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The Origins of the Rosary

The Origins of the Rosary 
Fr. M. J. Frings

“The Highest himself hath founded her.”—Ps. Ixxxvi.

My dear brethren, in our consideration on the rosary let us to-day reflect upon its origin.

Its origin and age bestow on this devotion a great dignity. From the earliest times of Christianity it has been the custom of the Christians to observe in their prayers method and perseverance. Thus it was the custom of the hermits of the Orient, as far back as the fourth century, to devise a sequence of certain prayers, which they counted on pebbles. We also know that long ago in England a so-called Paternoster-cord was used for this purpose. St. Gregory, at the end of the fourth century, spoke of such a method of devotion in veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This pious bishop thought a wreath of spiritual roses would be more pleasing to the blessed Virgin than the natural roses with which the faithful adorned her altar. He selected, therefore, a number of prayers, in praise of the blessed Virgin, and united them into a wreath. And this was the origin of the rosary, woven by pious hands for the veneration of Mary, the mystical rose.

In the fifth century, St. Brigid urgently commended the devotion of the rosary, and she chose as its prayers the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Creed, and united them into a wreath of prayers. In order to count their recital she strung little beads of stone or wood and made a wreath of them.

This custom subsequently spread through all Christian lands, and through the centuries, to our own days. That this devotion was always in great favor and esteem among pious Christians may be concluded from the fact that in the grave of St. Norbert, who died in 1134, a rosary similar to ours was found.

We have proof, then, that the devotion of the rosary, such as we have it, was practiced already in the early days of Christianity. And it was practiced not only by monks and nuns, but found adherents among all the faithful.

The particular manner in which we now pray the rosary was brought into vogue by St. Dominic. This is attested by the tradition of six centuries. Twelve Popes bear witness to this fact. We will now speak of the introduction by St. Dominic, and will also refer to the great efficacy of this devotion since its inception. May our reflections contribute to the greater honor of God, and of the glorious Queen of the rosary.

The devotion of the rosary in its present form dates its origin from the thirteenth century, and St. Dominic was selected by God as the instrument of its introduction. Spain was the home of this great saint. In one of the valleys of Castile there is situated an humble little village named Calarunga, where his parents possessed a small estate. He was born there in the year 1170. While being baptized his sponsor saw, as if in a vision, a brilliant star over the forehead of the future saint, shedding its brilliant light through the church. As Dominic advanced in years he increased in wisdom, virtue and piety. In due time he devoted himself to theology, believing that in this pursuit alone he could find the wisdom of God. Not in the pleasures of this world, but in the knowledge of God, he sought his pastime. His favorite place was the church and the solitude of the sanctuary.

Two incidents from his schooldays throw a light upon his character. At the time of a famine Dominic gave all that he possessed to the poor, even all but the necessary clothes, and when he had nothing more to give, he sold even his beloved books and gave the proceeds to the poor. When berated by people for his excessive generosity, he said: “How could I dare indulge in these lifeless books, when human lives are in danger of starva­tion?” At another time St. Dominic met a woman who was weeping bitterly because she had no money with which she could release her brother, who had been imprisoned by the Saracens. Dominic offered to sell himself into bondage to release this brother; but since God had destined him to release sinful mankind from the bondage of sin, of error and unbelief, He did not permit Dominic to do as he offered.

At the age of twenty-five he was appointed upon the chapter of the cathedral at Osma. Here he was conspicuous among his brethren on account of his humility, holiness, and zeal for prayer. He spent nine years in Osma, during which time divine Providence prepared him for his important and great vocation. This vocation became plain to him when, in the year 1204, he went to France and saw the terrible devastation which the prevailing heresies had wrought against the Church of Christ. The sight of this disaster nearly broke his heart. The poison of heresy had spread among the faithful with great rapidity, and principally in southern France. From the city of Albi the heretics had assumed the name Albigenses.

These Albigenses discarded the doctrines of Christianity and con­structed new doctrines that played havoc with morality and social order. They were violent enemies of Church and State, and preached disobedience and rebellion against spiritual and temporal authority. An enemy of the Church is invariably also an enemy of the State; history and experience prove this.

In southern France the Albigenses secured the support of Prince Raimond, of Toulouse, a wealthy and mighty, but, at the same time, a most godless and immoral prince of that time. He had several wives; associated with heretics, and even gave his children to be educated by them. This prince undertook the leadership of the heretical Albigenses, and with them, and other rabble by which France at that time was overrun, scoured the country, robbing and plundering wherever they went. This lawless band, under the di­rection of this godless prince, robbed churches of their treasures, murdered priests, even tore open the tabernacles and desecrated the most holy Sacrament.

A messenger of Pope Innocent III was murdered by one of these knaves, who then found the protection of this depraved prince. Under these conditions the Pope finally saw the necessity of preaching a crusade against these heretics, who surpassed even the Saracens in the outrages committed. A terrible war then ensued, in which these enemies of Church and State were subdued, but not converted. For this there was necessary an ex­traordinary spiritual effort, and divine Providence had already pre­pared the instrument. St. Dominic was the tool in the hand of God to introduce and apply an efficacious remedy, and this remedy was the rosary.

Dominic had for many years taught the doctrines of the Catholic Church to the heretics, and had converted a number of them, but not enough to satisfy his holy zeal. He often turned with humility to God and besought Him with tears, and deeds of penance, that He might let him know how to accomplish better results. Since childhood he had been a faithful servant of Mary, and had often said that the devotion to her was a powerful means of converting heretics and sinners.

Finally his prayers were heard in a miraculous way. One day, while on his way from Toulouse, Dominic threw himself down on his knees and resolved not to cease praying until his prayers were heard. Then, so the legend tells us, the glorious Queen of heaven appeared to him, spoke words of encouragement, and taught him how to pray the rosary, assuring him that this would be the right weapon to conquer error and sin.

With joy Dominic arose and returned to Toulouse, and began to spread the use of the rosary, as Mary had taught him and in the way we now recite it. He preached this devotion, explained it, and taught the people how to pray it. It proved indeed a most efficacious means for the conversion of apostates, heretics, and sinners. Since the lack of knowledge in matters of faith had been the real cause why heresy so quickly spread, the principal truths of faith and morals were now communicated to the people through the rosary, and the principles of a Christian life were taught them in this most sublime prayer of the Church. This was bound to bring results, and we will give now some thought to these results.

According to the historians of those ages the effects of the rosary sermons of St. Dominic were truly wonderful. In all cities where he preached, the people gathered in great numbers to hear his heaven-inspired words and to pray the rosary with St. Dominic. Sinners were converted, the faithful were strengthened and forti­fied, and many thousands of those who had been led into heresy opened their hearts again to the true faith and returned to the holy Church. The inspired words of St. Dominic met with such splendid results that, even if the tradition did not tell us so, the miraculous effects of this devotion would prove its heavenly inspiration, and Pius IX, Leo XIII, as many Popes before them, have publicly avowed their belief that St. Dominic received the rosary from our blessed Mother.

The promise which Dominic received was fulfilled. Where all other means had failed, the humble prayer of the rosary accom­plished the victory over heresy. Thus divine wisdom and infinite power make use of humble things to effect great achievements. Of this the great work of the redemption gives us an example. God made the Cross the instrument of the redemption. The despised Cross, once a shame and disgrace, was raised on the height of Calvary and became the instrument of the redemption for all the world, the fountain of grace, a blessing for time and eternity, the symbol of victory and glory.

St. Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, writes: “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not in loftiness of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of Christ. For I judge not myself to know anything among you, but Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And my speech and my preaching was not in the persuasive words of human wisdom, but in the showing of the spirit and power. That your faith might not stand on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews indeed a stumbling block, and unto the Gentiles foolishness: But unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God; for the foolishness of God is wiser than men; but the foolish things of the world hath God chosen, that he may confound the strong. That no flesh should glory in his sight” (I Cor. i and ii). And so did God choose the rosary, this humble prayer, to work such great things, that human effort had not been able to accomplish. What an incentive to put all our trust in God, rather than in our own strength!

The devotion of the rosary soon spread from southern France to all other Catholic lands, and all peoples welcomed it with joy and prayed it with great zeal. Rosary societies were formed and approved of by the Popes, and were richly endowed with many indulgences. Ever since there has been no other prayer practiced so diligently as the rosary. And often there have been recorded miraculous effects of this devotion, no less miraculous than the conversion of the heretics in the south of France.

The devotion as now practiced is therefore in use over seven hundred years. The wonderful origin, its great age and the re­markable miracles that were wrought by its use at all times, bestow a great dignity on this devotion.

When we consider the conditions that prevailed at the time of the origin of the rosary, and for the betterment of which divine Providence provided this devotion, we can not fail to realize a similarity of conditions in our own times. Materialism and un­belief, connected with widespread immorality, are now prevalent as they were then. They are causing great injury to Church, State, and homes, and will become more destructive if not checked by the right weapon.

Pope Pius IX, as also Pope Leo XIII, have declared the rosary to be that weapon, and have exhorted Christianity to re­sort to the zealous use of it. If all Christians would follow the ad­vice of these supreme Pontiffs, we should soon see the Catholic faith and good morals come into their own again, and ample bless­ing would, through this devotion, be bestowed upon private and public life. All the insistent endeavors of world-wise scholars and reformers will be of no avail if God’s blessing does not rest upon their work. Only then, when the true faith and a life of faith are made the standard of public and private merit and ethics, will the temporal, no less than the eternal, welfare of nations and of indi­viduals be assured.

Let us, through the rosary, call to Mary for her powerful inter­cession in the battle of the Church against the enemies of faith and morals, and with her intercession we shall be sure of victory. Amen.

New York: Joseph F. Wagner, 1912.
Nihil Obstat: Remigius Lafort, Censor.
Imprimatur: John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

Conversation With God

Conversation With God
Rev. Robert Nash S.J. 

A Common Language

The first essential for conversation is a common language. If you are traveling with a stranger in a train he may have many interesting things to say, and you, no doubt, would like to talk too, or perhaps, in quite exceptional circumstances you would be willing even to listen. But you are both up against a stone wall. He speaks German only, and you English only. After a few attempts to communicate by smiles and signs, you give up the effort, which, plainly, is useless, and you bury yourself once more in the pages of your book.

Prayer is conversation with God. It is the meeting place between God and the soul. To Him the soul addresses itself:

“Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears.”

Perhaps we too often want to monopolize the conversation. We are so anxiously concerned to “get in” a self-imposed program of prayers that there may be a danger lest we speak with our lips only, and our hearts remain far from God. There can be a subtle pride in the feeling of satisfaction that we have said five rosaries and made the Stations three times, and added on the Thirty Days’ Prayer and a few novenas for good measure.

Listen Too

God forbid we should breathe a syllable against such excellent ways of prayer! Our point is that there may be a mistake here. With too many vocal prayers, especially if they tend to develop into parrot prayers, we can become preoccupied with ourselves, to the exclusion of God. God is, of course, anxious to speak, but we will not allow Him! “Mental” prayer is remedy for this tendency to monopolize the conversation.

At the same time our contribution to the conversation is of great importance. Hence the soul adds: “I will speak to my Lord whereas I am but dust and ashes.” Prayer is an audience with God, in which, with infinite condescension He deigns to address the soul, and the soul is emboldened by so much divine courtesy to speak to Him.

Face to Face

This double aspect of prayer is excellently illustrated in the story of Moses. By God’s command he climbed up Mount Sinai. As he walked a cloud began to envelop him round about. After a while he lifted his eyes to see where next to place his foot, and he stood, transfixed and overawed. A ray, of light had penetrated through the cloud and God’s servant was aware that it came from His Face. He fell on his knees, joined his hands, bowed his head low, and remained there on the mountain for full forty days and forty nights. He was admitted to a marvelous intimacy with God in this conversation. “The Lord spoke to Moses, face to face, as a man is wont to speak to his friend.”

During that time Moses “neither ate bread nor drank water”. He was oblivious of all save the one overwhelming fact that he was face to face with God. This tremendous truth absorbed him. The trivialities of the small world – down at the foot of the mountain – seemed so utterly insignificant now, by comparison. When he came back to his people the Israelites, his face was “horned”, luminous with the reflection of the divine light which had shone upon it during that long period. He had to wear a veil else no one could endure the brilliance.

Fifteen minutes’ mental prayer a day is an invitation to you, to enter with Moses into the cloud. There you too must kneel in God’s Presence. There He will speak to you. There you have the ineffable privilege of addressing Him as one friend to another.

Climb the Mountain

All of us probably realize that the mountain is a stiff climb and the temperature of the high altitudes bleak and un-inviting. The temptation is often strong to believe we are getting nowhere with our mental prayer. The cloud folds itself around us sure enough, but the ray of light fails to appear. We are stumbling in a land of fog and rain and blinding snow.

Better have sense and return to the comfort of the snug valley and leave this wild chase after mental prayer.

We shall talk about this temptation later. For the moment we must put down a full-stop. This only we will add — that love is the common language between God and the soul. It can be expressed in English or French or Chinese, but fundamentally it remains the same in every translation. In this conversation, God multiplies assurances and proofs of the love He bears the soul. And the poor soul tries to stammer out its acts of love, painfully conscious of their shortcomings.

It is love which beckons to the soul and encourages it to undertake the difficult ascent. It is love which strengthens the wearying footsteps and sustains the faltering heart. It is love that holds the soul up here where all seems so desolate, almost as desolate as Calvary, whither He climbed too, praying all the while.

 A Common Interest 

Conversation will soon be very boring if you discover that your companion can speak only of sport and you of the forthcoming exam. So much depends for you and for others on the results that you can think of little else. But he shows not even the mildest interest and wants to tell you all about the big match played last week or coming off next Saturday.

You have nothing much in common and you decide, wisely enough, to close down.

But what an enormous difference if you find a point of contact. Suppose your companion has just returned from America. At once you prick up your ears. America — does be perhaps know So and So, who one time used to live in Fifth Avenue, New York. He does. They are very good friends, and So and So and his family were down at the boat to see him off. This is wonderful, for the man in question is your brother. This is almost too good to be true.

Conversation thus sparked off, catches on without difficulty. You have a thousand questions to ask. Time simply flies and when you reach your destination you look in amazement at the name on the station. You glance at your watch, incredulous. You part on the platform but you exchange addresses and you exact a solemn promise that he will call to your house before he goes back to America.

It was the subject of common interest which made all the difference between a dull forced effort to keep the talk going and the eager spontaneous flow of talk which you found absorbing. Wouldn’t it be rather wonderful if something like this were to happen in our mental prayer? This is a conversation with God, and if He and we were deeply interested in the same things, our complaints about dryness and futility ought to die a natural death. If we can find out what He is interested in, and if a like interest be awakened in ourselves, then our mental prayer should no longer be stilted and irksome. It should develop into a more easy, informal relationship, full of reverence indeed but at the same time approaching close to “holy familiarity with God”.

Now what is God interested in most of all? Suppose you take your stand this evening at a bus queue in any Street of the city. Look around you. On every side you see a seething mass of humanity. A policeman on point duty; the different buses pulling up and disgorging passengers — an old woman who must climb out slowly and delays those impatient behind her, a pair of lovers who must, perforce, un-join hands for a few seconds — then the bus takes on another group from your queue and passes. A little boy in ragged clothes wants to sell you an evening paper. The shops are still open and prospective buyers stare in at the windows or loiter in the entrances.

Gaze Into Soul

Now Jesus Christ watches those crowds as you do. He is, indeed, deeply concerned about their material affairs — their state of health, the job they are after, the sickness in the family, what you will. But, far and above all these, the supreme interest in His mind is the soul of each of those thousands of persons. For in each that is what He discerns. His gaze penetrates below the ragged coat of the newsboy and sees his immortal soul. He reads the secrets of hearts like the pages of an open book. If in a soul He sees mortal sin, the sight is revolting and causes Him acute agony. If he sees a soul radiant with the light of divine grace, living with divine life; the sight fills Him with joy.

But the one point to note is that the soul, its state, its presence, its future destiny, is the interest that absorbs Him. So true is this that if we were to ask Him to summarize all His teaching, He would probably repeat His momentous question:

“What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”

If we can talk about the souls of men, then, to Jesus in our prayer; if when we are invited to a conversation with Him, we have developed an interest in the salvation and sanctification of souls, we shall assuredly have found a subject of common interest and the conversation cannot but flow freely. Other subjects need not be excluded, but this one must always dominate. Indeed all others are worth discussing and considering, only in so far as they affect the welfare of the souls of man.

 Over The Wall

A child aged three was toddling along the road, clinging firmly to father’s right hand. A high wall skirted the pathway -and they heard the strains of a band playing on the other side. But the child was anxious to see as well as hear, and so Daddy took him in his strong arms and lifted him up high. From this point of vantage he can enjoy a perfect view and he proceeds to dilate on the wonders he sees, for the benefit of anyone who is willing to listen.

Something like this happens, at least from time to time, in the soul’s conversation with God in prayer. A glimpse is granted of, the relative importance of the temporal and the eternal. The heavenly Father lifts the soul and allows it to see what things God has prepared for those who love Him. There is a revelation, a new heaven and a new earth. On the other side of the wall is eternity. From even this fleeting glimpse the soul recognizes, with a clarity quite impossible to express, that nothing is worthy of consideration except getting there.

An Earnest Desire

The child gave signs to the father that it was anxious to be lifted up and see over the wall. The soul, too, must prove to God and to itself that it is in earnest in desiring to develop an interest in souls. This may well mean that it suppress or even sacrifice wholly, alien interests.

Apart from sin, the soul can cling to a thousand things which dim its powers of spiritual vision. The world is all around us, and nothing is easier than to allow it to push its wares and press them upon us with such persistence, that they end by assuming in our eyes an importance which they do not possess in actual fact.

I could not help overhearing a conversation in a bus lately. Two girls were talking and for some fifteen minutes their discussion turned on films, dances, dress, and holidays. Admittedly all four topics have their importance, but one got the impression that the girls thought of almost nothing else. If the impression was correct you can safely conclude that their prayer was superficial. They had no desire to see over the wall for the simple reason that they did not even suspect what was there. They were preoccupied with trifles, and, if you had seen the other side, you could feel nothing for them but compassion for their loss. It was calamitous to be satisfied with so little, or fail to realize that there was so much more.

Trespassers Prosecuted

What all this resolves itself into is that there is no chance of growth in prayer without a spirit of self-sacrifice. There are many trespassers in the soul which is God’s property and they must be ruthlessly prosecuted. The soul is God’s temple and like the Master, the soul must expel all intruders — the buyers and sellers who turn the house of God into a den of traffic.

Lent is an invitation to penance. What are we to give up and what are we to take up? The question may not be limited to the Lenten season. The hard saying of Our Lord holds for the twelve months of every year: “Unless a man renounce everything that he possesses, he cannot be My disciple.” This renunciation demands that we lay the axe to the root by controlling our desires for anything in which God may not share fully in order to succeed, it will often be necessary to go without, even in those things which are lawful.

It is noteworthy that Our Lord, immediately after He had laid down this condition which human nature in us finds so hard, proceeded at once to tell us about the Good Shepherd and the Prodigal Son. Mental prayer is not meant to be a struggle all the time. There are delights too, and these God grants with a lavish hand, when they are for the soul’s benefit.

When once the soul has tasted them it realizes that any sacrifice is a small price to pay for such inundation of joy. We need encouragement. People who give us a lop-sided view of the difficulties and trials of prayer are like a doctor displaying for his patient the knife to be used for the operation, and the knife only.

A Pattern

The Gospel according to St. Mark lies open before me. Here is the 35th verse of his first chapter: “And rising very early, going out, He (Our Lord) went into a desert place, and there He prayed.” Long ago God ordered Moses to build a tabernacle according to a pattern; here is God’s Son giving us a perfect pattern for our mental prayer.

Perhaps one of the most effective ways of making our prayer is simply to summon up before our mind’s eye some scene in the life of Christ. Then put yourself into that scene. Look and observe what is going on, who are there, what they are saying and doing, and speak to them just exactly as if you were actually present.

Let’s try it with this verse from St. Mark. The first detail to notice is the time chosen by Our Lord for prayer. It was early morning. If you read the preceding verses you will find that He had had a toilsome day yesterday. But no long sleep for Him next morning. He is up “very early” and at His prayer.

The Best Time

Hence the importance of the precise period during, which you make your time of mental prayer. No hard and fast rule can be laid down; you must experiment and try to discover the time when you seem to do best. It may be in the stillness of night, or on your way home from work in the evening. It is noteworthy, at the same time, that the founders of the Religious Orders have consistently assigned the early morning as the time of prayer.

Our blessed Lord is just as particular about the place for His prayer. “Going out, He went into a desert place.” He did not, indeed, seek this solitude because it was in some way necessary for Him, as though He wanted to avoid distractions. In His case there could be no possible distraction because He always saw the Face of His Father in the beauty and glory of the Beatific Vision. He was as intimately united with His Father in the crowded streets as in the trackless deserts.

But we are very different. St. Teresa calls that restless imagination of ours “the fool of the house”. For us it is imperative to leave nothing to chance where our prayer is concerned. Hence Our Lord seeks solitude for our instruction and example. We live such a noisy whirlpool existence; the world about us seems to have developed a cult of noise. We must escape if we want to pray well. If escape is genuinely impossible, then a loving God will compensate in His own way. But normally we must choose our place of prayer with the care we employ in selecting a site for a new building.

A Desert Place

That is why an enclosed retreat is beyond all praise. In your ordinary prayer, you may find some quiet church or convent chapel, or you may find tranquillity in your room at home. Anyhow, look for the spot where you are free of noise and noisy people. “Going out, He went into a desert place.”

“There He prayed.” It is significant that “Simon and they that were with him,” missed Him. Perhaps they were not up so early! They knew where to look for Him and we are permitted to imagine them, standing and watching their Master as He still continues to kneel and they wait for Him to finish. With them we can form a picture of the praying Christ. We can observe the position He takes up; probably He knelt, but whatever the position was, we can be certain it indicated deep reverence.

Perhaps our failures in prayer might be attributed to the position we assume. If we know that by sitting down we shall soon be drowsy, we should not sit. “The kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent bears it away.”

Look again, and this time note the obvious humility of the praying Christ. As man he prays on behalf of us sinners, and as our mediator with His Father and our Father. By his example He teaches you and me to imitate the humility of the publican who struck his breast and exclaimed: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

Finally, as we watch, we may admire the perseverance of His prayer. His apostles have come to fetch Him; they warn Him “all seek You.” But, as again in Gethsemane, ‘He prayed the longer.’

What a wealth there is of thought in that one verse of St. Mark, material for several conversations with God.

 Light And Shade 

On Holy Thursday night our Lord was kneeling in prayer. Presently He falls flat on His face. A sweat breaks out through the pores of His body. It is not natural sweat merely. It is mixed with blood and it saturates His clothes and from them falls in drops to the ground.

Praying in Christ

It ought not to be difficult, in our prayer, to come here in spirit and kneel down beside Him. From the many thoughts which might suggest themselves, let us select one or two. First, our prayer, here or anywhere else, now or at any other time, is to be made not only with Christ but in Christ. We form part of His Mystical Body, and this implies, — among other magnificent truths — that it is His Will and intention to prolong, to continue, in us, the prayer He made in his life here on earth. He would employ us, use our faculties, our minds, hearts, wills, and bodies, as the instruments by means of which He would go on praying right up to the end of time.

Christ Lives In Me

Hence St. Paul wrote that inspiring if somewhat startling sentence: “I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me.” He repeats this over and over again. When, then, we kneel for our mental prayer — or for any prayer at all — it is the Will of Our Lord to pray through us. The prayer is not so much ours as His. Why don’t we think more of this stunning fact and work out its implications?

At once it becomes clear that if in Gethsemane His prayer was filled with sorrow, with loneliness, with apparent failure, then His prayer in us must, at least sometimes, take on the same characteristics. Here is the answer to those of us who experience nothing in our prayer but weariness and desolation. Here is the proof that our prayer can be real and efficacious when we seem to ourselves to spend the time wondering if the clock is stopped.

St. Teresa, wonderful ‘woman of prayer’ that she was, tells, us — and God bless her for it — that at times she felt such weariness in her mental prayer that she would shake the hourglass to make the sand pass the more quickly from one section to the other. She had to try to resist that urge, but she did not, always succeed. For us the urge will be to fiddle with our wrist-watch and look at it every few minutes to make sure we don’t remain too long!

‘What would St. Ignatius tell us?’ When you are inclined to shorten your prayer, do the very opposite. You want to clip off five minutes; add on five extra instead! This is sound psychology. Try it. In the few extra minutes a generous God often rewards the soul with many lights and graces.

Keep On Doing Your Best

At the same time, it is vitally necessary to insist that, if weariness is no indication of failure, so, on the other hand, sweetness and delight and consolation do not necessarily mean that we are making the best possible prayer. Two people might come for their prayer into the same church. One is filled with all sorts of spiritual happiness. God seems so very near. His love is experienced so vividly. Some word from His lips fills the soul with enthusiasm, or ardent desires to sacrifice one’s all for Him. Splendid, this, and it is His gift, to be accepted with humility and gratitude.

To that soul St. Ignatius would say: “Remember all this will change; perhaps in a day or an hour you will have lost these grand feelings. Do not be surprised, and above all, do not abandon prayer. Consolation is God’s gift. It he withdraws it, go on just the same, doing your poor best.”

The other person in that church kneels also to pray. He tries a book. It seems dry. He remembers what he heard about scenes in Our Lord’s Life. He can recall not one of them definitely this evening. Or if he can, he cannot steady that wretched imagination of his. He shifts from one knee to the other; perhaps he sits up in the hope of doing better; he shuts his eyes to aid concentration. Nothing seems to help. Mental prayer is a mirage. He decides to give it up. “And (Jesus), being in an agony, prayed the longer.” Was His prayer a mirage in Gethsemane? Is His prayer in you a mirage because, like Him, you find it hard?

God In Her

A girl of eighteen was kneeling in prayer in a church. A hardened sinner, years from the sacraments, stumbled in too, unable to say why. A priest walked down the aisle. “Father, will you hear my confession?” says the till now hardened one. “I know I need to go. It’s that girl — can’t you see God in her . . . . . ?” He was right; God was in her, the Son of God, continuing His prayer with that girl as His instrument. What marvels of grace He can do through His instrument if only it will allow Him!


St. Aloysius is declared officially by the Church to be the special patron of youth. One reason for this is that it seems certain he never lost his baptismal innocence, though he was assailed by fierce temptations against purity. He died a Jesuit student when he was just beginning his twenty-fourth year.

We mention him here because we want to tell you how he handled his distractions in prayer. He used to propose to himself to make one entire hour (not just fifteen minutes!) without a single distraction. He would remain motionless all that time, in the same position, and, if even towards the end of the hour, he had some slight distraction, he would begin all over again. By this heroic perseverance he gained wonderful self-mastery, a control over his imagination so complete that there came a day when he found it difficult not .to keep thinking of God. Once, in an illness, the doctor advised him to try to ease strain by thinking less about God. He tried, but found it impossible. It was far easier to remember God’s continual presence than to forget it.

Should you and I adopt his method of dealing with our distractions? A general answer would be hard to give. It is conceivable that in a given case some violence of the kind would be the right remedy. Once when St. Francis of Assisi was at prayer, his eyes wandered contentedly to a little cup be had carved in his leisure moments, so that he paid hardly any attention to the psalms he was saying. Suddenly he realized his distraction, and in his zeal seized the beaker that had taken his thoughts from God and threw it into the fire.

A Priceless Treasure

Whenever we think of their methods it must at least be clear that the saints were determined to become men of prayer. They realized, not merely believed, that prayer is a treasure of great price, worth the selling of anything else. It may well be that what is wrong with our prayer is just that it lacks that holy violence which faces distractions with the determination of a pugilist in the ring.

Another way of dealing with distractions may be just as effective. Why not make our distractions themselves a prayer? Suppose a mother is sitting at the fire, with her little son on her knee. She is telling him a story — incidentally, our excellent mothers should often tell the gripping stories of the Gospel. Halfway through, the child gets a distraction. People start cheering loudly in the street below. The child’s natural curiosity is aroused. He forgets all about the grand story, clambers down from mother’s knee, and pulls her over to the window.

Could you imagine any mother who would object or be offended that her wonderful tale is dismissed thus summarily? Why, she cares only for the contentment of her child and she is quite happy to try to answer his questions about the persons gathered below. The child has had a distraction during the conversation with mother, and they turn the distraction itself into subject-matter for discussion.

During your prayer your mind wanders, perhaps, to someone you met in the office today. Why not pray with your whole heart for him or her? You begin to think of the good news you received in a letter this morning. Why not lift up your heart in an act of joyous gratitude to God? Your approaching holidays loom pleasantly before your mind. Can’t you ask God to bless them, and Mary to share all your relaxations? Can’t you pray against accidents, can’t you go on to pray for some poor person or persons killed in a car smash?

A Common Interest

What we have to try to understand is that when Our Lord assures us He loves us He is not speaking the language of mere rhetoric. He means just what He says. Now one of the delights of friendship is that your friend and you can talk to each other about any subject under the sun. The fact that that subject interests you makes it interesting at once for your friend also.

Do you imagine the divine Friend is not interested in your holiday, in the mistake you made in your accounts, in the worry you have about your son in England, in the physical pain you have begun to feel, in everything and everyone, in fact, who interests or distracts you? Do we forget that we are, not only God’s children, but ‘God’s little children’, and what little child ever found it difficult to speak to a parent who loves it, even, or especially, about its “distractions?”

“Pray Like This” 

A workman used to visit the church every evening. He would spend hours there, kneeling or sitting quietly. The priest became interested and talked to him about his prayer. How did he pray? He never used a book or beads, did not make the Way of the Cross very often. So what did he use? “Father,” he answered, “the only instruction I got on prayer which really helped me was given me by a holy priest when I was quite young. ‘My son,’ he told me, ‘when you want to pray, all you have to do is to bring before your mind some scene in the gospel, look, at the persons in it, hear what they are saying, watch what they are doing. Then speak, now to one of them, then to another, exactly as you would do if you were actually present there.’ I have told many about this simple method, Father. It has helped myself enormously and I know that the others have advanced much more than I by praying like this.”

Follow Mary

St. Luke tells the story of Our Lady’s Visitation in his first chapter. “Mary,” he writes in verse 39, “rising up in those days, went into the hill country with haste . . . . . and entered into the house of Zachary and saluted Elizabeth.”

Let me try, first of all, to see Our Lady. She has been talking to the angel; the stupendous mystery of the Incarnation has taken place, she is carrying the Son of God in her womb. One might suggest that all Mary’s natural longings would tell her to stay where she was. Surely her “mental prayer” must have been filled with consolation as she realized more and more clearly what had happened. Should she not remain on in her prayer, enjoying the delights of contemplation? Possibly, probably even, this would be her natural attraction. But there was work of charity to do and Mary rose from her knees and proceeded to do it.

She went “with haste.” Goaded by the Holy Spirit she would brook no delay. And the task called for physical endurance. Mary must travel across the “hill country.” The roads were bad, if they were there at all, but difficulties would not deter Our Lady when there was good to do.

As you look now from Mary to yourself, do you see anything alike in her and her child? Can you find something to say to her, in these precise circumstances, something, perhaps, to ask from her? Before reading on just pause for a while and try to answer this query, and, having found what you should say, say it quite simply.

From Prayer to Action

We, like Mary, must pray; that is why these pages are being written. We, also imitating Mary, must pass from prayer to active work for the neighbor. And there must be no dawdling, no hanging back. There is urgency about the tasks to be done; God’s enemies are alert and the apostle must be up and doing too. Like Mary, we will go “with haste” wherever we can do something to build up the Church of God, to lead souls to Him, to reclaim the lapsed or strengthen the faltering or inspire the good to greater holiness. Often the toils of the apostolate will demand a heavy enough toll. Mary had to make the difficult journey across the hill country, and every true apostolate, to be fruitful, must be nurtured on sacrifice.

It ought not be difficult, watching Our Lady like this, to talk to her simply along these lines. Look at her praying, and beg her to teach us to pray. See her leaving prayer and setting off to visit Elizabeth; note the details given by the evangelist; apply them to ourselves, asking Mary to infuse into our hearts that zeal, the overflow of our life of prayer, which must characterize every true sodalist and follower of Christ.

Gathered Together 

Prayer has been well called a secret weapon. Community prayer will call down graces of conversion on souls in sin, here and everywhere. It will obtain courage for our sorely-tried fellow-Catholics and Christians who are enduring hunger, imprisonment and torture at the hands of the communists and other enemies of the Church. It will be an act of love and loyalty to Christ Our King, to Mary, Our Queen, a protest that when His rights are ignored and His commandments scoffed at, here at least, He is praised, reverenced, and served. The power of this weapon can scarcely be over-stated. It is for each of us to learn to use it well, to co-operate in our vast family throughout the entire world, in offering unceasing prayer to God.

There Am I

But there is something more. Our Lord has promised that where one or two gather together in His Name, He will be there too, in the midst of them. What, then, when, not one or two, but many are so gathered? He is praying with us. We are members of His Mystical Body. What that means is that with Him and with each other, we form between us one great organism, a new Body of Christ, whose members are joined with Him as their head, and with each other in a manner real and intimate.

In this Mystical Body, then, Our Lord continues to pray. Just as He employed His lips and tongue, His mind and heart to pray in His lifetime, so does He still employ us. We are His members and He would prolong His prayer with us as His instruments. When we kneel to pray He wills to take possession of our faculties and employ them for the praise and glory of His Father. Through us and in us and with us, He begs for the needs of the human race; He expresses sorrow for man’s sin, through us and through our words; He offers, through us, those prayers as an act of devotion and reparation for the millions who never breathe a prayer. You recall His astounding words: “I in them, and You, Father, in Me, that they may be made perfect in one.

As we know, there is a widespread and zealous effort to develop the liturgical movement throughout the Church. Hence we have Dialogue Masses, our Easter Vigil, our writers and preachers explaining what the movement implies and how we should foster it. Briefly, it aims at developing that community spirit in our devotional life which we have been describing. It is mighty encouragement to realize we are not alone but members of God’s great family. But the union between Him and us, and between ourselves, is immensely more close than that between our earthly parents and their children. In God’s family all are one, one person, one single unit, all vivified by one and the same divine life. Assuredly we are distinct from God and from each other. But we are united too, all of us “in Christ”, as St. Paul never tires of telling us.

A Harmony

Our prayer, then, is like a symphony. Each of us must contribute what we can to augment and perfect the harmony. Our part may be insignificant, a note here and a note there, scarcely audible, scarcely noticed in the midst of the brilliant performances of the professionalists. But the small note is observed and treasured by the One Who has the principal part. Perhaps no one else has heard or bothered to try to listen; perhaps we ourselves are rather confused and ashamed that it is so unworthy of the occasion. Perhaps a feeling of envy steals into our hearts for those who can do so much better.

All wrong. What He looks for and what He values, is not what we do so much as the amount of love that goes into the doing.

Lord, Teach Us

St. Luke seems to have made a special study of Our Lord as Man of Prayer. In his eleventh chapter He gives us a picture of the Master surrounded by His disciples. Christ has been on His knees and they stand around, rather in awe, as they watch Him “making His mental prayer”. They do not dare disturb Him. They wait till He has ceased and only then present their request. Would He not initiate them into this sacred science? What He has just been doing could He not teach them to do also? ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.’


Every single word of that request will repay careful attention. First of all, they were wise in directing it to Him, rather than to any other. Lord, teach us. At school we appreciated a teacher who was at once dedicated to his work and at the same time highly competent in the art of imparting knowledge. The disciples are at school this morning. We are permitted to join them. We, too, will be wise to consult this Teacher. He is dedicated; no task is more congenial to Him than to induct His pupils into the marvels of the life of prayer. Dedicated, yes, and competent, too, as none other can be. For this Teacher sees the Face of His Father in the glory of the Beatific Vision, and prayer, as we have been saying all along, is conversation with God.

Who better qualified, then, than the “Lord” to teach us to pray? Good books can help us; learned and saintly writers and preachers can do much to guide and inspire; but, in the last analysis, it is to Him we must come Who knows about prayer all there is to know, Whose knowledge is the result of direct experience, Who longs to unveil the secrets of prayer and possesses the gift of imparting what He knows and inspiring His pupils with the longing to learn more.


Then they asked Him to teach prayer. We would be presumptuous if we imagined that we could, so to say; stumble into prayer and make a success of it. There is much we can learn, through our own industry, about how to improve our vocal prayers. Just as a language has its grammar and syntax which we must master if we are to become proficient, so prayer has its rules, its conditions for success, its trials and difficulties, its joys and rewards. Much of these can be learned, and our progress in prayer will be proportionate to the diligence with which we apply ourselves to study.

True, as we have said, the divine Teacher can dispense with much of the grind of the grammar and give us in a flash more than we ever could hope for from our own efforts. But we must not presume on this. Ordinarily He teaches only those who are prepared to work hard.


‘Lord,’ they said, ‘teach us to pray.’ In this school it is not only the geniuses who can win distinctions and high marks. No one is so dull-witted that he cannot learn. Indeed it not infrequently happens that it is the “foolish things of the world” who advance most in this divine science. A condition for entering this school is to become “as little children.” Prayer will always remain a sealed book to the “wise and prudent” as long as they fail to understand that their approach is wrong.

To Pray

Finally, the disciple asked Him to teach them to pray. He proposed to them the model of all prayer, the Our Father. Try to stand near them and look at Our Lord and at them as one sublime phrase follows the other. They must have been rooted to the ground, lost in admiration, inflamed with love. There is a method of praying whereby we dwell on each word of a prayer like the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Creed. These everyday prayers contain a wealth of thought which we too often gloss over.

A priest visited an old woman in her last illness. Did she pray much, he asked. “Yes, Father. I pray all the time.” “Did she, perhaps, say several rosaries, with so many hours on her hands?” “Oh no, Father. I only say the Our Father. But not all of it. I never can get through it. It is so full of meaning. Just think how wonderful it is that He really is Our Father-God, Father of us, and we, all of us, really His Children.

She went on from there; pouring out exquisite ideas about this prayer taught by the Master Himself. “Lord, teach us to pray.” That poor woman was not an “intellectual” in any sense. She was just one of the “little children” frequenting the school. If you were to visit the school and talk about the pupils to the Teacher, I think he would point her out and tell you she was amongst the most distinguished in the whole class.


The mind is fed by the senses. What we look at, what we say, what we read, what we hear, all combine to make an impression, more or less lasting, on our thoughts. The senses are like windows to the soul. What they allow to come in and what they refuse to admit will fashion the soul in a definite mould.

Suppose you are sitting by the window reading, in a room, overlooking the street in front of your house. A salesman appears, opens the gate, smiles ingratiatingly and begins to display his wares. You are not interested and you have no intention of standing up and allowing him in. When he sees you are adamant he goes away. Ten minutes later one of your best friends moves into the picture. You look up from your book slightly irritated, but at once your expression changes. You are genuinely delighted. You have not seen him for five years, you didn’t even know he was home. All this runs through your mind as you rush to the door to welcome him.

If we are to pray well it is necessary to exercise the same discrimination with the different callers to our mind. A dissipated soul will never enter into the depths of intimacy with God in prayer which is the ideal for the sons and daughters of God. If I allow my eyes to wander where they will; if I stare at everything along the street as I. travel in the bus; if I read whatever appeals to me, irrespective of whether it is going to prove injurious or not; if, in a word, I throw the windows wide open and permit any chance impression to come in, it is clear that the images thus formed are bound to affect my prayer adversely.

If I am a chatter-box, always ready to pour out talk for the mere sake of exercising my vocal powers, I am once more throwing one picture after another on the screen of my imagination, and the result must be confusion and an inability to concentrate when I seek God in my fifteen-minute conversation.

If I listen to every scrap of news, if I gather up every rumor and broadcast it in my turn, if I am curious and do not stop short at deliberately overhearing a private conversation — perhaps on the phone — I am, once more, ruining my chances of developing my life of prayer.

Be on guard

Because the senses are so important you will find that the saints — that is, the people who prayed best — are adamant in insisting on the need for self-control. Every founder or foundress of the Religious Orders enjoins on the members periods of silence, in some cases, indeed, this silence is almost absolute. Likewise, they teach the necessity of guarding the eyes and the ears — “most diligently”, is St. Ignatius’ phrase. The same saint wrote a whole set of rules designed to show us how to place a guard over our senses and work for the habit of self-control. These he called “Rules of Modesty”. He spent several long months composing them; he prayed much and said Mass often in order to find light to write them aright. He gave a severe penance, more than once, to some sons of his who treated their observance lightly.

In saying all this, we are not forgetting that, for the most part, you are men and women living in the world. Nobody would expect from you the same uncompromising habit of self-control which one should find in the members of an Order. At the same time, it is true, and must be emphasized, that for want of self-control prayer grows inert and languishes. It flourishes, as a rule, according to the violence necessary to deny ourselves a look, a word, an opportunity to satisfy an inordinate curiosity to hear.

The approaches to the mind must thus be guarded. Moreover, we can do much to control the mind itself, to compel it to think along definite lines. Other lines will present themselves but we can lay down the law and say no. St. Teresa told us that the imagination is the fool of the house. The wise man says it is like the wheel of a cart, always whirling here there and everywhere. It is not enough to banish thoughts that are positively evil or dangerous. Thoughts which are merely useless, which make us day-dreamers, we must learn to deny. We can learn.

Some of what is written on this page was suggested in a hotel the other day. A woman was sitting there at the window, gazing vacantly into the street, waiting for anything that might present itself, in order to try to satisfy the hunger of her mind. If you wish to pray well you will undertake a vigorous campaign against this ‘laisez-faire’ attitude. It is responsible for stifling, in many souls, the life of intimacy with God.

What You Read 

For seventeen years St. Teresa never dared to go to make her mental prayer without a book. She was raised to a high degree of contemplation; she describes sublime states of prayer and clearly she is speaking from personal experience. Despite all this she felt the need of a good book near her. Even though she might not actually use it, it was a comfort and she felt it was there to turn to if she felt dryness — as she often did.

People who pray well recommend us to read each night a portion of such a book and quietly turn over in our minds as we go to bed the thoughts so garnered. When we awake, they advise us to train ourselves to turn our first thoughts once more to what we have read. A practice such as this calls for self-discipline, which is excellent and necessary preparation for prayer.

Do not easily reject the suggestion on the plea that it is too much to expect. Intimacy with God in prayer is worth any price. Now, if we were deadly in earnest about growing in prayer, could we not place near our bed a good spiritual book? For a start, let me recommend the Imitation of Christ, by Thomas a Kempis. What is to prevent you from reading a page of that golden little volume every night before you retire? Read it slowly and let the message sink in. Hold on to any one thought and reflect quietly on it. Train yourself to recall it when you waken.

Leave the book open after you have read your chapter. It will be lying there in the morning, a reminder to you to recall what it told you. If you have forgotten, take another look and try to hold that thought as you prepare for, I hope, your Mass and Holy Communion.


The number of good Catholics who have, never read a spiritual book is lamentably large. The taste has to be cultivated systematically. When once you have begun to appreciate good spiritual books the difficulty will be to read anything else. You will be genuinely surprised that you could have found pleasure in browsing over so much which passes for literature. I have known a man who regretted bitterly that so many years of his life had passed before he discovered this goldmine — regular spiritual reading.

From the point of view of our fifteen-minute mental prayer, the function of regular spiritual reading is to give us a background for our meditations. How can we possibly plunge deep into prayer and union with God unless we have some effective antidote against the thousand distractions which abound? A steady stream of sound spiritual reading will act like an injection. It will keep our prayer-life vigorous and healthy, even in the uncongenial atmosphere where many of us have to live.

Make believe or real

I feel sorry for young people when I see them worshipping at the shrines of Hollywood “stars”. The real stars are the saints who shine in real glory in God’s real heaven. There is nothing artificial, no make-believe, no make-up, about them. They are real heroes and the story of their lives, all true, all fact, grips you in a way that make the tinsel and cardboard of Hollywood cut a poor figure indeed. If once you get to know the saints you will never look again at a Hollywood star, except, perhaps, in pity or amusement. They perform mere antics; the saints do the deeds worthy of men and women who are children of God.

When you have read about some of the saints, pass on to books which deal with the doctrine which made them saints. Read books on prayer, on grace, on the Mass, and, of course, on Our Lady. There are veritable treasures at your elbow, waiting to be explored. And the principal reason we urge you to explore is that “the thoughts that absorb you are the thoughts that mould you”. Feed your mind on the best and you will see the happy results on your fifteen-minutes’ conversation with God.

Here Ends… 

Throughout this pamphlet we have kept in view the fact that prayer is conversation with God. It is, therefore, an immense privilege, not unlike what Moses enjoyed when the cloud folded itself around him on Sinai and he spoke to God face to face, as friend speaks to friend.

If the conversation between God and the soul is to be a success two things at least are required. We must have a common language, and the language of prayer is, above all, love. Only love will ensure that we keep faithful to our daily tryst, where God awaits us and, in His turn, speaks also the language of love. Not only must there be a common language, but a common interest, too. Every interest, in the mind of Our Lord, is secondary to the all-important interest of the souls of all men. We, then, who would pray must, like Him, be zealous for souls. And this zeal is inculcated in our sodality rules and in section 2 of this pamphlet. Every Catholic Christian is urged to have, or to pray for, a great practical ‘zeal for souls’, and a concrete desire to be part of the evangelization of the entire world of human souls.

It is easy to allow ourselves to become preoccupied with trivialities which absorb our powers and make them less alert to appreciate the value and importance of the souls of men. The Master will lift the soul up, like a father lifts his child to see over a wall. What the soul glimpses in prayer whets its appetite for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. But it must show the divine Master that it wants to see and realize, and this is done especially by the habit of self-sacrifice.

A Direction

Our Lord not only commands us to pray. He goes through His own prayer before our very eyes to give us a perfect object lesson. We found Him, if you remember, “rising very early, and, going out, He went into a desert place, and there He prayed.” We followed Him in spirit and found that that simple sentence is packed with matter for our own prayerful reflections. It serves as a perfect pattern for us in prayer.

Not only does He teach prayer, not only does He show us how to pray by His example, but Our Lord designs actually to continue in us His own very prayer. This wonderful truth should sustain us when our efforts seemingly are getting us nowhere. His prayer in Gethsemane was made in bleak desolation and darkness. Why should His prayer in us not be the same?

From there we went on to discuss distractions, recommending, among other things, the habit of trying to take hold of the distraction itself and turn it into a prayer. We are dealing in prayer with our best Friend. Everything, no matter how trivial, which interests us, interests Him too. Surely friends can talk about the things which interest either of them?

We took a glance at our corporate strength. What a colossal power that is! “Where one or two are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them.” That led on to a few words about liturgical prayer, that great symphony in the Church in which each of us has a part.

When all this is said and done it is only a divine Master Who is qualified to teach this divine science. “Lord, teach us to pray”. We saw how wise that request was, and how aptly it fits in our own case.

Then we considered the vital need of denying ourselves, subjecting our eyes, ears, and tongue, to a careful discipline. Why? There are many reasons but the one concerning us here is that a dissipated soul will never learn what immense treasures are waiting to be discovered in intimacy with God in prayer. We urged you strongly to read good spiritual books regularly, because “the thoughts that absorb you are the thoughts that mould you”. Such good reading is bound to freshen up our prayer and stimulate us to continue on our journey of exploration.

For prayer can progress indefinitely. This stands to reason since it is conversation with God, “Who reaches from end to end mightily and disposes all things sweetly”.

Saint Philomena: The Little Wonder-Worker of the Twentieth Century

Saint Philomena: The Little Wonder-Worker of the Twentieth Century

For close on a hundred years the name of St. Philomena has been accorded in the Church a veneration which, growing intensified by the number of miracles vouchsafed through her intercession, has spread over the whole world. Previous to the discovery of her tomb and relics in the Catacomb of St. Priscilla, outside the walls of Rome, in the year 1802, her name had found no place in sacred story.

Hence what can be authoritatively written regarding this wonder-working little saint of the nineteenth century is more a narrative of the extraordinary chain of miracles associated with her intercession than the recital of facts relating to her life. There is, however, a pious tradition that she was a child-martyr and a contemporary of St. Sebastian, who suffered in the reign of the Emperor Diocletian about the year of our Lord 286. Some holy souls who were devoutly interested in promoting devotion to the saint, some years after the translation of her relics, are said to have been favored with revelations, in which Philomena made known to them the circumstances under which she shed her blood for Christ. According to this evidence she was thirteen years of age at the time of her martyrdom, and her relics bear testimony that she could scarcely have been older. In these pages, however, we shall confine ourselves to the facts attendant on the discovery of her tomb and to subsequent wonders which have surrounded her memory with a blessed immortality.

The Catacombs of Rome have long, been centers of Christian interest and veneration. Until a century ago their origin was a subject of controversy and speculation among learned writers. Now their conflicting theories are set at rest. It is fully accepted by archeologists and historians that these subterranean passages were the secret hiding-places of the primitive Christians, and later on, became the resting-places of their dead. When, after the early persecutions, peace and liberty were restored to the Church, these cemeteries, which enclosed the remains of so many martyrs—and were sacred to the sufferings and trials of generations of the faithful—became places of devotion and of great resort. Each of them came to be associated with the names of eminent martyred saints, at whose tombs the Divine mysteries were frequently offered up. As time went on and the desire of obtaining relics of the saints spread throughout the universal Church, the tombs of the Catacombs, with permission of the Holy See, supplied these treasures so jealously regarded as the precious inheritance of the altars of Christendom. Yet the exercise of this privilege of procuring from the Catacombs memorials of the saints and martyrs left the tomb and relies of St. Philomena unnoticed and undisturbed, until it pleased Almighty God to reveal this young virgin-martyr to the world as one of the heavenly wonder-workers of the nineteenth century.

The Catacomb of St. Priscilla lies beneath the Via Salaria Nova. Here, in the Pontificate of Pius VII., a remarkable slab attracted the custodians of the cemetery, who were then prosecuting investigations there, and on the 25th of May, 18O2, the tomb was formally examined. On the tiles that enclosed it, the following inscription was read:- “PHILOMENA PAX TECUM.”

The devices which were interwoven with these simple words—an anchor, an arrow, and a palm— determined the spot as the last resting-place of a martyr. The tomb was opened by Monsignor Ludovici, who disclosed to the gaze of his assistants and bystanders the precious remains. Beside them stood the phial containing the blood of the saint. An examination of the relics having been made, it was ascertained that Philomena had been martyred in her tender youth, at about twelve or thirteen years of age, scarcely more. The relics were then fervently removed to the Custodia, and deposited among the relics of the other servants of God, to await the decision of the Vicar of Jesus Christ as to where they should finally rest as objects of the veneration of the faithful. The tiles bearing the simple inscription were for a time placed in the college of the Jesuits at Rome. Later on they were transferred to the Museum of Antiquities at the Vatican. However, in 1827, they were bestowed on the Church of Mugnano, which was destined, through the possession of the relics of our saint, to become one of the most honored shrines in the Christian world.

During three years which followed, the relics of St. Philomena lay in the Custodia, unnoticed and undisturbed, almost as they had lain for fifteen hundred years in the silence of the Catacombs.

In the summer of 1805 the Bishop-Elect of Potenza came to Rome to receive his consecration.

His companion was a saintly priest of Mugnano— Don Francesco di Lucia —who availed of his visit to the Eternal City to seek the possession of the body of a saint for his private chapel. Accordingly he asked permission to visit the treasury of sacred relics. Complying with his desire, the guardian, Mgr. Ponzetti, offered the holy priest his choice, to the great delight of the latter. None of the caskets bore the names of the saints whose bodies they enclosed, except three. Amongst these was that of St. Philomena.

As the priest stood before this reliquary he felt his soul filled with an indescribable feeling of spiritual joy, and at once he petitioned to have the relics. A few days afterwards, however, the guardian of the Custodia retracted the permission he had given, stating reasonably that the saints of well-ascertained names were so few, that they ought to be reserved for Bishops and Catholic princes.

The Bishop of Potenza, however, intervened on behalf of his anxious companion, saying he felt convinced the saint wished her to go to his parish of Mugnano, and would bless the place with miracles. And so the request was at length granted. From that day commenced the long succession of wonders which have since made the name of Philomena illustrious over the world.

Don Francesco fell ill during his visit to Rome, and, sinking under a virulent attack of fever, made a vow to St. Philomena that if his health were restored, he would choose her for his patron. Instantly the malady subsided, and he was restored to perfect health. On his telling the Bishop of the miracle both returned thanks to God, promising to carry the bones of the saint to Naples with all possible honor.

They set out shortly afterwards, end reached Naples on the 2nd of July, 1805. There the casket was deposited in the private chapel of Don Antonio Terres—a wealthy citizen of the place. The relics were opened by ecclesiastical authority, and the bones arranged in a lifelike-size figure in papier-mache, and enclosed in an outer case of ebony, which was duly sealed in four places. Donna Angela Terres, the wife of Don Antonio was deputed to dress and adorn the figure, and was rewarded by the Saint for her devotion by being immediately healed of a malignant malady, from which she had been suffering for twelve years. Marvelous, too, during the dressing, many changes were observed in the countenance of the figure, while the virginal remains exhaled a sweet perfume. During three days the body was exposed in the church of St. Angelo. A great concourse of the faithful visited the shrine, but as no miracle took place it was believed to be an indication of the saint‟s wish not to remain in that city. Again, the relics were brought from the church to the house of Terres, and here again miraculous cures began to be vouchsafed. Amongst them was that of a lady suffering from gangrene in the hand which her physician had decided on amputating. A small portion of the sacred relics which had been presented to the Terres family was applied to the suffering hand. That night the patient slept, and in the morning the surgeons found that the gangrene had disappeared.

In another case—a lawyer, who for six months had been bed-ridden from sciatica, had himself carried to the house where the body of Philomena lay, and while he prayed to the holy Martyr, was completely cured.

The Bishop of Potenza and Don Francesco now determined to proceed on their journey to Mugnano. The month of August was fixed for their departure from Maples, two carriers being summoned from Mugnano to convey the saint. The grief of Donna Angela on parting with the venerable remains was so great that she would scarcely allow them to be removed. Don Francesco, to console her, presented her with the key of the casket, saying, “I leave you this. Henceforward you and your family shall be the owners of the holy body. I will be only its guardian.”

As the procession moved on its way, its course was marked by many miracles. When night set in, a column of light descended and rested on the relics, illuminating the path by which the bearers passed as they drew near to Cimitile, a suburb of Nola. Here the burden grew so heavy that the bearers declared they could carry it no further. On hearing this, Don Francesco feared that the saint desired to remain at Cimitile, a place sacred to the martyrdom of many saints. He immediately despatched one of the carriers, who had come with him from Naples, to Mugnano to secure additional bearers, meanwhile urging on the others to move the case, at least a little further, on the way. With great difficulty they succeeded in transporting it; but as they receded from Cimitile their burden became lighter and lighter, and soon was so easily borne that the bearers began to cry out with joy, “a miracle! a miracle! The saint has once more become as light as she was at Naples!”

At Mugnano, on the eve of the arrival, the bells of all the churches were rung, and cannon were fired in honor of the advent of the relics. The inhabitants made their first petition to the saint by asking, through her intercession, that the long- continued drought from which their crops suffered, might come to an end. The sound of the bells from the church towers had scarcely ceased when rain fell in copious torrents. At sunrise, the procession entered Mugnano. The joyful inhabitants turned out in vast multitudes with olive branches in their hands to welcome the youthful martyr—and the little children as they saw the case of relics dressed with flowers, filled the air with the cries of “Viva la Santa! Viva la Santa! Hail to the saint!”

During the course of the procession to the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie—which occupied two hours—many manifestations of the power of the saint were witnessed.

Although the day was serene and beautiful at one time a whirlwind arose, and yet not a single one of the lights which were carried before the Shrine of Philomena was extinguished.

The body of the saint was placed under a splendid canopy at the Gospel side of the principal altar, where High Mass was celebrated. That day–the 10th of August—was observed as a feast day of obligation, and the spiritual rejoicings lasted over many weeks.

The numerous wonders which immediately began to be wrought at this Shrine induced Don Francesco to renounce his long-cherished intention of keeping the relics in his private chapel. After a short time he bestowed them on the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie.

Here a side chapel was prepared to receive them, and an altar erected, beneath which they were henceforth to rest for public veneration.

On the feast of St. Michael the Archangel, September 26th, 1805, after the celebration of High Mass, the relics were carried in procession, and solemnly deposited in their appointed place.
Mass was again chanted at the new altar, and thus ended the translation of the relics of St. Philomena.


The story of the Shrine of St. Philomena, and of the remarkable manifestations associated with it, possesses an unique interest among narratives of the kind. Much of it might, indeed, be difficult to accept without question, were not the authority in its support so strong.

The first in time, of the favors we shall record, is assigned to a date shortly after the translation of the relics of the saint to Mugnano.

While at Naples, as we may remember, the bones of the Virgin-Martyr were placed within a figure of childlike form, which was enclosed in an ebony casket. The casket being of small dimensions, the figure, though not larger than a child of about eight years of age, had to be placed in a cramped and ungraceful position.

One morning, however, shortly after the arrival of the saint within the chapel of Mugnano, to the amazement of some clients who had come to pay their homage at her shrine, the figure was found to have changed its attitude and whole appearance. Originally it had lain fiat within the case, the effect aimed at in its arrangement being that of the repose of death. Now the representation of the saint had mysteriously assumed a half sitting posture—full of majesty and grace— the face being turned towards the spectators. The hands too had changed their position, the arrow, the emblem of martyrdom, which had been placed in one of them, being reversed—in a word, the whole figure had become different. But the most striking marvel of the transformation was that the countenance no longer continued the same. The artist, by whom the figure had originally been designed, at Naples, had done his work hastily, and the features, imperfectly modeled, had been colored to represent the pallor of a corpse. All these defects now disappeared, and an expression of great beauty took their place, while the colorless hue, which the face had hitherto presented, changed into a soft life-like complexion.

And all the while, the four seals which had been attached to the casket by the Bishop of Potenza were intact, and the glass which surrounded it could not have been removed. The rumor of this occurrence, having quickly spread abroad, soon reached Naples. On hearing of the marvelous event, the members of the Terres family, by whom the figure of St. Philomena had been at first dressed, accompanied by the artist who had designed and painted it, together with some others, set out for Mugnano. It was beyond doubt that the key of the reliquary, which the Signora Terres, the custodian, held, had never left her possession, and yet, all attested that in no way was the attitude or appearance of the martyr like what it had been when the relics had left their home in Naples.

Further changes were subsequently, from time to time, observed in the position of the miraculous figure. Thus, some years after, when the garments in which the saint was clothed began to look worn and faded, another extraordinary circumstance occurred. The stitched seams loosened of themselves. The rich trimmings and accessories became detached, till at length, little by little, the whole vesture became disordered and scattered! The final and complete disarrangement of the exterior of the little figure took place about the Feast of Pentecost, 1824, when Don Francesco decided on having the relics arrayed in a new and costly attire, and also to provide a larger and more elegant shrine to receive them. Previous to the opening of the old reliquary, it was observed that the silken hair on the head of the saint had become sparse and scanty. As the date fixed for the translation of the relics was close at hand, no time remained to procure fresh silken hair. Then another wonder took place. An abundance of flowing tresses made their appearance before the beginning of the ceremony, which was carried out with great devotion and splendor by the Archbishop and his suite, in presence of the Vicar-General of the diocese, on July 5th, 1824.

Some time after the occurrence of this prodigy, this silken hair, which had been of a chestnut shade, suddenly turned to a deep black. At the same time the flowing tresses grew to such length, that it became necessary to open the case to re- arrange them over the shoulders. In 1833, nine years after the second dressing of the figure, the hair was found to have grown twenty-seven inches. Soon again a further development manifested itself. Another and larger shrine was deemed insufficient owing to the increased proportions of the wondrous figure of the occupant. A new receptacle was, therefore, again procured. On this occasion, Monsignor Cupola, Bishop of Vola, whose veneration for St. Philomena bordered almost on enthusiasm, came to Mugnano, to place, as an offering, a rich crown of silver on her head. On this occasion a similar miracle again took place. On the 27th of September, 1828, Cardinal Ruffo Scilla, Archbishop of Naples, opened the shrine, and removed the relics to the beautiful and spacious case where they have since rested. From the appearance of a child of tender years, as our saint was first represented, she had now grown to bear the appearance of a beautiful maiden of twenty.

When the Cardinal Archbishop of Naples, in fulfillment of a vow, came to Mugnano for a fifth time, he declared after he had celebrated Mass, in presence of the Shrine, that since he had sealed the reliquary, six months before, the holy form of the saint had changed anew its appearance.

Miraculous manifestations after that time became so frequent as to be regarded as a matter of course. Sometimes the countenance lost its habitual brightness of expression and became overcast and sad. The lips too of the saint were seen at times to move as if in prayer, in union with the supplications of her clients.

During the celebrations of the annual festival in 1847, among the vast congregation was a poor blind man who was fervently imploring the saint to procure for him the recovery of his sight. Suddenly the whole body was seen to move, turning on its side to face the congregation. This event was attested by numerous witnesses, and after careful inquiries solemnly published. This attestation concludes as follows:— “We can testify that similar changes are continually occurring—either the opening of the eyes, the movements of the lips, or, varied expressions of the countenance which sometimes appears pale and sad, sometimes pleased and bright. . . . He who will not believe what is stated, should himself repair to the sanctuary, where, he will see with his own eyes how God glorifies His saints.”

After so many extraordinary evidences of the miraculous power of St. Philomena one can scarcely wonder at the astonishing rapidity with which devotion to her was spread throughout the whole world.

Nevertheless the solemn approbation of the Church was not bestowed upon the devotion to St. Philomena till long after the dates of the incidents we have been recording. That prudent circumspection which at all times rules the decisions of the Holy See, demanded a long and mature consideration of the novel and marvelous circumstances which made up the history of the miracles of the saint. Although the pastors and laity of almost every diocese in Italy had more than once petitioned the Holy Father to authorize the public veneration of St. Philomena, she was not raised to the altars of the Church till the year 1837. The promulgation by the Supreme Pontiff of the decree so long sought for was mainly due to a miracle worked by the saint on Pauline Marie Jaricot, friend of the Cure d‟Ars, and foundress of the Association for the Propagation of the Faith, and of the devotion of the “Living Rosary.”

About the year 1819, some Brothers of St. John of God, who were seeking to revive their once famous order for the care of incurables, travelled through Brittany to the South of France, relating as they went along, the wonders they had witnessed at the shrine of Mugnano. At Lyons, the Brothers called on the Jaricot family, whose members were inspired with such enthusiasm at the recital of the miracles of the saint that they were filled with a great desire to possess a portion of her relics. The pious wish was eventually gratified, and among the blessings of which this family became the instrument in the hands of Providence, not the least remarkable was the promoting of devotion to St. Philomena.

In the year 1834 Pauline Marie Jaricot was stricken, beyond all hopes of recovery, with an aggravated form of heart disease. Various other sufferings of a complicated nature increased the intensity of the malady, which, in addition to its dreadful uncertainty, furnished symptoms of a quickly approaching dissolution. During the whole year Pauline describes her condition as one of continued agony, save during some few moments of passing relief which she attributed to prayers offered for her by some devoted friends.

The first amelioration of her sad condition that she experienced occurred at the close of a Novena offered on her behalf to St. Philomena. The complete prostration, which had deprived her of the use of her limbs, slightly subsided, and great was her joy at being able, unaided, to move even a little.

Day by day the improvement continued, and with the happy and wondrous change she became filled with a longing to visit, in thanksgiving, the shrine of the Sacred Heart at Paray-le-Monial. Inspired with this thought, she redoubled her anxious pleadings to St. Philomena. Having made known her wish to the members of her family, they in turn mentioned the matter to her physician, who, while admitting the slight improvement as inexplicable, looked upon her project as merely visionary. At length her entreaties overcame his reluctance, and he consented to her departure, prophesying, however, that she would never reach the first stage of the journey, and that the return would be a funeral. Her confidence in God, however, grew stronger as the time approached at which she had, determined to risk the perilous venture.

Contrary to the expectations of those who charitably accompanied her, Pauline reached Paray in safety. Her first visit to the chapel of the Monastery of the Visitation filled her with joy and holy consolation, and gave her a degree of vigor which astonished her companions.

Another and still greater surprise was theirs, when the poor invalid made known her decision to proceed from Paray to Rome, there to seek the blessing of the Vicar of Christ.

To make this journey had, indeed, been with her a life-long dream, but in the face of her excessive weakness, her friends were terrified at her determination. Filled with trust in God she carried her point against their fears. It was a tedious journey, accomplished in very easy and short stages, and so the little strength she had regained did not fail her. Visiting on the way the shrines of Chambery and Loreto, she reached the Eternal City, and was warmly received at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, the Trinita de Monte. The fame of the two great works she had inaugurated for the glory of the Church had preceded her, while the sight of her great sufferings won for her the sympathy of all.

Although Pauline had realized her wish to visit Rome, her prostrate condition still forbade her undergoing the fatiguing ceremonial of an audience with the Holy Father. But the paternal kindness of Gregory XVI., furnished a solution for this difficulty. Having heard of Pauline‟s arrival, he deigned to thank her in person for the benefits the Church owed her, and he came on two occasions to visit her at Trinita de Monte. Like others, the Holy Father deemed her condition hopeless. In one of his visits he asked her to pray for him, when she should get into heaven. Pauline replied, “Yes, most certainly Holy Father, I promise to do so, but if I visit the shrine of Mugnano, and then return on foot to the Vatican, will your Holiness deign to proceed with the definite examination of the cause of Philomena.” “Yes, my child,” replied the Pope, “for that would indeed be a miracle of the first class.”

With unwavering courage the heroic girl proceeded from Rome to Mugnano, which she reached August 8th, 1835. Her diary, which lies before us, furnishes a thrilling illustration of the reward which God vouchsafes to grant to the faith of those who seek His mercies through the intercession of His saints. The celebration of the solemn festival of St. Philomena had just commenced. Two days later, that is to say on the actual feast day, Pauline was carried to the church. At the moment of receiving Holy Communion, she experienced a fearful anguish in her whole frame. Her heart throbbed, as though it would burst. Overcome by the intensity of her suffering, she swooned away, and a death-like pallor overspread her countenance. To all appearance life seemed extinct. The bystanders terrified at what they witnessed, were about to bear her away in the chair wherein she lay. Consciousness, however, soon returned, and the poor sufferer feebly signified her wish to remain. A few moments later the dimmed eyes, already glazed with the film of death, began to shed copious tears—color returned to the pallid cheeks—Pauline Marie Jaricot was cured!

An outburst of jubilation followed the miracle. Unrestrained enthusiasm, within and outside the church prevailed. The air resounded with the cry “Viva Santa Filomena! Viva the holy French lady!”

Two months later full of health and strength, the restored client of St. Philomena presented herself at the feet of Gregory XVI., in the great hall of the Vatican. Filled with surprise the Holy Father exclaimed: “Is this, indeed, my dear child? Has she risen from the tomb, or, has God shown in her the power of the Virgin Martyr?” “Yes,” replied Pauline, “I am the person whom your Holiness saw at the point of death two months ago, and since St. Philomena has restored me to health, grant me permission to fulfill a vow which I have made, to erect a church in honor of my benefactress.”

Having received a detailed account of Pauline‟s visit to the shrine of Mugnano and the circumstances of her wonderful cure, the Pope promised to proceed at once to the examination of the “cause” of the saint.

Within a year after the departure of Mademoiselle Jaricot from her house, she returned to Lyons where her restoration to perfect health was regarded as an undoubted miracle. When she repaired on foot to the church of Notre Dame de Fourvieres, pious crowds followed her and joined her in hymns of praise and thanksgiving at the shrine of our Blessed Lady.

Later on, the grateful child of St. Philomena fulfilled her vow by building a beautiful chapel dedicated to her patroness on the slope that leads up to the Basilica of Notre Dame. No sacrifice or trouble was henceforth considered too great by Pauline in spreading devotion to the Holy Martyr. She promoted it, together with the other pious associations which, through her efforts, had already gained ground in the Church. In one of her letters she tells us—that, when in company with her—the representatives of the “Living Rosary,” prostrated themselves at the feet of Gregory XVI., supreme Pontiff imparted a special blessing to their association, and commended them and their work to the protection of St. Philomena. And on the occasion of Pauline‟s last presentation at the Vatican His Holiness renewed this commendation, saying:— “Pray to St. Philomena—whatever you ask from her she will obtain for you.”

The miracles wrought at the chapel at Lyons became almost as numerous and remarkable as the favors vouchsafed at the Shrine of Mugnano, and, at the present day, the devotion of the citizens to the saint manifests itself with extraordinary fervor.

It was at Lyons that the cure of Mademoiselle Le Clerc took place. This pious lady had been a hopeless invalid for eight years, having totally lost the use of her limbs. Through the intercession of St. Philomena she was miraculously restored. The miracle wrought in her behalf was attested by the Bishop of Belley, the Mayor of Ambrieux, and twenty- four physicians. Returning to her home at Roussillon she built a chapel in honor of the little wonder-working saint.

Between Pauline Jaricot and the Venerable Curé of d‟Ars, a friendship of the holiest kind long existed She impressed this holy priest with such veneration for her favorite saint that he became an ardent promoter of devotion to St. Philomena. To her advocacy he attributed many marvelous graces and favors, which are recorded in the story of his life. Having erected a shrine containing a portion of the saint‟s relics in his church, cures of earthly ills and extraordinary conversions of obdurate hearts were witnessed in this holy spot. The oil that burned before the altar became a source of miraculous healing, while the innumerable ex voto tributes of gratitude that line the walls of the little sanctuary, bear witness to the veneration and love in which she is held at the present day. To the zeal and sanctity of the Curé of Are may be ascribed, in great measure, the rapid and universal spread of devotion to St. Philomena throughout France. Medals and other memorials of the Virgin-Martyr distributed by him were fruitful of many miracles. The story of the extinction of a fire at his house (caused by the agency of the devil) through the presence of a statue of St. Philomena, will be remembered by many readers of Monsieur Vianney‟s life.

During the last thirty years, France has, so to speak, been covered, with votive churches to our saint, while the three festivals—the 10th of August, the 25th of May, and the Sunday within the octave of the Ascension—are preceded by novenas and observed with great devotion and solemnity. The limits of these pages prevent our noticing the myriads of graces and favors showered on the faithful of France by St. Philomena.

Among the clients of the martyr, whose special holiness has distinguished them in the annals of this century may be named—Pére Varin, one of the restorers of the Society of Jesus in France; Venerable Mother Barat, foundress of the Congregation of the Sacred Heart; Madame d‟Houet, foundress of the Faithful Companions of Jesus and Mary; Pere Eymart, founder of the Priests of the Most Holy Sacrament.

In the year 1835, the devotion to the saint was introduced into Paris, where, ever since it has found an abiding centre. A parishioner of St. Gervais, having obtained a miraculous favor through the intercession of St. Philomena, presented to the church some relics which he had received from Mademoiselle Jaricot, together with a picture of the saint. Shortly afterwards a side chapel was dedicated to her honor, St. Gervais is now a place of frequent pilgrimages, while the display of ex voto offerings and tablets rivals that of the mother-shrine at Mugnano. Those who have visited Paris will remember the position of the Church of St. Gervais, close to the Hotel de Ville. This quarter of the city was the unhappy scene of the worst excesses of the Communists in 1870. The Hotel de Ville, as many of us recollect, was then reduced to ashes, while churches on every side were desecrated and profaned during those days of anarchy. Strange to say, although preparations had been made by the Communists to set fire to St. Gervais and sack its treasury, by some mysterious intervention the im- pious purpose was never carried out. And while the Prussian shells wrought pitiless havoc over the whole city, the church of St. Gervais and the house of the parish priest escaped injury. The priests attached to the church never forsook their posts, yet not one of them was arrested, nor did they suffer any loss in the midst of general ruin and pillage.

In recognition of this preservation, thirteen lamps commemorative of the thirteen childhood years of St. Philomena, perpetually burn before her altar, and the oil in them is deemed to possess healing powers. An Association of prayer, under her invocation, in the Church of St. Gervais has been raised to the dignity of an Arch-confraternity by our present Holy Father Leo XIII.

Let us now return to the shrine at Mugnano. The present beautiful church, surmounted by its dome and towers, was undertaken in 1853, and completed three years later. Its great attraction is the chapel containing the relics of St. Philomena. A profusion of the finest marbles, mingled with agate and porphyry, cover the walls from floor to ceiling. Stately columns, supporting Corinthian capitols of white marble, impart an appearance of chaste splendor to the whole interior. Over the white marble altar stands the case containing the relics, revealing the figure of the saint, half sitting, half reclining on her couch, radiant in jewels and costly attire. Above is the familiar picture of our Lady of Good Counsel. At the opposite side of the nave is an altar, on which rests the reliquary containing the phial of the martyr‟s blood. This exquisite casket was the gift of Marie Thèrese, Queen of Naples. It is entirely composed of silver, and through an aperture filled with glass, the sacred relic may be easily seen. The generosity of faithful hearts, in happier times, bestowed vast endowments, and estates on this church of St. Philomena, and thus provided for the relief of the poor and the advancement of other meritorious works. But, alas! the sacrilegious hands of the usurper have confiscated all.

The constant stream of pilgrims has, however, never ceased. Old and young, rich and poor of all nationalities, assemble there, and bring away with them graces untold, and a deep sense of the power of God through the efficacy of His saints.

The roll of pilgrims contains many royal names, among which we notice:—Ferdinand II. of Naples, two queens of Naples and one of Sardinia, Marie Amelie of France, wife of Louis Phillippe; and Maria Christina, Queen of the two Sicilies. The latter was foundress of the Orphanage of the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, which adjoins the sanctuary. She raised it in thanksgiving for petitions granted on the many occasions of her visits to the shrine. Hosts of distinguished personages, including Cardinals, Archbishops, and Bishops from all the world over, have inscribed their names on these records of piety and faith.

The decree authorizing the devotion to St. Philomena, and granting to the clergy of Nola the privilege of saying Mass in her honor, was published by Gregory XVI. on January 30th, 1837. In March, 1839, the same Pontiff, by decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, raised her feast to the dignity of a double of the second class. It is to be noted that hers is the only instance of a “Proper Office” being granted in honor of a saint of whom no details are recorded or known, except the bare fact of her martyrdom. This was indicated, as we have already remarked, by the emblems cut on her tomb, and the three simple words inscribed on the slab enclosing her place of rest:

“Pax tecum! Philomena.” “Peace be with thee! Philomena.”

The successors of Gregory XVI. in the Pontifical chair, have given evidences of a similar veneration for this martyr of the primitive Church.

Pius IX., when Archbishop of Spoleto, was prostrated by an illness, in which his life was despaired of. In his apartment was a figure of the saint, resting within an enclosed case. As he lay apparently awaiting death, a knocking seemed to proceed from the little shrine. From that moment the Archbishop began to recover, and soon he was perfectly restored to health. Afterwards, when he had been raised to the Pontificate, he made a pilgrimage in person to Mugnano. It was performed during the period of his exile, Nov. 7th, 1849. His reception was one of memorable splendor. At the church of St. Philomena he was received by the King of Naples, who humbly knelt on the bare ground, when assisting him to alight. The Queen, with seven children, and many royal personages, knelt on the steps leading to the church door to receive the blessing of the Holy Father as he ascended. In memory of the event, Pius IX. granted many new spiritual favors to the Sanctuary of Mugnano. During his sojourn at Naples, he named St. Philomena one of the patrons of the kingdom, and later on, in 1862, gave her as patron to “The Children of Mary,” and confirmed her title of „„Protector of the Living Rosary.”

The present Pope, while administrator of the diocese of Benevento, visited Mugnano twice, and since then, has sent a costly offering to the Church of St. Philomena. Confraternities and Sodalities placed under her invocation have been many times favored by Leo XIII. with increased indulgences.

In Ireland, the devotion to this child-saint and martyr has been taken up with great fervor, and rewarded with many striking favors.

The pious sisterhoods, to whose hands is confided the great work of Catholic education, have not been slow to find how powerful is the help of the “little wonder-worker.” Schools, special works of charity, the wants of the sick and afflicted, have many a time been blessed and promoted in wonderful ways through the invocation of St. Philomena. Her name is a household word in many Irish homes. Many a stricken heart turns to her for aid in the necessities which encompass our various paths through this land of distress and sorrow. And it is sweet to think that much of that beautiful fervor and devotion towards St. Philomena, which has spread like the odor of some delicate fragrant flower over pagan and far-off lands, has been borne thither by Irish hands and Irish hearts.

The Messager de St. Philomene et du Venerable Cure d‟Ars, published in Paris (monthly) contains interesting records of the miracles worked, and favors granted by the “Virgin Wonder-worker” in every portion of the globe. We should recommend its perusal to our educated readers, especially to the clients of St. Philomena.

Were space at our disposal, we should gladly place some extracts from it on record here. However, before we close this sketch, we select one which has struck us by its simple beauty, and tells how our saint hearkens to the prayers of the little ones of Christ.

In a province of France there lived a child named Marie Philomene, who, from her earliest years had been taught to invoke her holy patron, by whom more than once she was delivered from danger. In May, 1883, when but five years old, she was attacked by a fatal illness. The physician declared her case quite hopeless, and one evening informed the afflicted parents of the little sufferer that it was useless for him to return, inasmuch as all the symptoms of death had already set in.

Her godmother, who was kneeling by her little cot, bethought of invoking St. Philomena, and made the child kiss a picture representing her.

She could no longer see nor lift her hands, but could still hear. Suddenly with a trembling voice she exclaimed, “Godmother, where is St. Philomena? what shall I say to her?” “Ask her to come to you,” was the reply. “Tell her you will give yourself to God, and teach little children. Ask her to send you some sleep, and promise to go to Mass tomorrow to thank her.”

A few moments later the child said she would like to go to sleep, and then fell into a gentle slumber. At 6 o‟clock the following morning, she sat up in bed, saying “St Philomena has cured me! I want to go to Mass!” Arising, she dressed herself, and walked to church, a mile distant, holding her godmother‟s hand.

Our story of the great wonders wrought by the intercession of Philomena may not for the present extend farther.

May our efforts to retrace some of the glories which surround the name of the youthful Martyr of the Catacombs increase the fervor of those devoted to her. May they urge others to spread wider still veneration for her virtues of constancy and heroism, by which she obtained such favor with God, and merited so many benedictions for those who invoke her! St. Philomena! Pray for us.

Nihil Obstat:
Joannes Keane S. J. Cens. Theol. Deput.

Imprimi Potest: Eduardus Archiep. Dublinen. Hiberniae Primas Dublini: die 2 Januarii, 1929.

The Resurrection: Fact or Fiction?

The Resurrection: Fact or Fiction?
William Thompson, D.D.

The Most Important Event In History 

No event in all history has greater importance than the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and there is none the truth of which matters so much. For if the story of the Resurrection is a myth, there is no compelling reason to suppose that Jesus of Nazareth was more than a great ethical teacher and prophet such as Socrates or Buddha or Mahomet. He was no more the Son of God than they were the Sons of God and the message He gave was a purely human one – a good one, perhaps, but still a message from a mortal man. But if He rose from the dead, here is the mystery of all time, because we know that no dead person can ever come back to life. If this Man did what no living being can ever do, or can ever hope to do, then we know that He must also be God – the Master of Life and Death. This Man Who once lived in an obscure province of the Roman Empire must be the One Who made Man in His own image. In the words of the immortal hymn, this must be ‘He Who built the starry skies’.

If the Resurrection were to be abandoned no Gospel would remain. That Christ was risen was the message that the believers of the New Testament period were concerned to make known. This was their Good News. They never for a moment imagined that there could be a Gospel apart from the Resurrection. It was truly an amazing message that the Apostles released upon the world.

If the message was true, if Jesus of Nazareth did rise again from the dead, then we are face to face with surely the greatest historical fact in human history. For no other historical personage has such a claim ever been made. It is a thing, which simply does not happen. If it did happen, then this Man was a partaker in Godhead in a sense different to any other man. He was in fact, as he claimed to be, the Son of God. He was God.

It follows, therefore, that the historical authenticity or not, of the Resurrection is the most momentous problem in all history.

Has Science Disproved Miracles? 

The evidence for the Resurrection is exceedingly strong and it may be wondered at why so many people doubt and even dispute it, not even troubling to examine the evidence. Part of the explanation would appear to be that many people have a vague notion that modern science has disproved the possibility of miracles. They feel that miracles have never happened and can never happen.

Most skeptics claim that it is their scientific outlook, which causes them to reject the Resurrection out of hand. Their attitude is, however, anything but scientific. In any case, there is a whole field of experience, which cannot be verified by what is commonly described as scientific method.

Very many of us are unnecessarily overawed by the smattering of scientific learning which we happen to possess. We tend to come to the Resurrection narratives prejudiced by our superficial knowledge of physics towards a disbelief in the possibility of Christ’s Resurrection. But those of us who learn the actual findings of the foremost physicists of the present day cease to be so confident; we discover that there is an enormous range of phenomena for which physical science is unable to offer the sketchiest explanation.

It is quite untrue to say that modem science has disproved the possibility of miracles. The most scientists would say is that they have never met a proven miracle. But no one can assert that because an event has never yet come within his or her personal experience, it is therefore beyond the bounds of reason.

It is well for us to remember that science describes what happens; rarely does it explain why it happens.

The true scientific method is to approach any given problem with a completely open mind, examining all the relevant evidence and all the possible objections and then reaching whatever conclusions may be clearly indicated.

This is the legal method; this is the only logical way. In a court of law, the innocence or guilt of a prisoner is not judged in advance; all the evidence in his favor and all the evidence, which tells against him, is scrupulously examined, then a verdict is reached.

In like manner, all the evidence in favor of miracles should be examined and all possible objections should be minutely considered.

Evidence may be direct or indirect.

I can quite easily prove that a stone falls to the ground if left unsupported. All I need do is to take a stone and let it fall. I can prove that bacteria exist but that is slightly more difficult to prove for I must have a microscope. I can only indirectly prove that there is such a country as Australia; I have never been there but the testimony of people now living is so exhaustive and conclusive that it would be the height of insanity to doubt the existence of Australia. Yet I accept this fact on other people’s authority – I do not really know it myself.

With any fact of history, the evidence must necessarily be still more indirect – all that can be done is to show that there is a convergence of historical probabilities, which places the historicity of the event beyond all reasonable doubt.

We intend to show that the historical evidence for the Resurrection is overwhelming, far stronger than the evidence for many other events of history, which everyone unhesitatingly accepts as true.

The truth or falsity of an historical event can only be ascertained by collecting all the evidence, analysing it, weighing it, pondering upon it and finally deciding upon balance of probability whether it happened or not.

There cannot be absolute certainty about any event in the past. We say we know that George III became King of England in 1760 but there is no person alive who was living then to verify it. It is an historical fact but a fact dependent on the credibility of historical witnesses. So many witnesses in so many different places attest to the fact of George III becoming king in 1760 and there are so many corroborative details, that to question it would be downright stupid.

We shall make an impartial investigation of the Resurrection in the same way. We will examine all the available evidence in the way a court of law would do.

Are The Gospels History Or Legend? 

We must start by asking ourselves if the documents, which relate the story of the Resurrection, are reliable. Were they written by eye-witnesses? Are they really contemporary history, written by the four Evangelists? Or have we been fooled, are they simply pious legends?

In a world where there is much doubt and uncertainty, where contradictory accounts are published even about present-day events, the answer is simple. There is not a shadow of doubt that the four Gospels were circulating in the infant Church during the lifetime of Christians who had known the Apostles.

But can we be sure that they were not tampered with? Can we be sure the miracle stories were not added later?

Let us examine briefly a bit, a little bit of the evidence. A book could be filled with all the available evidence. As, for instance, the Gospel of Saint John. The beloved Disciple lived to an extreme old age and shortly before his death, he wrote the last of the Gospels. About this time, he taught a young man who later became Bishop of Smyrna. This man, Polycarp, later to obtain a martyr’s crown, taught in turn a young man eventually to become Bishop of Lyons. Irenaeus of Lyons in his Epistle to Florinus tells us that Polycarp frequently spoke to him about what Saint John and other disciples had told him about Our Lord and ‘all he said was in strict agreement with the Scriptures.’ He quotes frequently from the four Gospels.

Writers who wrote still earlier quoting the Gospels include Papias and Justin Martyr. The latter wrote a summary of Saint John’s Gospel full of quotations from that Gospel.

But the most treasured manuscript is the priceless fragment of part of Saint John’s Gospel. This, the earliest of them all, is amongst the papyri in the John Rylands Library at Manchester.

We even have non-Christians mentioning the Resurrection. Josephus, the great Jewish historian, born within ten years of the Crucifixion has this to say: ‘About this time lived Jesus, a man full of wisdom, if one may call him a man. He was a doer of incredible things . . . . He was the Christ. On the accusation of the leading men of our people, Pilate condemned him to death on the cross. Nevertheless, those who had previously loved him, still remained faithful to him. For on the third day he again appeared to them living, just as, in addition to a thousand other wonderful things, prophets sent by God had foretold. And at the present day the race of those who call themselves Christians after him has not ceased.’ (Jewish Antiquities, Book 18).

Strong Evidence

The first thing we find out is the startling fact that the evidence is all from one side. The Christians gave all the evidence in favor of the Resurrection; their opponents give no evidence to disprove it.

The next thing we find out is that the historical evidence for the Resurrection is exceedingly strong – far stronger than most people, believers and unbelievers alike, are aware. Indeed, the evidence is so overwhelming as to leave no reasonable doubt that Jesus of Nazareth, after He had been put to death by crucifixion, was raised from the dead and was seen alive by his disciples during the following forty days; and that this Resurrection meant more than the survival of His spirit, since it involved the raising of His body in such a way that His grave was left empty.

That the grave was really empty on the Sunday morning is beyond any reasonable question. Right from the beginning, the emptiness of the grave was taken for granted by friend and foe alike. The Jews never denied that the tomb was vacant. The only explanation they could offer was that the disciples had stolen the body out of the tomb.

Try to imagine the scene. Only a short distance from where His dead body had been laid to rest, the Christians were proclaiming the astounding message that He had risen. If the body lay in the tomb, all the High Priest and the Sanhedrin needed to do, was to throw the grave open to inspection so that anyone could see the body for himself.

The Jewish authorities were desperate for a solution. Their explanation that the disciples came by night and stole the body is really absurd. What were the guards doing? If they were awake, they could have stopped anyone taking the body away. If they were asleep, how could they know what happened to the body or who took it away? But who ever heard of soldiers on important guard duty, deciding to while the time away by sleeping? What happens to anyone rash enough to do so? There is no sign or suggestion anywhere that disciplinary action was taken against the guards.

The Empty Tomb 

In any case, there cannot be the slightest doubt that the grave was empty on the Sunday morning. What, then, happened to the body?

There can only be two explanations. The first is that Christ rose again from the dead and the second is that, somewhere or other, there was deliberate fraud. Absurd as we have shown the theory to be, let us examine the possibility that the disciples stole the body and pretended that their Master had risen from the dead.

We must ask ourselves first, what benefit would they have derived from such a deceit?

If they had invented the story of their Lord’s Resurrection, their reward was a lifetime of almost untold suffering, being excommunicated, ostracized and cut off from friends and relations. They knew that imprisonment and death awaited them and yet they launched their crusade in the very city where their master had been slain and only a few hundred yards from where His dead body had been laid to rest.

What a change had come over the Apostles in a few weeks time! When we read about them in the Gospels, Christ seems to have picked some very poor individuals as His followers. They fled at the approach of danger; their conduct in Gethsemane can only be called base and cowardly. Good Friday left them brokenhearted and in despair. He whom they had believed to be the Messiah was dead; the glorious adventure in which they had engaged with Him had come to a bitter, ignominious end; and so they skulked behind closed doors ‘for fear of the Jews’.

The Apostles Preached The Risen Lord

Seven weeks later, we find that they are scarcely recognizable as the same persons. Their despair and disappointment have given way to exultation, and soon they are in the busy streets of Jerusalem, the very stronghold of their enemies, fearlessly announcing that Christ is risen and that He is Lord.

There can be no argument about the message preached by the Apostles. They did not put Christianity forward as a code of ethics or a philosophy; they put it before the world as a supernatural religion, the story of a Man Who had died for the sins of the world and had miraculously risen again, and Who was both God and Man.

The earliest Christian document, which proves this, is Saint Paul’s 1st Epistle to the Corinthians. This Epistle is undoubtedly a genuine letter written by Saint Paul to the converts at Corinth. It was written about A.D. 55, approximately ten years before Saint Mark wrote his Gospel. (Most modern scholars believe that Saint Mark’s Gospel is the oldest of all the four Gospels.) At first, the Apostles and other preachers relied solely on oral tradition as to the facts of the Lord’s life and death and as to His sayings.

So the famous fifteenth chapter of Saint Paul’s 1st Epistle to the Corinthians affords us priceless testimony as to the belief of the early Church concerning the Resurrection: ‘Brethren, I make known unto you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you have received, and wherein you stand; by which also you are saved if you hold fast after what manner I preached unto you, unless you have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all, which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and the He rose again the third day, according to the scriptures; and that He was seen by Cephas, and after that by the eleven. Then He was seen by more than five hundred brethren at once, of whom many remain until this present, and some are fallen asleep. After that, He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. And last of all He was seen also by me, as one born out of due time.

So far, the evidence has shown us two definite facts. The first is that the tomb was certainly empty on that first Easter Sunday morning and the second is that the Apostles were convinced that their Master had risen from the dead.

Did The Apostles Imagine It All? 

Critics have not been wanting to suggest that the appearances of the Risen Christ were subjective hallucinations which tradition has elaborated into walks and talks and meals and messages.

There are no scientific grounds for assuming that collective hallucination ever takes place and even individual hallucination only occurs when an event is expected. But the disciples were not expecting the Resurrection; far from it. The crucifixion had left them utterly defeated, broken-hearted, crushed in spirit and quite without hope. He, round whom they had woven such dreams, had been executed in a shameful manner, and their hopes were shattered. They were timid, broken men, whose only hope was to save their own skins. Far from expecting to see their Master, they were only too sure that they had seen the last of Him. When the women came with their story that Jesus was alive, they would not believe them. And one of them, at least, was disposed to be skeptical even after the Risen Christ had shown Himself.

Though He had foretold his Resurrection to His disciples, it seems quite certain that they did not understand Him. They refused to take Him seriously when He spoke of His approaching death, and if they were slow and unwilling to understand, how could they possibly grasp His teaching concerning the Resurrection that was to follow? When we read the Gospels, it is quite clear that though Our Lord told them of what was ahead, when the blow fell and the Crucifixion came, it took them unawares and left them shattered.

The disciples as pictured in the Gospels are not the type of men likely to fall a prey to visions. The women could perhaps be regarded as possible victims of hallucination but the men, a slow-moving unimaginative lot, are not at all likely to become subjects of hysteria and fanciful flights of imagination. When we come to read the Gospel accounts carefully, we find that the Appearances would be a rather odd kind of ‘hallucination’ for the vision breaks bread, eats a bit of broiled fish and distributes the remains amongst them.

And he who attributes the transformation of the disciples to collective hallucination has still to explain the empty tomb. What happened to the body if the Christian explanation is not true? Was it removed to another grave? In that case, would it not have become a shrine, to which His followers would have repaired to give Him homage?

Even if someone did remove the body, what about the Appearances to the disciples? And not only to the disciples but to five hundred at once. Did the five hundred, presumably men, women and children, all suffer from the same hallucination? (Saint Paul probably meant five hundred men, ‘brethren’, not counting women and children, as he is deliberately bringing forth legal witnesses and makes no mention of Christ appearing to the women on the first Sunday, for which there is plentiful evidence from other sources.)

Did Joseph Of Arimathea Remove The Body?

It has been suggested by non-Christian critics that Joseph of Arimathaea removed the body. It is, however, difficult to see what motive he could have had. He could, it is true, have come to the tomb in the early hours of the morning and buried the body in another tomb of his own choice.

But is it conceivable that when the disciples were preaching the story of the Resurrection he would have kept quiet? A word from him would have exploded the whole story. He was a member of the Sanhedrin and if he never became a Christian, he had no motive for keeping silent. If he later became a Christian, he knew that the story of the Resurrection was false and he was a pious Jew, extremely unlikely to lend himself to blasphemy. Even supposing he died immediately after removing the body, which would be a remarkable coincidence, he could not have moved the stone alone; he must have had helpers. Surely, one or more of the helpers would have come forward. The Sanhedrin would have been delighted with such information and would have paid the informant well.

Did Christ Only Faint On The Cross?

Another alternative explanation put forward by rationalists is that Christ did not really die on the Cross but only fainted; and that, reviving in the cool of the tomb, He made His escape and inspired his disciples with the belief that He had risen from the dead.

This theory is of such extreme improbability that it is hardly worth a moment’s consideration. When He was taken down from the Cross, those supervising His execution were convinced that the job was done; and if they, whose duty it was to know, were satisfied that He was dead, it is hardly likely that they were mistaken.

However, supposing that for the sake of argument we concede that Our Lord may merely have been in a swoon when placed in the tomb, consider what difficulties there are in finding any reasonable explanation.

How did He escape from the tomb so carefully guarded by soldiers? Where did He get clothes from? Who rolled the stone away?

The theory that He did not really die on the Cross involves an appalling degree of fraud, much worse than the fraudulent removal of the body. All the Apostles must have been in the deception. It is interesting to remind ourselves here of a tremendous objection that the Apostles were guilty of fraud: would they have been willing to face persecution and death for a story, which they knew to be false. Tradition says that all the Apostles, except Saint John, perished by unnatural deaths. Death came to them in strange and horrible ways, devised for slaves and inferiors in a cruel age. We are inclined to think that they were not as other men; we shrink from pain and death, while they did not feel pain, neither did they fear death. Is this so?

We only need to read Saint Mark’s Gospel; he makes it quite clear that the disciples were anything but heroes. Only a conviction, overwhelming in force, a certainty that Christ had risen from the dead, could have transformed them from timid men ‘all who forsook Him and fled’ into supermen who invaded Jerusalem, the intellectual centre of Judea, who pitted their faith against the cleverest brains of the day, in the face of every hindrance and bitter opposition. They were not brilliant men, they were not very well-educated; they were men from the humblest walks of life, yet they carried all before them. In twenty years time they were threatening the very peace of the Roman Empire.

But at what a cost!

Persecution and martyrdom in the most fearful way.

Knowing this, as they must have done, why should they have formed a conspiracy to impose on the world a new religion in which they themselves did not believe? Is it conceivable that they would have persisted to the end in maintaining an elaborate conspiracy of falsehood? Surely, one or other would have broken away from such a foolish and such a pointless conspiracy? It is incredible to suppose that, sooner or later, the real facts would not have leaked out.

What of the difficulties of the situation? Our Lord, weak and in need of attention must have been conveyed somewhere where He could not be recognized while the Apostles brazenly preached the Resurrection.

Then He too, must have been a party to the fraud. Now, not even the most violent atheist would maintain that Christ was a common trickster.

But the suggestion that He did not really die on the Cross was given its death-blow more than a century ago by Strauss, one of the keenest critics of Christianity.

He says: ‘It is impossible to believe that a man who had crept, half-dead, out of the grave, weak and ill, needing medical attention, bandaging and indulgence, and who must finally have yielded to his sufferings, could have produced on the mind of his disciples that he had triumphed over death and the grave, the Prince of Life, and yet it was this impression which was the basis of their future ministry. Such a resuscitation could only have weakened the impression which he made on them in life and in death, and could not possibly have transformed their sorrow into enthusiasm, or their reverence into worship.’

There is not a shadow of a doubt that Jesus was really dead when taken down from the Cross.

Did Someone Else Remove The Body?

Sundry other suggestions have been advanced to try to find a materialistic explanation of the strange events of that first Easter Day.

Could anyone else have removed the body from the tomb? There were the Roman authorities; could Pilate have moved the body? But what possible motive could he have had? His interest was to preserve the Pax Romana (the Peace of Rome), none too easy a task with such a proud and turbulent people as the Jews. He had crucified Christ because it was the easiest way to avoid trouble with the Jews. Would he have antagonized them by moving the body and afterwards keeping silent? Then, too, others must have known the truth, is it conceivable that they would all have kept quiet? And how did the disciples and the five hundred imagine they had seen and heard the Risen Lord?

As for the Jewish authorities; they could easily have moved the body because they were annoyed with Joseph of Arimathaea for giving it honorable burial. They could have had it thrown into a common grave. They could have easily done all this, and then what would they have done when the disciples started to preach the Resurrection?

They would not have needed to produce a body, which could have been recognized as that of Jesus; all that would have been necessary would have been for them to produce mouldering remains of any sort from the tomb. Then the new doctrine would have been blown sky high. They did no such thing; and this is only explicable on the assumption that the tomb was empty and too many people in Jerusalem knew it was empty.

We have examined some of the available evidence and we have come to see that there is no other explanation save the Christian one of miracle.

Conversion Of St. Paul

Even so, we have not yet examined all the evidence.

About four years after the Crucifixion, a young Jew, hating the Christian faith with every fibre of his being, and attacking its adherents with the utmost vigor, turned completely round and ended up being its most fearless and most renowned advocate. His intellectual attainments have made him one of the greatest personalities of all time, as friend and foe alike have repeatedly testified. He was a Rabbi and a Pharisee, the chief persecutor of the new sect and he was the last man in the world to become a Christian.

But Saul, for such was his name, did become a Christian. The change of front was so remarkable that it astonished everyone. No one can ever really know what happened on the Damascus road. He certainly had a vision of the Risen Christ. This seems to have been somewhat different in some respects from the earlier Resurrection appearances; but Saul had not the slightest doubt that it was real, and so he adds it to the list of Resurrection appearances in the 1st Epistle to the Corinthians.

It is safe to say that at the date of his conversion, when he saw the vision of Christ, he knew the best of the official case against the Christians; he would be acquainted with all the facts known to the Jewish authorities, and would know welt all the ‘natural’ explanations of the Resurrection. He would certainly have been impressed and would probably have been shaken by the fortitude with which Saint Stephen had met his death.

Even so, all his background, all his training as an exceptionally ardent Pharisee, were such as to set him into violent opposition to any possibility of the Christians being right. The suggestion, even while he lived, that Christ was divine, would have filled Saul with intense repugnance; but the making of such a suggestion after the Crucifixion must have filled him with a horror so great that it is not to be wondered at that he rounded in violent hatred upon those whom he regarded as blasphemous heretics.

He was no unthinking, unquestioning, credulous individual but by common consent one of the greatest intellects of all time. His was a mind accustomed to assessing evidence and subjecting facts to searching scrutiny. He was a man equally capable of discussing Greek philosophical terms in Athens as of bandying Old Testament texts in the synagogues of Asia Minor.

He was the last man in the world to turn Christian.

He set out on his journey to Damascus, resolved to exterminate this new sect of Christianity; he arrived in Damascus convinced that Jesus had risen. He did not merely think he had been wrong; he became utterly convinced of the truth of the Resurrection. He was now as much for Christ as he had previously been against Him. Everything about him at Damascus goes to show that here was a man convinced beyond any possibility of doubt.

His conversion was not only thorough and complete; it was to be life-long. It led him to ridicule, hatred, persecution, stoning, floggings, imprisonment and shipwreck and, finally, it led him to an inglorious death.

Nothing could turn him away from his new faith and it is impossible to find any natural explanation for such a lifetime’s practical devotion.

Had there been any weak points in the disciples’ account of the Resurrection, here was the man to find them.

There was a considerable interval between his conversion and what he considered his call to spread the faith far and wide to all and sundry in the Roman world, an interval of self-communion and instruction. He announced his conversion at once but did not follow it up for some time. The evidence goes to show that he utilized this period to examine the Christian proofs of the Resurrection.

He mentions an appearance to Saint Peter (which others have mentioned) and another one to Saint James, an appearance which is nowhere else mentioned but the fact of which he must have had from the Apostle James himself. He did not start his missionary teaching until he had seen Saint Peter, one of the most vital witnesses on the question of the Resurrection. The proof that these two disciples alone could give was sufficient for him long after the excitement of his conversion had worn off. Being the man he was, too, we can be certain that he would have questioned very closely as many as he could of the five hundred. That he made himself known to most of the five hundred is indicated by his reference to them in the 1st Epistle to the Corinthians: ‘Then He was seen by more than five hundred brethren at once, of whom many remain until this present, and some are fallen asleep.

He must have been acquainted with them to know that some were still living but also that some of them had died.

Critics have tried to make much of his silence about the women’s visit to the tomb. Saint Paul was a strict Jew, writing not only to Greeks but also to his brethren. In Israel nineteen hundred years or so ago, a woman could not give testimony on oath – what she said was not evidence. The Gospels mention the woman’s visit to the tomb because it happened; they simply wrote a factual account, but no Jew would have dreamed of bringing female testimony forward as evidence.

Two points should be borne in mind. The first is that Saint Paul is not giving an exhaustive account of what happened on Easter Day, nor all the appearances of the Risen Christ, just as the Gospels in their turn, did not give a complete account. The second is that Saint Paul is not writing to prove the Resurrection to his readers; he is simply giving them a brief reminder of facts, which they, as well as he, know full well.

There is no reason to treat the fifteenth chapter of the 1st Epistle to the Corinthians as an example of what Saint Paul would have said if he had been writing to plead the truth of the Resurrection. This apparent difficulty, the supposed discrepancies between the Gospel and Saint Paul’s Epistle, is no reason for dismissing the Resurrection story.

Indeed, the real difficulty is finding a natural explanation for the transformation, which took place in Saint Paul’s life; the difficulty, not to say impossibility, of finding a natural explanation for what must surely be a supernatural event.

Weekly Testimony As To Truth Of Resurrection 

There is an extraordinary fact, which occurs once every week. It has been said that man can get used to almost anything. It is certain that we never notice what a remarkable thing we do every Sunday. We obey the Ten Commandments or, at least, we try to do. Almighty God ordered mankind to rest on the seventh day of the week and we know that the Jews faithfully observed the Sabbath.

Then a most remarkable thing happened. A very small group of men, the Apostles, took it on themselves to make the Sabbath an ordinary day and substituted in its place, the first day of the week. We in the twentieth century rarely realize, that, to the orthodox Jew of the first century, this must have appeared as an act of hideous blasphemy. These few men amended one of the Commandments of God and Christians have followed their example down the ages.

The earliest Christians were Jews, and converted Jews continued to form a large proportion of the Christian Church throughout the first century. Only some very extraordinary consideration could have caused them to tamper with one of the Ten Commandments; what could that be other than the conviction that it was on the first day of the week that the Lord had risen from the dead?

The event was so decisive and sure that it displaced even the Sabbath. Every Sunday that comes round is a new argument for the Resurrection.

Problem Of The Risen Body 

Though what has been said in these pages is adequate to show that Our Lord’s Resurrection is sober historical fact, it would be quite untrue to say that no problems remain in connection with the Appearances. One great difficulty is the nature of the risen body of Christ. It must be confessed that a full explanation would appear to be beyond our finite human minds. But there are some things which must be said.

One is that the historical truth of the Resurrection is not affected in the slightest by our inability to understand every problem connected with it. My inability to understand how the egg changes into the chicken does not alter anything; the egg hatches out even if I do not believe that it will do so.

Another thing, which must be said, is that our Risen Lord was different in some ways to the Christ before the Crucifixion; yet He was not a spirit. The true explanation must take account of the fact that the Risen Lord displayed physical attributes; He could see and be seen, He could eat and He could talk, yet, at the same time, He could appear and disappear at will. Perhaps we can do no better in attempting to describe Our Lord’s risen body than to speak of it as a ‘glorified’ body.

It was still Christ but it was not simply His physical body restored to the old life. Neither was it a disembodied spirit – the body that had laid in the tomb was taken up into this Risen Lord – but a wonderful change had taken place so that now it was suited to the conditions of a higher life as our flesh-and-blood body is suited to this one.

The resurrection of the individual Christian too, will have both continuity and difference, as Saint Paul points out. For us, too, the resurrection will be the resurrection of the body – not in the sense that the identical particles of our present body will form part of our ‘glorified’ body, but in the sense that we shall not be pure spirit and that there will be preserved all the essential physical features of our present earthly bodies.

How the Resurrection took place we do not know and certainly this side of the grave, we shall never be able to know. We do not know how it was that Jesus sometimes appeared as flesh and sometimes as spirit.

All attempts at a complete explanation of the ‘mode’ of the Resurrection are interesting. But they are not vital. The important thing, the one thing which is sufficient is that He rose from the dead in a manner which showed His power over life and death, a manner which demonstrates His victory over the grave, a victory which we, too, will eventually share with Him.

The Resurrection Is Historical Fact 

We have attempted to show how evidence piling upon evidence makes it unreasonable to doubt that Jesus rose from the dead. We sum up by emphasizing the impossibility of finding any other explanation of the Resurrection story.

It is for the sceptic to make good his claim; it is for the unbeliever to justify his contention that the Resurrection never took place.

But there is no satisfactory explanation except the Christian one of miracle.

There is only one explanation that fits the facts – the explanation given by Saint Peter when he says: ‘This Jesus, has God raised up, whereof we are all witnesses.’

The Holiness Of St. Patrick

The Holiness Of St. Patrick
By Rev P. F. Crudden.

We Australian Catholics are quite heavily committed to Saint Patrick with so many cathedrals, churches, colleges and schools under his patronage and so many persons bearing his name. Yet I think that I am right in saying that he is not particularly well known or well loved in Australia, even amongst the best informed Catholics.

If I speak of Saint Patrick, it is not of the historical figure who emerges somewhat hazily from a complex era, nor of the heroic figure about whom the folklore of a grateful people has woven so many beautiful legends, but rather of the Saint as a vital force in the living church in Australia. He is an exacting person who, if properly understood, gives the lie to much that is false in modern piety and points the way to such a relationship with the Father as Christ envisaged for his followers. Any person interested in achieving holiness of life can profit from a study of the holiness of Saint Patrick.

Saint Patrick Today.

The question arises how a man who died in the year 461 or thereabouts could possibly be a vital force in the church of today. The first thought that suggests itself is that he can certainly offer immediate support to the church and its members from his place in heaven. The merits that he acquired during his life on earth enable him to intercede with an intercession more powerful than that of our friends on earth. “The saints cooperate with us in obtaining our salvation,” says Saint Thomas Aquinas, “and by their help obtain from God what we ask of him. It is more glory for them to be able to help others, because in this they are co-operators with God.”

This does not suggest that any saint, or even Our Lady, can be the final support on whom we rest our hope. The final support on whom we rest our hope must always be Christ, for in no other name is salvation found. It is quite wrong to think that we can, or would even want to, bypass Christ in approaching the Father. We are united to God in Christ. Christ is man as we are men; with him and by him and in him we are truly sons of God. By this truth we live.

The application of this truth to the life of Saint Patrick serves to indicate his present role in the church more clearly. The same Christ who lives in us, making us sons of God, lived in Patrick, making him also a son of God. Patrick lived, and still lives, as a member of the same Christ in whom we live. Hence, the passing of fifteen hundred years or more need not make him remote from us, nor does it alter Christ’s formula for holiness in life. “If any man love me, he will keep my commandments and my Father will love him and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23.) The presence of Saint Patrick and the other saints with God at this time is an encouragement to us to live by the same formula. “Since we are watched by such a cloud of witnesses,” says Saint Paul, “let us run with all endurance the race for which we are entered.” (Hebrews 12:1.)

Although it is never easy to state precisely the role of a saint in the church at a given time, it seems reasonable to suggest that all saints have a special work beyond the general ones already mentioned. Origen suggests, for instance, that the spirit and power of Saint John the Baptist must come first into the soul of a man who learns to believe in Christ to prepare him for the coming of Christ. We remember Saint Patrick chiefly as a great missionary, a man who won a whole nation for God by his word and example. As with Saint John the Baptist, neither the power of Patrick’s word, nor the witness of his life is lost to the church.

The Power of His Word.

The power of Saint Patrick’s word remains in the two writings of his that we still possess, his Confession and his Letter against Coroticus. Of these two documents, the Confession is by far the more important because of the outline of his life that it provides and because of the insights it gives into the motives behind his missionary effort.

The witness of his life is a compelling one. In his day, he exerted tremendous influence over the lives of other men. He still has the power to deepen our understanding of the Christian vocation in the world of men and to inspire us to shake off that half-the-day self-indulgence of ours which constantly impedes the work of Christ in the world.

The sense of our own value as persons made in the image of God is easily lost in the noise and movement of modern life. Even if we cling to a realization of the value of our own immortal souls and are determined in our efforts to save them, we are still likely to overlook the value of those persons, many in number, over whom we are going to exercise power for better or for worse.

Whether we like it or not, we are in actual fact the representatives of Christ in those circles in which we move. Simply by what we are, we are either effective or ineffective witnesses of Christ. Many souls are dependent upon the influence of our lives for their introduction to Christ. There was a time when Patrick, as a Christian, did not realize this; but once he saw his vocation as a Christian and understood it, he pursued it with Pauline vigour and energy. Just to see him in action is to have the value of our own souls impressed upon us and the urgency of our Christian vocation stressed.

Early Life.

Although little of the detail of Patrick’s life is known for certain its outline is reasonably clear. He was almost certainly born in Roman Britain about the year 385. Shortly after the year 400, he was captured at his home by a raiding party and carried off as a slave to Ireland. In his Confession, he remarks that he was then sixteen years old but still did not know God. This does not mean that he was not a Christian, for he was. It means rather that he lived without much thought of God and in general neglected God. He attributes his capture and the capture of many other Christians at this time to their neglect of God and their refusal to serve Him faithfully.

It must surely have been a jolt for a sixteen-year-old boy to be torn away from a happy and comfortable home and to face the prospect of a life spent in slavery. He was a sensitive person with a deep affection for his parents and real feeling for his own country so that the thought of living among barbarians in a foreign country was a hateful one. We would have expected his captivity to make him embittered and disillusioned. It had the opposite effect. He always recalled his capture with gratitude because this crisis “opened the sense of my unbelief that I might at last remember my sins and be converted to the Lord my God”. It was the beginning of a relationship with God that was to continue to develop during the remainder of his long life. It was a relationship in which Patrick saw God as his Father, loving him, caring for him and protecting him, even during those years when he was not conscious of God’s presence. “He watched over me before I knew him,” wrote Saint Patrick, “and guarded me and comforted me as a father would his son.”

Slavery in Ireland.

Patrick worked as a slave in Ireland for six years. He tells us that his work was to tend sheep. We know that he lacked food and clothing during that time but he does not complain of cruel treatment. The important thing about these years is that knowledge, love and fear of God all grew in him and his faith was strengthened. They were years of intense and fervent prayer. During the day and at night, in the woods and on the mountain, he sought and found opportunities for prayer. “I used to get up for prayer before daylight, through snow, through frost, through rain, and I felt no harm, and there was no sloth in me – as I now see, – because the spirit within me was then fervent.”

It seems unlikely that Patrick would have received any kind of instruction at this time or even have had any manuscripts of Christian teaching to read. We may therefore conclude that he was “taught of God”. His ability to approach simply and directly to God was probably learned in these Irish woods and mountains. To the end of his life, however, he regretted his lack of formal education, speaking often of his slow tongue and only hesitantly committing his thoughts to paper for fear of revealing his lack of education. At the same time, he was aware that he had received from God gifts often withheld from those who study most assiduously. “Whence I, once rustic, exiled, unlearned, who does not know how to provide for the future, this I know most certainly that before I was humiliated I was like a stone lying in deep mire; and he that is mighty came and in his mercy lifted me up, and raised me aloft, and placed me on the top of the wall.”

Like Saint Paul.

It is interesting to note that Patrick was introduced to his Christian vocation in much the same way as Saint Paul, by the direct action of God rather than by the ordinary means of instruction through the church. In telling his story, Paul writes, “And then he who had set me apart from the day of my birth, and called me by his grace, saw fit to make his Son known in me, so that I could preach his gospel among the Gentiles. My first thought was not to hold any consultations with any human creature; and I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who had been apostles longer than myself; no, I went off into Arabia, and when I came back, it was to Damascus. Then, when three years had passed, I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Peter and I stayed a fortnight there in his company.” (Galatians 1:15-18.)

Patrick tells his story in more vigorous language than Paul, in this instance, but we note that the two stories run parallel in several respects. “And therefore I ought to cry out loud,” writes Saint Patrick, “and so also render something to the Lord for his great benefits here and in eternity – benefits which the mind of man is unable to appraise. Wherefore, then, be astonished, ye great and little that fear God, and you men of letters on your estates, listen and pore over this. Who was it that roused up me, the fool that I am, from those who in the eyes of men are wise, and expert in law, and powerful in word and in everything? And he inspired me – me, the outcast of this world – before others, to be the man (if only I could!) who, with fear and reverence and without blame, should faithfully serve the people to whom the love of Christ conveyed and gave me for the duration of my life, if I should be worthy.”

Escape from Slavery.

After six years in Ireland came the second crisis in Patrick’s life. He heard a voice in his sleep, which said, “See, your ship is ready.” At this point it should be noted that Patrick does not at any time speak in his Confession of working a miracle, although there is no reason why some of the miracles attributed to him may not be true, but he does say that God used to forewarn him of many things by a divine message. This particular message about the ship followed on another message he had received earlier, “It is well that you fast, soon you will go to your own country.”

He took flight from the man to whom he was bonded and made a journey of “perhaps two hundred miles” to a port, probably on the south-east coast where he knew nobody. He tells us that he made this journey in the strength of God who directed his way and that he feared nothing until he came to the ship.

If he feared nothing on the way, he was timid and nervous enough in his approach to the ship’s captain. Despite an offer to pay, he met a curt refusal.

After he had turned disappointedly away to make his way back to the hut where he had been sheltering he was recalled a by a crew member and taken aboard the ship which set sail at once for Gaul.

Still Amongst Barbarians.

In three days, they reached Gaul, only to find it impossible to dispose of their cargo because the country had been devastated by barbarian invasions. This may well have been the year 407, the year of a great Vandal raid on Gaul. These were grim days for the church. Only three years later the Goths, led by Alaric, entered the city of Rome and spent three days of destruction there. Alaric and his Goths were to be followed shortly by Attila and the Huns, and they in turn by Genseric and his Vandals. The work of Saint Patrick can be fully understood only against the background of his times. Those times are well described by Saint Jerome who lived through part of them at least. “The mind shudders,” he wrote, “when dwelling on the ruin of our day. For twenty years and more, Roman blood has been flowing ceaselessly over the broad countries between Constantinople and the Julian Alps, where the Goths, the Huns and Vandals spread ruin and death. How many Roman nobles have been their prey! How many matrons and maidens have fallen victim to their lust! Bishops live in prison, priests and clerics fall by the sword, churches are plundered, Christ’s altars are turned into feeding troughs, the remains of martyrs are thrown out of their coffins. Everywhere there is sorrow, everywhere lamentation, everywhere the image of death. . . . What is safe if Rome is gone? What is safe if the city which had taken captive the whole world is taken captive?”

The reply to Saint Jerome’s question is that the spiritual resources of the church were not seriously impaired by the fall of the Roman Empire. Christianity faced the problem of converting the barbarians. Patrick was a pioneer in that work. At the beginning of his Letter against Coroticus he wrote, “I, Patrick, a sinner, unlearned, resident in Ireland, declare myself to be a bishop. Most assuredly, I believe that what I am, I have received from God. And so I live among barbarians, a stranger and an exile for the love of God.” We note here Patrick’s awareness of two important things. His life’s work lay among the barbarians. He had been equipped by God for their conversion. At the same time, he is aware of the importance of his episcopate. In the early days of the rebuilding of Europe, the authority of the Emperor and his representatives was largely replaced by that of the Bishop. One tradition from the Middle Ages has Patrick presiding over a Council of the rulers of Ireland to bring their laws and social customs into line with Christian teaching.

Arrival in France.

Patrick’s arrival in France at this particular time must surely, therefore, have given perspective to his later work among the barbarians on what was then the fringe of the known world. However, we do not know in detail what happened to Saint Patrick in the few years after he landed in Gaul. He tells us that he was captured and held a prisoner for sixty days before escaping. It was only after many journeys over long distances that he was eventually able to make his way from Gaul to the home of his parents in Britain. One thing we know for certain is that he remained very close to God during these difficult days. As the country had become a “desert” after the ravages of the invaders, the travelers were in constant danger of starvation. He recalls that on one journey of twenty-eight days they travelled through deserted country and that God gave them food and fire and dry weather until they met people. “As I said above,” he wrote, “we travelled twenty-eight days through deserted country and the night we met people we had no food left.” After a few years, he found his way back to his people in Britain who received him as their son and sincerely begged him that, having suffered so many hardships, he should not leave them again.

A Voice from Ireland.

It is doubtful whether it would now have been possible for Patrick to settle down at home, much and all as he loved his parents and his country. At all events, his future was made plain to him by a vision, which he experienced while there with his parents. He saw in the night a vision of a man who appeared to hand him a letter on which was written the words, “Wake you, boy, come and walk amongst us once more.” At the same time, he appeared to hear the voice of the Irish from beside the Western Sea making the same request.

We must not imagine that he arose immediately from his bed and set about the conversion of Ireland. Many years were to pass before he again set foot in Ireland. He first of all journeyed to Gaul and remained there for perhaps fifteen years. These years were spent for the most part at the monastery of Lerins and at Auxerre, where he prayed, studied and worked, first as a deacon and later as a priest.

The fruit of these years is seen in his writing and in his later work. His writing is rough and unpolished but it shows a most remarkable knowledge of the Scriptures. He quotes from the Old and New Testaments readily and effectively. His writing echoes the Pauline Epistles, and even when he is not quoting directly from the Scriptures his outlook and even his phrasing reflects them.

The other benefit derived from these years in Gaul was his realization of the worth of the monastic way of life. Although he never became a monk himself, he loved the monks at Lerins and wrote as an old man that he longed “to visit the brethren and behold the faces of the Saints of the Lord”. There can be no doubt that the monastic movement in Ireland dates back as far as Saint Patrick because he speaks himself with pride of the “countless sons and daughters of kings who became the monks and virgins of Christ.”

Return to Ireland.

During Patrick’s stay in Gaul Saint Germanus, who was Bishop of Auxerre, was sent by the Pope to examine the state of the church in Britain. Among other things, his visit revealed that the British slaves in Ireland had converted many pagans to Christianity but that the Irish church was not yet properly organized. As a result of this, a priest named Palladius was named Bishop by the Pope and sent to Ireland.

Palladius lived only a short time and it soon became necessary to find a successor. The Confession indicates almost certainly that Patrick had been nominated as leader of the first expedition and even had ‘inside information’ that he was to be consecrated Bishop. This event did not take place because a misdemeanor of his very early life was quoted against his character. He was bitterly disappointed but was strengthened by a vision in which God made known to him that he was displeased with his rejection. Since he was sure that his vocation to work among the Irish came from God, he pressed his claims and was appointed to replace Palladius. It seems possible that he may have received this appointment directly from the Pope, as did Palladius, but we cannot be certain of this. We do not even know who consecrated him Bishop, but we do know that at the time of his consecration he was already a middle-aged man.

Work in Ireland.

In the Confession Patrick claims that it would be tedious to give an account of all or even part of his labours as a Bishop in Ireland. Perhaps he is right.

The important thing is that his labour were highly successful. In his favor would have been his knowledge of the customs of the people amongst whom he worked. The traditions that have been handed down about his missionary work invariably point to a deep insight into the mentality of the Irish. What he lacked in intellectual gifts he made up for by shrewdness tempered by a native kindness that shows through all his writing. He worked close to God and knew where true values lay.

He saw himself as a fisher of men and tells how he spread out his nets so that a great multitude and throng might be caught for God. It was a great consolation for him to see so many who had worshipped ‘idols and things impure’ join the ranks of the people of God. Recalling his missionary work he wrote, “For I am very much God’s debtor, who gave me such great grace that many people were reborn in God through me and afterwards confirmed, and that clerics were ordained for them everywhere.” In this way, he consolidated his work so successfully that the nation he won for God has never defected. Although he consciously attempted to leave a bequest, he could not have envisaged what a great bequest it would be. “I must spread everywhere the name of God,” he said, “so that after my decease I may leave a bequest to my brethren and sons whom I have baptized in the Lord – so many thousands of people.”

As the episcopal office demands, he became so deeply attached to his people that he could not bear the thought of leaving them. “Even if I wished to leave them and go to Britain, – and how I have wished to go to my country and my parents, – and also to Gaul in order to visit the brethren and to see the faces of the saints of my Lord, – God knows it that I much desired it; – but I am bound by the Spirit, who gives evidence against me if I do this, telling me that I shall be guilty.” His attachment was not a personal one. It was founded in the commission he had received from Christ. “I am afraid of losing the labour which I have begun – nay, not I, but Christ the Lord who bade me come here and stay with them for the rest of my life, if the Lord will, – and He will guard me from every evil that I may not sin before them.”


Saint Patrick died of a natural illness when in his mid-seventies. The exact circumstances of his death are not known, but when he died, Ireland was no longer a missionary country. It had already been won for God. Very soon, missionaries were to leave Ireland for Europe. The English historian Philip Hughes, in acknowledging this, pays Saint Patrick a great compliment, “From Ireland, which was Patrick’s creation, the light was one day to return and enlighten Europe itself.”

A Sinful Man.

One of the features of Saint Patrick’s spirituality was a constant awareness of his own sinfulness. There is no doubt that a deep sense of sin is one of God’s great graces. It can be given only to a person who had learned to love God deeply and sincerely. Romano Guardini has formulated a prayer which reads,

“Holy God, teach me to recognize your love, so that I may see how great is my guilt.”

In Patrick’s life, and in the life of every saint, this prayer was answered. He introduces himself to us with the words, “I am Patrick a sinner.” He recognizes that he needs constant support from God, “I do not trust myself as long as I am in this body of death, for strong is he who daily strives to turn me away from the faith and purity of true religion.” He squarely faces the fact that “the hostile flesh is ever dragging us unto death, that is, towards the forbidden satisfaction of one’s desires”, but not without recognizing the power of God’s grace to overcome sin. “From the time I came to know him in my youth, the love of God and the fear of Him, have grown in me, and up to now, thanks to the grace of God, I have kept the faith.” The natural corollary of the recognition of God’s love is confidence. Romano Guardini’s prayer sums this up perfectly.
“Holy God, teach me to recognize your love, so that I may see how great is my guilt. But grant that this recognition may also become confidence.”

The Trinity in His Life.

The pictures and statues of Saint Patrick show him with a shamrock in his hand and snakes beneath his feet. Without entering into the question of whether Saint Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland, we may say that the symbolism is good. It points to the fact that he waged a successful fight against the forces of evil in Ireland.

The symbolism of the shamrock is equally good. Its value for teaching the doctrine of the Trinity is strictly limited, but the Confession indicates that Saint Patrick lived the mystery in his own life and, with or without the help of a shamrock, taught it successfully.

He sees clearly that the sanctification of men has its well-spring in the Father. “He watched over me before I knew him and guarded me and comforted me as a Father would his son.” Patrick praised God. He thanked Him. He loved Him. He trusted Him. He feared God. He saw the hand of God in everything. He said often that the strength of God directed his way. He accepted with equanimity whatever God asked of Him. He was in all things a devoted son to his Father.

He expresses his belief in the Son in a compact formula, “Him we believe to have always been with the Father, spiritually and ineffably begotten by the Father before the beginning of the world, before all beginning; and by him are made all things visible and invisible. He was made man, and, having defeated death was received into heaven by the Father; and he has given Him all power over all names, in heaven, on earth and under the earth, and every tongue shall confess to him that Jesus Christ is the Lord and God, in whom we believe, whose advent we expect soon, to be, yes judge of the living and the dead, who will render to every man according to his deeds.” He is glad to be poor with Christ. He is confident that Christ will guard him from every evil. He was prepared to sacrifice himself with Christ, “Ready I was that he should give me his chalice to drink, as he gave it also to the others who loved him.” He expected one day to reign with Christ. “Of Him and by Him and in Him we shall reign.”

His attachment to the Holy Spirit was no less real. He says that it is the Holy Spirit who makes those who believe and obey sons of God and joint heirs with Christ. He speaks of God saving him from evil “because of the Spirit that dwells in me”. He regrets that he, who was chosen to be God’s helper, “should have been so slow to do as the Spirit suggested.”

We have only very few pages of Saint Patrick’s writing. Altogether, they would scarcely be the length of a short story. They nonetheless give a graphic picture of Patrick as a man who lived for God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

“To Serve Faithfully . . .”

Saint Patrick saw himself as an ambassador of God. “I commend my soul to my faithful God, for whom I am an ambassador in all my wretchedness.” He regarded it a privilege to serve God’s people. He wanted, above all else, “to serve faithfully” the people to whom Christ had given him. As already stated he regarded himself as a fisher of men and he tried “to fish well and diligently”. He was driven by his love for men “to make known the gift of God and ever-lasting consolation”. His great desire was to spend himself for the souls committed to his care.

As an ambassador for God, Saint Patrick was a tremendous success. To be a successful ambassador for God is an exacting task, demanding full use of the power of divine love that lies within us. Perhaps Saint Patrick, by his example, inspiration and intercession may help us to exercise those powers more fully.

The Breastplate of Saint Patrick.

In this pamphlet, I have made reference to two writings of Saint Patrick. There may possibly be a third. There is an old Irish morning prayer called the Breastplate of Saint Patrick that can be traced back in its present form to the 9th century. The possibility of its composition by Saint Patrick should not be dismissed since it is one in spirit with his own writing. Some lines from the prayer are appended.

I arise today through
God’s strength to pilot me,
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to secure me –
against the snares of devils,
against temptation of vices,
against inclinations of nature,
against everyone who shall wish me ill,
afar and near,
alone and in a crowd. . . .
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ where I lie,
Christ where I sit,
Christ where I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me,
Salvation is of the Lord,
Salvation is of the Lord,
Salvation is of Christ,
May Your salvation,
O Lord, be ever with us.

Penance And Self-Denial: Why? The Significance of Lenten Discipline for Modern Life.

Penance And Self-Denial: Why? The Significance of Lenten Discipline for Modern Life.
Rev John A. O’Brien, Ph.D.

The Significance of Lenten Discipline For Modern Life
“Lent is a relic from the Dark Ages. It is a shadow projected down the ages of gloom that falls athwart the sunshine of our modern life and happiness. As the Matterhorn that lifts its snow-crowned summit high into the skies of Switzerland, intercepts the slanting rays of the setting sun, and brings premature darkness to the little village nestling in the valley behind it, so Lent robs us of much of the brightness of social life and worldly amusement, casting prematurely across the noonday of our life the shadow of death and the here-after. Its doctrine of mortification runs counter to the very grain of our human nature. It is a killjoy, an anachronism in our enlightened twentieth century. We want a religion of joy and gladness, not of gloom.”

Such is the cry that we hear about us on every side — the cry of the epicurean, the cry of the cynic, the cry of the sophisticated, seeking through a thousand devious routes to find the Blue Bird of happiness. Is Lent really a barrier to our happiness? Is it the mere blind handing down of a custom from the hoary past, that has lost its purpose and its utility for our modern day? Let us face these questions frankly and fairly. For unless a person understands how the observance of Lent promotes his welfare and happiness he is not likely to enter into its spirit wholeheartedly. [Our twenty-first century is even more antagonistic to our Catholic Faith and regards itself as even more enlightened than the last century and thus even more entitled to criticize the Catholic Church. Moreover, we Catholics have a greater responsibility now that our Lenten penance is to be so much more dependent on our own initiative and less on Church Law. We owe it to ourselves to understand the principles and whys of penance and self-denial.]

Example of Christ

In the first place, Lent is but the following of the example of Our Divine Savior Himself. For the Gospel tells us that immediately after His baptism in the Jordan and before beginning His public ministry, Christ went out into the desert and fasted forty days and forty nights. Through the lips of His precursor, Saint John the Baptist, He said to the people: “Unless you do penance you shall likewise perish.” Unlike our modern generals who send their soldiers out into the front-line trenches, while they remain securely behind, Our Divine Master asks us to follow only where He Himself has led. For many centuries the Christian world followed the example of Our Savior with a rigorousness which we to-day do not even remotely approximate. A few years ago, I stood at the foot of Mount Quarantana, within sight of the Jordan, where the Savior spent forty days of fast. I saw the sides of the mountain studded with holes, where anchorites had come to dwell, and to follow literally the rigorous fast of the Savior.

Until the ninth century, for the ordinary Catholic but one meal a day was taken, and that at evening. During the Middle Ages not only the theaters but even the law courts were closed. War was forbidden under penalty of excommunication. Every activity that might distract the minds of the Christians from the consideration of the condition of their souls and the attainment of their eternal salvation was prohibited. It has only been in recent times that the severity of the Lenten fast has been so greatly mitigated that now we experience but little hardship in its observance.

Analysis of Saint Paul

Catholics do not observe Lent, however, merely because Our Savior fasted, but because of the reasons which lie behind His command — to do penance as the necessary condition for salvation. We do penance for a twofold purpose:
First, to atone for our past sins and to satisfy the temporal punishment due for them;
secondly, to strengthen our wills so as to prevent our falling in the future.

When psychology will have written its final chapter on human nature, it will be found that it has given us no more penetrating revelation of its conflicting duality than that which Saint Paul disclosed to the Romans when he said: “I see another law in my members fighting against the law of my mind, and captivating me in the law of sin that is in my members.” And to the Galatians he said: “For the flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary one to another, so that you do not the things that you would.” Because of this conflicting duality that lay at the very heart of his nature, he found himself yielding to the thralldom of the senses and to the imperious tyranny of flesh against the voice of reason and conscience, so that he was compelled to explain: “The good which I will. . . . . I do not; but the evil which I will not, that I do.”

How aptly do these words of Saint Paul reflect the experience of all mankind. Because of this duality in our nature, we find a Dr. Jekyll and a Mr. Hyde, a saint and a demon struggling for the mastery in each of us. In the last analysis, it will be found that the whole purpose of all the exercises of the spiritual life is to emancipate the will from the tyranny of the flesh, to make it the ready servant of the reason and the conscience of man.

In order to secure such mastery, self-denial and self-discipline are necessary. The appetite, which is always pampered, petted and indulged, becomes imperious and domineering. By denying oneself at times pleasures that are lawful, we strengthen the muscles of the will, so that it will be more capable of resisting pleasures which are unlawful. That is why in Lent we are asked to give up some pleasures and amusements which are lawful in themselves. We thereby fortify the enthronement of our conscience and our intellect over our appetites and cravings. Then when the temptation comes, we shall be able to stand unshaken.

Promotes Happiness

Strength of will, which comes through self-denial and discipline, is necessary to success in every line of endeavor — in literature, in science, in art, in commerce, in athletics. Look at the athletes who are training day after day on the cinder track. See those muscles of theirs, at first soft and flabby, change under the dint of daily discipline until they become as sinews of iron. So it is with the Christian, whose will, at first soft and flabby, gradually becomes like iron under the lash of daily discipline during Lent. This strength of will developed by spiritual exercises carries over into every department of life — making for success in scholarship, in athletics, in business, in life.

Not only does it make for success, but it makes for that subjective correlate of success — happiness and peace of mind. True happiness is found not in the enslavement of the will to the passions, but in the enthronement of the conscience and the will over the appetites and the instincts of man. There is found that deeper and truer happiness which is not dependent upon external circumstances, but is found within — in the kingdom of the mind. Your entering generously into the spirit of Lent will have a far-reaching influence not only upon the success of all your manifold activities, but also upon your happiness and peace of mind.

Some time ago, the students at the University of Illinois, U.S.A., honored at a public mass meeting the young man who carried the colors of Illinois to victory at the Olympic Games at Amsterdam by winning the welterweight wrestling championship of the world. After congratulating him upon his great achievement, I asked him how long he had trained for the contest. “Father,” he said, “scarcely a day has passed in the last seven years that I haven’t gone through some special exercise designed to prepare me for that encounter.” No wonder that he was as hard as iron and steel, and able to withstand the assaults of the best wrestlers among all the nations of the world. If men toil and discipline themselves through rigorous self-denial to win a race for an earthly prize, how much greater should be our zeal and earnestness in seeking to win the race of life that leads to a crown of imperishable glory!

Christ’s Self-Control

If one will study with care the character of Our Divine Savior as portrayed in the Gospel stories, he will find it adorned in an eminent degree with all the qualities which have distinguished the illustrious heroes of the world. Wisdom, power, mercy, and love shine forth luminously from His sublime personality. But as one studies that complex character at greater length and secures a more penetrating insight into it, he gradually becomes conscious that there is some subtle quality there, blending all these into a harmonious whole, which is lacking in the character of the great heroes of the world. There is no jar, no jolt, none of the strange inconsistencies that glare out at us from the lives of the secular heroes.

That quality is the Savior’s perfect self-mastery, self-control. Never for an instant in all the scenes of the Master’s earthly life is there an incident wherein a rash, hasty, headstrong action mars the even tenor and the surpassing beauty of the Savior’s unfailing equanimity and perfect self-control. Washington’s greatness bears ever the tarnish of his profanity and ill-temper. Napoleon’s glory is dimmed by his uncontrolled concupiscence. But when on trial for His life before the court of Caiphas, when buffeted and spat upon by His executioners, even when stripped of His garments and nailed to the Cross, the Master shows no sign of anger or vindictiveness. Never for a moment does He lose that marvelous mastery of Himself.

That is one of the reasons why the name of Jesus stands out among all the names in human history — the solitary example of perfect self-control. As Richter has said: “The purest among the strong, and the strongest among the pure, Jesus lifted with His wounded hands empires from their hinges and changed the stream of centuries.” He taught man the greatest of all arts — the art of self-control.

“Self-knowledge, self-reverence, self-control
In these alone lie sovereign power;
Who conquers self, rules others,
Aye, is lord and ruler of the universe.”

Essential for Success

The person who would master the rudiments of the spiritual life must learn the lesson of self-discipline. It is one of the most essential elements for success in the earthly and spiritual warfare which we wage. The paths of life are strewn with the wrecks of men and women conquering others, mastering the arts, unlocking the secrets that lay hidden for countless centuries in the unfathomed bosom of the earth, only to fall victims to their own lusts, perishing in their own unconquered wilderness.

To me there is something tragically moving in the spectacle of Alexander the Great subjugating Greece, conquering imperial Persia, (outshining future imperial Rome), extending his little kingdom of Macedonia over the known world, until he found himself in distant Ecbatana, in Media, Asia, sitting astride his steed and weeping because there were no more worlds to conquer. Within a week Alexander the Great, conqueror of the world, making the earth tremble as his mighty battalion swept across Europe and Asia, lay dead in his tent, a victim to his own concupiscence — his unbridled passion for drink. Instead of sighing for new worlds to conquer, if he had but eyes to see, he would have perceived within himself a kingdom which stretched out as a huge jungle, untamed and unexplored. Alexander the Great will remain for all times as the classic example of the man who was able to conquer all the world, except himself — literally murdered at the very zenith of his greatness by his own untamed passions.

We need not go back to ancient Greece or Rome or Ecbatana, however, to witness the tragic wrecks of uncontrolled passions. Our insane asylums, our homes for wayward boys and girls, scream out at us their message of the frightful retribution meted out to those who allow their lust to subjugate their reason and their conscience. In the very bosom of our society are countless men and women in the untamed wilderness of whose hearts there surge unchecked, wild, primeval passions, pulling them down slowly but surely to the level of beasts, and murdering everything in their nature that is God-like and divine. The ceaseless gnawings of remorse, the sapping of their manhood and virility by terrible diseases — these are the forebodings of the far greater punishments that await with inexorable justice the transgressors of the Divine law in eternity.

A Dying Wreck

One evening some time ago, I was called to the bedside of a stranger, dying in one of the rooming houses for transients in the city. He had gone through all the stages of delirium tremens, and was a complete wreck. The doctor said that he had gone on one spree too many. For this particular spree had caused complications, a ruptured blood-vessel, and his end was a matter of hours. Though only in middle age, his hair was streaked with grey, and his face was heavily lined. Worry and dissipation were stamped unmistakably upon the scarred countenance.

Heartbroken, he told me his story. Possessing a good education, he had risen to a high position with a railroad, when he contracted the habit of drunkenness. Losing his job after a prolonged fit of intoxication, he was ashamed to face his wife and children. He went from bad to worse, finally becoming an outcast among the barrel houses in a large city.

After I heard his confession, he broke into tears, and his whole frame shook with sobbing as he cried, “Father, I would have given anything in the world to have freed myself from this terrible vice of drink. It has brought shame upon my family, whom I love more than anything in life. It has pulled me down into a living hell.” I shall never forget to my dying day the look of desolating anguish akin to despair in his wistful eyes, as he lay there sobbing as though his heart would break.

As I left that bare, drab room, with its dying victim, and came down the creaking stairs of the dingy rooming house, the scene haunted my mind. While hurrying home through the darkness of that winter night, illumined only by the distant stars shining as God’s silent sentinels in the sky, I prayed that God might protect my students, my people, myself, from a tragedy such as I had left behind. For that is the fate which awaits the boy or girl, the man or woman who allows any passion to grow unchecked, until it transforms him from a saint into a demon incarnate — the terrible tragedy of the man who is murdered, not by the hand of the assassin, but by his own brutal passions, slowly strangled to death by his own self.

The whole world watched breathlessly a few years ago the frantic struggle of men to free a victim (Floyd Collins) from the jaws of Sand Cave in the Kentucky hillsides. But the Sand Cave resisted all the assaults of men and machinery, and the rocks clung to their victim until life was extinct. So, any passion — intoxication, lust, anger, jealousy — that is allowed to go unchecked, develops into a monster that clings to its victim until it strangles him to a physical and spiritual death. Worse than the fall of a meteor from the sky is the fall of a young man or a woman from the beauty and sunshine of God’s grace into the foul swamp of uncontrolled vice. It is the most tragic note and the saddest that can be sounded in the whole gamut of human life.

The Remedy

What now is the remedy? Knowledge merely? “Quarry the granite rock,” says Cardinal [Blessed John Henry] Newman, “with razors, or moor the vessel with a thread of silk; then you may hope with such keen and delicate instruments as human knowledge and human reason to contend against those giants, the passions and the pride of men.” Not knowledge alone, but will power is needed. Self-control means strength of will applied to one’s own conduct. How can will power be developed? Our Divine Master has given us the answer when He said: “He that will be My disciple, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” By daily discipline, daily self denial, such as Lent brings to us. In no other way under the heavens, can there be developed will power and self-control.

The same conclusion was reached by an altogether different method of approach by one of the greatest of all psychologists, William James, when he said: “Keep the faculty of effort alive in you by a little gratuitous exercise every day.” Do something each day that is hard and more than is required in order that your faculty of effort, your will, may not become weak and atrophied through disuse. Thus, strikingly, does science reiterate and reinforce this age-old teaching of the Church.

Before the eyes of a world sick unto death with luxury and self-indulgence, the Church places during Lent the age-old picture drawn by the Master Artist, Christ, of will power developed through self-discipline, of self-control achieved through acts of self-denial. Greater than Napoleon Bonaparte, than Julius Caesar, than Alexander the Great, the conqueror of the world, is the man who has learned through the instrument of a vigorous will to conquer himself. For self-control is the ‘open sesame’ to success in this life and to eternal happiness in the next. All the after ages have but confirmed the wisdom of those words of an obscure Flemish monk, Thomas a Kempis, written in his monastic cell at Zwolle centuries ago: “He who best knows how to endure . . . is conqueror of himself and lord of the world, the friend of Christ and an heir of heaven.”

“And Unto Dust. . . .”

In addition to the great lesson of self-mastery, Lent brings home to mankind the fickleness of the world’s applause and its insufficiency to satisfy the hunger in the soul of man. On Ash Wednesday, the Church seeks by a colorful and impressive ceremony to drive home to her children the transiency of this earthly life and the wisdom of seeking to attain the life eternal. The palms which were blessed on the previous Palm Sunday, to remind us of the Saviour’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, when the multitudes waved them aloft, shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” and strewed them in profusion on the road over which He rode — these palms the Church burns to ashes. Then, summoning her children to the altar railing, she places these ashes on the brow of each in the form of a cross, while she whispers in the ear of each the words of warning: “Remember, man, you are but dust, and unto dust you shall return.”

Why speak to youth in whose eager eyes there burn the fires of life, and on whose cheeks there rests the bloom of youthful vigor — why speak to them of dust and ashes, of death and the hereafter? Why lessen their zest for life and its pleasures? The Church thus speaks to them, not to lessen their zest for life, but to give them a sense of values. She shoves back the narrow horizon of youth, removes the veil from the senses, reveals the transient character of earthly things, and points out the folly of seeking enduring happiness in that which is so ephemeral. The thought of death and the hereafter is salutary at times for old and young, for it prompts one to answer aright that supreme question which the Master addresses to each of us: “What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?”

The wholesome effect of a profound realization of the transiency of human life and human beauty is illustrated by an incident in the life of Saint Francis Borgia. Francis was Duke of Gandia and Captain-General of Catalonia, and one of the most honored chevaliers at the Court of Spain. Isabella was known throughout Europe for her charm, her Spanish vivacity, and for the striking beauty of her countenance. Often had Francis braved death while carrying the banner of Aragon and Castile into the thick of the battle, knowing that he would be rewarded with a word of praise from his beloved Queen. He found his greatest happiness in basking in the sunshine of her smile and drinking in with greedy eyes her charming loveliness.

A Last Look

In 1539 there fell to his lot the sad duty of escorting the remains of his beloved Queen to the royal burial grounds at Granada. In order to verify the body as that of Isabella, the coffin was uncovered. Eagerly Francis stepped forward to take one last, lingering look at the beautiful countenance of his beloved Queen. He had no sooner done so than his face grew livid, his eyes wild with terror, as he shrank back. “No! No! Good God!” he cried; “it can’t be! It can’t be! Those eyes, that face, that smile! They can’t have perished so utterly.” What was the sight that greeted his eyes? A face of wondrous beauty? No. A face hideous and ugly in its putrefaction, the loathsome prey of worms and maggots pulling it back to dust and ashes. “God grant,” cried Francis, “that I seek not to find my happiness henceforth in that flesh which perishes so quickly, but only in that eternal Beauty which never knows decay.” Francis devoted his services thereafter to a heavenly King, seeking as a humble missionary to win souls for Christ.

From the most beautiful face in all Spain, for whose look of approval soldiers faced death with a smile, to a sight so foul and loathsome as to fill the spectator with revulsion — what a change! Gaze at the most beautiful face you have ever seen, with eyes that speak like a rapturous symphony, with a smile that warms and endears, and in a few short years will you be able to overcome your loathing to gaze upon it when death has touched it with its finger of decay? “Remember, man, that you are but dust, and unto dust you shall return.”

We need not go back, however, to the sixteenth century for striking instances of the transiency of earthly fame and the fickleness of human applause. On March 4, 1917, I stood in a crowd of 90,000 people before the Capitol in Washington, to watch the inauguration of Woodrow Wilson into the Presidency for his second term. His name was cheered on every side. A gigantic parade marched proudly before him in review. At the triumphant close of the World War, when he sailed for France to dictate the terms of the Versailles Treaty of Peace, he had reached the eminence of world fame. His words about freedom and democracy and the autonomy of small nations had rekindled the hopes of all the oppressed nations of the earth. Unprecedented crowds greeted him at Paris with tumultuous cheering. The eyes of all the world were turned to him, as he stood on the pinnacle of human eminence as a new Moses, heaven-sent to lead the groping feet of the nations into the Promised Land of perpetual peace.

An Age-Old Cry

A few years later I passed by a little home on ‘H Street’, where lived a broken old man, unable to take more than a few steps with the aid of his cane. Broken in body, broken in mind, broken in heart, his League of Nations plan contemptuously rejected by the Senate, his opponent swept into office by the greatest landslide in history, the nations of Europe shaking their fists at him for deluding them with false hopes. What a pitiable spectacle! As he gazed out of his window at night toward the Capitol ablaze with light, the scene of his brilliant feats, what memories must have stirred within him! Poor Woodrow Wilson!

One night, it is narrated, Mrs. Wilson happened to step into the parlor. The room was dark. Seated in a chair near the front window, with his face resting in his hands, she perceived her husband. There was the sound of a few broken sobs. Placing her hand tenderly upon the bowed head, she asked softly: “Are you ill, dear?” The former President raised his head and looked for a brief moment through tear-dimmed eyes toward the great shining Capitol that had resounded so often with his name. “No, not ill,” he said, “but I realize now as never before the fickleness of the plaudits of the multitude and the emptiness of the glory of this world.” As he sat there, broken in heart and alone, he tasted of that world weariness, that pang of the heart which caused Solomon in his old age to cry out: “Vanity of vanities, and all is vanity, save in loving God and serving Him alone.” [Woodrow Wilson died in 1924 aged 67.]

Solomon’s wisdom was echoed again by Saint Augustine, when, after running through the whole gamut of sensual indulgence in pagan Rome, he cried out: “Our hearts have been made for You, O God, and they shall never rest until they rest in You.” Such are the great eternal truths which Lent, with its gospel of penance and self-denial, drives home to a world that is forever tempted to find its happiness over the more beguiling but mistaken paths of ease and self-indulgence.

Preparing For A Good Lent: Penance

Preparing For A Good Lent: Penance
Sam Guzman

“How beautiful, how necessary is penance.” – St. Francis of Assisi

Penance is an unpopular topic these days. Perhaps it is because we have become soft, even wimpy, valuing comfort over anything else. Maybe it’s due to a misguided attempt to seem less rigid and legalistic. Then again, maybe it’s really because we don’t think we have any sins over which to be penitent. Whatever the reason, penance should not be ignored. It is vital to the spiritual life, and there’s no better time to practice it than Lent. But when we get down to it, what is penance really? Is it just hair shirts and 40 day fasts? Let’s get to the heart of the matter.

What is Penance?

When we talk about penance, we usually think of doing things, and that is indeed part of it. But our actions will be dead, and in fact harmful, if they are not preceded by an interior conversion of heart. Penance, then, is nothing more than an interior contrition of heart displayed through outward actions.

True penance flows from love for God and a recognition of the seriousness of sin. If we don’t realize how good and loving Our Lord is, and if we don’t simultaneously realize how truly evil sin is, we won’t be truly penitent. We’ll just think of God as angry tyrant who we are trying to appease by checking off a list of actions. Yet, He is no tyrant. Our Father daily pours out blessings and graces on us, and He loves us fervently. He has given us everything he has to give— most of all, Himself.

Yet, we daily repay him with ingratitude and indifference, wounding him deeply and crucifying his Son with sins of lust, anger, slander, pride, and countless others. We are the worst of children to the best of Fathers. When we let these thoughts sink in, when these realities penetrate our hearts, we are moved to penance.


You may still be wondering why outward actions are necessary at all— after all, doesn’t God look on the heart? Of course he does, but with each of our sins, damage is created both spiritually and temporally, and it must be repaired. An example will help illustrate this principle.

A few weeks ago, a priceless violin, a Stradivarius, was stolen from the concertmaster of our local symphony. Now, this is no ordinary violin— it is valued somewhere between $6 million and $10 million dollars. It would be more accurate to say that it is priceless, as its maker is long dead and its unique qualities can never be reproduced. Fortunately, it was recovered quickly and has been returned safely to its owner. Now, imagine if the criminals who stole the violin hadn’t kept it safe. Imagine they had smashed it to pieces. We cringe at the thought—yet that is exactly what sin does to our souls.

Your soul is of infinite worth. Jesus bought it with his blood and has enriched it with His grace. The Holy Trinity dwells there. With each sin you commit, you are marring and destroying this priceless treasure, the temple of God. More than this, you are harming your relationship with Our Lord. It’s important to remember that no sin is isolated when you are a member of Christ’s body. Whether you see it or not, your sin is marring and wounding the spiritual reality that is the mystical body of Christ.

Now, this damage must be repaired, and it is repaired through penance. If I argue with my wife and say things I regret, I will show my sorrow by buying her flowers and chocolate. While it’s a poor analogy, penance is the flowers and chocolate of the spiritual life, restoring the broken relationship with Jesus and repairing the damage we have done to both His mystical body and our souls.

Penance Ideas

Now that we have defined penance and its purpose, we should discuss how to incorporate it into our Lent, as well as our daily lives.

Remember, deciding what penance you should undertake is a question of how best you can show Jesus you love him, recognizing that sacrifice is at the heart of love. Of course, even the greatest of our sacrifices are nothing compared to what he gave— His very life— to show us that he loved us. Keep that in mind as you prepare for this Lent.

Here are some penance ideas for this Lent:

•Fasting – Fasting is the traditional penance of the Church. You can fast from a meal, dessert, smoking, salt on your food, alcohol or anything else you enjoy. Be sure to simultaneously spiritually fast from sin, or your bodily fasting will be meaningless.
•Rising early – Getting up early is hard. A great penance, is to rise early, maybe 30 minutes earlier than you normally do. Jump out of bed immediately after your alarm goes off and don’t give yourself the comfort of hitting snooze and dozing off again.

•Cold shower – Turn the water to cold thirty seconds before you get out. Or if you’re really feeling penitent, take the entire shower cold.

•Extra attention – Many times, we don’t give others our full attention, whether it’s our wife, kids, or coworkers. We men are especially bad at this. Make a sacrifice of your time by paying attention to the words and concerns of others.

•TV and social media fast – Many times, we drown our souls in media noise. We have no time to reflect because of the constant input of Facebook, Twitter, music, or TV. Cut these out and spend the time you would have spent on them reading a spiritual book or praying.

•Daily crosses – Every day, we experience irritations and annoyances. Maybe it’s a traffic jam, maybe it’s a flat tire, maybe it’s an upsetting of our carefully laid plans, maybe it’s a sprained ankle. Accept these crosses patiently and peacefully, rather than resisting them irritably.


Penance is integral to Lent and to the spiritual life. It is only real and valuable if it flows from love for God and a grief over the reality of our sin. Through penance, we repair the spiritual damage we have done, healing our wounded souls and our relationship with Jesus.

The Beauty of Devotion

The Beauty of Devotion
St. Francis de Sales

In order to be devout, not only must we want to do the will of God, we must do it joyfully. If I were not a bishop, yet knew what I know, I would not want to be one. But being one, not only am I obliged to do what this annoying office requires, but I must do it joyfully, and I must take delight in it and accept it. To do so is to follow St. Paul’s saying, “in whatever state each was called, there let him remain with God” (1 Cor. 7:24).

We must carry not the crosses of others, but our own. And this means that each of us must “deny himself” (Matt. 16:24), that is to say, to deny his own will. “I want to do this; I would be better there than here”: we are tempted by such thoughts. Our Lord knows what he is about. Let us do his will and remain where he has placed us.

Not only should you be devout and love the devout life, but you should be making that life beautiful to behold.

Now, it will be beautiful to the extent to which it is useful and agreeable to others. The sick will love your piety if it causes them to be charitably consoled. Your family will love it if it makes you more solicitous of their good, milder in the face of life’s vicissitudes, and withal more amiable. Your spouse will love it to the extent to which your devotion makes you warmer and more affectionate. If your parents and friends see in you a greater frankness, helpfulness, and readiness to bend to their wills in those things that are not contrary to the will of God, they too will find your life of devotion attractive. And this, as much as possible, should be your aim.

It is not possible to pray without employing the imagination and the understanding. Yet it cannot be doubted that we should make use of them only for the sake of moving the will, and then no more. Some say that it is not necessary to use the imagination to represent to ourselves the sacred humanity of the Savior. Not, perhaps, for those who are already far advanced on the mountain of perfection. But for those of us who are still in the valleys — though we wish to be climbing — I think it is expedient to make use of all our faculties, including the imagination.

This imagination, however, ought to be quite simple, serving as a sort of needle with which to thread affections and resolutions into our mind. This is the great road, from which we should not take leave until the light of day is a little brighter and we can see the little paths. It is true that these imaginings should not be tangled up in too many particularities, but should be simple. Let us remain a while longer in the low valleys.

The Peace of God

Strive to remain in that peace and tranquillity that our Lord has given you. “The peace of God,” says St. Paul, “which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7). Do you not see that he says the peace of God “passes all understanding”? That is to teach you that you should never trouble your­self to have any sentiment other than that of the peace of God. Now, the peace of God is the peace that proves the resolutions we have taken for God and the path that God has ordained for us. Walk firmly in the way in which the providence of God has placed you, without looking either to the right or to the left.

That is the way of perfection for you. This satisfaction of spirit — even if it be without savor — is worth more than a thousand delightful consolations. If God intends you to face some difficulties, you must receive them from his hand — the hand you have taken hold of — and you must not let go of him until he has brought you to the point of your perfection. You will see that God’s providence will accomplish all things according to your intentions, provided they be entirely in conformity with his. What is needed of you is a courage that is a little more vigorous and resolute.

The Presence of God

To remain in the presence of God and to place oneself in the presence of God are two different things. To place our­selves in his presence, we must withdraw our souls from all other objects and make ourselves attentive to his presence. After we have placed ourselves in his presence, we can keep ourselves there by the action of our will or intellect: by either looking upon God, or looking upon something else for the love of him, or not looking at anything but instead speaking to him, or neither looking at him nor speaking to him but simply remaining where he has placed us, like a statue in its niche. And when, to this simple act of remaining there is joined some sentiment that we belong to God and that he is our all, then we ought to give earnest thanks for his goodness.

If a statue in a niche in the middle of a room were able to speak, and we were to ask it, “Why are you there?,” it would reply, “Because my master the sculptor placed me here.”

“But why do you not move?”

“Because he wishes me to remain immobile.”

“But what use do you serve there? What does it profit you to remain there in this way?”

“It is not to serve myself that I exist, but to serve and to obey the will of my master.”

“But him you cannot see.”

“No,” says the statue, “but he sees me and takes pleasure that I am where he has placed me.”

“But would you not like to be able to move so that you could be nearer to him?”

“No, not unless he so commands me.”

“Is there then nothing at all that you desire?”

“No, for I am where my master has placed me, and his good pleasure is the sole delight of my being.”

How good a prayer this is, and how good it is to keep oneself in the presence of God in this way, by holding fast to his will and his good pleasure! Mary Magdalene was a statue in her niche when, without speaking a word or moving, and perhaps without even looking at him, she “sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching” (Luke 10:39). When he spoke, she listened. When he stopped speaking, she stopped listening, and yet she remained there. A little child resting on his mother’s bosom while the two of them sleep is truly in his good and most desirable place, even though she says not a word to him, nor he to her.

How happy we are when we want to love our Lord! Let us then love him, and let us not stop to reckon how little we do for his love, provided that we know that we will never wish to do anything except for his love. Can we not even say that we remain in the presence of God while we sleep? For we sleep in his sight, at his pleasure, and by his will, and he places us upon our beds like statues in their niches, and when we awaken, we find that he is there, near to us, that he has not budged and neither have we. We are in his presence; it is only our eyes that are shut.

A Child Is Born To Us

A Child Is Born To Us
Francis L. Filas, S.J. 

“WHEN God in His mercy decided to carry out the work of man‟s redemption, so long expected through the centuries,

He arranged to perform His task in such a way that in its beginnings it might show forth to the world the august spectacle of a divinely founded family.

“In this all men were to behold the perfect exemplar of domestic society as well as of all virtue and holiness.

“A benign Providence established the Holy Family in order that all Christians in whatever walk of life or situation might have a reason and an incentive to practice every virtue, provided they fix their gaze on the Holy Family.” Thus did Pope Leo XIII write in 1892.[ Decree 3777, S.R.C.]

A divinely founded family…the perfect exemplar of all virtue and holiness…for all Christians in whatever walk of life. “Why!” you say, “my family life is to make me holy? Did Pope Leo mean that ordinary people can be and should be saints? We who live in the world, who have to spend most of our time watching the budget and earning enough to support ourselves and our children? Our ideals are subjected to continual battering by the un-Christian teachings and practices of so many of our neighbors. We can‟t spend our whole day in prayer like the saints of old. Evidently the Pope did not realize how ordinary we are. We try to live a good Catholic life, but we don‟t deserve special credit for that. Holiness is something reserved for a few select laymen, for priests and religious, for monks and nuns in austere monasteries and convents.”

But the Pope did mean you—you and your husband or wife as well as your whole family. You can be and should be saints, for saints are those common-sense people who act according to their realization that all their happiness lies in obeying God‟s law perfectly as it is shown them by the Church and by their conscience. Holiness means happiness. Holy people are happy people at peace with God, with others, and with themselves.

There is only one requirement. You must do God‟s will. This embraces various obligations and gives you corresponding rights and privileges. God‟s will in your regard is not something frightening and preternatural, brought down to you by angels amid trumpet blasts, thunder, lightning, and earthquakes. No, it consists in the observance of the commandments, the frequent reception of the sacraments, and the practice of certain virtues in your everyday life. That is all. Call it homely, call it an everyday, ordinary, humdrum rule of life if you wish; but you can‟t call it difficult and beyond your strength. God‟s grace is with you at every turn, sufficient and more than sufficient to help you serve Him.

Sometimes in your efforts you perhaps will fall out of weariness or discouragement; but you rise quickly, and trusting in God‟s abundant grace, you go forward again. Your goal must ever be the perfect love of God manifested in perfect love for His creatures, your “neighbors”—your husband or your wife, your children, your friends, all with whom you come into contact.

You look for inspiration to attain such an ideal. You ask for a proof to convince yourself that everyday joys can be the means to serve God perfectly; or on the other hand you are possibly too close to the earthly conditions of daily work attended with monotony, disappointment, worry, and fatigue. This makes it hard to believe that in so ordinary a way you can become someone so extraordinary as a saint, known to God as His special image, His temple in whom He loves to dwell.

You want proof and inspiration? You wish to see everyday life made into a steppingstone to the very heights of heaven? Then you need only look at the Holy Family. In the following pages that is what you will see. You are going to behold Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. They not only possessed human nature like yours, but they performed workaday tasks as you do. They ate and drank and slept and cleaned house and earned a living and prayed and had their neighbors just like you. Yet who were they? They were Jesus Christ, God, Second Person of the eternal Blessed Trinity, who took to Himself a body and soul like ours: Mary, the blessed Virgin mother of God, all-perfect, in whom there was never the slightest sin or imperfection; and Joseph, he whom Jesus called “Father,” the virginal husband of the Mother of God.

Have you ever stopped to do a little arithmetic in studying Christ‟s life? Jesus had a tremendous mission to accomplish. He was to teach mankind the new and difficult law of brotherly love; He was to redeem us by means of intense suffering and a painful and disgraceful death; He was to found a Church that would last for all time as the only certain road to salvation. Nonetheless, with such a task before Him, the Son of God spent ten times as much of His life in obscurity as in His public apostolate. We are told of no miracles, no preaching, no teaching of the multitudes during that period. There was merely a hidden and ordinary family life with two lovable persons as His intimate and chosen companions, Joseph and Mary.

No human being has ever been or will ever be holier than this husband and wife. Yet these two souls did not help Jesus in His preaching and teaching, for Joseph was already dead when Jesus left Nazareth to begin His career; and as far as we know, Mary stayed quietly at home during almost all of the Public Life. Actually, then, Joseph and Mary gained their immeasurable holiness by offering Jesus the love of a father and mother in a true family, while Jesus in His turn tendered them the homage of a son. Could any lives have been more ordinary than those at Bethlehem, Egypt, and Nazareth—yet were any lives ever more holy?

This is the lesson of the Holy Family. The will of God must count for everything in our daily lives. Prosaic deeds done for God can lead to spectacular holiness. We will be repeating this lesson again and again throughout this book. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were human, intensely human in the best sense of the word. They show us how our lives, too, should be human—truly warm and Godlike. By this means we can be sanctifying ourselves more and more. The method is simple. Perhaps we have been following it all along without realizing the fact. At any rate, the leaders are set before us. All we need do is follow.

Chapter One: The Setting 

ACTUALLY it should strike us like a thunderbolt to read in Holy Scripture that Jesus was like us in all things, sin alone excepted (Heb. 4:15). Only too often, however, our appreciation of the fact of the Incarnation is dulled because we do not realize vividly that true God became true man. In proportion as the divineness of Christ impresses us, His humanness tends to recede into the background of our minds, and we lose the benefit of that tremendous attractive power of knowing that God walked our earth in human form nineteen hundred years ago.

In parallel fashion we are prone to be left cold by the sanctity of Mary and Joseph. The dizzy heights of their holiness draw our eyes upward. but our feet remain fixed in the chasm scooped out by our sins and imperfections. We are afraid to call Mary and Joseph our own. We are afraid to imitate them.

That is why we should make every effort to think of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph as living in our world: close to us, real, our best friends, human and understanding, whom no fault or misfortune can drive away, provided only that we try to model our lives on theirs. Once we know the actual conditions in which the Holy Family lived, once we see the human world in which Jesus, Mary, and Joseph spent their family life, we can more easily appreciate their holiness.

What was the environment of the Holy Family? We are all naturally curious on this score; but over and above mere curiosity, we ought to seek out the details of the careers of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in order to persuade ourselves how closely they resemble us. There is no need to go to the mass of pious but unhistorical legends that have grown up around the early life of our Lord. The gospel story is more than enough to paint the essentials of the picture we are seeking. If we amplify the Gospels with data gained from other reliable sources, the pageant of the Holy Family passes before our eyes with all its winsomeness and charm.

It would be well at the outset to explain the sources from which we learn the nature of the Holy Land scene amid which Jesus, Mary, and Joseph passed their lives. For one thing, the Gospels are full of deft touches referring to details of their times. Archeology, too, uncovers the well-preserved ruins of age-old buildings; from it we can deduce customs and culture. Best of all, there is the present oriental civilization which has changed little throughout the centuries. Houses, dress, implements, food, and social usages have withstood the changes that repeatedly revolutionized our Western way of living. Combining all these facts we gain a rather detailed and highly probable estimate of life in the Holy Land two thousand years ago.

Palestine, which derived its name from the Philistines of Old Testament times, is surprisingly small. Lying at the southeastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, it is only 150 miles long from north to south. The Jordan River cuts it roughly in half as the river courses south from Lake Genesareth (the Lake of Galilee) to empty itself into the Dead Sea.

We are more concerned with the western half of Palestine, for most of the life of the Holy Family was spent there. This section varies greatly in width. In Judea in the south it is 60 miles wide, but it grows more narrow until finally at its northern extremity in Galilee its width is hardly 25 miles. Western Palestine is only half the area of the state of Maryland- -5000 square miles. It would fit ten times within New York or Illinois, fifty times within Texas. Except for its coastal plain along the Mediterranean, it is quite hilly, and a few mountain-tops can usually be discerned along the horizon.

Because the traveling described in the Gospels was so often done on foot, we think of the distances as far greater than they are in actuality. Nazareth in Galilee in the north is 75 miles from Jerusalem in Judea in the south. Bethlehem is five miles south of Jerusalem. All in all, the territory which the Holy Family covered by slow and tiresome journeys of days can now be traversed by a fast airplane in a matter of minutes.

In the white Christmas scene so popularly represented Palestine‟s climate is not pictured correctly. Snow falls rarely during the winter, and even then it melts within a few hours. The winter months—November to March inclusive—should more properly be called the rainy season. The average temperature of the coldest month, January, is only forty-six degrees. From April to October the hot “dry season” sets in, but evening breezes and heavy morning dews are sufficient to temper the worst heat of this summer.

The crops and other vegetation of the Holy Land are influenced, of course, by its climate. In the time of the Holy Family there existed numerous forests and terraced vineyards. These have long since disappeared because of the shiftlessness and misrule of the Turks from the Middle Ages down to World War I. Consequently, erosion and denudation of the land can be seen where formerly many a Palestinian family—and probably our own Holy Family—raised small truck gardens to help stock the household larder. Near-by farms grew mainly wheat and barley. Other crops consisted of corn, millet, spelt, lentils, beans, flax, and sometimes cotton. Rice was not yet introduced.

One of the most interesting facts we can learn about Jesus, Mary, and Joseph concerns the kinds of food they ate. The gospel accounts intimate that they followed the customs of their times. Other historical sources as well as incidental references in the Bible tell us what those customs were.

The usual meals were two: a midday dinner and an evening supper, which was the large meal of the day. Breakfast was too scanty to be called a meal. It was no more than a cup of milk, a piece of butter, or a few baked cakes with olive oil. Wooden spoons might have been used instead of our modern silverware, but more likely eating was done with the hands.

Bread, as always, was the staff of life, and was made of barley, various kinds of wheat, or lentils. Mary baked her bread each day as it was needed, although she could purchase it from the town baker if she wished. She formed it into flat circular cakes about an inch thick and nine inches across. For an oven she used a clay-lined hole in the ground or an earthen or stone jar about three feet high, inside which fuel was placed. Baking took place on the outside of this portable oven or on the hot inside of the clay hole once the embers were removed. In preparing her bread our Lady did not use new leaven each day but kept a portion of the old dough from day to day with which to start fermentation in a new batch.

The rest of the diet of the Holy Family was made up largely of vegetable food. Olives and olive oil, butter, milk, cheese, eggs, and stewed fruit helped out this menu. Meat appeared rarely on the table, and then it was mutton and beef. Relish consisted of onions, garlic, or leek. For the equivalent of our present-day dessert, figs, mulberries, pistachio nuts, almonds, and pomegranates were available. Grapes were served either fresh or sun dried as pressed cakes of raisins. Cucumbers were an ever popular vegetable.

Mary‟s ordinary way of cooking food was to boil it, but she occasionally roasted meat and broiled the fish from Lake Genesareth much as her Son was to do for His apostles after His Resurrection, years later. Often on the menu, this fish was considered quite a delicacy in Galilee, and was pickled and dried to be preserved. In preparing corn Our Lady parched or roasted it at the fire. Lentils and beans were boiled into a delicious pottage, often with meat seasoned with mint, anise, cummin, or mustard.

For sweetening Mary used wild honey instead of sugar. The salt she bought was either rock salt from the shores of the Dead Sea or that evaporated from the water of the Mediterranean.

The two beverages on the table at Nazareth were goat‟s milk and wine. The butter made from this milk was sometimes solid, sometimes merely semi-fluid heavy cream, sometimes the thick curds from sour milk. Our Lady did the churning herself by jerking a skin of milk back and forth or by beating the container with a stick. The wine was kept in large goatskins in the cool cellar of the house. From these it was drawn off into smaller goatskin “bottles” for use at table.

We can hardly repeat often enough the value of knowing these homely details of the life of the Holy Family. Jesus referred to some of them in various of His parables or sermons, and showed how well He was acquainted with everyday life in Palestine. Could we ask for greater assurance from God that His gifts are good, and that we should use the good things He has given us in this world as helps to obtain our salvation and perfection?

Another personal detail that is highly interesting to us is the appearance of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

Following the customs of their day Jesus and Joseph had three types of garments. In a climate so mild as that of Palestine no more were necessary. The innermost garment next to the body resembled our modern nightshirt and was called a sheet or sindon. During strenuous labor other clothing was discarded in order to permit freedom of action. Thus, for example, when some of the apostles were fishing “naked” on the Lake of Galilee at the time Jesus appeared to them (John 21), they were actually clad in this undergarment. In other words, to wear only this sindon was to be in a state of undress.

Over the sindon Jesus and Joseph wore the tunic—a sort of cassock or dressing gown open down the front. This made up the usual indoor costume at home or in the shop. A wide sash or girdle at the waist and rather billowy long sleeves gave the garment pleasing lines. For freedom in walking, the ankle-length skirt was slit about a foot from the bottom on each side. Blue was its common color although white with brown stripes or red, too, were favorites.

The third and outermost article of clothing was the cloak. The foster father and his Son wore this cloak outdoors for protection against cold and rain, or as a covering during sleep. When made of fleece it was especially warm, although cotton and woolen cloth were more usual. It resembled a vest in that it was sleeveless and had an open front, but in length it reached almost to the ground. Either this cloak or the tunic was the valuable “seamless garment” for which the soldiers cast lots when Christ was crucified on Calvary.

For headdress Jesus and Joseph wound a sort of long kerchief into a turban. Another kerchief covered the neck and shoulders for protection against the blazing sun. In Nazareth as in all the Orient it was considered disrespectful to pass anyone bareheaded, so the two men must have worn the turban almost always.

They were bearded and wore their hair long, as paintings universally represent them. Two locks—ringlets—dropped from their temples as a vestige of the old Hebrew tradition whereby the Israelites were distinguished from idolatrous peoples who cut these locks as an offering to their gods.

For foot covering the Holy Family used sandals during the summer and shoes during the winter or rainy season. The ordinary sandal consisted of a wood or leather sole with thongs attached, to be strapped around the instep. Shoes were made of coarse material and protected the entire foot. Socks were seldom if ever worn. Since footwear was prescribed strictly for outdoor use, it was always left at the entrance of the house.

Mary‟s dress resembled the attire of her men-folk rather closely. Her distinctive mark was a veil and (for outdoor use) a mantle or great shawl. Judging from the colors usually employed, she wore a red dress with a blue mantle and a large white veil covering her whole body when she traveled in public. Her hair fell in long tresses, probably left unbraided, as it was more modest to do.

From our knowledge of Palestinian houses we can deduce rather closely the nature of the home of the Holy Family at Bethlehem and Nazareth. At the outset, however, we must rid ourselves of the preconceived notions which Western experience and legendary tale have given us.

Palestinian houses followed a rather uniform pattern. Like the present-day houses at Bethlehem, that of the Holy Family was probably built of rough-hewn limestone blocks cemented with limestone mortar. It had at least one upper room, built above a lower room at street level, and reached by outside stone stairs. The dimensions of these rooms approximated 15 feet in length, 12 feet in width, and 6 feet in height.

The lower room at Nazareth may well have been St. Joseph‟s workshop, extending back as a cave into the hill rising directly behind the house. Artisans like St. Joseph worked in the street outside their shops. The shops themselves were merely places to keep equipment.

The living room of the Holy Family (the upper chamber) was windowless and very simply furnished. Its only light came through the doorway. There was no fireplace or chimney, but a hearth placed near the door provided a spot for cooking where the smoke could easily escape. On a ledge running around the wall the gaily colored mats which were spread on the floor at night for sleeping purposes were rolled up during the day.

A large lamp hanging from a center beam shed a dim light at night–a rather curious looking lamp to us. It resembled a saucer with its sides folded together at one place, to form a neck for the cloth wick that rested in the supply of olive oil. Underneath this lamp was a painted stool or table together with a few chairs. Here the Three took their quiet meal.

The roof of their house was flat—a cemented or earthen surface overlaid on the beams that spanned the side walls. It was reached by the outside stairway. During the cool evenings of the summer Jesus, Mary, and Joseph retired to it for conversation and quiet prayer. They used the roof much as we use a front porch or veranda.

Joseph‟s position as carpenter placed him in the respectable middle class of artisans. Judging from his occupation, he was not desperately poor, nor on the contrary could he be called wealthy. His tools were the hammer, saw, ax, plane, chisel, and bow drill. Working in wood, he was a general handyman for making plows, milking tubs, winnowing fans, yokes, forks, and household furniture. Joseph on many occasions did not receive pay for each article as he fashioned it. Instead, he agreed under a sort of “blanket contract” barter system to look after the farm implements of his neighbors in so far as was necessary. In return for these services he received produce from his various customers at harvest time.

At this point we close our introductory picture of daily life with the Holy Family. One feature in particular stands out: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph lived a genuinely “human” life, using the good things of this earth as was proper. There was no puritanical refusal on their part to accept the blessings of God‟s creation as if these gifts were evil in themselves. Rather, the inherent bounty of Nature gave them ever so many opportunities to praise and thank the eternal Father in heaven for what He saw fit to bestow on them according to His wisdom and providence.

This is a lesson we, too, should bear in mind. Everything God has created is good in itself, and evil and sin enter only in the misuse of a creature. The great rule of life is always the same, whether in the Holy Family of Nazareth or the Jones family of twentieth-century Smithville: Because all creation is good, we should make use of it in so far as it helps us to serve God and to save our souls.

“What a simple rule to remember!” you say. “How easy to live by!
Why call it to my attention so sharply?”
Why? Because the cold pages of history testify that scores of heresies crashed, morally bankrupt, since they rested somehow or other on confusion of this truth of the goodness of creation. Before Christ came on this earth, the pagan world was in moral chaos because it could not accept the fact. It could choose only between the two extreme errors. One group of pagans—the Stoics—thought that creation in itself was evil, and everything material must be avoided completely. Others held that creation could not be misused in any way whatever. These men represented the two excesses of human conduct that continued to harass the Church‟s efforts later.

For instance, in Christian times there were heretics like the Manicheans of the second century, the Albigensians of the twelfth, and the rigid Calvinists of the sixteenth, who frowned on legitimate pleasures and looked on material things as evils to be tolerated at best if not to be shunned absolutely. However, such a mode of living was impossible for a man made up of body and soul. It was an insult to the wisdom and goodness and love of his Creator, and it could lead him only to unhappiness, sin, and despair. One primitive heresy built on this philosophy of the anti-material (the Docetist group) even taught that Christ‟s body was an appearance, that He was only a phantom, because as God He could not possess so evil a thing as a human body!

At the other extreme in all ages were the frankly materialistic pleasure seekers, who sank into all sorts of excesses in reveling in utter license and luxury.

Meanwhile the Church serenely kept pure the truth which Christ had confided to its charge, dauntlessly guarding it even though it conflicted violently with the extremists. Catholics were always taught that man is composed of soul and body; that the body is not something sinful although tendencies to sin are present in it because of original sin; that material things are to aid the body directly and the soul indirectly in order to attain man‟s purpose in this world and in the next; and therefore that creation should be used (because it is good) but not misused (because it is only a means to eternal life, not eternal life itself).

The Church went further. It taught that the body had dignity because it is the temple of the Holy Spirit. It sanctified the body during life with the sacraments instituted by Christ, and it blessed the body in death and buried it in consecrated ground. Despite all the sneers and scoffs of heretics and infidels it set forth Christ‟s doctrine that the glorified body as well as the soul would receive the reward of eternal life.

The Church in its liturgy again and again recalls the goodness of creation for our benefit. In fact, to take a specific example, the whole doctrine of the sacramentals is based on this principle.

The sacramentals are things or actions which the Church uses in a sort of imitation of the sacraments in order to obtain temporal and spiritual favors for the faithful. Sacramentals such as medals and scapulars are badges of belief, created things that are external signs of internal faith in God‟s goodness and kindness to us, marks of trust that He will hear our prayers.

Well known are the sacramentals which call down God‟s blessing. With the attitude of employing everything God has made as a means for eternal salvation, the Church has approved blessings for a host of articles so diverse—and apparently so unholy—as automobiles, fire-fighting equipment, blast furnaces, radios, bees, bridges, and beer.

Four hundred years ago the “Spiritual Exercises,” the “golden book” of St. Ignatius of Loyola, was a major factor in throwing back the moral anarchy of the Protestant Revolt and supplanting it with the revivified Catholic Counterreformation. Yet the bedrock element of the “Spiritual Exercises,” its “Principle and Foundation” upon which Ignatius built his entire system of bringing souls back to God, was simply a restatement of the lesson of the Holy Family on the proper use of created things.

“Man was created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul. The other things on the face of the earth were created because of man, and that they might help him to obtain the end for which he was created. Whence it follows that man should use these creatures in so far as they help him to reach his end, and he ought to free himself from them in so far as they hinder him from that purpose.”

Practically, then, the Holy Family‟s lesson of the “good earth” can exemplify several cardinal principles:

If failure, disappointment, sickness, or any sort of suffering come into your life, remember that they come from the same Father who can give only good gifts. He sends or at least permits trials to enter your life only for your greater good. Therefore, make the supreme act of love by trusting in His providence, knowing that no slightest event can occur outside the influence of His all-perfect wisdom. Thus, even hardships can help you.

In this connection, too, it is well to understand correctly the attitude of the great ascetical saints who voluntarily gave up many lawful pleasures. They did not act in an attitude of pain-for-pain‟s-sake. Rather, while recognizing the intrinsic worth of all creation, they felt that they should offer their sacrifices as penance for their own sins and as reparation for the sins of the world. Prudence led them always. So, too, you can freely make small sacrifices occasionally in the spirit of penance, reparation, and love. The easiest yet most selfless abnegation of this sort lies in accepting willingly what God sends you each day.

When you see clearly that some created thing is an obstacle in your path toward God, that it robs you of your peace of conscience or is an occasion of sin, be generous in removing it from your life at once. The thing is good in itself, but it is not good for you.

However, these foregoing principles refer to the use of creation more or less negatively. Much more important for our present purpose is the positive aspect: to use creation in so far as it helps you.

For instance, don‟t be afraid to see the hand of God in the legitimate pleasures of your life. It would be puritanical and downright erroneous to think that your married life is any less holy in proportion as it is more intimate. By accepting the good things of life with gratitude to Him who created them, you can gain merit, for every such action becomes a prayer of thanksgiving. In fact, you should look on your temporal blessings as a faint foretaste of the exuberant goodness of Almighty God, who wishes to bestow on you His own everlasting happiness in heaven.

In your work or in your recreation you should not think that your merit is necessarily less because your enjoyment is greater. Similarly, the mutual love of husband and wife as well as the love of children are probably the keenest and deepest sources of joy in family life. God intended that you should relish this affection. Accept it, then, in the same spirit: “What love gives, love should take.”

Perhaps you wonder why Catholic teaching seems to say so little about this sanctification of the happiness and the pleasant things in life. The reason is not too far to seek. Usually, to spiritualize joy is easy: to spiritualize sorrow is hard, for it is more difficult to be faithful to God in times of discouragement. Hence, the emphasis is placed where it is needed.

Later in this very book we shall have occasion to call attention to the hardships Joseph and Mary encountered. This does not mean that their life was somber and dreary, nor that married life in imitation of theirs is full of suffering. True, the difficulties are not to be minimized. They should be foreseen and prepared for in a general way. That will be our purpose in mentioning them frankly. But the fact that they will be discussed does not mean that they are predominant. They are far outweighed by the sunshine and joy which God instills into every home where Christian ideals are the rule of the day and the hour.

And it is this sunshine which you will doubly enjoy if you accept it from God‟s hands with explicit thanksgiving and love.

Chapter Two: Before Christ Was Born 

NO NARRATIVE can excel the accuracy and charm of the accounts of the Holy Family given by Matthew and Luke. However, our twentieth-century Western minds are often unacquainted with the old oriental customs, geography, and history to which the Gospels refer. We are confronted with obscurities and difficulties that call for further comment not because of a fault in the gospel text but by reason of our own lack of information. Hence, the gospel story must be amplified with incidental side lights and explanations before we pause to reflect on the story itself.

“Now the origin of Christ was in this wise. When Mary his mother had been betrothed to Joseph, she was found, before they came together, to be with child by the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 1:18).

This betrothal which St. Matthew mentions was in a sense equivalent to the engagement of our modern times. It was, however, much more binding. The bridegroom conducted all arrangements with the father of the bride and gave him a purchase price for his daughter. Then the betrothal took place. It lasted about a year, and during that time the couple was called husband and wife although they did not live together. The wife was bound most strictly to remain virginal as a special sign of loyalty to her husband. That is why Mary‟s predicament was so serious when by divine intervention she became the mother of Jesus. The miracle of miracles had taken place. God took on human nature within her womb. But who would believe her story even if she felt free to reveal it?

Although Mary “was found to be with child” while she was yet merely espoused to Joseph, it seems certain that her neighbors were not the ones who discovered her pregnancy. Later, Jesus was to be criticized sharply by His bitter enemies who looked in vain for any pretext to vilify Him. Nonetheless, they never cast the slightest shadow on the legitimacy of His birth. Instead, they used the humbleness of His apparent descent from Joseph, a craftsman, to rebuke Him for His high aspirations. The secret of the Incarnation was evidently well kept.

Contrariwise, Joseph himself, apparently, as well as the Nazarenes did not personally discover Our Lady‟s motherhood. St. Matthew‟s words, “was found,” strongly suggest that Joseph was informed of the fact; but by whom? Not by Mary, else she would have manifested the divine source of her maternity. Accordingly it would appear that some close relative—perhaps her mother—was deputed by Our Lady before her marriage took place to tell Joseph that she had conceived. Keeping the matter secret would have been gravely unjust to her spouse.

All this must have happened no later than four months after the angel Gabriel visited Nazareth and Mary consented to become the Mother of God. Such a period appears reasonable, for after that time there would have been external evidence of Mary‟s pregnancy, and her subsequent marriage to Joseph would have been useless to guard the honor of the virgin mother and her divine Son.

Meanwhile, “Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to expose her to reproach, was minded to put her away privately” (Matt. 1:19). This passage is classic for its short but meaningful description of the towering nobility of Joseph‟s character. St. Matthew bestowed a precious title when he called him the “just man,” for he told us in this manner that Joseph observed God‟s law in its fullness and excelled in every virtue and good quality.

Joseph‟s conduct as further portrayed excellently bears out Matthew‟s estimate. By Jewish law Joseph could have broken off his engagement and divorced his spouse publicly if he found her guilty of adultery. This type of divorce would have revealed the disgraceful charge, and according to the letter of the law Mary would have been liable to stoning to death. Whether or not so drastic a penalty would have been carried out is doubtful, but Joseph would not enforce it. He could not believe that Mary had sinned. Nonetheless, he was bound to observe the law of the Jews. Terribly perplexed and dismayed, in his mental anguish he decided to adopt the course that was most favorable to Mary and yet was consonant with justice. By choosing to divorce his spouse privately (instead of publicly), he would not be forced to make known the cause of the divorce. But always he was hesitant, and his hesitancy shows the force of his belief that Mary had been faithful to him.

As St. Jerome puts the case, “This is evidence for Mary, that Joseph, knowing Mary‟s chastity and wondering at what had occurred, concealed in silence the mystery which he did not fathom.” Ultimately, faced with a problem that seemed insoluble, Joseph began to feel that the private divorce was the only means of being fair to Mary while not disobeying his conscience. Unless the circumstances were somehow altered, he certainly could not proceed to marry his spouse.

“But while he thought on these things, behold an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, „Do not be afraid, Joseph, son of David, to take to thee Mary, thy wife, for that which is begotten in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins.‟ So Joseph, arising from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took unto him his wife” (Matt. 1:20, 21, 24).

Here St. Matthew relates that at the angel‟s command Joseph married his betrothed. Realizing keenly now his role in the plans of Divine Providence, the prudent husband bent every effort to protect Mary. With the Roman census already announced, he was obliged to leave for Bethlehem where he had to register. What better course of action could he adopt than to take his wife with him to Bethlehem, a strange town, and thus remove her from Nazareth, dangerous for the gossip that would surely arise there?

“And he did not know her till she had brought forth her first-born son” (Matt. 1:25). Throughout Church history various heretics have alleged that according to this sentence Joseph was the natural father of other sons of Mary after Christ was born. Against this warping of the text Church writers from earliest times have insistently pointed out that St. Matthew uses “till” and “first-born” in a sense often found in Holy Scripture. “Till” can refer to action or lack of action up to a point, without necessarily implying that the action then changes. For example, St. Paul writes to Timothy, “Until I come, be diligent in reading, in exhortation, and in teaching” (1 Tim. 4:13). Quoting Psalm 109:1 he adds, “[Christ] must reign until „he has put all his enemies under his feet‟” (1 Cor. 15:25). Certainly, in these texts St. Paul does not intend Timothy to stop being diligent after he arrives, nor does he think that Christ‟s supremacy will cease with the defeat of His enemies.

Similarly, “first-born” as applied to Christ does not mean that Mary had other children. Jewish custom gave this title to the first son whether or not other brothers followed him. Even in modern English we have an analogous usage when we speak of first-aid treatment without understanding that further medical care must always follow.

Yet the greatest difficulty in these passages concerns the perplexing question: why did God send this strange type of suffering to His two most loyal creatures? Mary was all-sinless, not even momentarily subject to that deprivation of sanctifying grace which we call original sin. Even more, her fidelity to her Creator made her worthy as no other human creature ever was to fashion the body of God incarnate in her womb for nine months. As for Joseph, he was second in dignity and holiness to Mary alone. God entrusted to him His two choicest treasures so that Joseph was to become the virginal husband of Mary and the foster father of Jesus. Nevertheless, God sent this couple a heavy cross, most difficult to explain.

Mary‟s conception, when first disclosed, was compromising evidence. Had Joseph been a selfish, jealous spouse, the estrangement would have been complete. As it was, these two hearts who loved each other to a degree unequaled by any other husband and wife, could only suffer intensely until God stepped in to remedy the situation. The very perfection of Mary‟s love for Joseph and of Joseph‟s love for Mary made their pain keener.

Mary felt in conscience that she was not permitted to reveal the divine nature of her conception to her husband. Joseph knew that he was not permitted to marry an unfaithful spouse. Mary could take no external action to solve the problem. Joseph had in a sense the harder choice of taking action. He evidently was forced to do something; but what could he do? No matter which course he followed, grave difficulties faced him.

We can be certain that both Mary and Joseph prayed to God for help and light. Mary, in full conformity to God‟s will, was ready to sacrifice the love of her spouse as well as her own reputation if need be. Joseph asked only for inspiration to do what was right. And in God‟s good time the angel was sent to remove the trial by revealing to Joseph that he was the virginal husband of the very Mother of God.

Did God repay Joseph and Mary for their fidelity? No, it was more than mere repayment. It was the hundredfold of supernatural grace and joy and justified mutual confidence, “pressed down and flowing over,” so that the souls of the two spouses thrilled toward each other as they naturally and humanly could never have done. They realized now their full destiny. Two wills made one in the love of a virginal marriage, they knew that together they were to rear the infant Jesus to the full stature of the man Christ. Although Jesus as God was to have all knowledge, nonetheless as a human child He was to imitate the magnificent mutual love He would see in His parents.

Henceforth, Joseph and Mary knew that together they were to cooperate with the special plans of the Three Persons in One God— those mysterious plans hidden in the depths of eternal eons of the Godhead. They were to be favored as none of their fellow creatures had ever been although their responsibilities and their crosses would be proportionately greater. But they were to work out their destiny together—that was the great point, the new content of the angel‟s message to Joseph. Joseph was initiated into the incarnation of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the mystery of mysteries of which Mary was already a participant. All this was part of the hundredfold reward God bestowed on this couple, and from the bottom of their hearts they could only say, as they began to fathom it all, “In Thee, O Lord, have we hoped. We have not been confounded!” It was joy almost too deep to be experienced on this earth, but they did experience it because they were espoused husband and wife as well as the two saints of saints.

What lessons here for every husband and wife! They, too, are to work out their salvation and their perfection together, each depending on the other, each assisting the other. In the perfection of married love their personalities become merged, as it were, as completely as possible. For them God‟s commandment, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor,” finds its first and chief expression in their love one for the other. Each is bound by obligations toward the other, each possesses the rights handed over by the other at the moment of their marriage. In the fullness of this mutual love, this mutual unselfish give- and-take, is included their love and service of Almighty God—together.

Then, too, the experience of Mary and Joseph offers a true example of a misunderstanding that can arise without the fault of either party. In this case two saints were involved, more closely united by flawless love than was any other couple in the history of the world. Our Lady knew the price her course of action would cost her, but she was even more distressed over the pain it caused her spouse. Until the time when God saw fit to manifest His plans, Mary‟s only course was that of trust. God‟s plans were far grander than anything a created intellect—even one so uniquely attuned as Mary‟s—could plumb or imagine. Consequently, the only course to adopt in the meantime was a wholehearted submission and conformity to His will.

Joseph‟s heroism was of the same caliber. Had he been spiteful, self-centered, resentful, he would have indulged in harsh recriminations of Mary. However, because he was convinced that somewhere and somehow all the facts would become evident and Mary would be justified, he withheld a rash judgment that would only have made matters worse.

In your own life when can you say that a misunderstanding arose in which you were in no wise at fault? Joseph and Mary were perfect; we ordinary mortals are not—that is the difference between them and us. Remembering this difference if misunderstandings occur in family life, you must try to realize that there is another side to every argument even though at the moment you do not or cannot see it. It is very rare that a problem has only one solution which of necessity must be right; and it is even more rare that that single solution must uniformly be your own. Ordinarily there are various ways of adjusting a difficult situation which causes distressing friction in the family.

Realistic couples bear in mind that with human nature as it is, married life cannot be one everlasting honeymoon. Two minds and two wills, even though united most intimately and sincerely in matrimony, belong to two different people. As a result, there will occasionally be different outlooks, different opinions, different reactions, all of which have to be adjusted lest harmony be lost when they clash. Such differences are normal even before we admit the possibility that one or both parties may be at fault.

Human faults!—and there a whole new chapter of possibilities for misunderstanding opens out. Gained in childhood, kept and perhaps strengthened in adult years, those faults will be taken with us to the grave. They are with every individual constantly. The most attractive characters of husbands and wives, try as they may, will find their faults ever recurring, mixed with all their good points. Faults are in reality based on virtues. They are good things gone to excess. We are not speaking here of vice, of course—of habitual faults so serious that they lead to grievous sin. We are talking of the “little things” that raise the bumps in life‟s highway: self-centeredness, unwillingness to admit error, slovenliness in dress or at table, disregard for the feelings of others, sarcasm, irritability, reluctance to overlook and forget accidental mistakes— these are only a few of the “little things” that cause mutual pain to two souls who love each other dearly.

Usually, the best way to deal with misunderstandings is to bring the trouble out into the light. If possible, discuss a sore point frankly and coolly before the end of the day. Feelings that are hurt over long periods fester like sores; and as troubles pile up, the vicious circle begins that adds imaginary new troubles merely because the old ones are supplying the momentum.

Above all, be ready to arbitrate. When ruffled tempers have calmed down, sit down side by side and analyze the argument as if you were a third-party umpire called in for the purpose. Find just where and why the point of difference occurs; and from there, a little yielding on each side should bring satisfaction.

Don‟t forget the moods to which you, like every human, are subject. When tired or slightly ill, you say and do things which normally you would avoid. This is why a misunderstanding between two tired people cannot be settled very easily on the spot. In such a case drop the argument for the time being (even though you think you know you are right!), and perhaps a good night‟s sleep will reduce the troublesome question to the insignificant status of a soap bubble or even— and this is quite possible—a laughing matter.

The trial of Joseph and Mary has still another great lesson. If trials and sufferings come into our lives, we complain almost involuntarily. We wonder why God has sent us this cross, we ask what we have done to deserve it. All the good deeds we have ever performed appear as so many reasons why God should have spared us.

From Joseph and Mary we learn the answer to such a complaint. Should God spare us because of our goodness? Then what should He have done to Joseph and Mary? No one ever surpassed them in holiness. Moreover, they were engaged in the very act of closest cooperation with the divine plan to send a Redeemer to this earth.

Spiritual writers have often enunciated the truth of the Christian life that nearness to Jesus means nearness to the cross. Nearness to Jesus does mean self-abnegation, which is merely another word for self-denial or selflessness. It does not mean unhappiness, for by the paradoxical law of God‟s providence, suffering borne for Him does not take away happiness but rather deepens and intensifies it.

Since Christ chose to redeem the world by suffering, those who are closest to Him act as co-redeemers of the world by uniting their sufferings to His. Then, too, there is the exalted union with Him whereby His friends imitate Him in every detail not for any “practical” purpose but solely and wholly for love, for he or she who loves desires always to become more and more like the beloved. If we apply these maxims to the conduct of Joseph and Mary, we understand why these two hearts had to suffer most (and knew they had to suffer most), for they loved most and were nearest to the Heart of Jesus.

For ourselves these reflections remove all cause of complaint. Unlike Joseph and Mary we are sinners and have done wrong or at least have been unfaithful repeatedly. In one sense we are receiving our just reward; we deserve to be punished for transgressing the law of our Maker. In another sense our crosses are favors from the hand of God. They are opportunities to gain merit here on earth, so that the eternal reward for fidelity may be greater. They are chances to atone for sin here on earth so that the temporal punishment in purgatory may be less. They are forms of cautery that remove habits of sin from our souls; or even, as the highest favor from God, they are invitations to unite our trials to the sufferings of Jesus so that His redemptive act may be applied more fully to souls, to save souls who otherwise might be lost.

Despite all this the great problem of suffering still remains a deep mystery, and we admit that our minds have never been able to fathom its full solution. Why suffering at all? It is a consequence of the presence of sin in the world. We simply know that there must be suffering which no one, rich or poor, good or bad, can escape. We also know that Jesus has marked out a way for us to follow. Without Him we would be lost in the fog that beset the pagans of old (and which still besets our modern intellectual pagans) when they tried to escape suffering, and when, having failed to avoid it, they could only ask fruitlessly, “Why?”

Christ could have redeemed us without suffering for us. Instead, He actually chose pain, disgrace, and disappointment because He knew that by imitating Him we could sweeten the sufferings we sometimes would have to bear. This is the Christian answer to the problem, and never in any circumstance will it fail to be the sole, all-satisfying answer.

Joseph and Mary have gone ahead of us in following the path of Jesus, and that is enough for us to know. In following them we will always find internal peace, no matter what problem or trial might befall us.

Chapter Three: “A Child Is Born To Us” 

“NOW it came to pass in those days that there went forth a decree from Caesar Augustus that a census of the whole world should be taken. This first census took place while Cyrinus was governor of Syria” (Luke 2:1-2).

What were “those days”? Since the greatest event in the history of the world was about to be described by St. Luke, the divinely inspired historian was very careful to give us the general period in which it occurred. Nonetheless, the exact year is problematical. For us to say that Jesus was born in A.D. 1 would be an easy matter. The facts do not permit so simple a solution.

The early Church counted the years from the persecution of the Emperor Diocletian (A.D. 285-305), or used the Roman system, “A.U.C.”—ab urbe condita, “from the founding of the city of Rome.” Our present method of basing the calendar on the year of Christ‟s birth was not introduced until the middle of the sixth century, and even then its starting point was reckoned erroneously.

In detail this is how it happened. Some time before 544, a Roman abbot, Dionysius Exiguus, conceived the plan of making the Nativity the focal point of every date. Dionysius erred in his computation, and to this day no one has been able to determine the exact extent of his mistake! That is why we do not know the precise year in which Christ was born. Although estimates have ranged all the way from 22 B.C. to A.D. 9, the evidence points to 5, 6, or best of all, 7 B.C. This date is obtained by correlating St. Luke‟s account, Roman and Jewish history, and archeological findings.

Since Augustus Caesar ordered a census of his empire in 8 B.C., we can be certain that the birth of Christ occurred soon thereafter. The Cyrinus mentioned by St. Luke was not, it is true, governor of Syria at the time, but he did act then as the military officer in charge of the census. St. Luke‟s language in the original Greek does not have to be translated, “Cyrinus was governor,” but can simply mean, “Cyrinus was in charge of Syria.”

Luke continues: “And all were going, each to his own town, to register. And Joseph also went from Galilee out of the town of Nazareth into Judea to the town of David which is called Bethlehem—because he was of the house and family of David—to register, together with Mary his espoused wife, who was with child” (2:3-5).

As was noted in an earlier chapter, Joseph may have used the census as a pretext to take Mary from Nazareth in order to protect her honor and that of Jesus. The fact that he was obliged to register at Bethlehem indicates that in all likelihood he owned property there. For all we know, Bethlehem may have been his birthplace just as Mary‟s seems to have been at Nazareth.

Bethlehem was about 80 miles south of Nazareth. At this period it was a hamlet with a population of no more than 2000 souls. About three days were required to complete the trip. Judging from the ordinary modes of travel of common folk in Palestine, Mary rode on an ass while Joseph walked alongside, leading the animal. They probably had no servant. Their road first descended into the Plain of Esdraelon, then began to rise more and more, passing through frequent towns that alternated with farm country. Finally, about five or six miles south of Jerusalem the two travelers reached their journey‟s end.

It should be noted carefully that St. Luke does not say that Christ was born immediately after the journey from Nazareth. “It came to pass while they were there that the days for her to be delivered were fulfilled” (2:6). Luke seems to suggest that Joseph and Mary lived at Bethlehem for some time before the Nativity. According to the computation we are following, Joseph married Our Lady after her pregnancy was four months advanced. This would mean that the stay at Bethlehem could have been of any length up to five months. Against this theory, age-old legends are responsible for the idea in our popular Christmas story that Jesus came into the world as soon as Mary reached Bethlehem. Up to the present time nothing certain can be established to settle the question.

The Church in its position as divinely appointed guardian of faith and morals has always taught and now solemnly teaches that Jesus was born miraculously of Mary so that the blessed Mother of God was ever virgin—before, during, and after the Nativity. This is called the Virgin Birth. Outside the Church it is ridiculed and misunderstood by many who think it synonymous with the Immaculate Conception (Mary‟s freedom from original sin). Yet the fact remains that the doctrine of the Virgin Birth was held from the very earliest days of Christianity; and to deny it now would be tantamount to denying the Church‟s mission as God‟s mouthpiece on earth. If Christ could pass through material objects (as He passed through the doors of the Upper Room after His Resurrection), why could He not pass through the body of His mother, leaving her virginal membranes intact?

Moreover, since Mary had been preserved from original sin by reason of her Immaculate Conception in the womb of her mother, she was free of the penalty Eve transmitted to every daughter of Adam. Mary bore Jesus without travail.

“And she wrapped him in swaddling clothes” (Luke 2:17). There are several interesting features about the swaddling clothes in which Jesus was given His first protection from cold and dampness. The custom of using swaddling bands had first been introduced while the Israelites were a wandering desert people. The binding was intended to provide warmth for the newly born infant as well as protection for his weak spine and soft bone structure.

A square piece of material formed the swaddling cloth proper, across the diagonal of which the babe was laid. Then the corners were tucked together, leaving only the infant‟s head exposed. Finally, two or three strips of cloth were wrapped around this tiny bundle, and the baby was thus snugly enclosed in a firm, warm, and comfortable sleeping bag. It took a genius in words like Cardinal Newman to capture the overwhelming paradox of this appealing scene when he described the lovable young virgin mother as tucking in “Omnipotence in bonds.”

“And she laid him in a manger” (Luke 2:7). St. Luke implicitly tells us that the Nativity occurred in a stable. The manger used in Bethlehem was a trough hewn out of wood or scooped out of the soft limestone which abounds in the Holy Land. Jesus probably rested on a bed of wheat or barley straw, for hay as we understand it was not made in Palestine.

The inn in which “there was no room for them” (Luke 2:7) was no more than a small caravansary or khan, inasmuch as Bethlehem was only an insignificant hamlet. Vastly dissimilar to the hotels to which we are accustomed, the khan consisted of a courtyard for the animals, surrounded by alcoves in which the travelers spent the night. The entire enclosure was made safe against robbers by a high fence and by a gate that was strongly barred at nightfall.

Mary and Joseph were not turned away by a hardhearted innkeeper, greedy for money from richer patrons. The popular misconception arose from the medieval legends and miracle plays of Europe. It contradicts the traditional hospitality found all over the East. The real reason was simply the fact that other travelers were living in the inn. Over and above this circumstance, a lodging so public was no place for Mary, whose time was fast approaching. Joseph therefore led his wife to the only refuge available—a cave hollowed into the rock and used as a shelter by the shepherds of the vicinity. Such grottoes have served and still serve as a common place of refuge for man and beast on rainy chilly nights.

Were an ox and ass present at the side of Mary when she brought forth the Saviour of the world? We have no evidence. The stories of the ox and ass grew out of a pious application of a text from the prophet Isaias, “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master‟s crib” (Isa. 1:3). It would seem more likely that if any animals at all were in the cave, they should have been sheep that belonged to the near-by shepherds.

Yet the one great question remains unanswered. What circumstances prevented Joseph, the official protector of Jesus and Mary, from obtaining adequate shelter for his dear charges when they needed it so badly? Many theories have been propounded by expert scholars who have spent long years in studying every possible clue ranging from the climate of the Holy Land to the minutest detail of the text of Holy Scripture. Perhaps Joseph tried to get shelter better than the temporary home he acquired when he first came to Bethlehem; we do not know. But this seems certain: Mary‟s time was suddenly shortened by the direct providence of God so that Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, by His own choice would come into the world in poor circumstances, a lesson of detachment to all men of all time.

Evidently Jesus was born during the night, for “there were shepherds in the same district living in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8). The weather may have been cool and raw, but not cold or snowy. Otherwise, the shepherds would have taken their flocks to some cave or other enclosure for shelter. Although tradition disagrees on the exact date of the first Christmas, it is rather uniform in holding that our Lord came into the world during the rainy or winter season—that is, some time between November and April.

“And behold, an angel of the Lord stood by [the shepherds], and said to them, „Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which shall be to all the people; for there has been born to you today in the town of David a Saviour who is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign to you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.‟ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, „Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth among men of good will.‟ And it came to pass, when the angels had departed from them into heaven, that the shepherds were saying to one another, „Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.‟ So they went with haste, and they found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in the manger. And when they had seen, they understood what had been told them concerning this Child. And all who heard marveled at the things told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept in mind all these words, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, even as it was spoken to them” (Luke 2:9-20).

Thus does St. Luke draw the curtain over the Christmas scene he has described in inimitable words—a scene whose richness painters and poets and preachers have never been able to exhaust. It is the first appearance of the Holy Family before men: “Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in the manger.” Mutual love shines forth in the faces of this earthly trinity: loving respect in the face of Joseph, loving adoration in the face of Mary, loving generosity in the face of the Eternal God with us. Joseph and Mary are, as it were, the mediators through whom the shepherds come to Jesus. In our own day and forever, they are the mediators through whom we, too, come to Jesus.

The all-pervading indefinable sense of deep peace that belongs to Christmas has come down to us through the ages. If we carefully search for the cause of this Christmas peace, we find that it lies in the unshakable calm brought forth by security. And if we search further for the cause of this security, we find it in the knowledge that God is with us.

“God with us!” We are children spoiled by twenty centuries of Christianity—spoiled because we have God with us and we do not appreciate the fact. We have had no experience of bleak paganism where in early youth our star-seeking ideals would be thrown down again and again as they sought to turn a rebellious nature to obey a God they were not favored to know as we know Him. We have had no experience (as had the pagans of old) of trying to drown all those ideals in an ocean of sinful pleasure, yet finding their craving for the good and pure and the noble and unselfish still unsatisfied. We cannot appreciate the pagans‟ despair at having no one to turn to—absolutely no one; because deep down in our hearts we know that even if all humans fail us, if we ourselves fail Jesus Christ, He can never and will never desert us.

Yes, the source of our Christmas peace is the realization that God is with us. And not merely God in heaven spiritually and invisibly at our side, but God in heaven come down to earth, clothed in flesh and bone as we are, like to us in all things, sin alone excepted.

The two thousand years that separate us from the midnight of the Nativity, vanish, and we kneel beside Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and we see that we are not in the past. It is a present moment that can never become part of the past. Even if Jesus had not perpetuated His bodily presence on earth by means of the Blessed Sacrament of His love, this one moment at the cave in Bethlehem, when the earth first saw its Saviour, would be so all-inclusive that the passing of time could never dim its perpetual newness. The fact that Almighty God should take on our human nature and walk among us is too stupendous to he held by one moment or even by all the moments of time. Because Christ was with us once, He is with us always. The moment when the Infinite came into the realm of time becomes, as it were, eternal.

The lesson of the Nativity, then, is the bodily presence of God with us. The Preface for the Masses of Christmas Day rightly phrases this lesson as a stirring keynote. “Through the mystery of the Incarnate Word, the new light of God‟s glory has shone on the eyes of our mind, so that while we look upon God present to our eyes, through Him we may be drawn to the love of the invisible.” From this point, “while we look upon God present to our eyes,” we must rely on our faith in order that “we may be drawn to the love of the invisible.”

But what is our faith? It is the “substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that are not seen” (Heb. 11:2). It is our belief in the word of God that what He tells us is true, despite the lack of evidence or even the apparently contrary evidence on the part of our senses.

Here in the cave at Bethlehem we see a newborn infant, his young mother, and her stalwart husband. Our faith tells us that the Infant is God Himself, become man without ceasing to be God; the mother is the person most exquisitely fashioned by the Lord Almighty; and the husband is the foster father closest to the Virgin and her Child in awesome holiness.

Before this Child came on earth, there was the law of God to be fulfilled. Like all laws it tended to be a “thing invisible,” a rule hard to follow because unseen. But now that Christ is among us, the law takes shape before our eyes. We behold a Person now, no longer an abstract mandate. We see Him carry out the two great commandments of the love of God and the love of our fellow men—“things invisible”—to which we are drawn now because we look upon them concretized in “God present to our eyes.” By the fact that Christ has come down to our earth, we are provided not only with an exemplar to show us how to live as we ought, but also we are fired by enthusiasm and love of Him to want to live as we ought.

Faith must enter into your daily life if you wish to live holily and happily. For instance, can you behold with your own eyes the sanctity and sacramental nature of Christian marriage? Hardly; yet your faith tells you that it is so.

Suppose that a serious problem turns up in your married life. It might be any of the thousand-and-one problems that can and do arise—misunderstanding, illness, financial distress, bereavement, difficulties with the children. Your faith tells you that because of the sacrament you received at the moment of your marriage, you have a right to receive from God those special benefactions, the actual graces, for carrying out the obligations of your married life. Can you believe this in a moment of trial? Can you bravely and generously go forward and attempt to solve your problems with a confident heart, serene in the knowledge that God has given you the grace to do so? You require faith, and faith requires a submission of your intellect to God‟s promises.

For that faith look at Jesus in the manger at Bethlehem. It is this very same Infant who in the years of His manhood will exalt your marriage to the height of a sacrament. The Christ is not a god dwelling far in the starry reaches of heaven; He came into your midst, a Babe subject to all the discomforts and helplessness natural to His state. With your own eyes you can see that He knows what you are describing when you tell Him of your troubles, for He Himself has shared our life on this earth. He is sympathetic to your needs, and His promises are not deceptions but come from the depths of His Sacred Heart that beats like your very own.

It is true that if Jesus had not come down to earth, we still would have had the consciousness of a loving Father in heaven who tenderly remembers His children on earth. It is also true that we need faith to see in the Babe the infinite God of love and majesty. But the lesson of Bethlehem lies in this extra help to our faith, this knowledge of Christ‟s personal presence among us—again to repeat from the Preface of the Christmas Masses—“that while we look upon God present to our eyes, we may be drawn to the love of things invisible.”

From this you can understand why the Church uses this same Preface for Christmas in its Masses of the Blessed Sacrament. Christ‟s body on earth at Bethlehem was the same body which is now on earth in our tabernacles all over the world. The only difference is that now He is veiled beneath the species of bread and wine. The Blessed Sacrament is the continuation of Christmas; we cannot think of Christ‟s first personal visit two thousand years ago without instinctively thinking of His constant visit at every present moment. We owe the Blessed Sacrament to Bethlehem.

Each recurring Christmas Day should refresh in your mind the magnificent import of the bodily presence of God among us. As you receive Holy Communion on each occasion, the story of Bethlehem is being renewed and continued in your heart, for the cave was the first tabernacle and the manger was the first ciborium. You have the opportunity of “wrapping the Child in swaddling clothes and laying Him in the manger” of your own heart every day if you wish.

In the Blessed Sacrament you will find the greatest, the most tangible help and inspiration for your family life. If you and your husband or wife can make it a practice to receive Holy Communion together, your union will be all the deeper because it is rooted all the more deeply in the love of Christ. There can be no doubt that the frequent reception of Holy Communion by husband and wife does infallibly make their marriage holier and happier.

It is hardly possible to speak satisfactorily of the Blessed Sacrament. The subject is too tremendous to do it justice. Just as the moment of the Incarnation could not hold its awesome reality for itself as the one moment when the Infinite took on the limits of time, so, too, the words that try to portray the quiet majesty of Christ‟s reign among us in the Tabernacle cannot convey their full message of truth. Jesus Christ, God and man, is present with His glorified living body under the appearance of bread and wine in the Blessed Sacrament. What then? The action of the frequent communicant is the only reasonable action, and the answer of the father of the possessed boy is the only reasonable answer: “Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief!” (Mark 9:23.)

Every time we look on the mystery of the Nativity at Bethlehem, a little deeper sense of its meaning penetrates our souls. Sometimes for a few fleeting moments we feel that we can almost grasp the full realization of what it means to have God as man on this earth. The extension of Christ‟s life in the Blessed Sacrament adds to this realization still another note: “God as man is on this earth now, as my closest, dearest Friend, in whose love I can rest my love of my husband or wife, and in whom we two are united in the ideal of the selfless love toward which we are striving.”

Do not be deceived by the fallacy that because of unworthiness you ought not approach Christ closely, receiving Holy Communion often. Who would be so proud as to imply that anyone could become fully worthy? To receive Communion only two things are necessary and sufficient: the state of grace and the proper disposition. The proper disposition simply consists in approaching the Holy Table for the good which the Eucharist will effect in your soul and body, not for public show or merely to please someone else. The results will be a closer union of love with Christ, the growth of every virtue in your soul, the blotting out of venial sin, strength against mortal sin, and powerful assistance to die in the peace of the Lord when your time comes.

All these considerations on the meaning of the Nativity and the Blessed Sacrament have grown out of our looking more or less at the Infant Jesus. There were two other people next to Him whom we look at now—the virgin mother and the foster father. Their radiant love is all directed toward the Babe in the manger, and because it is directed toward the Babe, it also goes through Him from husband to wife and from wife to husband in the thrill of ecstasy that takes hold of the two greatest saints as they look on their God, their Son. Again must we stress this great love of Joseph and Mary for each other as the model for every husband and wife.

It is here at Bethlehem while we watch them together at the crib that we can discuss frankly and settle finally a point that sometimes bothers Catholics when they pray to Joseph instead of Mary or to Mary instead of Joseph. In venerating one they experience a sort of uneasy feeling that perhaps they are taking honor from the other. The same type of feeling can come to converts who have not yet developed the instinctive habit of praying to Mary, while realizing nevertheless that such an action not only does not derogate from God‟s rights but is highly pleasing to Him.

Cardinal Newman has said that ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt. So in this case. There is no doubt that devotion to St. Joseph honors Mary and gives glory to God, and there is no doubt that Joseph more than an other saint wishes Mary to be honored above all mere creatures including himself. There is merely the difficulty that we find it hard to comprehend the complete selflessness of the husband and the wife, and their total devotion to one cause alone: the will of God. We fear that one would be jealous of the other! At any rate, in examining their love more closely as we are doing, another aspect of ideal family love will be brought into focus.

In our limited human experience we rarely if ever succeed in erasing absolutely every trace of selfishness in dealing with even our nearest and dearest; but in the case of Joseph and Mary the two know that their mutual glorification redounds to the praise of their Creator. Mary is His choicest handiwork as the most delicately beautiful person God made, conceived without stain of original sin. All her dignity arises out of the fact that she is the Mother of God, for she it was who brought this Infant Jesus into the world here at Bethlehem.

In the same way honor paid to St. Joseph is honor paid to Mary, and through Mary, to God. The dignity of St. Joseph ultimately stems from the fact that he is the virginal husband of the Mother of God. Because of his marriage to Our Lady he possesses the rights of a father over this Jesus her Son, who lies in the manger before them. Had he not been Mary‟s husband, he would have been merely the guardian of Christ. He would not have had so intimate a share, as theologians tell us, in cooperating in Christ‟s work of redemption by educating and protecting Him during His childhood until He was ready to begin His public life.

Joseph and Mary realize all this as they kneel beside Jesus. Their humility does not deny the existence in themselves of the great gifts which Almighty God has bestowed on them. They understand the awesome heights of the dignity that belongs to their privileged positions, but they understand at the same time that all credit for their holiness must be given to the Infant they are serving, and to the workings of His grace in them. Their free will co-operated with Him in every detail; that, too, they realize. And while they see themselves rewarded for their fidelity by being the two chosen lovers to welcome Christ into the world, they see manifested in themselves God‟s justice and mercy and faithfulness to His promises.

If only we could grasp the depth of the love of Joseph for Mary and of Mary for Joseph as they adore their Son together! Next to God, or rather in God Himself, they bear an all-generous affection toward each other that could exist only in the husband and wife of the Holy Family.

Mary is not any less human because she is more holy. She looks at the Child and looks at His foster father, who is to guard Him (and act as His father) for possibly the next thirty years. She knows Joseph‟s fidelity and generosity and bravery. And she has another reason for her affection. She sees in him the tremendous nearness to God that made him worthy to be called the father of Christ. She wishes him to be honored for all he has done and will do for the newborn Redeemer.

And on Joseph‟s part, he loves Mary as no one except the Infant before them has ever done or can do. No angel or saint can be closer to Mary than her husband. He sees in her the sanctity that made her worthy to become the habitation of the Son of God. Since she is the mediatrix of all graces, Joseph goes to Jesus through Mary.

Yes, here in Bethlehem for the first time we behold the Holy Family, united on earth in that love and mutual confidence which continues to be our model here while they are united in even closer intimacy in heaven. We simply cannot honor St. Joseph without implicitly paying honor to Mary; and we cannot pay homage to Our Lady without honoring her Son, who is God, “to whom be all glory forever.”

We must leave the manger now but the manger will be our heart, and the Infant will lie there often as we receive Him again and again in the sacrament of His love. Joseph and Mary will help us welcome Him each time as they welcomed Him for that wonderful first time in Bethlehem.

Imprimi Potest:
Leo D. Sullivan, S.J., Praepositus Provincialis Provinciae Chicagiensis

Nihil obstat:
Joannes A. Schulien, S.T.D., Censor librorum

Moyses E. Koley, Archiepiscopus Milwaukiensis

Die 15 Januarii, 1947

Pius IX and the Immaculate Conception

Pius IX and the Immaculate Conception
Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

In the Bull Ineffabilis signed by Pope Pius XI on December 8, 1854, he says:

“Our mouth overflows with joy and our lips with exultation. We give, and shall always give, the humblest and deepest thanks to Jesus Christ Our Lord because, through a singular grace, He has granted to us, unworthy though we be, to decree and offer this honor and glory and praise to His Blessed Mother.

“We repose all our hope in the most Blessed Virgin – in the all beautiful and immaculate one who has crushed the poisonous head of the most cruel serpent and brought salvation to the world. In her who is the glory of the prophets and apostles, the honor of the martyrs, the crown and joy of all the saints; in her who is the safest refuge and the most trustworthy helper of all who are in danger; in her who, with her only-begotten Son, is the most powerful Mediatrix and Conciliatrix in the whole world; in her who is the most excellent glory, ornament and impregnable stronghold of the holy Church; in her who has destroyed all heresies and snatched the faithful people and nations from all kinds of direst calamities; in her do we hope who has delivered us from so many threatening dangers.

“We have, therefore, a very certain hope and complete confidence that the most Blessed Virgin will ensure by her most powerful patronage that all difficulties be removed and all errors dissipated, so that our Holy Mother the Catholic Church may flourish daily more and more amidst all peoples and in all countries…”

These passages could seem awkward to the present generations for two reasons: first, for its long sentences and, second, for its use of superlatives.

The modern style likes short sentences and few superlatives. The merit of the long sentence, however, is to relate a series of thoughts in one sentence. And the merit of superlatives – when properly applied – is to break the common patterns in which we move and make us understand profound realities – which are the superlative realities – those for which human language can only find a superlative to express them. Everything invisible, everything supernatural, everything that is vastly more than the visible order in which we move, is so much greater than we are that language only refers to such things with superlatives.

And if this is true of all that is invisible, it is particularly true of Our Lady, who is the Queen of all things visible and invisible, and who is above everything visible and invisible. For this reason, having only God above her, the superlatives themselves are shattered, and we find in our language no way of adequately describing her. So, adding one superlative to another, we end by only affirming the failure of them all to say what should be said. But through such an effort, we somehow manage to make one understand that we have some idea of the greatness of Our Lady.

The Glory and Privileges of Our Lady

Pius IX amasses a number of ideas in these sentences. These long sentences are circles, each one a type of diadem with many jewels to adorn the crown of Our Lady. Presenting this series of ideas about the Immaculate Conception, he is making us see that because Our Lady was conceived without original sin – and this in anticipation of being the Mother of God – she reached the summit of glory in all the orders.

First, he makes an act of thanksgiving for the fact that he has been chosen, as Pope, to define the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. He says, “Our mouth overflows with joy and our lips with exultation.” The whole sentence is superlative. And really, there is no human tongue that can sufficiently express its joy that the Immaculate Conception was defined, all the more so that of the man who is called the Prince of Pastors and successor of St. Peter.

So, the mouth of Pius IX exults with joy. It is a super joy that pours forth from his lips and becomes exultation. This great joy is because the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady was defined, and because he was the instrument for that definition.

He explains, saying that he “gives, and shall always give, the humblest and deepest thanks” – everything is superlative – “to Our Lord Jesus Christ because, through a singular grace ” – it is no normal grace but one without equal – “He has granted us, unworthy though we be, to decree and offer this honor and glory and praise to His Blessed Mother.

The Power of the Papacy that can define a Dogma

Here you see the greatness of a Pope, the grandeur of the Roman pontificate, which is the Power of the Keys. Our Lady is above all the Angels and all the Saints. She is, so to speak, seated on a throne next to Our Lord Jesus Christ.

But a Pope, a simple man living on this earth, was able to say that he defined and decreed this title that gave new honor, praise and glory to the Most Holy Mother of God. That is to say, the Power of the Keys gave him the means to place a new crown on the forehead of one who is so far above him! That is the immense power and grandeur of the papacy.

A Virgin Beautiful and Immaculate

This is his first thought. It is followed by a second – that Our Lady, being Immaculate, crushed the head of the Devil: “We repose all our hope in the most Blessed Virgin – in the all beautiful and immaculate one who has crushed the poisonous head of the most cruel serpent and brought salvation to the world.

His thinking is very clear here. Being immaculate and beautiful, Our Lady crushed the head of the Devil. You see that these ideas are inseparable. The Pope thinks about the beauty of Our Lady and about her power. By way of contrast, he immediately thinks of the heinousness of the Devil that is crushed by her. That is to say, her beauty would not be complete unless it was a triumphal beauty that smashes the Devil.

Because she is so pure, so beautiful, it is not enough that all the creatures of this world and of Heaven and Purgatory pay her homage. It is necessary that the enemy be broken under her feet.

Therefore, the full idea of her glory entails the idea of the Devil slavering, smashed and humiliated, his face to the ground, because she so desired it and because she was the instrument of God to carry this out. This is part of her beauty. It is also another manifestation of the idea that man can only understand all the splendor of truth, beauty and goodness when it is placed in contrast with error, evil and ugliness. This becomes very clear in the image of the Immaculate Conception.

Her Intercession for Repentant Sinners

Then the Pope says, “We confide all our hope in her.” This is because she is beautiful and immaculate, but also because she crushes the Devil. If only we would remember this in times of temptation! We are tempted, the Devil is trying to draw us into some evil, we are afraid of falling into sin. Our Lady crushed the head of Satan and, therefore, can save any sinner from his clutches. She can snatch any tempted soul from his influence and empire. This is a reason to confide in her and should encourage us in our spiritual life.

Thus we should consider first , how Our Lady, being Immaculate and beautiful, crushed the head of the Devil;

Second, how she, being Immaculate, is the glory of the Prophets and Apostles, the honor of the Martyrs, the joy and glory of all the Saints. She not only crushed the Devil, but she is the joy and beauty of Heaven. She is “together with her only-begotten Son, the most powerful Mediatrix and Conciliatrix in the whole world.” Here is a thought that no longer concerns just  individuals, but rather all human society as such; she reconciles all of mankind, all the States, nations and public order.

Third, how she is the most secure refuge and most faithful support for all who are in danger. Here again, we find superlatives – Our Lady is not just a safe haven or faithful support. No, she is the most secure haven, the most faithful support for those in distress.

What relation does this have with the Immaculate Conception? Our Lady, who never experienced such danger because she was confirmed in grace from the first instant of her being, has an enormous pity for her children who are subject to these dangers in this world. There is no true Catholic mother in this world who does not harbor fear about what can happen to her children. Now, Our Lady discerns this danger much more clearly. We can say that the more “afflicted” she is by our situation, the more certainty we can have of being rescued when we pray to her. This is what is understood here.

Her Protection and Powerful Intercession Against Heresy

She is “the most excellent glory, ornament and impregnable stronghold of the holy Church.” She is, then, the terror of demons, the honor and glory of Heaven, the protector of men and the ornament of the Church. Why? Because the Church is a paradise, a prefigure of the heavenly paradise, and if she is the honor of the heavenly paradise, she has to be the honor of the Catholic Church.

He continues, “We reaffirm our hope in her who has destroyed all heresies.” All heresies, he says, including those that cause us the greatest distress. She has saved the faithful from the gravest evils of all kinds – including those that most alarm us, and she has rid us of the many dangers that threaten us.

We must confide that, with her most efficacious protection, she desires to make our Holy Mother Church overcome all difficulties, including the most unexpected and most tremendous. Thus, after smashing all errors – even those that people can incidentally embrace, like those that we see in the newspapers today – the Catholic Church “may flourish daily more and more amidst all peoples and in all places.

Our Lady, the Conversion of the World and the Reign of Mary

This affirmation that the Church should prosper among all the peoples and in all places seems to be a foretaste of the Reign of Mary.

What should we ask Our Lady today, the day of her Immaculate Conception? I have the impression that we should say to her: “May your Reign come, may your will be done on earth as in Heaven.” We should ask that her Reign come soon and that this state of affairs end where her will is not done on earth. Even in places where one would expect that her desire would be fulfilled, there is no such compliance. When man fulfills her will on this earth, this will be her Reign.

The Coming Of Christ: Meditations For Advent

The Coming Of Christ: Meditations For Advent 
By Richard F. Clarke S.J.

1. What Advent is.

Advent is the season when we are taught to look forward both to the first coming of our Lord into the world at Christmas time, and also to His second coming at the end of time to judge the living and the dead. His first coming was to seek and to save that which was lost. His second coming will be to gather His elect into the celestial paradise, and to trample all His enemies under His feet. Shall I on that day be regarded by Him as a friend or as an enemy? Is my present life one of devotion to Him and union with Him, or one of selfishness, pride, impatience of the yoke of Christ?

Of all the miracles in the world, never was there one to be compared to His coming on earth in the form of a man. It was a miracle so entirely above and beyond our reason, that, unless we knew it by faith to be a fact, we should be inclined to pronounce it impossible. That the Infinite God should take the form of a creature! that the Eternal Word should be clad in a body formed of the dust of the earth! that He should of His own accord leave the highest Heaven for a life of suffering, and death of agony! Nothing but the power of God could work such a wonder as this.

Yet we know that it is a fact. ‘For us men and for our salvation, He came down from Heaven.’ He yearned over us with a Divine love. Willingly, joyfully, almost eagerly, He stripped Himself of all His glory. ‘He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death.’ Who after this can refuse to believe that He loved us and still loves us fondly, tenderly? Who can refuse to love Him in return, and to show this love by a loyal obedience to all that He asks of us?

2. The Divine Decree.

What brought Christ down from Heaven? It was man’s sin. From all eternity, the Blessed Trinity, looking forward to the fall of man, had decreed that the Eternal Word should clothe Himself with human flesh, and should be born into the world in order to repair the evil that man had wrought. Thus, God in His mercy provides a remedy for all the sins and follies of men even before they are committed. We do the harm, and God undoes it. Has He not often thus averted from me the consequences due to my evil deeds?

In what garb was the Son of God to clothe Himself when He became Man? In one that should give us some idea of the evil He came to undo. He, the Eternal Son, coequal with the Father, took the form of a servant, was born of a despised race, of humble parents, in poverty, and humility, and contempt. All this should impress on us how sin has deserved all these and every other evil imaginable beside. If these were the results of sin on the spotless Lamb of God, what must they be on sinful, feeble man?

The divine decree did not stop at this first coming of the Son of God. There is to be a second Advent, but one in which He will appear in human form indeed, yet now no longer in lowliness and humiliation, but clothed with all the brightness and glory which His Divine Nature can impart to His Sacred Humanity. In this second coming, He is to come and receive the reward that He has earned for His human nature, and for all those who had faithfully served Him. He is to come and reign. He is to crush all His enemies under His feet. Look forward to that glorious day, and pray that you may share the glory of the Son of God.

3. The Announcement of His Coming.

For a short time after their creation, our first parents lived in perfect peace and happiness in the Garden of Eden. If they had continued obedient to the authority of their Creator during their whole time of probation, there would have been no need for the advent of the Son of God as their Redeemer from sin, for sin there would have been none. It was their deliberate rebellion that was the occasion that determined the visit of the Word to this world of ours. No wonder that the Church sings: ‘O felix culpa!’ ‘O happy transgression’, which earned a Redeemer such as this! Admire God’s wonderful Providence in thus bringing good out of evil, and advantage to man for his very sin.

The promise made was couched in words that gave no immediate prospect of the crushing of the serpent’s head and the destruction of His power. It left the curse of sin upon the earth and its inhabitants and announced the sorrows that would accompany them through their time of sojourn here. That law still holds. Christ came to abolish sin, but not its temporal consequences. “He who sins shall suffer”, is a law which Christ fulfilled and in no way destroyed.

Yet the promise of a Redeemer rekindled the light of hope in the souls of Adam and Eve. They and all their children were ever looking and praying for His coming. God’s intention was to keep them in expectancy. So, too, with His second coming. There has always been a tradition of expectation. ‘Blessed is the man whom his Lord, when He comes, shall find watching.’ Hence, learn to watch and pray. Come quickly, O Lord Jesus!

4. The Long Darkness.

The light extinguished at the Fall was rekindled in the hearts of our first parents when the promise was given them of a Redeemer who should undo the fatal mischief that had been done. But in their children, Adam and Eve had to lament the fatal effects of that deadly evil that they had introduced into the world. As generation followed generation, thicker and thicker grew the darkness, farther and farther did men wander away from the light, that gave to each the power of guiding his feet aright from earth to Heaven. Thus it is that each ill deed goes on bearing its deadly fruit, often long after the doer is dead and gone.

Yet every man had light and grace sufficient, and more than sufficient, to enable him to walk in the ways of God, and to find his way to the Kingdom of Heaven. But none save a very few availed themselves of it. ‘They loved darkness more than light.’ The world gradually lost all regard for virtue or for God. How grateful should I be to God that I live in happier days.

If I had lived then, what should I have been? Even with all my countless graces and advantages, what a poor specimen I am of one made by God, for God, and in the image of God. In heathen days, should I not have been among the most depraved? Should I not have recklessly indulged my own inclinations, irrespective of the voice of God warning and reproaching me? What chance should I have had of saving my soul in those days of dark corruption and depravity?

5. Transient Gleams.

From time to time, there broke through the thick darkness of heathendom a gleam of light that seemed to be a harbinger of the coming day. Some sage or poet sang of a golden age that soon would be at hand. But the flash of light soon disappeared, and only left the darkness even darker than before. So in the life of those who have hardened themselves against God there are sometimes moments when the devil seems to have forsaken his prey, and there seems a hope of better things. But if Jesus’ coming is still far away, the improvement soon passes, and the evil seems to have even a more complete mastery than ever before.

There is something very beautiful in the sentiments of the old Greek and Roman poets. Their minstrelsy rings sweetly in our ears. Their poems proclaim them men of the highest genius. But they have no power to effect a change of heart, such as is wrought by the inspired words of some great saint or servant of God. God must speak through man’s voice, if it is to avail to turn others to God. Do I pray God thus to rule and direct my words that they may do His work?

So, too, many of the deeds of the heroes of antiquity appear worthy of the holy ones of God. Some may have been done from a supernatural motive, and may even have merited eternal life. But no act, however noble in the natural order, is of any value in the sight of God, unless it be done with some sort of conscious desire to please and serve Him. Do my ordinary actions possess this necessary characteristic?

6. The Golden Thread.

All through the long ages that elapsed from the promise to the coming of the Redeemer, a golden thread of light from Heaven ran athwart their darkness. In the chosen people of Israel, there ever prevailed a strong conviction of the coming of a Saviour, who was to deliver His people from all sin and evil. It was handed down from generation to generation, and was again and again renewed by the inspired declarations of the Prophets of Israel. Thus, God in His mercy never leaves Himself without a witness to reveal to men of goodwill the message of hope.

So through all the centuries that have passed since the coming of our Lord, the Catholic Church has been the golden thread of light amid the darkness of heresy and heathendom. What a bright and glorious thread! What a contrast to all around! How it has, through God’s mercy, enlightened my life! How can I ever thank God sufficiently that, led by its Divine light, I am travelling on in peace and safety to the Heavenly Jerusalem!

So, too, there runs through the life of all those who are to attain at last to the eternal happiness of Heaven a golden thread, which never wholly disappears, even though their steps may wander far from the right path. Sometimes it is kindness to the poor; sometimes devotion to the holy souls; very often, it is a reverence to the Holy Mother of God that thus runs through the whole of life. In my life, God has interwoven some such thread. Do I follow it up with grateful perseverance?

7. The Causes of Delay.

If the wickedness of the world in heathen times was so great, how was it that the coming of the Redeemer was so long delayed? To this question, we can only give one answer with absolute certainty, that it was so decreed by Almighty God in His infinite wisdom. We cannot hope in this life to comprehend the mysteries of the Providence of the Most High. We can only humbly bow our heads and say that the Redeemer came when God so willed, and that what God wills is necessarily the best.

Yet we can at least form some kind of conjecture as to the causes of delay. God works by natural means. In order that the religion of Jesus should spread all over the world by the ordinary working of the laws that govern the affairs of men, it was convenient that the world should be subject to one central power. This was never the case until, at the time of Christ’s Nativity, the Roman Empire was mistress of the world. Thus, God prepares the way for His designs of mercy, and arranges the world’s events according to His will, yet without forcing the wills of men.

There was another reason for the long delay. It was to teach us that God does nothing hurriedly. He always waits before putting into execution His decrees. In this, He wishes us to imitate Him. The Eternal Wisdom of the Most High needs no time for deliberation. His works are not gradually perfected, or improved on second thoughts. But ours are, and the slow action of the Providence of God should impress upon us the importance of waiting before we act, and considering and re-considering all our plans.

8. The Approaching Day.

When the sun is soon to appear above the horizon, the morning star, shining with a light derived indeed from him, but nevertheless shining bright and clear even before his coming, gives the signal of his approach. So, the Holy Mother of God, dawning upon the world with a grace and beauty which was the gift of her Divine Son, anticipated His Incarnation and made the world more beautiful in God’s sight than it had ever been before. Mary was more precious to God than all the rest of men, and this quite independently of her Divine Maternity. Consider why this was, and learn a lesson for yourself.

The morning star is still clearly seen when all other stars have been extinguished by the light of the coming day. Mary has a brilliancy so great that the brightness of all the other saints fades into nothing in comparison with hers. If this was the case even in comparison with the glory of St John Baptist, St Joseph, Abraham the Patriarch, the friend of God, Job, the model of patience, Daniel, the beloved of God, what must her glory be! Thank God for having created one child of Adam worthy of Himself.

Mary’s consummate beauty is the consequence of there being in her nothing of her own. All was God’s; no admixture of self in her motives, in her aims, in her joys and sorrows, her love and hatred. Her affections were simply a reflection of what God loved and hated; like God, she loved all things except sin, and those who were the declared and eternal enemies of God. She desired nothing for herself except that she might see God’s holy will fulfilled in all. Is this the account that you can give of yourself? Only if this is so are you a worthy child of Mary.

9. The Fulfillment of the Decree.

The promised coming of the Redeemer had indeed been long delayed. Patriarch had succeeded Patriarch, and died without having the privilege of seeing that long-expected day. The long line of the Prophets had passed away, but their desire after the Messiah had not been satisfied. God always keeps His servants waiting for His best gifts, and therefore it was but fitting that they should wait for thousands of years before receiving this Gift of gifts, this Gift in which He gave them Himself.

The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity had also been waiting for one whose immaculate purity should make her fit, as far as any child of Adam could be fit, to be His Mother. There had been many holy women among the daughters of Abraham, but none without sin, and therefore none in whose womb the Son of God could find repose. If Christ thus could not come to dwell with one who was stained with sin, what must be the purity He requires now of those whose Guest He becomes in Holy Communion? O Jesus, forgive me all my careless receptions of You; my want of careful preparation, my faults innumerable!

Christ Himself had prepared a resting-place for Himself in Mary’s sacred breast. As we read in Holy Scripture: ‘The Most High has sanctified a tabernacle for Himself.’ (Psalm 45:5 in the Vulgate, or Psalm 46:4 in the Hebrew.) So now, if I am to be fit to receive Him, He must prepare my heart. Do I think of this during my preparation for Communion, and pray Him to cleanse me from every stain in His most Precious Blood, to beautify with many graces the tabernacle where He is to abide?

10. The Forerunner of the King.

St John Baptist was the chosen messenger to proclaim the coming of the King of kings. No other herald had so important an office. He had to prepare the hearts of men for the coming of the Messiah. It was this that constituted him the greatest of those who were born of women. If to proclaim the coming of Christ in the flesh was so solemn and responsible an office, what must be the dignity and responsibility of the priests of God, who are sent to announce His second coming in glory?

How did St John prepare for his work? By a life of seclusion and penance. From childhood, he lived alone in the desert, his bed the hard ground, his meat locusts and wild honey, his dress a camel’s skin. Our Lord contrasts him with those who wear soft raiment. No one who lives a life of luxury will ever be an efficient messenger of God. A priest above all must avoid a life of ease and self-indulgence, if he wishes to win souls for Christ.

The secret of St John’s success was thus the result of practicing what he preached. He practiced much more than he preached, for he enjoined upon his hearers the simple performance of ordinary duties while he led a life of continual penance and self-denial. If our words are to carry any weight, we must not preach without practicing. The parent or superior, who has the training of the young, will never train them up to virtue unless he himself is a man of virtue. No one can reach the hearts of others unless he first carries out the lessons he teaches others. Do I do this?

11. The Forerunner’s Message.

The refrain of St John’s teaching was a very simple and constant one. ‘Do penance, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.’ It seems strange advice. The coming of the King of Heaven might be a reason for joy on the part of those who looked for Him, and of dread on the part of His enemies. But why for doing penance? For repenting? Yet the teaching of St John is true now, as it was at the time his words were first spoken. Penance, repentance, is the means of preparation for the advent of our King. This explains the Saint’s love of penance. What penance do I practice with this object?

Yet after all, it is the natural and most suitable means of preparation. It helps us to bring into subjection that lower nature, which rebels against the sovereignty of our King. It detaches us from finding our satisfaction in earthly things. It is in itself an act of obedience to our King. It renders us humble, and teaches us to put our necks under the yoke. It saves us from being separated from the Kingdom we are to share by the long prison of Purgatory. Learn from all this, to love penance.

Penance is a necessary preparation for receiving our King when He comes to us in humble form in Holy Communion. This is why Confession is the preliminary of that Sacred Feast, and why contrition is necessary. We must purge our souls by prayer and penance and sorrow for sins, if we are to rejoice exceedingly in the Bridegroom’s presence, and to hear His voice sweetly whispering in our ears. Do I prepare thus for Holy Communion?

12. The Forerunner’s Office.

St John was something more than a herald. He had to prepare the way for the King, to make the crooked ways straight, and the rough places smooth. His office was that which is entrusted to us all in our own sphere; to try to make the way in which the followers of Christ have to tread straight and easy. What a privilege if we can by our charity and our edifying life make the path of life more easy for those whose lot it is to tread the way of the Cross and to walk over rough or stormy paths. Is this your endeavor in your daily life, or do you place obstacles in the path of others by your bad example, want of charity and consideration, impatience, etc.

St John, as the Herald or Forerunner of Christ, had to proclaim the coming of the King. He himself expresses this by his description of himself as the voice of one who cries in the desert; that is, Christ spoke through his mouth. So He speaks through the mouths of all His servants just in proportion to their devotion and singleness of purpose. How poor an echo are my words of the whispers of Christ to the faithful soul. How mixed with the discordant notes of self-will to worldliness!

St John’s estimate of himself in comparison with Him whom he announced was that he was not worthy to stoop down and untie the latchet of His sandal. This was the duty of the lowest slaves. It meant that he was unworthy to serve Christ, even in the capacity of a slave, and by doing the work that many slaves would consider beneath them. Am I willing to undertake the humblest and most menial duties in the service of Christ? Do I consider it a privilege to do so?

13. Hope.

Advent is essentially a time of hope. It is not in itself a time of joy except so far as hope of joy to come brings with it a present gladness. It is an exact representation of our life on earth. We are in a place of exile and a valley of tears, but yet our hope amid all the darkness should be lighted up and rendered joyous by the prospect of future joy. The motto of our life is our Lord’s farewell words to His disciples: ‘You indeed shall have sorrow, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy’. This must be my consolation in all sorrow. I must try to forget my present troubles in the happy thought of the joy to come.

Why have we so little hope? Generally, because we seek to have our happiness here, and so forfeit the right to it hereafter, or at least forfeit the right to look forward to it with confidence and joy. We cannot eat our cake and keep it. If I seek my satisfaction in money, or comforts, or praise, or applause, or affection of others, I have my reward here and cannot expect to get any reward hereafter. I have no crown of justice to hope for if already I have had the crown of satisfied ambition, or pockets filled with money, or a tickled palate, or the buzzing applause of a crowd.

Our hope is also marred by our self-will, which prevents our will from being in complete conformity with the will of God. We are conscious of a sort of barrier between ourselves and Him, which sadly interferes with our hope. We have assumed a sort of independence of God, which renders it impossible for Him to pour into our hearts that hope which is in exact proportion to our conformity to His will. If I were humble and more resigned in all things, I should be more full of hope.

14. Rejoice.

The time of preparation is a mingled period of penance and of joy. Of penance, by reason of our sins, which have removed us so far away from God; of joy, at the prospect of being brought near to Him once more through Jesus Christ. On mid-Advent, as on mid-Lent Sunday, it is the joyful side of the matter that comes before us. More than this, joy is insisted upon as a duty. It seems strange that the command to rejoice should be necessary. Do not all men love joy, and seek after it unbidden? One thing it shows, that God desires that we should be full of joy. Thank Him for this merciful intention, and try to carry it out.

Yet it is not all kinds of joy that is recommended to us. There are many kinds of joy that the Apostle would be far from recommending. To rejoice in the world is but a sorry kind of joy, on account of its transitory character. ‘Gaudete in Domino’, says the Apostle – ‘Rejoice in the Lord.’ This is the only joy that lasts, and the only joy that is really worth the having.

What does St Paul mean by rejoicing in the Lord? He means the joy that is the result of such a love of God, as makes us simply wish that His will should be done in all things, and that feels positive joy in seeing the accomplishment of the Divine will, quite apart from any personal advantage or disadvantage that may accrue to ourselves. This is the secret of true joy, for then what befalls ourselves is a matter of indifference to us. Be it weal or woe, success or failure, we rejoice in it simply because it is what God has ordained for us. This is the meaning of our Lord’s words, ‘Your joy no man takes from you.’

15. Rejoice always.

St Paul goes beyond the mere command to rejoice, and to rejoice in the Lord; he also bids us to rejoice always. Is this possible? Yes, it is quite possible. If it were not, the Apostle would not have imposed it upon us. It is not easy, because our self-love and our selfishness destroy joy. But the saints, who had driven self-love out of their hearts, found it a pleasant and an easy task to be always joyful. If we desire the same, we must do our best to get rid of this hindrance to our joy.

How are we to accomplish this task? It must be a gradual one. It is to be arrived at by many acts of submission to the will of God, and to the will of others when opposed to our own; and the submission must have for its motive, not the intellectual conviction that what we ourselves desire is in itself inferior, but the determination to submit for the sake of submission, and as an act of reverence to God. We must be willing to submit both will and intellect to those set over us, without complaining or questioning their commands. Do I do so?

When this painful process is over, and when at length we begin to learn the happiness of giving up our own will to the will of others, we soon begin to receive the reward of our self-conquest. We acquire by degrees an undisturbed calm of soul, and an increasing strength of will, as the fruits of our victory over self, and above all a happy consciousness that we have been learning the lesson of conforming our will to the will of God, in which the happiness of Heaven consists.

16. The Second Coming of Christ.

When the Apostles on Mount Olivet were gazing after their Master, who had just ascended into Heaven, two Angels stood by them, and announced to them that He who had just vanished from their sight would return in like manner. Our Lord Himself had already declared that He would come again with power and great glory and would sit upon the throne of His glory. At the sound of His approach, the dead will rise from their graves to meet Him, and the nations of the world who have not accepted His sway will be filled with unspeakable terror and dismay. What will be the dispositions with which I shall rise again to meet Christ? What would they be now if He were to come today?

The object of His coming will be to judge the living and the dead. All that is now hidden will be made manifest before the world. All the secret thoughts and whispered words, and actions concealed from the eyes of men, will then be made manifest. How should I like to have all my base and low motives dragged to light, all my unkind words revealed to those against whom they were spoken, all those actions, of which I cannot myself think without shame, proclaimed so that all may behold them?

Our Lord will come, radiant in majesty and glory, to crush His enemies under His feet and reward His faithful soldiers and servants. How great then will be the ignominy and shame of the mighty men of earth, if they have not bowed their neck to the King of kings! How full of joy will be the hearts of all who have humbled themselves before Him! How will they be beautiful beyond compare, and honored before His holy Angels! Learn now to humble yourself under the yoke of Christ.

17. The Signs of His Coming.

One of the signs of the Second Coming of our Lord being nigh at hand, will be that no one will expect it. All the world will be satisfied that things will go on, as hitherto for many a century, and they will ask: Where is the promise of His coming? In this, too, life of the individual is often a miniature of the history of the world. Christ comes again to many an unexpecting soul when sudden death, through some accident or unsuspected disease, carries off in a moment the man who thought he had long years to live. ‘Blessed is he whom his Lord, when He comes, shall find watching.’

Another warning of our Lord’s approach will be the coming of Antichrist. He will be one whose authority and power will be a counterfeit of that of the Vicar of Christ. His distinguishing marks will be overweening pride, hatred of the Catholic Church, widespread dominion, a spirit of rebellion, which will enlist in his service all who revolt against the authority that comes from God. Examine yourself to see if there lurks in you any of this dislike of lawful authority, and pray for the grace of loyalty to men for God’s sake.

Before our Lord’s coming, there will be a terrible persecution of the servants of God. In these days, when there is an ever increasing spirit of tolerance, it is hard to understand this. But under the spirit of what is called religious liberalism lurks a deadly hatred of the Church of Christ. It breaks out from time to time, as in the French Commune. It slumbers now, but will blaze up again some day. Pray for grace to withstand all the assaults of the persecutor.

18. The Uncertainty of His Coming.

Ever since our Lord’s Ascension into Heaven, His servants have watched for His return, crying out: ‘Come, O Lord Jesus, come quickly!’ In the days of the Apostles, in the early ages of the Church, in medieval times, men believed that His coming was close at hand. In these later days, it is true, the expectancy is not so immediate as it once was; but the very fact that we think the world has still centuries to run, may be an indication that the end is not far away. Can I from my heart offer the prayer that His coming may not be long delayed?

Men sometimes tell us that when six thousand years have passed, the world will have run its course, and Christ will return to judge the living and the dead. It may be so; but rash indeed is he who ventures thus to fix the time, for it is our Lord Himself who tells us: ‘Of that day and that hour no man knows, nor the angels of God, but the Father only.’ One of the essential characteristics of that day will be its suddenness. Hence learn the importance of being always ready, and then you will be always safe.

We may not live till the Second Coming of Christ surprises the world; but we shall live until the day which is the call for us to judgment. That day is not far off; it may be very near, and the chance is that it will either come unexpectedly, or else will be preceded by a time which will be but a poor time for preparation. I must be prepared now, I must always be prepared for the moment when I hear the voice of God summoning me, and then the sooner that time comes the better for me.

19. The Preparation for His Approach.

Who is there who does not desire to meet Jesus Christ, when He comes again, with joy and not with trembling? To ensure this three things are necessary.We must have friends amongst those who will come again with Him. Just as few die a happy death, unless they have some advocates in Heaven, so few indeed will meet our Lord with joy, unless they have some who will welcome them as having befriended them for Christ’s sake. Unless we have been men of supernatural charity, we shall stand defenseless on that day. Alas! how faint and feeble my charity has been; how little I have done to procure friends who will plead for me on that day.

We must also have had the thought of Jesus often present to our minds in life, if His coming is to be a joyful one to us. He must be no stranger to us. He must have been our guide, our friend, our Master, our companion. We must have walked with God on earth, if we are to walk with Him in the celestial paradise. The more familiar has been our friendship with Him, the greater will be our happiness in meeting Him again.

We must also have carried our cross willingly after Him on earth, if we are to meet Him with a well grounded confidence of a great reward in the kingdom which He has won for His elect. O how overflowing will be the delight of those who have lived mortified and self-denying lives for His sake! What a trifle will all their sufferings then appear in comparison with their abounding joy when the

Archangel’s trumpet sounds!

20. The Dangers of the Careless Soul.

There is in human nature a fatal tendency to procrastinate, especially when that which we know we ought to do is something to which we are naturally disinclined. All men are naturally disinclined to do violence to themselves, and force their pride and self-will to yield before the sway of Christ, to put on His yoke and carry His Cross. Hence, men put off and make excuses to themselves and fancy that what is difficult to them today will be easy to them tomorrow! O fatal mistake! Each day that we postpone the task of submission, it becomes more difficult, more distasteful. Why then do I not hasten to submit myself entirely to Christ?

From day to day the careless soul thus goes on putting off, crying: ‘Tomorrow I will amend my ways;’ and when tomorrow comes, it still cries: ‘Tomorrow.’ How fatal is this folly! Tomorrow may never come, or if it comes, you may have forfeited the grace. ‘Today, if you will hear His voice, harden not your hearts.’

This postponement is always accompanied by some deliberate disobedience to the commands or to the holy inspirations of the Spirit of God. Thus, the careless soul becomes more engrossed in earthly things and more and more disinclined to make the necessary effort. Thus it is that so many will be surprised by the coming of their Judge at the moment when they least expect Him, and are quite unprepared to meet Him. O Jesus, save me at any cost from the deadly state of the careless soul!

21. ‘O Sapientia’. ‘O Wisdom!’

Before the feast of Christmas, the coming Savior is welcomed in seven antiphons, which greet Him under various titles, and entreat Him to come quickly to enlighten and deliver His people.

O Wisdom, who came forth from the mouth of the Most High, reaching in Your strength from end to end, and sweetly disposing all things, come and teach us the way of prudence.’ The first title given to Jesus is that of Wisdom. He was the Eternal Wisdom of God, and the source of all wisdom to men from one end of time to the other. With Him all wisdom; without Him no wisdom. Yet I have sometimes fancied myself wise when I was acting quite apart from Him, and perhaps His wishes or commands. What utter folly!

It is the Eternal Word that disposes all things sweetly. Everything that happens in Heaven or earth is arranged by Him, and is arranged not unkindly, or harshly, or bitterly, but sweetly. Why then do I regret what I ought to know He has arranged sweetly, i.e., with designs of love for me if I take it in the right spirit? ‘Come and teach us the way of prudence.’ This is our first petition to Him who is to come. If only He imparts prudence, all must be well. Prudence chooses the right end, namely, the glory of God, and the right means to the end, namely, what we know God asks of us now, and in our present circumstances. Teach me, O Jesus, that lesson of prudence, which will guide me safe to the Kingdom of Heaven.

22. ‘O Adonai.’ ‘O Lord God!’

O Lord, and Leader of the house of Israel, who did appear to Moses in a flame of fire in the bush, and did give to him the law on Mount Sinai, come to redeem us with Your stretched-out arm.’ The Savior for whom we look is also our Lord (Adonai), the Leader and Chief to whom we have sworn fealty. We speak of Him continually under the familiar name of our Lord, and each time we do so we reassert our acknowledgment of the obligation to follow where He leads, and to be subject to Him in all things. O happy followers of such a Leader! If we tread in His footsteps, and obey His voice, He will set our feet in green pastures, and lead us to the fountains of the water of life.

The flame of fire in the burning bush was a figure of Jesus in Mary’s sacred womb. Holy indeed was the place where God was present, and whence He promised to His people their deliverance from Egypt. So He still speaks as if concealed in Mary’s womb, and reminds us that He has made her holy with a holiness second only to His own; and when we draw nigh to her, we hear His voice announcing to us that He has heard our prayers offered through her, and will soon come to deliver us from our enemies.

What shall be our prayer to Him when He inspires us to make our request with boldness at the throne of grace? ‘Come to redeem us with Your stretched-out arm.’ Come to deliver us from the effects of our past sins. Come to deliver us from the attachment to some sin that still lurks within us. Come to deliver us from all our countless negligences and imperfections. Come with Your arm stretched out to ward us from the foe, O Lord and Lover of our souls.

23. ‘O Radix Jesse.’ ‘O Root of Jesse!’

O Root of Jesse, who stand for a sign to the nations, before whom kings shall shut their mouth, of whom the Gentiles shall entreat mercy; come to set us free; and no longer delay.’ The King who is to come is of the root of Jesse, (David’s father,) since He is of David’s royal line. He is the true David, who laid low the spiritual Goliath, the prince of darkness, who in pagan times defied the power of the living God. He is above all the Man after God’s own heart, in that the one motive of His Heart was to carry out His Father’s will. If this is the motive power of my life, then I too am of the root of Jesse, and in spite of failings, am a man after God’s own heart, just in proportion as this motive is ever present to me.

Jesus is a sign to the nations; a sign of contradiction to His enemies, but before whom the most powerful will have to shut their mouth in humble subjection; a sign to His friends, the men of goodwill in every clime and country, who will be drawn to Him to offer their joyful homage at His feet, entreating of Him that mercy which He is more ready to grant than they to ask. To me He is a sign, either fondly loved, or neglected and treated as of no account.

O Root of Jesse, O King and Savior, ‘come and set us free’; free from all that displeases You, free from the snares that entangle our feet, free from our perverse attachment to our own will, free from the power of the devil, free from our slowness in obeying Your commands and holy inspirations, free from all that hinders us in Your service; come and say the word, and we shall be delivered.

24. ‘O Clavis David.’ ‘O Key of David!’

O Key of David, and scepter of the house of Israel; who opens and no man shuts, and shuts and no man opens; come and deliver from the prison-house the captive who sits in darkness and in the shadow of death.’ The key and the scepter are the symbol of supreme authority; they indicate the sway that the Savior is to hold over His faithful people, and the right which He alone possesses of opening the gate of Heaven to the children of men, and of extending to them the golden scepter of His mercy and forgiving love. To me, O

Key of David, unworthy though I am, open in Your mercy the door of Heaven; stretch out to me, all undeserving, the scepter of Your favor and Your love. You shut, O Lord, and no man opens. O shut not upon me the door which will admit me to draw nigh to You. Shut not upon me the door of Your mercy and grace. Shut not the door which leads me into the inner sanctuary of Your love. Shut not the door of that fold wherein Your favorite children dwell in peace and happiness. Shut not, above all, the door of Paradise at my last hour.

Come then, O Lord, and open to me now the door of my captivity. I am a captive to my own self-will; a captive to my want of charity; a captive to my vanity and love of display; a captive to my self-indulgence and dislike of mortification; a captive to a thousand faults of which I am scarcely conscious. ‘Come, O Lord, and set the captive free.’ I am weak, and cannot break my chains unless I receive from You the necessary strength; come, O Lord Jesus, come quickly.

25. ‘O Oriens.’ ‘O Eastern Morning Sun!’

O Orient, splendour of eternal light and Sun of Justice; come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.’

The night of Pagan times was long and dark, and seemed hopeless. Deeper and deeper the nations were sinking in misery and vice. But at length the Orient, the brightness of the eternal light of Heaven, rose, and scattered the darkness, changing the gloom into a brilliant day. So, too, to those who have been long shrouded in the dense gloom of sin or sorrow there waits the same Divine light, ready to scatter their darkness in a moment, if only they will draw nigh to Him. He waits for me, ready to brighten my path, to scatter my sins and sorrows, if I will avail myself of His love.

That rising light is the Sun of Justice, who shall exercise His justice in delivering the captive, and in recompensing His friends a hundred, nay, a thousand-fold, for every little service done to Him. For His justice is virtually identical with His mercy, and rejoices to employ itself in works of pity and of love

Come then, O Orient, O Sun of Justice; ‘shine on those who sit in darkness’, on those who are enveloped in the thick mists of heathendom and heresy. Come and enlighten their ignorance, that they may not perish. Come and deliver them from the shadow of death, for they cannot deliver themselves. Pour upon them such a flood of light and grace as may guide their feet into the way of peace.

26. ‘O Rex Gentium.’ ‘O King of the Nations!’

O King of the nations and desired of them, and the corner-stone that makes both one, come and save man whom You did form of dust.’ Never was there a King who had such a claim to sovereignty as Christ our Lord.

He is King by Divine appointment and His own right. He is King by the consentient voice of His subjects, and by the right of conquest. He is King by reason of His having purchased us with His own Blood. What unnumbered claims He has on me, and beside all the rest, does He not deserve to reign supreme by reason of His having won me by His love? Christ was desired by all nations, long before they knew Him whom they desired.

The heathen world felt a craving want, which it could not define, but which was the desire for the Savior who should free them from the bondage of sin. So now, men of good-will outside the Church feel something of the same strange longing. Nothing will satisfy it save submission to their King by union with His mystical body the Church of God. O, how happy am I, whose desires are fulfilled in that I am no alien, but a servant of that King whom to serve is my own desire.

Christ is the corner-stone that makes both one; the King of Peace, whose work it is to unite together those who love Him in the unity of mutual love of one another for His sake. Thus, He desires that I should be united to those around me, that there should be no dissension or disunion. Do I in this fulfill the pleasure of my King?

27. ‘O Emmanuel.’ ‘O God With Us!’

O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the expectation of the nations and their Savior, come to save us, O Lord our God!’ Emmanuel, God with us, is a name that in every way belongs to Christ our Lord.

He is with His people in all their needs, ever ready to help and console them. He is with us on every altar, waiting for us to come and pour out before Him our sorrow and our needs. He is with us, above all, in Holy Communion, when He comes to dwell in our heart, and to bring with Him every grace that we need. He is with us in the hour of death, and He will be with us for ever in Heaven.

He who thus comes to dwell with us in familiar friendship is our King; He who thus condescends to be our companion is the God who has an absolute right to our obedience. He is our Lawgiver, and the statutes that He enacts for us have but one end and aim and object, to lead His subjects into the ways of happiness and the paths of peace.

Come then, O God, our Lord and our Savior. ‘Come and save us’ from all the perils of the evil one, and from our own weakness and frailty. Come and save us in the hour of temptation, for You alone are our King, and none save You shall rule over us. Come and bring us safe through this valley of tears to Your Eternal Kingdom, where we shall dwell for ever, O sweet Jesus, in the everlasting delights of Your blissful company.

28. Christmas Eve.

How did Mary and Joseph spend the first Christmas Eve? St Joseph spent it in a fruitless attempt to find a lodging for his holy spouse. Vainly he sought for a place in the caravanserai, or inn, where travelers were received. Vainly he went from house to house in Bethlehem. Everywhere he was disappointed. Thus it is, that God prepares His saints and chosen ones for some signal blessing. We must not be cast down by the fruitlessness of our efforts. It is a sign that some great grace is close at hand.

Mary meantime was patiently waiting. She was simply praying that God’s will might be done, whatever suffering it might bring to her. She was offering herself to God, to be used by Him, as He should see fit. She was making acts of perfect conformity to the will of God in all things. Blessed are those who wait patiently in such a spirit. God will soon fulfill all the desires of their heart.

Yet Mary and Joseph, in spite of the sorrow of the one, and the anxiety of the other, were both of them overflowing with heavenly consolations. How could it be otherwise, when one of them carried Christ in her chaste womb, and the other was more dear to God than any other of the sons of men, for he was Mary’s chosen spouse, and he knew that before another day was past she was to bring forth into the world the Son of God. Our happiness, like that of Joseph and Mary, does not depend upon our external circumstances, but on the love that we bear to God in our hearts.

Christ and Prayer

Christ and Prayer
By Philip Gerrard.
Australian Truth Society No. 1004 (1946).


The most important thing in our lives is how we stand in relation to God. God is the only perfect judge of our value because He is the only one Who sees everything in its true light. He sees us as we really are, with all the failings and imperfections which we take good care to hide from those around us. Our real worth therefore is determined by how we stand in God’s eyes.

This is not the way the present day world judges a man’s value. For the twentieth century, having thrown aside all idea of the supernatural, has become accustomed to regard everything from the material standpoint. [This is even more true of the twenty-first century.] It is not surprising then, that when the world is assessing the worth of a person it takes as standards those things which, being material, have little or no connection with God or the Soul of man as, for example, money, social standing, physical powers.

Affected in so many ways by this spirit of materialism, our own judgment is easily warped. We follow the example of the world, and we, too, lose the balance between the natural and the supernatural. This mistaken outlook affects our life so that we find it hard to live as true Christians. We are satisfied to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, but too often fail to render to God the things that are God’s.

How, then, are we to live so as to be always pleasing to our Creator? The answer to this question is found in the life of Christ because He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. God became man, in all things like to us except in Sin, to show us in the clearest possible way how we are to live if we wish to please Him. Our Lord is our model in all our activities, amongst which the most important is Prayer. It is by Prayer that man grows in his knowledge and love of God. It is by Prayer that man fulfills the duty of thanking God for His benefits and of praising Him. It is by prayer that man keeps in touch with the supernatural order from which he derives his true life, the life of Grace. Our prayer is of the utmost importance because it is the surest indication of how we stand in relation to God.

In forming our ideas about Prayer, it is necessary to learn from Christ. This we can do in two ways. The first is by studying His teachings, as for example, the Our Father, which He taught His Apostles when they asked Him how to pray. On the other hand, we can learn from His example. We can study His life and actions and see when and under what circumstances Our Lord prayed. We can learn the qualities that our prayer should have by watching Christ as He prays and by trying to discover as far as we can how He went about praying. From the pages of the Gospels, we can also discover the reasons which prompted Our Saviour to converse with His Heavenly Father.

According to these three divisions we shall treat of Christ’s example in prayer, seeing in the first place WHEN He prayed; secondly, HOW He prayed, and thirdly, WHY He prayed.

When Did Christ Pray?

Prayer may be considered in two ways. In a broad sense to pray means to act in accordance with the will of God in order to please Him. When in the morning offering we offer to God all our thoughts, words and actions, we sanctify our everyday life by raising it to the level of a prayer. During the day when we do whatever God wants us to do, we are pleasing to Him and we fulfill our Lord’s command: You ought always to Pray.

In its strict and ordinary meaning, prayer is the intercourse of the Child of God with its Heavenly Father. To pray is to speak to God, to put aside other activities and to turn one’s thoughts and desires to Heaven. The great Saint Theresa, who was so experienced in prayer, writes that, Prayer is a communion alone with God so as to express our love to Him, by whom we know ourselves to be loved.

Taking prayer in its broad sense as being the offering to God of one’s actions, we may say that Christ’s life was a perfect prayer. From His youth, which He spent in helping His foster father, and throughout His public life until His death, our Lord lived every moment and offered every action for His Father’s glory. It was His constant rule and the means by which He sanctified His life, to do the will of His Father. What pleases Him I always do. At His birth, lying helpless in the manger, His little lips could not move, but the angels who surrounded the cave prayed in His name. Their prayer was one of praise and glory to God in the highest. They knew the reason for the Son of God becoming Man, and in their hymn on the morning of Christ’s birth, they reflected the depths of His Soul and foreshadowed the spirit that would inspire His whole life.

When Jesus was twelve years old the Holy Family went to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast of the Passover. It was on their return journey with the large band of pilgrims from Galilee that Mary and Joseph discovered that Jesus was missing. Going back to Jerusalem in great distress they searched among their friends for the Child, and it was only after three days that they found Him, seated in the Temple in the midst of the Doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions. Even though she was amazed at this scene, our Lady did not forget the anxiety she had suffered during those days. She said: My Son, why have You done so to us? Your father and I have sought you with sorrow. The reply which Jesus made to His mother is the first sentence of Our Saviour recorded in the Gospels. His thoughts were already fixed on His true Father in Heaven, and the desire to do His Father’s will was the key to His actions. Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business? Do you not realize, He says, that I have only one purpose in all My actions, and that is to please My Father. Do you not understand that My whole life is set aside for this, and even though at times it may cause a sword of sorrow to pierce your heart, still I shall do only what My Father wishes. From His earliest youth, therefore, Christ sanctified His life by consecrating it to God.

The little that we know about His hidden life in Nazareth bears out just as clearly that our Lord made a prayer of every action. After He was found teaching the doctors in the temple, Jesus went down to Nazareth with His parents; there He was subject to them, and He increased in Wisdom, in age, and in grace before God and before men. Jesus was subject to Mary and Joseph. They were the superiors whom God had appointed over Him, and in their will, He saw the will of His Father. Jesus knew that by subjecting Himself to Mary, His Mother, and Saint Joseph, and by pleasing them, He was at the same time pleasing His Heavenly Father.

During His public life, and especially during the Passion, this ready acceptance of His Father’s will is ever in His mind: My meat is to do the will of Him who sent me. As our study of Christ’s prayer proceeds, we shall see that this is at the heart of all His intercourse with God. By instructing the people, by healing the sick, and by preparing the foundations of the Church, Christ carried out from day to day the work which His Father had given Him to do. He consecrated His life to God, He became obedient even unto death, and by His loving acceptance of all His sorrows, His every act was sanctified and became a perfect prayer.

Besides this constant directing of His actions according to His Father’s pleasure, there were many times in our Lord’s life when He raised His heart to heaven in intimate converse, and when He turned aside from His preaching and devoted Himself to silent prayer. Throughout the Gospels, we find many instances of Christ retiring alone to the mountains in order to pray. In the first chapter of Saint Mark’s Gospel, we read that shortly after He began His public mission Christ rose up one morning before daybreak and departed into a solitary place, and there He prayed. Saint Luke describes the same incident, and then later on in 5:16 tells how Christ withdrew Himself into the wilderness and prayed. In two other places, 9:11 and 11:1, Saint Luke refers to this habit of quiet prayer. Saint Mark in 6:46, after describing how our Lord fed the multitude, relates that He sent His disciples away and then He departed into a mountain to pray, and Saint Matthew adds, when evening was come He was there alone.

The Apostles, therefore, were accustomed to their Master retiring frequently to some lonely place. He would leave the excited crowds wondering at His miracles of healing and slip away quietly to some remote place where He would be alone with His Father. In the evenings, especially this was His practice to retire by Himself, and when He was in Jerusalem He used to go to Mount Olivet. Saint Luke records that after the Last Supper Christ came out and went as He was accustomed, to the Mount of Olives and when He was withdrawn from them a stone’s throw He kneeled down and prayed.

Besides these frequent occasions when Our Lord went by Himself to pray, we find Him speaking to His Heavenly Father before each important work He undertook. At the beginning of His public life, He called together the men who were to help in His work of preaching. Of these disciples, He chose twelve to be more intimately associated with Him and later on to be His Apostles. These twelve men He was going to instruct with special care, and upon one of them, as upon a rock, He was to build His Church. It was important, then, that the right men should be chosen, for this was the beginning of the Church. On the evening before His final decision, Christ had recourse to prayer. As Saint Luke tells us, Christ went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in the prayer of God. When it was day He called His disciples, and of them, He chose twelve, whom also He named Apostles. (Luke 6:12-13.)

The miracles which Christ performed are an important and integral part of the story of His public life. He went about Palestine doing good by healing the sick as well as by preaching His Gospel of love. Not only did the poor have the Kingdom of God preached to them, but the blind saw, the lame walked, and the deaf were given their hearing. Our Lord used His miracles to show the people His divine power, and to win their attention so that they would listen to His teaching. They were also a means of bringing the people around Him, for the fame of these wonderful happenings preceded His journeys. Hence, they were so valuable and important to His ministry.

Before these miracles, Christ often prayed and asked His Father to direct the work He was about to do. They are further illustrations of how He consecrated His actions by referring them to His Heavenly Father.

Apart from His Glorious Resurrection, the raising of Lazarus from the dead is the most striking miracle in Our Lord’s life.

It was because of the sensation that this miracle caused among the people, who could not fail to see in it a ‘heavenly seal’ on the truth of His claims, that the Jewish Priests finally decided to put Our Lord to death. Christ loved Lazarus and his two sisters, and took a special interest in them, so it is not surprising to find that when Lazarus fell sick, the first person whom Martha and Mary thought of was Jesus. They sent a messenger at once to tell Him what had happened, but when our Lord arrived at Bethany Lazarus was already dead and buried. His sympathy went out to the sorrowing sisters, and He, too, began to weep because His friend was dead. Jesus asked that the stone covering the tomb should be taken away, and then He raised His eyes to Heaven and said: Father, I give thanks that You have heard me. Yet I know that You hear me always; but because of the people who stand around I spoke that they may believe that You have sent me.

This is an example of how Christ always had recourse to prayer. On this occasion, His prayer was one of thanks-giving to His Father for the favour that was to be given through His power to Martha and Mary. It was a prayer of confidence — confidence in God’s goodness, and another illustration of how His will was perfectly attuned to that of His Heavenly Father. Above all, His prayer before the tomb of Lazarus was for the benefit of the people who were witnessing the miracle, and for us, who after so many centuries can listen to Christ and learn from Him how we should turn our eyes to Heaven whenever we are about to begin an important task.

An incident in Our Lord’s life of greater importance for the Apostles who were present was the Transfiguration. The three in whom Jesus showed a special interest were Peter, James, and John, for it was they whom He was to bring into the Garden to witness His Agony, and one of them, His beloved disciple, was to accompany Him to Calvary and remain beside Mary at the foot of the Cross. Peter, James and John, therefore, needed special graces to strengthen them in their work, so on this occasion Our Lord gave them an opportunity to see Him in His power and glory.

At the Transfiguration, Christ chose to display His glory while at prayer. In the words of Saint Luke, He took Peter, James and John and went up into a mountain to pray. As He prayed, the appearance of His countenance was changed and His raiment became a radiant white. He wished to link up the two ideas of happiness and prayer in the minds of His Apostles. On another occasion, they were to see Him praying while suffering His agony in the garden of olives, so now He strengthened them by displaying His glory while at the same time He prayed. In this, they had a further proof that Christ’s mind was always occupied in prayer, and that He did not undertake any work without referring it to His Heavenly Father.

When Our Lord worked His miracle of feeding the multitude with a few loaves and fishes, He set before us yet another example of this constant intercourse with His Father. Each of the Evangelists refers to this prayer; Mark and John record that Christ gave thanks before He broke and distributed the bread. Matthew and Luke, using almost the same words, tell how Jesus took the five loaves and two fishes, and, looking up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves and gave them to His disciples.

It was then that Christ promised to institute the Eucharist — to give His own body and blood to be the living food and drink for those who would believe in Him. Some time later, at the Last Supper, He fulfilled that promise and commanded the Apostles to do what He had done, that is, to change bread and wine into His body and blood. That evening His passion was about to begin, and as He sat at the table with His Apostles for the last time, His prayer took on a more impressive tone. In the next section, we shall see how He opened His heart to God and how He begged His Father’s help for the Apostles. What concerns us here is the fact that OUR LORD DID PRAY AT THIS TIME.

For many years, He had been looking forward to these days, and now that the time had arrived and His sufferings in all their terror began to appear before Him, it would have seemed natural for Our Lord to hesitate. But the peace of His Soul was not disturbed. Whenever He had a difficult task to perform during His life, He always turned to prayer, and now, as He is about to take on Himself the sufferings by which He was to atone for the sins of the world, Christ prepares Himself in the same way. Saint John relates in detail what Our Lord said on this occasion. Again, by His example, He impresses on those around Him the necessity of turning to God; and the Apostles, seeing the consolation Jesus derived from His prayer, would not easily have forgotten the lesson.

Having described Our Lord’s prayer, Saint John goes on to say, Jesus went forth with His disciples beyond the brook of Cedron, where there was a garden into which He and His disciples entered. . . . . Jesus took with Him the three who had witnessed His Transfiguration. . . . And when He had withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, He knelt down and began to pray. It was then that His agony became so intense that His sweat became as drops of blood. All this time, when the sins of the world were weighing heavily upon His shoulders, Christ continued in prayer, submitting Himself to His Father’s will, and when the suffering increased, He prayed more earnestly.

So did Our Lord’s Passion begin, and so it continued until the price of our salvation had been paid. Even when He was nailed to the cross and about to complete the sacrifice of His life, the suffering He was enduring could not turn His mind from prayer, for the words of the Psalms were on His lips. Christ prayed for those who had treated Him so cruelly. Father, forgive them for they know not what they do; and then as He was about to die, He said. Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit.

How Did Christ Pray?

It is clear from what has gone before that Christ was constantly referring His actions to God, thinking of His Father’s will, pausing to thank His Father for hearing His requests, and then frequently setting aside all other activities and depriving Himself of the company of His friends to devote His whole mind and heart to God. In doing this, He allowed no opportunity to pass without impressing on the Apostles that they should begin their work in the spirit of prayer, of obedience to God’s will, and of thanksgiving for His benefits.

How did Christ pray? What did He do during those long silent vigils when the people in the villages were excitedly examining the cures He had done during the day and the Apostles were discussing His doctrines? What was the central point, or the main theme of His prayers? These are the questions that come to mind as we follow Him on His journeys through Galilee and listen to Him as He teaches the people who crowd around Him; or as we go with Him, even if it is only to spend an hour, to those quiet places among the hills. These are the questions we shall try to answer now, and even if we do not succeed in penetrating the depths of this Divine Personality, our search will lead us towards the main-spring of that activity which directed the life and actions of God-made-Man. Our search will lead us to the centre of Christ’s prayer, to the principal lesson which He wishes us to learn from His example and will help us to improve our own intimacy with God.
It is so important to pray well in these days when all the forces of a Godless world are bent on breaking this vital link with the source of our spiritual strength. Because that is what prayer is — the main line of communication between God and man, a channel down which God pours His graces to strengthen us, the life-line by which we are ever striving to bring ourselves closer to happiness and Heaven.

In setting out to discover how Christ prayed, it is necessary to examine the relation that existed between Him and the Being to Whom His prayer was directed. For in studying Our Lord’s prayer we must enter into those relations, mysterious for the most part, which began when the Word was made Flesh.

Christ was the Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity become Man, and this great truth upon which our religion is based is naturally at the centre of Christ’s intercourse with His Father. The Truth, which came into being at the Annunciation when Mary said: Be it done unto me according to Your word, was Christ in Whom there are united two distinct elements, Divinity and Humanity. To understand how our Lord prayed, it is necessary to have clearly in mind that He is God and that He is man.

From this second point, namely, that Christ is man, it follows that it is possible for Him to act in a human way, as other men act. We have the power to speak to God because we are men. Christ was a man as really as we are; therefore, He, too, was able to speak to God. But whereas we are human persons having each of us the same human nature, our Lord is a Divine Person possessing Divine as well as human nature. In His Person the two natures did not fuse so as to form a middle nature, neither Divine nor human, but the two remained complete and distinct. Christ, a Divine Person, could act in a Divine way, and in a human way; and. in so far as He was human, He could raise His mind and heart to God.

The other great truth on which the prayer of Christ depended, was His Divinity. Christ, the man, was a Divine Person, the Second Person of the Trinity — united to His Heavenly Father by a union which is unique — a union in nature by which He and the Father were one. He was the Son of God, equal to the Father, and, as a result, His intercourse with His Father was one of unrivaled unity. I and the Father are One, Our Lord said to the Jews, and during those long nights and on the frequent occasions when He set aside all other activity to give Himself to prayer, it was this union that flooded His Soul with light. It was this union that shone during His prayer at the Transfiguration — it was this union that strengthened and consoled Him in His agony; in a word, the deepest element in the prayer of our Saviour was the experience and realization of an essential unity and an absolutely unique sonship.

It is clear, therefore, that the essence of Christ’s prayer was His oneness with the Father. It was the power strengthening His active life; the centre from which radiated the goodness, gentleness, the strength and perseverance, the loving interest, the self-sacrificing toil, the whole greatness of His perfect character. His humanity was united to His Divinity and drawn into unity with God.

The realization of this unity, the foundation on which Jesus built His prayer, was accompanied and perfected by love. Knowledge gives rise to love, and the more intimate our knowledge of a subject the greater is our love for it. The love of the Son of God for His Father was perfect to a degree far surpassing our understanding because this love was the result of perfect knowledge. No one knows who the Father is, but the Son, implies what is equally true, namely: That no one loves the Father as the Son.

This intense love flowing from Christ’s knowledge was also the perfection and summit of His prayer. Because of His union with the Divinity, Our Lord, in His human nature, enjoyed the Beatific Vision. His gaze fell directly and constantly on the beauty of the Trinity, and this vision, the beginning and end of all human life, and at the same time the true source of happiness, filled His Soul with complete joy. It was an absorbing love that lifted Him out of the monotony of His hidden life, separated Him from the companionship of men who saw and could see nothing, whose horizon was confined to the rough village street that crawled up that hillside. It was this that lifted Him above the coarse familiarities, the boorish manner, the galling condescensions that filled the greater part of His life.

It was an active love overflowing from perfect knowledge and strengthened by complete trust. It was the action of a perfect man, stronger than the affection of all human hearts united — a love which at once was the cause of our salvation, and in which our own slight love of God is given a meaning and a real power.

When Our Lord loved His Father with this complete love, there began that worship in Spirit and in Truth which He spoke of to the woman of Samaria. That true worship had been neglected by the Jews; but it was to be given an unshakable foundation in Christ and carried on by His Church till the end of time. The Church is the continuation of Christ’s life on earth, and as it continues and completes His life, so, too, it continues His prayer. We are incorporated into the Church which is His Mystical Body because Christ is the life of our souls, and for this very reason, our love is pleasing to God. Hence, the value of our love comes only from its being through Christ with Christ and in Christ. Per Ipsum et cum Ipso et in Ipso ‘Through Him Himself, and with Him Himself, and in Him Himself’ we pray in the Mass as we offer to the Father omnis honor et gloria ‘all honor and glory’. In the same way, our prayer must be made in unity with our Saviour.

Even though at times the Evangelists do not portray the scenes with as much detail as we might wish, we are given ample opportunity in the pages of the Gospel to learn the qualities of our Lord’s prayer. These qualities we shall examine as they appear to us from what is written, without going at length to fill in details left out by the narrators. Let us first take those aspects of the prayer of Christ that are more often overlooked.

Silence was our Lord’s most constant companion. His wish was rather to be in the quiet company of His chosen ones than amidst the noise and bustle of the crowds. So it was in His public life; but how much more marked is it in regard to His hidden life! For three years, He preached His Gospel of Love — for thirty years before that, He remained in the peaceful surroundings of the countryside. To the Jews, when speaking of prayer in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said: When you pray . . . go into your room and, closing the door, pray to the Father in secret. It was the same spirit of peaceful solitude that prompted Him to withdraw time and again from the multitudes and go into the mountains to pray. While there, He would be free from the distractions of His daily work and would be able to give His whole self to God in prayer. He chose to go away from the crowd because His prayer, although it must often have been for them, was certainly not to them. That His Father saw Him in secret was enough for our Lord.

Perhaps the reason for this insistence on silence was to bring home more clearly to us the way we are to go about our prayer. It is all very well for saints to be able to preserve their union with God during the busy hours of the day — a thing impossible in practice for people who are not saints. We shall not all rise to this degree of intimacy; but certainly our Lord does expect of us and He has made it clear by His own example, that we should frequently retire alone and pray in some quiet place. Christ was not like the Pharisee who went to the high place in the temple and shouted out his goodness, nor like the hypocrites, who love to pray standing in the Synagogues and at the street corners. This spirit of silence is so opposed to our modern ideas of excitement and publicity that we notice it is soon as we become acquainted with the life of Christ. But, despite the fact that it is so neglected by the world, it is silence that we should cultivate in our efforts to approach God. Who is man that You are mindful of him, was the thought of the Psalmist, and if we could only make this thought our own each time we begin to ply our prayer, then we would remember at least to approach the majesty of God in silence.

That God should be generous is one of the most wonderful, and at the same time, mysterious things about Him. His being generous is wonderful for us because otherwise we should not be alive. If He was not generous, there would have been no creation, no angels, nor a universe. On the other hand, when we do realise what He has done, we find it hard to see the reason. Why should He have chosen weak human beings to share in His Divine Life and happiness? Perhaps the best answer is to be found in His generosity. The greatest indication of this willingness to give Himself, is the Incarnation. That God should have created man is striking enough, but how much more striking surely that God, having made man from nothing, should in His greatness, Himself become the helpless creature that He had made. There shines through all the actions of the Son of God this same characteristic of doing good for others. Nor is it lacking in His prayer: Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you all that he may sift you all as wheat. But I have prayed for you (singular) that your (singular) faith may not fail, and do you (singular) confirm the brethren. . . . (Luke 22:31-32)

In the same way, He prayed for all His Apostles and followers. It is only natural that Christ should have interceded so much for His friends because His work depended on them. So the generosity of His prayer is best illustrated by His words on the cross, when, after subjecting Himself to every insult, He prayed for His persecutors in the words, Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. He could not do enough for men, and here as He hung on the cross He was unable to forget those who had put Him there. It was not sufficient to die for all men — no, the Son of God must pray even in His last breath for His enemies. Therefore, how can we ever kneel down to pray while fostering hatred in our hearts for those who have done us harm? In this scene, Christ shows us, that our generosity should include even those who have offended us.

The knowledge that God is so generous helps us to be confident when we approach Him. If we wish to be like Christ in prayer confidence and trust in our Heavenly Father will be one of our principal qualities. We are children of God, our Father, and, after all, what is more noticeable about the way children approach their parents than their confidence? In the knowledge that their father and mother have always been good to them, distrust is far from their minds. Who could be a more perfect example of trust in God than Jesus Himself, appreciating as He did more than anyone else His Father’s power?

In the scenes of His early life, there is a calmness, quite out of proportion to His years; as, for example, when He is teaching the Doctors in the temple. His explanations of the scripture must have been full of wisdom, otherwise the Priests would have ignored Him. It was in the temple some years later that Christ did not hesitate to turn over the money changer’s tables, even though He was in the thick of His enemies. This confidence goes with Him throughout His public life in such an outstanding way that it points constantly to His Divinity. When Jesus prayed before the grave of Lazarus, He thanked God that He had been heard and then continued, Yet I knew that You hear me always. To the Apostles, when they heard His words about the difficulty of the rich man entering Heaven, and were in doubt whether anyone would be saved, He said, ‘With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God’. He accused the Sadducees of not knowing the scriptures nor the power of God. His confidence is brought out during the sufferings in the garden — Abba, Father, all things are possible to Thee. (Mark 14:36.) Later on that evening, we are given a further instance of His trust, for when the chief Priests tried to arrest Him He made them draw back. Think you that I cannot now pray to My Father and He shall presently give Me more than twelve legions of angels. It was necessary only that He should ask and His prayer would be granted. He did not hesitate or try to escape, but He proclaimed to those who came out against Him the trust He had in God, which, working through the power of prayer, was able to overcome any human force. A wish, and He could have had His enemies at His mercy.

If we are really earnest about our prayer, we shall not neglect this all-important quality of confidence in God. Christ wants us to begin our prayer by addressing God as Our Father, and in this spirit of childlike confidence, He wishes us to carry through all our dealings with Him. Let us not forget, also, that we are speaking to one who is more interested in us than we are ourselves, and who can do more for us in one moment than we could do in a thousand years. It would be an insult to God were we to turn our hearts to Him, while at the same time doubting His care for us or His ability to help us. Whereas, if we begin our prayer remembering the thought of Saint Paul, I can do all things in Him who strengthens me, we shall be associating ourselves in spirit with Christ, and with Him, we, too, shall be able to give thanks to God for hearing us always.

Yet another quality of Our Lord’s prayer, showing us still more clearly how He prayed, is heroism. As we follow Him on those lonely vigils in the mountains, as we watch Him turn His eyes to Heaven when the people walk away with the words that His doctrines were too hard to believe, as He prays daily for the Apostles, and finally submits to the agony of the passion, praying without ceasing, what prayer can we imagine more heroic. This is a quality that we shall strive to introduce into our prayers; for if we are to persevere in our union with God we must be heroic. It is easy enough to pray at odd intervals, but it is no easy matter constantly to deny ourselves and overcome the inclination to comfort which hinders us from going down on our knees and recollecting ourselves. If we are really anxious to learn from Christ, we shall do this: If you would come after me, take up your cross daily and come follow me. Such are our Lord’s own words for those who wish to imitate His example.

How could His prayer have been anything but heroic when it was so strong that He willingly left every attraction to spend the night alone? Christ was as truly man as we are, and it was natural for Him to feel attracted by the company of men. Even more so was this true of Him, whose personality was so attractive that it was natural and easy for Him to become the centre of a group. Our Divine Master was far from being overcome by temptation to His Own glory, and night after night, He rejected it to spend the hours in solitude with His Father. Considering that our Lord’s active life was so tiring, working all day, preaching, healing the sick, instructing His disciples, walking long distances, His prayer appears even more heroic. For He would have been tired after all these activities, and, humanly speaking, would have felt more like resting than spending the night in the prayer of God.

The very constancy of His prayer is an indication of how heroic it was. We have seen how He never missed an opportunity of giving us an example in this matter. From His strength, let us draw our strength, so that we shall be able to go alone to pray, and, as well, to pray frequently. Even if it seems to others that we are wasting our life by praying often, we may be assured that only in this way shall we find our true life of union with God. Did not Christ say, He who loses His life for My sake shall find it.

Our attitude to prayer must be that it is really the business of life; for what after all is more important to life or living than that we should know God. The best way to get to know God is to pray, to talk to Him as He wants us to, as a child speaks to its father and then listens to what it is told. If we know God in this way we shall certainly love Him, and from knowledge and love will flow perfect service.

One of the scenes that always comes to mind when we think of Christ and prayer, is His agony in the garden. This is the summit of His prayer. In it, we find more clearly than in any other scene some of the most important qualities of His intercourse with God. Let us turn to it now, and see how it helps us to understand the heroic nature of His prayer.

The atmosphere of this scene is full of terror as His agony increases and His desolation becomes more intense. He had begun His suffering that evening with prayer, and in the garden, He falls on His knees to continue. His thoughts are turned now, not to what He wanted the Apostles to do, nor to how He had done His Father’s will, but only to the sins of men. A little while before He said to His Apostles, Pray that you may not enter into temptation. Then, going away a few yards, He knelt down and began to pray. It was not the same consoling prayer that had filled His heart during His public work, nor the glorious prayer of His Transfiguration on Mount Thabor. But now the insults of all the centuries were brought together in all their fulness and foulness to terrify the man who was God. The mental agony of Jesus was so great that His sweat become as drops of blood running down upon the ground. Under that strain, His prayer did not cease, for Saint Luke tells us He prayed the more earnestly. Christ had persevered in prayer in all the difficulties of His life, but this trial was not like the others. It was the most terrible moment of all, and if He began to weaken now, we would have had little cause to wonder. But such was the strength of Christ’s prayer that even when His mind could be taxed no further, and His body had already given way under the strain, He prayed the more earnestly. Could we imagine greater heroism?

We need go no further in seeking a standard by which to judge our own attempts to become intimate with God; for here He shows us that even the greatest suffering must be no obstacle to our efforts at praying; rather it will spur us on and our cross will help us to think only of Christ our model who being in agony prayed more earnestly. How often do we think it too much that the Church should ask us to pray every Sunday at Mass? Surely, this is little enough when compared to the trouble our Master took to pray — when judged by the heroism of His prayer. No matter how difficult it is to think about our Father in Heaven, or how great the suffering that this same Father permits to come our way, we must continue in prayer and continue more earnestly as the weight of the cross increases. During His agony our Lord went three times to see if Peter, James and John were watching with Him, but each time He was disappointed, and, returning, bowed His head to the ground. He, too, could have fallen asleep for He was as tired as they, but unlike them, He was strong in His determination to do God’s will. Christ would have foreseen the temptations which were to come our way when ease and pleasure would draw us from union with Him, so He gave us this perfect example. Who could have done more for us than Christ? Who was more deserving of rest than He? But to Our Lord, prayer was more important than any amount of rest: And leaving them, He went again and prayed a third time.

This quality of strength in prayer, proved so clearly by His perseverance on these occasions, brings out another point in Christ’s character, namely, His readiness or willingness to pray. There is never a suggestion of hesitation or indecision in Our Lord’s attitude to this sacred duty. He was eager to get away by Himself, to turn aside and pray for His Apostles, to intercede with His Father for those who asked His help. Just as He acted towards them by straight away doing what they wanted, so His prayer seemed to flow naturally from a heart full of love for His Father. It is usually so hard for us to work up any enthusiasm for our prayer that it will help us to watch Jesus leaving the crowds or giving Himself completely to prayer for His chosen ones in the Supper-room, or going again to His place in the garden, His body weary but His heart anxious to accept the approaching cross and death. This willingness, which was so intimately bound up with His spirit of prayer, had been foretold by Isaiah, He was offered because He himself wished it, and Saint John records the words, I lay down My life because I have power to lay it down and to take it up again.

These are some of the qualities of Our Lord’s prayer. But the question naturally arises — why was His prayer so great; what was there about His prayer that put it on such a plane? What in a word was the central and most important characteristic providing the foundation on which these qualities rested? This is the question we must answer if we are to arrive at anything like a real understanding of the prayer of Christ. If we can discover this secret and set about acquiring it ourselves, we shall be well on the way to learning of Him, Who gave us an example that as He has done so we should do, and those qualities which we have seen, will begin to appear in our own prayer.

When Our Lord fell down on His face in the garden of olives, He gave us a most vivid example of how to pray. He showed us the perseverance which drove Him again and again to His knees — the heroism and strength which endured such suffering. Portrayed in this scene as well are the lessons of self sacrifice and attention. But also, He makes clear to us that submission to His Father’s will, which lay at the heart of all our Lord’s actions, and specially of His prayer. For it is those words, Not my will but Yours be done, which mark the climax of His converse with God, and the final act of a tortured man by which He accepted His passion and death for our Redemption.

For Christ this was His food and drink: ‘To do the will of Him who sent Him’. This was the rule of Christ’s life that: ‘Whatever pleased His Father, He should do’. During His days on earth, nothing was to disturb the object set forth by His words in the Temple while He was yet a child: ‘Do you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?’ The reason that had made the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity become man was the Will of the Father. The will of God remained with Him all the days of His life, even to His death on the cross, when He said, Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit.

It was the first thought in all His actions. If they were in agreement with His Father’s will, then they were perfect.

I and the Father are one, He said to His disciples, and just as there was this unity of nature in their Divinity, so in Christ’s actions was there complete conformity with the wishes of His Father. This singleness of purpose in His daily life was a reflection of the strong inner willing of all that God willed, which lay at the very root of His prayer. In spirit and in truth, in the life of His soul, our Lord submitted Himself continually to God’s will; and, as a result, in His daily life He did nothing that was not pleasing to His Father.

In the agony in the garden, we find this note in all its fullness. This night was the completion of all those long vigils that He had spent on the mountain sides, of all those lonely hours when He had gone away by Himself simply to pray. For now when His bitter passion was being plotted by the High Priests, Our Lord Took with Him Peter, James, and John and went, as He was accustomed to the garden of olives, and, falling on His knees, He prayed. Jesus knew all that was to befall Him, but He did not turn away from His agony. Rather, He turned to prayer. As He bows down for the last time, we can ask ourselves what form did His prayer take. Surely if we can lift the veil now, as He kneels there covered in a perspiration of blood, we shall uncover the secret of His prayer. Surely here, if nowhere else in His life, will we see the spirit that animates the Son of God made man as He turns to the God who made His manhood. The answer is contained in those words which Saint Luke records, and kneeling down He prayed, saying, Father, if You wish it, take away this chalice from Me; still not My will but Yours be done. Here is His prayer at its height, and what is it but a uniting of His will with God’s. Here is His whole purpose, here the secret of His life of prayer. When our Lord made this act of resignation, it was certainly not a blind bowing to some vague fate, but a determined and reverent willing of what His Father desired. It was a strong act of the will bringing with it untold suffering, but done in the spirit of love and sacrifice. Christ was loving us then with greater love than anyone has ever had for us. He was loving His Father, too, and thinking of His glory and the praise that all creatures would render God through the merits of His own act of submission.

It may seem simple enough that Christ should say, Not My will but Yours be done, but when we think of the immense suffering it entailed, and think, too, of who this suffering Person was, we get some idea of what it meant.

It was not, however, as if our Divine Lord was accepting God’s will for the first time; but because He was constantly guided by it, He was able to do whatever pleased His Father. It was on account of this union that He was able to leave His Mother and Saint Joseph and stay behind to instruct the teachers of the law in the temple. Because of this same union in prayer, He overcame all the difficulties of His life in Nazareth. Then when He went out to preach, and bring His message of love to the Jews, it was His inward attachment to the will of God that was the driving force of His actions. This same attachment was developed and perfected in our Lord’s prayer. To grasp this force which flowed into all His actions is to see the reasons of His life as He tells us Himself in John: 14:31, as the Father has given Me commandment so do I.

Just as for our Lord, the guiding principle was the will of His Father, so, too, for us must this be our rule in all things. If we follow it, we shall quickly become other Christs. Our Divine Master wants us to pray — to pray frequently and with perseverance. What greater honor can we give Him than to follow His example in our efforts to please God? We know how delighted a parent is when a child copies his good example; but we cannot appreciate how it must delight the Sacred Heart when He sees us trying to pray as He prayed. When His Apostles asked Him to teach them how to pray, He did not tell them to go away and discover it by their own efforts, but He put on their lips the words of His own prayer. . . . Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. We shall not be able to do what God wants nor pray as He wishes, unless in our prayers we, too, desire to do His Holy will.

It is in this constant acceptance of all that His Father asked that lies the secret of the strength and confidence of His prayer. We know now just how strong it was and how this confidence was able to overcome all obstacles. The explanation of this power is easy to see when we keep in mind that He came down from Heaven not to do His own will but the will of Him Who sent Him. God is omnipotent, and because Christ’s prayer was always directed in perfect harmony with the will of God, it was able to do all things. He never asked a favor of God in vain, even when it was a question of restoring life to the widow’s son at Naim or to Lazarus.

Saint Paul said that He could do all things in Him who was His strength. Even more truly, Christ could say that His was the strength of God, for in His prayer He bowed His will to that of His Father. It was a submission — not my will, — but a submission that resulted in perfect power, — but Yours be done. Christ’s prayer, therefore, could work miracles through the power of God because He wanted only what God wanted, and whatever God wishes will be brought about. Christ’s prayer was supremely confident because He knew that with God all things are possible. Knowing that God’s delight is to be with the children of men, His prayer was generous. Our Lord promised us that our prayers also would share in such greatness when He said: If you ask the Father anything in My name, He will give it to you. If we pray in the name of Jesus, which means with our wills resigned to His, then we will have complete confidence. Saint Matthew records our Lord’s words: If you shall say to this mountain, arise and hurl yourself into the sea, it shall be done. . . . All things whatever you ask for in prayer, believing you shall receive. For our Lord’s own part, it is impossible even to conceive a prayer dissociated from His Father’s will. . . . . What pleases Him I always do.

So it was that as He stood before the grave of Lazarus, He thanked His Father for always hearing Him. In that scene appears one of the best examples of what resulted from this uniformity of interests. There, as Christ is faced with the greatest terror that can befall us, He does not hesitate, but in simple clear words, bids Lazarus arise from the tomb. Still His was the power that controlled more than the mere material universe, as when He healed the sick or restored sight to the blind, for He was supreme also over the life of the soul. He had power to restore man’s soul to his body, and what is even more wonderful, He was able to forgive them their sins.

With God all things are possible, and with us, too, all things will be possible if our strength rests on Christ and if our wills are united to His. He prayed as He did in the garden that we might have an example — He gave the Apostles the Our Father that they might treasure it and use it as their daily prayer. He wished their prayer to be directed to the glory of God as we learn from the opening sentences, Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy Kingdom come; but He wanted them to have no doubt that the best way to bring about His Father’s glory was to accept the will of this same Father. Thy will be done . . . . It came before all their earthly needs, more important than their daily bread — than anything else; so that just as perfectly as it is carried out in Heaven, His will should be fulfilled on earth.

This was His teaching to them, and how could He have proved more clearly that this was what He meant than by those words in the garden: Not My will but Yours be done. If we would wish to imitate our Divine Model and become like Him, it will be necessary for us to appreciate the importance He attaches to this submission. Then our union with Christ will become more intimate for whosoever shall do the will of My Father in Heaven, he is My brother. . . . As the great Saint Theresa wrote, All that should be sought for in the exercise of prayer is conformity of our will with the Divine will; assuredly in this consists the highest perfection; He who excels most in this practice will receive the greatest gifts from God, and will make most progress in perfection.

Why Did Christ Pray?

This is the third question which comes to our minds as we try to fathom the depths of the prayer of Christ. Why did He want to exercise this virtue at all, for surely the Son of God, being Divine, had no need of prayer, as we know it? Why did He humble Himself to fall on His knees, when He realized perfectly that He and the Father are one, and that everything belonging to the Father is His. Nevertheless, the fact is that Christ did pray, as we have already seen, and He prayed with such constancy and self-sacrifice that He has left us no doubt about the quality of His prayer. It remains now only that we should examine the reasons which prompted our Saviour to give so much attention to this sacred duty.

Glory to God in the highest, was the song the angels sang as they surrounded the Infant lying in the manger at Bethlehem, providing with these words the most suitable setting for the Incarnation. Mystery and majesty, simplicity and poverty — all the elements that combined to make this first Christmas morning were all to give Glory to God in the highest. The angels voiced the theme that was to accompany Jesus throughout His life on earth. The Word was made Flesh and dwelt among us; but to what purpose? To give glory to the God of all creation, to praise Him and bless His Holy name. This was the very object that provided the motive for Christ in His prayer, for above all else, He prayed that His Father might be glorified.

After the Last Supper, our Lord raised His eyes to Heaven and said, Father . . . Glorify Your Son, that Your Son may glorify You. He prayed for His own glory, but only that by it His Father should be glorified the more. All His life He had thought and acted, and we have no doubt prayed, with His mind on the glory of God. At the beginning of His public mission, when He was tempted by the devil in the desert, Christ showed a complete disregard for displaying His own power and glory. He refused to be led by Satan to turn the stones into bread or to cast Himself down from the temple, as Saint Matthew relates in his fourth chapter. Asked by His disciples why a certain man was born blind, He told them that The works of God were to be made manifest in him. Not His own works, notice, but the works of His Father. About the same time, He said: If I glorify Myself My glory is nothing — always disregarding Himself that the Father may be glorified in the Son. We find another example of this when the passion was beginning and the Priests and soldiers were coming to take Him away. Our Lord chose to be treated as a common criminal, even though He could have entreated His Father and He would have furnished Him with more than twelve legions of angels. How could Christ have prayed otherwise than for His Father’s glory when His actions were so completely animated by this idea? The angels had sung the hymn of praise in His name at Bethlehem, and as He grew up and spent His youthful years in the little peaceful town of Nazareth, we can imagine how He would have spent many hours in praising His Heavenly Master.

In the “Our Father”, Christ taught the Apostles, and through them all Christians, to make the praise of God the chief object of their prayers. Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. He wanted them to begin their prayers in this way so that they would always remember what was the reason for their turning to God. We were made to be happy with God in Heaven and it is by our union with Him and the glory we will give Him that our happiness will be brought about. In searching for happiness now, it is just as important to keep in mind the glory of God, and to ask ourselves whether what we are doing is pleasing to God. Especially in our prayers should this come first, even before any thought of our own virtue or the increase of Grace in our souls. We shall quickly begin to imitate Christ in our daily life, and, like Him, do everything that the Father may be glorified in us, if in our prayer we are guided by His example.

Christ prayed as one who knew not sin and in whom no deceit was found. It was natural, therefore, that His prayers should be for the most part not petitions but acts of praise and thanksgiving. As He stood before the grave of Lazarus He prayed, Father. I give You thanks that You have heard me. When He rebuked the lepers whom He had cured for not returning and thanking Him, Our Lord said, has no one been found to return and give glory to God except this foreigner? In the act of instituting the Eucharist, He thanked God for the great gift He was about to leave with us, and taking a cup and giving thanks He gave it to them. This spirit of thanksgiving is very often absent from our prayers. We do not neglect to thank a friend who has given us a present. But when we turn to God, who already has given us more than we can ever hope to repay, we seem to forget that He too, deserves to be thanked for what He had given us. Christ expected the lepers to come back and thank Him; in His own prayers He did not neglect to teach us this same lesson, so we can be sure that we shall be pleasing to Him when we, in our turn, pray so as to thank God for His goodness.

Another reason why Christ prayed, and one that frequently occurred during His life, was that He might intercede for His followers and friends. We have seen how, in His temptations He refused to ask any personal favor of His Father. On the night before He chose His Apostles He prayed for them, and it was on the occasion of another vigil, the vigil of His passion, that He gave us the best example of His prayer for others. He prayed, on that night, that God the Father would send them another Advocate to dwell with them for ever. He prayed especially for Saint Peter, on whom His Church was to rest, but I have prayed for you (singular), that your (singular) faith may not fail. Finally, towards the end of His prayer after the Last Supper, Jesus said, I pray for them . . . Holy Father, keep in Your Name those whom You have given me, that they may be one even as we are. I pray that You keep them from evil, sanctify them in Your truth. It is in this beautiful prayer that we have the finest example of our Lord going out of His way to intercede for those He loved. Again, we notice that there is no question of asking His Father to lessen the sufferings of the passion, then so fast approaching. Even when our Lord seems to be praying for Himself, as later on during that Holy Thursday evening in the garden, it was really not His own glory but the will and glory of His Father that He was seeking. This, then, should be an example for us who are so self-centered and rarely go beyond petitions for our own needs. If anyone had a right to pray for Himself, it was Christ on this occasion, but during His Priestly prayer as Saint John records, His thoughts remained fixed on His Father’s glory, and the good of His Apostles.

How often do we think of the reasons why we pray, or of the fact that our prayers should be, above all, for the glory of God? Are we like the publican who fell on his knees afar off and beat his breast, or do we resemble the Pharisee, who prayed so as to be seen by men. If we seek first the Kingdom of God and His glory in our prayers, as well as in our actions, all else shall be given to us. The importance of this cannot be stressed too much, for it is the condition of our receiving help from God. It was not over-looked by our Lord in His prayer, so if we are continually asking God to give us our daily bread, and support us in our needs, while at the same time neglecting our duty of praising Him, we shall not be praying as He wishes.

Learn of me, said Christ on one occasion, for I am meek and humble of heart. We might equally well apply to Him the words: LEARN OF ME, FOR I HAVE PRAYED SO THAT YOU MIGHT UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE OF PRAYER, THAT YOU MIGHT KNOW WHEN TO PRAY, HOW TO PRAY, AND WHY YOU SHOULD PRAY.

Nothing which Christ said or did was in vain; everything contains a lesson for us, and few lessons are as important as that of prayer. Another reason, therefore, why Christ prayed was to give us an example that as He had done so we also might do. He taught us the importance of prayer by His constant insistence on it, and more especially by His own life of prayer. According to Christ, we ought constantly to pray and not lose heart. Nothing can be more certain than that He Himself did not miss an opportunity of raising His heart to God. By His prayer, He taught His Apostles that in the life of union with God lay the real source of success. Christ appreciated the super-human task which lay before Him as He left His home in Nazareth to begin His public life, but never once did His steps falter, never once did He lose confidence in the power of His Heavenly Father. His prayer could accomplish all things because in it His will was one with the will of God. Without ceasing, He prayed to show us that if we want our voice to be heard in Heaven we must pray, not now and again, but constantly. He prayed, moreover, to impress on us the fact that He was a man like us — that His human nature was real, and that He, too, had a human will. He proved for us that in the dedication of that will to Divine pleasure lies the essence of Sanctity.

To become holy, as Christ was holy, is the chief purpose of our lives, for in holiness which is union with God, consists our only lasting happiness. As Saint Augustine said: You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless till they rest in You. In our efforts towards this union, one of the most important things is prayer, and now that we have seen our Divine Master’s attitude, we shall be able to make greater advances towards our goal. In Christ, we have the WAY we are to follow, the LIFE from which we are to draw our life, and the TRUTH, bringing with it peace and contentment.

In these days, it is more important than ever before to pray well. The world with its lust for money and power and its childish craving for amusements has cut God out of its life and returned to primitive paganism. The world has no room for prayer, no thought of praising God or of thanking Him for life, no idea of intercourse with a loving Father who has created us and who is interested in everything we do. Against this downward tendency of material values, it is necessary to oppose all the spiritual strength we can command. Our prayer, a powerful means of building up this strength, will be fashioned after the example of Christ, for in Him, with Him and through Him, we shall live and pray, until we have received of His fullness and we can say with Saint Paul, I live, now not I, but Christ lives to me.

Can We Be Saints?

Can We Be Saints?
By Frank Duff (Pre 1921)

What is a Saint?

In the heart of every right-thinking Catholic, God has implanted the desire to become a Saint. Yet few make a serious attempt to realise the ambition. The cause for this is to a large extent discouragement, due to the misunderstanding of what a Saint really is.

What is a Saint? The answer usually returned to this question is: One who does extraordinary penance’s and works miracles. Now, this is an incorrect description, for neither miracles nor great penance’s are essential. The man who works a miracle does not raise himself in God’s eyes by it; and, while penance in some shape is necessary, still the teaching of the Saints on this difficult question is encouraging.

What they direct is not bodily penance’s of a terrifying kind, but rather the strict avoidance of delicacies, softness, comfort. We are told to beware of injuring our health, and to eat enough plain food to enable us to work and pray without hindrance. There is ample opportunity for the severest mortification in the restraint of eyes and tongue, and in a warfare against the seven Deadly Sins.

Thus, there is another definition of what a Saint is. It is this: One who, with the object of pleasing God, does his ordinary duties extraordinarily well. Such a life may be lived out without a single wonder in it, arouse little notice, be soon forgotten, And yet be the life of one of God’s dearest friends.

It is obviously an encouragement to look on Sanctity in this way. When we see that those things which so terrified us in the lives of the Saints, because we felt we could not do them ourselves, are not the important part of their sanctity at all, we should feel, therefore, heartened to begin today and make a serious effort for great holiness. Believe this: it is only the first few wrenches given to the will that really hurt.

Perhaps the following words of Cardinal Newman will tempt us to take a step forward on the road:

“If you ask me what you are to do in order to be perfect, I say, first, do not lie in bed beyond the time of rising; give your first thoughts to God; make a good visit to the Blessed Sacrament; say the Angelus devoutly; eat and drink to God’s glory; say the Rosary well; be recollected; keep out bad thoughts; make your evening meditation well; examine yourself daily; go to bed in good time, and you are already perfect.”

Who Are Called to be Saints?

Every person that is born is called to be a Saint. Take it as most certain that you – no matter how unfitted your life may seem for holiness – are being given grace sufficient, if corresponded to, to bring you to Sanctity. We have already seen that nothing beyond our strength is expected; neither is Sanctity the exclusive property of any grade or manner of life. Among the Saints canonised by the Church are kings and beggars, and representatives of every trade, slaves, hermits, city people, mothers of families, invalids, soldiers and persons of every race and colour.

As a canonised Saint is a pattern provided by God, it is evident that an invitation to become Saints is extended to men and women of every type. It is equally a fact that to those who seriously try to respond to His invitation, He gives help sufficient to carry them to the goal.

The Two Successes.

Watch how the thought of fame or gold moves men. What sufferings they will endure for a mere chance of earthly gain! And in the end, though disappointed themselves, they will fill the minds of their children with the same longings for worldly success, so that each generation sees the same weary beat of the pendulum-ambitious youth to soured age. Is it really worth the trouble? So many are handicapped by lack of health or knowledge or brains that it never is a fair fight. Except for a few, striving is pure waste of time.

How differently God deals with anyone striving after holiness! Here all is certain. Every effort gets its reward. Everything is made to favour us; for, alike out of health and sickness, poverty and wealth – what looks good and what looks evil – can the man of goodwill extract spiritual gain. Every reasonable request granted; obstacles removed for the asking; no trial beyond our strength permitted. In the ears of the world this would sound like a fairy tale, but it is, in sober truth, God’s way of dealing with the earnest seeker after heavenly riches.

Surely, to announce calmly, as so many good people do, that they have no ambition to be Saints is very ungenerous treatment of One so kind. As He has so plainly set His Heart upon our doing great things, let us resolve to please Him and return generosity for generosity.

I Am a Bundle of Weaknesses.

‘`I am appalled at the thought of a life of constant effort to crush my nature into a new form. I have no strength of will, and such a life is beyond my powers.”

With such reasonings, we harden ourselves against the call which rings so often in our ears. We forget that the same holy lips which say, “Come, follow Me,” say also to all, “My yoke is sweet and My burden light.” What, then, is wrong with us that we fear the yoke of Christ?

It is this . . . our point of view. Unimportant ideas occupy the strongholds of our minds and shape our thoughts; while He, the Owner of Eternity, is left only as one of the hundred interests of our lives, so that it is not surprising that the zeal the courage, the ardour, that do big things, are spent on gains or pleasures which give a visible and rapid return. In a word, we undervalue holiness.

Once alter this – and little is required to do it – once accept the fact that holiness is the most important thing in the world for us, and it will become the most natural thing in the world for us to strive after it. There lies the whole secret of effort. Make the goal attractive and reasonable, and we pursue it in spite of hardships, and almost in spite of ourselves. The human mind works in that way.

A Changed Outlook.

The secret of bringing this about is contained in a few words: we must face facts. Now and then we must give the mind a chance to raise itself above the sea, in which it is immersed, of things that do not matter, and face in all coldness the grim truths which group themselves around the central facts of Death and Eternity. Think of the immortality of the Soul; the insanity of referring temporal to eternal good; the shortness of our stay on earth; the nearness of that moment which will decide all, and the pricelessness of each minute of time, which, short as it is, yet shapes our undying life beyond the grave.

To occupy oneself deliberately with these solemn considerations and still remain indifferent is impossible. Dwelt upon so that they become familiar, these thoughts bring a new force into our lives. There is operated in us a wonderful change. As if the needle of the compass were to turn from the north and point due south, worldliness will now repel and reason drive us on to God. Add a little love and the stock in trade for a Saint is there.

But we have already been deliberating too long. Whilst we have been in doubt the precious days have slipped away, and we find ourselves in the rapids above the great waters of the grave, and we hear the falling of the waters into the immeasurable abyss, and we feel the suction of eternity.”

Eternity! What a thought!

In God’s name, so, let us begin, while yet we have the time, and while the fire is still in us to love Him ardently.

A New Ambition.

Fear the postponed beginnings. A chill grows up, and our great destiny is forgotten. Oh, my God! Grant that I have not, in my indecision, let that day come upon myself. I confess that Your work has never been anything to me but occupation for an idle moment. My heart has been set upon the things that pass. But henceforth I will give myself entirely to You. Give me the time, and faithfully do I promise now to serve You. Give me back the years that the worm and the locust have devoured that I may one day restore them to You full of achievement.

And I do not ask for the big things – the life of the missionary or the monk, or those others I see around me so full of accomplishment. I do not ask for any of these, but simply set my face to follow out unswervingly, untiringly, the common life which day by day stretches out before me, satisfied if in it I love You and try to make You loved. Nature rebels against this life, with its never ending round of trivial tasks and full of the temptation to take relief in amusement or change. It seems so hard to be great in the small things, to be heroic in the doing of the commonplace; but still this life is Your will for me. There must be a great destiny in it. And so I am content.

And then, to crown the rest, dear Jesus, I beg of You to give me this . . . fidelity to the end . . . to be at my post when the final call comes, and to take my last weary breath in Your embrace. A valiant life. . . and faithful to the end. A short wish dearest Jesus, but it covers all.

Being Really in Earnest.

Goodwill is the very foundation of our progress. By goodwill is meant, not an empty wish to reach the goal, but a readiness to toil along the road that leads to it. Now, the symbol of our religion is a Cross. Our Lord has told us that we must carry it daily if we desire to be perfect. What excuse, therefore, can there be for being upset when trials come upon us? He that is discouraged by them evidently began without thought. But he who gives up altogether plainly never was in earnest. Of such Our Lord Himself said: “These have no roots.”


There is usually a sweetness in beginnings. God gives this aid freely, then, in order to encourage, just as a helping hand is given to children learning to walk. It is not for our good that we should always be carried, so after a while this sweetness is lessened. Then comes the critical time when our resolution is being tested. Guardian angels must weep to see so many who gave hopes of high sanctity stop short in their course.

Now, to give up because our fervour is gone is to admit that we never had in view God’s pleasure but our own. Our pleasure in the work having gone, we labour no more. It apparently matters little to us that God’s pleasure in the work is still the same – greater, perhaps, for the offering made from a sick heart and tired brain is always the most precious.

Perseverance is the last grace that will be given to us, and the greatest. It is the test of our goodwill. Excitement, novelty, or any one of a dozen other merely human things may start something, but they will not keep it going. What is wrong with all those who begin so splendidly and stop so soon? Call for volunteers for any good work. There are many full of enthusiasm, but hardly one who remains steadfast, hardly one who keeps his hands to the plough to the end…. And the good intentions of a Retreat… How short-lived they are!

Is there any definite reason why all these people lack the quality of perseverance? Here is the answer, in the words of the celebrated Pere de Ravignan: ”I do here affirm that all deceptions, all spiritual deficiencies, all miseries, all faults, and even the most serious wanderings out of the right path, all proceed from this single source – a want of constancy in prayer.”

The Secret of Perseverance is Prayer.

From reading the lives of the Saints, one would conclude that they fall roughly into two classes: those who gave themselves to contemplation, and those who spent their lives in active works. In reality they were all alike. All were souls whose whole lives were prayer. Prayer was their business. Their good deeds were only valuable because they sprang from prayer; they bore the same relation to prayer that, the trunk of a tree bears to the roots, good deeds are a visible part of prayer; and good deeds cannot live without prayer.

The present is a period when successful appeal is being made to Catholics to show, by works of charity, the Faith that is in them. That the most ordinary act may become holy when inspired by a holy intention is well understood, and the words of Christ Himself, assuring us: “So long as ye did it unto one of these My least brethren, ye did it unto Me,” draw us powerfully on to the service of our neighbour.

The possibilities of holiness here are immense. But it is not sufficiently recognised that a proper balance of regular prayer and good works is essential to perseverance in the latter. There is a tendency to consider good works as prayerful enough in themselves. Their variety makes them easy, while prayer is difficult. Besides, we like to see results, and usually we do not see the results of prayer. So we reduce our prayer to little or nothing, satisfying ourselves with the reflection that we are doing plenty of practical work for our neighbour.

Readers of Canon Sheehan will remember how a similar course of reasoning ended in the case of Luke Delmege – in complete loss of spirituality and in disaster.

Of course, this is an extreme case. But we all know of many with noble qualities, holy intentions, and high promise who just reach a certain point and no further. In a way, these makings of Saints who give up advancing are most to be pitied. It is far easier to pick a sinner out of the mire than to induce such people to get out of the rut of mere goodness, which God never intended for them.

Let us sound once more the note upon which we began a little while ago. The cause of all this pitiful failure is this: there is not prayer enough.

Pray! Pray! Pray!

This is how St. Teresa stated she would summarise all her teaching.

People do not understand the importance of prayer. They say it is difficult. What wonder, considering that they make no effort to learn. The man who thinks it quite natural to put his son to a six years’ apprenticeship to learn a trade would think it absurd to spend six hours reading a book which might teach him how to pray.

Prayer must be brought to occupy a most prominent and definite place in our lives. This does not mean that we have to spend many hours each day on our knees. The duties of our state probably prevent that. But certainly we must aim at more than the saying of prayers twice a day, or even three and four times a day. He prays little who only prays on his knees.

Just as a gong or a tuning fork could be kept quietly sounding all day by an occasional tap, so will the soul of itself send up incessant prayer if now and then we apply the tap of an aspiration, a thought, an ejaculation. Never let the mind be too long away from God. The great disinclination to pray which most of us feel when the time set apart for prayer comes is plain proof that we are not, as it were, living with Him.

The Day In Detail.

The Foundation-Stone.

Foremost in the consideration of our day – and on an eminence apart, like the Cross itself – must stand the daily Mass and daily reception of the Holy Eucharist. These are so obviously the greatest means of grace that they need not be urged at length. The person who is able easily to go to morning Mass, and does not do so only deceives himself if he thinks he is aiming at great holiness.

Mass and Communion mean a day perfectly begun; and that is half the battle. But out of this great act come two smaller obligations:

(a) to your neighbour. There are many whom lack of thought alone keeps from daily Mass. Lend a book; say a word to awaken them,

(b) to yourself. Read to increase knowledge and reverence. You might begin with St. Leonard’s little book, “The Hidden Treasure.”

The Morning Offering.

The day should have opened with the morning offering of all our thoughts, words, and actions to Jesus through Mary. This offering must be the guiding idea of the whole day. We do not need to repeat the words many times, but the thought of it must lie in the heart, and govern our daily life in such a way that we feel ourselves to be working for God and not for the world.

Our Daily Work.

First, let no one pride himself on having what he considers a dignified occupation. In despising menial or manual labour, he is parting company with Christianity and allying himself to paganism, which in all ages has counted such work the greatest of evils.

The ancient Jews, on the contrary, esteemed it a disgrace that any man should be without a trade. Generally Our Lord’s followers were from the humblest type of manual labourers, and the whole teaching of traditional Christianity has been to exalt manual work, and to teach that to be poor, to have to toil hard, to be without what the world regards as enviable, is in reality a long start on the way to heaven.

“To work is to pray,” was the old saying of the monks, who never considered themselves any the further from God when working than when on their knees. In some monasteries they sang hymns while at work; in others, meditation was ordered.

We read of St. Bernard stopping suddenly short in the writing of one of his most wonderful sermons, because the time had arrived for him to go to dig in the fields. Others would have some pious book open before them to suggest holy thoughts, while their hands were engaged upon their allotted task; and, more wonderful still, others never began their painting or tasks of delicate workmanship without purifying their souls by Sacramental Confession. It was this spirit of prayer and work combined which produced those exquisite works of art which present generations marvel at but cannot equal. God, in His approval of work done in such a spirit, breathed beauty into it. Let us, if we desire to produce similar work, approach it in a similar way.

The Importance of a Right Idea of Work.

As half our waking day is spent in toil the need for rightly understanding the dignity and sanctity of labour is evident. It comes to this – that our work, whatever it may be, as sempstress, labourer, teacher, doctor, or farmer, was given to us by God as a means of sanctification and as a penance for our sins. Thus it is the foundation of our spiritual life. He who neglects his work and yet thinks, because he says many prayers, that he is leading a holy life, deludes himself.

A Right Idea of Duty.

We are to do what it is our duty to do – and at the right time. Duty is not something which is to be thrown off with our working clothes, as so many people imagine. It is as strictly our duty to keep an appointment or a secret as it is to do our work. A duty goes before even devotion. If it is your duty to wash the dishes do not run off to Benediction instead.

There are many duties in the day which seem less important than others, and for this reason we think very little of setting them aside to suit the convenience of the moment. Such conduct is wrong, and it does not build up a strong character. The real value of our day lies in the exact performance of all our obligations. The greater ones take care of themselves – their importance makes them easy to do. So look particularly to the small things.

Consider your whole day as a picture, where every line has its proper place and where the smallest may be the most essential. Do everything that you are supposed to do, and do it down to the tiniest detail – not because you gain by it; do it even when you lose by it; not because somebody is supervising you, but simply because you are supposed to do it.

There is a proverb, “Death is light as a feather, Duty as heavy as lead,” and a life lived in devotion to duty is going to be a hard life. But it is going to be the life of a man.

Here is a lesson from the Far East.

A Japanese craftsman was observed to be spending days in perfecting the inside of an article he was making. He was asked, “Why waste all this time? Nobody will ever see your work.” He replied, “Do I not see it myself?” To his answer may not we, as Christians, add, “And God sees it, too”?

Praying at Our Work.

We see that work and duty are holy things when the idea of God is in them. But, by themselves, they are not holy enough for those who are trying to be Saints. We must bring God closer to our work than by the mere offering of it in the morning. We must keep Him at our side by frequent thought of Him.

It is told of a Spanish nun who had charge of the refectory, that, in order never to be distracted, she imagined those she served to be Our Blessed Lord, and His Mother, and the Apostles. In this way her work became a great means of prayer to her, and the hours spent in it were amongst the most devotional in the whole day.

While this may be above the reach of our poor minds, distracted by a thousand things, we may at least confidently seek after a quiet sense of God’s presence. This does not mean that we have actually to feel Him near us. If we have, by the regular practice of prayer and frequent thought of Him, so drilled the mind that there is a tendency to swing back to Him when left free, we are doing very well. For this means that, however distracting our occupations are, the soul is giving Him a quiet attention all the time. We shall have reached the stage of praying always.

The Mechanism of Frequent Prayer.

In endeavouring to build up a spirit of prayer such as this, there is little use in relying on vague resolutions – made in moments of fervour – to pray frequently. Vague resolutions have no influence over people so strongly drawn away from prayer, as we unfortunately are. We must set up certain of the events of each day as regular calls to a word or thought of prayer.

Some of these reminders we already have: the Angelus, grace at meals, the passing of a church, and so forth. This number can be largely increased, so that quite a number of the items of our daily life will in the end cause an easy and natural lifting of the mind to God.

A passing funeral, the meeting of a friend, the hearing of a death, the striking of a clock, the ringing of a bell, the writing of a date, the sharpening of a pencil, the threading of a needle – one could go on for ever with suggestions for such a list. But the occupation of each one will determine what is best. Do not mind how foolish your expedients seem. They may have all the more love in them. In any case, nothing is foolish that leads to God.

It is better that the acts be not too frequent. They might tire out one’s good intentions or interfere with attention to work. But, above all, they must, for the beginner, be definite. That is, the resolution must take this shape: “Whenever I look at my watch (or whatever else it may be), I will say such and such an ejaculation.” Do not stop because this practice may at first seem mechanical and undevotional and tiring. Habit will soon come to your aid and make it less difficult. But determination will always be needed, as the tempter will make many an effort to hinder so excellent a practice.

While progress is being made in acquiring the spirit of prayer, those things which are a hindrance must go. Not until there is quiet within us can an attempt be made to build up a real spiritual life.

Hindrances And Pitfalls On The Way.


Sin in its various forms is, of course, the great barrier. Such serious things as dishonesty, wronging one’s employer or those who work for one, gambling, intemperance, cursing, might be gone into at length. But surely this is unnecessary. We are considering a person who is making a serious effort for sanctity, who is fully aware of the gravity of such failings, and who has probably already cut them out of his life. Then there is the host of commoner faults: self-love, lying, backbiting, vanity, envy, and so forth, in direct attacks on which a lifetime could be spent with poor result. A surer success will quietly come of itself if prayerfulness and love develop. These will induce a frame of mind to which anything wrong will be distasteful. Such failings become no longer temptations, and simply drop out of one’s life.

All the foregoing are plainly labelled “sin.” When we are guilty of any of them we know that it is an occasion for repentance and amendment. But there are other enemies to sanctity that are more hidden and which constantly deceive even well intentioned people by assuming an innocent and commendable appearance. Amongst these may be mentioned discontent, human respect, an uncontrolled tongue, ill temper, discouragement, conceit. The seriousness of these is that they are harboured by good people when sin has been driven out, in ignorance that they do sin’s work.


This is the great fault of the good. “There is no harm in being dissatisfied,” they will say. Or they will call it ambition, and make a virtue of the turmoil which it makes in their minds. There would be some advantage in discontent if it spurred us on to aim at better things. But, unhappily, discontent tends only to make us despise what we have. So warped are we by it that we envy today in someone else what yesterday we scorned in ourselves.

Now, this spirit of discontent particularly concerns us when it sets up the delusion that our own particular mode of life and surroundings are unsuited to sanctity. Very often we entertain the thought as a holy one. We feel sure we could be Saints if God had made us priests or nuns, or indeed anything else but what we happen to be.

Than such a delusion, no greater obstacle to progress can exist. The conditions of each man’s life, as it is, are the raw materials out of which he has to fashion his future. Disbelief in the possibilities of doing any good with what he has is unlikely to lead to effort. A man is just as likely to start digging in his back garden for diamonds as to seek for jewels of sanctity where he does not believe they exist.

It may be that our present manner of life really is unfavourable to higher things. If this is so, God will in good time open up another door to us, that is, provided we are doing our duty in making the best of what we now have.

Most probably, however, far from being unfavourable, our present life is just the only one which will bring us to sanctity. God, Who sees all things, did not choose it over all others for us without ample reason. By discontent we are setting ourselves up as judges over His actions. Now, let us pay Him the compliment of thinking deeply over this and then bind ourselves with a stern resolution to put away every such disturbing thought. Its place will be filled by a grace. A calm will steadily grow up within us. We will find ourselves less and less put out by the worries of everyday life. We are getting on.

When Discontent is Banished.

Those who have always been in the close friendship of God cannot fully value the greatness of this treasure – peace of mind – which they have always possessed. But to those who have known the opposite, this feeling of calm, as it develops, carries a plain message of the presence of the Holy Ghost in the soul. One is on the way to that tranquillity which was a noted feature in the lives of the saints. For instance, it is written of St. Vincent Ferrer:

“Whether in the streets or the choir, or his own cell, or preaching, or on a journey, or whatever he did, he was always tranquil, because he had made an oratory in his heart, and there conversed uninterruptedly with God without any outward thing disturbing him.”

Another Big Obstacle – Human Respect.

The danger of Human Respect is not sufficiently recognised. In almost every Catholic it is a weak spot. In the case of some, it is a defect so grave as to put real holiness out of the question. Human Respect may be defined as the putting of the opinion of others in the place of our conscience. It sets up ridicule and unpopularity as the things most to be avoided, even at the risk of offending against truth and principle. Beginning in small things, if constantly yielded to, Human Respect brings about a general lowering of principle. A state of mind is reached which is as different from sanctity as chalk is from cheese.

You have always been in the habit of blessing yourself when at your meals. When not at home through a form of shame, you do not do this. This is Human Respect.

You always touch your hat as you pass a church – except when with Protestants. You would not have a religious picture in your drawing room. You are shy about making the Stations of the Cross. You would be mortified if your rosary beads fell from your pocket in Protestant company or in the tram. All these are signs of the disease we are discussing.

In a word, you are so taken up with making your conduct acceptable to others that you have no room for the thought that God might have been pleased by these little open professions of faith. You have treated Him as the rich are supposed to treat their poor relations – acknowledging them in private, ignoring them in public.

In the life of St. Philip Neri, we read how that saint was in the habit of imposing very humiliating penance’s upon his disciples, in his anxiety to destroy in them any trace of this mean spirit. Such practices would nowadays be termed extreme. Here is a suggestion which is not extreme. It will help anyone resolved upon the destruction of this failing. Wear openly something Catholic, some little devotional badge or emblem that will mark you as a Catholic who is not ashamed to be known as one. The feeling of unwillingness to do this, which will come to many, is the best test of its value; it is the spirit you seek to kill that is protesting in you.

Such objections as, “I don’t believe in badge-wearing,” and “I don’t believe in making a parade of my religion,” are usually not sincere. Those who speak in this way seldom seem to have any objection to wearing political or trade badges. Be honest with yourself. The trouble is that you are not really proud of being a Catholic. It is human nature to publish the fact if you are.

The priest and the nun advertise themselves to the world for what they are. Let the laity also, in the little ways that are open to them, confess Christ before men that He may one day confess them before His Father in heaven. But in this, let there be a wholesome moderation. Do nothing which will earn for yourself the name of mere eccentricity, for this would destroy much of your influence. To cover yourself with religious emblems or to make an unnecessary show of devotion in a church is to err in this way.

Discouragement and Pride.

The spiritual value of any work you do is not to be judged by the little or much you see result from it, but by the purity of intention and the effort which you have put into it. The powerful sermon or book that converts many might bring less merit to its author than the smallest act of self sacrifice. Thus it is as foolish to be discouraged by lack of visible results as it is to be puffed up by apparent success. Many average people have seen wonderful things come of their labours, while saints often have been faced with constant failure.

Whatever you take up, act well your part. Let this be your only concern. Be not anxious for results, which may bring conceit, one touch of which can destroy the beauty of any work in God’s sight.

Should some success cause stings of self conceit, summon common sense to your side to tell you how little self-denial there is in your life; how little you do; and how much more you could easily do if you liked. And then contrast yourself with those multitudes of good people over the world who have given up everything for the Master’s sake, and yet count themselves as idlers in His sight.

Let your frequent prayer be: “Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto Thy Heart.” If you become perfectly humble, God will certainly use you for some great work.

Oh, Jesus; I desire to become a saint – not that I may be great, but that You may be greatly loved.

Weapons And Aids. 

Devotion to Mary.

“Show me how you say your Hail Marys,” said a great saint, “and I will tell you how you love God.” The finger-tips of other saints – hardened by the use of their beads – show this same idea in practice.

You must have a tremendous love for Mary. Read and pray, and pray again, until you get that love. Implore Our Lord to give you just the love for her that He would wish you to have. A great love for her is a great sign of sanctity.

Do not treat her only as the Queen of all Saints. She is much more than that. She is the most beloved Daughter of the Father, the Mother of the Son, and the Spouse of the Holy Ghost. When you pray to any One of these Three Divine Persons, let her be near to recommend your prayer.

And she is also our Mother. Is this idea real to us? The love of our own dear earthly mothers is a wonderful thing. What seas of fire and water would they not go through for us! Yet their love is faint and weak compared with hers.

There is a beautiful traditional custom, which unhappily seems less common than it was – the consecration of babies by their parents to this Blessed Mother. The terrible power of the evil one over the bodies of people possessed by him should be the best recommendation of this devotion. More than he can do for evil a million-fold, she can do for good.

Let us consecrate to her not only our children but ourselves in the most solemn manner, remembering that what belongs to Mary is all for Jesus.

St. Joseph

Our Lord and His Blessed Mother looked to St. Joseph for their daily bread. What wonder, then, that the Church tells us: “Go to Joseph”!

He was very dear to the Saints. In particular, that great master of prayer, St. Teresa, has glowing things to say of the fruits of devotion to him.

There seems to be no occupation or condition of life which cannot claim some point of likeness to him from which to draw encouragement. Above all, as the patron of those who work hard and are hard used, we address ourselves to him, knowing that to be like him in this way brings at once the arms of the Divine Babe around us.

We might make a frequent practice of saying some little prayer to him, such as, “St. Joseph, called Father by Jesus, pray for us.” This was his greatest dignity.

The Necessity of Spiritual Reading.

Read good literature; get others to read good literature, and, later, all of us will do good deeds. We must form a taste for religious literature. It must take a definite place in each day. From it we will acquire an interest in our religion; extend our knowledge of the doctrines of the Church, learn of its history, glories, institutions, opponents, and be able to answer the innumerable questions and objections which constantly proceed from friend and enemy.

There is a dearth of good religious libraries. Probably we shall have to buy the books we wish most to read. But let there be a little sacrifice, an occasional book purchased and read thoroughly, and more than once. If an author has put deep thought into his work, this will not be appreciated in one reading.

After that, let its mission be not to gather dust but souls. Send it on, a busy Apostolic, round amongst those friends who can be trusted to return a borrowed book.

Some good religious periodical should enter our home regularly – one which will keep us in touch with the wide-world doings of our Universal Church.

We Must Read the Lives of the Saints.

We were taught to read by means of a headline. Unconsciously, we shape our lives by some headline, too. God’s purpose in bringing about the canonisation of the Saints was to provide a headline which would draw us on to goodness and heroism.

Saints are the doctrines and practices of holiness made visible. If we frequent their company, we will soon imitate their qualities.

The Question of the Newspaper.

We are inclined to think it necessary to read the daily papers in order to keep in touch with what is going on in the world. Let us beware lest they place us in the world’s grip.

The modern newspaper is so well written, so attractive to the eye, that it tends to become an absorbing taste. It is a tendency of the day to wallow in the daily papers.

Endless discussions, a prejudiced outlook, a little scrappy knowledge, a distaste for serious or good literature, loss of power of concentration, faulty memory – such are the products of those wasted hours during which God’s Kingdom could have been so powerfully advanced.

Meditation, Realisation, Action.

Reading is a direct preparation for prayer and intimacy with God. To meditate on religious matters, one must have read, otherwise there is nothing to meditate on. The lamp has no oil. But read slowly, and think upon what has been read. Books rapidly run through and unreflected upon are as valueless as food eaten but not digested.

We must, therefore, accuse ourselves of waste of time if we read without the desire to profit by our reading. Yet such is our ordinary habit. We do not meditate, hence we do not realise. We leave in the unexplored depths of our souls the divine truths, which should be governing our intellects and driving us on to great things.

There is wonderful difference between merely believing and realising. Here are some truths we all believe:

1. Death is inevitable – then judgement.

2. Grace is the greatest possession in the world.

3. Sin – even venial – is infinitely the greatest misfortune in the world.

Now, to what extent do we realise these truths and act upon them?

And, again. We know that the Infinite God became Man for our sake, not a king – He wanted love, not fear – but the shivering babe of poor people; a rough-handed working man, a homeless wanderer – one might almost say an outcast… and then He was taken and tortured and put on a cross to die, an object of contempt; all, that He might win our love; or even our pity, which is akin to love.

Oh! the horror of it! Saints have cried out in anguish to think that love so great should be so unwanted by the world. For so it is! The Crucifix is only a piece of wood or metal to us. We have tears for any friend but Him!… Loyalty for every cause but His!… and why?

Because we neglect the means which common sense directs us to use. Prayer and meditation would make Him real and vivid to us; but, in our indifference, we leave Him a shadow – and who can love a shadow? Thus it is we miss the greatest force in the world – that personal love for Jesus, which looks for no reward, laughs at death, makes sacrifice delightful and sanctity easy.

Meditation Is So Very Difficult.

There are very many who really are unable to meditate in a regular manner. These should not be discouraged and avoid meditation altogether. It is very advisable, and some such simple method as the following can be used.

Endeavouring to bring the Master vividly before our minds, we must attentively consider that Divine Model. His slender form and serene, lovely face, His words, His actions – take them one by one, and, as best we can, reflect upon them with affection. What an incomparable beauty beams forth in all! Such mildness, wisdom, purity, patience, tenderness, and a love which is true to us in all our waywardness and disloyalty. Look and admire and seek to draw a breath of their loveliness into ourselves.

We can take consolation from this… we do not seek fruitlessly. The treasury of perfection’s in Him is not like the treasures of the world, behind bars or in museums – to be admired but not possessed. Each perfection shining in Jesus is there solely to be communicated to us. With all his heart, He desires to give them to us. So look on them and long to have them, and they will become yours.

Of this simple character may be our meditation. No regular system is necessary, though it helps. There need be no effort, no resolutions even – only a wish to love Him and to be like Him. Yet our advance will be by leaps and bounds. And why is this? It is because, as theologians put it, Our Lord and His qualities are not only holy, but sanctifying – that is, the mere looking upon them with good intentions will imprint them on our hearts and make them part of us.

And let our gaze be as Mary’s must have been. Ask her help in this contemplation. It was her employment from the night she first looked upon her new-born Babe’s face.

I Am Not Able to Meditate at All.

Those to whom even a simple form of meditation is difficult will find it very profitable to take some spiritual book before the Blessed Sacrament, and then very slowly to read it – more in the manner of prayer than of ordinary reading.

Pause frequently after all, every second word represents an idea – and frequently speak to the Eucharistic Presence. The longer one spends on each sentence, the better. Ability to dwell on the reading for a time means that a very satisfactory form of meditation is being made.

Our Work For Our Neighbour. 

Is the World Our Vocation?

The fact that God in His providence has left us in the world, instead of giving us a religious vocation, indicates that He wishes the world to be our vocation – that is, the persons and everyday things about us are to be the means of sanctity to us. It may be taken that the practical service of our neighbour is essential for our all-round development. We should bear in mind that serving our neighbour out of love of God means that what we do to him, we do to God.

The Influence We Can Exert.

The power each one of us has to influence others to good or evil is so great that it is almost without limit. The explanation of this is that when God finds a willing, a humble, a dependable worker, He uses him as a channel for His grace to others. And, horrible to say, there are many who lend themselves in similar manner to be instruments of the devil, and accept the dreadful destiny of aiding him in his work.

A thought on names such as St. Paul, St. Dominic, St. Francis of Assisi, and, on the other hand, Luther or Voltaire, will serve to show what it lies in one man to do – to influence a whole world, century after century.

Man is small; but a man who is in earnest about an idea is not small. He is going to influence others, and nobody knows where that is going to end. Let our dominating idea be the glory of God and the salvation of souls.

Trials That Show Progress.

Certain trials may be expected. We shall be sneered at as would-be Saints, milksops, and upbraided with narrow-mindedness and intolerance.

The latter charge should be welcome to us. It lifts us out of that numerous class who are considered and consider themselves as broad-minded, when in reality they are only trimmers. Yet the charge possesses just that grain of truth which will make it hurtful to us. For, to have definite rules of principle and conduct does mean that we shall appear narrow to those who are not similarly hampered. It is part of the penalty of being right.

Some Responsibilities of Holiness.

To become associated in people’s minds with religion, as you undoubtedly will if you work for it, involves a responsibility. It may be unreasonable of them, but, nevertheless, people will judge religion in general from you. If you play a manly part, you are doing religion a benefit in making it attractive to others. If you make yourself a universal Good Samaritan, whose tongue, like St. Alphonsus Liguori’s, does not know how to say harsh or sarcastic things, and whose deeds are in keeping – you will draw men to you, and, better still, you will make them love God, because in your goodness they will feel they catch a glimpse of Him.

On the other hand, if you are careless at your work, dirty in your dress, mean in your conduct, you have done your religion an injury. It sinks into the gutter with yourself.

It is a big thing that Christ should thus have placed His honour in your keeping. If you are but half a man, it will stimulate you. Furthermore, it means that even the more worldly side of your life, your work in the factory or in your home, in the technical school or university or trade union, your athletics, your music, painting, and so on, can all be made to tell for Him in a very practical way.

Attacks Against the Church.

Wherever you go, at your work or in clubs and societies, you will hear difficulties raised and questions asked which, perhaps, strike at the foundations of the Church or of Faith itself; and, in aiding others, do not forget the danger to yourself.

Many of these you will be able to meet effectively from your own knowledge. Others may appear so strong as to frighten you. It is useful, then, to reason thus to oneself: “Whatever the objection is, there is an answer to it. All these difficulties have been raised and answered before. Great men have in all ages endeavoured to pick holes in the doctrines of the Church, and they and their philosophies have gone, while the Church lives on.”

Always remember that the truth of Catholic doctrines does not depend on your ability to prove them true. Ten lifetimes would not be long enough to satisfy oneself on every point. The real proof of them lies in the declaration of the Church which is the pillar and the ground of truth.

So do not let what someone in the works has said unsettle you. Let his objection – even if it raises a difficulty in your mind – only give you the opportunity for an Act of Faith: “I don’t understand, dear Lord, but I believe, because the Church teaches it, and the Church is infallible.”

Read the promise of Our Lord: “Upon this Rock I will build My Church… and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Then hear the words of Lord Macaulay, who was no friend of the Church, and see how that promise stands good after nineteen centuries: “When we reflect on the tremendous assaults which the Catholic Church has survived, we find it difficult to conceive in what way she is to perish.”

The Call to Good Works.

In times of retreat, or at your prayers, or by the invitation of a friend, a call to some good work will come. It may be from on high, so do not lightly refuse. You may miss your life’s vocation. St. Augustine speaks solemn words: “Fear Jesus passing by…He may not again pass your way.”

How We Can Do Big Things.

With industry, self-sacrifice, and some knowledge of human nature, we all can produce results:

(a) by organising – by making things ready for people who will not make them ready for themselves; (b) by bringing to people who would never get them for themselves things which will benefit them; (c) by appealing individually to people who would never respond to a general appeal.

In other words, we are to be the bridge that covers the chasm between what people will do of themselves and what God wants them to do. For example:

(a) A Pilgrimage is organised. Everything is cut and dried. All that one has to do is to buy the ticket and take one’s place. One thousand persons go. Would any have gone had the Pilgrimage and its details never been arranged?

(b) An appeal is made from a pulpit to support a certain religious publication. Only a handful of people respond. A house to house canvass later on, bringing the paper directly under people’s notice, produces hundreds of fresh readers.

(c) Everybody in a town knows the needs of a local charity. Yet few subscribe until a door to door call is organised. Then all give.

“Thou Shalt Love Thy Neighbour as Thyself.”

The foregoing are only indications of what might be done. Your own tastes, surroundings, conscience, will suggest many powerful means of benefiting your own soul by benefiting the souls of other people. “Love thy neighbour as thyself” is a hard saying; but keep in mind Who said it and neglect no way of helping others on towards good. Ask St. Vincent de Paul, who is the patron of all such works, to inspire you with knowledge of what will suit you best. Perhaps you might make a beginning by joining the society which bears his name.

Here are some additional suggestions:

(a) You know an excellent sodality. Work hard for it. Be prefect of a guild. Train the sub-prefect to do the work, and then, when you are sure you can be done without, form another guild for yourself. Thus you will increase the sodality membership and keep yourself keen.

(b) You know a night school which sends many of its pupils into the priesthood or the convent. Tell anyone who might be interested. Many will join, and their settling down to work will be just the step which will turn into solid resolutions what otherwise would never be anything but hazy desires.

(c) There is some organisation which you know has produced great spiritual improvement in its members. Bring your friends into it.

(d) There is a religious magazine or paper which you think good. Extend its circulation.

(e) You know someone who has the gift of making those he meets enlist themselves in social works. Introduce people to him.

(f) You have read a book which did you great good. Buy a copy or two and lend it round.

Promoting the Week-End Retreat.

Or you might work for the Enclosed Retreats, those drilling-grounds of Christian perfection – as the latest Pontiff has termed them – producing, wherever they exist, hosts of tireless workers in the cause of religion, sanctifying the good, uplifting the degraded.

If you would wish to see far-reaching good accomplished, here is your means to hand, speedy and certain.

So where these Retreats are, organise for them, spread abroad the idea of them, and where they are not yet established, aim to have this done.

Breaking New Ground.

Perhaps you could band together others in association to do good, and give the first impulse to what St. Vincent calls the sacred contagion of charity.

Start a little organisation. Gather a few around you for some good work. Hold a regular meeting – weekly if possible – and discuss your little efforts under the auspices of prayer You have it on His own word that He Who can make your efforts fruitful is there in the midst of you.

Do not soar too high. Do not be overanxious. Look above all, to the routine duties and the small details of the meeting. A punctual start, carefully written minutes attendance roll regularly marked up, discussion of business, and business only affection among the members – these, far more than organising ability or exceptional workers, will ensure a lasting success.

It cannot be over emphasised that the progress and the permanence of the organisation depend upon the meetings, and that the meetings in turn depend upon the system, the prayerfulness, and the fraternity which are found in them. Act mindfully of this: face calmly the inevitable ups and downs; and your work may be multiplied exceedingly. All the great movements have had just such simple origins.

Some Homely Ways of Doing Great Work.

The following are some of the many ways in which a multitude of men and women are spending their free time serving God. Judgment Day alone will show the joy they have given Him and the good they have effected.

The few examples given will make it clear that such work is within the capacity of anyone with perseverance.

(a) The Catechism Teacher.

The saintly Pius X was once asked by a lady who was desirous of doing some really great work for God what he would suggest to her. He surprised her by answering:

“Teach children the Catechism.” Take a class and put your heart into it. Acquire a large stock of anecdotes by which you can both teach and interest these little ones, who are, as has been beautifully said, wax to receive, marble to retain. Many of them will some day do great  things for God. And it will be through you.

(b) The Holy Childhood.

Organise and run, with the sanction of your parish priest, a branch of the Holy Childhood. Keep a double object in view –

first the spreading of devotion to the foreign missions, together with the aiding of them financially and, secondly, to get into touch with the children who, by the rules, have to pay their little subscription once a month. Let them pay in person. Get to know them well. Tell them stories, and teach them little devotions and the art of making little sacrifices. Tell them to collect used postage stamps, the practice itself is a prayer, and the stamps are valued on the foreign missions.

Such a work can be made the mould of Saints. Not that you will see a wonderful advance suddenly made by the children. That is not their way. But do you keep on without slackening, and the years to come will see a rich harvest of holiness from amongst them.

(c) Visiting the Sick.

The first concern of St. Ignatius of Loyola and his companions on coming to each new town was to visit the sick in the hospitals, knowing that, in doing this, they did it to Christ Himself.

Pick out some hospital, by preference a poor hospital, and ascertain one or more of the very many patients who are without friends or visitors. Be you both friend and visitor to them. Visit them regularly, with perhaps a few booklets or some little gift – an apple or a few sweets. Your smiling face and cheerful words will make your visits longed for. And what wonderful prayers will ring up to high heaven for you from these poor suffering ones of Christ whom you have succoured!

(d) Spreading Good Literature.

There are many who act as promoters for a certain valuable little religious periodical, packed full of instruction in simple and interesting form. These promoters have worked up a list of people who are willing to subscribe to the paper, and month by month each home is visited and it is delivered. Father, mother and children will read it and be influenced by it. It is the setting up in the home of a regular lighthouse of grace.

A poor widow had a large family, and had to work hard during the day to keep them. Yet the day began with Mass and Holy Communion. She had almost a hundred subscribers who took this periodical. She delivered it to their widely scattered homes herself in the evenings when she must have craved for rest. She knew all their families well, and used this intimacy to interest them in those things that were dearest to her own heart – Daily Mass and Communion, the Apostleship of Prayer, the Maynooth Mission to China.

And again. Some years ago in New York a negro washerwoman, who had spent her life in just this same way, received a semipublic funeral, and was laid to rest amid the mourning of thousands, to whom that poor black face had constantly been a needed reminder of their duty to God.

Loving Jesus and making Him loved… There it is in practice! Who can assess the true value of such lives?

(e) The Duly Authorised Outdoor Collector.

His or her little book in hand showing the sanction and approval of the parish priest, the outdoor collector may be seen, usually on a Sunday, toiling up long flights of tenement stairs, diving into the alleys and back lanes, where the most charitable of all people – the poor – live. Here he gets, week by week, his pennies and twopences for some church building fund or other charitable work sanctioned by the parish priest.

Always a holy work, his round may be made a genuine apostolate. He need not take up a preaching tone. A quiet word here and there can do all the work. And he can add to his words weapons more powerful – the scapulars, medals, badges, approved by the Church. In spreading devotion to these, he is setting up channels along which grace will certainly flow.

He finds time for a short chat in each home, and he is keenly interested in each member of the family. How are the children’s Communions? Are Paddy and Molly enrolled in the brown scapuler? Here is a miraculous medal for one and a little picture for another. He has an eye to see that the elders are in some sodality. He probably has the father in his own guild.

He does not talk about what is in the papers. They know enough about that without him. Besides, he may differ in opinion from some, which often results in hot words, bitterness left behind, and his influence gone. There is more than enough to talk of in the shape of Church and parish matters, the private concerns of the family, and occasionally a suggestion about the First Friday Devotion, the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart, etc. Many are the stories he relates of the blessing of the family Rosary, and the way in which it saved the Faith in the Black Times.

His reference to the approaching mission will be more powerful than poster-covered walls.

Moreover, people will talk about their neighbours. So he will gain a good knowledge of his district, and his report on anything amiss is always useful to the priest.

And it will come to this – that his very step, his face, will be like a breath of religion to all, and a special reminder to those that are negligent. People will go to Mass or the Sacraments simply because they saw him and it reminded them of their neglect.

The Secret of Influencing Others.

There is an art in the moving of others, and those that work for their neighbour must study it.

Do not say, “I cannot,” or, “I am not fitted,” or, “Nobody heeds me.” For there is one thing that can clothe you with power in your dealings with others – affection for them. This is the great secret of all real influence. To possess it, follow this simple rule – Look only for good qualities in anyone you meet, you will find them. Never look for faults, for you would find them.

Act thus, and you will easily develop the habit of love.

Convince those around you by deeds, not phrases, that you truly have this feeling for them, and you can lead them where you like.

God In His Works.

All Things are but Signposts That Point to God.

We have been considering at some length methods of serving God. Let us try to remember they are only methods. There is always a tendency for the interest of any work to absorb us so that we forget why and for Whom we began it.

It is natural that this should happen. The work is visible; the supernatural is not, and we unthinkingly allow the visible things to push the supernatural into the background of our lives. This takes from the value of all our acts as offerings to God.

Instead, a little thoughtfulness would turn those very things which were inclined to lead us away from God into visible reminders of His presence in the world.

When we see a church, even though it is only a spire in the distance, it induces a feeling of reverence at the thought of His Presence with us in the Eucharist. But, then, churches are rare. We want that feeling of reverence over all our life. We can make it habitual if we cultivate the practice of seeing Him in all things.

In the beginning He created all things from nothing. But He did not then cease to work. It requires His omnipotent power to keep all those things there now. Were His Hand removed this second from any object we see, it would at once disappear from our vision into its original nothingness.

Thus, everything we see should tell us that God’s Hand is upon it. A sense of awe should fill us to think that we can touch what He is touching. The waving leaves on the trees tell us of the presence of the breeze which we do not see. Why not make trees and leaves and wind and all else around us speak plainly to us of the wonderful Power which holds them in existence?

We pick up an insect, or a flower, or bread, or a book. Each one proclaims Him to the thoughtful mind.

St. Bonaventure said of St. Francis of Assisi that he made everything in nature a step in the ladder by which he went to heaven. He loved the very stones beneath his feet, because they were the works of his Creator.

All the Saints saw without effort God in His works. Everything was a cause of prayer to them. But there was a time when they were only beginners, as we are. They persevered. Shall we?

You Are the Temple of the Holy Ghost, Who is in You.

In considering God in His works around us, we are not to forget His Presence in ourselves.

It is of Catholic doctrine that the Holy Ghost makes a dwelling in anyone who is free from mortal sin. Life would be greatly brightened if we could bring home to ourselves this wonderful truth.

How could we ever again feel sorrowful or lonely, or think ourselves poor!

If we consider God in His Heavenly Kingdom, we are apt to think of Him as at a great distance. We know Him as a loving Father, but this sense of remoteness diminishes the sense of His protection. Rather let us think of Him living in each of us, giving our hearts their beat and listening to our inmost thoughts.

Look at the great sun blazing in the sky, with enough light and heat for the entire world. He Who made it is within us with a glory infinitely greater.

There is holiness in the very thought of this; and the idea of sin as something that will drive out this Divine Tenant acquires a clearer and more repulsive meaning.

Heavens and Earth Are Full of Thy Glory.

The greatness and the loveliness of God, being infinite, cannot, while we live, be measured by us. We can only feebly search after an idea of them by representing to ourselves the pick and cream of what we know, and then trying to raise our minds above that.

Take from what is around, all that is delightful, mighty, pure, exquisite, glorious. Gaze upon them, and their beauty takes the very breath away.. But their beauty is only the shadow of His beauty.

In the light of this truth, will not the delicate flower or sky tinted with splendour, speak to us with a new meaning? Before, we admired them for what they are; rather, let us reverence them for what they suggest.

God’s Dealings With Men.

His goodness is equally beyond our comprehension. Our Lord’s life on earth, or the Host and Chalice lifted up in the Mass, should give us an idea of the depth of the love He has for each individual one of us, however wretched.

We are being dealt with in a princely way. One of the first results of our increase in holiness will be the gradual realisation of the wonderful goodness which is lavished upon us from morning until night. We grumble at the apparent afflictions and punishments that come to us, though each one of them bears, as the saying is, a jewel in its head. We are blind to the fact that nothing which is the bearer of a blessing can really be punishment at all.

God is good… Let this be the great thought whenever the shadows thicken. There is nothing from Him which is not kind – though it may seem hard. Whether it is one of those things that people dread most, such as death, or cancer, or bankruptcy, or only a headache, we may be sure it is for the best. There is some hidden mercy in it. God is good…God is so good.

Trust as a Characteristic of the Saints.

In this spirit of trusting faith did the Saints receive whatever came to them. Aware that they were enfolded in the arms of a loving Providence, it was equally a cause of thanks to them whether they were cradled to the left or to the right.

This holy spirit is not beyond imitation by all, for we see it in the poor of our day. The greatest calamity is met with fortitude. “There is no cross but breaks a heavier,” they will observe, and then – even though the tears are falling fast – “God’s will be done; welcome be the Holy Will of God.”

We must follow the holy ones of all times in this childlike confidence, this perfect knowledge that He is their Good Father.

Our Love for Him.

Our hearts were made to hold the biggest and the purest of loves. For nothing less than this did God intend them. It is dishonouring such vessels to keep in them a love based only on motives of reward or punishment, wholesome though these are. So let us try to send our love for the Good Shepherd to summits far above such thoughts of self, and love Him… “not that in heaven we may reign… not to escape eternal pain… nor in the hope of any gain”… but for Himself, and that we may satisfy with something clean, that great love of His which craves for any return.

And as this pure love strengthens in our hearts, it will soon, like the eagle, grow impatient even of the mountain peaks, and hunger after heights of heights, till – with the Little Flower – we will cry out in longing: “Jesus!… Jesus!… I would so wish to love You… love You as You never yet have been loved.”

The Message of the Rosary: The Glorious Mysteries

The Message of the Rosary: The Glorious Mysteries
By Rev A. Biskupek, S.V.D.



The Glorious Mysteries give us a preview, so to say, and a foretaste of the glory that awaits us in the life to come, which eye has not seen and ear has not heard and the human heart has not experienced. For this reason, they most powerfully stimulate Christian fervour and perseverance. Now, and not only in heaven, must we rise in a spiritual sense with Christ from the death of sin and walk in newness of life; now our thoughts and desires must dwell in heaven and delight in the company of angels and saints; now we must prepare our body for its glorified life by giving unstintingly of our physical strength to the service of God. In the light of these mysteries, we recognize the important role which bodily pain and hardship plays in the Christian way of the cross and we learn to mortify the body with all its evil inclinations now so that it may live eternally. Not only in heaven but now, must Mary be our Queen in whose service we glory and the imitation of whose virtues we make the ambition of our lives. Under the influence of the Holy Spirit, these mysteries convey invincible courage, patience, peace and joy. The Holy Spirit has made us His temples and dwells in us now, so that full of the Holy Spirit we shall rise in glory on the day of resurrection.


“If in this life only, we have hope in Christ, we are,” according to Saint Paul “of all men most miserable. But now Christ has risen from the dead” (1 Corinth 15:19-20). The Resurrection is a postulate of God’s justice and love. Jesus glorified the Father in His life and Passion, now the Father glorifies Him; Jesus humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death upon a cross, and therefore the Father has exalted Him and has given Him the name which is above all names, so that in the name of Jesus, the knees of all must bend, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth. The same principle holds, with due proportion, also for us. If we suffer with Christ, we shall be glorified with Him, and if we die with Christ, we shall rise with Him. The mystery of the Resurrection ushers in our Saviour’s glorified life; it is a life of inspiration, power, strength and victory.

Jesus has died on the cross and the soldier has pierced His side with a lance, so that there can be no doubt as to His real death. To forestall any attempt on the part of the disciples to steal the body of Jesus, the tomb is sealed and a guard of soldiers is placed in front of it. These soldiers keep watch in front of the tomb the whole Sabbath and the following night. No disciples have come into sight; all has been quiet and peaceful. But as the morning of the first day of the week begins to dawn, the scene suddenly changes. An earthquake shakes the city, an angel, resplendent with heavenly light, rolls back the stone from the tomb; it is an empty tomb — Jesus is there no longer. The guards are hurled to the ground terror-stricken; as soon as they recover, they hasten to the city as fast as they can to bring the news to the authorities at Jerusalem. The report comes to those men like lightning and thunder from a clear sky; consternation is written in their faces. There can be no denial of the fact reported by the guards, and so they have recourse to an expedient to extricate themselves from this embarrassing situation and to prevent a popular change of attitude in favour of Jesus. They bribe the guards, charging them to spread the news that whilst they were asleep, the disciples had come and stolen the body. Poor, deluded Pharisees, who childishly think they can stop the triumphant march of the risen Christ by so silly a lie.

Let us now look at the figure of our risen Saviour. He is all light and splendour; He moves about with speed of light, neither walls nor door nor locks can stop Him. The wounds and disfigurement of His body have given way to immortal beauty and vigour; but in His hands and feet and in His sacred side He keeps the marks of the nails and the lance. They will forever be the sparkling gems blazing forth the truth that, as we were saved through the cross, so through the cross we must attain to light and glory.

Jesus who had loved His own who were in the world even unto death, does not forget them in His glory; He hastens to bring to them the joyful news of His Resurrection. Though not mentioned by the sacred writers, it must be taken for granted that Jesus appeared first of all to His holy Mother; we could not imagine anything else. (Saint Ambrose knew of it and preached it.) What a meeting this must have been of Mother and Son on that Easter morning. Rejoice, O Mother of Christ, be glad, O Queen of heaven, for your Son is risen from the dead. As in His mortal life, so in His glory He remains her Son and she His Mother. Then followed the many apparitions of Jesus to His apostles and friends, confirming their faith and speaking to them of the Kingdom of God.

The Resurrection of Christ, and the glorified life following it, is Christ’s decisive victory. He had foretold it and referred to it as proof of His divine Sonship and authority, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19) By rising from the dead Christ has proved that He is God, His teaching true, His promises certain of fulfilment. And so His cause shall be victorious in the Church as a whole as well as in the individual soul, though in either case the way to victory leads over Calvary.

Christ’s victory is above all victory over sin, and in this victory, we must share in this life already, if we wish the glory of the Resurrection to be ours in the life to come. Baptism is the beginning of this victory, “Know you not that all we, who are baptized in Christ Jesus, are baptized into His death? For we are buried together with Him by baptism into death; that as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4). In order to guarantee ultimate victory, in spite of possible falls due to human weakness, Christ has left to His Church as His most precious Easter gift the Sacrament of Penance, which He instituted on the evening of Easter Sunday, “Receive the Holy Ghost; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them, and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.” (John 20:23).

The ideal of the Christian is the new life in Christ, free from sin. For that reason also holy Mother Church insists upon confession of all mortal sins at least once a year, and upon the reception of Holy Communion during the Easter season; thus the life of grace is restored if it should have been lost, and if it has not been lost it is strengthened and more intimately conformed to the life of Christ through the power of the bread of life. This new life, according to the intensity of its fervour, shows forth even whilst on earth the immortal vigour of Christ’s glorified life. It is a life of spiritual beauty, resplendent with the light of virtue.

There is promptness and determination in obeying the call of duty and the inspirations of grace, courage and confidence in the profession of the faith, a holy pride in following Christ our victorious Leader, a joyful readiness to go with Him even unto death. Hardships and privations, fear of men, threats of persecution cannot alter its course. Deep and living faith in the Resurrection is incompatible with timidity and half-heartedness in our allegiance to Christ the King, and will never compromise at the expense of truth and loyalty. “Knowing this that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin may be destroyed, to the end that we may serve sin no longer…Knowing that Christ rising again from the dead, dies now no more, death can no more have dominion over Him…So do you also reckon, that you are dead to sin, but alive unto God, in Christ Jesus Our Lord” (Romans 6:6-11).

Our blessed Mother requests that we meditate on this mystery. She knows the conditions of the times and the growing danger to souls, the growing intensity of the Christian warfare as we approach the consummation of all things. Therefore, she wants us to be fortified with the invincible spirit of the Resurrection. The mystery of iniquity is at work, it can be overcome only by the mystery of a new, a holy life with Christ, the Victor over sin and death abiding in us, and we in Him. In His Resurrection, Jesus speaks to us as He spoke to the apostles, “Have confidence, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).


As Son of God Jesus possessed the beatific vision from the very first moment His soul was created, and, in consequences the glorified state of the body with heaven as His dwelling place were due to Him. However, the saving mission which He had taken upon Himself called for suffering which was incompatible with the glorified state; so Jesus hid His glory and took the form of a servant, to labour and to suffer until His mission was accomplished. When He arose from the dead He assumed the glorified state of His body, but for our instruction and encouragement, He remained on earth for another forty days. When these days had come to an end, He gloriously ascended into heaven.

Saint Luke paints a lovely picture of Our Lord on His way to Mount Olivet on Ascension Day. The same road which had taken Him to this place only a few weeks before, there to begin His passion with His bloody agony, now sees Him return to the scene of battle as glorious conqueror. As on that evening so He is now surrounded by His apostles, but their number is swelled by many other friends and followers of Jesus. Jesus gives them His last instructions and answers their questions until they arrive at the place chosen by Him.

The great moment of His departure from them has come. He speaks to them His final word of parting; it is the apostolic commission, “All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Going therefore teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world” (Matthew 28:19-20). With a last blessing for the ungrateful world for which He had died, with a Father’s blessing for all His faithful friends, with a last loving and grateful look to His holy Mother He begins to raise Himself into space, higher and higher, until a cloud hides Him from the sight of human eyes. And whilst His friends are still looking towards heaven two angels appeared, assuring them that this Jesus, whom they had seen ascending into heaven, would come again such as they had seen Him on this day.

With holy joy in their hearts the apostles and friends of Jesus returned to Jerusalem; even though they would miss the presence of their beloved Master, they rejoiced over His glory. Their thoughts henceforth dwelt in heaven; there they found the inspiration to a holy life, strength and consolation and joy in the midst of their labours and even in the tortures of a bloody death. And how often during the course of centuries, especially in periods of persecution and distress, did the followers of Christ look to heaven, there to discover a sign of His coming; but even though He delayed, their faith remained unshaken. Their thoughts were with Him in heaven and the certainty that one day they would share in His triumph and glory, gave them new courage to persevere to the end.

Jesus entered heaven, but not alone. A wonderful scene was enacted when Jesus had vanished from the sight of His friends on earth. Limbo gives up the souls it has held for thousands of years and they join Jesus in His triumphant entry into heaven. At last, their prayers and hopes have been fulfilled. When Jesus had died on the cross, His soul descended into Limbo and brought these holy souls the joyous news that soon the days of their waiting would come to an end. Now the great moment has come; they join Jesus in a glorious procession of light and splendour.

As they approach the gates of heaven, their joyous cries announce the coming of heaven’s King to the blessed spirits of the heavenly Kingdom. “Lift up your gates, O ye princes, and be ye lifted up, O eternal gates, and the King of glory shall enter in.” From within the heavenly gates comes the question, “Who is this King of glory?” And the answer goes thundering back from the multitudes of Limbo, “The Lord, who is strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your gates, O ye princes, and be ye lifted up, O eternal gates, and the King of glory shall enter in” (Psalm 23:7-10 in the Vulgate, or Psalm 24:7-10 in the Hebrew). And now the gates of heaven are thrown open, the choirs of angels pay homage to the glorious King, and welcome into heaven their new brethren, the first human souls, to be their companions forever. Then mid them, Jesus enters the eternal Holy of Holies and takes possession of His royal throne, and of His kingdom, there shall be no end.

The Apostle’s Creed describes the heavenly life of Jesus as sitting at the right hand of the Father. This signifies His eternal rest, the absence of warfare and suffering, the possession of undisturbed joy and peace. True, He also remains the Head of His Mystical Body, the Church, and the Church continues to labour and to struggle, to carry on the warfare, for souls to the end, but the malice of men does not reach Jesus any more, enthroned as He is in heavenly glory. Yet Jesus’ life in heaven is not only rest. In His farewell address Jesus assured the apostles that in His Father’s house there were many mansions and that He went to prepare a place for them; having done this He would come and take them to Himself, in order that where He was they, too, would be. So Jesus in His glory prepares those mansions, and as His faithful servants arrive in the course of centuries, they find their place prepared according to their works. Saint Paul reveals another feature of our Saviour’s heavenly life when he tells us that Jesus is always making intercession for us.

He remains our Mediator at the throne of His Father, praying as the Head of His Mystical Body, the Church. His Mediator’s work culminates in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. As Priest forever according to the order of Melchisedech, He offers Himself through the instrumentality of human priests as the clean oblation, and feeds the faithful with His own flesh and blood, the bread of life. Remaining in heaven and without detriment to His glorified state He has in a most intimate manner united Himself with all the members of His Mystical Body even whilst on earth, and made true His promise that He would remain with us to the end of the world. In the Blessed Eucharist, the heavenly life of Jesus and the earthly life of the faithful meet in the most wonderful manner. We have heaven in our very midst.

Here on earth, “We have not here a lasting city but we seek one that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14); we are strangers and pilgrims on the way to our eternal home. “Therefore, if you be risen with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Mind the things that are above, not the things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:1-2). Heaven is our goal, and if we wish to reach it, we certainly must keep it in mind, never to lose sight of it.

Heaven-mindedness is characteristic of the true Christian and lover of Christ. Alas, it has grown cold in many Christian hearts; the thought of heaven hardly ever enters their mind, it does not influence their lives, they show the same love of the world, the same concern about its possessions and pleasures, the same flight from the cross as those that do not know Christ. It is indeed a timely and practical petition that Holy Church puts on our lips on the feast of the Ascension: that with our minds we may always dwell in heaven.

Looking down from those heavenly heights gives us the correct perspective of things of this earth. How small and insignificant they all appear and yet also how great and precious, since it is by them that we merit the everlasting, all-exceeding glory of heaven. The thought of heaven makes us fervent, zealous, patient, generous; it detaches us from what may be as dear to us as life itself. Saint Ignatius filled with the thought of heaven could say, “How I loathe this earth, when I look up to heaven.” Heaven is worth every sacrifice, and therefore Our Lord exhorts us to lay up for ourselves treasures there, where moth and rust do not consume them and where thieves cannot steal and carry them away.

The loss of heaven is the greatest loss, because it is the loss of our soul, the loss of God Himself; therefore no earthly possession or pleasure can make up for it, “For what does it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, but suffer the loss of his own soul?” (Matthew 16:26). The thought of heaven inspires a strong and fearless love of the cross, “For that which is at present momentary and light of our tribulation works for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinth 4:17). The Christian imbued with the thought of heaven knows no real sadness; he radiates spiritual warmth, heavenly joy, which cannot but influence his fellowmen for the better.

The thought of heaven is a most effective remedy against earthly-mindedness, the strongest bulwark against the materialism of the world, an ever present incentive to a fervent Christian life; it will, in a very particular manner, lead us to the altar of the Eucharistic Sacrifice and perpetual presence. We shall come, more and more, to love the beauty of His house and the place where His glory dwells. And so through this mystery of the rosary our blessed Mother leads us to her Divine Son, now in the Eucharist and, in due time, in His eternal heavenly glory.


Christ’s earthly mission came to an end with His Ascension. The Holy Spirit was to bring His work to final completion. For that reason, Jesus sent Him to the Church, and to prepare for His coming He commanded the apostles to stay in Jerusalem until they would be endowed with power from on high. So the apostles and friends of Jesus, having seen Him rising into heaven, returned to Jerusalem and “with one mind continued steadfastly in prayer with the women and Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and with His brethren” (Acts 1:14).

Pentecost of the Old Testament, the fiftieth day after the Jewish Easter or Passover, commemorated the giving of the law on Mount Sinai; Pentecost of the New Testament, the fiftieth day after the Christian Easter, commemorates the establishment of the new Covenant of love. Nine days had elapsed since the Ascension and the day of Pentecost had arrived. The apostle and friends of Jesus were assembled for their customary prayer in the Upper Room, when all of a sudden a violent wind began to blow, arousing the attention of neighbours and passers-by. Within the house, another startling event took place.

Tongues of fire appeared and settled on each one present, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with diverse tongues, according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak.” Then there rose up to God a mighty prayer of praise and thanks in many languages for all His wondrous deeds. In the crowd that gathered around the house, there were Jews, “devout men from every nation under heaven,” who had come to Jerusalem for the celebration of the feast of Pentecost. They were greatly surprised to hear the apostles speak in the languages of their own countries; their amazement grew when they found out that these men were Galileans, whose native tongue was Aramaic. And, “They were all amazed and marvelled saying, ‘Behold, are not all these that speak Galileans? And how have we heard every man our own language wherein we were born?’ They were all astonished, and wondered,” (Acts 2:2-11 and 12).

So impressed were the crowds by this miracle that on that very day three thousand persons came to believe in Christ and received baptism. The fact that the apostles praised God in many foreign tongues and that representatives of many nations joined the Church on her first Pentecost marked her as the Church of all races and peoples. From now on, the Church will grow and spread; even to the ends of the earth; the apostles and their successors will preach the Gospel and be witnesses to Christ their Divine Master.

Wind, though not seen itself, is seen and felt in its effects. It possesses tremendous power; it can sweep before it all obstacles, clear the atmosphere of poisonous germs. So the unseen power of the Holy Spirit overthrows the strongholds of ancient and modern paganism and clears the atmosphere of the poisonous germs of godless philosophies. Having thus prepared the ground the Holy Spirit begins the positive work of enlightening the minds of men with His truth and warming their hearts with His love. This, His work is symbolized by the tongues of fire. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth. To the hell-inspired philosophies of the present day, to the insincerity and pride of dictators and tyrants He opposes the truth of man’s nothingness and God’s sovereign majesty. God is the creator and man the creature, God is infinitely perfect and man is limited in every way; man comes and goes and his work falls into dust, but the word of God remains forever. As Our Lord said, the Holy Spirit convinces the world of sin and justice and judgement.

But the Holy Spirit is also the Spirit of love, and love must accompany truth, if the world is to be gained for Christ. Without love selfishness reigns supreme. This explains why mutual distrust divides individuals and nations, why hatred has reached a degree of intensity and a depth of degradation and savagery that only Satan can have inspired. Satan hates God and whatever is loved by God, and if he cannot destroy, he will at least cause as much suffering and harm as possible. The love of the Holy Spirit unites. The love of God has made men His children, members of the same family. “Our Father, Who art in heaven,” is the prayer taught us by our Divine Saviour. Where the love of the Holy Spirit has been poured into the hearts of men, there they are drawn into the living and loving union with Jesus as the members of His Mystical Body, there they are one with Him as the branches are one with the vine. One body, one spirit, one bread, one hope for all. It is the love of the Holy Spirit that has called into existence the wonderful works of charity that are the glory of the Catholic Church.

In doing this work, the Holy Spirit employs the Church as His organ. Though adapting herself to the conditions of the times and the character of the peoples to whom she ministers, the means employed by the Church throughout the centuries are essentially the same as those used by her on the first Pentecost. She gains her converts by preaching, not in the words of human wisdom but in the power of the Spirit, not by deception or violence but by the persuasion of truth and love, symbolized by the tongues of fire. But realizing her dependence upon the Holy Spirit, Holy Church unceasingly prays, “Send forth, O Lord, Your Spirit, and they shall be created, and You shall renew the face of the earth.”

In the work of spreading the faith, Mary the Mother of Jesus and the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, holds a most distinguished place. The Holy Spirit overshadowed her with His power at Nazareth to make her the Mother of Jesus, and through her to give the world its Saviour. She is to accomplish her mission not by the labours of the apostolic ministry but by her intercession and example. She is the suppliant omnipotence, strong and mighty as an army in battle array. Holy Church says of her that she has brought joy to the whole world, and that through her all heresies have been overcome.

She implores for the preachers of the word of God a more profound understanding of what they preach as well as the method of presentation that convinces and gains the good will of men. Through her Immaculate Heart flow the streams of love that issue from the depths of the Godhead into the souls of men so that, detached from the fleeting things of the earth, they may fix their hearts upon the things of heaven. This precisely is the need of our time, when millions of men, overwhelmed by the flood of secularism have lost all appreciation of spiritual values, think of nothing, strive for nothing but the good things of this world. Great, therefore, must be the desire of our heavenly Mother that men would turn to the Holy Spirit, accept His truth, be inflamed with His love and become her loving children.

We, too, have received the power from on high to be witnesses unto Christ, though not under the visible symbol of fiery tongues. The Sacrament of Confirmation, in particular, is the Sacrament through which the faithful receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit’s grace for confessing and spreading the faith. Not all the faithful are called to preach the word of God officially, but all can and must do it through words that enlighten and deeds that arouse love. The holy lives of the faithful are tongues of fire demonstrating the power of love and truth. A halfhearted practice of religion, a life infected with the spirit of the world will impede the renewal of the world in Christ.

This Pentecostal mystery then calls for more truth and love in our lives, more interest in the cause of Christ and the Church, more courage and unshakable confidence in the power of the Holy Spirit. Our Lady of Fatima expects this of us. Though she was not sent to preach like the apostles, we cannot imagine that in dealings with her fellowmen she spoke of anything or did anything that did not have for its ultimate object to bring others to a knowledge of her Divine Son and to the ways of salvation opened in the Church. We must heed her requests, follow her example, if the world is not to perish but to be saved, if the Kingdom of Christ is to replace the kingdom of Satan. Do we realize our responsibility and use the opportunities at our disposal for bringing about such happy results?


The last information the sacred writers give us regarding our blessed Mother is that she was united with the apostles and friends of Jesus, in prayer preparing for the coming of the Holy Spirit. After this, no more mention is made of her. Whether Mary, after the Ascension, stayed in Jerusalem or left it, whether she died soon or lived for many more years we do not know. One thing only is certain and that is that the rest of her life was devoted to prayer and to work in the interests of her Divine Son. We may also assume that, though she was fully resigned to the Will of God as to the duration of her earthly life, she longed for death. If Saint Paul could say that he desired to be dissolved and to be with Christ because of His ardent love of the Master, how much more Mary, who loved her Divine Son with an immeasurably greater love. Desire consumed her strength. As Jesus had died in atonement for the sins of the world, so Mary, wishing in all things to be like Jesus, also desired to die and to offer her life as a holocaust of love for the same purpose. At last, the day arrived when Jesus came to take His Mother home, “Arise, make haste, My love, My dove, My beautiful one and come…Come, you shall be crowned” (Canticle 2:10; and 4:8).

It has been the faith of the Church from the beginning that the body of the Mother of God was soon after death again united with the soul and taken up into heaven. In memory of this event, the Assumption was celebrated probably as early as the Fifth Century, and on November 1, 1950, was solemnly proclaimed an article of faith. The Assumption is in complete harmony with the place Mary holds in the economy of salvation. She has been conceived without sin, was never touched by concupiscence, never entertained an inordinate thought or desire, the eternal Word of God has taken His flesh and blood from her, and for nine months she was a living tabernacle of the Most High; our Christian feeling shrinks from the very thought that her body should have become a prey to corruption.

It is also a fact that never were any relics of our Blessed Mother’s body exposed for veneration, as is the case with relics of other saints. The Assumption of Mary is a confirmation of our faith in the resurrection and glorification of bodies, a new link between us and heaven, a new bond of love and hope that unites us, her children in this valley of tears, to her who is our Mother, our sweetness, our life, and our hope.

The body plays an important part in working out our salvation. No good work can be performed, not even a thought can be in our minds without some co-operation of bodily organs. It is the body that tires under the strain of prayer and work, feels the hardships and privations of the Christian warfare, is mortified by works of penance. The body, too, therefore must have a share in the reward enjoyed by the soul from the moment it enters heaven. Our Lord tells us, “The hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs, shall hear the Voice of the Son of God. And they who have done good shall come forth unto resurrection of life; but they who have done evil, unto resurrection of judgement” (John 5:28-29).

And Saint Paul assures us, “Behold I tell you a mystery…for the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall rise again incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal body must put on immortality. But this mortal has put on immortality, then shall come to pass the word that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory, O death, where is thy sting?’ Now the sting of death is sin.” (1 Corinth 15:51-55 and 56.)

The thought of the resurrection and glorification of bodies inspired the martyrs in their tortures and death; it is a source of strength in temptation, of consolation in tribulations. We shall rise with a body immortal, spiritual, resplendent, with glory, under the complete control of the spirit. Indeed, this body of ours, though falling into dust, is not destined for the corruption of the grave forever, but through death and corruption, it will pass to immortal and glorious life.

The mystery sheds wonderful light on the place the body should hold in the Christian life. The Christian, looking forward to this glorious transfiguration of his body, will zealously guard it as the temple of God’s glory; he will not abuse it, degrade it, desecrate it by sin. Even now, the body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, and it is because of this Holy Spirit dwelling in Him that God will raise it up on the last day. Since the body with its natural inclinations can become a great hindrance and danger to salvation, the Christian will mortify it; he will not pamper it, but rather make it an instrument for his own sanctification and merit. The daily labours and hardships imposed upon us by our vocational duties mortify the body, the patient endurance of the manifold sufferings sent by God subject it to the rule of the Spirit, and works of penance, demanded by the Church or freely chosen, will further curb the rebellion of the flesh.

Thus, the body more and more becomes a willing instrument of the spirit in the service of God, and to the same extent merits its own glorification. The saints did not spare the body; their works of penance may at times make us shudder, but they knew what they were doing. They agreed with Saint Paul and acted in the spirit of his words, “I reckon that the sufferings of the present time are not worth to be compared with the glory to come that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).

Such a view of the body will mightily contribute to make the Christian life more spiritual, more supernatural, abounding in zeal and merit, in patience, joy, and peace in the Holy Spirit. And would such a condition among the faithful not have a beneficial influence upon their fellowmen? Would it not be a joy for our heavenly Mother? Indeed, we have good reason to rejoice and to give thanks for the light and inspiration offered us in this mystery, “Let us rejoice in the Lord and celebrate a festive day in honour of the Blessed Mother of God, over whose Assumption the angels rejoice and praise the Son of God, her Son.”


There is nothing in tradition or legend to give us definite information about this mystery, yet the rosary is recited throughout the world and approved by Holy Church. This fact alone is sufficient proof for the substantial truth of the contents of this mystery. The dignity of Mary, as the Mother of God and our Saviour, and the all-surpassing holiness of her life, give her incomparable pre-eminence in majesty and glory over all the angels and saints. It is altogether in harmony with our holy faith to suppose that her entrance into heaven should have been the cause of a special joy and should have been celebrated according to our human way of putting it, by a festive ceremony at which she was crowned as Queen of Heaven. Let us picture this feast to ourselves; the invocations of Mary as Queen, in the Litany of the Blessed Virgin, give us so to say, the numbers of the festive programme. The feast, however, is timeless and will continue until all the children of Mary have been gathered around their heavenly Mother and Queen.

The good angels never sinned but remained loyal to God when Lucifer rose in rebellion. Though not their Saviour, Jesus is nevertheless also their Mediator in virtue of His soul, by which He stands between God and all created spiritual natures. Mary is the Mother of their Mediator. Like the angels she was never stained by sin, her will never troubled by any stirring of concupiscence. Her mind is more penetrating than that of the Cherubim, her heart burns with warmer love than the Seraphim ; she rules over vaster domains than the angelic Thrones; the grandeur of the mystery, which God wrought in her makes the Powers thrill with wonder, the Archangels standing before the throne of God now also stand before her throne, as she has taken her place next to her Divine Son; the Angels humbly admit that all their services to men are outdone immeasurably by the share the Blessed Mother had in the work of redemption. And so all the angels bow before her and offer her the diadem of the Queen of angels.

Those holy men, that lived at the dawn of human history and are mentioned among the ancestors of Christ, saw the Saviour of the world from afar, as they hoped and longed and prayed for His coming. Mary has given Him birth and calls Him her Son. And the patriarchs greet her as their greatest daughter and Queen.

These seers of old saw and foretold the mysteries of man’s redemption. Their prophecies found their fulfilment through Mary. As the splendour of the noonday sun outshines the early dawn, so the dazzling splendour of the Virgin Mother of the Saviour shines above the twilight of the prophet’s visions and humbly do the prophets pay homage to Mary as their Queen.

The Apostles, they were the chosen companions of Jesus; they remained loyal to their Master and were entrusted by Him with the continuation of His mission. The sound of their voices went out into the world. Mary was the Mother of Him whose Gospel they preached. She crushed the head of the serpent and through her prayers and merits the Kingdom of Christ has been extended, fortified, and protected more effectively than by all the apostles and their successors in the apostolic ministry. So the apostles approach and present her with the crown and sceptre of the apostolic college.

That which makes the martyr is not the mere fact that he died for Christ, but that he loves Christ unto the shedding of his blood. There are also martyrs of charity, and their martyrdom may be more excellent as it lasts longer and calls for greater endurance. Hidden labours and sufferings of the soul may consume life’s energy like a holocaust. Mary did not die a bloody death, but she endured sorrows of the soul greater than all the tortures endured by the martyrs of blood. Holy Church endeavours to give us some idea of the greatness of her sorrow, when she stood beneath the cross of her dying Son, by applying to her the words of the prophet, “O all you that pass by the way, attend and see if there be any sorrow like to my sorrow…To what shall I compare you? Or to what shall I liken you, O daughter of Jerusalem; To what shall I equal you, that I may comfort you, O virgin daughter of Zion (Sion). For great as the sea, is your sorrow” (Lamentations 1:12, and 2. 13). And all the holy martyrs resplendent with the fiery red of charity or the bloody red of martyrdom wave their palms in exultation, acclaiming Mary as their Queen.

These saints have faithfully followed in the footsteps of Jesus, some in lowliness and hidden from the world, others as the teachers, leaders, the firebrands of their generation. But there is hardly one among them that did not pay the tribute of human weakness in regrettable faults and failings; what distinguished them and made them saints was their determined, persistent, and successful effort in striving after perfection. According to their character and the conditions of the times in which they were living, they excelled in the one or the other virtue. Mary alone was without fault or failing, excelling not only in one or the other virtue, but possessing all in the highest degree, since she was always full of grace. All the holy confessors are filled with delight to behold in Mary the ideal of the virtue, after which they have striven; there is among them all not one equal to her; she is their Queen.

The very designation of the Mother of God as the Blessed Virgin, the Virgin Mother, points to her towering position among all the virgins of the Church. She is the blessed one among them, as she is the blessed among all women. Not simply the fact of her virginity gives her this pre-eminence but the intensity of the love with which she consecrated herself to God. Mary’s love and devotion to God cannot be measured by human standards. She is the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, all spiritual, all holy in body and in soul, and so the choirs of holy virgins lift up their lilies in rapturous acclaim to greet and honour their Virgin Queen.

Not only the angels and all those saints that distinguished themselves by their heroic virtue and are venerated by the Church as saints, glory in having the Blessed Virgin as their Queen, but likewise all the other blessed inhabitants of heaven. They are lesser stars, humble, little souls, who though not achieving heroic sanctity, served God with an upright and loving heart; among them are also the penitent sinners, eternally grateful for having been saved from eternal ruin. Whatever their condition may be, there is not one among them that does not owe a debt of gratitude for his salvation to Mary, the Mother of the Saviour, Mediatrix of all Graces, Mother of Mercy, Refuge of Sinners, our life, our sweetness, and our hope. And if they form if we may say so, the outer fringe of the heavenly Kingdom, they raise their voices the more humbly and gratefully from their distant places to greet her as their loving and merciful Queen.

Mary is Queen not only of the saints in heaven, but also of all the children of God on earth. By giving her the love and loyalty of our hearts and following her leadership we, too, shall reach our heavenly goal. The foregoing considerations point out the way, in which this can be done.

Sinlessness is the first and foremost requisite for the subjects of our heavenly Queen. Ours is not angelic purity, but it can be baptismal innocence, and if that has been lost, it still can be the purity of penitents.

Like the patriarchs and prophets of old, we can pray and long for the coming of the kingdom of God. “Thy Kingdom come,” we were taught to pray by our blessed Saviour. Let us pray for the coming of God’s Kingdom into the hearts of men through grace, for the spread of the Church, the kingdom of Christ throughout the world, for the second coming of our Saviour with power and majesty so “That transgression may be finished and sin may have an end and iniquity may be abolished and everlasting justice may be brought and vision and prophecy may be fulfilled” (Daniel 9:24). This is the grand object for which our heavenly Queen prayed, worked and suffered, for which she now intercedes and for which she desires our co-operation.

The apostles, and in them also their successors, were chosen by Jesus to carry the message of the Gospel to the nations. The harvest is great and many labourers are needed; therefore, we are to pray to the Lord of the harvest that He may send labourers into His vineyard. Loyal to the Queen of the apostles we shall endeavour to foster missionary vocations and to support the education and the work of missionaries.

Even should we not become martyrs of blood, the spirit of martyrs can be ours. If we cannot lay down our lives in one great act of martyrdom, let it be done through the many acts of devotion, love, and self-denial that make up the fervent Christian life. Then, as Saint Chrysostom says, God will accept the good will and grant also to such as actually do not become martyrs the reward of martyrs.

Whatever may be the state of our lives we can and must be confessors of the faith by its faithful practice. But our ambition should aim high; continuous progress in virtue and Christian perfection must be our goal, as it was the goal of the confessors.

Not all are called to a life of virginity, but the spirit of virginity can be ours, and that is the spirit of loving and undivided consecration to God and generosity in giving all that God expects of us. God is not satisfied with a divided heart.

If we feel that we are still far from the holiness of the saints this should not be reason for discouragement. The saints did not become saints overnight, but by dint of much prayer, work and self-denial, rising again and again from their falls through humble repentance. All this we also can do, no matter what may have been the sins of the past. The mercy of Jesus is infinite, and Mary is the refuge of sinners and our most merciful Queen.

So we look up to our Queen and resolve to listen to the daily message of the rosary. In the ‘Epistle’ for the feast of the Most Holy Rosary she pleads with motherly solicitude “Now, therefore, ye children, hear me; blessed are they that keep my ways. Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not. Blessed is the man that hears me, and that watches daily at my gates; and waits at the posts of my doors. He that shall find me, shall find life, and shall have salvation from the Lord.” (Proverbs 8:32-35)

With filial, trustful love we dedicate ourselves to her in a final act of consecration, “O my Queen, O my Mother, I give myself entirely to you, keep me, guard me as your property and possession.”

The Message of the Rosary: The Sorrowful Mysteries

The Message of the Rosary: The Sorrowful Mysteries
By Rev A. Biskupek, S.V.D.


The Sorrowful Mysteries.

Whereas in the Joyful Mysteries the sacred writers record at some length the part which Mary played in them, the same writers are silent about her part in the sorrowful mysteries. All that we learn from them is that the Mother of Jesus stood beneath the cross, and that from the cross Jesus recommended her to Saint John as his Mother, and Saint John to her as her son. But what we know about Mary and her relation to Jesus is sufficient to supply the rest. Mary shared in the sufferings of her Divine Son as no other human person ever did or could have done, and she did it with sentiments of complete submission to the will of God and love for souls.

The Sorrowful Mysteries of the rosary illustrate the sacrificial character of the Christian life. The crosses of life are manifold, but they can all be reduced to the one or other of the sufferings commemorated in these sorrowful mysteries. In particular they are: Fear, anxiety, disgust experienced with regard to the crosses that actually afflict us or that we see approaching: bodily pain, humiliation, the labours and hardships imposed upon us by our vocational duties, bitterness against those whom we consider the cause of our suffering, the urge to throw off the cross when patience gives out.

The general lesson inculcated by these mysteries is patience, the spirit of penance and love of the cross, and that is the object our Lady of Fatima had in view when she asked

for meditation on the mysteries of the rosary.


After the Last Supper, Jesus accompanied by his apostles, went out to Mount Olivet, on the Western slope of which was the Garden of Gethsemani. He left eight apostles at the gate, whilst He with Peter, John and James proceeded farther into the garden. The latter three were the apostles who had witnessed the transfiguration on Mount Thabor; now they were to witness its counterpart.

All of a sudden, Jesus began to grow sad, to fear and to tremble, and He said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even unto death. Stay you here and watch with me.” Then He withdrew from them as far as a stone’s throw and the terrible agony set in. Staggering under the weight of crushing fear He falls to the ground, and with an expression of grief and helplessness in His voice, such as the apostles had never witnessed before. He prayed, “Father, if it is possible, let this chalice pass away from Me. Nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” Restless and exhausted He rises after some time and returns to the three apostles, seeking consolation, some words of sympathy, or at least the assurance that they were watching with Him in their prayers. Yet He finds them asleep; asleep, they His trusted friends, whilst His betrayer is awake and active. We sense the disappointment of the Saviour’s Heart in that gentle reproach: “Could you not watch one hour with Me? Watch all of you and pray, that ye enter not into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Without having found the consolation He had sought, Jesus returns to His former place and the agony continues. Abysmal as may be His sorrow and furiously as Hell may rage around Him, He never wavers in His attitude towards His Father; not His Will but the Will of the Father is to be done. Again, He arises and seeks the company of the apostles; should He not have expected that after the previous warning, they would have kept awake? Yet He finds them asleep the second time, and without waking them He returns to prayer. What the apostles did not give Him is now brought to Him by a messenger of His Heavenly Father, “And there appeared to Him an angel from heaven strengthening Him.” What could that consolation of the angel have been? The one thing that Jesus craved above all others, namely, that His Father was pleased with Him and that souls would be saved through His suffering. We may assume that in that moment He also felt the strength and consolation that His Passion would bring to souls of coming ages in their sufferings, the hope of salvation it would give them, the courage that would lead them to victory and heavenly glory.

Thus, Jesus was prepared for the last phase of His agony. It was the most fearful, and He prayed the more that, if it were the Father’s Will the chalice would pass away from Him. Just as He prayed and saw that this was not the will of the Father, but that He should rather drink the chalice of suffering, the agony became so intense that it pressed the

blood out of His pores and like drops of perspiration, it trickled down upon the ground. At last, the agony came to an end. Quiet and composure returned to His soul, and He rejoined the apostles. As far as He was concerned, they now could sleep and rest, but there was no time left; the traitor was approaching.

What was it that caused this terrible agony of our Blessed Saviour? It was the sight of the sufferings He was to endure, the malice of the sins for which He was to suffer, the ingratitude of men and the uselessness of His Passion for so many. Although Jesus had known these things throughout His life, it had been the Will of the Father that their full impact should be felt only as the terrors of the Passion were to break in upon Him. And so there are before His all-seeing eyes the traitor doing his treacherous work, as well as the injustice of His trials before the Jewish Council and the Roman governor. He beholds Himself heaped with indignity, mocked, spat upon, scourged, crowned with thorns, nailed to the cross, hated and rejected by the people He loved so much, His saving blood called down upon them as a curse. The very thought of such sufferings is enough to fill the mind with the utmost horror. But Jesus also suffered as the Head of His Mystical Body, the Church. Into His sufferings enter as bitter ingredients all injustice inflicted upon the Church in the course of centuries, the tortures endured by the martyrs, the sorrows of every description that ever fell to the lot of His followers. He suffers for the sins of the whole world and as God-Man He grasps the whole meanness, hatefulness, contemptibility, the ghastly hideousness of sin. His loving Heart feels the ingratitude of men and the uselessness of His Passion for millions of them.

How few there are that think of His sufferings and thank Him for His love; how few that serve Him with the love and loyalty that He deserves. How much half-heartedness, selfishness, haggling and bartering there is in His service, how little is given, how many conditions and reservations attached to even that little. Must not the tempter have pointed mockingly with fiendish glee to an ungrateful world forgetful of Him, “And for such people you are going to endure such terrible suffering?” No wonder He falls to the ground in utter exhaustion, cries to His Heavenly Father that this chalice might pass away from Him, and no wonder that bloody perspiration runs down His body.

Prayerful reflection on this mystery, as requested by our Lady of Fatima, will disclose to us its significance. In His agony, Jesus atones for the rebellion of sin. The essential element in sin is its opposition to the Will of God by way of simple rejection or defiant rebellion against it and a substitution in its place of the human will. Rebellion against the Will of God has assumed gigantic proportions. God’s very existence is denied, His authority ignored in education, in the home and family, in business and politics.

If such an attitude is found among the enemies of God, it must deeply hurt the Heart of Jesus, the great Lover of men, but it hurts more when it is found among those who call themselves His friends and followers. There are Catholics for whom the Will of God means practically nothing. They go their own way in arranging the affairs of their lives.

They flee from the cross and refuse to carry the yoke of the Lord. If they pray at all, it is not with submission to the Will of God, but with insistence upon their own will. Their will must be done or else they give up their faith, quit the Church. It is for the pride of this rebellion that Jesus atones in His agony, when crushed by the weight of all the world’s sins, He prays that not His but His Father’s Will be done.

The Christian’s reaction to the agony of our Blessed Saviour will be a greater readiness to submit to the Will of God under all circumstances, and to offer up the repugnance which nature may experience, in atonement for all rebellion against the Will of God. By doing this we can in the truest sense of the word, offer consolation to Jesus in His agony; whatever is done now, was known to Him and gave Him comfort in that terrible hour of Gethsemani. He sought our consolation as His eyes peered into the future just as He sought the consolation of His apostles. The fact that He found so little of it, is the reason for the touching complaint of the Sacred Heart to Saint Margaret Mary about the coldness and indifference of so many souls, even such as are consecrated to Him in the priestly and religious state. For the same reason He requested the saint to spend the hour before midnight from Thursday to Friday before the tabernacle to bear Him company, to beg the Father’s pardon for sinners, to share in some way the bitterness He experienced in that hour of agony.

This mystery thus brings the agonizing Saviour closer to us. It arouses our compassion, as well as sorrow for our past lack of conformity with the Will of God; it prompts us henceforth to submit to the Will of God. We learn to pray with Him, our Divine Redeemer, even in the bitterest trial, “Not my will but Yours be done.” But this is also the most ardent desire of our Blessed Mother of Fatima, whose never changing attitude of will was, “Be it done to me according to Your word.”


Pilate was fully convinced of the innocence of Jesus, but politician and coward that he was, he did not have the courage of his conviction, and so he rather preferred expediency to justice. In order to appease the Jews, he had Jesus scourged. Pilate may have believed that after this the Jews would desist from asking for the death penalty. The sacred writers do not enter into the details of the scourging, since these were known to their readers; they simply record the order of Pilate, “that Jesus be scourged.” (Matthew 27:26).

Jesus most probably suffered the Roman scourging. This punishment was administered with a whip which looked much like the British cat-o’-nine-tails and usually little iron balls or hooks were tied into the leather thongs. Moreover, the Roman scourging was not limited to any number of blows; that was left to the judges, or more often to the soldiers who carried out the sentence and as a rule were men of a cruel and inhuman type. So Jesus is stripped of His garments, His wrists are tied to the top of the column of flagellation, so that His feet barely reach the ground, and the terrible scourging begins.

We shudder as we think of the Most Holy subjected to the indignities of a public whipping. The blows rain down on His innocent body, bluish streaks appear, the flesh is lifted in horrid welts; soon the skin breaks and shreds of skin and flesh are hurled all around by the swishing lashes; the blood runs down in streams. The victim is writhing in pain and half-suppressed moans escape from His lips. At last, the torture is over; the hands of Jesus are loosed and utterly exhausted He drops to the ground and there lies in His own blood. Thus was fulfilled the prophecy of old, “I have become even as a worm and no man, the outcast of humanity and the castaway of the people.” (Psalm 21:7 in the Vulgate. It is Psalm 22:6 in the Hebrew.) And the prophet Isaiah says of Him, “There is no beauty in Him nor comeliness, despised and the most abject of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with infirmity. Surely, He has borne our infirmities, and we have thought Him as it were a leper and as one struck by God and afflicted.” (Isa. 53:2-4).

Why did Jesus submit to such a dreadful suffering? “He was wounded for our iniquities, He was bruised for our sins.” By this terrible scourging, He wished to atone above all for the sins of the flesh. As our Blessed Lady of Fatima revealed, more souls are in hell because of impurity than because of any other sin. The same has always been the opinion of spiritual writers. The mystery of the scourging, therefore, has a special message for our times. As in the days of the deluge, when God destroyed the human race because of the sins of the flesh, so now man has become flesh. The sins of the flesh are glorified in the press, on the screen, over the radio; they are represented no longer as sins, but as the lawful gratification of nature, the romance of youth, the zest of adult age. And so the flesh rules the world and ruins souls. But neither the fact that millions of men have become the slaves of this vice, nor the fact that the world glorifies it, can change its sinful, wicked nature. The impure shall not enter into the Kingdom of God.

The sins of the flesh are so grievous because they poison the very fountains of life and desecrate the noble and wonderful faculty given to man for the procreation of the human race, for the establishment of family and home. Men take the pleasures and refuse to pay the price; sins of the flesh are nothing but selfishness and cowardice parading under the mask of love.

In the case of the Christian, who through Baptism has been made a temple of God, these sins moreover constitute a desecration of that temple. Saint Paul impresses this idea upon the early Christians; converts from Judaism as well as those from paganism well understood that a temple is a holy place and a desecration of it a terrible sacrilege. To the present day Holy Church reminds the faithful of the same truth when in the ceremonies of Baptism (in the ritual of Saint Pius V) she directs the priest to say to the person to be baptized, “Receive the sign of the cross upon your forehead and upon your heart; take unto you the faith in the heavenly commandments, and be you such in your ways that you may be fit henceforth to be a temple of God.” More holy than the temple of stone is the living temple of man. The conclusion then drawn by Saint Paul is clear, “If any man violate the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which

you are” (1 Corinth 3:17). The believing Catholic is filled with horror when he sees or reads about the desecration of churches, when altars and tabernacles are demolished, the holy vessels broken, the holy Species thrown upon the floor and trampled upon. So do the sins of the flesh desecrate the living temple of God, making it the dwelling place of the devil. How great the sin of impurity must be we can gather from the terrors of the scourging which God suffered in order to atone for it.

Our Lady of Fatima, emphatically insists upon the necessity of penance, that is, doing things that are painful, thus to atone for the unlawful pleasure derived from sin. Holy Church obliges the faithful, particularly during the holy season of Lent, to the performance of penitential works, especially fasting. However, fasting in the wider sense comprises all works of mortification. There are many works that are painful and cause considerable hardship. To get up early in the morning in order to assist at the Eucharistic Sacrifice of atonement, to continue patiently and faithfully at a monotonous duty, to perform the one or the other work of mercy when this is inconvenient, to bear with patience, sickness, privation, heat, cold, the faults and failings of others are all such penitential works. If performed in the spirit of humility and contrition, God will accept them as reparation for sins committed. At the same time, they strengthen the will and merit abundant grace, so that in future, we may be stronger in temptation and the more surely keep holy the temple of God in our souls.

It is not only atonement for the sins of impurity that this mystery calls for, but it also reminds the Christian of his positive duty to be pure. If we desire to live up to the ideal of Christian perfection, we must sublimate our thoughts; lift them up to pure and holy things. As the Apostle says, we must mind the things that are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of the Father; we must resist evil thoughts as soon as we become aware of them, for the longer they are allowed to linger on, the stronger they grow. The more we reflect on ourselves as the sacred temples of God, the more the very thought of impurity will horrify us, and the more we shall be inflamed with love for purity. A pure life does not make a man sad and gloomy, but rather fills him with heavenly peace; it gives a foretaste of the bliss of the saints in heaven, who in the temple not made by the hands of men, not only delight in the thought of God as in this life, but see Him, face to face. And will not love between the married as well as between young people contemplating marriage be immeasurably nobler and more soul-satisfying, if the lover sees in the beloved not only the physical charms of the body, but the spiritual beauty of the soul resplendent with the splendour of God’s grace? Such love will be reflected in conduct above all, that carefully keeps from the beloved whatever might be harmful, and that is above the greatest of all misfortunes, sin.

This is the message of the mystery of the scourging for our times. From the spirit of fornication, deliver us, O Lord. Mother most pure, pray for us.


After the scourging Jesus was to be taken to Pilate for the final verdict. But the governor was still busy and the guards in charge of Jesus had to wait. So these cruel men looked for some sport to pass away the time. They now remembered that the Jews had accused Jesus of calling Himself the king of the Jews. That idea suggested some royal sport, the crowning of Jesus as king.

At once, the soldiers took Jesus to a broken pillar and seated Him on it. They then tore off his garments again and threw over Him a ragged purple cloak, similar to those worn by Roman generals in a triumph. From the branches of a prickly bush, provided with long and sharp thorns, they plaited a thick wreath; now they had a royal crown. This they put on His head, pressing it down so as to make it fit. With burning pain, the thorns penetrate into the scalp, injuring even the bone of the skull. The blood again begins to flow. His hair, already matted by the blood of the scourging, becomes a twisted and disorderly mass; blood is trickling down over His forehead and cheeks, forming around His eyes, nose and lips a dark unsightly crust. At last, to finish their preparation – they put into His fettered hands a reed as royal sceptre and all is ready for the sport. Calling together the other soldiers of the cohort these cruel men now march around Jesus in derision, genuflect and mockingly salute Him with the words, “Hail, King of the Jews.” Then standing before Him, they spit upon Him, take the reed out of His hands and with it strike Him on His thorn-crowned head. And so the sport continues while the all-seeing, outraged majesty of God veils His face and angels weep and tremble.

The crowning of Jesus with thorns is the atonement for the sins of pride; pride, the root from which all other sins have sprung. It is a mystery of iniquity that beings created by God and endowed with intelligence should attempt to be like unto God their Creator. But so did Lucifer in heaven, and so did men on earth. As in the case of Lucifer, so in the case of men, their own exaltation and the excellence of the gifts which they had received, blinded them to their own nothingness before God. We have seen in our own days how men arrogate to themselves divine authority, attempting to dethrone God, to abrogate the Ten Commandments and to substitute in their place their own hell-inspired principles.

All heresies and rebellions have their origin in pride. In the former, the human mind refuses to accept the truth revealed by God, and in the latter men refuse to render obedience to the authority appointed by God. Pride enters into almost every phase of human life. Disrespect for God’s representatives, destructive criticism that undermines authority, defiance and lawlessness are the poisonous fruits growing from the same root of pride. But also contempt of our fellow-man, all haughty and supercilious treatment meted out to him, all disregard of His rights, all pharisaical self-complacency that sees the good in oneself and is blind to the good in others, all this is pride in action which put the crown of thorns upon our Saviour’s head. By the pain and humiliation of His crowning with thorns, He atoned for it.

We even recognize some particular forms of human pride in the various phases of Our Lord’s crowning. In the head crowned with thorns, we see atoned the pride and vainglorious thoughts and desires that lead to rebellion against God, to contempt and oppression of fellow-men. The purple cloak may well remind us of the pride and vanity displayed in the fashions of the world, that sinful desire to attract attention, to call forth admiration, to outshine others. The reed in the hands of our thorn-crowned Saviour atones for the lust for power, for tyranny of imposing one’s own will upon others and using violence against such as attempt to resist. The mockery of Christ’s divine and royal authority through the genuflection of the soldiers, how it atones for the lack of respect for God and holy things, the desecration of churches, the contempt for which the temple of God in our neighbour’s soul is treated, those haughty, sarcastic gestures, by which we ridicule and vilify our fellow-men! Jesus is spat upon and struck in the face; but is it not precisely the face, our face, upon which the most careful attention is bestowed so that it may charm, subdue and enslave? So much attention is given to physical beauty and so little interest shown in the beauty of the soul.

There is a painting that represents Our Blessed Saviour crowned with thorns and holding in His fettered hands the reed, behind the tabernacle door. The picture is deeply significant. Jesus, truly present in the Blessed Sacrament, still receives from millions of men nothing but contempt, coldness and indifference; even marks of reverence are frequently given to Him in such a way as to create the impression of mockery rather than of faith. So we wish to offer to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament all reverence and love, all adoration and glorification due to Him to atone for the unspeakable humiliations and indignities which He endured in the crowning with thorns.

We wish to atone furthermore by reverence and obedience to the representatives of the Divine King in the Church, of whom Jesus Himself has said, “He that hears you, hears Me; and he who despises you, despises Me” (Luke 10:16). And since there is no authority except from God, every act of obedience rendered because of God, is also an act of reparation for the rebellion of pride, that put the crown of thorns upon the head of Jesus. On the other hand, wherever human authority forgets its dependence upon divine authority and in the rebellious spirit of Lucifer, demands things which would be a denial of Christ, the King, there can be but one answer, and that is loyalty to Christ even unto death.

We can, furthermore, atone for the sins of pride by humble reverence and respect for our fellow-men as the images and temples of God and the redeemed of Christ, and that, the more effectively, the lowlier they are whom we thus honour. But the most fitting, though the most painful, will be the reparation that is rendered to Jesus by true humility. The humble will not consider themselves better than their fellow-men, will not prefer themselves to them; they will through modesty in dress and speech and manners, suppress the natural inclination to pride and vainglory. Above all, the truly humble are

satisfied to be humbled, that is, ignored, put to shame, ridiculed, despised. All possible contempt that we could endure in this life is not too great a reparation for one mortal sin, by which the sinner has deserved the everlasting disgrace of hell. No other reparation will be as pleasing and comforting to our thorn-crowned King.

Precious lessons are learned from this mystery of the crowning of Our Blessed Saviour. Let us seek the strength for their practice in loving union with Jesus humbled and despised. Under a Head crowned with thorns, we must not be pampered members.

O Sacred Head surrounded, O Jesus, I adore You,
By crown of piercing thorns, A humble plea I bring,
O bleeding Head, so wounded, My guilt I own before You, Reviled, and put to scorn. O pardon me, my King.


Pilate had tried repeatedly to release Jesus without offending the Jews. However, all was in vain; his last efforts were answered by their shouts that they had no king but Caesar, and that anyone that made himself king was not a friend of Caesar. Pilate feared he might be reported to the emperor as favouring rebellious elements among the people, and that would have meant the end of his career. So political expediency decided the case and Jesus was condemned to death.

The official act of condemnation was, according to Roman law, very brief. Sitting upon his official chair, the judge pronounced the sentence upon the accused standing before him in the words “You shall be crucified,” and turning to the prisoner’s guard he continued, “Soldier, go and get the cross ready.” The sentence was carried out immediately. The cross was brought forward and given to the condemned to carry, and the procession to the place of execution began to move. In front of it, on horseback rode the Roman centurion, behind him walked a soldier with a tablet on which was written the crime because of which the condemned suffered the death penalty; then came the condemned carrying the cross, surrounded by four soldiers and followed by a crowd of people, that was swelled by newcomers as the procession moved on through the most frequented streets of the city. Exactly the same procedure was followed in the case of Jesus. The commotion caused by His condemnation and the crowd accompanying Him must have been extraordinarily great, because He had been known throughout the country; moreover, it was Paschal-tide, with thousands of pilgrims in the city, and it was a triple execution, since two criminals were to suffer the same penalty. Let us now follow Jesus on His sorrowful way of the cross.

It would have been strenuous work for a very robust man to carry a heavy cross over the streets of Jerusalem, roughly paved, uneven, dusty, first descending for a little while and then rising towards the hill of the crucifixion. The distance was about one mile. But

Jesus had been extremely weakened by the terrible events of the preceding night and the early morning. He had suffered the agony in the garden, had been cruelly treated by the soldiery during the hours of the night, had gone through the ordeal of trials before the high priests and Pilate, had been scourged and crowned with thorns. He needed rest and care, but instead He now must carry the heavy cross. What excruciating pain every step must have caused by the cross dragging behind Him on the ground, jerking up and down on the cobble stones, striking against the crown of thorns as He staggered on in a daze of utter exhaustion. His soul is tormented by the disgrace of the penalty. People look at Him in amazement; He, the famous Teacher and Miracle Worker, now exposed as an imposter and brought to His deserved punishment; the Pharisees and doctors of the law are conspicuous in the procession with triumphant mien and bearing, and the presence of the two criminals would suggest that Jesus was one like them. Jesus’ way of the cross is the way of unspeakable suffering; His body is racked by pain, His soul steeped in agony.

Yet it is not the endurance of pain as such that brought us salvation but the manner in which Jesus suffered. He had entered the world with the words of the psalmist in His mind, “Behold I come to do Your Will,” and this attitude He renewed throughout His life, particularly during His agony in the garden when He prayed, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to You. Remove this chalice from Me; but not what I will, but what You will” (Mark 14:36). It had not been the Father’s will to remove this cup of suffering and so He drinks it to its dregs; yet it remains for Him the Father’s cup. “The chalice which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11).

Because it was His Father’s Will, Jesus suffered without complaining. It would be unworthy of Him, the Son of God and Redeemer of the world, to show signs of unwillingness, discontent and weakness whilst doing the things willed by the Father and performing the greatest act of His life, in fact, the greatest the world has ever witnessed.

However, suffering resignedly does not mean suffering in a spirit of cynicism or insensibility; that would ill accord with the humble Jesus. No, He suffers like a man that feels the pain of the cross in all its bitterness and gratefully accepts any relief or consolation offered Him. In fact, since He suffers as the Head of the human race, He eagerly desires such manifestations of sympathy and acts of charity, knowing that the members of His Mystical Body must have a share in His sufferings, if they are to have a share in the blessings of the Passion. The sacred writers record the kind acts of Simon of Cyrene and the compassion of the holy women; tradition has added the meeting of Jesus with His Holy Mother and the charitable act of Saint Veronica.

There were some pious women in the crowd accompanying Jesus; they were friends of Jesus, convinced of His innocence; all they could do was to give expression to their grief through tears and lamentations. Jesus rewards them by a warning that points to the real cause of His sufferings and the future punishment of the ungrateful city, “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not over Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold,

days shall come wherein they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that have not borne, and the paps that have not given suck.’ Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall upon us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us’. For if in the green wood they do these things, what shall be done in the dry?” (Luke 23:28-31).

Simon the Cyrenean was forced to help Jesus carry the cross, because the soldiers feared Jesus might not be strong enough to reach the top of the hill. It is with reluctance that Simon begins this act of charity, but soon this reluctance changes into the realization that he has received the greatest favour of his life. In all probability, he received the grace of faith in Jesus, resulting in a holy life and zealous work in the young Christian Church. Most likely, also, his sons, Rufus and Alexander, became prominent members of the early Church. And what must have been the joy of Simon on Easter day when he heard of the resurrection of Jesus, and throughout his life, as he saw the Church of Christ spreading among Jews and Gentiles. But the climax of his joy will come when, on the day of judgement, he will behold this cross of Jesus coming in the clouds of heaven in resplendent light as the symbol of Christ’s final victory.

The fourth station of the way of the cross records the meeting of Jesus with His Mother. Certain it is that Mary followed the procession, for we find her in the end standing beneath the cross. So it is most probable that somewhere on the way to Calvary she managed to get so near to Jesus as to be able to speak to Him. However, words were not needed; their tearful eyes met and they revealed to each other the sentiments of their hearts, unwavering submission to the will of the Father, love unto death, and that is, for both, the greatest comfort and consolation.

The sixth station of the popular way of the cross recalls the deed of Veronica. Courageously this pious woman pushes through the crowd and the guard of soldiers to offer Jesus a towel to wipe His face. By this act, she publicly proclaimed her love for Jesus as well as her disapproval of the way in which He was treated. Jesus showed His appreciation of this kind deed by leaving on the towel the impression of His sacred face. Thus, Jesus will always reward even the least manifestation of sympathy and love for Him by impressing upon the soul a deeper understanding of His crucified love.

The life of the Christian has been called a way of the cross and rightly so. As another Christ the Christian must follow in the footsteps of His Divine Master; Jesus Himself has expressly demanded it, making the carrying of the cross the indispensable condition for discipleship, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23).

The Christian’s cross consists in the observance of the commandments. The very fact that most of the commandment are given in the negative form, “You shall not,” is evidence that human nature in its present state is inclined to do precisely the thing that is forbidden. The further fact that the threat of punishment is added to the transgression and

that the promise of reward is added to their observance, points to the difficulty of their observance. The same holds for the duties of each one’s state of life. It is this inherent difficulty which makes the Christian life a way of the cross.

Moreover, God may and commonly does add sufferings not necessarily connected with either the commandments or the duties of one’s state of life. These are the manifold tribulations that fall to the lot of men, sickness and disease, the death of loved ones, misfortune and poverty, dissensions and enmities, unavoidable yet trying associations, earthquakes, floods, wars, persecutions, things of which our times have seen an overabundance. The Christian cannot keep the cross out of his life. Whether or not it will be a blessing for him depends upon the attitude which he takes towards it.

Jesus is our divine teacher and Model in all things and therefore most emphatically in so important a phase of the Christian life as is suffering. The Christian’s attitude must be that of Christ. Hence he must learn from Jesus to carry his cross with full submission to the will of our Heavenly Father and thus without complaining. The Father has prepared for His children the cup of suffering; it will be a chalice of salvation if drunk with the sentiments of the child, that trust in the Father as knowing best what is good for us. Let us carry the cross humbly, not presuming on our strength, but seeking strength at the fountains of the Saviour, in His sacred wounds. The greater the tribulations the more insistent must be our prayer, “Passion of Christ, strengthen me.” But the most ideal and perfect attitude towards the cross is that of love. The lover of Christ will unite himself with the divine cross-bearer with the intention of bringing Him relief and rendering to Him services comparable to those of Simon and Veronica; he will make the intentions of Jesus his own and offer up his crosses for the same purposes for which Jesus suffered. Meditation on the sufferings of Christ inflamed the saints with love of the cross; it will do the same for us.

This mystery of the Rosary, then, if understood and practised, will stop the flight from the cross and bring the Christian to an ever-increasing sense of duty and loving submission to the will of God in all circumstances. It will convince us that the cross is the only way to atone for our sins and the sins of the world, to implore the grace of conversion for sinners. The cross is the only way to Christian perfection and heavenly glory. And our sorrowful Mother will rejoice to see her children assume more and more the likeness of her crucified Son.


The mystery of the crucifixion comprises the nailing to the cross, the three hours agony, and the death of Jesus. We are reminded of it by every crucifix, which has been called by saints a book of life, in which the faithful can and must read the way of life. Our Blessed Mother stood beneath the cross of her dying Son; she understands this mystery as no other mortal ever did. Uniting ourselves with her, let us look up to Him Whom they have

pierced and learn to love Him Who has loved us unto death.

When the sad procession with Jesus carrying the cross had arrived on Calvary, the soldiers at once proceeded to the execution. First, Jesus was offered a cup of wine mixed with some bitter substance. This was usually done by friends of the condemned or other charitable people in order to make the condemned less sensitive to the cruel pains of the crucifixion. But Jesus, having tasted the drink, did not take it; He wished to offer the sacrifice of His life fully conscious without any alleviation. Then Jesus was stripped and ordered to lie down on the cross and now the heavy blows of the hammer drive the nails through his Hands and Feet into the hard wood of the cross. At last, the cross was raised and there Jesus was hanging between heaven and earth in indescribable agony.

Crucifixion was considered in ancient times the most painful manner of inflicting the death penalty and modern medical science concurs in this opinion. The wounds in the hands and feet must have burned like fire; then the distention of the joints and dislocation of the bones, the disturbance of the blood circulation, the strain upon the heart and lungs, the feverish condition brought about by the lacerations covering the whole body were such as to make the victim cry out in pain and agony. Frequently these sufferings caused the death of the victim within a few hours, but robust natures, especially if the scourging had not preceded, could live for one or two days or even longer.

To these pains, which Jesus suffered in His body, must be added the sufferings of His soul. He felt the injustice of the trials that had brought upon Him the condemnation. He was grieved by the hatred and hypocrisy of the Pharisees. How deeply He must have felt hurt by their cruel mockeries, “Vah, You that would destroy the temple of God and in three days do rebuild it, save Your own-self. If You be the Son of God, save Yourself. He has saved others, Himself He cannot save. If You be the Son of God, come down from the Cross.” And where are the crowds that only a week before had enthusiastically acclaimed Him as the Son of David, the King of Israel? Where are they, who on former occasions had admired the great Miracle Worker, the blind who had received their sight, the deaf who had been made to hear, the mute to whom He restored the use of speech, the paralysed who went away from Him in perfect health, where are they now? Where are those whom He had loved above all others and chosen for His intimate following? Peter who had protested that he would go with Jesus even unto death; Thomas who was ready to die with Him, and all the others, where are they? Not one of them except Saint John is present to bear Him company in the most dreadful hours of His life.

Yet the climax of His mental agony was the apparent abandonment by His Heavenly Father. God is the helper in every need; to Him the fathers cried and He heard them, but He seems deaf to the prayers of His beloved Son, who had sought nothing but the glory of the Father, had always done the things pleasing to Him. There is no abandonment more bitter than to feel abandoned by God; then it is as if the soul’s very substance were

torn asunder, then the last stars in the firmament fade out, then night settles on the soul, dark and dreary night. Although God did not actually abandon His Son, He did let Him feel the effects of such an abandonment. This abandonment was the greatest suffering of Our Lord, so great that all anguish and sorrow that men ever experienced on earth, even if put together, are like a drop of water compared to the endless ocean; it was that suffering that wrung from the lips of our dear Saviour the heart-rending cry, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46. See Psalm 21:2 in the Vulgate, which is Psalm 22:1 in the Hebrew.)

Amid such pain and agony death approaches. Death had entered into the world through the disobedience of the first Adam; it is now to be atoned for, by the obedience unto death of the second Adam. With hands and feet nailed to the cross, He can no longer work as He did at Nazareth. He can no longer walk about the land announcing the glad tidings of the Gospel; all He can do is to obey. But His life’s mission is consummated, the will of the Father accomplished, and so He commends His soul into the hands of the Father, bows His head and dies. And, behold, the earth trembles, the rock of Calvary is split asunder, the veil of the temple is rent in two, the dead arise from their graves. Nature, horror stricken, mourns over the crime committed. Yet out of this death, new immortal life has sprung; Jesus died that men might live.

What the great Apostle said of Himself applies to every man throughout the world in the past, present, and future. He “loved me and delivered Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20). The love of Jesus sends forth its flaming light and warmth in the seven words (or sentences) He spoke on the cross. His enemies and executioners and in them all sinners, great and small, are the first beneficiaries of His love, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). This is the language of love that knows how to excuse and to find some mitigating circumstances even in the greatest sin. The Jews could and should have known what they were doing, but having closed their eyes to the light of grace they now do not know what they are doing. Yet their sin shall be forgiven, if they accept Jesus as their Saviour and repent. How they, and all repenting sinners will be received by Jesus, if they trustfully turn to Him for mercy and forgiveness, is illustrated by the words of mercy He spoke to the repentant thief, “Amen I say to you, this day you shall be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43).

There is one treasure left in the possession of Jesus, dearer to Him than anything else on earth, His holy Mother. That she may be men’s refuge and hope and that through her we may find the way to Jesus, He leaves her to us: “Woman, behold your son.” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your Mother” (John 19:27), If men have refused the invitations of His Love, it may be they will be more responsive to the love of a mother. No matter how much men may have offended Him and how unworthy they may be, He has died for all and He thirsts for their salvation, “I thirst” (John 19:28). His bodily thirst is but the expression of His thirst for souls.

Thus did Jesus love us unto death; thus, He atoned for all the hatred among men that has turned this earth into a valley of tears, into a vast battlefield. Thus He atoned for all selfishness, that thinks only of its own interest and forgets about the sufferings of the rest, for that cynical denial of guilt and responsibility that asks with Cain, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”; for all love of the world that seeks to drown its sorrow and pain in the vortex of earthly pleasures. Here Jesus paid the penalty for all fickleness and instability that refuses to finish the task assigned to us by God because it is ‘too hard’, for that spirit of hatred and revengefulness that cannot bring itself to forgive and to return good for evil. Here Jesus merits the grace of a happy death for all, provided we love Him and through Him commend the souls into the hands of our Heavenly Father.

For Saint Paul the practical lesson drawn from the love of Jesus was, “With Christ I am nailed to the cross” (Galatians 2:20), and, “To me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). As Jesus loved us unto death, so must we love Him unto death. Nothing can be too hard to endure for Him who has endured for us the unendurable. Love for Him must be love unto the death of our self-love and, if needs be, death unto the shedding of our blood.

Such love unto death is forgiving love that is extended even to our enemies; benevolent love that seeks the best of our fellow-men; generous love ready to give up what is most dear to us; resigned and patient love in the sufferings of body and soul; faithful and persevering love that is influenced neither by the promises and pleasures of the world, nor by its threats and persecutions. Such love burned in the heart of Saint Paul when he wrote, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation or distress, or persecution or hunger or nakedness, or danger, or the sword? . . . . . . . For, I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus Our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39).

Love unto death is the lesson which our Lady of Fatima wants us to learn from this mystery. Shall we be able to resist the appeal of love? “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself” (John 12:32). Let us allow ourselves to be drawn to Him by the bonds of love in and through the Immaculate Heart of our Blessed Mother standing beneath the cross.

The Message of the Rosary: The Joyful Mysteries

The Message of the Rosary: The Joyful Mysteries
By Rev A. Biskupek, S.V.D.



Many Catholics, especially intelligent and well-meaning friends of the liturgical revival, seem puzzled by the fact that in the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima the rosary played such a prominent part. Is not the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass more important? Holy Mass is the unbloody re-enactment of the Sacrifice of our salvation, the centre of divine worship, the source of grace from which we hope for a renewal of the world in Christ. Why was not more frequent attendance at Holy Mass urged by our blessed Mother?

Yet, it is certain that any request or recommendation coming from our blessed Mother cannot but be the best. Mary, as the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, the Mother of the Saviour and the Mediatrix of all Graces, has no more ardent desire than to lead us to a fuller appreciation of the mysteries of our redemption, to a more abundant participation in their life-giving grace. If she attaches so much importance to the rosary, the reason can only be that the rosary is the most practical means to bring about these happy results. The rosary will lead us to the altar of sacrifice, to Holy Mass and Holy Communion, to a more intimate union with Jesus and a profounder grasp of the spirit of the Church.

Asking for the recitation of the rosary, Our Lady of Fatima asks for an intelligent, understanding recitation, and that calls for reflection on the prayers that compose it, the Sign of the Cross, the Creed, the Our Father and Hail Mary, the Glory be, prayers which are, so to say, a compendium of the doctrines of our holy Faith. Their frequent, thoughtful repetition cannot but fix them more deeply in our minds and help applying them to our lives.

To these prayers are added the mysteries which recall the principal events in the life of Jesus and Mary; they are so to say beautiful lamps, white and crimson and gold, illuminating our road to heaven. Meditation on these mysteries is necessary for the proper recitation of the rosary. Our Lady of Fatima requests it particularly for the observance of the five first Saturdays. It is evidently her wish that we become familiar with the contents of these mysteries; learn their beautiful lesson for our own lives and their practical significance for the world at large.

To secure a speedier and more general fulfilment of this wish of our blessed Mother the following reflections have been written. They may be used as instructions or readings, especially on the occasion of the five first Saturday.

In our days, when an appalling ignorance of religion is widespread even among Catholics, when the spirit of the world surges up and down all the avenues of life, when there is so little understanding of the interior life, such general flight from the cross, such tragic forgetfulness of spiritual ideals and values, the rosary, with its mysteries, acts as an ever-present teacher of religion, as an inspiration and driving power for a life of living faith.

The rosary, far from interfering with the liturgical worship of the Church becomes its best support, inasmuch as it makes us lovers of Christ, and lovers of Christ will be drawn to the altar of His Eucharistic presence, sacrifice and Communion. As always, so it is true in this case: Through Mary to Jesus.

The Joyful Mysteries.

These mysteries introduce us into the wise and loving designs of God, according to which the Saviour of men was to enter this world and to be prepared for His tremendous sacrifice of our salvation during the years of His infancy and hidden life. They hold up before us the ideal of the interior life, the life of prayer and holy desire, of intimate communication with God in our hearts and with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, of complete surrender to the dispensations of Divine Providence, of loving faithfulness in humble and lowly duties, of silent endurance in the many unseen trials of the soul that strives after perfection.

Whatever may be the external circumstances of a man’s life, even though it may be most active, a life of leadership and grand achievement, the spirit of the joyful mysteries is indispensable for it, if it is to be a holy life leading to God, our last end. Intimate contact with God is the hidden power plant that makes external activity fruitful for eternity.


A lovely scene opens the earthly history of the God-man. The grandest manifestation of God’s power is about to take place and Gabriel, the Power of God, is its herald. The Archangel Gabriel is sent to a virgin in the little town of Nazareth; her name is Mary and she is espoused to a man by the name of Joseph.


The prince of heaven bows in reverence before the humble maiden as he greets her, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women.” To be blessed among women meant but one thing for a Jewish maiden, and that was to be the mother of the Messiah. Precisely this is the burden of the Angel’s message: Mary is the chosen one among all women to give to the world the promised Saviour. The very thought of it grips her with holy fear. But where God calls, there is nothing to fear. Gabriel assures Mary, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found grace with God. And behold, you shall conceive in your womb and shall bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus.”

Yet Mary had taken the vow of virginity; how then shall this be done if God was pleased with her vow? Nothing is impossible with the Almighty God. He, who created the first man without the help of father and mother, surely will know how to give the Saviour of the world a human nature without the co-operation of a human father. The Archangel continues, “The Holy Spirit shall come upon you and the power of the Most High shall overshadow you. And therefore the Holy One to be born shall be called the Son of God,”


All is now clear to this blessed Virgin and her answer is a full and absolute surrender to the will of God, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to Your word.” In that very moment, there was wrought in Mary the tremendous miracle of the Incarnation. The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us (Luke 1:26-38). In this mystery of the Incarnation and the consequent divine motherhood of the Blessed Virgin lies the source of Mary’s all-surpassing greatness. Whatever grace had been bestowed upon her before was to prepare her for it, and whatever grace and gift was added in succeeding years is the effect and fruit of what was begun at the Annunciation.


Mary is now a spiritual vessel, a vessel of the Holy Spirit, fashioned by Him, the Finger of God, with the skill of the Divine Artist and endowed by Him with all the jewellery of heaven. The Holy Spirit has deposited in her the treasure of the Most Blessed Trinity. He has overshadowed her and beneath His shadow, the Son of the Eternal Father has taken up His abode within her. And so the Holy Spirit continues to overshadow her with His divine power and love, to protect and to guide her to ever greater heights of spirituality and holiness. According to Saint Paul vessels are made by the potter for honourable and for common uses.

The Immaculate Spouse of the Holy Spirit is the vessel made for the most exalted and glorious use that could be assigned to a human being. She is a vessel more precious than the chalice used at Holy Mass, although it is the same precious blood and body that rests in both; the chalice is made of lifeless material and contributes nothing to the substance of the blood of Christ which it contains, whereas Mary has given of her own substance to the substance of the body and blood of the Saviour. He is bone of her bone, flesh of her flesh, blood of her blood. She is a living chalice consecrated by the Holy Spirit Himself.


Conscious of the great things which God has wrought in her, Mary cannot but be absorbed in never-ceasing, loving reflection on the love of God. Her thoughts and desires rise to the Father in heaven Who has granted her the privilege of calling Him Son, whom the Father has begotten from all eternity; all her love is given to the Eternal Son Who deigned to become her Child, and spiritual canticles well up in her heart to sing out her gratitude to the Holy Spirit who wrought these wonderful things in her. She is the singular vessel of devotion, the like of which is found neither in heaven nor on earth. In the shrine of her virginal womb, the Eternal Son made the first act of His complete surrender to the will of the Father, that made Him obedient unto death and led Him to die on the cross as the victim of sin.

Mary adds her surrender to that of her Divine Son, ever repeating, through the attitude of her will, the words she had spoken on the day of the Annunciation, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to Your word.” And so there rises to the throne of God from the living sanctuary of Mary’s heart the incense of prayer and holy desires, undisturbed by the external conditions of her life.


In a true though limited sense we share in the greatness of our heavenly Mother. The same Holy Spirit that over-shadowed her came down upon us in baptism and wrought wonderful things in our souls. With the Holy Spirit came the Father and the Son and took up their abode in us, and we were made spiritual vessels. The same Word of God that was made flesh in her is received by us in Holy Communion in the identical human nature which He received from His Virgin Mother. And when His sacramental presence ceases, He still remains in us through a wonderful communication of life and grace. We are Christ-bearers, temples of God. In this blessed fact lies the Christian’s honour, the ever-present inspiration for a life of prayer and recollection.


God has given Himself to us. After the example of Mary, the full and unconditional surrender of ourselves to God must be the answer. Is it not natural that we should be ever mindful of that most precious possession of ours, the greatest distinction which has come to us, namely, that we possess and carry within ourselves the God in whose vision the angels and saints delight? Is it not reasonable that the same God should occupy all our attention? And where mind and will are absorbed in God, there our desire shall be that God’s Will be done in us and through us. By doing the will of God, we advance in God’s love, and that is holiness. The will of God is our exaltation, our strength, consolation, and peace.

The example of our blessed Mother in this mystery leads us to the practice of the interior life. The habitual concentration of our thoughts on God and the wonderful things He has wrought in us will not unfit us for active work, but rather assist us to do it more perfectly because of the ever-present God. The practice of the interior life will make Christians different from men of the world with their thoughts and desires all centred on earthly things; the interior life gives constant evidence of faith in an unseen world, in spiritual ideals. Who will deny that this type of example is a crying need to counteract the materialism of our times? Our Lady of Fatima wishes to make us lovers of the interior life through the rosary.


Since the day of the Annunciation, Mary was a living tabernacle. The Saviour of the world surveyed His work from the hiddenness of His abode. Even now, He longed to be active, to save and sanctify souls, but for the present, He could do it only through the co-operation of His holy Mother. But His love also burns in Mary’s heart and soon it sends forth its first rays into the world. The Archangel had mentioned to Mary the condition of her kinswoman, Elizabeth; this now furnishes the occasion.


For the first time in the history of the chosen people the true Ark of the Covenant, harbouring within her bosom David’s greatest Son and promised Messiah, moves on the highways of Palestine from Nazareth to the hill country of Judah on her way to Elizabeth. She enters the house with a greeting of peace; what else could it be, since she bore within herself the Prince of peace. He had come to give peace to all men of good will. Such a greeting on the lips of Mary is a prayer and Mary’s prayers are always heard. Elizabeth in consequence is filled with the Holy Spirit and in His light recognizes the dignity of the Mother of God, feels the sanctifying power of Mary’s yet unborn Child as her own offspring leaps with joy in her womb at the sound of Mary’s voice. Filled with holy joy she exclaims, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And whence is this to me that the Mother of my Lord should come to me? For, behold, as soon as the voice of your salutation sounded in my ears, the Infant in my womb leaped with joy. And blessed are you that have believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to you by the Lord.”

Mary, blessed among all women, cannot but agree. Her heart is overflowing with grateful joy as she breaks forth into her Magnificat of praise and thanksgiving (‘My soul, it Magnifies the Lord’). Her soul must praise the Lord, her mind rejoice in her Saviour. God has chosen her, the humble maid of Nazareth, and done great things to her, so that all generations shall call her blessed. He has put down the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly, has filled the hungry with good things and the rich He has sent away empty. He has fulfilled the promises made to the fathers of old and sent the long-expected Messiah. And Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months (Luke 1:39-56).


For three months, the house of Elizabeth presents us with in example of the most appealing charity on the part of Mary. Charity acts through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy; both were practised by the blessed Mother of God, but especially the latter. Notwithstanding the great hardships which a journey in those days meant, Mary resolutely set out on her way and then gave her kinswoman all the assistance she needed during the remaining weeks of her expectancy.

Greater yet was the spiritual assistance Mary rendered Elizabeth. She knew herself to be the Mother of Christ and through her Divine Son wished to contribute to the sanctification of the world, first of all, to that of the holy precursor of Jesus. She wished to have others to share in her happiness and with her praise, and give thanks to God for the great mystery He had wrought in her. In her humility, however, she could not bring herself to speak about it; in fact, she had not mentioned it in the beginning even to Saint Joseph. But here with Elizabeth she was in the presence of a chosen soul, illumined by the Holy Spirit Himself as to what had happened, and so she could speak freely.

Through the words of Elizabeth she had learned of the effect of her visit on the latter’s child. If such was the effect of her first meeting with Elizabeth, the spiritual favours bestowed upon the latter and her child must have increased immeasurably during the three months of her sojourn. Intense gratitude filled the hearts of these two women, and Mary spoke also the mind of Elizabeth when in the Magnificat she poured out the sentiments of her grateful love. May we not suppose that it was the daily prayer of Mary and Elizabeth, and that it made the latter’s home a sanctuary of piety, of peace, and holy joy? In such an atmosphere, the members of the household could not but daily grow in virtue and holiness.


We, too, bear God within us and it is through our cooperation that Jesus desires to save and sanctify souls. The manner of doing it, suggested by the mystery of the Visitation, is that of humble and loving service rendered to our fellow-men, for the sake of Christ. All around us are the poor, the distressed, the sick, the ignorant, the wayward, and forsaken; there is an immense field for the practice of the corporal as well as the spiritual works of mercy. But there is only one that can really and truly alleviate the sorrows of the heart and heal the wounds of the soul, and that is Jesus, the Saviour of the world.

Christian charity must have for its ultimate end to bring Christ into the lives of our fellow-men, relatives, acquaintances, friends, and companions. Have we seriously tried to do this? Do we speak of Him to those in sorrow? Do we invite them, take them with us to Jesus in the Blessed Eucharist? Could we not by word and example encourage more frequent attendance at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and reception of Holy Communion? In the Blessed Eucharist, Jesus Himself will act as the Good Samaritan; He will grant forgiveness of sin, strength and patience, peace, such as the world cannot give. Are we willing to take upon ourselves hardships in the practice of charity as Mary did in the mystery of the Visitation? Loving with the love of Christ and for the sake of Christ makes us generous.

The mystery also contains a very practical lesson for expectant mothers. The greatest act of charity they can do to their as yet unborn child is to take it into the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Eucharist, especially through the reception of Holy Communion.


Indeed every act by which we prevent sin in our fellow-men, bring them closer to God and inspire them with a greater love of virtue, is an act of charity. Saint Paul calls our attention to the well-nigh innumerable ways and manners in which such charity can be practised, and often with so much more effectiveness the less the act is recognized as such, and the more humble and inconspicuous it is. It is a wide field for the practice of charity to which the Apostle calls our attention when he writes, “Charity is patient, is kind; charity does not envy, is not pretentious, is not puffed up, is not ambitious, is not self-seeking, is not provoked; thinks no evil, does not rejoice over wickedness, but rejoices with the truth; it bears with all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinth 13:4-7).

We were redeemed because God loved us, and it is our greatest privilege, through the practice of charity, to co-operate in the salvation and sanctification of souls. Our Blessed Mother gives the example. The rosary leads to the practice of charity and through charity to Jesus, in Whom alone there is salvation.


The census to be taken up in Palestine, the consequent journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, the great crowds that occupied all available space in the town were the circumstances foreseen and ordained by Divine Providence to bring the Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph to the stable in which, “While all things were in quiet silence and the night was in the midst of her course, Your Almighty Word, O Lord, came from heaven, from Your royal throne” (Introit or Entrance Antiphon (Chant) of Sunday within Octave of Christmas).


“And Mary brought forth her firstborn Son and wrapped Him up in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” All is silent around the stable; Mary and Joseph are the only representatives of mankind to pay homage to God made man, by their faith and loving acceptance of the hardships and privations of poverty, freely chosen by the Lord of heaven and earth for Himself. Out on the plains, shepherds are watching their flocks. “And behold, an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of God shone round about them, and they feared exceedingly.”

The shepherds need not fear; the meaning of the wonderful things they behold is heavenly joy and peace to be offered to the world, for “Behold, I bring you good news of great joy, which shall be to all the people; for there has been born to you today in the town of David, a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.” A sign is given them by which they will recognize this newborn Saviour. “You will find an Infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”

A multitude of heavenly spirits now appears above them high up in the air, singing words and melodies such as the world had never heard before, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth among men of good will.” Having delivered their message, the angels return to heaven and the shepherds are again alone in the fields. But their mind is made up at once, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us. So they went with haste, and they found Mary and Joseph and the Babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen, they understood what had been told them concerning this child.” . . .

“And they returned glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen.” All people that heard the story marvelled, and “Mary kept in mind all these words, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:1-20).


Mary now beholds for the first time Him, whom she had conceived of the Holy Spirit; even His Infant features radiate the brightness of Eternal Light and the image of the Father’s substance. Like a ray of light, He has entered this world without injury to His blessed Mother’s virginity. He, the mighty God, who has given to nature its laws, can also suspend them. Mary is now truly the Mother of God, the Virgin Mother of Christ. Holy Church has at all times believed this truth and vigorously asserted it against those who would deny it.

Thus, she speaks at the Council of Ephesus in the year 431: “If any one deny that the holy Virgin is the Mother of God, let him be anathema.” And the Second Council of Nicea in 787 repeats, “We believe that Mary is really and truly the Mother of God, because she bore one of the persons of the Most Blessed Trinity, Jesus Christ, Our Lord, according to the flesh.” Let us rejoice and give thanks, for Mary the Mother of God is also our Mother.


The events of that holy night have passed into history; yet they live on, not only in commemoration, but in sacramental reality. The stable of Bethlehem in that silent holy night became the first Catholic church, harbouring the real presence of the God-Man; since then, other Bethlehems have arisen, other mangers have been prepared, and the same Almighty Word of God, the first-born Son of the Virgin Mary, hidden beneath the species of bread and wine, comes down from heaven, from His royal throne. The mystery of this holy night has a still greater significance for us. Bethlehem means “house of bread,” and in the truest sense of the word, a Catholic church is a Bethlehem, a house of bread, in which He who is the true bread of life gives Himself to the faithful in Holy Communion.

If prayerful reflection upon this mystery should arouse in us the desire to have been present at Bethlehem with Mary and Joseph and the shepherds to adore the Infant in the manger, this desire, enlightened by faith, will take us to the altar; here we have the stable and the manger, here the permanent holy night. The flickering light of the sanctuary lamp takes the place of the stars that twinkled their delight on the shepherds and the stable, the splendour of the liturgy at the solemn celebration of the sacred mysteries may well remind us of the brightness of God, that shone round about the shepherds, and those jubilant melodies sung by the angels.


The story of the birth of our Blessed Saviour illustrates the truth of Saint John’s statement that Jesus came into His own and His own did not receive Him. The rest of the life of Jesus and the history of the Church down to our day, furnishes further evidence of this truth. The vast majority of those whom He came to save do not know Him; His teaching is not accepted, His Eucharistic presence not known or ignored. How much coldness and indifference is not shown to this mystery even by many of the members of the Church. Should we not endeavour to make up for this lack of faith and love by an ardent devotion to the Blessed Eucharist?

How much more reason than the psalmist do we have to say with him, “I will compass Your altar, O Lord, that I may hear the voice of praise and tell of all Your wondrous works. I have loved the beauty of Your house, O Lord, and the place where Your glory dwells.” (Psalm 25:6-8 in the Vulgate. It is Psalm 26:6-8 in the Hebrew.) And when we leave the Eucharistic presence let us take with us the remembrance of our Emmanuel and like the shepherds praise and glorify God, giving testimony to the world around us of the peace and happiness that is found with Jesus.


The Eucharistic presence of Our Lord is inseparable from the priesthood. The priest, through the words of the consecration, brings down upon the altar the Son of the Eternal Father; in this fact, there lies a wonderful similarity between the mission of the blessed Mother and the office of the priest. Mary cannot but be eager to see the number of priests increased so that the mystery of Bethlehem may be perpetuated and spread throughout the world, that glory be given to God in the highest and men may find peace in Jesus, the Prince of peace. Catholic parents with a grateful appreciation of this mystery will feel proud to give their sons to the service of the altar, and also to pray and work for an increase of priestly vocations.

The mystery of the Rosary leads us to Bethlehem of Judah and thence to the Bethlehems of the Catholic Church, scattered all over the world. He who lay in the manger as an Infant is present in the Blessed Eucharist as our High Priest, victim, bread of life. O come, let us adore Him, love Him the more, the less He is loved in the world. And let us not forget to pray for an increase of priestly vocations for the service of our Eucharistic Emmanuel. All this will console and delight our blessed Mother and be a source of untold blessings for the world.


Two events are commemorated in this mystery, the purification of our blessed mother and the presentation of Jesus. According to Jewish law a mother, after having given birth to a boy, was considered legally unclean for forty days. At the end of this period, she had to present herself in the temple, if possible, to be declared clean. The ceremonies connected with this act called for a sacrifice of expiation for which a dove was used, and the burnt offering of a lamb. In the case of a poor mother, a dove was substituted for the lamb, and so we read that Mary, being poor, offered a pair of turtle doves. The second event is the ransoming of Jesus.

This ceremony was to keep alive the memory of the miraculous deliverance of the Israelites from the slavery of Egypt. The last plague which God sent upon the Egyptians was the death of their firstborn sons, whereas the firstborn sons of the Israelites were saved. In memory of this event, God ordained that the firstborn son of every Jewish family was to be dedicated to His service. However, soon after this God chose the tribe of Levi for the performance of all priestly functions. Since then the first-born sons of all the other tribes had to be presented in the temple and to be ransomed from the original obligation by the payment of a fixed sum of money. Although it was not necessary that the child himself should be brought to the temple, this was generally done. It is in the observance of these two laws that we find Mary with her Infant Child in the temple.


Since the birth of Jesus had been miraculous, a virginal birth, Mary did not fall under the law. However, to claim exemption would have necessitated revelation of this mystery, and that was not the will of God at the time. Grateful that her privilege thus could remain hidden, Mary humbly submits to this law like the other mothers of Israel. She is the handmaid of the Lord with no other desire but that the will of God should be done by her and in her.


The presentation of Jesus, though outwardly like that of all the other firstborn sons of the Jews, is yet totally different. For Jesus, it is not a release from, but the first external consecration of Himself to, the priestly office. True, He will not act as a priest of the order of Levi, but He is priest and victim, first in the bloody sacrifice of the cross and then to the end of time in the Eucharistic sacrifice, as priest of the order of Melchisedech. In fact, the priesthood of the Old Testament and all its sacrifices are but types and figures of His priesthood and sacrifice.

Jesus, even as an Infant, has the full use of reason and, though not spoken audibly, the words of the prophet are in His heart, “Sacrifice and oblation You would not, but a body You have fitted to Me; in holocausts and sin-offerings You have had no pleasure. Then said I, ‘Behold I come . . . . to do Your will O God’.” (This Old Testament passage is quoted in the New Testament at Hebrews 10:5-7).


There lived at the time in Jerusalem a holy old man by the name of Simeon. He had received from the Holy Spirit the assurance that he would not die before having seen the Messiah for whose coming he had prayed all his life. Simeon was in the temple as Mary and Joseph brought in the child Jesus and, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, he recognizes in Him at once the promised Saviour. He takes the Child into his arms, his heart overflowing with gratitude. Now he can die in peace, for his eyes have seen the light sent for the illumination of the Gentiles and the glory of Israel. But salvation will depend upon the attitude which men take toward this Child. And Simeon said to Mary His Mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and for the rise of many in Israel, and for a sign that shall be contradicted. And your own soul a sword shall pierce, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:25-35).

It will be so because the cross of Christ shall be a folly to the Gentiles and a scandal to the Jews, but to those that are called, the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Corinth 1:23). So we, too, must take our stand with regard to Christ. Let it be one of loyal and generous service. Let us offer ourselves to Him in His own words, whatever the call may be, “Behold I come to do Your will.”


We, too, had our presentation when through Baptism we were cleansed from sin, incorporated into Christ and dedicated to the service of God. We repeated this consecration again and again during life, and that with particular solemnity on some outstanding occasions like the day of our first Holy Communion, the day of profession for Religious, the ordination day for priests. All these latter acts of consecration usually are made in connection with the Eucharistic Sacrifice; this illustrates our desire to unite our work and toil in God’s service with that of our Divine High Priest and Victim for the accomplishment of His mission as well as our conviction that courage and strength to persevere on our sacrificial path flows from the Saviour’s sacrifice.


What we should do in order to make our lives fruitful for our own salvation and that of others is suggested by the persons acting in this mystery of the Presentation. The example of Simeon points to continuous prayer. There can be no love of Christ without at least praying for the success of the cause of Christ. From Mary we learn to be humble and not to boast of our merits or of the good we do. We do no favour to God by living for God, but God does an exceedingly great favour to us by accepting our service. What we do we can do only through His grace and even after we have done all we could do we must look upon ourselves as useless servants who have done nothing but their duty.

For the lover of Christ the wish, the example, the interests of Jesus are a command. Narrow selfishness has time and energy for amassing the goods of this world, for securing comfort and pleasure, but has neither for the advancement of the cause of Christ. This is the reason why the cause of Christ does not make better progress in the world. The Presentation suggests particularly to priests and Religious the spirit of joyous self-immolation. Their very state of life is synonymous with it. They offered themselves on the day of their ordination or profession; they were called by name and they answered with a joyful adsum, ‘present’. Let them not be sorry for what they have done, nor take back what they have given, when in the course of time God takes them at their word and gives them to drink of the cup of suffering. The grain of wheat must give up its own life in order to live in the grains that grow from it.

The mystery of the Presentation thus understood leads to Jesus, Priest and Victim in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. It points to prayer, humility, the spirit of sacrifice and joyous self-immolation in the pursuance of the interests of God and souls. They are the means by which to overcome the selfishness and worldliness of men, the pleasure-seeking and flight from the cross that interfere so much with the following of Christ and the extension of His Kingdom. Also in our case it is true that, “This child is destined for the fall and for the rise of many,” Our success, perseverance and salvation depend upon the attitude we take toward Jesus.


According to the law, every Israelite, beginning with the age of twelve, was bound to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the principal feasts, especially for Easter (or Passover). Although Jesus most probably had made this pilgrimage more than once before, the one He made at the age of twelve is recorded in the Gospel, because it was the first time He made it as a “son of the law,” that is, as one bound by law, and because of the extraordinary circumstances connected with it.


At the end of the customary celebrations, Mary and Joseph set out on their return journey to Nazareth. Owing to the large crowds and to the custom that members of the same family would often travel in separate groups, it is easy to understand how Jesus could stay behind without either Mary or Joseph noticing His absence. It was only in the evening, when the groups arrived at the camping place previously agreed upon, and members of the family would meet again, that the loss of Jesus was discovered. Anxiously Mary and Joseph inquired with other groups and passers-by whether they had any knowledge of Jesus’ whereabouts, but no information could be obtained. With hearts torn by grief, they set out at once for Jerusalem and spent the whole following day in seeking Jesus.


Without the knowledge of Mary and Joseph, Jesus had remained in the temple at Jerusalem. It had become a custom for doctors of the law to set themselves up in the temple halls, interpreting the law and answering questions for the benefit of any one who might be interested. On the occasion of the great feasts, large crowds of people would gather around them, glad to have the opportunity to hear the famous teachers of Israel. Jesus had joined one of these groups. He soon aroused the attention of the doctors and the bystanders by the wisdom of His questions and answers as well as by the charm of His personality and speech.


We do not know what questions Jesus asked those learned men, but it would not seem far-fetched to suppose that they had to do with prophecies regarding the Messiah and the fulfilment of some of them within recent years. He may have put them through a little examination in contemporary history. Had they ever heard or did they remember the wonderful events that had taken place in Bethlehem about twelve years before this, a story told by shepherds, of angels appearing and announcing the birth of the Saviour? Did they know the story of a little boy being brought to the temple forty days later and of a holy old man by the name of Simeon who said some very striking things about the boy?

And surely, they must remember those strange men coming from the East and inquiring in Jerusalem about the newborn King of the Jews! They themselves had directed those men to Bethlehem; did they follow up this strange event, especially when they heard about the massacre of so many little boys in Bethlehem and surroundings, because those Magi did not return to Herod? Could these events not have been the fulfilment of certain prophecies? Such and similar questions on the part of Jesus seem very likely in view of the purpose of this first public manifestation of Himself. He wished to make the leaders of Israel more observant of current events and to prepare them for His public life to begin eighteen years later. But such questions must have kept those doctors of the law and the people in suspense and amazement. Other doctors and people were attracted and Jesus became the centre of a large crowd of people.


It was in such environment that Mary and Joseph found Jesus after three days’ searching. Their first reaction is unbounded joy; but then the Mother’s tender heart is eager to know whether there had been any fault on her or Joseph’s part that Jesus had been left behind. She asks, “Son, why have You done so to us? Behold, Your father and I have been seeking You sorrowing.” No, there had been no fault on either her or Joseph’s part, nor had Jesus Himself been guilty of any disobedience. But Jesus is not only the Son of Mary but also the Son of the Eternal Father, He is the God-Man and the Saviour, and the present event is part of His mission. And He said to them, “How is it that you sought Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”

According to the Father’s will the time had come to call the attention of the teachers and leaders of the people to truths and events which would help to direct them to Him in due time, provided they were of good will. That was doing the Father’s business, and to that business He must attend above all others. Mary did not understand the full import of these words of Jesus, but she bowed in all humility to the will of God and she kept all these things carefully in her heart to ponder over them in years to come. Above all, she is happy that no estrangement has arisen between her and Jesus; He remains her loving Child. And He went down with them to Nazareth and was subject to them (Luke 2:41-52).


The mystery gives an answer to so many problems of distressed and sorrowful hearts. Fear and doubt and the sense of abandonment are not signs that things are going badly with us spiritually. Interior trials fall to the lot of all true lovers of God; they should not trick us into doing things which might bring on a real loss of God, through mortal sin. The sense of abandonment in particular is invaluable for the purification of the soul. It atones for sin by which in one way or other we have abandoned God, choosing our will in preference to His. But whilst we may thus experience intense mental pain, sorrow and discouragement, God is and acts within us. After a particularly violent temptation, when she had thought herself abandoned by God, Saint Teresa asked Jesus where He had been during that time, and she received the answer that He had been right within her.


After the example of Mary and Joseph, we must seek Jesus in such a situation. The fact that we are temples of God and the Holy Spirit dwells within us directs us to where He should be sought. Let us enter this temple of our souls and with unwavering faith and trust in the goodness of God humble ourselves, acknowledging ourselves unworthy of experiencing the sweetness of His presence. Let us adore the incomprehensible but always loving designs of Divine Providence, and by and by, we shall feel peace return through the conviction that we have not lost Him, that He is still with us. He will speak to us as He spoke to the apostles during the storm on the lake, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 8:26).

And since Jesus abides with us in the Blessed Sacrament, we must seek Him also there. From the tabernacle He will speak to us of love and obedience unto death, direct our attention to the glory of the way of the cross that leads to the possession of eternal peace. We shall sense His love which allowed this trial to come upon us only to draw us closer to His Sacred Heart.

As we, ourselves thus seek and find Jesus and in Him the peace of our souls, so we should be helpful to others in seeking and finding Jesus. Many souls there are, indeed, harassed by doubts and fears and despondency, sinners who in a weak moment yielded to their evil passions and now find out that it is a bitter and an evil thing to have forsaken the Lord; there are those separated brethren of ours outside the true Church, who feel the emptiness of their impoverished religion and seek the full truth of Christ that alone can satisfy the heart. They all need help.
Whether the sense of abandonment is a punishment or a trial, our reaction must be the same; we must seek Jesus with love and confidence. He will not be angry with the sinner forever, nor will He hide Himself forever from loving souls, He, whose delight it is to be with the children of men. We shall find Him and sorrow shall be turned into joy. Through meditation on the mysteries of the rosary, our Lady of Fatima directs our attention to the fountains of peace, and she will assist us in finding them in the Heart of her Divine Son through her own immaculate and motherly heart.

St. Michael the Archangel

St. Michael the Archangel
Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

The Church considers St. Michael, who stands between mankind and the Divinity, as the mediator of her liturgical prayer. God, who made the visible and invisible hierarchies with an admirable order, makes use of the ministry of the celestial spirits for his glory. The angelical choirs, who contemplate ceaselessly the face of the Father, know, better than men, how to adore and contemplate the beauty of His infinite perfections.

The Church on earth also invites the celestial spirits to praise and glorify the Lord, to worship and ceaselessly adore Him. This contemplative mission of the Angels is a model for us, as St. Leo reminds us in the beautiful preface of his Sacramental:

“It behooves us to render graces to Thee, who teaches us through Thy Apostle that our life is directed toward Heaven; that Thou dost benevolently desire that our spirits are transported to the heavenly region, the home of those whom we venerate, and that especially on this day, the feast day of St. Michael the Archangel, we ascend to these heights.”

St. Michael is the chief of the Angels who fought against the Devil and the bad Angels and threw them into Hell. He is the chief of the Guardian Angels of individuals, and also of institutions. He himself is the Guardian Angel of the institution of all institutions, which is the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church. He has, therefore, a mission of tutelage. Regarding such mission, we can ask what relation exists between St. Michael’s first mission of defeating the revolted Angels and the protection he gives men in this valley of tears.

The two missions are linked. God wanted St. Michael to be His shield against the Devil in the first celestial fight. He also wants St. Michael to be the shield of men against the Devil, and the shield of the Holy Catholic Church as well. But St. Michael does not limit himself to be a shield of protection. He is also a sword to defeat and hurl the enemy into Hell. It is a double mission that is correlated.

For this reason, in the Middle Ages St. Michael was considered the first knight, the celestial knight: faithful, strong, and pure as a knight should be. He was also victorious, because he put all his trust in God, and after the birth of Our Lady, all his confidence in her.

It is this admirable figure of St. Michael whom we should consider our natural ally in the fights in which we are called to engage in defense of the honor of God, Our Lady, the Holy Church and Christian Civilization. With St. Michael as our model, we should defend them as a shield, and attack their enemies as a sword in order to destroy the Devil’s empire and establish the Reign of Mary on this earth. St. Michael should be our special patron.

The selection points to a particular aspect of devotion to the Angels that should be stressed. The Angels are inhabitants of the celestial court who continuously see God face-to-face. The apex of angelic and human happiness is to contemplate God, and this is the essence of life in Heaven; it is what makes Heaven the motherland of our souls. God continuously manifests new aspects of Himself that suffuse the Angels with happiness.

In epochs of true faith, something of this heavenly happiness filtrates to earth and is communicated to some pious souls, who, in their turn, express it to the entire Church and incorporate it into her spiritual treasure for us to share. Today we sorely lack this sense of heavenly happiness and, therefore, we have less appetite for Heaven. Many persons only have an appetite for earthly things. If they could understand for only one moment the consolation that comes from the consideration of heavenly things, they would understand how provisory earthly goods are, how worthless they are, how other values far transcend them. If they understood these things, they would be able to remove themselves from their attachment to earthly goods.

But, in our days, people are enthusiastic about money, petty politics, worldly things, the trivial life and its little news. They are no longer elevated souls who are enthused by great doctrinal problems and celestial things.

What we are so greatly lacking today is precisely what the holy Angels can obtain for us. They are inundated with a heavenly happiness, which they can communicate to us. So, let us ask them to give us the desire for celestial things. This is an excellent thing to ask on St. Michael the Archangel’s feast day, that we might model ourselves after him and become the perfect knights of Our Lady on this earth.

Keep Dating Your Wife: 25 Ways To Show Your Wife You Love Her

Keep Dating Your Wife: 25 Ways To Show Your Wife You Love Her
Sam Guzman/The Catholic Gentleman

In college, I got to know an elderly couple who took a real liking to me, and they would often have me over to their house and take me out to dinner. While they were nothing but kind to me, their relationship with each other was incredibly hostile. Every conversation would turn into an angry shouting match, and they could barely relate to one another without harsh words or bitter criticisms.

While I don’t know this couple’s history or how they came to interact this way, the relationship they had is sadly all too common. Marriages are crumbling, and the divorce rate is creeping above 50%. And while the Church has always defended the indissolubility of marriage, it is a tragic reality that Catholics are civilly divorcing at essentially the same rate as everyone else.

The causes of this breakdown of marriage are many, but really, the solution is simple. We who are called to the vocation of marriage must love our wives. Let’s face it, we ultimately can’t change anyone’s marriage but our own. In the face of marital collapse on a massive scale, our Catholic marriages must be a prophetic witness of joyful life, fidelity, and love.

So with that said, here are 25 ways to tell your wife you love her. There are hundreds more!

1. Listen to her and care about what she has to say
2. Show her physical, non-sexual affection
3. Surprise her with flowers
4. Take her out to dinner (without the kids)
5. Buy her a book she’s been wanting
6. Write her a love note
7. Wash the dishes
8. Check something off your honey-do list
9. If you have babies, change a diaper
10. Let her go out with her girlfriends sans kids
11. Open the door for her
12. Pray with her and for her
13. Apologize to her when you sin
14. Forgive her when she sins…never hold a grudge
15. Ask her advice
16. Pay attention to her pet peeves and avoid them
17. Take her shopping
18. Fast for her
19. Understand and comfort her fears even if you don’t share them
20. Talk to her about life
21. Compliment her specifically
22. Kiss her in public and in front of the kids
23. Hold her hand
24. Give up something you want to do to do something she wants to do
25. Don’t criticize or complain…praise

In short, keep dating your wife.

Once upon a time, your chief preoccupation was winning your wife’s heart and securing her affection. Remember? Yet, many men stop doing this the minute they say “I do.” This shouldn’t be. Your mission as a Catholic husband is to become a life-long student of your wife. Study to understand her hopes and dreams, her fears and practical concerns. What does she love? What does she hate? What makes her happy? What’s her love language? Learn what delights her heart and then do it.

Men marriage is a sacrament, just like confession or the Eucharist. A good marriage can literally give us spiritual life and grace. Isn’t that amazing? And yet despite this fact, many of us treat our spouse casually and irreverently, as a nuisance, or worse, as an enemy. How sad.

The saints tell us that we receive more from the sacraments if we receive them well. The more prepared our hearts are, the more graces we receive. Why then, do we who are called to the sacrament of Matrimony so often neglect our marriages and ignore our spouses? Your wife is a sacramental sign to you.

Treat her like one.

What To Do About Temptation

What To Do About Temptation.
Fr. Donald F. Miller, C.SS.R.

One of the questions you must have asked often, if you want to be a good Christian and to save your soul, is this: Why do I have to experience so many and such great temptations when I sincerely want to obey God’s laws and to do what I know to be good? Why cannot I decide once and for all that I want nothing except what God wants for me, and then be free from strong inclinations to do or consent to the opposite?

More specifically, the questions inevitably arise in your mind: Why do I find bad thoughts appealing to me, when I have decided that I want to be pure? Why do I have to resist evil desires, when I have said that I want to desire nothing except what is good? Why am I tempted to love the wrong persons, or to love in the wrong way, or to seek money at the expense of justice, or to be swayed by anger when I know that I should be forgiving and kind and patient? How peaceful life would be if only there were no temptations! If God wants me to win heaven, why does He make a continuous battle out of my effort to do the things that are necessary to deserve it, and which I know to be reasonable and good?

Such questions arise in the minds of all human beings, because all are tempted, now and then, to do something or to consent to something that is contrary to what they know to be the commanded will of God. But especially are they tempted who have fallen into sin, or contracted habits of evil which they now desire with all their heart to overcome. After they have made a good confession, and expressed true sorrow for the past, and made a stalwart resolution to be done with their sins forever, they find themselves powerfully assailed to go back to the sins that brought momentary pleasure or gain before. The ex-drunkard is sorely tempted to take one more drink, which will mean ten or fifteen drinks. The repentant adulterer feels wildly inclined to see his paramour once more. The reforming youthful lovers have to head off constant incentives to indulge in the sinful actions that they knew changed their love into lust in the past. The reader of bad books is tempted to give his curiosity another fling. Why?

Answers to these questions must be a conscious part of the convictions of all true Christians. The answers must include three things:

1) an understanding of the reasons for temptations in general;
2) a recognition of the different kinds of temptations;
3) a knowledge of what can and must be done to keep every temptation from becoming a sin.


The reasons for temptation in general may be listed in the form of three axioms, that are based on both the nature and destiny of man, and the plan and the will of God. To make yourself ready for and equal to temptation, you must carefully ponder these truths.

1. Temptations constitute both a proof of your freedom of will, and an opportunity for rightly exercising that freedom.

There is no freedom when there is no choice; there is no choice where there are not alternatives offered to the will; there would be no alternatives offered to the will if you never felt an inclination to do something contrary to the will of God.

Every temptation should therefore make you conscious of the glory of your freedom to choose your own path and to decide your own destiny forever. It should make you realize how far above the brute animals you have been created, which have no choice, no alternatives, no freedom, no temptations, but which act according to a predetermined plan imposed on them by God and limited to fulfillment in this world alone.

For the same reason every temptation you experience is one more opportunity of exercising your glorious freedom of will. The essential choice that every human being has to make in life is not between different kinds of food, clothing, amusement, et cetera, but between, on the one hand, God, unseen and therefore unappealing to the senses but known by reason and faith to be the sum of all goodness and the source of all joy, and, on the other hand, passing joys that appeal to the senses but that are known by reason and faith to deprive one of God.

Each time a temptation assails you, therefore, whether to the bodily pleasure of lust, or the material gain of greed, or the gratification of self-esteem, it should be recognized as saying to you: You can have what I offer, or you can have God. You cannot have both. You can see and feel what I offer; you cannot see and feel God. Take your choice.

You were created to make such a choice. It is a choice of time against eternity; it is the visible against the invisible; it is your body against your soul. “What you choose will be yours.” If no such choice were ever offered to you, you would not be the image and likeness of God.

2. Temptations are necessary to make the practice of virtue and obedience to God’s laws meritorious, that is, deserving of the eternal reward of heaven.

It is true that nobody could actually deserve the beatific vision, which is the essence of heaven. This is a free gift of God, earned for human beings by the suffering of Christ. But Christ has laid down conditions on which any man’s being granted the gift must depend, just as if he were “earning” it for himself.

Everything in the Gospels makes it clear that heaven is to be won only by a struggle. The eight beatitudes point out the battlefields on which you must struggle, and therefore the sources of your temptations: between greed and poverty of spirit; between meekness and anger; between uncleanness and cleanness, et cetera. The reward for victory in the struggle of the higher against the lower is always heaven.

There would be no struggle if there were no temptations; there would be no merit or value in detachment or meekness or cleanness, if there were no inclinations to greed and anger and lust. The reward is great enough to make one want to pay the full price, small though it actually is, of resisting ten thousand temptations in a short lifetime.

3. Temptations are often a providentially arranged test of the sincerity of your sorrow for past sins, as well as a cross that you can carry to atone for those sins.

Invariably the loser in some human contest of skill or strength asks for another chance to show what he can do. This natural instinct is always given a chance to express itself in the spiritual realm, in favor of those who have fallen into and repented of sin. God seems to say to them, as He forgives the past, “You shall be given ample opportunity to prove the sincerity of your sorrow, for you will be tempted to the same sins again and again.”

Moreover, such temptations are a cross to be carried in company with Christ Who carried the greatest cross to atone for sins. It is a miserable experience to be tempted; it is annoying, humiliating, disquieting and sometimes disgusting.

There is great value in calmly accepting these unpleasant features of temptation, without succumbing to sin, because they balance the pleasure or gain that were attained through sin in the past.

By-products of thus accepting temptations as a second chance of victory after failure in the past and as a means of atonement for past sins, are humility and charity toward others. It is difficult to be humble, and therefore constantly dependent on prayer for God’s help, unless your potential weakness is revealed through temptations. And you will find an unfailing source of sympathy and understanding and kindness toward other sinners in the glimpses of possible sins that you might commit that are always given by your temptations.

Point 2.

It is important to be mindful, however, that these thoughts of temptation as glorious opportunities and fruitful experiences apply only to temptations that cannot be avoided, or that arise out of inescapable circumstances in your daily life. A distinction must therefore be made between temptations that are more properly called voluntary occasions of sin, and those that arise without any choice of the will.

Examples of voluntary occasions of sin are the following: if a man has frequently become drunk in a certain tavern, or in any tavern, the tavern itself is an occasion of sin. He may not go back to the tavern and then talk about being tempted. Going to the tavern is a sin in itself. The time for this man to face the temptation is when the idea comes to him of merely going to the tavern.

The same is true of a married man or woman who has fallen into adultery with someone. For such a one, there is nothing glorious and fruitful in facing temptation after seeking out the company of the same partner in sin. It is a serious sin merely to seek that company. The temptation that must be resisted is the very inclination to call on that person, even though the individual deceive himself into thinking that he can continue the companionship and not fall into sin.

There are, however, temptations that arise out of the necessary circumstances of one’s life, or from the common weakness that all human beings have inherited with original sin. These are the temptations to bad thoughts, evil desires, impatience and anger, lying and cheating, sloth and omission, that are the lot of all men. Add to them the special temptations of former drunkards to go back to drinking (moderately, they say), of the impure to give in to themselves again, of adulterers to go back to their companions in sin, of the detractor to continue to repeat the stories of the sins of others, and it becomes clear that everybody in the world has a job to do in wrestling with temptation.

Point 3.

Let us say, in this final and most important part of this explanation, that you have now decided that you do want to overcome every temptation to evil that presents itself to you. How do you go about building up this determination into a plan that can unfailingly succeed? Your plan must contain these elements.

First, you need motives sufficiently strong to keep you keyed up to the struggles that will be necessary. These motives must be a combination of many things: the desires to avoid hell, to gain heaven, to love God, to remain a friend of Christ, to atone for past sin, to give good example to others, to avoid giving scandal. To such motives may be added (though they can never supplant the former) such natural motives as desires to escape remorse, loss of reputation, loss of money, loss of health, loss of peace in your family, et cetera.

Second, you need to use the natural means that are at your command to help you turn from or to resist temptations. One powerful natural means to resist temptation is that of distraction. When the thought of some sinful pleasure comes to your mind, very often you can distract yourself from it by thinking of something pleasurable but not sinful, of amusements and activities, of hopes and ambitions, even of past accomplishments and successes, that will then occupy the mind to the exclusion of the bad thoughts. Remember that, in the case of temptations to bad thoughts or desires, if the honest effort is made to distract the mind to some other topic, the thoughts do not become sinful even though the effort is not wholly successful.

Another natural means that can be used to resist temptation successfully is action. If at all possible, get busy doing something when you are tempted by evil thoughts and desires. Or if you are tempted to do something bad, busy yourself doing something good. Play the piano, pound a typewriter, take a walk, get to work on a hobby — anything that will keep you engaged and preoccupied in an innocent way. Young people on dates can escape and turn aside many temptations by keeping themselves occupied in innocent ways.

Third, you need to use the supernatural means God has placed at your disposal for overcoming temptation. It should never be forgotten that every temptation to sin is essentially an invitation to choose between God as the unseen source of all joy, and some temporary but appealing pleasure that deprives you of God. For that reason the approach of temptation in thought, desire, feeling, or inclination to do something sinful, should invariably bring into your consciousness the thought of God. It is against Him that the temptation invites you to declare; it is by declaring yourself for Him and with Him that you resist and overcome the temptation. That is why the supernatural means of prayer is the ideal means of resisting and overcoming all temptations, but especially all those that cannot be avoided or escaped in any other way. Prayer in the form of an act of love of God, or of a petition for God’s help or for the intercession of God’s Mother, or of acceptance of the temptation in atonement for past sins and for the sins of others, is always a declaration for God and against sin; it always brings God’s infallible grace and help; and it is always a consoling assurance afterward that the temptation was resisted and could not have been a sin.

Indeed, to the other helpful and consoling thoughts here given about temptation, this may be added as the most wonderful and fruitful of all: Every temptation should be an invitation to think about God, to choose God, to love God, to pray to God, to want to be with God. Since we have been created for God, and, as Saint Augustine says, can never rest until we rest in God, temptations should be considered the greatest of all blessings if we have succeeded habitually in making them occasions for turning our hearts to God.

Point 4.

To all the above it may be wise to add a few practical principles concerning temptation that need to be kept in mind, especially by those who are inclined to be scrupulous.

1. The mere fact that you are tempted to sin never makes you guilty of sin. Some people think that, if a bad thought has appeared in their mind, or a bad picture in their imagination, they have already been guilty of sin. If the thought or image is resisted, there is no sin; only if it is accepted, dwelt on and deliberately continued with the consciousness that it is evil, does it constitute a sin.

2. The vileness of a temptation has nothing to do with the question of your guilt or innocence. Some people think that, if a bad thought is especially vile or sacrilegious, that fact makes them the more guilty of sin. No matter how terrible the temptation may be, it is no sin if it is resisted. Neither does it make any difference if the temptation comes in church, or at Mass or Communion, so long as it is calmly resisted.

3. Resisting a temptation does not prevent or stop an evil thing from appealing to your lower nature. Some people think that because they cannot escape a sense of attraction for some pleasure that is sinful, they must be guilty of sin. It must be remembered that the lower nature, that is, the bodily appetites and passions, of human beings are blindly attracted to what is pleasurable, without discrimination as to whether the enjoyment would be good or evil. It is only the higher nature, that is, mind and will, that can judge whether an attractive thing is good or evil, and must turn from it or resist it if it is evil.

4. If you are in doubt whether you resisted an evil temptation sufficiently to keep it from being a sin, you may usually take it for granted that you did not commit a serious sin. You cannot be in doubt unless you offered some resistance to a temptation; and if there was resistance, without deliberately voluntary evil actions, there was not the full consent of the will that alone can make you guilty of a mortal sin.

(Thanks to the Saint Louis Province, Redemptorist Fathers.)

The Assumption: A Dogma and Its Critics

The Assumption: A Dogma and Its Critics
D.G.M. Jackson, M.A.

“Having repeatedly raised to God prayers of urgent supplication, and having invoked the light of the Spirit of Truth: to the glory of Almighty God, Who has bestowed His signal favours on Mary; in honour of His Son, the Immortal King of the Ages, the Conqueror of sin and death; to the increase of the glory of the same August Mother; and to the joy and exultation of the Whole Church: by the authority of Our Lord Jesus Christ, by that of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by Our own Authority, We pronounce, declare and define the dogma to be divinely revealed; that the Immaculate Mother of God, the Ever-Virgin Mary, was, on the completion of her earthly life, assumed body and soul into the glory of Heaven.”

Such was the solemn utterance by which the Vicar of Christ, our Holy Father Pope Pius XII, defined the dogma of the Assumption from his throne in the Piazza of St. Peter‟s in Rome, on the Feast of All Saints, 1950. The immense burst of cheering which volleyed across the square, and the golden hymn “Te Deum” which followed were echoed joyfully throughout the Catholic world, from whose hierarchies, clergy, theologians, religious orders and faithful layfolk, a long train of petitions seeking the solemn definition of Our Lady‟s glory had flowed to the Holy See for over a century.

But while the faithful rejoiced, voices of criticism, unbelief and perplexity were raised both among Christian dissidents, and from the secular world of “modern thought.” Most of these protests and comments—many of which appeared in the daily press, both here and abroad, serve only to illustrate the prevailing lack of comprehension of the beliefs and practices of the Church, especially in the English-speaking world. The most important objections may be summed up briefly as follows:

(1)  Protestant leaders generally declared that the doctrine was nowhere to be found in Scripture, and could not therefore
be held to be part of the “Deposit of Faith.” Most of them regarded the belief of the Church as based on legendary stories of comparatively late date, and insisted upon the absence of any clear reference to it in the first five centuries of Christianity.

(2)  Others — High Church Anglicans or “Orthodox Eastern” dissidents— believed in the fact of the Assumption, but could not see how it could well be defined as a dogma; one reason being that the “deposit of faith” taught by the Apostles, which is the basis of doctrinal development, was in existence and being taught long before Our Lady died.

(3)  One of the commonest attitudes was that of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, who complained that by creating a pious belief into a compulsory “new dogma for Catholics, the Pope had widened the divisions of the Christian world for no sound reason.

(4)  Finally, a number of modern-minded humanists pointed out, courteously, that this sort of “challenge” to the modern mind tended to emphasize the remoteness of the Catholic outlook from the realities of our time, and to alienate liberal sympathies just at the moment when “men of goodwill” were disposed to rally to the Church as a bastion of civilized values and the personal dignity of man.

In the past, doctrines were usually defined as the result of a controversy which the Holy See, or a General Council, was called upon to decide. But this doctrine of the Assumption, paradoxically enough, aroused little, either of attack or at- tention, until the question of its public definition arose. Even at the time of the English Reformation—when the practice of honouring the Mother of God was attacked as Protestant theology developed—the traditional Catholic beliefs about the life and death of Mary were not subjected to any considerable criticism. The Feast of the Assumption—made a public holiday in England in the days of King Alfred—still appears in an Anglican Calendar in a 1562 edition of Cranmer‟s Bible: and those for whom that Bible was printed would, one supposes, have been surprised to learn that the doctrine was “alienating” those who accepted the Protestant teaching from the Holy See! Indeed, an article published recently in the

Vatican journal “Osservatore Romano” cited a long line of references to the Assumption by Anglican poets and divines— and verses honouring the doctrine can even be discovered in such unexpected quarters as the works of Longfellow and Oliver Wendell Holmes!

The Resurrection of the Flesh 

I think the best way to enter upon the task of vindicating the definition against these varied objections is to set the doctrine itself forth more clearly against the background of Christian thought about man‟s immortality, and then to show how it has developed through a deeper understanding of Mary‟s place in the work of Redemption.

The Church believes that the Virgin body of Our Lady was divinely preserved from the natural process of dissolution at her death, just as her Divine Son‟s had been: and that it is now lifted up into Heaven—just as the Risen Body of Our Lord‟s was at the Ascension—being glorified with her pure soul in the full enjoyment of the Vision of God. To make this teaching more intelligible, let us recall the Church‟s teaching on the subject of the “Resurrection of the Body,” which is asserted as a dogma in the eleventh article of the “Apostles Creed.”

Man was created by God as a “composite being” consisting of a body and soul: and the perfection of humanity consists in the rationally ordered harmony of these two essential elements, crowned and made complete by the supernatural life of Grace. In virtue of this “life above nature” our first parents were capable of a higher and holier relationship with God than would have been possible to them through the ordinary endowments of their nature. They were also exempted, by its possession from the natural law of physical death—the separation of the soul from the body, and the return of the latter, by corruption, to the dust. Had they remained obedient, Adam and Eve would have been uplifted, after a period of earthly life, into the glory of the Divine Vision.

This design was frustrated by the “great refusal” of Eden, the disobedience which led to the fall. Thereafter, man became subject to the natural destiny of all animal life as regards his body: it was doomed to perish. The human soul, deprived of grace, had become incapable of entering into the joy of Heaven: and the revolt had introduced war into the very inmost part of human nature, body warring against spirit, spirit torn by conflict in its own powers.

The task undertaken by the Incarnate Son of God, the “Second Adam,” was that of undoing this ruin—not in part, as regards the immortal soul only, but wholly; so that those adhering to this new race” by the new birth of baptism might regain, ultimately, the integrity of glorified human nature. Indeed, for these faithful “elect” Jesus Christ has in store a destiny far more splendid than that forfeited by Adam and Eve. They are to possess the beauty and vitality made manifest, prophetically, in the Transfiguration of Our Lord on Mount Thabor, and to share in the mysterious powers and agility of His Risen Body. “There are bodies that belong to earth,” says St. Paul, “and bodies that belong to Heaven and heavenly bodies have one kind of beauty, earthly bodies another.. .So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown corruptible rises incorruptible, what is sown unhonoured arises in glory, what is sown in weakness is raised in power: what is sown a natural body rises a spiritual body. If there is such a thing as a natural body, there must be a spiritual body, too. Mankind begins with the Adam who became—as Scripture tells us—a living soul: it is fulfilled in the Adam who has become a life giving Spirit.” (1 Cor. XV. 40, 42-45)

This fulfilment awaits all the faithful children of God: but for the general body, the consummation is delayed. They must follow the steps of the Redeemer and embrace His Cross, so that the pattern of His fruitful suffering may be reproduced in the Church, His Mystical Body. And they must submit to death, and the corruption of the flesh which is the due wage of sin, before they can arise to the triumph of the Resurrection at the end of the ages.

Why the Assumption? 

Catholics believe—as do Christians generally—that while Our Lord accepted the Passion and death of Calvary for OUR sins, the corruption of the flesh was unable to touch Him. Divine Innocence “Death could not hold him,” as St. Peter says—there was no reason why it should, and it was not fitting that it should. Christ‟s appearances after his corporal resurrection showed forth this truth, as well as the Divine Power and Authority of the revelation given by Him to mankind. From the truths which I have outlined the process of thought which has culminated in the Doctrine of the Assumption is

easy enough to follow. Mary, the Virgin of Judah, was predestined in the eternal plan to be the Mother of the Divine Redeemer. The second person of the Trinity was to take human flesh wholly from her body, by the Creative power of the Holy Spirit. This work was accomplished with her full consent: “be it done unto me according to thy word…” which undid the effects of the disobedience of Eve. Hence the traditional veneration accorded to Mary by the Church as the “Second Eve,” the supreme human sharer, by voluntary self-offering, in the work of our redemption. She is the Mother, not only of the Christ-Adam, the new Head of our race, but of “all the living,” those who become members of Christ in His Mystical Body.

The necessity of reconciling the taintless perfection required in the Mother of the Incarnate God, with the subjection of Mary to the universal law that “salvation comes through Jesus Christ” led to the formulation of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. The soul of the Virgin, it was taught, was saved from the least stain of original sin from the very instant of her Conception by the saving Divine power acting by way of prevention, even as her sacred body was held by miracle inviolate, even in the act of child-bearing. From these conclusions the thought of the Church moves with a kind of inevitability to that concerning the assumption of Our Lady‟s Body into heaven.

For, while it was fitting that the “Second Eve” should share through her mysterious “sword of suffering” in the expiation of the Second Adam, and follow in His footsteps through the Valley of death, it was clearly not fitting that the pure vessel which had borne the Divine Saviour, the flesh which was His Flesh, should undergo the degrading penalty if corruption in the grave. Hence a deep and growing conviction in the Church that the Body of Mary had been lifted incorrupt into Heaven with that of Her Son: “He has taken her to Himself” declares Modestus of Jerusalem, “as He alone knows.”

Not Founded on Legends

It is important to understand clearly that the truth of the Assumption, solemnly defined by the present Pope during the Holy Year which has just ended, is thus enshrined in the “deposit of faith” as a conclusion drawn from the Church‟s teaching about Our Lord Himself and His relation with His Mother. It has nothing to do with any existing record about what happened at her death, for nothing of the kind exists which is of the least real historical worth. The classical account, set forth in the sixth century by St. Gregory of Tours, is almost certainly a pious legend: it tells of a gathering of the Apostolic band to the death bed of Mary, a vision of Our Lord receiving her soul in the company of Angels, and later, of a second appearance of Jesus, who commands her holy body to be borne on a cloud to Paradise. In later additions, St. Thomas plays a part which is palpably imagined as corresponding with his role in the Gospel account of the Resurrection. No official Church teaching could possibly be founded on a basis of this kind: indeed, even if the historical fact of the As- sumption were as fully demonstrated as many wonders in the Church‟s history, this would not make the doctrine “definable” if it were not linked with Mary‟s position in the Divine plan, so that it is contained, by implication, in the deposit of Faith itself. It is worth noticing, by the way, that even the Gregorian legend and its developments contain no hint of any apparitions of Our Lady like those of Jesus Christ immediately after His Resurrection: and this gives a higher value to the tradition out of which the story has grown.

It is important that the non-Catholic inquirer should realize that in claiming the exceptional privilege of Bodily Assumption for the Mother of Christ we are not exalting her as superhuman, or making her a sort of intermediary “goddess.” She has simply gone before us into a state of glory to which all the faithful are eventually destined: we, too, shall be “assumed” bodily into Heaven at the general resurrection, when the work of death and physical corruption is reversed. It is, in a sense, a violent and unnatural condition that the human soul should be discarnate: for we were not created for an angelic, but for a human immortality. (Mr. C. S. Lewis has suggested cogently that the repugnance commonly felt by living people for both corpses’ and “ghosts” reflects our sense that this separation is an anomaly.)

Our souls are “set towards” a body—they would always have been linked with a body if God had had His loving way with our race from the first. With Mary He always had His way, from first to last—so that it is difficult to see how her soul could endure discarnate, even for a time, as ours must. Actually, it does not seem quite certain whether Mary is unique in the privilege of bodily assumption. What of the patriarchs whose bodies—according to St. Matthew—were raised up and appeared in Jerusalem after the Resurrection? What of Enoch and Elias, of whom the Scriptures suggest, at least, that they were rapt bodily into Heaven? It was very commonly believed in ancient times that St. John the Evangelist was body and soul in Paradise: and the same surmise has been piously made concerning St. Joseph, the foster-father of Our Lord, of whom no relics have at any time been claimed to exist.

“It’s Not in the Bible….”

Let us return, now, to the objections against the doctrine made by Protestants of the more old-fashioned school. They still hold to the traditional Reformation doctrine that all the “deposit of Faith” is contained in the Bible—not including certain “deutero-canonical” books which they reject. Its truths are to be drawn from the sacred books by devout souls enlightened by the Holy Spirit. All religious doctrine, therefore, if it is to be acceptable to them, should in theory be justified by reference to the text of Scripture: and where—as in the case of the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption, Purgatory, the Veneration of saints and so forth—they fail to find a Biblical foundation for the Catholic teaching, they reject it out of hand as a corrupt or unfounded “accretion.”

As a description of the belief of the early Church concerning the foundations of the Faith, this is historically inaccurate. The organized Church itself existed long before the books which form our New Testament w e r e assembled. There is no book in the New Testament itself which does not imply that it was written for people already instructed in the truth. This is noticed by the eminent Anglican scholar, Dr. B. J. Kidd, who goes on to say that “the Christian Church might conceiv- ably have gone on for ever without Christian Scripture.” The Gospel was received by the Apostles from the mouth of Jesus Christ, Who left no writings of Hs own at all: and they were promised that the Holy Spirit would “guide them into all truth.”

Part of this truth was ultimately committed to writing under Divine inspiration, to be added as a new “source book” to the ancient sacred books of the Jews, which contain records of the earlier Divine Revelation and the promise of the Messias. The Church had the charge of these; as the Living Voice of the Holy Spirit, she had to guard, interpret and expound them in the light of the Divine Guidance given to her. But the Bible is not, and never has been, held by orthodox Christian teaching to be the sole source of revealed truth. There was also an oral tradition handed on by the Apostles to their successors, and later partly embodied in the writings of the Fathers and others.

The Development of Doctrine

The Scripture itself—constantly meditated upon by saints and sages—was the subject of interpretation under authority according to the rules of a theological science which “developed” its implications and drew new implications from its treasure house of wisdom, not adding to, but deepening in perception of the “truth once delivered to the saints.”

Catholics, therefore, believe in a “progressive” revelation—not in the sense that additional truth is given, unrelated to that which Jesus Christ originally imparted to His disciples, but in the sense that aspects of that revealed truth come to be perceived more clearly through persistent contemplation, and cast more light on human life. But if such activity is to be carried on by human minds, it is necessary that the truth should be guarded against distortion through false conclusions, and from eclipse in the confusion of unresolved disagreements. Hence infallibility is required, so that there may be an or- dered movement of thought, not an unending muddle. For, while the errors of natural science may be cleared up, eventually, by being tested in the light of mundane experience, this cannot be done, here below, in the case of religious errors: for them, there is no earthly remedy unless the final teaching authority is an effective “organ of truth” guarded against error. That is why, outside Catholicism, a point has now been reached where “Christians” are hardly agreed upon a single point of the Christian revelation.

The Church and Our Lady

Having looked at the process of theological reasoning by which the Church has been guided to formulate and define the dogma of the Assumption, it may be well, now, to examine the historical stages in which this development occurred. As I have already noticed, there is no inspired or historical record of the passing of Our Lady: and while St. John‟s Vision of the Woman in the Apocalypse is frequently identified with her in devout meditation, it may be doubted whether its symbolism originally referred to Mary. Similarly, passages of Scripture—both of the Old and New Testaments—are used by the Fathers and others to illustrate Marian theology: but none has been interpreted with authority as affording ground for the teaching concerning her heavenly exaltation.

The truth is that in the first five centuries of Christian history the Virgin Mother remains in comparative shadow—as she does in the New Testament itself. There is no account of her death, as we have seen, or of any visible miracle connected with it: the question of her sinlessness is not raised. Her figure appears only when reference to it is required in order to stress some aspect of Christian doctrine against those who challenge it. Thus, her true Motherhood is insisted upon against the deniers of her Son‟s Manhood: her Virginity, in the early creeds, in contradiction to those who might question His Godhead. St. Justin the Martyr (died c. 163) emphasizes Mary‟s status as the “second Eve” whose importance I have already shown: and he, with St. Irenaeus and Tertullian, began the process of accentuating her place in the work of redemption. But it was only when Nestorius‟ attempt to divide “Jesus the Man” from “Christ the God” had been condemned at the Council of Ephesus that the dignity of the Virgin of Nazareth came to be more fully recognized: and as “Theotokos”—Mother of God— she began to assume the Queenship over Catholic Christendom which was to he hers from henceforth.

The “Falling Asleep” of Mary

At the end of the fifth century the zeal aroused by the definition of Ephesus led to the utterances of the great Eastern teachers in which we find the embryo of the doctrines of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption. The liturgical feast of the “Dormition” (falling asleep) of the Virgin begins to be observed generally in the sixth century: and the apocryphal stories connected with the death of Our Lady appear about the same time.

The quotation of a few eminent names may be of interest here. St. Epiphanius (late 4th and 5th century) argued warmly against heretics who denied Our Lady‟s perpetual virginity, and uttered the speculative view that it might well be that she had not died at all, but been carried up to Heaven like Elias. This view was seen to be unsound—for reasons which I have already discussed, connected with Mary‟s place in the work of redemption. Next we may mention an unknown writer whose works have been discovered among those of St. Augustine, who declares that he “shudders” at the thought “that the most sacred body, from which Christ assumed flesh . . . was given over to worms;” and concludes that it is “outside the possibilities of thought” in view of the privilege of her incomprehensible grace.

According to St. John of Damascus, Bishop Juvenal of Jerusalem told St. Pulcheria at the time of the Council of Chalcedon that Mary‟s sepulchre was known there, but that an “ancient and trustworthy tradition” existed that she was not there, having ascended into heaven—so that the Apostles, opening the tomb after her death, had found only grave clothes. The East Roman Emperor, Maurice, transferred the feast of the “falling asleep” or “transition” of Our Lady to the present date of the Assumption Feast, August 15, and it was observed on that date at Rome in the reign of St. Gregory the Great.

The “secret” prayer in the Gregorian missal belonging to this period seems to imply in its language a belief in the integral presence of Mary in Heaven. “In accordance with the law of flesh, she has passed hence: yet are we aware that in heavenly glory she is interceding for us with Thee.” For it would be superfluous for the Church to express with such emphasis the mere belief that the Blessed Virgin‟s soul was in Heaven, as though this were something extraordinary, instead of the common lot of the holy servants of God. It is worth noticing, too, that in this period, notable for relic- hunting and the veneration of holy relics—or what were held to be such, often on somewhat flimsy evidence—there is no sign of any appearance of physical relics of the Blessed Virgin, whether true or false, or of any effort to discover such. If they had regarded her sacred body as still on earth, this negligence—contrasting with the passionate interest in the remains of the Apostles, and other saints and martyrs of the heroic age, would be truly extraordinary.

Progress Towards the Definition

The history of the development of this particular dogma makes it clear that the theological process has nothing to do with the legendary tales about Our Lady current in the sixth century, which no Catholic theologian takes seriously. These are significant merely~ as providing dramatic expression of the current belief about the end of Our Lady‟s life—the deep conviction of the faithful that her passing was not like that of others. The liturgies of East and West, however, were purified eventually of these doubtful elements, and attention was concentrated on the glory of Our Lady in Heaven. The Assumption Feast became the occasion for homilies by such great preachers as St. Germanus of Constantinople, St. Andrew of Crete, and, above all, the heroic Eastern Catholic leaders in the Iconoclast controversy, St. John of Damascus, and St. Theodore Studita.

St. John tells his hearers of how “the Immaculate Virgin, defiled by no earthly passions, nourished by heavenly thoughts, went not back into dust, but, herself a living heaven, was gathered into the heavenly tabernacles.” “For,” he cries, “how could she taste death, from whom the true life flowed for all?” Yet, she bowed to the law laid down by Him to Whom she gave birth, and, as a child of the old Adam, underwent the old judgment—for, indeed, her Son, Who is the very Life, did not refuse it. Now, as the Mother of the Living Cod, she is fitly carried up to Him. Eve, who yielded to the serpent‟s tempting, was condemned to pain in child-bearing, received sentence of death, and was gathered into the inner chamber of the lower regions (i.e., Limbo). But that truly blessed one, ever attentive to God‟s Word, and filled with the operation of the Holy Spirit, conceived her Son without passion or human intercourse, at the spirit message of an Archangel, brought Him forth with no pain and consecrated herself utterly to God. How, then, was it possible for death to engulf her or the lower regions to receive her? How could corruption invade that body in which the Life was conceived? An even, straight, swift path to Heaven is prepared for her: for if Christ, the Truth and the Life, said “where I am, there will My servant be,” how much more will His Mother be with Him?

We see, here, summed up and rhetorically presented, the purely theological argument for the assumption which I have already set forth.

The Roman Church discouraged Assumption “Apocrypha” with its characteristic sobriety: and this even led some Western theologians to throw doubt, for a time, on the doctrine itself—especially as the West had come to be largely out of touch with Catholic developments in the Byzantine East. From the tenth century on, however, the position became clear in all its essentials, and the irrelevance of pseudo-historical detail was apparent. Thereafter, the doctrine of the Assumption was recognized, first as “a pious and religious belief,” then as “certain” and not to be denied without rashness; and so we pass to the modern age, when two hundred Bishops at the Vatican Council in 1870 requested that it might be made the subject of a dogmatic definition. Since then, the sense of the Church has endorsed their desire with increasing urgency, while the judgment of the Catholic episcopate was practically unanimous before the pronouncement of Pope Pius XII asserted the Assumption as a dogma of faith, in virtue of the teaching authority conferred upon him as the successor of St. Peter.

The Bull “Munificentissimus Deus”

In the Bull, Munificentissimus Dews, announcing and explaining the definition to the Christian world, it is important to notice the theological method employed by the Pope in treating of the doctrine. He starts, not by considering the Faith of the early Church, but that of our own times—especially that of the last century, since the definition of the Immaculate Conception. By this approach, he impresses upon us the truth that the Living Voice of the Church teaches God‟s truth with the same infallible authority today as at any time in the past, and it is to this Voice that all the faithful must listen, if they would learn it. It is not, therefore, in the beliefs of the early centuries—frequently implicit or only half-formulated— that we must look for enlightenment concerning the Church‟s present doctrine: on the contrary, it is the teaching of today which shows what has always been contained in the “Deposit of Faith.”

The position is explained in the Encyclical, Humani Generis, which appeared only a short time before the Bull. Theologians, the Holy Father explains, must constantly have recourse to the fountains of Divine Revelation, so as to show how and where the teaching of the Living Voice is found there, explicitly or implicitly. But this does not make theology simply one of the historical sciences. “Side by side with these hallowed sources, God has given His Church a living Voice; thus He would make clear to us, unravel for us, even what was left obscure in the deposit of Faith, and only present there implicitly.” The task of interpretation has not been entrusted to individuals— even theologians: this is the Church‟s teaching, which must be decisive.

In the Bull, reference is made to the practical unanimity of the Catholic episcopate and faithful in holding the body Assumption of the Virgin to be definable—and this alone, it is declared, puts beyond question the fact of the Assumption as revealed by God, when it is considered that it is beyond human experience, so that it could not otherwise be known. It is only after this that the history of the doctrine in the Church is surveyed—in relation to the interpretation of Scripture, the liturgical tradition of East and West and the elucidations of the great Eastern Fathers, scholastics and later Catholic theologians.

The Mind of the Church Unanimous 

An accurate and clear picture of the Church‟s mind on the Assumption doctrine during the past century has been preserved in a collection of the Petitions sent to the Papacy for its definition during the period between 1849 and 1940, published in two volumes by Fr. Rudolf de Moos, S.J., who has gathered them out of the archives with the collaboration of his colleagues. Spontaneous requests from the Hierarchy are 2,505 in number, from 73 per cent of the Church‟s episcopal sees: and to them must be added those from Vicars Apostolic Abbots and Prelates, Superiors of religious orders, theological faculties and Seminaries. They come from a long series of National, Provincial, diocesan and regional councils, as well as from Marian Congresses and similar gatherings. When these volumes were published in 1945, the “Assumptionist Movement” revived with new vigour— a veritable tide of enthusiasm being shown in petitions from Bishops, religious superiors, theologians, clergy and the faithful at large.

The Episcopates of entire nations and regions all over the world were now demanding the definition, as well as the pontifical and Catholic Universities: the orders and congregations were virtually unanimous. Hundreds of books, theses and articles concluded in its favour. Of especial interest are the figures for the Eastern “Uniate” Churches which preserve the ancient Catholic traditions of Eastern Christendom. When the final inquiries were made by the Holy See, fifty-three of fifty-four replies from the Hierarchies of these Churches were favourable. In 1946, finally the Catholic Hierarchy of England and Wales were unanimous in requesting the definition as opportune. Only six residential bishops in all the world, at the final stage, had doubts about whether the doctrine was part of Divine Revelation.

An Anglican Criticism Answered

Certain eminent Anglican critics appear to regard it as fatal to the credibility of the Assumption doctrine that it cannot be confirmed by historical and archaeological research, any more than by scripture. But why on earth should it be susceptible of establishment in this way? That the Risen Body of Christ should reappear was necessary to the fulfilment of this mission, as a vindication of the Truth of His doctrine by His victory over death. There was no such need, however, of any such immediate manifestation on Mary‟s part. There was no need that her glorified body should be seen, or even be “see- able” to earthly eyes, and it is in keeping with all that we know of her life that the glory of her passing, like the glory of the Annunciation, should be hidden from all except the rejoicing angels and saints. For the rest, the attitude of these Anglicans is surely strange, if they believe at all in a “Church” guided by the Spirit of God. For it implies the conclusion that all the “branches” of the Church which they recognize, both in East and West, whether in communion with the Holy See or not, were permitted by the Holy Ghost to remain in error, and to establish solemn feasts and devotions in honour of a false belief during at least eight hundred years, even if we accept no evidence for belief in the Assumption earlier than the age of St. John of Damascus (Eighth century).

Again, those who adhere to the theory of Anglican “continuity” with the Catholic Church of old England may fittingly be reminded of the attitude of that Church to the doctrine of the Assumption—of which very ample and conclusive historic evidence exists.

Her Assumption in English Catholic Tradition 

I have already mentioned that the Feast of the Assumption was declared a public holiday under King Alfred, but the story of the feast in Britain begins a long time before the close of the ninth century, when he was reigning. As early as 690—less than a hundred years after the first landing of St. Augustine—St. Aldhelm, Bishop of Sherborne, writes of the feast as being kept in his time, in honour of our Lady‟s heavenly birthday. By the eleventh century—the era of~ the Conquest—the Least was well-established, as well as that of the Immaculate Conception, which was vindicated by Osbert of Clare; the biographer of St. Edward the Confessor. The Conqueror‟s Primate, Archbishop Lanfranc, made the Assumption the principal feast of Our Lady in his calendar—and so it remained for all Englishmen while England was still Catholic.

It was kept on August 15 as a high holiday, with Church processions, sports and feasting in towns and villages throughout the country. Nor were the poor forgotten in the celebrations: thus, in 1254 the Bishop of Norwich bequeathed money to his nephew to be used to feed a hundred poor people each year on this feast day as long as he lived. “Our Lady of the Assumption” was adopted as patron by many city guilds, and was a frequent subject of representations in Churches. Many of these were destroyed during the Reformation and Civil War—especially those in stained glass—but one example survives in a stone-carving over the entrance to the Choir in York Cathedral—only a few yards from the official throne of the present Anglican Archbishop, Dr. Garbett, who has come out in protest against the papal definition! Among churches dedicated to “Maria Assumpta” we may notice Salisbury Cathedral, consecrated in 1258, in. the reign of King Henry III; Aylesford Church, once a Carmelite mother house; and Eton College, styled by King Henry VI: “Our Royal College of the Blessed Mary of Eton, founded by us in honour of the Assumption of the said Most Blessed Mary.”

The ancient seal of the College showed Our Lady being uplifted by angels and crowned—and the same theme is presented in a sculpture over the Eastern gate of the College quadrangle which has recently been restored. Norwich Cathedral has an Assumption Chapel, and there are carved bosses of the Assumption in Abbey Dore, North Elmham, and Old St. Helens—to mention only a few. Paintings of the subject have also been discovered, though not many have survived the storms of the Reformation era. It seems very probable that the “Tree of Jesse” at Dorchester, Abbey was originally completed by a stained glass Assumption which has now been destroyed. Indeed, wherever mediaeval painted glass survives, we find fragments of Assumptions and Coronations—and two are represented in Roodscreens in Devonshire churches, dated in the 15th century.

It was not without reason that the England of that time was named “Our Lady‟s Dowry,” and in protesting against the definition asserting her heavenly honours, the Anglican Archbishops of 1950 have only emphasized the discontinuity of their religion with the “Ecclesia Anglicana” of the thousand years between St. Augustine and Cardinal Pole, the last Catholic Primate.

The Real Obstacle to Reunion 

I have now shown that the Assumption definition of last year represents a. belief which has for ages been universal among Catholics as part of their heritage of Faith, and which was held by the English Christians as strongly as any others at the time when Western Christendom was undivided. It may be seen, then, that it is quite unrealistic to speak of the definition as though it had introduced a novelty “increasing the dogmatic differences in Christendom” in our own time. There is, to be sure, a certain poignancy, as well as paradox, in the fact that the heirs of the Reformation which tore Britain and the North away from Catholic unity should now be imploring the Holy See not to worsen the appalling rent their ancestors made.

So far as reunion is concerned, however, the mere non-definition of a particular doctrine has no meaning one way or the other. If these Anglicans—including those who claim to be “Anglo-Catholics”—believed in Catholic doctrines in a Catholic way: that is, as the teachings of a competent, Divinely-guided spiritual authority to which they owed obedience, they would accept all the formal definitions of our Church—including those concerning the Papacy, which involve condemnation of the schism they have inherited. But since they do not become “Roman Catholics,” it is obvious that they do not believe in this fashion: and, that being the case, the question of the Assumption cannot make any difference at all. There is no use in talking about “Christian reunion” today as though our Church and other Churches were component parts of a single “Church” which was once universal and is now temporarily disrupted pending the discovery of terms of reconciliation. The Catholic view upon this subject is stated bluntly in the recent Papal Encyclical, “Humani Generis,” “The Mystical Body of Christ and the Catholic Church in Communion with Rome are one and the same thing.”

It cannot, therefore, be “reunited” with any other Christian community in the sense they imagine.

What can happen—and, we pray, may happen one day—is that other Christian groups, as well as individuals, may be given the grace to recognize the Mystical Body of Christ for what it is and become grafted into it by accepting its principle of authority in matters of Faith, and the laws by which it lives. It must be added—though with regret—that this talk of the “sharpening of differences” seems even less impressive when it is considered that certain Anglican modernists are able to remain in full communion with their Church and even to hold high office in it, while openly giving exposition of religious beliefs which are farther from traditional Christianity than those of orthodox Moslems, and of moral ideas which contravene the whole Christian concept of man‟s nature and destiny.

The accent placed by our Christian dissident critics on divergence upon the Assumption serves, in fact, to give a quite false impression that the real distinctions between Catholic and non-Catholic are not very important, if only certain odds and ends of popular devotion could be left as “open questions” upon which people might believe as they liked. There is yet another matter upon which they entertain strange delusions, if we may judge by the trembling of the English “Church Times” about the possibility of the “secession of important individuals and groups as a result of the definition. As I have shown, the consensus of Catholic belief is universal: the crucial question which has been discussed recently among theologians was whether the Assumption could be defined, not whether the belief itself was true: and upon this they have long been in all but complete agreement. It seems inconceivable that any individual or group generally convinced of the truth of the Catholic Church and her teaching should find any difficulty in accepting the Papal degree of definition—and, in fact, no such difficulty has arisen anywhere.

The Modern Mind and the Supernatural

As for the modern world, its fundamental difficulty is not concerned with accepting this or that dogma as reasonable or historical but in the acceptance of the whole basic Christian idea of a supernatural order, revealed to man by a Divine Messenger. In comparison with the tremendous miracle of the Incarnation and the Resurrection—that the Eternal God assumed the nature of Man, was born of a woman, lived and died on this planet and rose again alive out of the grave—the raising of His Mother‟s body to Paradise becomes a small thing to accept. It is not the last definition of the Church, in fact, which is in question, but the opening phrases of the Creed—the affirmation of God‟s creative power over nature, and His loving condescension to our human race. It is this which we have to restore to the world of our time, along with the hope of immortal, joyous life for man, resting on Christ‟s victory over death, with which the triumph of Mary is intimately linked.

The attitude of the “modern mind” to religion in general and Catholicism in particular is very well expressed in some of the puzzled protests of friendly liberal humanists in the matter of the recent definition. For these people, the Church‟s really vital function in the world of today is to provide a sort of strong central bastion of the “common front” of Christians and freedom-loving humanists against Marxist totalitarianism: and they expect her to show herself accommodating towards the dissidence and doubt in the ranks of her “fellow travellers.” it is not a question—they seem to say politely—of asking you to compromise on any of your beliefs and traditions. We simply beg you to consider other people‟s feelings, and not to emphasise the aspects of Catholicism which the modern world finds fantastic or “challenging” lest the spirit of goodwill be weakened.

What the Church is for

This argument would be a strong one if the Church were, in fact, a “political” organization concerned primarily with the defence of civilized life and humane social values. But the question whether the definition of the Assumption is opportune” or not may be answered by saying that it is opportune precisely because the Church is not such an organization, and that this act serves to remind worldly-minded Christians and humanists of that great truth. The fact that Catholics have been “bearing the brunt” in the fight against atheistic Communism, both in East Europe and in the Asiatic mission field, does not mean that this temporal crisis—grave as it is—is the main preoccupation of the Church, as the Communists themselves suppose. No—the mind of the Church is directed not on the temporal but the spiritual plane: she is concerned with the natural order only because it is related to the supernatural order and man‟s eternal destiny therein.

She is not, therefore, prepared to set aside her Divinely-given task of developing the Truths of Faith because the tide of persecution and peril is rising: she is not prepared to teach the truth about Our Lady, the Queen of Heaven, in subdued tones, for fear that by speaking out loud and clear, she may upset people who are thereby reminded that all their pro- Catholic sympathies and attitudes leave them still very far from the Faith.

The Sign of Contradiction 

The fact is that the Church stands for a form of authoritative discipline „of the mind which the modern humanist finds highly repugnant. She makes a unique claim to teach the truth, by Divine Authority, about an order of reality—the spiritual—whose very existence is denied by many, while still more hold that little or nothing can be known certainly about it: and she insists that a clear knowledge of this “higher reality” is of supreme importance to mankind. No good can be served by encouraging the illusion that this “sign of contradiction” does not still stand between Catholics and those outside the Visible Church, which is the Fold of Christ.

If Western civilization is saved, it will not be by an alliance based On false pretences about the depth of its divisions: and—as we see it—it is even more necessary that Christ‟s Truth should be fearlessly proclaimed than that civilization should be saved. The alienation of men from Mary—and so from her Son—has brought about the spiritual decay which is at the root of our “winter of discontent:” so that both our social restoration and spiritual health depend upon the strengthening of devotion to Our Mother in Heaven, as well as to Christ the King Whose glory is inseparable from hers.

The Pope himself, in one of his recent messages, has answered those who accuse him of flinging an untimely challenge in, the face of the spirit of the age, and of alienating humanist friends of the Church.

Speaking of those who teach the Faith, he says, “Never let them be led away by the false spirit of appeasement: let them not think that disloyal and erring souls can be brought back, with happy result, into the Church‟s bosom, unless the whole truth, as it finds currency in the Church, is honestly preached to all, without disfigurement, without diminution.”

The Prayer of St. Theodore 

So much, then, for the defence of the cause of Our Lady‟s Assumption against Christian dissidents and modern secular critics. It remains for me to end this essay, fittingly, with the words of one of the greatest of the champions of Mary among the Eastern Fathers, the glorious St. Theodore Studita.

“And now thou, who, passing beyond the clouds, enterest heaven and the Holy of Holier amid songs of triumph and joy, deign, O Mother of God, to bless the whole world. Give peace to the Church and victory to the Truth! Protect our homes against all enemies! Be propitious to all Christian people and pardon my rashness, that I have dared to speak of thee!”

Nihil obstat:
W. M. COLLINS, Censor Deputatus.


Archiepiscopus Melbournensis.

Fifteen Marks of the Catholic Church

Fifteen Marks of the Catholic Church
Developed by St. Robert Bellarmine,1542-1621, Doctor of the Church

1. The Church’s Name, Catholic, means universal, and world wide, and not confined to any particular nation or people.

2. Antiquity, in tracing her ancestry directly to Jesus Christ.

3. Constant Duration, in lasting substantially unchanged for so many centuries.

4. Extensiveness, in the number of her loyal members.

5. Episcopal Succession, of her Bishops from the first Apostles at the Last Supper to the present hierarchy.

6. Doctrinal Agreement, of her doctrine with the teaching of the ancient Church.

7. Union, of her members among themselves, and with their visible head, the Roman Pontiff.

8. Holiness, of doctrine in reflecting the sanctity of GOD.

9. Efficacy, of doctrine in its power to sanctify believers, and inspire them to great moral achievement.

10. Holiness of Life, of the Church’s representative writers and defenders.

11. The glory of Miracles, worked in the Church and under the Church’s auspices.

12. The gift of Prophecy found among the Church’s saints and spokesmen.

13. The Opposition that the Church arouses among those who attack her on the very grounds that Christ was opposed by His enemies.

14. The Unhappy End, of those who fight against her.

15. The Temporal Peace and Earthly Happiness of those who live by the Church’s teaching and defend her interests.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

What is the link between Our Lady of Fatima and Our Lady of the Mount Carmel, since she appeared wearing the Carmelite habit in one of the apparitions? You know that at the Fatima apparitions Our Lady normally wore a white habit with a gold trim and a gold belt at her waist. But during an apparition to the children when the miracle of the sun occurred, she appeared wearing the Carmelite habit representing the glorious mysteries of the Rosary.

Our Lady does not do anything by chance, so the first question leads to another: What is the relation among Our Lady of the Carmel, the glorious mysteries and Our Lady of Fatima?

The invocation of Our Lady of the Carmel originates from Mount Carmel in the Holy Land, where hermits used to live at the time of the Old Covenant praying and waiting for a Virgin-Mother who would come and bring salvation for the whole human race. They were following the example of Elias, the Prophet, who was at Mount Carmel praying for the salvation of Israel, which was passing through a terrible drought, when he saw a little cloud in the distant horizon. He hoped that it would bring the much-needed rain to Israel. The small cloud grew in size and covered the whole sky, and finally the hoped-for rain came to save the people.

Elias understood that this cloud was a symbol of the Virgin to come, related to the prophecies of Isaiah that spoke of Our Lady. Those who followed his example also prayed for the coming of the Virgin who would be the Mother of the Messiah. In Old Covenant times, therefore, the hermits of Mount Carmel had the spiritual mission of foreseeing the coming of Our Lady and praying for it. They were persecuted by evil people, and also by members of the decadent Synagogue; notwithstanding, the hermits of Mount Carmel remained faithful.

Finally Our Lady came, and she received the greatest glorification of any living creature: in her the Divine Word, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, was made flesh. She became the spouse of the Holy Ghost. Since she was without original sin, she was not subject to death. But she chose to die, to imitate Our Lord. So, she had a very easy death, which the Church with her skilfull language called the dormitio, the sleep of Our Lady. It was an actual death that entailed the separation of body and soul, but as smooth as possible. Afterward, she was resurrected by Our Lord and carried to Heaven by the Angels. This ensemble of privileges constitutes the greatest glorification a creature had ever had. It is because of this that Our Lady of the Assumption is also called Our Lady of the Glory.

Therefore, the history of the Order of Carmel in the Old Testament closes with an extraordinary glorification and the fulfillment of its expectations. Through centuries of silence, isolation, and persecution, the followers of Elias advanced step by step to the victory and glory.

The history of the Order of Carmel begins again in the New Covenant. St. John the Baptist was also a follower of Elias, as were many of his disciples, St. John, St. James and others. They had the joy to see and know Our Lady while she was alive. They venerated the same Virgin-Mother who had been anticipated by all their ancestors. One can easily imagine that at times she would speak to them as Carmelites and confirm their vocation and reward them for being her first devotees in History.

One also can imagine the pious and mysterious relations between Our Lady and Elias, who is still alive, as you know. It seems reasonable to think that the devotion of Holy Servitude (Holy Slavery) to Our Lady, developed by St. Louis Grignon de Montfort, was somehow known and practiced by those first sons of Our Lady, the Carmelites.

The Carmelite Order continued to exist in the Holy Land, but the Christendom of that time did not take the advantage it should have taken from its presence. That Christendom entered into decadence, and as punishment received the invasion of the Saracens, which destroyed it. At the time of the Crusades, the Carmelites came to the West as an almost unknown religious order, waning and without supporters.

On this shriveling trunk Our Lady made a vibrant flower bloom – St. Simon Stock. After he was elected General of the Order in 1247, he asked her protection for the Order. She appeared to him and gave him the scapular, that is, the promise of eternal life to those who would enter the Order and die in it. The Order bloomed again, and a new period of glory came to it. Among the glories of the Carmelites, its greatest is to always have had devotion to Our Lady.

It also had the glory of having a St. Teresa de Avila, and more recently the glory of having St. Therese of the Infant Jesus, who could be our contemporary if she would not have died so young.

Today Christendom is again in decadence. Our Lady came to Fatima to announce this fall, the chastisement, and the victory with the famous phrase: “In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph.” In that same set of apparitions in which she announced her victory, she desired to appear in the habit of the Carmelite Order, as a way to confirm her age-old predilection for it and to indicate that this Order will be a part of her glorious Reign. With the habit, she symbolically made a synthesis of the past and the future, at the very moment that she announced the end of an era and the beginning of another.

The feast day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is a very dear feast to us, followers of Elias the Prophet, the first devotee of Our Lady in History.

Let us glorify her and ask her to prepare us, who are Carmelites in spirit, to pass by the chastisement and to be living stones in the Reign of Mary.

Pentecost: The Mission of the Holy Ghost

Pentecost: The Mission of the Holy Ghost
Fr. Julius Pottgeisser, S.J.

“But the Paraclete, the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and will bring all things to your mind, whatsoever I shall have said to you.” —John xiv. 26.

The mission of the Holy Ghost, referred to in the words cited, which took place on the day of Pentecost, after Our Lord’s Ascension, is the chief object of today’s celebration. This feast commemorates the day on which the promulgation of the New Law was inaugurated by the apostles in Jerusalem. But this inauguration, as you know, is the work of the Holy Ghost, the fruit of His mission. For it was the Holy Ghost who inspired and transformed the apostles and fitted them for the great work which they had been called to fulfil. Therefore I have chosen the mission of the Holy Ghost for the subject of my discourse, with a view to contribute to the renewal of your devotion to the Third Person of the Adorable Trinity. But as the sending of the Holy Ghost upon the apostles on the feast of Pentecost can hardly be sufficiently understood without first having a clear idea of the mission of the Holy Ghost in general, I must first premise a few truths, that will give you the necessary insight into this mystery. I shall, therefore, treat—

1. Of the mission of the Holy Ghost in general;

2. Of His special mission on the feast of Pentecost.


What, then, are we to understand by the mission of the Holy Ghost in general? In order to answer this question thoroughly we must understand two things: viz., by whom and to whom He is sent. For, a messenger, or one who is sent, must be sent by another to a third party. This belongs to the nature of a true mission, such as we believe that of the Holy Ghost to be.

I. To the first question I answer that the Holy Ghost is sent by the Father and the Son. For Christ says: “I will ask the Father, and He shall give you another Paraclete, that He may abide with you forever, the Spirit of truth” (John xiv. 16-17); and again He says: “It is expedient to you that I go; for if I go not, the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you” (Ibid. xvi. 7). From these two passages it is manifest that the Holy Ghost is sent, and that He is sent by the Son as well as by the Father. However, though this truth is certain beyond all doubt, it is not so easy to explain how one Divine Person can send another, who is equal to Him in all things. Nay, this difficulty is so great that it led the followers of the heretic Arius to deny the Divinity of the Holy Ghost. For, they argued, the Holy Ghost is sent by the Father and the Son, as is evident from the Scriptures; but the person sent is always less than the person who sends. Thus the servant is sent by his master, the soldier by his officer. Therefore, they concluded, the Holy Ghost, who is sent, must be less than the Father and the Son, by whom He is sent.

Yet no truth is more clearly contained in Holy Scripture than the Godhead of the Holy Ghost. Numerous are the passages of Holy Writ in which this truth is unmistakably laid down or hinted at. And, first of all, is it not peculiar to God alone to be everywhere present? Now, the Psalmist says: “Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit; or whither shall I flee from Thy face?” (Ps. cxxxviii. 7.) Again, is it not peculiar to God alone to fill all places with His presence? But the Wise Man says: “The Spirit of the Lord hath filled the whole world” (Wis. i. 7). Is it not peculiar to God alone to know all things? And the Apostle says: “The Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (I. Cor. ii. 10). Is it not peculiar to God alone to do all things, and to dispense the gifts of grace? But the same Apostle says: “All these things one and the same Spirit worketh, dividing to every one according as He will” (Ibid. xii. 1 1). Is it not peculiar to God alone to create? Now, what does the Royal Prophet say of the Spirit? “Thou shalt send forth Thy Spirit, and they shall be created; and thou shalt renew the face of the earth” (Ps. ciii. 30).

Is it not, in fine, peculiar to God alone to have a temple for His dwelling-place? And again, the Apostle says: “Know you not that your members are the temple of the Holy Ghost, who is in you? Glorify and bear God in your body” (I. Cor. vi. 19-20). And who was it that spoke through the mouth of the prophets? Was it not God? For we read in the canticle of Zachary: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for He hath visited and wrought the redemption of His people; … as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, who are from the beginning” (Luke i. 68-70). But St. Peter assures us that it was God the Holy Ghost who spoke through the prophets; “for,” he says, “prophecy came not by the will of man at any time; but the holy men of God spoke, inspired by the Holy Ghost” (II. Pet. i. 21). Finally, St. Peter in the Acts of the Apostles expressly teaches the Divinity of the Holy Ghost, when he says to Ananias: “Why hath Satan tempted thy heart, that thou shouldst lie to the Holy Ghost? . . .Thou hast not lied to men but to God” (Acts v. 3-4). The Holy Ghost is, therefore, true God, equal to the Father and the Son. He is sent, then, not as an inferior but as an equal both by the Father and the Son.

How, then, are we to understand His mission? Beloved brethren, a mission or sending may take place in two ways: first, by command; and, secondly, by production. In the first manner the servant is sent by his master, the embassador by his sovereign or government; in the second way the rays of light and heat are sent by the sun, sweet odor is diffused by the flower. In the first case the person sent is an inferior; for only an inferior can receive a command, and only a superior can give such. But not so in the second case; for the light and heat of the sun, the sweet scent of the flower, are nothing foreign to the nature of the sources from which they are sent; and if the sun or the flower were something simple and indivisible, as is the nature of God, it would communicate not a part, but the whole of its nature. It is, therefore, in the second manner, that is, by production, that both the Son and the Holy Ghost are sent; the Son of the Father alone, by generation, the Holy Ghost of the Father and the Son as the mutual act of their infinite love. There is this difference, however, as I have said, between production in God and in His creatures, that God, being simple and indivisible, communicates His entire nature, while the creatures communicate their nature only in part. Thus the Holy Ghost is said to be sent, to be produced, or to proceed from the Father and the Son, as from one source or principle.

2. Let us now proceed to answer the second question: To whom, or where is the Holy Ghost sent? We say that a Divine Person has been sent, or comes to a certain person or place, when He begins to dwell or to operate with that person, or in that place, in a new and special manner. For, as God is everywhere present, we cannot say that a Divine Person comes, or is sent, where He did not exist before; but only that He exists or operates there in a new and special way, in which He did not exist or operate before. Thus the Son and the Holy Ghost were in the world from the beginning. Therefore St. John says of the Son of God: “He was in the world, and the world knew Him not” (John i. 10). But He was not present from the beginning as man; and therefore He is said to be sent by the Father, that is, to have assumed a new mode of existence on earth: “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us” (Ibid. 14).

The mission of the Holy Ghost takes place in a similar way. He is said to be sent to us when He begins to dwell in us in a new manner, or when He begins to operate in us with His grace, and sanctify us in a new way. And what is this new manner in which the Holy Ghost dwells and operates in us? There are many and various ways—as many and as various as are the graces, gifts, and virtues which He communicates to the soul. If, for instance, an infidel or heretic is converted to the true faith, the Holy Ghost is sent to him with the gift of faith; He is present in his soul in a new way, operating through faith. If a sinner who has not lost the faith does penance, and is reconciled with God, the Holy Ghost is sent to him. For, though He operated in his soul already through the gift of faith, yet He now takes up His abode with him anew, and operates within him by sanctifying grace and the various supernatural virtues and gifts which He communicates to the sanctified soul.

This being the case, since the Holy Ghost comes in to our hearts and transforms them; since He infuses salutary sorrow into our souls and gives us the grace of true repentance; since He continues to dwell in our hearts as in His temple, after they are once cleansed from sin; since He enlightens and inspires us, and urges us on to the practice of Christian virtue; since He is the true comforter, who confers upon us true peace and happiness, and smoothes our path to everlasting life; should we not love Him with our whole heart and our whole soul? Should we not often enter in the spirit of faith into our own hearts, which are His dwelling place, and there adore and honor Him? But still stronger motives of honor and devotion to the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity we shall find in—


In order now to make you understand the wonderful mission of the Holy Ghost on the feast of Pentecost, which forms the chief object of today’s feast, I may confine myself to what is peculiar to this great mystery, namely, the manner in which the Holy Ghost is here sent by the Father and the Son, and the gifts which He bestowed on the apostles on this occasion.

I. The manner was new and extraordinary. For He did not descend in the form of a dove, as He did on Our Lord at His baptism (John i. 32); not in a gentle breath, as on the occasion on which Jesus Christ conferred their highest spiritual authority on the apostles (Ibid. xx. 22); not at the preaching of the Gospel, as He descended on Cornelius, the centurion (Acts x. 14); nor, finally, in stillness and seclusion, as He once descended on the Mother of God (Luke i. 35). But, while the apostles were assembled in the upper room of the house, in fervent prayer and anxious expectation of the Comforter that had been promised them, “suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a mighty wind coming; and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them parted tongues as it were of fire; and it sat upon every one of them, and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost; and they began to speak with divers tongues, according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak” (Acts ii. 2-4).

But this manner of sending the Holy Ghost was not only new and unwonted; it was also highly befitting, and suited to the purpose of His mission. For by the various signs which accompanied this communication of the Holy Ghost were symbolized the various gifts which He bestowed on the apostles—the gift of wisdom, the gift of love, the gift of tongues, the gift of miracles. And who does not see in this wonderful fire which descended on the apostles the emblem of wisdom and of love? And do not the parted tongues clearly signify the gift of speaking various languages, which the apostles displayed on their first appearance as the preachers of the New Law? And what else is the signification of that mighty sound of winds coming from heaven than the wonderful power which they were to exert over the elements of nature, the power of working miracles; and, above all, that miracle of miracles, the conversion of the nations by their preaching? This commotion of the elements, at the same time, signifies the wonderful power of the Holy Ghost which was to reside with them, to confound and vanquish their enemies, and fill all men with holy awe and admiration of the power which God had given to men.

2. The gifts which the Holy Ghost communicated to the apostles on the feast of Pentecost were the best adapted to their vocation. Their vocation was to announce the Gospel of Christ to all nations, and to become the ideals and models of the preachers of God’s word that were to come after them.

For this end, poor and ignorant fishermen as they were, they needed, in the first place, the gift of wisdom. Before appearing as teachers of others they themselves had to be instructed in the mysteries of the kingdom of God. And this was the work of the Holy Ghost, who was to teach them all truth, and practically to introduce them into the teachings of Christ, which so far they had been unable to understand.

No less necessary for them was the gift of love. For what would all their wisdom avail them, if they did not possess this virtue, so indispensable to the apostles of Christ? What is the fruit of the preaching of the Gospel if it enlightens the understanding without inflaming the heart? Now, it is love, and not wisdom, that inflames the heart; it is love that edifies; without it knowledge only puffeth up (I. Cor. viii. i).

They further needed the gift of tongues and powerful eloquence. Their mission was to all people, of all tribes and tongues. But what would their wisdom and zeal profit them, if their words could not reach the minds and hearts of their hearers? This difficulty was remedied by the gift of tongues, in virtue of which, while they preached, they were understood by all as speaking in their own tongue. But it was necessary also that they should speak as having power, that they should convince and move their hearers. And therefore the Holy Ghost added to the gift of languages that of extraordinary eloquence, so that only the obdurate could withstand the power of their words.

Finally, it was befitting, if not necessary, that they should possess the gift of miracles. They were sent to preach a new religion, to enforce a new law—a religion and a law which were repugnant to human nature, and most particularly to a depraved and sensual generation. Miracles were, therefore, morally necessary to commend the truths which they preached, to impress upon their doctrine a divine seal, which no one could contest or gainsay. For miracles are the arguments of God Himself, which He is wont to use to accredit His special messengers here one earth. And without this divine approval their preachings would be vain.

Thus you see, beloved brethren, that the Holy Ghost equipped the apostles with all gifts requisite for their divine vocation. But the Holy Spirit is at all times ready to do the same in favor of all of us. How comes it, then, that the apostles received so largely, while we often obtain but a small share of the gifts of the Holy Ghost? One reason is, because the apostles had a much higher and more arduous vocation than we have, and therefore had need of a greater fulness of the gifts of the Spirit than we. But another reason is, that we have not the same intense longing for those supernatural gifts which the apostles had, and that we do not pray for them fervently, and dispose our hearts to receive them. In short, we have not sufficient devotion to the Holy Ghost.

And, in fact, how little are we accustomed to think of the Third Person of the Adorable Trinity! How seldom do we invoke the Holy Ghost! How seldom do we thank Him for the countless favors which He bestows on us! Numberless, indeed, are His benefits to us. For, as the works of omnipotence are attributed to the Father, the works of wisdom to the Son, so the works of love are attributed to the Holy Ghost, who is the Spirit of love. From Him proceed, therefore, all graces which we receive. It is He who sustains us in temptation and preserves us from sin; it is He who gives us the strength to overcome ourselves, to perform our duties faithfully, and to advance in perfection and holiness. In short, it is He who continually guides us on the way to our eternal salvation. How grateful and tender, then, should be our love to the Holy Spirit! Does not our own highest interest, as well as the duty of gratitude, demand that we should love and honor the Holy Ghost?

Let us, then, today, on this glorious feast of His manifestation, be renewed in our devotion to the Holy Ghost; let us henceforth carefully avoid all that could grieve this Spirit of love, and especially all impurity, whether in thought, word, or deed—this sin which most of all denies His sacred temple—and let us invoke Him in all our necessities. Thus He will continue to dwell in our hearts, adorn them with His virtues and gifts in this life, and, in union with the Father and the Son, will be the source and the object of our eternal happiness. Amen.

Rosary Talks With Mary

Rosary Talks With Mary
Rt. Rev. Mgr. McMahon M.A., Ph.D.,

The Church, in her official prayer, the Collect of the Mass of the Most Holy Rosary, teaches us that it is by meditating on the Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary that we may hope to imitate the virtues of our Blessed Lord and His Blessed Mother. The Rosary presents to us a summary of Our Lord‟s Life on earth, of His Passion and Death, and of the triumphs which followed His Resurrection. In its three divisions, Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious, we have a Synopsis of the liturgical year which is a devout study of our Saviour’s Life.

Men today have forgotten how to pray because there is no thought behind their words. Vocal prayers do not sink in unless the heart is touched and the spirit aroused. Today, as in the time of Our Lord‟s sojourn on this earth, the words of Isaias are true: “This people honoureth Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain do they worship Me, teaching doctrine and commandments of men.”


Addressing youth during the Centenary Celebrations in Perth, Western Australia, in May, 1946, Cardinal Gilroy, Archbishop of Sydney, advocated the Rosary as a splendid training ground for meditation.

“There is no better training in concentration than the making of a daily meditation. The ability to concentrate is a most valuable asset in anyone‟s mental equipment.”

“There is one invaluable form of meditation within easy reach of us all. It is the contemplation of the Mysteries of the Rosary. This exercise of piety I cordially and earnestly recommend to each and every one of you. It is not something novel or untried. Rather it is venerable and of proved efficacy. The exercise in times of peace of noble souls, and of those who wish to be noble, it has been in war a favourite exercise of heroes.

“You are familiar with the praises of the Rosary uttered with incomparable gracefulness by Australia‟s priest-poet, John O‟Brien. He portrays the recitation of the Rosary in the lovely setting of the unspoilt, natural family circle. In war-time there have been descriptions in poem and in prose of valiant youths and men engaged in perilous undertakings on land, at sea, and in the air, and again in foul prison camps, recommending themselves, their companions, and their cause to God through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary by the recitation of the Rosary. In your daily Rosary—and we should be well advised to say the Rosary every day—be sure to ponder over the Mysteries in the Life of your Divine Master and His Blessed Mother. You will, as a consequence of doing that, be encouraged to strive, in spite of all difficulties, to imitate what their Mysteries contain and obtain what they promise.”


The slow recitation of the prayers joined with the meditations on the Mysteries of our Redemption, make the Rosary one of the sure ways to holiness of life. Saying the one hundred and fifty “Aves” and “Paters” without medi- tating on the Mysteries is a tiresome task. But once throw upon the vocal prayers the light of the Mysteries and monotony and dullness vanish.

Again, since the depth of each Mystery is infinite, so no two of our Rosaries need be alike, but may carry us further and further into the meaning of these sacred scenes, adding fruit upon fruit of pious affections and resolve, building up our lives in the spirit and practice of Christianity, and upholding to us more and more of the beauties of our Holy Faith.

Five Mysteries each day, or even one Mystery devoutly and reverently meditated on and woven into the eloquence of the beads, will bear fruit in our lives.

The Rosary alone, said as Mary taught St. Dominic to say it, is a pledge of salvation. We have in our hands an overwhelming and invincible power, when in union with Catholics the world over, and kneeling before Jesus, the Fruit of Mary‟s womb, we unite our minds in contemplating these Mysteries and our voices in praying our “Paters” and “Aves.” Truly is the Rosary, like its glorious Queen, “terrible as an army set in battle array!”

The following outlines of meditations should be read frequently to prompt our imaginations to paint the scenes and to rouse our hearts to generous response. The notes provide different ideas for a varied recitation of the Rosary. It does not matter if we interchange them in one Rosary. No, all that is hoped for in these outlines is that they will help us to say our beads meditatively.

Aids to meditation on the Rosary are grouped under five headings, namely:

    1. Chat with Mary
    2. Select a virtue in the Mystery
    3. Concentrate on the “Our Father,” and the “Hail Mary”
    4. Addressing Mary in the “Hail Mary”
    5. A progress through each decade


Father Patrick Peyton, the 6ft.4in. Irish ex-miner who has set out to bring the Family Rosary into the homes of American Catholics with the help of Hollywood, looks like a mischievous, overgrown altar boy. Yet a few years ago, while he was studying for the priesthood, he became tubercular.

He was in an advanced condition; coughing blood. Since it was impossible to collapse the lung, it was decided to remove part of his ribs.

An old priest visited him in hospital. “Why don‟t you ask Our Lady to cure you?” he suggested. “I have,” said Father Peyton, “and I think this operation is her way of doing it.”

“Nonsense,” said the old priest. “She can do better than breaking your back to cure you. She‟s a woman, and she likes to be talked to. Talk to her, man; talk to her!”

Father Peyton talked to her that night, with the result that there was no operation, and now in gratitude to Mary he is devoting his life to the Family Rosary.

Here is a pleasant way to meditate upon the Mysteries of the Rosary. It will mean a much slower saying of the beads, with many a pause to chat with her about the mystery in an artless, childlike way, and then, go on. It is far better to recite one or two decades a day and three on Saturdays, in this way, than to say five decades mechanically or too fast.

To stop every now and then to chat with Mary about the mystery contemplated is to share her innermost thoughts. It will help to increase our love for Mary if we meet her often for a chat within the Rosary. Through that intimate chat we share her feelings and know her thoughts and imagine ourselves kneeling at her side as we ask her to pray for us now and at the hour of our death.


“When Jesus therefore had seen His mother and the disciple standing, whom He loved, He saith to His mother: “Woman, behold thy son. After that, He saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour the disciple took her to his own.” (St. John xix, 26-27.)

Like St. John we take Mary to our own through thinking with her in our hearts as she lived through the joyful, the glorious, and the sorrowful stages of her life.

This thinking in the heart is open to all, even to little children. It does not depend upon intelligence or a trained mind.

St. Luke records the sequel to the finding of the Boy Jesus in the temple: “And seeing Him, they wondered. And His mother said to Him: „Son, why hast Thou done so to us? Behold Thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing.’ And He said to them: ‘How is it that you sought Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father‟s business?‟ And they understood not the word that He spoke unto them.”

“And He went down with them and came to Nazareth: and was subject to them. And His mother kept all these words in her heart.” (St; Luke 11; 48-51.)

Chatting with Mary while saying her Rosary will open up her heart to us and we shall share, in a little way; her thoughts. She who lived the mysteries with her Divine Son will teach us, gradually and slowly, to do as she did and keep all these words in our hearts;


Each mystery contemplated in the Rosary presents many virtues to us for our imitation. Selecting a virtue for each mystery will vary the motives for saying the Rosary and save it from monotony and sameness. To single out one of Mary‟s virtues and contrast our weakness with her strength will convince us that we must build that virtue from within. In that uphill pull against our frail human nature, meditation upon Mary‟s virtues will bolster up our sagging spirit.

The natural virtues of Mary will beckon us onwards, for example, her prudence at the Annunciation, her fraternal charity during the Visitation, her mother‟s love at the Nativity, her confidence at the Presentation, and the lesson of obedience at the Finding of the Child Jesus. Whenever we find a human motive, a natural aid to support us in our striving after holiness, let us seize upon it, and build upon it. Mary‟s example will give us courage to increase our meagre stocks of the natural virtues of patience and prudence of fraternal charity and generosity, and of obedience and self-discipline.

The Rosary recited with mind and heart concentrated upon one of Mary‟s virtues could not be wearisome and dull, as it too often is. No, it would be all too short. Meditation on Mary‟s virtues will work its salutary effects upon our lives. Through the consideration of Mary‟s part in the Life of Our Blessed Lord, the Great Exemplar according to which we are bidden to fashion our own, we are naturally led to a more perfect imitation of Him. Just as the sculptor takes a mass of roughly-hewn stone and with untiring labour chisels it and fashions it, until by dint of skilful workmanship the shapeless block is clothed with beautiful forms and reflects the artist‟s thought, so by frequent and devout study of our Saviour‟s life—a study eminently afforded by the Rosary— ought we to strive to reproduce in our own life something of the virtue that shone out so resplendently in His.


Before the coming of Our Lord, young and old recited the one hundred and fifty psalms of David as a prayer. Many of the psalms were committed to memory and said frequently throughout the day. The more the people meditated upon the psalms the better they prayed and the richer were the spiritual rains.

The one hundred and fifty psalms divided into fifties, continued a favourite form of devotion among the Christians of the early Church. Gradually the humble folk, the people whose days were occupied in physical labour, found little time to study the psalms and began to substitute for them the repetition of fifty, a hundred or a hundred and fifty salutations to Our Lady, leaving the psalms to clerics, religious, and learned groups. The 150 salutations to Mary correspond to the 150 psalms of David which sang the praises of God and besought Him for mercy and grace.

As with the psalms the more we meditate upon the words we say the more effect they will have upon our spiritual health. The repetition of the Angelical salutation is always pleasing to Our Lady. The Lord‟s Prayer is the prayer taught us by Our Lord Himself, and cannot be said often enough. So the very words we use in the Rosary have a virtue of their own and will merit much for us. The following notes on the “Hail Mary” and the “Our Father” supply food for meditation.


St. Luke tells us the origin of the “Hail Mary” in words that glow with the devotion of a loving son. Raphael, in his picture of St. Luke painting the Virgin and Child, portrays in the face of the artist a deep love of the Virgin.

St. Luke writes: “And in the sixth month, the Angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, “To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin‟s name was Mary.

“And the Angel being come in, said unto her: Hail full of grace, the Lord is with thee: Blessed are thou among women.

“Who having heard, was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be. “And the Angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God.

“Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shall bring forth a son; and thou shall call His name Jesus.

“He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever,

“And of His kingdom there shall be no end.”

“And Mary said to the Angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man?

“And the Angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

“And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren; because no word shall be impossible with God.

“And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word. And the Angel departed from her.

“And Mary, rising up in these days, went into the hill country with haste into a city of Juda.

“And she entered into the house of Zachary, and saluted Elizabeth.

“And it came to pass; that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she cried out with a loud voice, and said: Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” (St. Luke I, 26.42.)

“Hail, full of grace.”

We salute Mary with: “Hail, full of grace.” Not without good reason did the angel omit her name, “Mary,” saying instead, “Full of grace.” He wished thereby to intimate that the title, “Full of grace” is more proper for her than her name, and due far more to her than the title “wise” was due to Solomon, “obedient” to Isaac, and “strong” to Samson.

“The Lord is with thee.”

God is indeed everywhere, but He is in one way with men and in another with irrational and inanimate beings; one way with the good, and another with the bad. He is with irrational beings without their knowledge, and with rational beings who know and acknowledge Him; but, above all, He is with the good who know and love Him. He is with the Blessed Virgin in a special manner; He is one with her not only in the will but also in the flesh. “The Lord is with thee;” this is a prerogative that raises her above the angels.

“Blessed art thou among women.”

She “conceived,” but “without sin”; she brought forth “without pain” and “without knowing man”; to her great glory she is the “Mother of Him Whose Father is God”; she, the creature, became the “Mother of the Creator”; she became a Mother, without ceasing to be a “Virgin.” Had not the angel reason to say: “Blessed art thou among women?” Can we therefore honour the Blessed Virgin more than by praising her with the angelic salutation:

“Blessed art thou among women?”

“The Hail Mary,” writes St. Grignion de Montfort, “is a heavenly dew which waters the soul, and renders it fruitful in all virtues; a soul not watered by this prayer, brings forth no fruit, nothing but briars and thorns.

The Hail Mary is the sanctification of the soul, the joy of the Angels, the song of the predestined, the canticle of the New Testament, the pleasure of Mary, the glory of the most Holy Trinity. The Hail Mary is a loving kiss we give to Mary; it is a brilliant rose we present to her; a special pearl we offer to her; a cup of ambrosia and divine nectar.”


St. Matthew records that Christ taught the “Pater Noster” to His disciples at the sermon on the mount, near the Sea of Galilee (St. Matthew vi, 9-18). St. Luke puts the origin much later, during the December before His death, and probably at the Feast of the Dedication of the Temple at Jerusalem. Our Lord had spent the whole night in. prayer on the Mount of Olives. The Apostles wished to pray as He did, and they approached Him, saying: “Lord, teach us to pray.” (St. Luke xi, 1-4.) On the Mount of Olives the Pater Noster Church has been erected to commemorate this scene.

One may readily believe that Our Lord had said this prayer at His Mother‟s knee in Nazareth, so promptly did the words pour from His lips when asked by the disciples to teach them to pray. From that day on the Mount of Olives He and His disciples said the “Pater Noster” frequently. They surely said it together in the Upper Room at the Last Supper. It was said by St. Peter in prison and by St. Paul on his journeys.

With what fervour Our Blessed Lady must have prayed it with St. John in their home at Ephesus! The music of its words filled the winding tunnels of the catacombs at Rome. It was on the lips of the martyrs in the arenas. From apostolic times to our own its petitions to Heaven have arisen from our altars “from the rising of the sun even to the going down.” The greatest minds of the Church, such as St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine, have found the Pater Noster an unending subject for meditation, while little children can say it lovingly.

The Family Prayer

The Pater Noster, the family prayer of the Church, has an arc like the rainbow, which springs up from the earth, touches the clouds, and then sweeps down to earth. We lift our hearts to God in its mounting petitions: “Hallowed be Thy Name: Thy Kingdom come”, until we reach the apex of the arc in: “Thy Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” Downwards sweeps the curve with its recital of our needs from “Give us this day our daily bread” to “Deliver us from evil.”

Christ‟s own prayer has the double action of praise and petition. To give is higher than to receive, and so the first part of the “Pater Noster” is more important than the second. It is the model prayer. All our needs and all our desires are summed up in it, and seen in the light of eternity. The best place and time to say it is during the Mass, when it comes after the Canon. With his hands outstretched and his eyes on the consecrated Host the priest calls upon Christ to represent us in Heaven in the sevenfold petitions of His own prayer.

“Let us pray: urged on by saving precept and following Thy divine institution, we dare to say: Our Father Who art in Heaven.. . .” Outside the Holy Mass the “Pater Noster” is best said within the Rosary of Mary. Let us ask Him Who bade us say it to inspire us with its meaning

Coined in Heaven

The Rosary teaches us to say the great universal prayer to God the Father entwined with the angelic salutation to Mary. We speak to Our Father and salute Mary as she goes step by step with her Divine Son, in turn, joyful at His coming, sorrowful in His sufferings and death, and glorious in His Resurrection and Ascension. Within the three divisions of the Rosary we say these, our greatest prayers, in a background of joy, sorrow, and triumph.

The words of the “Hail Mary” and of the Lord‟s Prayer were coined in Heaven. Part at least of these prayers, we may feel sure, are said by the angels and saints in Heaven, and the repetition of them during the Rosary is excellent practice for our future home.


Address Mary with the words: “Hail Mary,” thinking how they apply to her in the special circumstances of each Mystery. Mary is always “full of grace,” always “blessed,” because the Lord is always with her. Yet, the Lord is with her in a different way in the stable of Bethlehem, on the Hill of Calvary, and at the throne of the Father in Heaven. She is “with the Lord,” with the Fruit of her womb, Jesus, but her being with Jesus in the home of Nazareth is a very different thing from her being with Jesus dying on the Cross.

From Mary‟s union with Jesus comes all her greatness. This way of saying the Rosary is to tell our Mother that we greet her as full of God‟s grace, blessed, because she is with Jesus as no other human being can ever be; in His joy, in His sorrow, and in His triumph. Let us see briefly the different shades of meaning we can put into the words of the “Hail Mary” in each of the five Joyful Mysteries.

The Annunciation

In the first mystery, the Annunciation, we remember at once that we are addressing to Mary the very words that the Archangel addressed to her at the Annunciation. He said to her: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women.” (Luke 1, 28.) We say the same to her, thinking that she is indeed “full of grace” at this moment. Conceived immaculate, she has corresponded so well with the graces God has given her that now God‟s messenger thus addresses her. We tell her she is “blessed among women,” because at this moment, when the Word is made flesh within her womb, “the Lord is with her” in a way He has never been with any other; blessed amongst women because the Son thus conceived in her womb is the Son of God.

The Visitation

At the Visitation, too, we are using the actual words spoken to Mary by St. Elizabeth: “Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” (Luke 1, 42.) When we say “the Lord is with thee” during this mystery we remember how truly He was with her then, bringing grace and sanctification to St. John the Baptist even before his entry into the world. As we repeat “Blessed art thou” we are actually fulfilling, even now, the prophecy that Mary made at the Visitation: “Behold all generations shall call me blessed.” (Luke 1, 48.)

The Nativity

During the recitation of the third Mystery, the Nativity, we can have before our minds that first Christmas night and the wonderful application of the words must strike us at once. “The Lord is with thee”; yes, indeed, with thee now as with no other creature, with thee in the most intimate union of mother and new-born Babe. “Blessed art thou among women”; more blessed in thy poverty than the richest mother in the land, more blessed than any other woman ever was or ever will be, because this thy Child, the fruit of thy womb, is blessed, none other than God Himself.

The Presentation

The fourth Joyful Mystery, the Presentation, shows us Mary in the Temple offering the fruit of her womb to the Eternal Father. That offering in her case meant far more than it did for any other Jewish mother. Their offerings were symbolical, hers was real. True, she gave in the Temple only the gift of the poor, whilst many of the others gave the gift prescribed for the rich. Yet, who shall say that theirs was an offering equal to hers? She gave to Almighty God His Son and hers.

The Finding in the Temple

The final mystery of this decade, the Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple, gives us two aspects of the truth of the words we say in our prayer.

Mary is blessed when she finds her Child, because once more, “the Lord is with her.” After the desolation of those days of fruitless search, what a joy, what a relief it must have been when she was with Him once more! God had done such wonderful things for her: the miraculous conception, the Virgin motherhood, the possession of God as her own Son; how she must have wondered when so soon afterwards He disappeared from her. How comforted she must have been when she had Him with her again and when “He went down with them and came to Nazareth and was subject to them.” (Luke 2, 51.)

These last words open out a vista of thought for the Fifth Mystery. Whilst we say the “Hail Mary” let us tell the Divine Mother that we know how “full of grace” she must have been during those happy years in Nazareth, when the “Lord was with her” night and day. He learned at her knee, He obeyed her voice, He was her dutiful Son, and yet all the time she knew that He was her God. “Blessed art thou among women” because the fruit of thy womb—thy Son— is blessed above all others, Jesus, thy God.”

Whilst we say the second part of the “Hail Mary” in these joyful mysteries we will ask Holy Mary, Mother of God to pray for us, that we may be full of God‟s grace and that the Lord may be with us. Pray for us, Mother of God, now, that in all the joys and sorrows of life “the Lord may be with us”; pray for us at the hour of our death, that we may be blessed for all eternity, with the “Blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.”


Another way to vary the accompaniment of the sweet melody of “Hail Marys” and “Our Fathers” is to plan a progress through each decade combining the ideas already elaborated. Begin each decade by concentrating on the words used in the Our Father. When we come to the petition: “Give us this day our daily bread,” let us ask Him to open the eyes of our souls to the mystery contemplated in this decade. Long ago in the inn at Emmaus. He opened the eyes of the two disciples when He took bread and blessed and broke and gave to them and thus they knew Him. “Give us this day our daily bread” will be a request to Him to open to us the mystery that is proposed for this decade.

The first “Hail Mary” will be a salutation to Our Lady, saying the words with which Gabriel addressed her at the Annunciation, and trying to capture the devotion and warmth which St. Luke puts into those words. During the recital of the next six “Hail Marys” we shall draw upon all that we have learned at school, or read and heard since, to help us to paint a word picture of the mystery.

The last three “Hail Marys” will uncover our hearts to Mary’s whisperings. We shall try to get inside our Mother Mary’s heart during this mystery, and catch some of its fire and heat to warm our own towards her. Some day we shall feel our hearts burning within us and on that blessed occasion we shall understand what that humble French priest, St. Grignion de Montfort, wrote some two hundred years ago—namely, that “being a servant of Mary is good, but to be her slave is better. The servant is worthy of his hire but the slave is not. As Mary‟s slave we wish to be absorbed completely in Mary‟s personality, to work in and through and by her for Mary‟s cause, the salvation of souls. That ideal of complete slavery is the keynote of the Legion of Mary Apostolate. In the words of dedication the Legionaries proclaim: I am thine, my Queen, my Mother, and all that I have is thine.”

Mary’s part in this mystery will shine upon us like a star beckoning us to follow her according to our own small measure. The virtue that attracts us to Mary in this mystery is something we must strive to build within ourselves. There is the example for us to follow, there is Mary awaiting to help us, provided we set ourselves to the task. God cannot build His Kingdom in man‟s soul without man‟s help and earnestness. And Mary whispers to us to begin upon that virtue we need so badly, for she is ever ready with her encouragement and her help.

No matter how gloomy the picture of a soul presents itself to any man, if he begins with confidence in Mary‟s prayers and his own efforts he can change vice into virtue, and sin into sanctity. The virtue of self-discipline, of self- denial so distasteful to the human spirit and so onerous on human nature, yet, so necessary in life and a sine-qua-non condition for sonship of God, will be won by us gradually and painfully but certainly, through listening to Mary‟s whisperings to us while saying the last three “Hail Marys” of each decade.

“The Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost” which concludes the decade will be addressed to the Holy Spirit through the Blessed Trinity for light to see and courage to assume the task of building from within ourselves the virtues that shine from Mary in this mystery.

Nihil Obstat:
D. P. MURPHY, Censor Deputatus.

DANIEL MANNIX, Archiepiscopus Melbournensis.

Why I Am A Catholic

Why I Am A Catholic
G.K. Chesterton 

The difficulty of explaining “why I am a Catholic” is that there are ten thousand reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true. I could fill all my space with separate sentences each beginning with the words, “It is the only thing that . . .”

As, for instance, (1) It is the only thing that really prevents a sin from being a secret. (2) It is the only thing in which the superior cannot be superior; in the sense of supercilious. (3) It is the only thing that frees a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age. (4) It is the only thing that talks as if it were the truth; as if it were a real messenger refusing to tamper with a real message. (5) It is the only type of Christianity that really contains every type of man; even the respectable man. (6) It is the only large attempt to change the world from the inside; working through wills and not laws; and so on.

Or I might treat the matter personally and describe my own conversion; but I happen to have a strong feeling that this method makes the business look much smaller than it really is. Numbers of much better men have been sincerely converted to much worse religions. I would much prefer to attempt to say here of the Catholic Church precisely the things that cannot be said even of its very respectable rivals. In short, I would say chiefly of the Catholic Church that it is catholic. I would rather try to suggest that it is not only larger than me, but larger than anything in the world; that it is indeed larger than the world. But since in this short space I can only take a section, I will consider it in its capacity of a guardian of the truth.

The other day a well-known writer, otherwise quite well-informed, said that the Catholic Church is always the enemy of new ideas. It probably did not occur to him that his own remark was not exactly in the nature of a new idea. It is one of the notions that Catholics have to be continually refuting, because it is such a very old idea. Indeed, those who complain that Catholicism cannot say anything new, seldom think it necessary to say anything new about Catholicism. As a matter of fact, a real study of history will show it to be curiously contrary to the fact. In so far as the ideas really are ideas, and in so far as any such ideas can be new, Catholics have continually suffered through supporting them when they were really new; when they were much too new to find any other support. The Catholic was not only first in the field but alone in the field; and there was as yet nobody to understand what he had found there.

Thus, for instance, nearly two hundred years before the Declaration of Independence and the French Revolution, in an age devoted to the pride and praise of princes, Cardinal Bellarmine and Suarez the Spaniard laid down lucidly the whole theory of real democracy. But in that age of Divine Right they only produced the impression of being sophistical and sanguinary Jesuits, creeping about with daggers to effect the murder of kings. So, again, the Casuists of the Catholic schools said all that can really be said for the problem plays and problem novels of our own time, two hundred years before they were written. They said that there really are problems of moral conduct; but they had the misfortune to say it two hundred years too soon. In a time of tub-thumping fanaticism and free and easy vituperation, they merely got themselves called liars and shufflers for being psychologists before psychology was the fashion. It would be easy to give any number of other examples down to the present day, and the case of ideas that are still too new to be understood. There are passages in Pope Leo’s Encyclical on Labor [Also known as Rerum Novarum, released in 1891] which are only now beginning to be used as hints for social movements much newer than socialism. And when Mr. Belloc wrote about the Servile State, he advanced an economic theory so original that hardly anybody has yet realized what it is. A few centuries hence, other people will probably repeat it, and repeat it wrong. And then, if Catholics object, their protest will be easily explained by the well-known fact that Catholics never care for new ideas.

Nevertheless, the man who made that remark about Catholics meant something; and it is only fair to him to understand it rather more clearly than he stated it. What he meant was that, in the modern world, the Catholic Church is in fact the enemy of many influential fashions; most of which still claim to be new, though many of them are beginning to be a little stale. In other words, in so far as he meant that the Church often attacks what the world at any given moment supports, he was perfectly right . The Church does often set herself against the fashion of this world that passes away; and she has experience enough to know how very rapidly it does pass away. But to understand exactly what is involved, it is necessary to take a rather larger view and consider the ultimate nature of the ideas in question, to consider, so to speak, the idea of the idea.

Nine out of ten of what we call new ideas are simply old mistakes. The Catholic Church has for one of her chief duties that of preventing people from making those old mistakes; from making them over and over again forever, as people always do if they are left to themselves. The truth about the Catholic attitude towards heresy, or as some would say, towards liberty, can best be expressed perhaps by the metaphor of a map. The Catholic Church carries a sort of map of the mind which looks like the map of a maze, but which is in fact a guide to the maze. It has been compiled from knowledge which, even considered as human knowledge, is quite without any human parallel.

There is no other case of one continuous intelligent institution that has been thinking about thinking for two thousand years. Its experience naturally covers nearly all experiences; and especially nearly all errors. The result is a map in which all the blind alleys and bad roads are clearly marked, all the ways that have been shown to be worthless by the best of all evidence: the evidence of those who have gone down them.

On this map of the mind the errors are marked as exceptions. The greater part of it consists of playgrounds and happy hunting-fields, where the mind may have as much liberty as it likes; not to mention any number of intellectual battle-fields in which the battle is indefinitely open and undecided. But it does definitely take the responsibility of marking certain roads as leading nowhere or leading to destruction, to a blank wall, or a sheer precipice. By this means, it does prevent men from wasting their time or losing their lives upon paths that have been found futile or disastrous again and again in the past, but which might otherwise entrap travelers again and again in the future.

The Church does make herself responsible for warning her people against these; and upon these the real issue of the case depends. She does dogmatically defend humanity from its worst foes, those hoary and horrible and devouring monsters of the old mistakes. Now all these false issues have a way of looking quite fresh, especially to a fresh generation. Their first statement always sounds harmless and plausible. I will give only two examples. It sounds harmless to say, as most modern people have said: “Actions are only wrong if they are bad for society.” Follow it out, and sooner or later you will have the inhumanity of a hive or a heathen city, establishing slavery as the cheapest and most certain means of production, torturing the slaves for evidence because the individual is nothing to the State, declaring that an innocent man must die for the people, as did the murderers of Christ.

Then, perhaps, you will go back to Catholic definitions, and find that the Church, while she also says it is our duty to work for society, says other things also which forbid individual injustice. Or again, it sounds quite pious to say, “Our moral conflict should end with a victory of the spiritual over the material.” Follow it out, and you may end in the madness of the Manicheans, saying that a suicide is good because it is a sacrifice, that a sexual perversion is good because it produces no life, that the devil made the sun and moon because they are material. Then you may begin to guess why Catholicism insists that there are evil spirits as well as good; and that materials also may be sacred, as in the Incarnation or the Mass, in the sacrament of marriage or the resurrection of the body.

Now there is no other corporate mind in the world that is thus on the watch to prevent minds from going wrong. The policeman comes too late, when he tries to prevent men from going wrong. The doctor comes too late, for he only comes to lock up a madman, not to advise a sane man on how not to go mad. And all other sects and schools are inadequate for the purpose. This is not because each of them may not contain a truth, but precisely because each of them does contain a truth; and is content to contain a truth. None of the others really pretends to contain the truth. None of the others, that is, really pretends to be looking out in all directions at once.

The Church is not merely armed against the heresies of the past or even of the present, but equally against those of the future, that may be the exact opposite of those of the present. Catholicism is not ritualism; it may in the future be fighting some sort of superstitious and idolatrous exaggeration of ritual. Catholicism is not asceticism; it has again and again in the past repressed fanatical and cruel exaggerations of asceticism. Catholicism is not mere mysticism; it is even now defending human reason against the mere mysticism of the Pragmatists. Thus, when the world went Puritan in the seventeenth century, the Church was charged with pushing charity to the point of sophistry, with making everything easy with the laxity of the confessional. Now that the world is not going Puritan but Pagan, it is the Church that is everywhere protesting against a Pagan laxity in dress or manners. It is doing what the Puritans wanted done when it is really wanted. In all probability, all that is best in Protestantism will only survive in Catholicism; and in that sense all Catholics will still be Puritans when all Puritans are Pagans.

Thus, for instance, Catholicism, in a sense little understood, stands outside a quarrel like that of Darwinism at Dayton. It stands outside it because it stands all around it, as a house stands all around two incongruous pieces of furniture. It is no sectarian boast to say it is before and after and beyond all these things in all directions. It is impartial in a fight between the Fundamentalist and the theory of the Origin of Species, because it goes back to an origin before that Origin; because it is more fundamental than Fundamentalism. It knows where the Bible came from. It also knows where most of the theories of Evolution go to. It knows there were many other Gospels besides the Four Gospels, and that the others were only eliminated by the authority of the Catholic Church. It knows there are many other evolutionary theories besides the Darwinian theory; and that the latter is quite likely to be eliminated by later science. It does not, in the conventional phrase, accept the conclusions of science, for the simple reason that science has not concluded. To conclude is to shut up; and the man of science is not at all likely to shut up. It does not, in the conventional phrase, believe what the Bible says, for the simple reason that the Bible does not say anything. You cannot put a book in the witness-box and ask it what it really means. The Fundamentalist controversy itself destroys Fundamentalism. The Bible by itself cannot be a basis of agreement when it is a cause of disagreement; it cannot be the common ground of Christians when some take it allegorically and some literally. The Catholic refers it to something that can say something, to the living, consistent, and continuous mind of which I have spoken; the highest mind of man guided by God.

Every moment increases for us the moral necessity for such an immortal mind. We must have something that will hold the four corners of the world still, while we make our social experiments or build our Utopias. For instance, we must have a final agreement, if only on the truism of human brotherhood, that will resist some reaction of human brutality. Nothing is more likely just now than that the corruption of representative government will lead to the rich breaking loose altogether, and trampling on all the traditions of equality with mere pagan pride. We must have the truisms everywhere recognized as true. We must prevent mere reaction and the dreary repetition of the old mistakes. We must make the intellectual world safe for democracy. But in the conditions of modern mental anarchy, neither that nor any other ideal is safe. just as Protestants appealed from priests to the Bible, and did not realize that the Bible also could be questioned, so republicans appealed from kings to the people, and did not realize that the people also could be defied.

There is no end to the dissolution of ideas, the destruction of all tests of truth, that has become possible since men abandoned the attempt to keep a central and civilized Truth, to contain all truths and trace out and refute all errors. Since then, each group has taken one truth at a time and spent the time in turning it into a falsehood. We have had nothing but movements; or in other words, monomanias. But the Church is not a movement but a meeting-place; the trysting-place of all the truths in the world.


G.K. Chesterton. “Why I Am A Catholic.” From Twelve Modern Apostles and Their Creeds (1926).

The Effects of Receiving Holy Communion

The Effects of Receiving Holy Communion
Taken from “Catholic Miscellany” published in 1895

All the Sacraments confer grace, but of all, Holy Communion is the most excellent.  The other Sacraments contain the gifts of God; Holy Communion is God Himself.  The precious effects which the Blessed Sacrament produces in the souls of those who worthily receive it are manifold.

First Effect: Holy Communion Sometimes Remits Even Mortal Sins.

For instance, if the communicant be unconsciously in mortal sin, and attrite only, that is, having only attrition for his sin, Holy Communion infuses into the soul divine charity and restores the soul to God’s friendship.  St. Thomas Aquinas  says, “He who communicates when infected with mortal sin without being aware of it, receives pardon; because if he had not been sufficiently contrite at the moment of absolution, by approaching the holy altar with respect and devotion, he will receive in the Blessed Eucharist the grace of charity, which will perfect his contrition, and remit his mortal sin.”

Second Effect: Holy Communion Remits Venial Sins.

The Council of Trent says, “The Blessed Eucharist is the antidote that delivers us from venial faults.’’ – Sess. XIII.2.  The Catechism of the same Council adds, “It is beyond all doubt, that the Eucharist remits and entirely effaces the trifling faults called venial.  And it restores to the soul be effacing them, all that she had lost by the heat of concupiscence in committing them.’’  The very best among us sins very often.   “The just man falls seven times,’’ says the Sacred Scripture.  And again, “In many things we all offend.’’- James III.2.  “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.’’ – 1 John I.6.  Holy Communion is the sovereign remedy against all, it blots out and effaces those daily faults, and preserves the soul in youth and beauty.  “This,” says St. Ambrose, “is the daily bread which is eaten for the curing of our daily infirmities.

“Each time,” adds the Saint, “that the Blood of Jesus Christ is spilled, it flows for the remission of sins; and since I am incessantly sinning, I ought incessantly have recourse to this remedy.’’

Venial sins cool the fervor of charity, Holy Communion warms and increases divine charity in the soul.  As corporal food restores to the body what it loses by natural heat and the exhaustion of the day, so the bread of angels gives back to the soul what it loses by daily faults and the heat of concupiscence.  May we be worthy to receive daily this living and life preserving food.

Third Effect: Holy Communion Removes The Temporal Punishment Due To Sin.

The water of baptism sends the soul straight to heaven—remits all the temporal as well as the eternal punishment due to sin.  Baptism of blood or martyrdom united with charity entitles the soul to the immediate possession of paradise.  Perfect contrition and perfect charity results sometimes a part, sometimes the whole, of the temporal punishment due to sin.  Now, Holy Communion—fervent Communion—infuses into the soul perfect contrition and charity, which cancel temporal punishment, and hence, free the soul, partly or altogether, form the pains of purgatory. We know not the amount of punishment in the other life our sins deserve.  Our sins! So many and so manifold, sins in the very twilight of reason, sins in youth, sins in  manhood, sins in old age, sins in thought, sins against our neighbor, sins against ourselves.  How many sins every day, every month, every year?

Fourth Effect: Holy Communion Preserves The Soul From Mortal Sin.

“The Blessed Eucharist,” says the Council of Trent (Sess. xiv. c. 2), “is an antidote by which we are preserved from mortal sin.’’  As material food preserves the body from death, so Holy Communion is the life of the soul.  “Your fathers,’’ says our blessed Redeemer, “did eat manna and are dead, if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever.’’

“The bread that I will give you is my flesh for the life of the world.’’  As the pure fountain refreshes the body by  quenching the burning of thirst, so Holy Communion the fountain of living waters, cools and extinguishes the ardor of our passions.  “If any of you” says St. Bernard, “does not experience such frequent or such violent motions of anger, of envy, or of lust, let him give thanks to the body of the Lord, which produces life in his soul.’’ (Sermon in Caena).  “There is no means,” adds St. Gregory the Great, “more certain or more prompt to restrain the passions, to root out bad habits,  to inflame us with the love of God, than frequent Communion.’’

“He who has a wound,” remarks St.  Ambrose, “seeks a remedy; our wound is sin, our remedy the heavenly and adorable Eucharist.’’  Holy Communion is that life-preserving tree planted in the garden of Paradise; Holy Communion is the fountain of living waters glowing in the same lovely garden; they who eat of the fruit of that tree (the Body of the Lord), and who drink of the waters of that fountain (the Blood of the Lord), will be preserved from the death of the soul — mortal sin.  May the Body and Blood of Jesus preserve our souls to life everlasting.

Fifth Effect: Holy Communion Produces An Increase Of Sanctifying Grace, Insures Heaven To Us, And Inspires Courage And Strength To Fulfill All Duties.

Holy Communion as a sacrament, by virtue inherent in it, containing God Himself, infuses into the soul an increase of sanctifying grace, of divine charity, of the love of God. This is, in a word, the great and principal effect of this Holy Sacrament.  Holy Communion insures heaven to us, it gives us a right and pledge to the enjoyment of paradise.  We have for this no less and authority than our blessed Redeemer Himself Who says, “If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever.’’  And again “He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, hath everlasting life, and I will raise him up on the last day.’’  Writing on this subject, St. Bernard exclaims, “Rejoice you spouses, be in transports of joy … You possess the pledge, you hold the earnestness of the spouse to whom you will be happily united in the celestial country.’’ Ours then is heaven with all its glory, paradise with all its joy, God Himself with all His beauty, if we but make worthy Communions. May heaven grant it.

Holy Communion inspires courage and strength for all sacrifices, courage to suffer, nay, to die for Christ.  The Bread of Life gives strength to bear with patience and even with joy, poverty, sufferings, humiliations, the most painful trials, the most cruel torments, and even martyrdom itself, for the love of God.  “Nothing,” says St. Jerome, “strengthens the soul so much as this bread of life;“ and St.  Chrysostom says, “Let us retire from this sacred table like lions full of ardor and terrible to the devils.’’  What gives strength to the poor of Christ in their poverty, trials and privations of all kinds?  Ask them, and they will tell you it is the table of the Lord.  What gives strength to the tender maiden in the cloister to break the strongest ties that bind the human heart to this world, strength to lead in human flesh an angel’s life, courage, whether on the battle field or in the fever hospital, to live and die for the suffering members of her Spouse?  Ask her: she replies, “The bread of the elect and wine springing forth virgins.” What gives courage to the missioner to bid adieu forever to home and country to win souls to Jesus?  What fills his soul with joy in the burning sands of Africa, or the wild wastes of Siberia?  Ask him: he replies, “The body and blood of Jesus in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.

“Even if I walk in the shadows of death, I shall fear not, because Thou art with me.” What gives power to the priest of Jesus Christ to preserve himself unsullied amid the sins and abominations of a wicked world?  The Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.  What gave courage to the confessor to rejoice in his chains, and to the martyr to meet death in its most fierce shapes with serene intrepidity?  The bread of angels.  Fortified, nourished, animated by the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Communion, the dark dungeon, the rack, the gibbet, the amphitheater, the red-hot gridiron, the blazing pile, for them had no terror.  This heavenly manna took from the tiger his fierceness, cooled the heat of the furnace, blunted the edge of the sword. O unspeakable effects of Holy Communion!

Besides these general effects, how many others known only o the devout communicant?  How many to God alone?  “Give me a lover,” says St. Augustine, “and he will understand what I mean.” In communing with her Lord, with Jesus in her heart, the holy soul finds tears of sorrow for past sins, confidence for the future, burning love for God, courage to bear up with trials and adversities, fortitude to live, yes, and if necessary, to die for Christ, and the peace and joy of a good conscience, which is a “Perpetual feast” —a paradise on earth.  O the sweet, inexpressible effects of Holy Communion!  May we all experience them in our souls.

Will not these holy effects induce us to frequent Communion, namely — 1. Remission of mortal sin; 2. Remission of venial sins; 3. Remission of the temporal punishment due to sin; 4. Preservation from mortal sin; 5. Increase of sanctifying grace; 6. A pledge, a right to heaven; 7. Courage to make any sacrifice for Christ; 8. Countless secret effects known only to the pious communicant and to God—will not all these induce us to frequent fervent Communion?

We shall conclude with a passage from a letter of St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, to Pope Cornelius,  to show that in the early ages Christians prepared for martyrdom by receiving Holy Communion.  “Let those communicate,’’ says St. Cyprian to the Pope, “who are in the state of grace, so that those whom we invite to exhort to martyrdom may not be naked and without weapons in the combat,  but armed against the assault by the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ; and since the Eucharist is the shield of those who partake of it, let us provide with the succor of this celestial food those whom we wish to defend against the attacks of the devil.’’


My soul! What infinite love of Jesus in Holy Communion, love manifested by its institution, by sweet invitations, by extraordinary promises and effects!  Holy Communion is thine the Body and Blood of Jesus are thine, God and heaven are thine.  Express thy gratitude in the following resolution:


My loving Jesus in Holy Communion!  I resolve all the days of my life to appreciate and esteem as the greatest gift of Heaven, Thy Body and Blood, and daily to thank Thee for this bread of angels.

Dearest Lord, keep for me by Thy grace, this, my resolution.

The Immaculate Conception of Our Lady

The Immaculate Conception of Our Lady 
Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

Our Lady was conceived without original sin. She had a perfect purity, with no bad inclinations. Therefore, she had a great facility to correspond entirely with the grace of God at every moment. Natural and the supernatural grandeur merged together in her soul in a profound and extraordinary harmony. Above all others creatures, she had the highest notion of the sanctity of God and His correspondent glory. She also had the clear notion of what Creation owes to that glory. She knew, and knows, how all created beings should glorify God.

As a consequence, she also had a profound horror of the opposite of good, which is evil. She had a great intransigence to such evil, a complete rejection of it in its least forms and a strong combativeness against it. This is the reason Holy Scripture refers to Our Lady as “terribilis ut castrorum acies ordinata,” as terrible as an army set in battle array. The Church also says that it is she alone who smashes all heresies. To celebrate this fact, in statues of the Immaculate Conception, Our Lady is crushing the head of the serpent.

The feast of her Immaculate Conception is, then, in many senses, the commemoration of her purity, her intransigence, and her combativeness.

Let us look more closely at what intransigence is. When a person has a very clear notion of what is good and an understanding of the highest expressions of this good, this person knows that the opposite is bad. It is not a theoretical knowledge, like that of a scientist who analyzes a specimen in a laboratory, but rather a knowledge that comes hand in hand with a great love for good. The person naturally recognizes the opposite of such good, which is evil, and hates evil with an intensity proportionate to the magnitude of his love for the good.

Since he loves the highest ideals that good represents, he cannot tolerate the opposite of that good, because he clearly sees the evil that exists in it. He rejects evil not only in its ensemble, but in each of its parts. He rejects evil not only when it is very intense, but when it barely appears. This is intolerance or intransigence.

The human spirit is constituted in such a way that when a man hates evil, he increases and perfects his love for the good. In a certain way the presence of something that he rejects reinforces his conviction of, and his love for the good. The human psychology is so established that such contrast makes a person more acutely aware of how the good is good. For instance, we love our counter-revolutionary vocation more when we can see concretely how the revolutionaries hate it. Seeing this, we receive a confirmation that we are taking the right position.

What is combativeness? Combativeness is a consequence of intransigence. It is to make a deliberate decision to destroy the evil that opposes the glory of God. It is a calm deliberation followed by the utilization of every means one has at his disposal to achieve that goal. It is not a fleeting resolution to fight during one single episode when evil is attacking good, but it is a permanent determination applied to all aspects of evil and throughout the life of a person. The person does not rest until evil is destroyed.

A true combativeness does not rest until evil is reduced to ashes. In Portugal there was an expression regarding evil that was applied in different ways in old Portuguese Law: Evil shall be reduced to ashes by fire. If a man committed a horrific crime, he received the sentence of capital punishment: his body was burned, and his ashes dispersed either in the air or water. This was the application of that axiom.

Here I am not advocating this punishment be applied to this or that person in this or that present day State. I am taking it as a general principle to apply to the fight of ideas and institutions. A bad man can be killed, and he is gone. But who can kill a bad idea or destroy a revolutionary conspiracy that strives to prevent God from receiving the glory He deserves and Holy Mother Church from carrying out her mission on earth? For this fight we need a true combativeness that reduces the Revolution and its cohorts to ashes by fire. This kind of intransigence and combativeness were two attributes of Our Lady that were consequences of the privilege of her Immaculate Conception.

What should we ask Our Lady on this feast day? We should ask for a great love of God and a high understanding of His glory, which will, as a natural consequence, give us a great intransigence and combativeness.

I remember that St. Therese of Lisieux used to lament that she could not be a warrior and fight with a sword against the enemies of God. This is the soul of a saint. She desired to fight for God in all places and all times. This is how we should be. Let us ask Our Lady for the purity and combativeness proper to sanctity so that we might be her true sons and daughters.