Category Archives: Sermon

Thoughts On The Passion

Thoughts On The Passion 

Translated Of A Sermon By Bourdaloue 

“And when He had said these things, one of the servants standing by gave Jesus a blow, saying: ‘Answerest Thou the High Priest so?’ (Jn. 18, 22).

What, pray, had Our Savior answered when questioned by the High Priest? What did He do to deserve such prompt chastisement? What was there in His reply to call for such an outrage?

Annas had asked Him for an account of His teaching, and in reply Jesus had referred him to His disciples whose testimony should be sought on this point. Does this constitute an offense? Is this sufficient cause for insulting Him, for striking Him on the face? But we cannot argue here according to the laws of equity, they are all transgressed; we cannot expect justice in a trial where passion dominates, and that one of the most violent of passions—envy. The only object of our consideration, of our admiration, of our imitation, must be the imperturbable calm of the Son of God under circumstances which would upset any man no matter how strong, no matter how much master of himself. Long ago had the Lord said by the mouth of His Prophet: “I have not turned away my face from them that rebuked Me, and spit upon Me.” (Isaias 50, 6). It is in this way that He would teach us to receive injuries, a lesson which is of practical importance in daily life—to receive injuries as Jesus did, that is, to bear and even to welcome them: to bear them by accepting them patiently, and even to welcome them by accepting them with joy: far from breaking forth into anger or seeking revenge, to go so far as to expose ourselves to them and even to love them.

Forgiveness Of Injuries 

What a test it must have been for Our Lord’s patience to receive a blow in the presence of a large assembly; to receive a blow as a punishment, as a correction; to receive a blow from a common servant. This is an unpardonable insult if offered to an ordinary man, but what an enormous crime it must be when we consider that it is offered, not to an ordinary man, but to the Son of God, to God-made-Man? Our Savior could have exacted terrible vengeance for this insult: He had only to say the word and fire would have come dawn from heaven to destroy the insolent aggressor: He had only to ask His Father for legions of angels to assist Him: He had but to make use of His own miraculous power in His defense. Not only had He the power to avenge Himself for the insult, but it would even seem to have been incumbent on Him to do so. For there is here a question of scandal. He is struck on the ground that he had shown disrespect to the High Priest. If He accepts it, He would seem to admit the charge of disrespect of authority, it would leave a stain on His character whose purity they had sought in vain to tarnish. Nevertheless, He would not exact the justice, because His action would be capable of being interpreted as springing from a spirit of resentment or a desire for revenge, and this is just what He desires to banish from men’s hearts, namely, all trace of that spirit of resentment and that desire for revenge.

It is not as if vengeance does not belong to Him since He is God: “Revenge is Mine” (Rom. 12. 19). Rut if it belongs to Him as God, it does not belong to Him as man; and since He is man as well as God, and what He did as God might be attributed to Him as man, He would not avenge Himself, in order to teach men not to seek revenge, and in order not to provide them with even an apparent precedent to which to appeal.

He had indeed worked a miracle in the garden, when, at His single word, the soldiers, sent to seize Him, had fallen backwards on the ground. But that was before they had attacked and laid hands on Him, when such a miracle could not be regarded as an act of revenge. But now that He has been outraged He does nothing. If He worked a new miracle His enemies would fear Him; but He prefers to appear helpless, rather than appear to act under the influence of passion, Therefore He answers, not haughtily, not insisting on His rights, but with unutterable gentleness: “If I have spoken evil, give testimony of the evil; but if well, why strikest thou Me?” (Jn. 18, 23). This is His only answer. He does not vindicate His rights: He does not punish the evil-doer with a punishment that would be an example for all time. For no matter how well-merited this chastisement might be, it could not but be taken for an act of revenge springing from natural resentment.

Our divine Lord avoids even appearing to take vengeance, for He has come to destroy among men the spirit of revenge. And since in this matter the appearance and the reality are hardly distinguishable, in order to destroy the reality, which is sinful, the slightest appearance must be avoided. As the giver of the New Law, He

had already given His commandment, and had taught forgiveness of injuries to His disciples; but, St. John Chrysostom says, that was not enough. He must safeguard this precept and put it outside the reach of all the stratagems and subtleties to which men descend, when under the influence of passion, in order to avoid its obligation and practice. For, the holy Doctor adds, how inventive we become when our self-love is aroused: we persuade ourselves that we are insulted when the injury is only imaginary; or if we have indeed received some slight injury, we magnify it out of all proportion. In order to justify ourselves, we put on a mask of righteousness, of zeal for the laws of equity: we draw up arguments and call in authorities to prove that we are doing only what is reasonable, what is expected of us, and seek a thousand and one reasons for justifying our action. It was necessary to put an end to all this; and in order to achieve this purpose, man could be left no room for argument; because there is nothing so subtle and so full of guile as the reasoning of a mind under the influence of passion, for then it is really the heart that reasons. So our Divine Savior had to strengthen this precept by putting it outside reason; and this He did by His example—by example in allowing this outrage to go unpunished, with even demanding reparation. For even if He did not wish to punish this insult offered so publicly, even if He did not wish to make use of His divine power by which He could overwhelm evil-doers and make them feel the severity of His chastisements, could He not appeal to the judge, could He not appeal to His own outraged innocence and to the High Priest’s dignity which was injured by this act of violence committed before his tribunal, before his very eyes? Instead, He renounces all His rights, He forgets all His interests, He sacrifices all His glory, and is concerned only in giving us an example of the most heroic patience.

This is an example so striking that it leases us no room for hedging. Now you will have difficulty in arguing, in justifying your action. After this example of our divine Savior you can only remain silent and give in. There is now no other rule to be followed, no other principle on which to act. It is a principle that is clear-cut and compromising; we cannot escape from it, inasmuch as it is so well within our powers of grasping. It is according to this principle that we must judge all others. It as the only principle that can repress the outbursts of a heart carried away by passion, be it ever so little Christian in outlook. In a word, from this principle there follows this great counsel put by our Divine Savior among the most important articles of that heavenly doctrine He came to teach us: “But I say to you not to resist evil, but if one strike thee on thy right cheek, turn to him also the other.” (Mt. 5, 39).

If our divine Lord had merely spoken as Master and Teacher, we should always have received His word with reverence as coming from the source of all holiness and wisdom, but we could still say that it was too severe, that its practice was too difficult: “This word is hard,” using the words spoken by the people of Capharnaum in another context. The Son of God foresaw this possibility, and see the measures He took to prevent it. “Well,” He says to us, “if I must temper the apparent rigor of My teaching, I shall do so, I shall make it easy, and how shall I do so? By My example, for I do not want it to become a stumbling-block for you; I do not want My word, which is the word of life, to be the occasion of your leaving Me, to be the occasion of your loss by estranging you from Me. Is there anything more insulting than a blow on the face? Well, I shall expose Myself to this outrage, and My patience will temper the harshness of My precept which you find so difficult, and so impracticable.”

Indeed, it is impossible not to relish this teaching of our divine Savior, bitter though it may seem, when we see Him putting it into practice Himself. We cannot say that He demands too much of us in wishing us to follow His example. Should we not regulate our lives according to His? Does He not wish to reform the world as much by His example as by His preaching? It was for this very reason that He became like unto us, that He assumed our human nature, that we might become like unto Him, that we might follow His example. It is just this example of God bearing patiently a most grievous insult that is the greatest condemnation of our countless susceptibilities and extreme sensitiveness in all that concerns the false honor of the world, of our impatience and irritation so difficult to moderate or satisfy.

This is a vice that is very prevalent in our time, and is always on the increase. This is a vice which preachers of the Gospel with all their zeal and eloquence have not been able to correct. This is the last of all the vices of which we strive to rid ourselves, of which we believe we ought to rid ourselves. There are good people in the world who lead a fairly orderly life: their lives are characterized by nothing underhand, by no vicious habits or scandalous excesses; they are rather the soul of uprightness and honor in all things. There are pious and devout souls who give themselves to pious practices, who visit churches, listen to the word of God, practise mental prayer, frequent the sacraments, exercise charity towards the poor. There are religious souls who go yet further: with a view to arriving at the most sublime perfection, they give up all this world’s goods, renounce pleasures of sense, shut themselves up in a cloister, and there pass their days in poverty and

obscurity, in a state of subjection and dependence, in works of penance and mortification. All these things are due to the Grace of God, and for them we cannot thank Him too much. But,—can I venture to say it? among all these good Christians, among all those souls who are virtuous, or who at least strive after virtue, among all these souls who are perfect, or who at least wish to be perfect, and for that reason have retired from the world, among all these there is perhaps hardly a single one who can overlook an insult, who can forgive and forget. We learn all other things, we train ourselves in all other accomplishments, we practice all other virtues: we discipline ourselves to fasting, to watching, to prayer; we learn to chastise the flesh and to mortify it. But silence, patience, charity, moderation, self-control, especially when we believe ourselves to be offended, this is what we hardly ever leant, this is what we do not even want to learn. We make a point not to be so good, not to be so forbearing; we do not want to pass for a person who can be attacked with impunity, who cannot defend himself: we rather pride ourselves on the fact that we have rendered ourselves invulnerable, that we have taught others to respect us, not to take liberties with us. And for all this we have a thousand and one reasons of prudence, of dignity, of justice: but reasons which, when examined and sifted, reduce to this sole reason, that we do not want to suffer.

Nevertheless, we claim to live in accordance with the highest standards of morality, we spend long hours before the Tabernacle; we belong to a circle that sets itself up as a model of virtue; we experience raptures and ecstasies: of a truth, we are like those mountains mentioned in Scripture, which a single touch causes to emit thick clouds of smoke and blazing names: “Touch the mountains, and they shall smoke” (Ps. 143, 5). Such mountains are those souls so pure and holy, or at least that pass for such. They are high mountains, mountains that reach almost to the third heaven by the sublimity of their views and aspirations. But just cross them even in the slightest way; just let slip one word, one gesture of disparagement; just contradict them in any way, ah! then they become volcanoes in eruption, belching forth smoke and fiery lava: or if, perchance, they restrain themselves and show no signs of annoyance, it is only to nourish a secret grudge, which, like a hidden poison, acts slowly indeed, but only to produce its effects the more surely and the more malignantly at the opportune moment. This is a fatal obstacle to the virtue of so many souls that are otherwise irreproachable. It is an obstacle that can cause their ruin, from which they can never escape because it follows them everywhere; and besides, it is often in the most regular communities that it is most to be feared.

Whatever be your position in life, the example of Jesus Christ is meant for you. For the words of the Prophet addressed to Almighty God can easily he applied to you, you can say to yourself: “Look on the face of Thy Christ” (Ps. 83, 10). Have you been offended by word or deed? Have you difficulty in holding yourself in check and putting up with the offense? There are many considerations which would help to control your anger and to sweeten the bitterness of your heart, but the most potent of all is to look upon the face of your Christ. See this face before which the angels prostrate themselves in adoration, this adorable face struck by a servant: “Look on the face of Thy Christ.” your Christ, because for you He has been anointed: your Christ, because for you He has delivered Himself into the hands of His enemies, for you He was immolated Himself on Calvary: your Christ, He is more than that, He is your God. Now compare person with person, insult with insult; the sacred person of the God-Man, and your miserable little self; a blow on the face, and an offense, perhaps in itself altogether insignificant, which you nevertheless make such a fuss about. It is a stain on your honor, do you say? Is your honor more precious than that of the Son of God? It is against your interests? Is your interest more important than that of our holy religion which is attacked in the person of its head and author? You have been insulted, your person, your name, your rank, your birth, have all been disregarded? Is the insult offered to you greater than the insult offered to the sovereign majesty of God? No matter what you say, the answer is always the same: Look on the face of Thy Christ. Look on your Christ and learn of Him, not only to accept injuries patiently, but even joyfully, and, if needs be, to expose yourself to them, to love them. This is the point to be treated next.

Bearing Injuries Joyfully 

It is not enough for the example of the Son of God to extinguish in our hearts all desire for revenge. It should effect something more. It should make us ready to receive insult and contempt, and any attack on our honor, about which we are so very sensitive. What does this mean? Does it mean that we must be ready to accept generously any aspersions on our honor? No, that is too little to expect. Does it mean accepting it all willingly as coming from the hand of God? Even this is not enough. Does it mean that we must welcome it, love it, glory in it and seek after it? Yes, that is what we must strive after, and this, I venture to say, is something essential and often indispensable. Perfection, it would seem, cannot be raised to a higher degree; and yet this perfection, which appears to be so elevated, becomes, on many occasions in our daily lives, a precept which obliges us strictly in conscience. Let us develop this important point and make it as clear as possible.

For instance, what means must I take if I am to forgive injuries generously, as I ought, and not to desire revenge? What must I do if I am to be prepared on every occasion to uphold the cause of God, and to defend it; to oppose scandals which I see arising at every instant in the world about me, scandals which, in virtue of my office, it is my duty to suppress as far as I can; to disregard all those considerations which might deter me when the honor of religion and its interests are at stake? In a word, what must I do if I am to have an unshakeable resolution to behave as a Christian, and not bring dishonor on this glorious name, regardless of the cost, regardless of what may be said about me? In all these eases, and in countless others, what contradiction, what false judgments, what sharp words, reproaches, and calumnious talk, and even insults must be faced? How can we undergo all these evils with resolute firmness unless we are ready to love them for God’s sake, to welcome them for God’s sake, to honor them and even to glory in them for God’s sake? The faith which we profess demands of us the same sentiments which the Apostles expressed when they were calumniated and ill-treated by the Sanhedrin. They considered themselves happy to suffer all kinds of opprobrium for the name of Jesus Christ. “They were rejoicing that they were accounted worthy to suffer reproach for the name of Jesus.” (Acts 5, 41).

It is quite true, and beyond any possible doubt, that this requires great purity and generosity of heart; but it is a necessary virtue. And if our holy religion imposes on us a law that is so difficult and contrary to the tendencies of our nature, it also gives us the aids we need to practice it, and of these is there any more potent and more capable of consoling and strengthening us in the humiliations of this life than the contemplation of Our Divine Savior, God-made-Man receiving a blow on the face, and not merely receiving it, but even desiring and seeking it? Be quite sure of this, He received it only because He willed to receive it, for He could have prevented it. But not only did He not wish to prevent it, He desired it, He exposed Himself to it: He made it the object of His most ardent desires and, as it were, the object of His delight. The Prophet Jeremiah, when speaking of the sufferings of Our Divine Savior, used an expression which is very apt and very forceful, namely, that He would be sated with opprobrium: “Saturabitur opprobriis.” We do not partake of a dish which is distasteful to us; or if we must, only the bare minimum. But if it is a dish we like, we eat of it with relish, even with avidity; we eat our fill of it, even to satiety. Our divine Master made humiliation His food. He took His fill of it. If the Son of God made humiliation His food and the object of His desires, in order to procure the Glory of His Father and the salvation of men, should it not become for us an object of respect, of veneration, even of love, especially since by it the same Glory of God and the salvation of men are obtained?

This explains why the saints have rejoiced at being the objects of persecution and the contempt of the world. It is for this reason that St. Paul, who was as proud as any man and knew what real honor was, since he was of noble blood and enjoyed the privileges of Roman citizenship, nevertheless found pleasure in even the most humiliating outrages, as he so emphatically declared on several occasions: “I place myself in my infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ.” (II Cor. 12, 10). He did not say merely: “I console myself”, “I am resigned”, “I strengthen myself to face these outrages,” but. “I take pleasure in them” And why does he say this? “Because my Savior has made them holy, and they have become precious in my estimation” It is for this reason that David, though he was King, seeing this mystery of God being violently outraged, instead of fleeing from insults, awaited them, asked for them, received them with thanks as if he received favors. “My heart hath expected reproach.” (Ps. 68, 21). Semei, one of his subjects, poured out maledictions and reproaches upon him, but .the King blessed God for them. His whole court, righteously indignant, wished to punish the audacity and presumption of the insolent fellow, but the King forbade them. “Let him be,” he said, ”God has sent me this humiliation: it is a gift from God. Do net take it way from me.” Who could have inspired David with a sentiment so unusual .in a King, and even so much opposed to all principles of policy? It could be nothing else than the consideration of His God and Savior, undergoing the ignominious sufferings of His Passion, revealed to him in vision. He saw the God of all glory, the sovereign majesty, insulted by a blow on the face, and filled with a holy indignation at this spectacle, he cried out: “Ah, Lord, who fear after this all the outrages in the world; who would not long for them, since You take them for yourself and make them ornaments of Your Sacred Humanity? Therefore, My Lord, I accept them, no longer simply as a proof of my patience, for I have no longer any need of this virtue, but as the fulfillment of the desires of my soul which waits for them and longs for them. My heart hath expected reproaches.” Note well the reason he gives, for it contains a short formula for the whole of the gospel teaching: “For the reproaches of them that reproached Thee are fallen upon me.” (Ps. 68, 10). Because, My God, all the outrages heaped upon You in Your dolorous Passion, have fallen in anticipation on me: because,

having considered them carefully and in thinking upon them, I have had most lively experience of them myself: because they have filled my heart with a supernatural desire, with a supernatural love of them, with a love of them not in You, Lord, but in myself. For even though I am attacked personally and these outrages are offered to me, I regard them as Yours, and considering them in that light, how can I not love them? Yes, Lord, they are Yours, since You have made them pass from Yourself to me, and after first experiencing them You have made them fall back on me. ‘Because the reproaches of them that attacked Thee, have fallen upon me.” (Cf. St. Augustine: Commentary on Ps. 60).

Only the Grace of God can establish a soul in this disposition and this is not surprising, for only by the Grace of God can we do homage to the humiliations of the God-Man. Flesh and blood cannot teach us these grand maxims or those exalted moral principles; only the Father Who is in heaven can reveal them to us, only the Son Who came down an earth, only the Holy Ghost Who abides in our soul. And this work is, as it were, the masterpiece of God’s all-powerful Grace. But let us be fully convinced of this fundamental truth, that without it we cannot be Christian at all. This is what Scripture teaches, and this is what we must take to heart. For this is a point that must be insisted on, a point that we cannot meditate on too much: that it is impossible to be a Christian, even a simple Christian, if we are not prepared for insults of all kinds; for there are countless occasions in our lives on which we are bound, under pain of damnation, to expose ourselves to humiliations in order to satisfy our conscience and for the salvation of our soul. Furthermore, it is impossible to be really prepared for humiliations as long as we retain a voluntary aversion for them; and finally, we must inevitably have the same horror of them, unless we have a just estimation for them and love them for God’s sake. These propositions follow necessarily one from the other, because we cannot love what we do not value, and we must value what we consider wretched and contemptible. We must therefore begin with the intellect in order to form in our hearts those real tendencies which God requires of us. In proportion as we learn to value insults and outrages, as the world calls them, we shall reverence and welcome them.

But how can we value and love what lowers us in the eyes of men, what humiliates us and takes away from us our honor? As long as we regard them in themselves, and do not look beyond them, we cannot value them; but we must not consider them in themselves, we must view them in Jesus Christ, in relation to Jesus Christ. That is, we must look upon them as a portion of the reproaches offered to Our Lord, as making us like Our Lord; as something to offer to Our Lord, as an opportunity of showing our love for Him. When viewed in this light there is nothing so humiliating, nothing so degrading in the eyes of the world, which does not become glorious to the eye of Faith, which we do not embrace as a benefit, as a favor.

This lesson is so much beyond ordinary human views, that it is impossible to make it too clear, and to point out exactly what is expected of us in practice. Such expressions as to esteem insults, to love insults and rejoice in them, to receive insults willingly and even with pleasure, are so strange and so much above our feeble nature, that we wonder what it all means. It does not mean that we must stifle all feelings of repugnance. It does not mean that we most become so entirely callous that we do not experience those movements of self – love or displeasure which are really inseparable from our human nature. It does not mean that we must feel pleasure in them or that they should appeal to our sensitive nature. It is true that some saints have reached the stage where they had so far repressed their lower nature that no insult or outrage could disturb in any way their peace of soul; they sought them as eagerly as ambitious men seek vain distinctions and worldly honors. Numerous examples can be given, but they are all extraordinary graces, miracles of Christian humility which are in no way indispensable to the practice of this virtue. It means that in spite of what worldly prudence tells us, in spite of even the most violent revolt of our sensitive nature, we consider ourselves happy to share the ignominy of the Son of God, especially when it is for the Glory of God or in defense of the Faith. It means that we must prefer to be despised, to be ridiculed, to be condemned and even persecuted for justice’ sake, rather than by compromising, to be applauded and praised and honored. It means that we must have an inviolable resolution never to deviate from the path of virtue, whether in the hope of worldly distinction or through disgust for a hidden and a lowly condition.

Sometimes we may be greatly agitated, we may be moved to the very depths of our being, we may be tempted to burst out in reproaches and angry recriminations. At critical moments we may feel helpless, unable to bear any more. But amid this storm of our senses from which our reason and our will stand aloof, we remain immovably fixed in our adherence to the same principles, which are the principles of the Gospel. We hold firmly that it is a good, the greatest good in this life, to be able to prove our fidelity to God when we feel most desperate. We find strength in Our Lord’s words to the Apostles: “They will accuse you, they will calumniate you, they will speak all kind of evil against you. But do not you relax in the exercise of your ministry, do not worry. On the contrary, you ought to glorify it, and rejoice. Be glad and rejoice.” (Mt. 5;12). We are sustained by these consoling thoughts: that the greatest glory of a Christian is to make to God the sacrifice of his own glory; that if it is the most difficult sacrifice, it is also the most meritorious of eternal life; that a humiliation received in such a good cause is a deposit which receives hundredfold profit; that there is no better way of showing Him our inviolable devotedness; that if at first it is bitter to the taste, this bitterness soon changes into a sweetness that is real and sometimes even overflows into the senses, if we use the eye of Faith in judging an insult which is offered to us. All such considerations give the soul, not the blind prudence of this world, but a truly divine wisdom; they strengthen it; they restore its calm, and give it peace in the midst of circumstances which give rise to so many disturbances and wars among men.

Almighty God on His part, is never outdone in generosity; He never abandons a faithful soul; but pours out His Grace in abundance, so that there is nothing, no matter how distasteful, no matter how repellent, which His Grace cannot make sweet. With the help of His Grace we are in a position, if I may so speak, to face for the honor of God, for the defense of Holy Church, for the good of religion, for the fulfillment of our duty, any insult and outrage. In fact, the more we are loaded with insult, the more do we cry out with the Royal Prophet: “It is good for me that Thou hast humiliated me. (Ps. 118,. 71). Blessed art Thou, O Lord, for allowing me to be thus humiliated, since it is all for You.” We repeat the words of the Apostle: “Maledictions are heaped upon us, but we cannot answer but in benediction and thanksgiving. Blasphemies are hurled against us, but we reply by praying for those who speak evil of us. We are regarded as the least among men, +and far from being grieved, we rejoice in it” (I, Cor. 4,12). For we know why we are treated in this manner. It is because we belong to God and wish to belong to Him always; it is because we never wish to depart from the obedience due to the commandments of God nor to turn away from His Law; it. is because we use the authority which we have received from God to maintain order, to uphold the law of equity, and know no compromise in these matters; it is because we use the gifts God has given us and the zeal with which His Grace has inspired us to attack vice, to combat error, to unmask falsehood. If for these reasons we are decried, if our characters are painted in the blackest colors, if we are the object of hatred and spite, it ought to be a source of consolation for us, it is a sign of our triumph, it is something for which we cannot sufficiently thank the Lord, Who is testing us, and we cannot repeat often enough the words of the Psalmist: “We have rejoiced for the days in which Thou hast humbled us, for the years in which we have seen evils.’ (Ps. 8. 151.)”

May it please God to animate you with this spirit. If He does not raise you to the point of rejoicing in insult, He will at least strengthen you against one failing which is very common among Christians—namely, human respect, which is an obstacle to so many good works, and is the cause of many disorders and evils. Because we are afraid of ridicule or mockery we often neglect most important obligations and even allow ourselves to be led on to excesses and crimes which are abhorrent to us; because we have not the strength to overcome a false sense of shame, how often do we experience its disastrous results. If we wish to free ourselves from this slavery, let us follow the advice of the Apostle, and keep before our minds the example of Our Blessed Lord: “Looking on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of Faith.” (Heb. 12, 2). He is its Author by His wisdom, and its Finisher by His love: He is its Author by His all-holy doctrine, and its Finisher by His divine example. He did not wish to be the Author of our Faith without also perfecting it; not only lest we should think that it was quite easy for Him to order things thus without having to observe them Himself, but above all because its perfection seemed to Him as glorious and as worthy of Him as its authorship. While wishing us to be faithful observers of His Law, He reserved to Himself the glory of being the perfect model of its observance, the Finisher of our Faith. St. Paul tells in very explicit terms how He did this: “Who having joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame.” (Heb. 12, 2).. It was by despising the shame, by rising above it and bearing it with courage and constancy. But I venture to add something to these words of the great Apostle without altering their meaning; it was not only by despising the shame but by loving it. Hence I can never hope to have a really strong faith nor a truly solid piety, as long as I am dominated by human respect, by the fear of not being the subject of conversation, by the fear that man will turn against me, that they will attack me. But as soon as I am freed from this slavery, as soon as I am no longer ashamed of my God and of my duty, then I begin to be a Christian. Going, if necessary along the way of humiliation, which is so contrary to the false ideas of this world, I shall arrive at that true glory, which is the eternal glory.

Good Friday

Good Friday 
Fr. John F. Burns, Ph.D., O.S.A.

[From the book, Sermons for Lent, 4th Ed. by Rev. John F. Burns, Ph.D., O.S.A.
Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Company, 1944.
Permissu Superiorum: Rev. Mortimer A. Sullivan, O.S.A.
Nihil Obstat: Leo P. MacGinley, S.T.D., Censor librorum.
Imprimatur: D. Card. Dougherty, Archiepiscopus Philadelphiensis.]

 Lord, it is good for us to be here!” (Matt. xvii. 4.)

Dear friends, we call your attention particularly to the words of our text: “Lord, it is good for us to be here!” These words suggest, not sorrow, but joy. And sorrow is the usual theme for Good Friday. The circumstances also in which the words were first uttered bespoke glory and power for our Savior, and not the shame and defeat and suffering and death that we recall on each Good Friday. Nevertheless, as we begin our consideration of the passion and death of our Lord, the saddest scene that ever took place, we repeat the words: “Lord, it is good for us to be here!” These words were first spoken by the Apostle Peter on Mount Thabor when Jesus was gloriously transfigured, His divine face shining like the sun, His garments dazzling white as snow, and a Voice, the heavenly Voice of His Father calling Him “beloved.” On Mount Calvary also, dear friends, we behold our Lord transfigured. But this transfiguration is one of ignominy, and wounds, and blood, and suffering, and agonizing death. His Face in this transfigura­tion of Calvary is wan, disfigured with bruises, and covered with blood. His torn garments are crimson-stained. And a voice, the mocking, jeering voice of triumphant enemies is heard, a voice still echoing and re-echoing in His breaking heart the answer of the people to the question of Pilate: “What will you that I do to Him that is called Christ?” — a voice from His own creatures whom He loved and whom He had come to save, a voice that cried out madly to Pilate: “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” And yet, we who in reverent memory witness on each Good Friday these and many other sad things still say: “Lord, it is good for us to be here!”

And why, dear friends, is it good for us to be here in memory on Mount Calvary? Here is agonizing suffering! Here is a cross with its divine Victim nailed hands and feet! Here are cruel executioners with spears and hammers and nails! Here are mocking scribes and Pharisees hurling insult while our Savior slowly dies! Here is a Mother brokenhearted, standing by His cross! Here is a rude multitude of pitiless people! Here are shame, injustice, ingratitude! Here are blood, groans, cursing, misery, and heartlessness! Here is death! Why, then, is it good for us to be here? Dear friends, it is because here, too, is Love! Here on Calvary is the Love of our infinite God! All of God’s dealings with humankind are motivated in His love. But here on Calvary is the convincing, overpowering, overwhelming climax of all the wonderful manifestations of that love.

We may see in Calvary the message of Redemp­tion. We may see there the justice of God in respect to atonement for sin. We may see there the holi­ness of God vindicated in the sacrifice of His divine Son. But tonight we are going to try to see in Calvary the greatest, grandest, most consoling thing of all, the love of God for His creatures, who, having loved His own, loved them to the end. That is why, even as we witness the sad passion and death of our loving Savior, we say, with joy in our hearts: “Lord, it is good for us to be here!”

And how much does our loving God love us? Is there any created being who can give an adequate answer to that question? Is there any man, any saint, any angel who can do so? Dear friends, only God Himself can tell us how much He loves us. When God created man it was because of His love, and in order that man might share in the happiness of heaven. And when that happiness was lost because of the first sin of the first man, God might have left us adrift — adrift, as it were, on a sea of misery — hopeless, suffering, deprived forever of our glorious destiny of eternal happiness. How much does God love us? He did not leave us adrift. He planned to redeem us. He planned in His love to make heaven and happiness again possible for us.

And how did God work out that Redemption? Did He send a prophet, a saint, or one of His minis­tering angels? God might have done this. But no! Because God so loved us, He came on earth Him­self, in the person of His divine Son. How much does God love us? God came Himself to offer the sacrifice for our Redemption. Just as a loving mother whose little child is sick chooses to nurse the child herself until it is well, so God, whose earthly children were sick unto spiritual death, chose to nurse them back to spiritual life Himself, because He so loved them.

And how did God come upon earth? Was it as some glorious spirit, radiating sublime magnifi­cence, or as an almighty ruler with sway over nations, or as a personage of power and majesty and incomparable honor? Ah, my friends, how much does God love us? Behold Him coming upon earth not only as man, not only as a poor man, but even as a little, helpless baby! God came to us in the manner that might appeal to us most, as a little, loving child. He smiles at us from His Virgin Mother’s knee. His little arms are outstretched to us as if bidding us to come and to love Him. His little heart, the heart of the God-man, is throbbing with infinite love for us. For God came on earth, a loving God, to win both our salvation and our love.

Dear friends, when, among all the countless proofs of God’s love for us, we stop on Good Friday to consider the last, astounding, most climactic proof of all, do we not of right cry out the rap­turous words of the Apostle: “Lord, it is good for us to be here!” But many people have formed a mis­taken conclusion concerning the climax of God’s proof of His love as this is seen in the passion and death of our Savior. When they behold Jesus suffering so much in performing the sacrifice for our Redemption, they suppose that because of the greatness of the work, or of the evil of sin, all this suffering was necessary. They forget that not even one of the terrible sufferings that Jesus endured was necessary in order to accomplish our Redemption. One single sigh, one tear, one moment of humilia­tion on the part of Jesus would have been sufficient to redeem the world. For every act of Jesus was the act of God. And every act of God has infinite merit. Therefore, not one of the many and terrible suffer­ings endured by Jesus in His passion and death was necessary. But Jesus, who loved us, chose to suffer not as little as He could, but as much and even more than would be humanly possible. Jesus chose to make His sufferings proportionate not to the necessities of the work of Redemption, but pro­portionate to His love. His love was infinite. Therefore He made His sufferings limitless. He made no measure for His sufferings. He placed no restric­tions on how much He would be willing to endure. And He did this in order to leave in our minds no possibility of doubt as to the extent of His love and of His desire to win our love in return. It was as if He had said within Himself: “I will go to the very limit in the suffering connected with the sacrifice of redeeming mankind. Then they cannot doubt My love for them. Then they will surely love Me in return.”

Dear friends, no sermon for Good Friday would be complete without a reference to the actual suffer­ing that our Savior endured for love of us. Indeed, His whole life from birth to death was a life of suf­fering. The Garden of Olives, the betrayal by Judas, the tribunals of Annas, Caiphas, and Herod, the night in the guardroom, the court of Pilate, the scourg­ing, the crowning with thorns, the way of the cross, Calvary, and the Crucifixion were only the last bitter ending of the role of suffering that Jesus had played ever since His baby eyes first opened and beheld His Virgin Mother. He was born in a stable. He knew hunger and thirst and cold and hardship and homelessness and labor and toil and want. He was misunderstood, ridiculed, reviled, persecuted. Often He was forced to save Himself by miracles from the pursuit of His enemies. His friends whom He had helped most and loved most turned against Him or fled from Him. One of these, with a kiss, betrayed Him in Gethsemani. Because our Saviour was God as well as man He suffered more, and not less, as many imagine. Kneeling distraught in Geth­semani, Jesus as God knew all things. He knew the future. He knew how useless His sufferings and His love would be for so many of His creatures. He knew how many myriads of times they would forget His sufferings and spurn His love by deliberate sin. And therefore His heart, because of its measureless, limitless, infinite love, began to break by reason of the rejection of His love. In Gethsemani Jesus suffered an agony not of death, but of what is worse than the agony of death — the agony of the death­blow to love. Only those who have loved deeply, with all the power of their whole being, and have had their love spurned or hurt, can partially understand what Jesus the divine Lover of mankind suf­fered in the Garden of Olives. Only they can par­tially understand the agony that shook His sacred body with convulsive sobs, that tore through His heart and soul, that sent the drops, not of perspiration, but of His heart’s blood through all the pores of His body. “And His sweat,” says St. Luke in describing the agony in the Garden, “became as drops of blood, trickling down upon the ground” (Luke xxii. 44). There in Gethsemani, dear friends, on the night before Jesus died, was a crucifixion not of the body, but of the soul of our Savior, who loved with an infinite love, and who longed, but in vain, for the love of His creatures.

So agonizingly bitter was the suffering caused by the rejection of His love, which our Lord foresaw in the Garden, that as man He seemed to quail be­fore it. St. Mark tells us that He “fell flat upon the ground” and prayed God that “if it might be, the hour might pass from Him” (Mark xiv. 35). “Father!” He cried out, “All things are possible to Thee! Remove this chalice from Me! But,” Jesus then added, “not what I will, but what Thou wilt!” (Mark xiv. 36.) How much does God love us, dear friends? Only He Himself can answer that. And in the person of Jesus His Son He has answered it with His life and His death, with the crucifixion of His soul in Gethsemani and the crucifixion of His body on Calvary. Is it not, then, good for us to be here on Good Friday to behold once more these proofs of the infinite love of our God?

In the darkness of Gethsemani the hour for the suffering and the death of our Savior had struck. Judas, His friend whom He loved and one of the chosen twelve, came with a great multitude carry­ing swords and staves, sent by the chief priests and the scribes and the ancients. And Judas betrayed His Master to them with a kiss, betrayed Him with the most intimate token of dearest friendship! St. Mark tells us that Judas said: “Hail Rabbi! And he kissed Him!” (Mark xiv. 45.) At that traitorous kiss how the Sacred Heart of Jesus must have bled! How bitter was this beginning of His passion! How that kiss of betrayal that began it all must have scourged the soul of Jesus even more cruelly than later on the lashes of Pilate’s soldiers scourged His body! And how our own selfish sins, which were present to the divine mind of Jesus in His passion, like the kiss of Judas, also scourged Him! For each of these sins, like the Judas kiss, implies refusal of service, rejection of His love, and preference against Him of some paltry gain or passing pleas­ure. Oh, we should not too harshly condemn the sin of Judas! He betrayed God’s love but once. But we, time after time perhaps, have gone madly after our thirty pieces of silver!

And dear friends, in this consideration of the passion and death of our Savior, we must not lose sight of the fact that He who suffered in the person of Jesus was the Almighty God of heaven and earth. He could, therefore, have struck His tormentors all dead! He could have saved Himself the shame and the torture and the agony! But He did not do so! Even in Gethsemani, when the soldiers stepped for­ward to arrest Jesus, the power of the God-head was manifested. At the very sound of His voice, relates St. John, “they went backward, and fell to the ground” (John xviii. 6). Not until our Saviour permitted, could they arise and take Him and lead Him, their God, bound with ropes, to the mock trials before Annas and Caiphas the high priest.

In the court of Caiphas were assembled the scribes and ancients, seeking evidence against Jesus that they might put Him to death. And find­ing none, some bore false witness against Him; and their testimony did not agree. To all their charges Jesus would answer nothing. But when Caiphas said to Him: “Art Thou the Christ, the Son of the blessed God?” Jesus answered: “I am.” “You have heard the blasphemy,” cried Caiphas, who in mock piety tore his garments. “What think you? Who all condemned Jesus to be guilty of death” (Mark xiv. 55-64).

After that Jesus was detained for the remainder of the night in the guardroom while they awaited the morning in order to seek from Pilate the official condemnation to death. For Jesus this was a night of torture. Imagine Him during the hours before dawn, bound with ropes, and at the mercy of His jibing enemies. This man had said that He was God! They laughed at that! And they found in it sport to while away the time. Covering His face, they struck Him brutally while He was thus blindfolded, and said: “Prophesy unto us, O Christ, who is he that struck Thee?” (Matt, xxvii. 68.) And they spat in His face — spat in the face of Him who was their very God! Can you imagine shame and humiliation that is worse than this? But Jesus patiently endured it all. How much does God love us, dear friends? Behold Him, in the person of Jesus, on that night in the guardroom, bound, blindfolded, buffeted, His own creatures spitting in His face, while He for love of us endured it all. Surely then, it is good for us to be here on Good Friday, beholding once more in reverent memory this almost incredible proof of the infinite love of our God!

When morning finally came and Jesus had been brought to trial before Pilate, the Roman governor could find no cause for condemning our Savior. Pilate sent Him to Herod, who likewise could find no charge against Jesus that was worthy of death. Pilate, therefore, desired to release Jesus. According to the Gospel narrative, it was the custom to release to the people one prisoner on that particular day of each year. Pilate had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. He said therefore to the people: “Whom will you that I release to you, Bar­abbas, or Jesus that is called Christ? . . . But they said: Barabbas. . . . What then,” rejoined Pilate, “shall I do with Jesus? . . . They say all: Let Him be crucified!” The governor asked them: “Why? What evil hath He done? But they cried out the more, saying: Let Him be crucified!” (Matt, xxvii. 17-23.)

Pilate, however, instead of condemning Jesus to death, ordered Him to be scourged. He may have thought perhaps that the cruelty and the torture of this fearful Roman punishment would move the leaders of the people to pity, and cause them to relent in their clamoring for the death of our Saviour. We are told that the Roman scourging was so unbelievably cruel that at the fifth blow the skin was cut. At the thirteenth the flesh was laid open. At the thirtieth the whole back was flayed. The scourging of our Saviour began. Strong, cruel, Roman soldiers took turns with the lashes one after the other until Jesus stood literally in a pool of His own blood. In later days, when the martyrs were scourged, affixed to the leather scourges were lead and spikes and sharp bones. These curled around the naked body of the victim and lacerated and tore not only the back but also the face and chest and whole body. Often the scourging of criminals who were condemned to die was so severe that it was called the intermediate death. In many instances it must have been worse than death itself. How much does God love us? Behold Him, in the person of Jesus, stripped of His clothing. His hands tied, His back bent as He stands bound to a column or stake, and enduring patiently this terrible scourging for love of us. And remember that not one of these sufferings was necessary in order to effect our Redemption!

The scourging finished, the soldiers gathered together the whole band before our Lord. Over His wounded, scourged body, and in mockery of His claim to Kingship, they placed a purple or scarlet robe. For a crown of royalty they platted sharp thorns and pressed them deep into His head. In His hand, for a mock scepter, they forced Him to hold a reed. Then they made sport of Him. Bowing the knee before this forlorn Figure, they cried: “Hail! King of the Jews!” (John xix. 3.) And again they spat upon Him. Snatching the reed from His hand they smote His head, driving still deeper the agonizing thorns.

Pilate came then and took Jesus, and in this condition presented Him to the sight of the people. Still bleeding from the wounds of the scourging, dressed in the mock-royal robe, the thorn-crown still upon His bleeding head, the reed for scepter in His hand, our Savior stood before them. And Pilate, presenting Him thus, said: “Behold the Man!” (John xix. 5.) But when the chief priests and people had seen Him they cried out: “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” (Ibid. 6.) Pilate, however, was still anxious to release our Saviour. Once more he spoke to the people: “Behold your King!” (Ibid. 14.) “But they cried out: Away with Him! Away with Him! Crucify Him!” (Ibid. 15.) And the wavering Pilate then delivered Jesus to be crucified.

Dear friends, hovering somewhere near during this ordeal so terrible for her divine Son was Mary His Mother. She could hear the loud cries of hate and of condemnation. And she knew that soon, walking in a sad procession of death, her Son would pass by. Along the way that led through the city to Calvary Mary waited. It was now about eleven o’clock on the first Good Friday morning. Soon there came to the waiting Mother the sounds of a moving, muttering multitude. And then appeared the procession of death! Rabble, Pharisees, scribes, priests, ancients, soldiers, the crowd of the cruel, the curious, the pitying — all came passing by. And Mary waited. Then came the two thieves, each carrying his cross. And finally, her Son! Oh, but what a transfiguration has taken place! Was this her Son, her Boy, so strong, so straight, so beautiful! His body was not strong nor straight now, but bent over, and bleeding anew from the exertion of carrying the heavy cross. His face, once beautiful, was now pale and drawn and lined and disfigured from spittle and blows. The piercing thorn-crown was still upon His head, sending crimson moisture through His matted hair. His feet were torn and cut, and His step unsteady and faltering. . .

From beneath the cross [Our Lord Jesus Christ] is looking at her. His pain-filled eyes speak to her of His love, and of His compassion, too, for her present suffering. And Simeon’s prophecy is being ful­filled. Deeper and deeper into Mary’s breaking heart the sword of sorrow is piercing. The procession moves pitilessly on, and with it, Mary’s Son and our Savior, bending lower and more wearily under the cross, staggering at times, falling, lashed to His feet again — on and on and on, driven by blows and curses, jeered at by priests and people and soldiery, on and on through the streets of the Holy City to Calvary and to death.

Slowly Mary His Mother follows after. At Calvary a sudden, ominous silence falls upon the shouting, jibing crowd. About the crosses, an air of bustle, a sharp command, and then a sickening thud, and another and another! The nails! They are being driven mercilessly into the hands and feet of our Lord, fastening Him to the cross! How much does God love us? Listen on Calvary in that fearful silence while the nails are being driven through the flesh and sinew and bone of our Savior’s hands and feet. Hear the knock, knock, knock of the hammer! Does it not tell you how much God loves you? Even unto this, even unto agony, even unto the crucifixion and to death God in the person of Jesus proved His infinite love for us! And the sound of those nails being driven into the wood of the cross is knocking not only at the court of heaven pleading for mercy on all mankind; it is knocking also at the heart of each human being; it is knocking at your heart and mine, pleading the love of our Savior, pleading for a return of that love. The arms of Jesus are now wide-stretched, nailed and transfixed wide upon the cross, as though symbolically extended in gesture of the same pleading of Jesus for the love of His creatures. Soon the cross is upraised! And soon our Savior hangs dying for love of us between two thieves!

And when the nails were being driven He had prayed: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!” (Luke xxiii. 34.) Who except God Himself, dear friends, could have spoken thus under those circumstances? How much does God love us? Come closer to the cross! Stand with Mary His Mother! Look up at Jesus who is dying for love of us! And remember that not one of these suffer­ings was necessary for our Redemption. Remember that Jesus voluntarily chose to suffer them in order to prove beyond the possibility of a doubt the extent of His love, and in order to win our love for Him in return.

But the reviling crowd about the cross of Jesus — laughs! The Gospel says that “they that passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying: Vah!  . . . if Thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross! ” (Matt, xxvii. 40.) “He saved others! Himself He cannot save!” (Ibid. 42.) And while they derided Him, Jesus hung in indescribable suffering, in pain from the nails in His hands and feet, in pain from the wounds of the scourging, in pain from the crown of thorns, in pain from fever and thirst and weakness and weariness, in pain from the aching in His Sacred Heart — an aching that told Him that for so many of His beloved creatures all His suffering and all His untold love would be in vain. Once more, as in Gethsemani, the people and the sins of the world are present to our Savior’s divine mind. From the cross He sees them all. He sees you and me and our sins that we commit now, but that were present to Him then, adding to His torment by their rejection of His love. But, dear friends, if our sins were all present to Jesus in His passion and death, so also were our good works present to Him. So also were our acts of love for Him, our acts of faith, our hours of prayer, our sorrow for our sins — so also were these all present to Him to comfort Him during these terrible hours. For Jesus was God. And for God there is no time. Everything is present to God, and not past or future. Is it not then good for us to be here in memory with Jesus on Mount Calvary? Is it not consoling to know that the good deeds we perform now were present to Jesus in the time of His suffering to comfort Him? And all the good deeds that we shall do, all the sacrifices, hardships, sufferings that we shall in the future endure for love of Jesus were present to Him on the cross. That is why, for love of our Savior who so loved us, we should be willing to perform good deeds, willing to keep His law, willing to avoid sin, willing at any cost to be loyal to Him, who was so loyal to us.

Slowly, the weary, agonizing three hours on Calvary drag by. From the cross our Savior forgave the Good Thief and promised him Paradise. And thus it is ever and always. God’s mercy, God’s providence, God’s love is always overshadowing us. Times there are when we call it into question. Ah, but this is because we forget at those times how much God loves us — even us! . . .

When sorrow tempts us to doubt God, we should think of this. Appearances may be all against us. It may seem as though we must sink into the very depths of hopelessness and even into despair. But suppose that the Good Thief had given in to appearances! Why should he not have taken it for granted that this forlorn, abandoned, defeated, dying Man could never help him? And suppose that he had taken it for granted. Suppose that the thief had not prayed! Dear friends, after we have seen our God in the person of Jesus hanging on a cross for love of us, we cannot doubt Him!

Before our Savior died, He gave His Mother and St. John to each other’s care. Then, in the extremity of His suffering and agony as the victim for sin, Jesus cried out, as it were, for help from His eternal Father: “My God! My God! Why hast Thou forsaken Me!” (Matt, xxvii. 46.) Forsaken by man, typifying sin, for which He was now the victim, and which meant rejection of God, becoming as St. Paul says (Gal. iii. 13; II Cor. v. 21) a “curse” for us, becoming “sin” for us, dying in shame and torture between two thieves! Do you ask, dear friends, how much God loves us? Come! Oh, come on Good Friday to Calvary and witness the answer to this question! No wonder the astounded sun paled! No wonder that even at midday in Palestine, darkness, like nature’s pall of mourning, settled upon the world! No wonder the startled dead came stalking forth from their tombs! No wonder the affrighted earth quaked, and the veil of the Temple was rent! No wonder the hearts of men on Calvary quailed, while they struck their breasts and cried out in the deepening shadows: “Indeed this was the Son of God!” (Mark. xv. 39.)

And when Jesus from the cross had said: “I thirst!” (John xix. 28), how little they had understood! They gave Him vinegar to drink, but He would not drink. They did not know that His thirst was for the love of His creatures, whom He Himself loved infinitely, and having loved, loved even unto the end. And at the end, His Sacred Heart broken because so many were to spurn His love, Jesus, crying with a loud voice, bowed down His head and gave up the ghost. At the end, Jesus died not from the torture and the agony, but from a broken heart. The blood and water that issued from His side when the spear was thrust attest most eloquently and most sadly to this fact. Jesus our Savior died at last from a broken heart! How much does God love us, dear friends? Look at your crucifix and learn the answer! And is it good for us to be here? Is it good for us to behold in memory this last, astounding, climactic proof of God’s love on Calvary? He Himself has said: “Greater love than this no man hath, than that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John xv. 13).

Dear friends, let us return to the words of our text: “Lord, it is good for us to be here!” It is good for us to be here because in reverent memory we have witnessed on Mount Calvary in the passion and death of our Savior the last, final, convincing, most consoling proof of God’s love. It is not suffi­cient, however, merely to endeavor to understand how much Jesus suffered for love of us. Judas understood this, Pilate understood it, the executioners understood it far better than we. But they completely lost the wonderful significance of it all. We must not lose its significance. We must know always that the great lesson of Calvary is the lesson of God’s love. Standing in memory beside the cross of Jesus with Mary His Mother, and then looking upon our crucifix, how can we ever doubt that God loves us? If God does not love us, what was He doing upon earth in the person of Jesus? If God does not love us, what was our Savior doing on the cross, dying an agonizing death? If God does not love us, how can we answer these questions? And if God does not love us, what use is there in living longer, what hope is there in life, what hope will there be in death, what hope for all eternity?

But God does love us, dear friends, and with an infinite love. God does love us! And that is why we are going to appreciate and to accept and to return His love by preferring loyalty to Him to paltry gain and passing pleasure. No longer will the thirty pieces of silver make us traitors to our loving God! God does love us! And that is why we are going to be willing to carry our own cross through this life, knowing that even though the cross be heavy, even though it cause us to falter and to stagger and at times to fall beneath its weight, even though it lead to a Calvary and to a very crucifixion by way of suffering and sacrifice and hardship, it leads also to Jesus our Savior, it leads also to heaven and to the eternal happiness that God in His infinite love has prepared for us, it leads also to the time when we ourselves, gloriously transfigured after death, shall cry out at the vision of God and the possession of heaven forever even as the enraptured Apostle cried out on Mount Thabor: “Lord, it is good for us to be here!”

Burning With Love

Burning With Love-Rev. R. Stevenson, S.J. 

A Catholic, thinking about the difficulties he faces in the modern world, will readily see that, more than anything else, he needs a deeper, fuller knowledge of, and an enthusiasm for Jesus Christ. All about him he finds childish intellectual pride, false notions about God, crass and widespread materialism, sensuality in crude and base forms, a coolness towards God and religion, and even despair. For himself as a Christian he knows that Christ is not only the very centre-point of his religion, but that He is also a sure defence against deception, error and folly; “ He that followeth Me walketh not in darkness” (St Jn. VIII, 12). It is proposed therefore to show, that devotion to Christ‟s Sacred Heart is no mere outmoded novelty of the seventeenth century, but that it is precisely the devotion suited to the needs of the day.

All the world knows that the present century is one of extraordinary scientific progress. If our forebears could see the advances made since it began, they would be astonished, in the full, literal sense of the word. Through industrious application, clever research and a measure of good fortune, men have succeeded in uncovering undreamt of secrets of nature. One cannot help feeling however, that had we been the very superior beings we conceive ourselves to be, these secrets would have been discovered much earlier in human history. But since vast numbers of men have no solid back ground of an accepted philosophy—much less a bulwark of Christian theology, provided by the catechism, it is quite easy for them, because of these human achievements, to adopt a superior and conceited attitude towards God, if indeed through faulty reasoning they do not deny Him altogether. But because man has discovered the principles of electricity or radio television, atomic power or even space travel, it by no means follows that he is master of all knowledge. This would seem to be the most obvious of all platitudes, and yet, it is quite unappreciated by vast numbers of otherwise clever and educated men. Why, one might ask? Because success and some specialised knowledge without humility and balance of mind, easily dispose one to the attitude of mind which we call intellectual pride, a prevalent failing of the day.

In these circumstances it must be clear that humility is a need of our age, for humility leads to further knowledge. It leads even more surely to the kingdom of heaven. “ God,” says St. Peter,” resisteth the proud, but to the humble He giveth grace” (St. Peter, I, v, 5). This being so, could there be a more suitable practice for our time than devotion to Him Who said: “Learn of me, because I am meek and humble of heart”? (St. Matt. XI, 29).

But modern life is a complex thing, and the modern world suffers from other ills besides intellectual pride. Christians today find themselves handicapped by the most inadequate and false notion of God, by which the heresies, deprived of the guidance of the true Church, represent the Almighty. Omitting practically all idea of God‟s justice, except where it is con- venient to remember it, they picture Him as a kindly old Man, so full of benevolence, as to be forgetful of being true to Himself! He would never ask anything hard! Hence honesty, matrimonial fidelity, the burdens of parenthood, church- going, prayer and the like, have become for the non-Catholic masses „forgotten far-off things.‟ The result of this attitude is a definite coolness towards a personal God, manifesting itself in the empty churches,—or in the less extreme cases, in the presence of the merest handful of worshippers. The reason is of course different, but the effect is the same as that produced by the Jansenist heresy of the seventeenth century. For this latter landslide, the remedy prescribed by Our Lord himself was revealed to St. Margaret Mary in 1675. It would seem certain that the same devotion to the person of Christ is precisely what is required in our own time.

In the days of the Old Law God was truly mysterious and unknown: the Jews knew comparatively little about Him. He was spoken of as the King of kings and the Lord of hosts, dwelling in regions of indescribable glory and magnificence. So it was that Isaias could say; “Verily Thou art a hidden God” (Is. 45, 15). The whole divine Being seemed almost completely removed from a very imperfect human understanding: “My thoughts are not your thoughts; nor are your ways my ways…..; as far as the heavens are exalted above the earth, so are my thoughts above your thoughts” (Is. 55, 8).

Once again the reasons for lack of knowledge of God are different, but the effect is the same. There was an excuse for the Jews of old, which does not exist now, for the coming of Jesus Christ on earth has revealed to men the very mind, if one may put it so, of God. Taking up the gospels they can learn the things God did—the life He led on earth, the words He spoke, even His thoughts. A thorough knowledge then of Our Lord, gained from the gospel in prayer, is a knowledge of God; a solid love of the Sacred Heart is a love of the Godhead. For this we have Christ‟s own words: “ He that seeth me seeth the Father” (St. Jn. XIV, 9); and again: “No man cometh to the Father but by me” (XIV, 6).

The third characteristic of our modern age, as has been noted, is materialism. For Catholic and non-Catholic alike its cult, a logical outcome of the so-called Reformation, is the cause of widespread unrest, and a serious stumbling-block for the individual Christian. Its grossest forms meet him on every hand, and it is not difficult to see why they grip the world so firmly. Hemmed in as men are by the things of sense, it is hard to realise that these things are not what they seem to be; that though they are seen and handled every day, and seem solid and lasting, they are shadows compared with things unseen, the realities among which they shall be living before many years have passed. So it comes that many live for money and success, love or self-indulgence, deifying by their lives these passing things of time, as surely as the Jews of old, who bent the knee to the golden calf. Catholics would be a great deal more than human if, surrounded as they are by such living, they were not influenced in some way by this widespread foolishness, and overawed by the worldly success which plays such an important part in the thinking of so many non-Catholics. If they would be shielded from this childish error, what better haven could be found than in the Heart of Him Who said: “ Have confidence, I have overcome the world” (St. Jn. XVI, 33).

But one of the most striking, and to many people revolting sides of modern life, is the preoccupation of the masses with sex. Public behaviour, theatres and cinemas, radio and television, newspapers and magazines, novels, conversation and pastimes, even fashions, keep it constantly before the eyes and minds of Christian and non-Christian alike. It must not be concluded from this that „sex‟ is in itself something „ bad‟; the contrary is the truth. The instinct of parenthood placed in the human heart by God is not only wise, necessary and good, but even beautiful and holy, provided it is used according to the laws of God and nature in holy matrimony. But the new-pagans seek sex gratification merely for the animal pleasure which it gives, without apparently any regard to its true end, its duties and responsibilities. At times they go so far as to pervert it in unnatural, beastly and degrading manner.

Great numbers of men and women, either through ignorance, lack of intelligence or selfishness, try to build successful marriages on the physical reproductive instinct alone, forgetting or ignoring, that the only motive for a successful married life is love. Of course the consequences are disastrous, as the daily sessions of the divorce court show. Here too the loving Saviour has an important lesson for the masses, the lesson of true unselfish love. “Learn of Me,” He says, showing how to love unto the end on Calvary. “Greater love than this no man hath, than that a man lay down his life for his friend”(St. Jn. XV, 13). Even more important for misguided humanity is the revelation of a love that alone can fully satisfy. “ Our hearts were made for Thee, O Lord,” writes St. Augustine in his „Confessions,‟ “and they shall never rest until they rest in Thee.”

So much for the groping, misled millions, outside the fold of the true Church. But we Catholics are also in dire need of the love and leadership of the Sacred Heart in our own private spiritual lives. Thoughtful observers sometimes notice a leaning towards religious extravagance in the lives of some of our Catholics. This expresses itself in an over-ready credence given to wonders and marvels, new “revelations”—even superstitions and religious ostentation, to the detriment, and often the neglect of the Ten Commandments, the Mass and the Sacraments. Devotions, good in themselves, sometimes tend to be multiplied, distracting attention from what should be the very core of our Christian Faith, Jesus Christ Himself.

To non-Catholics this is something entirely baffling. They meet “pious‟ people who are, slack about Sunday Mass, the Sacraments, married life, honesty, truth or such like, and one cannot blame them if they find an apparent contradiction here, between the high ideals of the Church and, the daily life of many of her members.

If then our Catholic churches are to be frequented by the lapsed as well as by the practising, and if the Christian way of life is to flourish in the home and place of business, it can only be done through the divine leadership of Christ. The enthusiastic love of the Saviour, which has drawn men over the ages to lives of unbelievable heroism and beauty, is the only power on earth which can move the masses, “I, if I shall be lifted up from the earth, shall draw all things to Myself” (St. Jn. XII, „32).

The present Holy Father, referring in his Encyclical Haurietis Aquas to the false materialistic philosophy and way of life of today, writes “And where, venerable Brothers, must we seek the remedy for these evils surely unsurpassed in history, which so gravely threaten individuals, families and nations in every part of the world? Can we find any more excellent form of devotion than this one of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, any form of devotion more fully in harmony with the Catholic Faith, or better suited to relieve the needs of the Church and of the human race today?”

I. The Person of Christ

It strikes one as strange that Christians, including so many Catholics, know so little about Our Blessed Lord—the king-

liness of His Person, the attractiveness of His character, and the burning love of His divine Heart. True indeed artists throughout the ages have supplied us with paintings of Christ; and modern commercial art has not been wanting in pouring out thousands of pictures. But for the most part they are disappointing, and large numbers of representations do us a disservice. So many portray the Saviour with pretty, feminine features, and He was, of course, in every sense a Man, with all the qualities of perfect manhood.

A parish priest in the midlands of England has had a life-sized photograph of the holy Shroud of Turin framed. It hangs in his dining room, flanked by curtains which can be drawn in reverence at meal-time. A quite considerable body of opinion holds that this is a real likeness of Our Lord. If so, it is certainly most striking. Standing on a chair, so as to be level with the feet in the picture, one finds, that Christ must have‟ been tall, perhaps six feet two or three, and when one raises one‟s eyes to look at the countenance, the qualities of nobility and kingliness are immediately most apparent. There is nothing weak, pretty or girlish here, and if the face could come alive on the canvas; if the eyes could open; the lips smile and the wan cheeks take on the colour of life; if the expressive hands could move and the tongue speak, here indeed would be the most wonderful Person Who ever walked the earth, the Man God, Jesus Christ.

In appearance He was attractive and undoubtedly fascinating. Above all His eyes, with their merciful, reproving or at times angry looks, must have struck all who saw them. In them one might perhaps read a little of the holiness and sinlessness, of the love and tenderness that was His. Was it not He Himself Who said, “ Is not the light of thy body thine eye?” (St. Lk. XI, 34), and surely both His eyes and countenance must often have been lit by a light that was not of this world.

We never read that Jesus was sick, and though He was full of the energy and well-being that comes from good health, we sometimes read that He was tired from bearing the heat and burden of the day, having traversed the dusty roads of the Holy Land, healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, raising the dead to life, disputing with the scribes and pharisees and seeking the lost sheep. Indeed all His journeys seem to have been made on foot, and apparently He thought little of such tedious and difficult climbs as that from Jericho to Jerusalem, where the road rises 3,500 ft., through arid, rocky country under the blistering heat of the sun.

At day‟s end Christ slept little, often under the stars. But at first dawn He was about, apparently fully refreshed in mind and body after the few hours He allowed Himself. At times—how often we do not know—these hours were devoted to prayer on the mountainside,—„pernoctabat in oratione‟ (St. Lk. VI, 12).

Since most of His life was spent out of doors, it is not to be wondered that He took a great pleasure in external nature. He loved the hills and the sea, the mountains, the flowers and the birds. Indeed many of His sayings are about these same flowers of the field and birds of the air; about moving mountains or about the life of fishermen. So beautifully does He allude to these things, that, if one did not know he would surely ask, is not this the greatest poet who ever lived? Who is He?

Combined with Christ‟s kingliness of character and sublimity of mind we find most wonderful humility. As He washes the feet of the apostles, He would teach them and us to learn from Him, not that He is a King, all-powerful or all-pure, but that He is meek and humble of Heart While He is powerful and strong, He is also so gentle, that He would not break the bruised reed; and though He is all-holy and spends many nights on the mountainside in prayer, He forgets not to pass much time with a „wicked and adulterous generation.‟ How indeed can we explain this majesty and lowliness, this strength and gentleness, this holiness and mercy combined, unless we remember that besides being God He is also Man, the Word Incarnate?

While it is undoubtedly true that the mind of Christ was most sublime, it is also true that He had an eye for the things of every day life. To His disciples He would wish none of the simple joys denied. There was to be no fasting while the Bridegroom was with them. “The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they say; Behold a man that is a glutton and a wine-drinker, a friend of publicans and sinners. And wisdom is justified by her children “ (St. Mt. XI, 19). With these and suchlike words He defended their life and His own, refuting criticism on the very lips of those who would speak.

Though Christ‟s human Soul had the vision of the Godhead all through His life, nothing escaped Him in day to day matters, and going beyond appearances He had a mind for the heart and core of things. He hated hypocrisy and mock holiness, and so He spoke to the pharisees about “whited sepulchres” and their liking for honour, respect and salutation in the market place. Indeed so factual is the mind of Jesus Christ, that we might reconstruct a picture of life in His time from His parables and sayings; the doing of the merchants and the fishermen, the priests, and even the children playing in the streets. Nothing is missed. Though He had no idea of political revolution, He knew all about the Caesars, Rome, the taxes and the burdens of the people. To one who would tempt Him He replied “ Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar‟s but to God the things that are God‟s” (St. Lk. xxi, 25).

It is of course unnecessary to recall that Our Lord was a hero,—indeed the world‟s hero. Everything that He did bore the stamp of heroism. In spite of His constant rejection by priests and people, and even betrayal by His friends, He never gave in. His dying words show implicit confidence in the heavenly Father and in His mission. Indeed He takes heroism as a matter of course, and likewise asks it of His followers. The young man is to leave all things and follow Him; another is told to let the dead bury the dead; yet another that he must hate father and mother; others still, to sell what they have, give to the poor and come after Him. First things must come first, and neither sentiment nor attachment may hold a man back. For His own part, though the world has never seen such magnificent, inspiring and generous love, He preserves it quite unmixed with any trace of either sentimentality or softness. When occasion demands He can be ruthless. Is it not from the lips of the loving Saviour that we hear words which wither up a fig tree, because it bears no fruit?

But of all the characters of history, Christ stands out as a leader of men. He had but to summon to be followed enthusiastically; “And immediately, leaving their nets, they followed Him” (Mk. I, 18). And while He evoked love and enthusiasm, He could at the same time command both obedience and deep respect. The gospel tells us that on one occasion, while the disciples followed Him they were afraid. When they faltered or showed foolishness He could chide and reprove, sometimes sternly. When Peter, in an excess of love and solicitude for the Master‟s welfare, would stand between Christ and His cross, he was told, “ Get behind me Satan, for thou art a scandal to Me.” Yes, even the multitude feared Him and fled before Him when, knotting some ropes, He drove the buyers and sellers from the temple, because they profaned the Father‟s House. No wonder the people, admiring His authority, asked, “Who is this man?” Is He Elias? Jeremias? One of the prophets come to life?

Writers and preachers have filled the books of the world with the theme of the Good Shepherd. Artists have exhausted every aspect of Christ and the sinner. That is as it should be. But to understand a little of His boundless love and mercy we must not forget, that His mind was saturated with knowledge and understanding of human nature. He knew men at their best and at their worst, at their highest and at their lowest, and His sympathy was wider and deeper than the combined oceans of the world: infinite as God and unsurpassable as Man. Like the good Samaritan, His Sacred Heart melted at the sight of the poor man robbed of grace, dying in his sins by the roadside of life. What wonderful stories He told on this theme The Prodigal Son, the lost sheep, the labourers in the vineyard and a host of others. He sought neither a man‟s wealth nor influence. He was dazzled neither by rank nor arrogance. He wanted the human heart—the heart of the sinner. His kingdom was, ever will be that of hearts and souls. “ Behold,” He might well have said, “I stand at the door and knock” (Apoc. III, 20).

What mere human pen could dare to write of Our Lord‟s interior life? Were a writer to try, he would find himself lost in the greatest of all mysteries, that of the Blessed Trinity. Nevertheless one thing can be said without fear of contra- diction: for Christ, the Father and the Father‟s Will was His world and His reality. That Will was the motive force in everything He thought, said or did. Since as God He possessed perfect union with the Father and the Holy Ghost in the Blessed Trinity, and as Man He enjoyed the beatific Vision of the Godhead, there was no place, in our sense, for prayer. Often He claimed that He was not alone, and that He and the Father were one. In this perfect completeness He needed neither the company nor the advice of any man. He needed neither possessions, applause nor profit; neither family life, honours nor advancement. In the Father He was rich in everything. Did He not renounce even His holy Mother, and the consolation of Her perfect service, for the Father‟s mission?

This is our sinless Saviour Who neither trafficked with temptation nor acted on impulse. He is it Who offers each one of us an undying friendship, throughout ages without end. Well might we re-echo the words of St. Augustine when we think about it:

“O Beauty, ever ancient, ever new, too late have I loved Thee!”

II. The Revelation of Divine Love Through The Heart of Christ 

According to a well-known story, a certain bishop was examining the boys for confirmation, when the following dialogue took place.

His Lordship: “Three Persons in one God? That seems strange to me. I can‟t quite understand that?
Small boy: “You are not supposed to, My Lord. It‟s a mystery!

Yes, the Blessed Trinity is a mystery, but one important aspect we do know.

The Heavenly Father contemplating His own all-perfect Essence from eternity, generates the Word. As a human word is the expression of an idea in the mind of some person, so the Word of God is the expression of the Father‟s contemplation from all eternity. Now God is so admirable and so perfect that, seeing Himself, He must necessarily love Himself with an infinite love. This love is the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of Love, by which both Father and Son mutually love one another from all eternity. Of this, namely the Holy Ghost, St. Francis de Sales writes in his Traité de l’Amour de Dieu:

“If human friendship can be so agreeable and even delicious, what can one say on seeing the exercise of this reciprocal Love of Father for Son and Son for Father? With what admiration and ecstacy would our hearts be filled?

As however this exercise is, of its nature, not for us here below, God has chosen, if one may put it so, to simplify matters for us, by sending His Only-begotten Son into the world, to take a body and soul like ours, and to live a human life.

Now it is all very well to talk about the love of God in an abstract or speculative way, but poor human nature needs something concrete, something tangible. How for example can one know the magnificent idea in the mind of the artist, unless he expresses it on canvas or in sculpture? Even when he does so, owing to the human limitation of skill, it will not fully and perfectly correspond with the ideal existing in his thoughts. He will be dissatisfied with his own execution and technique. The finished work does not come up to his ideal. Still, as we look at the work we say, “What a beautiful picture! What a wonderful statue!” It has revealed something to us. But God‟s skill is not limited, and so for us the love of Jesus Christ is divine Love in tangible form. We can read about it and hear about it. In the gospel we have not only the words and actions of Love, but also Its attitude towards certain things and Its very thoughts! For the Jews of old God was a hidden God, but as He did not wish to remain hidden from us He decreed the Incarnation, and so „the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us.‟

But that was only a beginning. The Saviour proved His love in His life. In a certain sense as Man, that love grew stronger from day to day. The enthusiastic patriotism of a young man is quite a different and inferior thing to that of the veteran soldier who has campaigned and suffered many wounds for his country. It is quite unnecessary to ask, which is the greater love? The love of the young Virgin Mother bending over the crib at Bethlehem is quite a different, and one might add, inferior love, to that of the Mater Dolorosa, standing by the cross. Thirty-three years of work and suffering have deepened Her attachment to, and Her love of Her divine Son. So too by His life and suffering, Christ as God, proved His unbounded love for us; and as Man deepened and strengthened it. Every time He smiled, spoke, walked, worked miracles, His deed, actuated by the Spirit of Love was, both an act of love and a progress in love. His death on the cross was the final proof of His supreme charity. “Greater love than this no man hath, than that a man lay down his life for his friend” (St. Jn. XV, 13).

Often as we hold the crucifix in our hands, we try to think of this crowning token of love. But, though we look at the crucifix, we cannot help wondering if we have ever really seen it? For there are two things about it we find hard to grasp. The first is that the Saviour is nailed to the cross in place of each one of us.

If we could only imagine ourselves in the condemned cell with an execution hanging over us in a day‟s time; if in our hands we could picture a message from the governor, informing us that, if we find a substitute to stand on the trap door and take the drop for us, we may have our freedom, then perhaps we might succeed a little in convincing ourselves of the truth that, since the Saviour is nailed to the cross in our place, a crucifix is the symbol of the greatest love we either know, or even can experience.

Secondly we have not the slightest idea of the horrors of this death by crucifixion, and it is only when we read accounts of the dread and ghastly sufferings of men like Blessed Oliver Plunkett or Blessed Edmund Campion, that our mind flies over the centuries to Calvary, and we think of the warm Blood, the Precious Blood of Jesus, shed in love for us!

There is however still another most striking aspect of Christ‟s Love, which brings home to us that this is not a thing of yesterday—not merely a happening of two thousand years ago. This is a living; warm, pulsating thing. The activity of Christ‟s love is prodigious in our individual lives of every day. No day passes that we do not experience its wisdom, bounty and mercy. There is no personal conflict in which it does not take part. For a conversion for example, there may be a thousand or more such conflicts. In each of these divine Love plays its part, as it does against every temptation and in every victory. There is no phase in life in which it is absent, labouring for our happiness and our eternal success. Just as Christ is prodigal of Himself in the Blessed Eucharist, so too in the hearts of millions of men and women, Christian and pagan, no stone is left unturned. “. . . Our Saviour, Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth “ (I Tim. II, 4).

The Prophet Ezechiel puts this all very beautifully when he says:
“For thus sayeth the Lord God: Behold I myself will seek my sheep, and will visit them.
As the shepherd visiteth his flock in the day when he shall be in the midst of his sheep that were scattered, so will I visit my sheep, and will deliver them out of all the places where they have been scattered in the cloudy dark day. And I will bring them out from the peoples, and will gather them out of the countries, and will bring them to their own land: and I will feed them in the mountains of Israel, by the rivers, and in all the habitations of the land. I will feed them in the most fruitful pastures, and their pastures shall be in the high mountains of Israel: there shall they rest on the green grass, and be fed in fat pastures upon the mountains of Israel.

I will feed my sheep: and I will cause them to lie down, sayeth the Lord God.

I will seek that which was lost; and that which was driven away, I will bring again: and I will bind up that which was broken, and I will strengthen that which was weak, and that which was fat and strong I will preserve: and I will feed them in judgement……

I will save my flock, and it shall be no more a spoil, and I will judge between cattle and cattle. And I will set up one shepherd over them and he shall feed them…….” (Ezechiel xxxiv, II etc.).

III. The Revelation to St. Margaret Mary Alocoque 

“And I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, because they shall return to me with their whole heart” (Jerm. xxiv, 7).

One might be liable to think that devotion to the Sacred Heart of Our Lord was something relatively new in the

Catholic Church, but this is far from the truth. Tertullian and St. Augustine, in their homilies on the creation of Eve from Adam‟s rib, speak of the Church, born from the side of Christ, opened by the spear, as being prefigured by this passage of Genesis. In St. Athanasius we read: “Of all the wounds of Our Saviour, none is comparable to that of His side, from which issued blood and water. As by the woman who was formed from the side of the first man, came the fall, so also Redemption and Reparation have come to us from the open side of the second Adam. Redemption by blood, and puri- fication by water.” Indeed it was common teaching in the early church, as recalled by Pius XII in his encyclical Mystici Corporis, that the Church was born of the eternal love of God, from the pierced Heart of Jesus Christ. So speak St. Ambrose, St. John Chrysostom, St. Bonaventure and many others. From these days to our own, there have been numerous apostles of the devotion to Christ‟s Sacred Heart, of whom it is sufficient to mention St. Mechtilde, St. Gertrude and St. John Eudes.

St. Margaret Mary Alocoque is however the apostle of the cult as we know it, and it should prove helpful to trace briefly the extraordinary and beautiful story of Paray le Monial.

The seventeenth century is noteworthy, amongst other things, for the appearance of the heretic Jansen, who was born in 1638. Like many other heresies, his teachings contained a great deal of truth: they were almost true He claimed that God is so holy, so pure, so spotless and immaculate, and man is so sinful, impure and full of moral corruption, that he never could be worthy to kneel at the altar rails and receive God into his heart at Holy Communion. This of course is true: no one, no matter how saintly, could be worthy to receive Jesus Christ in the Blessed Eucharist. But Jansen overlooked, or he forgot or disregarded the wish of Our Lord, Who said, “Take and eat” and, “ Do this in commemoration of me” (St. Jn. xxii, 19). Or again “ He that eateth this bread shall live forever” (St. Jn. VI, 59). Under the conditions then of being free from mortal sin, fasting according to the laws of the Church and having a right intention, Holy Communion is not only permissible, but it is a command of Christ‟s which He wishes fulfilled.

But Jansen‟s teaching appealed to the rigorists, and through their preaching and example, an added excuse was found for the non-practising masses, already grown cold in God‟s service, and slack in attendance at their religious duties. Others also, in great numbers, commenced to fall away, and so the churches continued to empty on an ever-increasing scale. Sunday Mass was more and more neglected, and prayers and pious practices dropped by ever increasing numbers of the faithful. It looked as if this heresy, already so acceptable to many, was going to spread like a plague over the Church. But of course Christ could not look on and see His plans frustrated, so, in an extraordinary way He countered and overcame this evil thing.

In the centre of France, at a place called Terrau, near Maconais, a little girl, afterwards called Margaret Mary Alacoque, was born in the year 1647. She grew up an extraordinarily holy child, and it is said of her that, at the age of four, she made a vow of chastity. Whether this is true or not is immaterial. When she was twenty-four she begged admission, and was received, into the Visitation convent at Paray le Monial. Margaret was never considered clever, nor would she herself have claimed to be, and she had a facility for making mistakes, that in Ireland would have earned her the adjective „left-handed.‟

The little novice, spiritually away ahead of the others, was of course handicapped by her facility for breaking delph and generally getting practical affairs muddled. However she was professed. This did not of course change the character God gave her, or make her more clever or practical. Naturally she found the constant humiliation of her mistakes depressing, thinking herself useless, and imagining that she was not wanted by the other members of the community.

Our Lord of course revealed Himself to her a number of times, but for the sake of brevity and clarity, the revelations, will be pieced together here as if they all happened on the one occasion. Filling in details, according to one‟s devotion, the scene may be thought of as follows:

It is a June evening in 1675. Being more than usually depressed, and haunted by that feeling of not being wanted, the young nun kneels in the back bench of the convent chapel. It is almost dark, and the place is very quiet. Before the altar, the flicker of the sanctuary lamp sheds a glow over the tabernacle and the apse. Sister Margaret‟s cheeks are moist with tears as she prays: “Lord, nobody wants me! Do You”? Lord, nobody wants me! Do You?”….

As she speaks a wonderful thing happens. It seems to her as if the tabernacle door opens, very quietly and very slowly, and from it there begins to issue a golden cloud of light. Gradually it fills the sanctuary, till even the chapel is flooded with splendour. The wonder on the saint‟s face changes to rapture and joy as, to her amazement, a still more extraordinary thing takes place. She seems to see, standing in the centre of this cloud of light, Our Lord Himself in glory: His countenance is shining as with the light of many suns; His garments are white as snow; the wounds in His hands and feet are blazing in majesty. On His face there is a sad, sweet smile. Spellbound she watches as, raising His hands and drawing aside His cloak, He shows her His Heart. Not a word is spoken as she gazes. The Heart is crowned with thorns, surmounted by a little cross enveloped in flames, and pierced with a lance. From the wound so made, one drop of blood oozes forth.

Sister Margaret is struck dumb with delight and amazement. Forgetting all about herself, she is rapt in love and adoration.

Now Jesus speaks. It seems to her that she has never heard any sound more beautiful than His voice. Her heart beats fast with joy, until she hears what He has to say.

“Behold this Heart which\ has so loved men that It has spared Itself nothing, even to exhausting and consuming Itself to testify to them Its love. And in recompense, I receive from the greater part of men nothing but ingratitude, contempt, irreverence, sacrileges and coldness, which they have for Me in the Sacrament of My love. But what is still more painful to Me is, that those who treat Me thus are persons consecrated to Me…….”

Such was the scene. Our Lord went on to ask for her love of reparation, to atone for such neglect, and commanded her to tell the world that He wished this love from others also. Sister Margaret demurred. No doubt she pleaded lack of sufficient intelligence and education. Any way she was a cloistered nun. How could she preach this love? But these difficulties were easily solved. Blessed Claude de la Colombiêre, a young Jesuit priest, was given her as helper, and today the devotion is spread all over the world. In all those places in every continent, where the Catholic Church is free to preach her doctrines, the Sacred Heart is loved and honoured. One will scarce find a Catholic church without the well- known Statue of the Sacred Heart, showing to each worshipper the sad token of His rejected love.

Simply, quietly and without any great external show, God has defeated Jansenism. Wherever the faithful are urged to do as Our Lord asked, the faith is strong, the churches full and the Blessed Sacrament adored. Nowhere is this better seen than in Ireland, for we did not completely escape the chilling breath of Jansenism. But today, owing to the labours of apostolic priests in our midst, amongst whom one might mention Fr. James Cullen, S.J., Christ is ardently loved. It is only necessary to mention the consecration of most Irish homes to the Sacred Heart, the First Friday Communions in every parish, the „Pioneers‟ and the „Irish Messenger of the Sacred Heart,‟ which travels each month to every part of the globe, to begin to understand the greatness of this apostolate, but more important still, the power of Christ‟s love over a Catholic nation.

It can be truly said then, that in the modern world Our Lord has brought about a most remarkable change. This He has done, as must be evident, by changing the individual, strengthening his faith and warming his love. But the battle is not won till every heart is conquered, and this campaign each of us can help, by securing that Christ‟s love reigns in our own hearts. What practices, or what plan of action we should adopt to this end, are matters well thought out for us in the so highly recommended Apostleship of Prayer. With its help and inspiration it is possible to deepen our love and come ever closer to Our Lord.

“Heart of Jesus, burning with love for me, inflame my heart with love of Thee.”

IV. The Nature of Devotion to the Sacred Heart

In order to avoid ambiguity it is necessary to make clear to ourselves, what exactly is the nature of devotion to the

Sacred Heart. What precisely does it mean?

The object of the devotion is clearly the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, in a double sense. This means the physical Heart in the first place. As Our Lord is both God and Man, His sacred members are all hypostatically united with the Godhead, and therefore His holy Body and its members, whether in life, in the tomb or in heaven, are all worthy of our supreme worship, called by the theologians latria.

In the second place the Heart is the symbol of love. At all times and in all places and among all peoples, the human heart has been considered as the symbol of love. Because the heart is effected by the emotions, it was at one time thought to be their source, beating as it does, faster or slower, according to the emotion experienced. So for us, Christ‟s Heart symbolises His excellent, adorable love, both human and divine. Just as the flag of a country recalls all the glories, the sufferings and the triumphs of a people, to the proud heart of one of that country‟s subjects, so the Sacred Heart is for us a token or a symbol of the Saviour‟s ardent love.

At the same time we do not separate the Heart from the Person. The Heart signifies and sums up the Person of Our Lord, Who is the object of our devotion:

“To conclude,” writes Fr. E. Hugon, O.P., “we adore in the Sacred Heart the physical Heart of Christ, symbol of love and love symbolised: directly the human love, indirectly the divine love, which causes human love to burn; and our cult is directed towards the very Person of Jesus, „loving all and all-lovable, in the Heart which He shows to us and which He offers us.‟” (Le mystere de l‟Incarnation, 1921.)

Pius XII, writing in Haurietis Aquas, points out that— “(The) Church accords the cult of supreme worship to the Heart of the divine Redeemer.. . . . for two reasons. The first of these.. . . . is based on the principle that His Heart is hypostatically united to the Person of the divine Word, and therefore entitled to that same cult of adoration with which the Church venerates the Person of the Incarnate‟ Son of God……..The second reason applies in a special way to the Heart of the divine Redeemer, demanding for it on particular grounds the cult of supreme worship. The basis of this claim is that His Heart, more than any other member of His body, is the natural sign or symbol of His immense charity towards men.”

“Therefore,” he continues elsewhere, “from the physical thing, which the Heart of Christ is, and from its natural significance, we can and must, supported by Christian faith, rise not only to contemplate His love, which is perceived through the senses, but even to meditate on and adore the most sublime infused love, and finally the divine love of the Incarnate word.”

Referring our love back to the Person of the Incarnate Word, he continues:

“Thus the Heart of Our Saviour is a reflection of the divine Person of the Word and also of His twofold nature, human and divine. It not merely symbolises, but sums up in itself the entire mystery of our redemption. When we adore the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, we adore, in and through it, the uncreated love of the divine Word and also His human love, together with His other emotions and virtues.”

Such, according to theologians, was Our Lord‟s intention in revealing to St. Margaret Mary in 1675, the love of His divine Heart. Taking this beautiful symbol, and placing it before our eyes, He asks for two things, love and reparation. In order the more to move ourselves to responding to His appeal, it should prove helpful to consider, first the symbol, and secondly, however briefly, one or two aspects of His love.

The symbol is well known to all from the statues seen in any Catholic church. There is first of all the Heart, from which proceed flames, typifying the intensity of the Saviour‟s love. These flames are crowned by a small cross, to remind us that this love proved itself under the most trying of ordeals, namely death “Greater love than this no man hath, than that a man lay down his life for his friend.” Humanly speaking therefore, we have here the token of supreme love. We know no greater. Such love is surpassed alone by the divine, which we can represent to ourselves only by analogy and in a very imperfect manner indeed.

Next we notice that the Heart is encircled by a crown of thorns. This is to remind us of Christ‟s unspeakable Passion, in which, in His generosity, He carries alone the load of the sins of the whole world.

Lastly, we see the Heart transfixed by a sword or a spear, and from the wound oozes one single drop of blood. The Fathers of the Church, preachers and spiritual writers, leave us in no doubt about the significance of this feature. “The Mystical Body of Christ is born from the transfixed Heart of Our Saviour,” are the words of Pius XII in the Encyclical Mystici Corporis.

From all this one can see, that when Our Lord showed this telling and beautiful symbol to St. Margaret Mary, and through her to the world, He was reminding us all of many things which, if they were to be written down would fill books, and even then, owing to technical and theological language, be neither as telling and appealing to the world at large, as the simple and so extraordinarily moving manifestation of His rejected love made at Paray le Monial.

Christ‟s love has at least two aspects which must prove most attractive to everyone. His is an undivided and an unselfish love.

When Catholics kneel at the altar-rail for Holy Communion, the priest comes to each and holding aloft the Blessed Sacrament says: “May the Body of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, guard your soul unto life everlasting. Amen.” While he says this he places on the tongue of each the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity made Man, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, whole and entire! Each receives the whole Christ, not in any way diminished by what is received by the others. In like manner each of us received the whole love of Christ, as if no other human being ever existed. How is this possible? The answer is that of the catechism—“With God all things are possible, and nothing is difficult to Him.” Surely this is a tremendous thought— all the love of Christ for me. But there is even more to it than that. Christ loves us for ourselves alone, for what we are, and not from any gain or advantage to Himself. Knowing us at our best and our weakest He still loves us.

Some years ago a certain girl, who was engaged to be married, came to her priest for advice. The priest knew her family and herself.

“Father,” she said, “you know of course that I am engaged to be married? But I cannot make up my mind whether Tom loves me or my money! I am troubled, for it would not do for us to make a mistake.”

This would not be the first case, nor will it be the last, of a man marrying for money! But for our purposes it is a good example of the so-called amor concupiscentiae—loving for what one can get, as opposed to the amor benevolentiae—the love of well-wishing, or true love. Our Lord loves each of us with this latter love. He loves us for what we are, and for what He hopes to make of us in heaven. Our happiness and success give Him great joy. Our failure, or sin, causes Him indescribable suffering and anguish. This is of all loves, the purest and most wonderful. Neither father nor mother ever had an affection to compare with this love of the Being Who is both God and Man, Jesus Christ.

Now two things are abundantly clear. The Heart of Christ was often bruised by the sin and ill-success of those He loved. In some mysterious way sin still strikes at His Godhead, and so He asks for atonement, called Reparation. Which of us could refuse this atonement to Our Loving Friend? An enthusiastic love, burning daily in our hearts, inspires us to all those acts, proposed by the Apostleship of Prayer—prayers and acts of love, Mass and Holy Communion.

V. Some Promises of the Sacred Heart 

The twelve promises which we find in prayer-books and manuals of devotion, are taken from the writings of St.

Margaret Mary. Her writings contain many other promises also, and the twelve are not even a summary of them all, but they are taken as the twelve best calculated to arouse sentiments of love in the hearts of the faithful, and to induce them to practise the devotion.

In a sense there is nothing new about them. They are prefigured even in the Old Testament:

“All you that thirst, come to the waters; and you that have no money make haste, buy and eat … . Incline your ear and come to me; hear, and your soul shall live, and I will make an everlasting covenant with you . . . Seek ye the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unjust man his thoughts, and let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him . . for He is bountiful to forgive . . . You shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace; the mountains and the hills shall sing praise before you, and all the trees of the country shall clap their hands. Instead of the shrub shall come up the fir tree, and instead, of the nettle shall come up the myrtle tree; and the Lord shall be named for an everlasting sign, that shall not be taken away” (Is. lv).

Thus did God promise the Jews the bounty and mercy of Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life. In even more precise terms Our Lord promises mercy, love, success and heaven, in the Sermon on the Mount and elsewhere. The words therefore of the Sacred Heart to St. Margaret Mary are a re-affirmation of the divine plan for our salvation: God wishes all men to be saved.

In the space at our disposal it would be impossible to take all the promises and deal with them in detail, but four can be considered with profit.

1. “It is by this means that the Sacred Heart of Our Loving Saviour wishes to save many souls from eternal perdition.”

St. Margaret Mary gives numerous examples of how the devotion brought about the conversion of sinners in her own experience. Any priest will bear out, from his dealings with souls, that those who can be got to love and honour Our Lord, cannot long remain in their sins.

There are few, if any Catholics, who would make so bold as to say they were not sinners, since the just man is said to fall seven times a day! They would have it otherwise, and they would at least wish they could be good. There can be no surer way to this end than by a boundless enthusiasm for the cause of the Sacred Heart, in our own souls and in those of others. “Nothing,” says the saint, “ is sweeter, nothing gentler, and at the same time stronger or more efficacious, than the sweet unction of the ardent charity of this loving Heart to convert the most hardened sinners.

2. “Devotion to the Sacred Heart is a sovereign remedy against tepidity.”

No one is more exposed to this dread spiritual disease of tepidity, than the person who seriously strives to be good. Alas, as everyone knows, it can eat into the very vitals of our spiritual life. Sometimes it is brought about through monotony, discouragement, or even laziness or self-love, but it is always highly dangerous. If it is not quickly shaken off, it brings with it great peril, even to our eternal salvation. The very least that can be said about it is that, at best, it greatly diminishes our heavenly glory and reward.

Here then are the words of the saint:

“Our Lord wishes through this devotion to His divine Heart, to rekindle the charity that has grown cold and has almost been extinguished in the hearts of the greater part of Christians; He wishes to give men means of loving by His Sacred Heart, as much as He desires and merits, and of making reparation for their ingratitude. If we are cowardly, cold, impure, imperfect, the Sacred Heart is an ardent furnace where we must purify and perfect ourselves like gold in the crucible. It will purify all that is imperfect in our actions, and sanctify those that are good.”

3. “I will give priests the power of touching the most hardened hearts.”

In a sense we are all priests. Whether lay or clerical, all of us must work for the salvation of other souls. There is no such thing as going to heaven alone; just as there is no such thing as not influencing others for evil. Either we are striving for heaven and bringing others with us, or inversely, we are dragging others down. All good Catholics then partake in the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Indeed, even in Ireland, there are very few families where there is no “black sheep‟ to be converted. So much is this so, that many people frequently complain of their lack of success. If they only knew the secret And who can understand this better than the priest, who must daily visit the black sheep of the parish, so often without success. As doors close in his face, and as he drags his weary footsteps to the next case, he cannot but feel, that if the love of Christ were really burning in his heart, his plea would be well-nigh irresistible.

4. ”I promise you in the excessive mercy of My Heart, that Its all-powerful love will grant to those who receive Holy Communion on nine first Fridays of the month consecutively, the grace of final repentance: they will not die under My displeasure or without receiving their Sacraments. My divine Heart making Itself their assured refuge at the last moment.”

There is in this, the Great Promise, the difficulty of reconciling it with Catholic teaching, that no one can be sure of final perseverance. There is, according to Fr. Lawson, S.J. (The Nine Fridays, C.T.S., London), the moral certainty of persevering to the end, keeping the faith and dying in the state of grace.

But perhaps the best answer one can give is contained in the two following, facts:

It has often been noticed that many who make the Fridays, keep the practice up all their lives, and it is pretty generally accepted, that those who worthily receive the Sacraments monthly “never go far wrong,” as the saying has it.

The second fact needs no comment, bearing out as it does, Our Lord‟s own words.

A certain priest who had been in charge of a Sacred Heart Confraternity for over thirty years, could tell a brother priest:

“Father, I have been over thirty years in charge of this Confraternity. In that time I have assisted at many death-beds and many funerals in this big parish—I should say, about five hundred in all. This I can truthfully say, on the evidence of my own experience; I have never known a faithful member of my Confraternity to die either an unhappy death or without the Sacraments!”

VI. Generous Love: The Dedication of a life to the Sacred Heart 

To specially chosen souls, the Sacred Heart holds out the most difficult and most perfect way of friendship and atonement for sin, namely the religious life, or the way of evangelical perfection. We read in the gospel of a certain young man, of apparently generous disposition who, while keeping the commandments, is anxious to go further and signalise himself in the service and love of God. To him Christ says:

“If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, give to the poor, and come follow Me” (St. Mt. 19, 16).
The programme was however too much for him, for he walked away and we hear of him no more.
Of course the close following of the Sacred Heart is hard: for the apostles it meant martyrdom for all, except St. John.

For a religious it means dying to the world, out of love of Jesus. St. Ignatius Loyola, writing to his followers, expressed the wish that they should be men „crucified to the world, to whom the world also is crucified.‟ This generous and loving “crucifixion‟‟ is of course brought about by the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, which a religious takes at the end of his noviceship.

Christ, some say, was nailed to the cross with three nails: one through the right hand, the second through the left and the third through the feet. With the right hand a man gives and receives gifts and money. By the vow of poverty a religious nails that hand to the cross. He may neither give nor accept money or presents, without the permission of his superior.

The left hand is nearest to the heart. It is sometimes stated that, from the third finger of the left hand an artery connects directly with the heart, and hence on that finger a woman wears her wedding ring. A religious centres his affections and interests on Christ, when, through the vow of chastity, he nails that hand also to the cross.

By the use of his feet a man walks. He can betake himself hither and thither, even to the ends of the earth at his own sweet will. Binding himself to the will of the superior, a man restrains his activities, curbs his own will, to go from place to place, to take part in this or that work. And so the vow of obedience completes the crucifixion with Christ on the cross. What more wonderful following could there be? How could a man love more, unless he too spill his blood for Christ in martyrdom?

These three virtues were loved and practised by the Sacred Heart.

He was born in poverty—in a cattle lair. His foster father was poor. His Mother was a country working Girl. His life was lived in poverty, for He had not whereon to lay His head. He died on the gibbet of the cross, a forsaken outlaw, and was buried in another man‟s tomb. For us He feared riches and. warned—“It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (St. Lk. 18, 25).

So, down through the ages, in order to have nothing come between themselves and the love of Jesus, holy men have run away from, and forsaken their riches. They felt that if they were to be in any sense worthy companions of Christ, they could not follow in wealth, comfort and ease, while their Friend lived in near-destitution.

Of course non-believers have said strange things about Our Lord. Some said He was mad; others that He was not the Son of God; others still that He neither died nor rose from the dead, and so on. But no one has ever cast the slightest shadow of doubt on his immaculate chastity. His close friends were the pure and the chaste—Our Lady, St. Joseph and St. John. Even Mary Magdalen could not become His friend, till she had cast aside her sins and self-indulgence.

For the pure Christ has the highest praise and the highest reward. As God He understands what devotedness and fixity of purpose; what love and what self-sacrifice it demands of poor, fallen human nature. At the same time we cannot imagine anyone desiring to be His close friend, and achieving this wish, unless he be chaste. Of course cleanness of heart means many things, as the Scripture scholars are not slow to remind us, but one cannot escape having the feeling, that Our Lord was thinking specially and lovingly of the pure when He said: “Blessed are the clean of heart for they shall see God!”

Is there need to speak of obedience? The Boy Christ, going down to Nazareth, was from His earliest years, subject to Joseph and Mary. In His life everything is ordered according to His Father‟s Will—even to the very death on the cross.

What then can one say of the man or woman who so loves Jesus Christ, as to take up His yoke and His burden? That they find it sweet and light, we take from the lips of Christ Himself. This however can be said with truth: there can be no more generous love, and no more perfect way of serving the Sacred Heart and—is it necessary to add?—no more infallible way of calling down every grace and blessing on home, family and self. God has not yet been outdone in generosity, and he who gives all receives the full measure, pressed down, shaken together and flowing over.

Who else, if we exclude the martyrs, can say with deeper meaning than the religious:

“Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in Thee”

Jeremias Hayes, S.J. Censor Theol. Deput.
Ioannes Carolus, Archiep. Dublinen., Hiberniae Primas.
DUBLINI, die 4 Junii, 1958.

The Spirit of Order, Peace, and Harmony

The Spirit of Order, Peace, and Harmony
Fr. Louis Campbell

Right order is the harmony that exists when all things are in their proper relationship with God and with one another. As St. Augustine says, “peace is the tranquility of order”. When there is disorder in your relationship with God, or with other human beings, or with yourself, you do not have peace. When the world is in disorder, there is no peace in the world.

When the Holy Ghost comes into your life He makes Jesus Christ the center of your world. Everything disordered in your life is brought into line in its proper relationship to everything else. Then you have peace, the peace that only God can give, the peace that Christ gave to His disciples “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you” (Jn.14:27).

The Holy Ghost is the Spirit of unity, order and peace. This is why the Church prays, and why we should all pray:

“Come, Holy Ghost, fill the hearts of Thy faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of Thy love.”

Just as the Holy Ghost is the Spirit of peace, order, and harmony, so the evil spirit, the devil, is the spirit of disunity, disorder and conflict. When the devil tempted Adam and Eve he introduced disorder into God’s perfectly ordered universe – the disorder of sin and disobedience. When there is disorder in your life, you become a slave to some disordered part of you, obeying its orders. The tail wags the dog. For example, if you fuel your imagination with pornographic images from the internet, you lose control of your life. Something outside of you is running your life, and you will crash and burn if you do not regain control. If you feel helpless and hopeless, now is your opportunity. The Holy Ghost can re-establish order in your life and help you learn self-control, which is one of the fruits of the Spirit.

The Holy Ghost is the Spirit of prayer. He will teach you to pray. Lacking prayer is like lacking oxygen. We suffocate spiritually and become spiritual zombies. If drink takes over, if drugs take over, if food takes over, or the passions get out of hand, you must take the proper measures to regain control. Give up the alcohol if you lose control over it. Give up the drugs or whatever might be the occasion of sin for you. As Jesus would say, “It is better for you to go into eternal life without the alcohol or the drugs, or whatever is making you a slave, than to slide helplessly into hell.” Pray, pray, pray to the Holy Ghost for the grace to change.

All the disorder of this world can be explained by the fact that it has thrown off the yoke of obedience to Christ and His Church. There is now disorder everywhere – social disorder, political disorder, economic disorder. Nature itself is disordered. There is even disorder in the Church since it has been infiltrated and subverted from its true purpose, so that it no longer fulfills its command to preach the Gospel to every creature.

People have been unwilling to believe that our country is being controlled by forces other than our elected representatives. But it’s getting easier to believe, because the ordinary citizen no longer has anything to say in the decision making process. And we are powerless to prevent the globalist crowd from having their way and robbing us of our sovereignty and independence. There is no right order in world affairs. God is not welcome in our governments, our courts, our schools, our jobs, our family life, or our entertainment. On Sunday, which is supposed to be the Lord’s Day, God is ignored. Christ the King is barred from His throne and His holy Church is prevented from fulfilling His command to teach and baptize all peoples. Instead it is infiltrated, subverted, and dragged to its Calvary.

There will never be right order in the world until the nations recognize the Kingship of Jesus Christ and place themselves under His dominion. The famous “civilization of love” called for by the conciliar antipopes is impossible to realize, because the nations are under the control of the devil and his deputies, and they create only disunity and war. The false church which has usurped the positions of power in the Catholic Church must be kicked out, and only then will the true Church be able to fulfill its ministry of re-establishing all things in Christ.

St. Paul calls for the reordering of the universe in Christ according to God’s plan:

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature. For in him were created all things in the heavens and on the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether Thrones, or Dominations, or Principalities, or Powers. All things have been created through and unto him, and he is before all creatures, and in him all things hold together… For it has pleased God the Father that in him all his fullness should dwell, and that through him he should reconcile to himself all things, whether on the earth or in the heavens, making peace through the blood of his cross” (Col.1:15-17;19,20).

If you are not at peace, there is disorder in your life. Something is missing in your relationship with God. Call upon the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of unity and order, that you may once again be at peace with God, with others, and with yourself.

“For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made to live. But each in his own turn, Christ as first-fruits, then they who are Christ’s, who have believed, at his coming. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when he does away with all sovereignty, authority and power… And when all things are made subject to him, then the Son himself will also be made subject to him who subjected all things to him, that God may be all in all” (1Cor.15:22-24;28).

“Watch, then, praying at all times,” says Our Lord, “that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that are to be, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Lk.21:36).

“Come, Holy Ghost, fill the hearts of Thy faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of Thy love.”

Sermon LIV: On the Passion III

Sermon LIV: On the Passion III
By Pope St. Leo I (AD 390-461)
Delivered on Palm Sunday

I. The Two-Fold Nature of Christ Set Forth

Among all the works of God’s mercy, dearly-beloved, which from the beginning have been bestowed upon men’s salvation, none is more wondrous, and none more sublime, than that Christ was crucified for the world. For to this mystery all the mysteries of the ages preceding led up, and every variation which the will of God ordained in sacrifices, in prophetic signs, and in the observances of the Law, foretold that this was fixed, and promised its fulfilment: so that now types and figures are at an end, and we find our profit in believing that accomplished which before we found our profit in looking forward to. In all things, therefore, dearly-beloved, which pertain to the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Catholic Faith maintains and demands that we acknowledge the two Natures to have met in our Redeemer, and while their properties remained, such a union of both Natures to have been effected that, from the thee when, as the cause of mankind required, in the blessed Virgin’s womb, “the Word became flesh,” we may not think of Him as God without that which is man, nor as man without that which is God. Each Nature does indeed express its real existence by actions that distinguish it, but neither separates itself from connexion with the other. Nothing is wanting there on either side; in the majesty the humility is complete, in the humility the majesty is complete: and the unity does not introduce confusion, nor does the distinctiveness destroy the unity. The one is passible, the other inviolable; and yet the degradation belongs to the same Person, as does the glory. He is present at once in weakness and in power; at once capable of death and the vanquisher of it. Therefore, God took on Him whole Manhood, and so blended the two Natures together by means of His mercy and power, that each Nature was present in the other, and neither passed out of its own properties into the other.

II. The Two Natures Acted Conjointly, and the Human Sufferings Were Not Compulsory, But in Accordance with the Divine Will

But because the design of that mystery which was ordained for our restoration before the eternal ages, was not to be carried out without human weakness and without Divine power, both “form” does that which is proper to it in common with the other, the Word, that is, performing that which is the Word’s and the flesh that which is of the flesh. One of them gleams bright with miracles, the other But because the design of that mystery which was ordained for our restoration before the eternal ages, was not to be carried out without human weakness and without Divine power, both “form” does that which is proper to it in common with the other, the Word, that is, performing that which is the Word’s and the flesh that which is of the flesh. One of them gleams bright with miracles, the other succumbs to injuries. The one departs not from equality with the Father’s glory, the other leaves not the nature of our race. But nevertheless even His very endurance of sufferings does not so far expose Him to a participation in our humility as to separate Him from the power of the Godhead. All the mockery and insults, all the persecution and pain which the madness of the wicked inflicted on the Lord, was not endured of necessity, but undertaken of free-will: “for the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which had perished:” and He used the wickedness of His persecutors for the redemption of all men in such a way that in the mystery of His Death and Resurrection even His murderers could have been saved, if they had believed. succumbs to injuries. The one departs not from equality with the Father’s glory, the other leaves not the nature of our race. But nevertheless even His very endurance of sufferings does not so far expose Him to a participation in our humility as to separate Him from the power of the Godhead. All the mockery and insults, all the persecution and pain which the madness of the wicked inflicted on the Lord, was not endured of necessity, but undertaken of free-will: “for the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which had perished:” and He used the wickedness of His persecutors for the redemption of all men in such a way that in the mystery of His Death and Resurrection even His murderers could have been saved, if they had believed.

III. Judas’ Infamy Has Never Been Exceeded

And hence, Judas, thou art proved more criminal and unhappier than all; for when repentance should have called thee back to the Lord, despair dragged thee to the halter. Thou shouldest have awaited the completion of thy crime, and have put off thy ghastly death by hanging, until Christ’s Blood was shed for all sinners. And among the many miracles and gifts of the Lords which might have aroused thy conscience, those holy mysteries, at least, might have rescued thee from thy headlong fall, which at the Paschal supper thou hadst received, being even then detected in thy treachery by the sign of Divine knowledge. Why dost thou distrust the goodness of Him, Who did not repel thee from the communion of His body and blood, Who did not deny thee the kiss of peace when thou camest with crowds and a band of armed men to seize Him. But O man that nothing could convert, O “spirit going and not returning,” thou didst follow thy heart’s rage, and, the devil standing at thy right hand, didst turn the wickedness, which thou hadst prepared against the life of all the saints, to thine own destruction, so that, because thy crime had exceeded all measure of punishment, thy wickedness might make thee thine own judge, thy punishment allow thee to be thine own hangman.

IV. Christ Voluntarily Bartered His Glory for Our Weakness

When, therefore, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself,” and the Creator Himself was wearing the creature which was to be restored to the image of its Creator; and after the Divinely-miraculous works had been performed, the performance of which the spirit of prophecy had once predicted, “then shall the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf shall hear; then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall be plain;” Jesus knowing that the thee was now come for the fulfilment of His glorious Passion, said, “My soul is sorrowful even unto death;” and again, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me.” And these words, expressing a certain fear, show His desire to heal the affection of our weakness by sharing them, and to check our fear of enduring pain by undergoing it. In our Nature, therefore, the Lord trembled with our fear, that He might fully clothe our weakness and our frailty with the completeness of His own strength. For He had come into this world a rich and merciful Merchant from the skies, and by a wondrous exchange had entered into a bargain of salvation with us, receiving ours and giving His, honour for insults, salvation for pain, life for death: and He Whom more than 12,000 of the angel-hosts might have served for the annihilation of His persecutors, preferred to entertain our fears, rather than employ His own power.

V. S. Peter Was the First To Benefit by His Master’s Humiliation

And how much this humiliation conferred upon all the faithful, the most blessed Apostle Peter was the first to prove, who, after the fierce blast of threatening cruelty had dismayed him, quickly changed, and was restored to vigour, finding remedy from the great Pattern, so that the suddenly-shaken member returned to the firmness of the Head. For the bond-servant could not be “greater than the Lord, nor the disciple greater than the master,” and he could not have vanquished the trembling of human frailty had not the Vanquisher of Death first feared. The Lord, therefore, “looked back upon Peter,” and amid the calumnies of priests, the falsehoods of witnesses, the injuries of those that scourged and spat upon Him, met His dismayed disciple with those eyes wherewith He had foreseen his dismay: and the gaze of the Truth entered into him, on whose heart correction must be wrought, as if the Lord’s voice were making itself heard there, and saying, Whither goest thou, Peter? why retirest thou upon thyself? turn thou to Me, put thy trust in Me, follow Me: this is the thee of My Passion, the hour of thy suffering is not yet come. Why dost thou fear what thou, too, shalt overcome? Let not the weakness, in which I share, confound thee. I was fearful for thee; do thou be confident of Me.

VI. The Mad Counsel of the Jews Was Turned to Their Own Destruction

“And when morning was come all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death.” This morning, O ye Jews, was for you not the rising, but the setting of the sun, nor did the wonted daylight visit your eyes, but a night of blackest darkness brooded on your naughty hearts. This morning overthrew for you the temple and its altars, did away with the Law and the Prophets, destroyed the Kingdom and the priesthood, turned all your feasts into eternal mourning. For ye resolved on a mad and bloody counsel, ye “fat bulls,” ye “many oxen,” ye “roaring” wild beasts, ye rabid “dogs,” to give up to death the Author of life and the Lord of glory; and, as if the enormity of your fury could be palliated by employing the verdict of him, who ruled your province, you lead Jesus bound to Pilate’s judgment, that the terror-stricken judge being overcome by your persistent shouts, you might choose a man that was a murderer for pardon, and demand the crucifixion of the Saviour of the world. After this condemnation of Christ, brought about more by the cowardice than the power of Pilate, who with washed hands but polluted mouth sent Jesus to the cross with the very lips that had pronounced Him innocent, the licence of the people, obedient to the looks of the priests, heaped many insults on the Lord, and the frenzied mob wreaked its rage on Him, Who meekly and voluntarily endured it all. But because, dearly-beloved, the whole story is too long to go through to-day, let us put off the rest till Wednesday, when the reading of the Lord’s Passion will be repeated. For the Lord will grant to your prayers, that of His own free gift we may fulfil our promise: through our Lord Jesus Christ, Who liveth and reigneth for ever and ever. Amen.

On Lent II

Sermon XL: On Lent II
By Pope St. Leo I (AD 390-461)

I. Progress and Improvement Always Possible

Although, dearly-beloved, as the Easter festival approaches, the very recurrence of the season points out to us the Lenten fast, yet our words also must add their exhortations which, the Lord helping us, may be not useless to the active nor irksome to the devout. For since the idea of these days demands the increase of all our religious performances, there is no one, I am sure, that does not feel glad at being incited to good works. For though our nature which, so long as we are mortal, will be changeable, is advancing to the highest pursuits of virtue, yet always has the possibility of filling back, so has it always the possibility of advancing. And this is the true justness of the perfect that they should never assume themselves to be perfect, lest flagging in the purpose of their yet unfinished journey, they should fall into the danger of failure, through giving up the desire for progress.

And, therefore, because none of us, dearly beloved, is so perfect and holy as not to be able to be more perfect and more holy, let us all together, without difference of rank, without distinction of desert, with pious eagerness pursue our race from what we have attained to what we yet aspire to, and make some needful additions to our regular devotions. For he that is not more attentive than usual to religion in these days, is shown at other times to be not attentive enough.

II. Satan Seeks to Subtly His Numerous Lasses by Fresh Gains

Hence the reading of the Apostle’s proclamation has sounded opportunely in our ears, saying, “Behold now is the accepted time, behold now is the day of salvation.” For what is more accepted than this time, what more suitable to salvation than these days, in which war is proclaimed against vices and progress is made in all virtues? Thou hadst indeed always to keep watch, O Christian soul, against the enemy of thy salvation, lest any spot should be exposed to the tempter’s snares: but now greater wariness and keener prudence must be employed by thee when that same foe of thine rages with fiercer hatred. For now in all the world the power of his ancient sway is taken from him, and the countless vessels of captivity are rescued from his grasp. The people of all nations and of all tongues are breaking away from their cruel plunderer, and now no race of men is found that does not struggle against the tyrant’s laws, while through all the borders of the earth many thousands of thousands are being prepared to be reborn in Christ: and as the birth of a new creature draws near, spiritual wickedness is being driven out by those who were possessed by it. The blasphemous fury of the despoiled foe frets, therefore, and seeks new gains because it has lost its ancient right. Unwearied and ever wakeful, he snatches at any sheep he finds straying carelessIy from the sacred folds, intent on leading them over the steeps of treasure anti down the slopes of luxury into the abodes of death. And so he inflames their wrath, feeds their hatreds, whets their desires, mocks at their continence, arouses their gluttony.

III. The Twofold Nature of Christ Shown at the Temptation

For whom would he not dare to try, who did not keep from his treacherous attempts even on our Lord Jesus Christ? For, as the story of the Gospel has disclosed, when our Saviour, Who was true God, that He might show Himself true Man also, and banish all wicked and erroneous opinions, after the fast of 40 days and nights, had experienced the hunger of human weakness, the devil, rejoicing at having found in Him a sign of possible and mortal nature, in order to test the power which he feared, said, “If Thou art the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” Doubtless the Almighty could do this, and it was easy that at the Creator’s command a creature of any kind should change into the form that it was commanded: just as when He willed it, in the marriage feast, He changed the water into wine: but here it better agreed with His purposes of salvation that His haughty foe’s cunning should be vanquished by the Lord, not in the power of His Godhead, but by the mystery of His humiliation. At length, when the devil had been put to flight and the tempter baffled in all his arts, angels came to the Lord and ministered to Him, that He being true Man and true God, His Manhood might be unsullied by those crafty questions, and His Godhead displayed by those holy ministrations. And so let the sons and disciples of the devil be confounded, who, being filled with the poison of vipers, deceive the simple, denying in Christ the presence of both true natures, whilst they rob either His Godhead of Manhood, or His Manhood of Godhead, although both falsehoods are destroyed by a twofold and simultaneous proof: for by His bodily hunger His perfect Manhood was shown, and by the attendant angels His perfect Godhead.

IV. The Fast Should Not End with Abstinence Front Food, But Lead to Good Deeds

Therefore, dearly-beloved, seeing that, as we are taught by our Redeemer’s precept, “man lives not in bread alone, but in every word of God,” and it is right that Christian people, whatever the amount of their abstinence, should rather desire to satisfy themselves with the “Word of God” than with bodily food, let us with ready devotion and eager faith enter upon the celebration of the solemn fast, not with barren abstinence flora food, which is often imposed on us by weakliness of body, or the disease of avarice, but in bountiful benevolence: that in truth we may be of those of whom the very Truth speaks, “blessed are they which hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Let works of piety, therefore, be our delight, and let us be filled with those kinds of food which feed us for eternity. Let us rejoice in the replenishment of the poor, whom our bounty has satisfied. Let us delight in the clothing of those whose nakedness we have covered with needful raiment. Let our humaneness be felt by the sick in their illnesses, by the weakly in their infirmities, by the exiles in their hardships, by the orphans in their destitution, and by solitary widows in their sadness: in the helping of whom there is no one that cannot carry out some amount of benevolence. For no one’s income is small, whose heart is big: and the measure of one’s mercy and goodness does not depend on the size of one’s means. Wealth of goodwill is never rightly lacking, even in a slender purse. Doubtless the expenditure of the rich is greater, and that of the poor smaller, but there is no difference in the fruit of their works, where the purpose of the workers is the same.

V. And Still Further It Should Lead to Personal Amendment and Domestic Harmony

But, beloved, in this opportunity for the virtues’ exercise there are also other notable crowns, to be won by no dispersing abroad of granaries, by no disbursement of money, if wantonness is repelled, if drunkenness is abandoned, and the lusts of the flesh tamed by the laws of chastity: if hatreds pass into affection, if enmities be turned into peace, if meekness extinguishes wrath, if gentleness forgives wrongs, if in fine the conduct of master and of slaves is so well ordered that the rule of the one is milder, and the discipline of the other is more complete. It is by such observances then, dearly-beloved, that God’s mercy will be gained, the charge of sin wiped out, and the adorable Easter festival devoutly kept. And this the pious Emperors of the Roman world have long guarded with holy observance; for in honour of the Lord’s Passion and Resurrection they bend their lofty power, and relaxing the severity of their decrees set free many of their prisoners: so that on the clays when the world is saved by the Divine mercy, their clemency, which is modelled on the Heavenly goodness, may be zealously followed by us. Let Christian peoples then imitate their princes, and be incited to forbearance in their homes by these royal examples. For it is not right that private laws should be severer than public. Let faults be forgiven, let bonds be loosed offences wiped out, designs of vengeance fall through, that the holy festival through the Divine and human grace may find all happy, all innocent: through our Lord Jesus Christ Who with the Father and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth God for endless ages of ages. Amen.

On Lent

Sermon XXXIX: On Lent I
By Pope St. Leo I (AD 390-461)

I. The Benefits of Abstinence Shown by the Example of the Hebrews

In former days, when the people of the Hebrews and all the tribes of Israel were oppressed for their scandalous sins by the grievous tyranny of the Philistines, in order that they might be able to overcome their enemies, as the sacred story declares, they restored their powers of mind and body by the injunction of a fast. For they understood that they had deserved that hard and wretched subjection for their neglect of God’s commands, and evil ways, and that it was in vain for them to strive with arms unless they had first withstood their sin. Therefore abstaining from food and drink, they applied the discipline of strict correction to themselves, and in order to conquer their foes, first conquered the allurements of the palate in themselves. And thus it came about that their fierce enemies and cruel taskmasters yielded to them when fasting, whom they had held in subjection when full. And so we too, dearly beloved, who are set in the midst of many oppositions and conflicts, may be cured by a little carefulness, if only we will use the same means. For our case is almost the same as theirs, seeing that, as they were attacked by foes in the flesh so are we chiefly by spiritual enemies. And if we can conquer them by God’s grace enabling us to correct our ways, the strength of our bodily enemies also will give way before us, and by our self-amendment we shall weaken those who were rendered formidable to us, not by their own merits but by our shortcomings.

II. Use Lent to Vanquish the Enemy, and Be Thus Preparing for Eastertide

Accordingly, dearly-beloved, that we may be able to overcome all our enemies, let us seek Divine aid by the observance of the heavenly bidding, knowing that we cannot otherwise prevail against our adversaries, unless we prevail against our own selves. For we have many encounters with our own selves: the flesh desires one thing against the spirit, and the spirit another thing against the flesh. And in this disagreement, if the desires of the body be stronger, the mind will disgracefully lose its proper dignity, and it will be most disastrous for that to serve which ought to have ruled. But if the mind, being subject to its Ruler, and delighting in gifts from above, shall have trampled under foot the allurements of earthly pleasure, and shall not have allowed sin to reign in its mortal body, reason will maintain a well-ordered supremacy, and its strongholds no strategy of spiritual wickednesses will cast down: because man has then only true peace and true freedom when the flesh is ruled by the judgment of the mind, and the mind is directed by the will of God. And although this state of preparedness, dearly-beloved, should always be maintained that our ever-watchful foes may be overcome by unceasing diligence, yet now it must be the more anxiously sought for and the more zealously cultivated when the designs of our subtle foes themselves are conducted with keener craft than ever. For knowing that the most hollowed days of Lent are now at hand, in the keeping of which all past slothfulnesses are chastised, all negligences alerted for, they direct all the force of their spite on this one thing, that they who intend to celebrate the Lord’s holy Passover may be found unclean in some matter, and that cause of offense may arise where propitiation ought to have been obtained.

III. Fights are Necessary to Prove Our Faith

As we approach then, dearly-beloved, the beginning of Lent, which is a time for the more careful serving of the Lord, because we are, as it were, entering on a kind of contest in good works, let us prepare our souls for fighting with temptations, and understand that the more zealous we are for our salvation, the more determined must be the assaults of our opponents. But “stronger is He that is in us than He that is against us,” and through Him are we powerful in whose strength we rely: because it was for this that the Lord allowed Himself to be tempted by the tempter, that we might be taught by His example as well as fortified by His aid. For He conquered the adversary, as ye have heard, by quotations from the law, not by actual strength, that by this very thing He might do greater honor to man, and inflict a greater punishment on the adversary by conquering the enemy of the human race not now as God but as Man. He fought then, therefore, that we too might fight thereafter: He conquered that we too might likewise conquer. For there are no works of power, dearly-beloved, without the trials of temptations, there is no faith without proof, no contest without a foe, no victory without conflict. This life of ours is in the midst of snares, in the midst of battles; if we do not wish to be deceived, we must watch: if we want to overcome, we must fight. And therefore the most wise Solomon says, “My son in approaching the service of God prepare thy soul for temptation.” For He being a man full of the wisdom of God, and knowing that the pursuit of religion involves laborious struggles, foreseeing too the danger of the fight, forewarned the intending combatant; lest haply, if the tempter came upon him in his ignorance, he might find him unready and wound him unaware

IV. The Christian’s Armor is Both for Defense and for Attack

So, dearly-beloved, let us who instructed in Divine learning come wittingly to the present contest and strife, hear the Apostle when he says, “for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of this dark world, against spiritual wickedness in heavenly things,” and let us not forget that these our enemies feel it is against them all is done that we strive to do for our salvation, and that by the very fact of our seeking after some good thing we are challenging our foes. For this is an old-standing quarrel between us and them fostered by the devil’s ill-will, so that they are tortured by our being justified, because they have fallen from those good things to which we, God helping us, are advancing. If, therefore, we are raised, they are prostrated: if we are strengthened, they are weakened. Our cures are their blows, because they are wounded by our wounds’ cure. “Stand, therefore,” dearly-beloved, as the Apostle says, “having the loins of your mind girt in truth, and your feet shod in the preparation of the gospel of peace, in all things taking the shield of faith in which ye may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the evil one, and put on the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” See, dearly-beloved, with what mighty weapons, with what impregnable defenses we are armed by our Leader, who is famous for His many triumphs, the unconquered Master of the Christian warfare. He has girt our loins with the belt of chastity, He has shod our feet with the bonds of peace: because the unbelted soldier is quickly vanquished by the suggester of immodesty, and he that is unshod is easily bitten by the serpent. He has given the shield of faith for the protection of our whole body; on our head has He set the helmet of salvation; our right hand has He furnished with a sword, that is with the word of Truth: that the spiritual warrior may not only be safe from wounds, but also may have strength to wound his assailant.

V. Abstinence Not Only from Food But from Other Evil Desires, Especially from Wrath, is Required in Lent

Relying, therefore, dearly-beloved, on these arms, let us enter actively and fearlessly on the contest set before us: so that in this fasting struggle we may not rest satisfied with only this end, that we should think abstinence from food alone desirable. For it is not enough that the substance of our flesh should be reduced, if the strength of the soul be not also developed. When the outer man is somewhat subdued, let the inner man be somewhat refreshed; and when bodily excess is denied to our flesh, let our mind be invigorated by spiritual delights. Let every Christian scrutinize himself, and earth severely into his inmost heart: let him see that no discord cling there, no wrong desire be harbored. Let chasteness drive incontinence far away; let the light of truth dispel the shades of deception; let the swellings of pride subside; let wrath yield to reason; let the darts of ill-treatment be shattered, and the chidings of the tongue be bridled; let thoughts of revenge fall through, and injuries be given over to oblivion. In fine, let “every plant which the heavenly Father hath not planted be removed by the roots.” For then only are the seeds of virtue well nourished in us, when every foreign germ is uprooted from the field of wheat. If any one, therefore, has been fired by the desire for vengeance against another, so that he has given him up to prison or bound him with chains, let him make haste to forgive not only the innocent, but also one who seems worthy of punishment, that he may with confidence make use of the clause in the Lord’s prayer and say, “Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.” Which petition the Lord marks with peculiar emphasis, as if the efficacy of the whole rested on this condition, by saying, “For if ye forgive men their sins, your Father which is in heaven also will forgive you: but if ye forgive not men, neither will your Father forgive you your Sins.”

VI. The Right Use of Lent Will Lead to a Happy Participation in Easter

Accordingly, dearly-beloved, being mindful of our weakness, because we easily fall into all kinds of faults, let us by no means neglect this special remedy and most effectual healing of our wounds. Let us remit, that we may have remission: let us grant the pardon which we crave: let us not be eager to be revenged when we pray to be forgiven. Let us not pass over the groans of the poor with deaf ear, but with prompt kindness bestow our mercy on the needy, that we may deserve to find mercy in the judgment. And he that, aided by God’s grace, shall strain every nerve after this perfection, will keep this holy fast faithfully; free from the leaven of the old wickedness, in the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth11 , he will reach the blessed Passover, and by newness of life will worthily rejoice in the mystery of man’s reformation through Christ our Lord Who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

The Holy Season of Lent

The Holy Season of Lent
Bishop Mark A. Pivarunas

Dearly Beloved in Christ,

The holy season of Lent begins the Church’s solemn preparation for the glorious feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and there are many spiritual and doctrinal aspects of Lent which we should consider in order to properly benefit from this penitential season.

The first aspect of Lent is primarily spiritual. It pertains to the history of Lent, its purpose and principal end. The second aspect of Lent is primarily doctrinal and reminds us of the evil consequences of sin — the original sin of our parents, Adam and Eve, and the actual sins which we ourselves commit.

When and by whom was the season of Lent instituted?

Many of the early Fathers of the Church, in particular, St. Jerome, Pope St. Leo the Great, St. Cyril of Alexandria, and St. Isidore of Seville, confirm that the season of Lent was instituted by the Apostles themselves from the very commencement of the Church. They legislated a universal fast for the ever-growing flock of Christ to serve as a spiritual preparation for Our Lord’s Resurrection from the dead. The Apostles determined that, as the number forty (40) was a very significant number both in the Old and New Testaments, this solemn penitential season should also consist of 40 days.

When Almighty God first cleansed the world from sin by means of the Great Flood in the days of Noah, it rained 40 days and 40 nights. Likewise, when Moses and the Israelites wandered in the desert on their journey to the Promised Land, they traveled 40 years in the barren wilderness. Finally, we have the perfect example of Christ Himself, Who fasted for 40 days in the desert before He embarked on His public life.

The concept of fasting is quite explicit in the teachings of Our Lord. In the Gospel of St. Matthew, we read that the disciples of St. John the Baptist one day approached Jesus and asked Him:

“‘Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but thy disciples do not fast?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Can the children of the bridegroom mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then they shall fast’” (Matt. 9:14-15).

Many other examples from Sacred Scripture demonstrate the spiritual good derived from fasting.

On one occasion during Our Lord’s life here on earth, the Apostles found themselves in a very embarrassing situation. They attempted to exorcise a possessed man and were unable to succeed. When Jesus had arrived on the scene, He instantly cast the devil out and later told His Apostles:

“This kind (of demon) is not cast out but by prayer and fasting” (Matt. 17:20).

In the Acts of the Apostles, we find the Apostles combined prayer with fasting as a spiritual preparation for ordination of priests:

“When they had ordained to them priests in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, in whom they had believed” (Acts 14:22).

“As they were ministering to the Lord, and fasting, the Holy Ghost said to them: ‘Separate me Saul and Barnabas, for the work whereunto I have taken them.’ Then they, fasting and praying, and imposed their hands upon them, sent them away” (Acts 13:2-3).

Our Holy Mother the Catholic Church takes Our Lord’s words seriously:

“But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then they shall fast” (Matt. 9:15).

The laws of the Church in regard to the ecclesiastical fast are as follows: on a day of fast, only one full meal is allowed, with two smaller meatless meals (collations), sufficient to maintain one’s strength, but the two small collations together should not equal another full meal. These laws of fast bind under pain of serious sin, all those who are between the ages of 21 and 59, and who are not lawfully excused. In this legislation, we see the great prudence of the Catholic Church and how well balanced are the demands placed upon the faithful. When the years of important physical growth ordinarily have ended, the Church obliges her young adults at the age of 21 to begin to fast, and when adults ordinarily enter upon the age of declining health, the Church terminates this obligation at the age of 60. Those lawfully excused from the fast are the ill or convalescent persons in delicate health, pregnant or nursing women, and hardworking people who, because of the fast, would not be able to carry out their occupation (farmers, millworkers, stone masons, etc.) provided they actually work a great part of the day. Furthermore, professors, teachers, students, preachers, confessors, physicians, judges, lawyers, etc., are excused if fasting would hinder them in their work.

If there is any question on an individual occasion as to the fast, the faithful can always have recourse to their confessor.

The purpose of fasting is best summarized by St. Thomas Aquinas:

“Fasting is practiced for a three-fold purpose. First, in order to bridle the lusts of the flesh, wherefore the Apostle says: ‘In stripes, in prisons, in seditions, in labors, in watchings, in fastings, in chastity, in knowledge, in long-suffering, in sweetness, in the Holy Ghost, in charity unfeigned’ (2 Cor. 6:5,6), since fasting is the guardian of chastity. For, according to Jerome: ‘Venus is cold when Ceres and Bacchus are not there.’ That is to say, lust is cooled by abstinence in meat and drink. Secondly, we have recourse to fasting in order that the mind may arise more freely to the contemplation of heavenly things: hence it is related (Dan. 10) of Daniel that he received a revelation from God after fasting for three weeks. Thirdly, in order to satisfy for sins: wherefore it is written (Joel 2:12): ‘Be converted to me with all your heart, in fasting, and in weeping and in mourning.’ The same is declared by Augustine in a sermon (De Orat. et Jejun): Fasting cleanses the soul, raises the mind, subjects one’s flesh to the spirit, renders the heart contrite and humble, scatters the clouds of concupiscence, quenches the fire of lust, kindles the light of true chastity’” (Summa Theologicae, Question 147, Article 1).

The second aspect of Lent to be considered is the evil of sin — both original sin and actual sin. Sin is defined as any thought, word, deed, desire, or omission forbidden by the law of God. When our first parents, Adam and Eve, sinned, they grievously offended Almighty God. For although their act of eating of the forbidden fruit was a finite act in itself, their offense was against an Infinite Being — God. This offense not only deprived them and their offspring of the preternatural gifts, the consequences of which were ignorance, suffering, death and a strong inclination to sin, but also and most importantly, deprived Adam and Eve and their offspring of that most precious of gifts — sanctifying grace — by which man shares in the very life of God within his soul. St. Paul says:

“By one man sin entered into the world, and by sin death, and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned” (Rom 5:12).

When man commits sin, especially mortal sin, he also offends the Divine Majesty and inflicts spiritual injury to his soul (spiritual death in the case of mortal sin). It was to atone for the sins of mankind that Jesus Christ sacrificed His life on the Cross.

If we would truly appreciate the sufferings and death of Our Lord, we need to seriously meditate on the Passion. One of the means to accomplish this is to consider the sacred image of Christ Crucified as seen on the Holy Shroud of Turin. This blood-stained linen accurately identifies the wounds inflicted on Our Lord according to the Holy Gospels.

We can see for ourselves the multiple marks of the scourges across His Sacred Body, the wounds caused by the thorns circling His Head, the marks of the nails in His Hands and Feet, and finally, the large wound in His Sacred Side.

The great tragedy in our times is that the majority of mankind lives as if there were no God, no Commandments, no such thing as sin. But let us not look at the majority of mankind — let us look at ourselves. When we have the misfortune to commit sin, we cannot claim ignorance. Our Lord cannot say of us as He said of His executioners:

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!” (Luke 23:34).

As we begin our solemn preparation for the celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord — the greatest feast of the entire ecclesiastical year — let us join to our prayers, meditations and spiritual readings, the wholesome penance of fast and abstinence. Those who are not obliged to fast should take on some special sacrifice that will be particularly mortifying to their fallen human nature, which is so inclined to sin.

Finally, as we do penance during this season of Lent, let us remember the words of Our Lord to His followers:

“When you fast, be not as the hypocrites, sad. For they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Amen I say to you, they have received their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head and wash thy face. That thou appear not to men to fast, but to thy Father Who is in secret: and thy Father Who seeth in secret, will repay thee” (Matt. 6:16-18).

In Christo Jesu et Maria Immaculata,
Most Rev. Mark A. Pivarunas

Glad Tidings of Good Things

Glad Tidings of Good Things-Fr. Louis Campbell

Our Lord once told the Apostle Thomas: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me.” The Apostle Philip then said to Our Lord: “‘Lord, show us the Father and it is enough for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been so long a time with you, and you have not known me? Philip, he who sees me sees also the Father’” (Jn.14:6-9).

He has been with us for two thousand years now – for so long a time. And how many of the people of this world know Jesus Christ, “the Way, and the Truth, and the Life” (Jn.14:6)? The world is so lacking in faith and knowledge of the truth that one would think the Gospel had never been preached.

But perhaps it needs an introduction. And it is for this reason that the true Church preaches the Good News of Salvation throughout the year from the First Sunday of Advent to the Last Sunday after Pentecost. On the Fourth Sunday of Advent, just before the Feast of the Lord’s Nativity, St. John the Baptist “introduces” the Christ:

“Make ready the way of the Lord, make straight His paths. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low, and the crooked ways shall be made straight, and the rough ways smooth; and all mankind shall see the salvation of God” (Lk.3:4-6).

But John was not alone. A star came to rest over the place where the Holy Child was. He was visited by Wise Men from the East. Angels announced to the shepherds:

“Do not be afraid, for behold I bring you good news of great joy which shall be to all the people” (Lk.2:10), and the angel choirs sang: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men of good will” (Lk.2:14).

The Holy Mother of God herself, Mary Immaculate, would say to us: “Do whatever He tells you” (Jn.2:5). She would receive us as her children at the foot of the Cross as her dying Son said to her: “Woman, behold your son” (Jn.19:26).

The Apostles would go out to the whole world preaching the Gospel. The Holy Catholic Church with her thousands of saints and martyrs would give her testimony over the centuries to all nations, that He, Jesus Christ, is alive, and that He will come again to judge the living and the dead. And yet they do not know Him!

We come to Church on Sunday, and do we know Him? We come up to Holy Communion, and still, do we know Him?

Our Lord Himself prophesied a disastrous decline in faith at His coming again in glory: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find, do you think, faith on the earth?” (Lk.18:8).

And we seem to be living in the predicted times. The Son of Man, Jesus Christ, is hated. His Holy and Immaculate Mother, Mary, is hated. They are mocked and blasphemed in the media, and every king of abuse is piled upon them. Even the greeting, Merry Christmas, must now become Happy Holidays, if they have their way.

The Holy Catholic Church is also hated. Its teachings are mangled and perverted by a false clergy and a false hierarchy. The true Church is in eclipse. The Truth is no longer known on the earth. Let us listen once more to the testimony of John the Baptist:

“And I did not know Him. But He Who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He upon Whom you will see the Spirit descending, and abiding upon Him, He it is Who baptizes with the Holy Spirit’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God” (Jn.1:33,34).

The whole point of preaching the Gospel is to introduce the world to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, that the nations might believe in Him and be saved. St. Paul explains:

“How then are they to call upon him in whom they have not believed? But how are they to believe him whom they have not heard? And how are they to hear, if no one preaches? And how are men to preach unless they be sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace; of those who bring glad tidings of good things!’” (Rom.10:14-15)

Today, once more, we bring “glad tidings of good things.” Are we ready to welcome Him when He comes at Christmas? Or are we so busy preparing for the celebration that we have forgotten what we are celebrating? Christmas without Christ is no Happy Holiday, but the beginning of an inglorious end? These are Our Lord’s powerful words to Martha, the sister of Mary and Lazarus, and her faith-filled reply:

“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, even if he die, shall live; and whoever lives and believes in me, shall never die. Dost thou believe this? She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, who hast come into the world’” (Jn.11:25-27).

This is what He wants to hear from us, who find ourselves virtually alone among an unbelieving generation, those whose faith has been taken away by the enemies of our souls, the enemies of the Son of God Himself. We are all called to be witnesses. This Christmas, may we hear, in heart and spirit, the “glad tidings of good things.” And may we say, with St. Martha and all the saints:

“Yes, Lord, I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, who hast come into the world” (Jn.11:27).

“My Kingdom is Not of This World…”

“My Kingdom is Not of This World…”-Fr. Casimir Puskorius

My dear parishioners, this feast of the Ascension of Our Lord into Heaven is one of the feasts of His Kingship.

Our Lord was always a King. Even before He assumed our human nature He was always the Lord and King of creation. When He was conceived by the Holy Ghost in the womb of the Virgin Mary, He was the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

But we see thus far in His life Christ makes no effort whatsoever to seek the honor that was His due. As a matter of fact, one time in His public life after He had worked a miracle, the people were so thrilled and so grateful that they wanted to crown Him king right there. And what does the Gospel say? He hid Himself. As soon as He saw them coming to give Him royal honor, He fled. But even then, He was the King of Kings. Finally, when He was dying on the Cross, the King of Kings gave His last drop of Blood for His creatures. He very clearly refused this honor, taking instead the absolute opposite.

After Our Lord rose from the dead, did He go openly throughout Palestine, Israel and Judea? No. He showed Himself only to a select few: the Apostles, our Blessed Mother, Mary Magdalen, five hundred brethren at one time. He did not go through the entire country saying, “Will you now acknowledge Me? Will you now honor Me as the King?” He hid Himself even then.

But today, Ascension Thursday, Our Lord will not be denied. He goes to Heaven where He will receive full adoration, veneration and honor. When Christ stood before Pilate, He said, “My Kingdom is not of this world.” That is why He refused the honor over and over again, unless people worshipped Him in a spirit of faith. But for those who just wanted to honor Him as a mighty person, He would have no part of it: “My Kingdom is not of this world.”

The Church that Christ founded would not have any inherent political power either. Oh yes, the Church has the right to own property, such as the Vatican City State. But that is only so that it can fulfill its spiritual mission. The Church only has authority in faith and morals. Christ made it clear that He did not seek secular power, even though He was King and Lord of all.

But today, as I have just said, He ascends into Heaven, where He will not be denied. Our mind cannot begin to imagine the fullness of glory given to Him by the court of Heaven — and not by the entire court of Heaven only, for directly behind Him came all the souls of the Old Testament that had been waiting in Limbo.

When Christ, as we say in the Creed, “descended into hell,” His soul went went down to limbo. He told the souls there that they were redeemed, but they had to stay there for another 42 days. Then on Ascension Thursday, Our Lord, as the mightiest of kings, took His place at the head of a triumphant procession, His entire retinue behind Him, and all of Heaven opened up with infinite glory and praise as He entered. This is the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ into His glory.

From now until the end of time, He will never again refuse honor and praise. It is to be given to Him; we must give it to Him. He is glorified forever; He sits at the right hand of God the Father. He ascended by His own power, as God and as man. He had to leave His Apostles, and go to His glory in Heaven, where He waits for you and me.

Remember: God created us for Heaven. He did not create us for hell. Unfortunately, many will go there because they choose to not do His Will. But for all of those who sincerely pray and strive to do His will, for them Our Lord waits in Heaven.

My dear brethren, we need to turn our eyes up into Heaven, to remind ourselves that we are only pilgrims here on earth. It is so easy, is it not — I’m sure you will readily admit this to yourselves, as I do to myself — it is so easy to get caught up in the passing things of this world, and to forget that we were not created to be perfectly happy here on earth.

God knows us better than we know ourselves, and therefore He allows sufferings and sorrow to come into our lives. He sees that when we have too much of the legitimate joys and pleasures of life, our minds turn away from Him and fix themselves onto earthly things.

When sorrows and sufferings come to us, they are sent by God’s infinite love — even though it may not feel like it. It is at these times — and not when we are experiencing the joys of life — that we say to ourselves, “I wasn’t created for this world after all.”

What I am about to say may sound strange, and even cruel, but it’s not in the least. On this Ascension Thursday, I wish for you enough sorrow and enough suffering in this life that you will not forget your True Home in Heaven. And I pray that I, too, will have the suffering and sorrow that I need to keep my eyes on my Heavenly Home.

Today is a special feast for priests. Why? Because what is the priesthood all about except helping you to get to Heaven? A man cannot be a priest for himself. So, in a way, my whole life is tied up with your salvation. If you are doing your part, not only spiritually, but in all ways that can be considered, I am truly happy for you.

What grieves any priest who loves his parishioners is to see them not doing what they need to do to save their souls. So, for your sakes, and all of those around you, be sure to strive to reach your Heavenly Kingdom. Always keep the right perspective. Live the Gospel. Live what the Holy Scripture teaches us to do on a daily basis.

I will close with this beautiful and true story for this Ascension Thursday to help us keep our eyes fixed on Heaven. One of the Sisters was describing to me the death of her grandfather, which happened some years ago. He was a very devout man, truly faithful to all of the duties of his Catholic Faith, persevering to the end.

He was very emaciated as he lay dying. As a matter of fact, for about ten minutes it seemed that he had died. He had stopped breathing, and his heart had stopped, but the doctors were able to bring him back. Sister told me how her mother saw her grandfather immediately after he had experienced what was basically a near-death experience.

His eyes were glowing with a supernatural light. When her mother went into the room, he turned to her with whatever feeble strength he had as she came near and grasped her hand. He said to her, with his eyes shining, for it was clear that he had seen something: “It is so real! It is so real, what they have taught us our whole lives as Catholics!” I believe that very shortly afterwards he died peacefully.

Let this little example tell us, my dear brethren, that it is real. It is so true what Jesus Christ teaches us through the Catholic Church. Make that act of faith and renew your faith on this glorious feast of the Ascension.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Feast of All Saints Sermon-St. Venerable Bede

Feast of All Saints Sermon
St. Venerable Bede

Dearly beloved: Today we keep holy-day, with one great cry of joy, in memory of all the Saints; whose presence is a gladness to heaven; whose prayers are a blessing to earth; whose victories are the crown of holy Church; whose testimony is now to be honored in proportion to the glory imparted to it by the agony which was endured in the giving of it. For the greater the torment, the richer the reward; and the fiercer the battle, the brighter the glory of the fighters whose triumph in martyrdom was in this wise adorned with more sufferings.

Our mother the Catholic Church, which is spread far and wide throughout all this planet, hath learnt, from Christ Jesus her Head, to fear neither shame nor cross nor death, but to increase in strength by enduring suffering rather than by resisting it. Therefore she was able to breathe into each one of that noble band, which persevered under condemnation to suffering, a spirit of courage like unto her own, even the hope of conquest and glory, whereby they were invigorated to persevere manfully in conflict unto the very end. O truly blessed Mother Church, whom God’s mercy doth so illumine! Whom the glorious blood of victorious Martyrs doth adorn! Whom the inviolate virginity of so many pure souls doth clothe with raiment white and glistening! Neither roses nor lilies are wanting in thy garlands.

Therefore dearly beloved, let us each one of us strive to attain the goodly crown of one or the other of these dignities, either the glistening whiteness of chastity, or the red dye of suffering. In the heavenly army both peace and war have chaplets of their own, to crown Christ’s soldiers withal. Moreover, the unutterable and infinite goodness of God hath provided this, namely, that the time of working and wrestling is not over-long, much less everlasting, but as it were for a moment.

That is, only in this short and scanty life is there wrestling and working, but the crown and the prize endureth for a life which is eternal. The work is soon over, but the wage is paid for ever. And when the night of this world is ended, the Saints see the clearness of the essential light, and receive a blessedness outweighing the pangs of any torment, as testifieth the Apostle Paul: The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

Fair As The Moon

Fair As The Moon-Fr. Louis Campbell

The Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary gives us an opportunity to reflect upon her virtues, especially her humility. Humility means seeing ourselves as we are, with a realistic view of both our virtues and our faults. Mary was a totally realistic person. She had no illusions about herself. Unspoiled by sin from the first moment of her Immaculate Conception, she was not blinded by pride, and could see her true self with perfect clarity, as a mere creature contemplating the immensity of God. Aside from the human nature of the God-Man Himself, Mary was God’s most perfect work, a marvel of nature and grace, yet she gave the credit and the glory to God: “He who is mighty has done great things for me” (Lk.1:49).

Unlike Mary, we who were born in the state of Original Sin tend to be blinded by pride. Even though we receive the gift of Sanctifying Grace through Baptism, we must live in a world of illusions. Mary recognized her complete dependence upon God, whereas pride inclines us to be independent and willful. Like strayed sheep, we often follow earthly heroes who are unworthy of our admiration, and accept the false values of a fallen humanity. We read in the book of Ecclesiastes: “Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!… The eye is not satisfied with seeing nor is the ear filled with hearing” (Eccles.1:2;8b).

The world is full of illusions and with fools who follow vain pursuits that lead nowhere. Elvis fans still make pilgrimages to his “shrine” thirty-six years after his death. A distinguished director has just signed on to make a new documentary of his life and career as “The King of Rock”. In England pilgrims flock to the “shrine” of the Princess Diana, who rests like a “goddess” in a pagan temple. But in the end they will have to shed their illusions and appear before Jesus Christ, the Just Judge, Who renders to every man according to his works.

The world persuades us that the most important questions in life is: “What do I want out of life, and how can I achieve success (without having to walk over too many people in the process)?” In search of the answer to this question we follow one wrong path after another. Often enough, when we get what we thought we wanted, we want something else instead. We end up unhappy and confused while envying the wealthy and the powerful, thinking that life has passed us by. Earthly idols and elusive dreams do not bring peace.

The question is not “What do I want?” but “What does God want of me?” Mary was always in readiness to do the Lord’s will, as we see in her response to the Angel Gabriel, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to according to thy word” (Lk.1:38). Jesus, whose very food and drink was to do the will of the Father, is Himself our perfect role model, our hero. He says in St. John’s Gospel:

“For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. Now this is the will of him who sent me, the Father, that I should lose nothing of what he has given me, but that I should raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father who sent me, that whoever beholds the Son, and believes in him, shall have everlasting life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (Jn.6:39,40).

It is not wrong to admire talented and successful people, but it is all too easy to find ourselves following the crowd down the slippery slope that leads to hell. “For what does it profit a man,” says the Lord, “if he gain the whole world, but suffer the loss of his own soul?” (Mt.16:26).

“Tell me what you love,” says St. Augustine, “and I will tell you what you are.” If we love the sleazy, the crude and the grotesque, then we ourselves become sleazy, crude and grotesque. On the other hand, if we “behold the Son, and believe in him,” cultivating our friendship with Him, we become like the Son. If, like Mary, we ponder the things of God in our hearts, then we become like Mary – humble, obedient, and attached to the will of God, which is the source of our peace.

Now Mary works very quietly, but powerfully, and the secret of her power is her humility. Among the disasters precipitated by Vatican II was a steep decline in devotion to Mary. The Rosary was ridiculed and ended up in bureau drawers, if it was not destroyed outright. Like so many others I no longer said the Rosary, although I always carried it around in my pocket. At that time I was a young priest in Canada, where I went through some dark valleys. But one evening after dark I decided to go for a walk in the parking lot behind the church, and as I paced back and forth I happened to look up at the moon. I thought of the words the Church applies to Mary from the Canticle of Canticles: “Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army in battle array?” (Cant.6:10). I reached into my pocket for my Rosary, and I began to pray the Rosary again.

The Church, wanting to inspire in us true devotion to Mary, our spiritual Mother, makes use of Scripture passages like this one from Ecclesiasticus, read on the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel:

“As the vine I have brought forth a pleasant odor, and my flowers are the fruit of honor and riches. I am the mother of fair Love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope. In me is all grace of the way and of the truth, in me is all hope of life and of virtue. Come over to me, all you that desire me, and be filled with my fruits; for my spirit is sweet above honey, and my inheritance above honey and the honeycomb. My memory is unto everlasting generations. They that eat me, shall yet hunger; and they that drink me, shall yet thirst. He who obeys me shall not be confounded, and they that work by me shall not sin. They that explain me shall have life everlasting” (Sir.24:23-31).