' 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.
IN incontestable tradition, resting upon the testimony of St. Jerome, St. Isidore, the ancient liturgies of Spain, and supported by a host of authorities and monuments, which treat it as a matter of history, tells us that St. James the Greater carried the Gospel to Spain. According to the best authorities, he undertook this mission soon after the martyrdom of St. Stephen. Thus, in the year following the ascension of our Lord, Spain had the Gospel preached to her. But a more extraordinary legend is attached to this apostolic visit, which attributes to St. James himself the foundation of the church of our Lady del Pilar, venerated from time immemorial at Saragossa. Let us examine the foundation of this legend. So many contradictions had arisen concerning the miraculous origin of the church, that Spain addressed herself to the Holy See, the guide of faith, to settle the controversy. Innocent XIII. then sat in St. Peter's chair. After a minute, exact, and careful investigation, the twelve car- dinals, in whose hands the affair rested, adopted the following account, which was approved by the * Notre Dame del Pilar. < Sacred Congregation of Rites on the 7th of August, 1723, and since inserted in the lessons of the office of the feast of our Lady del Pilar, celebrated on the 12th of October. " Of all places which Spain offers to the veneration of the devout, the most illustrious is doubtless the sanctuary consecrated to God under the invocation of the Blessed Virgin, under the title of our Lady del Pilar, at Saragossa. " According to ancient and pious tradition, St. James the Greater, led by Providence into Spain, spent some time at Saragossa.* He there received a signal favour from the Blessed Virgin. As he was praying with his disciples one night, upon the banks of the Ebro, as the same tradition informs us, the Mother of God, who still lived, appeared to him, and commanded him to erect an oratory in that place. " The apostle delayed not to obey this injunction, and with the assistance of his disciples soon constructed a small chapel. In the course of time a larger church was built and dedicated, which, with the dedication of St. Saviour's, is kept as a festival in the city and diocese of Saragossa on the 4th of October Before the publication of this statement, Pope Calixtus III., in a bull dated 1456, had encouraged pilgrimages to our Lady del Pilar, acknowledged the miracles performed at her shrine, and the prodigy of its foundation. The popular legends, however, are much fuller than the one we have just given. They add that St. James, having visited Oviedo and other places, stopped for some time at Saragossa, where he increased the number of his disciples to such an extent that he assembled * Then called Caesar-Augusta. them every evening in a quiet spot on the banks of the Ebro, where he instructed them in the faith, and told them of the mysteries of the kingdom of God. When one evening, near midnight, the faithful who surrounded the holy apostle heard choirs of angels chanting Ave Maria gratia plena ; and at the same time they beheld, in the midst of the heavenly troop, the figure of a lady, of exquisite beauty, seated on a marble pillar. St. James, recognising the Mother of God, fell on his knees before her. She* told him to erect a church on the spot where she appeared; and the marble pillar was allowed to remain as a testimony of the truth of the apparition. The apostle obeyed. A chapel was erected, and an image of the Blessed Virgin placed on the miraculous pillar, which still attracts the notice of pious pilgrims. Such is the tradition. The Blessed Virgin is represented erect with her Divine Son in her arms, who holds a dove in his hand. The piety of the Spaniards afterwards erected a handsome church on this spot ; the ancient chapel now forms a crypt under the chancel. It is 36 feet long by 25 feet broad. Many believe it to be the original chapel ; but this is scarcely probable. It is splendidly decorated ; and though the wars in the early part of this century have despoiled it of a great portion of its wealth, it still remains a splendid sanctuary.* * St. James returned from Spain to Jerusalem, where he was the first of the apostles to suffer martyrdom. It is said that he took with him some disciples from Spain who returned with his body to their native country. St. been a famous resort of pilgrims ; and there is no one who has not heard of Compostelo. The name of this city itself James is reverenced as the apostle of Spain, and has on many occasions specially protected that great Catholic country. The place where his relics are kept has long is a corruption of St. James the apostle. It was first called in Spanish Giacomo Apostolo, then Como Postolo, and finally Compostelo. Among the many miracles which have been obtained by the intercession of the Blessed Virgin in her chapel at Saragossa, the following is perhaps the most remarkable and the most astonishing. We also are guided in our selection by the many proofs and testimonies which are attached to it, and to its being given by the Bollandists, whose learning and critical acumen we suppose no one will deny. " The miracle we are about to record happened in our own time. It occurred to a young man who recovered the use of a leg through the intercession of our Lady of the Pillar.Our Lady of the Pillar
" His name was Michael Pellicer. His parents were poor people of Calanda, in Arragon ; but he worked with one of his uncles in Valencia. At the age of nineteen, he fell from a cart, heavily laden with corn ; and the wheel passed over his right leg, which was broken. This happened in the year 1638. " The uncle and nephew being both poor, the wounded man was taken to the hospital at Valencia. Several remedies were applied to the broken limb without success. As he grew worse, they yielded to his entreaties to be taken to the great hospital at Saragossa, where his devotion to our Lady of the Pillar led him to hope for succour. " Before entering the ward, he begged to be laid in the subterranean chapel before our Lady's venerated image. Suffering as he was, he made his confession, heard mass, and received the holy communion. He then, with perfect resignation, was conveyed to the hospital, and placed under the care of Dr. John D'Estranga, a surgeon of great eminence at that time. " This surgeon was alarmed at the sight of his patient's leg, and instantly declared there was no hope, save in amputation. The leg was accordingly cut off a little below the knee, and the dead limb buried. "Michael Pellicer thought that it had not pleased our Lady to heal him, and that he merited his sufferings, which he endured with the greatest patience and submission to the will of God. During the painful operation, the only exclamations heard to escape his lips were fervent aspirations to his dear Patroness — our Blessed Lady, whom he most tenderly loved. When the amputation was over, and the part bound up, he went on crutches to our Lady's shrine, and returned thanks for the strength given him to undergo the operation. While engaged in prayer, feeling his wound sore, he thought of rubbing it with some of the oil of the lamp which hung before the image, but was told it would do him harm, unless a miracle changed its nature. He, however, still persisted in applying the oil to his leg. The wound healed, and he lived for two years in Saragossa, well known for his devotion to our Blessed Lady, at the entrance to whose chapel he received the alms of the people. " In the beginning of the year 1640, a good canon, hearing that the poor cripple greatly desired to visit his parents, gave him a little mule. Michael Pellicer mounted it, and returned to Calanda. As he passed through the neighbouring villages, he received alms from the people, and visited the different churches. " One evening after his return (it was the 29th of March), feeling very fatigued, he placed his crutches by the fireside, where his parents sat, and went to bed. At eleven o' clock, before re- tiring to her room, the mother went to see whether her son was asleep, or whether his fatigues had made him unwell. She rubbed her eyes with astonishment at the sight of two feet at the end of the bed, having left her son three hours ago with but one leg. She thought that it might be one of the soldiers, then quartered in the town, who had taken possession of her son's bed, and ran to call her husband. " He uncovered the face, and instantly recognised his son in the sleeping man. The noise of their movements awoke Michael, who exclaimed : " ' Oh, why did you awaken me from so sweet a dream, and so beautiful a sight ? I was in the holy chapel of our Lady of the Pillar, and there, in the presence of my dear Protectress, two angels restored to me my lost leg in recompense for my persevering confidence in the Mother of my Lord.’ " ' Give thanks to God and our Lady, my dear son,’ cried both parents; 'you have not had a vain dream, for your leg is indeed restored to you.’ "Michael Pellicer was yet ignorant of the miracle which had been wrought upon him ; but he sprang out of bed, and the neighbours, hearing the cries of joy, ran in, and joining the good parents in their wish to render thanks for the miracle, conducted the young man in triumph to the church. " A singular circumstance was attached to this miraculous cure, and which it would seem to baffle the reasoning of the incredulous — the restored leg was reversed. Was it to afford another trial of the young man's faith? Was it a sign that certain extraordinary favours are only completed in the sanctuary? Was it to make the miracle more manifest? However we may judge, so it was. As soon as Michael Pellicer had prostrated him- self at the foot of our Lady's altar, and poured forth, in company with the rector, a fervent prayer, and while the people sung the Salve Regina, the leg turned to its proper position; and he rose and stood firm on both legs, who the day before could not move six steps without the aid of his crutches. " Many of his friends accompanied him to Saragossa, where he went to return thanks in the chapel of our Lady of the Pillar. The miracle was juridically examined, and all the facts connected with it were attested by many witnesses, and authenticated by notaries, professors, and surgeons. A bright red line appeared round the leg, and remained there during the life of Pellicer. The miracle was authentically published on the 27th of April, 1641, by the Archbishop of Saragossa."
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.<br><br>
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.<br><br>
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.<br><br>
<i>For the triumph of the Church and Holy See, and the Catholic
" And behold, a woman 1 that was in the city, a sinner, when she knew that He sat at meat in the Pharisee s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment ; and standing behind at His feet, she began to wash His feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head, and kissed His feet, and anointed them with the ointment." (Luke vii. 37, 38).
FROM such abundant tears, so sincere a confusion, and a proceeding so humiliating and uncommon, it may easily be inferred how great must once have been the influence of the passions over the heart of this sinner, and what a change grace now effects within her. Palestine had long beheld her as the shame and the reproach of the city ; the Pharisee s household views her to-day as the glory of grace and a model of penance. This soul, fettered but a moment ago with the most shameful and the most indissoluble chains, finds no thing now capable of stopping her ; and without hesitation she flies to seek, at the feet of Jesus, her salvation and deliverance. This soul, hitherto plunged in the senses and living entirely for voluptuousness, in a moment sacrifices their liveliest charms and their dear-
l 1 It is the traditional and most probable opinion that the woman who was a sinner (Luke vii. 37) was identical with Mary Magdalen (Luke viii. 2) and also with Mary of Bethany, sister of Lazarus. The eminent Nonconformist writer, the Rev. Professor David Smith, D.D., is amongst those who uphold that Catholic viewest ties. This soul, impatient till then of every yoke, and whose heart had never acknowledged other rule than the caprice of its inclinations, commences her penitence by the most humiliating subjections. How admirable, O my God, are the works of Thy grace ; and how near to its cure is the most hopeless wretched ness, when once it becomes the object of Thine infinite mercy ! Iniquitous love had been the cause of all her mis fortunes and of all her crimes ; and born to love God alone, Him alone she had not loved. But scarcely has she known Him, says the Gospel, when, blushing at the meanness of her former passions, she no longer acknow ledges but Him alone to be worthy of her heart ; all in the creature appears to her empty, false, and disgusting ; far from finding those charms from which her heart had formerly with such difficulty defended itself, she no longer sees in them but their frivolity, their danger, and their vanity. The Lord alone appears good, real, faithful, constant in His promises, magnificent in His gifts, true in His affection, indulgent even in His anger, alone sufficiently great to fill the whole immensity of the human heart, alone sufficiently powerful to satisfy all its desires, alone sufficiently generous to soften all its griefs.
It is love which makes true penance. For penance is only a changing of the heart, and the heart does not change but in changing its love. Penance is only the re-establishment of order in man ; and man is in order only when he loves the Lord for Whom He is made. Penance is only a reconciliation with God ; and your reconciliation is fictitious if you do not restore to Him your heart. Penance obtains the remission of sins, an sins are remitted only in proportion to our love. Many sins are forgiven her because she hath loved much. man ! open here your eyes ; fathom to the bottom the destiny of your heart, and you will acknowledge that those turbulent passions which fill you with such repugnance to virtue are foreign to your nature ; that such is not the natural state of your heart ; that the Author of nature and of grace has bestowed on you a more sublime lot ; that you were born for order, for righteousness, for innocence ; that you have corrupted a happy nature by yielding to iniquitous passions ; and that, if not born for virtue, we know not what you are, and you become incomprehensible to yourself.
But you are mistaken when you consider as inclinations incompatible with piety those lively propensities to pleasure which are born with you. From the instant that grace shall have sanctified them, they will become dispositions favourable to salvation ; the more you are animated in the pursuit of the world and its false pleasures, the more eager shall you be for the Lord and for true riches ; the more you have been found tender and feeling by creatures, the easier shall be the access of grace to your heart ; in proportion as your nature is haughty, proud, and aspiring, the more shall you serve the Lord without fear, without disguise, without mean ness ; the more your character now appears easy, light, and inconstant, the easier will it be for you to free your self from your criminal attachments and to return to your God. Your passions themselves, if I may venture to speak in this manner, will become the means of facilitating your penance. All that had been the occasion of your moral destruction you will render conducive to your salvation ; you will see and acknow ledge that to have received a tender, faithful, generous heart is to have been born for piety, and that a heart which creatures have been able to touch holds out great and favourable dispositions for grace.
Read what remains to us of the history of the Saints, and you will find that those who have at the first been dragged away by mad passions, who were born with every talent calculated for the world, with the strongest inclinations to pleasure and self-indulgence, have been those in whom grace has effected the most wonderful change. The same soil which nourishes and produces great passions, gives birth likewise to the greatest virtues, when it pleases God to change the heart. In the incomprehensible arrangement of Divine Providence, even our weaknesses can help towards our sanctification. It is thus that Mary Magdalen made reparation for the iniquitous use she had made of her heart.
The love that she had for Jesus Christ was not one of those vain and indolent sensibilities which are rather the natural agitations of an easily affected heart than real impressions of grace, and which never produce in us anything further than that of rendering us satisfied with ourselves and persuading us that our heart is changed. The sacrifices we are prepared to make, and not our emotions, prove the reality of our love.
Thus the second disorder of Magdalen s sin having been the criminal and almost universal abuse of all creatures, the second reparation of her penance is an absolute detachment from all those things that she had abused in her errors. Her hair, her perfumes, her gifts of body and of nature, had been the instruments of her sinful pleasure (for no one is ignorant of the use to which a deplorable passion can apply them). In her penance, the perfumes are abandoned, and even consecrated to a holy ministry ; her hair is neglected, and no longer serves but to wipe the feet of her Deliverer ; beauty and every attention to the body are neglected, and her eyes are blinded with tears. In the face of that city which she had scandalized by her past profligate life, she enters into the house of the Pharisee, and is not afraid of submitting to have as witnesses of her con version those who had been witnesses of her former crimes. Often, after our having despised the world s opinion in debauchery, it becomes dreaded in virtue ; the eyes of the world did not appear formidable to us in our dissipation, they become so in our repentance ; our vices are carelessly laid open to view, our virtues are backward and cautious ; we have gloried in vice as if it had been a virtue, and we blush for being virtuous as though virtue were a shame.
If it is an error to represent to ourselves a change of life as the mere cessation from our former debaucheries, without adding to that those expiations which wash them out ; it is likewise another error to regard these expiations as involving us in a state of gloom and wretchedness. The first consolation of our sinner s penance is a holy dilection for Jesus Christ, a love widely different from the profane love which had hitherto engrossed her heart. Her depravity had attached her to men, lewd, inconstant, deceitful, rather companions in her profligacy than real friends, less watchful to render her happy than attentive to the gratification of their own inordinate passions ; to Amnons who from the moment they have obtained their wishes despise the unfortunate object of their love ; to men whose weaknesses, artifices, transports and defects she well knew, whom she inwardly acknowledged to be unworthy of her heart, and to whom she paid attention more through the bias of passion than the free choice of her reason. Her penance attaches her to Jesus Christ, the model of all virtue, the source of all grace, the principle of all light. The more she loves Him, the more does she find Him worthy of being loved. The more she studies Him, the more she dis covers His attractiveness and finds Him the faithful, disinterested friend of her soul, Who has tranquillised her heart by purifying it, Who has filled the whole extent of her love and restored to her that internal peace which creatures had never been able to give her. Scarcely is her love for Jesus Christ commenced when she is certain of being loved. She hears from His divine mouth the favourable sentence which in remitting her sins confirms to her the love and affection of Him Who pardons her. Not only are her iniquities forgotten, but she is urged to be persuaded that they are forgotten, pardoned, washed out. All her fears are prevented, and ground is no more left for mistrust or uncertainty ; no longer can she suspect the power and fidelity of Him Whose love she has secured. Such, too, is the lot of every contrite soul on quitting the tribunal where Jesus Christ, through the ministry of the priest, remits our sins.
By her sins Mary Magdalen had been degraded in the eyes of men ; they beheld with contempt the shame and the infamy of her conduct ; and the Pharisee is even astonished that Jesus Christ should condescend to suffer her at His feet. For the world which authoizes whatever leads to dissipation, never fails to cover dissipation itself with infamy ; it inspires and approves all the passions, yet it always blames all the consequences of them ; its lascivious theatres resound with extravagant praises of profane love, but its conversations consist only of biting satires upon those who yield themselves to that unfortunate tendency ; it praises the graces and charms that light up impure desires, and it loads you with shame from the moment that you appear inflamed with them. Such had been the afflictions by which the passions and the debaucheries of our sinner were followed ; but her penance restores to her more honour and more glory than had been taken away from her by the infamy of her past life. This sinner, so despised in the world, whose name was not mentioned without a blush, is praised by Jesus Christ for the things which even the world considers as most honourable, for generosity of sentiments, kindness of heart, and the fidelity of a holy love ; this sinner whose scandal was without example in the city, is exalted above the Pharisee ; the truth, the sincerity of her faith, of her compunction, of her love, merits at once the preference over a superficial, pharisaical virtue ; this woman, whose name was concealed as if unworthy of being uttered and whose only appellation is that of her crimes, is become the glory of Jesus Christ, a triumph of grace, and an honour to the Gospel.
/THE WOMEN THAT WAS A SINNER.
IT is no doubt natural that man should allow himself to be easily carried away into opposite extremes. The fever patient, when his malady has reached its height, despairs of recovery ; but the very same individual, having regained his health, thinks himself immortal. In the horror of a great storm at sea, the terrified mariner resolves never for the future to trust himself to the mercy of the waves ; but no sooner has the tempest abated than he pushes off again from shore with as little fear or hesitation as if he held the winds and waves in his own hands. A man who thinks that he may be ruined by some dangerous intrigue in which he has become involved at Court, withdraws from its perilous delights without a regret ; but as soon as he has freed himself from the entanglement, whatever it may be, he flings himself as recklessly as ever into the vortex, as recklessly and with as little fear of consequences as though, having given such hostages to fortune in the past, he were perfectly safe in her hands for the future. In the case of sinners, this strange dis order and inconsistency of conduct is especially to be noticed, although it displays itself in a contrary manner. The rash folly and presumption by which they buoy themselves up in their sins, ends in despair. In the full flash of their wickedness, they cannot believe that God will punish them ; then suddenly crushed under the weight of their crimes, they can no longer believe that He will pardon them : thus they go from sin to sin, ruin certain and most terrible staring them in the face ; made desperate by their very hope, as St. Augustine says. Think for a moment of a man who, although he has allowed himself to be carried away by the unrestrained violence of his passions and has broken almost every law human and divine, yet cannot bring himself to believe that a God so great and so good would tyrannize over His creature, or show His power by dashing to pieces such a poor earthen vessel. For a long time he goes on soothing himself with the thought that it would be wholly unworthy of the majesty of his Creator to take offence at the doings of a mere nonentity, or to sit in judgment upon such a one. Then veering round entirely to the opposite view of the subject, he is suddenly overwhelmed at the idea of such a despicable creature daring to set himself up against Almighty God. He asks himself then the same question as the Prophet asked of the Captain of the Assyrians asked and answered in the same breath : Against whom hast thou blasphemed ? against whom hast thou exalted thy voice, and lifted up thine eyes on high ? Against the Holy One of Israel (4 Kings xix. 22). And as the thought of the All-Holy One Whom he has offended takes possession of the sinner s mind, all his presumption and effrontery forsake him ; and he who could imagine no crime too great for the pardoning mercy of God, can now conceive no possibility of appeasing His anger. And now what think you is the cause of such surprising change of opinion, such inconsistency in the sinner s judgment ? It is this. Both these attributes of Almighty God, His Mercy and His Justice, are so infinitely great, that the contemplation of either of them so wholly occupies the mind that no room is left in it for the perception of the other. Moreover, these two attributes being apparently opposed to one another, it is not easy to understand how the two can subsist together in their supreme perfection. Thus the sinner, having grasped the idea of mercy in all its sublime beauty, cannot at the same time hold that of justice : and it is just so with regard to the latter attribute ; once it is admitted into his mind, there is no room left there for the other. And so the agony of his despair is as intense as was the mad folly and presumption of his hope.
But it must not be so with us ; we must away with those vain travesties of mercy and justice which the sinner worships in place of the true Divine attributes of Almighty God. Poor souls, hoodwinked, nay, blinded by sin, you are mistaken indeed when you persuade yourselves that these two qualities of mercy and justice are incompatible ; on the contrary, they harmonize with one another. For I would have you know that the mercy of God is neither insensible nor unreasonable ; the God Whom we adore is not the God of the Marcionites, a God Who never punishes, so enduring as to make sinners despise Him, so indulgent as to give the impression of weakness. He is not, says Tertullian, a God under Whose sway sins are at their ease, and Who may be defied and scorned with im punity. He displays His mercy, says the same writer, not by enduring evil, but by declaring Himself to be its enemy. His justice is a part of His mercy ; it is the very perfecting of that attribute ; He gives evidence of His love of goodness by His hatred of evil. Never then for an instant allow yourselves to think that justice is opposed to mercy ; on the contrary, the sterner virtue takes the gentler one under its protection , and prevents it from being exposed to contempt.
Let me, however, remind you that mercy is no more opposed to justice than is justice to mercy ; for if the latter robs the former of some of its victims, it is only to give them back again under a different form, or rather in a different manner. Instead of abasing them by vengeance, mercy does this by humiliation ; instead of crushing them by chastisement, she brings about the same result by the pains of penance ; and if nothing but the shedding of a victim s blood can satisfy the demands of justice, then mercy offers to her the Precious Blood of the Divine Victim. Thus, far from being in compatible, they really walk hand in hand. We must therefore neither presume nor despair. We must never presume, sinners as we are, because it is most true that God avenges Himself on such ; neither must we ever abandon ourselves to despair, because it is, if I may venture to say so, even more true that God pardons.
This truth being granted, I must try to make you understand, by the aid of the Holy Scriptures, the singular grace of the remission of sins. As this is the principal fruit of the Blood of the New Testament, and the very foundation of all the teaching of the Gospels, the Holy Ghost has taken especial care to impress the idea of it most deeply upon our minds, and to express it in various ways, so that it may penetrate our hearts more and more. He tells us that God forgets our sins, that He does not impute them to us, that He washes them away, that He removes them far from us, and that He blots them out. In order to understand the hidden meaning of these expressions, and of others which we find in the Sacred Scriptures, we must note very carefully what is the effect produced by sin upon the heart of man, and what is its effect upon the heart of God.
Sin in the heart of man is a poisonous canker eating into it, and a hideous stain which disfigures it. This malignant humour must be purged from our system, rooted out from our vitals : as jar as the east is from the west, so far has He set our iniquities from us (Ps. cii. 12) ; and as for that shameful stain, the sponge must be passed over it again and again until no trace is left of it :
/ have blotted out thy iniquities as a cloud, and thy sins as a mist ; return to Me, for I have redeemed thee (Isa. xliv. 22).
But let us now consider what is the effect produced by sin upon the heart not of man but of God. It is as a terrible and piercing cry in those ears which are ever attentive to listen ; it is a spectacle of horrors unspeakable to those eyes which are all-seeing and never closed.
From such a spectacle those eyes, too pure to behold iniquity, turn away with loathing ; and that cry demands vengeance. Yet in order to reassure sinners, Almighty God declares, through the medium of the Sacred Scriptures, that He covers up their offences, so that He may see them no more ; that He puts them behind His back, lest the sight of them should stir His anger ; finally, that He forgets them, that He remembers them no more. And as for that terrible cry, He stifles its clamour with another voice ; while our sins are accusing us, He brings forward an Advocate to defend us, Jesus Christ, the Just, Who is the propitiation for our sins (i John ii. 1-2) ; He declares that they shall be no more imputed to us, neither shall we ever be brought to account concerning them. Give praise, ye Heavens ; shout with joy, ye ends of the earth ; ye mountains, resound with praise, for the Lord hath shewn mercy (Isa. xliv. 23).
You see how the remission of sins is explained and authorized in every form of expression in which a grace or favour can be enunciated. We exhort you that you receive not the grace of God in vain (2 Cor. vi. i). But what then should be the effect of this grace upon us ? Again the Holy Ghost must teach us. Go, He says to His Prophet, and cry towards the north, saying, Return, rebellious Israel, saith the Lord, and I will not turn away My face from you, for I am holy, saith the Lord, and I will not be angry for ever. And then, a voice was heard in the highways, weeping and lamentation of the children of Israel, because they have made their way wicked, they have forgotten the Lord their God (Jer. iii. 12, 21) . And in another prophecy, Almighty God says : Cast away from you all your transgressions by which you have transgressed, and make to yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, House of Israel ? For 1 desire not the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God ; return ye and live (Ezech. xviii. 31-32). Why will you perish ? Why will you so obstinately hurry on to your destruction ? God desires to pardon you ; it is only you who will not pardon yourselves. God ! Thou art to me a God of mercy (Ps. Iviii. n) ! Name, says St. Augustine, in uttering which none shall despair ! Prodigal son, return then to your Father; unfaithful wife, return to your Husband ; but return confessing your wickedness ; say : / have sinned (2 Kings xii. 13). Acknowledge thy iniquity (Jer. iii. 13). Do not think of excusing yourselves ; never lay the blame of your evil deeds upon surrounding circumstances. Do not even accuse the devil ; accuse no one The devil rejoices when he is accused, says St. Augustine ; he desires vehemently that you should lay the blame of every one of your offences upon him, so that you may lose all the fruit of a good confession. Never therefore seek for excuses.
It is one thing to have to deal with a father, and quite another to have to answer for oneself before a judge ; in the one case we defend ourselves, in the other we acknowledge our fault ; the judge desires our punishment, the father our reformation. But then is this reformation possible ? Can the Ethiopian change his skin ? Can the hardened sinner give up his evil practices which seem fatal as they must be in the end a very part of himself ?
When we are speaking before a judge, we say : I did not do it ; or perhaps : I was surprised into doing it, I was drawn into the affair quite unintentionally, I never meant to go so far in the matter. Ah ! but we must not defend ourselves in that way before God ; do not let us seek vain excuses to cover our ingratitude, which is only too culpable. Before a judge indeed we employ subterfuge, and try to find a means of eluding conviction ; but think rather that you are speaking to a Father, and that the simple confession of your fault is the best defence that you can possibly offer : I have sinned, I repent of my sin, I throw myself on Thy mercy, I ask pardon for my offence. If no one has yet obtained it of Thee, I am bold enough to presume to sue for it myself ; or if Thy mercy has already granted so much grace to others in a state as deplorable as mine, oh, grant me that pardon for which Thou Thyself hast bid me hope.
The Prophet represents the Synagogue as a despaiing wife, unfaithful to her Husband, forsaking Him for strange lovers, then fearing His just wrath, unwilling to return to Him and saying : I have lost all hope ; I will not do it ; for I have loved strangers and I will walk after them (Jer. ii. 25).
There is no need to use studied words to persuade sinners that if they return to God they can easily obtain pardon ; for since this work of remission depends absolutely upon Him, there is no difficulty or uncertainty about its good issue. The work, however, of their con version, that change of heart in them, in which we ask of them their own co-operation, this it is which fills them with despair ; for though indeed it is true that in the end all things fall from our hands, and that our excessive weakness can then no longer dispose of anything, yet it is also an undoubted fact that there is nothing of which we can less easily dispose than of our selves. Strange malady of our nature ! there is nothing less within our power than the management of our own will ; in a word, nothing less possible for us to do than what our will is set upon doing ; so that it is easier for man to obtain from God what he desires than it is to desire it.
Two almost insuperable obstacles prevent us from being masters of our own will inclination and habit. Inclination makes vice lovable to us, habit makes it necessary. We have neither the beginning of inclination nor the ending of habit in our own power. Inclination first fetters us and then throws us into prison ; habit shuts the door of our cell upon us, and then walls up the entrance to the prison, so that escape is impossible. The miserable sinner, finding all attempts to free himself utterly useless, and despairing of deliverance, abandons himself at last to his passions and no longer tries to restrain them. Despairing, they have given themselves up to lasciviousness, unto the working of all uncleanness, unto covetousness (Eph. iv. 19).
When a man is held in bondage by his own temperament, he can but desire that it should be changed, renewed ; that some force outside himself should make another man of him. A passionate, choleric friend will tell us this again and again, when we remonstrate with him for his impatience, his irritability, his outbreaks of rage and violence. He tells us that it is quite impossible for him to rid himself of this tyranny of angry temper which dominates him, that he resists it some times, but that in the long run it gets the better of him ; and that if a life more self-controlled, more gentle, more patient, is required of him, there is nothing to be done but to make altogether a new man of him. Now what feeble, impotent nature demands is exactly what grace offers to that nature to enable it to effect the work of reformation ; for conversion is a new birth. The whole man is renewed, from the very seat of life, his heart ; for that heart is crushed, broken, shattered to atoms, and a new heart is given to him by Him Who hath made the hearts of every one of them (Ps. xxxii. 15). In order, says St. Augustine, to create a pure heart, the impure heart must be broken. The source of the stream being turned aside, that stream must of necessity take a new course.
Now if grace can conquer inclination, it will also overcome habit ; for what is habit but a confirmed inclination ? Yes, confirmed, strengthened with a terrible strength, but yet a strength which is weakness compared with that of the Divine Spirit urging us on to victory. If the ice of that frozen heart has to be melted, the Spirit of God breathes upon it and the ice is broken up, and the tears of repentance flow freely. His wind shall blow and the waters shall run (Ps. ciiil. 7). Or if some more violent force must be brought to bear upon the rebellious sinner, God will send His whirlwind, the blast of the Mighty, beating against a wall (Isa. xxv. 4), that Spirit of the Lord which overthrows the mountains (3 Kings xix. n). Though you may be hurrying along the downward path which leads to eternal death, more swiftly than the Jordan rushes to the sea, yet Divine grace can stop your rapid course. Though you might be half dead, and fallen into decay and corruption from your sins, that grace can raise you to life again like Lazarus. Only pay heed to the warning of the Apostle: Receive not the grace of God in vain.
Yet we must sadly own that we see but few results of the working of this grace ; looking about us in the world, we can note only here and there such reformation of life and conduct as would deserve to be called a new birth. And the explanation of this great evil is that we receive the grace of penance with too little seriousness and too little severity towards ourselves ; we weaken the effect of the grace by our own softness and self-indulgence. There is a species of repentance so feeble and so languid that it throws no energy into any of its purposes of amendment. When we do penance in that way, there is never any great change of life effected, and no splendid victory over our evil habits need be expected. Such is the condition of our nature that well-doing must of necessity cost us some thing. We must eat our bread in the sweat of our brow (Gen. iii. 19) ; penance, in order to be efficacious, must necessarily be a violence done to ourselves. And why ? Because anger and indignation express themselves in violent motions, and St. Augustine tells us that penance is nothing else than a holy indignation against ourselves.
The same great penitent says : / grieve and humble myself beyond all measure. His sighs and laments were not like the gentle mourning of a dove, but rather like the roaring of a lion ; they were the passionate groan- ings of a man stung to a sort of fury by his own vices, unable to endure his own languor, weakness, cowardice. Finding intolerable to him his continual falls, his re lapses into sins which he now abhors, the penitent only longs to free himself from the society which had been his ruin, he wants nothing but seclusion and solitude ; he is, in the words of the Psalmist, like a night-raven in the house (Ps. ci. 7). In this solitude, in this retirement from the world, he can give full vent to his indignation against himself. He shudders over what he has been and is, he makes the most strenuous efforts to acquire habits different from those which have hitherto been to him as a second nature ; in order, says St. Augustine himself, that the habit of sin may yield to the violence of penance.
Thus it is that we overcome our inclinations and habits. And if you ask me why such violence is needed, the answer is very simple. The conversion of the sinner is a new birth ; and it is the curse of our fallen nature that pain must attend on every human birth : in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children (Gen. iii. 16). This is why penance is so laborious ; it has its groans, it has its travail, because it is the bringing forth of children. A new man must be brought forth, and in doing this the old man must suffer. But in the midst of all this pain and distress, never forget the words of the Gospel : A woman, when she is in labour, hath sorrow, because her hour is come ; but when she hath brought forth the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world (John xvi. 21). Amid these labours and pains of penance, bear in mind that you are bringing forth a child and that that child is yourself. If it is so deep a consolation to have given life and the light of this world to another, that it makes all past anguish forgotten in an instant, what rapture must it not be to feel and know that we have brought our own individual selves into the glorious light that never fades, and to that new life which is immortal. Fear not then, sinners, the pains of this child-bearing which brings with it salvation ; perpetuate not your race but your own being ; preserve not your name but your very self, your whole body and spirit.
Virgins of Jesus Christ, this is the child-bearing which God ordains for you : bring forth sanctity ; renew yourselves in the Lord, amid the pangs and sorrows of penance ; let sinners see, by your example, how nature may be overcome even in her strongest inclinations ; declare a holy war against vice, especially in its most secret, plausible, hidden form, that form in which it rears itself upon the ruin of all the other vices. And as for us, let us at once put our finger upon the festering sore in ourselves. What, you are afraid ! You dare not touch the wound, or apply the knife to eradicate it ! But consider a moment. Is it not better to do a little violence to ourselves here below, to suffer the pangs of the new birth, rather than to die eternally ? Walk whilst you have the light (John xii. 35). Do not abuse the time which God accords you.
God Who desires not the death of a sinner but rather that he should be converted, is not contented with stirring and rousing His guilty children by the voice of the preacher ; He would have all nature invite them to penance ; for the continual succession of days and years are as the voice of the whole universe testifying to His patience, while they warn sinners not to abuse the time which He gives them. Knowest thou not, says the Apostle, that the benignity of God leadeth thee to penance ? or despisest thou the riches of His goodness and patience (Rom. ii. 4), which give thee time to repent? It is this grace especially which the Apostle warns you not to allow to slip from you without bearing fruit, for he adds : / have heard thee in an accepted time (2 Cor. vi. 2).
In order thoroughly to comprehend the value and the merit of such a grace, we must before all things con sider that time may be regarded from two points of view : either as it measures itself, by hours, days, and years, or as it impinges upon eternity. Looking at it from the first point of view, I know that time is no thing, because it has neither form nor substance, because its whole being consists in passing away ; that is to say, its whole being consists in perishing, con sequently its whole being is nothing. My life is measured by time ; therefore it is that my substance is nothing, being bound up as it is with time which is itself nothing : Behold Thou hast made my days measurable, and my substance is as nothing before Thee (Ps. xxxviii. 6).
Ah ! how strange a thing is this ! Time is nothing, and yet when we lose time we lose everything. Who shall solve this enigma for us ? The truth is this. Time which in itself is nothing has been appointed by God to serve as a passage to eternity. Tertullian says : Time is like a great veil, a vast curtain, which is stretched before eternity and which hides it from us. To reach eternity we must pass through this curtain. It is the good use of time which gives us a right to what lies beyond it ; and I cannot wonder that the pious souls who live enclosed by holy rule, are so scrupulously careful in the disposal of every moment, seeing that these moments moments in themselves less than no thing, a shadow, a vapour are yet, in their bearing upon eternity, of infinite weight and importance, and that there is in consequence nothing more criminal than to receive such a grace in vain.
I will not dwell further on the sorrowful fact of the small esteem in which this grace is generally held, or of the ease with which men allow it to slip from them and be lost. Those who act thus justify themselves, it is true ; but when they tell us openly that they are only thinking how to pass their time, they show us plainly enough how easily they lose it. But what can be the cause that men who grasp so eagerly after wealth and all the good things of this life, and hold to them so tenaciously, yet suffer one of their most precious treasures to slip so easily from their hands ? There are, I find, two causes : one proceeding from ourselves, the other from this same time of which we are speaking.
As regards ourselves, it is not difficult to understand why time escapes from us so easily : it is because we do not wish to take note of its flight. For whether it is that in observing its progress we become aware that the end of our earthly existence draws nearer and nearer, and that we want to keep this sad prospect in the background, or that owing to a certain slothfulness we know not how to employ our time, most undoubtedly true it is that there is nothing we dread so much as to be made to realize its flight. How wearisome are these long sad days, every hour and every moment of which we count, weighed down by their intolerable heaviness, feeling as if they would never come to an end ! Thus time is to us a heavy load which we can scarcely bear when we feel it pressing on our shoulders. This is why we neglect no possible artifice which may prevent our being conscious of it ; and such precautions do we take to deceive ourselves as to its passage, that I am not at all surprised at our failing to notice our having lost it. Our one desire often is so to keep it velvet-shod in soft delights that its noiseless footfall as it passes from us is altogether unheeded.
But if we try to deceive ourselves in this matter, time does its part and also helps to strengthen the illusion. Time, says St. Augustine, is an imitation of eternity. A feeble imitation, I own ; yet fugitive as it is, time tries to simulate the stability of those never- ending years. Eternity is always the same. Now as time cannot equal it in performance, it tries to do so by swift succession ; and this is the means which it employs to deceive us. It takes away one day, it gives us in its place another ; it cannot hold back this year which is passing, but it allows another to glide into the empty space left by its predecessor, and they look so much alike that there is no reason for regret. In this way it imposes upon our feeble imagination, so easily deceived, so slow to distinguish the real from the counterfeit ; and, if I am not mistaken, this is the malice of time against which the Apostle warns us when he says : Redeeming the time because the days are evil (Eph. v. 16). Redeem the time because the days are evil, that is to say, malevolent or malicious. We scarcely notice that a year has passed away, because it seems to revive in the next. Thus we hardly observe the flight of time, because in spite of its perpetual variations it shows us almost always the same face. This is the great evil, this is the mighty obstacle to penance.
Yet in the end the truth is unmasked. Feeble limbs, grey hairs, a visible alteration in every line and feature, nay, in the whole being, constrain us to realize that a great portion of that being is breaking down, falling into decrepitude, even ceasing to exist. But do not forget that the malice of time is still on the watch to deceive you ; see how the subtle impostor tries to save appearances, how he persists in his attempted imitation of eternity. It is the property of eternity to preserve things always in the same condition ; time, in order to approximate to its great rival in some small degree, only robs us of our faculties, our advantages, our cherished possessions of mind and body, by slow degrees ; he despoils us of our goods in so subtle a manner that we are scarcely conscious of his thefts ; he leads us on so gradually step by step to the end that we arrive at it without having thought what we were doing or what was before us. Ezechias was not conscious of his swiftly passing life ; when he had reached his fortieth year he thought that life was only just beginning : While I was but beginning He cut me off (Isa. xxxviii. 12). Thus the deceitful malignity of time makes life pass on insensibly, and we give no thought to the business of our conversion. Suddenly, and when we are least thinking about it, we fall into the arms of death ; we are not conscious that our end is drawing near until we have actually reached it. And this it is again which misleads us ; as far as our sight can reach we always see time stretch ing out before us. It is quite true that it is before us, but yet perhaps we shall never be able to reach it. Amid all these illusions, we are so much deceived that we actually do not know ourselves, we cannot tell what to think as to the length of our life. Sometimes we regard it as long ; at other times, as short. It is always too short for the indulgence of our passions and our sinful pleasures ; always too long for penance. Hear what the voluptuous say : Let us not lose the flower of our age, let us crown ourselves with roses before they wither
(Wisdom ii. 7-8). Think you that they would disturb their luxury of enjoyment by the thought of death, that they would allow so gloomy an image to intrude upon them and sadden them ? They do think of it no doubt, but only as an incentive urging them to enjoy to the full pleasures so fleeting ; Let us eat and drink, they cry, for to-morrow we die (Isa. xxii. 13). Well, I am rejoiced to find that after all you recognize the shortness of life. As you do recognize it, think also at last of the penance which you have so long deferred, and do not receive the grace of God in vain. But now they suddenly change their tone ; and this life, only too short for their riotous self-indulgence, becomes all at once so long in their estimation that they think they are quite at liberty to spend a large portion of it in their unlawful pleasures. ye sons of men, how long will you be dull of heart ? (Ps. iv. 3). How long will you suffer yourselves to be deceived in this way, as to the lapse of time ? when will you honestly acknowledge to yourselves that life is short ? are you going to wait to do so, till you are drawing your last breath ? But, however it may be, whether you are in the first flower of your age or in the prime of life, the Apostle reminds us all that the time is at hand. The days crowd one behind the other, each pushing the other on : we hold back the day of penance, till at last it is lost in the throng. Oh, time which the eternal patience of God grants to sinners to be to them a haven of refuge, must it only be to them a shoal on which their vessel founders! We have time, let us be converted ! We have time, let us continue in sin ! There is the port, there too is the fatal reef. Consider, sinner, the power which you have received to make a good use of time : that is the port in which the wise find safety. Consider the madness of those who always put off the day of penance : that is the shoal on which the presumptuous founder.
But we still have time before us, such is the bold assertion of sinners, who in their temerity and assumption of knowledge stop short at nothing. I would ask them to notice this. The Son of God Himself teaches us that the knowledge of times and seasons is one of the secrets which the Father has put into His own power (Acts i. 7). In order to silence human curiosity at once and for ever, Jesus Christ when questioned upon the subject says that He Himself knows it not (Mark xiii. 32). Let us take these words in their simple and literal sense. Our Lord speaks as the Ambassador of the Eternal Father and His Interpreter for us ; what has not been imparted to Him for our instruction is unknown to Him in His capacity of Envoy and Deputy from God to man ; although, at the same time, He, being equal to the Father, sharing all His Divine attributes and being of one and the same nature with Him, knows this and all else perfectly and absolutely. For whatever way we may understand and interpret these words, we must always come to the conclusion that the knowledge of times and seasons, and especially as regards our own last moments, is one of the secret mysteries which it is God s will to keep concealed from His faithful people ; and that He hides from us that last day in order that we may be watchful and observant every day of our lives. And yet where will the boundless arrogance of human nature stop ? Man in his presumptuous audacity would philosophize about time and try to penetrate the darkness of the future ! But my words are useless ; O Lord Jesus, speak Thyself to them, and confound these hard hearts ! When we speak to them of the judgments of God, they say that this vision in Ezechiel will not be so soon accomplished, it is prophesied of times afar off (Ezech. xii. 27). When we try to scare them with the terrors of death, they flatter themselves that they have still many a year to live. But Jesus Christ brings the matter more closely home to them. Listen to His words, showing them that Divine Justice, stirred to wrath and indignation by their sins, is ready to strike : Now the axe is laid to the root of the tree (Matt. iii. 10).
But, sinners, I am ready to grant that you have still a little time left to you. Well then, if so, why do you delay your conversion ? Why do you not begin to-day? Are you afraid that your penance will be a day too long? What ! not content with being a criminal, you want to prolong the period of your crime ! you wish your life to be both evil and long ! you wish to offer this insult to God, always asking for time and always losing it ; for up to your last moment you go on refusing and rejecting the precious things which He offers to you. That last moment, says St. Chrysostom, is a time for making a last will and testament, rather than for receiving the Holy Mysteries. Do not be one of those who put off learning to know themselves till they have lost consciousness ; who wait, almost until the physician has given them up, to ask for the priest to absolve them ; who despise their soul so utterly that they never think about saving it until their body is despaired of.
Do penance before the physician is at your bedside, giving you hours which it is not in his power to give, measuring out the moments of your life by a solemn shake of the head, ready to philosophize admirably upon the nature and the course of your malady, after death. Do not wait to set about your conversion, till your ears are half closed by the dulness of approaching death, so that those who stand about you can scarcely extort from your parched lips a faintly breathed yes or no ; till the priest is struggling to prevail over your greedy heirs or your poor clamorous servants, who are pressing you to make your will or entreating you not to forget to reward their services, while he has only the one thought and care of urging you to receive the Last Sacraments. Be converted now in good time ; do not wait till sickness gives you this salutary advice ; let the thought come from God, not from the wasting fever or the racking anguish of mortal pain ; from reason and not from necessity ; from Divine authority, not from compulsion. Give yourself to God freely, not with constraint and disquietude. If penance is a gift of God, celebrate this Sacrament not in a time of mourning, but in one of joy. Since your conversion is to bring joy to the Angels, it is miserably inappropriate to begin it when your friends and relations are weeping and mourning. If your body is a victim which you must sacrifice to God, consecrate to Him a living victim ; if it is a precious talent which must bear interest in your hands, invest it wisely at once, and do not wait to give it back to Him till you have been obliged to bury it in the earth. After having been the sport of time, take care lest you be the sport of penance, lest it make a pretence of giving itself to you, when all the time it is only mocking you with counterfeit emotions ; beware lest, instead of doing penance in a Christian manner, you should in the end depart from this life after having only made to Almighty God a sort of apology, such as will not deliver you from the punishment due to your sins. Behold, now is the accepted time ;
behold, now is the day of salvation (2 Cor. vi. 2). Avoid the rock on which impenitence will wreck you ; seek the haven into which the goodness of God invites you, and in which His mercy will for ever shelter you.
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.|
|From the Raccolta #643, (Secretariat of Briefs, March 11, 1856; S. P. Ap., March 7, 1932).
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.
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Sermon on the Apostleship of Prayerby Rev. Father Ramiere, S.J.
Book on the Apostleship of Prayerby Rev. Father Ramiere, S.J.
>“My country has hurt me,”wrote a young poet in 1944 during the purge1when the head of state [Charles De Gaulle] implacably pursued the sinister job that had been in the works for more than four years. My country hurt me: this is not a truth that one shouts from the rooftop. It is rather a secret one whispers to oneself, with great sorrow, while trying nonetheless to keep hope. When I was in Spain during the 1950’s, I remember the extreme reserve with which friends, regardless of their political allegiance, would let escape certain details about “our war.” Their country was still hurting them. But when it is no longer a question of one's temporal motherland, when it is a question, not of the Church considered in herself, for from this perspective she is holy and indefectible, but of the visible head of the Church; when it is question of the current holder of the Roman primacy, how shall we come to grips with it, and what is the right tone to adopt as we acknowledge to ourselves in a low voice: Ah! Rome has hurt me!< Roman" size="4">Undoubtedly, the publications of the “good” Catholic press will not fail to inform us that, in the last 2,000 years, the Lord’s Church has never known such a splendid pontificate! But who takes these pronouncements of the establishment’s hallelujah choir seriously? When we see what is being taught and practiced throughout the Church under today’s pontificate, or rather when we observe what has ceased to be taught and practiced, and how an apparent Church, which passes itself off as the real Church, no longer knows how to baptize children, bury the dead, worthily celebrate holy Mass, absolve sins in confession; when we apprehensively watch the spread of Protestantizing influences swelling like a contaminated tide without the holder of supreme power energetically giving the order to lock the sluice gate; in a word, when we face up to what is happening, we are obliged to say: Ah! Rome has hurt me....\
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