bolstering of an error which is loved, and only half unconsciously—yet see how we sit at the feet of such apostles as these! Oh, certainly, if old Mathathias + came to die in London now, his last words of exhortation would not be less burning, his reproaches less severe.
No, it is a sad truth that there is but little hatred of error, and, as a necessary consequence, but little fervour in our love of truth. We keep our faith indeed, but it is, and it is often, but cold, lethargic, and unfruitful; and the reason is that error is not hated as God hates it. One of the sins against the Holy Ghost, one of the most monstrous and diabolic, is to impugn the known truth. It is done every day on thousands of pages read by Catholics in England, done for hire, done in obedience to a mot d’ordre, (the theme) as well as from prejudice and from malice. Does it inspire the hatred of the error and the sin which St. Paul would have us feel? Alas, how rarely! Want of serious thought, want of interest, want of zeal for truth, is the only explanation, and a sad explanation it is. If - such lassitude had existed in Catholic Germany ten years ago, where would Catholic Germany be now? Let us reflect that we, who alone possess truth with absolute certainty, have the right and the power to oppose to error an effective resistance; amidst all around us there is not a principle so fundamental as to escape bold attack, even contemptuous denial, and this even from those whose names are great. Respectability is the English barrier against a thousand ideas which threaten to devour and engulf the very decencies of a social life no more sincerely Christian—how long shall that barrier stand?
Our duty, then, if we love Catholic truth, is to abominate that which is against Catholic truth, and the energy of our abomination will be the measure of the Catholicity of our lives. Error is odious to God, and we are not like God unless we hate it. There is no room to-day amongst us for those whose bland tolerance is a more pregnant source of mischief than an apostacy. The truth which claims our homage is no cold abstraction, it is the living truth of the Word, and to dally with it is to dishonour Him from whom it comes, and who gave His life that we might have it.
* Serm. i. In nat. SS. Pet. et Pauli.
+ I Mach. ii. 49.
Our associates will see that they have much to pray for, much which, if the interests of the Sacred Heart are dear to them, will make them pray well.
PRAYER.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 in particular to obtain for Catholic hearts that vigorous hatred of error, without which they cannot love Thy truth. Heal them, O Jesus, of that deadly indifference, which is a greater harm to souls than open wickedness. Amen.
For the triumph of the Church and Holy See, and the Catholic regeneration of nations.
Hatred of Error
THE Church is the body of the faithful who believe in Christ, accept revealed truth and are guided in their conduct by its requirements. There is only one true Church of God. Indeed, there can be only one, since God is truth; truth is ever the same and the Spirit of Truth abides in the Church until the end of time. It will perhaps strike many as less obvious that there has never been but one true Church of God. That fact becomes evident when we reflect that the same Eternal Truth has ever lived in the Church from the very beginning of creation; and we ascertain that fact from the Bible. Human nature has undergone no essential departure from what it was in the beginning. It consists of body and soul; and just as all attempts to trace a specific change in the material or bodily part of human nature have failed, so must our will ever fail in the degrading attempt to eliminate the spiritual element of human nature, viz., the soul. It is through that most noble part of man's nature, the soul, that its Creator has established spiritual relations with Himself. These relations between God and the soul of man are what is called religion.
Bishop Maes, Bishop of Covington. Ky, 1912 from the Preface on "The Catholic Church"
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Date Liturgical Schedule< August 21: Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Saint Jane Frances Fremiot DeChantal, Widow
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Commemoration of Saints Timothy, Hippolytus, and Symphorian, Martyrs
August 23: Saint Philip Benizi, Confessor
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Fourth Day within the Octave of the Nativity
Commemoration of Sts Protus and Hyacinth, Martyrs
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Fifth Day within the Octave of the Nativity
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September 23: Saint Linus, Pope and Martyr
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September 25: Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
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October 8: Saint Bridget, Widow
October 9: Twentieth-first Sunday after Pentecost
Saint John Leonardi
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